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  • Meghan E. Giles

photofinish winner and finalists announced!

We are thrilled to announce that Amanda Bermudez’s story, “Cain vs. Cain” has won our PhotoFinish contest for this year! In “Cain vs. Cain,” we are led inside the world of two brothers, Jay and Jasper, whose tense relationship between one another is suspended for a moment while camping. Here, as our narrator notices, is a place where “[t]he click of the toast becomes a kind of mirror.” This story is that mirror, full of narrative depth of the present moment and what has and will occur between them. Within the brief word limit, this relationship reaches outside the scope of these brothers, as “People like us,” says Jasper, “we need wars.” We are so honored that Bermudez sent us her story, and we cannot wait to share it with you in our upcoming e-edition this New Year's Eve.

For the PhotoFinish Contest, we were in search of well-crafted and concise writing that is up to 500 words for prose and 15 lines for poetry, and is in conversation with this year’s photograph (shown above). We looked for pieces that moved beyond a literal description of the photograph and uncovered narrative and lyric depth and nuance.

We also would like to highlight Stacey Balkun’s poem, “Two Girls on Fire,” which won second place, and our other 8 finalists whose work ranges from taught to expansive, is a meditation on the notions of girlhood, relationships to one another and the environment. There is a direct reference to the photograph in J.W. Cannon’s essay: “This brings me to the photograph which is more than nice, really.” And in Balkun’s poem, we are led into that grainy quality of photographic grit: “hot night together and the old grab apple trunk split // down the center, sap dripping through the heat / of another drought, thick as the blood.” There are many more ways in which these 10 pieces transcend the photograph.

With that said, we are happy to have the following prose and poetry pieces in our upcoming e-edition:

First Place: Fiction, “Cain vs. Cain” by Amanda Bermudez—$250 honorarium

Second Place: Poetry, “Two Girls on Fire” by Stacey Balkun


“Things Are Simple Here” by Brandon Beck

“The Hardest Thing” by Claire Polders

“Montezuma’s Castle” by Gleah Powers


“Observed” by Karl Plank


“Letter to Smith from Outside My Tent After a Blizzard with the Cats Black Jack & Stripy Guy” by Alexander Long

“Rules in Case of Fire” by Lee Gallaway-Mitchell

“Sparks” by Janice Northerns

“Above Sedona” by Michael Levin

We would also like to give a shout-out to three young writers who submitted their poetry for our contest and whose poems will be published on our blog during the last week of December! We can’t wait to share their work with you.

“The Waltzing Flame” by Elisabeth Kate Baer (age 10)

“Campfire” by Neel Kanamangala (age 12)

“Drifting Smoke” by Charlotte Shao (age 13)

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