Writer for the Wyoming Truth Receives Fellowship from Wyoming Arts Council

Jennifer Kocher has received a 2023 creative writing fellowship (nonfiction category) from the Wyoming Arts Council for a submission based on her year-long coverage of "The Search for Irene" for the Wyoming Truth. (Courtesy photo from Jennifer Kocher)

Jennifer Kocher, a Gillette-based contributor to the Wyoming Truth, is a recipient of the Wyoming Arts Council’s 2023 Fellowships in Visual Arts, Creative Writing and Performing Arts.

Kocher won a creative writing fellowship (nonfiction category) for a submission based on “The Search for Irene,” her year-long coverage of the Irene Gakwa case for the Wyoming Truth. Gakwa, a Kenyan nursing student, mysteriously disappeared from her Gillette home in February 2022, and her whereabouts remain unknown.

For the Wyoming Arts Council fellowship, Kocher submitted three chapters of a future book that will focus on her work as a journalist “in helping to solve missing person cases throughout the state, including working closely with a private investigator and families of the missing, as well as searching on the ground.” Kocher plans to include coverage of other Wyoming missing person cases in addition to Gakwa’s.

Creative Writing fellowships are $5,000 unrestricted awards of merit, based on a writer’s body of work. Applications are juried by distinguished authors, literary agents and writing professionals from outside the state, and recipients share their work at one of three Wyoming literary conferences.

Previously, Kocher won second place for general reporting for her Wyoming Truth Gakwa coverage from the Society of Professional Journalist’s “Top of the Rockies” contest.

Kocher’s fellowship comes on the heels of another prestigious award for a Wyoming Truth contributor. Jacob Gardenswartz, the news outlet’s political correspondent based in Washington, D.C., recently won the National Press Club’s 2023 Sandy Hume Memorial Award for Excellence in Political Journalism, which honors excellence and objectivity in political coverage by reporters 34 years old or younger.

The Wyoming Truth and its writers have won 20 journalism industry awards during their first full-year as a daily news operation covering the state.  Earlier this year, the Wyoming Truth received  13 awards from the Society of Professional Journalists’ “Top of the Rockies” contest; five awards from the National Newspaper Association Foundation’s “2023 Better Newspaper Contest”; and “Best Coverage of a Local News Story of the Year” award for its sex trafficking series written by Kocher in the American Advertising Federation Western Region’s “Best of the West Media Awards.”  

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