How did you find out about the contest?
My wonderful friends Steven Wells (ALDF) and Alex Bury (PETA) sent me the contest announcement by e-mail, thinking I might have a story.
Why was the subject of your essay important to you?
So often on my sister’s little animal sanctuary we watch animals suffer and/or die prematurely because people so often fail to think about how they view or treat other animals. These other beings are treated as if they were commodities, property, food. But at the sanctuary we see that each turkey or cat is an individual. It is painful watching their lives unfold badly due to indifference and ignorance of others. We see first hand the suffering caused by failing to spay and neuter dogs and cats, by breeding dogs and cats, and the suffering and misery outside and beyond the slaughterhouses caused by the meat industry and by those who support the meat industry by buying or eating flesh.
Did you discover something surprising in the process of writing your essay?
I never believed I could receive any recognition for creative writing. It is a difficult and competitive art. It is only because I had something very important to say, and because others were willing to look at my essay and offer suggestions that my essay was noticed. (Thank you Tami Haaland and Randall Gloege!)
What do you hope people will take away or learn from your essay?
I hope people will not eat others. I hope they will not eat chickens or turkeys, pigs or cattle, fish or sheep. I hope they will not eat cheese or ice cream or eggs, or drink milk. I hope that they next time they see a chicken’s dead body in the store they think of a hen in community with friends running about a yard and dusting in the sun. I hope that when consumers are thinking about buying an egg they will not, because they will remember Lois and Shirley.
What advice would you offer to other writers on composing a successful essay?
Write for the purpose of making the world a more compassionate home for all. What could be more meaningful? When you write for such a purpose the seemingly countless rejections that almost all writers face become nearly irrelevant because you are not writing for yourself. Writing takes time, persistence, and the good hearts of willing readers.
Read Lisa Kemmerer's winning essay.