NORTH CAROLINA—“Beach Baby,” an essay by Wilmington writer Jillian Weiss, has won First Prize in the 2015 Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition.
Author Jason Frye, the judge of this year’s contest, said, “The structure of 'Beach Baby' drives the essay—each section pulls you one to the other, and even when it seems to divert, it circles back on itself quite artfully.
“As the essay progresses, it grows in its complexity: a misheard message, the death of a sister, the hole in the heart, jealousy (very complex, but gracefully handled), Down Syndrome, the meaning of the name ‘Jennifer,’ and the ruination of—or perhaps miracle of—Christmas. Simply put, it’s a beautiful piece that gets to the complex heart of trying to make known the unknowable.”
A Winston-Salem native who spent most of her adolescence in London, Weiss returned to North Carolina in 2008 to study at Elon University. A former creative writing instructor for Duke University’s Talent Identification Program, she is currently an MFA candidate at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where she is writing a collection of essays about her life as a missionary kid in West London.
Sponsored by the North Carolina Writers’ Network and administered by the creative writing department at UNC Wilmington, the Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition encourages the creation of lasting nonfiction work that is outside the realm of conventional journalism. The contest is open to any legal resident of North Carolina or member of the NC Writers’ Network. First-, second-, and third-place winners receive $1,000, $300, and $200, respectively, and the winning entry is considered for publication in the magazine Southern Cultures.
Beth Browne of Garner won Second Place for her essay “What My Father Kept.” In addition to working as associate editor for The Main Street Rag Publishing Company, Browne manages a large farm, homeschools her two teens, and sails the NC coast with “her sweetie, Eric.” She has served on the boards of the North Carolina Poetry Society and the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop.
“‘What My Father Kept’ takes a tight look at the individual and gets into depths the short story cannot. As such, the essayist is able to create a picture of her father and give readers insight into him, all while building mystery into it,” Frye said. “It’s that mystery that intrigues me. A very strong piece, it made me want to catalogue my grandfather’s garden shed and see what I might learn there.”
Durham’s Robert Wallace won Third Place for his essay “Where’s Jack Kevorkian?”
“‘Where’s Jack Kevorkian?’ grabs me from the opening line,” Frye said. “This essay is close to perfect.”
Robert Wallace has received an Emerging Artist grant from the Durham Arts Council, and a Writer’s Fellowship from the NC Arts Council. He has had fiction and nonfiction published in various journals and newspapers, and writes a monthly column for the News & Observer. His story "As Breaks the Wave upon the Sea" was the 2010 winner of the Doris Betts Fiction Prize.
Frye also named “Common Prayer” by Jane Andrews and “Moonshine Manhattan” by Agnes Stevens as Honorable Mentions.
Jason Frye is a travel, culinary, and culture writer from Wilmington. After his first experience with North Carolina—a family vacation to the Outer Banks—he felt drawn to the state. He moved here in 2002 to attend UNC-Wilmington and pursue his Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing; after graduating in 2005, he stayed and began to explore the state through the lens of a poet, essayist, journalist, culinary critic, and travel writer.
The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.