The Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction

“Though the surroundings were lovely, there was an underside to all that beauty.”

Anne Barnhill


Submissions open June 1 – July 31, 2020.

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 up to 10 finalist essays. Finalist essays will be read by an outside judge who selects 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, Carter Sickels, can be found here: #BarnhillPrize judge 2020.

Eligibility: The competition is open to writers in English, whether published or unpublished.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. Current or former students of the contest judge should NOT submit their work to this contest; the same goes for anyone who personally knows the judge in any regard.
  2. Essays should be double-spaced and no more than 3,500 words in length.
  3. The award recognizes outstanding creative nonfiction that reflects our mission: (See About)
  4. Essays are only accepted via our Submittable online platform. No paper, please.
  5. Please be sure essay pages are numbered and that your name is NOT on the document that is your essay.
  6. Please use a standard, easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman in twelve-point size.
  7. Essays may not have been previously published.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Please forward any questions to edg (at) longridgeeditors (dot) com. Thank you!

©Carlos Culbertson, featured artist Issue 3, Spring 2016

Our Current Predicament. The Quar. 2020 So Far. Whatever you call it, this period of late has been a difficult one for all of us, and writers with new books are no exception. Anticipated publications and reviews are delayed, but the good news is, sooner or later, it all comes together.

And there is something so very timely right now about a book title that centers on being awake and thinking at three o’clock in the morning.

Here at Longridge Review, we like to share good news about writers whose work we have published. Today’s good news is about Sarah Bigham, whose 2017 essay The Drill, examined the aftermath of a childhood surgery to limit damage from a brain injury. Her book represents one of our favorite elements of our mission, the part where writers really get down into hidden influences on their lives from early experience.

Our bodies remember pain, apparently, even when our retrievable memories have purged it.

The Drill, Longridge Review, Issue #6

Of Sarah’s new book, publisher Pski’s Porch says:

Plagued with spiraling pain, and wandering the house in the middle of the night unable to sleep, Sarah Bigham began writing in a desperate attempt to distract herself. This collection of her essays and poems ranges from lyrical to mystical to humorous to soul-piercing. Readers will laugh, cry, and nod in agreement as Sarah reminisces, observes, and describes the journey of an ordinary person living a quietly extraordinary life.

Many of the pieces in Chemist recall why we were attracted to The Drill. Sarah has a style that blends memory with reflection, resulting in a meditative experience for the reader. She writes in a way that slows us down, brings our focus, and avoids didactic “answers.” In short, she makes us think with our hearts.

We all collect things, I suppose, the remnants of others, to keep within ourselves. For me, it is what people say, the stories they tell, and the remembrances of their words years later. The jagged edges of the broken bits, sanded by time, fit together as a blessing of sorts, one bestowed on word and story-keepers.

Beatitudes, Kind Chemist Wife: Musings at 3 a.m.

A huge thanks to Sarah and to Pski’s Porch for bringing us just what we needed right now. A small, crafted, hand-held book that honors quiet space and time; one that demands nothing but elicits everything. Everything that honors being human.

###

Sarah Bigham teaches, writes, and paints in Maryland where she lives with her kind chemist wife, three independent cats, an unwieldy herb garden, several chronic pain conditions, and near-constant outrage at the general state of the world tempered with love for those doing their best to make a difference. Sarah’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of great places for readers, writers, listeners, and thinkers. Find her at www.sgbigham.com. You can purchase her book here: Kind Chemist Wife.

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Photo by Amie LeeKing

We are thrilled to announce that Carter Sickels will award the 2020 Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction.

Carter’s novel The Prettiest Star is forthcoming from Hub City Press in 2020. He is the author of the novel The Evening Hour (Bloomsbury 2012), an Oregon Book Award finalist and a Lambda Literary Award finalist. His essays and fiction have appeared in a variety of publications, including Oxford American, Poets & Writers, BuzzFeed, Guernica, and the Bellevue Literary Review. Carter is the recipient of the 2013 Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award, and earned fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the MacDowell Colony. He is an assistant professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University, where he teaches in the Bluegrass Writers low-residency MFA program.

Things to do today:

Read the 2019 #BarnhillPrize-winning essay here:  
Suburbs Plagued by Foraging Deer

Summer of 2006. Four childhood best friends. A family secret.

Here at Longridge Review, we like to share good news about writers whose work we have published. Today’s good news is about Natalie Rodriguez, whose 2017 essay “The Permission of Alcohol” examined her disordered drinking to facilitate expressions of grief.

The COVID-19 situation is interfering with the anticipated release of many new books, but Natalie reports that the ebook version of new YA book, Elephant, is available for an unlimited time on Booksprout. All you need to do is create a free account on Booksprout to download the book. The book is also available right now for Kindle on Amazon and Nook for Barnes and Noble.

About Elephant:

After a strange encounter leaves him hospitalized, a timid teenage boy named Matt “Matty” Smith comes home to a continuous series of events met with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Under the guardianship of his grandma, Lucia, Matt lives with unspoken questions about his grandfather and parents. The elephant in the room. As Matt develops over the summer, the secrets only grow more profound and complex. Will the answers ever come? While searching for answers, Matt and his three childhood best friends encounter the meanings of love, forgiveness, and fate.

This story is for those who feel their voice is unheard and for children, teenagers, and adults who never had the chance to heal from their pain.

If you need some new — safe — contact in quarantine, Natalie is all over the socials and would love to hear from you! 

Ways to find her and to connect:

Website – nataliecrodriguez.com

IG: @natchristinerod

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/nataliechristinerodriguez

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elephant_bookya/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ebookya/

Finally, you can leave your review on Google Books & Goodreads.

Let’s keep our #WritingCommunity connected and supported during this strange time for all of us.

The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America.

Since 1976, hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in annual collections. Each year most of the writers and many of the presses are new to the series. Every volume contains an index of past selections, plus lists of outstanding presses with addresses.

The Pushcart Prize has been a labor of love and independent spirits since its founding. It is one of the last surviving literary co-ops from the 60’s and 70’s. Its legacy is assured by donations to its Fellowships endowment.

We at Longridge Review are pleased to announce our 2019 nominees:

Congratulations to each of these wonderful writers, and thank you to everyone who found a forever home for his or her essay with us in 2019!

p.s. Our submission period is now open until the first of the year.

Featured image by Deb Farrell


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.”

Mike Chin

It’s always exciting for us at Longridge Review to get publishing news from one of our essayists. Mike Chin’s short story collection, You Might Forget the Sky Was Ever Blue (Duck Lake Books, September 2019), is out this month. Do not miss Mike’s thoughts, ideas, and advice about his work and the writing life . . . and don’t forget to order his book!

Q: You Might Forget the Sky was Ever Blue is your first full-length short story collection. Congratulations! The book includes stories about a third grade teacher in Baltimore trying to make sense of the 2016 election campaign to students, a teenage sexual assault survivor making his way through a changed world, and a boy is raised to believe he’s Hulk Hogan’s little brother. Though fiction, they sound inspired by real life. Can you talk a bit about how the genres of fiction and creative nonfiction relate as well as diverge?

A: I’m a big believer that nothing in life happens in a vacuum. Everything affects everything else, and that very much includes the pop culture we ensconce ourselves in, which might include politics, music, movies, television, and even professional wrestling.

Rather than playing coy in a (likely as not futile) effort to make the stories timeless, a number of these stories lean into their surrounding culture from the real world to enrich the characters and setting. The first story in the collection, “Prophecy,” is very much set during the 2016 presidential election campaign and uses social media as a source of chronic tension throughout. The story “Brother” uses Hulk Hogan’s evolution as a public figure as a backdrop for understanding the protagonist’s place in life and worldview.

Q: Book promos say Sky includes experiments in form with a social conscience. What exactly does that mean?

A: Two stories in particular—“Prophecy” and “Better”—lean into collage style structures that jump around a lot. In the former, the story aims to gather a bit of what it was like to be an average citizen during an especially tumultuous moment in American history. Conversely, “Better” uses its snippets to span a lifetime, gathering snapshots across decades that the reader can piece together to understand the whole.

In regards to the social conscience of the book, some of the glue that binds this manuscript includes leaning into uncomfortable conversations around political leadership, sexual assault, how we society treats people from the LGBT community, and more. Rather than taking a ‘there are good people on all sides’ stance, the collection, or at least the characters from these stories, do take positions, and it’s up to the reader to decide whether or to what degree they agree—but at least (I hope) they’re thinking.

Q: Your essay for Longridge ReviewThe Bionic Elbow: On Fathers, Sons, and the American Dream, has elements in it I recognize in Sky; there may be more. I really love that essay, the way you braid in and out of seemingly disparate experiences like professional wrestling, fatherhood, emerging sexuality, parental expectations, death/loss –somehow you make it all connect. Do you have any special process for this kind of writing, do you plan to do it in advance or do you just write and weave it together as you go?

A: I’ve experimented with this style of writing (most directly influenced by Maggie Nelson) in a number of pieces—fiction, non-fiction, poetry. Typically, I’ve drafted pieces like this in a pretty linear fashion, truly letting my mind wander and make organic connections. I will admit that there’s a deceptively high level of revision typically required after that first draft, though, to buff out the pieces that really are more flights of fancy than essential to the text, and to make connections that feel clear enough to me more explicit for readers living outside my head.

Q: Do you have a favorite story in Sky? What is it and why?

A: While I’d probably call “Prophecy” my favorite for its structure, contemporary concerns, and bits and pieces borrowed from my own life, I’ve probably already spent too much interview space talking about that one. So, I’ll go to the next one down the line, the title story, “You Might Forget the Sky was Ever Blue.” It connects to the story that comes before it in the collection, “The End of the World,” which ends on a traumatic experience. “You Might Forget” picks up on the aftermath, which I feel is too often given short shrift in storytelling—the more administrative pieces of school officials sorting through a messy issue and how that intersects with someone’s personal experience. It’s a story that was largely born out of the years I spent as an administrator for an educational program, taking those less glamorous behind the scenes tasks and carving some art out of them.

I’m a prolific drafter and feel pretty adamant that, if I like a piece of writing, I’d rather see it out in the world somewhere than sitting dormant on my hard drive.

Q: You publish a lot of writing, with work either in or forthcoming in over 200 publications. What advice do you have for other writers about getting your work out there?

A: I’m a prolific drafter and feel pretty adamant that, if I like a piece of writing, I’d rather see it out in the world somewhere than sitting dormant on my hard drive. So, I make conscious effort to submit regularly and widely, not being afraid to shoot for the stars with the pieces I most believe in, or to take a chance on a less established venue with pieces I’m not as confident will connect with editors. I know some folks prefer to be more selective about where they publish, and I can respect that, but for those who may be more interested in publishing widely, I advocate for getting in listservs and social media groups that advertise calls for submissions you might not come across more organically. There’s such an advantage to placing work with venues that are actively seeking submissions (especially from less established writers) as opposed to only submitting to publications that already have overwhelming submission queues.

Q: What’s the best way for readers and writers to keep up with you and your work? (website, Twitter, etc.)

A: I’m active on Twitter and publicize most anything I publish there. I also try to keep my website up to date, and I update my blog at least twice most months.

@miketchin

miketchin.com

miketchin.blogspot.com

Photo by Anita Scharf

It’s always exciting for us at Longridge Review to get publishing news from one of our essayists. Dorothy Rice’s memoir, Gray Is The New Black (Otis Books, Seismicity Editions, June 2019), is a memoir of ageism, sexism and self acceptance. It’s also a wonderful portrait of an intelligent, beautiful woman struggling to confront her past in order to have the present and future she wants and deserves. Read on for insight into her process!

Q: I find elements of your essay here, Prom and Other Fairy Tales, in your book. Your relationship to your sisters and your mother, feeling trapped by other people’s expectations, being conflicted about your role in the male desires around you. When you go into the past with your writing, what do you find the most difficult? And how do you deal with it?

A: I love writing about the past. Perhaps because these are stories I believe I know. Meaning I know what remember as having happened and that’s where I start. But what I am always astonished by is how, in writing the scenes that I remember, that are born anew. When I take the time to go deep into memory, I find things I had forgotten or, even better, the past is revealed to me in new ways. 

This is a simple truth and goal of memoir writing, of course. When we recount childhood experience as adults, we both remember how it felt as a child and now, years later, we are looking at that experience with very different, ideally more reflective, generous and perhaps even forgiving, eyes.

That is what I love about Longridge Review – your focus on essays that explore exactly this broadening, this expansion, complexity and different understanding that emerges when we re-examine early experience. 

This is my wheelhouse, a place I could hang out in for days. 

My mother, sadly, is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. If she were cogent, it’s quite likely I wouldn’t have written of her in many of the ways that I have, if at all (she was pretty prickly). As for my sisters, I share any writing that includes them before seeking publication. Over the years, it’s lead to interesting comparisons of our memories of the same event, colored by our differing personalities (I’m the Eeyore of the three). 

Q: You write a lot in this book about struggling to gain control over your weight throughout your life. Many people with a similar struggle say they only gained control over their body’s literal weight by dealing with the hidden weight of some kind of personal trauma. Was that true for you?

A: That was my hope and a main impetus for writing this book. I thought of 2017 as my year to fix whatever it was that ailed me and to write a book about the process. On the most simplistic level, I was dissatisfied with my appearance and my marriage and sick and tired of feeling that way. If not now, when? Edging up on 65, that was the mantra that urged me on.

It’s no surprise that diets and exercise proved no more effective in 2017 than in any prior year. I began digging for the roots of my body dissatisfaction issues and quickly stumbled into old trauma territory (rape at 15 and its lingering aftermath). 

I still struggle with weight and body acceptance. Revisiting and reflecting on the trauma didn’t “cure” me. But it moved the dial and sharpened my focus. I hadn’t realized the extent to which I harbored shame, guilt and embarrassment over mistakes made in adolescence. Those uncomfortable feelings are closely aligned with how I’ve long felt about my body, sexuality, and desirability as a woman.

In other words, writing about it wasn’t a quick fix (I don’t believe there is such a thing), but I’m more conscious now. When I’m beating myself up, I can often stop the shame/eat/repeat cycle before its hooks are into me. I work at being kinder, gentler and more forgiving with myself, which I hope makes me the same with others. 

Q: Anyone writing creative nonfiction has to grapple with the reactions of those we write about. Sometimes others even question the veracity of your memories. Have you had this happen, has anyone said, “That’s not the way it happened”?

A: If anything, it’s been illuminating rather than divisive. My sisters laugh when I recall a scene with dark and dreary overtones that for them was happy, or neutral. 

I am often asked about the general veracity of memory. How am I comfortable recreating dialogue (which I love to do)? How on earth do I know what Dad said when I was six? There are some conversations I remember (or believe I remember) verbatim, but I don’t claim to have total recall. I go for the emotional truth and work from there. I also believe in “method writing” (akin to “method acting” where the actor really climbs inside the character’s skin). I create a little movie in my head, immerse myself in whatever the scene is, press “play” and start writing.

In all the essays I’ve written with family-member and other’s dialog, no one has yet complained, “I never said that.” I don’t believe it’s because they ever said exactly those words, but rather the writing captured enough of where they were coming from emotionally and what they intended to communicate or accomplish. 

My parents found my memory for the details of every awful thing anyone ever did or said to me pretty irritating. To quote my dad,”Your mind is like the Roach Motel (a cockroach bait device that was featured in TV ads when I was a kid). Whatever makes it inside that head of yours, never comes out.” 

Of course, these traits have proven useful as a writer, or perhaps they explain why I write. I have to get it all out of there somehow or my head might explode.

Q: You write a lot about what I would call the way things appear, the way things feel, and the way things are. That’s a lot of angles! Where do you think that comes from, those conflicts that you seem to always be trying to resolve?

A: That’s an interesting question! Thank you for that.

On one level, that’s what the book is about. How one’s thinking about self and others–the various perception lenses through which life’s experiences are filtered–impacts everything. Our appreciation and enjoyment of life. The ability to experience joy and gratitude. The ability to be in the moment, living life, rather than dissecting what it might have been, could or should have been, and wasn’t. The ability to accept love and affection, to believe in it.

Deciding to write this particular book post-60, I had a sense of if-not-now-when, both in terms of the writing itself, but also in tackling what I perceive to be my personal demons head on. I wanted to bring my own awareness to the mental contortions I put myself though on a daily basis and to, to the extent possible, make peace with myself, who I am and how I am. 

The mind is a noisy place. Writing down some of what’s rattling around in there can bring a moment’s peace. It feels like tidying up, making some sense of a vexing or irksome memory.

Q: You write​ ​about writing itself. What was the most helpful piece of advice you received that influenced your writing process for this book?

A: Before beginning Gray Is The New Black, I had enrolled in a write-a-book-in-a-year class with NYT best-selling author Ellen Sussman. Both the structure of the class and the accountability provided by having deadlines and others to report to periodically were huge in terms of writing this book.

I really needed that. 

As for specific advice, Ellen was great at several junctures. Within the first month of beginning the memoir, I tapped into the material about my high school trauma and how that experience colored all my future interactions with boys and men. Once I’d turned the spigot, I couldn’t stop the flow. I literally spewed words, something like 150,000 in a matter of six weeks or so. I worried it was all garbage and that I was on the wrong track. Ellen reassured me by saying something along the lines of, “Just keep going. Get it all down. This is the stage you should be in. The generative stage.” 

Legitimizing what I was experiencing helped me a lot, as my tendency is to self-edit as I go. If I’d stopped to judge the value of recording these painful memories and impressions, I might have been mired down for months or years. Much of it got cut way back or eliminated during the various edits of the draft manuscript. But I needed the freedom to let it rip and not worry about form, shape, narrative thread or anything but the words that, after so many years, were finally finding their way out of me and onto the page. 

dorothyriceauthor.com
Gray Is The New Black