What Shall I Write About?
We at Lantern have finally read all the entries for the 2005 Lantern Books Essay Contest
and we’re shortly going to move on to the final stage where the best essays will be chosen by our panel of judges. In the few weeks until the winners are announced, we thought we’d give you an interim report on what we’ve learned.
When we decided to create the essay contest we had no idea how many of you would bother to enter, or in what style you would write your essays, and what you would write about (within the broad ambit of our publishing program). We feared a deafening silence. Boy, were we wrong! We received 279 entries, most from the United States, but more than a few from abroad: Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., Canada, Ireland, Romania, Germany, and beyond. Some of the essays were deeply personal, others philosophical or scholarly; some were rants, others were wry; some drew big conclusions, others were content to paint miniatures.
Whatever you wrote about, however you did it, and whether you win or not, we want to thank you for bothering to enter. Writing clearly and well is not an easy thing to do, and in many ways it’s harder to write a 1500-word essay than a full-length book. There are many decisions you have to make—whether to include more or less detail; follow one theme or many themes; tell a story or outline a problem—and all within a relatively small amount of space. Some of you struggled with this; but others embraced that difficulty and gave it their best.
We also want to acknowledge those for whom English was clearly not their first language. We have endeavored to honor your efforts fairly. And we also want to say thanks to the students of all ages who sent us their essays: It was not an easy assignment and we hope you entered the contest willingly!
So, what did you write about? Many of you discussed your decisions to become a vegetarian (or not); many of you explored the meaning a particular landscape had for you or how you felt at the loss of wild(er)ness caused by over-development. Many offered rallying cries or manifestos for a new ethic of food and conservation. And many of you told us of your love and concern for individual animals—cats, dogs, and chickens, especially—and what gifts they had brought to your life.
And all of you cared
. You cared that animals were being turned into machines, that the land was being paved over, that human beings had forgotten that we needed the planet and each other to survive. Even those who had no time for environmentalism or vegetarianism, or indeed the self-identifying stereotypes that sometimes accompany “the activist,” were ticked off at the inertia of their fellow citizens or government, of the countless lies and blandishments we tell ourselves so we don’t have to change. Above all, you cared about place—about your particular corner of the earth where you live and the small blue planet we all inhabit. You cared enough to sit down and write out what you thought and felt and send it to us, and we thank you for that.
Once the winners have been announced, we’ll be posting on our website over the coming year not only the essays that won, but forty of those that didn’t. We want to show you, and everyone who comes to our site, what you’re thinking about. So check back here often—not only because your essay might be one of the ones we’ve chosen, but because all of them are worth your attention.