The Masters Review Blog

Feb 27

March Deadlines: 10 Awards and Deadlines to Meet This Month

Spring is right around the corner and we’re so full of anticipation we can hardly wait! Our advice to you: use what’s left of the shorter days to finish stories and submit. To that end, we’ve compiled some our favorite deadlines in March.

Featured! Masters Review Anthology Submissions

$5000 awarded! It’s that time of year again, The Masters Review is accepting entries for our anthology. Submissions can be fiction or narrative nonfiction, but they need to be less than 8000 words. Ten winners will be selected by guest judge Roxane Gay and published in the sixth volume of The Masters Review, a showcase of emerging writers. Each winner will receive $500. Submit now!
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: March 31

Selected Shorts Flash Contest

The Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize is open for submissions. Judged by our fantastic Volume I judge, Lauren Groff, writers are asked to submit up to 750 words. The winning writer will be published in Electric Literature, $1000, and a free ten-week course with Gotham Writers. A great opportunity for writers of the shorter form. Full details here.
Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: March 1

Atlanta Review Contest Issue

Poets, the Atlanta Review is looking for original and unpublished creative work. Entrants can send in up to ten poems, although the reading fee increases after the first two are submitted. The Grand Prize winner will receive $1000 and publication, but the following twenty winners will also be published! Learn more here.
Entry Fee: $11 Deadline: March 1

National Endowment for the Arts – Creative Writing Fellowship

Given by the National Endowment for the Arts, this fellowship awards $25,000 of grants in fiction and creative nonfiction to published writers. These published works can be anything from short stories to creative essays and novels. Grants are extremely competitive, but it’s a wonderful opportunity. Don’t miss it! Details here.
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: March 8

Kerouac Project Residency

This is a truly wonderful opportunity, where writers living anywhere in the world can apply for one of the four residencies offered by the Kerouac Project. Each winner gets to stay at Jack Kerouac’s home in Orlando for three months, with a $1000 food stipend, and an offer to interact with workshops and readings in the Orlando area. Details here.
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: March 12

Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction

Colorado State University sponsors this prize through the Colorado Review, and awards $2000 and publication to the winner. There are no theme restrictions, but entries must be over 2500 words to qualify. Judged by Richard Bausch, all submissions will be considered for publication. More details here.
Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: March 14

Bellingham Review

All three of the Bellingham Review’s contests are ending this month, so enter quickly if you want to receive one of the three $1000 first-place prizes! John DuFresne is judging the Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction, Robert Cording is judging the 49th Parallel Award for Poetry, and Julie Marie Wade is judging the Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction. All of the winners and a selection of the runners up will be published! Submission guidelines here.
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: March 15

Black Lawrence Press Hudson Prize

Each year Black Lawrence Press will award The Hudson Prize for an unpublished collection of poems or short stories. Manuscripts should be 45-95 pages in length (poetry) or 120-280 pages in length (fiction). The winner of this contest will receive book publication, a $1,000 cash award, and ten copies of the book. Prizes awarded on publication. Full submission details here.
Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: March 31

Annual Editors’ Awards

In this threefold contest offered by The Florida Review, contestants can submit entries for fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Not only do the winners each receive $1000 and publication, but all entries are eligible for publication. Make sure to choose the correct category when you submit, and good luck. More details here.
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: March 31

The Hudson Review – Open Submissions

Here is a great opportunity for nonfiction writers, as your work could be published in The Hudson Review! This is the only time they accept unsolicited nonfiction, under 10,000 words, and their “sole criterion is literary quality.” Does that sound like you? Guidelines here.
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: March 31

by Kimberly Guerin

Feb 24

New Voices: “Good Creatures, Small Things” by Cate Fricke

We’re so pleased to introduce the third place winner of our Fall Fiction Contest, “Good Creatures, Small Things.” In this haunting story, author Cate Fricke plays with chronology, leading readers back through fifteen days to the start of a strange outbreak and the emergence of odious creatures in the forest outside a family’s cabin. In describing her own work, Cate Fricke says: “A dark fairy tale with no happy ending, set in a place that’s as unforgiving as any old-world European forest. I’ve already told my mom she should probably skip this one.” This story is entirely unforgettable and we’re thrilled to include it in our New Voices library.

Selected by Kelly Link

“There are creatures out there waiting for a sound to tell them that Ida is still here for the taking. Ida does not know what they are, or where they came from, but she knows that they are there, just beyond the trees.”

Pennsylvania, October 1895

Day 15

There is enough tea left in the can for three more cups. There is the end of a loaf of bread on the shelf, as big as two of Ida’s small fists, and one potato. Six matches. Eleven bullets.

Ida doesn’t sleep in her own bed anymore, but in Momma and Papa’s bed, alone. She doesn’t change the blankets the way she knows she ought to. There doesn’t seem to be much point. Momma is gone, and Baby Joe. There’s no one else to catch sick, and Papa, well, don’t know what happened to Papa.

During the night she began to whisper a song to herself as she lay unsleeping again. Bheir me o, horo van o . . . It felt like the right thing to do—people need songs, small things—but then she heard a rustle from outside, over by the fence where the old mule is heaped, and she stopped. She’s tried not to make a sound since. She’s started coughing though—the thick, gut-deep coughs that Momma started having just before the rashes, and the teeth coming loose. When she feels one coming, she presses her face as far into the pillow as she can and she tries to swallow it back. When she brings her head up from the bedding, she holds her breath and listens closely to the silence for any snapping, any shift of the air outside, in the woods. There are creatures out there waiting for a sound to tell them that Ida is still here for the taking. Ida does not know what they are, or where they came from, but she knows that they are there, just beyond the trees.

If she were brave like Momma, she’d set out down the mountain with eleven bullets and one potato and the end of a loaf of bread, and she wouldn’t stop until she found a doctor, or a woman with a kind voice, who’d put a damp cloth on her forehead and sing to her all the old songs until she’d fall asleep. But she is not so brave, and besides, she knows better. No safe path down the mountain exists.

Even though the sun is up at last, Ida stays under the quilts on Momma and Papa’s bed, one eye on the rifle that leans by the door. Eleven bullets: that’s ten to spare for those creatures, and one to keep for herself, if only she could figure out how to hold it right.

<<  Read the rest of “Good Creatures, Small Things” >>

Feb 21

9 TED Talks From Writers

We love a good TED Talk. What better way to celebrate this awesome media than with  a roundup of talks by nine kickass authors? Whether you are looking for a talk on fear and imagination, or poetry and animation—we have something for you. Just follow the links below.

Roxane Gay

We can’t stop talking about how thrilled we are to have the incredible Roxane Gay as the judge for our sixth anthology. She has established herself as a fiction writer, essayist, and astute cultural critic. Her TED Talk covers the difficulties of reaching a perfect feminist ideal, and why it’s important to keep trying anyway. Watch the talk here!

Lidia Yuknavitch

Lidia Yuknavitch is an Oregon writer who has written both a memoir and several novels. Her TED Talk shares her own journey through life, and her realizations of self-acceptance along the way.

John Green

John Green is the bestselling author of multiple novels, including Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars. His TED Talk is focused on different styles of learning, and how he fell in love with online video. Go on, check it out.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is an American author who is best known for her 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love. Her TED Talk deconstructs the idea of “being” a genius, and then continues with the supposition that all people “have” a genius. Watch it now.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist, and she was awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant in 2008. Her TED Talk is on the importance of multiple viewpoints, whether they are about a country, a people, or a person. Check it out here.

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is a Turkish author, writing in both Turkish and English, and she is the most widely read female author in Turkey. Her TED Talk explains the power of fiction, and the empathy it engenders, in overcoming identity politics.

Karen Thompson Walker

Karen Thompson Walker is an American novelist, best known for her novel The Age of Miracles. Her TED Talk describes how fear shapes imagination by making us imagine possible futures, and her talk is centered around the story of the whaleship Essex. Take a gander.

Billy Collins

Billy Collins is an American poet, and he was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. His TED Talk combines the written word and visual art, as he shares the story of how his poems became animated films in a collaboration with Sundance Channel.

Jarred McGinnis

Jarred McGinnis is an American author currently based in London, who has mainly focused on writing short fiction. His TED Talk shares his passion for stories, and demonstrates the wonders of fiction as a magical force in his life. Check it.

by Kimberly Guerin

Feb 17

5 Summer Workshops with Upcoming Deadlines

Spring is nigh, and with it comes deadlines for the prestigious and exciting Summer Writers Workshops. Nothing beats these idyllic summer camps for writers, with workshops, lectures, and distinguished guests. We’ve compiled a list of five of the country’s best workshops with deadlines coming up in the next few months. Even better, they all offer scholarships and financial aid. So go ahead: mark your calendars, and get to it.


General Info: The conference is held each summer on the campus of Sewanee: The University of the South. Thanks to the generosity of the Walter E. Dakin Memorial Fund, supported by the estate of Tennessee Williams, the conference subsidizes every writer’s cost of attendance. Days at Sewanee are made up of workshops, craft lectures, and readings. Among the members of this year’s lustrous faculty are Jill McCorkle, Alice McDermott, Charles Martin, Mary Jo Salter and Dan O’Brien. Many literary agents and publishing professionals come to Sewanee each year.

Location: The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee

Workshops Offered: fiction, poetry, playwriting

Deadline: April 17

Cost: $1,800 ($1,100 tuition; $700 for room & board. Financial aid available.)

Dates: July 18 – 30

What Makes It Different: “Enjoying what one contemporary poet has called Sewanee’s ‘remoteness without cultural dislocation,’ the Sewanee Writers’ Conference gathers a distinguished faculty to provide instruction and criticism through workshops and craft lectures in poetry, fiction, and playwriting.” – Adam Latham, Admissions and Creative Writing Administrator Sewanee Writers Workshop

For more details, click here.

The Kenyon Review Writers Workshop

General Info: The focus here is truly on the workshop itself. Classes emphasize collaboration and new work, which writers will often generate in class. Faculty include Joanna Klink, Rebecca McClanahan, and Lee K. Abbott. There are evening readings by instructors, participants, and visiting writers.

Location: Kenyon College, Gambier, OH

Workshops Offered: fiction, literary nonfiction, poetry, nature writing, translations, and writers workshop for teachers.

Deadlines: rolling admissions for workshops (early applications encouraged); May 15 deadline for tuition payment.

Cost: $2,295 for Sessions I and III; $1,495 for Session II.

Dates: Session I: June 17-24 (fiction, literary nonfiction, poetry); Session II: July 8-13 (workshop for teachers); Session III: July 8-15 (fiction, literary nonfiction, poetry, nature writing, translation)

What Makes It Different: “You’ll find the Writers Workshop intensely creative, pushing you beyond what you thought you were capable of achieving — you eat, sleep, drink, and breathe writing.” – Tory Weber, Associate Director of Programs

Apply here.

Tin House Summer Writers Workshop

General Info: Like Tin House Magazine and Tin House Books, this week-long workshop is on the cutting edge of today’s literary scene. It consists of intimate morning workshops, along with craft seminars, career panels, readings, and parties. It is held on the campus of Reed College in southeast Portland, OR. We might be biased, but we can’t imagine a better place for a writers conference. You’ll be just a bus ride away from Powell’s, the world’s largest independent bookstore. This year’s faculty includes Kelly Link, Mary Ruefle, Joshua Ferris and Aimee Bender!

Location: Reed College, Portland, OR

Workshops Offered: fiction, nonfiction, poetry

Deadline: May 1 application deadline; March 27 scholarship deadline

Cost: $1,200 for tuition; $600 for room & board; $300 for audit.

Dates: July 9-16

What Makes It Different: “I think one of the immediate things that stands out when you come to the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop is a lack of hierarchy. We don’t single out our scholarship winners, who has/hasn’t been published, MFA/non-MFA students. And this attitude extends to our faculty, who eat, drink, and live on campus with our participants. This sort of environment helps foster a belief that the work is the most important thing, no matter if you are a National Book Award winner or someone who is attempting to craft your first story…. Our motto is that we take writing seriously, but not ourselves, which is why you will also get killer karaoke, some pyrotechnics, and a ripping dance night in addition to some of the amazing lectures, readings, and workshop critiques during your week at Tin House.” – Lance Cleland, Director

Check out the details.


Feb 14

Author Interview: “Climb On” by Shubha Venugopal

The fifth volume of our anthology published on October 1st and can be purchased here. To celebrate its launch and because submissions are open for our sixth volume (submit here!) we are interviewing each of the ten authors who appear in the collection. In “Climb On,” Shubha Venugopal writes about a couple struggling through power dynamics as they head out for an early morning rock climb. Shubha brings her characters and settings to life in a way that is entirely unique, and we are honored to include her story in the collection.

“Ashoke eased his truck through the park under a sky shot with cobalt. It was not yet dawn. He drove slowly, avoiding jackrabbits and kangaroo rats that flicked by like illusions. Dispersed across the flatness lay massive heaps of stones, their black silhouettes resembling rubble. The ruins of a civilization inhabited by giants.”

What inspired the idea for your story and how long did it take to develop?

This story began as a writing exercise from a prompt: I had to describe a place that functions as a character in the story, and that greatly affects the other characters. I was to put two people in this place and make the story about both of them equally. I needed to keep these characters in motion and to use their actions to reveal how they are impacted by this setting. When I first began this exercise in late 2014, I tried to dip into both characters’ minds, and to alternate sections between their different points of view. It was fun to do it this way, and I liked what came out of it, but I found that it wasn’t balanced. So I thought about whose story it was, and whose POV made the most sense from which to write. I ended up using the husband’s POV, and when I did so, the story became much stronger and more cohesive. It went through countless drafts with the help of many peers who helped me revise it by providing invaluable insights. I chose Joshua Tree National Park because it is impossible, in my opinion, to be in that unique place and to not have it affect you. The landscape is incredible; I’ve never seen anything like it. And the people who know it most intimately, and who interact with it most directly, are the climbers.

There are a lot of technical terms in this piece as it relates to rock climbing. Are you a climber or did you have to do a lot of research? I’m also curious: the setting is depicted so vividly, have you been to the various locations in this story?

I have done a fair amount of rock climbing over the years, but I’ve never been all that good and I tend not to take too many risks that might advance my skills. For this reason, and because I don’t do it that often anymore, I don’t consider myself a climber. I enjoy it, and have done it often enough, though, to feel as a climber might feel and see what a climber sees. I had to do very little research because of this background; I just looked at some catalogues selling climbing equipment to get some of the specifics. I also asked a “real” climber to verify some of the details, and this helped a lot in terms of the action in the story and with some of its technical aspects. I’ve climbed at Joshua Tree, so I have some familiarity with the terrain and its particular textures and shapes. I’ve rented shoes and other items at rock climbing stores as well, so I could visualize the store easily. Climbers often go to Joshua Tree with the intent of ascending certain pre-chosen routes, so when other climbers block those routes with a bunch of ropes, it can be frustrating. This problem gave rise to some of the conflict in the story.

On its surface, “Climb On” is a story about the relationship between an experienced and amateur rock climber. Aside from its usefulness as the central interest of your two characters, why is your story about climbing, and not, say, swimming or long-distance running? What about climbing reveals the conflict between your characters?

I have seen amateur as well as experienced climbers become quite competitive in their desire to master harder and harder routes. Climbers watch each other, and this close observation can add to that goal of wanting to be as good as someone more advanced and to perfect certain moves along a route. The characters in this story are unlike anyone I know in terms of their personalities; rather, they are composites of various people. I wanted to exaggerate that sense of competition I mentioned, and it made sense, therefore, to portray a relationship in which one person wants to prove something to the other. It can be nerve-wracking, if you have more knowledge, to watch someone less experienced do things that are possibly careless and dangerous. Thus it made sense for the other partner to want to protect the one who wants to defy him by taking risks. This naturally led to the relationship between this couple, especially because the husband is older and often treats his wife as if she were his daughter. Naturally, this provokes the younger wife; she wants him to consider her an equal. The dynamics of this couple matched well with the dynamics of climbers, so it all fit. Joshua Tree park is unique in that you can find a vast variety of routes without having to hike many miles to get to them. The rock type is excellent for climbing and the weather can be more predictable than stormy weather up on high mountain peaks. So without having to worry about describing a long, tiring hike and weather problems, I was able to focus on the conflict between this couple bonded by their love of the sport. (more…)

Feb 10

New Voices: “My Sam and I” by Nick Fuller Googins

Today, we are proud to welcome a remarkably energetic and wholly singular story to our New Voices library: “My Sam and I” by Nick Fuller Googins. In this tale, a husband and a wife decide to become stowaways on a train ride across Canada, as the wife develops her formula: one that, she hopes, will stop time.

“Our time will slow, ooze like spilt honey. Our mornings will split open even wider than before, exposing their hidden fibers. My Sam and I will have conversations that span seasons. Our gazes and touches will unfurl and stretch, enjoying the kind of space ordinarily reserved for entire lifetimes. We’ll forge a new infinity, My Sam and I.”

T = 1- [f(n) + (o) + (w)]

where T = time

There’s My Sam, standing shirtless in the boxcar doorway, watching the forests and lakes shoot by. Hands on his hips, sunlight whitening his body. I call him the half-naked hobo king of Canada.

No way, he shouts. Not Canada, just Ontario. Ruling more than one province would be way too much trouble.

His voice, his laugh, carries over the rush of the train. He holds his arms out wide, tilts back his head, says something about swallowing the sky.

Careful, I tell him. Remember to chew. Don’t choke on those clouds. You’ll be picking rainbow out of your teeth for weeks. Indigo gets stuck worse than corn on the cob.

There are no clouds, no rainbow. The color blue owns the morning sky. But this is how My Sam and I see things now, amid the thrill of illegal freight-train travel: the sky becomes breakfast. We measure, discuss and admire the sights and sounds in nonsensical and amusing ways. It’s delightful.

It’s called imagination, teases My Sam, and we laugh.

That’s me at the far end of the boxcar, hair tied in two loose braids, fingertips smudged in black marker. The inside of our boxcar has become my blackboard, my traveling laboratory. We roll west and my formula goes with us, rows of numbers unfolding across the walls.

We only wanted to do something different, My Sam and I, riding boxcars from Quebec to Calgary. Crossing Canada as stowaways on the back of a freight train—land blurring by, wheels clunking along the tracks, air sweet with pine, hay and dew—and it never grows old, not for a second. But somewhere between Quebec and Ontario something else happened, something more thrilling than the ride itself: I discovered how to stop time. Almost. My formula still needs fine-tuning. I’d thought it was a matter of getting T down to zero. I hadn’t considered, until now, a further possibility. Imagination, playfulness, laughter—all could contribute toward negative T: time folding back upon itself.

To read the rest of “My Sam and I” click here.

Feb 8

Guide to AWP 2017

AWP kicks off on Thursday! We’ll be hunkered down at table 640 (come say hello!), but when we can, we’ll sneak off to the many awesome panels. Descriptions of each panel can be found here and this grid is also helpful for navigating the fray. But there’s a lot to sift through. We’ve compiled some stand-out panels (excluding the key-note speeches!) that stood out to us by day, below. Can’t attend? Never fear. We’ve included links to the same topics online so you can attend your own AWP panels via self-study. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 9

Magical Realism As An Agent For Social Change  (9:00 am to 10:15 am) “This panel of magical realist writer/teachers discusses how to guide student use of the genre to confront inequalities of their time and locale.” Can’t attend? Check out this essay “The Politics of Magical Realism” about magical realism in undeveloped vs. the developed world.

Surprise Us: Reading Between the Submission Guidelines (9:00 am to 10:15 am) Learn what it takes to stand out from the editors and readers of A Public Space. “This panel, hosted by A Public Space, explores how editors balance the aesthetic of their magazine with the hope writers will surprise them.” Can’t attend? This essay by Electric Literature discusses “How To Escape The Slush Pile.” There is also this panel later in the day, on how to survive the slush pile.

The G Word: Writing and Teaching Genre in a Changing Literary Landscape (10:30 – 11:45) “Historically, creative writing workshops shunned so-called genre fiction in favor of literary realism… The writers and teachers on this panel discuss how they treat genre in the classroom, and in their own work.” Can’t attend? The debate on genre vs. literary is endless, but here is one Esquire article about how genre fiction became more important than literary fiction.

Writing From The Wound (10:30 – 11:45) “Trauma-based nonfiction sells, but at what personal and professional cost? How can we maintain a literary standard when writing about loaded topics such as war, murder, rape, or abuse?” Can’t attend? Saïd Sayrafiezadeh writes on this same topic in the essay, “How to Write About Trauma” for the NYTimes.

Leashing the Beast: Humanizing Fictional Monsters (10:30 – 11:45) “Want to write fabulous fabulist fiction? Bring your beasts to the table. Panelists discuss their influences, inspiration, and how they go about creating characters who exist between human and monster, mundane and extraordinary.” Can’t attend? This essay by Ursula K. Le Guin isn’t exactly the same, but in “The Critics, The Monsters, and The Fantasists” the famed author offers some wonderful insight on the history of fantasy and fantastic elements in fiction.

Beyond, “Show, Don’t Tell,” How to Give (and Get) Meaningful Feedback  (12:00 pm to 1:15 pm) “…what are the secrets to more meaningful feedback? Editors from two major publishing houses join with three of their writers to share the approaches and winning techniques that have worked best for them.” Can’t attend? Check out this essay titled, “Tips For Editing Fiction.” It may not be straight from the horse’s mouth, but it has some excellent editing tips.

A Field Guide for the Craft of Fiction: Finding Structure (12:00 pm to 1:15 pm) “When talking about narrative structure, we often focus on the macro: three acts, plot points, beginnings, and endings. But there are micro ways to think about structure while working with character, dialogue, the movement through time and space, and shifts between interiority and exterior action.” Can’t attend? The “How To Write A Novel” series from The Guardian discusses how structure can evolve your novel. (more…)

Feb 6

2017 Submissions Calendar

Nerdy as it may be, we love the satisfaction of marking new submission deadlines in our planners (or google calendars). Well, we’d like to share the thrill with a preview of our submissions calendar for the coming year. Whether you are looking for a workshop, details on anthology submissions, or a flash fiction contest (new this year!), we think you will find something to look forward to. You can also check out our calendar page, anytime, for more details. So go ahead: dive in.

Judged by Roxane Gay

We could not be more thrilled to have the wonderful Roxane Gay as our judge for The Masters Review Volume VI. Each year, we pair with a guest judge to select the ten stories and essays that will be printed in our anthology. We circulate the printed book to editors and agents across the country, and we are proud to put forth a collection that exemplifies the very best emerging talent. For us, this is what TMR is all about. This submission category is open now! Check out the details here.

PRIZES: $5000 awarded! Publication in the book.

DEADLINE: Mar 31, 2017

Our first-ever (!) Flash Fiction Contest is coming this spring. Starting on April Fool’s, submit your stories of 1000 words or less for a chance at $1000 and publication on the site. We love a good flash story, and we are psyched about this addition to our schedule. Stay tuned for more details.

PRIZES: $1000 awarded

DEADLINE: May 31, 2017

Our Short Story Award for New Writers offers three emerging writers publication, cash prizes, and review by top agents. Honorable mentions also receive publication and agency review. For more details, check out our SSA page.

PRIZES: $2000, publication, and agency review to the winner. $200, $100, agency review, and publication to the runners up.

DEADLINE: July 30, 2017

Do you want personalized feedback on a story or essay from one of the top editors in the field? If so, consider participating in our workshop this summer. Last summer, we were proud to pair with editors from The Paris Review, American Short Fiction, and The Kenyon Review. Lookout for details on this year’s workshop. Spots fill up fast!

DEADLINE: Rolling through Aug 31, 2017 

Lest you forget, our New Voices category is always open, always free to submit. So go ahead: send us those stories and essays. Selected pieces are paid $0.10/word up to $200 and published on the site. Check out the New Voices archive, and, our submission guidelines.

That’s it for now. We look forward to reading your wonderful stories and essays this year!

Feb 2

Our Favorite Links // Roxane Gay

We couldn’t be more thrilled to work with Roxane Gay, who will select ten emerging writers for volume six of our anthology, a showcase of today’s best emerging writers. (Full submission details here!) Because of our judge’s extraordinary work as a fiction writer, essayist, activist, and thinker, we chose some of our favorite Roxane Gay moments, via links, for you to absorb the greatness that is our Volume VI guest judge. Enjoy!


TED Talk

Confessions of a Bad Feminist // You’ll love this funny and critical take on feminism and how Roxane Gay embraces the term. It is a clear example of what a fantastic person, thinker, and communicator our newest judge is. “I’d rather be a Bad Feminist than no feminist at all.”

In The News

Most recently, Roxane Gay pulled her forthcoming book How to be Heard from a Simon and Schuster imprint after learning the publisher signed a six-figure deal with right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos. She says, “I can’t in good conscience let them publish it while they also publish Milo. So I told my agent over the weekend to pull the project.” Read all about it, here.


One of Gay’s most recent interviews. In this discussion with NYTimes Book Review she talks about the books, stories, and writers she loves: “I read books I aspire toward in my own writing and books that capture the tenor of what I’m going for in a given project.” She also makes a reading recommendation for President Trump.


“Not Here to Make Friends” // A quote oft heard on the bachelor or in other reality television shows where women declare they’re here to win, not to be nice. Gay uses the notion to discuss likeable female characters in literature… and life. “They are freeing themselves from the burden of likability or they are, perhaps, freeing us from the burden of guilt for the dislike and eventual contempt we might hold for them.”

“My Body Is Undisciplined and I Deny Myself Nearly Everything I Desire” // Roxane Gay tackles body image in a widely read essay after the 2014 season of The Biggest Loser where the winning contestant lost what many feel was an unhealthy amount of weight. “This is not a show about people becoming empowered through fitness, though on the surface, the show’s slick marketing would have you believe that.”

“Nate Parker and The Limits of Empathy” // Nate Parker is the director, producer, and star of Birth of A Nation, a film that examines the life of Nat Turner and the slave rebellion he led in 1831. Gay writes: “Today, I am struggling to have empathy for Nate Parker, a man experiencing the height of his career while being forced to reckon with his past.” Parker was accused of rape when he was a student at Penn State in 1999. Gay questions how long a person should be forced to pay for their crimes, as well as how art holds up against the personal life of the artist. “We’ve long had to face that bad men can create good art. Some people have no problem separating the creation from the creator. I am not one of those people, nor do I want to be.”


“Things I Know About Fairy Tales” // If you’ve read Roxane Gay’s novel, An Untamed State, the characters and themes in this short story will be familiar. A beautiful example of Gay’s powerful fiction.

You can read Roxane Gay’s books by following their links, and you can visit her website, here.

Feb 1

Book Reviews: Two Debut Collections

Today, we bring you reviews of two important debut collections, out this past fall. First up: Alina Grabowski reviews The Babysitter at Rest by Jen George: “The Babysitter at Rest highlights the absurdity of what our own society demands from women, while analyzing the different vessels—men, food, sex—through which these demands are delivered.” Next up, Sarah Hoenicke reviews The Expense of a View by Polly Buckingham: “As the title of the book suggests, this is a collection preoccupied with people who don’t have the capital to obtain a view—either literal or figurative.” Check out these two insightful reviews.

The Babysitter at Rest by Jen George

In the first story of Jen George’s debut collection The Babysitter at Rest, a nameless genderless Guide climbs through the window of the narrator’s apartment to usher her into adulthood. “Despite your lack of intuition,” they tell her, “you may have become aware of the following changes that signal the onset of adulthood: listening to others, doubting everything you think, health problems, understanding of the limitations of time and/or life/living/the individual experience…” the list goes on. Such mounting neuroses are experienced by not only our first narrator, but by all of the female protagonists that populate George’s stories. Given the absurd circumstances surrounding these women, it’s not hard to understand the source of their anxieties. Read more.

The Expense of a View by Polly Buckingham

Our current political conversation often revolves around the financial disparities rampant in American culture. Polly Buckingham’s recent story collection, The Expense of a View, hones in on the lives most impacted by the inequalities this gaping imbalance engenders. Buckingham tells the stories of the system’s most vulnerable—the ill, the partnerless, the parentless, the addicted, the poor, the isolated—exploring what it means to try to be a “healthy” adult when life has always lacked a major component of stability. The Expense of a View won the 2016 Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Short Fiction, and was released this past fall from the University of North Texas Press.

Read more.

Jan 30

February Deadlines: 11 Magazines With Contests And Deadlines This Month

It’s the time of year to truly appreciate indoor lights and heating, as February attempts to bury us in snow and drown us in rain. Nevertheless, you mustn’t let the weather keep you from your duties—namely, entering as many of these contests as you can! Here are 11 lit mags and contests with deadlines in February.

Deadline 1/31! Nelson Algren Short Story Contest

Don’t miss this end of January deadline. The Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Literary Award is a nationally recognized contest for original short fiction, named in honor of the Chicago literary great, Nelson Algren. The winner will be awarded $3,500 and four finalists $1,000. With cash prizes of $500 to five runners-up, all stories will be considered for publication in Printers Row, the Tribune’s digital literary journal. Full details here.
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: Jan 31

Michael Waters Poetry Prize

There’s only a little time left to enter Southern Indiana Review’s writing contest for poetry collections. Judged by Michael Waters himself, the first-place winner is awarded $3000 and their collection will be published by Southern Indiana Review Press. Don’t miss it! Submission details here.
Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: February 1

Philip Roth Residencies

This amazing residency is offered to two writers through Bucknell University. The winners receive a stipend of $5000 and four months of lodging. They’re looking for fiction and nonfiction from writers over the age of 21 who are not enrolled in a college or university. You’ll need a 20 page sample of your prose to submit to this wonderful opportunity. Learn more here.
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: February 1

American Short(er) Fiction Prize (Extended Deadline)

American Short Fiction and judge Justin Torres are looking for writers who know their way around flash fiction. Could that be you? Stories must be less than 1000 words, but multiple entries are allowed. First place receives $1000 and guaranteed publication, but all entries are considered for publication. Details here.
Entry Fee: $17 Deadline: February 15

CDS Documentary Essay Prize

This prize is available through the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, and it’s a big one! They’re looking for current or recently completed documentary writing from a long-term project, at least fifteen pages. The winner will receive $3000, a feature story, and their work will be placed in the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University. More details here.
Entry Fee: $40 Deadline: February 15

Blue Light Books Prize

If you have an unpublished poetry manuscript, this could be your big break! Indiana Review and Indiana University Press are currently accepting submissions for this prize. A poetry collection of outstanding merit will be selected, and the winner will receive a publication contract and $2000. Do it! Full submission details can be found here.
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: February 15

William van Dyke Short Story Prize

If you have a story to tell, Ruminate wants to hear it! Judged by the incredible LaToya Watkins, the first-place prize is $1500 and publication. Submissions need to be 5500 words or fewer, but there are no limits on the number of entries per person. Submit here.
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: February 15

Granta Magazine General Submissions Close

Granta accepts submissions in different categories throughout the year, and right now they’re accepting fiction up to 6000 words. If you want to be published in an internationally known literary magazine, this could be your shot! Submission guidelines here.
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: February 16

The Non/Fiction Collection Prize

This annual contest is looking for a book-length collection of stories, essays, or some combination of the two. Judged by Michael Kardos, the process is completely anonymous, and the prize for first place includes $1500 and publication with The Ohio State University Press. More details here.
Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: February 20

Emily Dickinson First Book Award

This is an amazing opportunity, but it’s not for everyone—literally, because it’s only open to poets 40 years of age and older who have not previously published a book-length volume of poetry. The winner of this award receives not only publication and promotion of their manuscript by Graywolf Press, but an additional prize of $10,000. This contest is only held occasionally, not annually, so take advantage of this chance. Check it out.
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: February 27

Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers

Occurring three times a year, this is the spring installment of Glimmer Train’s contest. It’s only open to writers whose fiction has not appeared in a print publication with a circulation over 5,000, and entries are capped at 12,000 words. The winner receives $2500 and publication in Glimmer Train Stories, along with 10 copies of that issue. Submission guidelines here.
Entry Fee: $18 Deadline: February 28

by Kimberly Guerin

Jan 27

New Voices: “The Drownings” by Brenda Peynado

Brenda Peynado’s mesmerizing story follows the seventh-grade class of an unusual town; each year, the community loses some of its youth to a mysterious string of drownings. “The Drownings” is a fantastical story grounded in the real struggles of coming of age and coming to terms with the limitations of life. We are proud to add this smart and powerful piece to our New Voices roster.

“The mysteries that tempt us are many. We think knowing things means growing up.”

The water glimmers in the corners of our eyes. Even if we’re not swimming, the pools are always within sight: in patios behind our houses, reflections on glass doors opening to the kitchens, water waving in the windows of our bedrooms. We all know someone who drowned. We all have our own close calls and scars from slipping and falling in the deep end. Still, we return to the pools daily. The water calls us back, all that blue veined with light. We want to be swallowed: the splash, the blue slipping over our heads, the rush of sinking.

The teachers at school often explain things to us with liquid. When we were little, we saw how the water level rose when we all jumped into the pool, how the blue and white tiles sunk. What did it mean? we asked. Displacement, said the teacher. In sixth grade, our science teacher explained chlorine and how pH balance kills cells and other life. The music teacher explained rhythm as waves or swimmer’s strokes. Why do we float? we asked, and the teacher said, Relative density. Our parents explain nothing. They are the ones who escaped the close calls, who survived the childhood of drownings. When we ask, Why them? they have no answers.

The new girl, Rosa, arrives from somewhere north and cold at the start of seventh grade. Rosa cannot swim. When the homeroom teacher introduces her, Rosa’s dark hair slants over half of her face, and we remember new means depths we do not yet know. In Mr. A’s science class, Zach throws paper airplanes at her, meant to antagonize her into giving up her secrets. The airplanes are badly made; they flail back and forth in the air and do not reach her.

After school, Rosa stays on the edge in her brand new bathing suit, watching us screech and splash. We can see she wants to be one of us. In the water, none of us are awkward. When we plunge our heads under the skin of the water, we watch others’ legs kicking and standing, surrounded by pinprick bubbles of air, the way they glimmer. The muted screams of laughter above. The girls and boys we all want to be are those who slip sharp as knives into the pools, those who dive the deepest, those who hold their breath so long that when they rise back up, they are gasping. Zach can hold his breath past all our fears. At parties, Jocelyn waits until everyone watches her, eyelashes clumped wet and black, smooth ponytail like an eel behind her. Then she jackknifes, plunging straight down beneath the wavering surface, waiting until the last possible moment, until we’re sure she’s hit bottom, before pulling up. She tells us she kissed the mica glimmering down there. We gasp on her behalf. We want the pressure of crushed stone on our lips. All of us are pulled to the depths, tempting the drownings that come every year.

To read the rest of “The Drownings” click here.