2016 Winner and Finalists

2016 Winner: Tara Fitzgerald

Tara FitzGerald's winning submission, "No Water of Their Own," focused on the desertification of Central Asia's Aral Sea. Her project addresses what happens when a sea becomes a desert, and when a sea people, therefore, become desert people. FitzGerald also plans to explore what will happen to the desert formed on the desiccated sea bed if the sea does come back.  She holds a BA in English Language and Literature from Oxford University in the UK. Fitzgerald's nonfiction writing has appeared in Guernica, Vela and the Common, among others. She has completed residencies at Art Farm and the Kimmel Nelson Harding Center for the arts. Fitzgerald was based in Mexico City for six years as a freelance report, writing for publications including Monocle, Wallpaper, Esquire Latin America. Food and Wine and Departures Magazine. Prior to her work in Mexico, she was a staff writer for Reuters news agency, based in the United Kingdom, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Russia.

Finalist Kenneth Garcia's submission, "The House of Radiant Colors: A Memoir," one chapter of a larger memoir, described his experience working for a mining exploration company in northeastern Nevada during his late teens, where he worked alongside a geologist who sees no beauty in the natural world. (Note: This essay was first published in Hunger Mountain, Spring 2015.) For the geologist, the land is worthless apart from the precious metals that can be extracted from it. And yet, he knows the deep geological history of the place. Which leads Garcia to ask, how could someone who knew the deep history of this land not see beauty in it? Garcia is the Associate Director, Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, where he has been a faculty-administrator for 19 years. He received his PhD in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 2008. His academic writings include a book which won an award for "Best Book Published in Theology in 2012," and scholarly essays in The Journal of Academic Freedom, Theological Studies and Horizons. More recently, Garcia has turned to literary nonfiction and has been published in The Gettysburg Review, The Southwest Review, St. Katherine Review and Hunger Mountain.

Finalist Kimberly Meyer's submission, "Sewage Pilgrimage," is an account of her journey as she retraced the pilgrimage of a Dominican priest, Felix Fabri, who had traveled to the Holy Land and Mount Sinai in 1483. For almost two months, Meyer followed the priest's path, eventually crossing from Israel into the wilderness of the Sinai Desert. Meyer discovered that 12 million gallons of raw sewage a day pour out of Jerusalem into the Kidron River that traverses both Israel and the Palestinian Territories, making this cultural and spiritual treasure a wasteland, held hostage to the political impasse between its leaders. Meyer completed her PhD in 2008, and began teaching in a Great Books program at the Honors College at the University of Houston. Funded by a Houston Arts Alliance Established Artist Grant, she retraced Fabri’s path with her eldest daughter the summer after the Arab Spring. Those intertwined pilgrimages—his and ours—became the basis for The Book of Wanderings, written in part during a month-long Full Residency Fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center, and published in 2015 by Little, Brown.