Terrain.org 8th Annual Contest Winners
Terrain.org 8th Annual Contest Winners

Terrain.org 8th Annual Contest Winners Announced

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We are pleased to announce the winners and finalists of the Terrain.org 8th Annual Contests in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry.

Each winner is awarded a $500 prize, while each finalist is awarded $100. Both winners and finalists will be published in January 2018 on Terrain.org.


“Tying a Tie” and “Airborne”, two poems by Edward Harkness

Judge Robert Wrigley writes, “What draws me into these poems, what continually calls me back to them, is the sense of dramatic occasion they not only work with but wield exceptionally well. ‘Tying a Tie’ weaves the discomfort of something so common as wearing a tie into the larger discomfort of just being alive, of being, we might say, melancholy, even depressed, and how such discomfort can be in many ways inheritable. And ‘Airborne’ is a beautiful piece of poetic sleight-of-hand. Those two seconds last an elongated but brief three lines, but the rest of the narrative is wrought musically and artfully into the very sort of ‘fable’ of childhood a very skilled adult poet can make of them.”

The finalists in poetry are poems and poem sets by Ellery Akers, Deborah Fass, and John Pass.


“Ghost Trees” by Jennie Goode

Judge Nicole Walker writes, “Each of these finalist essays embraces the belief that beholding objects and moments and people with slow attention is the best way toward illuminating the world. It struck me as part of a resistance movement—an upward rising—that connects little moment with little moment in a tapestry of environmental-literary awareness. But these essays also show the shadows next to illumination. Not all that is bright is right. Not all that is apprehended is beautiful. The objects that connect are sometimes the ghosts of a healthier world: bombs and skulls, dioxins and fungi thriving in ruined forests litter these stories. Each of these essays says, ‘Look. Don’t flinch. What you see will be beyond beauty and will break your heart.’

“Which means, of course, that it is almost impossible to choose among these finalist essays. Still, like a government responsible to clean up Superfund sites, my job is to choose. Ghost Trees weaves immediate, personal narrative with matter-of-fact reporting. The tension between the brother, who mocks the narrator’s guinea pig by naming it ‘Dioxin’ and actual dioxins dumped in Missouri river hits home the personal connection to this land and the sorrow at losing it. The guinea pig’s story provides the short timeline. The saga of the Meramec River provides the long one. What I loved most about this essay is the second, subtle weave between the near-silence of land and the noisiness of water that takes this particular situation from the anecdotal and raises it to the universal. The water makes its case daily but its up to us to listen to the quieter, burden bearing ground.”

The finalists in nonfiction are “What Remained” by Kristina Moriconi and “Northern Wardens” by Alisa Slaughter.


“N-Place Exiting” by Thomas Ausa

Judge Padma Viswanathan writes, “‘N-Place Exiting’ knits loosely its various threads of historical and personal pain, holding secrets, anger, affection and humor in a matrix both compelling and unexpected. A short story with great range.”

The finalist in fiction is “The Stilled Ring” by Luther Allen.


  • Poetry: Robert Wrigley
    Robert Wrigley, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Idaho, published his most recent book, Box (Penguin), in March 2017.
  • Nonfiction: Nicole Walker
    Nicole Walker is the author of five books, most recently Egg (Bloomsbury), and an associate professor at Northern Arizona University.
  • Fiction: Padma Viswanathan
    Padma Viswanathan is the author of the novels The Toss of a Lemonand The Ever After of Ashwin Rao.

Next Contest

We will begin accepting submissions for the 9th Annual Contests in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry in January 2018. There will be no theme for the 2018 contest.

For additional information, view the contest guidelines or contact us.

Abstract image of city design in the sky by Sergey Nivens, courtesy Shutterstock.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.