Announcing the Ellis Avery Prize for Creative Writing

February 15, 2020


You are still

not tired of beauty.

—Ellis Avery

Ellis Avery

We are thrilled to announce a new prize in the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program, established in honor of Ellis Avery, our beloved professor. Starting this spring, we will award The Ellis Avery Prize for Creative Writing annually to a graduating senior and Creative Writing major who shows exceptional promise. 


Professor Ellis Avery taught in the creative writing program for many years and was adored by her students and colleagues, before passing away on February 15, 2019. She brought kindness and light to her classrooms, as well as a monumental depth, intelligence, and expertise in writing. Avery was the winner of two Stonewall Book Awards for her two novels, The Teahouse Fire (which also won a Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Debut Fiction and a Ohioana Library Fiction Award) and The Last Nude. Her memoir, The Family Tooth, was published in 2015. Before teaching at Columbia, she taught writing at the University of California-Berkeley. Later in her teaching career, she became interested in the writing of medical narratives, and in 2018, she taught a narrative medicine storytelling workshop at Harvard Medical School. She is survived by her partner Professor Sharon Marcus, the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia. 


The Ellis Avery Prize for Creative Writing recipient will be selected by the Chair of Writing, the Director of the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program, and other faculty. To nominate a student for this year's prize, email Professor Dorothea Lasky at by March 1, 2020.


Thank you for joining us in honoring Professor Ellis Avery with this new prize.