Willow Books Literature Awards




Prose Grand Prize: $1,000, book contract, and sponsored reading

Poetry Grand Prize: $1,000, book contract, and sponsored reading

The Willow Books Literature Awards recognize literary excellence in prose and poetry by writers of color. 

For full 2018 guidelines, please visit  Submittable:


Our 2017-2018 Judges:


   Remica Bingham-Risher

Remica Bingham-Risher, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, is a Cave Canem fellow and Affrilachian Poet. Among other journals, her work has been published in The Writer’s ChronicleNew LettersCallaloo and Essence. She is the author of Conversion (Lotus, 2006) winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award, What We Ask of Flesh (Etruscan, 2013) shortlisted for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and Starlight & Error (Diode, 2017) winner of the Diode Editions Book Award. She is the Director of Quality Enhancement Plan Initiatives at Old Dominion University. She resides in Norfolk, VA with her husband and children. www.remicabinghamrisher.com



Reginald Dwayne Betts

Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of three books. His latest collection of poetry, Bastards of the Reagan Era, was published in October 2015 by Four Way Books and won the 2016 Pen New England Poetry Prize. He has also published the NAACP Image Award winning memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison and the collection of poetry, Shahid Reads His Own Palm. Betts is a recipient of fellowships from Soros Justice Foundation, Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies and the Poetry Foundation. In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Betts to the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, where he continues to serve as a practitioner member. A recent graduate of the Yale Law School, Betts earned his B.A. from the University of Maryland and an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College’s M.F.A. Program for Writers.



Sahar Mustafah, “Life, Move Leisurely”

A child of Palestinian immigrants, Sahar Mustafah is drawn to stories of “others”—Arab and Muslim Americans deemed disparate from the larger racial society. Her work has appeared in The Bellevue Literary Review, Story, Great Lakes Review, and Chicago Literati. She is co-founder and fiction editor of Bird’s Thumb. www.saharmustafah.com.


Gustavo Adolf Aybar, “We Seek Asylum”

Aybar holds an MA in Romance Languages & Literature and is a Cave Canem and Artist Inc. fellow. His work can be found in Primera Pagina: Poetry from the Latino Heartland. Aybar also translated work by Mexican author/playwright Glafira Rocha; some can be found in Asymptote, EZRA and InTranslation journals.

2016 Judges: 

Tyehimba Jess, Poetry

 Ravi Howard, Prose



View Their Finalist Videos here!

Aybar photo

Gustavo Adolfo Aybar


Sahar Mustafah

Congratulations to Vanessa Hua, 2015 Grand Prize Winner in Prose for

The Responsibility of Deceit 

2015 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award Winner Vanessa Hua is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, Zyzzyva, Kweli Journal, Guernica, New York Times, FRONTLINE/World, and elsewhere. Previously, she was a staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and Hartford Courant and has filed stories from China, Burma, South Korea, and Panama. She was a 2013-14 Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing and 2014 recipient of the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award for fiction. http://www.vanessahua.com/about-me/


 Grand Prize for Prose

David Garvin

David Garvin, New York, White Sun: Stories from Hispanoamérica


White Sun: Stories from Hispanoamerica is a sprawling narrative in tapestry form, made up of stories interwoven from the various threads that make up the journeys of a cast of lost souls as filtered through the point of view of a self-exiled American in Amazonian Mexico. He is going deep in country because “My draft number was coming up back there and I was moving a lot closer to Vietnam than I ever wanted to be….”  We follow his narrative as he learns how to live as an integral part of a Mexican fishing village near Merida, with its hard-working and hard-living inhabitants, and its motley crew of ex-pats. Richard, known as Ricardo by the locals, is the Heart of Darkness-like evasive narrator who guides us through the layers of Progreso, the poverty-stricken seaside pueblo that sometimes resembles one of the circles in Dante’s hell, and other times evokes a panorama of breathtaking natural beauty; where saints and sinners live precarious lives in between uneasy truces, witnessing the daily breakdowns and reconstructions of thin walls between good and evil. Through constant self-questioning, Ricardo begins to understand himself, and we, along with him, discover the reasons for his attraction to this land of juxtaposed hopeless turmoil and glorious promise. This author writes with insight and tenderness about the complex reality of unanchored lives, “of being in a place belonging to no place,” while at the same time involving us in a wholly entrancing tale of the endless cycle of loss and redemption that can turn a community of strangers into a sanctuary. –Judith Ortiz Cofer

Grand Prize for Poetry

Rachelle Escamilla, California, Imaginary Animal

Rachelle Escamilla

This isn’t just a scientific question, but a poetic one: How does the body make sense of data? Imaginary Animal is a compendium of lyric fragments of memory, fact, desire, the sensual and the sensory. While we’re conditioned to distort or completely tune out the role of immigrant workers in the United States, the untitled lyrics of Imaginary Animal are precisely calibrated to recognize and meditate upon a nations laborers. The poems are energized by voice, perspective and consciousness. which are constantly shifting and transforming. While America, with its terabytes-per-second flow of information, largely constructs a single narrative of immigrant workers, this book stitches together a very sophisticated portrait – juxtaposing the public and the private, the imperative and the interrogative. There are beautiful, subtle recurrences of deployment (military perhaps), directions on how to reap vegetables, border crossing – that provide a kind of cinematic metronome to the poems. They anchor the dream of the Imaginary Animal. The title comes from the Raúl Zurita epigraph: “Hoy laceamos este animal imaginario / que por el color blanco “ or “Today we tie up this imaginary animal / that ran freely through the color white .” The Animal is the human; and the imaginary of the title is the American Imaginary. This is an ambitious and loving attempt to make us see both with profound complexity and a greater sense of justice.  –Patrick Rosal



2013 Prose Grand Prize Winner:  Angie Chuang, Washington, DC

The Four Words for Home 

2013 Poetry Grand Prize Winner:  Angela Narciso Torres, Glenview, IL

Blood Orange

2013 Editor’s Choice Award Winner:  Rich Villar, Pearl River, NY

Comprehending Forever


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