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Winner of Rose Post prize named

WINSTON-SALEM—Karen Smith Linehan of Carolina Beach has won the 2016 Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition for her essay, “Magnolia grandiflora.” Karen will receive $1,000, and her essay will be considered for publication in Ecotone.

“This meditative nature essay’s solid sense of voice, language, and dramatic arc made it a clear standout,” said final judge Kate Sweeney. “There is a sense here that every phrase and every word is chosen with great intent, and taken together, the work conveys the magnitude of this tree in a voice that is, like the tree itself, both quiet and commanding. There are minute details here, such as the description of the 24-hour lifespan of stamens, which end life by ‘transform[ing] into red-tipped wands that flutter to the ground.’ These details are threaded to memories that span the life of the narrator, bringing the essay as a whole into a much richer, larger context. (‘When we were children, my sister and I gathered the fragile stamens and placed them in the pink cup of our hands.’) It’s a lyrical, solid read, a wonderful piece of writing, and it gives me pleasure to nominate it as first-place winner.”

Linehan is a lifelong naturalist with a deep love for the flora and fauna of North Carolina. A Raleigh native, she lives in Carolina Beach where her heart still skips a beat when a pelican flies over her house. Karen teaches first and second grade at Friends School of Wilmington. She has a BA in zoology from UNC-Chapel Hill and is pursuing an MFA in creative nonfiction through Chatham University’s low residency program. Karen and her husband, Terry, have two grown daughters, Kelsey and Dylan.

Amy Rowland of Princeton, N.J., placed second with her essay, “Looking for Joan Little.” She’ll receive $300.

Sweeney said, “This is an outstanding account of a community’s collective forgetting of an event that took place some four decades before. The essay examines how what we choose to remember shapes us as a people — and also the narrator’s coming-to-terms with the fact that this same community delivered her (or him; we’re never told). The title’s meaning shifts as the piece progresses — from the suspect’s original flight from authorities, to her disappearance from the public eye today, to the absence her story — or lack of story — leaves in a people’s collective narrative. From start to finish, the voice in this essay is robust as it relates, in decisive tones, a narrative that matters to who we are as a people today, at least as much as it did in 1974.”

Rowland’s first novel, “The Transcriptionist,” was published by Algonquin in 2014 and received the Addison M. Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is a North Carolina native and a 2016 NEA Literature Fellow. She  lives in Princeton, where she’ll be lecturing in the fall.

Raleigh’s Agnes Stevens came in third for her essay “Shelter.” Agnes will receive $200.

“This essay forms a brilliant tapestry,” said Sweeney, “weaving stories of childhood threats of annihilation in the form of plane crashes, nuclear explosions, and other potential menaces from the outside world. She does such a deft job of painting this family portrait of dormant dangers, generational coincidences, and cold-war fears that we never see the real explosion coming. When it does, both its form (the break-up of her own nuclear family) and its perpetrator (the ‘sheltering’ father) both come as a surprise that the author lands ably. I loved reading this essay, and am happy to name it as a contest finalist.”

Stevens is a native North Carolinian who now calls Raleigh home. She writes personal essays and has presented her stories live on stage as a member of the 2014 Listen to Your Mother Raleigh-Durham cast and as a storyteller at the Monti in 2015. Her stories explore the extraordinary in ordinary experiences and are all set in and around Raleigh and Eastern NC. Her work received honorable mentions in the 2015 Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition and the 2015 Carolina Woman writing contest. When she is not writing and telling stories for fun, she makes a living as a public relations professional.

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.

Sweeney is the author of the popular nonfiction book “American Afterlife” (University of Georgia Press), which won the Georgia Author of the Year Award in the Essay category for 2014. A resident of Atlanta, her radio stories appear regularly on Atlanta’s NPR station, WABE 90.1 FM, and she has won five Edward R. Murrow awards as well as a number of Associated Press awards for her work. She earned her MFA at UNC-Wilmington and has taught there, as well as at Emory Continuing Education and Clayton State University.

Ecotone’s mission is to publish and promote the best place-based work being written today. Founded at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 2005, the award-winning magazine features writing and art that reimagine place, and our authors interpret this charge expansively. An ecotone is a transition zone between two adjacent ecological communities, containing the characteristic species of each. It is therefore a place of danger or opportunity, a testing ground. The magazine explores the ecotones between landscapes, literary genres, scientific and artistic disciplines, modes of thought.

Rose Post worked for the Salisbury Post for 56 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.

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