Abrams Receives Prestigious Writing Award

November 2010

Abrams holding family photoHannah Dela Cruz Abrams, a lecturer in the English department, recently received the 2010 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award for her work on The Following Sea, a memoir that explores the lives of her parents, an American father and mother from the Northern Mariana Islands, who raised her on a yacht in the South Pacific.

The award is given annually to six women writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers.

Recipients receive $25,000 to make writing time available and provide assistance for specific purposes such as child care, research and related travel costs.

Abrams used varied research methods to construct the memoir, including combing through old explorer and seafarer journals, ship logs and letters. She also examined oral histories and children's stories from the Northern Mariana Islands in order to retell common myths. Researching nautical maps, weather patterns, and the socio-political climates of the countries at the time that she lived in them helped her reconstruct childhood travel experiences.

However, her most intensive research involved personal interviews with family and looking through family records and photographs.

"The family research proved the most difficult because it's fairly mercenary to ask people to revisit traumatic events," Abrams says. "In one interview, I posed a question about a particularly troubling memory. The recorder picked up fifteen minutes of static as my interviewee wept. I pushed and, in the end, I had my answer, but it was a high price to pay."

Abrams received an MFA in Creative Writing from UNCW. Her novella, The Man Who Danced with Dolls, is forthcoming from Madras Press in 2011.

-- Lindsay Key '11 MFA