Jonathan Bolt and Lydia A. Cyrus of West Virginia Win Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award

New York, NY—May 22, 2019—Poets & Writers announced today that the winners of the 2019 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award are Jonathan Bolt for poetry and Lydia A. Cyrus for fiction. The prestigious award, which aims to provide promising writers a network for professional advancement, has helped to launch the careers of Sue Monk Kidd (The Invention of Wings, The Secret Life of Bees), Lidia Yuknavitch (The Book of Joan), David Mura (Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei), and others.

Each year, Poets & Writers selects one state (or Washington, D.C.), and invites writers from that jurisdiction to apply for the Writers Exchange Award. For 2019, the state of West Virginia was chosen. This year’s fiction judge was Bryn Chancellor; the poetry judge was Patricia Spears Jones. Excerpts from the winning manuscripts can be found at

Jonathan Bolt (left) and Lydia A. Cyrus (right) are the winners of the 2019 Writers Exchange Award. (Credits: Toni Nelson, Most Exalted.)


The Writers Exchange Award offers writers an unusual opportunity. Winners are asked to identify agents, editors, authors, and others in aligned professions that they would like to meet. Over the next several months, staff will work to arrange appointments with as many of these individuals as possible. In October, Mr. Bolt and Ms. Cyrus will travel to New York City, all expenses paid, and representatives of Poets & Writers will accompany them on a round of visits to gain insight and advice as well as to establish professional contacts. As a direct result of these meetings, past Writers Exchange Award winners have had their books published, received fellowships, secured teaching positions, and laid the groundwork for their professional lives as writers. Ms. Chancellor, the 2014 winner for fiction, has called it “a real, honest-to-god life changer.” To date, one-hundred-and-four writers from forty-one states have participated.

Jonathan Bolt is a graduate of Concord College (now University), with a B. A. in English with an emphasis on Literature.  He has won the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction and his poems have appeared in the Bluestone Review and Clinch Mountain Review. He spends as much time as he is able walking in the forests and hills of his home state, looking for inspiration for the next poem.

Lydia A. Cyrus is a writer and poet from Huntington, West Virginia. Her work has been featured in Thoreau’s Rooster, Adelaide Literary Magazine, the Albion Review, Catfish Creek, and Luna Luna Magazine.  She lives and works in Huntington where she spends her time being politically active and volunteering. She is a proud mountain woman who strives to make positive change in Appalachia. You can usually find her walking around the woods and surrounding areas as she strives to find solitude in the natural world.

The judges also cited first runners-up Susan Sheppard (in poetry) and Natalie Sypolt (in fiction), and second runners-up Rachel A. Hicks (in poetry) and Sarah Abbott (in fiction).

Poets & Writers will sponsor a reading and reception for Mr. Bolt and Ms. Cyrus during their visit to New York. In addition, the winners will be offered a one-month residency at the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Wyoming. A complete list of past winners can be found at The Writers Exchange Award is generously supported by Maureen Mahon Egen, a member of the Poets & Writers Board of Directors.

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