2015 VanderMey Nonfiction Prize Recipients

April 30, 2015

Ruminate Magazine is excited to share with you the winners of the 2015 VanderMey Nonfiction Prize. The winning manuscripts were selected by our final judge, Scott Russell Sanders. You can read the winning manuscripts in Issue 35. 

FIRST PLACE: D.L. Mayfield, “Blessed Are the Pure in Heart”

D.L. Mayfield loves to write about theology, refugees, gentrification, and pop culture. She has written for McSweeneys, Image Journal, The Other Journal, and the Toast, among numerous other publications. Her book of essays, tentatively titled "Dispatches from the Stateless Wanderers" is forthcoming from HarperOne in 2016. She is constantly just pretending that she is not overwhelmed by this earth. Follow her on twitter @d_l_mayfield and on her blog.


Our final judge Scott Russell Sanders writes: "Blessed Are the Pure in Heart" offers us insight into the trials and aspirations of a family of Kurdish refugees from Iraq who have come to America, like millions of other immigrants, in search of a better life. The narrator has come to know this family through her work as a teacher of English and life-skills for illiterate women, mostly immigrants from East Africa. Her sympathy and compassion, her candid self-reflections, and her effort to understand people scarred by the horrors of war and genocide, shine through on every page. Her portraits of individual family members are vivid, especially of the daughter who cares with dignity for the ailing mother, and the younger son who is mesmerized by videos of Michael Jackson dancing. The narrator acknowledges the vast gulf between her history as a privileged, well-educated American, and theirs as uprooted survivors from a strife-torn Middle East that America has violently destabilized. Yet she also discovers, in her time with the Kurdish family, the shared human potential for generosity, affection, and wholeheartedness, as illustrated by the character of that younger son and by her own four-year-old daughter's uninhibited joy. The ability to see beyond barriers, as this essay does, is among the chief gifts of imagination.

You can read "Blessed Are the Pure in Heart” in Ruminate’s Issue 35. Order the issue here!

Scott Russell Sanders is the author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, including A Private History of Awe and A Conservationist Manifesto. The best of his essays from the past thirty years, plus nine new essays, are collected in Earth Works, published in 2012 by Indiana University Press. Among his honors are the Lannan Literary Award, the John Burroughs Essay Award, the Mark Twain Award, the Cecil Woods Award for Nonfiction, the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2012 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His latest book is Divine Animal, a novel, published in 2014. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, where he taught from 1971 to 2009. He and his wife, Ruth, a biochemist, have reared two children in their hometown of Bloomington, in the hardwood hill country of Indiana’s White River Valley.


SECOND PLACE: Elizabeth Dark Wiley, “If You Want It to Last...”

Elizabeth Dark Wiley is an adjunct professor of writing and creative writing at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in central Ohio and a Contributing Editor for Windhover. Her work has appeared in Curator and Blue Bear Review.  She is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Ashland University.  In her spare time, she likes to think she notices things. Connect with her on Instagram @elizabethdarkwiley and Twitter @ElizabethDarkWi. You can read "If You Want It to Last...” in Ruminate’s Issue 35. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Shannon Huffman Polson, “Naked: A Triptych”

Shannon Huffman Polson lives and writes in a mountain valley in NE Washington with her husband and two young boys. North of Hope: A Daughter’s Arctic Journey, her memoir of adventure, grief and hope, was published in 2013. Polson writes about borders and interstices, places of transition and transformation. Her essays are in High Country News, Huffington Post, Cirque Journal and others. Polson is finishing her second book, an anti-memoir of flying attack helicopters in the U.S. Army. When not writing or chasing her boys, she works as Artist-in-Residence with Methow Arts in Okanagan Schools and gets outside in the mountains and away from screens whenever possible. She never misses her morning coffee and refuses to convert to Kindle. Connect with Shannon on Twitter @ABorderLife and on her website. You can read “Naked: A Triptych” in Ruminate’s Issue 35. 


2015 VanderMey Nonfiction Prize Finalists:

Rebecca Eckland, "True Winter" Patrice Gopo, "What Remains" Laura Green, "Worlds Go On" Ming Lauren Holden, "Virgin" Raphael Kosek, "Meditations on the Common Life" Ian Macrae, "Bright Messengers" Mollie Murray, "The Lowcountry" Jeremy Paden, "Doubt Matters" James Silas Rogers, "Digging for Nothing" Thank you to all of you who entered Ruminate's VanderMey Nonfiction Prize!

  Ruminate Magazine hosts an annual contest for short fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and visual art. You can read more about our writing contests and art contest here.



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