Winner of the Archives Short Fiction Contest

The winner of SAA’s first-ever Archives Short Fiction Contest is Stephanie T. Vaillant for her short story, "A Silent Promise.” The jury also selected two honorable mentions: "Principles of Provenance" by Laura Millar and "Coco Mío" by JoyEllen Freeman.

Sponsored by the Publications Board, the contest, which ran from August 3 through October 30, 2015, garnered thirty-four entries. “The number of submissions exceeded our expectations,” said Christopher J. Prom, chair of the Publications Board. “We wanted to engage the membership in a new and creative way and were really delighted with the response.”

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—Scott Cline, 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. Radick said that what set apart Vaillant's winning entry was that in addition to being "very well-written and moving, it gave a different perspective of archives—while demonstrating their value—both in narrative point of view and how the story unfolds."

The Winner

The jury noted that Stephanie Vaillant’s story, "A Silent Promise," draws the reader in with its tale of what the narrator learns through her observations of a theater's archives. In its affecting story of a life ended too soon, the story demonstrates the power of archives as keepers of memory and as "life" changers. In language as precise as the ballet it depicts, "A Silent Promise" captures the experience of how learning about the past can help us move on. Vaillant is the cataloguing and digitization archivist for the Stratford Festival Archives in Ontario, Canada. Her prize includes a check for $250 and publication of her story in Archival Outlook (Jan./Feb. 2016). Click here to read "A Silent Promise."

Honorable Mentions

Laura Millar, a records and archives consultant from British Columbia, Canada, received an honorable mention from the jury for her story "Principles of Provenance," which shows how both archival materials and personal and institutional memory can help solve a mystery. Told from an archivist's perspective, this story captures the tensions and issues of working in an archive in its depiction of a new professional's relationship with a seasoned volunteer. Perhaps most importantly the story reminds us that archival work is very much about people. Click here to read "Principles of Provenance."

JoyEllen Freeman, a graduate student at Clayton State University in Georgia, also merited an honorable mention from the jury for "Coco Mío," a touching story that reminds the reader of the place archives has in documenting underrepresented lives. As the narrator comes to terms with her new life, she grapples with doubt about the value of archives and her own reluctance to "leave traces." She comes to learn the importance of both as her life changes beyond what she ever imagined. Click here to read "Coco Mío."

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



About the jury:

 • Scott Cline, city archivist, Seattle Municipal Archives, was the recipient of SAA’s 2013 Fellows’ Ernst Posner Award for the best essay in The American Archivist for his article "‘Dust Clouds of Camels Shall Cover You’: Covenant and the Archival Endeavor” (2012) and is also the author of "‘To the Limit of Our Integrity’: Reflections on Archival Being” (2009) and “Archival Ideals and the Pursuit of a Moderate Disposition” (2014).

• 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.

• 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.”


2015 Archives Short Fiction Contest

Winning Entry:

"A Silent Promise" 
by Stephanie T. Vaillant

Honorable Mentions:

"Principles of Provenance"
by Laura Millar

"Coco Mío"
by JoyEllen Freeman