Favorite Creative Nonfiction: 4th Quarter 2021

A random pic of a bromeliad in my garden 12/16/21

As I was putting this post together it dawned on me that these six pieces are all family stories. Each is poignant, personal, and an example of heart stopping story-telling. Barlow Adams allows us a look into families of circumstance. One made up of a circle of sick kids including himself, and a second created from his work with sick kids and their parents. It is an extraordinary story. Dutch Simmons is incarcerated in solitary confinement. He lets us into his thoughts about his mother, his young son, and the why of his confinement in solitary. It’s a powerful piece of writing you won’t soon forget. D.W. McKinney penned a gorgeous memoir piece centered on the meaning of flowers through her life. It’s the perfect piece to end this collection.

As we look toward Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ōmisoka, and other sacred celebrations, my wish for you is time with your family – whether by blood or choice – and May your holidays be exactly as you dream.

“Tell Me if I Stop” by Barlow Adams in Reservoir Road Lit

Sophia’s father snores heavily on the couch outside her room, content in the knowledge that, on this night at least, we are happy, regular children. There are six of us. We take turns sleeping in pairs.

“All a Wash” by Hannah Grieco in Monologging

Twenty years is a long time to love someone, you think, grateful and tired at the same time. Twenty years seemed like a long time to even be alive, once. Back when you wondered if anyone would ever love you, just a little, if anyone would ever stick around…

“Florida Room” by Wilson Koewing in Cypress Press

As the years passed, I sat with him in his Florida room. On Sundays we watched Dan Marino. Believing the Dolphins could win. Me on the patio couch, him in his chair with a beer and The Wall Street Journal. My dad at the table in the corner, cracking wise.

“Following Magellan” by Jamie Etheridge in Anti-Heroin Chic

there just ahead was a lighthouse—that famous Gulf Coast, Biloxi lighthouse—and it stood sentry in the middle of the road standing its ground through hurricanes and depressions and civil war and serving as a beacon guiding us home-not-home but somewhere familiar, a place where people knew our real name

“Solitary” by Dutch Simmons in Bending Genres

How do I tell my son I stood by and watched? Pretended I didn’t see it, pillow pulled tightly over my ears to muffle the screams? I can still set an example from here. I can be a role model. I’ve been replaced by the Green Power Ranger according to letters from home. I can live with that for now. There’s still time. The calendar tells me so.


Delighting in God’s green earth began when my grandfather sang hymnals as he guided me through the paradise he had planted on a hillside in southern California. Each visit cultivated a love for the soil, for the petals of African violets, and for the open faces of luminous sunflowers in my heart.

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