Eighth Annual Christopher Hewitt Awards

#SaveTheArts asks “all professional in the film, television, theatre, entertainment and arts world, join the challenge to post a photo of you in your job. Just a picture, no description. The goal is to flood social media with our profession.” Participants in this campaign aim to remind the world how important the arts are to our lives during this COVID-19 pandemic, when whole industries are endangered, organizations are shuttering, and unemployment is rife. As many have pointed out, we need to support our artists because they have supported us. Indeed, what have we been doing with our extended stay-at-home time during lockdown? Watching movies and catching up with TV shows (The Good Wife, for me), listening to living room concerts and staged readings (or if you are lucky, balcony operas and windowsill puppet shows), taking virtual museum tours, and reading, reading, reading—poems, plays, fiction, nonfiction.

Now, I have also seen social media posts that decry funding the arts in favor of material needs like food, shelter and medications. We here at A&U have heard this argument before: Why should I support a non-profit magazine when people living with HIV/AIDS need nutritious meals?

This is an argument that makes visible our lack of resources, and that’s all well and good. We should fight for what we need to survive. But the argument can function to frame our needs as basic rather than expansive. Too many people living with HIV/AIDS and engaged in treatment have been told: Here are your drugs, you’re alive, what more do you want?

Oh, a whole lot more. Yes, a whole lot more.

So, I will persist with this two-pronged appeal: What do we need to survive and thrive?

We need food, housing, medications (with fewer side effects and lower dosing burdens). We need healthcare systems that dismantle rather than embrace racist, gender-normative and sexist policies and practices. We need mental health services. We need to socialize. We need touch. We need to be witnessed and supported along our developmental path, from childhood to our senior years. We need spaces to daydream. We need spaces that allow us to change for the better.

We need access to care. But we also need access to ourselves. And often writers and artists provide this portal. That is certainly true in this year’s slate of Christopher Hewitt Award winners: Katherine Gleason, Cris Eli Blak, Patrick Mulcahey and Ben Kline all offer imagination and insight, art and understanding.
Before you dive in, A&U would like to thank the judges—Raymond Luczak (fiction), Noah Stetzer (poetry), Bruce Ward (drama), and Jay Vithalani (nonfiction)—for their dedication and literary acuity.
—Chael Needle

“The Handsomest Man in New York,” by Patrick Mulcahey (winner)

Judge’s bio: Jay Vithalani is a writer and editor. He grew up in Mumbai, and studied English literature, philosophy, and creative nonfiction at Amherst College, Harvard University, and the University of Iowa. Vithalani lives in New York City. He serves as A&U‘s Nonfiction Editor. He can be reached [email protected].

“The Toe Incident” by Katherine Gleason (winner)
“The PrEP Play,” by Yilong Liu (runner-up)

Judge’s bio: Bruce Ward has been writing about the AIDS epidemic since its inception, and a recently completed memoir chronicles the early years. His plays, Lazarus Syndrome, Decade: Life in the ’80s, and other full-length plays, have been produced throughout the U.S. Bruce was the first Director of the CDC National AIDS Hotline from 1986–1988, and he was honored by POZ magazine as one of 2015’s POZ 100. He is A&U‘s Drama Editor.

“Soul Cowboy,” by Cris Eli Blak (winner)
“The Waiting Room,” by Harry F. Rey (runner-up)
“A Marked Life,” Greer Arrowsmith (honorable mention)
“The Scales on a Butterfly’s Wings ,” by Joel Donato Ching Jacob (honorable mention)

Judge’s bio: Raymond Luczak is the author and editor of over twenty books. His latest titles include Flannelwood (Red Hen Press), Lovejets: Queer Male Poets on 200 Years of Walt Whitman (Squares & Rebels), and the forthcoming Once Upon a Twin (Gallaudet University Press). Previously the editor of the queer fiction journals Jonathan and Callisto, he is currently the editor of Mollyhouse. A ten-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Visit his website at: raymondluczak.com.

“It Was Never Supposed to Be Ours,” by Ben Kline (winner)

Judge’s bio: Noah Stetzer grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and now lives in Kansas City, Missouri. His book I Can See Needing a Knife was published by Red Book Chapbooks in 2016 and his poems have been featured at New England Review, Bellevue Literary Review, and at various other journals. You can find out more about Noah and his work at www.noahstetzer.com.

Chael Needle (A&U‘s Managing Editor) has been with A&U for twenty years and started the Christopher Hewitt Awards to promote literary responses to HIV/AIDS and to honor A&U‘s first Literary Editor. He coedited, along with Diane Goettel, the anthology Art & Understanding: Literature from the First Twenty Years of A&U. Alongside his editorial and feature work for A&U, he has published his fiction and poetry in Mollyhouse, The Night Heron Barks, Chelsea Station, Callisto, T.R.O.U., Owen Wister Review, Adirondack Review, Blue Fifth Review, Lilliput Review, and bottle rockets, among others. Follow him on Twitter @ChaelNeedle.