Celebrating the Adjunct Writer

Whew! After last week’s despair fest, I figure my loyal readers deserve a reminder of how much adjunct writers contribute to their communities.

Adjuncts at USC have won Pulitzers (William Inge, Paul Zindel, and A. Scott Berg) and Oscars (Harry Brown, Marc Norman, Edmund North, Robert Pirosh, and Frank Tarloff). They’ve won the National Medal of Arts (Ray Bradbury), and written books that have reshaped lives (Betty Friedan, among others).

Lest you think that’s just a USC thang, Ben Quick, adjunct for the University of Arizona system, won a 2008 Pushcart Prize.

Continuing across the country, let’s pause in Texas to celebrate Bob Lynch, adjunct faculty member for Lone Star College, who is lucky enough to teach for a system who describes adjuncts as “ An adjunct professor is a supplemental faculty member with unique experience and the desire to share it with the next generation of professionals. Within the faculty at Lone Star College-North Harris, any number of these outstanding individuals can be found — men and women with spectacular résumés who have the ability to add a new dimension to the college experience.”

Go Lone Star! In fact, a virtual cruise around Lone Star College leaves me thinking good things are happening in that system. Consider, for example, Amanda Auchter. Also an adjunct in the Lone Star system, Ms. Auchter has won or been nominated for a host of literary awards, and is somehow made time to found and edit Pebble Lake Review.

Skipping over to Boston, we see Ann Ross winning the Grub Street Poetry Revision Fellowship in 2005. What’s nice about an adjunct winning this award is that it is specifically aimed at helping the recipient polish a book manuscript for publication (hence providing a multiplier effect for future awards, publications, and jobs).

Continuing on to the Big Apple, you’ll find Helen Phillips, an adjunct at Brooklyn College, winning the Rona Jaffe Award (fiction) in 2009. Here too we see this multiplier effect in action, as Phillips has said she’ll use the (rather substantial) prize to finish another book.

Lest you think that it’s only the liberal arts where adjunct writers win awards, consider MIT, that bastion of left-brain thinking, where Marcia Bartusiak teaches science writing. Bartusiak has won the American Institute of Physics’ Andrew W. Gemant Award and the AIP Science Writing Award.

Whew. I’m feeling better, and I hope you are too—and I’ve only scratched the surface. I think I’m going to keep generating this list, to revive my spirits on those difficult days. For now, I’ll just offer a few concluding thoughts.

First, award-winning adjunct writers are everywhere.

Second, as noted above (and as many have noted elsewhere), awards have a multiplier effect. Winning one makes you more likely to win others, to earn higher pay for work, etc. That’s the value of the award economically. Spiritually, they function as nourishment, helping the exhausted hyphenate (adjunct-writer) regenerate.

Third, it is often nice to be reminded that some systems (like Lone Star and USC) recognize that there is a proper role for adjuncts. Ideally, adjuncts are individuals who don’t want to live purely academic lives, but who want to work in their fields and teach, and who bring superior expertise to the classroom as a result.

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