Narrative Journalism Judge: BRONWEN DICKEY is a contributing editor at The Oxford American and the author of Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon. Her writing has also appeared (or is forthcoming) in Best American Travel Writing 2009, The New York Times, Newsweek, Outside, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Popular Mechanics, Slate, Garden & Gun, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications. She lives in North Carolina.
Personal Essay Judge: PAUL LISICKY is the author of The Narrow Door, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, as well as Unbuilt Projects, The Burning House, Famous Builder, and Lawnboy. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Buzzed, Conjunctions, Fence, Ploughshares, Tin House, and elsewhere. His awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the James Michener/Copernicus Society, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He has twice been a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. He teaches in the MFA Program at Rutgers University, Camden.
Personal Essay Prize
Theme: INSIDE | OUT
Judge: Paul Lisicky
Winner — “On Visiting Prison, Again,” by Sarah Shotland
“This is a piece by a writer who’s willing to be lost a little while. As readers, we encounter a mind at work: thinking, perceiving, questioning, bewildered. We’re invited into the speaker’s contradictions—her wish to be seen and known, her wish to be invisible—and get a window into an aspect of the American prison system that’s rarely represented, especially with such nuance and intimacy.” — Paul Lisicky
MEGAN GOSS, a MFA candidate at Oregon State University, is interested in literature that challenges social norms. As a former pastry chef, she uses non-writing time making cakes for family and friends. She believes the secret to sustainable creativity is buttercream piped directly into one’s mouth.
MAGIN LASOV GREGG lives, writes, and teaches in Frederick, Maryland. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, River Teeth’s Beautiful Things, Pithead Chapel, Hippocampus Magazine, The Rumpus, and The Bellingham Review.(@maginlasovgregg)
LARRY HANDY is a poet, martial artist, and distance runner based in Monrovia, California, where he has always lived. He holds an MFA from the University of California, Riverside. His creative work has appeared in Quiddity, Rivet, Straight Forward Poetry, Westwind, and GetUnderground.com. He leads and performs regularly with the award-winning music and poetry ensemble Totem Maples.
LORI JAKIELA is the author of three memoirs – Miss New York Has Everything; The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious; and Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe – as well as a poetry collection, Spot the Terrorist. She directs the writing program at Pitt-Greensburg and co-directs the summer writing festival at Chautauqua Institution. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, author Dave Newman, and their children.
JEANNINE OUELLETTE has published in Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, december magazine, Nowhere, and other journals. Recently she has won a second-place Curt Johnson Prose Award and been a finalist in Cutthroat’s Barry Lopez Creative Nonfiction Contest, Fairytale Review’s Prose Contest, Orison Anthology Awards, New South Prose Contest, and Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open. She is a 2015 Pushcart nominee and her essays have appeared in several anthologies including Women’s Lives: Multicultural Perspectives.
JANET PARK lives in Los Angeles, and is a therapist by day, having received her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. When she’s not in the therapy room, she spends her free time writing or reblogging posts on Tumblr. Her life mission is to inspire and empower others through all aspects of her work.
DUSTIN PARSONS‘ essays have appeared in Seneca Review, Crab Orchard Review, New Delta Review, Fugue, and Indiana Review. Recent honors for his writing include the American Literary Review fiction prize, The Laurel Review fiction prize, and grants in creative non-fiction from NYFA and the Ohio State Arts Council. He is associate professor of English at The State University of New York at Fredonia.
BREE A. ROLFE lives in Austin, TX, where she teaches writing and literature to the mostly reluctant, but always loveable, teenagers at James Bowie High School. Originally from Boston, MA, she worked as a music journalist for ten years before dedicating her life to teaching. Her work has appeared in Saul Williams’ poetry anthology Chorus: A Literary Mixtape and the Redpaint Hill Anthology Mother is a Verb. She holds an MFA from Bennington College.
SARAH SHOTLAND is the author of a novel, Junkette, and a playwright whose work has been produced nationally and internationally. She teaches in the MFA program at Chatham University and is the co-founder of Words Without Walls, which brings creative writing classes to jails, prisons and rehabilitation centers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
ALLISON K. WILLIAMS has written about race, culture, and comedy for NPR, CBC, the Christian Science Monitor, and the New York Times. She serves as Social Media Editor for Brevity, and is a two-time winner of The Moth Story SLAM. After 12 years performing around the world as an aerialist/fire-eater, she is mostly retired from circus life. At home in Dubai, she is writing her first YA novel, a black comedy about a school shooting.
Narrative Journalism Prize
Theme: INSIDE | OUT
Judge: Bronwen Dickey
Winner — “The Day that Never Comes,” by Brendan O’Meara
“I was struck immediately by what an intimate and well-reported piece “The Day That Never Comes” is, and how deeply it took me into the lives of Dan and Gil Harrington, whose 20 year-old daughter, Morgan, was abducted and murdered in Virginia in 2009. Without ever veering into sensationalism (all too easy to do when reporting on crimes), this writer made me feel that I, too, was sitting at the Harringtons’ kitchen table, trying to cope with a loss that no parent should ever have to bear. Far from being a grim statistic on the evening news, Morgan Harrington — full of opinions and quirks, as we all are — truly comes alive. This writer has performed a great service, not just for the family, whose story was told with incredible respect, but for readers, who should always remember that no one is ever just a headline.” — Bronwen Dickey
First Runner-up — “Antlers and Open Spaces: Reflections in Sápmi Territory,” by Kelsey Camacho
Second Runner-up — “The Readiness Assessment,” by Melissa Chadburn
HELEN BAR-LEV was born in New York in 1942. She has lived in Israel for forty-five years and has held over ninety exhibitions of her landscape paintings, thirty-four of which were one-woman shows. Eight collections of poetry to date, all illustrated by Helen. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2013, is the recipient of the 2016 European Homer Medal of Poetry and Art. Helen is Assistant President of Voices Israel.
JULIE STRAUSS BETTINGER has been a literary journalist for more than twenty-five years. Her book, Encounters with Rikki: from Hurricane Katrina rescue to exceptional therapy dog, was published January 2016. She also coauthored Blasted by Adversity: The Making of a Wounded Warrior in 2015. Julie earned both a bachelors and masters degree from Florida State University and a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College.
KELSEY CAMACHO is currently living in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, where she cares for ninety-one sled dogs and writes about her love of the Arctic. She has a thing for snow and darkness. Her writing can be found in The Portland Review, Entropy Mag, Coldnoon: Travel Poetics, and elsewhere.
MELISSA CHADBURN has written for Guernica, Buzzfeed, Poets & Writers, Salon, American Public Media’s Marketplace, Al Jazeera America, and dozens other places. She is a fellow for The Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Her essay, “The Throwaways,” received notable mention in Best American Essays and Best American Nonrequired Reading. Her debut novel, A Tiny Upward Shove, is forthcoming with Farrar Straus and Giroux in spring of 2017.
BRENDAN O’MEARA is a freelance writer—and purveyor of odd jobs—who authored Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year and is hard at work on his forthcoming memoir The Tools of Ignorance: A Memoir of My Father and Baseball. He also hosts the #CNF Podcast. He loves IPAs, doughnuts, his dogs, his sugar-mama, and Batman. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.
JENN SHAPLAND is a writer living in New Mexico. She is a 2017 Pushcart Prize winner and her work has been published in Tin House, The Lifted Brow, Electric Literature, Contemporary Women’s Writing, NANOfiction, and elsewhere. She has a PhD in English from UT Austin, she’s the co-founder of the Lesbian Library in Santa Fe, and she designs and makes clothing for Agnes.
CHERYL LYNN SMART is an essayist and final year MFA candidate at the University of Memphis, where she is recipient of the 2015 Creative Writing Award in Nonfiction and 2016 Graduate Summer Writing Fellowship. She is former Managing Editor of The Pinch. Her most recent work is published in Gulf Coast, The Collagist, GrubStreet, StorySouth, and other journals. She was a finalist for CutBank’s 2016 Montana Prize in Creative Nonfiction and semi-finalist in Heartwood’s 2016 Broadside Contest.