The Masters Review Blog

Apr 12

New Voices: “Rip Your Throat Out” by Will Ejzak

When the zombies came, humans adapted. They erected fences. They stationed snipers on the roofs of schools. They believed Ground Zero was safe during the daylight. In Will Ejzak’s “Rip Your Throat Out,” our narrator Rip wants you to know, in a voice all his own, this isn’t true. Today’s New Voices story is full of heart, humor, and humans who think they’re safe. Read on at your own risk:

They talk about winning in school. Ms. Fincher say, We flattening the curve. Mr. Zimbler say, One of you kids will grow up to kill the last zombie bastard. Principal Hart say, Must prepare the children for post-zombie adulthood. But humans always brag. Assumed it was lies.

I is zombie. Ma is zombie. Frank is zombie. We live in old Roberson house. We ate Robersons. Screamed and screamed. Shouldn’t eat baby first. Made Mr. and Mrs. Roberson loud. Screechy. Mental note for next time: Baby is dessert.

I sleep in dog bed. Robersons had big spotty Great Dane. Ate him. Sleep in his bed now. Fetal position. Frank trip over me sometimes. On purpose? Not Frank fan.

Frank met Ma at maternity ward. Ate babies together. Fell in love. Now stuck with Frank. Frank not real dad. Real dad somewhere out there? Mental note: Find real dad. Imagine: Real dad come back. Fight Frank. Rip head off. Put on chain link fence outside Roberson house. Warning: Ma off limits. Future Franks Keep Out!

Still too many humans, say Frank. Sometimes Frank go out for midnight snack. Get back into bed with bloody teeth. Gross, say Ma. If hunting, bring back for family, say Ma. Selfish. Frank get mad. Bite off Ma hand. Now Ma have one less hand.

Don’t hurt but annoying, say Ma. Easier to do things with two.

I kill Frank, I say.

Already dead, say Ma. Plus Frank bigger. Bite off your hand too maybe.

Will trade one less hand for one less Frank, I say.

He not all bad, say Ma.

But Frank not just zombie. Frank jerk zombie. Double bad. Bad squared.

To continue reading “Rip Your Throat Out” click here.

Apr 6

April Book Review: Girl A by Abigail Dean

In our first book review of April, reviewer Dan Mazzacane explores Abigail Dean’s Girl A, published in February of this year by Viking. Mazzacane writes, “[F]or all its darkness, there is tenderness, small moments of happiness between Lex and her adoptive father are welcome spots of light in these pages.” Read the full review below.

By the time Girl A, Abigail Dean’s debut novel, begins, the crime motivating its plot has already been solved. Alexandria Gracie has escaped her parents, who have been shot dead after keeping Lex and her siblings in abusive captivity. But Girl A is not a book about the act that triggered trauma, it is a study of the aftermath, carried out with a meticulous eye for the needs of its survivors. Our narrator, Lex, has no time for an audience’s emotions in the relation of her story. Her delivery of memories concerning the abuse is deliberately flat, often unsettling for its frankness, and utterly heartbreaking. For Lex, the relation of traumatic acts is simply reality.

Read more.

Apr 5

New Voices: “Smith” by Rob Franklin

In Rob Franklin’s “Smith,” this week’s New Voices story, the narrator, Smith, discovers his grandfather, not Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier in professional baseball, becoming the first Black man to play in the major leagues as the right fielder for the Chicago White Sox in 1921. “Smith” is a story about the legacy of passing and its continued manifestations.

He saw the man whom he supposed he could call his ​great-grandfather​—fair-skinned, square-jawed—strolling into an open MLB tryout as if it were the most natural thing in the world. High on the presumption that talent would be enough to grant him success. How profoundly, inconceivably American he must have looked. Finney would’ve been his height, Smith imagined—tall, as the men of his family were—but with fair skin that belied years beneath Southern sun. Slicked black hair, combed and bound to his scalp with oil, sweat, and the kind of gel that loosens curls into one contiguous wave.

The ink had bled to the point of abstraction. Well, almost. One could make out, if vaguely, an image—eighty, maybe ninety years old—torn from The West Memphis Gazebo Gazette​, a long defunct Arkansas paper whose microfiche was evidently available at the Chicago Public Library. In it, a family of ten was rendered, by the inattention to nuance that greyscale provides, almost entirely black. The single face spared from the image’s shadow hovered at its precise center, starkly white amid that unintelligible sea of brown and black, children whose expressions seemed to convey either the melancholy of the times or of their particular experience.

A Dixie Puzzler​, the headline promised, and below, in font so faint it gave the impression of an eye exam: Now and then, down here in Arkansas cotton country, a stranger will excitably tell of seeing a white man, with his Negro wife and eight children, living on a small farm not far from West Memphis. Quoted was a witless local, easily cast in one’s mind as a cartoon hillbilly, his stomach distended and a single sprig of hay protruding from his toothless mouth: “He was as white as I am and there I was ‘mistering’ him, when up comes a whole litter of colored kids calling him Daddy.”

The Dixie Puzzler​​, then, was just this: a man named Finneas Smith who “claim[ed] to be a Negro” ​ despite his whitemannish appearance, a then-common phenomenon, but in reverse. Whichever he​ was, his passing was only newsworthy given evidence that, in 1921, he’d broken the “color barrier” by​ walking on ​as a right fielder for the Chicago White Sox.​

To continue reading “Smith” click here.

Apr 2

Litmag Roadmap: Georgia

Georgia is in the new right now for not-great reasons, but there are still lovely lit mags in the state that need your support! Rebecca Williamson’s got you covered in this post:

Considering Georgia’s status as the fourth state of the country, its home to many historic landmarks, including the beautiful Savannah and pivotal Atlanta. Alongside its peaches, Georgia’s peanuts are also a prominent agricultural treat. Yet, Georgia isn’t all about the farm life, scenic natural views, and coastal cities. The state is rich in vibrant art and cultural scenes that draw many people. Writers and artists can definitely be inspired by Georgia’s plethora of literary magazines writers and artists can submit to:

The Georgia Review

This journal has been publishing each season out of the University of Georgia since 1947. Since then, it has expanded to include contributors and readers around the country. The Georgia Review searches for imaginative fiction, essays, poetry, or book reviews that challenge ideas that have become too rigid. The journal also encourages editorial collaboration between the staff and writers. Writers can submit via Submittable or mail between August 16 and May 14.

Five Points 

Founded by Georgia State University’s English Department in 1996, Five Points publishes three times each year. The journal is ranked in the top ten by Every Writer’s Resource and has had works appear in several best-of collections, including Best American Short Stories and Best American Poetry. The journal accepts fiction, poetry, flash fiction, nonfiction, and literary nonfiction. Submissions are currently open on Submittable until April 30.

Atlanta Review

The Atlanta Review is a biannual journal for poetry only; however, all kinds of poems are welcome, from lyric to experimental and everything in between. General submissions are included in each issue, but the fall/winter issue highlights contest winners, and the spring/summer is their international issue featuring poems and guest editors from around the world. Submittable is currently open until June 1 (but will reopen in September).

Lullwater Review 

Although this journal is only published once a year out of Emory University, they accept submissions from around the world. They consider art, fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry submissions that are emotionally evocative from both unrecognized and distinguished writers. Submissions are open year-round but are only accepted via email.

Stillpoint Literary Magazine 

This literary magazine publishes online regularly with one print issue each spring out of the University of Georgia. The journal seeks to publish unconventional works from established and emerging writers. The genres accepted are poetry, prose, visual arts, and reviews. Submissions for the print issue are closed, but submissions for online publication only are accepted on a rolling basis via email.

Wraparound South

Georgia Southern University’s literary magazine encourages work that explores and humanizes southern viewpoints or ideas relevant to the global culture, favoring underrepresented voices. Although the journal is based in the South, writers from around the world can submit poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, interviews, art, and hybrid forms/mixed genre works. Submissions for the spring/summer issue are closed, but the reading period for the fall/winter issue will open on August 1.

by Rebecca Williamson

Apr 1

2021 Flash Fiction Contest — Now Open!

Our annual Flash Fiction Contest is now open for submissions until May 30th! Submit up to 2 pieces of flash fiction in one document (each under 1,000 words). Stuart Dybek will select this year’s winners. The winning submission earns a $3,000 prize, while 2nd and 3rd place are paid $300 and $200 respectively. All finalists are published on our site. Finalists in this contest in the past have gone on to be selected for Best Small Fictions!

submit

Our love of flash fiction runs deep. We are proud to offer a contest dedicated solely to flash. The winning writer will be awarded $3000 and publication in The Masters Review. Second and third place will be awarded $300 and $200, respectively, as well as publication in The Masters Review. So here it is: a home for your very best small fiction.

JUDGING

 

Stuart Dybek is the author of six books of fiction, including Ecstatic Cahoots, a collection of flash-length stories. He has also published two collections of poetry. His work is widely anthologized and magazine publication has included The New Yorker, Harpers, The Atlantic, Granta, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Dybek is the recipient of many literary awards, among them the REA Award and the PEN/Bernard Malamud Prize for “distinguished achievement in the short story”, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a John D. and a Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. His work has appeared in Best American Poetry and in Best American Fiction. He is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES:

  • Winner receives $3000 and publication
  • Second and third place prizes are $300 and $200 respectively and publication
  • Stories under 1000 words
  • $20 entry fee allows up to two stories (each under 1000 words) – if submitting two stories, please put them both in a SINGLE document
  • Previously unpublished stories only
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed
  • Emerging writers only (We are interested in offering a larger platform to new writers. Self-published writers and writers with story collections and novels with a small circulation are welcome to submit.)
  • International submissions allowed
  • Deadline: May 30th, 2021
  • Please no identifying information on your story
  • All stories are considered for publication
  • Dazzle us
  • To view a list of our most commonly asked questions regarding submitting to The Masters Review, please see our FAQ page


submit


Author Rights

We purchase first serial rights for three months after publication, at which point all rights revert back to the author. Any reprints during that time are welcome, we simply ask for permission and acknowledgement.

Mar 28

Last Day to Submit: The Masters Review Anthology Vol. X

When the clock strikes midnight, submissions will close for our tenth edition of our annual anthology! Make sure to get your submissions in today for the chance to be selected by Diane Cook for our anthology of emerging writers! The full details can be found below:

 


submit
Every year The Masters Review opens submissions to produce our anthology, a collection of ten stories and essays written by the best emerging authors. Our aim is to showcase ten writers who we believe will continue to produce great work. The ten winners are nationally distributed in a printed book with their stories and essays exposed to top agents, editors, and authors across the country. Our third volume was awarded the Silver Medal for Best Short Story Collection through the INDIEFAB Awards in 2015, and our fourth volume was an honorable mention for best anthology. This year we’ve partnered with word west, who will provide our winning 10 writers with a book from their catalog! Submit today to purchase your copy of Volume IX, or check us out on Amazon!

JUDGING

Each year The Masters Review pairs with a guest judge to select stories. Our editorial team produces a shortlist of stories, which our judge reviews to select winners. Our past judges include Lauren Groff, AM Homes, Lev Grossman, Kevin Brockmeier, Amy Hempel, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Makkai, Kate Bernheimer, and Rick Bass.

 

DIANE COOK‘s debut novel, The New Wilderness, was a finalist for 2020 The Booker Prize, and her story collection, Man V. Nature, was a finalist for the Guardian First Book Award, the Believer Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Award for First Fiction and the PEN/Hemingway award. Her writing has appeared in Harper’s, Zoetrope, Granta, and other publications, and anthologized in Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. She is a former producer for the radio program This American Life, and was the recipient of a 2016 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her family.


SUBMISSION GUIDELINES:
  • Previously unpublished works of fiction and narrative nonfiction only
  • Up to 7000 words
  • We accept simultaneous submissions as long as work is withdrawn if it is accepted elsewhere
  • Multiple submissions are allowed
  • International English submissions allowed
  • Emerging Writers Only. Writers must not have published a novel-length work at the time of submission (authors of short story collections and self-published titles can submit as can authors with novels or memoirs with a low distribution [about 5000 copies])
  • Standard formatting please (double-spaced, 12 pt font, pages numbered)
  • $20 entry fee
  • Deadline: March 28th, 2021
  • Please, no identifying information on your story
  • All submissions are considered for publication in the anthology as well as New Voices
  • If requesting an editorial letter, please indicate on your cover letter if the submissions is fiction or creative nonfiction
  • A significant portion of the editorial letter fees go to our feedback editor, according to the rates established by the EFA
  • To view a list of our most commonly asked questions regarding submitting to The Masters Review, please see our FAQ page.
  • Writers who have earned an Anthology Prize before and whose work appears in our printed book cannot submit to this category but are welcome to send us work in other open categories

TEN PUBLISHED AUTHORS WILL RECEIVE:

    • $1,000 award.
    • Publication in our nationally distributed journal.
    • Exposure to over 50 literary agencies.
    • Contributor’s copy.
    • A book from word west
    • All writers are part of an exclusive mailing. We send our anthology to editors, writers, and literary institutions across the country.

submit

Mar 26

April Deadlines: 12 Contests Ending Soon

Finally the temperatures are getting warmer, and the days are getting longer! Now that we have extra daylight to burn, you should SPRING into action and submit your work to one of these contests!

New South Writing Contest

New South’s competition is only open to those who haven’t published a book of prose or poetry, which is still a very large pool! EJ Koh is judging the prose entries, while Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach judges the poetry. The winners of each contest receive $1000, and there are no restrictions on style or genre. Learn more here!

Entry Fee: $18 Deadline: April 1

Nimrod Literary Awards

These awards, the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction and the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, are presented by Nimrod International Journal through the University of Tulsa. Contestants should enter 3-10 pages of poetry, or up to 7500 words of prose. The winner of each category will receive $2000, publication, and a trip to Tulsa for the Awards Ceremony and Writing Conference in October (if the global health situation allows)! Details here.

Entry Fee: $23 Deadline: April 1

The Orison Prizes in Poetry and Fiction

Every year Orison Books accepts submissions of full-length poetry and fiction manuscripts between December and April, and this year’s window is closing fast! Fiction entries may be novellas, novels, or collections of short stories and flash fiction, but they must be a minimum of 30,000 words. Poetry entries may be between 50 and 100 pages. Jericho Brown is judging poetry, Debra Spark is judging fiction, and the winners of each genre receive $1500, publication, and a standard royalties contract. Check it out!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: April 1

Red Hen Press Nonfiction Award

Red Hen Press wants to recognize the art of true storytelling through literary craft, and they welcome work from all authors! Essay collections, memoirs, research-driven works, and narrative nonfiction are all welcome, although they must be a minimum of 150 pages. The award is $1000, and also includes publication of the winning entry. Judged by Deborah Thompson! Submission guidelines here.

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: April 1

Chautauqua

The Chautauqua Institution is an educational center in New York State, and their literary journal has always focused on personal, social, political, spiritual, and aesthetic inquiry. Now, after a year like 2020, Chautauqua is looking for work that captures the tenacity of the human spirit. This year they are sharing fall, summer, and winter issues, and this year’s theme is the inner strength, passion, stubborn determination, and perseverance that make up resilience. The current categories are poetry, fiction, flash, and creative nonfiction. Currently Chautauqua  has suspended payment to writers, but this is still an opportunity to be published. Learn more here.

Entry Fee: $2 Deadline: April 2

Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting

If you think you have that movie magic, now’s your chance! This contest awards up to five $35,000 fellowships to amateur screenwriters, who are allowed to enter up to three original screenplays no longer than 160 pages. Fellowship winners are expected to complete at least one original feature film screenplay during the Fellowship year. Do it!

Entry Fee: $63 Deadline: April 3

New Ohio Review Contest

All three of the New Ohio Review’s contests are ending this month, so enter now if you want to receive one of the three $1500 first-place prizes! Anthony Marra is judging the fiction section, Diane Seuss is judging the poetry section, and Jerald Walker is judging the nonfiction applicants. All of the winners and a selection of the runners up will be published! See more here.

Entry Fee: $22 Deadline: April 15

Cowles Poetry Book Prize

In honor of Vern Cowles, a man who loved literature, Southeast Missouri State University Press offers this prize for an unpublished poetry manuscript. It is open to any living poet writing in English, age 18 or older, and the manuscript only needs to be 48-100 pages! First place receives $2000, publication and distribution, and receives 30 copies of their book. Get started!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: April 16

The 2021 Gulf Coast Prizes

Here is an opportunity for all writers, as Gulf Coast’s contest rewards authors in nonfiction, fiction, and poetry! Kiese Laymon judges nonfiction, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah judges fiction, and Natalie Diaz judges poetry. The winner in each category receives $1500, and two honorable mentions in each category also receive $250. Make sure you submit to the correct category! Check it out here.

Entry Fee: $23 Deadline: April 16

Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize

Named after the first director of the University of Pittsburgh Press, this prize is offered for a first full-length book of poems! The winner receives a $5000 cash award as well as publication under the Pitt Poetry Series under its standard royalty contract. The winner will be announced in the fall, so get the process started now! Learn more here!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: April 30

F(r)iction Spring Contests

There are so many options in F(r)iction’s collection of contests, there’s bound to be something for everyone! Short stories are judged by Stephen Graham Jones, and the winner receives $1000. Flash fiction is judged by Damhnait Monaghan, and the winner receives $300. Poetry is judged by Emma Bolden and also receives $300. Finally, creative nonfiction is judged by Hannah Grieco, and the winner receives $1000. All winners and some finalists will be published. Check it out!

Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: April 30

Pro Forma Contest

Grist, and the University of Tennessee, is looking for authors who make the most of structures in writing, creating an interesting opportunity to play with form and function! Submissions can be fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or any other form of literary expression. Judged by Kayleb Rae Candrilli, first-place wins $1200 and publication in the journal. Don’t miss it!

Entry Fee: $18 Deadline: April 30

by Kimberly Guerin

Mar 26

New Voices Revisited: Drop Zone Summer by Nick Fuller Googins

In this month’s New Voices Revisited, we look back on the winner of our 2017 Winter Short Story Award for New Writers: “Drop Zone Summer” by Nick Fuller Googins. This story was picked as the winner by our staff, and told from the point-of-view of Osman, a Somali refugee who grew up in Maine. He’s spending his summer break from college working at a sky diving place, and he has found the thrill of jumping himself.

“At 6000 feet he never second-guesses the urges that spark his veins. He is not an African Marxist atheist in conservative Catholic Maine. He is not a clay jar for his community to fill with hope. He is not a lanky young man with all shapes of love for all types of people and nowhere for it to fit.”

Two weeks have passed since Cotter’s fall from the radio tower. His girlfriend, Liv, sparks with flashes of her former, easygoing self, remaining upbeat for customers and their tips, but she’s not fooling anyone. She’s most of all not fooling Osman. Osman watches her trot in from the landing area, grinning, Evel Knievel jumpsuit unzipped, sleeves knotted at the waist. She drops off her used parachute—Purple #3—and high-fives her next customer, a barrel-bodied guy wearing cargo shorts and a Phi Kappa Sigma t-shirt. Osman gathers the heap of purple nylon and dumps it in his section of the packing floor.

Osman packs parachutes for SkyHigh Maine. Liv jumps. That she only jumps with purple parachutes isn’t as superstitious as it sounds. The three purple rigs happen to be SkyHigh’s newest. Liv says they handle well in strong winds. Janice, SkyHigh’s owner, pays a flat rate of ten dollars per packed parachute. Osman finds that the new purple ones take longer. The stiff nylon is abrasive, unforgiving. He doesn’t mind spending the extra time.

This is Osman’s first summer packing. Liv got him the job. They are friends from Bates (“comrades,” they say, half-kidding). Liv was the charismatic, tanned-legged senior leader of the Global Justice Project, that coalition of anti-capitalist undergrads that held teach-ins, dropped banners, kicked military recruiters off campus. Osman was the wide-eyed freshman relieved to find one group in all of Great White Maine that let him be something other than Somali. Liv pitched SkyHigh on the drive to a rally at the Bath naval yards—for too many summers she’d wanted to organize the Haitian workers in the blueberry fields around SkyHigh’s drop zone. Osman was a natural, she said. Super chill. Everyone liked him. They could organize together, in their spare time. What did he think? Osman thought his internship with a socially responsible mutual fund in Portland suddenly stank of liberal hypocrisy and tedium. A week after finals he was on the packing floor for day one of training, learning from Cotter how to fold 400 square feet of nylon into a pack the size of a duffle.

It’s late August now, the final surge of tourist season. Osman and Liv have not organized the migrant workers. They have not grown intimate, working and living hip-to-hip. There has been no summertime leftist fling. The problem, of course, was Cotter. Still is Cotter. Fourteen days comatose in a hospital bed two hours away and his presence only grows stronger. Liv will disappear into her Airstream after work or drive to Maine Medical. Osman will lie awake in his tent, replaying the accident. He and Liv haven’t spoken—really spoken—in days. Broken femur, shattered arm, ruptured eardrums, fractured vertebrae. Osman has yet to visit.

To read the rest of “Drop Zone Summer” click here.

Mar 24

Introducing Our 2021 Flash Fiction Contest Judge: Stuart Dybek!

With our annual Flash Fiction Contest around the corner, we are proud to announce that Stuart Dybek will serve as this year’s guest judge! Stuart will select the winning three stories from the shortlist chosen by our volunteer readers and editors. The winning story earns a $3,000 prize along with publication! The contest opens April 1 and will run through May.

Submissions Open April 1st

Our love of flash fiction runs deep. We are proud to offer a contest dedicated solely to flash. The winning writer will be awarded $3000 and publication in The Masters Review. Second and third place will be awarded $300 and $200, respectively, as well as publication in The Masters Review. So here it is: a home for your very best small fiction.

JUDGING

Stuart Dybek is the author of six books of fiction, including Ecstatic Cahoots, a collection of flash-length stories. He has also published two collections of poetry. His work is widely anthologized and magazine publication has included The New Yorker, Harpers, The Atlantic, Granta, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Dybek is the recipient of many literary awards, among them the REA Award and the PEN/Bernard Malamud Prize for “distinguished achievement in the short story”, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a John D. and a Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. His work has appeared in Best American Poetry and in Best American Fiction. He is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES:

  • Winner receives $3000 and publication
  • Second and third place prizes are $300 and $200 respectively and publication
  • Stories under 1000 words
  • $20 entry fee allows up to two stories (each under 1000 words) – if submitting two stories, please put them both in a SINGLE document
  • Previously unpublished stories only
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed
  • Emerging writers only (We are interested in offering a larger platform to new writers. Self-published writers and writers with story collections and novels with a small circulation are welcome to submit.)
  • International submissions allowed
  • Deadline: May 30th, 2021
  • Please no identifying information on your story
  • All stories are considered for publication
  • Dazzle us
  • To view a list of our most commonly asked questions regarding submitting to The Masters Review, please see our FAQ page

Mar 23

Reading Through the Awards: Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

In a continuation of our series of micro-reviews, assistant editor Brandon Williams brought together a group of ardent readers to give their quick-hit impressions of recent novels which have won major awards from the literary world. Ingrid Persaud’s Love After Love, recent winner of the 2020 First Novel Award from the Costa Book Awards, is our next selection.

Quick Book Summary (from the official blurb): “After Betty Ramdin’s husband dies, she invites a colleague, Mr. Chetan, to move in with her and her son, Solo. Over time, the three become a family, loving each other deeply and depending upon one another. Then, one fateful night, Solo overhears Betty confiding in Mr. Chetan and learns a secret that plunges him into torment.

Solo flees Trinidad for New York to carve out a lonely existence as an undocumented immigrant, and Mr. Chetan remains the singular thread holding mother and son together. But soon, Mr. Chetan’s own burdensome secret is revealed, with heartbreaking consequences.”


Love After Love is an emotional dive into how death, traumas, and fear change us, our families, and our paths toward healing. Persaud’s prose is an invaluable part in this book of reflection on what it means to go on living after parts of us and parts of our families die, and it’s what makes this read so compelling. Her prose carries the rhythm and cadence of a Trinidadian accent and vernacular, something that takes readers’ hands and draws them to follow; it is as if readers are sitting with the characters as they go through the rough, tangible, and visceral changes life brings them when trauma hits hard. Persaud’s flow and descriptive writing in a close first-person point of view illustrates too that we all take to pain differently. Its rawness, its hopes, its difficulties, its weight even as the characters try to heal, to live and love again—pain in Love After Love is the foil to love, showing the complexities that form when both are present in one’s heart.

There are three perspectives Persaud gives us—Betty, the domestic abuse victim whose freedom from her abusive husband, Sunil, cost her much; Solo, her son, who comes to battle with loving her and hating her after he overhears the truth of his father’s death from his mother; and lastly, we follow Mr. Chetan, a gay man struggling with his identity and his desire to be loved fully, have family, and exist in his truth. Betty shows us how an abuse victim struggles to find self-confidence and self-love after battered woman syndrome picked her apart, piece by piece, and has led her to believing her relationships with men must be loveless to thrive. Solo becomes broken when he learns the truth of his father’s passing; he takes flight to America to live with his father’s family, which leads to him struggling to find peace, home, security, and belonging, all the while fighting too against the pains of his mental health. Mr. Chetan allows readers to bear witness to how finding love in a homophobic society leads to keeping many secrets, leads to short-lasting traipses with lovers, and even leads death.

These three people experience pain while trying to love, and they seek love even when the pain is too much. They never give up on love underneath it all, as love is all they have when life and trauma attempt to break them. Love After Love shows us both how love exists after loss, even if it is fleeting. Persaud teaches us that we must open our eyes to the complexities of how the hurt and the weakened experience love as something not so black and white as it seems on the surface.

Julienne Parks


Ingrid Persaud’s debut novel, Love After Love at its best reminds readers how when crafted in the right hand’s fiction has the powerful ability to make the ordinary in life feel extraordinary. Set in modern-day Trinidad, the novel highlights the multifaceted nature of experiencing love through the eyes of the three main characters Betty Ramidin, Solo Ramidin, and Mr.Chetan who come to live together after an explosive opening with the death of Betty’s husband Sunil.

With expert ease, Persaud’s novel navigates familial, parental, romantic, platonic, and sexual love while also striking a unique balance in plot and tone by using nuance and challenges to love such as addiction, abuse, depression, lies, regret, trauma, time, and self-hate. What I cherished most was Persaud’s delicate use of exploring the ordinary, small day-to-today actions that build our understanding of love such as dinner conversations, quiet moments helping the family in the garden, or small physical gestures to illustrate these larger complex ideas. Most importantly, tackling themes such as homosexuality and suicide can often lead to trope-ridden or overdramatic stories. However, Persaud avoided these potential problems by bringing a level of consideration and softness in her descriptions of these moments that the result reads harrowingly authentic.

Moreover, if the story alone wasn’t enough to keep the reader going, Persaud’s careful craft choices work to build a compelling world for the reader to immerse themselves in. From page one, you hear the book more so than read it because of her choice to use colloquial language in Trinidadian dialect—impressively she also balances this in a way that each character still sounds unique unto themselves in their narration.

Persaud is a master at using sensory details, you could almost smell Betty’s cascadoux curry or Mr. Chetan’s famous sweetbread and feel the love that these characters put into their meals for their family.

Overall, Love After Love has the potential to become a classic on any ardent fiction reader’s shelf simply because it fulfills the need of why we want to read fiction—to enjoy a meaningful and well-told story.

Cassandra Wagner


In Love After Love, Ingrid Persaud creates a rich world with her colloquial prose and superb mastery of the senses. It’s easy to relate to the characters once you’ve bought into the world so completely, and I found myself deeply connected to the novel’s three protagonists, the widowed Betty Ramdin, her son Solo, their lodger Mr. Chetan, and the alternative family they create together.

As the title implies, the novel covers love in its many different forms. At its core, however, I believe it’s about loneliness and shame. These feelings pour off of every page. Betty, whose abusive husband dies at the start of the book, feels cursed by his ghost, and a shameful secret haunts her throughout the novel. Mr. Chetan, a closeted gay man, lives in fear of being found out and in a constant state of loneliness, unable to love openly. Solo flees Trinidad to live the life of a lonely illegal immigrant, constantly worried that he isn’t working hard enough, that he isn’t enough.

The only cure for these feelings is acceptance, but even that is not enough sometimes. When it comes, it’s powerful. Have tissues handy; I can’t remember the last time a book made me cry the way this one did. Still, the novel, and the poem from which the title is taken, suggest that until we find acceptance within, we cannot have peace.

As it covers a wide range of time, some jumps are more jarring than others. At times, especially in the first quarter of the book, I felt certain chapters dragged while I wanted more from others. If you feel the same, my advice would be to stick with it. You will be rewarded tenfold.

Cassidy Colwell

Curated by Brandon Williams

Mar 22

New Voices: “Early Roman Kings” by Rocco DeBonis

In “Early Roman Kings”, today’s New Voices story from Rocco DeBonis, we meet Marco, the professor, and Clemenzo, his father, full of life. What first captured us was the marvelous relationship these two share. Follow along as they race recklessly toward their fates.

“When you’re coming up on another car like that your brakes are worthless,” my father said, no longer smiling, but not angry either, just disappointed. “The only thing to do is change course. It’s too late to brake after you’ve crashed.”

My father and I followed his nurse—a plump woman with rosy cheeks and freckled arms—along a row of curtained cubicles. Through the curtains, I glimpsed shrunken people sunk deep in lounge chairs. They held TV remotes in bony hands, their cavernous eyes cast upward, pale faces lit blue, IVs in their chests. The ward was designed to look like a hotel lounge with abstract art framed on the walls, Muzak in the air, and carpeting on the floor. A snack counter housed a Keurig machine, chips, and cookies, but there was also the strong odor of antiseptic. Machines chirped and beeped as they monitored vitals. Everywhere, the slow drip of Cytoxan, Taxol, Taxotere…

Before we reached his cubicle, my father had unbuttoned his shirt, baring his hairless chest and IV port. Implanted under his skin, it was a plastic disc, the size of a quarter, with a catheter that fed directly into his superior vena cava. He settled into his lounge chair, and the nurse flushed the port, injecting it with saline. He was tan and thin and still muscular from decades of construction work. The cancer hadn’t begun to destroy his body yet, though he’d lost clumps of hair and his eyebrows to initial chemo treatments.

As she set his drip, the nurse complimented my father’s fedora. It was black with a small, violet feather tucked into a cobalt blue band. He wore tight jeans and a box-cut shirt patterned with tiny black diamonds over a field of blue that matched the fedora’s band. This was a skill I never knew he possessed, matching his clothes. When I was younger, he wore faded jeans, corduroy shirts, and scuffed boots—his work clothes—all week long, even over the weekend. My mother fought with him to wear a tie to my high school graduation, so he wore a tie with faded jeans, a corduroy shirt, and scuffed boots. After her death, and after my sister introduced him to internet dating, he started to pay attention to his appearance again. The way he started to dress reminded me of a man I never met but saw in a picture once: my father at nineteen, in a white t-shirt, sleeves rolled, denim jeans cuffed to show off motorcycle boots, a cigarette perched on a pouting lip, and a magnificent sleek black pompadour to top it all off. The nineteen-year-old in the picture leaned back, arms and legs both crossed, on the forest green Le Mans he raced late at night on the brand-new Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The city had built the BQE right through the middle of his neighborhood—he could wave to passing drivers from his bedroom window—so he and his friends treated it like their own personal racetrack after midnight.

I sat on a plastic chair in the corner of the cubicle and graded papers. I was up from Virginia for a week to take my turn shepherding my father to various doctor appointments and treatments. I grimaced as I read my students’ essays, though I accentuated the positive in written comments, goaded students to dig deeper in revisions, and drew smiley faces beside passages that were coherent. I’d worked Seamus Heaney’s translation of Book VI of the Aeneid into my syllabus so I would be forced to find time to read it myself. I’d read the Aeneid many times in various English translations—and once, slowly, painfully, in Latin—though Aeneas’ attempt to hug the shadow of his dead father in the Underworld had transformed into a cautionary tale for me.

The nurse massaged an IV bag to loosen the liquid inside and then hung it on a pole. She warned my father, “Clemenzo, the Gemcitabine’s gonna feel thick and cold at first.”

“Not my first rodeo,” my father said, flipping through TV channels with his remote. “Grading papers?” he asked me.

I nodded.

“My son Marco, the professor,” he said to the nurse. Then to me, “Tell her the title of your latest article.”

I hadn’t written an article in five years. In that time, my son and daughter were born, my mother died of breast cancer, and soon after that my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but I didn’t want to disappoint him. I scanned the student papers in my lap and a title caught my eye. I spoke in the portentous, professorial voice that I imagined he imagined I would use in classroom lectures. “Temporal disorientation, games of chance, desperate love and desperation as by-products of trauma and wellspring of restoration in Virgil’s Aeneid,” I said in one breath. It sounded impressive, though I’m sure it would be like all the other student essays, full of thoughts like stale croutons moistened by a viscous soup of words.

“Just the title makes my head hurt,” the nurse said.

To continue reading “Early Roman Kings” click here.

Mar 21

The Masters Review Anthology Vol. X Open For One More Week

The Masters Review’s Anthology Volume X closes for submissions next Sunday! Don’t let this contest get away from you. This year, the prize pool is DOUBLED. 10 writers will receive $1,000 and publication in our nationally distributed print anthology. We are thrilled to be working with Diane Cook for this special edition of our favorite contest!

Submit Today!


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Every year The Masters Review opens submissions to produce our anthology, a collection of ten stories and essays written by the best emerging authors. Our aim is to showcase ten writers who we believe will continue to produce great work. The ten winners are nationally distributed in a printed book with their stories and essays exposed to top agents, editors, and authors across the country. Our third volume was awarded the Silver Medal for Best Short Story Collection through the INDIEFAB Awards in 2015, and our fourth volume was an honorable mention for best anthology. Submit today to purchase your copy of Volume IX, or check us out on Amazon!

JUDGING

Each year The Masters Review pairs with a guest judge to select stories. Our editorial team produces a shortlist of stories, which our judge reviews to select winners. Our past judges include Lauren Groff, AM Homes, Lev Grossman, Kevin Brockmeier, Amy Hempel, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Makkai, Kate Bernheimer, and Rick Bass.

DIANE COOK‘s debut novel, The New Wilderness, was a finalist for 2020 The Booker Prize, and her story collection, Man V. Nature, was a finalist for the Guardian First Book Award, the Believer Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Award for First Fiction and the PEN/Hemingway award. Her writing has appeared in Harper’s, Zoetrope, Granta, and other publications, and anthologized in Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. She is a former producer for the radio program This American Life, and was the recipient of a 2016 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her family.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES:
  • Previously unpublished works of fiction and narrative nonfiction only
  • Up to 7000 words
  • We accept simultaneous submissions as long as work is withdrawn if it is accepted elsewhere
  • Multiple submissions are allowed
  • International English submissions allowed
  • Emerging Writers Only. Writers must not have published a novel-length work at the time of submission (authors of short story collections and self-published titles can submit as can authors with novels or memoirs with a low distribution [about 5000 copies])
  • Standard formatting please (double-spaced, 12 pt font, pages numbered)
  • $20 entry fee
  • Deadline: March 28th, 2021
  • Please, no identifying information on your story
  • All submissions are considered for publication in the anthology as well as New Voices
  • If requesting an editorial letter, please indicate on your cover letter if the submissions is fiction or creative nonfiction
  • A significant portion of the editorial letter fees go to our feedback editor, according to the rates established by the EFA
  • To view a list of our most commonly asked questions regarding submitting to The Masters Review, please see our FAQ page.
  • Writers who have earned an Anthology Prize before and whose work appears in our printed book cannot submit to this category but are welcome to send us work in other open categories

TEN PUBLISHED AUTHORS WILL RECEIVE:

  • $1,000 award.
  • Publication in our nationally distributed journal.
  • Exposure to over 50 literary agencies.
  • Contributor’s copy.
  • All writers are part of an exclusive mailing. We send our anthology to editors, writers, and literary institutions across the country.

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