Winners of the Alligator Juniper National Writing Awards
Grand Prizewinners Receive $1000
Creative Nonfiction: “How to Be Analog”
by Natalie Singer, Seattle, WA
Poetry: “Ex Libris”
by Allan Peterson, Gulf Breeze, FL
Esther Welsh, Brooklyn, NY
Finalists in the Upcoming Issue
“Consciousness” by Judith Barrington
“Frank’s Buick” by David G. Pace
“Orphan” by Martha Schulman
“Gumshoes” by Julie Marie Wade
“Bacon Grease” by Rupert Fike
“Unslaked” by Pamela Johnson Parker
“Wishing” by Allan Peterson
“The Given Lines” by Rita Mae Reese
“Carminutti’s Knees” by Richard Cass
“Sanctuary” by Sara Dupree
“The Man in the Barn” by Jim Gish
“The Double” by Andrea Jackson
“Palindromes” by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz
Winners of the National Photography Awards
1st Place, Grand Prize $500 “Intersections and Shells” by Don Fike
2nd Place “Suburban Cowboy” by Mark Lipczynski
3rd Place “Condor #55″ by Wayne Johnson
Honorable Mention “Penguins Running to Sunset Antarctica” by Micheal Leggero
Winners of the Suzanne Tito Student Writing Awards
1st Place: Erika DeLeo, “The Fairly Quiet Hour”
2nd Place: Zoë Mason, “Somewhere Off Sunset”
3rd Place: Iza Bruen-Morningstar, “Rock, Paper, Scissors”
Daniel Alexander Roca, “The House of Splits and Seams”
Brooke Sahni, “Cedar & Lee”
1st Place: Daniel Alexander Roca, “The day I leave you, I slam the gate behind me”
2nd Place: Chris Triantafillou, “Arizona Sun”
3rd Place: Daniel Alexander Roca, “The Boundary of the Wolf”
Zoë Mason, “On the Upper Rio Negro”
Sofia Rovirosa, “Autumn”
1st Place: Jeff Rome, “A Sense of Placebo”
2nd Place: Daniel Alexander Roca, “The Candy Apple Night Club”
3rd Place: Audrey Post, “Of Past and Present Lives”
Casey McFarland, “Rebirth”
Audrey Post, “The Lamenting of the Fiddle and the Date Pits”
Judge’s Note for Poetry
Judge: Allan Peterson, Winner of Alligator Juniper’s 2013 National Poetry Contest
My first place choice, “The day I leave you, I slam the gate behind me,” is a sophisticated use of the incident and all its physical and aural, emphatically aural, components to emphasize the breakup. Sound is the effective descriptor throughout. The gate itself is cast as both the rattling predictor of trouble and the noisy and emphatic resolution, ending in the metallic finality of the guillotine reference. But it is in the contrast of the reflective summation that this poem—where sound again dominates in a most beautiful image—that sets this poem apart. Even the word “crushed” is softened by the poignant delicacy of “the tiny vial of our whispers,” a fragile and intimate image of loss.
The second place poem, “Arizona Sun,” maintained it’s poetic effectiveness in its prose like, long lined structure. The idea of a protected life that opens itself to complete and willing exposure is made more revealing by reference to a caddis fly larva that builds a casing for itself. The poem then moves expressively beyond that to a complete identity with other creatures and finally to a full and ecstatic vulnerability.
Third place, “The Boundary of the Wolf,” is also, and equally, the boundary of the human. The poem expresses the recognition of that gulf between us and what wild means. Against a backdrop of winter, a white that serves to isolate and focus the encounter, the ancient imperatives of nature meet eye to eye, a sympathetic and humanizing experience.
Allan Peterson’s fourth book, Fragile Acts, is the second title in the new McSweeney’s Poetry Series. His last book is As Much As from Salmon Press, 2011. Other books are All the Lavish in Common (2005 Juniper Prize), Anonymous Or (Defined Providence Prize 2001) and five chapbooks, notably Omnivore, winner of the 2009 Boom Prize from Bateau Press. His next book, Precarious, is forthcoming from 42 Miles Press in 2014. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and The State of Florida, and was invited to read from his work at the 2010 Cuisle International Poetry Festival in Limerick, Ireland.
Judge’s Note for Creative Nonfiction
Judge: Natalie Singer, Winner of Alligator Juniper’s 2013 National Creative Nonfiction Contest
In a recent story in New York Magazine … Jennifer Senior quotes a British psychoanalyst named Adam Phillips, who wrote, “Puberty is everyone’s first experience of a sentient madness.” That may figuratively be true for many of us, but for the first-place winner of the Suzanne Tito Student Prize it is, quite literally, her reality. “The Fairly Quiet Hour” is an almost surreal-feeling tale [about] a type of madness most of us never will [experience]. She has the ability to invite us, the readers, into [a] secret club. In short, she starts with a great story. But it was not the rarity of her story, the extremity of this club, that drew me in as much as it was the series of important choices the writer made, and the impact of those on the reader’s experience. The narrator speaks to us from a period later in life, a healthier time, but tells the story in present tense; these choices create a reliable storyteller who offers perspective, yet allow for a sense of tension and immediacy. The author realizes that she doesn’t need to overdramatize or be über emotional… I felt a commonality with the narrator through the singularly adolescent experience of loneliness and ache for connection.
Though with a decidedly less life-and-death bent, the author of the second-place piece, “Somewhere Off Sunset,” invites us into another sticky, and beautifully described, childhood world. As opposed to the author of “The Fairly Quiet Hour,” this writer didn’t have a dramatic story as a foundation. Indeed, “Somewhere Off Sunset” is more of a quiet exploration than a traditional story structure, yet it works so well because of the tangible sense of place, deeply rooted in the natural world, that the author creates.
What grabbed me in the third-place piece, “Rock Paper Scissors,” were the characters, a messed-up bunch, thrown raw and unfiltered onto the page for the reader to drink in and try to untangle. With such a sense of verisimilitude and quirkiness, I would love to read more of these characters, this gloomy club, to follow them on a further-developed journey.
Natalie Singer worked for a decade as a journalist at newspapers around the West. She now writes essays and memoir on such arbitrary topics as the impermanence of family and her nature phobia, and she is the editor of the website parentmap.com. She lives with her husband and daughters in Seattle and is working on a book of essays.
Judge’s Note for Fiction
Judge: Robert Schirmer
As I was reading the 20+ stories entered in the student fiction competition, I was pleasantly surprised to run across such a diverse range of stories and storytelling from young writers tapping into their own voices and not (or so it seemed to me) trying to sound like everyone else. After I read all the stories, I narrowed down the “possible” list to nine titles. Since I could only award five stories, the selection process at that point became increasingly difficult…and, of course, subjective. I reread stories and reflected and pondered and ran out to the kitchen to find guidance from a jug of Pepsi. It’s entirely possible that if I’d read these stories at a different place and time in my life, my choices would be different.
“A Sense of Placebo” was a story that intrigued me from the beginning. Not only was the story unusual in terms of technique—told largely through medical transcripts, journal entries, and interview excerpts—but I was caught up in the playfulness of the writer’s voice, the freshness and vigor of the language. There’s a confidence in this story that impressed me, not only in terms of form but also in the way the writer skillfully wove together such disparate elements as medical studies, paranoia, Star Trek, and apple sauce. “A Sense of Placebo” gave me the strong sense of a young writer’s mind fully engaged in the art of creating, in testing his own unique range as a storyteller. In the end, this was not a writer who was taking the easy path to conformity and mediocrity. “I want to keep me, me,” the story’s protagonist writes to his doctors—a sound reminder to all of us, as both writers and humans.
Robert Schirmer is the author of the story collection Living with Strangers (NYU Press), winner of the Bobst Award for Emerging Writers. He’s published in a wide variety of literary journals such as Sewanee Review, Glimmer Train, New England Review, Epoch, Fiction, Joyland, Alligator Juniper, and The Best of Witness. His prizes include an O. Henry Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a fellowship from the Chesterfield Writer’s Film Project. A screenplay written during the fellowship year was optioned by Amblin Entertainment and Warner Brothers. Recently he became co-editor of Outpost19, an independent literary press.
Winners of the Suzanne Tito Student Photography Awards
1st Place: “Road to Infinity” by Sean Thomas
2nd Place: “Fun in Hell” by Chad Castigliano
3rd Place: “Untitled #5 (Exhaust)” Sergio Salas
Judge’s Note for Photography
Judge: Sant Khalsa
There were many more photographs worthy of selection then there was room to publish so I spent a great deal of time considered technique, composition, style, sensitivity to subject matter, idea, and if these worked together to keep me looking and thinking about the image content. Ultimately, I selected the photographs that seemed to provide the most unique and individual perspective, allowing us to see and interpret life purposefully through another’s eyes, mind, heart, and soul.
Congratulations to all who participated in this year’s competition. Thank you for the opportunity to review your work and I hope to see more of your photographs in publications and exhibitions in the future.
Sant Khalsa is an artist, educator, and activist living in Southern California since 1975. Her artworks develop from her inquiry into the nature of place and the complex environmental and societal issues present and visible in the landscape of the American West. Her work is widely shown internationally and she is a recipient of prestigious fellowships, awards, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council and many others. She is a professor of Art at California State University, San Bernardino, where she is one of the founding faculty of the Water Resources Institute.