Where are They Now? Checking in with Glory of the Senses High School Essay Contest Winners

To continue Paul Engle’s tradition of inspiring writers and celebrating the rich culture of Iowa, the City of Literature organization annually solicits essays from Iowa high school sophomore about an “Iowa experience,” drawing on a specific memory to capture the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of the day. The author of the essay judged by reviewers to be the best receives one year of free tuition to the University of Iowa. A select number of runners up receive a $500 scholarship from the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature. The contest is based on Engle’s writings, particularly his memoir, A Lucky American Childhood.

The deadline for submissions is May 24, 2024. To view details about this year’s contest and how to submit, click here.


We have been checking in with past essay contest winners to see where they are at and what they are up to.

2015 winner, Natalie Holmes:

I attended the University of Iowa, with the help of the award scholarship, and received my BA in English with a Religious Studies Minor in December 2020. During undergrad I served as editor-in-chief of Ink Lit Mag no. 13, Iowa’s first-year literary journal, and continued working as a processor at the Iowa City Public Library. Throughout 2020 while on furlough from work due to the pandemic, I finally considered librarianship as a career path, despite being right in front of my eyes for the past five years.

I applied to Iowa’s Library and Information Science MA program with an interest in teen services in public libraries. But instead, I fell in love with academic library cataloging and the opportunities to constantly improve access through how library resources are described. I developed a particular passion for growing DEIA movements to repair historic and ongoing oppression in descriptive practices and elevate marginalized voices in the catalog. During my graduate studies, I got to create and edit metadata for past issues of The Iowa Review, transcribe and encode newly discovered journal articles in TEI/XML for the Walt Whitman Archive, and do practicum with the University of Iowa Libraries cataloging one of a kind artists’ books for Special Collections.

I got incredibly lucky in my job search during my last semester of my MLIS, only having to apply for one position. Cataloging Librarian at the University of Minnesota Duluth was the perfect fit, and I moved away from Iowa City for the first time to start in Duluth in July 2023. As the only dedicated cataloger at the library, I get to catalog a huge variety of materials from music scores to streaming videos to board games to locally published books in Ojibwe. I’ve been especially excited to work with our local history-focused Special Collections and to support UMD’s Sámi Collection (one of the largest in the country). My creative writing has dwindled since the essay contest, but my journey from publishing to religious studies and now to cataloging in libraries has all been centered around my love for literature. I’m still so grateful to this day that I was chosen as the winner of the essay contest and the support it provided to propel me to where I am now. As for the future, I am excited to put down roots in Duluth and keep doing what I love at the library every day.

Read Natalie’s 2015 winning essay here.