Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest 2018
Congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest!
First Prize $2,000 Fiction
Charlie Schneider, Lulu
First Prize $2,000 Nonfiction
Ryan Ireland, Circumambulatory Cacozelia
Second Prize $500 Nonfiction
Elizabeth Brina, How They Met
Honorable Mention $100
- Tanushree Baidya, Java Jaya, Fiction
- Patrick Boyce, Night Vision, Fiction
- Mikaella Clements, For Daws to Peck At, Fiction
- Tammy Delatorre, I Am Coming for You, Nonfiction
- Joseph Hernandez, The Mermaid, Fiction
- Adam Karlin, Walk on Fine, Fiction
- Kristie Betts Letter, The Goose Girl, Fiction
- Hapuya Ononime, In a Traditional Confessional, Nonfiction
- Michael Tuohy, What It Was Turned Ollie Queer, Fiction
- Julio Cesar Villegas, The Hood Rats Taught Themselves the Rasengan: A Meditation on Anime & the Hood, Nonfiction
In our 2018 contest, 1,572 entries were judged by Dennis Norris II with assistance from Lauren Singer Ledoux. Mx. Norris shares their thoughts below:
There was a certain amount of cognitive dissonance in the reading of the 189 semi-finalists for this year's contest. In the current socio-political climate, nostalgia, as a topic of cultural conversation, is often referred to as a relic of the privileged. Quite simply, there are many people for whom the past cannot be nostalgic because the past for whom some long is the very same past that others had to escape in order to survive. Here, however, was a different scenario. Here was a fleet of stories and essays, many—as is often the case—moored around a thematic axis of loss and longing. Loss of family, home, safety, and yes, even socio-political power, and longing for what once was to be once more. Nostalgia—not employed in some trite, fleeting, Pleasantville-era kind of way. Here was a kind of nostalgia mired in the sort of loss that alters one's worldview, or in some cases the very structure or premise of one's life. Here was a kind of nostalgia that I could relate to, the kind that folded into itself the narratives that I'm forever trying to elevate: queer folk, people of color, women, and international writers. It amounted to a gentle reminder of the thing I'm always searching for when reading: that as vastly different as we are as a human race, we are ultimately more alike than we have ever been different.
The First Prize winner for Fiction, Charlie Schneider's "Lulu", is the heart-wrenching story of the mess that remains in the wake of loss. Twins torn apart by an uncle unable to love them equally, a wry sense of humor not enough to maintain their bond. Here are two young people, one aching for freedom, and one yearning for another. I was arrested, utterly stopped in my tracks, by "Lulu".
Fiction Honorable Mentions went to:
- Tanushree Baidya, "Java Jaya"—An unsettling call-to-action for the violence inflicted upon women by men worldwide, braided in the story of friendship and the mourning of loss. Stunning.
- Patrick Boyce, "Night Vision"—A story of great intensity, thoughtfulness, and of those moments of intimate human understanding where we seem to supersede our bodies, one person becoming the other.
- Mikaella Clements, "For Daws to Peck At"—Smart, funny, sexy, darkly witty and oh so honest portrayal of the tug of war between love, ambition, and ambivalence.
- Joseph Hernandez, "The Mermaid"—A clever, intimate triptych of a story that accomplishes so much in such a short space; this story left me breathless.
- Adam Karlin, "Walk On Fine"—A lush, complex, suspenseful story that grips you until its gutting conclusion.
- Kristie Betts Letter, "The Goose Girl"—An ultimately inspiring and empowering story of a young female mathematician's journey to self-actualization in Nazi Germany.
- Michael Tuohy, "What It Was Turned Ollie Queer"—An uproarious voice-driven story that struggles to embrace a changing America but ultimately reminds us that we are all more alike than we are different.
The First Prize winner for Essay, Ryan Ireland's "Circumambulatory Cacozelia", is the shattering love letter from one man to his older brother. A meditation on before and after, and the theft of temporary death, it reminds us that everything we have is fleeting, that memory and history shape us as much as our past and present. This essay will astonish you, break your heart, and yet, you will return for more again and again.
I've added a Second Prize for Elizabeth Brina's "How They Met", a stunning reflection that weaves together themes of war, the power dynamics of interracial love, and the enduring legacy of the Battle of Okinawa. An essay written with astonishing grace and clarity in the first person plural, we are left with the weight of the complicated choices of those that came before us—in fact, that made us.
Nonfiction Honorable Mentions went to:
- Tammy Delatorre, "I Am Coming for You"—An intense, disturbing, and deeply suspenseful essay about abuse, revenge, and the remnants of a childhood in chaos.
- Hapuya Ononime, "In a Traditional Confessional"—A gay Nigerian comes of age, reconciling remnants of Catholic faith, burgeoning sexual relationships, and a mother who can't accept him. Thoughtful, troubling, intimate, memorable.
- Julio Cesar Villegas, "The Hoodrats Taught Themselves the Rasengan: A Meditation on Anime and the Hood"—Half meditation, half rant, this brilliant essay reads like a driving force, a drumbeat—by the conclusion you're standing in the high school cafeteria cheering on the anime-obsessed hoodrat.
Denne Michele Norris
Denne Michele Norris (she/they) is a past judge of our Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest. She is the author of Awst Collection—Dennis Norris II, named one of the best books of 2018 by Powell's Books. A 2017 MacDowell Colony Fellow, a 2016 Tin House Scholar, and 2015 Kimbilio Fiction Fellow, she was a Peter Taylor Fellow for the 2019 Kenyon Review Fiction Workshop.
Her writing appears in Shondaland, INTO, The Rumpus, Apogee Journal, and SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere, and her short story Last Rites appears in Everyday People: The Color of Life, an anthology recently published by Atria Books, and her story "Daddy's Boy" appears in the new anthology Forward: 21st Century Flash Fiction. Her fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her story "Where Every Boy is Known and Loved" is a finalist for the 2018 Best Small Fictions Prize.
The former fiction editor for Apogee Journal and senior fiction editor for The Rumpus, she currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Electric Literature and co-host of the critically-acclaimed podcast Food 4 Thot. She lives in Harlem, where she is hard at work on her debut novel.
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".