The Masters Review Blog

Jun 25

Tope Folarin Will Judge the 2019 Summer Short Story Award!

Caine Prize winner and author of the forthcoming novel, A Particular Kind of Black Man, Tope Folarin will be the judge of our Summer contest. The contest runs from July 1st to August 31st, with $3000, publication and agency review awarded to the winning author.

Tope Folarin will judge the 2019 Summer Short Story Award!

The Summer Short Story Award will open for submissions on July 1st. 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 winners and honorable mentions will receive agency review by: Nat Sobel from Sobel Weber, Victoria Cappello from The Bent Agency, Andrea Morrison from Writers House, Sarah Fuentes from Fletcher & Company and Samantha Fingerhut from Compass Talent. 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.

Tope Folarin is a Nigerian-American writer based in Washington, DC. He won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2013 and was shortlisted once again in 2016. He was also recently named to the Africa39 list of the most promising African writers under 40.  He was educated at Morehouse College and the University of Oxford, where he earned two Masters degrees as a Rhodes Scholar. His debut novel, A Particular Kind of Black Man, will be published by Simon & Schuster in August.

SUBMISSION OPEN MONDAY! We are interested in your best work. Submit your stories under 6,000 words by August 31st for the chance to be crowned this Summer’s winner. The Masters Review staff will select the shortlist from which Tope Folarin will choose the finalists. See our Short Story Award for past winners and more information.

Jun 24

New Voices: Narada’s Ears by Sanjena Sathian

“This story is suffused with charm, and strangeness, and the author commits to the strangeness full-heartedly so I jump in too. I wouldn’t think ear wax would end up being such a doorway into our internal lives, but here it is, and Narada and the narrator’s shared eccentricities won me over entirely. Here is a writer willing to take risks with content and language to get at something deeper underneath— this happens on a sentence level with things like the “souffle” aspect of his relationship, and on the story-level with the ear wax and its magical properties. Uniquely and utterly itself.” That’s how judge Aimee Bender described this wonderful story from Sanjena Sathian, the third place finalist for our 2018 Winter Short Story Award. Dive in below.

When Narada turned twelve and grew taller and sprouted chest hair, he thought his ears might normalize. But instead they began to careen out sideways, as though straining to hear, reaching hopelessly at the world that buzzed beyond reach. (He had given up on music by then, and his father no longer took him to kutcheris; it was too painful for Narada, who longed to sit in the front row and keep taala on his knee.

My shop had been open for a few weeks when the man called Narada arrived to ask me for a strange favor.

I was bent over my desk, examining the gray iris on one of my latest glass eyeballs. My shop sat on the second floor of a half-commercial, half-residential building. Above me lived a professor who sang in an amateur opera company. She could never quite reach the highest notes, but hearing her strive for them made my stomach dip like just before the rush on a roller coaster. While I worked, that professor was rehearsing up there. I heard her voice lift as I raised the eyeball to check its verisimilitude. The light shone through the piece and formed a peculiar cone on the far wall. A good glass eyeball gives the impression that it is following you as you move. I shifted the eyeball to the left, and though it caught the light, it wasn’t correct. The pupil stared uncannily at the cream wall. As I frowned at the imperfection, I noticed Narada, standing in my doorframe.

When I first meet a person, I usually look at their eyes first—a matter of inspiration. I noted that his were extremely dark. But I was so taken with his ears that his eyes became secondary. I had never seen ears like those. They stretched maybe three inches in either direction, beginning slender and blooming out like bugles. He turned, and his ears swayed, the bottom lobes—the lips of the bugles—floppy.

My upstairs neighbor had stopped singing. In the silence, I realized I’d been rude.

“Welcome,” I said. “Let me know if you’d like me to take anything out of the cases.”

“J. Ramakrishanan? This is yours,” he said, loudly. He reached into the pocket of his English hunting jacket and handed me a package. I noted the sender’s address. It was the package I had mailed my former wife the week prior, returned. “I saw it on your stoop.”

When my wife left, she neglected to take with her the glass eyeballs I’d made for our first anniversary. I had modeled them off of her Kashmiri green eyes. Pistachio green, stunning against her light skin. I planned to make them the first of many. I thought everyone in the world deserved to have her eyes looking at them, deserved to buy her eyes as paperweights or bookends. I had a dream of a whole line of eyeball products modeled off of my wife’s eyes. But once I made the first set, she said, “Please don’t make any more,” so I stopped.

“Expecting anything good?” my visitor said. His voice emerged echoey. Too loud. I’ve always felt one should behave around glass eyeballs the way one would around rare, musty books: with reverence.

“Nothing particular,” I said, tearing at the edge of the paper—yes, it was the original box. I placed the package on my desk. “Thanks for bringing it up. Feel free to look around.”

He began to wander. My shop was just a room with a back kitchen so I could make tea and lunch. I blew and painted glass at an artists’ co-op nearby. Large windows overlooked the square. The top of an orange-splotched tree appeared in the lower window frame; when the wind rose, those leaves tapped against the glass. Outside, an old man challenged strangers to chess next to the Au Bon Pain. A homeless person shouted by the newsstand, holding up religious messages on cardboard. Once, his sign read: Salvation is the best free app you can download. Another time: Gossip is the devil’s radio. Don’t be his DJ.

Autumn in Cambridge is my favorite time of year.

To continue reading “Narada’s Ears” click here.


Jun 21

New Writing on the Net: June

June’s New Writing on the Net is curated by The Masters Review reader Jen Dupree, with new work from Ben Lerner, Maria T. Allocco, Kathleen Alcott, Amy Neswald, and Kristopher Jansma. Settle in with your weekend reading list below!

Stories about expectations—defining expectations, subverting them, failing to meet them, setting new ones.

Ross Perot and China” by Ben Lerner | The New Yorker, May 20, 2019

“Along with the sheer terror of finding himself in the wrong house, with his recognition of its difference, was a sense, because of the houses’ sameness, that he was in all the houses around the lake at once; the sublime of identical layouts. In each house she or someone like her was in her bed, sleeping or pretending to sleep; legal guardians were farther down the hall, large men snoring; the faces and poses in the family photographs on the mantel might change, but would all belong to the same grammar of faces and poses; the elements of the painted scenes might vary, but not the level of familiarity and flatness; if you opened any of the giant stainless-steel refrigerators or surveyed the faux-marble islands, you would encounter matching, modular products in slightly different configurations.”

Tradition” by Maria T. Allocco | Tin House , May 22, 2019

“As my mother served our family in America—pasta, stew, and steak—she passed along these stories, over dinner. She’d hold out her half-open fist, curled as if ready to snatch it back, an invisible gesture of rice to show me how little she had to eat each day. She’d tell me how on her brother’s back, they’d forage for crickets and berries. How the richest girl in school—the daughter of a government official—befriended her. She’d leave behind a single egg on her plate and my mother turned away, head held high.”

America Was Hard to Find” by Kathleen Alcott | ZYZZYVA, May 27, 2019

“Something had changed, they knew. She was always leaving her shoes somewhere, then the slippers they offered as corrective. It was a kind of self-neglect that enraged them: barefoot by the refrigerator at midnight, barefoot as she carried him up the stairs, a sideways angle that made him laugh, singing the songs her sister had. As though a solution were just a matter of the right slip-on loafers, Claudette suggested a day in the city, see the Easter displays at the department stores. Wright stayed behind with James, something Claudette suggested, girls’ day out, with a wink her daughter did not acknowledge.”

Forty-Six” by Amy Neswald | The Rumpus, May 29, 2019

“The night forty-six builds up the courage to bite, Kate rides the subway to work. Across from where she’s sitting, a fifteen-year-old girl, maybe older, sucks her thumb. She leans into her mother. The two figures melt around each other; their flesh bulges—pockets of water separated by a thin fabric called skin. They sit still as sculptures aside from the girl’s suckling cheeks and her mother’s running nose. At the far end of the car, a homeless busker pounds a lifeless children’s drum with pencil wrapped in packing tape. A man applies foundation, blue eye shadow, false eyelashes, and mascara. By the end of the tunnel, he’s become a she; she slips off her work shoes and steps into platform pumps. A woman in a business suit huffs Sharpie markers, uncapping them one at a time from a box stolen from her office’s supply cabinet. She drops the spent markers on the subway floor. Night is all these things. It’s when people peel away their masks of conformity, peel away the lies, peel back their skin and grief and pain and allow their essence to emerge. Essence becomes presence. No more pretending.”

The Samples” by Kristopher Jansma | The Sun, June 2019

“Dr. Zarrani continues in her practiced, even tone, explaining to Ms. Richmond that she has a malignant osteosarcoma in the bone of her left eye socket. Dr. Zarrani watches as the patient slowly absorbs this information. She prefers the ones who don’t cry — not because there is anything wrong with crying at this kind of news, and not because it makes the conversation easier for her (though it does), but because it is a sign of how things tend to go. Crying wastes time, and people who waste time, who wallow, are less prepared, less capable. It’s that simple. In 1978, when supporters of the Ayatollah killed Dr. Zarrani’s father and her older brother, she didn’t cry. Instead she grabbed her little brother, Mehdi, by the wrist and pulled him down into a ditch behind the house, where they lay in the mud until the coast was clear. Those who do not cry survive more often. This she believes.”

Curated by Jen Dupree

Jun 19

Shortlist – The Masters Review Volume VIII Judged by Kate Bernheimer

The shortlist is in! These thirty stories and essays are now with Kate Bernheimer, who will select the 10 finalists to include in this year’s edition of The Masters Review anthology. This list represents the best of the best work from the emerging writers who submitted this year. Thank you again to all of our lovely submitters. We always look forward to reading your work! Wish these thirty writers luck, and stay tuned for our finalists announcement next month!

Wild Geese In Real Time” by Jenny Bates

“Chlorine” by Kate Bucca

“Husk” by Mel Cronenwett

“Time Might be Short” by Joyce Dehli

“Anders” by Kurt Duecker

“Face to Face” by Jenna Geisinger

“Things to Do Before You Die” by Alison Gibbs

“Counting” by Anna Goodkind

“How To Love Two Husbands” by Anne Gudger

“The Fair” by Will Hearn

“Sincerely, Tandy Hart” by Karen Keating

“Quiet Guest” by Dawna Kemper

“The Bastards of Enoch, Florida” by Allie Marini

“Paper Boats” by Lydia Martín

“Umm el-Dunia” by Sophie McBain

“Electric Guests” by Naïma Msechu

“The Good Neighbor” by Dorene O’Brien

“An English Teacher and an Arab Walk Into A Bar” by Adriana Páramo

“June” by V. Efua Prince

“Lida” by Belal Rafiq

“Brick by Brick” by Jennifer Rasnovski

“Boone’s Rules” by Mary Reed

“Worth More Than Diamonds” by Beth Richards

“Heartland State Fair” by David Semonchik

“Picking Up” by Sherry Shaw

“Next Year Places” by Bethany Snyder

“Fear” by Divya Sood

“Alonso Rules” by Steven Stiefel

“American Crusader” by Lavanya Vasudevan

“The Engagement” by Stacey Wang

Jun 17

New Voices: At This Late Hour by Rebecca Turkewitz

The 2018 Winter Short Story Award was our toughest contest in recent memory. Judge Aimee Bender had ten excellent stories to decide between. Today, we’re publishing her honorable mention selection: “At This Late Hour” by Rebecca Turkewitz. About the story, Bender said, “This story shows such inhabited psychological insight— the sentences themselves feel lived in, clear and unfussy while still beautiful. It circles around our histories, our self-destructivenesses— through the story of a ghost, and a love affair, and a friendship, and does this with a clear-eyed awareness and a steady hand. The whole story could be characterized by its solidness, like something made with care, of a fine, layered wood. And, the author takes surprising and fresh turns throughout, keeping the reader surprised. It will stay with me.”

Especially susceptible young women might see Emily’s form floating in the ocean, blue and shivering, beckoning for them to leap in and join her. The legend implies but does not say: Don’t ever join her. The legend implies but does not say: Watch your daughters closely.

I’ve been working the front desk of the Leavitt Hotel for three years, but booking rooms and greeting guests is only part of my job. It took some persuading, but William, the owner, lets me haunt the place. When William hired me, the Leavitt was already considered one of the most haunted spots in New England. At first, William dismissed the spooky stories and the ghost-hunters’ claims. He’s a history buff, and he’s been meticulously restoring the two-hundred-year-old mansion to as close to its original state as he can possibly make it. He couldn’t see that hauntings and history are really just two sides of the same coin, just different ways of using what came before us to make sense of our lives. After a few months of gathering visitors’ and staff members’ accounts, I went to William with my proposal: I wanted to play up the haunted history. I told him it could attract business, especially in the off-season when the summer beach-goers and the fall tourists have deserted us. I assured him I could draw in a crowd that would appreciate the original fireplace he had restored in the lobby and the antique light fixtures he was buying for the dining room.

To test the waters, William let me add a few eerie touches to the hotel’s website: a picture of the small graveyard on the northern side of the property and a black-and-white photo of the building with all the windows dark, save one. I left a few false reviews online, added some stories to ghost-hunting websites, and dimmed the lobby lights in the evening. When business picked up and guests started asking about the Leavitt family tree hanging on the lobby wall, William relented completely. Together, we installed new locks on the doors so I could present each guest with a heavy brass skeleton key. Once a month I give a ghost tour of the property, pointing out the spot in the yard where no grass grows, the empty stone well hidden behind a stand of birch trees, the unlit coal room in the basement, and the study where Samuel Leavitt supposedly died at his desk, still tallying the debts others owed him.

I’ve learned that the best way to cultivate spookiness is to only hint at it, letting the stories stand for themselves while I express my doubts. I tell people on my tours that I’m only the reporter. The last guest just told me the craziest story as he was checking out, I say as I hand over maps of bike riding trails. Every now and then, when I’m feeling anxious or bored or the urge to pack up and move, I slip into empty rooms and leave handprints on the windows and mirrors or scurry noisily through the halls at night, rapping on the walls. At first, I didn’t tell William about these last flourishes. But William spends hours trying to recover old tax records and photos of the house, tracing the Leavitt-Johnson family tree, and scouring antique stores for rugs and furniture that match the original designs of the house. He understands fascination with strange and particular things.

To continue reading “At This Late Hour” click here.

Jun 14

A Conversation with Michele Filgate

As a literary magazine devoted to emerging voices, The Masters Review is particularly interested in how writers get their start in the literary world. Recently, Courtney Harler, one of our volunteer readers, corresponded with Michele Filgate about her forthcoming first book, What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About. Inspired by Michele’s viral essay of the same the name, the collection includes pieces from celebrated writers such as Alexander Chee, Carmen Maria Machado, and Leslie Jamison. Courtney and Michele discussed the behind-the-scenes “story” of the collection, its genesis and development.

Courtney Harler: Tell us the story of your essay.

Michele Filgate: I started writing this essay a long time ago when I was an undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire. I thought that I was writing about my stepfather abusing me, but it took me many years of therapy and writing and struggling with the material to realize what the real story was about: the fracture this caused in my relationship with my mother. Writers often become fixated on certain topics, and this is the story I kept returning to again and again because I can’t stop longing for a better relationship with my mom. I love her, and the fact that we haven’t been able to communicate effectively about what happened is a deep source of pain in my life. Sari Botton of Longreads published my essay the week that the Weinstein story broke and the #MeToo movement took off. It was the perfect moment to release this story into the world. But it was terrifying, too. I was really relieved when I heard from so many strangers who related to what I wrote about. The essay went viral and was shared by a lot of writers I admire.

CH: Tell us more about your experience with Longreads, especially the “terrifying” parts. What were your concerns, and how did you overcome them? Also, what’s it like to “go viral”?

MF: My main concern was releasing such a personal story into the world. Just the act of doing that made me feel extremely vulnerable—and as I say in the introduction to my book, it felt like I was setting fire to my own life. But I felt like this was a story that had to be told. Staying silent about shameful events in our life only causes the silence to grow, until it can become toxic. I’ve had emerging writers ask me how to give yourself permission to write about your most painful stories. That’s something that I was only capable of doing after finding a great therapist. I honestly believe that writers who are writing memoir should go to therapy before they even begin to attempt to make a narrative out of their own lives. Going viral was thrilling but also added to the terror. Suddenly my story was out there, available for anyone to read.

CH: Tell us the story of your book.

MF: So many people responded to the title of my essay: “What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About.” I quickly realized that the title itself is a universal topic. Everyone has something they wish they could talk about with their mother, even or especially if they’ve never met her or she’s no longer alive. So I reached out to writers I admire and asked them if they had a story to tell. It was really important to me (and my editor) that the stories were very different in order to reflect a variety of mother/child relationships.

CH: I had an instant response to the title, as well. My mother passed in 2010, and I’ve been writing about her ever since—to remember and honor her, but also, to find some peace there. Given the universality of your topic, how did you approach the editing process, especially when dealing with work by writers you deeply admire? Other than differentiation, what criteria did you use to assemble the book?

MF: I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll repeat something that Joyce Carol Oates, my former professor, told me. You’re going to be writing about your mother for a long time. I really believe that writers have certain stories they return to again and again for a very good reason.

It was important to me to make sure that the anthology had uplifting essays in addition to the heartbreaking ones. I worked with each writer to see what they wanted to write about, and this anthology was very much a collaborative project between the contributors, my editor Karyn Marcus, and myself. The ultimate goal was to have each essay be a standalone gem, but I wanted them to speak to each other, as well.

CH: I’d say that you and your team certainly accomplished that goal. And the journey it took to get to this point—from undergrad to therapy to encouragement from JCO herself—has its own fascinating trajectory. What’s more—the story continues. I’ve really enjoyed following your book’s lead-up to launch on social media. Emerging writers are often advised to cultivate an online following prior to publication. What are your thoughts on this type of internet marketing, especially for artistic endeavors?

MF: I feel so strongly about it that I teach a class for Catapult on “Building a Writing Career on the Internet,” and I devote an entire week to social media! It’s a free and easy way to build a platform as a writer. There are positive and negative aspects of social media, of course. It’s easy to become addicted or compare yourself to others. But it’s also a great way to connect with other people and find a literary community. And the best part is that you can do that from anywhere in the world with an internet connection!

CH: What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About launched on April 30, so let me wish you a belated Happy Book Launch Day! When you get a chance to breathe, tell us what it’s like to be on tour. What have been your best and brightest moments so far? Or conversely, your worst and darkest? Like you said earlier, maybe you can’t have the thrill without the terror, and this is an incredibly intense time for you. To put it more simply—how are you doing?

MF: Thanks so much! My tour is almost over at this point. I’ve loved connecting with old friends and strangers and visiting some of the best indie bookstores in the country. The greatest reward in publishing a book is releasing it into the world and knowing that someone who really needs to read it will find it. That said, I’m very excited to wind down the tour and get back to a quieter routine.


Interviewed by Courtney Harler

Jun 10

New Voices: IED by Neville F. Dastoor

Today, we are excited to publish our newest entry to our New Voices catalog: “IED” by Neville F. Dastoor. Dastoor’s prose is at once powerful and vulnerable; “IED” explores the realities of a war that doesn’t end when you get home.

I shouldered my bag and walked the ascending fairway. It should have been a fine place to be, a cartooned lawn and white butterflies dotting the path. It should have been all for me—the health from the tall sentry pines for me—if not for me then for no one.

In the war, Kirkwood conquered his swing. Firebase Cobra, Uruzgan province, he finagled a driver and twenty-dozen golf balls into an airdropped resupply. We punched tee holes into flattened MRE boxes and snapped blue chem lights and swung over the concertina wire into the night. The game was to match the strikes with the awful blasts from the howitzer. We couldn’t quite sync it. On our last box of balls, Kirkwood pulled in an immense breath and closed his eyes through a scything swing. The shot channeled whole the cannon’s monstrous boom. Kirkwood whooped and roared Behold my glory! and he flung the club and raised his tree-limb arms high until the bloomed explosion, the giant silhouetted there like some mythic conductor commanding fiery organs on the faraway hills. Then he turned sensei: Mind the breath, Chief. I swung and missed the thundering gun. The swing’s there, in the guts of the game. I kept hacking in dissonance. The fifth dimension fairways.

Kirkwood could teach you to golf or to kill or to breathe. Captain James T. Kirkwood, he stressed the T and the Kirk—Landed the starship Enterprise right down Taliban Lane, and don’t you forget it. Kirkwood, six-foot-whatever with John Henry forearms hauling double the gear and GI-Joe’ing it with red leg holes seeping, and when I was gagging he was stuffing friends’ body parts in bags, then patching and patting me: Mind the breath, Chief. Kirkwood, the black-Yeti vegan, yoked like egg batter, leapt out the Humvee after missions and shed his gear and dropped to the lotus pose at his bunk. He offered his bliss to the team, lined us up one night under a fat yellow moon. IED, boys, IED: Inhale. Exhale. Detach. Come out the other end loving every damn thing. I couldn’t.

Three months later, a Saturday morning, I drove broken Minotaur to Fort Bragg’s Stryker Golf Course. I paid for thirty-six holes and six Budweisers. The old Master Sergeant starter sniffed the air. Maybe rain, he said. We swapped gone-a’warring bonafides, and he winked and crooned—One hundred men will test today…but only three will win the green beret. I belted my golf bag to the cart and unzipped the side pocket and reached under the parachute cord for three balls and three tees and placed them and three beers in the cart’s holders and drove to Hole 1.

To continue reading “IED” click here.

Jun 6

June Book Review: Hear My Voice by David Vaughan

In 1939, Germany invaded Poland and instigated a war that engulfed the globe. Hear My Voice, out June 13th from Jantar Press, tracks the years directly preceding the invasion, but as reviewer Seth Rogoff notes, “it does so from an interesting perspective… the beginning of large-scale broadcast radio.” Hear My Voice comes at a time when right-wing populism is again on the rise, and it examines the dissemination of propaganda through a new and popular medium.

In David Vaughan’s Hear My Voice, a young (Czech- and German-speaking) man travels from England to Prague to interpret for the British politician Edgar Young. The man, the novel’s narrator, arrives in Prague at the end of 1937 in the middle of the diplomatic crisis between Czechoslovakia and Nazi Germany about the status of the border region known as the Sudetenland. When the narrator arrives, the crisis has drastically intensified because of the Anschluss, or unification, of Nazi Germany with Austria. The novel’s plot traces the political developments of 1938 as Nazi pressure on Czechoslovakia increases and the allied powers—England and France—back down in the face of Hitler’s demands, isolating and ultimately dooming the Czechoslovak state. The novel reaches its climax with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s visit to Munich, where, the prime minister believes, he has secured lasting European peace by assuaging Hitler’s lust for land and power. The novel’s narrator, like the reader, knows better—it is just the beginning of the horror.

While Hear My Voice moves over well-traveled historical ground, it does so from an interesting perspective—that of the beginning of large-scale broadcast radio. The narrator is a fly-on-the-wall as he is dispatched as an interpreter with radio journalists to cover the year’s events. This story of the emergence of radio as a source of knowledge and as a tool of propaganda is compelling—both narratively and media-historically. As the situation in the Sudetenland deteriorates, Vaughan has the German-speaking communist Gustav Beuer tell the narrator, “… the broadcasts from the Reich, they are infecting hundreds and thousands of people every day. Radio has turned them into fanatics…” After listing to Hitler’s speech at the Nuremburg party rally, the narrator reflects, “Radio had played an awful role at that moment. Like an angry god, Hitler had used radio to cast rods of hatred through the ether.” After the speech, the narrator encounters a woman whose sons have fled the Sudetenland into Germany, most likely in preparation to fight on the Nazi side. The narrator notices that the “radio was covered with a cloth that for a moment reminded me of a shroud.”

Read more.

Jun 3

New Voices: “Tropical Fascism” by Gabriella Monico

With Short Story Month in the rearview mirror, we are excited to share our second essay of 2019. “Tropical Fascism,” Gabriella Monico’s first publication, explores the history of Brazil’s dictatorship, and how sexual politics have led to the return of populism and Bolsonaro’s election. “My maternal grandmother, Vovó Lourdina, is in love with a Fascist, and not just her husband.”

I wonder if Bolsonaro reminds Vovó of my grandfather: commanding, gruff, domineering. Perhaps in the President elect she sees a reflection of her husband, of her father, of her son, of every man that has ever cared for her. She never sits down, never interrupts, never speaks first. In fact, I soon direct my questions to my grandfather it which seems to make her more comfortable.

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

Sylvia Plath, “Daddy”

It now appears that the dictatorship in Brazil, which began with the military coup of 1964, never really ended. Its official expiration date is April of 1985, the year of Brazil’s first democratic elections, but in retrospect we can now see that the dictatorship merely shapeshifted, nibbling at the edges of our unstable democracy like a house-rat that evades the trap, but still eats the cheese. The simile is mine but the assertion was Arthur’s, the only other Brazilian in our Politics of Brazil class and a semi-closeted neo-liberal. Arthur and I had just watched a pro-Bolsonaro demonstration on YouTube, shortly before the election. It was perhaps the most festive display of fascism I’d ever seen, a flash mob wearing the green, yellow, and blue of the flag, the number seventeen emblazoned on their foreheads and wrists, printed on banners and t-shirts, and chanted incessantly. The choreographed song and dance was mesmerizing, featuring face glitter and finger guns. Tropical fascism.

“This is the gayest pro-fascism demonstration I’ve ever seen,” Arthur said.

“It’s a whole new level of crazy,” I added.

“Or we just keep forgetting the old crazy.”

To continue reading “Tropical Fascism” click here.

May 31

Deadline TONIGHT: Flash Fiction Contest judged by Kathy Fish — $3000 Awarded!

The submission portal closes TONIGHT at Midnight! Don’t miss out on your chance to win $3000 and a place in Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash online workshop! Submit up to 2 flash fiction pieces per submission by midnight. Details below:



Kathy Fish has published five collections of short fiction, most recently Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003-2018, from Matter Press. Her award-winning short stories, prose poems, and flash fictions have been published in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, Electric Literature, Guernica, and elsewhere. Fish’s “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild,” which addresses the scourge of America’s gun violence and mass shootings, will appear in an upcoming edition of The Norton Reader. The piece was also selected by Sheila Heti for Best American Nonrequired Reading 2018, and by Aimee Bender for Best Small Fictions 2018. Fish’s work was previously chosen for the 2017 edition of Best Small Fictions by Amy Hempel and for the 2016 edition by Stuart Dybek. Additionally, two of Fish’s stories are featured in the W.W. Norton anthology, New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction. She is a core faculty member in fiction for the Mile High MFA at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. She also teaches her own intensive online flash workshop, Fast Flash©. For more information, see her website:


  • Winner receives $3000 and publication
  • Second and third place prizes are $300 and $200 respectively and publication
  • All 3 finalists receive place in one of Kathy Fish’s online Fast Flash© Workshops
  • 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 31st, 2019
  • 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

The Masters Review will select a shortlist of 15 stories, and Kathy Fish will determine the winning 3. Find more details here!

Click below to submit before the window closes:


May 30

Reprint: “Caiman” by Bret Anthony Johnston

Capping off our reprint series celebrating Short Story Month, we are pleased to share Bret Anthony Johnston’s breathtaking “Caiman.” An excellent example of the first-person direct address, “Caiman” demonstrates the power of precise language and subtext. Notice the mother’s worry for her son, not simply as a result of the pet the narrator brings home. Notice the tension in their dialogue, compounded by the weather: “The kitchen was gummy with the day’s heat.”

She flipped the fish in the skillet. The sound of frying started up again like distant applause. She blew hair from her eyes, stood with her hip cocked, holding the spatula. The applause quieted. She slipped the fish onto a plate she’d covered with a paper napkin to soak up grease. She put two more pieces in the pan and watched them sizzle.

Your mother wouldn’t let me bring the ice chest into the house, so I left it in the garage. Earlier, I’d knifed four holes into the styrofoam lid. One of them looked like half a star, which I remember liking. This was years ago, a windswept Sunday. This was Texas.

When I returned to the kitchen, she pointed at the sink. She said, “Wash your hands. With soap.”

She was breading flounder. She’d been listening to radio reports about that little girl who’d been abducted. So had I. Probably I pulled over and gave that man eighty dollars because I thought it would keep you safe. He was parked under the causeway, a handlettered sign propped against the tire of his van, as if he were just selling pecans.

Your mother had flour dust on her neck. She’d already fried okra, boiled potatoes. Soon we would call you to the table and you, our little man, would bolt in like you’d heard a starter pistol. You were seven, a boy who liked bedtime stories with fantastic monsters and twisty, unexpected endings. You liked sneaking up on us. You hid behind closed doors and in the laundry hamper, then jumped out screaming and laughing. You loved the word “maybe.” (Maybe I’m a kid who’s a million years old. Maybe we should be a family with a pet. Maybe someday my eyes will turn blue.) Your mother swiped her forehead with her wrist. The kitchen was gummy with the day’s heat, the windows open. Before leaving that morning, I’d mowed the yard—you helped me rake, you wore your cowboy boots—and now, with dusk coming on, the cut-grass smell was rising and trying to cool everything off.

“She’s still missing,” your mother said. “Now they think the uncle did something.”

To continue reading “Caiman” click here.

May 28

June Deadlines: 13 Contests and Deadlines This Month

Our days are now filled with sunshine (hopefully), and we’re getting closer and closer to the longest day of the year. Take advantage of all that natural light to finish up your writing projects, and then send them off to one of these amazing contests!

FEATURED Masters Review Flash Fiction Contest

We’re cheating with this one, but our contest, our rules: The Masters Review Flash Fiction contest ends this Friday at midnight! You might be limited to 1000 words, but the winner will be rewarded with 3000 dollars! Second and third place receive $300 and $200, respectively, and all stories are considered for publication. Not only that, but all finalists receive a spot in Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash online workshop! She’s the judge, and she’s only looking for previously unpublished stories, but you’re allowed both simultaneous and multiple submissions. Don’t miss it!

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: May 31

Halifax Ranch Fiction Prize

American Short Fiction and brilliant judge Rebecca Makkai are looking for writers who are confident, concise, and creative – could that be you? Stories must be between 2000 and 6500 words, but multiple entries are allowed. First place receives $2500 and guaranteed publication in an upcoming issue! Details here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: June 1

Salamander 2019 Fiction Prize

Offered through Suffolk University, Salamander is working with Wayétu Moore to discover amazing new fiction! Each submission must be less than 30 pages, include a two-page cover sheet, and be entirely unpublished. First prize is $1000, second prize is $500, and all entries are considered for publication Learn more here.

Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: June 3

Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Literature

The Vilcek Foundation plans to raise awareness of immigrant contributions to America, by honoring three foreign-born writers who have demonstrated outstanding achievement early in their careers! Applicants must have been born outside the United States, be less than 38 years old, and they need to have at least one published book. Submissions should include a CV, proof of immigration status, a portfolio of writing samples, press clippings, completed essay questions, and two professional references. The reward for all of this work? A $50,000 cash prize! Check it out now!

Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: June 10

Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction

This annual short fiction contest is made possible through the generous support of the McGlinn and Hansma families, and they are looking for superbly crafted short stories! The winner will receive $2500 and an award dinner on the campus of Rosemont College, second place receives $750, and third place receives $500. Entries should be 8000 words or less, and simultaneous submissions are allowed. Judged by Susan Muaddi Darraj. More details here.

Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: June 15

New American Fiction Prize

If you have an unpublished fiction manuscript, this is opportunity knocking! New American Press and Judith Claire Mitchell are currently accepting submissions for this prize. A full-length fiction work of outstanding merit will be selected, and the winner will receive a publication contract, including $1200 and 25 author’s copies. Do it!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: June 15

Bard Fiction Prize

This amazing prize is offered to a promising emerging writer through Bard College, and the winners receive a stipend of $30,000, an appointment as writer-in-residence on campus for one semester, and the opportunity to give a public lecture. Be aware, though, they’re looking for writers who are 39 years old or younger. You’ll need to have published a book in order to apply, but this is the chance of a lifetime! Learn more here.

Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: June 17

Autumn House Press Contests

In this threefold contest offered by Autumn House Press, contestants can submit manuscript entries for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The categories are judged by Aimee Bender, Paul Lisicky, and Cornelius Eady, respectively. Not only do the winners in each contest receive $2500 in prizes and publication, but promotional help as well! Make sure to choose the correct category when you submit, and good luck! Find more details here.

Entry Fee: $30 Deadline: June 30

Barrow Street Press Book Contest

If you have been hoping for a chance to show the world your talent for poetry, your wait is definitely over with this competition! Judged by the incomparable Jericho Brown, the best previously unpublished manuscript of poetry in English will receive $1500 and publication. Each collection should be between 50-80 pages, but you are allowed multiple submissions. Don’t wait!

Entry Fee: $28 Deadline: June 30

Drue Heinz Literature Prize

This contest has some very stringent requirements, but the prize is almost beyond belief! In order to be eligible for the University of Pittsburgh Press’ award, you must have been published by a reputable journal, magazine, or publisher, before you can submit your collection of short fiction for consideration. The winner of this award, however, will have that manuscript published, and then receive $15,000! Details here.

Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: June 30

Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction

The University of North Texas Press offers this prize every year, and this could be the year for you! Entries can be a combination of short-shorts, short stories, and novellas, from 100 to 200 book pages in length. Authors may submit multiple applications, and simultaneous submissions are allowed. The winner receives $1000 and publication by UNT Press! Submit here.

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: June 30

2019 LAR Literary Awards

Here is a great chance for writers of all stripes, as the Los Angeles Review’s contest rewards authors in creative nonfiction, short fiction, flash fiction, and poetry! Adrianne Kalfopoulou judges creative nonfiction, Tammy Lynne Stoner judges short fiction, Brittany Ackerman judges flash fiction, and Matty Layne Glasgow judges poetry. The winner in each category receives $1000 and publication – Make sure you submit to the correct category! Submission guidelines here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: June 30

Lascaux Prize in Flash Fiction

If you think you’re ready to medal in writing flash fiction, then this is the contest for you! The Lascaux Review is accepting three stories per submission, less than 1000 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: June 30

Spokane Prize for Short Fiction

Willow Springs Books could be the perfect home for your newest manuscript of short stories, if you have enough nerve to try! Each submission needs to contain at least three distinct stories, totalling at least 98 pages, as well as a cover letter. First place wins $2000 and publication, under the direction of poet Christopher Howell. Submit here.

Entry Fee: $27.50 Deadline: June 30

by Kimberly Guerin