2015 RCWMS Essay Contest Winners

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 RCWMS Essay Contest, “Embodying Faith.” First place goes to Rebecca Lanning of Durham, NC, for her essay, “How to Pet a Porcupine.” Second place goes to Sarah Woodford of New Haven, CT, and third place goes to Lauren Kilbourn of Chapel Hill, NC. An honorable mention goes to Lucille Gaither of Cheverly, MD. Click here to subscribe to our print newsletter, South of the Garden, and read the winning essay in our March issue.

Many thanks to this year’s judges: Marcy Litle, Jocelyn Streid, and Rebecca Welper. The judges report that they were touched by the thoughtful honesty and inspired by the great variety of this year’s submissions. Here is a behind-the-scenes-look from one of the judges, who reflected on what it was like to be on this side of the submissions process.

I thought it would be pretty easy to sit down, read through the submitted essays, and come up with my favorites to compare with the other judges. But as I read through each essay, I was struck by the beauty of the lives being shared with me. It felt like each essay was a gift from these women’s souls, with all the prickly parts, the aches, the longings, and sweetness. I started to wonder what it meant to pick winning essays. It felt like I was being asked to assign more worth not only to the pieces themselves, but to the lives and women behind the words. That didn’t feel right.

I realized this perspective came in part from having been hurt in the past when putting forth my own work. But while reading the essays submitted to the RCWMS contest, I was filled with gratitude to be let in on a small slice of these lives. I felt inspired reading each essay, no matter which ones we ultimately deemed most fitting for this year’s theme. As I found myself hoping that each one of these women would keep writing and sharing their important truths, I was reminded that we never know how we will touch others, but when we share authentically, we do. Thank you to everyone who submitted an essay for this reminder. I’m hoping you and many others keep sharing.