On Thursday, March 7, the 2019 winners of the Betty Applestein-Sweren Book Collecting Contest were announced at a celebration hosted by the Sweren family. This year, two first and two second place winners were selected, alongside an honourable mention. Although the collections ranged in genre, from fantasy to memoir to general fiction, each winner was chosen for their deep passion that informs the collection that they have built.
The Betty Applestein-Sweren Book Collecting Contest, started by Betty Sweren and her husband Dr. Edgar Sweren in 2012, is a contest that allows any Goucher College student (undergraduate or graduate) to share their book collections on any topic they choose. In order to be considered for the contest, students write an essay describing their collection and its significance, a bibliography cataloguing all of the current books in the collection, and a list of 20 books that they wish to receive in the future. Collections must include print books, but they can also include other physical materials (maps, sketches, etc.) as long as they fall within the collection theme.
All winners received a certificate and book plate marking the occasion. First and second place winners both received money as well to help build their collections further. The Honourable Mention was given to Abigail Mahoney-Cloutier ‘22 for her collection entitled “High Fantasy in Ink.” The second-place winners were Lena Fultz ‘19 with “The Value of a True Story: Memoir as a Writer’s Primary Source” and Joshua Miller ‘20 with “Shades of the Color Black: Perspectives of the Black Identity.” Ruut DeMeo ‘20 with her collection “The Kalevala: Retellings and Interpretations of the Ancient Myth” and Matthew Jenkins ‘21 with his collection “J.R.R. Tolkien: A Beaten, Battered, and Yellowed Bundle of Pages” both won first place.
These collections developed differently for each of this year’s winners, though for many their collection began during their childhood or high school years. In her acceptance speech, Fultz, explained that she had likely begun collecting books when she was a kid, without being aware that she was collecting in the first place. Miller began his collection of black narratives when he became aware of the lack of quality representation for black people, and black men in particular, in high school. Jenkins had enjoyed Tolkien since he was young, beginning with The Hobbit which was the beaten, battered, and yellowed bundle of pages referenced in his collection’s title, but realized he was building a collection “the first time [he] bought a Tolkien book [he] didn’t need.” DeMeo built her collection off of her interest in The Kalevala, which her grandmother would read to her when she was little.
As for the future? Well, Mahoney-Cloutier has another shot at submitting her collection next year, as students that submit collections that are deemed an “Honourable Mention” are strongly encouraged to develop their collection more and resubmit it the following year. As Professor of English, Dr. Juliette Wells stated in presenting the Honourable Mention award: “the special Honourable Mention is the vote of confidence in the developing collection.” Mahoney-Cloutier plans to resubmit in the future, potentially with new additions to the collection. Additionally, many of the winners this year expressed their wishes to add their own book to their collection one day. Miller, for example, is currently focused on writing works that focus on black identity. While DeMeo is currently working on a middle-grade fantasy novel, her senior thesis next year will be novel that builds off of The Kalevala. Additionally, DeMeo and Jenkins are eligible to move on to the National Book Collecting Contest hosted by the Library of Congress, where they have the opportunity to win up to $2500 for their collections.
Want to share your own book collection next year? Perhaps focus on the collection of books that mean the most to you personally. When asked about what she would suggest for those submitting collections in the future, DeMeo explained, while she was unsure about her chances on submitting her collection, the judges told her that the success of her collection was due to the personal affection for her collection that she expressed in her essay. Miller, as well, suggested to those submitting in the future “consider what speaks to you” and to expand on why it does so. The success of the above collections is built off of, as was said many times during the event, to the love these students have not simply for their books, but for the subjects they’ve built their collections around.
Winners also suggest starting early, mainly because of the bibliography. Jenkins in particular noted that the bibliography was the hardest part of the process for him, primarily because of how much time it took. However, that shouldn’t discourage you from submitting your collection. Formalizing your collection, as DeMeo expressed, can be really inspiring. Many of the winners, as creative writers, were also able to compile and share their influences through this contest and reflect on how these influences have impacted their writing.
Interested in learning more about the collections? Find the collection submissions (including essays and bibliographies) at https://mdsoar.org/handle/11603/2242. Below are recommendations of books from a few of the winners:
“High Fantasy in Ink”, Abigail Mahoney-Cloutier ‘22: For art, see Milkyway Hitchhiking by Sirial For story, see ElfQuest by Wendy and Richard Pini
“Shades of the Color Black: Perspectives of the Black Identity”, Joshua Miller ‘20: Native Son by Richard Wright; How Long till Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin; No Name in the Street by James Baldwin
“J.R.R. Tolkien: A Beaten, Battered, and Yellowed Bundle of Pages”, Matthew Jenkins ‘21: Tree and Leaf by J.R.R. Tolkien
“The Kalevala: Retellings and Interpretations of the Ancient Myth”, Ruut DeMeo ‘20: The Story of Kullervo by J.R.R. Tolkien
Further information on the Applestein-Sweren Book Collecting Contest itself can be found on the Goucher Library site, or in our 106th issue published on December 7, 2018 entitled “So Goucher Has A Book Collecting Contest?”.