Winner Announced in the 2015 Remember in November Contest for Creative Nonfiction

Guest judge J. Michael Lennon said it best:

“Impressive and moving sextet of creative nonfiction stories; each has its own singular merit. Very difficult to pick a winner.”

But it was supposed to be a quintet.

The Hippocampus Magazine reading panel and editorial staff did indeed have a difficult time narrowing down this year’s Remember in November Contest for Creative Nonfiction submissions to a shortlist, then to a semifinalist list, and, then, ultimately, to five finalists. So much so that we expanded the finalists to six. And, now, we’re pleased to announce our winner and runner-up and congratulate, once again, all of our finalists:

collage with each of the finalists names and pics

We hope that you enjoy reading these stories as much as we did. From the comments left by readers and judges, it is clear that these pieces of creative nonfiction affected all of us in some way. Here, as we announce the winners, we also share some of those comments from our guest judges.

We encourage you to take some time to read each of these essays/memoir excerpts.

Winner, “Object Lessons” by Carol Smith

There is no distraction here from the story and voice, both of which are direct and without artifice. We are haunted by what the author has lost, which no artifact can pin down or encapsulate or represent, and the simple but dawning realization that while objects matter, memory is both all we have and all we need. – Jennifer Alise Drew

Almost every example, every object lesson, given rang a big bell for me. – J. Michael Lennon

I enjoyed the collage-aspect of memory and objects in this essay, as well as the resonance of fires, earthquakes, and natural disasters. – Amy Jo Burns

Runner-up, “The Sound of Ice” by Tyler Lacoma

I appreciate how neatly the author brings the world in, and particularly a part of it we don’t read about very much. The conversational tone is interwoven with a poetic bent, mirroring the way the Inuit’s storytelling is interwoven with the author’s grandmother’s. – Jennifer Alise Drew

This essay is not only sophisticated in taste and execution, it is authentically bold in heart. The heart-stopping language was pitch-perfect from the first sentence to the final note. – Amy Jo Burns

… the tales were tantalizing and pulsing with the energy of an amazing culture…- J. Michael Lennon

Finalists/Honorable Mentions

“Until We Have Loved” by Jeanine Pfeiffer

An effective essay in that it manages to be completely engaging while also scientific, personality-driven, and utterly persuasive by the end. – Jennifer Alise Drew

Masterful use of biological detail plaited with a moving story of love’s labor lost on a tiny creature than most of us would not shed a tear for. Moving. Also a wonderful example of the kind of unselfish acts needed to preserve nature and save the planet. – J. Michael Lennon

I appreciated the blend of reportage and memoir here, and the topic itself was fascinating. – Amy Jo Burns

“Penalty Phase” by Charisse Coleman

Gripping from the beginning: the details are precise and the writing isn’t showy or overly styled, so you quickly get lost in the story. – Jennifer Alise Drew

This is a gripping and taut narrative of familial loss in the midst of a murder trial. It held me in its thrall from start to finish. – Amy Jo Burns

“Lessons from My Sire” by Cynthia Jalynski

This childhood has the potential to be a book, really: one gets the sense of having been shown only the corner of things. – Jennifer Alise Drew

This essay was both engaging and memorable… – Amy Jo Burns

The writer’s non-judgmental attitude is the glue that holds this together. – J. Michael Lennon

“Unwrapped” by Dina Honour

The author has some beautiful turns of phrase . . . Keeping the focus small is always more interesting, and she does a nice job of that. – Jennifer Alise Drew

This was lovely–a finely etched portrait of an intimate stranger with ripples of what once was, but is no longer. – Amy Jo Burns

Reader’s Choice Award – TBA

There’s still one Remember in November Contest for Creative Nonfiction award to give away: the Reader’s Choice Award (which doubles as our Most Memorable contest this month)! Our readers will help us select this winner by commenting on, sharing and/or visiting stories — if you really love one or more of these six stories, share your thoughts and share the story itself so you can help it earn the Reader’s Choice designation. We’ll announce the winner in our December issue.

Recognition for Our Semi-Finalist and Short-Listed Stories

Semi-Finalist Special Mentions
We’d like to give these two semi-finalist stories special recognition because they were so close:

  • Fisher Cats by Marissa Higgins
  • Abol Bridge by David Young


  • Universe by Linda Dunlavy
  • Chewing Gardens by Mary Lide
  • Big Sky Mind by Emile Rohrbach

Short List

  • Mom Gets the Call by Dena Moes
  • The Women by Allie Rowbottom
  • Always Believe, Love Santa by Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons
  • Change by Kristen MacKenzie
  • Take Arms by Matt Miller
  • Mind Readers and Marble Orchards by Lasher Lane
  • Tiny Relics by Kim Koehler
  • Letting Go: In Her Words by Lea Page
  • Alive in Nepal by Elizabeth Enslin
  • Truth is a Foreign Object by Mary Scherf

Many of these aforementioned stories will grace the pages of future issues of Hippocampus.

* * *

This contest issue could not have been possible without a dedicated team of readers; we’re lucky to have such devoted, passionate creative nonfiction lovers on our editorial staff/reader panel. Thank you, all of you, for your countless hours of (volunteer) time. And, also, a big thank you to our copy team. This is a month of being grateful, and I am indeed super thankful for this talented, thoughtful team.

Once again, and I speak for our reading panel and guest judges, we’re delighted with this year’s winning stories! The challenging task that this year’s process was tells us that there is much important work being done in our genre.

And that’s why Hippocampus is here.

-Donna Talarico, Founder/Publisher

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