The Masters Review Blog

Feb 15

Ooligan Press 2018 Write to Publish Flash Fiction Contest!

We are proud to be partnering with Ooligan Press for the second time in order to publish the winner of their 2018 Write to Publish Flash Fiction contest on our site! The winner will also receive $50 and the opportunity to read their story at the 2018 Write to Publish Conference in Portland, OR. Pretty cool. Ooligan will be accepting submissions for the contest until March 1. This year’s theme is journeys and adventures, so have fun with it. Check out the submission details below and get all the info on Ooligan’s site.



-Submissions are OPEN NOW and the deadline is March 1

-Submissions must be 1000 words or fewer and explore the theme of journeys and adventures

-Submissions must be original & previously unpublished

-Submission fee: $10

Send submissions to:

Fee payable here.

Feb 13

Eight New Voices Stories To Read on Valentine’s Day

It’s almost Valentine’s Day again. Yeah, the holiday can be kind of schmaltzy, but it’s nice to have an entire day dedicated to showing affection for the people we care about. To help celebrate we have compiled a list of some of our favorite stories from our New Voices section, which features fiction and narrative nonfiction by emerging writers published online. Whether you want to celebrate your love for your partner, your family, or your pet—or if you simply want to read a tale in which all men are zombies—we have a story for you.


If your furry companion occupies a special place in your heart, you will adore Jessica Lee Richardson’s story “House Hunt.” In it, a woman searches for a new home with her best friend, who just so happens to be a lion. One of our favorite lines: “The love I had for this lion was like a stake made of piano keys driven through the throat. Thick, painful, echoing.” Just read it.


While intergalactic travel may be the principal factor uniting the Star Wars series and Samuel Jensen’s brilliant, quiet “Sarajevo,” I think that we can all agree that love stories are infinitely more romantic when they’re set in space. “Sarajevo” takes place in the future on a moon that is light years away from earth. In a cave on this distant moon, a deaf geologist miraculously hears—for the first time—the voice of her lost love. Trust us: you will be moved. Read the story here.


If you’re looking for a story about relationships that is realistic, but not romantic, you will love “That Was Me Once” by Megan Cummins. In this story, a man facing possible jail time spends an afternoon tagging along with his ex-wife. While he entertains romantic notions about this past relationship, his current girlfriend waits for him at home. He says about the two women: “I turn away from Dani, but the idea that I would go to her, if beckoned, keeps a steady pace with my love for Mara.” Continue reading here.


 In “Clean Hunters” by Lena Valencia, Emily and her husband Gabe share a passion for ghosts. They are clean hunters, searching for spirits not with fancy detection equipment, but with their natural Sense. However, when they travel to a famously haunted New England inn to celebrate their anniversary, tension in their relationship mounts. “Clean Hunters” is an illuminating examination of the notions of dependency and deception in relationships. Dive in here.


William Pei Shih’s “The Golden Arowana” is a beautiful examination of the love of family across different generations. In this story, a man and his grandmother take a road trip to claim a valuable fish. “The Golden Arowana” was the second runner up in our Short Story Award for New Writers and each one of its sentences shimmers. Read the whole story.


If you are simply done with all of the Valentine’s Day sappiness, let us suggest “Life After Men” by Dale Bridges, in which all men are zombies. The author had this to say about his piece: “Turning the male population into mindless, bloodthirsty zombies allowed me to reduce “men” to a convenient metaphor without being too literary about it. Emily has been hurt by all the men she has ever known, but she’s still drawn to them. She loves them, but she also wants them to die. I think that’s how I would feel about men if I was a young woman.” Read on.


In “Katie Flew Again Tonight” by Trent England, a man struggles with the fact that his wife can fly. He knows that, eventually, she will fly out their apartment window, never to return. This story examines our desire (and inability) to protect those we love. It is a moving meditation on marriage. Read it here.


“Iron Boy Kills the Devil” by Sheldon Costa is set in a speculative world in which drones from a large company are the only source of supplies for a small, rural town. However, it evokes the feeling of coming of age and coming into your own. This exacting story is told from the point of view of fourteen-year-old Iron Boy. It touches on the discovery of sexuality and reminds us of the power of youthful optimism in a beautiful, rough, and unforgiving world. Discover the story here.

Browse our full New Voices archive here.

by Sadye Teiser

Feb 9

Fall Fiction Contest Judged by Brian Evenson: Winners!

We are proud to announce the winners and honorable mentions of our Fall Fiction Contest judged by Brian Evenson. Their stories were selected from a shortlist of fifteen. Congratulations to the winners and a warm thank you to everyone who submitted! It was a pleasure to read your stories and we had an incredibly strong batch of submissions this year.


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

Second Place Story:

“Lepidomancy” by Maria Lioutaia

Third Place Story:

“Together, Maureen” by Amanda Emil Anderson

Honorable Mentions:

“The Deca-Life Crisis” by Jessi Lewis

“Fog Area” by Ben Sandman

The winning stories will publish on the site this winter.

Feb 6

Submissions Are Open: The Masters Review Volume VII Judged by Rebecca Makkai

Every year The Masters Review produces a print anthology that showcases the best emerging writers in the fiction and nonfiction genres. Our goal is to provide a platform for the very best new talent, and to help promising writers on their path to literary success. Ten stories and essays will be selected for our anthology, which will be distributed to agents and editors across the country. Authors will also be awarded a total of $5000. This year, we are honored to be working with the marvelous Rebecca Makkai, who will select the ten anthology finalists from a shortlist of thirty. Read all about the anthology here, and submit by March 31!

Submission Guidelines:

  • fiction and narrative nonfiction
  • 8000 word count maximum
  • international submissions allowed
  • simultaneous and multiple submissions are allowed, but please inform us if your story has been accepted elsewhere
  • previously unpublished work only
  • emerging writers only: cannot have a novel published at the time of submission (self-published authors and writers with published story collections are free to submit. Authors with a contract for a novel are also free to submit.)
  • $20 reading fee per story
  • If your work has appeared in our anthology before, we ask that you please not submit again. We warmly welcome your work in any other category.
  • Have a question? Check out our FAQ!


REBECCA MAKKAI is the award-winning author of the novels The Hundred-Year House and The Borrower and the short story collection Music for Wartime. She has won a Chicago Writers Association Award, an NEA Fellowship, and a Pushcard Prize, among other honors. She lives in Chicago and has taught at the Iowa Writers Workshop, Tin House, and Northwestern Univeristy. She is currently part of the faculty for the MFA program at Sierra Nevada college. Her next novel, The Great Believers, is forthcoming in June.


<<Submit Here>>

Feb 2

New Voices: “Mistakes of Thought” by Youmi Park

Today, we are pleased to present “Mistakes of Thought” by shimmering new voice Youmi Park. This unique and cutting story delves into what it feels like to experience injustices and acts of discrimination that go unacknowledged by those who witness them. Please join us in welcoming this exacting story to our library.

“There are these insensitive things people do and say without even knowing, without even thinking about it, and in some cases, with good intentions. I’ve heard people say, ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ In Japanese, it’s called ‘mistakes of thought.'”

I found my Mama in the front yard garden, caught up by the next-door neighbor again. That mouth-running, frizz-hair broad in jean shorts was holding a finger in front of Mama’s face, bouncing it five times in front of her eyes. She was enunciating and talking at her real slow, like Mama was an animal that wanted a treat, and I didn’t like the way Mama was looking back: like an animal that wanted to run. I know hurt when I see it. You don’t have to tell me.

So I walked out of the garage with my arms crossed and said, “What’s going on?”

Mama’s body stiffened. She had her hands cupped in front of her, holding poppy flowers, the dirt from the roots freckling her yellow dishwashing gloves, which she prefers to regular gardening gloves. That’s what she’s always used. Latex is just easier to clean and a woman’s got to be practical if she wants her work to get done. And that’s what she was doing, getting work done, planting new poppy flowers, until this neighbor got in her face with her finger and slow talk.

“What’s going on, Lilah?”

“Oh, Maki, oh, good,” Lilah said. “Come here and listen to this.”

She swung her rawhide arm around Mama’s shoulder and turned her toward me as I walked over. Mama gave me a quizzical look, wide-eyed and eager, like she was trying to convince me to feel something other than what I was feeling. Mama, she’s so small, her eyes looked like they were taking over her entire face. They were—and I can say this for certain because I got up close—wet with unease.

I kicked the empty flower carton out of my way, spreading dirt between us.

“Your mother here was telling me about her new caretaking job?” the willowy broad said. “And you know what she said? She said, ‘My schedule is set illegulaly.’” She bounced her fingers in my face. She repeated, “Ille-gul-lay.”

Mama looked up at me and shrugged.

“I told her to never say that again!” Lilah said, rattling Mama’s shoulders. “My god, what if people think she’s saying illegally? What if they think she’s an illegal worker?”

“I’ve been a citizen since 1998,” Mama said.

“Well, all the more reason that we don’t want people thinking she’s an illegal.” Lilah flashed her teeth, her stupidity damping the air and wetting her lips. “And that’s why we were having ourselves a vocabulary lesson. Say it with me, Kimmi.” She lifted that finger again. “I-rre-gu-lar-ly.”

“I-lle-gu-lal-ly,” Mama repeated.



“That’s pretty good.” Lilah turned to me, leaned forward, and whispered, “The R’s are the hardest, aren’t they?”

She smiled widely at Mama, who tightly pulled the back of my shirt. I felt like I was being suspended from a skyscraper, way up high past the atmosphere of real life, with just that point—Mama’s grip on my dirty t-shirt—holding me back from falling, arms swinging.

“That’s good, though, Kimmi! That’s really, really good,” Lilah said in baby talk. She waved her arm once and walked back to her patch of the street.

“See you both on Garage Sale Day,” she said. “Looking forward to what you have for me this year.”

To read the rest of “Mistakes of Thought” click here.

Jan 30

22 Books We’re Looking Forward To This Year

2018 promises to be a wonderful year in books. We tried to keep our list of books we are looking forward to reading this year to just eighteen, but trimming it down to twenty-two was difficult enough. As usual, our list focuses on debuts and books that are out during the first half of the year. So, dive in.

The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce

This book is already out, so read it now! In Thomas Pierce’s strong debut novel, narrator Jim Byrd struggles with the fragility of life and relationships. Holograms walk the streets, a device allows you to view your heartbeats on your phone, and a woman just may have invented a machine that can free you from the constraints of time. For all that, the novel feels incredibly familiar.

Publication date: January 9

Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

This debut novel has already hit bookstore shelves, and you shouldn’t delay in reading it. Our reviewer Katharine Coldiron writes: “Mira T. Lee’s voice is not reassuring or simple; it is alive, worthy of pursuit and concentration.” Read our review here.

Publication date: January 16


This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins

This is a debut collection of essays from an important new cultural and political voice. Jerkins writes about her own experience being black, female, and feminist and shines a light on injustices that often go unacknowledged and are too rarely discussed. Don’t miss this intelligent and incisive new voice.

Publication date: January 30

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara

Joseph Cassara’s debut novel, set in New York in the eighties and nineties, documents the experiences of Angel, one of the founders of the House of Xtravaganza, and the people she meets as part of the Harlem ball scene. Don’t miss this one.

Publication date: February 6


Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

We are not the only people looking forward to Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi’s debut novel. Its protagonist, Ada, grows up in Nigeria and leaves to attend college in America, where she is assaulted. Freshwater is narrated by Ada’s disparate selves. Don’t miss this dark, graceful new novel.

Publication date: February 13


The Sea Beast Takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen

Michael Andreasen’s debut short story collection is full of surreal and otherworldly thrills. Ramona Ausubel has this to say about it: “Full of explosions of magic, aching tenderness and star-bright writing. This is a book that will make you want to tap the person next to you and say, ‘I’m sorry to interrupt, but you have to hear this.’”

Publication date: February 27 

Awayland by Ramona Ausubel

Oh, how we love Ramona Ausubel’s stories. Though we like to focus in debuts, we couldn’t resist including this book on our list. In Ausubel’s latest collection, a mother turns to mist and a Cyclops looks for love. We’re excited.

Publication date: March 6


Carry You by Glori Simmons

Glori Simmons’ debut short story collection is being published by Autumn House Press this March. We were lucky to be able to publish “Night Vision,” a story from the collection, in our New Voices section. Read it here.

Publication date: March 7


The Natashas by Yelena Moskovich

Yelena Moskovich’s debut novel is coming out from Dzanc Books this spring. In the words of the publisher: “A startlingly original novel that recalls the unsettling visual worlds of Cindy Sherman and David Lynch and the writing of Angela Carter and Haruki Murakami, The Natashas establishes Yelena Moskovich as one of the most exciting young writers of her generation.”

Publication date: March 13

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg

Yeah, readers are pretty excited about Mallory Ortberg’s forthcoming collection The Merry Spinster, in which classic fairy tales and children’s stories are given dark twists. We can’t wait.

Publication date: March 13


Jan 24

February Deadlines: 12 Magazines with Prizes and Deadlines This Month

 These cold days are finally getting longer, but the time before these deadlines is only getting shorter! If you want to make it in time, you must write like the winter wind, and submit, submit, submit!

American Short(er) Fiction Prize

American Short Fiction and judge Amber Sparks 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 1

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!
Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: February 1

Philip Roth Residencies

This amazing residency is offered to two writers through Bucknell University, and the winners receive a stipend of $5000 and four months of lodging. They’re looking for poets over the age of 21 who are not enrolled in a college or university. You’ll need a 10 page sample of your poetry, but this could be the opportunity for you! Learn more here.
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: February 1

Portal Prize in Speculative Fiction

Presented by Easy Street, this competition is on the hunt for fiction that is truly unbelievable! Acceptable categories include fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, and others, as long as they’re written in English and don’t exceed 10,000 words. The winner receives $1000 and publication, and finalists receive $100. Submit here!
Entry Fee: $10 Deadline: February 2

Nelson Algren Award

Held annually since 1981, the Chicago Tribune’s prize is a nationally recognized contest for original short fiction. Named for the Chicago literary great Nelson Algren, it has been presented to a number of distinguished authors, and you could be next! Stories must be fiction, less than 8000 words, and completely original. The grand prize winner will receive $3500, four finalists will receive $1000, five funner’s-up will receive $500, and all entries are considered for publication. Check it out!
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: February 7

Blue Lights Book Prize

If you have an unpublished short story collection, this could be your big break! Indiana Review and Indiana University Press are currently accepting submissions for this prize. A manuscript of outstanding merit will be selected, and the winner will receive a publication contract and $2000. Do it!
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: February 9

New York City Emerging Writer Fellowship

This fellowship is limited to residents of New York City, but that is still a pool of roughly 8.5 million people, so competition is tough! Nine writers will receive the grant in 2018, and each will receive $5000, meetings with agents, two public readings, tuition discounts, and more. This program supports emerging writers who have not received major recognition for their work. If you think you are a fit, make sure you have a fiction writing sample and proof of residence. Get started here!
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: February 15

William Van Dyke Short Story Prize

If you have a story to tell, Ruminate wants to hear it! The first-place prize is $1500 and publication, and the runner-up receives $200 and publication. Submissions need to be 5500 words or less, but there are no limits on the number of entries per person. Submit here.
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: February 15

Flash Fiction Prize

This annual contest from Fish Publishing is a true challenge — can you write a compelling and resolved story in 300 words or less? Judged by Sherrie Flick, first place receives $1354 and publication, and the other nine finalists are published as well. See more here!
Entry Fee: $19 Deadline: February 28

Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers

Occurring three times a year, this is the winter 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

The Booksie Short Story Contest

Open to all genres and themes, the editors at Booksie are looking for a short story that will make them laugh, cry, and see the world in a slightly different way! The judging will be done in rounds, and the winner will receive $600, a gold badge, and extra publicity. Two runner-ups will also receive $150 and a silver badge. Do it!
Entry Fee: $6 Deadline: February 28

Women’s Prose Prize

A new contest from Red Hen Press, this prize is for any and all women writers with a previously unpublished, original work of prose! Acceptable submissions include novels, short story collections, memoirs, and essay collections, between 45,000 and 80,000 words. The winner, selected by judge Lidia Yuknavitch, receives $1000 and publication by Red Hen Press. Learn more here!
Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: February 28

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.

натюрморт с книгами

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: