Congratulations to all 2023 Writing Contest Winners

Brancart Fiction Prize - $600

Judge: William Wesley

Winner: Lila Singh, “good company”

Worthy of publication as submitted, on par with classic short stories in the New Yorker. Literate in the best sense, beginning with allusions to Notes from the Underground and a first-person narrator who shares the name of the evergreen series about a lonely girl at the Plaza Hotel with a rich fantasy life. A comic premise that could have been a one-liner in the hands of other writers thoughtfully unfolds as a meditation on interpersonal accommodation and modern loneliness.

Richardson Poetry Prize - $400
Judge: Jennifer Valdies

Winner: Avalon Felice Lee, “Rumplestiltskinned”

“Rumplestiltskinned” moves through a coruscating and at once brutal landscape with deft attention to musicality, navigating the confluence of identity, ancestry, and the body, through a cartography of texture, color, and the sonic power of language. 

CCS Most Excellent Narrative Prose

Judges: Holly Watson and Kailyn Kausen

Winner, $35: Avalon Felice Lee, “The Chilla”

“The Chilla” makes great use of descriptive language and dialogue to immediately immerse the reader in a world that seems fully formed and gives us the sense of a family drama in a world that is already fully formed. Short stories much make  economic use of language to get across an entire plot and glimpse of a life in a small space and this story succeeds at that by giving the reader a peek into a life other than our own in a way that is both realistic and compelling. 

“The Chilla” is a story about family and loss. Told through a Ellen’s eyes as she mourns the unexpected death of her husband and takes a step back from her former life to become a fur brusher at her mother’s fur laundry studio, Ellen struggles to connect with her daughter. Bora is concerned with the question of life and what it means for the chinchilla jackets her mother cleans to have a body without a soul, and for her father to have a soul without a body. Told through short snippets of time and featuring excellent character creation, “The Chilla” slowly unravels the mystery of what happened to Bora’s father and explores the push and pull of love and loss between mother and daughter. 

Runner-Up, $25: Anissa Estrada, “We’ve Got It

Honorable Mentions, $15: 
Ashley Alvarado, “How To Take Up Less Space”
Elaina Smolin, “Ocean Avenue”
Maya Salem, “Jerinnik

CCS Most Excellent Essay Prize

Judge: Carol Lashof

Winner, $35: Sydney Fry (6474712), “Language as Treasure: The Maori Language Revitalization Movement”

I very much enjoyed and learned a lot from this gracefully written, nuanced analysis of the historical, political, and legal contexts of the movement to revitalize the Maori language in New Zealand. The essay skilfully interweaves personal observation and scholarly research to illuminate a broadly relevant topic. I especially admired the writer's choice to lean into the controversies, opening up and exploring questions that have no easy answers.

Runner-Up, $25: Hem Huang, ““Collective guilt, no! Collective responsibility, yes.” The Case for African American Reparations through California’s AB 3121”

Honorable Mentions, $15: 
Lila Singh, “The Inconceivable Universe”
Helen Sweeney, “Examining How Leonardo Da Vinci Used his Inspiration as a Renaissance Artist to Develop a Modern Scientific Method and Pursue Studies of the Nervous System”
Dahlia Sloan, “The Mind, The Body, and I”