Beach Reads

Dan’s Papers Lit Prize Winners Remember East End Fondly

This year is the landmark 5th anniversary of the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction. The Lit Prize, as it’s affectionately known, honors the creative spirit of the area by encouraging people from all walks of life to write about their experiences on the East End of Long Island. Whether they’re year-round residents, summer renters or one-time visitors, everyone has a story to tell about this unique place.

Here, we’ve chosen excerpts from the past four years of Lit Prize winning essays so you can get a taste of what the contest is all about. They range from studies of nature to preparations for a pow-wow. Read them and be inspired to tell your East End tale!

Click the links to read the full stories on!

2015: “Ghosts of Shopkeepers Past” by Colette Sewall
Outside, golden forsythias bloom and an early spring breeze carries a pungent stench of fresh mulch and fertilizer. The long bleak winter is now a fleeting memory. As the quiver of new life breaks forth, I am reminded it is time to tend to my garden and prepare the soil. I make plans to search my crowded garage for my red kneepad and favorite garden gloves—the ones with the pink plastic dots that remind me of old-fashioned rolls of candy on paper.

2014: “The Life and Times of Miss Muffet: A Love Letter to the Hamptons” by Eve Eliot
The small townish quality of the village brings a sense of coziness to the simplest encounter. At the IGA check out counter it’s a pleasure to talk with Julia about her son who is serving in the army overseas as she bags coffee and apples. The folks at Sam’s Auto take care of vehicular breakdowns preventing emotional ones. A year-rounder is appreciated as a consistent visitor to retail stores, and it is wonderful to be recognized, welcomed in each one.

2013: “Moving Through Water, a Memoir” by Susan Duff
On New Year’s Eve, Paul and I had dinner with friends at our house in Springs. We
danced to Motown until well after midnight. The next morning, we drove to the ocean for the annual polar plunge. A dismal sky hung like a shadow over Atlantic Beach, but the gathered crowd was spirited. A man wore a toilet plunger on his head, solidarity with those going in. Women in parkas served hot chowder from wind-blown pavilions.

2012: “Magic Shirts” by James K. Phillips
Pow-wow season has arrived and as usual everything is being done now that should have been done during the winter and spring. Of course, during the winter no one does much except complain about the weather and put off doing that breechcloth, moccasin repair, beadwork, dress or headdress until next week, right after that favorite show finishes for the season or the time and energy arrive or whatever excuse works, until it doesn’t anymore and suddenly it’s here…summer—and there’s a gathering every weekend.

The 5th Annual Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction celebrates the deep connection between writers and the East End of Long Island with prizes totaling $10,000. The Dan’s Papers $6,000 Literary Prize for Nonfiction is open to writers of all ages. The Dan’s Papers $4,000 Emerging Young Writers Prize for Nonfiction is open to writers age 25 years and younger. All entries must be an original work of nonfiction between 600 and 1,500 words, and must make references to the East End of Long Island in a meaningful way. Poetry is not accepted. Entries are accepted now through August 14, 2016. View complete rules at

Winners will be announced at a ceremony at Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater in East Hampton on Thursday, September 1. Major funding is provided by Barnes & Noble. Sponsorships are provided by Bridgehampton National Bank, Ben Krupinski Builders and Montauk Rumrunners. Support for the Emerging Young Writers Prize is provided by Alec Baldwin.

Visit for rules and to enter the Dan’s Papers $6,000 Literary Prize for Nonfiction or the Dan’s Papers $4,000 Emerging Young Writers Prize for Nonfiction.

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