21st Century Essays
Edited by David Lazar and Patrick Madden

New & Forthcoming 21st Century Essays Titles:

Dark Tourist: Essays book cover

Dark Tourist: Essays

Hasanthika Sirisena


Don't Look Now book cover

Don't Look Now: Things We Wish We Hadn't Seen

Edited by Kristen Iversen and David Lazar


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This One Will Hurt You

Paul Crenshaw


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On Our Way Home from the Revolution: Reflections on Ukraine

Sonya Bilocerkowycz


Winner of the 2018 Gournay Prize

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Echo's Fugue

Desirae Matherly


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Fear Icons

Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel


Winner of the 2017 Gournay Prize

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Love’s Long Line

Sophfronia Scott


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The Real Life of the Parthenon

Patricia Vigderman


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Curiouser and Curiouser

Nicholas Delbanco


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You, Me, and the Violence

Catherine Taylor


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A Mother's Tale

Phillip Lopate


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Don't Come Back

Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas


This series from Mad Creek Books is a vehicle to discover, publish, and promote some of the most daring, ingenious, and artistic nonfiction. This is the first and only major series that announces its focus on the essay—a genre whose plasticity, timelessness, popularity, and centrality to nonfiction writing make it especially important in the field of nonfiction literature. In addition to publishing the most interesting and innovative books of essays by American writers, the series publishes extraordinary international essayists and reprint works by neglected or forgotten essayists, voices that deserve to be heard, revived, and reprised. The series is a major addition to the possibilities of contemporary literary nonfiction, focusing on that central, frequently chimerical, and invariably supple form: The Essay.

All submissions should come through Submittable, but for other queries about the series, please email madcreek@osupress.org. Submissions to the series will be accepted annually from March 15-April 15, when we also read for the Gournay Prize. (Download the series flyer.)



Each year, The Gournay Prize awards $1000 and publication in the 21st Century Essays series to a first book of essays. Writers may have published books previously in other genres.

Submission window: March 1—April 15

  • The award is open to writers in English, whether or not they are citizens of the United States. Translations are not eligible.
  • Prior publication of your manuscript as a whole in any format (including electronic or self-published) makes it ineligible. Individual essays that have been previously published may be included in the manuscript. Each submission must include a list of acknowledgments of previously published work (title and magazine/journal/anthology) included in the manuscript.
  • Manuscripts may also be under consideration by other publishers, but if a manuscript is accepted for publication elsewhere, the submission should be promptly withdrawn from consideration.
  • Authors may submit more than one manuscript to the competition as long as one manuscript or a portion thereof does not duplicate material submitted in another manuscript. An entry fee must be paid for each submission.
  • Manuscripts must be received from March 15–May 22 via Submittable online at the link above.
  • A $28 entry fee must be received for each submitted manuscript.
  • No hard copy manuscript submissions will be considered.

    2020: Hasanthika Sirisena for Dark Tourist: Essays

    Runner up: Genese Grill for Portals: Reflections on the Spirit in Matter

    2019 M. I. Devine for Warhol’s Mother’s Pantry: Art, America, and the Mom in Pop

    2018 Sonya Bilocerkowycz for On Our Way Home from the Revolution: Reflections on Ukraine

    Runner up: Sibbie O’Sullivan for My Private Lennon: Explorations from a Fan who Never Screamed

    2017 Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel for Fear Icons

    Runner up: Paul Crenshaw for This One Will Hurt You

    About the Series Editors

    photograh of David Lazar

    David Lazar’s books include Celeste Holm Syndrome, Don’t Look Now: Things We Wish We Hadn’t Seen (co-edited with Kristen Iversen), I’ll Be Your Mirror: Essays and Aphorisms, Occasional Desire: Essays, Who’s Afraid of Helen of Troy, The Body of Brooklyn, Truth in Nonfiction, Essaying the Essay, Powder Town, After Montaigne (co-edited with Patrick Madden), and many more. A frequent Best American Essays honoree, he is Professor of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago, where he created the MFA program in nonfiction, having previously created the PhD, MA and undergraduate programs in nonfiction at Ohio University, where he taught from 1990–2006. Lazar is founding editor of the literary magazine Hotel Amerika and was a Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction for 2015-16.

    Patrick Madden Photograph

    Patrick Madden is the author of three books of essays: Disparates, Sublime Physick, and Quotidiana. He is coeditor (with David Lazar) of After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays and cotranslator (with John Oliver Simon and Steven Stewart) of the Selected Poems of Eduardo Milán. His essays have appeared in Fourth Genre, Hotel Amerika, the Iowa Review, the Normal School, River Teeth, and other journals, as well as in the Best Creative Nonfiction and Best American Spiritual Writing. His books have won Independent Publisher, Foreword Indies, and Association of Mormon Letters awards, among others. A two-time Fulbright fellow to Uruguay, he teaches at Brigham Young University and Vermont College of Fine Arts. He currently serves as vice president of the NonfictionNOW conference and coeditor of Fourth Genre, and he curates the online anthology and essay resource Quotidiana.

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    Editorial Advisory Board

    Robert Atwan

    Mary Cappello

    John D’Agata

    Wayne Koestenbaum

    Phillip Lopate

    Maggie Nelson

    Lia Purpura

    Claudia Rankine

    David Shields