Millions of Suns Writing Contest Winners

By: Danielle Coty-Fattal | Date: March 20, 2024 | Tags: Writers on Writing, Contest
Cover of the book Millions of Suns with the text Writing Contest Winners

To celebrate the publication of Millions of Suns: On Writing and Life by M. C. Benner Dixon & Sharon Fagan McDermott, we offered a writing contest where participants were invited to write a fiction, non-fiction, or poetry response to a prompt from the book. Thank you to those of you who submitted your work! The results are in, and we are excited to announce the winners of the contest!

Authors M. C. Benner Dixon & Sharon Fagan McDermott read through each anonymous submission and selected one winner for each category. The winners will receive a copy of the book in the mail so that they can continue to use this collection of fifty engaging writing prompts in their daily writing craft. You can learn more about the contest rules here.

The Writing Prompt

The Forgotten

Select a memorable scene from your childhood (learning archery at camp, the day you met your dog, watching your brother get in a fight). Write down everything you can remember in explicit and meticulous detail—the dog’s one-up-one-down ears, the sound of the first punch, etc.

Now, write down all that you don’t remember. (“I don’t remember the brightness of the summer sun, the way it landed in the canopy of trees above our heads.” “I don’t remember the words he said to my brother, whether he cursed or not, whether he insulted our mother.”) Some of the details will be easy to imagine plausibly; some will not. Write a poem, essay, or story that pulls on both memory and forgetting.

Fiction Winner: "Rituals" by Mike Piero

Judges' comments:

This story engages a painful and complicated moment in a person's life with an inventive approach to storytelling. The writer straddles past and present, threading them together with the power of ritual. This story speaks to the possibility of reinventing one's identity and healing trauma by letting go of the past.


I remember Brother Marcus’s upstairs bathtub, a corn-yellowed tub surrounded by peeling, dark green wallpaper from the 1970s. Half of my family—Baptists, all of them—attended the event in their Sunday best, inching themselves hesitantly into the crammed bathroom. Those who couldn’t fit into the bi-level production home’s tiny lavatory took turns peering in from the hallway.

“Let us begin,” Brother Marcus said in a sacred voice, followed by a prayer to initiate the newfound ritual. I was their first, a solemn affirmation of their legitimacy, perhaps little more.

I remember the water being comfortably warm, then too-quickly frigid. Because I was anything but quick in my performance.

Poetry Winner: "For Kateri" by Jane Ward

Judges' comments:

We were impressed with how this poem built towards its conclusion with precise and emotive imagery. The poem places us within the memory while also hurdling "over the patch of dark water" of all that has been forgotten. The poet's command of lyricism and memory leave us breathless by the end.


We didn’t remember the Mohawks or the Lenape
so we sang them some dirges with our placenames
there was my Leni Lenape Girl Scout Troop and
Blessed Kateri church where once I married Tim
and Lake Mohawk, where I could jump
from the dock over the patch of dark water

all the way to the thick white ice
making the big kids say don’t do that, that’s dangerous
and I would say stuck the landing for lack of anything better
before I spun away to try to scrape out some
music with my skates

Non-Fiction Winner: “Crash Bang, a Word Problem” by Molly Bain

Judges' comments:

“Crash Bang, a Word Problem" is an exciting ride through memory and language. The experimental forms employed by the author heighten the impact of memories lost and found. The relentless chaos of this world drives us into "smart mouths, slapstick noses, open hands and closed fists, backsides and kicks: the collisions of materials or intentions, any or all of it coming loose and going up and then coming down in the sudden pressure drops of conflict in tight quarters under open skies." We were glued to the page. The expert interweaving of story and pointed reflection in this essay generated a riveting crash bang all its own.


“You’ve haven’t forgotten the little girl rushing, like creek waters during spring melt, into the lake. She’s trying to catch turtles but is terrified of leeches. You haven’t forgotten how they dammed Deer Lake for the goldmine and then dammed her again for the iron ore mine. You haven’t forgotten that the goldmine in 15 years of operation released approximately 5,000 lbs of mercury into Deer Lake. . . . You are the woman the little girl in this word problem made, and she wouldn’t have forgotten to tell you, would she?

Say you think of your own body like a watershed. Say Deer Lake taught you that, and you love her for it.

Say you are from lands with more shoreline than Hawaii. Say the official motto is Pure Michigan. Say your eyes are sometimes so dry now that you wonder if you’ve forgotten how to cry.”

Non-Fiction Honorable Mention: “Wisconsin Winter Night” by Eric Schatzman

Judges' comments:

From the "checkered linoleum flooring" of Aunt Karen's kitchen to her "red American Impala sedan (whose rear doors had the audacity to fly open around turns)," this vivid account of a family story draws us into its world. We were especially moved by the fact that this world exists only in the memory of the author who chooses to share it with us as a gift.


I do have a warehouse of childhood memories that range from moments to hours; so many lie among the heat of New Mexico cactuses and Texas cracked mud and California dry grasses. This Tundra winter one, however, lies at the entrance of that warehouse, a singular, accessible, emotional treasure, a memory I continually access for comfort. Although I am alone with this story, I am okay if I am the keeper of this memory as my own.

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