Lawrence writer, Baldwin City poet win 2024 Langston Hughes Creative Writing awards

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Fiction writer Kimberlee Bethany Bonura and poet Darwin Michener-Rutledge have been named the 2024 Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award recipients.

Named after the famous poet who briefly lived in Lawrence during his youth, the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award annually recognizes local writers who portray life experiences through their work.

Applicants submit original poems and fiction and nonfiction stories, and the Raven Book Store and Lawrence Arts Center select two winners. Each receives a $500 award.

Bonura and Michener-Rutledge will be celebrated during a community ceremony on Langston Hughes’ birthday, Feb. 1.

Kimberlee Bethany Bonura

Bonura’s winning submission, “Strokes of Color,” is inspired by her time spent with her grandfather as he suffered from a series of strokes. Spending almost every day with him during the last three years of his life gave her perspective on “the nature of consciousness,” she said.

“In terms of my own writer’s story, for me, writing is a form of mindfulness and a way of learning about ourselves, and reading is another way of learning about the world,” Bonura said via email.

In conjunction with being a fiction writer, Bonura is also a longtime yoga instructor who uses both creative forms as self-care. She encourages those interested in writing to dedicate themselves to their passions.

“I’d love to tell writers and artists of all ages to remember that, even when you’re not sure why you’re doing it, even when it doesn’t feel like you’re reaching anyone, to remember that your writing, and your art, is part of you, and necessary for yourself — so keep doing it,” Bonura said via email. “Keep prioritizing it.”

Bonura earned her doctoral degree in educational psychology from Florida State University. She earned her master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. Over the years, she’s served as a faculty member at Florida Southern College, the U.S. Military Academy West Point, the State University of New York at New Paltz, and Walden University and as a continuing education instructor at the University of Denver.

She now lives in Lawrence, since 2022, with her family. Bonura’s website is

Darwin Michener-Rutledge

A translator and lifelong poet from Baldwin City, Michener-Rutledge values ambiguity in her writing, according to the news release. Her work has appeared in “Poetry Quarterly,” “Sheepshead Review,” “The Mount Holyoke Review” and other publications. 

“Her writing explores politics, identity and landscape, inspired by her childhood growing up in the country and her work in art museums and social advocacy,” according to the release.


Michener-Rutledge is currently pursuing a degree in art history and English at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She is simultaneously working at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in the education department and serves as poetry editor for “The Mount Holyoke Review.”

Michener-Rutledge did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment for this article Friday.

The 2024 Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1. The celebration will take place in the small gallery at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St. It’s free to attend.

Learn more about the award on the arts center’s website,

Past Langston Hughes Award Winners:

2023 Kayla Cook // Jenea Havener (click here to read more)
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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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Kaw Valley Almanac for April 22-28, 2024

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