The Fifth Annual Normal Prize Winners

Winners and Finalists Announced for the 2014 Normal Prize in Nonfiction, Fiction, and Poetry


Nonfiction Winner: “Learning to Breathe,” by Jon Kerstetter

“The subject matter of "Learning to Breathe" is what initially pulls us with its heat, but what's more impressive about the essay is the way it circles back on itself and its terrible subject, its irresolvable difficulty, each time opening up to bring something else into its orbit: triage, breathing, how to consider the enemy, faith, responsibility, and focus. Yet at the center of all this gravity is the pair, binary stars, each turning around the other: am I a soldier-doctor or a doctor-soldier and how do I reconcile and negotiate the two? Read the essay.” – Ander Monson, Nonfiction Judge


Nonfiction Finalists:

“Interrogating Old Muskego,” by Jennifer Bowen Hicks

“Broken Sword,” by Matthew Gallant


Fiction Winner: “Our Mom and Pop Opium Den,” by John Jodzio

This was a really strong batch of finalists and though it was hard to choose, "Our Mom and Pop Opium Den," really stood out. The writing is so confident and clean and the story is witty, strange, and a little sad—a lovely combination. – Roxane Gay, Fiction Judge


Fiction Finalists:

“Storm Windows,” by Charles Haverty

“A Proper Bargain,” by Debka Colson

Poetry Winner: "Perennials," by Shelley Wong

Exquisitely crafted, underscored by an aching musicality, "Perennials" reminds us that regret and longing are elemental forces. Divided by oceans and silence from a beloved, the speaker's memory glitters with blossoms, arias, and fish sauce. In other words, with temporary pleasures, which remind us of the fleeting nature of all human relationships. This is a moving and startling poem.  – Eduardo Corral, Poetry Judge


Poetry Finalists:

"Naubade," by Sam Sax

"Day of the Dead," by Jennifer Givhan