It is our great pleasure to announce that Mary J. Mahoney is the first winner of The Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction. Her essay, Suburbs Plagued by Foraging Deer, captured our editors’ eyes early in the submission process, and was named the best of the best by contest judge Randal O’Wain. O’Wain writes:

“What initially drew me to ‘Suburbs Plagued by Foraging Deer’ was the confident narrative voice. I felt at once that I was in the hands of a complicated storyteller, a storyteller that understands how necessary it is to consider the complexity of the human condition without relying on easy answers.

The voice is curious yet anguished with a great amount of humor and all of this together deepens the insights the writer gains about place and family, especially in the nuanced ways in which the parents and sisters are balanced with regards to the new suburban home.

In the end, however, what drew me to this essay out of all the very self-assured and talented writers I was lucky enough to read for The Barnhill Prize was the impressionistic style of “Suburbs Plagued by Foraging Deer.” Where the situation of the essay—a Catholic family moves from Brooklyn to a Long Island suburb called Deer Park—is simple enough, the subterranean story of longing and economic advancement, the story of tradition and generational shifts, is written with compelling subtlety.”

Named as notable by O’Wain are The Imaginary Writer by Elizabeth Lantz, and The Fence by Dorian Fox.

Congratulations to these writers, and to each of our finalists. On behalf of our editorial team, we are humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to read your work; most of all, you contributed to the dream of honoring Anne Barnhill by offering poignant and powerful narratives from your childhood experience.

Thank you!

Mary J. Mahoney earned an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College and a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Houston. She is an associate professor of English in New York. Her work has been published in many literary venues, including The Paris ReviewThe Kenyon ReviewPrairie Schooner, and more. She is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment of the Humanities. 

Elizabeth Lantz holds an MFA degree in creative nonfiction from The Ohio State University and currently teaches creative writing at Columbus State Community College. Her work has been published in Kenyon ReviewAmerican Literary ReviewSouth Dakota Review, and others.

Dorian Fox is a writer and freelance editor in Boston, where he teaches courses at GrubStreet, a non-profit creative writing center. His essays have appeared or are forthcoming in The RumpusGay Magazine, Atticus Review,  decemberUnder the Gum TreeGastronomica, and elsewhere.

Tomorrow we announce the winner! Here are all 10 essays in case you have an office pool or Fantasy Writers League going . . . congratulations again to these outstanding essayists.

Neema Avashia (Boston), A Hindu Hillbilly Elegy
Rochelle Harris Cox (Northwest GA), North Georgia Gothic
Dorian Fox (Boston), The Fence
Jenna Korsmo (Tuscon), Sister-Cats
Jessica Langlois (Atlanta), Ways to Die in Alabama
Elizabeth Lantz (Columbus), The Imaginary Writer
Mary J. Mahoney (New York), Suburbs Plagued by Foraging Deer
Elizabeth Muller (New Jersey), The Revival of the Fittest
Laura Stanfill (Portland OR), Birdsong in the Key of Brain Injury
Lisa López Smith (Central Mexico), Turning 37

I give thanks for baptism in symbol.
The deep blue covering every need—
watery armor against despair—
praise the groundswell of heartbeat.

Word incarnate, Word divine,
holy place of print,
create in me,
break me.

from “Keep the Feast” by Anne Clinard Barnhill, a poem in Coal, Baby

Congratulations to our finalists for the Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction!

Neema Avashia (Boston)
Rochelle Harris Cox (Northwest GA)
Dorian Fox (Boston)
Jenna Korsmo (Tuscon)
Jessica Langlois (Atlanta)
Elizabeth Lantz (Columbus)
Mary Mahoney (New York)
Elizabeth Muller (New Jersey)
Laura Stanfill (Portland OR)
Lisa López Smith (Central Mexico)

We are exceptionally proud to present these writers and their outstanding essays. Out of over 120 submissions, our editors chose these 10 to forward to contest judge Randal O’Wain. Randal has made his choice, and we will announce the winner on Friday, October 11; on that date we will also post links to each essay, along with bios of these talented writers.

Thank you for your support and patience as we developed this contest. Our goal is to keep the spirit of Anne Barnhill alive in the writing world she loved so much, as well as to offer recognition and reward opportunities for writers who “present the finest essays on the mysteries of childhood experience, the wonder of adult reflection, and how the two connect over a lifespan.”

Ask the Editor is a resource for our readers and writers in which we review and respond to popular questions about our journal, essay writing, submissions, and literary potpourri type stuff. Have a question you’d like to see answered here? Send it to edg dot longridgeeditors dot com. Chosen questions will be kept anonymous.

This recent question comes from a writer who submitted an essay to the Barnhill Prize contest.

Q: “I’m wondering if essays will also be considered for the online journal outside of the contest?”


A: The short answer is YES, but the complicating factor is we don’t yet know exactly how. We are planning to send up to 10 essays to our judge, and ideally the essays that are not the prize winner will be published online. That is the plan at this point. We don’t know how many essays we will receive, though so far we are off to a good start!

We are grateful to everyone who supports our journal, and we read every essay with focus and care.

Like many online journal editors, we’ve had a range of experiences: Essays we declined, but then returned to the writer with more time to work through revisions and the writer was thrilled; essays we declined and then later returned to the writer to work on and he/she was not interested; essays we’ve accepted with moderate edits, and some with no edits. Some essays could not work for us.

Publishing essays is what we love to do. Thank you to each of you who gives us a chance to read your work.


June 1 opened submissions for the Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction.

The Barnhill Prize honors Anne’s generous spirit of support for all who love to read and write; her lifelong empathy with those who mine their childhood experience to understand themselves now; the natural vulnerability in her compelling prose and poetry; and her boundless generosity in sharing her writing passions with the world.

Selection process: Editors determine the pool of 10 finalist essays. Those 10 essays will be read by an outside judge who makes the final selection of one winning essay. The author of the winning essay receives a cash award of $250. The winner has ten days to accept the award. More information about this year’s judge, M. Randal O’Wain, can be found here: https://longridgereview.com/2019/04/12/m-randal-owain-to-judge-1st-barnhill-prize-contest/.

Eligibility: The competition is open to writers in English, whether published or unpublished. Previous winners of this award are not eligible to win again. Writers must be residents of North America. 

Essay Guidelines:

  1. Essays should be double-spaced and no more than 3,500 words in length.
  2. The award recognizes outstanding creative nonfiction that reflects our mission: (See About)
  3. Essays are only accepted via our Submittable online platform. No paper, please.
  4. Please be sure essay pages are numbered and that your name is NOT on the document that is your essay.
  5. Please use a standard, easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman in twelve-point size.
  6. Essays may not have been previously published.
  7. Authors may submit more than one essay to the competition for consideration as long as no material is duplicated between submissions. Each submission will require a separate entry fee.
  8. Essays under consideration for this competition may be submitted elsewhere at the same time. Please withdraw your essay if it is accepted by another publisher and should no longer be considered for the Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction competition. Withdrawal can be completed via the submissions manager website. Entry fees ($10 per submission) are not refundable.
  9. The final judge will not be aware of the names or publication records of the authors. If he believes he recognizes the work or identity of the writer, he will disclose that to our editors.
  10. Please forward any questions to edg (at) longridgeeditors (dot) com. Thank you!
© Larry Thacker

As our editorial team prepares for our first contest (The Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction), we thought it would be valuable to share thoughts about some essays that “stick.” I love all of our essays, or they wouldn’t be here. But I went over every one thinking about which ones were memorable in that early phase of a first read. I’ve asked our editorial team to do the same, and in the ramp up to our contest submission period we will share our reader experiences with some of our favorite essays.

Today we welcome Suzanne Farrell Smith, one of our amazing writer/editors here at Longridge Review. Please enjoy her commentary on why she loves David McVey’s essay, “On the Wonder of the World.”

Photo via HistoryScotland.com

David McVey’s “On the Wonder of the World” drew me in immediately and made me forget I was reading a submission to Longridge Review. The opening line:

“We teased gravity, suspended above 100 feet of space on the Wonder of the World.”

I needed to know. Who are we? Suspended how? What is the Wonder of the World? Given my proximity to Coney Island and its 150-foot Wonder Wheel and even higher-flying rides, that first line takes on a carnival quality, inviting me to buy a ticket and go just about anywhere.

McVey gives us some answers right away, like the fact that the Wonder of the World is a soaring canal aqueduct, nicknamed as such by locals in his U.K. hometown. “We” are McVey and two childhood buddies, just “normal 9- or 10-year-olds engaged on business I can’t recall now.” The boys are out and about, as children are in the summer when school is off and the whole world—the whole wonder of the world—is waiting.

What follows is a story, relatively brief, shaped the same way the actual event was shaped, as a single thread across a chasm, with some breath-holding along the way. It’s that shape that gets me, the way the essay itself is like a bridge, and with the first line I’ve stepped onto it and know, for certain, I will cross to the other side. This particular shape appeals to me as a writer long attached to the idea that writing essays is a way to get to the other side of a question or a problem. Whether they offer a solution or insight or just another question, essays propel us forward. Even as we sit to read and write, we progress.

McVey’s story is detailed only with what’s most salient, and he playfully alludes to what’s been forgotten:

“I can’t remember who, but someone—possibly even I—said, ‘Why don’t we cross the Wonder outside the railing?’”

Who dared is less important than the fact that all went along with the dare. (I’m reminded of the often-charming way Mary McCarthy admits to things she can and can’t remember in her collection Memories of a Catholic Girlhood.) As such, the essay is restrained rather than plodding, and the story seems simple. Young boys wander, young boys grab at an idea, young boys attempt something dangerous without, in the moment, recognizing the danger. Nothing of consequence happens during the attempt. No one slips. No one is hurt. There is no trauma or tragedy around which to shape a wholly different essay.

But in time, the gravity of what could have happened seeps into McVey’s mind. He writes, “The experience has left its mark.” McVey considers the what-ifs in the same way that I do and the same way I know many others do. He questions, so he has to get to the other side.

My mother-in-law lives on the twenty-fourth floor of an apartment building on Florida’s east coast. While visiting with my own three boys for spring break, I sat with my husband, my mother-in-law, and other relatives on her balcony, sipping wine and munching on crackers and cheese and loving how social the boys were being, how interested they were in talking with us grownups about the evening lights, the drawbridge, the Atlantic horizon. One of my sons was wearing vivid orange pajamas. That night, I had a recurring nightmare that he flipped forward over the balcony railing, his tiny orange figure streaking toward the pavement below.

McVey ends his piece asking himself about a thing that didn’t happen that day on the Wonder. And he answers,

“I don’t know, but right now, I’m off to lie down in a dimly lit room.”

I know that feeling well. In Florida, at three in the morning, I lay in our dimly lit room, staring over the edge of the bed at my orange-clad son, whose air mattress was set up a few feet below. McVey’s essay came back to me then, as it has many times since. My son is lying on air, not concrete. He’s just a few feet below, not 100. He’s ok, I’m ok, McVey and his friends are ok. None of us fell. We’re all here, writing and reading and wondering, but none of us fell, except back to sleep.

— SFS

Thinking about sending us your work? Take a look at this post that outlines some of what we look for in what we publish.

As our editorial team prepares for our first contest (The Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction), we thought it would be valuable to share thoughts about some essays that “stick.” I love all of our essays, or they wouldn’t be here. But I went over every one thinking about which ones were memorable in that early phase of a first read. I’ve asked our editorial team to do the same, and in the ramp up to our contest submission period we will share our reader experiences with some of our favorite essays.

Today we welcome Mary Heather Noble, one of our amazing writer/editors here at Longridge Review. Please enjoy her commentary on why she loves Anne Noonan’s essay, “Stink Tree.”

Whenever I lead memoir writing workshops, one of my favorite prompts to give students is a scent prompt. I hand the students numbered mason jars, inside of which contain cotton balls saturated with various materials (things like detergent, cologne or perfume, bathroom cleaner, iodine, Hawaiian Tropics tanning oil). We dim the lights and calm our minds, and then I cue them to open their chosen jar and inhale before free-writing about whatever comes to mind. I keep the identity of the various scents concealed on a key, so that students can have an authentic sensory experience.

Our sense of smell is highly emotive, and therefore closely linked with memory. Indeed, doing the scent prompt is a bit like time travel — I’ve had older students from community writing workshops write about their childhood memories of playing hide-and-seek in the boat yard after smelling the petroleum-tinged scent of mink oil, or writing the secrets of an alcoholic relative after catching a whiff of a cotton ball soaked in rum. Certain smells can take us right back to moments in our past, and can serve as portals to our richest, most emotional material.

I thought of this phenomenon when I read Anne Noonan’s “Stink Tree” — how, in a split second, the scent of a tree could take the narrator from enjoying present-day brunch with friends on the porch all the way back to her childhood neighborhood and all the summertime associations that tree-scent carried with it. She writes, “I loved their smell, even though I couldn’t have described it if asked to…Who would understand, then or now, if I said the tree smelled like sun on skin? Or freedom? Or consolation?” Of course we are all familiar with the representations of certain smells — the summertime scent of freshly cut grass and how it reminds us of pleasant, lazy summer afternoons. But what I love about Anne Noonan’s piece is the specificity of her memory, how she zooms right through all the lovely summertime affiliations with the Tree of Heaven scent and lands on one particular memory filled with emotion:

“The smell of the tree meant that soon the park’s enormous pool would be filled by the huge city hoses. And when the pool first opened for swimmers, the smell of the trees would be barely distinguishable from the smell of chlorine on my skin, or on my wet towel as I lay on the concrete to dry off. The smell helped me keep my crying in check that day in the driveway when my newlywed sister and her husband drove away, moving to another state. I tried to be happy for them. It was the beginning of their Beautiful New Life Together, all their silvery wedding cards said so, but it felt like an end for me. The song When Will I See You Again was playing on their car radio as they hugged us all goodbye. I think I was the only one to notice it.”

Aside from its wonderful sensory details, Noonan’s “Stink Tree” is a true essay — by which I mean the writer makes a close observation about a thing (in this case, a tree) and uses it to explore a larger and more universal theme. “Stink Tree” isn’t just about the narrator’s memory of the Tree of Heaven, and its association with summer in her childhood neighborhood; it is also a journey into the symbolic meaning of this particular tree, its presence in lower-income neighborhoods, how she came to notice socioeconomic differences, and her reflections on class and privilege. Yet despite this author’s ability to “pan out” and reflect upon these broader themes,  the author keeps us grounded in her particular details. The writing, of course, is outstanding — making this journey into the nuance of growing up in a poor neighborhood a most delightful trip.

— MHN

Thinking about sending us your work? Take a look at this post that outlines some of what we look for in what we publish.


As our editorial team prepares for our first contest (The Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction), we thought it would be valuable to share thoughts about some essays that “stick.” I love all of our essays, or they wouldn’t be here. But I went over every one thinking about which ones were memorable in that early phase of a first read. I’ve asked our editorial team to do the same, and in the ramp up to our contest submission period we will share our reader experiences with some of our favorite essays.

I’m going first with what I loved on first read about Mariana McDonald’s essay, “The Snake.”

“It wasn’t my snake,” she said. “Not really.”

But that had always been the family lore. Moyra and her sister were out walking and encountered a rattlesnake—three whole feet of it—and went for someone to kill it.

I love the first sentence of this piece. Opening with a line of dialogue tells the reader s/he doesn’t have to wait to be in this narrative. That one short opening sentence sets up an immediate presence for the reader in the events. Someone seems to be addressing us.

McDonald uses a technique of talking about someone named Moyra. There is no first person narrator in this piece, no discernible “I.” It seems at first as if the narrator is recalling memories of knowing Moyra, a distinctly separate person, a childhood friend.

©Mariana McDonald

I was and still am awed by how much McDonald gets done in two short sentences. There is a conflict. There is mystery. There is a death. And we know right away there is a family committed to shaping its own narrative against the will of a principal player.

Initially I wrote it as a first person memoir, but found that unsatisfying. What I did like was juxtaposing my childhood experience with thoughts about social and environmental changes. 

But there was something I was searching for in telling the story that had not yet become clear. 

I rewrote it in the third person, not so much addressing myself, but stepping way back and observing. Doing that allowed me, ultimately, to rewrite the ending, discovering that the story was about accepting responsibility and seeking forgiveness.

The story was about separating myself from the actions and rationales foisted on me as a child, ones that made me a co-conspirator in a cruel and arrogant action.  

Marianna McDonald, interviewed 2019 for this blog post

I also love the structure of this piece. It begins with a rationalization from childhood, then pans out to show us the physical and emotional place where later regret was born. The narrator knows rattlesnakes could kill children, knows that she is supposed to tell about the snake but didn’t have to. She chose to initiate a chain of events that resulted in the snake’s execution.

“Once you found the source of the rattling, if you had a way, you killed it. That way, you were saving your own life, and maybe even someone else’s.”

Beyond the rationalization, though, is a break to describe the natural beauty of the Canadian landscape and the life it supported. That thriving environment is starkly changed years later when Moyra’s (McDonald’s) mother dies. The return to the childhood place is changed; likewise, the reader senses Moyra is in some kind of transition as well.

“Years later, when Moyra and her family went up the peninsula to bury her mother, only a few lady slippers remained. Moyra went to them like a pilgrim to a shrine.”

This is a wonderful line that supports the holy pilgrimage feel to the activity. Yes, a mother has died; yet the sense of homage and mourning extends beyond the parent’s funeral. Something more is pending.

In the final section of this essay, adult Moyra confronts her repressed feelings of guilt. It is not spelled out (the best essays don’t traffic in explicit summary), but it seems implied that grown Moyra is in her childhood home after her mother’s passing. She finds the photograph of herself and the mounted snake, tucked to the side of other pictures in a cabinet.

There’s a sense of Moyra looking at herself and the death of the snake with new eyes. A parent has died, and Moyra seems nudged into a new way of seeing herself and her actions, to be able to get outside of the event and find some compassion for herself.

Perhaps McDonald’s most impressive achievement in “The Snake” is her utter lack of sentimentality, no reliance on shallow, uncomplicated emotions at the expense of reason. Strong feelings permeate this essay, but they never become cliche, simple, or over-wrought. In the hands of a writer with less skill, this same series of events and feelings could become melodramatic and unreflective.

I don’t want to give it away, so I’ll just urge you to read this piece through to the end. Ending an essay can be more difficult than beginning it. The last line of “The Snake” is perfect. It both brings resolution and opens new questions. I think this is one reason I have not forgotten this narrative. Thank you, Mariana McDonald, for placing your essay with us to share with the world.

Thinking about sending us your work? Take a look at this post that outlines some of what we look for in what we publish.


M. Randal O’Wain


We are over-the-moon excited to announce that M. Randal O’Wain will award the first Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction.

Randal holds an MFA from Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. He is the author of Meander Belt: Family, Loss, and Coming of Age in the Working Class South (American Lives Series, 2019) and Hallelujah Station and Other Stories (Autumn House Press, 2020).

His essays and short stories have appeared in Oxford American, Guernica, The Pinch, Booth, Hotel Amerika, storySouth, among others.

Randal lives in Alderson WV and lectures at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His knowledge of place via WV and NC is a wonderful gift to this work; both states were special to Anne. 

Things to do today:

Special thanks to Jessie van Eerden and Wiley Cash for their encouragement.

Spring is finally here.

Three Trees ©Michael Teel

I don’t know about you, but I thought this Winter might be permanent. Some of that was the weather; more of that feeling was the death of my friend, Anne Clinard Barnhill.

Anne was a wonderful writer and a beautiful human being. She wrote a recommendation letter for my MFA application. She submitted 3 essays to the early version of Longridge Review, Essays on Childhood. She always had a kind word or an encouraging message for other writers, and it was that quality that made her shine in the writing community.

Anne’s passing slowed me down. She died in January, and we pushed through to publish our Winter issue on time. I also started fundraising to establish a literary prize in Anne’s name. Spring feels like the time to think and dream, to plan and create this next aspect of Longridge Review. The buds, though still tight, are starting to emerge.

One of my favorite aphorisms is, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” While laboring to make something flawless, we often end up with nothing at all. I find myself procrastinating on defining the process for the Barnhill Prize (What? A writer? Procrastinating?!) because I want it to be perfect; but what I really want more than conceptual perfection is a concrete reality.

I am asking you, dear readers and writers, to share your responses to these ideas. If you are comfortable, I’d love to see your comments on this blog post, right here on this page. If you’d rather your comments be private, you can email me at edg at longridgeeditors dot com.

Draft contest guidelines

Dates for submission: Essays may be submitted September 1 to October 31, 2019. Winners will be announced by the end of January 2020.

Contest queries can be directed to edg at longridgeeditors dot com. The $10 entry fee can be paid online via credit card or PayPal when using our Submittable platform.

Selection process: Each of five editors reads approximately one-fifth of the essays submitted to the competition, with an additional reader available if needed based on the total number of submissions. Editors select three finalists each; the pool of finalist essays is read by (judge to be named), who makes the final selection of one winning essay. The author of the winning essay receives a cash award of $250. The winner has ten days to accept the award. More information about our editors and this year’s judge can be found at (provide link).

Eligibility: The competition is open to writers in English, whether published or unpublished. Previous winners of this award are not eligible to win again. Writers must be residents of North America. 

Essay Guidelines

  1. Essays should be double-spaced and no more than 3,500 words in length.
  2. The award recognizes outstanding creative nonfiction that reflects our mission: (See About; add also link to more detailed submission guidelines).
  3. Please be sure essay pages are numbered.
  4. Please use a standard, easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman in twelve-point size.
  5. Essays may not have been previously published.
  6. Authors may submit more than one essay to the competition for consideration as long as no material is duplicated between submissions. Each submission will require a separate entry fee.
  7. Essays under consideration for this competition may be submitted elsewhere at the same time. Please withdraw your essay if it is accepted by another publisher and should no longer be considered for the Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction competition. Withdrawal can be completed via the submissions manager website. Entry fees are not refundable.

Blind review: The intent of this contest is that essays will be considered on the merits of the work and that the final judge will not be aware of the names or publication records of the authors.

Confirmation of receipt and notification: You should receive an e-mail confirmation immediately after submission. An announcement of winners and finalists will be sent to all entrants via e-mail by the end of January.

One more thought: Though there can be only one award winner, we want to include recognition for finalists, a kind of “judge’s choice” acknowledgement. This feels like 2 additional essays being acknowledged in total, but it could be more or less.

Once we complete the contest, we would return to two regular submission periods, maintaining three annual opportunities for submissions, one being the contest now instead of three identical processes.

So this is our start! What do you think? What questions do you have? We hope you will help us make this first competition a success, and not just a success but a positive experience for everyone involved. Thank you!