We’re thrilled to announce Lara Lillibridge as the winner of our 2016 Slippery Elm Prize in prose! She’ll receive $1000 and publication of her essay “39 Lashes: Just Write Something About Your Mother” in our fourth issue, due out in December.
Final judge Courtney Maum says:
“I like stories that risk something by being on the page. Whether it’s the subject matter, the style of writing, or the fact that the author has tried to write about the experience at all, the work that feels the most rewarding to me is writing that has risked something to exist. “39 Lashes: Just Write Something About Your Mother” has this level of courage in spades.
This story about a narrator navigating feelings of yearning and repulsion towards her mother, and her mother’s OTL (“one true love”) is visceral and daring, evoking all of the bottled hopes and rage that a young person can harbor towards their caretakers as they’re growing up. “39 Lashes” also reveals the extent to which our perception of relatives can change over time. Practices and habits that once seem abhorrent can be viewed in a different light when we’ve lived with someone long enough to be caught off guard by their generosity or their devotion—to be surprised by a level of sensitivity we didn’t think was there.
Is the OTL in this story a bully? A predator? A confidante? A threat? Is the mother helpless? Is she the manipulated, or the manipulator? The fact that we don’t come away with any definite answers is testament to the clear-eyed portrait of family life that Lara has shared. I found myself reading each page of this taut story with held breath.”