The Masters Review Blog

Jan 24

Anthology Announcement! Rick Bass is Judging The Masters Review Volume IX!

Submissions for The Masters Review Volume IX open next week, so what better time to announce this year’s guest judge? Celebrated author Rick Bass will be selecting the 10 stories and essays that will be included in this year’s anthology. Opening on the 31st, the contest will run until the end of March. Submit your very best 7,000 words of fiction or narrative nonfiction. 10 stories will be selected from a shortlist of 30! Full details below:

Rick Bass to judge The Masters Review Volume IX!

Each year we pair with a guest judge to select stories for our anthology, which acts as a showcase for today’s best emerging writers. The experience and expertise of our judge guides our selections, and we’re excited to work with the winner of the 2016 Story Prize, Rick Bass.

RICK BASS is the author of over 30 books of fiction and nonfiction, and a winner of the 2016 Story Prize. He lives in Montana, where he is the founding board  member of the Yaak Valley Forest Council. His stories, articles and essays have appeared in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Narrative, Men’s Journal, Esquire, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, Harper’s, New York Times Sunday Magazine, Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, Boston Globe, the Washington Post, Tin House, Zoetrope, Orion, and numerous other periodicals.


Submissions for our anthology will open next week! We accept stories and essays up to 7000 words. Thirty writers are chosen for the shortlist and Kate Bernheimer will select ten to publish. See our anthology page for information on past volumes.

  • Previously unpublished works of fiction and narrative nonfiction only
  • Up to 7000 words
  • We accept simultaneous submissions as long as work is withdrawn if it is accepted elsewhere
  • Multiple submissions are allowed
  • Writers must not have published a novel-length work at the time of submission (authors of short story collections and self-published titles can submit as can authors with work with a low distribution, about 5000 copies)
  • Standard formatting please (double-spaced, 12 pt font, pages numbered)
  • $20 reading fee
  • Submissions are not limited to writers in the US. All English-language submissions are welcome
  • Writers who have earned an Anthology Prize before and whose work appears in our printed book cannot submit to this category but are welcome to send us work in other open categories.
Jan 23

Final Week: Submissions for the 2019-2020 Winter Summer Short Story Award for New Writers Closes Friday 1/31!

The title says it all: Submissions for the 2019-2020 Winter Summer Short Story Award for New Writers close next Friday, January 31! Kimberly King Parsons, this year’s judge, stands at the ready to select the winners for this year’s prize. Think you have a story worthy of the crown? Submit now before it’s too late!

$3000 + Publication + Agency Review

Submit today!

Add the contest deadline to your calendar!

Add to Calendar

  • Winner receives $3000, publication, and agency review
  • Second and third place prizes ($300 / $200, publication, and agency review)
  • Stories under 6000 words
  • Previously unpublished stories only
  • Translations allowed, providing the story has not been published in another language
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed
  • Emerging writers only (We are interested in offering a larger platform to new writers. Self-published writers and writers with story collections and novels with a small circulation are welcome to submit. Writers with novels published with a circulation of fewer than 5000 copies can also submit.)
  • International submissions allowed
  • $20 entry fee
  • Deadline: January 31, 2020
  • Please no identifying information on your story
  • All stories are considered for publication
  • If requesting an editorial letter, please indicate on your cover letter if the submissions is fiction or creative nonfiction
  • To view a list of our most commonly asked questions regarding submitting to The Masters Review, please see our FAQ page.

Submit today!

Jan 22

Literary Citizenship, pt. 1 by Katey Schultz

Have you been struggling with your outreach, or growing your audience? You’re in luck! In this special four-part series with Katey Schultz, author of Still Come Home and the collection, Flash of War, you’ll learn how to engage with the literary world in a meaningful and beneficial way. Up first: What You Care About Should be the Same as Your Social Media Feed.


What You Care About Should be the Same as Your Social Media Feed

Author Patricia Ann McNair first told me there was a name for what my writing friends and I were doing to support each other. She called it “literary citizenship,” which can best be described as engaging in person and online with writers, booksellers, publishers, agents, editors, readers, and organizations in any way that positively exposes you and your writing to a wider audience. From book reviews to blurbs, from blog interviews to retweets, “pay it forward” is the name of the game in literary citizenship; but so is authenticity and sustainabilitytwo things I’m passionate about. As author Jane Friedman says, “It’s not about competition. It’s about collaboration.”

Besides a (finally!) useful and enjoyable relationship with social media, literary citizenship can also help you:

  • Maintain a consistent presence online and in-person by making it clear to others what you care about.
  • Establish connections you wouldn’t otherwise have a reason to make, leading to collaborations, shared speaker events, book club connections, and more.
  • Cultivate surprise endings: Word of mouth (in person and through social media) are still worth their weight in gold. You never know what a connection might lead to.

Making literary citizenship part of your writing life starts with determining what type of conversation you want to have. What conversations do you care about? Use this worksheet  I created to help hone in on what’s most unique and useful to you. To help – here’s a download

Here’s one example of what happened for me, once I completed the worksheet and brainstormed how to get started: My interest in the natural world ties in nicely with a local organization, the North Carolina High Peaks Trail Association. When I blog about the outdoors, I tag them. They share my posts. I reach more readers, some of whom subscribe to my list and eventually take my online classes. Win-win, right? But it doesn’t stop there. This group recently auctioned several signed copies of my book at their latest annual fundraiser. Not because I asked them to, but because they see me as someone who contributes to conversations they care about. Who bought my book at the auction? Someone I don’t know…which is exactly the point; someone I otherwise may never have met or who may never have had a reason to pick my book up off the shelf.

When we share how we spend our time as creative individuals, and start naming the topics we care about, we’re able to clarify our vision for “content marketing.” And instead of feeling obligation fatigue over one more public relations task, we’re often pleasantly surprised to discover we actually have something to say. Even better, we have a sense for the kind of audience we want to align ourselves with, and from there, growth is exponential. The best part? Authors who are literary stewards, work within the realm of genuine interest and therefore their posts on social media or conversations at public events don’t feel forced. The topics at hand are things they’re already invested in; things they’re naturally drawn to.

Figuring out what conversations you care about can help you:

  • Become known as a “giver,” rather than a “taker.”
  • Align yourself with movements and organizations you genuinely care about.
  • Make connections based on common goals and shared interests (which are dependable), rather than on markets or trends (which can always change).

First, know what’s already out there. Study how experts and fans in the field are already contributing to these conversations. What do you find effective and enjoyable? What do you find off-putting? Learn from the best and follow their lead. Start sharing when you have something noteworthy and useful.

Second, be positive. Every debate has its naysayers, not to mention its extremists. As long as what you share in person or online adds to the conversation in clear, researched, and pertinent ways, people should respect what you have to say. Avoid indulging in online threads that turn nasty and stick to sharing information that is new/noteworthy, forward-thinking, offers a solution, or gives someone/something a voice it didn’t have before.

Third, be patient. Noticeable contributions take time. Once you have a sense for how people engage in the movements or themes you’re interested in, you’ll know what you can add and what you have more to learn about. Think of it as raising your hand and being called on during a class discussion. You wouldn’t add something until you knew what the topic was. In the same way, you wouldn’t expect everyone to immediately care about the same things you care about. New discoveries and connections take time; but when you start out with the mindset of literary citizenship, the connections you make will, in fact, last.

Coming up next week, we’ll get nitty gritty with what we, as literary stewards, can actually say and contribute. I’ve shared one example, but when you’re in this for the long haul, you need a sustainable model you so that can feel good about what you bring to the table–rather than exhausted by the thought of showing up in the first place.

KATEY SCHULTZ is the author of Flashes of War, which the Daily Beast praised as an “ambitious and fearless” collection, and Still Come Home, a novel, both published by Loyola University Maryland. Honors for her work include the Linda Flowers Literary Award, Doris Betts Fiction Prize, IndieFab Book of the Year, five Pushcart nominations, a nomination to Best American Short Stories, and writing fellowships in eight states. She lives in Celo, North Carolina, and is the founder of Maximum Impact, a transformative mentoring service for creative writers that has been recognized by both CNBC and the What Works Network. Learn more at

Jan 20

New Voices: “Mutts” by Shane Page

Introducing the third place finalist from our 2019 Summer Short Story Award for New Writers, selected by Tope Folarin: “Mutts” by Shane Page! Page was awarded publication and agency review for this breathtaking story. About the story, Tope Folarin said, “This story does what the best short stories do–it locates an entire universe of emotion and memory within a single scene. It’s a heartbreaking story, and so attentive to the various ways that humans can hurt others and be hurt by others. I won’t forget this one.” Dive in:

Bill the Dog required either attention or a well-tied leash (the usual spot being a leg of the table on the front porch, then being sure to place three to four bricks on the tabletop) when outside. We weren’t sure if he was entirely blind, but his eyes were clouded with cataracts, and he seemed to make his way around the house by following the warmth of the sunlight on the carpet. When night came, he’d curl up in a corner and did not like to be pet.

Bill the Dog had been killed, run down by the mailman, and Mom said Dad was to blame, so she dragged our kitchen table out in front of the television, set two stools on either side, and called to Dad that they needed to settle this. They were going to sit down like adults and arm-wrestle.

Dad walked in from the kitchen and smiled at me, setting a 16 oz. Coors on the table as Mom wiped off dinner scraps with her hand. He didn’t sit down right away but cracked a window and lit a cigarette and rolled up his sleeves, knocking his boot against the table as Mom tried to steady it. He looked at me again and asked what the rules were, if the loser had to do the dishes for a week.

“Loser moves out,” said Mom, and when Dad leaned over the table to light her cigarette for her, she reeled back on her stool and removed it from the corner of her mouth. She set it on top of our television and Dad shrugged. Mom said stuff like this all the time.

Our television was a little white Panasonic, barely more than twelve inches, with a VCR built in—a VHS cassette hanging out the front with its tape all tangled and chewed. Our table was flimsy and insectile and made with what felt like hollow tin, and its four legs were insolvably off-balance.

Mom and Dad blocked my view as they sat down and locked hands. I remember Mom’s hair, which reached to each of the cardinal directions in neatly matted tufts, and Dad’s tied back in a ponytail, some clusters of strands sprawled and stuck across his cheeks. The way their jaws actually clenched like characters in movies, in close-up shots, in diners for truckers where people crowded the table and threw down money.

I knew it wasn’t entirely Dad’s fault. I’d been there when it happened. We all knew Bill the Dog was hard to control. But I didn’t talk much or really at all back then, so Mom never asked me anything. I never spoke unless prompted, and even then not necessarily. I was seven, and it was strange, but that’s how I was.

As they played with each other’s fingers I noticed this was their first physical altercation that seemed to follow rules. They adjusted their postures and bent their elbows, Mom trying to find a pace in her breath and Dad still thinking this was a joke. He just kept smiling and looking around the room, his teeth sticking out from his lips like the keys of a smashed piano. He loved to play games, and to toy with Mom, and when he wasn’t tired or angry he loved to make us laugh.

To continue reading “Mutts” click here.


Jan 17

New Writing on the Net | January 2020

In our first edition of New Writing on the Net for 2020, TMR reader Nicole VanderLinden shares her suggestions for your weekend reading list, all selected from the best new writing published online in the previous month! Happy new year!

Nuthatch” by Olivia Postelli | Grist Online, Issue 12, 2019

I wanted to argue. How could it cost a fortune when all the placements were paper and the only activity listed on the board whenever we visited was Scrabble? They certainly weren’t paying Nancy enough if that boxed Revlon Ultra Light Sun Blonde was anything to go by. But I’d inherited my streak of unreasonableness from Mom so I didn’t say anything. Instead, I stared at the shelves where the birds all stood, lined up in neat little rows, curious faces pointed upward. I spotted my nuthatch, back bowed, its little black and white striped head tilted up, looking right at me. I had to turn away from him; I couldn’t meet his eyes.

The Habits of Great Predators” by Michael Schoch | Lunch Ticket, Winter/Spring 2020

A bat expert visited the elementary classroom and said he’d like to give a demonstration of how the Diphylla Ecaudata, the hairy-legged vampire bat, fed on its prey. He selected Megan Kinney to portray a sleeping chicken while he, the expert, played the bat. He spent long minutes circling the girl, describing the fever pitch of his thermoception guiding him towards a warm place to bite.

Dolphins That Spend Mambo ” by Halina Duraj | JuxtaProse, Winter 2019

I haven’t talked to my mother very often since getting to Italy, because I’m trying to save money on international calling but also because we never really have that much to say to each other, I’m not really sure why, except that I am sure it’s probably my fault, that I could tell her more about my life but it’s hard. I haven’t even told her my boyfriend broke up with me right before this trip, the boyfriend whom I dated for two years and whom she met on a number of occasions and whom she always called Stan instead of Paul, for no reason I could discern except that her dementia that began after my father died is getting worse and the boyfriend she had in her late twenties, up until she decided to marry my dad instead, was named Stan and was a very nice guy, she always said, which I took to mean she regretted marrying my dad instead of him, and which I sometimes considered a sign that I should marry Paul/Stan, if he asked me, except the bigger sign that I shouldn’t marry him was that he broke up with me.

The Mimosa Tree ” by Elizabeth Bergstrom  | Juked, January 5, 2020

Summer came and the heat simmered and the buds swelled on the mimosa tree. In the thick heat, the woman could barely sleep at all anymore. She couldn’t even toss and turn with her heavy belly propped in a nest of pillows. Her thin shirt soaked through with sweat. Finally she rose and left the bed where her husband, against all odds, slept. She walked over the damp grass in her bare feet and sat down with her back against the trunk of the mimosa tree. There was no moon tonight, but she looked up and saw the fireflies blinking in the boughs of the tree. They mirrored the stars above in the inkwell sky. The baby kicked wildly in her belly, and she said, Please come soon, please, there is a whole world I am aching to show you.

Stories We Will Always Know” by Robert P. Kaye | SmokeLong Quarterly, January 6, 2020

On that first Monday, Max insisted we play handball within the defensible perimeter of the cafeteria instead of in the kill zone of playground courts. On Wednesday, he put Frank Twombly in a stress position for body checking me during foursquare. That earned Max a conference with our teacher, Ms. Price, who abhorred violence. That afternoon he clenched his jaw so hard we heard his teeth creak.

Yvonne” by Ciera Burch | Hobart, January 9, 2020

When she was with Yvonne, Celeste was every version of herself she’d ever been: she was introverted, passive-aggressive teenage Celeste, who brought up her adoption in every interaction with her parents and couldn’t get through an entire meal without asking why they’d chosen her; rebellious college freshman Celeste, who took eighteen shots in a row to celebrate her 18th birthday, drunk-dialed her parents because she had no ex to call, and ended up in the hospital; middle-aged lesbian Celeste, who was failing at juggling her children’s dance practices and football tryouts and worrying about maintaining some spark in her marriage big enough to keep Zara from getting bored with her. Celeste tried to cram every identity into a two-hour visit once a month—to show Yvonne who she’d been and who she was—and ended up losing herself. She would not let herself visit more often; that was a recipe for attachment. Nor would she stop visiting; she was curious, and her curiosity demanded answers, even if they were slow to come.

Parameter, Commit, Push, Child” by Katie Runde | Crack the Spine, January 2, 2020

She had soothed Annabelle in the middle of O’Hare airport, on the way to see her mother, with “You Are My Sunshine” and milk milk milk, while men in football jerseys and business suits stared at her. She has been in love for fifteen years with one person and has found ways to reinvent herself over and over. New cities, new seasons, new sadnesses, new secrets. When she told her husband she was going to take Web Dev 101 because she wanted to try something different, he told her to go for it, he told her she could do anything. When she tried to quit after the first day of class, he made her go back and brought home a rotisserie chicken, a bagged salad, and her favorite boxed wine.
Curated by Nicole VanderLinden
Jan 13

New Voices: “Terraforming Mars” by Emmett Knowlton

We are thrilled to share with you the honorable mention from our 2019 Summer Short Story Award for New Writers, and the first New Voices selection for 2020, “Terraforming Mars” by Emmett Knowlton. This heartbreaking story follows seventh grader Sebastian and his trauma in the wake of a national tragedy. Knowlton’s prose is tender and honest and sure to be remembered in “Terraforming Mars.” Read on below:

In the months that followed, when school dances in the cafeteria and the occasional bat mitzvah were what we had to look forward to, and Mom would always insist I go, even when I didn’t want to and I knew she didn’t want to be alone in the house, it was Savannah who asked me to slow dance, and though I always suspected she did so out of pity I didn’t even care.

The cars came flooding into the parking lot around ten, a long shining line that coursed past the tennis courts and stretched all the way to our middle school’s east entrance. It was only the second week of the school year, only Tuesday, and I was in Earth Science doing that thing with my eyes where they floated in and out of focus when out the window I saw them, one fancy car after the next, a flotilla of station wagons and luxury SUVs.

A worksheet landed on my desk. Dr. Stern, who was maybe a lesbian and maybe hot, widened her eyes at me in that way that told me to pay attention. Then she went back to introducing our new unit.

“Imagine you are a scientist for NASA and you are tasked with colonizing Mars so that it is sustainable for human life,” she said.

“What happened to Earth?” Allison Corrigan loudly wondered.

“Please do not call out,” Dr. Stern replied. “Now imagine. You are the top government scientist and you need to determine how to make Mars livable. For the next few months we will work to answer this question.”

I thought about mustering the courage to raise my hand and ask why we were learning about Mars in a class called Earth Science, knowing this was the sort of seventh grade humor that would kill if I were ever brave enough to actually be a dick. But I wasn’t, so I didn’t. Instead my eyes went back to focusing and unfocusing out the window, and suddenly I was dreaming of saving the world for the girl I sat near, Savannah Freed. I could half hear Dr. Stern talking about setting up simple and sustainable agricultural systems now, and making sure we carefully considered atmospheric characteristics, and like an armada the cars continued pouring in, queuing beneath our middle school’s prefab porte-cochere like it was already time for afternoon pick-up.

And then I saw the moms. Saw them come rushing inside, their cars double-parked, flashers still flashing, keys possibly still in ignitions, ignited. Saw them walking purposefully, some jogging even toward the green double-doors, pale-faced or red faced in their exercise skorts, in their tennis whites, in their big prescription or non-prescription sunglasses.

“Wait so did zombies come?” Max Revsen asked, two rows over from me. “Or was it a nuclear war?”

Dr. Stern was at the board now.

“Will we find aliens?”

“Are we going to war with the aliens?”

You could sense the class teetering on raucousness, our ideas for why we might need to colonize Mars far more thrilling to us than any of the lame scientific methodologies Dr. Stern was asking us to consider.

“Oh my god you guys, are aliens hot?”

“You do know they’re called martians,” Charlotte MacLeod, distractingly tall in the front row, practically spat as she snapped her very long neck back at the rest of us. She’d been the first person in our grade to go through puberty and to become a vegan.

“And wait so like how are we getting there?”

Then Dr. Stern left the classroom. She had something called Crohn’s disease, a gross and hilarious fact we only knew about because someone’s older brother in eighth grade had been in Dr. Stern’s class last year and she had told his mom about her condition during parent-teacher conferences. But she was gone for longer than usual, and right as someone said, “Wow, Stern must have really had to shit,” she walked back into the classroom and when we saw her face, we got quiet.

To continue reading “Terraforming Mars” click here.

Jan 8

What We Read in 2019

With 2019 in the rear-view mirror, The Masters Review readers collectively reflect on the best works they read over the previous years. Take a peek at what we’re reading and where our individual tastes lie!

Cole Meyer 

2019 was a bit of an odd year for me. It was the year I became the managing editor for The Masters Review. The year I began my MFA program. It seems like I read less than in the previous year, which also seems impossible, but I can’t know, because I unfortunately did not track my reading in 2019 as I did in 2018 (and as I’m doing in 2020 – kicking the year off with Karen Russell’s Orange World and Other Stories). Among my favorite stories I read for TMR include Alina Grabowski’s “Confirmation”, Joe Bond’s “Damico” and Andrew Erkkila’s “The Danbury Firebirds”, as well as a few others we have slated for publication in 2020 that I can’t quite share yet! Perhaps the best novel I read, though, was Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones, a harrowing novel which tracks the twelve days leading up to the storm of a century, Hurricane Katrina, in the lives of a motherless family in southern Mississippi. I was twelve years old and growing up in the Midwest when Katrina hit. I wasn’t mature enough or close enough to the destruction to fully grasp its ramifications for the families which lived there, who couldn’t afford to evacuate, but Salvage the Bones forces you to confront that reality.

Ross Feeler

Trees communicate with each other. They can communicate with us, too. You may have heard such ideas from a friend in the thrall of a mushroom trip. But did you know, more specifically, that when attacked, certain trees send warning signals to neighbors, initiating a kind of community defense program against invaders? that rotting trees contribute more than living trees to ecological health? that the word book stems from beech? Richard Powers’ masterpiece The Overstory is filled with such arboreal insights. If this sounds dry, a scientific treatise rather than a novel, the fault is mine, not Powers’: Overstory is still very much a story, a page-turner with dozens of characters, both plant and animal, whose lives intersect in fascinating ways. I suggest that you read this book under the canopy of an ancient tree. When you’re finished, read the bark.

Melissa Hinshaw

2019 was a weird reading year for me, maybe the first year ever in my life I read less than usual. I think I just hit a wall with the amount of content I could handle across internet, TV, and print alike, and as a result I now have a deeper respect for what it means to both create and consume something honest and powerful and real than I did before. Three very intense, very incredible books I feel happier just now remembering I read in early 2019 are: Cherry by Nico Walker, Disoriental by Negar Djavadi, and Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. I also read a sex book called Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski that want to buy for everyone I know (ladies especially), and an interview with Leslie Jamison in Image Journal issue 101 that helped ground me and return me to the writers-and-writing world I’d begun to grow disillusioned with over the recent years.

Jen Dupree

This has been an excellent reading year. I loved Lauren Acampora’s new novel The Paper Wasp, Nathan Hill’s The Nix, Miranda July’s The First Bad Man, Desperate Characters by Paula Fox, and Denise Mina’s Conviction. I loved Arron Hamburger’s essay “Sweetness Mattered” in Tin House and Penny Guisinger’s essay “Born Back Ceaselessly” from Solstice. But if I had to pick one favorite, one book that I would read again and maybe even again, it would be The Need by Helen Phillips. I’m not much for speculative fiction, but I saw this book recommended somewhere and I picked it up without knowing much about it. I’m so glad I didn’t, and I’m not going to say much here, because not-knowing gave me that gasping moment, the one where you can’t believe it, and can’t wait to see what happens next. One night while her husband is away, paleobotonist Molly hears a noise in her living room. As she cowers in the bedroom with her children, her terror is palpable. What she finds is unbelievable, yet Phillips pulls it off. And the pacing. There are moments in this novel that Phillips draws out so excruciatingly I could hardly stand it—but then there are places she’s whip-fast and funny. This is a book about the risk of being human, of making choices, of having regrets and not-regrets. It’s so good.

Nicole VanderLinden

A few years ago, I read Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation and was floored by her fresh take on the novel form—the story is revealed through a series of sometimes loosely connected fragments—and her balancing of rich insight with play. So, in 2019, I resolved to finally read Offill’s debut, Last Things, and was immediately rewarded with two days of not-put-downable reading joy. Last Things tells the story of Grace and her idiosyncratic mother and scientific father, relaying all-too-adult topics through a child’s simultaneously precise and wonder-filled lens. The novel, like Offill’s sophomore effort, is at turns funny and gutting, and it simply hums with narrative energy. Offill has a new book, Weather, forthcoming this year, and I’m already searching for a weekend when I can drop all necessary tasks and simply sink into whatever this incredible author has conjured this time.

Courtney Harler

First published in 2004 but reprinted in paperback by Tin House in 2019, Samantha Hunt’s debut novel, The Seas, begs to be read again and again, especially in times of convalescence. My own stories of (minor, not to worry) illness are incidental, but this book kept me company when I needed it most. Hunt embeds story within story—from myths to delusions to censored letters to cultish questionnaires to “backwards words” meant for the printing press—thereby creating a narrative as rich in mystery as it is in clarity. However, like Hunt’s characters, the reader must take that word “clarity” with a grain of (sea) salt, because I suspect the truths of this novel are indelibly particular to each individual. You, after all, may be more desert soldier than mermaid, or more landlubber than sailor—yet Hunt still speaks to the plight of us all through love, grief, and that ubiquitous if unreliable element: water.

Kimberly Guerin

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters, by Mark Dunn, is a book both irreverent and considerate of language, written in the epistolary fashion. Our brave heroine lives in the birthplace of Nevin Nollop, who coined the phrase “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” When the town’s banner of the phrase starts losing letters, those letters are also banned from the townspeople’s use – and thus, from the letters that we ourselves are reading. This book is cheeky and fun, while also including an engaging plot and winsome protagonist. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the absurd – and yes, of course that includes the nonsensical English language!

Kimberly Zerkel

Two novels popped into my life this year and completely changed my trajectory. The first one was an intentional purchase, Motherhood by Sheila Heti. I found myself underlining sentences on every page, texting them to friends. She captures a slice of the female experience that few have been able to properly put into words. The other novel was Here I Am, by Jonathan Saffran Foer. I found it in a book bin, took it home, and devoured it. His strength is not only in crafting beautiful sentences, but in having an eye for unique, intimate detail. Read both to become a better writer, a better human being.

Terri Leker

In 2019, “The State of Nature” by Camille Bordas kept me inside on a sunny spring day. The ophthalmologist narrator, after somehow sleeping through a daytime burglary, begins spending Sundays at the flea market with a newish friend of her mother’s, a woman who helps recover missing possessions. The story explores the spoken/unspoken and the observed/unobserved with humor, compassion, and a terrific sense of play. After I finished, I realized that I’d been covering the final paragraphs on each page to avoid rushing to the ending.

Jan 2

Summer Short Story Award Finalists!

At last! The finalists for the Summer Short Story Award for New Writers are in. The three winning stories were selected by guest judge Tope Folarin, with the honorable mention selection from The Masters Review staff. Please help share the love and congratulate these four authors on their excellent work. And remember, the Winter Short Story Award for New Writers (judged by Kimberly King Parsons) is closing at the end of this month!


Ghost Story by Becca Anderson

Second Place

Escape Velocity by Karisa Tell

Third Place

Mutts by Shane Page

Honorable Mention

Terraforming Mars by Emmett Knowlton

Dec 31

January Deadlines: 10 Magazines and Contests with Deadlines This Month

Bring in the new year by submitting your work! Share your resolution to write more this year with the editors and judges at these 10 excellent journals. Happy New Year!

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 6000 words, by emerging writers — authors without a book deal or published novel (writers with circulations under 5,000 are welcome to submit as well)! The winner receives $3000, publication, and agency review, and the runners-up also receive cash prizes, publication, and review. Judged by the fabulous Kimberly King Parsons! Details here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: January 31

SAND Journal

SAND Journal, the international journal of English writing based out of Berlin, is open for submissions for issue #21 through January 5th. Submit your flash fiction (up to 1,000 words), fiction (up to 5,000 words) or poetry (under five pages) by midnight, January 5th for consideration. SAND also considers translations of works that have not yet been published in English yet! Submit today!

Entry Fee: Free! Deadline: January 5

Desert Writers Award

Open to writers who wish to write creative nonfiction about the desert, the Desert Writers Award was founded in memory of Ellen Meloy. Each spring, the Fund awards a $5,000 grant on the basis of the applicant’s writing sample, strength of the proposed book project, and the biography of the applicant’s “ability to demonstrate a history and future of writing and desert experience.” Find out more here.

Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: January 15

The Big Moose Prize

Open until the end of the month, the Big Moose Prize is offered by Black Lawrence Press to new, emerging, and established writers for novel submissions. The winner receives $1,000, publication, and 10 copies of the published book. Judging is done blind by Black Lawrence Press’s panel of editors. You’ve got one month to polish up that draft. Get to it!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: January 31

The Iowa Review Awards

The Iowa Review offers annual awards to writers in fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. Carrying a $1,500 prize in each genre, The Iowa Review invites writers to submit up to 25 pages of prose or 10 pages of poetry for consideration in their contest. the 2020 team of judges includes Stephanie Burt (poetry), Lan Samantha Chang (fiction), and Leslie Jamison (nonfiction). Full details here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: January 31

Crazyhorse Prizes

Another contest open to all genres, the Crazyhorse Prizes are offered each January. Submit your very best 25 pages or prose or your favorite 1-3 unpublished poems for your chance to win $2,000 and publication. A winner will be selected from each genre, by their respective judges: Jamel Brinkley (fiction), Cyrus Cassells (Poetry), and Sue William Silverman (Nonfiction). The $20 entry fee also includes a 1-year subscription to Crazyhorse! Winners will be announced by the 1st of June. Find out more.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: January 31

Lamar York Prizes for Fiction and Nonfiction

Sorry poets, this one is only open to the prose writers. The Chattahoochee Review awards $1,000 and publication to the winner of each of its prizes, in an annual contest which honors the founder of The Chattahoochee Review. Submissions are capped at 6,000 words, so be sure to get your submissions in under that mark. This year’s judges are Anthony Varallo (fiction) and Alice Bolin (nonfiction). The deadline is January 31st, but don’t wait until the last minute! Check it out.

Entry Fee: $18 Deadline: January 31

The Montana Prize For Fiction

Judged by Rick Bass, this prize offered by Whitefish Review awards $1,000 to the writer with the best submitted story. There are no themes; Rick Bass is only looking for the best of the best. “That said, Shakespeare reported that all literature is about loss….so the odds are that the winning story will look at loss in some way,” he says. Submissions up to 7,000 words will be considered. Full details here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: January 31

New Millennium Writing Awards

The 49th annual New Millennium Writing Awards offers a $1,000 prize to each of its four winners: one in each category (fiction, flash fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry). Select finalists (including all poetry finalists) will be published as well! Fiction and nonfiction submissions up to 7,500 words will be considered, while flash fiction is capped at 1,000 words and poetry at 3 poems or up to 5 pages. Judging is blind, so be sure to make your submissions anonymous! The deadline is at the end of the month. Good luck!

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: January 31

The Short Fiction Prize

The Kenyon Review is open to submissions of up to 1,200 words of short fiction until the end of the month. The winner receives a scholarship to the 2020 Writers Workshop at Kenyon University. Past finalists include TMR’s current judge Kimberly King Parsons! This year’s contest is judged by current KR fellow Misha Rai Get your short fiction ready for submissions and find out more here.

Entry Fee: $24 Deadline: January 31

By Cole Meyer


Dec 18

2019 in Review

My first year as managing editor is drawing to a close — what a year it’s been! We published 40 new stories and essays in New Voices, and featured new fiction from Kathy Fish and Adrian Van Young. 26 new short stories, 14 flash, 2 essays. 4 contest winners. Thank you, thank you, to everyone who submitted their work to The Masters Review in the last calendar year. We hope to read your work again soon!

A New River by Dominic Desmond (January 2019)

A Country Where I Am Beautiful by Patricia Smith (January 2019 – Summer Short Story Award Winner!)

A Portrait of a Virgin by Rachel Cochran (January 2019 – Summer Short Story Award Winner!)

Confirmation by Alina Grabowski (January 2019 – Summer Short Story Award Winner!)

Casino Night by Gabriel Welsch (January 2019)

Mercy by Carla Diaz (February 2019)

Tilting at Windmills by Debbie Vance (February 2019)

Rieb Kear (to Marry) by Adam Joseph Nazaroff (February 2019 – Summer Flash Fiction Contest Winner!)

Two Kinds of Neighborhoods by Neil Cooney (February 2019 – Summer Flash Fiction Contest Winner!)

How to Spot a Whale by Jacqui Reiko Teruya (March 2019 – Summer Flash Fiction Contest Winner!)

All the White People by Sue Granzella (March 2019)

Year of the Snake by A.J. Bermudez (March 2019)

A Sick Child by Dustin M. Hoffman (March 2019)

Holocaust Jokes by Sarah Snider (April 2019)

The Plight of the Red-Feathered Austrian Goose by E. Y. Smith (April 2019)

Seraglios of Night by Greg Sendi (May 2019)

Lessy by Jeremy T. Wilson (May 2019)

Praise Rain by Kathy Fish (May 2019)

Euphoria by Heather De Bell (May 2019)

Tropical Fascism by Gabriella Monico (June 2019)

IED by Neville F. Dastoor (June 2019)

At This Late Hour by Rebecca Turkewitz (June 2019)

Narada’s Ears by Sanjena Sathien (June 2019 – Winter Short Story Award Winner!)

Caretaker Needed by Meghan Daniels (July 2019 – Winter Short Story Award Winner!)

Damico by Joe Bond (July 2019 – Winter Short Story Award Winner!)

Another Life by Olivia Parkes (July 2019)

To Kill the Second by Di Bei (July 2019)

Century Women by Maura Lammers (July 2019)

The Engagement by Stacey Wang (August 2019)

Big Red Nation by Brett Biebel (August 2019)

Lost in Transformation by Nicole Burdge (September 2019)

1961 by Laura Demers (September 2019)

Premonition by Emily Dyer Barker (September 2019)

The Danbury Firebirds by Andrew Erkkila (September 2019)

It’s All Perfectly Natural by Emily Chiles (September 2019)

Under the System by Adrian Van Young (October 2019)

Observation Tube—McMurdo Station, Antarctica by Justin Herrmann (October 2019)

Simple Physics by Kevin Leahy (October 2019 – Flash Fiction Contest Winner!)

The Remains by Felicity Fenton (November 2019 – Flash Fiction Contest Winner!)

Homecoming by Kathryn Phelan (November 2019 – Flash Fiction Contest Winner!)

What More Do You Want? by Michael Ruby (December 2019)

The Basement Beneath the Basement by Dale Gregory Anderson (December 2019)

Dec 16

New Voices: “The Basement Beneath the Basement” by Dale Gregory Anderson

Introducing our final New Voices story of 2019: “The Basement Beneath the Basement” by Dale Gregory Anderson. Beneath the basement lies a fallout shelter, with a bottomless well. In this flash, the two young boys our story follows find the basement beneath their basement offers something a little more than safety from a nuclear fallout.

Finn never cried when he was getting it. He looked me straight in the eyes and didn’t make a sound, and in that way he was stronger. But watching Father hurt him unleashed something wicked inside me.

We lived then on the Mesabi Range in northern Minnesota, in a house with two basements. Finn said the sub-basement was a fallout shelter for a nuclear war that could happen at any time.

“If they bomb us,” he said, “we’ll bomb them right back.” He called it mortally ushered destruction.

Our town, Hibbing, was sure to get hit because it was home to the world’s largest open-pit iron mine.

“Iron makes steel,” Finn said. “Steel makes bombs.”

“And Ferris wheels,” I said.

A stout lady from Minneapolis who claimed to be our aunt said the shelter would make a nice wine cellar, but she only stayed with us once and didn’t seem to know Father never drank alcohol, except for the shallow chalice of communion wine he swallowed the first Sunday of each month.

“If she’s our aunt,” Finn said, “how come we never seen her before?”

She said we were too skinny and made a big pot of spaghetti with pepperoni that fed us for days after she was gone.

The door to the shelter was in the basement, under the stairs—solid, with five horizontal sunken panels, the white paint flaking away to bare wood. Father warned us never to go down there—it was off-limits—but Finn said the symbol on the door meant safety: a black circle set against a yellow background, with three yellow triangles pointing down. When he turned the tarnished copper knob, the door swung open, hinges creaking, onto a small landing. The light switch flipped on with a heavy click. Together, we descended the steep, rickety staircase, painted scarlet and lined with rubber slip- resistant treads so old they’d all but crumbled to dust. Finn had to duck because he was as tall as Father now, but a hundred pounds lighter, and with a backside so bruised he could barely sit down.

To continue reading “The Basement Beneath the Basement” click here.

Dec 13

New Writing on the Net: December

December’s New Writing on the Net comes a week early so we can all enjoy the holidays properly, with a fresh list of excellent new work! Kick back with a hot cup of cocoa and start perusing the best new writing on the net.

More or Less” by Caleb Crain | n+1, November 15, 2019

She walked ahead of him into the shadows. Two beds stood draped with thin coverlets, like two coffins on a tarmac. The man felt on the wall behind him for a light switch but before he could find it, the door swung to, and for a few seconds they were in the dark, their eyes unadjusted, immobilized by their blindness.

Gah Men” by Rachel Heng | Guernica, November 20, 2019

The island is forty-two kilometers across and thirty kilometers wide, fringed by waxy green jungle leaking into muddy sea. Between land and water is a rich brown swamp, a thick strip of burping soil. The swamp is filled with mangroves, their roots growing upwards, poking through the dense squelching mud like hundreds of tiny arms reaching towards the sky. A foreigner might compare this scene to that of the rivers of Hell. But to those who live on the island, they are mangrove roots and nothing more, a necessity in wet oxygen-poor earth.

The Ground is Wet and I am Light” by Leah Newsom | PANK, Fall/Winter 2019

The yard is seeping and the dog is panting. Birds fly down from wherever they usually hide and pick at the puddles, all the little bugs that live in the ground. Everything flooding up. Sweet oils from the creosote fill the air. You used to pick creosote twigs and hide them in the sun visor of my car. So it will always smell like rain, you told me. Then, when the sun glared into my eyes, I’d pull the visor down and be showered with dried, cracking leaves.

Waiting for Jubilee” by Laura Steadham Smith | Beloit Fiction Journal, November 29, 2019

But Monday morning I drive to Bayou la Batre anyway, maybe because I am a good son, or maybe because my wife is pregnant, or maybe because I own a seafood market and I don’t know what else to do. I wake early, leave Molly bunched under the covers, her knees pulled up as close as her belly will allow. She is six months along, her stomach firm and large. I kiss her cheek, and she stirs but doesn’t wake. Her blonde hair lies in ropes across the pillow. She has left tiny lists all over her bedside table. Post-It notes about job applications, grocery lists, cleaning chores. I grab a handful, think about throwing them away, but then I place them back on the table, by an old cup rimmed from red tea. It’s how she relaxes, by getting clutter outside her head. I go to my truck, parked behind our rental house, and I cross the bay. The water is calm and glassy. The sun is yellow and hot in my rearview mirror, close above the dark trees shrinking on the eastern shore. Ahead, Mobile’s office buildings stand tall and clean.

In Residence” by Catherine Wong | Shenandoah, Fall 2019

On Fridays, sometimes my parents call while I am still outside general surgery. The halls are lined with unused machines, and I take all their calls by the same empty bedside, leaned up on the rail and absently smoothing the sheets. Occasionally I have thought about changing my number, but in the end I always answer, our conversations leaden and awkward. Rebecca, they say, we went to church today, or we bought more tomatoes, or we cooked pasta and defrosted meatballs for dinner and deep-cleaned the carpet under the bed. That’s nice, I say sometimes, or really?, and then before the silence weighs too heavily, I hang up.

Curated by Nicole VanderLinden