Winner Announced: 2019 Remember in November Contest for Creative Nonfiction

Last week we announced the finalists in Hippocampus Magazine’s 2019 Remember in November Contest for Creative Nonfiction. Today, with the launch for our November issue, we share with you the results — and all five finalist stories.

The grand prize is $1,000, plus registration and the invitation to read at our annual conference for creative nonfiction writers, HippoCamp. Our runner-up receives $250. Additionally, one story will earn the Reader’s Choice award, which will be awarded in December.

Our reading panel narrowed down 200+ pieces to a shortlist, and then to five finalists. From there, we turned things over to our guest judge Sam Chiarelli (Dig: A Personal Prehistoric Journey). After reading these five stories, Sam wrote:

sam chiarelli wearing shirt with tiny dinos all over it“Hippocampus readers are in for a treat with this issue: five expertly crafted essays with a range of subject matter and styles. They are united by strong narrators, compelling narrative construction, and phenomenal writing.

I love all these essays, and to select a winner is a very, very difficult decision that perhaps does not give enough credit to all of these authors and their pieces. In the end, these decisions come down to the slimmest of margins. I invite the Hippocampus Magazine faithful to find the threads that connect them to these powerful pieces — to discover and rediscover their own experiences through these exceptional essays.

Thank you to all of the authors for the courage to share their stories, and the expert craft they have displayed in doing so. I know that other readers will enjoy these pieces as much as I did.”

— Sam Chiarelli, author of Dig: A Personal Prehistoric Journey

Today, we’re pleased to share the final results — and the stories themselves — with you.

Grand Prize Winner: Jen Minarik

“Cold Fusion and the Poochie Overnighter: An Essay About Infertility”

Read the story

What our judge had to say:

“The interweaving elements of this story and their recurrent use are absolutely exquisite. The author uses time exceptionally well, even extending the piece far into future and continuing the themes of the essay. This is really resonant. There is also a lot of science and history here, along with personal elements that draw the reader into a very painful (yet hopeful) story. It’s obvious why this essay deserves to be among the cream of the crop.”

About Our Winner

Jen-MinarikJen Minarik is a writer from Mundelein, Illinois. Her fiction has been awarded residencies at the Ragdale Foundation, Tin House Summer Writing Workshop, and StoryStudio Chicago’s Novel in a Year. She holds degrees from Northwestern University and Lake Forest College. Currently working on her first full-length novel, she is also expecting a baby boy in 2020. She is grateful to the Ragdale Foundation for the gift of uninterrupted time and the mentorship of fellow residents that directly led to this essay.

Runner-up: Simchi Cohen

“The Wanderer”

Read the story

What our judge had to say:

“This is a very gripping essay. It has so many interweaving elements and a narrative tension that is expertly written. The language wanders, mirroring the author’s wandering. The reader is transfixed by the duality of the situation — yearning to belong and not to belong, a universal conundrum. I was hooked from start to finish and I think this is a fantastic piece.”

About Our Runner-up

SIMCHI.COHENSimchi earned her Ph.D. in comparative literature at the University of California Los Angeles. “The Wanderer” is one essay in her current project, Undead Letters, about her life as an ex-Orthodox Jew. Her work, both essays and poetry, has appeared in Westwind, The Occidental Review, Grace Notes, Cultural Critique, Horror Studies, and Prooftexts, among others. She teaches in the English department at Harvard-Westlake School and coaches the school’s spoken word poetry team, My Word. She spends her days imparting her love of poetry and dystopian fiction to high school students and her nights wide awake.


Congratulations to our three additional finalists:

And a few words from our reading panel about these three stories: 

  • I found it vivid and evocative of a unique situation…”  – The Death of Sonny
  • I love the command of imagery in this piece. – “The Whale”
  • Poignant. Beautifully well-crafted…. The characters and scenes feel real — it’s a slice of life with all its complexities. – “Salt”
  • Rich details, well-told, and does not spoon-feed meaning to the reader. – “Salt”

The Shortlist

Our reading panel narrowed down submissions to about a dozen stories before arriving at our five finalists. Some of these short-listed stories will appear in Hippocampus in 2020. See the full shortlist here.


Running an annual contest, one that draws several hundred entries, would not be possible without the assistance of our outstanding and dedicated volunteer reading panel; we’re grateful for your time and energy. We’d also like to thank our guest judge, Sam, for his thoughtful consideration of our five finalist stories. To our readers, thank you for being there for us. We hope you enjoy this year’s contest issue.

Congratulations, once again, to Jen, Simchi, and all of our finalists!

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