Inspiring young writers

MU collaborates to bring nationally renowned writers to Missouri

Nov. 02, 2021


Brian Consiglio: It can be challenging for young writers to find inspiration if they are not exposed to the people who have succeeded in their chosen field. That’s why the University of Missouri partnered with the Kansas City Public Library and five other Missouri Universities to create the Maya Angelou Book Award.

MU Professor Phong Nguyen worked with University of Missouri Kansas City and the Kansas City Public Library to create the award in 2019. He says the award serves three purposes for young writers throughout the state.

Nguyen: “It really is meant to do three things. One is to honor an acclaimed poet and fiction writer. Two is to acknowledge writers who have a social justice mission with their work and also to bring a writer of national or international acclaim to Missouri for a reading tour. All of those interests came together and helped to create this award.”

Consiglio: This year’s winner is Threa Almontaser, a Yemeni-American poet, who won because of her work on The Wild Fox of Yemen, a collection of poems that shows what it is like to be a Muslim woman living in New York after 9/11. Nguyen says bringing writers of Almontasers’ stature to Missouri can be extremely beneficial to the state’s young writers.

Nguyen: “It benefits our young writers, who are aspiring to be a nationally or internationally acclaimed writer and it demystifies what it means to be a writer. It adds to the work to have it performed by the writer themselves, so when they come and read their poems aloud, we can see things in the performance that are not evident from the page.”

Consiglio: For more on this award, visit

I’m Brian Consiglio, with a Spotlight on Mizzou

Learn more about the Maya Angelou Book Award here

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