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Steve Mitchell Named Winner of the Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize

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Steve Mitchell of Greensboro, NC, is the winner of the 2021 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize for “Ultimate Trip.” Mitchell will receive $400, and his essay will be published in the North Carolina Literary Review’s 2022 print issue. 

Reporting his selection for the 2021 Albright Prize, final judge Michael Parker remarks, “The second paragraph of ‘Ultimate Trip’ begins with the narrator’s declaration of love for ‘anything having to do with space, science fiction, and astronauts…’ Its real subject is the interior life, and the development of consciousness that brings us both meaning and unrivaled pleasure. ‘I’m outside myself,’ the narrator remembers after seeing Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. ‘I’ve lost hold of myself for the first time, realizing there is a self to lose hold of.’ Space, consciousness, memory, time, mystery, wonder, joy, art, faith, the body, the self—all these subjects are not only touched upon but connected in 12 pages of careful, wondrous sentences. That the essay also manages to honor, with grace, all that it cannot communicate is what convinced me of the possibilities of looking inward and upward at once.” 

Steve Mitchell is the author of the novel Cloud Diary (C&R Press, 2018) and the short story collection The Naming of Ghosts (Press 53, 2012). One of the stories in this collection was published in NCLR in 2010. He is a winner of the Curt Johnson Prose Prize and the Lorian Hemingway International Short Story Prize. Mitchell is a co-owner of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro. 

Parker selected Emily Carter’s “Sandspurs and Briars” for second place, describing it as “vignettes assembled . . . from the wispiest of memory or detail . . . developed, without evident exertion, and with great economy, into nuanced observations about family, time, memory, landscape and language. . . . In choosing and distributing the details of her past, courting nostalgia but avoiding sentimentality, she has brought the world, lively and flawed, to us.” Parker gave honorable mention to Eve Odom’s “Semi Shallow,” remarking that the essay’s humor “comes from its honesty and its gentle ribbing of our most earnest altruistic impulses. It made me laugh. It made me want to watch a truck stop itself from careening down a mountain by pulling into a runaway sand ramp. . . . It explores our impulses to be ‘good people’ with intelligence and the slightest edge of irony. And it ends in an unexpectedly lovely place.” 

Carter is a lifelong North Carolinian: she grew up in the Sandhills, went to Appalachian State University, and currently lives in Beaufort with her husband. She is a board member of The Writers’ Exchange, and a contributor to Haunted Waters Press. She will receive $200 for second place. Odom lives in Asheville with her husband and son. She received her MA degree from UNC Greensboro. She will receive $150 for honorable mention. Both pieces will be published in NCLR Online issues, and this will be Odom’s first publication. 

Michael Parker is the author of 11 books of fiction. A North Carolina native, he taught for nearly thirty years in the MFA Writing Program at UNC Greensboro. Parker’s stories have been anthologized in the Pushcart and New Stories from the South anthologies, and he is a three-time winner of the O. Henry Award for short fiction. His numerous honors also include, most recently, the 2020 Thomas Wolfe Prize from UNC Chapel Hill. He is a recipient of the R. Hunt Parker Memorial Award for significant contributions to North Carolina Literature, given by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association. NCLR funding from this organization provides honoraria for Albright Prize honorees, judges, and finalists selected for publication. 

Members of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association receive NCLR as part of their membership. Readers may also subscribe via Duke University Press Journals Services. A two-year subscription to NCLR will include the 30th issue, forthcoming this summer, and the 2022 issue, both featuring Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize winners. Find subscription information here.


Other 2021 Finalists

“Cadence of Light” by Spaine Stephens, Greenville, NC   
“Clay Peas” by Denise Hart, Arlington, VA (essay NC-based)    
“Ice Chest” by Jody Rae, Boulder, CO (formerly a resident of Wilmington, NC)
“Love – and Mushrooms and Zooms – In the Ruins” by Caroline Rash, Mount Ephraim, NJ (from NC)
“Native” by Meredith McCarroll, Portland, ME (born and raised in Waynesville, NC)
“Taking Leave” by Barbara Bennett, Chapel Hill, NC
“To Walk on Burning Embers” by Sarah Jones, Wilmington, NC
“Walking the Walk” by Adrienne Hollifield, Black Mountain, NC