The Masters Review Blog

Jul 21

New Voices: “Road Trip” by Rachel Attias

Rachel Attias’s powerful piece, “Road Trip,” received an honorable mention in our recent Flash Fiction Contest. This pithy little story goes deep. It chronicles the experience of a group of girls who set off on a cross-country road trip after college. Attias perfectly conveys both the freedom of youth and the ways in which young women can feel trapped by the gaze of others.

“We had stretched the length of the country; we had become humongous. We had forgotten that we are just girls.”

We drive across the country when college ends, just us girls. We keep the windows open and the music loud; our hair whips around our heads and our blood pumps to the bass beat. We are so young; this is our first real adventure, for some it’s our first time West of the Mississippi. We are so young. Just five short years from now we will be locked into jobs, relationships, homes. We will think we’re making mistakes all along the way, but we will mistake ourselves into careers, partners, very nice apartments or even houses. But now we live in a car.

We leave the industry of the East behind, and suddenly we see what everyone else has been doing all this time. We drive through the rainforest of West Virginia, the St. Louis Arch. We slide through the corn and soybean fields that make up the heart, the backbone, the vital anatomical metaphor of this country. Flat green falls away and rises into rich hills, crosshatched with the black lines of charred trees, and then flattens out again.

The old measurements lose their relevance. The meaning of a mile is nothing to us. There are no more hours, only time when it is light enough to see and time when it isn’t. We are constantly moving, so that it begins to feel like we’re on a treadmill. We aren’t going anywhere, really. We’re not moving away from anything, either, and we don’t know yet that we want to be. Our phones buzz and beep; families, friends, lovers want to know where we are, what we see now. We don’t know how to say it. If we hold our breath we might be suspended in time and space, hurtling at eighty miles an hour in a large metal box.

Sometimes we want to yank each other’s hair. We want to fight. We see each other so closely that we miss things. When this is done we will love one another in the fashion that only young women can, a thing made infinite, as two mirrors facing each other. We will stare and stare, and love will give way to hate, will give way to self-loathing, and back to love again. Some of us will drift apart after this is done.

To read the rest of “Road Trip,” click here.

Jul 19

The Masters Review Volume VI Anthology Prize – Winners!

They’re here! We’re immensely proud to present the ten winning stories of our Anthology Prize, selected by Roxane Gay and which will appear in the sixth volume of The Masters Review. We couldn’t be happier to promote a collection that is filled with such promising talent. Stay tuned for updates on when the collection will be available. And lastly, congratulations to the ten writers selected!

The Masters Review Volume VI
with stories selected by Roxane Gay

“Gormley” by Chris Arp

“Steal Away” by Nicole Cuffy

“Confessions of a Lady-In-Waiting” by Rachel Engelman

“Migrations” by Michele Host

“Hope Gold” by Leslie Jones

“A Man Stands Tall” by Gabriel Moseley

“This is an Exercise in Detachment” by Amy Purcell

“Little Men” by Matthew Sullivan

“Speakers of Other Languages” by Maria Thomas

“Out of Our Suffering” by Kasey Thornton

Jul 17

Two Weeks Left! Our Short Story Award For New Writers Closes July 31

Writers, there are only two more weeks to submit to our Short Story Award For New Writers, which awards $3000, publication, and agency review from four top agents to the winner. $200 and $100 are awarded to second and third place, respectively, as well as publication and agency review. All stories are considered for publication and all honorable mentions will also be sent to agents. It’s an awesome prize with some great visibility and it is only open to new and emerging authors. SUBMIT NOW! There are only two weeks left. Details here.

“Thanks for providing a place for emerging talents to thrive!”
— Amy Williams, The Williams Agency

||| SUBMIT NOW |||

$3000 + Publication + Agency Review

Full contest details and guidelines can be found here.

Jul 14

Summer Book Reviews: What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons & Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash

Today, we are pleased to bring you reviews of two recent novels to add to your summer reading list, pronto! First, Laura Spence-Ash reviews What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons, a debut that just hit the shelves this week. In Spence-Ash’s words: “Clemmons has written a novel that doesn’t quite feel like a novel. She nicely plays with form to convey content; the book seems at times like a memoir and, at others, like a collection of minute essays. …The blurring of boundaries between genres does much to underscore this sense of never quite belonging to any one thing.”

Next, Kim Winternheimer reviews Gabe Habash’s debut novel Stephen Florida, which follows the mental workings of a college wrestler who is fiercely dedicated to his sport. Winternheimer writes: “Stephen grapples with his place in the world outside of wrestling and because we have so much access to his thoughts and feelings, what starts as the pursuit of a lofty sports goal is in equal measure a journey for sanity, for balance, and for a life filled with meaning.” Read on!

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons

Much of What We Lose, an innovative and engaging debut novel by Zinzi Clemmons, is about being stuck in the in-between. The protagonist, Thandi, is of mixed-race, with an American father and a South African mother. Although Thandi is brought up in Philadelphia, her mother’s ties to her home country are strong, and the family visits most summers. Over the course of the book, Thandi matures from a teenager to a young woman. And then Thandi’s mother dies from cancer, and she is a daughter without a mother before becoming a mother to a son. In all these instances, she interrogates each binary as well as the space in between as she tries to figure out who she is and how to move forward. Read more.



Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash

Gabe Habash’s confident debut, Stephen Florida, explores the single-minded intensity behind the pursuit of your goals. The result is a fast-paced novel about sacrifice and dedication, as it follows college senior and wrestling national championship hopeful Stephen Florida in his attempt to win the 133lb weight class.

Stephen Florida is a talented wrestler at an average college, but he is exceptional in his devotion to his sport. Willing to sacrifice beyond reasonable measure, Stephen makes his commitment to wrestling a credo. The novel reads like a manifesto, leading readers into the mind of a character filled with pain (“What will make my thoughts less ugly while I wait for my turn? I live in these little chambers of dissatisfaction like a frustrated prince. I’m constantly reminded that I’m not owed anything.”), humor (“I guess because sailboating and horse jumping, kite contests, golf, those aren’t sports. Anything that needs an object or water or an animal is not a sport. Wrestling is genuine and true and real.”), and extraordinary focus (“But I don’t need to be old to know that to look back and realize you didn’t push yourself for something you loved is the greatest regret you can have”). Read more.

Jul 11

Flash Fiction Contest – Meet the Winners!

// small. POWERFUL. //

Congratulations to the winners of our Flash Fiction Contest! We can’t wait for you to read these tiny + incredible stories. The winning writer will be awarded $2000 and publication on PEN America’s website and then later reprinted in The Masters Review for our archive. Second and third place will be awarded $200 and $100, respectively, as well as publication in The Masters Review. All stories listed will receive publication and all three winners will be recognized in a special issue of Poets & Writers magazine. Stay tuned for five incredible stories!.

“Out and Out” by Latifa Ayad

Second Place Story:
“Lions in The House” by Beejay Silcox

Third Place Story:
“The Grocery Store Miracle” Mahreen Sohail

Honorable Mentions:
“Road Trip” by Rachel Attias
“Balter Cafe” by Elle Flythe

Jul 7

Science Fiction Review Series: The City & The City by China Miéville

Welcome to our summer review series! From June through September, Masters Review guest editor, Lauren Klepinger, will read and respond to six science fiction novels (some classic, some recent), and examine them from the perspective of a writer trying to improve her understanding of the genre. Today she explores the strange double cities in China Miéville’s, The City & The City.

 The City & The City by China Miéville

My review of Railhead compared the novel to China Miéville’s Railsea, a wild steampunk-Western packed with action and adventure. By contrast, Miéville’s The City & The City seems almost subdued, though not wanting for intrigue. This novel succeeds because of its subtlety, and because it never quite shows all of its cards.

The City & The City unites speculative fiction with the noir detective novel. The story revolves around the murder of postgraduate student Mahalia Geary, and it quickly becomes clear this is more than a crime of passion. Her body turns up in the decaying, vaguely Eastern European city of Beszel, but the murder occurred in its twin/neighbor/alter, Ul Qoma. Though these two cities somehow occupy the same geographical space, they are in fact worlds apart. The citizens of Beszel and Ul Qoma must not cross between them, interact with each other, or even acknowledge the presence of the opposing city: they must “unsee” it, or risk provoking the mysterious and nearly omnipotent forces of Breach. Only by formally and legally “crossing the border,” can they experience the other city safely.

Miéville’s prose almost entirely avoids exposition about Beszel and Ul Qoma, requiring the reader to slowly piece together their relationship from the brisk first-person narration of Inspector Tyador Borlú as he investigates Mahalia’s murder. Borlú himself doesn’t know all the answers to the questions these cities raise, such as how they came to be, what Breach is, and whether there might be some truth to the urban legend of Orciny, the fabled “city between the cities.”

These questions lead to the brilliant thing about this novel: how Miéville skirts the edges of the sci-fi genre, possibly making you unsure whether you’re reading sci-fi at all. Given that it has won or been nominated for several awards for sci-fi/fantasy genre fiction, including the Hugo Award, the BSFA Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Nebula Award, it seems fair to shelf it in that genre. But by the end of Borlú’s investigation, it isn’t clear whether anything supernatural has gone on at all. (more…)

Jul 3

Happy Independence Day!

We are out of the office in observance of freedom, equal rights, and fireworks. Have a great Fourth of July! We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming on Wednesday. 

Jun 30

New Voices: “For Danny, Twelve Years Old” by Lucas Loredo

Today, we’re pleased to publish a story that takes full advantage of the epistolary form. “For Danny, Twelve Years Old” is addressed to a boy who has just lost his mother. It is a concise and powerful tale. Don’t miss this moving addition to our New Voices library.

“You will experience a cleaving, and the pre-event you and post-event you will assume radio silence, and you will not know where the first you has gone except that it is to somewhere you cannot follow.”

Dear Danny,

The news will be the liquid pop of a flashbulb in your brain; it will cause total erasure. You will dissociate from your body and see yourself from above. When two nurses in teal scrubs pass by the window, you will think:

They are having a normal day, and I am not.

You will think:

Who will take me to school tomorrow?

This question, posed seconds after, will be the first of many that are so logistical and quotidian you will feel guilt and selfishness for them.

Who will pack my lunch?

Who will walk the dogs?

Ten minutes after, the hospital counselor will leave you and your father in the room alone. Somehow your sister will arrive, though you won’t know who could have called her, or when.

Will I have to start using an alarm in the morning?

A half hour after, your sister will drive you and your father home in her convertible. The top will be down. Her hair will whip around as her hand rests on your father’s knee. In the backseat, in the wind, will be a chance to cry unnoticed, so use it. At home, when your father unlocks the front door, your two Rottweilers, Samson and Delilah, will greet you excitedly. Your sister will put on the kettle, and your father will shower.

Can Dad do laundry?

In the next few hours, many people you know and some you don’t—but who seem to know you—will come. You will try for hours to ease the houseguests with small talk as they look at you with wonder. It will be bewildering and exhausting. Your extended family will converge upon you from all corners of Texas, and the map of their travel will look like a crosshair with you at its center.

To read the rest of “For Danny, Twelve Years Old” click here.

Jun 27

July Deadlines: 11 Contests and Prizes With Deadlines This Month

The temperature keeps rising as we move into July, but it only takes a little ingenuity to avoid the doldrums. Our idea? Beat the summer heat by drinking lemonade, visiting the pool, and fanning yourself with a pile of submissions!

FEATURED! Short Story Award For New Writers

This is our biggest submission period of the year! The Masters Review is looking for stories under 7000 words, written by emerging writers who have a way with words and a passion for prose. The winner receives $3000, publication, and agency review, and the first and second place authors also receive cash prizes, publication, and review. Don’t let this opportunity slip by! Details here.
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: July 31

Bellevue Literary Review Prizes

All three of the Bellevue Literary Review’s contests are ending soon, so enter now if you want to receive one of the three $1000 and publication first-place prizes! All entries should be related to themes of health, healing, illness, the mind, and the body. Geraldine Brooks is judging fiction, Rachel Hadas is judging poetry, and Rivka Galchen is judging nonfiction. Honorable mention winners also earn $250 and publication! Guidelines here.
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: July 1

Richard J. Margolis Award

Inspired by journalist and essayist Richard J. Margolis, this prize provides financial and other support to a promising journalist whose work combines warmth, humor, and wisdom with social justice. This prize recognizes one writer with $5000, and a one-month residency at the Blue Mountain Center in Blue Mountain Lake, NY. Applicants need to provide a biographical note, a project description, and two writing samples. Submission guidelines here.
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: July 1

Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers

These awards, presented by Nimrod International Journal through the University of Tulsa, honor the work of writers at the beginning of their careers in either fiction or poetry. Contestants can enter up to five pages of poetry, and up to 5000 words of prose. The winner of each category will receive $500 and their manuscript will be published in the spring issue of Nimrod! Details here.
Entry Fee: $12 Deadline: July 15

 Rattle Poetry Prize

Rattle is looking for an outstanding piece of poetry, and they are definitely willing to compensate you handsomely for it! This annual competition awards $10,000 for a single poem to be published in the winter issue of their magazine. Ten finalists also receive $200, and additional poems from the entries are frequently published. Four poems are allowed per entry, and there is no line limit. What are you waiting for? Enter here!
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: July 15


Jun 23

Science Fiction Review Series: Railhead by Philip Reeve

Welcome to our summer review series! From June through September, Masters Review guest editor, Lauren Klepinger, will read and respond to six science fiction novels (some classic, some recent), and examine them from the perspective of a writer trying to improve her understanding of the genre. The six novels reviewed are listed below. Read along, enjoy, and let us know what you think about how each writer occupies his or her own space in science fiction.

Railhead by Philip Reeve, 2015

The City & The City by China Miéville, 2009

Foundation by Isaac Asimov, 1951

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett, 2012

Patternmaster by Octavia Butler, 1976

The Chimes by Anna Smaill, 2015

Railhead by Philip Reeve

In the distant future, humanity has terraformed and colonized dozens of planets across the galaxy. We grow bio-architecture from genetically engineered plants, fight humanoid robots for employment, access the Datasea with the blink of an eye, and are policed by obedient drones. Perhaps the most significant transformation of daily life is the Great Network, where sentient trains shuttle humans from planet to planet on rails laid by the Guardians, artificial intelligences far surpassing humans in breadth and depth of knowledge.

Philip Reeve builds a world for Railhead that riffs on plenty of old sci-fi conventions, but still feels fresh enough to capture and surprise the imagination. His cast of characters keeps things lively: the raggedy young thief and “railhead” Zen, the almost-human-but-not-quite Motorik Nova, the mysterious and morally dubious Raven, the proper and power-hungry Noon corporate family. Woven into their tales are themes of how technology rules human society: the Guardians have become gods, and their Great Network has utterly transformed daily life.

In some ways, Railhead feels like the sci-fi cousin of Railsea, China Miéville’s 2012 steampunk interpretation of Moby Dick. Both present daring adventures and tense politics playing out on a web of tracks with mysterious origins, and the trains offer them a wealth of technologies and motifs to play with. But the genre distinctions are what give these novels their independent identities: where Railsea stretches the boundaries of the growing steampunk canon (which is arguably a sci-fi sub-genre itself), Railhead belongs to more traditional sci-fi.

As Reeve builds the story of how Raven uses Zen and Nova for his own subversive schemes, he raises a number of fascinating questions about his sci-fi world: where did the technology for the rails of the Network come from, since humans didn’t build them? Why did the Guardians stop expanding the Network? What are the “Station Angels,” mysterious light forms appearing in stations?

Unfortunately, Reeve only gives cursory answers to most of these questions, if he answers them at all. (more…)

Jun 21

The Masters Review Volume VI Finalists Announcement: Sit Tight!

Thank you again to everyone who submitted to The Masters Review Volume VI, judged by Roxane Gay, and congratulations to the thirty authors who made the shortlist. We hope that you are as excited as we are to hear which ten stories and essays Roxane will pick to be featured in our printed anthology. We wanted to let you know that our winners announcement will be coming soon, so stay tuned! Until then, sit back, relax, and enjoy the summertime.

Jun 16

New Voices: “Longshore Drift” by Scott Broker

Today we present “Longshore Drift” by Scott Broker, the latest addition to our New Voices library. In this story a pair of siblings visit their grandfather in Mexico, skeptical of the man they’ve heard so much about from their parents. Over the course of the trip, the narrator Joseph discovers where his own family alliances lie as he learns more about his enigmatic grandfather.

On the way to visit our grandfather, my older sister Jackie predicted my death.

“The cards don’t lie, boo,” she said, sliding the horseback skeleton across the tray table. “Do you want me to tell you how it’s going to happen?”

Her tarot deck was new, a Christmas gift from our father, and in the three days since tearing it open the cards had ruined my life by ending it at least ten times.

I pressed my head against the plane’s window and felt the turbulence trembling through my jaw. At ten, I was willing to believe anything Jackie told me: microwaving your socks kept your feet warm during winter; a dozen spiders were sleeping in your stomach at any given moment. The cards did not give her authority, but simply reinforced it.

Jackie pulled the death card away and slipped it into the deck. “Well?” She looked at me—eyelashes stretched and clumped by mascara—and I nodded.

“It’s probably going to happen while we’re in Mexico,” she said, thoughtfully touching her chin and gazing down at the Sea of Cortez. “So I see two options: you’ll either be kidnapped by the cartel and have your head cut off,”—she dragged a finger across her neck, leaving a pink disturbance behind—“or you’ll be torn apart by a pack of wild dogs.”

Dim shapes moved at the peripheries of my vision and I dragged a slow breath into my lungs to try clearing them. I didn’t want to cry, but felt that familiar heat start to rise.

“Don’t look so sad, boo,” Jackie said, pinching my cheek and sipping at her soda.

Beneath us, the scar of sea separating Baja California from mainland Mexico was replaced by blinding desert and, on the intercom, the pilot directed us to behold la maravilla of Cabo San Lucas.

Jackie crushed at the ice from her drink and spoke through chews. “At least you’ll die among palm trees. Plus, the cards might be wrong—who knows?”

<< Read the rest of “Longshore Drift” here >>