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.”

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.
Gray Is The New Black

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:

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

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.


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.


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.

The Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction

Submissions open June 1 and close July 31, 2019.

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.

Read more about the guidelines here.

Read more about our wonderful founding donors here.

This list is developing!

Charlotte and Brian Sweeney


Betty Sims Damewood


Frank Barnhill

Monica Graff

Sandra Lee Zahrn

Elizabeth Gaucher

Carol Damewood Spann 

Sharon Kurtzman

Kathryn Lovatt

Brenda Remmes

Beth Duttera Newman


Bernie and Ken Brown


Sophie Perinot

Nicholas Orlandi

Marie Fletcher


Molly Maass

Suzanne Farrell Smith

Penny McDonald

Priscille Sibley

Jessica Keener

Ellen Wiseman

Mimi Clark

Jessi Malatesta

Creative Nonfiction, #13 Winter 2018-19 

John Jacobson, Eight-Millimeter Film

Tracy Line, Traversing Icy Roads

Stephen Lottridge, What’s the Point of Rabbits?

Virginia Petrucci, Who Is Ben?

Dana VanderLugt, The Orchard

And other wonderful things…..come see!