Announcing the 2024 Winner of the Iron Horse Prize

Congratulations to TTU Press’s 2024 Iron Horse Prize winner, Marianne Erhardt. Her manuscript, called Lucky Bodies, is a kaleidoscopic view of motherhood, examining figures from her own life and from our collective cultural milieu. Erhardt calls the collection “A personal reckoning.”

Lucky Bodies was plucked from a strong field of submissions. Finalist judge Katie Cortese wrote that the pieces “felt true and full of sentiment without resorting to truisms or sentimentality. I read this one early, but it stayed right at the top of my list nearly the whole way.”

In the book Erhardt considers gendered notions of care alongside Peter Pan, Where the Wild Things Are, and Little House on the Prairie. She grieves her father’s death from brain cancer through Aesop’s “The Lark and Her Crest.” She re-watches Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman at the start of the pandemic; considers the passage of time through Days of Our Lives, and discovers how little the mother of God says out loud in The Bible. She re-imagines Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf as Red’s mother, and studies Bigfoot’s fame in her hometown, which holds other legends, like the 1972 explosion of a secret nuclear lab built during the cold war. She imagines the distant mother in the childhood game Mother May I?, finding kinship with her and also with the children who struggle to reach her. Throughout Lucky Bodies, Erhardt explores what we demand and withhold from mothers, caregivers, and one another, and how we might make and inhabit stories that cultivate an ethics of care.

The Iron Horse Prize competition serves to recognize and highlight budding authors and their first book of short stories or essays. The IHP was created in tandem with Texas Tech University Press and The Iron Horse Literary Review, functioning to publish strong voices, ones traditionally overlooked and underrepresented in contemporary literature.

Marianne Jay Erhardt lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with her family. Her writing appears in Orion, Kenyon Review, Oxford American, Electric Literature, Conjunctions, and other fine publications. Her work has been recognized and supported by a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship, a VanderMey Nonfiction Prize, and a residency at Vermont Studio Center. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Writing Program at Wake Forest University. Lucky Bodies is her first book.