- Short Nonfiction Contest Introduction
It was a pleasure to read through the entries for our first nonfiction contest. The essays covered a wide range of subjects, and some of the best functioned on multiple levels. Reading over my favorites again, I am reminded of why I love the essay as a form: it's elastic, accommodating, and surprising.
Winner: "Hello, Fridge" by Anna Hartford
Elegiac and compelling, "Hello, Fridge" surprised me with its scope and depth. It's an essay about a refrigerator, but it's really an essay about the beginning and end of a relationship. The fridge, a Defy D210, features "adjustable leveling feet, variable thermostat, sealed crisper. Small: human-height, or thereabouts." The lover has neither a name nor a body and exists largely in e-mail communications. And yet, in the end, the reader feels the narrator's sense of regret as she works through her understanding of the subject line. I loved the completeness of the essay and Anna Hartford's skillful use of a single, everyday object to tell a story about love and loss.
Runner-up: "Saving Luna" by KT Sparks
In "Saving Luna," KT Sparks uses the life and death of a lamb to frame her meditation on farm life. Line by line the writing is gorgeous, but it's the structure that gives the essay movement and urgency. "Later," the narrator repeats as the essay moves between the present—saving Luna—and the future, a future in which the narrator will "learn not to name the new ones, the weak ones, the boys who need to go for meat." With each new lesson, she undercuts any romance or sentimentality about farm life—her own and the reader's. [End Page 86]
Runner-up: "The Great Glass Closet" by Benjamin Garcia
In "The Great Glass Closet," Benjamin Garcia relies on fragments, repetition, echoes, and wordplay to illustrate the fluidity of language and identity. "This is not a metaphor: when I say that I lived in the closet it's because I lived in the closet," Garcia writes at the beginning of the essay. By the end of the section, however, the closet can't avoid its metaphorical meaning. "You could have called our closet a walk-in closet in the sense that a child's body could walk in. Mine did, and I called it home. It was comfortable enough, if you were willing to lie. I was." Lyrical and challenging, the essay commands the reader's full attention. [End Page 87]