Hunger Mountain is pleased to offer this collection of Creative Nonfiction Essays.

The Relative Nature of Things

An Essay

by Lee Reilly

Winner of the 2013 Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Prize

The last cogent, in-person conversation I had with my father was about burying my mother. He was hanging out of a second story window and I was sneaking away in a mushroom dawn, trying to make a 7 a.m. flight.

“Wait!” he said. “I want to say something.” He paused to catch an elusive breath. “I realize that if you weren’t there to do it for us, we’d all still be standing in the bay.” Read more.

A Tribute to James Baldwin—December 2012

 A Letter to James Baldwin on the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of His Passing

An Essay
by Kim Dana Kupperman
It’s a typical mid-October morning in the Northeast: a grizzle-powder sky whose cloud cover is rent by brief bursts of sun that seem almost cliché in their force and divinity. I am traveling on Amtrak, from south-central Pennsylvania to New York City, rereading the two essays collected in The Fire Next Time, the second of which was first published fifty years ago in November 1962. You were thirty-eight and I had just turned three…

Baldwin in Omaha

An Essay
by Robert Vivian
When I first read the work of James Baldwin, I was house-sitting for a widow in Omaha, Nebraska as an undergraduate as she was trying to start a new life by attending law school at the state university in Lincoln at the age of 62. I was also responsible for her beloved yellow lab Dudley while she was away, so it was just me and Dudley in a spacious suburban house with a wooded creek in the back that Dudley liked to romp down into…

Another Country: James Baldwin at ‘Home’ (and) Abroad

An essay
by Sion Dayson
…I am an American writer of color living in Paris, as Baldwin was in his day. Revisiting Baldwin’s work was an exciting way to explore more deeply questions of home, identity, and the effect a different culture has on my own work, too…

James Baldwin, Flannery O’Connor, and the Ethics of Anguish

An essay
by Carole K. Harris
In July 1957, after having lived nine years in Paris to escape an intolerable American racial climate, James Baldwin returned to the United States. He had just written “Faulkner and Desegregation” in the winter of 1956 while still in Paris, and his biographer James Campbell believes that this essay marked a turning point in his commitment to civil rights and put him on a path of activism…

James Baldwin: A Conversational Review

A Sideways Review
by Marita Golden, Baron Wormser, and Liz Blood
Edited with an Introduction by John Proctor
I just finished Nobody Knows My Name in October, after reading Notes of a Native Son in September. I found it startling how much Baldwin refined and deepened and shaped his own perspective over the seven years between the respective collections’ publication. It seems like he was perhaps the perfect person to write from the inside about the most tumultuous, transformative period of American history since the Civil War, as his voice as a writer is absolutely fearless in confronting, yes, the issues of his time, but more importantly himself as a writer…

Raw Milk

An Essay
by Judith Hertog

My greatest worry is that Beth, the organic farmer farther down the road from our house, will find me out. When I come home from Price Chopper I always drive through the East side of town to avoid passing her farm. I’m afraid she’ll be standing outside, wave me down for a chat, and then recognize the scent of plastic and preservatives wafting from my shopping bags…


An Essay
by Nancy Lord

I rested my hand on a sun-warmed rock toe. This was no ordinary fossil, no mere leaf or shell print in rock; a dinosaur had walked here. To hold that rock was not quite like grabbing a dinosaur by the toe, but the sensation was ticklishly related. I was not in a museum or a roped-off tourist attraction, and I was not looking at a photograph; here was the solid, physical manifestation of a very large near-mythic animal that had once—so very long ago—not only lived, but lived here…

Take It Personally

from Writer, Inc.
by Natalie Serber
Even now, writing these words, I am afraid. This essay is another level of exposure. The story of course has a life of its own, with readers bringing their unique experience to the page, but, with the story, I can still hide behind the word fiction.

On Revision: Pulling Up Widows

A Craft Short
by Pam Houston
One of my primary goals in writing Contents May Have Shifted was to make a book in which each of my sentences worked harder than they ever had before…. I still believe the poets are the real wizards, all that humanness crammed into just a few perfect lines.

Corn Maze

A Craft Essay
by Pam Houston
When it was decided (When was that again, and by whom?) that we were all supposed to choose between fiction and nonfiction, what was not taken into account was that for some of us truth can never be an absolute, that there can (at best) be only less true and more true and sometimes those two collapse inside each other….

South Omaha From the F Street Exit, JFK Freeway

An Essay
by Dani Bojanski
Winner of the Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Prize
Visit with Dani Bojanski

My parent’s house is a big yellow shoebox with a green-shingled roof and gable scrolls that my mother ordered from a catalogue. The picket fence that lines the yard is warped and worm-eaten and swallowed here and there by bean vines, morning glories, moonflowers. There’s a cowbell hanging from the front gate, jingle bells hanging on the back. There’s a bear standing in the fountain at the side of the house, his feet glued to bricks so that he’s harder to steal….


An Essay
by Daisy Hernandez
Runner-up in the Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Prize
Visit with Daisy Hernandez

Newsrooms are set up like mazes.

It is an endless series of desks and television screens and everywhere you turn is another white man. You are meant to be the intern who gets lost and can’t find the elevators, or at least I am. Looking out across the third floor, I see only receding hairlines, white foreheads and bushy eyebrows….

I Got So Much Love, I Don’t Know Where to Put it

An Essay
by David LeGault
Runner-up in the Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Prize

My name is written on a bathroom wall at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. I put it there. The words appear in blue highlighter (earlier attempts with a ballpoint pen were unsuccessful, the numbers and images wouldn’t take to the surface, not to mention the thinness of the marking, the lack of visibility). The image is the focal point of the otherwise unmarked wall—this stain, this unauthorized addition, commanding attention among the Muzak piped in through the speakers in the ceiling, the immaculate tile and faux-gold fixtures.

What You Can Tell from My Childhood Heroes: Feminism and Other Things

An Essay
Winner of the Hunger Mountain Prize for Young Writers in Creative Nonfiction
by Sophie Haighney

I liked the way eyeliner smelled, waxy and synthetic and a little bit like wood. It reminded me of my mother. There had been no occasion for me to wear makeup throughout my younger years, so I associated make-up only with her as she prepared for parties, evening light splattering her mirror like white fire. I used to think it was the light that tasted like violets, but it must have been her perfume.

Children of Paradise

An Essay
by Sascha Feinstein
My parents, both abstract expressionists, never took me to kid movies. In general, they treated me more like a friend. I saw my first Disney film overseas, at the age of twenty-nine, and by accident. (The theater in Singapore hadn’t changed the marquee; I thought I had purchased tickets for My Cousin Vinny and instead saw Aladdin. Talk about a whole new world!) (read more)

I Craft, Therefore I Am:
Creating Persona through Syntax and Style

A Craft Essay
by Erika Anderson
Visit with Erika Anderson
If you speak to the reader in long, meandering or breathless sentences, you translate differently from a persona who speaks in short, staccato bursts. And of course our personas are far from static, but we aim for consistency in tone. In general, how you reveal yourself, is, well, revealing.

On Essays: How Structure Creates Movement

A Craft Short
by Allison Vrbova
Unlike most modern poets, however, an essayist must generally keep her reader engaged for pages at a time. How does she do it? Without a strong narrative arc, what carries the reader through the piece?

What More Can a Body Do?

An Essay
by Charisse Coleman
Visit with Charisse Coleman

The man has just been told that the tumor in his lung has continued to grow throughout the month he received chemotherapy. Turning away from the window to return to his seat, his eyes find yours, and now it is as if you were peering into a kaleidoscope of his emotions, a clacking tumble of bright, jewel-colored shards: fear, anguish, pleading, disbelief, outrage.

Accidental Pugilism

An Essay
by Richard Farrell
Visit with Richard Farrell

My first diagnosed seizure occurred in the cockpit of a Navy T-34C Mentor, on a formation flight over Pensacola, Florida. I was twenty-three. Another pilot flew the ‘lead’ aircraft that day, and I was the ‘wingman…’