The second time was the charm for East Burke, Vermont writer S.J. Cahill who won the 2019 Vermont Writers’ Prize. “I’m thrilled to win this award and to win it for this story,” Cahill said. The Vermont Writers’ Prize is awarded annually by Green Mountain Power and Vermont Magazine, and Cahill’s short story “Family Ground” is published in the March/April issue of Vermont Magazine. Cahill was a finalist for the Prize in 2014.
His story features a man trying to return home to his Northeast Kingdom community after fleeing to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft. Cahill says it stems from his own experience. “As a military veteran who didn’t serve in Vietnam, I was intrigued with the moral dilemma. Most people have forgiven those who refused to go but there are some who never will,” Cahill said.
The Vermont Writers’ Prize was created to honor the literary legacy of the late Ralph Nading Hill Jr., a Vermont historian and writer and long-time member of Green Mountain Power’s Board of Directors. It is considered by Vermont writers to be one of the state’s premier literary prizes.
The main topic for entries is Vermont – its people, places, values or history – and entries are not limited to short stories. You can enter an essay or a poem. The three 2019 finalists are also published in the March/April issue of Vermont Magazine, “The Hot Spot,” a short story by Peter Cammann of Shelburne, “Lunar,” a poem by Lisa Buckton of South Burlington, and the poem “Poulin’s Cows,” by Carol Henrikson of Washington.
“Cahill’s ‘Family Ground’ is a captivating story,” said Phil Jordan, editor of Vermont Magazine. “He writes with clarity that draws out the emotion in this personal story while Vermont remains a central feature, which is a wonderful tradition for winners of this Prize.”
The selection was made by an independent panel of judges: Phil Jordan, editor of Vermont Magazine; Tony Marro, retired executive editor of Newsday; Alison Freeland, a 1994 winner of the Ralph Nading Hill, Jr. award (predecessor of Vermont Writers’ Prize); Suzanne Loring, a writer at The Stern Center for Language and Learning and committee member of the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award; Marisa Crumb, Executive Editor of Vermont Magazine, Brian Otley, Green Mountain Power COO; and Steve Terry, retired Green Mountain Power senior executive.
The growing number of poems entered over the last few years convinced contest organizers to establish a new, separate Vermont Writers’ Prize for Poetry. “The interest in poetry is growing. We see it in the number of poems submitted and the quality of the writing is tremendous. We hope this new award specifically for poetry will both celebrate that and encourage more Vermonters to write and submit their poems,” GMP’s Brian Otley said.
Next year, there will be $1,250 Prizes for both Prose and Poetry. Entries for the 2020 Vermont Writers’ Prizes are now being accepted.
Entries must be unpublished and less than 1,500 words long. Writers have to live in Vermont and may submit only one entry. Employees of Vermont Magazine or Green Mountain Power and previous winners are ineligible. The deadline to enter is November 1.