NORTH CAROLINA—Chapel Hill writer Laura Herbst won top honors in the 2014 Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition for her essay “Breast Cancer: A Love Story.”
Author Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams, the judge of this year’s contest, said, “I found ‘Breast Cancer: A Love Story’ an elegy for the body that reminds us of how our very identities are tangled up in painful physicalities. The writer sketches for us her own architecture and where in its design she has discovered fault lines and fulcra.
“In the end, the essay demonstrates that the barricades most difficult to break down are interior and intensely private. It reveals the unceasing struggle to countermand the secrets that, in becoming manifest, threaten to expose—as the writer acknowledges—the core of us.”
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Herbst left her job teaching news writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to write what she calls “soulful women's stories.” She is at work on a novel, set among village women in West Africa, where she once lived. Her fiction has appeared in The Sun magazine, and her nonfiction in The New York Times, the News and Observer in Raleigh and Indy Week (for which she received an investigative reporting award from the North Carolina Press Association last year).
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 NCWN. 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.
Jason Hess of Wilmington won second place for his essay “The Adopted Person.” Hess, a native of Scappoose, Oregon, holds a BA in Spanish and English from the University of Idaho, and has lived in Costa Rica, Idaho, Spain, and now North Carolina.
“The essayist has a compelling voice that nimbly moves from humor to grief, all the while pursuing labyrinthine questions concerning origins, family, and isolation,” Abrams said.
Chapel Hill’s Joanna Catherine Scott won third place for her essay “How I Went to Adult Prison as a Child,” based on interviews with a prisoner in Central Prison.
“‘How I Went to Adult Prison as a Child’ is essay as reportage, documentary, a lone lens trained on a subject with the writer vanished,” Abrams said. “The strength of the piece is perhaps in this stepping back of the author, so the voice of imprisoned can have the space necessary to testify.”
Scott is the author of the novels Child of the South, The Road from Chapel Hill, The Lucky Gourd Shop, Charlie: a novel of war, and Cassandra, Lost; the nonfiction Indochina's Refugees: Oral Histories from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; and the prize-winning poetry collections An Innocent in the House of the Dead, Breakfast at the Shangri-la, Fainting at the Uffizi, and Night Huntress. A graduate of the University of Adelaide and Duke University, Joanna was born in England, raised in Australia, and now lives in Chapel Hill.
Abrams won the 2013 Whiting Writers’ Award of $50,000, one of the richest prizes in American literature, for her novella The Man Who Danced with Dolls. She holds an MFA (’07) from UNC-Wilmington, where she now teaches in the English Department. She is the recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, a Hartshook Fellowship, and a Byington Award. Born on Guam, Abrams is currently at work on her memoir, The Following Sea, about growing up on a cutter that made port throughout the South Pacific.