Black Lawrence Press
February 22, 2018

2017 St. Lawrence Book Award Winner

We are so pleased to announce that Leigh Camacho Rourks has won the 2017 St. Lawrence Book Award with her short story collection Moon Trees and Other Orphans. Congratulations, Leigh!

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the 2017 St. Lawrence Book Award and send further congratulations to the finalists and semi-finalists.





Leigh Camacho Rourks has an MFA from Pacific University and is a PhD Candidate at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she teaches Creative Writing and American Literature. She is a recipient of both the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award and the Robert Watson Literary Review Prize, and her work has been shortlisted for several other awards. Her fiction, poems, and essays have appeared in a number of journals, including Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, RHINO, TriQuarterly, December Magazine, and Greensboro Review.





The following short story “Pulpo”, comes from Moon Trees and Other Orphans and was originally published in Smokelong Quarterly

Her papa’s hands tremble as he opens the olives—something she can do but asks for help with, anyway. It is the same sort of lid the octopus she is studying in her lab opens to dig for shrimp while she clicks the buttons on her stopwatch. In a race, Papa would shake into second, the octopus leaving him far behind. Slow to leave the table where he chops this morning’s catch, slow to take the jar, slow and fumbling as he turns the lid.

But fast enough to have caught them dinner: the pulpo from the first cast of the day, another octopus, but in his nets, in this house, on his tongue that still struggles with English, it is always “pulpo.”

Tomorrow, she will feed her octopus scraps from his fishing nets, and its time will be shorter. It is a fast learner.

Her hand in a loose fist, she presses her thumb against an imaginary button, counts, pushes again. Slower. Her father is getting slower, as if every second gained in the lab is lost here at home.

She stays at work too long, wants to be back now. The octopus is amazing, learning as fast as Papa forgets. Its spots grow familiar, like a face. A friend.

She is not lonely there, at work.

She waits for the sound of the pulpo hitting oil, waits for the smell. Feels Papa’s hand swim across her shoulder as he maneuvers around her.

The smell is the same as it has always been. Olive oil, garlic, the tart of a lemon cut, cut again. The salt and brine on his clothes, in the curtains, the smell of fish from his nets, her necropsies settled deep in the wood.

The house will remember even if they both forget.

She steals an olive from his cutting board, like a second from the stopwatch, and then a slice of pulpo, sizzling, from the pan. He pops her knuckles, wags his father finger with a smile: “Wait.”

Still fast enough for that, too.