First Place will receive $100.

First Place and two honorable mentions will be published in our online journal.

Submissions open 12/01/17 and close 01/15/18.

  • You must include a cover letter stating the number of pages and word count. Include a 100 word (max) bio at the bottom of your cover letter.
  • Writers may submit one piece no longer than 3,000 words.
  • Please double space and number pages. 
  • DO NOT INCLUDE your name or any personal information in the body of your submission. 
  • Previously published works will not be considered. (This includes work published on a blog.)
  • We do accept simultaneous submissions. Please notify LUMINA via Submittable immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere.
  • If you order an issue of LUMINA with your submission, please supply your mailing address in your cover letter so that we can send you the issue without delay. 

Past Contest Winners

LUMINA Nonfiction Contest Winners (clockwise from left): E.G. Cunningham, Nadia Owusu, and Alysia Sawchyn.

LUMINA Nonfiction Contest Winners (clockwise from left): E.G. Cunningham, Nadia Owusu, and Alysia Sawchyn.

LUMINA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 LUMINA Nonfiction Contest, judged by Leslie Jamison. LUMINA’s annual literary contest is open to all writers, and rotates each year between nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Recent contest judges include Roxane Gay, Cheryl Strayed, Patricia Lockwood, and Vivian Gornick. For the first time this year, the contest echoes our print journal’s theme: Borders & Boundaries.

Our staff and readers read 198 submissions and selected six finalists. These finalists were reviewed blind by our judge, Leslie Jamison, who chose the three winners. With much gratitude to all the writers who submitted work, we are pleased to announce and congratulate the following contest winners and finalists:

First Place: “The Exedra” by E.G. Cunningham
Second Place: “Aftershocks” by Nadia Owusu
Third Place: “Rice Grain Girl” by Alysia Sawchyn

“Up A Steep and Very Narrow Stairway” by Emma Bolden
“Imiryango” by Gabrielle Spear
“The Language  of What Can and Cannot Be Measured” by Kristina Moriconi

First place will be awarded a cash prize of $750 and publication in LUMINA, Vol. XVI: Borders and Boundaries; second place will be awarded publication in LUMINA, Vol. XVI: Borders and Boundaries; and third place will be awarded publication in LUMINA Online, Vol. 7. The print journal is expected in early 2017 and online will be published November 2016. 


Our judge this year, Leslie Jamison, is the author of The Empathy Exams, a New York Times bestselling essay collection, and a novel, The Gin Closet, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times First Fiction Award. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, Oxford American, A Public Space, Boston Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Believer, and the New York Times, where she is a regular columnist for the Sunday Book Review. She lives in Brooklyn and is an assistant professor at Columbia University. Read more about her at LeslieJamison.com

The Exedra is charged by the live-wire electricity of unspoken feeling, and conjured in deft strokes of palpable and palpitant sensation…It’s an essay about borders both cultural and personal; about landscapes vast and particular—the territory of a nation and the peculiar, mysterious territory of the psyche—about how we often aren’t fully legible to one another.
— Leslie Jamison (on "The Exedra")

E.G. Cunningham is the author of the chapbook Apologetics (Finishing Line Press 2016) and the poetry collection Ex Domestica (C&R Press 2017). Her work has appeared in The Nation, Poetry London, 3:AM Magazine, The Poetry Review, Hobart, and other journals. She earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Nadia Owusu is a Brooklyn-based writer and urban planner. She grew up in Rome, Addis Ababa, Kampala, Dar-es-Salaam, Kumasi, and London. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Catapult, Assignment, The Cossack Review, and The Huffington Post. She is currently at work on a memoir about coming of age as a citizen of the world. She studies creative nonfiction in the MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University.

Alysia Sawchyn currently lives in Tampa, Florida. Her writing has appeared in Indiana ReviewBurrow Press Review, and elsewhere, and her nonfiction recently won Cutbank's 2016 Big Sky Small Prose Flash Contest. She is a nonfiction editor for Sweet: A Literary Confection and writes the monthly column "Baking is Cheaper Than Therapy" at Barrelhouse. She can be found on Twitter @happiestwerther