Writing Awards

The Writing and Literature Degree Program
Eighteenth Annual English Department James Tolan* Awards for Students

The James Tolan Writing Awards is a majority faculty-funded cash award** to outstanding writing by Writing and Literature majors. The Faculty Writing Awards for students were renamed in 2017 in honor of Professor James Tolan. Now in its seventeenth year, the Tolan Writing Awards, originally known as the Faculty Writing Awards, was established by Diane Simmons in 2005.

About James Tolan: James Tolan was a professor in the BMCC English department from 2003-2017. But first and foremost he was a poet. As a professor, he challenged his students to take their learning into the city, offering them opportunities to see working poets and writers at places like The Cornelia Street Café, Poets House and the Nuyorican Poets Café. His final assignments often gave students the chance to submit their own poems and stories for credit since it was by using what he referred to as his own “corny love poems” to try to get college credit that led him into his life as a poet. He published a collection of poems, Mass of the Forgotten, in 2013, and his posthumous collection Filched appeared in 2018. He was also the author of three chapbooks, including Red Walls and Whiskey and the Rake of Mourning, and he was co-editor of the anthology New America: Contemporary Literature for a Changing Society.

The deadline for submissions for the 2023 Tolan Writing Awards: February 28, 2023.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2022 Awards:

  • Evan Williams, Creative Non-Fiction, “Lost and Found”
  • Helen Bauer Fiction, “Soulful Soup” and  Scholarship, “The Racist Practice of Miscegenation:  Amado’s Ignorance and Erasure”
  • Ime Ekpo Scholarship, “Ebony, Chocolate, Caramel, Mocha, Honey, and Cream: The Lingering of Colorism”
  • John Michael Corales, Scholarship, “The Burden of Femininity: Gender Politics in King Lear”
  • Tiffany Edmonds, Fiction, “Solvent”
  • Ethan Wynners, Fiction, “Soft Agony”
  • Timmy Bailey Fiction, “Universal Hero” and Poetry
  • Dan Andrei Hufancia, Fiction, “Ad Astra”
  • Summer Canzano, Poetry, “This Has to End in Forgiveness”
  • Mattias Fernandez, Poetry

Application Requirements

Students in the BMCC Writing and Literature degree program can apply for annual awards of up to $1,000***
Submissions are invited in the following areas***:

  • Academic Writing: includes critical essays and research papers
  • Journalism: includes feature writing and news writing
  • Creative Writing: includes poetry, fiction, drama, and autobiography

News and Feature writing submissions should be between 1,000-2,500 words
Critical essay and research paper submissions should be between 2,000-5,000 words
Fiction autobiography submissions should be between 2,000-5,000 words
Poetry submissions should be between 3-8 poems
Drama submissions should be up to 30 pages from a full-length play or 2-3 one-act plays

To qualify for an award you must:

  • Have completed 12 credits by February 28, 2023
  • Be a Writing and Literature major
  • Have a 3.0 average in English courses
  • Submit original writing in one or more of the above categories
  • Complete a cover sheet, available at 2023 James Tolan Awards Submission Cover Sheet.

The deadline for submissions for the 2023 Tolan Writing Awards: February 28, 2023

Awards Ceremony: To be announced.

No late submissions will be accepted.

* The Faculty Writing Awards for students were renamed in 2017 in honor of Professor James Tolan.
** Because the awards are funded by the BMCC English Department Faculty and run through the BMCC Fund, students must have their Bursar’s bills paid in full. Otherwise, award monies will be used first to settle accounts with the college.
*** Awards will be based on writing excellence. The number and dollar amounts of the awards will be determined by members of the Writing and Literature Degree Program Committee. Awards will not necessarily be granted in each category.

English Department

199 Chambers Street, Room N-751
New York, NY 10007
Phone: (212) 220-8270

Office Hours:
9 a.m.-5 p.m