Inara Verzemnieks, a non-fiction writer and Tacoma native, has just been awarded a 2012 Rona Jaffee Foundation Writer’s Award, given annually to six women writers beginning their careers. The award is worth $30,000, and will be presented Sept. 20 in New York.
Verzemnieks, now completing her MFA in creative non-fiction at the University of Iowa, grew up in Tacoma and interned at The News Tribune. She worked as a reporter for 13 years at The Oregonian, where she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the James Beard Award in feature writing. Her creative writing has appeared in The Atlantic and Creative Nonfiction, and recently wrote an article about a group of homeless people who live at a rest stop on the interstate freeway near Portland, Oregon.
The Rona Jaffe award was established by novelist Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) in 1995 to support women writers in the early stages of their careers. It has assisted several prominent writers such as Elif Batuman, Rebecca Curtis, Frances Hwang, Kathleen Graber and more.
Verzemnieks was partly raised by her grandparents, who were Latvian refugees, and intends to use the award to spend time in Latvia researching a project on Latvian occupation and dislocation during WWII. She currently lives in Iowa City.