Thank you to everyone who participated in our 2nd annual contest. We’re grateful for all the writers who sent us work and recognize that our organization could not exist without their dedication, passion for writing, and their courage to share.
We also want to extend our gratitude to this year’s judges: Kwame Dawes, Charlene A. Donaghy, Mary Kuryla, and Jessica Hendry Nelson.
The winners in all four genres plus our editor’s choice award are as follows…
Thanks also to the members of our editorial staff for their effort in selecting the finalists in each category: Annie Barker, Pamela Broadman, Suzanne Guess, Erin Owen, Michelle Pierce Lyles, Carina Faz, Emily Marvin, Cid Galicia, and Terry Belew.
Full contest results:
Winning Poem: For Those of Us Forced to Flee by Jane Muschenetz
Endorsement from guest judge Kwame Dawes: This is the winning poem. The final line is a remarkable turn of phrase that captures, it seems, the core sentiment of the work: “When you have nothing left to plant, become the seed.” The poem is a work about exile, but the specifics of this exile are laid out in the broader sense of implication if not in a statement about physical migration. The poem celebrates survival and speaks to the demands of the “alien”, the “exile”, the “refugee”, the “migrant”.
Runner-Up: Runner-up: dear sister, by Sequoia Maner
Endorsement from guest judge Kwame Dawes: A touching poem in which one sister speaks to the other, celebrating their resilience and survival despite the ruptures of being fostered, being cared for by the state and facing the challenges of neglect. The poem ends with the allusion to Atalanta, the goddess The fact that the spelling in the poem is the same as the spelling of Atlanta, the city, does provide a marker, like the dialect at the core of the poem, drawing us to the African American and Southern experience.
- I return to you, mother by Liz Holland
- In Memoriam for a Chronic Pain Sufferer by Gillian Freebody
- (un)inhabited by Moni Brar
- HOMO by C.W. Emerson
Winning Script: Camp by Jennifer Downes
Endorsement from guest judge Charlene A. Donaghy: In his quirky book of quotes, Colin Tegerdine gets it right with “Your first kiss is never just a kiss but a beautiful place you get to visit only once.” The author of Camp gets this beautiful place more than right: Camp captures all the angst, humor, longing, innocence, and quirks beyond, but all encased in, that first kiss. Every word and action in Camp propels Kenna to what she hopes will be her first kiss, something she has a plan for with the help of her bestie Ali. From this opening scene the author captures the humor and love of friendships between fourteen-year-olds, with their support and truth….
Runner-up: Road Music by W. W. Webb
Endorsement from guest judge Charlene A. Donaghy: There is an eerie truth to Road Music even as it lives in the world of magic with a tinge of horror. As humans we take many roads: easy, less traveled, right turns, left turns, tough uphill climbs, easy downhill slides, roundabouts…all metaphors for our lives. Ward and Dee emphasize these human “travels” adrift on a deserted country highway, a location that seldom means sunshine and butterflies. As a stand alone piece, Road Music is just enough to make the audience ponder. As a precursor to a longer piece, if that is the road the writer might decide to meander down, Road Music sets up many possibilities along the “…lullaby of asphalt or the steady crump, crump of concrete.”
- Willa Cather Would Not Approve by David-Matthew Barnes
- Scenes From a Breakup by Don Faust
- Prom Court by Michael Towers
Winning Essay: Connect : Disconnect by Suzi Banks Baum
Endorsement from guest judge Jessica Hendry Nelson: “Connect: Disconnect” strikes me with its unapologetic exploration of the power and pleasure of female sexuality. With fine attention to language and cadence, it combs memory to unpack a complicated legacy of want and wonder. This essay does not flinch, capitulate, or mitigate. In charting her voracities, the narrator reminds the reader of the vital power of her own.
Runner-up: Where All My Sick Things Go by Liliana Rehorn
- Assembly Line by Michael Cannistraci
- Backwards and Blind by Helyn Trickey Bradley
- Reinventing the Circle by Jill Littig
Winning Story: Love, Dad by Alex Sese
Endorsement from guest judge Mary Kuryla: “Love, Dad” is a cleverly told story that employs misapprehension to brisk dramatic effect. As this short epistolary story reveals through masterful use of form, Dad and his legacy are far more nuanced and adoring than his earlier characterization portends, as is the medium through which he demonstrated his love, storytelling.
Runner-up: The Children by Adeline Lovell
- Waiting for Jim by David Margolis
- To Dust You Shall Return by Katharine Bost
- Seth From Poison Control by Kaylee Schofield
This year’s winner of our Editors Choice Award is Helyn Trickey Bradley for her nonfiction essay, Backwards and Blind.
Congratulations to all finalists and winners! All the winning pieces will appear in our Summer issue, coming in July. We’re extremely excited to showcase this amazing work!!
More about our 2022 Judges…
Kwame Dawes is the author of twenty-two books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. His collection, Nebraska was published in 2019. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and George W. Holmes University Professor at the University of Nebraska. He teaches in the Pacific MFA Program. He is Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival. Dawes is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His awards include an Emmy, the Forward Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Nora Magid Award and the prestigious Windham Campbell Prize for Poetry. In 2021, Kwame Dawes was named editor of American Life in Poetry. In 2021, Dawes was nominated for the Neustadt Prize.
Stage & Screen
Charlene A. Donaghy is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, fiction writer, and producer with plays produced and/or awarded from New York City to Los Angeles, in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. Hansen Publishing Group publishes Charlene’s collection of writings Bones of Home and Other Plays. Other publications include Best American Short Plays (3x), She Persisted, Estrogenius-A Celebration of Female Voices (2x), Best 10-Minute Plays, 25* Ten-Minute Plays for Teens, In the Eye, Louisiana Literary Journal, and others. Charlene is Founder and Festival Director of the Warner International Playwrights Festival, Producing Consultant of the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, and teaches writing for stage, screen, and fiction in the MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska Omaha. She is a founding member of Boston’s Proscenium Playwrights and a member of New York’s 9th Floor Writers & Actors Collaborative, The Playwrights Center, Honor Roll!, and The Dramatists Guild of America where she served as inaugural Connecticut/Western New England Regional Representative. www.charleneadonaghy.com
Mary Kuryla is the author of the novel Away to Stay and the story collection Freak Weather, which was selected by Amy Hempel for the AWP Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction. Her stories have received The Pushcart Prize and the Glimmer Train Short Fiction Prize and appeared in The Paris Review, Conjunctions, Agni, Epoch, and elsewhere. Her award-winning shorts and feature films have premiered at Sundance and Toronto. She is a screenwriting and film studies professor at Loyola Marymount University.
Jessica Hendry Nelson is the author of the memoir If Only You People Could Follow Directions (Counterpoint 2014), which was selected as a best debut book by the Indies Introduce New Voices program, the Indies Next List by the American Booksellers’ Association, named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Review. It received starred reviews in Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly, and reviewed nationally in print and on NPR—including twice in (O) Oprah Magazine—and was a finalist for the Vermont Book Award. She is also co-author of the textbook and anthology Advanced Creative Nonfiction: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology along with the writer Sean Prentiss (Bloomsbury 2021). Her work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, Tin House, The Los Angeles Review of Books, North American Review, The Rumpus, The Carolina Quarterly, Columbia Journal, Painted Bride Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, PANK, Drunken Boat and elsewhere. She is Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University and also teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. More at jessicahnelson.com.