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2020 S.C. Novel Prize goes to Upstate writer

Winning manuscript publishes in 2021


The South Carolina Arts Commission, Hub City Press, the College of Charleston, the South Carolina State Library,  and South Carolina Humanities are pleased to announce that the winner of the 2020 South Carolina Novel Prize is Maris Lawyer for her manuscript The Blue Line Down.  

Lawyer’s winning manuscript will be published in 2021 by Hub City Press of Spartanburg.

Maris Lawyer (right) grew up in Oconee County and hasn’t strayed far since. Graduating with a degree in Creative Writing from Anderson University in 2017, she then moved into a tiny apartment in Greenville with her husband, where she spent her evenings hunched over a laptop writing stories. Maris and her husband (and two cats) are now homeowners in Easley, where she still catches a glimpse of the Blue Ridge Mountains every day.

Stephanie Powell Watts, author of We Are Taking Only What We Need and No One is Coming to Save Us was the judge of the biennial prize this year. Of the winning manuscript, Watts wrote, “Readers are always looking for the topic that both feels familiar until we scratch the surface a little and realize we know almost nothing about it. In the clear light of the present, movements, protests and even revolutions of the past can seem obvious and inevitable. History loves to condense the story, connecting dots to make the narrative cohere. However, there is turmoil, angst, and great human suffering in between those dots. This story shows us how a decent enough person might be compelled to aid and abet bullies and killers. The story also shows us the main character's remarkable path to possible redemption.”


The South Carolina Novel Prize is funded by the following partner organizations:

The South Carolina Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances.

Hub City Press was founded in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1995 and since then has emerged as one of the South's premier independent presses.

The College of Charleston is home not only to a cadre of nationally and internationally recognized writing faculty, but also houses one of the country’s premiere literary journals, Crazyhorse, published since 1960 and consistently ranked as among the top publishing venues in the nation. The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program provides students an immersion in a world of prose and poetry and the practical aspects of establishing a career in the arts.

The South Carolina State Library develops, supports, and sustains a thriving statewide community of learners committed to making South Carolina stronger. The Library serves the people of South Carolina by supporting state government and libraries to provide opportunities for learning in a changing environment.

South Carolina Humanities is the state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. SC Humanities presents and supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.

For more information about the Novel Competition, visit or call http://www.SouthCarolinaArts.com, 803.734.8696; and http://www.hubcity.org, 864.577.9349.


More about Maris Lawyer

Maris Lawyer is a born and bred native of the South Carolina Upstate. She graduated with a degree in creative writing from Anderson University and has since gone to work as an HR generalist for an environmental consulting firm in Greenville. Maris lives in Easley with her husband Benjamin and two cats, Merlin and Luna. Alongside reading and writing, Maris spends much of her time fussing over the vegetable garden in her back yard. In The Blue Line Down, protagonist Jude Washer leaves his tormented childhood in the Virginian coal mines to join the Baldwin-Felts agents—the very agents who hunted down and disbanded the unionizers at his own mine camp. Instead of living a life of power and control, Jude finds himself disturbed by the brutal brand of justice dealt out by the Baldwin-Felts, and seeks to free himself and his young trainee, Harvey. An unplanned escape turns into a harrowing manhunt as Jude and Harvey flee the Baldwin-Felts, traveling down the Blue Ridge Mountains only to fall into the hands of bootleggers—who may present a greater threat than the Baldwin-Felts.

Jason Rapp

Finalists named for 2020 South Carolina Novel Prize

Winner to be selected next week


The South Carolina Arts Commission and Hub City Press announce the three books named finalists in the 2020 South Carolina Novel Competition.

The finalists are: Rebecca Helms of Murrells Inlet for her manuscript Singing in the Corn, Maris Lawyer of Easley for The Blue Line Down, and Susanne Parker of Spartanburg for her novel What Happens to the Children. The winner will be announced next week and will have her book published in 2021 by Hub City Press of Spartanburg. Stephanie Powell Watts, was the judge of the biennial prize. Watts is the author of the novel, No One Is Coming to Save Us, and a short story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need, which won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Her short fiction has been included in two volumes of the Best New Stories from the South anthology and honored with a Pushcart Prize. Born in the foothills of North Carolina, with a PhD from the University of Missouri and a BA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she now lives with her husband and son in Pennsylvania where she is an associate professor at Lehigh University.

Rebecca D. Helms is a South Carolinian novelist, short-story writer, and poet who discovered her love of literature by the time she was only ten years old. Her style is influenced by the grit and grace of the Carolina low-country and her voice is an echo of the maternal village who raised her and showed her the way. Her first novel, Singing in the Corn, carries her readers deep inside every adventure with humor, fear, darkness, and joy—in many scenes, all at the same time. Ms. Helms is currently finalizing her Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and works abroad while writing her next novel.

Maris Lawyer grew up in Oconee County, South Carolina, and hasn’t strayed far since. Graduating with a degree in Creative Writing from Anderson University in 2017, she then moved into a tiny apartment in Greenville, South Carolina with her husband, where she spent her evenings hunched over a laptop writing stories. Maris and her husband (and two cats) are now homeowners in Easley, South Carolina, where she still catches a glimpse of the Blue Ridge Mountains every day.

Susanne Parker is a Hub City native and graduate of the Converse College Creative Writing MFA. She loves to read journey and travel narratives when she isn’t embarking on some new adventure herself. Susanne works as a library assistant and spends her free time tending the single, enormous sunflower in her garden and snuggling with her pets. What Happens to the Children is her first novel.


The South Carolina Novel Prize is funded by the South Carolina Arts Commission, Hub City Press, South Carolina Humanities, South Carolina State Library, and the College of Charleston's Masters of Fine Arts Creative Writing department. For more information about the Novel Competition, visit or call the South Carolina Arts Commission (SouthCarolinaArts.com | 803.734.8696); or Hub City Press (HubCity.org | 864.577.9349).

Jason Rapp

South Carolina Novel Prize opens submission window

Author Stephanie Powell Watts judging entries

Submission deadline: Monday, March 16 23, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
Every other year, the South Carolina Novel Prize recognizes one of South Carolina’s exceptional writers. Submissions will be read anonymously by our readers at the College of Charleston Department of English and this year's judge, author Stephanie Powell Watts. The contest is highly competitive, and the winner is provided a book contract with Hub City Press, who will print no fewer  than 2000 copies to be nationally distributed to the trade in 2021. This can also bring recognition that may open doors to other resources and opportunities in the literary community. The S.C. Novel Prize is funded by the South Carolina Arts Commission, Hub City Press, and South Carolina Humanities. The College of Charleston and South Carolina State Library are also partners. The South Carolina Novel Prize (formerly the First Novel Prize) is open to any South Carolina writer, including those who have never had a novel published and those who have been published. Applicants’ works are reviewed anonymously by panelists who make their judgments on the basis of artistic merit and narrowed through two rounds of judging. Five novels will be judged in a third round by Watts. Find the eligibility and restrictions and link to submit on SouthCarolinaArts.com. [caption id="attachment_34666" align="aligncenter" width="563"] The world-famous Hub Calls for Art Megaphone.[/caption]   Ed. note: This post was updated March 12, 2020 with a deadline extension to March 23, reflected at the top of the post.

Author Stephanie Powell Watts to judge 2020 S.C. Novel competition

The South Carolina Arts Commission, the College of Charleston Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, the South Caroline State Library, SC Humanities, and Hub City Press announce Stephanie Powell Watts as the judge for the 2018 South Carolina Novel Prize. Stephanie Powell Watts won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her debut story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need (2012), also named one of 2013’s Best Summer Reads by O: The Oprah Magazine. Her short fiction has been included in two volumes of the Best New Stories from the South anthology and honored with a Pushcart Prize. Born in the foothills of North Carolina, with a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri and a bachelor's from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she now lives with her husband and son in Pennsylvania where she is an associate professor at Lehigh University. The South Carolina Novel Prize (formerly the First Novel Prize) is open to any South Carolina writer, including those who have never had a novel published and those who have been published. The contest is highly competitive. Applicants’ works are reviewed anonymously by panelists who make their judgments on the basis of artistic merit and narrowed through two rounds of judging. Five novels will be judged in a third round by Watts. The winning author will receive a book contract with Hub City Press, an award-winning independent press in Spartanburg. The winner is awarded publication by Hub City Press in the form of a printing of no less than 2,000 copies to be nationally distributed to the trade in 2021. This can bring recognition that may open doors to other resources and opportunities in the literary community. Submissions open Jan. 1, 2020 and close March 15, 2020. Find complete eligibility requirements and application guidelines at SouthCarolinaArts.com.

Nine students ready to compete for state Poetry Out Loud championship

Congratulations to the nine high school students advancing to the state finals in the South Carolina Arts Commission's Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest. The students will compete for South Carolina's spot in the Poetry Out Loud national finals and a shot at a $20,000 scholarship. State finals take place March 11, from 1 - 3 p.m. at the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, S.C. The public is invited to attend.

Finalists:

Region 1: Upstate
  • Jamie Montagne, Spartanburg Day School, Spartanburg County
  • Simone Rice, Dorman High School, Spartanburg County
  • Livia Salle, NEXT High School, Greenville County
Region 2: Midlands
  • Taylor Wade, Andrew Jackson High School, Lancaster County
  • Emilie Martin, Fox Creek High School, Edgefield County
  • Alyssa Williams, Spring Valley High School, Richland County
Region 3: Lowcountry
  • Janae Claxton, First Baptist Church School, Charleston County
  • Abby Edwards, Charleston County School of the Arts, Charleston County
  • Julie Crosby, Goose Creek High School, Berkeley County
Nearly 4,000 South Carolina students participated this year, advancing from school-wide competitions to one of three regional competitions held in Spartanburg, Columbia and Charleston. The state champion will compete in the national finals April 24-26 in Washington, D.C. The state champion receives $200, a $500 stipend to purchase poetry books for their school library, and an all-expense paid trip to the national finals. The runner-up receives $100 and a $200 poetry book stipend for their library. [caption id="attachment_29712" align="aligncenter" width="560"]POLcollage2017 Top row, l to r: Alyssa Williams; Region 3 participants. Bottom row, l to r: Region 2 finalists Taylor Wade, Emilie Martin, & Alyssa Williams; Region 1 finalists Jamie Montagne, Livia Salle & Simone Rice; Region 2 judges[/caption] Poetry Out Loud, a program created in 2005 by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, builds on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement. Students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage while gaining an appreciation of poetry. Last year more than 365,000 students nationwide competed. The winner received a $20,000 scholarship. Statewide partners include the Columbia Museum of Art, the South Carolina Department of Education and South Carolina ETV Radio's “Speaking of Schools” Program with Doug Keel. Regional partners include Hub City Writers Project in Region 1; One Columbia, Richland Library and S.C. Center for Oral Narrative at USC Sumter in Region 2; and the College of Charleston School of Humanities and Social Sciences in Region 3.

For more information, contact Frances Kablick Keel at FMKablick@arts.sc.gov.

Public invited to Poetry Out Loud competitions

[caption id="attachment_25675" align="alignright" width="250"]Nicole Sadek Nicole Sadek, 2016 S.C. Poetry Out Loud champion[/caption] Since school began in the fall, high school students around the state have been memorizing poetry, practicing recitation skills and polishing performances to compete in Poetry Out Loud school-level competitions. School-based winners are competing in three regional competitions taking place January 21 and 22 in Spartanburg, Columbia and Charleston. Winners from each regional competition will advance to the state finals taking place March 11 in Columbia. The competitions are free and open to the public. Regional competition schedule:

  • Region 1 (Upstate) Jan. 21, from 2 - 4:30 p.m. Spartanburg Community College Downtown Campus, 220 E. Kennedy St., Spartanburg, SC 29302 (Please use entrance at back of building.) Counties: Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, Spartanburg, Cherokee, York, Lancaster, Chesterfield, Anderson, Laurens, Union, Chester, Abbeville, McCormick and Greenwood Partner: Hub City Writers Project
  • Region 2 (Midlands) Jan. 21 from 2 - 4:30 p.m. Richland Library Main (second floor), 1431 Assembly St., Columbia, S.C. 29201 Counties: Edgefield, Saluda, Newberry, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lee, Darlington, Marlboro, Aiken, Lexington, Richland, Sumter, Florence, Marion, Dillon and Calhoun Partners: One Columbia, South Carolina Center for Oral Narrative-USC Sumter and Richland Library Main
For 11 years, the South Carolina Arts Commission has partnered with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation to bring the Poetry Out Loud National Poetry Recitation Contest to South Carolina. The Arts Commission engages regional partners to promote participation and to manage regional competitions. Nearly 4,000 South Carolina students participated this year. The state champion will compete in the national finals April 24-26 in Washington, D.C. About Poetry Out Loud Poetry Out Loud, a program created in 2005 by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, builds on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement. Students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage while gaining an appreciation of poetry. Last year more than 365,000 students nationwide competed. The national winner received a $20,000 scholarship.  

Nine high school students advance to state Poetry Out Loud finals

Congratulations to the finalists in South Carolina's 2012-2013 Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest! All nine students advance to the March 16 state finals to compete for South Carolina's spot in the Poetry Out Loud national finals and a shot at a $20,000 scholarship. Region 1: Upstate

  • Ashley Kiley, Crescent High School, Anderson County
  • Ashley Tisdale, Spartanburg Day School, Spartanburg County
  • Justin Fox, Spartanburg High School, Spartanburg County
Region 2: Midlands
  • Brandon Ellison, Ridge View High School, Richland County
  • Kynnedi McManus, Strom Thurmond High School, Edgefield County
  • Jada Daniels, Westwood High School, Richland County
Region 3: Lowcountry
  • Sarah Moody, Ashley Hall, Charleston County
  • Katherine Murchison, Charleston County School of the Arts, Charleston County
  • Whitaker Gannon, Hilton Head Preparatory, Beaufort County
Students participated in one of three regional competitions held in Spartanburg, Sumter, and Charleston Jan. 12-13. The state finals will be held March 16 at the Columbia Museum of Art, and the state champion will compete in the national finals April 29-30 in Washington, D.C. Poetry Out Loud, a program created in 2005 by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, builds on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement. Students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage while gaining an appreciation of poetry. Last year more than 365,000 students nationwide competed. The winner received a $20,000 scholarship. The South Carolina Arts Commission works with several partners to produce Poetry Out Loud in South Carolina: the Columbia Museum of Art, the South Carolina Department of Education, South Carolina ETV Radio's “Speaking of Schools” Program with Doug Keel, Hub City Writers Project (Upstate) the Sumter County Cultural Commission and the University of South Carolina Sumter Division of Arts and Letters (Midlands), and the College of Charleston School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts (Lowcountry). For more information, visit the South Carolina Arts Commission's website, the national Poetry Out Loud website, or contact Frances Kablick Keel.