The Masters Review Blog

Jul 13

New Voices: “The Art of Ending” by Olivia Parkes

This Friday The Thirteenth, we present a triptych that explores three unusual, historic ends. In very few words, Parkes takes us on an eerie look back at the lives (and deaths) of Camille Claudel, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Saint Bernadette. Olivia Parkes is a writer to watch.

“His mind was a mess of thickets, mud, and sudden jarring turns. It was an ill fate, everyone agreed, for the man who had practically invented landscape design.”


Camille Claudel died three times. She slipped away first when her brother Paul signed the commitment papers. “I have fallen into a void,” she wrote to a friend, of her internment at the asylum, though her letters did not get out. Neither did Camille, though the sisters tried to release her to her family several times. Her family did not want her back. Camille was not much of a housekeeper and had demonstrated a nasty habit of smashing her sculptures every summer with a hammer. Besides, they had one genius in the family already. In the asylum, she did not sculpt or sketch. Her body became a block, her hands heavy and veined as marble. Time carved the lines of a madwoman in her face. In 1920 Camille expired officially, at least according to several popular books of reference that recorded this as the year of the artist’s death. But the artist was still alive! Or was she? When she died a third and final time, twenty-three years later, it seemed somehow too late, and yet too early, to place a stone upon her grave.

To read the rest of “The Art of Ending” click here.

Jul 9

Literary Charities

This year, we asked our wonderful readers to choose four literary charities for us to make donations to, in partnership with the team over at Frontier Poetry. We’re pleased to include the charities they picked below. We have made $250 contributions to each of these organizations. These donations were made in honor of all of our outstanding readers, submitters, and literary friends. Good will is especially important these days, and we are glad to be able to spread it. We couldn’t have done so without your help.

Literacy for Incarcerated Teens 

LIT strives to end illiteracy among New York’s incarcerated teens by providing them the resources that will allow them to read; this includes books, readings, and other literacy programming. From the site: “Reading and the practice of literacy—which include access to a library and library services—is a direct way in which young people can begin to focus their identities and outlooks more positively.”

Girls Write Now 

Girls Write Now helps empower women through the written word. As they say: “The relationships we foster tear down stereotypes, building a community of women writers of all ages who work to inspire and support one another with every pair session, every reading, and every workshop.”

Books to Prisoners 

Books to Prisoners mails books to people who are incarcerated. In their words: “We believe that books are tools for learning and for opening minds to new ideas and possibilities, and engage incarcerated individuals with the benefits of reading by mailing tens of thousands of free books to inmates across the country each year.”

Writers in the Schools 

“Storytelling reveals our truest selves. Since 1983, Writers in the Schools (WITS) has worked hand-in-hand with educators and professional writers to teach students the craft of writing. WITS is transforming the hearts and minds of young people all over Houston and beyond.”

Jul 6

10 Books We’re Looking Forward To This Summer

Summer is in full swing and there are still a lot of wonderful books to come. As usual, our emphasis is on debuts and small press titles. This roundup only scratches the surface of the exciting new works out this summer, including books by our old, established pals Lauren Groff, A. M. Homes, Ottessa Mosfegh and Laura van den Berg. So kick up your feet, relax on the screen porch, in the pool, or just on your favorite comfy chair, and enjoy one of these refreshing summer reads.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai 

We are so pumped about The Great Believers that we’ve just gotta include a shoutout to our Volume VII judge Rebecca Makkai, whose outstanding novel The Great Believers hit the shelves in June. Don’t take our word for it, though. The New York Times had this to say: “It’s a pleasure, as well, when a narrative opens up worlds not familiar to most readers, when it offers actual information along with the momentum of its story and its characters.”

Publication date: June 19

How to Love a Jamaican: Stories by Alexia Arthurs

The literary world is abuzz in anticipation of Alexia Arthurs’s debut collection. Zadie Smith has this to say: “In these kaleidoscopic stories of Jamaica and its diaspora we hear many voices at once: some cultivated, some simple, some wickedly funny, some deeply melancholic. All of them shine.”

Publication date: July 24


I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arceneaux

The world really needs Michael Arceneaux’s debut collection of essays and, luckily for us, we only have to wait until the end of the month. Arceneaux’s essays have appeared in publications such as The Guardian, The Root, New York Magazine, and the New York Times. His essays describe, among other things, what it means to be a gay black man in America today.

Publication date: July 24

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

There are just so many wonderful debuts coming out in July. Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Ingrid Rojas Contreras’s first novel, is set in Colombia during the time of Pablo Escobar and told from the point of view of a seven-year-old girl.

Publication date: July 31


Let Me Be Like Water by S.K. Perry

The debut novel for Perry, who was longlisted for London’s Young Poet Laureate in 2013, relies on a budding friendship between a heartbroken girl and a retired magician. Don’t miss her book, out from Melville House in the dog days of August.

Publication date: August 14


Jul 3

Happy Fourth of July from The Masters Review

We would like to wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July from The Masters Review. We hope that you enjoy the barbecue, the fireworks, and the outdoors. We will be back at the end of the week with more literary goodies.

Jun 29

New Voices: “My History With Careless People, and Other Stories” by Christian Winn

Today, we are proud to present “My History With Careless People, and Other Stories” by Christian Winn. This irreverent and moving story examines what it is like to strive for a true human connection in a world in which people are careless, and you yourself are far from perfect. It’s surprising, dark, and real. Don’t miss this unique tale.

“A lot of times I’ve wanted it back, that hug, that series of moments, because there was a lot that would happen between Thom and me that we did not yet know would happen, and that hug was what was before all that.”

Carrie was this fat chick who lived next door and whose husband I stole, sort of, for a little while, until later she stole him back. I never liked Carrie, nor she me, but her husband, Thom, this balding sporting goods salesman, I always thought he was cute. He had a charming, gap-toothed smile that reminded me of David Letterman. Back then I loved to come home after the bar, crack a bottle of red and watch Letterman. This was when Letterman first started out, when late-night TV still seemed something you felt happy to stay up for.

One day in July, Carrie got run over by a school bus on her 10-speed. She died. And like that, Thom was a widower. And like that, their little boy, Carlton, was motherless.

I was crazy busy and didn’t hear about dead Carrie for a day and a half, though it seemed everyone else had—especially my nosey Mom and my brother, Zack. They knew details, and they didn’t even live in the neighborhood anymore. It was because our small city is not full of a lot of news about local moms dying in broad daylight beneath a school bus.

And then things got blown up even more because it turned out the bus driver was a deadbeat dad and a parole violator from three states away. This intrigued people like Zack and Mom.

Me, I felt some sadness as a fellow human, but I was mostly relieved not to have Carrie staring knife eyes at me every time I saw her. I often felt hate coming off fat dead Carrie and landing on me, and I was glad she was gone from my life.

When we ended up at Carrie’s funeral that next weekend Zack told me trustworthy rumor had it Carrie was weaving her way back from The K-Club’s happy hour, had blown through a stop light and was eating a Rueben sandwich when she got run over. Though it seemed more than halfway believable, I thought maybe this was just Zack being Zack—being an idiot, standing up for my side of things. He’d often heard me talk shit about Carrie. We are loyal people, except to our father who’s gone, out there somewhere in the world, don’t matter.

We were within the warm huddle of Carrie’s funeral mourners when Zack whispered, “My friend, Mike Cunningham, he works the grill at the K, made that Rueben special for her—extra kraut, extra sauce.”

“Doesn’t mean getting mowed down was her fault,” I said.

Someone hushed me from two rows back. I held up my middle finger.

“Rueben sando ends up half-eaten on the gory cement?” Zack whispered. “Thousand Island dressing and Swiss cheese end up across her neck?”

I shrugged.

The pallbearers, including Thom, floated her coffin through the church.

“Bet they’ll have sore shoulders tomorrow,” Zack said, snorting.

I pinched his skinny rib hard, but he didn’t flinch.

Interestingly enough, as Zack whispered the details of fat Carrie’s demise, who I felt sorriest for was that bus driver. He was fucked—arrested and humiliated with his happy I’m-a-good-man-trying-to-make-my-life-okay-again school district ID photo all over the news. Even if killing Carrie wasn’t truly his fault, it seemed pretty obvious his life was now fractured beyond repair because of a careless person’s carelessness.

To read the rest of “My History With Careless People, and Other Stories” click here.

Jun 26

July Deadlines: 10 Lit Mags & Contests with Deadlines This Month

It’s hard to believe we’re heading into the middle of summer, but we’re already nearing the end of our chances for these contests. It’s time to cross some of the items off your summer wishlist, and you can start by finally pressing that submit button!

FEATURED! Short Story Award for New Writers

Our contest has finally arrived, and we couldn’t be more excited! The Masters Review is looking for stories under 7000 words, written by emerging writers who are good with grammar and show finesse with fiction! The winner receives $3000, publication, and agency review, and the runners-up also receive cash prizes, publication, and review. Don’t miss your chance! Details here.
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: July 31 

Bellevue Literary Review Prizes

All three of the Bellevue Literary Review’s contests are ending soon, so enter now if you want to receive one of the three $1000 and publication first-place prizes! All entries should be related to themes of health, healing, illness, the mind, and the body. Maud Casey is judging fiction, Jennifer Bartlett is judging poetry, and Elisabeth Rosenthal is judging nonfiction. Honorable mention winners also earn $250 and publication! Guidelines here.
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: July 1

Richard J. Margolis Award

Inspired by journalist and essayist Richard J. Margolis, this prize has provided financial and other support to a promising journalist whose work combines warmth, humor, and wisdom with social justice since 1992. This prize recognizes one writer with $5000, and a one-month residency at the Blue Mountain Center in Blue Mountain Lake, NY. Applicants need to provide a biographical note, a project description, and two writing samples. Submission guidelines here.
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: July 1

Oregon Literary Fellowships

These fellowships are meant to help emerging Oregon writers initiate, develop, or complete literary projects, whether they are writing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or drama! Literary Arts has awarded over 600 authors and publishers since 1987, and dispensed more than $900,000 in fellowships and award monies. Submissions require the completed application and a writing sample, in triplicate, and possibly an addendum if you qualify for the Women Writers or Writers of Color fellowships. There’s a fellowship for everyone, so don’t be shy! Specific details here.
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: July 9

The Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers

These awards, presented by Nimrod International Journal through the University of Tulsa, honor the work of writers at the beginning of their careers in either fiction or poetry. Contestants can enter up to five pages of poetry, and up to 5000 words of prose. The winner of each category will receive $500 and their manuscript will be published in the spring issue of Nimrod! Details here.
Entry Fee: $12 Deadline: July 15

The Peseroff Prize Poetry Contest

Breakwater, operating from the University of Massachusetts, is searching for something new in poetry, and thus this contest specifically has no restrictions in content or form. Clearly this is a call to all poets who think that their work can make the cut! Judged by the fantastically creative Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, the winner receives $1000 and publication in Breakwater’s fall issue. Submit here.
Entry Fee: $10 Deadline: July 15


Jun 21

The Masters Review // Summer Call for Readers!

Summer is here, and we are looking for some bright new readers to join our team. If you love contemporary fiction and nonfiction, then this readership might be for you! The position involves three to four hours of reading a week, and a commitment through the end of the calendar year. All our readers work remotely and set their own schedules. Readerships begin by the middle of July.


If interested, please submit cover letter, resume, and at least one writing sample by Saturday, June 30. You can apply right here on our Submittable site. Thank you very much, and we hope to hear from you!

Jun 18

Shortlist – The Masters Review Volume VII Judged by Rebecca Makkai

We are proud to announce the shortlist for our seventh printed anthology, judged this year by the illustrious Rebecca Makkai. These thirty stories and essays represent outstanding work by emerging writers. Makkai will select ten from this list to appear in the printed anthology. Stay tuned for the finalists announcement next month! Thank you to all of the wonderful writers who submitted to this years’ anthology. It was a pleasure to read your work.

The Masters Review Volume VII Shortlist

“Life-Giving Doubt” by Ian Belknap

“The Process” by Rebekah Bergman

“Signs of Damage” by Stacy Trautwein Burns

“Summers With Dedushka” by Philip Brunst

“Rogue Particles” by Laura Demers

“The Marchioness” by Corey Flintoff

“Ben Franklin” by Kelly Flowers

“These Are My People” by Steve Fox

“Residential Units” by Marcie Friedman

“Questions for Anesthesiologists” by Robert Glick

“Little Room” by Carrie Grinstead

“Pilgrimage” by Rebecca Gummere

“Ships Made of Stone” by Sarah Helen

“We the Mothers” by Kathleen Hansen

“Doctor, Doctor, Doctor” by Blair Lee

“The Mouse and the Elephant” by Nichole LeFebvre

“Waiting” by Donna Marsh

“Why Do Voles Fall in Love?” by Una McDonnell

“Cristeros” by Bonard Molina

“Shrove Tuesday” by Jeanne Panfely

“Humane Dispatch” by Matt Plass

“Ghost Print” by Anna Reeser

“Imperative” by Beth Richards

“The Sand Nests” by Emma Sloley

“It Goes Both Ways” by Kate Simonian

“The Words to Say It” by Rosanna Staffa

“The Dumpling Makers” by Kristina Ten

“Kamikaze Dressed in Light” by Sophia Terazawa

“The Collectors of Anguish” by Andrea Uptmor

“Closer Than They Appear” by Marylin Warner

Jun 15

New Voices: “Luces” by Ran O’Wain

Today, we are proud to welcome “Luces” by Ran O’Wain to our New Voices library. In this story, Luz, the protagonist, deals with an increasingly strained relationship with his partner. At the same time, he is working on an artistic project that explores his childhood in Iowa, coming of age, and the discovery of his sexual identity. At least, that is the plan.

“In his heart and mind he was not a woman, as his biology suggested, but undoubtedly male. Never did he feel more fulfilled, more real, than in moments when, strap-on aside, he was in a position to change a tire, to build a shelf—cliché masculine performances that made Luz giddy with self-satisfaction. If Luz must choose, if he had to categorize himself then he was a gay man, butch for sure. But that’s it isn’t it, Luz thought, the crux: the O’Malley’s knew nothing of Luz and Luz had so purposefully maintained this mystification that Mother sent Christmas and Birthday cards that read To My Precious Daughter. Home is a fantasy.”

The first time Luz saw the new neighbor, he and George were fucking, not making love, no, to make love one needed some semblance of foreplay, an act the two often neglected. Neither preferred doggy-style, but ever since Bastion Hill won an American Soap Award and George was promoted to head writer, Luz had refused any other way; he hated how George stared down at him with this self-satisfied look and besides George complained that kneeling hurt his back—everything else came easily for George, after all.

Luz watched the thin man across the alley as he ran his fingers along the windowsill inside what had been, at least since Luz had moved into George’s second home in Asheville, a reliably empty apartment. Luz was transfixed and George noticed the change, the body now cold with distraction.

George plopped down on the bed, sweating heavily. Before he could say anything, ask questions—Where did you go? Where do you always go?—Luz pulled on a velour robe and went to the bathroom for a shower. When he returned, brushing out wet tangles, George stood in a pair of jogging pants at the bedroom window. “Neighbor?”

“People move out and people move in,” Luz said. “If we were crustaceans we’d have new neighbors each time the moon finished a cycle.”

“Is that true?” George asked. “Do crustaceans float with the tide?”

Luz didn’t know if this was true or not, but enjoyed the reckless imagery of crabs scattering along the ocean floor.

“I fly to the city at nine,” George said. “How about Indian food?”

Luz pulled on a pair of cotton underwear that belonged to an ex. They were thick with holes around the waistband and felt utilitarian in a way that made him want to work for long hours. This, the house and allowance, was his time to produce something great. Too many years had been spent distracted by romance and Luz didn’t want to squander the security George offered. A balance had to be struck between black lace and white cotton.

“No eating out tonight,” Luz said. “I had a vision.”

The vision, a memory: Luz lost their virginity to a boy named Wally, an act Jo Ann said didn’t count because Luz had not been penetrated, such Catholic wording, but had instead worn a strap-on. Wally, a freckled boy of sixteen who had never hid his infatuation with Freddy Prince Jr., was so eager for the experience, Luz recalled. Luz hadn’t known what type of sex he desired, not like Wally had known, but when approached suddenly Luz had never wanted anything more than to wear Wally’s jet-black dildo. Wally was still in Iowa, Luz realized, working at Game Pros in the Coralville Mall.

To read the rest of “Luces” click here.

Jun 12

June Book Review: Half Gods by Akil Kumarasamy

Today, we are proud to feature a review of Akil Kumarasamy’s debut Half Gods by our very own Will Preston. Kumarasamy’s debut follows the different members of a Sri Lankan family who flee their country’s civil war and resettle in New Jersey. Preston writes: “Indeed, Half Gods gains its emotional resonance not only from its characters’ nuanced internal lives, but from the cumulative effect of stacking these narratives next to each other. The result is a subtle and complex book that requires and rewards a reader’s attention, one that feels less like a group of individual stories and more like a sweeping family epic in disguise.”

Half Gods by Akil Kumarasamy

Every few years, somebody resurrects the old debate over whether reading books can increase a person’s empathy. On the one hand, researchers at The New School and the University of Toronto have conducted studies that suggest that, yes, projecting ourselves into the lives of fictional characters makes us more sensitive toward others. On the other, as essayist Teju Cole has observed, no less than the Nazis harbored a deep admiration for high culture, and Barack Obama’s love for Marilynne Robinson did not stop him from launching drone strikes throughout the Middle East.

I thought of this debate while reading Akil Kumarasamy’s captivating story collection Half Gods, which follows a single Sri Lankan family as they flee their country’s bloody civil war to seek asylum in New Jersey. This massive displacement echoes sharply down the family line, from Muthu, the aging patriarch who grew up on a Sri Lankan tea plantation in the 1950s, to his daughter Nalini, to her two American-born sons, Arjun and Karna. Theirs is a story irrevocably marked by loss and unbelonging, a slow, steady undercurrent of pain that leaves them as emotionally estranged from their new home as they are from their old.

Read more.

Jun 8

Interview: Rita Bullwinkel

Today, it is our pleasure to feature an interview with the incomparable Rita Bullwinkel. Her debut collection of Short Stories, Belly Up, recently came out from A Strange Object. We chatted with Rita about her path to publication, craft, cannibalism, and what we can expect to see from her next.

“And, I think, because of this, because writing is a thing I do to please myself, to remind myself that I am living, that I don’t allow my mind to get in the way with how my writing should or should not be.”

Your first collection of stories, Belly Up, just came out from A Strange Object. It’s a beautiful collection, both in terms of the vivid prose and as an object in itself. Can you tell us about your path to publication and what it was like to work with ASO?

Jill Meyers, who is my editor and the co-founder of A Strange Object, is a completely fearless warrior of words. I’ve adored working with her, and am immensely grateful that she saw a book in what was sent to her. The paper and finish of the book, as you well noted, are magnificent. Also, the interior design of the book, which was designed by Amber Morena, is incredible. The exterior of the book was designed by Kelly Winton, who also designed Maggie Nelson’s unforgettable Jane: A Murder. Winton is a master. And the hands belong to Geoff McFetridge, whose work I’ve loved since I picked up his beautiful, now shamefully out of print, compendium of visual body questions titled Studies.

Jill was very generous about allowing me a say in the visual identity of the book. She has impeccable taste in all arenas, including the visual, and so I trusted her selections for design with my eyes closed.

You have a style that I would describe—for lack of a better word—as deadpan disaster. Your characters bear witness to terrible misfortunes: In the first story, the protagonist witnesses a fatal car wreck on the way to work; in another, a man is called to sleep (in the same bed) with women in his neighborhood whose husbands have just passed; in yet another, a woman loses her husband to a heart attack. At the outset, these characters all deliver the news of these misfortunes in very matter-of-fact, unaffected language. That is not to say that these characters don’t have deep layers of emotion—they certainly do!—but these are revealed as the stories progress. The stories resist meditating on these disasters head on, which is perhaps more realistic.

This is difficult to describe, so please forgive me if I have failed altogether—but it is really admirable. How did you develop this style? (If you would agree with me,) how do you view this craft choice?

I don’t think of writing fiction as a series of choices. I think of it as compulsive, and something I can not help but do. I would write if no one told me to, and, indeed, let me be clear, no one is telling me to write, no is making sure that I write anything but me. And, I think, because of this, because writing is a thing I do to please myself, to remind myself that I am living, that I don’t allow my mind to get in the way with how my writing should or should not be. It is, simply, the things I am circling, written in the style in which I circle them. Even my earliest stories had some of the same mannerisms, and were circling some of the same things. It’s not that I think I haven’t gotten better. One must believe they are getting better, that their mind is becoming sharper, but, I’ve never had a conscious thought while writing about what kind of style I wanted to write in. The brilliant writer, Diane Williams, when once asked why her stories are so short, replied something like, “I am a pear tree. I make pears. I would be equally happy if I bore walnuts, but I don’t. Only pears to see here.” I feel similarly.

I really admired your story “Arms Overhead,” in which two girls who are just entering high school make sense of the disrespectful and violent ways that adults are starting to view their bodies (men yell at the girls from cars, teachers get angry when one girl accidentally bears her midriff) by conducting thorough research on cannibalism. Can you talk about the process of writing this story? Where did you get the idea to combine these two themes and how did you come to create these two great, complex characters?

There was a period of time between 2012-2014 where I read a lot about cannibalism. I did read historical accounts, but I mostly got stuck in these long reading bouts of news articles about modern day criminal cannibals, which nearly universally involved a man murdering a woman and then eating her limb by limb. There are a few documentaries about people who have been convicted for eating other people. And then, while I was already in this cannibalism hole, the story about the cannibal cop in Queens began to unfold. I was living in New York at the time, and had a friend who was working as a paralegal for a public defender that got assigned to defend him. So, through her, I had all this inside cannibal cop information. Every time I saw her I asked her about him, how he dressed, how he acted, what he said that was worrisome or made him seem very sad or very normal and fine. But I wasn’t interested in any of this because I wanted to write a story about it. I was just very interested. And then, in 2016, I met Mary and Ainsley, who are the two teenage girls in “Arms Overhead”, and they came to me, and it seemed that they would be likely to also be interested in cannibalism and what it implies. From what I gather, the desire to eat someone does have to do with the desire to possess them. Men want to possess women so badly that they kill them. I was interested in this desire for possession, specifically as it pertains to the way Mary and Ainsley walk through the world in “Arms Overhead”. A desired girl is already being eaten bit by bit, by the evil, dehumanizing society in which she lives. I wanted Mary and Ainsley to be able to eat the world that is trying to eat them. I wanted Mary and Ainsley to be able to figure out a way to get revenge.

What are you working on now? What can we expect to see from you next?

I am working on a novel about a youth women’s boxing tournament in Reno.
Interviewed by Sadye Teiser
Jun 7

Our Summer Short Story Award for New Writers Is Open!

The sun is out and the stories are ripe for the picking. Our Summer Short Story Award for New Writers awards $3000 and publication online. Second and third place stories will receive publication and $300 and $200 respectively. All winners and honorable mentions will receive agency review by: Nat Sobel from Sobel Weber, Victoria Cappello from The Bent Agency, Andrea Morrison from Writers House, Mark Gottlieb from Trident Media, and Sarah Fuentes from Fletcher & Company. This is a wonderful opportunity for emerging writers. DEADLINE: July 31. Check out all the details.


  • Winner receives $3000, publication, and agency review
  • Second and third place prizes ($300 / $200, publication, and agency review)
  • Stories under 7000 words
  • Previously unpublished stories only
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed
  • Emerging writers only (We are interested in offering a larger platform to new writers. Self-published writers and writers with story collections and novels with a small circulation are welcome to submit. Writers with works published with a circulation of less than 5000 copies can also submit.)
  • International submissions allowed
  • $20 entry fee
  • Deadline: July 31, 2018
  • Please no identifying information on your story
  • All stories are considered for publication
  • To view a list of our most commonly asked questions regarding submitting to The Masters Review, please see our FAQ page.

<<Submit Here>>