Every year, there are over 8,000 published works nominated for a Pushcart Prize, but only 60 of those nominees win. This year a Harrisburg native, Katy (Williams) Balma, has been honored with the prize.
Balma said she received a letter that she had been nominated for the award and was asked to send in three poems published in the last year. She had ten poems published over the past year and said it was difficult to choose which three to submit.
The winning piece takes a look at the relationship between consumers of art and the object being viewed.
"I know most people have never heard of The Pushcart Prize," said Balma. "But for writers, the Pushcart is a really big deal. American poets and fiction writers dream of getting a Pushcart Prize the way actors and directors dream of getting an Academy Award. It's not just a nice line on your resume. It's a game changer."
Though Balma has worked and studied all over the world, including Spain, Australia, Italy, and currently New England, she credits her "bookish family members" as well as her teachers at Harrisburg Public Schools for her success as a writer.
"Some of the greatest teachers on earth have dedicated their lives to the youth of Harrisburg, and very few of them have gotten awards for it,” said Balma. “Every time I am honored for my academic or professional achievements, I think of them and am grateful."
She said she her Harrisburg upbringing continues to influence her writing career as an adult.
"Wherever I go in the world, I'm always going to be a Southern Illinois girl at heart," Balma said. "Harrisburg is always going to be my hometown. Those are my roots."
Balma is currently a teaching assistant at the University of Connecticut.
The edition that includes Balma's winning poem is Pushcart Prize XXXVII - Best of the Small Presses. It will be released in autumn 2012.
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