“The Daily Writer” Contest Announces Winners

The English Department congratulates senior Kiyomi Kishaba and junior Emelie Pennington-Davis as winners of “The Daily Writer” Writing Contest! They will each receive an award of $750, thanks to a generous alum donor. Congratulations also to finalists Micah Fender, Allyson Lessard, and Nathan Lovitt.

Emelie Pennington-Davis is a junior, double-majoring in English and psychology. Kiyomi Kishaba is a senior, with majors in English and Communication, as well as a minor in Hispanic Studies. The jurors commented on the stellar writing by the two winners and three finalists. Each juror also chose one honorable mention.

Jurors’ Statements on the Winners:

Kiyomi Kishaba

Kiyomi Kishaba’s trio of poems,”Bachan says,” “Quarantine Journal,” and “Unfolding”

This writing is thoughtful and expressive. It speaks of heartache and sadness quite vividly. The author combines power and grace in every line, and weaves these three poems across time. Generations and heartbreaks later, new hopes are watered. The poem “Bachan says” is a powerful, strange, lyrical narrative with the tone of an inherited memory, fragmented and distanced but with a palpable immediacy. The structure of the poem gives it a forward-thrusting rhythm that takes unexpected turns and asks the reader to pause, see, feel, contemplate. The poem leaves readers with questions that prompt us to read it again. This writer has a poetry collection in her future!

Emelie Pennington-Davis

Emelie Pennington-Davis’s story “Carpe Mortem”

This is a beautiful and strange story that defamiliarizes and gives texture to what most people might consider a mundane scene of roadkill. A moralistic story that reminds us of a dark folktale. Rhythm and repetition work together to convey a sense of the inescapable. Great description and dialogue between the dying possum and the hungry crow. Excellent attention to detail and diction: “Naked of fur, like a tiny, fleshy star. Stars sparkle and shine like broken glass, but the crow has never been able to collect them.” A “pie-gash rupture”—what an incredible image! The imagery and psychologies of the possum and the crow leave readers clinging to each word, knowing they could not anticipate the next fascinating turn. In the end, readers contemplate more deeply the interior lives of these common animals.

Jurors’ Comments on the Finalists:

Allyson Lessard “Ghost Stories and Other Childhood Memories”:

This story immediately captured our attention, with an imaginative visualization of the narrator’s childhood home. At first, readers wonder: Why would the family stay in this sort of ghost-filled home? Toward the end, readers are left with the impression that the narrative is an amalgamation of childhood angst and struggles. The suspense of the story hinges on whether or not the protagonist will be able to leave the house safely, and just as the reader begins to believe she will escape, the poignant twist ending reveals she is trapped. The premise of this story—childhood memories personified as ghosts—is quite compelling! The description of the ghost in the bathroom was one of the most powerful and authentic moments in the story

Nathan Lovitt “Why I’m Afraid of Hardwood Floors”:

What an intriguing way to tell such a sad story. It lingers after reading. This is an emotionally driven and captivating piece. Thank you for writing it. It is humbling. The repetition is like grief, unrelenting and meditative. The grounding effect of the anaphora is so violently undercut in the line where the speaker’s mother is rushed to the hospital, and this is a powerful evocation of the shock and grief of that moment, like the rug being pulled out from underneath one’s feet.

Micah Fender, “Adoption”:

Such a heartfelt poem of sibling love at first sight. The structure of the poem sways beautifully along with the movement you describe within it: the tottering sister, waving branches, and pattering rain. The writing is thought-provoking and put readers in the place and time of this moment. “Adoption” is concise and weaves a story with sounds, feelings, and very carefully chosen words. The best words. “I clutch my father’s leg; an oak in the storm …” followed by “I step from the shelter of my father’s branches …” We loved the description of the new sister walking behind their mother as “not yet in step with her rhythm.

Jurors’ Comments on Honorable Mentions:

Honorable Mention, by Juror Brandi Rodriguez: Daniel Bensen’s prose work, “Winter’s Ballade”

“This writing is brave, poignant and full of life. It is wonderfully and thoughtfully displayed. Whether it is a fiction or nonfiction, it leaves the reader wanting to know more.”

Honorable Mention, by Juror Elsa Kienberger: John Evanishyn’s fiction excerpt, “Scarborough Neil and Precious Bulbs”

“The attention to detail in this piece brings it to life. Each character has their own distinct personality and the dialogue between them is at once humorous and relatable.”

Honorable Mention, by Juror Natalie Catasús: Jenna Muller’s prose work, “Aftershock”

“Wow. Just, wow. Arresting, surprising at each turn, and profoundly haunting. This story left me wanting so badly to know what happened to Julio. This feels very much like part of a bigger project with much promise. I love the way that it expands a particular event and allows us to watch it wash over various parts of the city and various people’s lives. These different voices and perspectives give the story such great texture.”

Honorable Mention, by Juror Lisa Patterson: Callie Solberg’s poem “Just the Way It Is”

“This poem flows very well, is relatable, and sheds light on larger topics such as gender responsibility, generational gaps between a mom and daughter, and a young woman who is sick of living in fear. It was powerful and I heard her voice throughout.”

Professor Wendy Call would like to thank the PLU alum donor who made the contest possible; all the students who were brave enough to submit their lovely writing; and the four jurors, for their thoughtful, careful volunteer work:

Natalie Catasús (PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature at Emory University in Atlanta)
Elsa Kienberger (PLU ’19, English Literature & Theatre)
Lisa Patterson (PLU ’98, Journalism)
Brandi Rodriguez (PLU ‘07, Communications)