The Masters Review Blog

Jun 18

Reading Through the Awards: Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

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. Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors, recent winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel, is our next selection.

Quick Book Summary (from the official blurb): “In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends.

Nainoa’s family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods—a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family’s legacy.

When the supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawai’i—with tragic consequences—they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival.”

Kawai Strong Washburn’s debut novel, Sharks in the Time of Saviors, begins like this: a hint that someone will die, a tender description of love, and a moment when the boundaries between the real world and the supernatural dissolve. This introduction sets up the momentum that carries us through a story that isn’t really about the legend that defines Nainoa Flores’s life. Instead, Sharks in the Time of Saviors is about the experiences, the pain, and the bonds of the Flores family after the collapse of the sugarcane industry in Hawai’i.

Washburn writes with an unflinching sense of authenticity. He deftly uses the backdrop of Hawai’i to guide the narrative, even as the Flores siblings leave home for the mainland. Each character’s voice is as distinct as the paths they take, from Kaui’s biting wit to Dean’s frank dialect, but their storylines are united by a quiet reminder of the supernatural. Boundaries between the characters and their environments are dissolved with intention; Noa’s healing abilities are described viscerally, but so, too, is Kaui’s connection to the earth as she scales a rock face and Dean’s flow state on the basketball court, “That same king feeling in my chest, ancient and big.” This mysticism is an undercurrent, surging to the forefront of the narrative when the moment is right.

Washburn’s sentences are lyrical and explosive, but his story structure truly shines, even as the narrative progresses through five different perspectives. He balances the gods of legend with the tyrannical gods of modern-day society: money, work, capital. Through matriarch Malia, we see the effects of the “faraway haole man” on the Flores family’s ability to transcend their material circumstances and escape the pull of their homeland. It’s this constant tension between what characters want and what they do, between what they have and what they feel, between what is expected and what is real, that makes Sharks in the Time of Saviors feel like a complete experience, even as we’re left with questions by the story’s end.

Rebecca Paredes

Magic is a tricky thing to work into the fabric of a novel without forcing the reader to lean back in their seat just a little bit, take themselves out of the text for a moment, and ask, “Why?” or, “How?” But Kawai Strong Washburn manages to weave human experience and divine touch together with such a deft hand as to leave the reader only wondering, “What else?” And that is the greatest strength of Sharks in the Time of Saviors.

Magic asserts its importance in the story the moment Noa, middle child of Malia and Augie, is saved from drowning at sea by a shark. From then on, Noa is bestowed extraordinary power. And while magic has the most direct impact on Noa’s story—his abilities making him “more of the gods” than of his parents—the subtler influence of its touch is even-handedly distributed throughout his family.

Through them, magic becomes the emotional core of the narrative. Magic feeds Dean’s ambitions. He feels it as the kings’ energy when he’s on the court, and it leaves him whenever his soul knows it’s doing something it should not. Magic tempers Kaui’s emotions. It comes out of her through hula no matter where she may be, or how low her life has sunk. Magic is Malia expertly playing a song she’s never learned on a lost son’s ukulele. And it is Augie, feeling the heartbeat of the islands through a single kalo leaf draped over his shoulder.

Allene Keshishian

Sharks in the Time of Saviors is a powerful look at the poverty and hope that encases the lives of many residents within the Hawaiian Islands. This work is also a remarkable study concerning a native Hawaiian family with three siblings, all with their own unique talents and personalities. The paramount sibling jealousy and rivalry, particularly against the savior-esque character of Nainoa, are well-crafted and used expertly to bolster the ambitions of Kaui and Dean, so they are not entirely left behind as they all grow up. There are many moments when the siblings come together as they struggle, and they keep in touch regularly even when they go their separate ways. There is even a scene of solidarity when Kaui and Dean fight the movers trying to liquidate every scrap of clothing and worn-out book from Nainoa’s apartment.

Despite offering intriguing first-person perspectives and insight into Hawaiian culture and customs, the narrative suffers from something most conventional salvation stories do: killing the savior/focal protagonist. Nainoa, unsurprisingly, does not make it to the end of this tale, and he does not have as significant an impact as the book leads the reader to believe. Nainoa grows up as a Hawaiian prodigy and supernatural healer, gaining numerous scholarships and opportunities to propel himself forward. While he does affect the lives of the people and animals he comes in direct contact with, he does not somehow save or even lead the Hawaiian Islands into some resurrection or renaissance. He cannot even help or save his family in the end, leading to a rather stale and unfortunate reality that imparts a dreary and somewhat disappointing view: those with talent will fail if they can’t find their path right away.

The novel, in the end, is about failure. The most painful truth is that everyone’s hopes and dreams are shattered for essentially negligent and irresponsible reasons. Both Kaui and Dean throw away their education and opportunities in the United States for no other reason than they wanted to after encountering some unfortunate or inconvenient mishap. Nainoa does the same thing, retreating to Hawaii and leaving behind all of his accomplishments when he cannot save the life of a mother and her child. Although there is some hope with Kaui tending a new farm on their home island and putting her engineering skills to some use, the novel becomes a hollow echo for optimism. The flawed nature of human beings is the real reason tragedy and unhappiness occur, and this work exemplifies that.

S. N. Valadez

When we talk about grief, we’re usually talking about the loss of a loved one. Somebody has died or is dying. Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors is about another kind of grief, one a lot less physical and a lot harder to talk about. In the opening chapter, middle son Noa falls overboard, into the ocean, and is saved by sharks. Shortly after, Noa demonstrates a supernatural ability to heal the sick and gravely wounded, restoring bones and curing cancers. A legend is born. Noa’s siblings, however, get forgotten as more and more people learn of his healing properties. Older brother Dean thrives on the basketball court but isn’t a child sent by the gods. Younger sister Kaui excels in school but lives in the shadow of equally intelligent Noa and star athlete Dean. Each child grieves their lot in life. Noa loses faith in his supernatural abilities to heal, Dean feels inadequate because he is not as book-smart as his siblings, and Kaui loses any chance of her own identity because she’s only known as the shark boy’s sister. The siblings separate. They lose each other. They leave Hawaii. They move to Portland, Spokane, San Diego. And, it’s not until the end—when a death does occur—that they are brought back together.

I read this book originally during the first month of the pandemic. I remember I didn’t like it. I couldn’t focus on it. At the time, I blamed the writing. The voice is too strong, I thought. Chapters switch the point of view between members of the Flores family, each steeped with Hawaiian slang and syntax. I didn’t understand these characters who clung to the belief that their son could be sent by the Gods to heal, I could barely stand to read about a family that lost their livelihood and was now struggling to survive. How could one bad thing after another, after another after, another just keep happening, barely giving these characters a moment to process their pain before hurting them again? I thought: I can’t read this, whatever this book is trying to get at I can’t understand. Now, I think it was because I was not ready to read a book about grief—not when thousands of people were dying, I had lost a better job offer due to the uncertainty of what was going to happen and the job I did have cut my hours, the world as we’d all known it was effectively over. The book about the sharks that I read in April was just a footnote; a weird, surreal memory in the back of my mind. Now, over a year later, I feel I better understand what this book wants to talk about. It’s a book about not knowing how to move on, not having control, not being able to stand under the weight of expectations, about surviving despite all of it. That, sometimes, we don’t get the chance to grieve properly, that sometimes we need to cling to our beliefs to make sense of the uncontrollable, that sometimes it’s all we can do to just make it to the next day.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors is about the tearing apart of the Flores family. The things that they grieve—being the least favored child, not being able to measure up to parental expectations, not being as smart as the rest of the siblings—and how they grieve is what moves the story along. Washburn’s characters move through the motions of pain, letting their grief consume them and oftentimes ruin them. They run away to the mainland to escape their history, Noa tries to save every lost cause he can, Dean fights those who make him feel like he’ll only ever be in second place, Kaui avoids any Hawaiian on the mainlaid she comes across in fear they’ll know of her brother. They run but, more often than not, they live. They choose to keep living. Sharks in the Time of Saviors is an all-engrossing novel. Washburn sucks you into the pain of each of his characters. As readers, we grieve with them. We grieve their heartaches and failures, their feelings of inadequacy, their desire for independent identities and control over their own lives. And, despite all of these things pulling them apart, the family is still tied together. Not through love, not necessarily, but because they are all in varying stages of the same grief and hurt. This means the only people who truly know what they are each going through are each other. It’s this connection that allows them to finally start to move on: they figure out who they are, what they want, and how to heal themselves. And it’s this message—that it’s not enough to simply survive, we must fight to heal ourselves—that makes reading this book so timely and powerful.

Rebecca Calloway

Curated by Brandon Williams

Jun 15

June Book Review: Site Fidelity by Claire Boyles

Our next book review in June comes to us from Alexis David, who reviews Claire Boyle’s new collection Site Fidelity, out today from W.W. Norton. “Boyles’s book,” David writes, “a collection of stories about people interacting with western landscapes, can be summed up in this opposition: the voiced and the voiceless.” Make sure to check out Boyles’s story “Ledgers,” published on The Masters Review in 2016!

In the first pages of Site Fidelity, Claire Boyles’s character, Norah, comments on her father’s speech. After having a stroke, he mistakenly calls her “Vera.” The speech pathologist has put up a chart on their fridge. Boyles writes, “I could see the whole consonant chart—the nasals and the alveolars, the voiced and the voiceless.” Boyles’s book, a collection of stories about people interacting with western landscapes, can be summed up in this opposition: the voiced and the voiceless. Site Fidelity is, at its heart, stories about speaking humans and the non-speaking, non-human world that surrounds them.

Read more.

Jun 14

New Voices: “What Made You This Way” by Enyinna Nnabuihe

Adedeji explores his sexuality in “What Made You This Way” by Enyinna Nnabuihe, the newest entry to our New Voices catalog. Spurred by memories of his friend Sochima, Adedeji must navigate around his family’s traditional values to reach a full understanding of his true identity. Read on below.

You were eight when the first incident occurred. You will call it an incident, an occurrence, because that is what people call a happening that erupts from nowhere and nothing, and changes a person completely, leaving trails of a lasting memory. Like a fire outbreak, a burglary, this was an incident, and you had not expected it. You were eight but you looked five. Sochima, a friend of the family who was just a year older than you, was the first to crack this joke to your hearing. You took notice of some of his distinct characteristics; he’d always have this oily skin that glowed in all its blackness. His parents permitted him to keep his hair, so there was this sphere atop his head that bore a resemblance to a disco ball; you had said that, and you added, tracing the fingers of your right hand, like friendly snakes or worms in the bushy hair, “How does it get so curly?”

When your home is built near a highway, you see everything—thefts, gangs, deaths, even prostitutes, at night. You have even seen two boys prancing the roads with their hands in each other’s rear pockets. You didn’t know what that meant, what they were; you thought they were mere friends when you saw them that evening, for you were barely seven. But now, as you remember all of these things that made you this way, blood rushing through your veins at the side of your neck to your groin, you are seemingly attracted to the memory of the thinner, taller boy, and you wish you were the muscular one ten years ago that felt the flesh of his buttocks through the rear pocket of his skinny jeans. You see, it is almost impossible to keep count of all the things you had seen that your mother and father, your sister Idara, and all those poke-nosing aunties called evil. If they knew you had grown to become what you saw, would they call you evil? Was it your fault? Why was your home even built near a highway to start with? Why was your window the one that graced the bloodstained roads that often paved the way for sex workers and the tear-rubber jeeps they preferably hopped into—their counterparts? Why did you glare at your windowsill more than you did at your family’s television?

When your eyes have witnessed dangers, the art of tale telling suddenly becomes a bore, for you have told many in your days, and hence have the right to strike down a friend or a prattling fiend with the words, “You are lying. That never happened.” And you are sure you’re right, for you can smell the discoordination in a story; its composition, expression. You can tell when the prattling fiend breathes a lie—that inaccuracy that disjoints the entire plot and sabotages the presence of the main characters doing what the tale teller says they were doing and to whom they did it. You have seen so many things, the listeners know, so they do not argue; instead they praise you, condemn whom you condemn, and listen to what you have to say. For your house was built near a highway, and that is what made you this way.

To continue reading “What Made You This Way” click here.

Jun 9

2020-2021 Winter Short Story Award for New Writers: Finalists!

Our finalists are in! Selected by Helen Oyeyemi, the following writers have been deemed the best of the best in a tough competition. Congratulations to the winners, and THANK YOU to all of our submitters for continually making our decisions harder and harder!


Straight to My Heart by Dean Jamieson

Second Place

Collection of the Artist by Corey Flintoff

Third Place

You’re Not the Only One by William Hawkins

Honorable Mention

Celestial Navigation by Heather Marshall

Jun 8

June Book Review: My Heart by Semezdin Mehmedinović

In our second book review of June, reviewer Florencia Ruiz Mendoza turns to Semezdin Mehmedinović’s newly translated novel, My Heart, published by Catapult in March of this year. Ruiz Mendoza writes that “Mehmedinović’s writing is an odyssey that connects the deepest chambers of the intellect and the soul.” Dive into the review below:

Good literature is always universal. My Heart is Semezdin Mehmedinović’s new novel published in English and translated from the Bosnian by Celia Hawkesworth. My Heart is an autobiographical account that reflects the polyhedral nature of America, and one of its infinite faces. Mehmedinović switches back and forward between the years of his exile in Washington D.C. (where he also worked as journalist) and his life back in Sarajevo during and before the war. He has that unique talent of swinging harmoniously between those worlds permeated by pain and melancholy. It is a pleasure to discover his brilliant thoughts in every attempt to comprehend and amalgamate that capsized and ruptured world in the same paragraph.

Read more.

Jun 7

New Voices: “Fight, Bag, Option, Run” by Jiaming Tang

Styled after old JRPGs, Jiaming Tang’s “Fight, Bag, Option, Run” is an essay following the author’s father’s immigration to the United States from China. Follow along, guided by the Snakeheads through the woods, carrying only your knapsnack.

The people named Snakehead tell you there’s a way out of this country. All you have to do is give them a down payment, an IOU, and (most difficult of all) wait. The rest will be taken care of by the Snakeheads—slowly. As the weeks go by, bits and pieces of information come in. Documents (all of them impressively real) show up in envelopes at your doorstep, as do home-bound booklets of easy English. You stare at these with your family, giggling at the symbols like chicken-scratch on the page. Your eldest brother, Sissy, starts a game where he compares the alphabet to common objects around the village. “J looks like a fish hook,” he says, “and Y looks like a tree.”

  1. Fight,    Bag,
    Option, Run

You pack with your mama while your father pretends to sleep. He’s nervous—just as nervous as you—and his anxiety manifests as thumping footsteps in your home’s only bedroom. You hear him while shoving all twenty years of your life into a knapsack. There’s the shirt you bought with your first factory paycheck. The pants that match the shirt. A pair of socks, cheap rubber boots, six pairs of underwear. Meanwhile your mama hovers around in the darkness, insisting that everything you’ve done is wrong. She wants to stuff your travel money in the toe cap of the boots. Your rolled-up socks will go in after that, up to the boot shins, and your underwear can follow soon thereafter. “You’ll have more space this way,” she tells you, and proceeds to show how best to hide your papers.

They’re not real papers. The face on the passport isn’t yours, neither is the birth date or the nationality or even the name. Your parents named you Chun Lin—meaning “Spring Forest”—but the name on these papers translates to “Hidden Forest.” It’s just as well though, your mama says. Your new name will keep you safe by hiding you from police and border guards, not to mention jealous spirits. And by the time you make it to America, to that unthinkable land where ten dollars can easily transform into twenty, you’ll have adjusted to your new name. It’s better, anyway, than your two village nicknames: Stupid Chun (given by elders because you failed the second grade two times) and One-Meter-Fifty-Five (because of your height).

Compared to those, “Hidden Forest” isn’t bad at all. Plus, your new birth date—four years earlier, in August instead of February—makes you feel mature. Brave and adventurous and not like a kid at all.

“I think that’s everything,” you tell your mama. The knapsack is stuffed and bulging a little.

“No, no, no. You forgot your food. Your buns and your pickles and your two boiled eggs for good luck…”

To continue reading “Fight, Bag, Option, Run” click here.

Jun 4

Litmag Roadmap: Pennsylvania

We’re headed down the East Coast to the Keystone State! Pennsylvania gave us Hershey, the Liberty Bell, Rocky, and sadly the Pittsburgh Pirates, but also these incredible literary magazines!

Pennsylvania boasts a lot of history due to its status as one of the thirteen colonies. Philadelphia, in particular, was once the capital where the Declaration of Independence was signed. The history isn’t the only thing that’s rich, especially with Hershey Park and its beloved chocolate leaving many wanting more mouthwatering goodness. While there’s so many interesting facts about Keystone State, there’s also a large literary scene. There are so many literary magazines to be discovered, and these eleven are only a snippet of what Pennsylvania has to offer writers.

The Penn Review

This magazine published out of the University of Pennsylvania is over fifty years old. Published online and in print, The Penn Review looks to publish both established and emerging writers. Plus, the magazine provides payment if accepted into the print issue. That’s pretty exciting since this is an Ivy League school. Submissions will reopen on Submittable in the fall, and they will accept fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and visual art.

The Gettysburg Review

Since 1988, The Gettysburg Review has published works from many noteworthy writers, had works reprinted in “Best of” anthologies, and won numerous awards. The journal is published quarterly out of Gettysburg College. Despite its high acceptance rate, they encourage work discussing a broad range of topics and suggest reading previous issues to understand the quality of work published. Poetry, fiction, and essay submissions are accepted via Submittable from September through May only, and anything not in that range will not be read.

The American Poetry Review

This journal has been publishing poetry and prose online and in print to a worldwide audience since 1972. While the journal is called The American Poetry Review, they also accept translations, literary criticism, and essays in addition to poetry. They are also currently accepting poetry manuscripts from poets who have not published a book-length collection of poems for the Honickman First Book Prize through October. All submissions go through Submittable.

The Fourth River

Clatham University’s MFA publishes this environment and nature-based journal. Its name comes from a river that flows beneath Pittsburgh. The Fourth River publishes pieces that explore the relationships between landscape, space, nature, and/or identity and make their readers reflect or see places in new ways. They also encourage work from people of color, immigrants, and other marginalized groups. Submissions via Submittable will reopen in July and close again in September. While there is a small reading fee, they accept poetry, prose, and visual art for print and online publication.

Creative Nonfiction  

Since above is a journal focused more on poetry, here’s a quarterly journal dedicated to creative nonfiction writing. They look for work that pushes the boundary of the genre and blends different styles. This can range from immersion reportage and lyric essays to memoirs and personal essays. Submissions are accepted via Submittable, and they will be looking for pieces about water when the reading period is open.

West Branch

West Branch publishes fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews three times a year out of Bucknell University. They have both digital and print issues, and publication also provides a small monetary incentive to each writer. The submission period is closed, but they encourage writers to check their submissions manager frequently.


This thematic journal highlights writing that attacks stigmas surrounding sex, desire, intimacy, and the body. Bedfellows has published two issues in print and online every year since it was founded in 2013. The Philadelphia-based magazine just completed a special anthology issue, Little Black Book. Although the magazine works mainly by solicitation, writers who feel their work is a good fit for the theme can email an introduction.


Despite being an online publication, this Philadelphia-based magazine supports underrepresented writers and artists. With four issues each year, emerging and established writers have a chance of being published. The word “cleave” is a Janus word (or an “auto-antonym”), meaning itself and the opposite. It can also mean come together. Fiction, flash, poetry, and essays are reviewed through Submittable, but book reviews and craft or travel essays must be queried.

Pennsylvania Literary Journal 

This peer-reviewed printed journal is published three times a year. Accepted genres include critical essays, book reviews, art, short stories, and so much more. Other ideas not listed can be queried, though PLJ hopes to see primarily current research, fiction, poetry, and works of art. There are also special issues with an emphasis on specific topics that correlate to different conferences. General submissions are open year-round and can be queried via email to the editor-in-chief.

Painted Bride Quarterly 

Painted Bride Quarterly is a non-profit Philadelphia-based established in 1973 emphasizing community. They just published their 100th issue online. Print publications occur annually, but the online version features four issues. PBQ prides itself on its always changing editorial board to maintain a variety of published voices in each issue. Poems, essays, and fiction of any genre are accepted via Submittable from emerging and established writers.

Paper Dragon

This online journal from the MFA program at Drexel University aims to publish underrepresented voices in literature. They want their journal to inspire discourse and conversation surrounding the selected pieces and the overarching theme of each issue. Fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and online media can be emailed to with the submission category. They are currently closed for submissions but encourage people to follow them on social media for the new date.

by Rebecca Williamson

Jun 3

A Baker’s Dozen of Books We’re Looking Forward to in the Second Half of 2021

2021 is chock full of exciting releases. We’ve already reviewed a few of the wonderful new books released this year, with more scheduled throughout the year. As we look to the summer and fall, here is a handful of the great books on our radar, which should be on yours, too!


Bewilderness by Karen Tucker
The title alone makes me want to read this debut novel. Set in poverty-stricken North Carolina, Bewilderness follows the friendship of two young women who fall into the world of addiction until one of them decides to get sober and leave the other behind.

Publication date: June 1


Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
Ashley grew up not knowing exactly why her father was in prison, but worshipping him nonetheless. But as she grows up and her body changes and her life changes, she begins to ask questions that will lead to answers she has to reconcile. This debut memoir explores the ways in which we all must come to terms with our origin stories.

Publication date: June 1


Something Wild by Hanna Halperin
Sisters Tanya and Nessa travel to the Boston suburbs to help their mother pack up their childhood home. Once there, they realize she’s in an abusive relationship. The two women respond very differently to the crisis and this brings forward a childhood trauma they’ve kept hidden all these years.

Publication date: June 29


The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
Elle wakes at her family’s beach retreat like she’s done on so many other mornings. But on this day, she’s faced with the fact sneaking off the night before with Jonas, her childhood love, to have sex. Now she must choose between the life she’s built with her beloved husband and the life she always imagined she’d have with Jonas.

Publication date: July 3



Paris is a Party, Paris is a Ghost by David Hoon Kim
In a strange and eerie Paris, Henrik’s lover is dead, and yet he keeps encountering her. Kelly Link calls this debut “The kind of book that holds you in a dream as you read it, intricate and frictionless and always marvelous.”

Publication date: August 3



From the Caves by Thea Prieto
Prieto, whose micro-fiction was published in The Masters Review in 2016, debuts with this haunting novella, the winner of 2019 Red Hen Press Novella Award, in which environmental catastrophe has driven four people inside a cave. There, they wait out the end of the world with only their desire to live to sustain them.

Publication date: August 10


The Light of Luna Park by Addison Armstrong
In 1926, a nurse, desperate to save premature babies, reads an article about the incubators at Coney Island and thinks it might be the answer she’s been searching for. Twenty-five years later, Stella Wright reads a letter that forces her to question everything she knows to be true.

Publication date: August 10


She Wouldn’t Change a Thing by Sarah Adlakha
When thirty-nine-year-old Maria Forssmann wakes up as her seventeen-year-old self, she’s given the opportunity to change the past and save her husband from tragedy. But if she does that, she might change the course of their meeting and her life ever after.

Publication date: August 10


Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang
Seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City with her parents in 1994. Her parents, professors in China, now work in sweatshops and sushi restaurants. Gish Jen says of this debut memoir “This account of growing up undocumented in America will never leave you.”

Publication date: September 7


My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa
Paloma, adopted from Sri Lanka as a child, has an idyllic American life until her new roommate discovers her secret and ends up dead.

Publication date: September 14



This Fierce Blood by Malia Marquez
Three women over three generations: A Norwegian immigrant with an inexplicable tie to a mountain lion and her cubs, a Native woman accused of witchcraft, and an ecologist for whom myth and science begin to blur. This is a novel of maternal ancestral inheritance and the traditions that shape the present.

Publication date: October 15


All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris
When Ellice Littlejohn finds her boss and lover dead with a gunshot wound to his head, she walks away as if nothing happened. And then she’s promoted to take his place. Ellice begins to suspect that something is off in the company and the more she uncovers, the more the life she’s constructed is threatened.

Publication date: November 2


Nanny Dearest by Flora Collins
Sue is adrift when her father dies suddenly. When she reconnects with Annie, her childhood nanny, she’s eager to reestablish a relationship. But why exactly was Annie dismissed all those years ago?

Publication date: November 30



by Jen Dupree

Jun 1

June Book Review: Dawg Towne by Alice Kaltman

“You wouldn’t know me now, if you knew me then.” This is the opening line of Alice Kaltman’s new novel Dawg Towne, out today from word west. A simple opening. But Dawg Towne is a novel about transition, and as reviewer Mark Daniel Taylor says, it is “clear that this innocent opening statement has much more to say.” Dive into the review below.

Published by word west, Alice Kaltman’s Dawg Towne opens with the enigmatic line: “You wouldn’t know me now, if you knew me then.”

In the context of the opening passage, this is the eponymous town introducing itself to the reader. A comment on how much this settlement has changed since the arrival of its humans. After its vegetation has been harvested and its land built upon. Not that the town seems to mind too much. It is instead wrapped by curiosity for its human infestation – particularly about their relationship with dogs. But once the story starts and we get to know the inhabitants of this town called Towne, it becomes clear that this innocent opening statement has much more to say.

Read more.

May 31

New Voices: “The Men” by Hayley Boyd

Today, we are excited to share with you Hayley Boyd’s magnificently unsettling “The Men.” Undiagnosable illness, a doctor not-so-subtly harassing her patient, a deep and unending longing for another’s touch. It’s all here in the incomparable “The Men.”

I practiced a steady gaze in public and at home I kept my hands busy and my eyes off my hands. One day I was staring down a man walking in my direction towards his car in the parking lot of an adult video store, the last one still open in the city. He had promising, unfriendly eyes and a halting, harried stride, like he was holding a lot inside that threatened leaking or bursting.

The doctor told me I needed to lose weight, but not too much weight, just a few grams at the base of the fingers, because my fingers were tapered if you were being generous, or you could say, like my doctor said, that they were like lumpy triangles, with the fleshy base and dainty red nails at the end. She is always going after me in this way. Next week it will be about my genitals, some cosmetic complaint plainly invented to vex the patient. When I got home (I still live at home, meaning with my dad, a big problem) I called Frank and he said never mind about that, tell me about your sex life. I tried to remember the last time I came, but all I could think about was my fingers and my genitals, their coming together doubly offensive. Actually, I said, I don’t do that anymore. Imagine someone else’s hands and genitals, he said, or better yet, use someone else’s hands and genitals.

He was onto something.

To continue reading “The Men” click here.

May 30

Last Call: 2021 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Stuart Dybek

Tick-tock, tick-tock! This year’s Flash Fiction Contest closes for submissions tonight at midnight, PT! Submit up to 2 1,000 word stories for your chance at a $3,000 grand prize. Stuart Dybek will be selecting this year’s finalists, from a shortlist provided by The Masters Review staff. Full details and a link to submit below:

submitAdd to Calendar

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



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


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


Author Rights

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

May 28

June Deadlines: 12 Contests and Prizes to Find This Month

Our world is made up of so many different voices, and that is what makes any community great! These contests, both new and old, are all waiting to hear what you have to say. Pick your favorite, and let them know! Bonus: Don’t forget, our Flash Fiction Contest closes on Sunday!

Halifax Ranch Fiction Prize

American Short Fiction and brilliant judge R.O. Kwan 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. Additionally, a new partnership with Tasajillo Residency means that the winner will also receive an all-expenses-paid writing retreat! Details here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: June 1

Salamander 2021 Fiction Prize

Offered through Suffolk University, Salamander is working with Yiyun Li 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 1

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 Rion Amilcar Scott. More 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 Kristen Arnett 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 a $1500 advance, 25 author’s copies, and promotional support. Do it!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: June 15

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 15

Aura Estrada Short Story Contest

In memory of Aura Estrada, Boston Review is honouring her story by supporting other emerging writers. Any author writing in English is eligible, although entries should not exceed 5000 words in length and must be unpublished. All entries must deal with this year’s theme of Repair, in whatever way best resonates with them. Kali Fajardo-Anstine is judging, and the winning author will receive $1000 and publication! Submission details here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: June 30

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 Deesha Philyaw, Steve Almond, and Eileen Myles, respectively. The winners in each category receive publication, a $1000 honorarium, and a $1500 travel/publicity grant to promote their book! Make sure to choose the correct category when you submit, and good luck! Find more details here.

Entry Fee: $30 Deadline: June 30

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 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 A. Van Jordan, 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

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

Spring 2021 Travel Writing Prize

The award-winning literary travel magazine Nowhere is looking for writers who know how to convey setting and atmosphere with ease and grace! Submissions may be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, 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. Submit here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: June 30

by Kimberly Guerin