The City and Regional Magazine Association and the Missouri School of Journalism recently announced the finalists for the 2012 National City and Regional Magazine Awards. Racking up the most nominations (more than 10 each) were Texas Monthly, Los Angeles Magazine, Philadelphia Magazine, Atlanta Magazine, Chicago Magazine and 5280 Magazine (Denver’s city mag).

Winners will be announced at the CRMA conference to be held May 19-21 in Las Vegas. Categories include everything from food writing to photography and design, but we were most interested in the feature, profile and reporting categories. Several people are finalists for stories we’ve already highlighted on the site, such as Pamela Colloff’s “Church Burners,” Justin Heckert’s “The Town That Blew Away” and Robert Sanchez’s “The Fire Next Door,” but there are also some nice entries from people we hadn’t noticed before.

You can see the full list of finalists for yourself, but there are no links in the press release, so we thought we’d provide a few for you. Here’s a taste of a single story from each finalist in CRMA’s “Writer of the Year” category. Happy reading!

Justin Heckert of Atlanta Magazine. Here’s a passage from “Her Own Flesh and Blood”:

The congregation read the letter, heard what the pastor had to say. Hebron Christian decided to support the Monfortis, even though AIDS was such a frightening word.

Of course, everyone wondered how they got it. Everyone asked. Their friends asked, the doctors asked; her parents were incessant in their asking. For a while they told a fib, just to quiet everyone down, to keep up some kind of normal-family facade; she said that she probably got a needle stick somewhere along the line, being a nurse, but she didn’t believe that. When Jeff was in New York, before they were married, he’d lived another life; he’d slept with men. This was something he’d told her, but he’d also told her he stopped when he found God. But then he’d confided to her, and to the men in the church, that he still had a lot of conflicting feelings, and that while she was pregnant with Jonathan, he’d been unfaithful with another man. It made sense; Jonathan was the only one who tested negative. She loved Jeff and had decided to stay with him when he told her all this.

Mimi Swartz of Texas Monthly. Here’s the opening paragraph from “Law and Disorder”:

Darla Lexington sleeps in a very dark room in a very large bed, alone. Like a particular kind of Houston woman, the fact that she lives on the top floor of a luxury apartment building is a sign of reduced circumstances, though in her case the loss of an impressive River Oaks home resulted from a death instead of a divorce. The bedspread and curtains are black, giving the room the gloom of mourning. Beside the bed, leaning against the wall, is a large portrait of her lover of ten years, John O’Quinn, the infamous trial lawyer who died in a terrible car accident in the fall of 2009. Darla, who at 59 has the courtesan’s hourglass figure, the geisha’s will to please, and a soft, baby girl voice, talks to the portrait often, especially when she is lonely or sad or, as is frequently the case these days, really, really mad.

Robert Sanchez of 5280 Magazine. Here’s a piece of “Rewrite”:

In another room, Sean is unconscious. His family is led to his bedside. Karen Student has seen her boy almost every day of his life, but now she only recognizes him from the bottoms of his size 13 feet and from his short-cropped brown hair. Both of his eyes are blackened.

The family sits and waits. By 5:45 a.m., doctors tell Sean’s family that there’s nothing more they can do. They agonize over the decision they have to make. Eventually, Sean’s parents sign some papers and Sean is taken off life support. Karen sits in a chair next to her son’s bed, holding his hand. It’s cold to the touch. It takes him 35 minutes to die. When she finally lets go, Sean’s hand is warm again.

Tony Rehagen of Indianapolis Magazine. This passage is excerpted from “A Lot To Lose”:

Chris and the boys returned home and went to bed. At 2 a.m., she rolled over to see the other half of the bed undisturbed. Her first thought was that Rich had succumbed to the stress and suffered a heart attack at his desk. She hurriedly got dressed and drove back to Burd Ford. She saw Rich’s Taurus out front. The dealership’s doors were now locked. She didn’t have a key. She banged on the glass. There was no answer.

You can begin to form your own explanation. You probably faced your own hardships. At the height of the financial crisis, the news was filled with stories of desperate people—laid off, broke, foreclosed on. Some of them, including nearly a dozen car dealers, committed suicide. And when you consider how much of Rich was invested in his business, it’s not hard to imagine his despair when he felt his dream begin to crumble around him.

Robert Huber of Philadelphia Magazine. Here’s a sample of  “Power, Sex and Secrets”:

JOE IS NOW 59 years old; his health is fragile—he’s had two heart attacks. He’s a small man, with straight brown hair combed to the side, like a boy’s. For the past few months, Joe’s been in therapy—ever since he came out with his story, at his church’s men’s group in Manayunk, of being abused. Putting words to his thoughts is not easy for him. His voice seems to escape, barely, from the side of his mouth as he tells his story again in a back booth at Michael’s Ridge Diner in Roxborough.

He was small and quiet and dumb—or at least the nuns at Roman Catholic High School said he was dumb. He was in ninth grade in 1968, barely getting by. Father Schmeer was a guidance counselor. He would call boys down to his office for supposedly skipping English class. One day, it was Joe’s turn. He knew what was about to happen, because other boys had been there. Or he didn’t know exactly, but he was about to find out.

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