Diane Milhan, who works as an acupuncturist in Mount Airy, has won the 2023 Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition for her essay “Abandoned Sky Shames and Shades.”
Milhan will receive $1,000, and Ecotone will consider her essay for publication.
“‘Abandoned Sky Shames and Shades’ draws a vivid picture of how the writer spent the summer of 1967: dancing the can-can onstage at Ghost Town in the Sky, a now-defunct Wild West theme park in the Blue Ridge mountains,” final judge Julia Ridley Smith said of Milhan’s winning essay. “I enjoy how this essay gives us a glimpse of the goings-on behind the theme park’s façade while also trying to understand what tourists found so captivating about the place.”
Milhan’s previous writings were designed to hold university positions at the Universities of Miami, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. She has prepared monographs for the International Childbirth Education Association and served as Director of Education for the Monmouth Regional Perinatal Consortium. She is now working on narrating her great uncle’s incarceration in Sing Sing prison in 1920.
Smith selected “The Superfan” by Durham writer Allison Kirkland for second place, saying, “the author recounts so clearly the particular magic of being starstruck at meeting a musical hero in the flesh. I loved this essay’s backward glance at the indy music scene in Chapel Hill in the 1990s, as well as the writer’s reflections on how deeply we love our favorite music when we’re teenagers.”
Kirkland is a writer and creative writing instructor who earned her MFA in creative nonfiction from The New School. In 2022 she was named an Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artist by the Durham Arts Council.
Greensboro’s Andrea Hunter won third place with her essay “The Execution of a Certain Negro Woman Named Beck.” Smith said the essay “delves into archives to uncover a fascinating chapter of family history. The writer asks important questions about the various violences that are documented—and hidden—in the histories of enslaved people in North Carolina.”
Hunter is a scholar of African American families and has published widely in academic journals. In 2021, she launched the limited podcast series, A Colored Girl Speaks: Meditations on Race and Other Magical Things, a collection of personal essays that explore race, culture, and politics through the prism of identity, history, and memory. A professor in Human Development and Family Studies at UNC Greensboro, writing creative nonfiction is her discovered passion.
Final judge Julia Ridley Smith is the author of a memoir, The Sum of Trifles (University of Georgia Press, 2021), and a short story collection, Sex Romp Gone Wrong (Blair, forthcoming, 2023). Her short stories and essays have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Ecotone, Electric Literature, the New England Review, Southern Cultures, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. New stories are forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review and Copper Nickel. She teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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.
Rose Post worked for the Salisbury Post for fifty-six years as a reporter, feature writer, and columnist. She won numerous state and national awards for her writing and earned the NC Press Women’s top annual award four times. She received the O. Henry Award from the Associated Press three times, the Pete Ivey Award, and the School Bell Award for educational coverage. Nationally, she won the 1989 Ernie Pyle Award, the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award for human-interest writing, and the 1994 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ Award.
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.