Just as we were hunkering down in the midst of this global emergency, we received the last dozen or so entries for the 2020 Streetlight Essay/Memoir contest. That was a happy distraction! And this is too.
None of the many, many wonderful essays we’ve been reading for the past three months has been about the virus and I’m kind of glad about that. It’s good to acknowledge there is a world outside this present catastrophe. I’m happy to be able to invite you to look at these examples of strong writing, acute vision, and a sense of being in the world, for all its mishaps and flaws. In these days of hard waiting and uncertainty, inspiration is where we can find it. I’m happy to be recommending some.
Our first prize winner is Richard Key. Writing from Alabama, he tells a crisp, informative, and often humorous tale called Plight of the Humble Bee. In this narrative of an ordinary happening, made into a brief saga, Key takes us from a household emergency—bees swarming on his doorstep—through the vagaries of trying to get help with the problem, searching for information about it, experiencing the personal fear of allergic reaction to a conclusion full of hard-won insight. With a smile or two along the way.
In our second prize winning essay, Amy Stonestrom, writing from “the Minnesota-Wisconsin border,” tells us the story that would be magical all on its own, if we could only be there. This essay, called Beautiful Monster, a narrative about a local, annual happening, called The Hot Air Affair, a massive celebration of hot-air ballooning, takes us from humor to wonder to the apprehension of things fearful—in the space of three pages. It’s short, but powerful. Her masterful descriptions and poignant perceptions only add to the charm. And I do mean “charm” in the old, old sense. There really is an enchantment here.
Third prize winner Billie Hinton, writing from North Carolina, in her essay, Stealing Light, tells the story of loss inflicted by a break-in to the office space she, a therapist, shares with several other businesses. This elegant meditation on a destructive event, interspersed with reflection on her own healing craft, takes us to the heart of an understanding of a human need so hidden even the narrator cannot fully fathom it. But her attempt takes us to the right questions. It’s a story of loss that goes beyond property.
I hope you will be watching our summer edition for these excellent essays. Later in the year, we will also be posting our Honorable Mentions. More news about that to come.
One of the essayists to win an honorable mention, responded with this note: “It’s odd to get good news at this moment in time.” It’s odd to be giving it too, but here we are. I invite you to join us in this small, but hopeful celebration.
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