Prize-Winning Story: “Henrietta’s Saving Grace”

Click Here to Read the Story in Coneflower Cafe (PDF, p. 3)

Am I Excited? Yes, I’m Excited!

I am thrilled to share that my short story “Henrietta’s Saving Grace” has won the 2022 Ben Nyberg contest sponsored by Choeofpleirn Press. The story was inspired one of my great-great aunts from Nova Scotia, who went by the nickname “Jen.”

I’d known early on from my mother that Aunt Jen had been a practical nurse and a closet drinker. In the final years of my mother’s life, she shared a few more choice tidbits about Aunt Jen’s life that were too good not to build a story around.

With apologies and all due respect to the late Aunt Jen, Henrietta was born, bringing her saving grace along with her.

The Inevitable Rejections

I sent the story out four times before it was accepted for publication by Coneflower Cafe, and the editor recommended that I also submit it to the Ben Nyberg Contest. The first rejection, from Carve Magazine, was an almost. (Click on the Submittable image to enlarge.)

Needless to say, I cut 500 words from the word count before I sent it back out. 

A Question of Genre

The story comes in at 9,100 words, which, according to current word-length definitions, makes it a novelette. To me, it’s still a long short story, albeit very long.

More Inspiration

The Respectable Lexington, Massachusetts House of Henrietta’s Nephew
Economy Point, Nova Scotia, 2017
The House in Economy Point Where Henrietta & Her Nephew Grew Up
The Economy Church Featured in the Story
The Road down which the Young Henrietta Wanders in Search of the Moon
The Barn Where Henrietta Hides from a Forced Rest Cure
The Respectable Lexington, Massachusetts House of Henrietta’s Nephew up for Sale and out of the Family, 2013 (Photo Credit: Century 21 Real Estate)


248 thoughts on “Prize-Winning Story: “Henrietta’s Saving Grace”

      1. Thank you very much! Yes, the comments were helpful. They confirmed that I needed to do a little bit of trimming. As rejection comments go, these were quite lengthly. The shortest one I’ve received said, “Thanks for sending. We pass.”


    1. Thank you very much, Darlene! I have in mind publishing the story in a collection with other stories that feature #27 (as my mother and her sister called the house). You are so right about old relatives as grist for the fiction mill–or should I say “artistic inspiration”? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Congratulations on the publication of your story! Having just finished reading it, I found it very intriguing and well written. The images and setting came through very well. I love the photos you added in your post. The transitions in the story flowed very well! The double marriage was a great twist that caught me off guard! A great story, Liz!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I just finished “Henrietta’s Saving Grace.” What a powerful story, Liz. I loved how you captured Henrietta’s character through her actions and her physical ailments. Within the first few pages, I had a sense of her that carried through to the end. And as for the end, wonderful twist. Bravo!

    Liked by 3 people

          1. Yes.
            Or not acting like a “proper” woman.Women who were sent to institutions for the “feeble minded” and sterilized because they had children when they weren’t married. Or too “masculine” or . . .

            Liked by 1 person

  3. LIZ!!! Congratulations on your well-deserved win. Your story kept me reading, I was almost sad when it ended. You mastered the art of what I call ‘the indirect method’ in telling a story, which is a holy grail for writers. Few do well. Your character development was outstanding, and your transitions in time were smooth. A+ from this teacher! I’m very excited for you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m so happy for you and proud of you, Liz! Huge congratulations!!!! What did Carve Magazine know when they turned it down (with some nice comments)?! But you are a quick study and that’s why you cut down the story. OK, I’ve printed it and will read it at night, the very first night I don’t fall asleep the minute I hit the couch (hopefully tonight!). I can’t wait!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I’m so delighted for your win, you’d think I’d written the entry myself! Congratulations, Liz! It’s gone midnight here and so I’ll read about Henrietta in the morning. Looking forward to it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Congratulations, Liz! I’m happy that your story was so well-received. Thank you for sharing your letter. How refreshing to get constructive feedback rather than a form letter.

    I will make a point of reading it in the next few days.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You have every right to be excited, Liz. This was, of course, long for a blog, but well worth persevering with. You have captured Henrietta’s sad life so well. I enjoyed the touches of good nature buried in her defensive exterior, and regretted her disappointments – especially the death of William. Congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

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