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Reception for "Payton Prize" essay contest winners set for Feb. 25

February 23, 2015

The Susan Glaspell Writers & Critics Series will host a reception for the “Payton Prize” winners on Wednesday, February 25, from 3:30-5:30 p.m. in the Cowles Library Reading Room.

The Payton James Freeman Essay Prize is a national non-fiction essay contest sponsored by the Freeman family in honor of their late son, Payton. Judges Cheryl Strayed and William Bradley will judge submissions, which address the theme “After the Unhappy Ending.”

The winning essay will be published in The Rumpus and the winner will be awarded $500 and brought to Drake University to read and discuss their work at the reception. A second, $250 prize will be offered to Drake students and the chosen writer will also read their work alongside the national winner.

The national winner is Tammy Delatorre. Delatorre’s writing has appeared in many major publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Salon and Perceptions magazine. She has also worked for a Nobel-prize winning biochemist and helped to design, build and race a solar car that won the World Solar Challenge in Australia. Her essay for the Payton Prize is titled “Out of the Swollen Sea”.

The Drake University winner is Erin Mercurio. Mercurio is a senior philosophy and English major with minors in physics and math. She is most interested in reading and writing about topics that unite these fields, particularly language, logic and identity. After graduation, Mercurio plans to go to graduate school to study philosophy. Her submission is titled “Inference to the Best Explanation: Muons, Electron Beams, and Circuit Construction.”

Payton James Freeman was a bright, loving child whose ability to move was taken away by Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Diagnosed as an infant, Payton was expected to live perhaps six months. Instead he fought for five and a half years as his parents worked with doctors and scientists, fundraising in hopes of a cure. SMA ultimately took his life, but his story lives on in all those who continue striving against uncountable odds, and who struggle to put life’s most complex and trying events into words.

SMA is the #1 genetic killer of children under the age of two. To learn more about SMA visit http://www.curesma.org/sma/about-sma/.