We are excited to announce “On Desire” by Caitlin McGill as the winner of the 2020 Creative Nonfiction Prize, judged by Bassey Ikpi. Many thanks to everyone who submitted their work and made this year’s prize possible!
On “On Desire,” Bassey Ikpi said:
“I’ve often felt like the word ‘beautiful’ is overused when describing writing. I tend to use it when I know I like the work but can’t find the correct collection of words to make the point. Maybe a sentence or two or a passage or three jumps and sticks with me and makes it enough to coat the entire thing with ‘beautiful.’
After reading “On Desire,” I want to take back 90% of the times I’ve used the word out of sheer laziness and nothing else. “On Desire” is architectural in the way it builds on itself, stacking foundation, and layer after layer of story into a slowly crafted structure. Each line is wonderful; passages poignant, but there was a moment, in the middle of reading, when I realized I’d been holding my breath. I was afraid to disturb the thing that was being constructed. At first, It felt fragile and delicate, but then I realized how solid the writer was, how sure, how steady, how purposeful. How much I trusted them to tell this story.
We’ve all had quietly devastating breakups, have all slipped out of love like an oversized jacket. We’ve all gathered pieces of our childhood and dragged them into confusing adult personality quirks. We’ve all been in these worlds where our pasts and our futures and our presents become a collage of our existence. “On Desire” turns those ‘ordinary experiences’ into a praise song. Into a poem. Into all these mixed metaphors I’ve collected.
This non-fiction short story made me hold my breath in spaces… not due to fear but to feeling like if I could hold this breath in, maybe this sentence won’t end. I wanted to live in some of these lines as the writers skipped and danced across the page– each memory sliding from the past, into the present, laying claim to the future. When I began, I settled into an essay about a break-up, I was prepared for tears or pity, what I felt was relief, not just for the author, but for myself. Thinking of the times I’ve held on to a relationship out of guilt, or fear, to watch the writer free herself from the relationships (romantic and familial) and her expectations of the past, was triumphant. The story was good and ‘regular.’
But, my goodness, the writing made my heart skip a few times. I found myself reading pages over and over just to make sure I didn’t miss any bit of the intent. This was one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever read.
‘Beautiful’ is overused, but not here—it can not be stated enough.”
Jonathan Gleason, “Gilead”
Mimi Tempestt, “blue black venus”
Lauren Rhoades, “Solomon Story”
Lee Anne Gallaway-Mitchell, “The Devil’s Balls”
Alisha Acquaye, “Fruit Snack Fairytale”
The winner will be published in the Summer 2021 issue of the Indiana Review.