The Masters Review Blog

Jul 19

Summer Workshop Editors Announcement!

Our annual remote Summer Workshop is around the corner! We are excited to announce the editors who will share their expertise with us this year. The editors have years of industry experience, working with journals such as Tin House, American Short Fiction, and The Paris Review. If you need help getting your manuscripts in shape for submission this fall, look no further. Registration will open on August 1st, and be sure to sign up early, as spots are limited!

Cost: $299

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
  • automatic inclusion 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
Jul 17

The Masters Review Volume VIII Finalists!

Kate Bernheimer has spoken: These ten authors will have their stories featured in 2019’s edition of our annual anthology. Thank you so much to all of our submitters for trusting us with your work. We quite literally would not exist without you! And finally, congratulations to our ten finalists on their selection!


“Chlorine” by Kate Bucca

“Face to Face” by Jenna Geisinger

“Quiet Guest” by Dawna Kemper

“Paper Boats” by Lydia Martín

“Electric Guests” by Naïma Msechu

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

“June” by V. Efua Prince

“Lida” by Belal Rafiq

“Fear” by Divya Sood

“American Crusader” by Lavanya Vasudevan

Jul 15

New Voices: “Another Life” by Olivia Parkes

We are excited to publish a new story from Olivia Parkes, whose “The Art of Ending” we were privileged to publish last year. “Another Life” follows Magda, widowed, on a blind date with a Dr. Levi at a restaurant in which everything is for sale. The evening that follow is far from expected. Read on below.

Magda was early, seated at the appointed corner table near the back of the restaurant, considering the stuffed tiger beside her, which was standing behind a velvet rope on a shallow stage. She was fairly sure that it wasn’t real, or rather that the skin, which was sometimes stretched around something else and called a tiger, was also fake.

Magda was in pieces again. As she bent to pick up the largest shards, she caught the curve of her shoulder, the palm of her outstretched hand, her nostrils, obscene from this angle, and a thrillingly blank piece of ceiling. Since discovering her reflection, Gracie had been trying to ascertain if it was friend or foe, and the new dog had finally knocked the standing mirror down. Magda had only just settled on its final position in the foyer, having spent weeks shunting the heavy glass from room to room, her own image clasped to her in an awkward embrace. Since the procedure she had been struggling with the subtleties of Feng Shui: You wanted a mirror near your entryway to offer a positive glimpse of yourself on the way out, but not to reflect you within five feet of entering your home, which would cause your chi to bounce right back out the door. It had taken patience to find the place from which she could see herself leave but not return.

Magda herded the quivering sheepdog into the yard, where she promptly began running laps around the freshly laid grass. She would not, she resolved, replace the mirror, which was in fact already a replacement. She had returned the previous one to the eastern imports store a full two years after purchasing it, having one afternoon seen swastikas, or things that were not unlike swastikas, thriving in the elaborately-carved wooden frame. She had been susceptible to signs then, omens and portents, counting the number of flies on the windowsill each day in the year after David had died. At that time such a burst of bad luck—seven years—would have transformed her into a shrew knitting her own nerves.

But this was the new Magda, she reminded herself, and she would not be rumpled by such a thing now. The transformation had begun last year, when, on the fifth anniversary of his death, David had appeared to her in a dream, naked and beaming, borne aloft in a giant egg, and she had woken flooded with radiant happiness. Soon after, Magda had begun. She acquired a puppy and a host of spiritually apposite furnishings: a set of singing bowls, an acacia-wood bodhisattva, and a coffee table that had, apparently, been a rafter in a Tibetan temple in its previous life. She had even begun dating again. Friends set her up with nephews, late bloomers, or men who had married out of the faith and learned their lesson, who had good health insurance, good teeth, and needed only to be delivered into the hands of a good Jewish woman. They had bored her into the same calm suspension between comfort and sadness that she felt in the moments before falling asleep.

To continue reading “Another Life” click here.

Jul 10

Interview with the Winner: Joe Bond

“Damico,” the winning story selected by Aimee Bender for our 2018 Winter Short Story Award, was published on Monday. Read it in its entirety here. Assistant Editor Melissa Hinshaw caught up with Joe Bond to discover a little more about this story’s history. Read on below.

What was the inspiration behind “Damico”? How did this idea come to you?

I grew up around boys homes and residential treatment programs. I’ve always been interested in how kids without families cling to each other. Of course, they also terrorize each other, but the image of one desperate kid comforting another was what I wanted to write toward. In the homes I was around and later worked in, actual physical comfort—one teenage boy holding another—would have been a rare event, to say the least, and so I needed a story worthy of that moment. Damico is separated from his child, but in fact all of the boys at the home are cut off from the people they were supposed to love and who were supposed to love them. I wanted this story to give something back to them. I wanted it to be true to the kids I knew who had lost almost everything but somehow held on to their humanity.

What is this story’s development timeline like—is it a fresh new story, something you’ve been working on or a while, something you finished a long time ago and finally decided to submit, etc?

I think of it as a new story. I wanted to write about a boys home; I just didn’t know how exactly I should go about it. I burned a week writing poems about teenagers who had fired rifles at the Goodyear Blimp and who had eaten light bulbs and huffed gas and called begging for someone to come check them out of the psych ward so they could play in a basketball tournament. These things actually happened. The trouble was, I’m not much of a poet. I didn’t recognize what I was doing until one poem began to transform itself into a story, and at that, a work of fiction. The next turning point was locating the narrator inside the home. Once I realized he had been one of the kids there, the voice came to me almost instantly and the story ballooned into something that wasn’t exactly a story anymore so much as a map or master document. Suddenly I had twelve thousand words filled with the backstories and interlocking presents of at least a half-dozen boys. I picked out one moment—the moment I mentioned above, where one kid consoles another—and developed it into “Damico.” I’m working on the other boys’ stories now.

I appreciate the way you capture unique voices without dipping too deep into cheesy colloquial language. Were you able to pick this up naturally just from listening to people in real life, or did you have to work these voices over several times to find that balance and get it right?

I listened to these voices the first twenty-two years of my life. My dad ran a group home and later a couple of other programs with more than sixty teenagers at each place. I was just always around, especially when I was a kid. I’d sit in on group counseling; I’d listen to their stories. If the boys were going camping or cave exploring, I’d cram myself onto a van and go with them. They didn’t mind me, as far as I could tell. It helped that I was quiet—you could forget I was there. I heard some things I probably shouldn’t have, but the benefit was that even from a young age, it was impossible for me to see the world in a narrow or simple way. As for getting the voices down in a story, I tried hard not to screw them up. The confined setting of the boys homes I knew, which gathered teenagers from all over, produced its own blended vernacular with strains of street, country and what I would call Appalachian treatment speak (the homes were in Kentucky). Honestly, I loved listening to it. It was fun to write, too, but I revised with an ear for toning it down some.

One thing I love about this piece is how it doesn’trely on setting so much. It does so much without big old descriptions of landscape and somehow you always know exactly where you are. In what ways do you see this as an “everyplace” story? Or, is it connected to somewhere specific?

I suspect readers have a notion of a group home—a reference point gleaned from TV or film or perhaps personal experience—that makes it unnecessary to describe every crack in the wall plaster. I needed a fire escape, a shower and a room for visitation and counseling. In the other stories I’m writing, I do let the home itself come a little more alive with its drafty windows and clanging radiators, with its condom-clogged toilets and smoke-stained ceilings and malfunctioning popcorn machine that sets off the sprinkler system every Saturday night during movie time. But descriptions of the outside world are intentionally limited because the boys have been removed from it. They see a highway and the woods they’ll have to run through to get there—that’s about it, and still, I think there’s great potential in the starkness of their isolation: imagine if, say, in another story a rogue counselor were to pack the boys onto a van and drive them five hundred miles to see the ocean. To get back to your question, though, I think the home in this particular story could be anywhere in America, absolutely, as long as it’s ten or fifteen miles out of town. People are happy to let a group of juvenile delinquents rake their leaves and clean up their streets, but they’d rather the boys be housed elsewhere.

Which of the characters do you relate to most? What’s your authorial stance on whether characters do, don’t, can, or can’t relate to an author?

I feel the most for Damico, but I can’t say I’ve suffered in the ways that he has, and yet I do feel connected to him in that he reminds me of the boys I knew and cared about. That said, I probably relate most directly to the narrator through his voice and the perspective he’s gained having been at the home for so long. I never beat up anyone in the shower, but if I were him, I might have. I think if you can’t relate to your characters in some way—on a basic human level if nothing else—you’ve got a problem.

If this story had “parents”, what/who would they be (i.e. certain authors, books, or movies)?

The voice in Richard Ford’s Rock Springs, which echoes through Wildlife and Canada, certainly is an influence. The dialogue in Richard Price’s Clockers. The kids in the fourth season of The Wire—they could have been some of ours in the weeks before they were sent off. But at the risk of going on and on about them, the boys in the homes I grew up around were the truer inspiration. They were no angels, trust me. Their situations—where they were from and where they were—could lead them to acts of terrible cruelty, and yet many of them, in other moments, were also capable of profound kindness and compassion. Something happened with my sister once. We were in a park with my dad and a group of boys. We were leaving, and my sister—seven years old, impulsive, excited about something—darted across several lanes of traffic and was struck by a pickup truck. One second we were all standing together waiting to cross, and the next, tires were squealing and there was a thump and my sister was skidding along the asphalt. By miracle, her injuries, however painful, proved mostly superficial (head-to-toe abrasions, a broken tooth), but in the moment you assume the worst. I mean, she was lying in the street in her socks. Her Keds were twenty yards back, near the point of impact. People were screaming, jumping out of their cars. As my dad and the other adults ran to her, suddenly the boys were without supervision. Most of them you didn’t have to worry about, but the newer kids, if you gave them an opening, they’d steal a car and turn up a month later in custody in another state. In this instance, their shock held them there on the sidewalk, except for one boy, who might have been fifteen or sixteen years old, whose immediate response to having just witnessed what appeared to be the death of a child was to grab the child’s little brother up into his arms. This was a kid who, I don’t even remember his name, and God knows what else he’d seen in his life, God knows what all he’d been through or done—I just remember him running with me, back into the park, trying to get me away from it all. These are the kids I’m trying to write about.

Interviewed by Melissa Hinshaw

Jul 8

New Voices: “Damico” by Joe Bond

Aimee Bender selected Joe Bond’s “Damico” as the winner of our 2018 Winter Short Story Award for New Writers contest. “With swift, fierce sentences, the story covers a lot of ground,” she said, “and we meet a group of boys I cared about quickly, and meaningfully. It kept my attention and I found myself invested in the narrator, and Damico, and Freckles, and Harley—and all the desperate ways they— and all of us– want to care and be cared for. Survival and vulnerability somehow live side by side in this story, and the words seemed driven by their own internal urgency.” Without further ado, the winner:

It was all the newspaper people wanted to write about, what was wrong with kids these days, what was wrong with society. They couldn’t use Damico’s name—he was a juvenile—and so they called him a thug instead. And it was true that he’d punched somebody, but the whole deal, Damico hadn’t meant for it to happen. Nobody wrote that he was sorry, that he didn’t want to hurt that old man. Really, he hadn’t even meant to steal the clothes. Just walked by and saw them in a store, the light blue pajamas with the little feet in them, the little pink shirt that said FREE HUGS. Nobody wrote that the clothes Damico stole were baby clothes.

A peer named Harley ran off and stole a motorcycle. We didn’t know what kind. Somebody said he wrecked it and tore off his leg. Somebody said he was still riding, that he’d called from Canada. It was hard to get good info.

We decided he wasn’t coming back. I took his Bible. Another peer took his condoms. Damico Sears took his pictures from home.

There were twelve of us. When a kid ran away or lost his mind or was otherwise removed from the program, I always swiped his Bible. Peers thought I was religious, but that was where they hid their money. They laid their bills out flat—a one slipped into the book of Job, a five wedged into Mark and so on. I gave a couple of bucks to Damico. He had a baby somewhere. It needed things.

Damico was sixteen. He told us stories about holding his baby in the palm of his hand. The truth was, he had never seen it. He didn’t know its name. He was pretty sure its birthday was in December, though. In December, the baby was turning one and Damico was going to be there.

Couple weeks after Harley went AWOL, we got a new peer. Fat kid with copper hair. He thought he had an attitude.

“Wipe that look off your face,” we told him the second he walked in the door.

The JTOs—juvenile treatment officers—shaved his copper hair down to his scalp. We could hear him putting up a fight. We dragged him into a shower, stripped him down and blasted him with ice-cold water. His skin was soft and freckled and lumpy.

“He’s got tits,” one of us said. “This peer’s got tits.”

Damico paired off with him and tried to teach him the Orientation handbook. Freckles called him a motherfucker. Damico took a smoke break.

It was 1988. They let you smoke cigarettes at boys homes back then. You could pair off with a Graduation phase, step outside and get away from the group for a few minutes.

To continue reading “Damico” click here.

Jul 5

Craft Essay: Against the Great Sadness of Upper-Middle Class Life

Today, we are excited to share this great essay from Assistant Editor Melissa Hinshaw: “Against the Great Sadness of Upper-Middle Class Life.” How can we write what we know if all we know has been written about so frequently? Our stories have become the mainstream. Melissa has some advice on how to write something new while sticking to your experiences, and how to get your story noticed.

The years surrounding the release of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (2010) saw an uptick in American fiction that falls in the vein of what I like to call “The Great Sadness of Upper-Middle Class Life.” It was something writers like Don DeLillo and Alice Munro had done earlier and better, but never something recognized on a sold-at-airport-bookstores scale. It was a great milestone for all of us aspiring young authors who’d whittled away the 90s and early 2000s being either just good enough or just bad enough: We finally saw we could truly do something with our lives. And that something was to find that perfect balance of narrative emoting that managed to be somehow grandiose and terse, languorous and sharp-witted—and then to fill three- to four- hundred pages with it. What was it about? Didn’t matter. It meant something. It was the American experience.

Today, I feel happy to report that in less than a decade this literary trend has slowed down, largely thanks to blogs on blogs on tweets on tweets harping against white privileged authors and their sorry, often sexist or racist plights and calling for inclusion of all types of American authors, young or old, black or white, gay or straight. That doesn’t mean folks like Marilynne Robinson and Jeffrey Eugenides aren’t still pumping out high-caliber work (actually… I could use a 2019-era Gilead), and that doesn’t mean people like you and I aren’t still working on our sense of authorial calling. Even though we cling to our esteemed literary magazines and quirky online publications, we still, as authors, dream of not just one day selling that first novel (and rubbing our clean hands across its silky matte skin), but also getting that Oprah Book Club sticker slapped across its cover. After all, Franzen did it! But what do we have to offer? Our lives are normal: a crushed heart, college, cancer, the occasional affair. “Write what you know,” our workshop gurus say, and we do. But is it enough? Here are a few suggestions for making sure it is:

  1. Beat the odds. One in three people gets cancer ( One in (three, four, or five, depending on which statistic you use —,,, repsectively) women gets sexually assaulted. One hundred percent of us still die. It feels special to you because it’s awful and confusing, but unfortunately it isn’t unique—and unless you distinguish your cancer story from everybody else’s cancer story, all the important stuff we need to bond and connect over will get lost in the shuffle. Doing this in fiction is so hard I can only recommend Alice Elliot Dark’s “In The Gloaming”, as well as this LitHub chat between David Oshinsky and Paul Harding that gets you thinking about why disease stories tend to fare better on large-scale, epidemic/dystopian planes.  We need eccentric characters, weird connections, and coincidences that aren’t arbitrary but which make us think twice to remind us of those same elements that live in us as readers—the things that make us human, but the things which we forget when we are overwhelmed by that sadness, rage, and terror. If you are getting stuck in those primary emotions, then your reader will too. Your story needs to be about something besides or beyond those, otherwise it will disappear.
  2. Outweird the weird. A challenge of the internet age is all the novelty thrown in our faces on a daily (nay, hourly) basis. We see so much weird shit it seems normal. Being weird for the sake of being weird, or being weird just to get attention, does work in the short term—i.e. you’ll usually get past the first round of the slush pile, but by the second round our readers are on to you. A hook without a line or sinker just kind of stabs a little bit. Once you’ve come up with your own unique element, put some thought into what it’s doing for your characters or in your story, and how you might weave it through the entire narrative instead of just showing it to us to show it to us (sorry, I’ve already seen that puppy video). I recommend Sianne Ngai’s in-depth exploration Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, and Interesting for anyone seeking to differentiate from the norms (but perhaps not quite ready to dive into dystopian fiction or manga quite yet). Authors who have toed this line particularly well are Claire Vaye Watkins (i.e. Gold Fame Citrus, 2015) and Karen Russell (Vampires in the Lemon Grove, 2013).
  3. Dig in to the tropes: In the event you are too exhausted to come up with something unique or new, then “Match it or beat it” is a good rule of thumb when it comes to looking at what’s already out there as inspiration for your next project. Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife and Madeline Miller’s Circe are great recent spins on ancient legends. If an epic journey isn’t part of the family story you’re sitting on, then try this idea swiped straight from any recovery psychology textbook: Every dysfunctional family (of birth or of choice) has a dependent, an enabler, a hero, a scapegoat, a lost child, and a mascot. There are your characters, there’s six story arcs, there’s your novel—you’re welcome. Just want to write a short story? Pick one and go crazy. And if all else fails, grab a few books on Jungian archetypes. There is a lot of energy living in these old, rich, universal-leaning places, and tapping into them might give a sort-of-flat-feeling piece you’re working on you the extra depth it needs.

By Melissa Hinshaw

Jul 2

Summer Short Story Award Now Open for Submissions

The Summer Short Story Award for New Writers, judged by Tope Folarin, is NOW OPEN for submissions! Submit your very best fiction up to 6,000 words by August 31 for your chance to win $3,000, publication, and agency review! Next week, we will be publishing the winner of our Winter Short Story Award for New Writers, if you’re looking for inspiration.

$3000 + Publication + Agency Review

Submit now!

  • 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
  • Translations allowed, providing the story has not been published in another language
  • 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. Writers with novels published with a circulation of fewer than 5000 copies can also submit.)
  • International submissions allowed
  • $20 entry fee
  • Deadline: August 31, 2019
  • 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
  • To view a list of our most commonly asked questions regarding submitting to The Masters Review, please see our FAQ page.
Jul 1

New Voices: “Caretaker Needed” by Meghan Daniels

“Caretaker Needed,” the 2nd place story in our 2018 Winter Short Story Award for New Writers was selected by Aimee Bender on the basis of its frank and anti-sentimental voice. She said, “I love how this voice will make a statement and then a sentence later modify the statement— the narrator’s voice is so frank and appealing in what she knows and doesn’t know about herself and her motives. The story is funny, and fresh, and then ends up quite affecting at the end with the reveal in her past that is written so well and moves into spaces unexpected several times over. It’s anti-sentimental while also unafraid to go into strong feeling.” We are thrilled to share “Caretaker Needed” with you today.

If you didn’t know already, babies are everywhere. They do not stop being in grocery stores just because you want them to. You see them in their car seats and at cash registers screaming in frightening pitches. They are in the liquor store and they are playing next door and they are bundled in a baby carrier on their mother’s chest while she tries to stop the baby’s older sister from catapulting head first down the slide.

I found Mr. Emory the week I arrived in New Mexico by way of a hardware store flier.


I called the number and drove the winding road to Mr. Emory’s home. His desiccated front yard was littered with cacti, rocks, lawn ornaments. A bent “Don’t Tread on Me” sign was staked into the dirt. Inside he served me cloudy tap water and told me he was dying. Cancer, he said. He said that he didn’t expect the job to last very long. “I won’t last very long,” he said. He said he’d given up on chemotherapy. He went into a long spiel I didn’t try to follow—something about the effects of toxicity of the blood on the afterlife. Without waiting for me to respond he said, “Let’s get down to brass tacks.”

As if remembering he was supposed to, he asked me my qualifications. I told him I was a former yoga teacher. I was familiar with anatomy. “Death doesn’t scare me,” I said.

He looked at me a moment and said, “You’ll do.” He shook my hand and thanked me. He called me “Miss.” I did not bother to correct him. I was married only in the technical sense. Any day now, a packet of notarized papers would arrive care of my husband’s lawyer in New York.

When my parents heard about the divorce—irreconcilable differences, I told them, I used those words—they had wanted me to come to Florida, where they’d retired and now spent their days playing tennis, drinking mojitos, and purchasing starfish-patterned bath towels for their musty beach-adjacent ranch. I didn’t go to Florida. The idea of it made me itchy. Instead, after an Ouija-like sweep of Google Maps, I found Devil’s Fire. It was a nowheresville outside of Santa Fe. I had never been to New Mexico but the idea of geologic formations shaped like tables appealed to me. I pictured ghosts suppering at the red-orange mesas. I was cheered at the idea that these phantoms might outnumber human residents. I found a rental apartment on Craigslist for $250 a month. I found Mr. Emory.

To continue reading “Caretaker Needed” click here.

Jun 28

July Deadlines: 12 Prizes and Contests Ending This Month

Temperatures are now starting to soar, so let yourself also rise to meet the challenges of our selected contests this month! You’ll never know if you don’t try, but we believe you can make the leap!

Bellevue Literary Review Prizes

All three of the Bellevue Literary Review’s contests are ending soon, so enter now if you want to receive one of the three $1000 and publication first-place prizes! All entries should be related to themes of health, healing, illness, the mind, and the body. Bryan Washington is judging fiction, DéLana R.A. Dameron is judging poetry, and Sheri Fink is judging nonfiction. Honorable mention winners also earn $250 and publication! Guidelines here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: July 1

Richard J. Margolis Award

Inspired by journalist and essayist Richard J. Margolis, this prize has provided financial and other support to a promising journalist whose work combines warmth, humor, and wisdom with social justice since 1992. This prize recognizes one writer with $5000, and a one-month residency at the Blue Mountain Center in Blue Mountain Lake, NY. Applicants need to provide a cover letter, biographical note, a project description, and two writing samples. Submission guidelines here.

Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: July 1

The Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers

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

Entry Fee: $12 Deadline: July 15

The Peseroff Prize Poetry Contest

Breakwater, operating from the University of Massachusetts, is searching for something new in poetry, and thus this contest specifically has no restrictions in content or form. Clearly this is a call to all poets who think that their work can make the cut! Judged by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lloyd Schwartz, the winner receives $1000 and publication in Breakwater’s fall issue. Submit here.

Entry Fee: $10 Deadline: July 15

Rattle Poetry Prize

Rattle is on the hunt for a single outstanding piece of poetry, and they definitely have the money to pay for it! This annual competition awards $10,000 for a single poem to be published in the winter issue of their magazine. Ten finalists also receive $200, and voting will then choose one of them as the $2000 Reader’s Choice Award! Four poems are allowed per entry, and there is no line limit. What are you waiting for? Enter here!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: July 15

Robert and Adele Schiff Awards in Poetry and Prose

The Cincinnati Review is currently accepting submissions for their annual contest, but all good things will eventually come to an end. The winning poem and prose piece will be judged by Poetry Editor Rebecca Lindenberg and Fiction Editor Michael Griffith. The winning entries will be published in 2018 and receive $1000 each, so don’t lose your chance! Learn more here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: July 15

Spring 2019 Travel Writing Contest

The award-winning literary travel magazine Nowhere is looking for writers who know how to convey time and place with ease and grace! Submissions may be fiction, nonfiction, or essay, and can range from 800 to 5000 words. The winner receives $1000 and publication, and up to 10 finalists will be published as well. Check it out!

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: July 15

The Story Prize

This competition is a daunting gauntlet for any first-time author to run, but the reward at the end is well worth the effort! A $20,000 book prize is awarded to the author of a collection of short stories that was published this year, and entries may be submitted by agents, authors, or publishers. Currently they’re accepting submissions of books that were published from January through June. Are you eligible? Do it!

Entry Fee: $75 Deadline: July 15

William Faulkner Literary Competition

This is a multi-faceted event, with opportunities for a staggering variety of writers. Authors can submit their work to novel, adult short story, student short story, one-act play, and poetry categories! Prizes and deadlines vary for each category, with the winning novel receiving $2000 and publication. Make sure you read each category closely! More information here.

Entry Fee: $50 Deadline: July 15

Kenneth Patchen Award

If you have an unpublished fiction manuscript, this is opportunity knocking! The Journal of Experimental Fiction is currently accepting submissions for this prize. An innovative full-length fiction work will be selected, and the winner will receive a publication and $1000. Judged by Jason E. Rolfe. Do it!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: July 31

Narrative Spring Story Contest

This contest is open to all fiction and nonfiction writers, writing anything from short stories and memoirs, to essays and literary nonfiction! The entries need to be less than 15,000 words and previously unpublished, while containing a strong narrative drive and intense insights. First prize is $2500, second is $1000, and third is $500. All entries are considered for publication, and all contest entries are also eligible for the $4000 Narrative Prize! Guidelines here

Entry Fee: $27 Deadline: July 31

New Millenium Awards

There’s a little something for everyone in this contest, presented by literary journal New Millenium Writings! Writers can send in submissions for poetry, fiction, flash fiction, or nonfiction, with no restrictions on style or subject matter. Fiction and nonfiction must be less than 6000 words, flash fiction must be less than 1000 words, and poetry may include three poems less than five pages long. First place in each category receives $1000, a certificate, publication online and in print, and two copies. Select finalists may also be published and receive complimentary copies. Don’t wait!

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: July 31

by Kimberly Guerin

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