As a few of you know, I am tiptoe-ing into the world of prose writing. As such, I've been getting to know some DC writers who labor on "the other side" of things--freelancers, journalists, prose writers. So it's with borrowed pride that I congratulate Dave Jamieson, who just won the prestigious $10,000 Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Here's the announcement.
Dave was an underdog--in a field that included writers from the Post, the Times, NPR, and the Wall Street Journal, he was nominated for a piece that appeared in the Washington City Paper, a free weekly. "Letters from an Arsonist" profiles Thomas Swatt, sent to prison for more than 25 years for hundreds of fires and two deaths. It's a gripping story that affected more than one generation of DC residents. This was no easy interview--Dave got the scoop by committing to an ongoing letter correspondence with Swatt.
The award is really well-deserved, as you'll quickly realize when you read the piece. (Go, go do that now. We'll wait for you.)
Looking at it through the poetry lens...when I see a list of 20-30 finalists for a book prize, I don't tend to see it in terms of communities making their mark. Poetry is a solitary art; it's fun to see a name I recognize or a title I've read in MS form, but that's about it. Yet looking at the roster of finalists here, I see whole papers/geographic voices being represented, and that's inspiring. It makes me want to know more about what's being published out there.
Two other DC writers I want to mention:
Arthur Delaney, who has been covering the local news beat for some time (he's a Capitol Hill kid, homegrown), and has just started writing for Slate. You may have seen his piece on, ahem, whether a skull really CAN be used as a bong. Or, on a more serious note, this City Paper cover story about a guy who came to DC for a fresh start--and was dead five days later. Art's byline is gonna be all over the Post Metro section soon enough. I can tell.
Holly Jones, who has been quietly filing "Dispatches from Anacostia" for McSweeney's since last year. For those outside the city, Anacostia is a bedraggled stepchild to Washington: on the eastern side of a rather dirty river, Anacostia struggles to keep the streets clean and the schools running, much less tap into downtown culture. But people have kids, and with kids comes hope, and with hope comes...dispatches. These postcards from the edge will get to you.