We are making some big ch-ch-ch-changes over the next year, including building a new website, so some info may not be updated during our changeover. If you have inquiries that have not been answered or are seeking info that is out of date here, please email us at alt.current at gmail dot com. If you are waiting on submissions that have not yet been answered, we are terribly behind and short-staffed, but we *are* still reading through and answering everything.

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Charter Oak Award for Best Historical

The Charter Oak Award for Best Historical

About Alternating Current’s Charter Oak Award for Best Historical

The Charter Oak Award for Best Historical is Alternating Current Press’ annual writing award to recognize the best history-themed writing submitted to the press. All history-themed pieces submitted to Alternating Current are considered for the award, and there is no additional submission process. The winner is announced each spring from our history finalists, selected incognito by our history editor, to receive publication, publicity, a monetary award, and other incentives from our press. The alignment of the award announcement corresponds with the release of our annual literary journal of history, Footnote, which contains the winners therein. Read past Charter Oak finalists and winners here.

Award Process and Code of Ethics

Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Contest Code of Ethics

We subscribe to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) Contest Code of Ethics: CLMP’s community of independent literary publishers believes that ethical contests serve our shared goal: to connect writers and readers by publishing exceptional writing. We believe that intent to act ethically, clarity of guidelines, and transparency of process form the foundation of an ethical contest. To that end, we agree to 1.) conduct our contests as ethically as possible and to address any unethical behavior on the part of our readers, judges, or editors; 2.) to provide clear and specific contest guidelines—defining conflict of interest for all parties involved; and 3.) to make the mechanics of our selection process available to the public. This Code recognizes that different contest models produce different results, but that each model can be run ethically. We have adopted this Code to reinforce our integrity and dedication as a publishing community and to ensure that our contests contribute to a vibrant literary heritage.

Alternating Current’s Selection & Judging Process
1.) We take submissions through Submittable and use its tools and our own to accept incognito submissions. Only the editor-in-chief has access to the information, and she does not read or accept submissions. While the editor-in-chief determines what is published on our press, she does not make judging decisions for awards.

2.) We ask submitters not to include their names, contact information, or any identifying marks within the documents, titles, and file names of submissions.

3.) Staff members of Alternating Current may have pieces published on The Coil or submit pieces for incognito submission consideration, but staff members are not eligible to win award prizes while they are serving on our staff.

4.) For all awards, the editor-in-chief compiles a spreadsheet of all the eligible pieces, makes sure everything is stripped of any contact information, and sends that spreadsheet to the history readers and editors of Alternating Current Press. The editors rank their selections from 1-12 to choose the top 12 finalists, including a first, second, and third place. The rankings are then tallied, and the incognito judging decisions are final.

5.) While the pieces are read incognito, the readers are asked to recuse themselves from judging if there are any pieces that they may recognize as posing a personal conflict of interest. Once selected, we will reveal the winner’s name privately to the readers before announcement to clarify that there is no conflict of interest. Should there be, the next finalist in line without conflict shall become the winner. Conflicts of interest are defined as: close friends, relatives, students, and former students of the judges. We do not consider workshops to be disqualifying factors, unless the judge personally feels there is a conflict there. We leave the discretion of conflict identification up to the judges.

6.) All winners and finalists are notified prior to announcement. The results are publicly posted online at The Coil and on the press website.

Current 2021 Prize

The first-place winner receives $100 (upon publication); publication of the winning piece on The Coil and in print in Footnote #8; a listing on the Alternating Current Press award page and on a press release on The Coil; two complimentary print copies of the journal with the winning piece indicated; complimentary digital copies of the journal in all formats; our virtual gold award medallion for use on book covers, social media profiles, and websites; a certificate; and a press release mailing-list email blast.

Second place and third place receive $25 each (upon publication); publication of their pieces on The Coil and in print in Footnote #8; a listing on the Alternating Current Press award page and on a press release on The Coil; one complimentary print copy each of the journal with their pieces indicated; complimentary digital copies of the journal in all formats; our silver virtual medallion for use on book covers, social media profiles, and websites; certificates; and a press release mailing-list email blast.

Nine finalists are published online on The Coil, one per month, with finalist status indicated.

All winners, finalists, and semifinalists receive publication in Footnote #8 (which is published in paperback and ebook formats) and complimentary digital copies of the journal. Both Footnote and The Coil pay a small token payment for publication of all pieces for all finalists and semifinalists selected to appear in either or each.

What is the Charter Oak?

Legend has it that this unusually large white oak tree on what early colonists named Wyllys Hyll in Hartford, Connecticut, was where the Royal Charter of 1662 was shoved into a hidden hollow to thwart its confiscation by the English governor-general who wished to revoke the piece of legislation that granted autonomy to the colonists.

This tree, named the Charter Oak, has since become a symbol of the power of documents and recorded history, the freedom they give us, showcasing the lengths one would go to protect, to defend, and to stand by words that could forever change the course of people’s lives.

While the Charter Oak is a strong, undeniable piece of American history, its symbol is universal. Words empower us all, the whole world over, and we’ll die to protect our right to them. Here, at Alternating Current, we want to preserve and reward those words that empower us, so that they, too, may go down in history.

Painting: The Charter Oak, oil on canvas, Charles De Wolf Brownell, 1857. Artwork in public domain.

Charter Oak Award Medallion Designers

Special thanks and acknowledgment to Devin Byrnes and SuA Kang of Hardly Square, for their creativity in designing our annual medallion imprint. Hardly Square is a strategy, branding, and design-based boutique located in Baltimore, Maryland, that specializes in graphic design, web design, and eLearning courses. Their invaluable design expertise has made our annual awards come to life. Learn more about our medallion designers.

2020 Charter Oak Award Winners for Best Historical

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2019 Charter Oak Award Winners for Best Historical

1st Place: “Lynnhaven River, 1706” by Chelsea Bunn
2nd Place: “Cardinal Virtues” by Gretchen Rockwell
3rd Place: “The Girl from No Gun Ri” by Esther Ra
Finalist: “The Notary's Conquest (A Fragment)” by Deva Eveland
Finalist: “For Samuel Ajayi Crowther” by Ayokunle Falomo
Finalist: “The Explosion at the Arsenal” by Jamie Todd Hamilton
Finalist: “The Death of History” by Jahman Hill
Finalist: “Beginnings Emerge out of Endings and the Like” by D. Seth Horton
Finalist: “Jubilo Done Pass” by Jeremy Ray Jewell
Finalist: “At New Lebanon They Danced Like Ghosts” by Bob Sykora
Finalist: “The Train” by Anique Sara Taylor
Finalist: “After the Hostile Takeover, 1990” by Laura Budofsky Wisniewski

2018 Charter Oak Award Winners for Best Historical

1st Place: “After I Get Top Surgery, J. Robert Oppenheimer Watches Me Make Out with My Partner” by Linnet Ezra
2nd Place: “Yara ni 'Ua” by Rebecca Pelky
3rd Place: “The Nurseryman” by Arthur Allen
4th Place: “Brothertown” by Rebecca Pelky
5th Place: “Nights Spent Flying” by DeMisty D. Bellinger
Finalist: “Let's Ask Leda about Consent” by Rebecca Pelky
Finalist: “Get the Story” by Charissa Menefee
Finalist: “Twenty Mile Dead” by Robert Busby
Finalist: “The Well-Shooter's Wake” by Lenore Hart
Finalist: “Lost Language” by Kindra McDonald
Finalist: “Maternal Bonds” by Kindra McDonald
Finalist: “Athanasia” by Marion Lake

2017 Charter Oak Award Winners for Best Historical

1st Place: “Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven & the Fountain” by Stacey Balkun
2nd Place: “Red Cross” by Kierstin Bridger
3rd Place: “Ancestors” by Laura Potts
4th Place: “Sheets” by Cynthia Anderson
5th Place: “1955” by Stacey Balkun
Finalist: “Were You There?” by Sue Blaustein
Finalist: “radium girls” by Toby Buckley
Finalist: “Āfa-Bat” by Toby Buckley
Finalist: “Learned in the Old Ways” by Jon Chaiim McConnell
Finalist: “Blindfold” by Joyce Schmid
Finalist: “The Ballad of Luella and the Tame Parrot” by Chavonn Williams Shen
Finalist: “By you that made me” by Micah Vider

2016 Charter Oak Award Winners for Best Historical

1st Place: “Michigan Sugar Beet Harvest, 1944” by Mary Buchinger
2nd Place: “Your Bonnet” by Raymond Luczak
3rd Place: “Salt” by Holly M. Wendt
4th Place: “The Search for John Doe No. 2” by Rodney Wilhite
5th Place: “The Death & Birth of Jesse James on April 3, 1882” by GennaRose Nethercott
Finalist: “I Meet Geronimo” by Charles Bane, Jr.
Finalist: “Lodger in the Ripper’s Room” by John Paul Davies
Finalist: “Ernest Hemingway and Hugh Casey, the Artist and the Ballplayer” by Alan Catlin
Finalist: “That the true owner may have it again” by Holly M. Wendt
Finalist: “Out of the dust, light and power” by Yasmin Khan Murgai
Finalist: “Queen of the Mist” by Cynthia Anderson
Finalist: “Emerald Beauties” by Jon Sindell

2015 Charter Oak Award Winners for Best Historical

1st Place: “My Father Tells Us about Leaving Vilnius” by Lyn Lifshin
2nd Place: “The Romanov Family Portrait” by Christina Elaine Collins
3rd Place: “Eva” by Elizabeth Laura Woollett
4th Place: “Titanic” by Sean Brendan-Brown
5th Place: “Lynchable Offenses in Alabama, 1889–1920” by Jesseca Cornelson
Finalist: “The Dictionary” by Claudia Serea
Finalist: “The Diabolical Voodoo Experiments of Harry Smith, Folk Music Anthologist” by Ed Hamilton
Finalist: “Gorsas’ Guillotine: A Nonfiction Narrative of Wordsworth and Carlyle” by James O’Brien
Finalist: “The Ballad of Augustin Lefavre” by R. Joseph Capet
Finalist: “No Pasarán!” by Luther Jett
Finalist: “Ode to the Couches of the 1950s” Brian Le Lay
Finalist: “Strathcona Park” by Pearl Pirie