Creative nonfiction, to me, brings together all the devices of creative writing—a creative nonfiction writer has available the narrative structures, scenic development, and methods of characterization from fiction, the attention to language, image patterns, and associational structures of poetry, and the kinds of research and reportage techniques from journalism. A creative nonfiction piece asserts that it’s about something that really happened, and that is central to the contract that the author makes with the reader. Good creative nonfiction, like good fiction, uses scene as its primary building block, but the most important element is voice. We need to hear the writer’s distinct voice and come to understand something about his or her individual vision.
First place: Waiting for the Other
This piece packed a lot of emotional weight into a few pages, dealing with memory and how generations pass on memory and lose it; I found the ending, in particular, very moving, when the mother forgets the name of her twin sister and has to be reminded by her daughter. There is some lovely, lyrical writing in this piece: “That’s how I came to know how sudden and unconquerable death is and what a scar it leaves on those who continue to live. Like a shooting star it drops out of nowhere, carves a searing, unforgettable path across the sky, and then is gone, but its path remains a hidden surge of electricity forever throbbing in the memories of those left behind.”
Second Place: Purge
This writer is very scenic in its presentation, showing the narrator’s struggle with her eating disorder and her struggle for some kind of control in her own life, particularly in her relationship with her mother. The scene where her mother takes her to the reservation is chilling. The ending is effective and understated.
Judge's Honorable Mention: The Reservoir and the Pump
Some lovely writing here, as the author explores the idea of bearing witness—the way she bears witness to her friend’s suffering, the way her friend’s body seems to unwittingly bear witness through her bruises.
~ Nancy McCabe
Nancy McCabe's creative nonfiction has won a Pushcart Prize and been listed
twice in Best American Essays, in addition to receiving several Pushcart
nominations and a Prairie Schooner Readers' Choice Award.
Her work has
appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Massachusetts Review, Fourth
Genre, Writing from the Edge, Puerto del Sol, and Writer's Digest, among
others, and one of her pieces was Literary Potpourri's January 2003 Mid-Month
She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Arkansas, where
she was twice a Lily Peter Fellow, and a PhD from the University of Nebraska.
Her books include
After the Flashlight Man: A Memoir of Awakening (Purdue 2003) and
Meeting Sophie: A Memoir of Adoption (Missouri 2003).