Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Sound Like Trapped Thunder, Winner of 2020 The Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Book Prize

Selected by final judge Jenny Boully.

To be published March 15, 2021.

Included book release reading at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

And $2,000 prize.


Jessica Lind Peterson is a Minnesota-based essayist and playwright. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Orion, Seneca Review, River Teeth, Passages North, Alaska Quarterly Review, and others. She is co-founder of Yellow Tree Theatre and an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Hamline University in St. Paul. She splits her time between the suburbs of Minneapolis and a trailer in northern Minnesota that is painted green.

We would also like to acknowledge the following works:


Vanessa Saunders, The Flat Woman
Dennis James Sweeney, You're the Woods Too
Nance Van Winckel, Sister Zero


Chris Arthur, Wordwalks
A. Balkan, Creature Apart
Katharine Coles, The Stranger I Become*
Sharon Dolin, The Book of Lost Aphorisms
Noah Eli Gordon, An Index to Noah Eli Gordon's Next 135 Works
Kristine Langley Mahler, Teen Queen Training
Karen Luper, More Things Move Than Blood in the Heart
Sarah Minor, Slím Confessions*
Lynn Mundell, Let's Begin at the End
Grace Prasad, The Translator's Daughter
David Stevenson, Late and Uninvited: Twelve Lists
Melissa Wiley, Skull Cathedral*

* Withdrawn before finalist selection phase

Honorable Mentions

Jeff Alessandrelli, And Yet
J'Lyn Chapman, To Limn / Lying In
Alex Checkovich, Triptych It
Meredith Clark, Lyrebird
Caroline Crew, Other Girls to Burn
Debra Di Blasi, Selling the Farm: Descants from a Recollected Past
Mark Dow, Each Thing Starts
Gary Fincke, The Mayan Syndrome
Anne Goldman, Wild Thing
Gwen Goodwin, Mass for the Shut-Ins: Essays and Letters
Geoffrey Hilsabeck, American Vaudeville
MC Hyland, A Book of Borrowed Light
Lesley Jenike, Hide Fox and All After
Jacqueline Lyons, Breakdown of Poses
Alexandria Peary, Mattress on the Floor
Darby Price, All the Lands We Inherit: A Lament
Zach Savich, Lecture Notes for the Contemporary Personal Essay
Megan Shevenock, The Miraculous, Sometimes
Eleanor Stanford, Grammar for an Unwritten Language
Robert Stothart, Wyoming from the Algonquian
Julie Marie Wade, Meditation 39
Julie Marie Wade, P*R*I*D*E
Brian Whalen, Zero
Kirk Wilson, Life Among the Wavicles

Named for the late poet and essayist, the Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Book Prize is a biennial book series. It was founded by the editors of Seneca Review in 2017 to support and celebrate the breadth of work being done in the essay form today, including traditional approaches to creative nonfiction, cross-genre and hybrid work, verse forms, text and image works, connected or related pieces, and "beyond category" projects. A new winner of the book prize series will be published by Seneca Review Books in the fall of even-numbered years.

Past results