I enjoyed reading all the entries. The subjects and writing showed a wide and deep range. The essays brought light to a gray January. Here are the three finalists, in order:
First Place, “Queen of Birthdays”
This one moved me so much. A story of a mother with cancer, the essay pulls us through the impending tragedy with such fine figurative writing. Besides using the symbolism of birthdays as a motif, the writer also casts fine metaphors that broke through the scudding clouds of tragedy. I especially admired the short paragraphs, as they reflect the mood of a writer almost breathless from getting down every searing detail, struggling as her mother struggles. On a sentence-level, the writing is bright and sharp, lovely and heart-breaking.
Second Place, “The Spots are Runn’n’”
I loved going back in time with this writer to when he was a child, fishing with his father. The tone is light, which helps the piece avoid sentimentality so that it can plunge into the deeper bonds that tie generations of families together. The details are so specific and well-chosen that even if you’d never picked up a fishing rod, you’d understand this world. A great sense of wonder at the natural world also courses through the piece.
Third Place, “Loss of Contact”
This writer captures our loss of friends in an intriguing and novel way—through the symbol of address books. How do we deal with the passing of time, as friends—and ourselves—move away and indeed, move on? This essay gives us a subtle, witty, and poignant answer. And this writer knows how to take care of her reader: she will pause to address us directly, as our friends do in real life.