2020 Denny C. Plattner Awards

2020 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 piece of handsome ceramics designed and manufactured by Berea College Crafts.

Judged by Karen Salyer McElmurray, author of Wanting Radiance
Winner: Vanessa Van Besien, “Milk”

Honorable Mention: Jayne Moore Waldrop, “For What It’s Worth

McElmurray on Van Besien’s story: “Milk” is made of rust and bruised skin, of hurt and memory. Its protagonist, a damaged girl named Bean, is set down hard in the midst of the almost forgotten ways that might, just might, offer her a tenuous hope. 

Judged by Shawna Kay Rodenberg, author of Kin: A Memoir
Winner: Kathleen Driskell, “Keats in Your Time of Pandemic
Honorable Mention: Denise Giardina, “Socks & Junior”

Rodenberg on Driskell’s essay: Reading Kathleen Driskell’s “Keats in Your Time of Pandemic” is like wandering the rooms of an expansive heirloom dollhouseeach door leads to another sumptuously detailed and surprising tableau, each tableau points to yet another hidden door. Deeply intimate but sublimely devoid of egotism, Driskell grapples here with the encroaching proximity of death and unsettling interiority characteristic of quarantine for both the collective and the individual. Her extraordinary essay yanks the proverbial dusty curtains from their rods, illuminating all the dark rooms of the past year. 

Judged by Jeremy Paden, author of World as Sacred Burning Heart
Winner: L. Renée, “Gone
Honorable Mention: Benjamin Cutler, “The River”

Paden on L. Renée’s poem: “Gone” by L. Renée finds a way merge narrative poetry with a lyric intensity that both focuses on tragic particulars, like the death of sister Velma, or her stillborn twin, and pulls back to offer gnomic summations on life. “We can’t sing with certainty about our men,” L. Renée writes near the end. And no, “there is no hymn,” nor form to contain all the “living losses” suffered, but L. Renée finds a way to work long, heavy lines into couplets where flashes of lyrical grief burn brightly even as they are tucked away in long lines. Form works against expectation to push into a deeper meaning that gives expression to the grief.

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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