Last fall, Mike Savage with the Savage Press set out to honor his niece Kelly Culhane, a 41-year-old Minnesota mom who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2010. She left behind two young children and her husband.
So to honor her, Savage announced the Kelly Culhane Writing Prize. The topic: "Upon Arrival of Illness – Coming to Terms with The Dark Companion."
Writers had a chance to win a grand prize 10-day writing retreat at the Burren Cottage in County Clare, Ireland (lodging and round trip airfare to Shannon provided), a first place prize of a Kindle Reader and a two-hour Lake Superior cruise, and have the opportunity to have their essay published in a book.
“As Kelly’s uncle, knowing she did a tremendous amount of writing about her diagnosis, treatment, fears, and joys, I wanted to honor her memory, promote writing as therapy, and provide a memorable trip to Ireland’s West--a place Kelly wanted to, but was unable, to visit," Savage said.
Laurie Hertzel, Senior Books Editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, was the final judge.
Lynne Jonell won first prize for writing her essay about Alzheimers and dementia. The children’s writer lives and works in Plymouth, is married and the mother of two grown sons. She loves to sail, play the piano and draw, and when she is feeling particularly virtuous she also manages to weed her garden.
Hertzel’s comments on Jonell's essay were:
"The illness in this essay is a mother's dementia, and the narrator looks at it in a straightforward, tender way, laced with bitter humor. As the narrator comes to terms with her mother's illness, she also comes to terms with her mother—a classic mother-daughter relationship, complicated by illness. Nicely written, in a way that feels fresh and sad, not sentimental or pat."
Jonell's essay is part of the book containing 94 heartfelt essays about cancer, depression, grief, loss, Alzheimer’s and mental illness, with more than half written by Minnesotans.
To honor Kelly Culhane’s birthday and the month of Breast Cancer Awareness, copies of the book were mailed to the 92 submitters in October as a tribute to a woman Savage describes as "vivacious, courageous, talented, wise, and totally compassionate."