The Masters Review Blog

Jan 18

New Voices: “Night Vision” by Glori Simmons

Today, we are proud to welcome “Night Vision” by Glori Simmons to our New Voices library. In this story, an American soldier stationed in Iraq faces—and crosses—moral lines. This story is deftly written, moving, and precise. It is part of Glori’s collection, Carry You, which is forthcoming from Autumn House Press in March.

“Patrolling that night, Clark had the feeling that they shouldn’t be there. . . . He hated the false security provided by the night vision goggles. They made it too easy to confuse oneself—to forget that while the goggles revealed what was out there, they did not conceal the man wearing them.”

The guy was just standing there, killing time. These were the words Clark used to describe the first guy he shot in the war—to Tibbs and Lyons and the other soldiers, to the lieutenants and the cheek-biting captain with his chest full of brass pins, but never to Ned. To get back on track, he’d take a deep breath, sniff hard, and spit the thick phlegm near his boot. Killing time, that’s how it all had started.

*     *     *

Clark and Lyons stood guard in the wide basement hallway they called the Dungeon, a place where weapons had been stored even in Hussein’s day. In the pitch black, Clark couldn’t see much of anything except for the blue glow of the light Tibbs kept on his key ring, which was dimming as he and Ned disappeared further down the hallway. They’d had a few beers, courtesy of a source that Ned refused to divulge, just as he’d refused to explain what it was he was looking for in the armory. It was a Tuesday, past curfew. This was one of the many stupid things the guys did to unwind and forget the gore of the day, one of the many things they did to kill time.

As Clark’s eyes adjusted he was able to make out the neckless outline of Lyons who was rocking back and forth like a boxer in the ring just before the bell went off. Clark didn’t like Lyons; the feeling was mutual. “You hear that?” Clark asked.


“I think one just ran across my boot.”

“I’ve been trying to stomp on their tails,” Lyons said.

“I can take about two more seconds of this.”

“Copy that.”

They stood in the dark a few more minutes until the armory door slammed shut and they could hear Ned punching in the alarm code. He and Tibbs hurried toward Clark and Lyons with four bulky contraptions in their uplifted hands: night vision goggles.

“Follow me, men,” Ned said, and once again Clark found himself following Ned without asking questions.

To read the rest of “Night Vision” click here.

Jan 16

January Book Review: Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

New year, new books. Today, we are pleased to feature a review of Mira T. Lee’s debut novel Everything Here Is Beautiful, out today from Pamela Dorman Books. Reviewer Katharine Coldiron writes: “Mira T. Lee’s voice is not reassuring or simple; it is alive, worthy of pursuit and concentration.” Read the review, and check out the book.

Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

Classifying Mira T. Lee’s energetic debut novel, Everything Here Is Beautiful, as a story about sisterhood is inadequate at best and misleading at worst. The novel involves a sisterly relationship, certainly, as two of the narrating characters are sisters, but the fabric of the novel isn’t primarily of one color. It weaves in several Big Themes: immigration in America, mental illness, romantic love, motherhood. However, in practice, it’s a satisfying, surprising, multifaceted novel, not easily summed up by its themes.

Appropriately, the prose is narrated by a variety of entities. These include two sisters, Miranda and Lucia, who were brought to America in childhood by their Chinese mother and who bounce from New England to South America and Europe seeking home; Lucia’s Ecuadorian lover, Manuel; and her Russian husband, Yonah. Two sections are seemingly narrated, in third-person omniscient, by locations: Crote Six (a psychiatric ward) and Meyer, Minnesota (a small town). The primary characters are Manuel, a quiet and hardworking man who cannot help but disappoint anyone out of sync with his traditional perspective, and Lucia, a complex woman with a strong will, exceptional charisma, and a difficult-to-manage mental illness. Read more.

Jan 12

Fall Fiction Contest Shortlist

We are proud to announce the shortlist of fifteen stories for our latest Fall Fiction Contest, judged by Brian Evenson. Brian will select first, second, and third place stories from this list and the winners will announce in about a month’s time! We would like to thank everyone who submitted to the contest. It was an absolute pleasure to read your stories. Congratulations to our shortlisters!


“Ascent” by Paul Allison

“Together, Maureen” by Amanda Emil Anderson

“Errands” by Bryna Cofrin-Shaw

“Galaxy Defenders Stay Forever” by Samantha Edmonds

“Alone” by Jody Hobbs Hesler

“The Deca-Life Crisis” by Jessi Lewis

“Lepidomancy” by Maria Lioutaia

“Rain Gutter Estimator” by John Mandelberg

“Zombie Hunter” by KC Mead-Brewer

“Sun City” by Eugenie Montague

“A turning” by Angela O’Keeffe

“If I Could Have Anything, I’d Only Choose This” by Jill Rosenberg

“Fog Area” by Ben Sandman

“Away Game in Monaco” by Jacob van Berkum

“Pattern of Rotation” by Gerry Wilson

Jan 10

Call for Readers!

The Masters Review is looking to add some talented new readers to our team in 2018. If you love literary fiction and nonfiction, and three to four hours of reading submissions a week sounds like fun, we encourage you to apply. Our readers work remotely and can set their own schedules. This position begins in late January and involves a commitment through the end of summer. PLEASE NOTE: readerships are unpaid and on a strictly volunteer basis.

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If interested, please send cover letter, resume, and writing samples to: stephanie (at) mastersreview (dot) com by Wednesday, January 17. We look forward to hearing from you!

Jan 9

How to Revise a Draft Without Going Crazy by Dinty Moore

Revising a manuscript can be a daunting task. It’s hard to know where to begin. Well, let Dinty Moore break it down for you. Today, we are pleased to share with you sage advice on revision from nonfiction writer, teacher, and editor Dinty Moore. Moore’s piece is featured in Signature’s 2017 Ultimate Writing Guide which is full of useful and inspiring essays on craft. The best part? You can download the guide to your desktop in minutes. Thank you to Signature for allowing us to share this essay. Download Signature’s complete guide here.

Working one-on-one with first-time memoirists and novelists at various summer writing workshops over the past many years, I often find myself needing to deliver the hard news. Perhaps the most difficult lesson I have to pass along is this:

Once you are done writing your book, you aren’t really done writing your book. When I say this, foreheads inevitably furrow. Faces fall.

Being reminded of just how much effort is required even after you’ve put a period on the final sentence of the final chapter of a multi-year project can be deeply discouraging.

Because yes, revision does take effort and time. It needn’t, however, be painful.

The blank page is a frightening void. An early draft, however, filled with words — all pointing in the right direction, but in need of some tender loving care — can be exhilarating. Words are like clay: you can push them around and make all manner of shapes with them. And clay reminds us of childhood. And childhood reminds us of the time when we were the most playful, most creative, and least haunted by voices telling us we can’t do things well enough.

In other words, you can approach revision with your head low and your shoulders tensed, thinking, “Boy my sentences are so sloppy and wordy, and everything seems slow. All in all, I’m a pathetic failure.”

Or you can approach revision thinking, “Hey, here’s my chance to get it right. Let’s play around.”

Too many areas of life don’t afford you a second chance, but writing does, and you should see that as a good thing. So, here’s my advice:


Jan 8

Last Week To Submit: Winter Short Story Award For New Writers

It’s a new year, and one of the things we are most looking forward to in 2018 is discovering great fiction from emerging writers. To kick it all off, our Winter Short Story Award for New Writers closes in a week. So, send us your best stories under 7000 words by January 15. The winner receives $3000, publication, and agency review. Second and third place stories will earn publication and $200 and $100 respectively.Winners and honorable mentions will be reviewed by: Nat Sobel from Sobel Weber, Victoria Cappello from The Bent Agency, Andrea Morrison from Writers House, and Mark Gottlieb from Trident Media. Oh, yeah. Read the full guidelines here.


Jan 5

New Voices: “Private Affair” by D.S. Englander

Today, we are thrilled to publish “Private Affair” by New Voices author D.S. Englander. In this quiet and powerful story, a man feels fiercely protective of his wife, who is receiving threatening letters from one of her students. This is complicated by the man’s reflections on his own history with women.

“He had met Ali in his early thirties after a long lonely stretch of years. She had changed his life. He felt only horror at the thought that she could somehow be hurt or taken from him.”

A light breeze played through the windows of the Subaru, and it felt refreshing to Desalt, who was visibly perspiring behind the steering wheel. It was hot, hotter than was normal for May. He tried to inch a little closer to the gearshift, to escape the sun’s glare, but that didn’t do much. The whole parking lot was baking.

He watched the doors to the school, where his wife would appear. Presently, it was mobbed with activity. Teenaged boys were filing out, dressed in khaki pants and oxford shirts. It was a uniform that he thought marked them for future corporate lives. Some wore blazers, and Desalt noticed two boys with white ball caps pulled low on their brows, as if they were a pair of executives about to hit the links. He pulled the lever on his seat back in disgust, and reclined just enough to give the tightness that had been bothering him lately in his lower back some relief. He tried closing his eyes against the sun’s glare, but that didn’t work.

The school was a brick building with little flourishes and buttresses from another century, three, four stories high. From where he sat, Desalt could see the curtains billowing in the high, second-floor windows, perhaps in one of the classrooms where his wife taught. It was a pretty building, capped off with an old-fashioned clock tower, complete with roman numerals and handsome greenish metal. Yet, even in the full bloom of May, there was something a little foreboding about the school. Perhaps it was the generations of students who had passed through its doors, the sum total of old exertions and humiliations.

He watched the students form a loose column to the flat roofed athletic building, at the end of the parking lot. They were hapless as they walked through the parked cars, oblivious to his presence in the driver seat of the Subaru. He imagined they would drift through their lives in a similar fashion, hardly aware: to college, their first jobs, straight up through middle management. Even as he thought this, he knew it wasn’t true either.

Some were probably his wife’s students. While he had listened to Ali describe her students, and even remembered names, he would never be able to match those names up to faces. In any case, he couldn’t think one generous thought about these kids. One of them may be the one threatening his wife, leaving lewd notes and promises of violence.

To read the rest of “Private Affair” click here.

Jan 1

January Deadlines: 15 Lit Mags & Contests with Deadlines This Month

Happy 2018, everyone! Anything could be around the corner—including these contests. Hold on to the promise of a fresh new year, and submit your work for consideration!

FEATURED! Winter Short Story Award for New Writers

This one is our own contest, and it’s featured for so many good reasons! The Masters Review is looking for stories under 7000 words, written by emerging writers who have a way with words and a love for language! The winner receives $3000, publication, and agency review, and the runners-up also receive cash prizes, publication, and review. Don’t let this chance slip by! Details here.
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: January 15

Poetry and Fiction Prizes

This is a compilation of Bayou Magazine’s two wonderful awards, the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction and the Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry! Fiction entries, judged by Kiese Laymon, should be less than 7500 words, and poetry entries, judged by the titular Kay Murphy (!), may include up to three poems. The winners will both receive $1000, and all entries will be considered for publication. Check it out!
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: January 1

The 2018 MR Prize

Awarded through Mississippi Review, this prize is available to prose writers and poets alike! Winners receive $1000 and publication for the categories of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Prose entries should be 1000-8000 words, and poetry should be less than 10 pages, but there is no limit on the number of entries! Learn more here.
Entry Fee: $16 Deadline: January 1

Christopher Doheny Award

As a memorial to Chris Doheny, this contest is looking for excellence in fiction or creative nonfiction on the topic of serious medical illness. The award includes $10,000, production of the book in an audio edition, and promotion. Entries need to include a bibliography of previously published work, a personal statement, a synopsis, and the full manuscript. Get started here.
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: January 2

Glimmer Train Family Matters Contest

This is the annual installment of Glimmer Train’s Family Matters contest! It’s open to all writers, writing about families of all configurations, and entries can run from 1000 to 12,000 words. The winner receives $2500, the runner-up receives $700, and both are published in Glimmer Train Stories. Authors receive 10 copies of that issue. Submission guidelines here.
Entry Fee: $18 Deadline: January 2

Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction Contest

Don’t worry, this isn’t déjà vu! Glimmer Train currently has two contests open, and this one is specifically for short fiction! The contest is open to all writers, but entries must be between 300 and 3000 words. First place is $2000 and publication, as well as 10 copies of that issue. Submit here!
Entry Fee: $16 Deadline: January 2

Steinbeck Fellowships in Creative Writing

The Steinbeck Fellows Program of San José State University, endowed by Martha Heasley Cox, is looking for emerging writers of any age and background! Their creative writing fellowship accepts work in fiction, drama, creative nonfiction, and biography (but not in poetry). Accepted fellows will receive a $10,000 stipend, interaction with other writers and faculty, and monthly readings. Each application needs to include a prospectus, resumé, three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample. Learn more here!
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: January 2

Tony Hillerman Prize

If you’ve ever wondered what to do with your unpublished murder mystery manuscript, there couldn’t be a more perfect contest than this! Sponsored by St. Martin’s Press and Western Writers of America, this annual prize awards $10,000 and publication to the winning author’s entry. The story’s central theme needs to be the solution for a serious crime, it must be set in the American Southwest, and it must be longer than 220 pages. What are you waiting for? Submit here!
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: January 2

Desert Writers Award

Established to honor the memory of Ellen Meloy, the Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers is devoted to creative nonfiction work about the desert. The Fund provides support to writers whose work brings deeper meaning to the body of desert literature, awarding $5000 every spring! To be considered, entrants must include the completed application form, a biographical statement, a project proposal, and a 10-page writing sample. More details here!
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: January 15


Dec 22

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season! We are currently reading stories for our Fall Fiction Contest, which will announce on or before January 12, 2018, and don’t forget our current submissions opportunities, which you can find here. And lastly, stay tuned for the return of our regular blog schedule, beginning after the New Year. Until then, Happy Holidays!

Dec 15

New Voices: “Demonman” by Julialicia Case

Today, we are proud to present “Demonman” by Julialicia Case, the winner of our Summer Short Story Award for New Writers. We have never read a story quite like this powerful piece. It takes a few moments to recalibrate to the world in this story, but its horrors address some very real issues. In “Demonman” our eleven-year-old narrator corresponds with her teenage sister, who was the victim of a serial rapist, through a series of emojis. This is a story that will stay with you.

“Was Laura here? Did he really bring her all the way down here? Laura is beautiful the way a knife is beautiful, with thin sharpness and fierce edges. We’re too old now for wrestling, but I remember trying to hold her, fighting that muscle, losing to her strength. The old Laura would bite and twist forever. At what point in the forest did the old Laura become the new one? I search the rhododendrons for dark strands of her hair.”

I am eleven the spring Demonman comes, first to the alley behind the Kroger, where the dumpsters reek like fermented orange juice, then to the train tracks by the boarded-up video store, then to the Harding mansion, still for sale, then to a snot-colored van with flattened tires. He comes to our nightmares, our whispered worries, to newspapers and televisions and notices in the post office. He’s called something else, a different name, although, of course, he is still Demonman. Since the shootings upstate, the police struggle with the race riots, but they claim to be searching for him, following the leads.

“We are confident,” police say on the news. “We are narrowing in.” But everyone has seen cell phone videos of crazy police shootings. They are as afraid and angry as we are.

“The world is ending,” my mother says. She hangs raspberry leaves for drying, and looks to my father who dreams of robots.

“I’m wondering,” he says, “whether self-driving cars let you sit in the driver’s seat.” He spins a micro-screwdriver around his thumb.

Then Demonman comes to our bike path and our forest, to the white pines with the biggest pinecones, between the first bridge and the second one. He comes to the place where my sister, Laura, and I learned to rollerblade, where our mother gathers red clover for sunspot salve, and where our father pretends to go with his recumbent on Saturdays. Demonman comes when Laura is running, practicing for cross-country, when the sun is out and the glint of other people’s windows shines through the trees. The laughter at the duck pond is loud enough she can hear it, and she screams and claws and throws up on her shirt. Demonman wins. Of course he wins.

“Were you wearing headphones?” the policewoman asks her. “Were you by yourself?”

Laura goes into the room with the metal door. She gives them her sports bra and her fingernails. Then she doesn’t speak again. Demonman keeps her voice, and my parents buy me a phone.

“At all times,” my mother says. “I want it with you at all times.”

All the girls have phones like mine, now, sudden gifts from our parents. We have two kinds of hearts: fire hearts and water hearts. The water girls stay inside with their computers and magazines. They write in their journals and read us their poems. They want to walk us home, want to whisper in suffocating groups. They get flooded up and take turns crying. The fire girls cannot sit still. We wriggle at our desks. We fingernail our pencil erasers into scraps of rubber. We break bottles and rip paper, spend satisfying hours demolishing bubble wrap. Our bicycles call to us. Surely our meadows and pastures would not turn against us. We feel Demonman watching in the late spring thunderstorms. His eyes flicker and flash with the lightning. He doesn’t care what’s inside our hearts.

To continue reading “Demonman” click here.

Dec 12

Editors’ Favorite Books To Give as Gifts

Still looking for the perfect gift for your various in-laws, your significant other, your best friend, your niece—anyone, really? Well, we asked the editors of some of our favorite literary magazines to share some of their favorite books to give as gifts. We ended up with an eclectic and awesome list. We are tempted to go out and get these all for ourselves, but that wouldn’t quite be in the spirit of the season. Enjoy this list and thanks to all the awesome editors who contributed.

Emma Komlos-Hrobsky, Tin House: My Life in France by Julia Child & The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Julia Child’s My Life in France is both my most re-read and most gifted book. From its opening pages, as Child narrates her 1948 arrival at the port of Le Havre—her beloved station wagon the Blue Flash dangles from her ship’s freight crane—and her first tastes of sole meuniereMy Life in France is pure pleasure. It’s impossible to read the book without Child’s warbly falsetto in one’s head, cooing and trilling her descriptions of her surly French ladyladies, her early culinary forays, and most of all her beloved Paul. Their marriage is one for the ages, one of devotion and mutual support that radiates through Child’s account. (It’s also interesting to get Julia’s side of the story on the erosion of her relationship with her Mastering the Art of French Cooking co-authors; one senses more ego on her part than I might’ve otherwise thought.) Perfect reading for those who love cooking or love Julia, but just as much for anyone in search of a dose of joie de vivre. And for grade- or middle- school-aged readers, I can’t recommend Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s under-read classic The Egypt Game highly enough; it’s got compelling mystery, a savvy (and diverse) cast of kid protagonists, and a darkness and complexity that takes its young audience seriously. Perfect for Harriet the Spy fans searching for their next fix.

Laura Spence-Ash, CRAFT: Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón

Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón. I love Ada Limón’s poems. There’s something so honest, so fresh, and so alive about her work. Each poem tells a story, usually with an unexpected turn towards the end. This is a book of poetry that’s a wonderful gift for those who love poetry but also for those who aren’t so sure. By the time they’ve read this book, they’ll be hooked.

Tara Laskowski, SmokeLong Quarterly: The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

This is an odd one, but the first thing that came to mind is The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. I first read this book in college and it has stuck with me for many years. His advice about trusting your instincts and learning how to take care of yourself is spot-on. This book discusses how to fend off creepy advances, break off ties with exes, deal with stalkers, and how to act in scary or vulnerable situations. I’ve given this book to many friends over the years. Sadly, it’s especially timely now—but then again, it’s always been especially timely.

Ashley Farmer, Juked: Fever Dogs by Kim O’Neil

Right now, Fever Dogs, the debut collection by Kim O’Neil, is at the top of my list. This stunning, evocative book about three generations of women will appeal to a wide audience (and writer-friends will admire the wholly unique voice and the dazzling sentence-level dynamics).

Lena Valencia, One Story: The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

The Driver’s Seat opens with Lise, the slightly unhinged protagonist, berating a salesgirl in a dress shop for attempting to sell her a dress with stainless fabric (“Do you think I spill things on my clothes?”). From there, we follow Lise on her doomed vacation, which we learn, early on in the book, will be where she spends the last days of her life. This slim little thriller isn’t for everyone, but those with a flair for the morbid will appreciate Muriel Spark’s black humor, sharp dialogue, and the clever way she uses Lise’s character to explore ideas of victimhood and agency.

Josh Roark, Frontier Poetry: Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar

People have an easy conception of poetry as overly-dense, opaque, elite—but Akbar blows that up. His fresh body imagery in Calling a Wolf a Wolf abuts a raw commentary on addiction and self-loss that anyone can connect to, especially younger people. If I were to give poetry to any of my friends who don’t care about poetry, I’d give them Calling.

Sadye Teiser, The Masters Review: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer

I love to give this thick, magical anthology as a gift. Kate Bernheimer has collected and edited forty contemporary takes on the classic fairy tale form. There is just about no grownup who doesn’t appreciate a good fairy tale, be it whimsical, gruesome, or both. This anthology features stories by authors such as Aimee Bender, Kevin Brockmeier, and Kelly Link. Plus, it makes an excellent coffee table book.

Dec 8

The Masters Review: A Year In Stories

Oh, the holidays. This is a time to look back and reflect on the year that is (mostly) behind us. Well, especially this year, our favorite way to do that is by rereading the wonderful stories we have published by (mostly) emerging writers. Today, we present all of the fiction and nonfiction that debuted on the site in 2017. From a story about a mysterious string of drownings afflicting the teenagers of a town, to a contribution from the great Lydia Davis, to an essay about smoking and the effects it has on one woman’s family—we’re proud of the varied and accomplished collection of writing we have published this year. We can’t wait to see what these authors do in the years to come. So join us for a look back through the 2017 archives.

The Devil is a Liar by Nana Nkweti (December 2017 – Summer Short Story Award Winner!)

Iron Boy Kills the Devil by Sheldon Costa (November 2017 – Summer Short Story Award Winner!)

A Pack a Day by Betty Jo Buro (November 2017)

Katie Flew Again Tonight by Trent England (October 2017)

Hunt and Catch by Jac Jemc (October 2017 – Featured Fiction)

Out and Out by Latifa Ayad (September 2017 – Flash Fiction Contest Winner!)

Lions in the House by Beejay Silcox (September 2017 – Flash Fiction Contest Winner!)

The Wheelchair by Mahreen Sohail (September 2017 – Flash Fiction Contest Winner!)

The Cock in Cadwalader Heights by Ariel Delgado Dixon (August 2017)

Balter Cafe by Elle Flythe (August 2017)

Road Trip by Rachel Attias (July 2017)

For Danny, Twelve Years Old by Lucas Loredo (June 2017)

Longshore Drift by Scott Broker (June 2017)

The Visitor by Lydia Davis (June 2017 – Featured Fiction)

Operation by Scott Gloden (May 2017 – Winter Short Story Award Winner!)

White Out by Caitlin O’Neil (May 2017 – Winter Short Story Award Winner!)

Malheur Refuge by Rick Attig (May 2017 – Winter Short Story Award Winner!)

Everything is Fine by Alissa Johnson (April 2017)

According to Their Kinds by Kit Haggard (April 2017)

Night Beast by Ruth Joffre (March 2017 – Fall Fiction Contest Winner!)

Family, Family by Jeannine Ouellette (March 2017 – Fall Fiction Contest Winner!)

Good Creatures, Small Things by Cate Fricke (February 2017 – Fall Fiction Contest Winner!)

My Sam and I by Nick Fuller Googins (February 2017)

The Drownings by Brenda Peynado (January 2017)

Babyland by Steve Edwards (January 2017)