Previous Monadnock Essay Prize Winners

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The 2020 Monadnock Essay Collection Prize Winner


Patrick Mondaca served in Baghdad, Iraq as a Sergeant with the Connecticut Army National Guard’s 143rd Military Police Company in 2003. After being discharged, he returned to civilian policing until leaving to work as a field safety and security officer for a humanitarian organization in South Darfur, Sudan from September 2007 to September 2008.

A graduate of Central Connecticut State University, he also holds a Master of Science in Global Affairs from New York University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He won the Waterston Desert Writing Prize in 2018, the Monadnock Essay Collection Prize in 2020, and his writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Litro and Shooter Literary magazines and others. He lives in Clinton, Connecticut.

The first thing to notice about Adjustment Disorder: A collection of Maladjusted Essays is the energy and precision of the writing.  The second thing to notice is that, although these essays appear to be about a U.S. combat veteran re-constructing his civilian life, the book is about more—much more—than that. Each time the reader sees and finds herself in these honest and contemplative essays, or by the time we notice or acknowledge that the book is, in fact, about all of us in and beyond 21st-century America, we’re in too deep to stop turning that page for the next essay.

Judge Áine Greaney

Contest Finalists: 

Invisible Me: A Memoir in Essays by Cindy Skaggs of Falcon, CO

A Broken Russia Inside Me: Essays on Place by Anatoly Molotkov of Portland, OR



Áine Greaney is an Irish-born author who never published anything until she emigrated from Ireland to America, alone, at age 24. Since then (1986), she has published five books. Her shorter works have been published and broadcast in the U.S., Ireland, the U.K. and Canada in publications such as Creative Nonfiction, NPR/WBUR, The Boston Globe Magazine, Numero Cinq, Salon, The Drum, New Hibernia Review, Litro MagazineCyphers, Books Ireland and other outlets.

The 2019 Monadnock Essay Collection Prize Winner


Michael Palmer’s work has appeared in Bellingham Review, CutBank, Georgetown Review, The Collagist, Alligator JuniperWest Texas Literary Review, and numerous other publications. He received his PhD in English-Creative Writing from Texas Tech University. He won the Great Plains Emerging Writers Prize in 2015. He grew up in Utah and currently lives in Forest Park, Illinois.

I was struck from the first sentence by the crystalline narrative voice—sometimes uncanny, sometimes weird, but always precise, unflinching, and painfully self-aware—and the experimentation with form as a way to dig deeper and question ideas of religion, family, place, community, masculinity, death, and the self. These essays, and their narrator, wouldn’t shake from me after I read them. I wholeheartedly recommend Baptizing the Dead and Other Jobs.

Judge Anne Barngrover

Contest Finalists: 

Did You See the Sky by Rachel Jamison Webster of Evanston, IL

Divinations: Essays on Place by William Cordeiro of Flagstaff, AZ


Anne Barngrover’s second book of poetry, Brazen Creature, was recently published with University of Akron Press. Her poems have appeared in CrazyhorseEcotoneCopper NickelNorth American Review, and others, and her creative nonfiction can be found in River Teeth. She is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University, where she is on faculty in the low-residency MA program in Creative Writing. Anne lives in Tampa, Florida. Visit her online at

The 2017 Monadnock Essay Collection Prize Winner


Kirsti Anne Sandy teaches creative nonfiction, memoir, and narrative theory at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire, where her students inspire and motivate her every day. Her work has appeared in The BoilerUnder the Gum TreeNatural Bridge, and Split Lip, among other journals, and she was the recipient of the Northern New England Review’s 2017 Raven Prize for Creative Nonfiction. She lives on a hill overlooking the mountains of Vermont with her husband, daughter, and, at last count, twenty-six pets (her daughter counts each fish individually.) She started She Lived, and the Other Girls Died in 1994, when she was a student in Doug Hesse’s and David Foster Wallace’s creative nonfiction workshop. This is her first book.

She Lived, and the Other Girls Died: Essays, is a compelling coming-of-age memoir that opens in the blue-collar city of Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1974, when the six-year-old protagonist, shuffled among various caretakers, first hears the word “Watergate.” It chronicles her adventures, misadventures, shifting perspectives, and gradual loss of innocence during the tumultuous 1970s and ’80s.

Judge Andrew Merton

Contest Finalists:

Baptizing the Dead by Michael Palmer of Forest Park, IL

BLUR & Other Essays by Kerry Muir of Berkeley, CA

Over the River and Stabbed to Death: Essays by Randy Osborne of Atlanta, GA


Andrew Merton is a journalist, essayist, and poet. Publications in which his journalism and essays have appeared include Esquire, Ms. Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe, and the Green Mountain Review.  His book Enemies of Choice: The Right-To-Life Movement and Its Threat to Abortion, was published by Beacon Press in 1980. His poetry has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Rialto (U.K.), Comstock Review, Louisville Review, the Asheville Poetry Review, the American Journal of Nursing, and elsewhere. His first book of poetry, Evidence that We Are Descended from Chairs, with a foreword by Charles Simic (Accents Publishing, 2012) was named Outstanding Book of Poetry for 2013–2014 by the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. His second book of poetry, Lost and Found, was published by Accents Publishing in 2016. He is a professor emeritus of English at the University of New Hampshire.

The 2016 Monadnock Essay Collection Prize Winner


Neil Mathison is an essayist and short story writer who lives in Seattle, Washington, Friday Harbor, Washington, and Ketchum, Idaho. A US Naval Academy graduate, he has been a naval officer, a nuclearengineer, an expatriate businessman living in Hong Kong, a corporate vice president, and a stay-at-home-dad. His work has appeared in The Ontario Review, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Southern Humanities Review, North American Review, and elsewhere. The title essay of this collection, “Volcano: An A to Z,” was recognized as a notable essay in Best American Essays 2010. A second essay, “Wooden Boat,” was recognized as a notable essay in Best American Essays 2013. Mathison’s short story, “The Cannery,” won the 2013 Fiction Attic short story contest and was published in Modern Shorts: 18 Short Stories from Fiction Attic Press.

Contest Finalists:

Without Saints by Christopher Locke of Upper Jay, NY

Wordwalks by Chris Arthur of Fife, SCT

Honorable Mentions:

In the House of Magic and Sorrow by Mark Brazaitis of Morgantown, WV

A More Exceptionally Perfect America: Essays & Impertinent Thoughts by Michael Konik of Los Angeles, CA

Fingerprints of War by Sara Ohlin of Everett, WA

Yahrzeit Candles by Deborah Thompson of Fort Collins, CO

Areas of Fog by Will Dowd of Braintree, MA

Photo by Will Wrobel


Alice B Fogel is New Hampshire’s poet laureate. Her 2015 collection, Interval: Poems Based on Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” won the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature and the New Hampshire Literary Award in Poetry. Her previous book, Be That Empty, was a national poetry bestseller. She is also the author of the guide for readers and teachers, Strange Terrain, on how to appreciate poetry without necessarily “getting” it. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and other awards, her poems have been anthologized in Best American Poetry, Poet’s Choice, and elsewhere, and have been nominated nine times for the Pushcart Prize. She works one-on-one with learning disabled students at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont, and lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.