The Society runs four contests, each with a cash prize, to honor the best work presented at that year’s Symposium. The prizes are presented during the Friday luncheon at the following year’s Symposium. Some of the prizes have been endowed by former members.
Entry forms are available only in the Symposium program. Only work presented at the Symposium is eligible to be entered.
James Seaton Midwestern Heritage Prize for Literary Criticism ($250)
This prize is presented for the best work of literary criticism presented at the annual Symposium and then submitted to the contest. From 2006 through 2011, it was named after a longtime member as the Jill Barnum Midwestern Heritage Prize for Literary Criticism. Jill Barnum (also known as Jill Gidmark) died in October 2006. In 2012, the prize was renamed after SSML founder David D. Anderson, who had passed away December 2011. With the 2018 prize (to be awarded at the May 2019 Symposium), it will be renamed again in memory of another longtime member, James Seaton, who passed away on March 29, 2017.
Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize ($250)
In light of her wide renown as a major American—and Midwestern—poet, Gwendolyn Brooks was presented with the Mark Twain Award in 1985. She personally funded this prize for five years, and the Society continues to fund it in her memory.
Paul Somers Prize for Creative Prose ($250)
Paul Somers was a colleague of many SSML members in the Department of American Thought & Language at Michigan State University, teaching first-year writing. He was a humorist and a scholar of American humorists, as well as a creative writer himself. The prize was created in 2007 in his memory.
David Diamond Student Writing Prize ($1,000)
In 2014, our longtime member, David Diamond, whose real name was Sid I. Davidson, passed away (learn more about him in his obituary). In his will, he made a large bequest to the Society, with the expressed intent that it be awarded to the winner of the David Diamond Student Writing Prize. Students who present work at the Symposium may choose which category to enter their work, but may enter in only one category.