Winner of the 2016 Archives Short Fiction Contest!

The winner of SAA’s second Archives Short Fiction Contest is Marcella Huggard for her short story, “Family Stories.” 

The jury noted that Huggard's submission addresses issues in the archival profession through a moving story of sifting through the evidence and reminders left behind by relatives after death. Her story speaks to the process of appraisal and its conundrums and how personal relationships can provide perspective. It also considers the question of how records of the less documented in our society are preserved given our presumptions about what constitutes a permanent record. In doing so, “Family Stories” portrays what it means that archivists deal with people’s lives and demonstrates the necessity of context for records.

Huggard is the archives and manuscript coordinator for Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas. Her prize includes a check for $250 and publication of her story in Archival Outlook (Jan/Feb 2017) and online. Click here to read Huggard’s winning entry, "Family Stories." 

Sponsored by SAA's Publications Board, the contest, which ran from August 1 through October 31, 2016, garnered thirty-three entries. Stories had to feature an archives, an archivist, or archival materials, and could be up to 3,000 words in length. Submissions went through a blind review by a jury of three archivists—Bruce Bruemmer, Caryn Radick, and Arlene Schmuland—who rated the stories based on the writing, plot, and "archivalness." 

The jury was impressed by the overall caliber of the submissions. In considering a winning entry, Bruemmer said that the judges looked for "a solid short story, one that says something meaningful about archives and is accessible to readers outside of the profession. We as archivists find ourselves in the role of storyteller, and this is a great way to hone those skills, both as writers and readers."

Honorable Mentions

The jury also selected three honorable mentions.

  • Christine Borne received an honorable mention from the jury for her story “The Backlog,” in which a newly hired archivist witnesses a processing backlog gone horribly wrong at a local historical society. The story features poor appraisal strategies, mysterious historical society staff (some of whom are always going on team building exercises), and a pernicious backlog. Jury member Bruce Bruemmer said, “I felt it was the best among the submitted sci-fi stories, and it made me laugh. Now, I know there are fantastically good county historical societies out there, but many years ago when I used to work with them, I always felt a little wary of some of the staff members. It would not have surprised me that they were guarding a secret of supernatural proportions. This story played to my inner Twilight Zone.” Click here to read “The Backlog.”
  • Susan J. Illis, archivist at the Society of Mary, US Province, received an honorable mention for her tightly written story, “The Tell-Tale Diary.” When a local socialite is found dead in a hotel room, the narrator must make a difficult choice between following her boss’s instructions and following her own ethical obligations to the archives. Said jury member Arlene Schmuland: “I liked the noir edge, and the gender and class disparities touched upon are still a part of our daily lives. . . . The ending is still rocketing around my thoughts. And I’m left with the question: was there an ethical and legal way to resolve this situation?” Click here to read “The Tell-Tale Diary.”
  • Jona Whipple, archivist and digital resources librarian at Chicago–Kent College of Law and Archival Outlook contributor, also received an honorable mention for her story “Night, Memory,” in which a woman comes to the archives on a snowy day to learn about a person whose life briefly intersected with her own many years before. What she finds leads her to consider the nature of records and the stories they tell. Jury member Caryn Radick said, “This poignant story is rich in detail and sharp observations about life both inside and away from the reading room.” Click here to read “Night, Memory.”

Congratulations to the winner and honorable mentions and a shoutout to all who participated in this contest! 


About the jury:

  • Bruce Bruemmer, director of Corporate Archives at Cargill Incorporated, has contributed articles and book reviews to The American Archivist as well as provided a spirited introduction of SAA President Elizabeth Adkins when she delivered her presidential address at the 2007 Annual Meeting in Chicago.
  • Caryn Radick, digital archivist in Special Collections and University Archives at Rutgers University, is the author of "‘Complete and in Order’: Bram Stoker's Dracula and the Archival Profession” (The American Archivist, Fall/Winter 2013), which was nominated for Association Media and Publishing’s EXCEL Award as best article in a journal, and of the “Fiction Through an Archival Lens” column in Archival Outlook.
  • Arlene Schmuland, head of Archives and Special Collections at University of Alaska, Anchorage, is the author of “The Archival Image in Fiction: An Analysis and Annotated Bibliography” (The American Archivist, Spring 1999) and was a presenter at the entertaining and informative 2009 SAA Annual Meeting session, “Archives after Hours—The Light, Literary, and Lascivious Side of Archives.”

2016 Archives Short Fiction Contest

Winning Entry:

"Family Stories" 
by Marcella Huggard

Honorable Mentions:

"The Backlog"
by Christine Borne


"The Tell-Tale Diary"
by Susan J. Illis


"Night Memory"
by Jona Whipple