After an eight-year hiatus, our Column Contest triumphantly returned (thanks in no small part to the support from our Patreon members). We received over 400 entries. As with past contests, this year’s group featured many worthy winners. After much deliberation, we’re excited to announce the three grand-prize-winning columns. They are, in random order:

“Chronicles of a Catsitter” by Mai Tran
Mai Tran began catsitting in 2021 while they were on pandemic unemployment, often staying overnight in people’s homes. Tran has now cared for twenty-two cats and traveled to ten apartments all over New York City, observing the interior lives of cat owners and appeasing their neuroses. From home vet visits to black eyes to refugee cats, “Chronicles of a Catsitter” documents Tran’s most memorable days on the job.

“Sorry Not Sorry” by Laurence Pevsner
A column about why we’re sick of everyone apologizing all the time—and how the collapse of the public apology leaves little room for forgiveness and grace in our politics and culture.

“If They Told Me We Were Poor” by Marcie Alvis Walker
Though her family sometimes received food stamps and occasionally had their utilities cut off, Marcie Alvis Walker’s parents led her to believe that they were an average middle-class Black family. They encouraged her to pursue her dreams and told her that if she worked hard enough, she’d achieve them. The small catch was that Walker’s dream was an elusive one for any cash-strapped and undereducated Black woman: being a New York Times bestselling author. Now, as a published non-bestselling author, she wishes she’d had a backup plan.

In addition, we’ve selected four honorable mention winners. Each writer will receive $250 and a recurring column on our virtual pages. They are, in no particular order:

“Letters to Mom” by Kristen Mulrooney
“Letters to Mom” consists of letters to famous mothers from literature, TV, and film whom the author finds herself relating to on a different level now that she’s a mom herself. The sentiment in each installment will vary, including apologies, confessions, gratitude, and pleas for advice.

“Been There, Smelled That” by Maggie Downs
A series of researched travel essays that explore the aromas of places around the world. These pieces will illuminate some of the world’s most potent smells, look at how odor cultivates a connection to place, and present how humans engage with smells, from scents that have endured generations to the latest innovations in aroma-making.

“Family Tours in the Kingdom of the Sick” by Rebecca Saltzman
When COVID struck Saltzman’s family, the virus unmasked a life-changing discovery: her husband and two of their kids had genetic heart disease. The kind where people drop dead. As their healthy wife and mother, Saltzman had a new role too—guiding her family through what Susan Sontag called the Kingdom of the Sick. In the column, she’ll explore the anthropological strangeness of this new place, the mysteries of the body, and how facing death distills life into its purest form: funny, terrifying, and sublime.

“How to Write Every Speech You’ll Ever Need to Give in Your Life” by Chandler Dean
Written by a professional speechwriter, each installment will be a partly satirical, partly genuine “How To” focused on a hyper-specific subcategory of speeches—from graduation speeches to wedding toasts to eulogies and all the rhetorical occasions in between.

Look for these columns to debut on the site in January and February. Thanks to all who entered the contest!