Fall 2016 Essay Contest Winners

Photo by Brian Jacks.

Photo by Brian Jacks.

Our fall 2016 essay contest judge was poet, essayist, and novelist, Leigh Stein. She writes, "I was drawn to how the authors of the three winning essays set their personal narratives against dramatic landscapes that forced them to reckon with who they were and how they would ever move on from here. "Carving Time," set within Petrified Forest National Park, is an elegant (and often funny) meditation on how the "concept of time itself becomes more spacious" when we remove ourselves from everything we've chosen to fill our time. In the heart-stopping essay "Bear," we meet a married couple on the edge of danger in Grand Teton National Park: "In interactions of humans and bears, the human will always lose." Finally, "On the Mountain" movingly captures the cycle of life and death against the backdrop of Mount Rainier, which "dangles from an invisible chain, a locket containing shards of memories, hopes, failures." I awarded two Honorable Mentions to essays that charmed me with youthful folly and the wisdom of experience, "Heartbreak on the Hill" and "50th Anniversary in the Wilderness," respectively.

Thanks to all who submitted writing to the contest, we received so many powerful and beautiful entries. To read the winning essays, click the title of the essay.

Leigh Stein is the author of three books, including the new memoir Land of Enchantment.  

Fall 2016 Contest Winners

first Place, "Carving Time" by Melissa Carroll

Melissa Carroll is a writer and yoga instructor based out of Tampa Bay. She is the editor of the essay collection Going OM: Real-Life Stories on and off the Yoga Mat, which was nominated for the IndieFab Book of the Year Award. Her poetry chapbook The Karma Machine received the Peter Meinke Prize from Yellow Jacket Press, and her next poetry collection, The Pretty Machine, is forthcoming from ELJ Press. Her writing has appeared in Creative LoafingMantra + Yoga Magazine, on MindBodyGreen.com, xoJane, and elsewhere. Melissa is launching an e-course on Mindful Writing & Yoga in January 2017. Read more at www.MelissaCarrollYoga.com


Heidi Czerwiec is a poet and essayist and serves as Poetry Editor at North Dakota Quarterly. She is the author of two recent chapbooks -- A Is For A-ké, The Chinese Monster, and Sweet/Crude: A Bakken Boom Cycle -- and of the forthcoming collection Maternal Imagination with ELJ Publications, and the editor of North Dakota Is Everywhere: An Anthology of Contemporary North Dakota Poets. She lives in Minneapolis. Visit her at heidiczerwiec.com

Third Place, "On the Mountain" by Janet Buttenweiser

Janet Buttenwieser’s work has appeared in The Rumpus, Under the SunPotomac ReviewThe Pinch, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her memoir, GUTS, was a finalist for the University of New Orleans Publishing Lab Prize and will be published by Vine Leaves Press in 2018. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, was a finalist for Oregon Quarterly’s Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest, and won honorable mention in The Atlantic Student Writing contest. Visit her at janetbuttenwieser.com

Honorable Mention

"50th Anniversary in the Wilderness" by Jean Jackman

Jean Jackman, since 2003, writes the nature column At the Pond for the Davis Enterprise Newspaper, Davis, California. She was an Artist in Bioregional Residence at the University of California, Davis. For many years, she was a storyteller in the oral tradition and a presenter at the National Storytelling Conference. A community activist, she writes publicity, letters to the editor and edits newsletters for environmental and musical groups.  Jean has biked across the U.S. from California to Florida and from Canada to Mexico, where she camped along the way.

"Heartbreak on the Hill" by Allyson Whipple

Allyson Whipple is an MFA student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, most recently Come Into the World Like That, published by Five Oaks Press. Allyson also serves as co-editor of the Texas Poetry Calendar. She teaches at Austin Community College.