AuthorSHIP Project Grant: Encouraging Young Minds to Write!

AuthorSHIP Project Grant Chapter Members

AuthorSHIP Project Grant Chapter Members

Phi Psi, Shippensburg University‘s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, was the 2015-2016 Sigma Tau Delta Project Grant recipient for their AuthorSHIP Project Grant contest, a Central Pennsylvania competition that encourages young writers in multiple writing styles. The three categories include poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. A first and second place winner is selected from each category in both the high school and middle school division, resulting in a total of twelve awards.

AuthorSHIP Project Grant

In the first week of December 2015 notification of the contest was sent via email, and flyers were sent to nearly fifty middle school and high school teachers. Information about the AuthorSHIP contest was sent to twenty school districts within a sixty-mile radius of Shippensburg University. We accepted submissions online until March 31, 2016, and received 174 manuscripts across the three categories—the highest entry rate so far!

The guidelines for the AuthorSHIP contest are fairly flexible: there is no length requirement and students may submit as many pieces of writing to as many categories as they wish. We encouraged students to proofread and edit their submissions before submitting final drafts. The students could submit pieces they wrote for a specific class, such as research papers, or individual pieces they specifically created for this contest or have been working on previously. No matter how new or old their piece was, it could be submitted as long as they personally wrote the piece.

The students submitted their writing to an online database that every member of the Phi Psi chapter could access. Members were split into three groups and each group was assigned an award category (poetry, fiction, nonfiction) to judge. After reading the submissions multiple times, the members held a meeting to make the final decisions. As difficult as it was to agree on the winners, the final entries were picked via majority vote.

AuthorSHIP Project Grant Winners

AuthorSHIP Contest Winners

AuthorSHIP Winners

Picking the awarded entries was challenging for the members because of the level of creativity and emotion used by the students. The students’ writing made members laugh, cry, and reflect. Some of the common themes were science fiction, mystery, dystopian worlds, personal narratives, and poetry about nature. Gender and social stereotypes were explored in many of the selected winners’ works. It was inspiring to read these emotionally charged stories written by young minds.

AuthorSHIP Project Grant Anthology

AuthorSHIP Anthology

An anthology of winning submissions for the AuthorSHIP Project Grant was compiled by the Writing Contest Subcommittee to distribute to winners, and an awards ceremony was held in April to publicly recognize the winners. Many members of the Phi Psi chapter attended the ceremony, along with the winners and their teachers and family members. Everyone was excited to meet each other and congratulate the writers. The AuthorSHIP contest encourages young people to write and even if their work is not selected in the current year, they are encouraged to submit pieces the following year!


Sigma Tau Delta Project Grants

Sigma Tau Delta’s Project Grants are designed to encourage local chapters to be innovative in developing projects that further the goals of the Society. The Society will award a limited number of grants, for no more than $500 each, to support local chapter activities. Funds may be requested for separate projects or for parts of larger projects, and chapters should explore ways to use Project Grants in combination with funds secured from other sources. Funds may be requested for ongoing projects, but there is no guarantee that projects funded during one grant period will receive funding in future grant periods.

Winning chapters may also receive up to $350 in travel assistance for sending at least one student representative to the annual convention to participate in a workshop and/or roundtable. Winning chapters are encouraged to share a chapter exhibit at the convention.

Applications must be complete and received by November 1. No late submissions will be accepted. Award winners will be notified by November 15, with one-half of the awarded funds available immediately; the other half when a final project report is filed.

Sigma Tau Delta Project Grant Resources

2014-2015 Project Grant Reports


Authorship Project Grant MDiehlMaria Diehl
2015-2016 Project Grant Recipient
Phi Psi Chapter, President
Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, PA

Six Degrees of Almost Famous Women

Almost Famous Women, Book CoverAnnounced during convention season this year, Megan Mayhew Bergman’s Almost Famous Women is the 2017 Sigma Tau Delta Common Reader. This collection of short stories provides imaginative, brief glimpses at the lives of extraordinary, and extraordinarily different, women. Why they are categorized as “almost famous” varies: some certainly were famous while alive, and have simply faded to the back of our cultural conscious (Violet and Daisy Hilton, Butterfly McQueen), while others have always existed on the sidelines of fame as relatives to celebrities (Allegra Byron, Lucia Joyce).

Bergman’s creativity has brought them, or rather bound them, together in this must-read short story collection. I highly recommend this book for those traveling or on the go, since no section exceeds 30 pages and each presents its own independent narrative.

Famous Women Natalie Barney

Natalie Barney

That said, if you have already read it, you may have noticed a unifying character, mentioned in passing much like the women at the center of this book typically have been. Her name is Natalie Barney (1876-1972), and if you would like to add one more almost famous woman to your mental encyclopedia, look no further. Natalie Barney is mentioned in “Romaine Remains,” a story about painter Romaine Brooks, and “Who Killed Dolly Wilde?” about the niece of author Oscar Wilde. A figure depicted by Bergman exclusively through letters of and to Dolly and Romaine, Natalie was evidently a lover to both.

An almost famous woman in her own right, Natalie Barney was a writer who was born in America and living in France and was known for her weekly salons. She lived at the crossroads of a multitude of famous writers and artists, welcomed them into her home to foster the exchange of ideas and enlightened conversation. A most striking fact about her, is that she openly lived and wrote as a lesbian. Additionally, she did not believe in monogamy, and was likely lover to Romaine and Dolly during overlapping intervals. Her writing, the majority of which was in French, considered the themes of feminism, homosexuality, pacifism, and Paganism. She is most well known for her epigrams, including some of the following:

There are more evil ears than bad mouths.

Those who love war lack the love of an adequate sport—the art of living.

Youth is not a question of years: one is young or old from birth.           

Famous Women Natalie Barney and Romain Brooks

Natalie Barney and Romain Brooks

To learn more about Natalie Barney and her connections to Bergman’s famous women, see various biographies (most recently, Wild Heart: A Life: Natalie Clifford Barney and the Decadence of Literary Paris by Suzanne Rodriguez) and translations of her writing (Women Lovers, or The Third Lovers, a novel not published in her life time).

For more on this year’s Common Reader see Samantha Miller’s Making “Almost Famous” Stories

Submit Your Common Reader Work for Convention

Feeling inspired after reading the Common Reader and discussing it with your chapter? Compose a critical or creative piece based on Almost Famous Women and submit it to the Sigma Tau Delta 2017 International Convention, which will be held in Louisville, KY, on March 29 – April 1, 2017.

Awards of up to $600 will be given at the international convention for critical essays or other genres of work that deal with the 2017 Common Reader. To be eligible, students need to indicate on the convention submission form that their work is in the common reader category (presentation type). Members can submit a total of two works for the convention as long as they are in different categories.

Submission guidelines are available on the convention website.

Submissions will be open from September 26, through October 24.


JBurke Jenna Burke
Associate Student Representative, Eastern Region, 2016-2017
Alpha Epsilon Alpha Chapter
The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ

Making “Almost Famous” Stories

Samantha MillerSamantha Miller
Student Advisor, 2016-2018
Alpha Epsilon Alpha Chapter
The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ

When I first read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” in eighth grade, I was struck by one primary thought: I wanted to write like that someday.

Almost Famous Women Book Cover

Jackson was one of the many eerie authors who influenced my taste today, her stories read alongside those of Poe, Asimov, and Bradbury. Yet, in non-English major company, when I fondly name “The Lottery” as my favorite short story I tend to get blank stares. Though Jackson is a canonical author and her work is still studied regularly in schools, the fantastically chilling story seems to have been pushed to the edges of their consciousness.

Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman, the 2017 Common Reader, centers around women who likewise have been shifted aside. Some are on the outskirts of history—for instance, Dolly Wilde, Allegra Byron, and Norma Millay—while others are downright obscure, such as Hazel Eaton. Some, like Butterfly McQueen and the conjoined Hilton twins, may receive vague recognition even if their names have been mostly forgotten. All of their stories are told by outsiders peering into these women’s lives, and twelve out of thirteen stories construct a world where we might know their names as well.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

The outlier hails from my one of my favorite works—“The Lottery,” of course. Unlike the other stories in this collection, “The Lottery, Redux” does not reconstruct a person’s life but recreates another story. “The Lottery, Redux” shifts the setting to a matriarchal society that inherited its exile to a small, isolated island, and explores the perspective of a town leader who is exempt from the annual draw. I won’t give spoilers for the original or this masterful retelling, but I can say the piece retains all the elements that made me love “The Lottery” in the first place, while also expanding to encompass themes that Jackson skimmed over. Bergman pushes mob mentality to the side in lieu of complicated consciences and resentment; the characters meet their fates readily, with heads held high. No one—except the narrator—ever thinks it won’t happen to them.

Like the matriarchs in “The Lottery, Redux,” the women in Bergman’s collection are visibly the backbones of their communities. Whether the woman in question was already famous, on the edges of fame, or completely obscured by history, the collection recognizes them as important and worthy parts of history. Jackson has inspired me to write; Bergman has inspired me to explore the obscured corners of culture. She has written stories that span decades, ages, and perspectives; she has finally given these “almost famous women” the spotlight they deserve.


Submit Your Common Reader Work for Convention

Feeling inspired after reading the Common Reader and discussing it with your chapter? Compose a critical or creative piece based on Almost Famous Women and submit it to the Sigma Tau Delta 2017 International Convention, which will be held in Louisville, KY, on March 29 – April 1, 2017.

Awards of up to $600 will be given at the international convention for critical essays or other genres of work that deal with the 2017 Common Reader. To be eligible, students need to indicate on the convention submission form that their work is in the common reader category (presentation type). Members can submit a total of two works for the convention as long as they are in different categories.

Submission guidelines will be posted to englishconvention.org on August 1.

Submissions will be open from September 26, through October 24.