More News of Good Writing—Essay Honorable Mentions 2020

Photo of balloons and candle
Celebration by siddharthav ( CC license.

When we held our essay/memoir contest last spring, we had such a wealth of wonderful entries, it was very hard to pick the winners. I think we did a good job—certainly the best we could—but in the process we knew there were entrants, beside those we chose for the prizes, whose work we could not overlook.

We therefore asked a number of those whose work we could not pick—since we had only three prizes to award—if they would be willing accept the status of Honorable Mention. Five really excellent memoirists graciously acceded to this request. It’s my happy mission to announce these additional stars.

This coming Friday, August 20, we will be publishing the first of these, Mary Alice Hostetter’s essay, Troubling the Fields, a true-life account, both touching and amusing, of what happens when a tent revival meeting comes to a small Mennonite community. Told from the viewpoint of a young teenager, this essay shows what life in a small community looks like and what religious fervor feels like in that situation.

That will be the final essay/memoir published this summer. In the fall, we will be adding four others. I wish I could give exact dates, but that schedule hasn’t been set. I’m reasonably sure it will look like what follows.

Early in September, we will publish Carol Jeffers’s essay, A Sign. This is a tender account of friendship under the stress of loss and death. The narrator, in the process of surviving her grief, finds an even deeper meaning in that friendship, values she can never lose.

Next, late September or early October, we will feature J. Brooke’s Finding Barbie’s Shoes, an elliptical narration of how something as small as the foot of a Barbie doll can lead to consideration of topics larger and more painful. There is humor in this account, but also that edge of reality we all have to contend with. Its two poles inform each other.

In late October or early November, our selection will be Vicky Oliver’s wry account of something we have all had to face—the process of giving up the accessories of youth. In this essay, she shows how hard those kinds of decisions can be, even when they seem inevitable, but also what the rewards for making such decisions can be.

Last, but by no means least, our final essay/memoir for November will be Genevra Levinson’s lyric The Trees are a Better Mother. This short, but tender and thoughtful, essay shows us how the contemplation of other people’s work, especially poetry, can bring one to a vivid awareness of one’s own being. And its expression.

It’s been a hard year, this 2020, in so many ways. I feel grateful to be able to tell  you about the work of these fine essayists. I had a lot of fun—and many thoughtful moments—rereading their work for the purpose of writing this post. I hope you will tune in for the same kind of satisfaction.

Susan Shafarzek
Susan Shafarzek is essay/memoir editor of Streetlight.

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