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H.G. Merriam

The Merriam-Frontier Award was established by H.G. Merriam, Professor of English and Creative Writing from 1919-1954 at the University of Montana, to recognize distinguished achievement in writing. The award consists of a prize of $500.00 and funds to publish a chapbook of the winning entry. The writer must be an undergraduate or graduate student enrolled at the University of Montana. Submissions are limited to one per student. Please include a cover page with the title of your manuscript, your name, email address, phone number and address. The recipient of the Merriam-Frontier Award will give a public reading from his or her prize-winning manuscript in the spring. The recipient may publish only the winning manuscript with Merriam-Frontier funds, and the deadline for publication is in August.

Entries for the Merriam-Frontier should be in one of the following categories:
Poetry: 20-30 pages
Fiction: 40-60 double-spaced pages
Creative Nonfiction: 40-60 double-spaced pages

Be sure to include a cover page with a title and contact information.

The winner of the 2014 contest is Julia Ohman for her collection of stories, Vertical Streets. Ohman will read from her award-winning manuscript on Friday, March 7, 4:10 - 5 p.m. in the Theta Rho Room of the Mansfield Library. 

A Wyoming native, H.G. Merriam arrived in Missoula in 1919, fresh from two degrees at Oxford where he had been in the first class of American Rhodes Scholars. He started his first class in creative writing in 1920 with five students; together they founded a literary magazine that became Frontier—later titled Frontier and Midland—a distinguished quarterly journal published at The University of Montana from 1920 to 1939. Contributors included then-emerging talents Wallace Stegner, A.B. Guthrie Jr., William Saroyan, Dorothy Johnson, John Mason Brown, Weldon Kees, Thomas McGrath and many others. One particular strength of the journal was its frequent publication of work by young authors, a custom that the Merriam-Frontier Award both honors and continues. The first award was granted to Frances Kuffel, a senior in English at the time, in 1982, for a volume of poems. H.G. Merriam retired in 1954, and passed away in 1980 at 96. In the words of William Kittredge, "If it hadn't been for him, Montana wouldn't have been a literary state."

H.G. Merriam was responsible for creating a Bachelor's degree in creative writing at the University of Montana beginning in 1929. It was the second of its kind in the United States (Harvard, where he had also studied, being the first). The Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing was established and approved in 1964, guided by then-chair Warren Carrier (MFA, Iowa). H.G. Merriam also ran summer writing conferences in the 1930's and 40's with such luminous individuals as Carl Sandburg, Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Bernard Malamud and Mildred Walker.