2018 Contest Winners

Writers@Work is pleased to announce the winners of its 2018 writing competition for creative nonfiction, poetry and fiction. We received hundreds of excellent entries, making the selection process challenging. Take a look at our first, second and third place winners, and finalists.

Creative Nonfiction

Amy Wright author photo CNF winner_cFirst Place: Amy Wright

Amy Wright is the author of Everything in the Universe, Cracker Sonnets, and five chapbooks, including the essay collection, Wherever the Land Is. She has been awarded two Peter Taylor Fellowships to the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop, an Individual Artist Grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission, and a fellowship to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Individual essays and poems appear in Brevity, Gastronomica, Kenyon Review, and Waveform: Anthology of Women Essayists (University of Georgia Press).

Comments from nonfiction judge Tessa Fontaine:

“I love the way this harrowing essay moves. We begin with authorial remove. The slow emergence of the narrator as a guide in this essay seems to mirror the process of coming back into one’s body and mind after such a terrible accident, in which a kind of separation from self and body takes place. The remove also situates us within the lives of other people witness to something so terrible, which I think works incredibly well here. And yet, can we ever be truly separated from our bodies? Can we look at them, take notes, create hypotheses? Can heartbreak be othered, as a specimen, or is it always inside us? This essay asks us these questions, and thinks through them with intelligence and grace. The language is clear and simple when we need medical information delivered, more lyric at other points when there is space for more than the blood and bone of the body. Or maybe it is that blood and bone that causes the lyricism. The essay keeps us moving within it all.

I like the investigation into what makes a “specimen,” and how we attempt to make sense of objects, order them, and then must understand them as necessarily separate from ourselves.  I like it especially in contrast with the presence of Jeremy, the speaker’s dead brother, and that no real attempt to explain his presence is made. There are knowable things, and unknowable. Things we only feel. And the information we get about Jeremy, about the speaker’s relationship to him, offers us a tender but whole glimpse into who he was, the way in which he was a vibrant human in the world and existing far beyond the “specimen” that ultimately led to his early death.

The scientific thread here, following our understanding of humans and our ancestors, seems to suggest an otherness, a separateness necessary to think about the speaker’s body that has been so badly damaged – and yet, this body is connected to all other bodies through human lineage. We share the codes that make us all one. We share the pain of human suffering, and the transcendence of it too. This essay brought such big ideas together in beautiful, moving ways. Thanks for writing this, writer. And please, write on.”

2nd Place: Catherine Raven, “Vole Forest”
3rd Place: Sandra Miller, “A Heart Song in Four Chambers”

Creative Nonfiction Finalists:

Sunni Wilkinson, “Leaven”
Megan Baxter, “The Inscribed”
Casey Charles, “Jog Memory”
Deborah Augustin, “First Name Unknown”
Judith Hertog, “Cowards and Accomplices”
Heather Derr-Smith, “Internally Displaced”
Sandy Speers Markwart, “I Want You To Know”
Rena Lesué, “Boyfriend”
Kelly Beard, “Angel Fish”


Ashish Xiangyi Kumar_Poetry winner 2018 photoFirst Place: Ashish Xiangyi Kumar
“Cradle, Calendar, Sonnet Above Water, Suburban Patrol, Singapore”

The son of a Chinese mother and Indian father, Ashish Xiangyi Kumar lives and works in Singapore, where writing is one of his many errant interests. He graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2015 with a B.A. and L.L.M. in law, and his work has been published in The Kindling, The Cordite Review, and Oxford Poetry. He took second place in the 2017 December Fortnight Poetry Prize.

Comments from poetry judge Paisley Rekdal:

“Let me just say that I liked the writer’s formal elegance, the handling of image, and the ways in which the poem moved in unexpected directions in lovely ways. I think the poems are engaging and strong, and I look forward to working with this writer during the conference.”

2nd Place: Gibb Johnson, “six ekphrastic poems”
3rd Place: Trixi Rosa, “restless joy can’t be held”

Poetry Finalists:

Christie Towers, “Away from Them; Swim Practice; She asks what I think of Him; For Lou, Who Lied; Search: Sleep Positions … ; At the Reading”
Hedgie Choi, “Clearly You Are Not Me – 6 poems”
Marina Kaganova, “Equinox; the current condition; it’s the beach; Lunch”
Anna Hernandez-French, “At Sea; Gardeners; Gloriana; Hooked Up; San Bernardino Lullaby; Watermelon Love”
Mary Fitzpatrick, “Inhaling the Central Coast”
Bill Garten, “My Heart Surgeon Doesn’t Care, ICU, Still Poor, At a Truck Stop, The Beginning of Trouble”
Aakash Doshi, “Orange Epiphany”
Ed Frankel, “Treasons of the Imagination; Prodigies of the loaded Gun– For Gabriel Celaya; The Stalking Horse; My Horse to Ride; Bigger Than Its Own Size And Weight”
Heidi Poon, “The Problem of the Forest etc.”


Paul Fiction winner photo 2018First Place: Paul Byall

Paul Byall has published short fiction in several literary reviews, including Ploughshares, December Magazine, Bosque and The Bellingham Review. Paul has won the Porter Fleming Short Story Award, the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, and the New South Fiction Award. His first published story, written while a student at the University of California, received mention as a distinguished story in The Best American Short Stories anthology. His new novel, Ridgeland, was runner-up for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom First Novel Award and is currently looking for a home. Paul grew up in Ohio and received degrees from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and the University of California. He currently resides in Savannah, Georgia.

Comments from fiction judge Mat Johnson:

“Sequestered” is a wonderful meditation on guilt, sin, and who gets to judge them. The sentences dance and still do a lot of work carrying the weight of the unsaid. Wonderfully paced and rendered, this story shows not only considerable talent, but ample grace and control of craft.”

2nd Place: Connor McElwee, “Take Flight”
3rd Place: Steve Lavender, “Soon Enough, and for a Long, Long Time”

Fiction Finalists:

Casey Charles, “Driftwood”
Greg Jones, “Dugga Boys”
D.E. Hardy, “Hotel Klomser, Room No. 1”
Samantha Atkins, “Lady Tiger”
Jena Andres, “Recycling”
Virginia Ewing Hudson, “Silo”
Alexander Jones, “The New Normal”