Kayla Cook, Jenea Havener win this year’s Langston Hughes Creative Writing Awards

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Poet Kayla Cook and fiction writer Jenea Havener are the recipients of this year’s Langston Hughes Creative Writing Awards, the Raven Book Store and Lawrence Arts Center announced Monday.

The award, co-sponsored by the Raven and Arts Center, “honors the work of Hughes who spent his childhood in Lawrence, Kansas,” according to a news release. “Each year, the $500 award is given to two writers to encourage and support Douglas County, Kansas, residents who continue in Hughes’ tradition of portraying life experience through poetry and prose.”


The winners will be honored at a ceremony set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1 in the large gallery of the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., with a reception to follow in the lobby. The ceremony is held each year on Hughes’ birthday.

Cook and Havener will both give readings during the ceremony, according to the release.

Here’s a little more about the awardees, according to the release:

“Born in Texas and raised in Kansas, Kayla Cook describes herself as ‘a storyteller with heart living in the heart of America.’ She works as a freelance photographer and as a part-time librarian at the Lawrence Public Library. She also works part-time at the Lawrence Arts Center. In 2020, an excerpt from her senior thesis project at the University of Kansas, a poetry collection entitled ‘Black Country,’ was awarded the Spencer Museum of Art Jack and Lavon Brosseau Creativity Award for Writing. In 2019, The University of Kansas English Department awarded her poetry submission first place in the William Herbert Carruth Memorial Award.”

Jenea Havener is a native Lawrencian with a degree in English – Creative Writing and History from the University of Kansas. Her award-winning piece appeared as a Story of the Week in Narrative Magazine in June, and she was named a finalist in Narrative’s Spring 2022 Story Contest for another story, forthcoming as a Story of the Week before the end of the year. She also received a fellowship to the Writing By Writers 2022 Tomales Bay Workshop and has been admitted to the Bennington Writing Seminars MFA program, which she began in January of 2023.”

Learn more about Cook at her website, Learn more about Havener at her website, Find out more about the awards and ceremony at this link.

Past Langston Hughes Award Winners:

2022 Faith Maddox // Brett Salsbury (click here to read more)
2020 Kate Lorenz // Tracey Lien
2019 Molly Weisgrau // Jameelah Jones
2018 Kim Condon // Rachel Atakpa 
2017 Mercedes Lucero // Chloe Seim 
2016 Kate Russell // Tai Amri Spann-Wilson 
2015 Alyse Bensel // Matthew O’Connell 
2014 Justin Runge // Crystal Boson
2013 Becky Mendelbaum // Brendan Allen
2012 Amy Ash // Callista Buchen // Iris Moulton 
2011 Mary Stone Dockery // Beth Reiber
2010 Jeff Tigchelaar // Amy Stuber
2009 Judy Bauer // Nancy Pistorius
2008 Stephen Bunch // John Mark Connolly
2007 Jean Grant // Douglas M. Crawford-Parker
2006 Mary G. Wharff // Christopher Citro 
2005 Kevin Rabas // Max Keith Sutton 
2004 Tasha Haas // Nedra Rogers 
2003 Kelly Barth // Sarah Kanning
2002 Alice Ann White // Thomas Yeahpau
2001 Katrina Vandenberg // John Reimringer
2000 Joy Clumsky // Daniel Dyer 
1999 Gary Lechliter // Terry Wierman 
1998 Kathleen Johnson // Michele J. Lubbers
1997 Allan Grohe // Barbara Seaman 

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Note: This post has been updated to correct a misspelled name.

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