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. Congratulations, Liz! Henrietta’s sad life is captured beautifully. I enjoyed her character, as a strong woman taking pride in her caregiving and yet enduring much unhappiness with William’s death and her marriage. Your detailing in each situation is stellar.

    I enjoyed your story, the photos, and the history very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hearty congrats to you, Liz! I love the intro you provided us, and the comments from the rejection letter–how cool to get those! Some seemed a matter of taste. For example, historical fiction is a tad slower–it doesn’t embrace a thriller pace–because readers love the detail, so that comment didn’t resonate with me. And I loved the Decline/accept offer. I can’t wait till they see you actually won a prize with the story!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, Eilene. I knew about the rest cure from having written a paper on Charlotte Perkins Gilman years ago, but it wasn’t until I read a doctor’s monograph and a couple of nursing textbooks from the time period that the horrific nature of the treatment really hit me. I was shocked.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What used to pass for “mental health care” is quite appalling to us now. I don’t understand how it could be so cruel and uncompassionate. What was wrong with those people who did those horrific things?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Liz! This is terrific news. Hearty congratulations! I love your stories and I admire the unique style in which you sprinkle your family tales with imagination. I have downloaded the pdf and I look forward to reading your long short story.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Congrats on the publication, Liz. I just finished the story. What a glimpse into Aunt Henrietta’s life. It made me sad overall as it seems she suffered a lot of disappointments and loss. It reminded me that there’s a story in everyone, every life is worth honoring, and remembering. ❤ Well done, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Diana! I’m so pleased you enjoyed Henrietta’s story. This comment is why I write fiction: “It reminded me that there’s a story in everyone, every life is worth honoring, and remembering.” So, your comment means the world to me. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so excited for you Liz! Congratulations on your win and your perseverance. I have received similar slow-going comments and know how hard it is to chop off those wordy appendages, particularly when they feel like your own fingers and toes! I enjoyed the waY the Colin Firth movie, where he is the editor for Thomas Wolfe and has to rein in his apparent excess, puts all this in perspective. Again great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Liz, I had missed your exciting news last month. Congratulations on the publication! I read your story today and felt pulled back into a time when women had few options but dealt with all the problems of trying to live a life. So well written, I couldn’t put it down!

    Liked by 1 person

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