Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest 2015
Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest!
First Prize $1,500 Fiction
Laura Fanning, The Brick
First Prize $1,500 Nonfiction
Madeline Baars, Trayvon
Honorable Mention $100
- Roberta George, A Small Fortune, Fiction
- Robert Goswitz, Secrets of the Wire, Fiction
- Anne Hotta, The Taste of Cedars, Fiction
- Janet Schneider, Las Meninas: The Alchemy of a Life, Fiction
- Nina Vaag, Definitions of Bravery, Fiction
- George Buelow, Aunt Edie, Nonfiction
- Jo-Ann Allan-Forbes, Death Fairies, Nonfiction
- Jocelyn Pihlaja, Family, Edited, Nonfiction
- Jane St. Clair, The Colonel Catches a Catfish, Nonfiction
- Bailey Williams, Bone Memory, Nonfiction
In our 2015 contest, 927 participants were judged by Arthur Powers with assistance from Lauren Singer. Mr. Powers shares his thoughts below:
Once again, it has been a privilege to read the many fine entries in the Fiction & Essay Contest.
This year's essay winner, "Trayvon" by Madeline Baars, is a hard-hitting, heartfelt piece about life and death in a poverty-ridden New Orleans neighborhood. Baars brings to it the passion of a clinic worker who walks and works with the local people daily.
Honorable mentions for essays go to:
- "Aunt Edie" by George Buelow—a hauntingly written memoir about growing up in a rural black community in Mississippi in the early-to-mid 20th century
- "The Colonel Catches a Catfish" by Jane St. Clair—an insightful essay about the relationship between Emily Dickinson and Col. Thomas Higginson, told from a uniquely 21st century perspective
- "Family, Edited" by Jocelyn Pihlaja—a portrait of an aging, self-absorbed woman (it was interesting to read this essay as a counterpoint to the fiction winner, "The Brick")
- "Bone Memory" by Bailey Williams—about a Southern tomboy growing up under the auspices of her new stepmother; human and humorous
- "Death Fairies" by Jo-Ann Allan-Forbes—in which a woman faces the fear of losing her daughter, triggered by the life-threatening illness of a friend's child
The fiction winner is Laura Fanning's "The Brick". It tells the story of a loving, outgoing, social-activist mother who suddenly—or so it appears to the consternation of her adult children—develops a deep, contemplative appreciation of art. An amusing story, it has substantial philosophical undertones, with thoughts on art that Thomas Merton would have appreciated.
Honorable mentions for fiction go to:
- "A Small Fortune" by Roberta George—about a woman caught up in petty theft, until she reflects on whom it is really hurting
- "Secrets of the Wire" by Robert Goswitz—a small, intriguing story set during the Vietnam War
- "Las Meninas: The Alchemy of a Life" by Janet Schneider—in which an aging art teacher discovers new things about art and about herself
- "Definitions of Bravery" by Nina Vaag—about an FBI agent suffering the after-effects of a traumatic incident, and the quiet help she receives from her older male work partner
- "The Taste of Cedars" by Anne Hotta—an American woman living in Japan seeks solace at a traditional Japanese religious shrine
Among the finalists, there were several complete and polished essays and stories. While many of the others had excellent points and insightful ideas, they needed to be more fully developed—in some cases, honed down to eliminate excess material. Common problems included incomplete development, inadequate beginnings or endings, and a lack of clear focus (including, at times, an unclear point-of-view).
Unlike a literary magazine, a contest has to take stories and essays as they are. The editor and teacher in me itched to comment on these pieces, to point out how some of them could—with a little work—be vastly improved. I urge all those who entered to seek out qualified, critical readers and editors who can help you develop your craft. I look forward to reading your work in the future.
Mr. Powers would like to recognize the following entries as finalists:
Eileen Arthurs, "Portrait of an Artist, After All"
Maureen Benes, "Death Row Inmate"
Thomas Benz, "It's in There Somewhere"
Denise Cline, "Plow Under"
John Desjarlais, "Assisted Living"
Emilie Faure, "Socks"
Yvonne Fein, "Weintraub's Disorder"
Nick Finn, "Yet Another Asshole"
Emily Franklin, "Qualities of the Modern Farmer"
Gina L. Grandi, "The Selkie's Daughter"
Elizabeth J. Hall, "The Queen's Speech"
A.G. Harmon, "Man with Wife and Child"
Dixon Hearne, "Sandbars" and "Reaching West"
Micah Hicks, "Flight of the Crow Boys"
Anne Hotta, "Albert's Medals"
James Hudson, "Farm Girl"
Jonna Laster, "Where the River Is a Road"
Brenda Liebling-Goldberg, "Letters to Annie Ernaux"
Kathryn Etters Lovatt, "The Year Alice Moved"
G.L. Osborne, "The Creatures"
Joyce Scarbrough, "Hope Chest"
Alex Sharp, "The Ethernet"
Gary Szelc, "Blue Waters"
M.C. Torres, "Goat's Mouth"
Linda Tucker, "Pomegranate"
Michelle Wilker, "Civil Twilight"
Terry Barr, "Neither the Season Nor the Time"
Norma Burgos, "My Mourning with Maya"
John Desjarlais, "Deconstructing the Cathedral"
Kelly Hayes-Raitt, "Still Alive"
Jerry Lawrence, "Me and Aldo"
Karen Lehmann, "Throwing Stones"
John Messick, "Into the City of Jasmine"
Vanessa Nirode, "They Will Feed the Rest of the Village"
Yvonne Pearson, "The Fear Stories"
Marlene Shyer, "Refugee Dog"
Randall Silvis, "Men When They Fall"
Caroline Sposto, "Why We Needed Nancy"
Bronson de Stadler, "D-Day Revisited"
Michael Varga, "Addicted to Chad"
Annie Whitehead, "Twitter Is Not Birdsong"
Anne Wilson, "Images Through a Smokescreen"
Shane Wolfsmith, "Intersection"
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, critiques poems, stories, and essays, and is 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. In 2015 she received her MSW at the University of Chicago, is a graduate of Bard College at Simon's Rock, and an attendee of the New York State Summer Writer's Institute. 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".