2023 Patty Friedmann Writing Competition

Winners, Runners-Up, and Honorable Mentions

2023 results below


Each Spring, the Peauxdunque Review invites submissions to its annual writing competition. Formerly the Words & Music Writing Competition, due to a generous underwriter it has been rechristened the Patty Friedmann Writing Competition. Ours is a writing competition in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, public high school short story, and “Beyond the Bars” (a multi-genre competition for incarcerated juveniles), associated with the Words and Music writers’ conference that takes place in November each year. Except for what the Peauxdunque Review must pay to Submittable for each entry, entry fees from the competition are donated to the literacy project that runs the Words and Music writing conference, One Book One New Orleans. Winners in the poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction categories receive $1000 plus admission to all Words and Music conference events. Public High School Short Story winners receive $500 plus admission to all Words and Music conference events. First runners-up in the poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and public high school short story categories receive admission to all conference events (except for manuscript reviews, which may be paid for separately). The winner of the Beyond the Bars category will receive $500. Honorable Mentions in all categories receive half-off all conference events. Winners in all categories will be published in a subsequent issue of the Peauxdunque Review, and all runners-up, finalists, and all entrants will be considered for publication.

Short Story Category:

Sahar Mustafah, final-round judge of short story category (photo by High Key Photography), selected stories by Emilie Rodriguez and Megan Morrison as the winner and runner-up.

The 2023 short story category of the Patty Friedmann Writing Competition final-round judge was Sahar Mustafah. Ms. Mustafah’s first novel, The Beauty of Your Face (W.W. Norton), was named a 2020 Notable Book and Editor’s Choice by New York Times Book Review, a Los Angeles Times United We Read selection, and one of Marie Claire Magazine’s 2020 Best Fiction by Women. It was long-listed for the Center for Fiction 2020 First Novel Prize, and was a finalist for the 2021 Palestine Book Awards. Her short story collection Code of the West was the winner of the 2016 Willow Books Fiction Award. Most recently, her short story “Tree of Life” won the 2023 Robert J. DeMott Prize, selected by Kirstin Valdez Quade; and her short story “Star of Bethlehem” won the Lawrence Foundation Prize for Best Fiction in 2022 from Prairie Schooner. She was awarded a 2023 Jack Hazard Fellowship from New Literary Project and a Literature Fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. Mustafah writes and teaches outside of Chicago.

Ms. Mustafah selected the short story “Sewed In,” by Emilie Rodriguez, as the 2023 winner in the short story category. She wrote of the winning story: “In this touching piece, the protagonist Cosme is presented to us with tenderness, wit, and humor as she navigates a new phase in adulting. Her search for a roommate leads Cosme to an unlikely treasure and gutting revelation. The writer deftly avoids sentimentality in a fresh and inventive exploration of grief via a popular and beloved consumption: thrifting. Ultimately, the writer has us consider the poignant intersections of ancestral bonds, self-determination, joy, home(s), and belonging.” Emilie Rodriguez is a Latinx Writer, originally from San Diego. She is the editorial assistant for The Southern Review, an MFA candidate in fiction at Louisiana State University, and the former editor-in-chief of the New Delta Review. She is also a 2023 Sundress Academy of the Arts Resident. Her favorite spaces to write about are the magical, the real, the painful, and everything in between.

Ms. Sahar selected “Sensory Overload” by Megan Morrison as the runner-up, and had this to say about the story: The writer produces a frightening world through vivid, cringe-inducing imagery. There’s at once a satirical and tragic tone as the protagonist Amelia battles her way home to be at her father’s bedside. Her visceral loneliness and solitary journey mirrors the awful lived experiences of pandemic victims, while cleverly dispensing with artificial hope.” Originally from rural Mississippi, Megan Morrison is a multi-disciplinary writer currently living in northern New Mexico. She holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University and is the co-creator of the podcast Nobody Reads Short Stories. Her fiction has appeared in Nashville Review, The Maine Review, and Kestrel, and she was a 2023 Looking Glass Rock Writers Conference scholar. Megan is a member of the WGA and Puppeteers of America, and she co-founded Erosion Films, a production company dedicated to increasing the climate conversation through comedy, family-friendly musicals, and campy horror. (Erosionmade.com).

There are four stories that are Honorable Mentions in the short story category: “Down in the Pawpaw Patch,” by Richard Stimac; “The Lost Mermaid,” by Mimi Manyin; “She Died a Virgin,” by Sue Brennan; and “Our Life in Cinnamon,” by Raistlin Skelley.

Creative Nonfiction Category:

Hannah Pittard, final-round judge of the creative nonfiction category (photo by Ayna Lorenzo), selected pieces by Elsie Michie and Jen Hallaman as the winner and runner-up.

The 2023 creative nonfiction category of the Words and Music Writing Competition final-round judge was Hannah Pittard. Hannah is the author of five books, most recently the memoir We Are Too Many.

Hannah selected “Trashformations,” by Elsie Michie, as the 2023 winner in the creative nonfiction category. Hannah writes of the winning piece: “Part memoir, part love letter to New Orleans, ‘Trashformations’ is nearly elegiac in its approach to the genre. At turns introspective, vulnerable, and surprising, this essay walks a zigzagging temporal tightrope, transforming itself page by page and insight by insight. I couldn’t stop reading.” Elsie Michie has a Ph.D. from Yale University in English and a B.A. and M.A. from Brown in Comparative Literature. She has been a Dean at a Quaker boarding school and lived on a dormitory with 150 teenaged girls. She has been a nanny for an American embassy family in Moscow. She has taught English at Yale, Wesleyan, Tulane, Swarthmore, and Louisiana State University and published books and articles on Victorian fiction. She is completing a memoir entitled Mixed Reviews. One chapter, “Broken Ornaments,” appeared in The Southern Review. Another, “Surface Tension,” was longlisted for the Page-Turner Mentorship Award. A third, “Trashformations,” is the winner of this year’s Patty Friedman Creative Nonfiction Award.

Hannah selected “How to Grieve the Living” by Jen Hallaman as the runner-up. She notes, ‘How to Grieve the Living’ begins with an engaging anecdote—a grandmother who, years before her death, begins bequeathing her inheritance one trinket at a time—and blossoms into a personal investigation into transgenerational manifestations of behaviors, both good and bad. It is very much a story of the stories we tell ourselves.” Jen Hallaman is a writer and bookseller living in Washington, D.C., with her family. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Sierra Nevada Review, Creative Loafing Atlanta, and others. You can learn more about her work at www.jenhallaman.com.

There are three pieces that are Honorable Mentions in the creative nonfiction category: “How to Love a Prophet,” by Vanelis Rivera; “Springtime in Paris,” by François Bereaud; A and “Confessions for My Mother,” by Elizabeth Brennan.

Poetry Category:

Ariel Francisco, final-round judge of the poetry category, selected poems by Sami Helgeson and Maggie Rue Hess as the winner and runner-up.

The 2023 poetry category of the Words and Music Writing Competition final-round judge was Ariel Francisco. Ariel is the author of Under Capitalism If Your Head Aches They Just Yank Off Your Head (Flowersong Press, 2022), A Sinking Ship is Still a Ship (Burrow Press, 2020), and All My Heroes Are Broke (C&R Press, 2017), and the translator of Haitian-Dominican poet Jacques Viau Renaud’s Poet of One Island (Get Fresh Books, 2023) and Guatemalan poet Hael Lopez’s Routines/Goodbyes (Spuyten Duyvil, 2022). A poet and translator born in the Bronx to Dominican and Guatemalan parents and raised in Miami, his work has been published in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, The New York City Ballet, Latino Book Review, and elsewhere. He is Assistant Professor of Poetry and Hispanic Studies at Louisiana State University.

Ariel selected “For Once I Pretend I Am Not Afraid of Tenderness” by Sami Helgeson as the 2023 winner in the poetry category. Ariel writes that the winning poem is beautiful in its vulnerability and vivid imagery. You can almost hear the heart beating in each line. I found myself rereading it over and over again. The poem crystalizes that sense of tenderness for us to see, hear, and almost touch with stunning effectiveness.” Sami Helgeson is a poet with a B.A. in Environmental Science. She grew up in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin and now lives in the high desert of Denver, Colorado. Currently, they are fascinated by glaciers, tectonic forces, and the mess of youth. Sami’s poetry has been recently published in the River & South Review, Barzakh Magazine, and Everybody Press Review. Her work has received support from the Lighthouse and Kenyon Review Writers Workshops.

Ariel selected “Portrait of a Matriarch with Melon Slices” by Maggie Rue Hess as the runner-up, writing, Joy is the exact right word for this poem to end on. A manifestation of care and love in the physicality of preparing the melon, repurposing what would typically be received as violent language (‘knife,’ ‘flesh,’ ‘bleed’) into something both familiar and comforting. The poem conjures a sense of safety under this matriarchal figure. Maggie Rue Hess (she/her) is a graduate student living in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her partner and their two crusty white dogs. She serves as the Managing Editor of Online Content for Grist: A Journal of Literary Arts. Her work has appeared or will appear in Rattle, Minnesota Review, GASHER, Connecticut River Review, Still: the Journal, and others; her debut chapbook, The Bones That Map Us, is forthcoming from Belle Point Press in early 2024. She can be found baking for fun, caffeinating the masses, memeing the zodiac, and more on Instagram as @maggierue_.

Poems by eight poets have been designated as Honorable Mentions in the poetry category: “Memory, On Ice,” by Sami Helgeson; “December Poem” and “Open Doors,” by Emily Simmons; “Three Sonnets for New Orleans,” by Mark Folse; “A Mother’s Litany,” by Victoria Melekian; “… strange,” by Cid Galicia; “Heat,” by Kaitlin Murphy-Knudsen; “Portrait of a Couple in a French Quarter Apartment” and “Selfie as Qaitbay Citadel, Egypt,” by Andy Young; and “Chips and Dip, with an Apology,” by Rene Mullen.

Writing by a Public High School Student Category:

The editorial board of Peauxdunque Review selected a short story by Caroline Zhang as winner, and a poem by Ida Schenck as runner-up, in the Writing by a Public High School Student category.

The editorial board of Peauxdunque Review served as the final-round judges for the 2023 writing by a public high school student category.

The editors selected “The Tapestry,” by Caroline Zhang, as the 2023 winner in the writing by a public high school student category. The editors noted, “In this very strong piece, the author packs all the stages of sexual assault and its aftermath into an intensely packed four pages of manuscript, woven around a motif of colors. This all could easily have gone wrong in lesser hands, a motif too forced, punches pulled, nuances ignored; but this writer has the immense skill to succeed and avoid these pitfalls. The result is a story that hits hard, a story that affects and changes the reader.” Caroline is a junior in high school from Woodbury, Minnesota. She is a two-time Gold Medalist in the Scholastic Art and Writing awards, and her work has been recognized by the New York Times, the Center for Fiction, and the Bluefire Editorial, among others. Currently, she is working on a collection of short stories with themes of memory and observation.

The editors selected the poem, “Flip Flop” by Ida Schenck, as the runner-up, noting, “‘Flip Flop’ is a necessary warning about the price we pay for our mis-stewardship of the environment, but it does not preach. Instead, the poem expertly engages all the readers’ senses while relaying the catastrophe of rising seas and melting landscape in southern Louisiana, land that ‘falls into the Gulf like a drunk off a stool.’ The poem evokes memory and lived experience in equal measure.” Ida Schenck is a junior at New Harmony High and level three creative writing student at NOCCA Institute. She was born in New Orleans and has lived there her whole life, and the city and climate change deeply influence much of her writing. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with friends. Ida also had a short story selected as an Honorable Mention in last year’s edition of the writing competition.

The editors also chose five other pieces as Honorable Mentions in the category of writing by a public high school student: “Mushroom City,” by Isabel Magnotta; “The Makings Of,” by Nicholas Banszegi; “Butterflies in My Attic,” by Harlequin Boudreaux; “Pressurized Canister May Spontaneously Combust,” by Julia Sholl; and “Fuck Everything and Run,” by Elina Kumra.

Beyond the Bars Category:

The Peauxdunque Review editorial board also served as the final-round judges for the 2023 Beyond the Bars category, selecting winning and runner-up work from entries by incarcerated juveniles nationwide.

The editors selected the poem “Hold Your Own,” by Willie Cherry, as this year’s winner in that category. While Willie had submitted another fine poem that was longer and did fine work with metaphor, the simple, strong work in the one stanza of “Hold Your Own” has us going back and rereading, with a punch in the gut every time. The editors also selected the poem “Locked Room,” by Riley Johnson, as runner-up in the category, a poem that shows the difficulty of hope.


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