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Eligibility: The competition is open to writers in English, whether published or unpublished.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.
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.
Essays should be double-spaced and no more than 3,500 words in length.
The award recognizes outstanding creative nonfiction that reflects our mission: (See About)
Essays are only accepted via our Submittable online platform. No paper, please.
Please be sure essay pages are numbered and that your name is NOT on the document that is your essay.
Please use a standard, easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman in twelve-point size.
Essays may not have been previously published.
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.
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.
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.
Please forward any questions to edg (at) longridgeeditors (dot) com. Thank you!
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 Blueis 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 forLongridge Review, The 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.