Fran Abrams Creative Writing Award

The Fran Abrams Creative Writing Award (Abrams Award) is available to high school juniors enrolled in a public or non-public high school in Montgomery County MD who demonstrate a commitment to creative writing.

The 2023-2024 Abrams Award will be presented to three recipients following a juried selection process that is based upon the merit of original submitted work and the applicant’s commitment to the creative writing discipline, not financial need.  The awardee who receives the highest average panel score is given an award of $1,500, a mentorship with a professional writer, and the opportunity for the awardee to read their own work during an award ceremony. In addition, two runner-up awardees will receive $750 each and a one-on-one meeting with the mentor.

AHCMC recognizes Fran Abrams for her legacy to Montgomery County’s cultural community. Click on the “About Fran Abrams” tab below to learn more her work as an arts and humanities patron.

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Important Dates

Application Deadline
Monday, January 15, 2024 - 11:59 pm


Jesus Guzman
Grants Assistant Manager
Karen Judson
Grants Manager
(301) 565-3804
Krystle Seit
Grants Coordinator
(301) 565-3805 ext. 20
Date + Deadlines

2023-2024 Important Dates

  • Guidelines Published – November 2023
  • Application Deadline  Monday, January 15, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. EST

Applicants are highly encouraged to contact AHCMC grants staff. All applications and relevant materials must be submitted online through AHCMC’s grants portal, SurveyMonkey Apply (SM Apply).

Late applications and relevant materials will not be accepted.

Additional Dates Post-Application

  • Panel Review (virtual) – To be announced, more information coming soon
  • Award Announcement – Summer 2024
  • Award Ceremony – Fall 2024, to be announced


    • Monday, December 11, 2023, from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. EST
    • Register Here!

      All AHCMC webinars will be hosted through the Zoom platform.

      Webinars allow applicants to ask AHCMC grants staff specific questions about the guidelines, application, and online application portal.

      At each webinar, AHCMC grants staff review eligibility requirements and offer technical assistance for both the application process and the online application portal.

      Assistance is available via email or phone by contacting AHCMC Grants Manager, Karen Judson at or (301) 565-3804.

      Fran Abrams Creative Writing Award Application Webinar

      SurveyMonkey Apply (SM Apply) Tutorial

      Guidelines + Eligibility



      An eligible applicant must meet all of the following criteria:

      • Resides in Montgomery County, MD;
      • Is able to provide AHCMC with a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) prior to receiving the award disbursement;
      • Is enrolled full-time during the fall of 2023 and spring of 2024 of their junior year in a public, private, or home school located in Montgomery County, MD; and
      • Will be graduating high school in the spring of 2025.

      Creative Writing Disciplines

      The work submitted must demonstrate the applicant’s proficiency in any one or combination of the following creative writing disciplines:

      • Poetry
      • Fiction
      • Songwriting
      • Scriptwriting
      • Creative Nonfiction

      Work samples in the above disciplines may include but are not limited to:

      • Novels
      • Poems
      • Short stories
      • Song lyrics
      • Memoirs
      • Personal essays
      • Screenplays for film or television
      • Scripts for theater, podcasts, or radio

          Required Application Materials:

          1. Completed Application Narrative
          2. High School Transcript
            • Applicants must upload a PDF copy of their current high school transcript verified by the original signature of their guidance counselor. This signature verifies that the applicant’s grades are up to date and that the applicant is on track to graduate with a high school diploma in the spring of 2025.
              • Homeschooled applicants may have their current high school transcript signed by their primary instructor if a guidance counselor is not available.
            • Transcripts will only be used to verify eligibility; transcripts are not sent to the panel and do not impact the evaluation process.
          3. Homeschool Notification Form (required for homeschooled students only)
            • All homeschooled applicants must submit a Homeschool Notification Form signed by a parent or guardian who verifies that the student is homeschooled and that they comply with Maryland State Department of Education homeschooling regulations.
            • The Homeschool Notification Form will only be used to verify eligibility; this form is not sent to the panel and does not impact the evaluation process.
          4. Work Sample(s)
            • Upload 1-10 samples of original work created within the past two years. Samples should include pieces that the applicant would feel comfortable reading out loud.
          5. Completed AHCMC Reporting Data Form
            • This form corresponds with AHCMC’s reporting obligations. Responses will not be factored into eligibility or the panel review.
          Application + Templates

          Ready to apply? Submit through the SM Apply portal.

          All applications and relevant materials must be submitted through SM Apply by the deadline. Applicants are highly encouraged to use the application templates to prepare the narrative and supplementary materials.

          Please read the guidelines thoroughly before starting an application.

          2023-2024 Abrams Award Templates:

          *Know that these are templates for your reference only – all applications and relevant materials must be submitted online through SM Apply.*

          Award Recipients

          Learn about the 2022 – 2023 Award Recipient, Allison Xu



          2021 Award Recipient – Sara Medwin

          Sara is a student at Poolesville High School cultivating her creative writing, specifically poetry, through exposure to the worlds of social justice and public policy An active member of her school’s debate and mock trial teams, Sara published two articles for the non-partisan news outlet, She is also a remote intern for the non-profit youth advocacy group TurnUp since September 2020. In her own words, “As a creative writer, [Sara] explores the subtleties that arrest [her] attention, implicate [her] emotions, and ultimately, shape [her] perceptions of the world.” After graduating high school, Sara hopes to connect her interests of creative writing and informative non-fiction and continue her exploration of creative writing in college.

          Writer’s Statement

          It’s the little things—the brief glimmer of a memory, a breeze reminding me of some deeply known truth, or a glimpse of a feeling that’s impossible to capture with words—that inspire me to put pen to paper (or finger to notes app) and write. As a creative writer, I explore the subtleties that arrest my attention, implicate my emotions, and ultimately shape my perceptions of the world. When I write, I lend a voice to the restless feelings I have that ache and echo, adding contrast and color to my life. In the same vein, I hope that my writing will communicate feelings that are so often suppressed or stigmatized by society. The complex feelings of guilt and adoration I bear towards my family and my lingering feelings of “otherness” house themselves in my work as I explore the tensions and threads that have culminated in who I am today.

          2020 Award Recipient – Rachel Epstein-Shuman

          Rachel, a junior at Albert Einstein High School, dedicates her free time to activism and writing in hopes of de-normalizing rape culture and promoting an end to systemic sexual and domestic violence. She has been an invited speaker at events organized by the Adolescent Peer Support League, Break the Cycle, and the D.C. Attorney General’s Office, and is a regular speaker on panels about sexual harassment and assault, as well as the way in which D.C. Public School and Montgomery County Public School policies can improve the treatment of both victims and perpetrators. Rachel hopes to study English, English Education, or Journalism.

          2018 Award Recipient – Amal Haddad

          Amal Haddad is a haphazard poet, artist, and  wannabe novelist who hopes to one day finish writing her story set in the Upper Michigan Peninsula, a region she has an inexplicable fascination with and of which she has five maps on her wall, despite never having been there. Her favorite writers are Anne Carson and James Baldwin. Amal works at the Bethesda library and is currently a senior at Albert Einstein high school’s Visual Arts Center. For her art series about the AIDS epidemic and its ramifications today, Amal was named a 2018 YoungArts Silver Finalist and a semi-finalist for Presidential Scholar in the Arts. She was also a 2017 Fitzgerald Scholar, and received regional Silver Keys for Short Story and Portfolio from Scholastics. In the fall, she will attend Swarthmore College and plans to study English.

          2017 Award Recipient – Asia Pumphrey

          Asia Pumphrey is a senior at Gaithersburg High School who enjoys writing and photography. During her high school career Asia has participated in the  the Multicultural Club, Key Club, Stage Crew, Food for Thought Club, NAACP, and the Newspaper Club. Asia is currently an Editor of her the school newspaper and has had 5 of my poems published in an anthology called a celebration OF POETS from 2015 to 2017. Asia is greatly supported by her parents and friends, stating “they push me to strive for my goals and achieve above and beyond my expectations.”

          Writer’s Statement

          In my work emotions of fear, sadness, acceptance, and sometimes love are expressed by way of imagery and hyperbole. The majority of my poems are also free verse with unrhymed lines to convey a sense of confused or frenzied thinking because poetry is the only way I know how to feel and express my feelings in a healthy way. The art of writing is very cathartic for me and gives me a voice. That, being said, my poetry may blur boundaries between genres because of the fact that all of my work is the unfiltered me and I can not be defined as only one thing.

          2016 Award Recipient – Emily Zhang

          Emily Zhang is a senior at Richard Montgomery High School. She loves telling bits of stories through poetry, and hopes to one day work in arts advocacy where she can teach students the importance of creative expression. She is currently Editor in Chief of the The Moco Student, Montgomery County’s student newspaper, as well as News Editor of The Tide, Richard Montgomery’s High School newspaper. In addition, Emily founded Sidereal Journal, an online publication that is dedicated to showcasing the works of writers and artists who create with the purpose of shifting the perspective of the public. Emily has earned a Scholastic Art & Writing Award, and her work has been recognized by Feminist Studies, The Poetry Society of England, The Sierra Nevada Review, Princeton University, and National Poetry Quarterly, as well as many other publications.

          Writer’s Statement

          “Writing, originally, was a documentation of my life—I’ve kept journals since the fourth grade—but whenever I found myself uprooted into a new environment, I wrote to address this strange new sense of loneliness.Poetry is my connection of people and people, author and reader, ideas that never seemed to mesh well until they did. I love this width of possibility, this restlessness of words. I love that it inspires equal parts adventure and introspection and empathy. When China handed me a fistful of loneliness and mistranslation, I gave it line breaks on café napkins, candy wrappers, grocery store receipts. I wrote when the neighborhood bookstore stopped carrying English titles. I wrote when my grandpa passed away and left all his playing cards on the table and orange juice in the fridge.”

          2015 Award Recipient – Logan Dreher

          Logan Dreher is a senior at Blake High School. An active member of organizations like the National Honors Society, Black Student Union, and Knitting Club, she expresses her love for writing through her leadership roles as editor-in-chief of the nationally recognized school newspaper, ‘The Blake Beat,’ and as president of the Creative Writing Club. She has given back to her community by obtaining over 250 community service hours. In the past, Logan has been featured in the Bethesda Magazine, and was a recipient of the National Society of Arts and Literature Award for Excellence. She owes her success to her family, friends, and writing mentor Amy Branson.

          Writer’s Statement

          I don’t think I’ve ever considered why I was interested in writing before. It is something as intrinsically tied to my being as my hair or eye color. In that vein, there was never one moment I realized I wanted to write. The heavens never opened up, and God never strode out and declared, “You shall write.”

          Most of my life seemed impermanent and abstract; two of my best friends moved away when I was a child; my father moved to California, and then to Florida, after my parents divorced; and I felt race-less, community-less as a white looking biracial girl in an African American household. Writing made my life feel concrete. If I could just capture a moment in words, it was real and it was permanent.

          2014 Award Recipient – Yiyi “Jessica” Li

          Yiyi “Jessica” Li immigrated to America from China at the age of nine and will graduate from Richard Montgomery High School in June of 2014. Her works have been featured on Teen-Ink, Stage-of-life, and the New York Times Education Blog. She has also been recognized in nation-wide contests including the River of Words International Poetry Contest, National Creative Communications Essay Contest, and the Scholastic Writing Awards, as well as in local competitions such as the Bethesda Magazine Essay Contest, MCCPTA Reflections Contest, and One World Education Reflections Program. Jessica will attend Princeton University in the fall of 2014 and hopes to become a news reporter/commentator.

          Writer’s Statement

          Illegal immigrant. Teenage mother. Housewife of a Wall Street billionaire. Do you think crime? Burden? Extravagance and perpetual festivity? After coming to America, my family moved from a grease-smelling garage-sized tenement sheltering fourteen people to a house of our own on a scenic street. The stereotypes I had been associated with in the eyes of my counterparts had changed, yet, there was always a monochromatic label that they slapped onto me. That’s what got me to pick up my pen. I write to amplify the non-mainstream voices, for I’ve witnessed the power of words to peacefully erase prejudices and open our eyes to what we once refused to see.

          All past recipients

          • Allison Xu (2023)
          • Sara Medwin (2021)
          • Rachel Epstein-Schuman (2020)
          • Amal Haddad (2018)
          • Asia Pumphrey (2017)
          • Emily Zhang (2016)
          • Logan Dreher (2015)
          • Yiyi “Jessica” Li (2014)
          • Sydney Axelrod (2013)
          About Fran Abrams


          The Fran Abrams Creative Writing Award was established in July 2010 to celebrate a high school student who excels in creative writing, as well as Fran Abrams’ contributions to Montgomery County’s cultural community. Former AHCMC Grants Director and Interim Public Art Trust Director, Abrams announced her retirement from AHCMC effective July 2010. During her nearly 10 years at AHCMC, Abrams oversaw the creation of Montgomery County’s first Cultural Plan, AHCMC’s 2007 Strategic Plan, and served as the agency’s Interim Director. Abrams retired after 41 years of service to Montgomery County, including 10 years with the County Government and more than 20 years in non-profit organizations focused on early childhood education, arts, and the environment.

          AHCMC CEO Suzan Jenkins notes, “Fran’s stalwart creativity and vision are a testament to the leadership and dedication she brought to the Arts & Humanities Council. We are proud to continue her legacy for years to come by inspiring students with the Fran Abrams Creative Writing Award.

          Contribute to the fund

          Please contact AHCMC Deputy Director, Joe Frandoni, at