2016 Denny C. Plattner Awards

We are proud to announce the winners of the annual Denny C. Plattner Awards, which were established in 1995 by Kenneth and Elissa Plattner to honor their late son and his love of writing. The awards are given to the finest pieces of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry that appeared in Appalachian Heritage during the previous year. Winners receive a $200 prize, and both winners and honorable mentions are awarded a handsome cherry wooden book rack designed and manufactured by Berea College Crafts.

Judged by Amanda Runyon, editor of The Pikeville Review
Winner: Chelyen Davis, “Junebug”
Honorable Mention: Elaine Fowler Palencia, “Dark Stars”

Runyon on the winning story: “Junebug” is a heart wrenching and beautiful story about the delicacies and complexities of grief. Though the story is narrated by the mother, the reader is drawn by eight year old June and her morbid obsession with “violent death” that helps her cope with the loss of her father. June reminds us of the facts and inevitability of death while the lyrical language of her mother pulls us along on their emotional journey of healing. 

Judged by Karen Salyer McElmurray, author of Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey
Winner: Amelia Fowler, “Geographies of Pluto”
Honorable Mention: Tessa McCoy, “A Queen in My Blue Jeans”

McElmurray on the winning essay: This piece explores the distance between mothers and fathers and children, between wounds and memory, and between the souls of the dead and the land of the living. Fowler chooses a central metaphor, Pluto–the small, ninth planet past Neptune–to travel the distance between what we can never know and what we must know about an often dark world here so beautifully illuminated.

Judged by Anne Shelby, author of Appalachian Studies and The Adventures of Molly Whoopie
Winner: Rebecca Gayle Howell, “Audre Lorde was a Secret Hillbilly: A liturgy for the 21st Century”
Honorable Mention: Ron Houchin, “Gospel River”

Shelby on the winning poem: This poem attempts a great deal. And accomplishes it. In the form and rhythms of traditional calls to prayer and worship, this 21st century liturgy calls us to nothing less than the reclamation of our humanity, lost in the American corporatocracy. This new liturgy quotes verses and teachings, not from the Christian Bible, but from black feminist lesbian poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde. And it reminds of Appalachians’ courageous and sometimes bloody battles against corporate rule, at Blair Mountain in West Virginia and on strip mine sites in Eastern Kentucky (“contemporary ancestors, my ass”). Written before the 2016 election, Howell’s words–and Lorde’s–sound even more urgent and necessary now: “Poetry is not a luxury.” “Feel something.” “Say something.” “Our silence will not protect us.” But like all good poems, this one does what it says. It is what it means. So you should just read it. Now would be good.

Jason Kyle Howard is the author of A Few Honest Words and co-author of Something's Rising, both works of literary journalism. His essays, features, and commentary have appeared in the New York Times, Oxford American, Salon, The Millions, The Nation, Sojourners, and on C-SPAN's Book TV and NPR. Howard is editor of Appalachian Review, a literary quarterly based at Berea College, where he teaches and directs the creative writing program. He serves on the graduate faculty of the Spalding University School of Creative and Professional Writing, and holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and degrees from The George Washington University and the University of Kentucky.

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