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Ellyn Gaydos, 2018 Award Winner

The cultural identity of rural America, complex yet neglected, has been an ongoing source of inspiration for Vermonter Ellen Gaydos.  She has made a living as a seasonal vegetable and pig farmhand since she was a teenager. While farming in New England, she wrote newspaper articles on issues including elder care, internet accessibility and animal breeding in small towns. Her long-form pieces have focused on private property and the viability of the logging industry in upstate New York, the day-to-day lives of pigs and the people who raise them, and interstate deliveries of long-haul truck drivers.

Gaydos is currently working on a book-length piece of experimental nonfiction about a Global Foundries (formerly IBM) microchip-manufacturing facility in northwest Vermont where she had worked for a winter. It highlights the largely invisible labors of white-suited workers in clean rooms that run 24 hours a day churning out chips for smartphones and satellites. It is both a speculation on the future of an increasingly post-industrial northeast and a document of the culture at the factory. 

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Gaydos’s work has been published in the Texas Review, the Columbia Journal, Ninth Letter, The Brooklyn Eagle, 05401, The Columbia Paper, Edible Green Mountains, and The Essex Reporter. She received the 2017 award for creative nonfiction from Ninth Letter. Ellyn is an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at Columbia University. 

“As small towns across the country lose basic services like health care and local libraries, populations shrink, schools consolidate and jobs migrate away, I hope to reinvigorate Richard J. Margolis’ deep investment in rural America,” Gaydos said. “By looking at small communities, I want to explore a connection to our nation’s history and a meaningful link to the natural world with the generous support of the Margolis Award."

Gaydos's book about farming, Pig Years (Alfred A Knopf, 2022), was reviewed in The New York Times on June 14, 2022.

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