Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest 2014
Congratulations to the winners of the 2014 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest!
First Prize $1,000 Fiction
Jeremy Kamps, Drawing Water
First Prize $1,000 Nonfiction
Courtney Campbell, How to Fight Like a Girl
Honorable Mention $100
- Deb Elkink, Thaw, Fiction
- Deb Elkink, Wet, Fiction
- Linda Heuring, Roommates, Fiction
- Peggy Schimmelman, Gerontophobia, Fiction
- Atossa Shafaie, Growing Pains, Fiction
- Greg Wright, Where Nothing Ever Happens, Fiction
- Mia Herman, Leap of Faith, Nonfiction
- L. Lanser-Rose, Born-Again Anthropologist, Nonfiction
- Frank Light Jr., What To Do, Nonfiction
- Lisa Rehfuss, He’s Coming for Me, Nonfiction
In our 2014 contest, 1,028 participants were judged by Arthur Powers with assistance from Lauren Singer. Mr. Powers shares his thoughts below:
Judging this year's contest has been a big job, but a pleasant one. Selecting the winners was a challenging task, but I believe that they represent the very best from among the many, many good entries we received.
In fiction, First Prize goes to "Drawing Water" by Jeremy Kamps, a wonderfully written, moving story about two sisters in rural Kenya. The author captures a sense of Kenya—the story takes us into the culture, experiencing tribal life from the inside, so that we empathize with the vividly portrayed human relationships.
Among the Honorable Mentions, Atossa Shafaie's "Growing Pains" also takes us inside another culture; it tells the story of an immigrant Iranian girl finding her identity in a country foreign to her parents. Peggy Schimmelman's "Gerontophobia" is a finely crafted story, with a twist worthy of O. Henry. Greg Wright's "Where Nothing Ever Happens" is a truly unique and intriguing philosophical sci-fi work that zeroes in on the meaning of "nothing". "Roommates" by Linda Heuring focuses on how, especially when we are young, we tend to label people as weird without fully understanding them.
Judging is blind—I did not know the identity of the authors. When judging was completed, I discovered that two of the stories I placed in the Honorable Mention category are by Deb Elkink. So Ms. Elkink, who is a fine writer, receives two Honorable Mentions: for "Wet", the story of a hardened young woman going home to British Columbia to care for her mentally-challenged brother, and "Thaw", a story of a young North American woman rediscovering, through a visit to Turkey, how important her own faith roots are to her.
In nonfiction, First Prize goes to "How to Fight Like A Girl" by Courtney Campbell—a biting, hard-hitting personal account of a young woman's encounters with sexual predators in our modern society. Campbell's approach and style are brilliant. She draws the reader into her story, allowing us to experience her shame, frustration, and anger, yet maintains a distance that gives the piece a critical objectivity, increasing its impact.
Honorable Mentions for nonfiction include Lisa Rehfuss' "He's Coming For Me", a suspenseful first-person narrative set in Atlantic City; Frank Light Jr.'s "What To Do", an account by a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Afghanistan who returns there with the Army as a development officer; and Mia Herman's "Leap of Faith", in which a young Orthodox Jewish woman reflects on the problem of pain. The Honorable Mentions are rounded out with a very funny essay about the dating scene: "Born-Again Anthropologist" by L. Lanser-Rose.
Many of the submissions we received were polished stories and essays, but many others needed work. Common problems included awkward wording, failure to maintain the voice or tone of the narrative, characters who needed further development, and endings that were rushed or poorly developed. Some entries had grammatical errors, confusions of tense or point of view, or suffered from over-use of clichés. But most of the entries showed potential—the possibility that, with a little more work, a fine story could be crafted. The teacher in me reaches out to all of you—and especially those who were listed among the finalists—to encourage you to reread your work, get good critiques, and keep writing.
Mr. Powers also selected the following entries as Finalists:
Eddy Arnold, "Expert Bike Rider"
Michele Bergstrom, "The Contest"
Caroline Dalisay, "Hiding"
Deb Elkink, "Delivery"
Jim Gish, "Wandering Boy"
Stephanie Kasheta, "Zar Ritual"
Evelyn Krieger, "The Two Conversions of Catherine Schwartz"
George Leitner, "Traveler From an Antique Land"
Alex Lyttle, "Genie"
Kristen-Paige Madoria, "Behind the Open Windows"
Modiaga Ofuoku, "An Offer You Cannot Refuse" and "The Silver Bullet"
Adrienne Scherger, "There Is Nothing, Here, for You"
Christopher Shilts, "The Empty Death of Wilky James"
Margaret Skea, "Dust Blowing"
Eileen Baland, "Teaching Andrew"
Rick Bell, "No One to Mourn"
Judith Bernstein, "We Shall Overcome"
Rebecca Cook, "Once Upon a Basinette"
Martha Grace Duncan, "So Have I Been a Good Stepmother?"
June Dunham, "The Encounter"
Michael Dwyer, "Patriot in Their Midst"
Colleen Eccles, "Fearsome Men"
Doris Ferleger, "Jumpy Jewish Female Seeks..."
Christine Henry, "Falling Into Snow"
Lubna Kazim, "A Landscape in Time"
Molly Krause, "This Is a Love Story"
Kathleen McCormick, "Why Is God in Daddy's Slippers"
Barbara Mellin, "Ironing Board"
Doan-Trang Nguyen, "Diner Story"
Julia Poole, "Wrestling With Myself"
Tena Russ, "Reframing a Family Portrait"
Sutimah Shortridge, "Sometimes It Is Better Not to Know"
Mardra Sikora, "Arguing Eugenics"
Desiree Simmons, "Letters to One Lost"
Cynthia Stock, "Mother's Day in Neverland" and "Until I Took Care of the Soldier"
Read the press release announcing the winners.
Arthur Powers is a past judge of the Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest. Mr. Powers went to Brazil in 1969 as a Peace Corps Volunteer and has lived most of his adult life there. From 1985 to 1992, he and his wife served with the Franciscans in the eastern Amazon, organizing subsistence farmers in an area of violent land conflicts. They subsequently directed relief and development projects in the drought-ridden Brazilian Northeast. Currently they live in North Carolina.
Mr. Powers is the author of A Hero for the People (Press 53, 2013)—a collection of short stories set in Brazil—and The Book of Jotham (Tuscany Press), which won the 2012 Tuscany Press Novella Award. He has received a Fellowship in Fiction from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, three annual awards for short fiction from the Catholic Press Association, the 2014 Catholic Arts & Literature Award for adult fiction, and second prize in the 2008 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest for "The Bridge". He is the contemporary editor emeritus of CatholicFiction.net, judge of the 2015 Dappled Things JF Powers Short Story Contest, and serves on the board of The Raleigh Review.
Lauren Singer is an assistant judge of our Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest and North Street Book Prize, and a past judge of our Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest. She is a native New Yorker living in Western Massachusetts. Her poetry has been published in Nerve House, Bareback, Feel the Word, Read This, Kosmosis, One Night Stanzas, and other literary magazines across the country. An attendee of the New York State Summer Writer's Institute, she is a graduate of Bard College at Simon's Rock and received her MSW at the University of Chicago in 2015. She has self-published three chapbooks and received an honorable mention in the 2011 Wergle Flomp contest. In addition to her creative interests, Lauren works as a mental health clinician and therapist in Holyoke, MA. Lauren prides herself on her wealth of useless knowledge, namely of nineties R&B lyrics, and she can pretty much quote "The X-Files".