The Winners of the 1st Annual Sundog Lit Contest Series

Contest judges Mary Miller (fiction), Elena Passarello (creative nonfiction), and Elisa Gabbert (poetry) have chosen winners in their respective genres from an impressive collection of finalists. Those winners are:

Fiction: “Afterwards” by Rachel Richardson
Nonfiction: “Luck: An Annotated History” by Jill Kolongowski
Poetry: “On War-Horses” by Brandon Lewis

On “Afterwards,” fiction judge Mary Miller says:

From the very first sentence of “Afterwards”, which is also the first paragraph, I was hooked: “We are running.” Yes, I thought, we are. Now where are we going? Are we running from something or toward it? The details throughout are striking and surprised me in subtle yet effective ways: “We run because our mothers are checking roasts in ovens and our fathers are catching up on the news.” Yes, I thought again. This is also why I run. And yet it doesn’t quite make sense. I read on and was rewarded with games of tag and destruction, a “zoo gone loose.” I became one of the screeching girls scaling the clock tower—brave and wild—instead of the reserved kid I was, riding my bike to the deli to eat cheese soup.

Elena Passarello, creative nonfiction judge, says of “Luck: An Annotated History”:

I found myself coming back to this essay for its impressive command of language. Word by word, the author pulls me through the minutiae of a quiet experience—quiet in that she seems to keep to herself as she undergoes it, only sharing the rising details of her ordeal with medical professionals— with an arresting clarity and force. But she is not alone in this re-telling, of course: I’m in the room with her; I’m looking back in time with her; I’m feeling the vertigo as time slows with her; and, in a bold choice, I’m wasting no time with her overt fear or outward feelings as an ultrasound technician spreads cold goo over her chest. And as I’m right there with this writer, I’m jealous of how much every word in this piece counts. Jealous, too, of the wry and repressive persona that these sharp and exact words manage to create in so efficient a space. “Luck: An Annotated History” is a dazzling piece of short nonfiction, and I feel lucky to have read it.

Poetry judge Elisa Gabbert writes, of “On War-Horses”:

Brandon Lewis’s winning poem, “On War-Horses,” does so many of the things that I want good poetry to do. It pulled me in from the first line – “I forget that horses didn’t originate here” – so simple and direct, it sets up a voice that I want to listen to. But then the language gets rangier, more rhythmic and repetitive: “My distant relatives bastardized vowels of rivers // and renamed dry land after dry land from their childhoods / renamed after dry land from the childhoods of invaders.” The poem asks questions (“Is it foolish // to miss the ruins not here? I just don’t see them.”) but also makes declarations, stakes claims: “I do not want my warhorses // —they are mangy and without barding.” It teaches me things – “barding,” a word I didn’t know, is a type of armor worn by horses; that Nietzsche went mad after watching a horse being beaten. It’s both small and large, personal and historical. Contest-winning poems can display a kind of bland flawlessness. Lewis’s voice is unpredictable, but sure of itself – or at least confident in its unsureness. This goes into my little mental canon of horse poems.

Our finalists include:


“White Sands, 1945” by Emily Kiernan
“Tamas” by Claire Luchette
“Or a Boris” by Johnathan Harper
“I Killed Him in 23 Different Ways” by Carlotta Eden
“Where God Suddenly” by Chloe Clark


“What is Found There: On Beauty” by Gary McDowell
“The Tuesday Evening Train” by Nina Boutsikaris
“Bird Language” by Jennifer Hanks
“R.I.P. Anita” by Billy Middleton
“Notes on a Prayer” by Michael Abraham


“Sonnet for Girls Who Eat French Fries” by Rebecca Pelky
“Own” by Gabrielle Bates
“Carousel” by Gabrielle Bates
“Be Were” by Kia Groom
“Quicksilver” by Yosef Rosen
“In the Light, My Mother Never Wept” by Melissa Hull
“Somewhere in the World Right Now” by Jacqueline Markowski
“That Difficulty Increases Desire” by Brandon Lewis

Congratulations to our winners and finalists and THANK YOU to all who submitted work.

Winning pieces will be published in Issue 8, our first print issue.

We will announce our 2nd contest series, along with judges, in late summer 2015.


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