$1,000 Memoir Essay Prize Awarded


Creative Nonfiction is delighted to announce the winners of its recent “Memoir” contest, chosen by the magazine’s editors from more than 1,700 submissions.

Kelly Fig Smith is the winner of the first-place prize of $1,000 for her essay, “Do No Harm.” An excerpt taken from her memoir in progress, Smith’s essay tells the story of her first pregnancy, which ended in a stillbirth. She meditates on the experience of loss and the quality of interactions between patients and healthcare providers. “In every moment,” she observes, “we possess an astonishing ability to affect (sometimes permanently) the lives of those we encounter, to do either great good or great harm.”

Kelly Fig Smith lives in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Her essays have appeared online at Literary Mama, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Huffington Post, and in the book Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss.

>> Read an interview with Kelly here.

Emily Bernard is the winner of the $500 runner-up prize for her essay “Black is the Body,” which examines race and identity through the experiences of her twin daughters, who at age six argued between themselves whether they were “brown” or “black.”

“Despite my efforts to shield them, it seemed, my daughters had somehow gotten wise to the absurd and illogical nature of American racial identity,” Bernard writes. “Blackness, Giulia had figured out, had nothing to do with actual skin color. ... Blackness, she had intuited, was a social category— not a color, but a condition. And like it or not, she was informing her sister, it was time to get with the proverbial program. In spite of me, but also because of me, my brown daughters were becoming black.”

Emily Bernard teaches in the English department and the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Program at the University of Vermont in Burlington; her essays have been reprinted in The Best American Essays, Best African American Essays, and The Best Creative Nonfiction.

Creative Nonfiction #55: The Memoir Issue (Spring 2015) also includes new stories by Brenna Fitzgerald, Marilyn Moriarty, D.T. Nguyen, Suzanne Roberts, Scott Loring Sanders, Mimi Schwartz, Gillian Smith, Ron Tanner, and Gina Warren. Learn more about the issue here.