Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest 2019
Congratulations to the winners of the 2019 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest!
First Prize $2,000 Fiction
Barbara Milton, The Snake
First Prize $2,000 Nonfiction
Margo Barnes, Anointed
Honorable Mention $100
- Haley Creighton, Watermelon Juice, Fiction
- Lisa Ferranti, Ask Again Later, Fiction
- Celine Fitzpatrick, Crossing the Swamp, Fiction
- Renee Flemings, In the Dust, Fiction
- Anne Gudger, A Murder of Crows, Nonfiction
- Debayani Kar, The Bridge of Eternal Happiness, Fiction
- Sadie Rittman, My Turn, Nonfiction
- Quinn Rilla Squyres, Sylvie, Alone, Fiction
- Liza Stewart, Shelter for Memory, Nonfiction
- Michelle Symes, A New Map of the World, Fiction
In our 2019 contest, 1,895 entries were judged by Dennis Norris II with assistance from Lauren Singer Ledoux. Mx. Norris shares their thoughts below:
It was an absolute pleasure to judge this year's Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest! In a contest of this many entries, it's inevitable that certain themes will emerge: death and grief, loss of innocence, family tension and difficult parent/child relationships. This year was no exception, but what I also noticed were themes of loneliness and bodies in motion. Many stories and essays were about escape. And there was also care-taking, what we sometimes witness as the other side of grief. Lastly, if you are an animal lover, they were heavily present in these pieces, and you'll enjoy much of what I've chosen. It was only close to publication date that I learned that every piece chosen was written by a female-presenting writer—as the judging process is entirely anonymous. That something like this should be remarkable can only be considered a sad reflection on a shameful collective literary history. Read these stories and essays. Drink them into your bloodstream, and then emerge. Be inspired. Work to make things better.
In its carefully built suspense, the First Prize winner for Fiction, Barbara Milton's "The Snake", functions in exactly the way an excellent short story should: I was on the edge of my seat, I had as many questions as I had answers, and I felt incredible tenderness and complex humanity from every character rising from these pages.
Fiction Honorable Mentions went to:
- Haley Creighton, "Watermelon Juice"—A moving, intimate, quiet portrayal of the lasting ties that bind us, and the legacies that run through generations.
- Lisa Ferranti, "Ask Again Later"—A wonderful story of the way in which grief often re-calibrates and re-orders our lives, our choices, our priorities. This is really a story about agency.
- Celine Fitzpatrick, "Crossing The Swamp"—Although there are many strengths in this story, I'm particularly drawn to the intensity of the voice, and the sense of place, two elements of craft that co-mingle in perfect harmony. "Crossing the Swamp" will hold you, comfort you, and yet, threaten to drown you, all the way to the end.
- Reneé Flemings, "In The Dust"—This is a voice that can't be missed. I've never before been so enthralled at the story of a first kiss, but from page 1 you can't not fall in love with Neicey.
- Debayani Kar, "The Bridge of Eternal Happiness"—A story that feels global, yet intimate, sexy, yet tragic, momentous, yet small. This piece reminds me of how much can be done in just a few pages.
- Quinn Rilla Squyres, "Sylvie, Alone"—I love this strange little tale of loneliness and desperation. This piece, in conceit, eschews subtlety and just goes for it all the way.
- Michelle Symes, "A New Map of the World"—Simple yet complex, this story accomplishes fullness, comfort, sadness, and intimacy in a rather small space.
The First Prize winner for Nonfiction, "Anointed" by Margo Barnes, is, in a word, strange. What feels initially like a bizarre anecdote from an eccentric neighbor evolves into a heart-wrenching offering on the ways a body copes with grief, mental illness, and destructive behavior. "Anointed" completely stopped me in my tracks, and I am better for having read it.
Nonfiction Honorable Mentions went to:
- Anne Gudger, "A Murder of Crows"—A fiercely heartfelt and realistic ghost story, reminding us that we're not alone. Beautiful.
- Sadie Rittman, "My Turn"—All the way through, this essay is gripping, intense, and heartbreaking. All the way through, you find yourself by turns wincing and cheering from the sidelines, rooting for this girl to finally get her turn.
- Liza Stewart, "Shelter for Memory"—An atmospheric reminder of the size of the world, and how small we really are.
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, 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 sex and relationship therapist and runs a private practice out of Northampton, MA. Her book-length poetry manuscript, Raised Ranch, will be published by Game Over Books in August of 2025. She prides herself on her wealth of useless pop culture knowledge, namely of nineties R&B lyrics, and she can pretty much quote "The X-Files".