Fowler's winning submission was a book of creative nonfiction entitled "Crossings: A Journey into God's Country," in which the author addresses issues of conflict, struggle, and survival in her native Eastern Shore, Maryland, culture.

"Where I come from," Fowler writes in her introduction, "people are fishermen and farmers, watermen and small business owners. And although we have our own misgivings and
greed and pride concerning the Chesapeake Bay and our farms, there is a desire to be exactly where we are. If we know anything, we know where home is." Though Fowler's essays are based on actual places, people and incidents, she says they "forge a connection between an impulse to report the factual information and the desire for original creation."

"Stephanie skillfully moves into the consciousness and perspective of her main characters," said Professor Richard Gillin, chair of the English Department and of the Sophie Kerr committee which selected Fowler's text from a pool of 22 submissions. "From oyster bed feuds to murder, the stories are compelling and richly dramatized. Stephanie speaks with balance, clarity, and a steady eye. The ugliness of racism and mob violence is counterpoised with an evident love for the strong and energetic people of cypress swamps and salt marshes."

Professor Melora Wolff, acting Director of the College's creative writing program and Fowler's thesis adviser, described Fowler's work as "the perfect union of journalistic rigor and imaginative insight. She calls it as she sees it," Wolff continued, "and what she sees and writes, without obfuscating, are the dramas of individual struggle in an unjust world."

During her years at Washington College, Fowler wrote for the student newspaper and served as a summer intern at a local newspaper. She is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national honor society for leadership, and also of the varsity volleyball team, where she earned the nickname "Rocket."

"I think that's a great nickname for Stephanie," Wolff commented. "Her writing has unswerving direction and fire. I hope the award helps to launch her career."

The daughter of Bruce and Jaqueline Fowler of Salisbury, Maryland, Fowler graduated magna cum laude with departmental honors in English.

The Sophie Kerr Prize is the namesake of an Eastern Shore woman who made her fortune in New York, writing women's fiction during the 1930s and 1940s. In accordance with the terms of her will, one-half of the annual income from her bequest to the College is awarded each year to the graduating senior demonstrating the best potential for literary achievement. The other half funds scholarships, supports student publications and the purchase of books, and brings an array of visiting writers, editors and publishers to campus to read, visit classes, and discuss student work. Her gift has provided the nucleus for an abundance of literary activity on the bucolic Eastern Shore campus.

At nearly $63,000, has the prize gotten too large? "Sophie knew what she was doing," says Gillin. "She wanted to buy time for a young writer to develop the craft."

More Information About Sophie Kerr: The Writer


Sophie Kerr Prize