Congratulations to Deborah Elderhorst, whose piece “Foreign Object” was selected by Helen Humphreys as the 2019 winner of the CNFC/Humber Literary Review Creative Nonfiction Contest.

Deborah Elderhorst is an Australian-Canadian writer whose work has appeared in literary journals and anthology in Australia, New Zealand, and the US. Find her online at

An excerpt of the winning piece is included below. “Foreign Object” will be published in full in an upcoming issue of the Humber Literary Review.


I find my two-year-old daughter in the bathroom, dark bruises of plum and charcoal on her face, mouth a red gash, the floor tiles around her streaked and sullied. She squats in the shower stall, the smashed, smeared contents of my makeup kit around her. Sparkle-dirty fingers clench when I bend to clear a path through the ravaged cosmetics; she resents my intrusion on her private explorations, shouts, “Mummy go ‘way.” It is an instruction, not a plea.

Hours later, when her father lifts her in his arms at the grocery store, I glance up and notice a small white foreign object plugging one of her nostrils: a wadded piece of cotton ball, it turns out, tightly lodged. At home, with her father holding her still, I will perform a delicate extraction, the tweezer-tips almost too large for the opening in her toddler’s nose.


I phone my mother and share this latest grandchild story. She says, “She’s just like you,” reminds me of the time I shoved a piece of broken china up my nose. I have heard her tell the story before. We do not touch on how it is I came to be alone, in close proximity to the shards of a broken teacup—she does not like reminders of my father, whom we escaped years ago.

Congratulations to all of this year’s finalists and thanks to everyone who submitted.