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January 18, 2008 12:31pm
We've had a lookover the eighty or so essays sent to us for the 2007 Lantern Essay Competition
, and, as last year, we've been struck by a number of things.
First off, it's amazing how international these essays are. Contributors have come from China, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Ghana, England, Ireland, Israel, and other places. We at Lantern want to express our appreciation to all those for whom English was not a first language: we know this competition poses extra challenges for you, and we honor your commitment and effort.
April 3, 2007 8:07am
Will's essay, McCarthyism 2.0
, took third place in Lantern's 2006 Essay Contest
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C., and I've been covering the "Green Scare" since about 2001, when I wrote a cover story on the topic for the Texas Observer. I've been focusing much more heavily on the issue since about a year ago, when I testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. I also run a website called GreenIsTheNewRed.com.How did you find out about the contest?
A friend ran across the notice and sent it my way (thanks, Frank!).
Why was the subject of your essay important to you?
"Terrorism" rhetoric is being exploited to push a political agenda and silence dissent: it's something absolutely everyone should be concerned about, because animal and environmental activists are just the canaries in the mine.
April 2, 2007 8:04am
Amanda is from Orange Park, Florida, and her essay, A Meat and Potatoes Family
, took second place in Lantern's 2006 Essay Contest
Tell us a little about yourself.
My two great passions are writing and teaching others the craft of writing. My husband and I recently fled the harsh Upstate New York winters and now reside outside of Jacksonville, Florida. One of my proudest accomplishments was receiving my MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, where I finished a project I'd been working on for years, a memoir. In addition to editing my memoir, I am also revising the first draft of a young adult novel.
April 1, 2007 8:00am
Katherine Jamieson is an Iowa Arts Fellow in the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program. Her work has been published in Newsday
, Massage Magazine
, and anthologized by Lonely Planet
and the Tallgrass Writer's Guild
. She is currently writing a memoir about her experiences living and working in Guyana, South America.
I asked Katherine to answer some questions about herself, her essay, how she found out about our contest, and what writing the essay meant to her. Here is her response:
Before I came to school in Iowa, I worked as a holistic health counselor and wellness trainer. I had been looking for an outlet to write about environmental and health topics, and I saw a posting for the Lantern Books contest last year on the Topica Creative Writing discussion list. The piece I submitted, "The Furor Over Fluoride," did not win the contest, but was recently published in Sage, the magazine of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. I really enjoyed researching and writing that article, so I decided to enter the contest again this year.
March 30, 2007 8:00am
Tom Leskiw and Gypsy
by Tom Leskiw from Eureka, CA
A writer's reference library is among his or her most-cherished possessions. One book that lies within easy reach on my shelf is Discovery: Great Moments in the Lives of Outstanding Naturalists. Many giants of nature writing are represented within this anthology: Roger Tory Peterson, Arthur Allen, George Miksch Sutton, and Olin Sewall Pettingill, Jr.
In Discovery's introduction, its editor John Terres lays out the premise for the anthology:
I believe that all naturalists at some time in their lives have had one great adventure, and that shock, ecstasy, beauty, wonder, tragedy, or intellectual illumination of that moment, hour, or day, they carry with them the rest of their lives.
March 29, 2007 8:00am
The Invisible People
by Christal Drake from Oak Lawn, Illinois
I remember passing the Pacific Garden Mission on my way to work every morning, wondering about the people that were standing in line to receive a free breakfast from the homeless shelter. The clothing they wore appeared a little baggy, but it did not look torn or dirty. Why were these people waiting in long lines for a hand-out instead of making their way to work or finding a job? Chicago is such a large city. Surely, anyone that made a sincere effort to work and be self-supporting could find some way to generate enough income to pay for their own breakfast. Although it was possible that some of the people in line were sick, they were well enough to stand in long lines out in the cold. If they really had a legitimate medical problem, they would not be standing in this line. In the United States of America, there are so many government programs for the sick and injured. It always seemed there was only one conclusion to draw about these undesirable people cluttering the sidewalk outside of the Mission: they must be lazy.
March 28, 2007 8:00am
It Was a Tuesday, I Think
by Will Johnson from the Pentlands, Scotland
It was a Tuesday, I think, but I can't remember really. It might have been a Saturday, actually.
I woke early and wrote a few things down. I watched the sun rise. I fed the animals and opened the air vents of the greenhouses in the walled garden. I pulled some garlic and a few onions, dug some potatoes, picked some runner beans, some parsley and a zucchini. I did a bit of weeding too, but not too much as it looked like a hot summer day in Scotland was just beginning and I was going to make the most of it, especially as today was a holiday.
I went into the house where we all lived. Here lived six young people at risk of homelessness and six young live-in volunteers. I was part of a project that fused social inclusion with organic farming; a homeless hostel adjoining a functioning organic farm was my temporary home, and I had already felt improvements in myself, and seen others develop positively, residents and volunteers alike.
But I knew, and I always know, that real change takes a long, long time.
March 27, 2007 8:00am
Marian Van Eyk McCain
The Third Awakening
by Marian Van Eyk McCain from Devon, England
Here I stand, in the sunshine, pegging shirts on the washing line. There is a light breeze blowing. If the weather stays like this, it will be a perfect day for getting this load of laundry dry. My hands are damp and they ache slightly from wringing out all those clothes.
It is early spring, and the woodpeckers are drumming to attract their mates. A thrush is singing. Daffodils nod their bright heads in the flower bed and I can feel the garden coming to life. This week, I shall plant out the first trays of seedlings—kale and cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, arugula—and firm their roots down into the freshly composted earth.
March 26, 2007 8:00am
by Haji Shearer from Randolph, Massachusetts
Like many men, I grew up with porn. I remember seeing my first sex magazine in 4th or 5th grade. Another boy brought it to school and was passing it around. My desire to get more time with those images was so strong I manipulated my classmate by telling him if he didn't give me the magazine I would tell his mother he had it. He surrendered it and I happily sneaked it into my home. Later, I realized this was my first example of porn making you stupid. Even as a kid I wondered why my classmate didn't counter by threatening to tell my mother I had the magazine.
Due to advances in cable and internet technology, porn is more widely available and accepted than when that exchange occurred in the early 1970s. It's become standard in a lot of homes with disposable income and a source of debt in some that can't afford it.
March 25, 2007 8:00am
The following essay won the $250 third prize in the 2006 Lantern Books Essay Contest
by Will Potter
Minutes after receiving an invitation to testify before Congress about legislation labeling activists as "terrorists," I barged into a colleague's office with a hotshot grin on my face, looking for some kind of congratulations-all-those-years-of-reporting -finally-got-some-attention pat on the back. I also hoped he could help ease my nerves, and, however canned, tell me "you have nothing to worry about, you'll do great." I got none of that. A somber look dripped down his face. He turned his head to each side, on the lookout for nosey ears. Then he began to say, slowly and softly, "Do you think that's a good…"
He had reason for concern. Corporations and the politicians that represent them have been on a coordinated campaign to silence dissent by branding anyone who stands in their way a "terrorist." They've taken a few pages from the Red Scare playbook and a few from the "with us or against us" playbook of the War on Terror. The New McCarthyists are building a Green Scare upon a foundation of fear.
March 24, 2007 8:00am
The following essay won the $500 second prize in the 2006 Lantern Books Essay Contest
A Meat and Potatoes Family
by Amanda Bauch
When I came home for Thanksgiving break during my first semester of college, my family didn't seem perturbed by my nose ring or my half-shorn, plum-colored hair. "Amanda is different," they always said in resigned tones, as if my nonconformity was caused by a birth defect.
As we gathered around the table to feast, my sister asked me if I wanted the left or right turkey leg. The leg had always been my favorite part, so dark, juicy, and tender. "Neither," I said. "What, do you only eat white meat now?" she asked, hands on her hips, with the carving knife and fork jutting out from either side, making her look like she was on a spit. "No—I'm a vegetarian."
March 23, 2007 7:59am
Writing Is Hard
Over the next several days, we'll be posting the winners and runners-up to the 2006 Lantern Essay Contest for you to read. You can already read the first prize winner's entry
. This year there were fewer entries than last year (150 as compared to 279), but that I suspect was because we didn't get entire high school classes entering! The quality of entries overall was higher, and it was nice to see that we still had quite a few entrants from overseas. We had expanded the range of topics people could write on, hoping we'd get a wider variety of essays; and we did.
Unfortunately, we learned that one of the winners had had her essay potentially accepted for "This I Believe"
on National Public Radio and, therefore, made herself ineligible to win. The lesson for all you future essay contest winners is that you only enter one essay for one medium at a time.
For all those of you who didn't win this time, then there's always next year. We'll be announcing our categories for the 2007 Lantern Essay Contest in September.
March 21, 2007 2:42pm
The following essay won the $1000 first prize in the 2006 Lantern Books Essay Contest
"Too Much of One Thing Ain't Good for Nothing:" Lessons from a Non-Throw Away Society
by Katherine Jamieson
Traveling in the back of a pick-up truck in the remote interior of Guyana, South America, I stopped in a small Amerindian town near the border of Brazil. The savannah stretched before me, dotted with straw huts and bony cows, the Kanuku mountains rising up in massive peaks at the edge of the horizon. Villagers offered cups of piwari, an alcoholic drink made from fermented cassava, but I drank little, mindful of the sun beating down and the half empty canteen swinging from my backpack.
As we were pulling away, I saw a young girl running toward the truck. Her thin, tan legs kicked up a cloud of red dust as she flew by the town's one church, its whitewashed cross glowing against the clear blue sky. Breathless, she reached the cab of the truck, and the driver slowed, rolled down his window. "Sir, you could take this to Aloma?" she asked, between gasps, "In Lethem?" Her outstretched palm held a folded piece of white paper, already tinged pink from her the sweat of her hand. "Yes, girl," he said smiling, "she'll have it by nighttime." She stood back as we pulled off, jouncing down the one-lane, unpaved highway for the next five-hour stretch of our journey.
The image of this girl returns to me now, ten years later, and I see her squinting against the harsh light, waving and waving. In the driver's hand, the faint outline of her childish handwriting is visible through the thin paper. I marvel at her faith in a stranger to deliver her message; then Aloma, I must imagine, pressing another precious note into another driver's palm. A circle of carefully inscribed words journeying back and forth, from hand to hand, across a silent plain.
May 3, 2006 10:43am
A Truly “Pro-Life” Ethic
by Heidi Huse, Martin, Tennessee
Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, we ourselves will not find peace.—Albert Schweitzer
I’m pro-life—not an easy admission for a liberal democrat academic to proclaim. Of course, being pro-life would seem to preclude me from being pro-choice; the vitriolic debate is waged in clear either/or terms. Nevertheless, what I refuse, in identifying myself as pro-life, is to define the parameters of my ethical stance in the narrow terms by which a pro-life ethic is typically constructed—almost exclusively in terms of the protection of unborn humans from abortion. While my pro-life worldview, deeply influenced by Christian ethics, includes valuing the right of an unborn fetus to develop unthreatened through birth, I wish to reappropriate the term from the anti-abortion movement and reframe the pro-life ethical standpoint in much broader terms. If “we” (whoever “we” might be) are going to seriously advocate a pro-life morality, then our lives should consistently demonstrate the fullest possible understanding of the term.
May 1, 2006 11:32am
A Possum Tale
by June Eastvold, Port Washington, Wisconsin
It was a summer evening. I was sitting in a comfortable chair in my friend’s sunroom, quietly reading poetry. My mind was totally absorbed in the poet’s images and I barely noticed that the sun was going down and the outdoor light was dimming. As I reached to switch on the lamp, I got a peculiar feeling. Someone was watching me. Startled, I turned to see a ghostly white possum boldly staring at me through the window. Up close and personal!