Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award Judges
Novel First Chapter:
Rebecca Hammond Yager
Rebecca Hammond Yager grew up in the bewitching realm of Vermont, raised on a steady diet of stories, passion for the animal kingdom, spaghetti, chocolate, and more stories. She has a B.A. in creative writing and a lifelong love of monsters and beasts. When her nose isn’t in a book, her head is firmly in the clouds where all dreamy heads ought to be. She currently lives in South Carolina with a menagerie of beasts and her handsome, long-suffering husband where she obsessively collects fairy tales, devours fantasy and science fiction, and rescues animals. To help keep the beasties fed and healthy, she coordinates air and ground transportation for organ donor cases in the Southeast.
C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Terry Brooks, and Alexander Key have impacted her writing the most. Alexander Key, in particular, saw our broken world for what it was as well as what it could be and imbued his novels with magic and a sense of wonder—elements that now haunt her own writing. The character of Superman has also had a walloping impact on her life and imagination. He’s an outsider, a god, an orphan, a beloved child, a Christ-figure, a symbol of hope and truth and goodness in a broken world. And he can fly. He was her introduction to the concept of superpowered humanoid aliens, quickly followed by Alexander Key’s Witch Mountain novels. Even before she knew she wanted to be a writer (3rd grade), she was fantasizing about people and creatures from other worlds, and that has shaped her thinking in ways both humorous and heartwarming, delightful and dark. She also finds constant influence and inspiration in Nature—whether it be fantastic beasts or primal elements, every part of nature makes her want to write: the music of rain and wind and sea, the way the light splashes across the leaves of a forest, the way the trees clutch the sky, the way a dog’s ears twitch, the way a feline’s eyes stare, the way the stars gaze down with all their colors and stories and silent songs.
Whether she’s reading or watching or listening to a story, she enjoys the same things, seeks the same things: Layers. Beauty. Captivating ideas. When an idea or a world sweeps her away, she enjoys the story even if it falls short in other areas. She loves being dazzled by beauty, breathless from action, smitten with characters, mesmerized by layers of theme and meaning. A story that does that doesn’t have to be perfect. But it does have to be captivating. She looks for stories that have a balance of components— a solid plot, compelling and well-motivated characters, a vivid sense of place, and stellar dialogue. She wants to be transported by a story, held captive by it.
Winds Cove—2004, a YA mystery novel.
Beauty & the Beast—2016, a reimagining of the classic tale, inspired by the original 1740 novella “The Story of the Beauty and the Beast” by Madame Villeneuve. Beauty & the Beast won a gold medal in Literary Classics’ Teen Fiction as well as their 2017 Words on Wings Award, Literary Classics’ top honors award for Young Adult Fiction.
A Midsummer Night’s Snow—2017, a Yule & Christmas-themed novella prequel to her reimagining of Beauty & the Beast, found in the Christmas anthology Winter Wonder. It will be getting an individual release later this year.
Joni Tevas Formerly a park ranger, factory worker, and seller of cemetery plots, Joni Tevis is the author of two books of essays, The Wet Collection: A Field Guide to Iridescence and Memory, and The World Is On Fire: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of Apocalypse, both published by Milkweed Editions. Her essays have appeared in Orion, Oxford American, Poets & Writers,the Pushcart Prize anthology, and elsewhere. She serves as the Bennette E. Geer Associate Professor of English at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. She holds an MFA and PhD from the University of Houston’s Creative Writing program. Annie Dilliard’s essays and Moby Dick have influenced her writing the most.
She enjoys tasty sentences and surprising research in essays, and looks to learn something new, to see the world through another pair of eyes in what she reads.
Check out her website at jonitevas.com or follow her on twitter @jonitevas.