M.F.K. Fisher Last House Program Coordinator Susie Allen announced today the winners of the “Last House Writing Contest.” Launched in late summer, the contest resulted in more than two dozen essays submitted in child, youth and adult categories by writers from as far-afield as Los Angeles, Detroit and Copenhagen.

Writers were asked to explore the connection between environmental conservation, science and nature, food and drink, and the cultures surrounding them. Many wrote about COVID-19, their gardens, and the wildfires.

The judging panel, coordinated by food and wine consultant Clark Wolf, included some of the most accomplished writers, chefs, naturalists, and mentors working today: Ruth Reichl, Harold McGee, Leena Trivedi-Grenier, Michele Anna Jordan, Elizabeth Fishel, Kennedy Golden, Jerry Di Vecchio, Jonathan London, and Alice Waters.

“The entries were strong and the finalists compelling,” said Wolf, a longtime contributor to Last House event programming and the host of Sonoma County’s At The Table with Clark Wolf on KSRO radio. 

The winning essays (linked in title):

Adults 18 and over:
First place:                      Love Letter to an Empty Lot by Rachel Reed
Second place                  Sandwiched by Peter Albert
Third place:                    Untitled by Lorelle Saxena
Honorary mention:         Tending Tomatoes by April D’avila

Youth (13–17):
One excellent winner:    Local Eats by Natalie Sandoval

Children (8–12):
First place:                     Rain by Josh Cohen
Second place:                 Untitled by Vivian Cuneo
Third place:                    Environmental Conservation by William Francis Stoltzfus

Grand Prize:                  Rain by Josh Cohen

After learning his essay had won both first place in the children’s category and the grand prize, fifth-grader Josh Cohen told his dad it would “take a few days to feel normal again.” Judge Michele Anna Jordan said Josh’s winning entry had a “beautiful poetic sensibility.”

Winning essays will be featured online this fall, and in the next edition of ACR’s Conservation in Action, a bi-annual program update to members.

“Our deepest appreciation to the writers who shared their views, our talented judges, and to our generous donors who supplied prizes including autographed books, gift certificates for dining, and an amazing grand prize,” said Susie Allen, Last House Program Coordinator.

Prizes awarded include a 2-night stay at a waterfront house in Bodega Bay, $100 gift certificate from Ginochio’s Kitchen, an autographed children’s cookbook donated by Clark Wolf and other children’s books donated by Copperfield’s Books in Sebastopol, M.F.K. Fisher books donated by Kennedy Golden, and complimentary enrollment in Elizabeth Fishel’s writing workshop to be hosted by ACR in January, 2021.

Proceeds from entry submissions will benefit Audubon Canyon Ranch's programs and the continuing restoration of Last House. Please direct questions to Last House Program Coordinator Susie Allen by email, [email protected].

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About M.F.K. Fisher’s Last House

Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR) is restoring the legendary author's home on the 535-acre Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen to capture the spirit and the flavor of her life on the preserve and as an exclusive destination honoring her love of food, wine, literature and nature.

Fisher, described by W. H. Auden as “America’s greatest writer,” welcomed friends such as Julia Child, James Beard, and Maya Angelou. It also was at Last House that she wrote 13 books (one third of her collection) during 21 years of residence.

Built for her by landowner and architect David Pleydell-Bouverie, the two-room palazzino features a simple design, her signature Chinese red walls, built-in bookcases for over 2,000 books and arched porches that look west to Sonoma Mountain and east to the 535 acres of land protected by ACR.

Complementing the renovation are paintings, furnishings and memorabilia donated back to the house by family and friends. “Reaching out to family and friends who have lovingly shared items, memories, and stories has been rich,” said Kennedy Golden, Fisher’s daughter and an advisor on the project. Among the donated items, Fisher’s Coronomatic typewriter sits quietly in one corner, rough draft secured on the platen for curious observers.