2014 Dogwood Award Winners
Our judges’ roster this year offers a dynamic group of three gifted writers, and we are glad they took time to be part of our contest.
Fiction judge Sandra Rodriguez Barron holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University. Her debut novel, The Heiress of Water, was a Borders “Original Voices” selection and won first place at the 2007 International Latino Book Awards. Her second novel, Stay with Me, was a finalist for the 2011 Connecticut Book Award. She is the grateful recipient of grants and fellowships from The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The Greater Hartford Arts Council, the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, and the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. Sandra was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in El Salvador. She currently teaches in the MFA in Creative and Professional Writing Program at Western Connecticut State University.
Nonfiction judge Heather Kirn Lanier is the author of Teaching in the Terrordome: Two Years in West Baltimore with Teach For America and The Story You Tell Yourself, winner of the Wick Poetry Open Chapbook Competition. Her work has appeared in dozens of places, including Salon, The Sun, and The Threepenny Review. She lives in Bennington, Vermont.
Poetry judge Carmen Giménez Smith is the author of a memoir, Bring Down the Little Birds, and four poetry collections— Milk and Filth, Goodbye, Flicker, The City She Was, and Odalisque in Pieces. She is the recipient of a 2011 American Book Award, the 2011 Juniper Prize for Poetry, and a 2011-2012 fellowship in creative nonfiction from the Howard Foundation. Formerly a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she now teaches in the creative writing programs at New Mexico State University, while serving as the editor-in-chief of the literary journal Puerto del Sol and the publisher of Noemi Press.
First Prize, Fiction: “Junk Food” by Sarah Harris Wallman
Sandra Rodriguez Barron writes of “Junk Food”: “The foggy, hormonal blur that is life in the neonatal unit is difficult to capture, and this author did this exceedingly well. The point of view of the young mother works so well, from her impulse to check and post to Facebook while attached to a breast pump, to her perception of the nurses’ banter and the ever-beeping machines. The story ends with the baby in crisis and the dawning of the mother’s lifetime of worry. Will the baby’s life be long or short, we don’t know, but this story is about the transformation to the selfless state of parenthood.”
First Prize, Nonfiction: “One Way to Shut Her Up” by Ester Bloom
Heather Kirn Lanier writes: “‘It was fantastic, hilarious, original.”
First Prize, Poetry: “How It Starts” by Rebecca Olson
Carmen Giménez Smith writes of “How it Starts”: “It is dense with sensual detail. I appreciate the speaker’s great tenderness and innovative approach to language.”
These three judges then mulled over which of these fine entries should be chosen for our grand prize, a task they each said was extremely difficult. We are so pleased to announce our $1000 prize winner for this issue:
Grand Prize: “Junk Food” by Sarah Harris Wallman
This volume is a shape-shifter, beginning with our cover, which is a still from an animated movie, “I Was A Teenage Girl, Apparently.” Illustrator Nina Frenkel created the drawing for the movie in collaboration with writer/filmmaker Lyn Elliot. The movie is due out later this year, and you can read an interview with the co-creators in this issue. Like much of our content, the movie draws from personal experience, steeped in details of an ordinary life and made meaningful through reflection, all sparked by the discovery of an old diary.
The element of self-discovery triggered by clues from the past finds common theme with our nonfiction selections, including “Love, Now and Always,” Molly Roger’s piece about the secrets kept by her bomb-making mother and Sue Fagalde Lick’s “Father-Daughter Dance,” about phone calls between a father and a daughter. This conversation between generations is mirrored in some of our poetry, including Robin Myers’ “Antelmo to His Daughter, Norma (1991-2009).” Like all good writing, the authors featured here strain for empathy in the both the extreme and intimate moments of life, from Julie L. Moore’s riveting poem “Close Range” to the quiet power of Rebecca Olson’s “How it starts,” our poetry winner.
We loved the hilarious and gutsy coming-of-age essay by Ester Bloom, “One Way to Shut Her Up,” which won our nonfiction contest. Bloom recounts her first post-college job—which included being stuck in a sound booth with a temperamental Jeffrey Tambor. And in fiction, we have smashing and original stories that will take you to the edges of your dinner table in Mark Polanzak’s “A Proper Hunger,” the edge of truth in texting in Randi Miller’s “Good Morning, Good Night,” and to the vulnerable edge of motherhood in Sarah Harris Wallman’s “Junk Food,” the winner of our fiction award and our Dogwood grand prize winner for 2014.
The Dogwood family has grown to include editorial participation by several students in Fairfield University’s Low-Residency MFA program, and with that participation I got to watch how invested each editor became in his or her choices for the journal. I wish our writers could have seen the alcove in the central house of our residency program a few days after New Years’ Day, when five of us sat at a window overlooking the Long Island Sound to discuss the fiction finalists. Instead of looking out at the snow and the blue sea beyond, our editors turned toward the table and text. We shared our perspectives, argued for hours, and persuaded one another until we came to a consensus about the best stories from our wealth of submissions.
The act of choosing from among possible works to be published was, as always, difficult and subjective; there were too many good pieces to include, so in some cases a fine and successful piece was rejected. Given our space limitations, the conversation turned to nuances, the merits of stylistic choices, and the need for choosing stories that seemed memorable: the ones whose presence lingered with us over the table or even in our heads after our meetings were concluded. In each case, the pieces we selected for publication in Dogwood have that quality of impact. These weren’t necessarily the loudest or the most extreme pieces, but they were the ones that wormed their way under our skins and urged us to see a small section of the world in a new way. We like a challenge, and we hope you will enjoy these pieces as much as we did.
We’re also proud to mention that, in light of ongoing attention to opportunities for women in literary publishing brought about by the VIDA count, that our percentage of women writers is up to 73 percent. This, as always, is not by design, as our screening is completely anonymous.
Dogwood is available in digital form through LitRagger, an iTunes app that allows readers to download our issue along with a large family of other literary journals. We continue to offer the print annual for sale, and you can now pay for a single copy or subscribe via PayPal at our website. Thanks for reading. As always, we love to hear from readers. If you have comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us online at Dogwoodliterary.com.
All the best,
“Junk Food” by Sarah Harris Wallman
“Good Morning, Good Night” by Randi Miller
“A Proper Hunger” by Mark Polanzak
“How it Starts” by Rebecca Olson
“First Night in Cable” by Rebecca Olson
“The Conversation of Wood” by Julie L. Moore
“Close Range” by Julie L. Moore
“The Kitchen in the Afternoon” by Shann Ray
“The Gates” by Michael Berger
“Glossary of Distressed Pavement” by Cara Armstrong
“1/1/11 Fire Ring” by Julie Sophia Paegle
“Dialing Calliope with a Doppler” by Julie Sophia Paegle
“Antelmo to His Daughter, Norma (1991-2009)” by Robin Myers
“Fall’s Bounty: Picking Green Beans” by Tracy Youngblom
NINA FRENKEL is an artist and illustrator living in New York City.