Announcing the Winners of the

2020 Michael Steinberg Memorial Essay Contest

We’re happy to announce the winners and finalists of the 2020 Fourth Genre Michael Steinberg Memorial Essay Contest. This year’s contest judge, Laura Julier, has selected Sean Enfield’s “The Revolution Will Be Revised” as the contest winner and Jacquelyn Thomas’s “Mystery Readers” as the runner up.

About Enfield’s essay, Julier wrote, “I absolutely love the way this essay engages the writer in narrating, reflecting upon, and revising his experience so complexly interwoven, in so many layers. It would be easy to think of it as an essay rooted in a particular historical moment, given its timeliness, but in fact this is a perspective that feels important beyond the present. The author raises questions about how to engage, how to be present, how to be, in a cultural context that is so mediated by (among other things) media and screens. Above all, the essay raises questions about how to create and develop an identity outside of the multiple narratives that tug at us, another voice in a conversation inhabited by the likes of Didion and Baldwin. It is an accomplishment worth circulating widely. ”

Julier also praised Thomas’s “Mystery Readers,” writing, “There’s a kind of magic to this essay in the lush language, the impressionist strokes of tone, the word play, and the way strands of narrative are braided in a story about story, couched in the love between a woman and her young granddaughter, about books and youth and aging, marked by unexpected turns and moments. It bears a slow reading and rereading, the sign to me of an exquisite piece of writing.”

Sean Enfield

Sean Enfield is a writer from the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. He received his B.A. in English Literature from the University of North Texas and is now pursuing an MFA in Nonfiction Writing at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He is also an editor for the Denton collective, Spiderweb Salon. His own writing has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, and his work is published in a number of literary journals, including The Rumpus, Tahoma Literary ReviewLunch TicketF(r)iction, and COUNTERCLOCK. Though he has dabbled in a number of genres, he was once chastised for failing to introduce himself as a poet. He has not made that mistake since. His work can be found at

Jacquelyn Thomas

Jacquelyn Thomas recently returned to the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, after living more than thirty years in a Madison housing project where she served as director of an on-site community learning center. Her nonfiction work has been published by Proximity Magazine, where it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. This will be her first print publication.

In addition to Enfield and Thomas’s excellent essays, there are several finalists we’d like to honor:

  • “How to Live Thin: 42 Tips” by Kristin Barendsen
  • “How to Preserve a Body” by Lauren Cross
  • “Notes on Inheriting Deafness” by Shannon Fandler
  • “Walk, Velvet Gentleman” by Sabrina Fountain
  • “Replika” by Laurie Frankel
  • “Marginalia” by Negesti Kaudo
  • “At 79, My Mother Decides to Plant Trees” by Debra Marquart
  • “Refusing Silence” by Catherine Mauk
  • “Bad News 101” by Meg Senuta
  • “When it’s Time to Grow Antlers” by Allie Spikes
  • “Dog As…” by Cora Waring
  • “Changing Your Mind” by Jim Zervanos

Congratulations again to our winners and finalists. The winner and runner up from the 2020 Steinberg Contest will be published in our Spring 2021 issue, due out next March. It’s an issue you won’t want to miss. If you’re not already a Fourth Genre subscriber, you can purchase a subscription here