The Masters Review Blog

Sep 16

Reading Through the Awards: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

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. Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians, winner of the 2021 Shirley Jackson Award, is our next selection.

Quick Book Summary (from the official blurb): “[The Only Good Indians] follows the lives of four American Indian men and their families, all haunted by a disturbing, deadly event that took place in their youth. Years later, they find themselves tracked by an entity bent on revenge, totally helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.”


Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians, like many horror novels, doesn’t start with the supernatural. But where a Stephen King book might start with the mundane lives of middle-class white people, Jones’ book begins firmly grounded in reservation life—and death. From the opening scene he makes his points clear. This book is not about an idyllic town sitting peacefully in some racially homogeneous flyover state, suddenly disrupted by a vengeful spirit. This is about an Indian reservation, and it already contains hundreds of years’ worth of its own demons. If the “monster” had never entered the story, it would still be about fear and despair and death. The characters we inhabit in The Only Good Indians grapple not just with marriage, children, and jobs, but with intergenerational trauma, endemic alcoholism, a broken relationship with the old ways, and a spiritual disconnection from just about everything. These people were dying off before the monster ever arrived.

Jones confronts his characters and his readers with the visceral terror of facing something you cannot understand, and at the same time with the very real and often physical oppression already faced by Indians in America. There is no shying away from the brutal history. It is clear to any careful reader that the sin committed by the main characters upon the elk—indiscriminate, pointless violence—is the same sin committed by white people upon Indians. It is hard to put down this book without wishing that revenge and justice for humans could be meted out as bloodily and as thoroughly as they were for the elk. Enter this book like you would enter a sweat lodge. Leave expectations at the door, and see which of your own demons are revealed.

Taylor Seyfert


Stephen Graham Jones has created a beautiful and gruesome novel-sized parable about breaking traumatic cycles through his novel The Only Good Indians. Though the plot focuses on the karma-like consequences following four Blackfeet men who illegally hunt down an elk herd, it more poignantly points out the kind of strength it takes to see an unhealthy cycle and put an end to it. The idea of things needing to come full circle is challenged by one character, Denorah, who dares to think “…it can stop…it has to stop…” Her choice to stop the violence instead of seeking revenge is powerful, especially when the readers see the growth and life that can come from walking away from such situations.

Meaningful parable aside, Jones has built a complex world within The Only Good Indians that is modern, but carefully folds in other worldly elements. The entity haunting the men so brilliantly bides their time that at some moments it’s easy to forget there really is an entity and to imagine that possibly these men are losing their minds. When the gory scenes filled with brain matter and blood ensue, it’s hard to stop reading because despite it all, it’s eloquently written with almost alluring detail. The gore is horrifying, but is also necessary and apt for the plotlines to be completed. The Only Good Indians is ingeniously written and worth reading every bloodstained sentence.

Melanie Spicer


Horror is achieved in the buildup. The anticipation. The moment of is-it or is-it-not that keeps a person guessing until, inevitably, the horror spills out in a flood that overwhelms. Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians not only achieves this deep level of atmospheric anticipation, it crescendos into a mid-book climax few will be prepared for.

The story of four Blackfoot boys that hunt elk on land they know they shouldn’t spirals into an intricate narrative about the darker aspects of cultural traditions, and the price for breaking them. The true horror of the story comes when the consequences of their actions takes on a physical form, becoming a character that thinks, and speaks, and acts against them. Jones crafts a nightmare scenario both unique to his own Blackfoot heritage, and also so universal it sends a shiver down any reader’s spine on concept alone.

With an ending that sparks hope and respect, The Only Good Indians leaves a reader mulling over its meaning, its symbolism, its vividly gruesome imagery, and a central question of what the characters should have sought forgiveness for.

Allene Keshishian


The opening chapter does well to loop back to its beginning with the phrase, “INDIAN MAN KILLED IN DISPUTE OUTSIDE BAR. That’s one way to say it.” This phrase introduces the reader to some of the narrative style being employed (the cheekiness mainly), and there is plenty of action and a decent amount of explanation given to the character of Ricky. However, as soon as we meet Lewis, the momentarily compelling language that adds just a hint of wry wit is doubled, if not tripled before it distorts into a completely humorless and joyless reading experience.

The narrative voice appears to be overcompensating for something—like the narrator is trying far too hard to make a point that Lewis and Ricky are not the same types of “Indian.” The narrator’s need to separate their personalities into distinctive categories causes the text to overindulge in the instances of ‘what-if’ scenarios and mental newspaper headlines that were just peppered on but are now dominant all over the page. Lewis’s hallucinations are handled no less elegantly than his own reckless character, which exhausts itself quickly within his introduction. I rarely feel empathy for a character who knowingly does idiotic things and then suddenly regrets the action right in the middle of it—this is the problem I have with most media that lends itself to the horror/gratuitously horrifying genre.

Also, the redundancy of Lewis reassuring himself that hallucinations are just hallucinations and no dead elks are coming back from the grave becomes mind-numbing. I enjoyed Ricky’s brief entrance far more than Lewis’s stagnating presence for his remaining portion of the novel, and I found his mental deterioration increasingly formulaic and expected. While the descriptions of gore are disturbingly vivid, there is an abrupt change from literary to an overbearingly supernatural and mystical style that does not align with the book’s first half. The abrupt changes in tone and narrator perspective were often jarring and intrusive. Even with the cultural slang and traditions, I would not place this work alongside any cultural literature, and I would not rate this novel highly with other horror tales.

S. N. Valadez

 

Sep 14

September Book Review: Assembly by Natasha Brown

In September’s Book Review, reviewer Alexis David examines Assembly by Natasha Brown, out now from Little, Brown and Company, a book called by The Guardian “a modern Mrs. Dalloway.” David writes, “Mrs. Dalloway is not uncertain in her Britishness, her feelings of belonging, whereas Brown’s narrator does not get this privilege.” Read the full review at the link below.

In Natasha Brown’s short novel, Assembly, there is a literal plot—a financially successful woman who has just found out she has cancer must go to her boyfriend’s parents’ anniversary party—and also a metaphoric plot, one that circles around issues of class, social mobility, race and uncertainty, always uncertainty. The book is told from a first person narration and is similar to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Assembly, like Woolf’s novel, is a book of interiority. In some ways, it seems a response to Woolf. As if Mrs. Dalloway is at the other end: she is hosting the party that the narrator will attend.

Read more.

Sep 10

2021 Chapbook Open! Submit Now

The 2021 Chapbook Open is ready for your submissions, now through December 31st! This year’s contest will be judged by Matt Bell, who will write an introduction to the book, which will be published next Fall. Find out all the details below, or on our contest page.

Submissions Open Through December 31st!

submitThis year, The Masters Review is holding an open call for chapbooks. We want to publish your collections of flash, your mini novellas, your 40 page short stories. We want to publish your braided essays, your eclectic brainchildren, your experiments. However you want to tell your story, we want to read it. (As long as it’s between 25-40 double-spaced pages.) Matt Bell will be deciding this year’s winner! The submission window will be open for the final four months of the year, and The Masters Review staff will select a small shortlist of our favorites to pass along to a Matt Bell, who will select the winning book.

The winning writer will be awarded $3000, manuscript publication, and 50 contributor copies. We’re seeking to celebrate bold, original voices within a single, cohesive manuscript of 25 to 40 pages. We’re interested in collections of short fiction, essays, flash fiction, novellas/novelettes, longform fiction or essays, and any combination thereof, provided the manuscripts are complete (no excerpts, chapters, works-in-progress, or other incomplete work). We are NOT interested in poetry. (We’re sure your poetry is fantastic, but we’re not qualified to judge its merit!)

The Masters Review staff will select a shortlist of 5-10 chapbooks to pass along to our guest judge, who will select the winning manuscript. Our judge will provide a brief introduction for the manuscript upon publication. The published manuscript will be available for sale as a physical copy and distributed digitally through our newsletter. Check back soon for an announcement of this year’s judge! Last year’s winning book, Mastersplans by Nick Almeida, selected by Steve Almond, will be published this fall, and is available to pre-order now through any submission category. Digital and print copies will be available.

Guidelines:

  • Winner receives $3000, manuscript publication, and 50 contributor copies
  • Second and third place finalists will be acknowledged on our website
  • Manuscripts should be between 25-40 pages (not including front/back matter) with each story beginning on a new page
  • Manuscripts should be double-spaced and paginated
  • Manuscripts should include a Table of Contents (if necessary) and an acknowledgements page listing any previously published material within the manuscript
  • Manuscripts may contain some previously published work, but the published work cannot have appeared in any other chapbook or full-length collections
  • Self-published chapbooks are previously published and therefore ineligible
  • No poetry chapbooks, please (we will consider chapbooks which contain some prose poetry)
  • Electronic submissions only
  • Single author manuscripts only
  • International English submissions allowed (No translations)
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed (Please withdraw submissions if they are accepted elsewhere.)
  • 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 (fewer than 5000 copies) are welcome to submit.)
  • Entry fee: $25
  • Deadline: December 31, 2021
  • Individual stories or essays within the manuscript may be considered for publication in our New Voices series
  • We are not requiring blind submissions for this contest
  • Editorial letters for up to 3 individual pieces within the manuscript may be requested
  • A significant portion of the editorial letter and manuscript consultation fees go to our feedback editor, according to the rates established by the EFA
  • Please e-mail contact at mastersreview.com with questions

We don’t have any preferences topically or in terms of style. We’re simply looking for the best. We don’t define, nor are we interested in, stories identified by their genre. We do, however, consider ourselves a publication that focuses on literary fiction. Dazzle us, take chances, and be bold.

Matt Bell’s latest novel, Appleseed, was published by Custom House in July 2021. His craft book Refuse to Be Done, a guide to novel writing, rewriting, & revision, will follow in March 2022 from Soho Press. He is also the author of the novels Scrapper and In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, as well as the short story collection A Tree or a Person or a Wall, a non-fiction book about the classic video game Baldur’s Gate II, and several other titles. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Tin House, Conjunctions, Fairy Tale Review, American Short Fiction, and many other publications. A native of Michigan, he teaches creative writing at Arizona State University.

INCLUDED UNIQUE OPPORTUNITIES AND DISCOUNTS:

To thank you for your continued support of The Masters Review, we’re excited to offer you the following opportunities with your submission:

WritingWorkshops.com is offering 15% off any of their classes this year, and the discount code will be included in the confirmation e-mail when you submit.

Literature & Latte is offering a 20% discount on their incredibly helpful Scrivener writing software for macOS and Windows users. There will be a discount code in the confirmation e-mail when you submit.

The Writing Salon is offering every submitter a 10% off discount code on a writing class with a discount code included in your confirmation e-mail!


submit

Sep 8

2021 Flash Fiction Contest Shortlist

We’re thrilled to present the shortlist for this year’s Flash Fiction Contest shortlist! It was truly difficult narrowing our selections down to just fifteen stories, but we managed. Stuart Dybek will now have the even more challenging job of picking out the three winning pieces from this group. Thanks once again to all of our submitters, and congratulations to those on the shortlist!


Cracked by Tiegst Ameha

Lake George by Samantha Burns

A Banana by Taylor Craven

Birds x Bees by Katharine Duckett

The Other Drummer by Jeff Ewing

Exoticolalia by C.D. Frelinghuysen

Play That Again by John Glowney

One Hundred Babies in One Hundred Boxes by Susanna Goldfinger

Catching Light by Charlotte Gross

How to Develop (Film) by Candice May

Agora é Sempre by Tanya Perkins

Everywhere, All at Once by Emily Roth

Five Moments of Perfect Certainty by Morgan Thomas

CITROËN by Cameron Quincy Todd

Grief for a Homeboy by Norman Antonio Zelaya

Sep 6

New Voices: “Lucky Elephant” by Lynn Mundell

“It’s so much easier to sleep than to live.” Lynn Mundell’s “Lucky Elephant” follows the the only white elephant born in a thousand years, celebrated, worshiped, as her birth coincides with the coming of the rains. It is a story of grief, a story of motherhood. It is a story that will linger with you, long after you’ve read its final word.

She is starving herself but drowning in dreams. Sometimes now she wakes to find them both sleeping standing again, her boy under the canopy of her large white belly, as though they are two nested statues.

It’s so much easier to sleep than to live. So day and night she disappears into the same dream. A small, grey sun plummets through white clouds, shattering like a rock on the ground. Each time, she’s roused by the heat and shocked to see he’s not beside her. Then she remembers and immediately dozes off, standing up. A great marble memorial to the dead.

Long ago, when she was born the only white elephant in a thousand years, the last people on earth celebrated for seven days, and on the last day it rained. They carved elephant charms of ivory that they wore around their necks. Then ivory rattles for their own babies and ivory cups for toasting their good fortune. The more it rained, the more elephants died for their tusks. And that is how she became lucky for some and a curse to her own.

One night she wakes to find herself in the large puddle that was once the river. She’s pouring yellow water over her big back, where it then trickles in tiny streams down her legs. Mother to mother, the moon comforts her, grief staring down with a soft, homely face.

She sleeps so much that the herd leaves, although only after many weeks of prodding her awake and sweeping the flies from her eyes with their tasseled tails. But they must stay ahead of the remaining poachers. She watches their steady progress over one mountain, and the next, then the next. The trampled grasses are a golden roadway to the sky.

When she was very young, she fell asleep among the herd and awoke within the town’s prayer room. While she called for her mother from her sudden cage, people gathered outside and looked in at her, pointing and whispering in astonishment. How did she get in, when the room had only one narrow door and an open air ceiling? Eventually, they had to remove three of the stone columns to get her out. But no one minded. She brought water and now could fly everyone to heaven. And she belonged to them.

To continue reading “Lucky Elephant” click here.

Sep 3

New Writing on the Net: August

Our New Writing on the Net series returns! This month’s edition comes to us from reader Rebecca Paredes. We’re sharing new work about connection, loss, and identity, published in August. Choose your own adventure, or follow the order laid out below for a curated reading playlist.

Soft Tissue” by Arielle McManus | Hobart, August 10, 2021

“I’d just subscribed to an app that was going to remind me that I was going to die five times a day. It was based on a Bhutanese folk saying, and was some new thing I was trying, like how I go carb-free once every three years, or like the time I decided to drink 14 glasses of water a day. Sometimes the messages were tame, just some you only live once crap, but sometimes they were gruesome, and that’s really what I signed up for: to be reminded that one day, not only would I be gone, but that I’d be worm food. I’ve never cared that I’m going to die. I’m only afraid of suffering.”

The Shimmering Wall” by Brian Evenson | Electric Literature, August 4, 2021

“When you are older, my mother told me, you must find a companion, someone just like you, willing to watch out for you as you reach through the wall, and you for her. You must know how far you can reach and go that far but no farther. You must know how to sink your arm to the shoulder joint and then reach even farther without letting your head push through. And then, God forbid, when a being approaches from the other side, to withdraw quickly with the help of your companion. She will tell you something is coming, and she will help you draw your arm free before it is too late.”

Big Head Syndrome” by Hannah Whiteoak | Okay Donkey, August 13, 2021

“He’d been bullied back then, too. Some of the stupider boys pretended to be overwhelmed by the smell of the brain-boosting fish he ate at every meal. George, who took great pleasure in sitting in front of them in class so they had to lean into the aisle to see past him, knew they were jealous. His big head would take him places, while they, with their macaroni cheese and pin-prick skulls, would never amount to anything beyond these ivy-covered walls.”

Oreo Arroyo” by Vanessa Hua | Alta, August 2, 2021

“Eventually, I would understand the furnishings were supposed to exude good taste and prosperity, yet also had to be as impersonal as a hotel lobby, with no family photos on the walls or the end tables. The homes that remained occupied were showroom neat, no dented rice cooker on the counter or spattered aluminum foil under the burners. Still, I sensed the life bulging behind those locked closet doors. If the other visitors weren’t hovering nearby, I searched through the teenagers’ bedrooms in search of pot, pills, or porn—not to take, but to slip into a drawer in the master bedroom or leave on top of the toilet tank.”

Fania” by Stuart Nadler | Bennington Review, August 5, 2021

“When she was young I had tried to give her the language of her grandmother, first the word, of course, for love, for sunlight, for memory, the word for the small everyday form of wonder, but it did not take. The words, my wife had said, could never have the meaning for her that they had for me, because they were old words, and we were, she and I, rushing into a new future, where the allure of the tribal and the ancient could finally be shaken off, and because for our daughter, the inside world and the outside were the same place.”

Four Things” by Miranda Manzano | Taco Bell Quarterly, August 4, 2021

“It used to be mostly the daughters and the dad and sometimes the mom. Now it’s daughters and mom and sometimes aunt. Regardless of who is present, none are allowed to argue. This is the rule that is most frequently recited. Also, all rights are forfeited if handwashing is refused. Even if the food comes up fast and the guy in the bathroom is taking too long. Handwashing is nonnegotiable.”

Curated by Rebecca Paredes

Sep 1

Interview with Elizabeth Engelman, Author of The Way of the Saints

Elizabeth Engelman’s fascinatingly fraught debut collection of linked short stories, The Way of the Saints, publishes today. In celebration, Courtney Harler interviews the author about her many influences and inspirations.

Let’s begin with congratulations! For your debut book, you won the 2019 Nilsen Literary Prize from Southeast Missouri State University Press. In recent years, you’ve won many other writing awards and fellowships, including a grant to study in Ireland. In addition to publication, how have these varied (and coveted!) writing fellowships influenced the full scope of your art?

Thank you! The Rotary Scholarship I received to Ireland continues to bear fruit in my writing and my life. It was such a gift! There, I studied poetry at The Poets House, located in an isolated coastal village in the northwest region. The town was called Falcarragh, and it was a place so desolate and remote that its 30,000 inhabitants still spoke Gaelic. In Gaelic, the town was called Na Crois Bhealaí, a word meaning “the crossroads,” and that’s how I felt, right out of college and on the brink of a new life. It was 1997-1998, a time remembered for the Good Friday Agreement, which sought to end the Troubles between warring Catholic and Protestant factions. Living in Ireland at the end of the Troubles and reading Irish poetry underscored the connection between the personal and the political. As I wrote The Way of the Saints, I turned to the works of Latin American authors and discovered, like the Irish writers, this undercurrent of resistance. It was my hope with The Way of the Saints that my stories would reflect this same thematic spirit. All this to say, The Way of the Saints began at The Poets House, a farmhouse at the foot of Mount Muckish. Almost every story in the book originated as a poem. It took me almost two more decades to flesh out the lines into prose.

I am a fiction writer who, oddly enough, pivoted (hard) toward poetry during the pandemic. It’s very interesting to know these stories began as poems. The “story” of your stories gives me additional hope for hybridity. Speaking of other lyrical forms—

Please forgive me for what I am about to do next: “I don’t practice Santería / I ain’t got no crystal ball.” In 1996, this song by Sublime introduced the very concept of Santería to many, including me. Later, when I went on to study Nigerian literature and its cosmological roots, I became more familiar with how the practice “migrated” to the new world. Still, much remains unknown to the average person. In The Way of the Saints, you take readers on a spiritual journey. What do you want us to understand, or to reconsider, most of all, about Santería and its faithful?

I grew up fearful of the practice of Santería, because in my childhood, it was misused to dominate and control me. But during the process of writing and researching this book, I’ve come to understand more fully its extraordinary history and culture. There is so much beauty and devotion underlining the practice. Everything is metaphor, and Santería is steeped in ancient symbolism, West African imagery, and the power of parables. I see a lot of similarities between it and poetry. It’s lyrical, performance art, and spirit-tech combined. Practitioners are deeply connected to their ancestors and nature, and the more I wrote about it, the more my own heart longed to connect with my ancestors and the natural world. Like most spiritual practices, it is about finding your path, your community, and your connection with the One animating power in all things that connects us all. While this is not my personal faith practice, these truths resonate with me deeply, and writing The Way of the Saints helped me redeem my mother’s abuse of this practice under the guise of religion. When fear, oppression, and power are the motivating forces, any religion risks slipping into the alternative worlds of black magic.

I also am all too familiar with the ways in which religion and spirituality can be used against children, but that’s likely another story for another time, of course. Now for a technical question. More and more I hear advice against italics for “foreign” words in fiction. The idea is that the use of italics privileges English over the other languages. Do you agree, or disagree? You do use some italics in my advanced copy, but not pedantically—does your press have a policy? I am more so interested in the theory behind these choices than the actual, literal appearance of the words on the page—if they can even be separated, conceptually?

I went back and forth with this in the writing and editing process of The Way of the Saints. There are early drafts of the book without italics and drafts where they were reinstated. If foreign words are unfamiliar, writing guidelines suggest italicizing them, and the words in the Yoruba language fell into this category. The Spanish words, however, may be more familiar to readers, and here, the style guides vary. In the end, I relied heavily on the opinions of my publisher and editors. Overall, I think being consistent is the key. Throughout the writing, I wrestled with the fact that I’m an outsider. I’m not fluent in Spanish or the Yoruba language. So, my use of italics was not intended to diminish either language, but to respectfully tread lightly.

I think you made good choices on that front. One more (somewhat) technical question. These short stories are so beautifully intertwined. Were you at all tempted to just call the linked collection a novel, or perhaps, a novel-in-stories? One of your lovely blurbers, Jason Ockert, actually calls the book a novel, and I understand why. What factors informed your ultimate “genre” decision? Again, did the publisher play a big role?

When I set out to write The Way of the Saints, it was my aim to write a novel. Publishing definitely played the largest role in it being considered a collection of short stories. After receiving almost one hundred rejection letters over the course of two years, I edited out at least one hundred pages to pick up the pace. In doing so, some of the chapters that served as transitions were lost on the cutting room floor. What remained resembled more a collection of linked stories, but in my heart, I suppose, I’ll always consider it my first novel.

Finally, let’s talk about mothers. My mother, after a long life of illness, passed on in 2010, but daily I feel her presence (for both good and evil, to be honest). Maybe we should talk about ancestors too, the way they interject themselves into our lives, whether we worship them or not. In practice, in order to write about my mother, I also had to write about her mother, their family. Only then could I write about her daughter(s), even in fiction. To get to the point, I really admire the multigenerational, burgeoning feminist point of view you employ throughout your debut. How did these women, these mothers and daughters, present themselves to you? How did you access their voices, especially given the rich historical context you provide, on the actual page?

I’m so sorry for your loss. After my dad passed away, I also felt strangely more connected to him, and despite our complicated relationship, his presence and memory is a genuine comfort. I think we’re bound to our parents and ancestors by invisible forces that we are only on the brink of coming to understand in the West. Whether it’s epigenetics, memory, a collective conscience, or the link between consciousness and quantum mechanics, I think honoring the interconnection we have to every living thing, especially our ancestors, is both profound and healthy. Whether it’s lighting a candle, writing a line, saying a prayer, or framing a photo, acknowledging this relatedness is part of the human experience.

Accessing the voices of my grandmother and mother was a daily practice in empathy. Reading and writing novels enables us to imagine the feelings and experiences of others. But more and more, I’ve come to find that this concept of “others” is illusory. There is no me apart from them. Again, it goes back to this idea of connectedness. Writing these characters became an exercise in integrating both their light and shadowy sides, as well as finding both that same light and shadow inside myself.

During the writing process, I was raising a teen daughter, so I tapped into my own fears for her well-being. I tapped into my insecurities and the instinct to control her in my efforts to protect her. When I found these darker sides of motherhood in myself, my compassion and understanding for my characters increased. So, every character in The Way of the Saints is me to some extent. That’s the magic and illusion of fiction. And in this way, writing the book was incredibly healing.

Interviewed by Courtney Harler

Aug 30

Last Day! The 2021 Summer Short Story Award for New Writers Closes Tonight!

No more waiting! The 2021 Summer Short Story Award for New Writers, judged by Kristen Arnett, closes in HOURS! The winning writer will earn a $3000 prize along with publication and agency review. Send in your work before it’s too late! Full details below, and on our contest page.

Submit by midnight PT!

submitWelcome to our 2021 Summer Short Story Award for New Writers, an annual contest that recognizes the best fiction from today’s emerging writers. Judging this year’s contest is author of With Teeth and Mostly Dead Things Kristen Arnett! The winning story will be awarded $3000 and publication online. Second and third place stories will be awarded publication and $300 and $200 respectively. All winning stories and any notable Honorable Mentions will receive agency review by the following: Nat Sobel from Sobel Weber, Victoria Cappello from The Bent Agency, Andrea Morrison from Writers House, Sarah Fuentes from Fletcher & Company, Heather Schroder from Compass Talent, and Siohban McBride from Carnicelli Literary Management. We want you to succeed, and we want your writing to be read. It’s been our mission to support emerging writers since day one.

Guidelines:

  • Winner receives $3000, publication, and agency review
  • Second and third place prizes ($300 / $200, publication, and agency review)
  • Stories under 6000 words
  • 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 are welcome to submit. Writers with novels published with small circulations (around 5000 copies) can also submit.)
  • International English submissions allowed
  • $20 entry fee
  • Deadline: August 30th, 2021
  • Please, no identifying information on your story
  • All stories are considered for publication
  • 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

We don’t have any preferences topically or in terms of style. We’re simply looking for the best. We don’t define, nor are we interested in, stories identified by their genre. We do, however, consider ourselves a publication that focuses on literary fiction. Dazzle us, take chances, and be bold.

Kristen Arnett is the NYT bestselling author of the debut novel Mostly Dead Things (Tin House, 2019) which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in fiction. She is a queer fiction and essay writer. She was awarded Ninth Letter’s Literary Award in Fiction and her work has appeared at The New York Times, The Cut, Guernica, Buzzfeed, Electric Literature, McSweeneys, PBS Newshour, The Guardian, Salon, and elsewhere. Her story collection, Felt in the Jaw, was published by Split Lip Press and was awarded the 2017 Coil Book Award. She was a Spring 2020 Shearing Fellow at Black Mountain Institute. Her next two books (With Teeth: A Novel and an untitled collection of short stories) will be published by Riverhead Books (Penguin Random House). She has a Masters in Library and Information Science from Florida State University and currently lives in Miami, Florida.

INCLUDED UNIQUE OPPORTUNITIES AND DISCOUNTS:

To thank you for your continued support of The Masters Review, we’re excited to offer you the following opportunities with your submission:

WritingWorkshops.com is offering 15% off any of their classes this year, and the discount code will be included in the confirmation e-mail when you submit.

Literature & Latte is offering a 20% discount on their incredibly helpful Scrivener writing software for macOS and Windows users. There will be a discount code in the confirmation e-mail when you submit.

Benjamin Woodard’s class on Skillshare, “Crafting Complex Characters (Quickly) for Short Fiction,” is available with a free 14-day trial (through a link in your confirmation e-mail).

The Writing Salon is offering every submitter a 10% off discount code on a writing class with a discount code included in your confirmation e-mail!

 

submit

Aug 29

Final Days: The Masters Review’s Summer Workshop

There are still slots open in our 2021 Summer Workshop! Find out all the details below or on our Workshop page, and then reserve your spot while there’s still time!

Cost: $299submit

Participants Receive:

  • an editorial letter from your instructor with specific suggestions and developmental edits that will help elevate your story to the next level
  • PDF of materials including craft essays from The Masters Review, editorial notes on what we see from the slush pile, information on submission strategies, and additional advice on submitting
  • free submission in a forthcoming Masters Review contest
  • suggestions on literary magazines and contests that would be a good fit for your work, along with reading recommendations from your instructor
  • an archived copy of The Masters Review anthology
  • Writers will receive feedback no later than September 30. Early submissions may yield earlier feedback.

Halimah Marcus is the Executive Director of Electric Literature, an innovative digital publisher based in Brooklyn, and the Editor-in-Chief of its weekly fiction magazine, Recommended Reading. She is also the editor of Horse Girls, an anthology that reclaims and recasts the horse girl stereotype. Her short stories have appeared in Amazon Original Indiana Review, Gulf Coast, One Story, BOMB, The Literary Review, and The Southampton Review. Halimah has an MFA from Brooklyn College, and lives in the Catskill region of New York.

Autumn Watts is a fiction editor for Guernica Magazine. Her writing has been published in The Craft of Editing, Guernica, Words Beyond Borders, AGNI, Indiana Review, and Desert Voices, among others; chosen as a “Notable Essay” in Best American Essays 2019; and selected for Best New Poets and the Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions. She lives in Nevada and Turkey.

 

Jenny Tinghui Zhang’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Apogee, Ninth Letter, Passages North, The Rumpus, HuffPost, The Cut, Catapult, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Wyoming and has received support from Kundiman, Tin House, and VONA/Voices. Her debut novel Four Treasures of the Sky will be published by Flatiron Books in April 2022.

 

Jules Hogan is a writer from the blue ridge mountains and current Fiction Meets Science fellow at the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg in Germany. They are the fiction editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review and a fiction reader for Split Lip Magazine. Jules’s work can be found in Pithead Chapel, Best Small Fiction 2021, Everything Change Climate Anthology, and other places. Visit them online @seektheyonder.

 

Lauren Kane is the assistant editor at The Paris Review.

 

 

 

 


Praise for The Masters Review’s Editorial Feedback

“I workshopped two stories with you/The Masters Review last year, and I wanted to let you know that revised versions of those stories helped me earn an acceptance to the University of Arizona, where I’ll be an MFA candidate in fiction this fall. Thank you so much for your feedback and for running such a wonderfully supportive publication and platform for emerging writers. ” Josh, Summer Workshop

“I found the comments made by Adeena Reitberger regarding my story to be hugely helpful. Once again I am very pleased with your summer workshop.” Abby, Summer Workshop

“Thank you so much for the feedback letter plus manuscript markups. I couldn’t be more thrilled. I can’t remember ever having an editor look at my work and so clearly understand what I’ve tried to convey on the page. I had the immediate sense that Nate had truly given my story a thorough read, making his compliments feel sincere and suggestions for improvement feel well worth considering from start to finish.” Royce, Summer Workshop

“Adeena’s comments are both incisive and insightful. It is one of the best critiques I have ever received, and it will serve as my guide when I revise. I agree completely with what she said.” John, Summer Workshop

“You’ve done it again, everyone! What a brilliant workshop! Thank you so much for the incredible opportunity to work with you and Adeena Reitberger. I can put each of her comments to work immediately (even the compliments I guess I fished for, ha-ha!, as mood boosters), read/re-read the stories/writers she’s recommended, and order samples of the journals she’s recommended as a fit for my story so I can sniff them out—the prospects of which has got me doing a jig in the living room (try not to picture someone more jiggle than jig), and excited about my next editing move with my story (dip or dive?—but not abandon, hallelujah!)… True brilliance.!” Meredith, Summer Workshop

“I wanted to thank you for passing along Lauren’s feedback on my story. I thought her comments were concise and specific, and I appreciated her efforts to excavate what’s at the core of the story I’m trying to tell. I have some work ahead of me, for sure, but that’s a good thing. I agree with Lauren’s assessment of where the piece is falling short, I have a clear path to revision, and I’m overall very grateful for her astute observations and careful attention. Many thanks again!” Nicole, Summer Workshop

“I would like to thank Michelle Wildgen for her very helpful comments. She made the effort to understand what I was attempting to do with my short story, and pointed out quite clearly where it fell short and how it could be improved. Her feedback was professional, specific, and, to my great appreciation, positive. I am eager to get back to work.” Gary, Summer Workshop

Aug 27

September Deadlines: 12 Contests and Prizes For You

The days continue to get shorter as summer ends, but you shouldn’t have to write by candlelight just yet… Write something new, or round up old favorites, and submit to these ongoing contests!

FEATURED! Summer Short Story Award for New Writers

One last time for the late crowd: our contest is coming to a close (and technically not in September), but you don’t want to miss out! We’re looking for stories under 6000 words, written by emerging writers who are good with grammar and show finesse with fiction! The winner receives $3000, publication, and agency review, and the runners-up also receive cash prizes, publication, and review. Judged by Kristen Arnett. Don’t miss your chance! Details here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: August 30

Black Warrior Review Contests

We want you to play to your strengths, and Black Warrior Review has an opportunity for everyone in this contest! The 2021 Fiction Contest is judged by K-Ming Chang, the 2021 Nonfiction Contest is judged by Su Cho, and the 2020 Poetry Contest is judged by Eduardo C. Corral. The first-place prize is $1000 and publication in each genre. There’s also a Flash Contest, judged by J K Chukwu, that awards $500 and publication. Let’s get started!

Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: September 1

Dogwood Literary Awards

These are actually three contests offered by Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose, looking for exceptional writing and outstanding poetry! Submissions may be up to 22 pages, or a set of 1-3 poems, and the winner of each contest receives $1000 and publication. Make sure to select the correct contest for your submission! Submit here.

Entry Fee: $12 Deadline: September 5

Young Lions Fiction Award

If you’ve published a book during the 2021 calendar year, and you’re younger than 35, this is an amazing opportunity tailor-made for you! Offered through the New York Public Library, both novels and short story collections are accepted, and the winner receives $10,000. This year is the 22nd anniversary of the first contest, and excitement is building! Books must be entered by the publisher, not the author. Learn more here!

Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: September 10

Oregon Literary Fellowships

These fellowships are meant to help emerging Oregon writers initiate, develop, or complete literary projects, whether they are writing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or drama! Literary Arts has awarded over 600 authors and publishers since 1987, and dispensed more than $900,000 in fellowships and award monies. Submissions require the completed application and a writing sample, in triplicate, and possibly an addendum if they qualify for the Women Writers or Writers of Color fellowships. There’s a fellowship for everyone, so don’t be shy! Specific details here.

Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: September 17

Frontier Award for New Poets

Open to new and emerging poets, Frontier Poetry is hosting a contest to find the best single poem – they describe it as one full of color and fire, that strikes hot… Rosebud Ben-Oni, Andrés Cerpa, and Mai Der Vang are judging. The winning poet will receive $3000 and publication for their poem, and second and third place receive $300 and $200 respectively. All ten finalists will be recognized. Get started!

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: September 19

Lascaux Prize in Flash Fiction

If you think you’re ready to medal in writing creative nonfiction, then this is the contest for you! They’re looking for memoirs, chronicles, personal essays, humorous perspectives, or literary journalism. The Lascaux Review is accepting multiple submissions, less than 10,000 words each. All finalists in this contest will be published, but the winner also receives $1000 and a bronze medallion for their efforts. Check it out!

Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: September 23

Cullman Center Fellowships

The Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers offers up to fifteen fellowships each year, for academics, journalists, and creative writers. Part of the New York Public Library system, this is an amazing opportunity to access the research collections at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building! A Cullman Center Fellow receives a stipend of up to $75,000, an office, and full use of the Library’s physical and electronic resources. Don’t miss out!

Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: September 24

The Berlin Prize

The American Academy in Berlin is now accepting applications for their residential fellowships, to enrich transatlantic dialogue in the arts and address the themes of migration and social integration. Writers need one published book to be eligible, and fellowships are restricted to US residents. About twenty Berlin Prizes are awarded each year, and those selected receive round-trip airfare, a monthly $5000 stipend, and lodging at the Hans Arnhold Center. More details here!

Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: September 27

Dzanc Books Contests

Dzanc Books is offering a plethora of opportunities for all writers, with three different contests all ending this September! The Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction, judged by Anne Valente, David Tromblay, and Nina Shope, awards a $5,000 advance and publication for the original and daring winning manuscript. The Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Competition celebrates imaginative and inventive short form writing, offering a $2500 advance and publication to the winning submission. Lastly, the Dzanc Books Nonfiction Prize bestows a $1500 advance and publication upon the winning nonfiction manuscript that is innovative and inspiring, whether it is memoir, essays, historical writing, or biography. Check them all out!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: September 30

Hackney Literary Award for Novels

Sponsored by the Morris Hackney family, this is an amazing prize for any aspiring novelist! This $5000 prize will be awarded to an unpublished novel, and there is no limit on length or subject matter. Check it out now!

Entry Fee: $30 Deadline: September 30

Juniper Literary Prizes

The University of Massachusetts Press honors the memory of Robert Francis, who lived and wrote his poetry in Fort Juniper, and applicants should keep in mind his dedication to creativity and nature! The Juniper Prize for Poetry awards $1000 and publication to two original poetry manuscripts, one first book prize for an unpublished author, and one prize for a previously published author. The Juniper Prize for Fiction also awards $1000 and publication to two original fiction manuscripts, one for a short story collection, and one for a novel. The Juniper Prize for Creative Nonfiction awards $1000 and publication to one original manuscript. Learn more here!

Entry Fee: $30 Deadline: September 30

Miller Williams Poetry Prize

This prize is named for and operated to honor the longtime director of the University of Arkansas Press, Miller Williams. Submissions of book-length poetry manuscripts should reflect his preference for poetry that was plain spoken, evocative, ironic, and humorous. The top four entries will receive publication, and the first-place winner also receives $5000. Submit here!

Entry Fee: $28 Deadline: September 30

by Kimberly Guerin

 

 

Aug 26

New Voices Revisited: “Ledgers” by Claire Boyles

Earlier this year, we reviewed Claire Boyles’s collection, Site Fidelity; today, we return to her story “Ledgers,” published here in 2016 as the 2nd place story in our Short Story Award for New Writers. We still believe you’ll love this beautiful tale about nature, family, and loss.

My Pop has always been the north star of my life…  I set my moral compass by his worldview, consider always how my choices will affect his good opinion of me. I see Pop’s heart for ranching and his heart for the environment, and I’m grateful for the clear land ethic I learned at his knee.

We let the dust settle for a month or two after Pop had his stroke, and then we sold the family ranch all in one piece to a cattle man from Montrose, Henson, whose name Pop didn’t recognize. I had been living on the Farallones, studying site fidelity of Ashy Storm-Petrels, birds most people probably haven’t heard of and might not ever. An oil spill or other catastrophe on the central coast of California any fall could wipe the whole species off the map. It was a plum research gig, every ornithologist’s dream job. But I love my Pop, so I gave it up and came home. That closing was the only time I’ve been happy that Pop lost his speech, because I didn’t want him to say out loud how much he wished I’d taken an interest in the damn cows instead of the damn birds.

Pop refused to let a subdivision be his last crop, so he gave Henson a good deal. We closed at the end of September. Henson signed the papers with rancher’s hands, leathery and sun-weathered, just like Pop’s. Henson is my age, plus a few years maybe—divorced, one young daughter—and I’m flat suspicious of the guy. How does anyone in their thirties come out of that recession with the kind of money it takes to buy a quarter section on the river, water rights attached, outside Gunnison?

Pop’s stroke stole a lot of things from him that I miss too, some more precious than his ability to manage cattle—verbs, for example, and with them, anything resembling sentences. Also the use of his entire right side and all our savings in medical bills, though that last resolved just fine when we sold the ranch. The worst is that he can’t say my name, Norah. Instead, Pop calls me Vera. I’ve stopped bothering to correct him. Vera, my mother, died in a puddle of her own blood and placenta the day I was born, waiting for the ambulance that turned down County Road 68 instead of County Road 68 ½.

Pop’s not confused the way you’d think. He knows the difference between his dead wife and his living daughter. For the first month or so, he’d wince every time he said it, “Vera,” shake his head sadly, look down at his shoes—New Balance sneakers with therapeutic elastic laces, not the boots he wore his whole life. A baseball cap has replaced his Stetson. He’s nearly unrecognizable. My friend Julie is his speech therapist, and she tells me that he still thinks ‘Norah’ when he looks at me, it’s just the signal gets lost in the aphasic fog that has settled somewhere between Pop’s brain and his tongue. When he thinks-Norah-but-says-Vera, it sounds like “Vvvvveera.” He gets stuck on that first ‘v’ sound, which according to the manner of articulation chart Julie put on our fridge is a labiodental fricative.

“Sounds dirty,” I said to Pop. “Labiodental.” I adjusted the magnets so I could see the whole consonant chart—the nasals and the alveolars, the voiced and the voiceless.

To read the rest of “Ledgers” click here.

Aug 25

Introducing 2021’s Chapbook Open Guest Judge: Matt Bell!

Two announcements for the price of one: This year, we’re doubling our window for chapbook submissions! That’s right, we’ll be open for prose chapbooks from September 1st to December 31st. The Masters Review staff will review every submission, selecting a shortlist of 5-10 chapbooks to send along to this year’s guest judge, Matt Bell! The winning writer’s chapbook will be published the following fall, accompanied by an introduction by Matt Bell. The writer will win a $3,000 prize and fifty copies of their chapbook. Full details can be found below, and our Chapbook Open page.

Submissions Open Sept. 1st!

This year, The Masters Review is holding an open call for chapbooks. We want to publish your collections of flash, your mini novellas, your 40 page short stories. We want to publish your braided essays, your eclectic brainchildren, your experiments. However you want to tell your story, we want to read it. (As long as it’s between 25-40 double-spaced pages.) Matt Bell will be deciding this year’s winner! The submission window will be open for the final four months of the year, and The Masters Review staff will select a small shortlist of our favorites to pass along to a Matt Bell, who will select the winning book.

The winning writer will be awarded $3000, manuscript publication, and 50 contributor copies. We’re seeking to celebrate bold, original voices within a single, cohesive manuscript of 25 to 40 pages. We’re interested in collections of short fiction, essays, flash fiction, novellas/novelettes, longform fiction or essays, and any combination thereof, provided the manuscripts are complete (no excerpts, chapters, works-in-progress, or other incomplete work). We are NOT interested in poetry. (We’re sure your poetry is fantastic, but we’re not qualified to judge its merit!)

The Masters Review staff will select a shortlist of 5-10 chapbooks to pass along to our guest judge, who will select the winning manuscript. Our judge will provide a brief introduction for the manuscript upon publication. The published manuscript will be available for sale as a physical copy and distributed digitally through our newsletter. Check back soon for an announcement of this year’s judge! Last year’s winning book, Mastersplans by Nick Almeida, selected by Steve Almond, will be published this fall, and is available to pre-order now through any submission category. Digital and print copies will be available. A preview of Mastersplans will be available through New Voices at the end of August.

Guidelines:

  • Winner receives $3000, manuscript publication, and 50 contributor copies
  • Second and third place finalists will be acknowledged on our website
  • Manuscripts should be between 25-40 pages (not including front/back matter) with each story beginning on a new page
  • Manuscripts should be double-spaced and paginated
  • Manuscripts should include a Table of Contents (if necessary) and an acknowledgements page listing any previously published material within the manuscript
  • Manuscripts may contain some previously published work, but the published work cannot have appeared in any other chapbook or full-length collections
  • Self-published chapbooks are previously published and therefore ineligible
  • No poetry chapbooks, please (we will consider chapbooks which contain some prose poetry)
  • Electronic submissions only
  • Single author manuscripts only
  • International English submissions allowed (No translations)
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed (Please withdraw submissions if they are accepted elsewhere.)
  • 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 (fewer than 5000 copies) are welcome to submit.)
  • Entry fee: $25
  • Deadline: December 31, 2021
  • Individual stories or essays within the manuscript may be considered for publication in our New Voices series
  • We are not requiring blind submissions for this contest
  • Editorial letters for up to 3 individual pieces within the manuscript may be requested
  • A significant portion of the editorial letter and manuscript consultation fees go to our feedback editor, according to the rates established by the EFA
  • Please e-mail contact at mastersreview.com with questions

We don’t have any preferences topically or in terms of style. We’re simply looking for the best. We don’t define, nor are we interested in, stories identified by their genre. We do, however, consider ourselves a publication that focuses on literary fiction. Dazzle us, take chances, and be bold.

Matt Bell’s latest novel, Appleseed, was published by Custom House in July 2021. His craft book Refuse to Be Done, a guide to novel writing, rewriting, & revision, will follow in March 2022 from Soho Press. He is also the author of the novels Scrapper and In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, as well as the short story collection A Tree or a Person or a Wall, a non-fiction book about the classic video game Baldur’s Gate II, and several other titles. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Tin House, Conjunctions, Fairy Tale Review, American Short Fiction, and many other publications. A native of Michigan, he teaches creative writing at Arizona State University.