Student Writers Awarded Mimi Schwartz Nonfiction Awards

Eric Halbruner of Cape May, a senior majoring in Literature, and Jasmine Beatty, a May graduate from Vineland who’s awaiting placement in the Peace Corps, recently won the 2013 Mimi Schwartz Creative Nonfiction Awards at Stockton.

The writing awards are named for Stockton Professor Emerita Mimi Schwartz, who is the author of 10 books, including the prize-winning, “Good Neighbors, Bad Times, Echoes of My Father’s German Village.”

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Halbruner’s “Last Leg,” a travel memoir about riding home at night on a bus from Port Authority after a month in Europe, won first prize.

Andy Douglas, author of “The Curve of the World,” who judged this year’s contest, said “Last Leg” is “thoughtful, reflective and full of beautiful images.”

“Threading together elements of the mundane, the epic and the gritty, the essay muses on themes of memory and perception,” Douglas wrote. “The piece succeeds in portraying the complexity of travel—moments of beauty, stretches of boredom, and, if we are paying attention, occasional insights into human frailty,” he added.

Halbruner, a Lit major with a concentration in Creative Writing, said his experience with the program has been “very positive.”

“The professors here are passionate about the importance of studying literature and very keen on helping students to become better readers, writers, and thinkers,” he said. “Through workshops and creative writing courses, I’ve come to know things about my writing that I wouldn’t have figured out otherwise. As a writer, I want to continue improving, to write more and write better. I’ve learned how hard that is to do.”

Outside of school, Eric works for a tree-care company and as a bartender, and “sleeps really hard,” he said. “When I find time, I enjoy last-minute travel opportunities, time with friends and family, surfing, reading everything I can, creating my own Onion headlines, and re-watching The Wire.”

Jasmine Beatty took second prize for “Interviews with the Suicidal,” which Douglas, the contest judge, called “a powerful essay, emotionally jarring; at times harrowing.”

“The innovative form — an interview session with people who have considered suicide — is spare, surprising, and a good choice for setting off the stark nature of the narrative,” Douglas wrote. “The reader is offered five very different snapshots of human suffering and comes away moved.”

Beatty credited a number of Stockton faculty and staff members with helping her mature as a writer and as a person.

“What I took away from Stockton is what I learned from Linda Yost in Athletics and Steve Radwanski from Housing – it’s not too late to make a change,” Beatty said. “With their help, I was able to get my life back on track and to realize that my past is not who I am. They helped me rebuild.”

“I used to write to free myself. Then I learned my best writing was when I was free,” she continued.

“My freshman year, I had great professors who made me the writer I am today,” Beatty said, “Richard Trama, Judy Copeland, and Joe Costal.  Later on I had Linda Wharton and James Avery, who helped me organize my thoughts. Cynthia King worked with me on poetry. She’s fantastic and helped my writing mature,” she added.

While at Stockton, she majored in Political Science (Pre-Law) and minored in Writing. She wrote for and served on the Editorial Board of “Stockpot,” the campus literary magazine.

Jasmine was vice president of the STAND club (a student lead anti-genocide coalition), participated in a Service-Learning advocacy training course through the Women’s Center and was on the track and crew teams.

“It was much easier to be the person I wanted to be with the support of my track coaches, Jayson Resch, Kevin Chandler, and Todd Curll. They’re the best,” Beatty said.