Merritt Tierce, a Denton-dwelling writer, was one of six women to receive the national Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, last week in a ceremony in New York. The award carries a grant of $25,000, and it is awarded to emerging woman writers as a way of helping them build their writing careers. Tierce’s story is a moving one, especially for any of us who have ever attempted to make a go at this difficult trade. After attending the renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she returned to Denton and began waiting tables. Tierce writes in her submission for the award:
“Last night at the restaurant I experienced a moment of dissonance. It was as if I had never left. I went to Iowa, which doesn’t make me a writer by any means, but nonetheless gave me a taste of what it’s like to live as a writer. To make the words the thing life is organized around. I don’t believe anyone owes me anything because I want to be a writer; I’m not afraid of hard work. But I see clearly that for me the time to write depends on money. The Foundation can buy me that time.”
Now she has that time. You can read Tierce’s story “Suck It” here. Here’s the full release:
We are pleased to announce that Dallas area fiction writer MERRITT TIERCE will receive a 2011 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, which is given annually to six women writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers. Celebrating its 17th year, the Rona Jaffe Awards have helped many women build successful writing careers by offering encouragement and financial support at a critical time. The Awards of $25,000 each will be presented to the six recipients on September 22nd in New York City.
Merritt Tierce’s first published story, “Suck It,” appeared in Southwest Review and was selected by ZZ Packer for inclusion in New Stories from the South 2008. She is currently working on a collection of linked stories, Love Me Back, loosely based on her years of waiting tables at a Texas steakhouse. Her nominator writes, “Merritt’s fiction demonstrates a high degree of craftsmanship, and in addition resonates with genuine wisdom and experience. Her stories reflect a full and fierce engagement with her material. Her work contains the real stuff of life, and she is absolutely fearless in the things she’s willing to confront.” She received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in May 2011 and returned to waiting tables in Dallas. She says, “Last night at the restaurant I experienced a moment of dissonance. It was as if I had never left. I went to Iowa, which doesn’t make me a writer by any means, but nonetheless gave me a taste of what it’s like to live as a writer. To make the words the thing life is organized around. I don’t believe anyone owes me anything because I want to be a writer; I’m not afraid of hard work. But I see clearly that for me the time to write depends on money. The Foundation can buy me that time.” Her Jaffe Award will allow her to work fewer hours at the restaurant and give her the “emotional, physical, and creative energy” to complete her book during the next year. Ms. Tierce lives in Denton, Texas, with her two children.
Celebrated novelist Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) established The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program in 1995. It is the only national literary awards program of its kind dedicated to supporting women writers exclusively. Since the program began, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 million to emergent women writers, including several who have gone on to critical acclaim, such as Elif Batuman, Eula Biss, Judy Budnitz, Lan Samantha Chang, Rebecca Curtis, Rivka Galchen, Kathleen Graber, Frances Hwang, Aryn Kyle, ZZ Packer, Tracy K. Smith, Mary Szybist, and Julia Whitty