Snake skeleton
Snake skeleton

Congratulations to Terrain.org’s 11th Annual Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction Contest Winners!

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We are pleased to announce the winners, finalists, and semifinalists of the Terrain.org 11th Annual Contest in Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction.

Each winner is awarded a $500 prize, while each finalist/semifinalist is awarded $100. Winners and finalists will be published beginning in late January and running through February in Terrain.org.


Susan CohenSusan Cohen: “Science News: A Wild Bird Leads People to Honey”, “Science News: As Animals and Plants Go Extinct, Languages Die Off Too”, “Amphibians Glow. Humans Just Couldn’t See ItUntil Now”, “Science News: Snakes Had Back Legs for 70 Million Years, Fossil Record Says”, and “Science News: Gene Tweak Can Extend Life 500% (But You Have to Be a Worm)”
Susan Cohen is the author of Throat Singing and A Different Wakeful Animal, which received the David Martinson-Meadowhawk Prize from Red Dragonfly Press. An award-winning science writer and former contributing writer for the Washington Post Magazine before earning an MFA from Pacific University, her poems have appeared in the American Journal of Poetry, Atlanta Review 25th Anniversary Anthology, PANK, Prairie Schooner, Southern Humanities Review, the Southern Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Berkeley, California.

Judge Arthur Sze says:

These prose poems show how science and poetry can interact, not in opposition, but with insight and wonder. Attentive to visual detail, these poems are rhythmically alive and play with language, finding “inside languages, a lung and its lunge for breath.” They create micro-arenas where human limitation, adaptation, evolution, and climate change are handled with care. Replete with dense, rich sounds—“marbled salamander, Cranwell’s horned frog, newt with neon stripes”—they are also willing to embrace mystery: “if you can learn to love the fist of darkness, let it close around you.” These are lovely, succinct poems.

The finalists in poetry are poem sets by Tara Bray, Kristy Gledhill, Laura Klein, and Samuel Piccone. The semifinalists in poetry are poem sets by Deborah Doolittle, Jenny Downs, Katrinka Moore, and Heather Swan.


Kristina MoriconiKristina Moriconi: “Notes on Building a Somewhat Bearable Space for Disbelief”
Kristina Moriconi is a poet, essayist, and visual artist whose work has appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines including Sonora Review, Brevity, Cobalt Review, Lumina, and others. her work has been included in the anthology Flash Nonfiction Food and her lyric narrative In the Cloakroom of Proper Musings was published by Atmosphere Press in August 2020.

Judge Julian Hoffman says:

Like the river that runs through itone Mississippi, two Mississippithis is a remarkable and moving essay that flows with mesmeric energy, pulling you immediately inside its current. With an extraordinary attention to language, perspective, pacing, and silence, ‘Notes on Building a Somewhat Bearable Space for Disbelief’ chronicles the uncertain and transitory nature of our time on this planet with haunting poignancy. But the intimacy of its relationships acts as an anchor, too; it’s an achingly beautiful reminder of all that keeps us from drifting out of reach. In a year that has forced us towards distance and separation, this astonishing essay affirms the deepest human need for love and connection

The finalists in nonfiction are “An Ecology of Disturbance” by Claire Thompson and “The Hunt and the Hunger Moon” by Corrie Williamson.


Cameron Walker (in the abstract)Cameron Walker: “Star, Fish”
Cameron Walker is a writer based in California. Her fiction has appeared most recently in Mycorrhizae, and she writes regularly for the science blog The Last Word On Nothing. Her essay collection Points of Light is forthcoming from Hidden River Press.

Judge Joy Castro says:

“Star, Fish” offers a singularly eloquent evocation of the mysterious mutations and metamorphoses of life under lockdown, of a family laced together by love, of a mother and three sons, a mourned brother, the sea. A surreal tale of the intimate dance of grief and regrowth, “Star, Fish” probes the balance between a restless, ecstatic quest for knowledge and our need for the stability of love.

The finalist in fiction is “Utopaztli (Nortito’s First Vision, 2149)” by English Brooks.


  • Poetry: Arthur Sze
    Arthur Sze’s tenth book of poetry, Sight Lines (Copper Canyon) won the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry.

  • Nonfiction: Julian Hoffman
    Julian Hoffman is the award-winning author of Irreplaceable: The Fight to Save Our Wild Places and The Small Heart of Things.

  • Fiction: Joy Castro
    Author of the literary thrillers Hell or High Water and Nearer Home and the short story collection How Winter Began, Joy Castro teaches literature, creative writing, and Latinx studies at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

Next Contest

We will begin accepting submissions for the 12th Annual Contest in Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction beginning May 1, 2021.

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

Header photo by Ludovic Charlet, courtesy Pixabay.

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