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Literary awards honor excellence in the graduate Creative Writing Program

Each year, the Glenn Balch Prize in Fiction recognizes three MFA fiction students for outstanding work in the short story or novel-excerpt form. The family of Glenn Balch, the famed Idaho writer who published over 30 books, funds the annual contest. Each year, an outside judge chooses the order of the finalists selected by members of the Balch family.

The 2023 winners:

  • First place: “Old Texas Wives’ Tale” by Kira Compton
  • Second place: “See You Soon” by Ayotola Tehingbola
  • Third place: “Soft Light” by Hannah Phillips

This year’s outside judge, Gothataone Moeng, wrote of the winning story: “’Old Texas Wives’ Tale’ is a haunted and haunting story that explores the illogic of grief and its uncanny abilities to turn people inside out and drive them to the edge. It explores the limits of language and religious faith in the face of immense loss. I was stunned and moved by this unsentimental and self-assured story, its gorgeous study of a father-daughter relationship undergoing seismic change, the portrayal of a young girl facing her duties head-on and attempting—finally failing—to keep the eruptions of her grief at bay. I had such great admiration for this writer’s incredible use of vivid imagery and dynamic verbs that gave this story its taut energy.”

About the award

The family of Glenn Balch established the Glenn Balch Prize in Fiction to honor the memory of the late writer. In 2018, Balch’s daughter, Betty Weston, established an additional award recognizing work by undergraduate creative writing majors. An outside judge reads the students’ submissions and chooses the winner and the two finalists. Past judges include Elizabeth Gonzalez James, Wiley Cash, and Kali Fajardo-Anstine.

Past student winners include Ariel Delgado Dixon, who published her first novel, “Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You,” in February 2022 with Random House.

About the 2023 judge

Gothataone Moeng authored the short story collection “Call and Response,” published in January 2023 by Viking/Penguin Random House. A former fiction fellow in the Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, her writing received fellowships and support from Tin House, where she attended as a 2019 Summer Workshop scholar, and from A Public Space, where she served as a 2016 Emerging Writer Fellow. Her writing appears in Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, American Short Fiction, One Story, A Public Space and The Oxford American, amongst others. She holds an MFA Creative Writing (Fiction) from the University of Mississippi. She currently lives in Serowe, Botswana, where she was born.