Bring Out the Champagne! by Susan Shafarzek

Yes, champagne, please. It’s a red letter day here at the essay/memoir neighborhood of Streetlight: time to announce (appropriate fanfare) the outcome of our sixth essay/memoir contest. It’s a time of hopefulness, vaccinations and all, even if we are—for the second year in a row—announcing the winners of our contest in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. I feel grateful for all the help I’ve had, especially to Paula Boyland who co-judged and to Emily Littlewood, who kept us ‘blind’ in our reading by keeping track of the entries for us.

But, most of all, I’m grateful for the wonderful writers introducing themselves to this magazine. Especially those who take a chance on the contest. We had so many fine entries this year, it was hard to make decisions. If only we had more prizes to give. But meanwhile, here’s a first glimpse of this years winners.

Kate Sheridan is our first-prize winner for  her essay, Garden Thief. A former landscape designer and contractor, she writes a memoir story of how, in an act  of “possible rebalance,” or “even, retribution,” she rescues something once her own. With mischievous humor and deep feeling, she shows how a problem can be solved without war. The writing is precise, the story both poignant and amusing. And, her descriptions of what makes gardening her love are breathtaking.

The Wedding Guest, our second prize winning essay, is a delightful recounting of how culture difference meets friendship and love. It’s the story of a rite from the viewpoint of the almost stranger, the inescapably infidel. In this lively narrative, Melissa Sinclair shows us how embarrassment can turn to understanding, discomfort to self-awareness, nervousness to joy. In this way, a tale of our times from the fun side of things, but also a subtle and honest portrayal of how sometimes it takes more than good intentions.

Photo of wine glass on colorful tablecloth
Celebration by Kurayba. CC license.

Phyllis Brotherton and Armen Bacon share third prize this year for their innovative meditation, Water. In collaboration, these two writers take us on a mind-voyage deeply and solidly located in real world images and events. This is experimental work in the best sense of that word, bringing the reader to new insights and understandings. Working from the mundane to the tragic, ranging over a breadth of subject, these two writers tickle out from their eponymous subject, a kaleidoscope of meanings.

These essays will appear, one after the other, in the midst of our Fall lineup. Please watch for them. You’ll be glad you did.


Susan Shafarzek
Susan Shafarzek is Essay/Memoir editor for Streetlight Magazine.

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