Posted: Sunday, May 09, 2010

Juneau resident Erin Haida, a distance student Peru State College in Nebraska, recently earned three awards in the school's annual Toney McCrann Writing Contest.

Haid won first place in the contest's creative non-fiction category for her piece, "Heat," about the intense temperatures she encountered during a trip she made to Italy last summer. She won first place in fiction for "Weather Is Great, Wish I Was Here," which explored unreliable narration, testing the trust of the reader as to whether or not the protagonist had slipped into madness. And her third-place poetry entry, "For LaRae," focused on the days following the death of her younger sister in late 2008.

Judged by noted Nebraska Poet Twyla Hansen, the contest was established in honor of the late Toney McCrann, a longtime professor of English at the college.

Hansen noted that Haida's "Weather Is Great, Wish I Was Here" was by far the best one submitted, tightly filled with imagination and mystery. The Nebraska poet said the piece set in Italy, "Heat," had made her sweat through the writer's use of the senses and vivid descriptive language. Hansen found the poem about the death of Haida's sister filled with images that were sharp and word choices that rose above the ordinary, and while the ending was sad, "she expresses it without sentimentality-a solid, imaginative poem."

Haida, 42, is a senior majoring in liberal arts. She will be graduating with honors this month, having returned to college in 2007 through Peru's distance delivery program. Born in Ketchikan, she has lived in Gustavus as well as in Juneau, where she currently is the administrative officer for the state of Alaska Division of Personnel.

Haida's Peru College English professor, Bill Clemente, said she has been a diligent student who constantly revised and experimented in her writing, "putting her imagination and experience into everything she wrote."

Haida's winning creative pieces will be published in "The Sifting Sands," the literary journal produced annually by the English Club at PSC.

All online and on-campus students are eligible to participate in the Toney McCrann Writing Contest. First-prize winners receive a $25 prize. Second and third place winners earn a $10 prize.

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