Question: What do an airplane crash, a Nez Perce mound, a Nepali leopard, an insectivorous bat, and terrestrial ecological food webs have in common?
Answer: each one forms the basis of a story that different sets of literary editors chose to represent their best published works (for a given year) by nominating the essay for a Pushcart.
This Winter I received my fifth Pushcart Prize nomination for creative nonfiction.
Pushcart Prizes celebrate the finest poetry and prose from small, independent literary magazines and presses. They are the highest honor a creative nonfiction writer can attain for a single published essay.
My journey to writing and publishing began eleven years ago, in New England. On the recommendation of Cindy Riede, a friend I met on Craigslist’s Women-Seeking-Women, I enrolled in my very first creative nonfiction workshop at GrubStreet, a vibrant neighborhood writing center on Boylston Street in Boston.
Although Cindy – an amazing writer – and I never hit it off romantically, we became close friends, celebrating each other’s writing progress until she died of glioblastoma days before I arrived for a visit. I credit her for jump-starting my professional writing career, and setting a high bar for the caliber of writing I hope to attain.
In writing this blog, I searched for traces of Cindy online, and I found her “About” page – still alive in the Digital Land, still an inspiration. On it she wrote:
I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity and the creative process. I am ever curious about this process that can make something where there was nothing, that can imbue us with joy and energy and lightness, that can make the seemingly impossible, possible. It’s always there for us, if we are open and receptive to engaging with it.
In today’s world, not enough of us are sitting down to engage with the printed page. I don’t know what to do about this, other than to keep writing, trying my absolute best to entice people to engage with my stories.
If you are so moved, I encourage you – if you haven’t done so already – to check out the five works that were nominated. The shortest and funniest one is “Of Fur Not Fowl,” a humorous blow-by-blow recounting of a birdwatching hike gone awry. The most dramatic read is “Class Divisions,” a staggered essay interweaving scientific musings with the aftermath of a plane crash where the spouse survived, but the marriage didn’t.
The most searingly brief read is the “A Heart. A Monster.” essay where I fold vignettes from an ethnographic safari across the Mid/West into a Nez Perce tale of Coyote. “Until We Have Loved,” tells of my deep fascination with a tiny brown bat; and “All Our Relations,” casts the net further, contemplating my sober, scientific appreciation of a large cast of backyard pollinators and predators.
I’ve spent one quarter of my life living and writing these stories.
I hope they can inspire yours.
The citations list (with weblinks) of my five Pushcart Prize-nominated essays:
Pfeiffer, J. 2019. “Class Divisions.” Pages 16-28, inaugural print issue of Inverted Syntax, January 2019. (Nominated for a Pushcart Prize.)
Pfeiffer, J. 2018. “A Heart. A Monster.” Online and in the Fall 2018 print issue of Silver Needle Press. (Nominated for a Pushcart Prize; First weekly Creative Nonfiction Contest winner for the journal.)
Pfeiffer, J. 2018. “Of Fur Not Fowl (Or How Not to Catch a Tiger).” The Citron Review Fall 2018. (Nominated for a Pushcart Prize.)
Pfeiffer, J. 2015. “Until We Have Loved.” Finalist in national essay contest. Hippocampus Magazine, November Issue. (Nominated for a Pushcart Prize; republished in two separate anthologies).
Pfeiffer, J. 2014. “All Our Relations.” Bellevue Literary Review special issue “Our Fragile Environment,” 14(2): 43-50 (Nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the John Burroughs Nature Essay Award.)