Black Forest Award winners

This year, Allegheny debuted the Black Forest Creative Writing Contest, a competition created to give talented student writers a scholarship to study at the Black Forest Writing Seminars at the University of Freiburg in Germany.

This year’s winners are Stephen Reaugh, ’11, in first place with his short story “Disoriented,” Eric Willey, ’10, in second with his short story “Crazy Pills,” and Will Brewer, ’11, in third for poetry. Honorable mentions were awarded to Kat Bengston, ’10, and Natalie Yon-Eriksson, ’10.

The scholarships that were presented to the winners varied in size according to the place won by the students, ranging from full tuition and accommodations valued at $1,100 for the first place winner to $200 scholarships given to the students with honorable mentions. The seminars will take place this summer, July 26 through Aug. 6, 2010.

Visiting Assistant Professor of English Courtney Zoffness — teaching here in place of Professor Kirk Nesset who is on sabbatical — brought the Black Forest Seminars to Allegheny. After speaking to her friend and colleague Emily Lundin who initiated the seminars a year earlier at Freiburg, Zoffness knew that students at Allegheny would be eager for this opportunity.

“It just sort of seemed like a natural fit, she had mentioned that she was looking for students in the States, and I knew that our creative writing students are top quality, so we negotiated,” Zoffness said.

Zoffness herself will be teaching a seminar titled “Writing Linked Short Stories.” She will be joined by Nesset, who will be teaching a poetry seminar titled “Vision and Revision: Making Poems Start to Finish.”

Named for the beautiful and well-known forest bordering the University of Freiberg, the Black Forest Writing Seminars will offer attending students a total of 11 seminars ranging in topics from filmmaking to poetry.

In addition to what they learn from these seminars, Allegheny’s scholarship winners are eager to see how traveling will affect their writing skills.
“I’m sure it’ll open up a whole new pocket in my imagination,” Brewer said.

“What travel does for me in a big way is it illuminates a new perspective of my home and the way I see the places I live in.”

“I want to use it as a sort of vacation,” Reaugh said. “A vacation from vacation even, because it’ll be in summer. It’ll be work, but the work will pale in comparison.”

Students who attend the seminars will find themselves in a unique position to explore Europe. With only two to three hours of required work a day and with France and Switzerland less than an hour away, students will be able to see much more than the University in their spare time. Students will also attend a retreat into the Black Forest itself where they will participate in further seminars and take in the natural beauty.

“Students find it really inspirational, and it helps bond the group — which, as you know, is critical to a productive workshop,” Lundin said.

Another unique feature of the Black Forest Writing Seminars is that it brings together young writers from around the globe to study in one place. Last year, Freiburg hosted students from Australia, the U.S., Poland, Great Britain, Canada, Greece and Denmark, to name a few.

“I think it’s wonderful to interact with and learn with and study with people from other countries, your eyes open in brand new ways and I can’t stress enough the importance of that in one’s own self-discovery,” Zoffness said.

An additional perk to be gained from attending the seminars is the possibility of earning independent study credits at Allegheny.

“So long as the students produce work that the school deems commensurate with our school standards it will count for course credit,” Zoffness said.

Admittance to the writing seminars is not limited to the winners of the contest. Enrollment is open and rolling through May and applications for further scholarships may be submitted until April 30.

“I hope that the people who applied for the contest and weren’t awarded a scholarship are not indelibly deterred from registering for this conference because I think it’s still such a great opportunity,” Zoffness said.

“If you can pony up the money we’d be glad to have you come along too,” Reaugh said.

Further information about the Black Forest Writing Seminars can be found at