The Masters Review Blog

Jan 19

From The Archives: “The Plight of the Red-Feathered Austrian Goose” by E. Y. Smith—Discussed by Benjamin Van Voorhis

E. Y. Smith’s “The Plight of the Red-Feathered Austrian Goose” appeared in New Voices in April 2019, but this story about the last of a dying species is worth looking back on for its beauty and humor and sense of loss. It’s a timely piece that, in all likelihood, will only get timelier.

Crafting the Intangible

From its very first sentence, “The Plight of the Red-Feathered Austrian Goose” feels like the kind of anecdote a friend might tell you over dinner.

“Here’s a story that you don’t hear every day,” it begins. “I once knew a man who owned the last red-feathered Austrian goose.” Casual, laden with personality, yet it’s easy to suspect there might be something important down the line—after all, this particular goose is the last of its kind. We don’t know anything about the people involved, but the stakes are already high.

He said that it came from a wintry mountainside, where the lakes had just about frozen over, and now he was adapting the goose to the winters of the Bronx. Well, I said, it just about makes sense that the poor thing would die off, seeing as geese can’t survive on mountaintops. Their feathers freeze and they can’t huddle together close enough to sustain the heat. But my friend shook his head. No, he said. It’s the people that do it. The geese’s feathers can withstand the snow and the ice, but the people can’t seem to stop hunting them. Anyway, said my friend. You should come and see the goose sometime before it’s too late. I think you’d like him.

We’re not in scene, there’s no sensory detail or direct dialogue, no real setting up of conflict—just this goose, the person who owns it, and the narrator, who makes some basic—and wrong—assumptions about the goose and why it’s the last of its species. And yet, there’s a feeling of both movement and tension here that propels us into the next paragraph. So, why does it work?

For one thing, the narrator renders all dialogue indirect (that is, in-line, un-quotation-marked). While this doesn’t create as much white space—and therefore breathing room—as direct dialogue might, it sits us firmly in the narrator’s perspective, filtering even more of the world through her telling than a typical first-person narrator would. Also, it’s worth noting that we open with contradiction. The narrator asserts herself, her friend corrects her. There’s already a disconnect between our point-of-view character and her surroundings, a move that always carries with it a sense of built-in tension.

But these decisions are circling around some pretty fundamental concepts. First, we have the narrative voice, already providing us with a strong sense of who the narrator is without us having seen her do much of anything at all. Second, the piece is starting to build an argument. (You might also call this “theme”—but I probably won’t.)

What the voice and argument of a piece have in common is that it’s easy to think of them as “intangible” craft elements—not because you can’t see them in action, or because they’re essentially unknowable, but because it’s sometimes difficult to draw a straight line between the choices a writer makes and an “effective” voice or argument, and therefore the way we as writers talk about them tends toward the floaty. With a more “tangible” craft element—say, pacing—those lines can appear straighter. A scene with more detail moves slower, and one with less detail moves faster. Easy peasy, at least in theory. But how do you define a strong voice versus a weak one? When is a story’s argument too overbearing, or failing to come through at all?

One of the great things about “The Plight of the Red-Feathered Austrian Goose” is that it’s a fantastic example of these “intangible” craft elements in action. Its sense of propulsion comes not solely through interpersonal conflict or a character’s arc, but also through a steady and intentional development of both a character’s inner life/narrative voice and an overarching external thematic movement.

The Right Words

What does it mean to say a voice is “strong” or “weak”? In fact, what is narrative voice in the first place, and why does it matter? I’ve heard writers explain it as something like the style of writing, or the quality that lend writing its uniqueness. But those are pretty vague terms, and when we’re thinking about why something works, or how to put this stuff into practice, “style” and “quality” aren’t exactly helpful.

A more useful way to think about voice, I’d argue, is as the diction and syntax a narrator is most likely to employ. Framed this way, voice becomes an extension of character rather than an extension of the writer’s sensibilities (even though of course it is); it allows a writer to think more deeply not just about who a character is at their core, but about the little decisions and qualities that inform a reader’s impression of that character, and lead us to know them intimately. Narratives with “strong” voices might employ a particularly unusual vocabulary or sentence structure. On the other hand, a “weak” voice does not a weak story make; windowpane prose can be as effective as stained glass. The strength and quality of a narrative voice is, like anything else, a conscious craft decision that creates a specific effect in the reader.

Let’s return, for instance, to the narrator of “The Plight of the Red-Feathered Austrian Goose,” and her affinity for indirect dialogue. This choice serves a couple important purposes. First, it ratchets up the strength of the voice. When you tell someone else a story in your day to day life (as in an anecdote over dinner), this is how most of us render dialogue. Therefore, it’s one of the major factors creating the piece’s “told” quality, which by the end feels almost parable-ish. Next, it gives us data about our first-person narrator, namely that she herself is not direct, that she is indecisive and unmotivated and anxious.

Other choices create this impression, too, and other, equally significant impressions. She’s impulsive (“On the subway, I was overcome with an urge to see the red-feathered Austrian goose”), judgmental (“Strange tone, I thought, from a man who doesn’t want anything to last”), and anxious again (“By now, he was expecting me, as I had sent a flurry of apologetic texts and pretty much begged him to let me see the goose, but when I got to the door, he could only ask: What do you want?”). Emphases mine. These are all character-building choices, but they’re also, crucially, choices that create a sense of momentum, and that eventually build into the piece’s argument.

A Sense of Aboutness

All stories are about something larger than themselves, of course. Having an argument is a forgone conclusion. Even the sparest stories are out to convince you the world looks a certain way, that characters really act this way or that. What’s not forgone, of course, is using a fictional setup as a vehicle to tackle some broader thematic conversation, which is at heart a craft decision like any other.

In fiction, building an effective argument is like walking a tightrope. Too vague, and readers will come away without a clear picture of what it is the writer is actually trying to say. Too overt, and readers may feel condescended to, or reject the story as mere allegory. What makes “The Plight of the Red-Feathered Austrian Goose” work on this front is that there’s nothing “mere” about it. Smith does a lot of scene work to make us believe in this world as a real, lived-in place, from the narrator’s nights out at the jazz club to the Bachelor marathon to visceral descriptions of subway rides. Including such specific, concrete details is, among other things, a way to avoid any read of this piece as simply allegory. It’s clear that the narrator is a fleshed-out character, and so is Ben, and so is the owner of the Austrian goose.

At the same time, it’s all too clear that the goose is not just a goose. Nor is Ben just a Tinder date, or the subway just a subway. All these things, in addition to being exactly what they are, build toward a sense of the ephemeral, an indictment of inaction about environmental collapse, or climate change, or whatever manmade apocalypse fits best. The narrator waits and waits before going to see the goose, and by the time she feels any sense of urgency about it, it’s already too late. There’s nothing she can do, and it’s not clear she would—or could—have done anything to help the goose in the first place.

I covered my ears. It’s a real tragedy, I said, but all my friend could do was look away toward the opened boxes. He had dug his hands into his pockets and offered me something to drink. I said, No thank you, and we stood there a while just listening to the bird. If you have courage, he started to say, but then stopped, I think, because he didn’t know what it would mean.

The narrator’s actions here work in concert with the metaphor, but they also feel like natural reactions to the situation. She really would cover her ears in response to a wailing goose, really would refuse a drink offered out of an awkward kind of hopelessness. She would, of course, project her own thoughts onto her friend’s half-sentence. If she doesn’t know what courage means, why would he?

Stick the Landing

The goose isn’t extinct yet when we leave it, but it will be, and this fits into the sense of a world coming apart at the seams, straining but not yet broken. Our narrator knows this, but she feels both helpless to act and overcome by the inertia of simply living her life—which is exactly how “The Plight of the Red-Feathered Austrian Goose” builds its argument so effectively. We’re looking at it through the lens of a character with a strong narrative voice and a rich interior life, who feels very much like she belongs in the world as Smith writes it.

The argument, in other words, is not an argument at all. It’s a question with the force of an argument, felt most acutely when Smith lets the veneer slip just a little bit, just enough to see the bitter irony of it:

Below me, the people dawdled, certain that there could not be a red-feathered Austrian goose. I told myself that it was fine. That there could not be a better ending. That there were all sorts of special geese. That we were too important.

Finally, the narrator sees the goose as Smith wants us to see it: a zero-sum game. The goose’s death can only be a net benefit to the human race. But that the narrator has to “tell herself” this says exactly the opposite, that the loss matters because it is a loss, and that it’s devastating for exactly the same reason. That the human race can be, in the end, just as ephemeral as a red-feathered Austrian goose.

But Smith, wisely, doesn’t let us land on this note. We return to the narrator’s physical space, a set of concrete, grounding details:

We were stuck in a tunnel for a long time, and I thought that the conductor might say anything, but he stayed silent on the intercom until we started moving again. He made up some story about a delay in the communications or static interference. Some reason.

Because we’re in scene, it feels like we’ve come a long way from the opening paragraph. But at the same time, we’re exactly where we started. Indirect dialogue, the casual dismissiveness of “Some reason,” the thematic resonance of a person failing to acknowledge a problem and the narrator’s assumption that he’s fabricated an excuse. The echoes are subtle, but they create a sense of cohesion that’s all the more powerful for how little these moves draw attention to themselves. In many ways, we’re in the same place we’ve been the whole time—a world, an argument, and a voice strong enough to take us through it.

by Benjamin Van Voorhis

Jan 16

New Voices: “Used Scars” by Patrina Corsetti

“We were all being watched. At least that’s what we thought.” Today in New Voices, we are excited to share “Used Scars” by Patrina Corsetti! In this story, a paranoid expat in China witnesses what she believes to be a violent assault in the apartment across the alley. But the reality of what she saw is questioned by her companion and she must fight through delusions to understand what she saw, understand, in the end, her own inaction. Corsetti’s clipped prose propels us into the bleakest alleys, never slowing down to let us catch our breath. Hang on and read below.

Out on the balcony, I sat on the ground next to a splatter of Gino’s dried blood. Across the alley, a rat climbed in a window and my girl crawled out a different one. She didn’t have a fancy expat balcony like me. She had to use a window to get to her laundry. She took her time clipping the wet clothes. She knew I was watching her. She knew I could see her right eye swelled shut. We chatted about the weather: hazy, polluted with a chance of smog. No rain. Nothing to clean the air was on the horizon.

We were all being watched. At least that’s what we thought.

Sometimes, we even imagined the watching into existence so that we had an excuse for our paranoia, which was very real.

“Don’t let them think you don’t want to be watched,” Ed With The Bad Teeth had said.

Tomorrow when I can stand straighter, I will remove those thick curtains strung across the balcony’s sliding glass door. Then they will know I have nothing to hide.

I’d been home from Huizhou’s only foreign-owned bar for about an hour, soaked with enough whiskey for one night and part of one morning. First, I arranged my one-room apartment to look unarranged because Gino would be coming over and I wanted to come across as nonchalant. Gino was a full-blown expat and the only other American I knew living in the city. I had a teaching contract that expired at the end of the summer and then I’d be gone, hopefully earlier if I could sneak away while no one was looking. Once my room had just the right amount of indifference, I watched Huizhou, China twinkle from the balcony and I waited. Gino hadn’t told me he would stop by; I just knew. I’d been seeing things for a while and hearing voices for even longer, some real, some imagined, some both. I was afraid to know the difference.

Before I’d left the bar, one of those expat scumbags had slipped me a dumpling. Those rat fuckers loved to slip things. They knew I was off the dumplings. They knew the stuffing made me paranoid. There was no telling what I had unknowingly digested and now I wouldn’t sleep. I’d just missed zoning out to 30 Rock, the only program aired in English each night so I lit a cigarette. There was nothing else I could do except to breathe in and to breathe out and to wait.

It was humid. Garbage was burning. Air particles hummed. Everybody smoking cigarettes or strung out on the night and afraid to sleep was watching. I wanted to say I knew something bad was about to happen, but I couldn’t remember how.

“I believe the word you are looking for is premonition, Teacher Voice said.

“Premonition?” I asked.

“Yes, premonition. It means to have a strong feeling that something unpleasant is about to happen,” Teacher Voice said.

“Premonition. Yes, that’s it. Thank you.”

I’d only been living in China for half a year but had already lost the ability to remember hundreds of common words on the spot. I started hearing Teacher Voice a few months back. She rescued as many of those unstable words gathering on the slick edge of my memory as she could. She’d talk them down from the ledge, wrap a blanket around their shaking shoulders, safely bring them back to my vocabulary. We both knew that eventually she would no longer be able to reason with them. Soon they would insist on jumping and be gone forever. This was not paranoia. It was bound to happen.

“The word you are looking for is inevitable,” Teacher Voice said.

“Oh, yeah. Inevitable,” I said.

“Yes, inevitable. It means unavoidable,” T.V. said.

“That does sound right. Thank you.”

I puffed away, watching the countless uncovered windows glow above the streets of Huizhou. Then, watching only one uncovered window because it was impossible not to.

Before I saw her face go down in the window across from my balcony, I sparked my lighter for a second smoke. Then her body fell. Not a slow, graceful fall. Not a timber of a fall. She got chopped hard and fast, hair and limbs and bark crashing to the couch. After her face went down, I smoked one and half cigarettes. I smoked one and half cigarettes and picked at the zit collection sprouting heads on my chin before I did one goddam single thing to try to stop it.

To continue reading “Used Scars” click here.

Jan 12

January Book Review: The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley

The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley ruthlessly interrogates what it means to be successful as a Black woman, a Millennial, and a liberal living in an urban center” writes reviewer Joanna Acevedo in her first TMR book review of 2023. Cauley’s debut released earlier this week from Soft Skull Press. Check out the full review at the link below!

The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley ruthlessly interrogates what it means to be successful as a Black woman, a Millennial, and a liberal living in an urban center. Protagonist Aretha has it all—a so-called “good job” at a corporate law firm, a best friend, Nia, who is a well-off private practice therapist, and an active dating life, but she still craves more. She wants to make partner at her law firm, not because it’s what she really wants, but because it’s what she thinks it’s what she’s supposed to want, and she wants to meet the perfect guy, because deep down, she’s lonely. When she meets Aaron, roaster for Tactical Coffee, on a dating app, everything seems like it’s written in the stars. But is it?

Read more.

Jan 10

A Conversation With Jen Michalski, Author of The Company of Strangers

Jen Michalski is the author of three novels, three short story collections, and a couplet of novellas. Her latest novel, You’ll Be Fine, was a 2021 Buzzfeed “Best Small Press Book,” a 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist, and was selected as one of the “Best Books We Read This Year” by the Independent Press Review. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Poets & Writers, The Literary Hub, Psychology Today, Writer’s Digest, and more. She’s the editor of the online literary weekly jmww and currently lives in Southern California. The Company of Strangers is out today through Braddock Avenue Books.

Curtis Smith: Congratulations on the publication of The Company of Strangers. I really enjoyed it. I’m also a big fan of Braddock Avenue Books. This is your first book with them—how did you hook up with Jeff Condran and the BAB team? How’s the experience been?

 Jen Michalski: Thanks, Curtis! I don’t know when I’ve never not been aware of Braddock Avenue Books—I remember doing some readings with Aubrey Hirsh when she was promoting Why We Never Talk About Sugar almost a decade ago, and I really enjoyed your novel, Lovepain, and the years in which they published the Best Small Fictions series, Tyrone Jaeger’s books, Cliff Garstang, so they’ve always been on my radar in terms of independent presses publishing quality authors—and also one of the places that champion short fiction, which are becoming more difficult to find. So yeah, I was definitely excited that Jeff Condran dug the collection and offered me a contract. The editing process has been really top notch, and I absolutely love how the books look physically. So much in the independent press world is out of your hands, so it’s been nice to feel secure with an experienced press, that they have my back.

Last year you published a novel, You’ll Be Fine, and when I look back on your career, you have a steady back and forth between novels and story collections. How do you compare the process of writing a novel and a story collection? When you start a novel, do you see it all the way through—or do you go back and forth between a novel and cycles of stories, depending on what’s calling you? What are the challenges and rewards unique to each of these endeavors?

Good question! I don’t always know, starting out, when I’m writing a short story and when I’m writing a novel. Usually I have an idea for the story, a point of view, and an arc of some kind, by the time I’m sit down to write. But sometimes I’m eight thousand words in, and I realize, “I either need to break this idea down into a smaller frame or I need to see where it goes and how I feel when I get to say, fifteen thousand words.” More than once, I’ve found myself in the no-writer’s land of the novella—in fact, the last story in this collection, “Scheherazade,” was something I envisioned as a ten or fifteen page short story but wound up being fifty pages. What I find is that I fall in love with some characters and I’m not ready to leave them yet. I know there’s something that I need to help them with, and I keep writing until I find it and leave them at that proverbial fork in the road to make that decision for themselves. So, no, the approach isn’t much different, but the results may vary.

As far as alternating back and forth between publishing novels and collections, I think the even ratio has been mostly happy accident, although I tend to have, like a lot of authors, a lot of coals in the fire. I usually work on a novel steadily for many years, but there are little spots in-between when I need a break or I’m stuck and a new idea catches my attention and I’ll wind up writing a story or two. More than once, surprisingly, that story has also turned into a novel, and I’ve found myself working on two novels at once! I love working on multiple projects, writing in different gears. I never feel trepidation when firing up the laptop, because I know if I encounter a roadblock in one place, there’s always a detour. For me, it’s just working a different corner of the puzzle for a while. Of course, the big payoff is always the novel, but the disappointments can also be greater too, after investing many years in a book.

That’s interesting—I do the same—but I have to be careful, because sometimes I find one project subconsciously bleeding into another—sometimes it’s a tone or vibe—and sometimes it’s something more concrete, like a scene or even a character. When I put one manuscript away, I have to box it up with a note of where it stands and where I envision it going. Have you ever had any spillover between the projects you’re juggling? And if so, has it led you down any unexpected paths?

I’m not careful of it at all, actually, because sometimes I discover I am working on the same thing, just with different approaches. For instance, The Summer She Was Under Water began as two projects, years apart, that I realized were actually one. I think this is more common than we realized, as I’m convinced that Louise Erdrich’s The Night Watchman had the same genesis—two stories that Erdrich combined.

I really enjoyed these stories. I found your characters very relatable—all of them slightly unmoored, lost to one degree or another—yet all still yearning and searching and trying somehow to connect. As you consider the world—and yourself—can you identify where these tides are coming from and what they’re speaking to in our current landscape?

I always thought when I got to college that I would major in psychology or pre-med—I’ve always been interested in the “why” or “how” of people, but I wound up majoring in English instead, unsurprisingly. I’ve always seen my writing, even as a teenager, as sort of field notes on humanity. Writing has always been my way of getting into other people’s heads and seeing how they deal with situations, trying to understand how other people work. How people connect when there’s so much noise in the way. It’s also because I often feel as if I have no idea what I’m doing in my own life and I need help! As a child, I remember mimicking my friends’ and cousins’ habits, their likes, because I had a bit of a “grass is always greener” mindset, that other kids were happier, more confident, knew something I didn’t. I suppose we all did that, though, right, as a way to relate, or imitation as flattery or something? I remember having a crush on Dickie, a pitcher on my little league team (who, you may notice, makes an appearance in this collection!). Anyway, because Dickie chewed his fingernails, I began to chew my fingernails. It took me years to stop chewing my fingernails after that.

As to the broader perspective, I mean, I feel like everyone’s been kind of lost since COVID-19. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as many people are questioning structures (office work, mindless consumerism, capitalism) that may be outdated. We’re living in the climax of a story right now; the only scary thing is the denouement.

It’s interesting that you mention COVID. Has the pandemic found its way into your work? I feel it, crouching outside my storylines, but I don’t know when—or if—I’ll be able to address it directly. And perhaps I never will for fear of addressing something that will hopefully just be a memory someday. Have you wrestled with it yet—or is it on your radar?

I went in whole hog at first—the first draft of my novel-in-progress included a mysterious virus that had begun to encroach on the West Coast from Asia. I was having a great time with it, thinking I was writing the next bestselling thriller, until a year later, when suddenly it seemed stale, and I took it out and resigned myself to the fact I was again writing the usual literary fiction novel.

I often talk to my students about access points—how an author finds their way into a fictional world. For some it’s a situation, for others character or mood or setting. Do you have a go-to access? If so, can you return to one of the stories in this collection and tell us how it evolved from that moment of access?

This is a great question! Usually for me it’s an image, or a sentence. Often I just hear a voice, too—the cadence, rhythm, of the sentences. Other times, it’s just a riff off a seemingly innocuous thought. For “Eat a Peach,” I’d just visited the farmer’s market in Beverly Hills. I’d gotten a free sample of toffee from the Littlejohn Toffee Company and browsed the peaches. Then, as I was sitting in the food court area, I thought about how easy it would be to meet someone there for, say, a first date, but also how easy it would be to slip away, into the crowd, if you decided you wanted to bail. The rest of the story coalesced around that. The best stories (for me) take a moment from my own life, like a projector slide, that I reimagine the scene to life with different actors, wanting different things.

The book’s cover of surfers on a beach brings up a question about place. We know each other from your Baltimore days, but now you’re in California—and I wonder how this move has found its way into your work. Do you find yourself bringing an east-coast lens to your new life—while at the same time, looking back on your old home with a new perspective?

FYI, the cover for The Company of Strangers is one of my own photos of Carlsbad State Beach, near our house! We get to enjoy some of the most incredible sunsets on the Pacific here. Ironically, most of these stories predate my summer 2019 move to Southern California, except for “Scheherazade.” I always thought that, when I was in Baltimore and writing a lot of stories based there, that setting was important, but now that I’m in a strange land where everyone surfs and eats fish tacos, I find myself drawn to the same interior landscapes of characters that I was at home. I mean, the stories in Company are set in a variety of places—Nantucket, Los Angeles, Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona—but many of the characters are struggling with the same desire for connection. I’ve realized, for me, that setting provides great texture, like a corduroy shirt, or anchoring bass riff, like the one in “Billie Jean,” but the most important thing is still the person wearing the shirt or Michael Jackson’s voice singing the song.

One of the most important choices we bring to our stories is point of view. In your collection, you have first, second, and third person—along with direct address. When you set out to write a piece, is point of view pretty firmly established—or are there stories you finish then toy around with other points of view before finding the one that works best?

It’s rare that I will change a point of view of a story. I usually can’t even begin to write it if I don’t hear the “voice” in my head. That said, I don’t have a particular preference for any point of view and find them all useful—usually the type of story I’m writing will dictate the point of view, but it’s an innate decision, like changing a gear on a bicycle, not one with which I consciously grapple. I will say that if I use second person I tend to do so in much-shorter stories, because that point of view can be harder to sustain over time. The titular story actually started out as a genderless second-person story—I didn’t want the reader to assume that Casey was either a man or a woman, and it was interesting to see how my writing group read it when they thought the character was one gender or another. When it was accepted by Frigg, however, Ellen (the editor) persuaded me to reconsider. I guess the short answer to this question is that I do consider form often, how stories are told, but it’s baked into the story before I ever sit down to write it—the same way, I guess, someone writing a song on the piano is going to write in A-minor or whatever, without consciously debating with themselves about it, because that’s what they know that particular song needs.

What’s next?

I’m cleaning up the final draft (I hope!) of that aforementioned novel in progress, called All This Can Be True. Even though the COVID-19-inspired theme is no loner, the inciting incident still remains—I had this image in my head of a woman waking up to a phone call from the hospital telling her that her husband just woke up from a coma. After she hangs up, she turns to the person next to her in bed—another woman—in a panic. What happens if you’ve given up someone for dead, started on a new life, and then your old life comes calling for you? What do you owe that old life?

I remember reading Ann Clausen’s The Dive from Clausen’s Pier many moons ago, in my twenties, even before I started writing and sending out work. It always stuck with me, and, subconsciously, I think I’ve always wanted to write my own version of that. I love that fiction is actually a dialog between writers and readers—that I’ve responded to Ann Clausen’s work in this way, and that some future someone will respond—hopefully—to my response. Like my characters in my stories, I’m always yearning to connect.


Curtis Smith’s most recent novel, The Magpie’s Return, was named an Indie Pick of the Year by Kirkus. His next novel, The Lost and the Blind, will be released in September 2023.

Jan 9

New Voices: “Fishing” by Yiwei Chai

The first New Voices story of 2023 comes to us from Yiwei Chai. “Fishing” narrates the story of Nathelie’s return from the boonies, upon which she finds herself locked outside of her sister’s house. Across the short space of this story, as something sinister seems to lurk in the shadows, behind every closed door, it becomes clear that Nathelie’s state of mind is deteriorating. Watching it all unfold is Fish the cat. Read our first story of 2023 below!


There are pictures of their mother, too, and a few of their father as well. She turns them all face-down, so that the burglar will not be able to recognize the faces. The family portrait above the couch is the most difficult to hide. She has to put down the shovel again to prise it off the wall, kneeling into the couch with her arms outstretched to grip each side of the canvas.

She thought going to the boonies would help things, but after a month and a half she is back. Her sister only picks up after the third consecutive call.

“I’m outside your house,” she says.

“What?”

“I rang the doorbell and everything. Are you trying to avoid me?”

“God, Nathelie. I’m not home. It’s Tuesday. Are you really there?”

“I can hear someone inside.”

She can hear noise in the background over the call, too. Voices, indistinguishable. There is a sudden absent sound, as though her sister has pulled the phone away from her mouth, and then brought it back.

“Just—okay. I get off work in two hours. Can you just, I don’t know, there’s a park at the end of the street, you know the one I’m talking about. Go hang out at the coffee stand there. I’ll meet you when I’m done.”

“Who’s in your house?” Nathelie asks.

“I don’t know. No one. You’re probably just hearing the cat.”

“It sounds like a person to me.”

There is silence, like her sister is about to say something, but changes her mind. She says, “Nathelie, there’s no one there, okay? Look, I have to go, I can’t keep talking on the phone while I’m at work. Just go to the park, okay? If you don’t want to do that, go home and I’ll drop by when I’m done.”

Her sister hangs up. Nathelie keeps the phone at her ear for a moment, just listening to the beeping tone. Then, she turns her attention back to the house. It hasn’t changed. The last time she was here, they got into a screaming match in the backyard. She can’t remember what it was about. Her sister’s husband just stood in the corner over the grill. She still doesn’t know what her sister sees in him. The daughter was there too. Nathelie left after the girl started crying.

The house is painted a pale grey color; two modest stories in a squat suburban style. In one of the ground floor windows, the curtain hasn’t been drawn shut all the way. Nathelie can see the living room through the gap; the family portrait is hanging over the faux-leather sofa. It looks like their mother’s house, only one of the daughters is missing. As far as she can tell, there is no one in the living room. Whoever it is has to be further back in the house. If her sister isn’t lying, then maybe it is a burglar.

To continue reading “Fishing” click here.

Jan 5

January Book Review: Collateral Damage: 48 Stories by Nancy Ludmerer

Welcome to 2023! Our first review of the year looks back on former TMR contributor Nancy Ludmerer’s debut collection, Collateral Damage: 48 Stories, which was published in October by Snake Nation Press. The review, written by another former TMR contributor Joy Guo, calls the collection “a lesson in economy, a master class in saying just enough.” Dive in to the full review a the link below!

Published by Snake Nation Press in October 2022, Nancy Ludmerer’s debut collection of short stories in Collateral Damage: 48 Stories is a lesson in economy, a master class in saying just enough—about both damage by others and at our own hands, as well as the subsequent attempts to repair, though the fault lines along which damage stops and repair begins are never clearly marked.

Read more.

Jan 3

’22 September Selects: Winners!

Happy New Year! We are thrilled to announce the winning selections from our first September Selects special call. We had so much fun reading the submissions to this pop-up weekend series, and we hope to run more of these special calls in the future. Check back in February to read the winning entries and learn a little more about our four winners. Congratulations, finalists!

Hermit Crab

A Dictionary of How Things Break by Nora Studholme (publishing 2/6)

“Anti-Love”

Behind the Falls by Paulette Pierce (publishing 2/14)

Sudden Stories

The Woman in the Tree by Lisa Beebe (publishing 2/21)

Stories in Second Person

You Body by Rosalind Goldsmith (publishing 2/27)

Dec 31

Last Day to Submit: Chapbook Open 2022

Today is the last day to submit your prose chapbooks to The Masters Review’s Chapbook Open! We’re looking for collections of flash, mini novellas, forty page short stories, braided essays,  eclectic brainchildren, experimentations, and anything else that fits into a twenty-five to forty page window (provided it could be classified as prose). Find the full details below!

Open Until 11:59pm PST!
submit

Each fall, The Masters Review holds an open call for chapbooks. We want to publish your collections of flash, your mini novellas, your 40 page short stories. We want to publish your braided essays, your eclectic brainchildren, your experiments. However you want to tell your story, we want to read it. (As long as it’s between 25-45 double-spaced pages.) The submission window will be open for the final four months of the year, and The Masters Review staff will select a small shortlist of our favorites to pass along to a Kim Fu, author of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, who will select the winning manuscript.

The winning writer will be awarded $3000, manuscript publication, and 75 contributor copies. We’re seeking to celebrate bold, original voices within a single, cohesive manuscript of 25 to 45 pages. We’re interested in collections of short fiction, essays, flash fiction, novellas/novelettes, longform fiction or essays, and any combination thereof, provided the manuscripts are complete (no excerpts, chapters, works-in-progress, or other incomplete work). We are NOT interested in poetry. (We’re sure your poetry is fantastic, but we’re not qualified to judge its merit!)

The Masters Review staff will select a shortlist of 5-10 chapbooks to pass along to our guest judge, who will select the winning manuscript. Our judge will provide a brief introduction for the manuscript upon publication. The published manuscript will be available for sale as a physical copy and distributed digitally through our newsletter. Last year’s winning book, Love at the End of the World by Lindy Biller, selected by Matt Bell, will be published in the spring. Digital and print copies will be available.

Guidelines:

  • Winner receives $3000, manuscript publication, and 75 contributor copies
  • Second and third place finalists will be acknowledged on our website
  • Manuscripts should be between 25-45 pages (not including front/back matter) with each story beginning on a new page
  • Manuscripts should be double-spaced and paginated
  • Manuscripts should include a Table of Contents (if necessary) and an acknowledgements page listing any previously published material within the manuscript
  • Manuscripts may contain some previously published work, but the published work cannot have appeared in any other chapbook or full-length collections
  • Self-published chapbooks are previously published and therefore ineligible
  • No poetry chapbooks, please (we will consider chapbooks which contain some prose poetry)
  • Electronic submissions only
  • Single author manuscripts only
  • International English submissions allowed (No translations)
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed (Please withdraw submissions if they are accepted elsewhere.)
  • Emerging writers only; writers with book-length work published or under contract with a major press are ineligible. (We are interested in offering a larger platform to new writers. Authors with short story collections are free to submit unpublished work, as are writers with books published by indie presses.)
  • Entry fee: $25
  • Deadline: December 31, 2022
  • Individual stories or essays within the manuscript may be considered for publication in our New Voices series
  • We are not requiring blind submissions for this contest
  • Editorial letters for up to 3 individual pieces within the manuscript may be requested
  • A significant portion of the editorial letter fees go to our feedback editor, according to the rates established by the EFA
  • Friends, family and associates of the final judge are not eligible for this award
  • Please e-mail contact at mastersreview.com with questions

We don’t have any preferences topically or in terms of style. We’re simply looking for the best. We don’t define, nor are we interested in, stories identified by their genre. We do, however, consider ourselves a publication that focuses on literary fiction. Dazzle us, take chances, and be bold.

Judging

Kim Fu is the author of, most recently, the story collection Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, which received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Foreword, Booklist, Shelf Awareness, and Quill & Quire. Fu’s first novel, For Today I Am a Boy, won the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, as well as a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Her second novel, The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, was a finalist for the Washington State Book Awards. Fu’s writing has appeared in Granta, the Atlantic, the New York Times, Hazlitt, and the TLS. She lives in Seattle.


submit

Dec 28

January Deadlines: 10 Contests and Prizes with Deadlines This Month

It’s turning out to be a blisteringly cold winter, so stay inside, make sure to warm up your hands, and then get started writing. We can’t wait to see what you submit!

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, written by emerging writers who can take chances and be bold! The winner receives $3000, publication, and agency review, and the runners-up also receive cash prizes, publication, and review. Judged by the fantastic Morgan Talty! Details here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: January 31

The 2023 MR Prize

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

Entry Fee: $16 Deadline: January 1

Steinbeck Fellowships in Creative Writing

The Steinbeck Fellows Program of San José State University, endowed by Martha Heasley Cox, is looking for emerging writers of any age and background! Their creative writing fellowship accepts work in fiction, drama, creative nonfiction, and biography (but not in poetry). Accepted fellows will receive a $15,000 stipend, interaction with other writers and faculty, and monthly readings. Each application needs to include a prospectus, resumé, three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample. See more here!

Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: January 3

Desert Writers Award

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

Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: January 15

The Big Moose Prize

If you’ve recently finished writing a novel, here is an opportunity to get published! Black Lawrence Press is awarding this prize, and it’s open to new, emerging, or established authors. They allow traditional novels as well as novels-in-stories, novels-in-poems, and other hybrid forms. The winner receives $1000, book publication, and 10 copies of their book. Learn more here.

Entry Fee: $27 Deadline: January 31

The Iowa Review Awards

In this threefold contest offered by The Iowa Review, contestants can submit entries for fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Multiple entries are allowed, and different genres constitute different entries. The fiction judge is Louisa Hall, the nonfiction judge is Inara Verzemnieks, and the poetry judge is Donika Kelly. Prose submissions may be up to 25 pages, and poetry submissions may be up to 10 pages. The winners in each category receive $1500 and publication. Choose the correct category when you submit, and good luck! Details here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: January 31

New Millenium Awards

There’s a little something for everyone in this contest, presented by literary journal New Millenium Writings! Writers can send in submissions for poetry, fiction, flash fiction, or nonfiction, with no restrictions on style or subject matter. Fiction and nonfiction must be less than 7500 words, flash fiction must be less than 1000 words, and poetry may include three poems less than five pages long. First place in each category receives $1000, a certificate, publication online and in print, and two copies. Select finalists may also be published and receive complimentary copies. Don’t wait!

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: January 31

Short Memoir Prize

This annual contest from Fish Publishing is a true challenge – anyone’s memoir can be captivating, if written to turn the ordinary into a masterpiece! Judged by Sean Lusk, first place receives $1035 and publication, and the other nine finalists are published as well. See more here!

Entry Fee: $19 Deadline: January 31

The Screw Turn Flash Fiction Competition

The Ghost Story is looking for the finest work they can find that incorporates the uncanny, as long as it’s less than 1000 words! Stories don’t need to involve ghosts specifically, but they do need fresh perspectives and superb writing. The winner receives $1000 and both online and print publication. Submit here!

Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: January 31

swamp pink Prizes

These are actually three contests offered by Crazyhorse, looking for exceptional writing and outstanding poetry! The judges are Matthew Olzmann for poetry, Melissa Faliveno for nonfiction, and Jamil Jan Kochai for fiction. Submissions may be up to 25 pages, or a set of 1-3 poems, and the winner of each contest receives $2000 and publication. Make sure to select the correct contest for your submission! Submission details here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: January 31

by Kimberly Guerin

Dec 20

Stories that Teach: “Violations” by Catherine Lacey—Discussed by Brandon Williams

When we think of teachable stories, we often reach deep into the rucksack of the literary past, pulling out classroom-tested stories that have worked their way into the canon. While there is obviously a ton to learn from these pieces, contemporary short story writers are also completing strong work built upon teachable literary foundations, while also finding fascinating ways to advance the form. In this space, we’ll highlight some of these more modern stories and explore a bit of what they have to teach us as we continue to do our part to push literature forward.

In “Violations” by Catherine Lacey (published in Harpers), a man is consumed by the idea that his writer ex-wife may write about him. The idea is equal parts appalling and thrilling to him, though she has assured him many times that she does not write about her life nor the people or things in it. This is either blatantly false or willfully misleading, but is the theoretical underpinning with which she paints him as patently ridiculous for thinking he might ever find himself in her work; this absolute certainty of hers that she would never do such a thing (while also admitting all writing does this to a certain extent; and while having been accused in the past by others of having done exactly this) also leads to some of his own internal struggle as he tries to determine whether he is more terrified of finding himself on the page or of never existing in her pages at all.

Once he opens a magazine in which a story of hers is published, the complications complicate themselves quickly: He is certain that he recognizes their relationship inside the story, but the pieces that he sees are emotional beats rather than actual details. Even the physical details he can point to as being recognizably himself or his wife are twisted slightly, repurposed in the text. Is that writing about him, or is that using what the writer knows as a template for larger exploration, or is that simply the natural similarities of life expressing themselves? Well, yes.

Plot as Style

It’s a rare story that builds its plot through style, but that’s exactly what makes this story so interesting. The ostensible question at the heart of this piece circles around whether or not the man is right to be concerned (and whether he has the right to be concerned—in other words, does he control his narrative when his narrative is being told by someone else?), as he spends much of his time in the story trying to decide whether he has or has not been written about. Of course, there are two literary techniques that twist that mystery of his permanence-in-fiction: first, the man is not a traditional protagonist for whom we as readers are supposed to root, meaning that we read his concern but do not empathize with it—rather, all this time and energy he spends in determining his existence or non-existence in his ex-wife’s fiction is played to make the reader view him as ridiculous, pathetic, self-centered, uncultured, and even misogynistic; and second, the style in which this piece is written gives us a fairly major clue to the mystery of whether he is or isn’t being written about. It’s that second point that interests me, as a writer looking to learn from this story.

Has he been written about? Of course he has, quite clearly, because we are reading about him. Moreover, the author who has written about him, in this story that we’re reading in our digital hands, uses the exact style described to be the hallmark of the author to whom he speaks. As such, in the narrative framework of this piece, the author of this story we’re reading is really writing about his concern with being written about while the author inside the story is telling him that she will never write about him. But, at least if style is to be believed, the author inside the story is also the narrator of the story, writing about him imagining himself as a main focus point of her story—and to take that one meta-level further, is also seemingly the actual author of the story. And again, we build this argument exclusively and entirely through the linguistic style at play. Whoa.

* * *

There’s also so much I love about this piece on a conceptual level. I love the way that this story plays with the questions around power, and I love the way that it both subtly and not-so-subtly digs into the challenges and hardships of using reality as foundation for art; yes, it’s something we do as artists, and yes there’s a long tradition of it, and yes it’s almost certainly legal, but also it hurts the real people being used. It shouldn’t be difficult to acknowledge that added dimension, but so often in modern storytelling (and most other modern arguments, I might posit) we find ourselves defending the ability to do something so vociferously that we refuse to acknowledge the drawbacks to that ability. Please note: nowhere in that am I saying we don’t have that right, nor that ability, nor am I saying we shouldn’t write those stories. But is it that hard to admit that it hurts to be made into someone else’s art at the expense of one’s own privacy? Even for a dude so certain that he must be the center of his ex-wife’s story, that can be true.

This ability to show multiple angles of a situation has long been one of the things I admire most about Lacey’s writing. In the hands of a lesser writer, the narrator of this story is a pathetic buffoon for not bowing to the necessities of art and nothing more. In the hands of Lacey, he is that-and. We can see him in all his self-serving misery, can recognize that his version of events is skewed badly, can refuse to give him the pity for which he is begging, and yet are still able to see the places where the writer’s argument falls somewhat flat as well.

Technique

How does the story pull all this off? On a technical level, there are a few things I want to point out.

First, the long and winding sentences (seriously, look at that opening paragraph!). So much of the complication that Lacey is able to add into the story comes from the willful divergences that she explores clause by clause. Unmoored from the forced motion of short, Hemingway-esque sentences—since he’s name-dropped in the story, with “those quick little school-of-fish sentences”—this piece can dive deeply into all angles of every situation, staying in a moment long enough to add nuance to every statement. These aren’t long sentences for the sake of length, chaining together a bunch of “ands” to move us through moments, and these aren’t sentences forced overlong to encompass unnecessary description or padded adverbs. Rather, these are sentences deeply focused on their subject, each clause turning and tuning our understanding of the moment.

That awareness of sentences leads nicely into a quick discussion of the use of point of view in this piece. What could be a fairly straightforward third person past tense POV reveals itself quickly to be anything but. This plays in with what I was discussing before—the inherent uncertainty as to what exactly is happening (is he being written about? Is he an idiot for thinking so? Is he an idiot for thinking he wouldn’t be? Does it matter what he thinks at all?) comes from the play being utilized in point of view: we’re used to third-past being a storytelling POV, an impartial narrator if there’s even a narrator at all, but in this case our third-person narrator is using that trust that comes from a third-person POV to impart their own very clear opinions of this character. That’s what third-past always does, of course, but usually we as writers hand-wave over that part. Here, because of the narrator’s written style (which is clearly reminiscent of the author-character), we’re much more aware of the narrator telling us the story and therefore the author outside the story, which means that all of these things that he’s saying and thinking are instead assumptions and opinions of this narrator about what he might be thinking. That’s especially interesting since this story is almost entirely made up of things that an impartial observer cannot know—this story is nearly entirely his potential thoughts.

This is a perfect story to use the technique of the opinionated narrator, because while we’re following this guy very closely, as I’ve already said he’s not a “protagonist” in the classic sense of the word. His decisions aren’t exactly driving the story, we’re not exactly rooting for him since what we see of him gives us little to admire or appreciate, and he doesn’t ultimately come to anything like an answer to any of his principal challenges in the story. A lot of the work being done to make sure that we don’t treat him as protagonist, that we’re not ever entirely on his side, comes from the way this narrator speaks—though it purports as if it is reporting his thoughts and actions, we can read fairly clearly that the narrator has their own opinions of the man being observed. This distance, and the clear-if-soft negative sheen the narrator puts upon him with their observations, is a great move for stories such as these where the main character (who a reader might normally be tempted to try to identify with) holds a nontraditional role in the story, and one that I make note to burnish in my writer’s toolbox every time I observe this story.

The other big technique I want to point out here is how little we’re in scene. I’ve said this is a story of style, and perhaps the most clear example of that comes from how little time we spend in the moments that are often the bedrock of fiction. The first moment of actual scene is in the middle of the story’s second section (“He put the magazine down,” a moment we enter into through previous summary of how he read her magazines generally, right up until this sentence where it becomes an action), and much of the in-moment scenework that happens is actually us reading the writer’s story along with him. We’re not fully in scene, unless a summarization of a story as the reader is reading it counts (maybe it does?), until the final paragraph of the story. Partially this is a product of style, partially of the interests of the piece, but it’s something I note every time I read this story, as I remind myself that every aspect of storytelling exists for a reason.

Perhaps a minor final note, but in a story that is actively playing off our questions around what’s happening (is he being written about or not?) and who characters are (is the character-author also the narrator, and if so are we supposed to go further and read the author-as-narrator-as-actual-author?), Lacey has chosen to leave these characters unnamed. It might seem such a tiny choice, one that goes along with choosing not to dive into backstory, but it forces that sheen of unknowing onto the piece in every moment, so that we are diving into deep exploration of character without any of the basics of character on which we so often rely.

The End

I’ve just finished teaching a class on metafiction, so I’m primed to look for these story-bending techniques everywhere at the moment—author-as-character; that’s so meta! That sort of thing—but what makes this story so incredibly effective is the fact that you can read through it without wandering through the argument around style and still build a powerful piece. The character sketch that exists here is just as effective, the arguments around truth and story and who gets to tell it, the questions about the main character’s existence in the fiction he’s reading—another place where we circle closely to meta—land just as strongly. I love fiction that does that, that can be experienced or dissected, and this is a perfect example of that.

I want to leave you with the final image of the piece. Our main character has finished reading the story and is ready to call his ex-wife, though he’s not sure what he’s going to say, nor even really what he’s read. While he struggles with the awareness that he has no idea what he wants to express, “he realized the tone had already toned and whether he said anything or not, he was already leaving a message.” Even here at the conclusion, he has no control over himself or how he comes across. On whichever level, the narrator or the telephone, his inability to interpret the story or his certainty that he must exist somewhere inside its pages, the story is out of his hands.

by Brandon Williams

Dec 19

TMR’s 2022 In Review

2022 is nearly behind us. It was, again, another terrific year, in which we celebrated our 10th anniversary with TMR Vol. X with Stories and Essays selected by Diane Cook, featuring as always, ten fresh, emerging voices, this year alongside personal essays from former anthology contributors. We published our first chapbook, Masterplans by Nick Almeida, announced the winner of our second chapbook: Love at the End of the World by Lindy Biller. We published the winners of our inaugural Novel Excerpt Contest, featured new fiction from Chaya Bhuvaneswar and over forty new stories, flashes and essays! Here’s to a great 2023!

The Tomb of Monsieur de Saint Colombe by A. Mauricio Ruiz

Move Along, You by Snigdha Roy

The Getaway by Natalie Storey

If I Plant You by Brian Franklin

SAGA by Joshua Nagle

I Walked the Dogs by Ai Jiang

Don’t Move by C.M. Lindley

Degenerate Matter by Jennifer Galvão

All This is Yours to Lose by Marcus Tan

Wish You Were Here by Carlee Jensen

Night Stencils by Sherine Elbanhawy

An Essential Service by Joy Guo

a work of art by aureleo sans

The Rains by Rona S. Fernandez

Snow Angels by Noah Codega

The Virgins of San Nicolás by Nicole Simonsen

Picture This by Alicia Marshall

Carve by Kaushika Suresh

Land of the Midday Sun by Jeff Ewing

Hyenas Behind the Tombstones by Sam Berman

In The New Year by Nicole VanderLinden

The Picnic by Nathan Alling Long

The Fight by Chaya Bhuvaneswar

Hey, Stop Blaming Your Dead Father’s Fists by Vincent Anioke

The Theme Park of Women’s Bodies by Maggie Cooper

The Writer by Lyndsey Smith

Knitting Verse by Elizabeth Brinsfield

The Blue Raincoat by Judith Cooper

Shelly had pencils covered in teethmarks by Lindy Biller

Unmuted by Daniel Condict Moore

The Same Country by Carole Burns

Red State by Allie Torgan

The Slapjack by Alan Sincic

Hakuri by Jessica Cavero

Take Warning: The Ballad of Sammy Slug by Glenn Lester

Rosebell by Silvia Spring

The Crown Prince of Koi by Daniel Abiva Hunt

Creeper by Taylor Sykes

A Single Mark by Reena Shah

Russian Thistle by Laura Farnsworth

Sealskin by Haley Kennedy

My Sister Versus Tomatoes by Kate Barss

The Physiology of Arriving by Michele Wong

Out, Brief Candle by Hannah Rose Roberts

Dec 18

2022 Chapbook Open: Deadline Approaching!

The deadline for The Masters Review’s Chapbook Open is fast approaching. The winning chapbook will be selected by Kim Fu! Check out more info on our inaugural winner, Masterplans by Nick Almeida. Last year’s winner, Love at the End of the World by Lindy Biller, is coming soon! Full submission details available on our contest page and down below.

Open Through Dec. 31st!
submit

Each fall, The Masters Review holds an open call for chapbooks. We want to publish your collections of flash, your mini novellas, your 40 page short stories. We want to publish your braided essays, your eclectic brainchildren, your experiments. However you want to tell your story, we want to read it. (As long as it’s between 25-45 double-spaced pages.) The submission window will be open for the final four months of the year, and The Masters Review staff will select a small shortlist of our favorites to pass along to a Kim Fu, author of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, who will select the winning manuscript.

The winning writer will be awarded $3000, manuscript publication, and 75 contributor copies. We’re seeking to celebrate bold, original voices within a single, cohesive manuscript of 25 to 45 pages. We’re interested in collections of short fiction, essays, flash fiction, novellas/novelettes, longform fiction or essays, and any combination thereof, provided the manuscripts are complete (no excerpts, chapters, works-in-progress, or other incomplete work). We are NOT interested in poetry. (We’re sure your poetry is fantastic, but we’re not qualified to judge its merit!)

The Masters Review staff will select a shortlist of 5-10 chapbooks to pass along to our guest judge, who will select the winning manuscript. Our judge will provide a brief introduction for the manuscript upon publication. The published manuscript will be available for sale as a physical copy and distributed digitally through our newsletter. Last year’s winning book, Love at the End of the World by Lindy Biller, selected by Matt Bell, will be published in the spring. Digital and print copies will be available.

Guidelines:

  • Winner receives $3000, manuscript publication, and 75 contributor copies
  • Second and third place finalists will be acknowledged on our website
  • Manuscripts should be between 25-45 pages (not including front/back matter) with each story beginning on a new page
  • Manuscripts should be double-spaced and paginated
  • Manuscripts should include a Table of Contents (if necessary) and an acknowledgements page listing any previously published material within the manuscript
  • Manuscripts may contain some previously published work, but the published work cannot have appeared in any other chapbook or full-length collections
  • Self-published chapbooks are previously published and therefore ineligible
  • No poetry chapbooks, please (we will consider chapbooks which contain some prose poetry)
  • Electronic submissions only
  • Single author manuscripts only
  • International English submissions allowed (No translations)
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed (Please withdraw submissions if they are accepted elsewhere.)
  • Emerging writers only; writers with book-length work published or under contract with a major press are ineligible. (We are interested in offering a larger platform to new writers. Authors with short story collections are free to submit unpublished work, as are writers with books published by indie presses.)
  • Entry fee: $25
  • Deadline: December 31, 2022
  • Individual stories or essays within the manuscript may be considered for publication in our New Voices series
  • We are not requiring blind submissions for this contest
  • Editorial letters for up to 3 individual pieces within the manuscript may be requested
  • A significant portion of the editorial letter fees go to our feedback editor, according to the rates established by the EFA
  • Friends, family and associates of the final judge are not eligible for this award
  • Please e-mail contact at mastersreview.com with questions

We don’t have any preferences topically or in terms of style. We’re simply looking for the best. We don’t define, nor are we interested in, stories identified by their genre. We do, however, consider ourselves a publication that focuses on literary fiction. Dazzle us, take chances, and be bold.

Judging

Kim Fu is the author of, most recently, the story collection Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, which received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Foreword, Booklist, Shelf Awareness, and Quill & Quire. Fu’s first novel, For Today I Am a Boy, won the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, as well as a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Her second novel, The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, was a finalist for the Washington State Book Awards. Fu’s writing has appeared in Granta, the Atlantic, the New York Times, Hazlitt, and the TLS. She lives in Seattle.


submit