What’s the Story #51

"It is my fervent hope that this issue of CNF will help bring at least some small measure of clarity and urgency to our global 'failure to communicate' about the challenges facing us"

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” You probably recognize the quotation—whether from the classic movie Cool Hand Luke, where it originated, or from any number of subsequent cameos in pop culture, from Guns N’ Roses songs to television shows.

What we’ve got here in this issue, I’m very pleased to report, is exactly the opposite of a failure to communicate. Instead, this collection of eight (nine, if you include the “Pushing the Boundaries” selection, as you should) original, dramatic essays very clearly communicates the challenges related to the complicated and vital issue of sustainability.

We selected these powerful essays from nearly 450 submitted to us for this “Human Face of Sustainability” issue. The incomparably smart and talented Donna Seaman, in her role as guest editor for this issue, read every single submission and narrowed the pile down to a small group of finalists, which we sent to a team of reviewers at Arizona State University’s Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, which generously provided a $10,000 prize for the essay that best represented the theme.

I sat in on the panel of sustainability experts from ASU who ultimately chose the winner, and I can tell you that the discussion and debate went on for quite a while. And then, something amazing happened: the panel found all of the essays they read to be so impressive that they voted to award $1,000 to each of the finalists in appreciation for their fine writing and the urgency and importance of their messages. I have served on many similar panels, and I have to tell you, this has never happened to me before. I know the writers will join me in thanking the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives for their remarkable generosity.

The winner of the $10,000 grand prize is Mary Heather Noble, whose “Acts of Courage” (page [TK]) is an impassioned and articulate discussion of childhood cancer, environmental toxins, and heroism. Noble will give a reading and receive her prize at the Walton Sustainability Solutions Festival in Tempe, Arizona, this month.

This is the third time Creative Nonfiction has partnered with organizations such as the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives to offer such a significant award. In this case, we are especially pleased to help support a writer whose work is so passionate, informative, dramatic, and reflective about one of the most compelling and vital issues confronting our country and our world. And it is my fervent hope that this issue of CNF will have an impact on readers and help bring at least some small measure of clarity and urgency to our global “failure to communicate” about the challenges facing us.

Adding to the impact of this issue is the stunning artwork of Marcy Miranda Janes, also funded by the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. You’ll want to spend some time with her intricate papercuts; every time I look at them, I find new details to marvel at.

I’m tremendously proud of this issue, and I hope you enjoy it. It seems appropriate to paraphrase another famous movie quotation, this one from Dirty Harry, as a send-off as you begin to read and respond to this issue: Go ahead—make your day!

About the Author

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Lee Gutkind

Lee Gutkind is the author and editor of more than thirty books, including You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction–from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between, Almost Human: Making Robots Think, The Best Seat in Baseball: But You Have to Stand, Forever Fat: Essays by the Godfather, and the award-winning, Many Sleepless Nights: The World of Organ Transplantation.

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