Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest 2020
Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest!
First Prize $3,000 Fiction
Omer Friedlander, The Sand Collector
First Prize $3,000 Nonfiction
BK Loren, Sir, May I Have a Pack of Marlboros?
Honorable Mention $200
- Alexandra Blogier, Fall, Fiction
- Blake Goodwin, When We Get Where We’re Going, Fiction
- Anna Prawdzik Hull, House of Stones, Fiction
- Donald Marbury, No Use in Takin’ Chances, Fiction
- Suzanne Paschall, The Painted Box, Fiction
- Tara Campbell, Soft n’ Sheepish: No-More-Lyes Conditioning Crème Relaxer System, Nonfiction
- Allison Hong Merrill, The Gift, Nonfiction
- Ilari Pass, The Color of Pilgrimage, Nonfiction
- Remi Recchia, In the Mouth of the Mountains, Nonfiction
- Jim Zervanos, Changing Your Mind, Nonfiction
In our 2020 contest, 2,495 entries were judged by Dennis Norris II with assistance from Lauren Singer Ledoux. Mx. Norris shares their thoughts below:
Each year that I return to judge this contest, I'm reminded why I write. There are so many deserving stories and essays that pierce me straight through to my heart, that give the gift of words and sentences so seamlessly crafted that play on loop in my head long after I've finished. I'm bowled away by the wit, and the humor, but most of all, by the human-ness of it all. This year's crop features stories about failure and loss, and boyhood and intimacy, about displacement, and about finding one's way. And at every turn, there's compassion for a world in which, too often, doing our best means simply surviving. And in that compassion, I am reminded most viscerally, that none of us, no matter where and who we are, are ever truly alone. Take care as you read these pieces. Examine them. Untangle them. Let them sink into you and leave their mark.
What's masterful in Omer Friedlander's "The Sand Collector", the First Prize winner for Fiction, is the quiet tenderness with which this love story grows. It has the feeling of a secret rendezvous: tension, momentum, and intimacy. This story shows how it feels when you're just starting out in love.
Fiction Honorable Mentions went to:
- Alexandra Blogier, "Fall"—What I love most about this story is the way it portrays boyhood and brotherhood, and the softness that hides in those bonds.
- Blake Goodwin, "When We Get Where We're Going"—The short form is at its most magical when what's not written is as powerful as what is, and "When We Get Where We're Going" is a prime example of that dynamic.
- Anna Prawdzik Hull, "House of Stones"—This story builds and builds and builds, brings you to the edge, and pulls you over it.
- Donald Marbury, "No Use in Takin' Chances"—This story reads like the kind of tale that has the power to survive generations, that remains, continuing to illuminate what it means to be family.
- Suzanne Paschall, "The Painted Box"—A powerful meditation on the lingering embers of grief.
There's a sexiness that ripples through the First Prize winner for Nonfiction, BK Loren's "Sir, May I Have a Pack of Marlboros?", and it carries you through the writer's journey to understanding and pride in herself. This essay will grow your heart.
Nonfiction Honorable Mentions went to:
- Tara Campbell, "Soft n' Sheepish: No-More-Lyes Conditioning Crème Relaxer System"—This piece is unapologetically black, hilarious, sharply pointed, and highly memorable.
- Allison Hong Merrill, "The Gift"—This essay leaves you heartbroken and yearning for more.
- Ilari Pass, "The Color of Pilgrimage"—I was simply obsessed with this essay, which beautifully renders the feeling of displacement, and of coming home.
- Remi Recchia, "In the Mouth of the Mountains"—This essay, taken from a moment of a life in transition, illustrates what it means when we mold ourselves to fit a world that sometimes can't mold itself to fit us. It's beautifully told, big-hearted in scope.
- Jim Zervanos, "Changing Your Mind"—A stunning reflection from a man who fears he's failed his student, this piece will have you standing and cheering, and hoping for both teacher and student.
Read the press release announcing the winners.
See the guidelines for the current contest.
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 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".