Fresh after publication of first piece, a nomination for a literary ‘Oscar’

Jennifer Hildebrandt’s ‘Jacket’ up for a Pushcart Prize


JENNIFER HILDEBRANDT OF St. Paul became a published author this past spring, and now, the Mountain Lake native has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Hildebrandt)


Fresh after the spring 2017 publication of her literary work, “Jacket,” in the Bellevue Literary Review, author Jennifer Hildebrandt of St. Paul, a native of Mountain Lake, has seen her piece nominated for a  2018 Pushcart Prize.

The Pushcart Prize – a literary award on the par of an Oscar in the film industry – is an annual American literary anthology culled from a select pool of nominees, and published by Pushcart Press. The anthology honors the best “poetry, short fiction, essays, memoirs or literary whatnot” published throughout the world over the course of the previous year by the small presses, magazines and journals. The Pushcart Prize began in 1976.

“Jacket” first reached the literary world when Jennifer received the Felice Buckvar Prize for Nonfiction (as selected by Ariel Levy) Honorable Mention award winner late last year and published in the 32nd Bellevue Literary Review (a journal of humanity and human experience) spring 2017.

In “Jacket,” Jennifer braids the mourning of the loss of her partner to cancer with the despair of not knowing the diagnosis soon enough. She offers a lesson in seeking solace, as she weaves these emotions through the wild landscape behind her home.

The Bellevue Literary Review (BLR), founded in 2000, was created as a forum for creatively exploring a broad array of issues in medicine and society, using fiction, nonfiction, and poetry to better understand the nuanced tensions that define our lives both in illness and in health. They are devoted to publishing writing that brings together the perspectives of patients, caregivers, family members, students, healthcare professionals and the general public, allowing for deeper understanding of others’ experiences.

Jennifer is a Support Staff Member at Junket: Tossed & Found – and passionate writer – following the death of her husband, Bob, from cancer in 2011. She was a graduate student in the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program in Creative Writing at Hamline University in St. Paul, where she served on the creative nonfiction editorial board in 2016 for Hamline’s literary journal, Water~Stone Review, and was appointed assistant creative nonfiction editor for 2017. She did her undergraduate study at Minnesota State University-Mankato after graduating from Mountain Lake Public High School in 1986.

Jennifer’s writing evolution began six years ago when she entered the Hamline MFA program – not as a writer – but as a “shell-shocked widow with not much more than a blog to my name that was not supposed to end the way it ended.” At that time, Jennifer was looking to rid herself of all connected to the illness and death of her husband. “If I just kept writing, I thought, maybe I would some day be depleted of the stories and all its anguish, nightmares, never-ending sadness, grief, trauma, blah, blah, blah . . .,” she thought.

And while she admits now – six years later – that all of that “stuff” remains a part of her, she has come to the realization that is “the crazy-beauty of it: it’ll never go away. It’s part of who I am, like entwined in my DNA, and like me, it’s always evolving, always offering up startling new insights like little precious sparks lighting my way, leading me to even more stories to tell.”

She recognizes that her writing has revolved from “sad, raging, angry, gut-wrenching purging on the page to stories that work on transcending all of that, evolving into things more vast than just me and my experiences with Bob. I think that’s what this art stuff is all about, to take our sad or boring, or ugly or traumatic stories and make them into something that stretches beyond the definition of those things, and make them matter to not just us, but to the world.”

Amazingly, Jennifer has learned that some of those stories aren’t really sad, angry, gut-wrenching at all, but, “artful expressions of the messy, complicated, beauty that is life. And when I learn that I’ve won an artist initiative grant and a Pushcart nomination because of words I’ve put to paper, it’s tangible, mounting evidence for me that all this hard work of trying to create something lovely from what was such a horrible and difficult time, is worth it, so worth it. That it matters enough for others to acknowledge in such profound ways. But never far from my thoughts, in spite grants and nominations, is the very sobering reason I’m writing.”

Jennifer’s nonfiction stories weave together themes of love, life, death, nature, science (anatomy and biomechanics, in particular) and redefining life after loss. She blogs at

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