Congratulations to’s 12th Annual Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction Contest Winners!

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We are pleased to announce the winners, finalists, and semifinalist of the 12th Annual Contest in Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction.

Each winner is awarded a $1,000 prize, while each finalist is awarded $200 and the semifinalist $100. Winners and finalists will be published beginning in February in, and the winners will participate in the March 2022 online reading with a contest judge.


Jennifer K. SweeneyJennifer K. Sweeney for “Orb Weaver” and “Perseid”
Jennifer K. Sweeney is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Foxlogic, Fireweed, winner of the Backwaters Prize from Backwaters Press/University of Nebraska. Her other collections are Little Spells, How to Live on Bread and Music, and Salt Memory. The recipient of many awards, including the James Laughlin Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Perugia Press Prize, she teaches poetry workshops at the University of Redlands in California, and offers private instruction and manuscript critique.

Judge Ellen Bass says:

These poems drew me in immediately with their rich images and music. As I read and reread them, I was moved by how much genuine feeling the poet was able to pressurize into these short lyrics. In “Orb Weaver” they begin I’m particular as an eye, / unwritten as a lament and the description goes on from there through the lovely water laces me/ into being which took me back a few months ago to a spider web in my own backyard that was invisible until the morning dew created an elaborate, almost unbelievable necklace. These poems combine lush language with simplicity, even humility. Near the end, these lines: I hold a little / pocket of gravity. In “Perseid” the same skillful hand is at work and I’m going to take the liberty of quoting this longer, moving passage from the end: How many times have I / looked up at a sky / like this—all chipped teacup/ and veil and felt / the losses as nearly / manageable pebbles / I could arrange / to balance / a curved spine. Rocking I enter. Rocking I leave.” These are truly beautiful lyrics. I feel enriched reading them.

The finalists in poetry are poem sets by Ian Cappelli, Amy Dryansky, and Oak Morse. The semifinalist in poetry is a poem set by Laurel Anderson.


Melina WallingMelina Walling for “The Snake and the Sanctuary
Melina Walling is a writer, photographer and storyteller from Wayne, Pennsylvania. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Environmental Communication at Stanford University and spent the summer of 2021 as the Mary Withers Rural Writing Fellow at Boyd’s Station in Boyd, Kentucky. Her work has appeared in several publications including The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Bucks County Courier Times, Stanford Magazine and, and she is currently a bioscience reporter for The Arizona Republic, where she covers health, technology and the environment.

Judge Aimee Nezhukumatathil says:

“We fear, after all, because we care.” At the end of “The Snake and the Sanctuary” our author reveals the real secret legacy at the heart of women in her family: anxiety. A tender honesty opens up as we see the fears and worries that shape us into the people we are, and how we can best meet those anxieties head on. Even a decade ago, such an open and insightful discussion–especially for a person of color–would have been taboo, but this talented author breaks through this silent veil, and in the process says something about the anxiety in us all. I could have chosen this essay for‘s creative nonfiction contest based solely on its unique and topical look at our current climate of worry, but I chose it because of its beautiful, if weary, and surprising look at the natural world from someone who “never felt like [she] was made for the wild.

The finalists in nonfiction are “The Mangle, the Child, and the Chicken” by Amanda Giracca, “Breathing” by Cheryl Merrill, and “On Meaning” by D.S. Waldman.


Sean SamSean Sam for “The Frontier”
Sean Sam’s writing has appeared in Salt Hill, The Malahat Review, The Westchester Review, ellipsis… literature and art, and Potomac Review—among other places. He is a member of the Navajo tribe and has taught at the Emerging Diné Writers’ Institute program. He is a founder of Ligeia Magazine, a literary website based out of Baltimore.

Judge Maurice Carlos Ruffin says:

This story is haunted by perspective. Several of them. The author commands time, space, and the reader’s loyalties. The protagonist is Native American and searching for a mixture of vengeance and legibility. I see this human and feel their concerns deeply. I won’t soon forget this story.

The finalists in fiction are “Mend” by Alan Sincic and “You might think we’re praying” by Julie Trimingham.


  • Poetry: Ellen Bass
    Ellen Bass is the award-winning author of Indigo, Like a Beggar, The Human Line, Mules of Love, and others. A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, she founded poetry workshops at Salinas Valley State Prison and the Santa Cruz, California jails, and teaches in the MFA writing program at Pacific University.

  • Nonfiction: Aimee Nezhukumatathil
    Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s newest book is a collection of illustrated nature essays, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments. She is also the author of four books of poetry, most recently, Oceanic. She is a professor of English and creative writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.

  • Fiction: Maurice Carlos Ruffin
    Maurice Carlos Ruffin is the author of The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You and We Cast a Shadow, which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the PEN America Open Book Prize.

Next Contest

We will begin accepting submissions for the 13th Annual Contest in Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction on May 1, 2022. The submission deadline is September 5, 2022. Judges will be announced in April.

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

Header photo by Pezibear, courtesy Pixabay. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.