The Masters Review Blog

Apr 22

The Masters Review Volume IX Available on Amazon!

We are excited to share that The Masters Review Volume IX is now available for purchase on! Get to know the writers who were selected by Rick Bass and pick up your copy today!

“Exchanges” by Dara Kell

Dara Kell is an award-winning writer and documentary filmmaker. Her films have been broadcast on PBS, TVFrance, and Netflix, and screened at festivals worldwide. Dara has made films in Brazil, Azerbaijan, Egypt, and China, and is currently making a documentary about Reverend William Barber and civil disobedience in America. Her short story “Small Holding” won the Zoetrope All:Story Fiction Contest in 2015. Dara is a graduate of Rhodes University and lives in Brooklyn and Cape Town.

“The God in the Dark” by Leeyee Lim

Leeyee Lim is a Malaysian-Chinese writer who currently lives and writes in Toronto. Her fiction has previously been published or is forthcoming in Epiphany Magazine, The Drum Literary Magazine and Necessary Fiction. She taught creative writing at the University of Iowa and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

“Pirating” by Jack Foraker

Jack Foraker is a writer from Yolo County, California.

“Proper Forage” by Barbara Litkowski

Barbara Litkowski holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Butler University. Her short story “Monarch Blue” won Arizona State University’s 2018 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest, was anthologized in Everything Change, Volume II, and reprinted in the international journal, IMPACT. Her short stories have also appeared in Subtle Fiction, Blue Lake Review and Luna Station Quarterly. She was selected as a finalist in the 2012 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Novel-in-Progress Competition and is a former recipient of the Indiana Arts Commission Individual Artist Program grant.  She lives with her husband in Zionsville, Indiana.

“Where the Last Grizzly Was Murdered” by Charisse Hovey Kubr

Charisse Hovey Kubr published her first short story as a teenager, earned a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from California State University at Long Beach and worked as the Editor of Sun Newspapers in Seal Beach, California. Her freelance creative nonfiction has been published in magazines such as SeaThe Yacht, Destinations and the Orange Coast College Marine Science Journal. In addition to teaching English Language Arts in public schools, she has taught Creative Nonfiction at Idyllwild Arts Academy, Outdoor Education in Big Bear and once worked as a horseback Interpretive Naturalist in Kings Canyon National Park. Currently she teaches English courses while writing short stories and screenplays in Redondo Beach, California where she lives with her husband and two children.

“Above Snowline” by Rachel Markels Webber

Rachel Markels Webber spent much of her childhood in Seattle, Washington and Boulder, Colorado. The daughter of mountain climbers, she spent many weekends hiking with her parents. Rachel currently lives in Massachusetts where she trains Dressage Horses and their riders. “Above Snowline” is her second published short story, her first, “Missing,” appeared in the Charles River Review.

“Mortal Champions” by Stefani Nellen

Stefani Nellen is a German psychologist with an MFA in Creative Writing from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her stories appear in Guernica, AGNI, Glimmer Train, Third Coast, the Bellevue Literary Review, PRISM International, and Cutbank, among others. She is also a graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop. Her real home is currently in the Netherlands with her family; her online home is at

“Everyday Horror Show” by Paola Ferrante

Paola Ferrante’s debut poetry collection, What to Wear When Surviving A Lion Attack, was shortlisted for the 2020 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She was longlisted for the 2020 Journey Prize and won The New Quarterly‘s 2019 Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award, Grain‘s 2020 prize for Poetry and Room‘s 2018 prize for Fiction. She was also an Honorable Mention for The North American Review‘s 2020 Kurt Vonnegut prize. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in PRISM International, CV2, The Journey Prize Stories 32, and elsewhere. She is the Poetry Editor at Minola Review and resides in Toronto, Canada.

“Cicada Summer” by Emma Eun-joo Choi

Emma Eun-joo Choi is a playwright and fiction writer from Vienna, Virginia. Her fiction has been featured in publications including Passages North, Jelly Bucket Magazine, and The Harvard Advocate, and her plays have been professionally produced in DC and New York City. Emma is a current student at Harvard College studying English, where she also performs comedy.

“Whitney in the Real World” by Stephanie Pushaw

Stephanie Pushaw is a writer and editor from Los Angeles. She was a Truman Capote Fellow at the University of Montana, where she received an MFA in Fiction. Her short stories appear in Narrative, Sundog Lit, and Joyland, and her essays in Mississippi Review, DIAGRAM, and Los Angeles Review of Books. Stephanie has also doctored screenplays, edited interviews for The Believer, and lived in eight cities on three continents (so far). She is currently a PhD candidate in Fiction at the University of Houston.


Apr 20

Reading Through the Awards: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

In a continuation of our series of micro-reviews, assistant editor Brandon Williams brought together a group of ardent readers to give their quick-hit impressions of recent novels which have won major awards from the literary world. Deesha Philyaw’s The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, recent winner of The Story Prize, is our next selection.

Quick Book Summary (from the official blurb):The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church’s double standards and their own needs and passions.”

There is power in the secrets we keep, the stories we choose to tell, and the people we hold close, however many or few there may be. These are the throughlines in Deesha Philyaw’s debut collection of short stories, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. These stories are as intimate as they are powerful, and there’s a nuance to the truths they tell. In “Jael,” a great-grandmother uncovers secrets in Jael’s diary that get “worser and worser” the more she reads—and yet, she steps back and allows Jael to make her own complicated decisions. Each woman lives with their own version of the truth and ultimately is changed by it, a narrative that is echoed in “Peach Cobbler.” Philyaw’s language melds food and body in a way that feels visceral; as Pastor Neely eats Olivia’s mother’s peach cobbler, his lips are “parted and glistening,” and the spoon “practically disappeared in his bear paw of a hand.” He is an animal, consuming this extension of Olivia’s mother’s self, which complicates the narrative’s turn when Olivia makes her own peach cobbler as an act of defiance and her own pursuit of power. Philyaw deftly guides her readers through this twist because of her ability to craft characters that feel authentically complicated, with more below the surface than the reader can plainly see—but we feel those layers through the characters’ actions, like Lyra’s thought processes in “How to Make Love to a Physicist” as she uses lessons from therapy to process her feelings toward a love interest, even as she pushes him away.

Philyaw’s stories are alternately joyful and sorrowful, sprinkled with a sense of levity that comes from earnest self-awareness. In “Dear Sister,” the main character writes to a sister she didn’t know she had, sharing news that their father died. She writes, “It’s all about who you are and what you’ve been through and what, if anything, it means to you to share a father with my sisters Renee, Kimba, Tasheta, and me.” She doesn’t compel her to join their family, nor does she tell her to stay away—she simply tells her truth, lays her heart on the table, and lets her sister make the next step. So, too, does Philyaw, letting us into the worlds of these women and their secrets and their fears. We are not given helping hands because life did not give her characters helping hands, either. As the narrator of “Instructions for Married Christian Husbands” says, “All the risk is yours, but I’ll wade out into it with you. I’ve always enjoyed playing in the deep end.”

Rebecca Paredes

For the women of Secret Lives of Church Ladies, the church’s influence dominates their lives, whether or not they consider themselves devout. Their bodies, sexualities, the roles they’re meant to play in the family and community as women—all of it has been defined by the church and further instilled by the maternal figures in their lives. Even if the men are allowed their every whim, like the absent father in “Dear Sister” or the philandering pastor in “Peach Cobbler,” the women are expected to uphold their virtue and negate their own desires to put everyone else first.

But Deesha Philyaw is not interested in glorifying the struggles of Black women or ennobling them into martyrs. Instead, each woman, in her own way, in her own time, pushes back to acknowledge her own desire. How she wants to claim it, what she’ll give up in exchange for it, is a purely personal choice. In “Eula,” Caroletta is in love with her best friend, and despite knowing Eula may never reciprocate, appeases herself with the little she’s given without giving up hope. In contrast, in “Instructions for Married Christian Husbands,” the mistress lays out her terms for entanglement in strict, sometimes sardonic, detail. She won’t waste time on men who don’t follow her expectations, and neither she nor Carlotta are deemed any less worthwhile for choosing what the other did not.

And if the woman, like the mistress, voices her fears and desires aloud, it doesn’t automatically condemn her. In “Snowfall” and “How to Make Love to a Physicist,” each woman’s choices has repercussions, as all actions do, but there’s a catharsis she gains from speaking out, as well as an opportunity for her loved ones to grow closer.

June Sham

Deesha Philyaw’s collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, opens up with a quote from Ansel Elkins poem, “Autobiography of Eve.” “Let it be known: I did not fall from grace. I leapt to freedom.” Philyaw takes us through nine stories about the lives of different Black woman, where she explores the same themes of the self, desire, and God. The problem that arises is that Philyaw uses the same tone in each story to present those themes, making each main character sound like different versions of the same person. I’d like to say the tone in each story is different enough to have successfully created its own distinct and original voice, but I can’t. Creating one story with an original voice is already difficult enough, but to create multiple stories with distinct and original voices is a huge challenge. We’re given nine stories that blend into one big story about similarly written main characters, like one big painting divided into nine squares, brushed with shades of the same color.

It isn’t the characters or the themes that are the issue, but the overarching sameness in tone that blends them all together, making each main character’s story lose its distinctness and remembrance in the mind of the reader once finished. The ideas of God and grace for example could have easily been worked on to separate each stories tone, introducing a new language and style for each main character in respect to those themes. As a reader, I so desperately tried to find some major distinction in voice. I looked for tone. I looked for a difference in the ideas of God presented to me because that’s what I expected when I read Elkin’s quote. I’m still looking for them.

Casandra Lopez

Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, provides raw and poignantly told narratives of Black women whose lives are fraught with wanting more than what their church-going days gave them. While the nine stories in Philyaw’s collection never cross over one another or culminate into a grand finale, each manages to explore themes of sexuality, family, Christianity, motherhood, love, and marriage—in varied, but consistently complicated ways. For example, the third story “Dear Sister” is an epistolary. Through the process of having the main character write a letter to her unknown sister and catching her up on what their father was like, Philyaw comments on the many effects a not-so-present father can have on a family. The eighth story, “How to Make Love to a Physicist,” is a Q and A. Through the process of having the main character repeat the same question while answering the same question in a linear chronological fashion, Philyaw suggests how certain questions not only elucidate our desires, but also introduce and return us to certain people.

In both “Dear Sister” and “Peach Cobbler,” the layered quality to Philyaw’s storytelling shines. In the former, there’s an interesting effect the epistolary form has on the story. Because the main character actively addresses the unknown sister and shares the remarks the other sisters have on the letter actually being written (even as they’re all bickering), there’s an added honesty to the story. Not that the epistolary form itself is any truer than other forms. Rather, the consistent awareness lends itself to the feeling that the main character is genuinely trying to welcome the unknown sister, especially as we begin to see how flawed yet upfront the main character is to others and how the act of writing the letter itself appears to act as a reconciliation process for her. In “Peach Cobbler,” the layered quality to Philyaw’s writing shows in her imagery and dynamic scene work. Without spoiling too much, the main character describes and interacts with her mother’s peach cobbler in many different ways. This allows Philyaw to twist and turn scene–images that had been well-grounded into the story have suddenly distorted under interpersonal conflict. All-in-all, while I might have wanted to see beyond some the collection’s abrupt endings, the ways Deesha Philyaw weaves the inner and exterior worlds of Black women struggling to feel wanted brings me back to the poignant snippets she did end up crafting for us to see.

Angelica Colot

The language of the first narrator (Caroletta) feels mechanical. While the intrigue of church women having affairs with each other is sustained, there is something almost jaded and tailor-made within the writing itself. The text feels like it was written to satisfy a prompt concerning women of color who also happen to be part of the LGBT community—which is odd, because “Snowfall” does not have this issue. However, once the first short story is complete, the following narrators in the remaining sections are much more sincere and naturally written. The emotional and sexual need for human connection become visceral and honest in the “Not-Daniel”, “Peach Cobbler”, “Instructions for Married Christian Husbands”, and “When Eddie Levert Comes” sections.

The discontent and constant disappointment felt by a majority of women in these stories touches at the heart of the question they are collectively asking, “How can I be fulfilled with/without a man?” Some of the stories answer this by highlighting familial, personal, and more long-term connections with others (“Dear Sister”, “Snowfall”, “How to Make Love to a Physicist”, “Instructions for Married Christian Husbands”, “When Eddie Levert Comes”), whereas some stories don’t (“Eula”, “Not-Daniel”, “Peach Cobbler”, “Jael”). This collection offers itself as a reflection of the varied circumstances and shared experiences within a community. Some people find happiness and fulfillment in real life while the rest of the populace either moves on quietly or suffers. These stories remind us that there is nothing definitive in life, and death is too uncertain to provide much comfort. The often dastardly secrets between these women and the people they connect with are the glue that either keep them content, happy, or downright miserable. Overall, it’s an excellent assortment of gut-wrenching and pleasurable affairs. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is well worth a second and even a third read.

S. N. Valadez

Curated by Brandon Williams


Apr 19

New Voices: “Inheritance” by Mary Mandeville

“The word breath comes from Old English, bræth, meaning scent or smell,” Mary Mandeville tells us in “Inheritance.” We are proud to share Mandeville’s meditations on breathing and the precious gift of life it implies in this week’s entry to our New Voices catalog. Read on.

I count my mother-self lucky, in a way. For some, death by asphyxiation is no kind of choice.

I crave breath. Not just the ordinary in and out, chest rising and falling, inspiration and exhalation. I long to huff and puff, to pant, to strain. Collarbones rising, ribs expanding, diaphragm tenting, lungs gasping. I want this hard breathing enough to chase it every day—running, hiking, jumping, pedaling. Calf and thigh muscles contracting and pushing until my breath comes hard and ragged.

In yoga classes before COVID, I sat, buttocks on a block, knees bent and feet behind me. “Close your eyes and bring your mind to your breath,” the instructor said quietly. “If your breath is shallow, let it be shallow, if your breath is deep let it be deep.” We sat like this for a minute or more before she encouraged us to fill every centimeter of our lungs with air on the inhale, then to squeeze every last drop of oxygen out on the exhale. Now I repeat this exercise alone. I see my breath as a sunshine yellow light moving in and down, up and out.

I’m willing to work hard for breath, to know I’m alive.

To continue reading “Inheritance” click here.


Apr 12

New Voices: “Rip Your Throat Out” by Will Ejzak

When the zombies came, humans adapted. They erected fences. They stationed snipers on the roofs of schools. They believed Ground Zero was safe during the daylight. In Will Ejzak’s “Rip Your Throat Out,” our narrator Rip wants you to know, in a voice all his own, this isn’t true. Today’s New Voices story is full of heart, humor, and humans who think they’re safe. Read on at your own risk:

They talk about winning in school. Ms. Fincher say, We flattening the curve. Mr. Zimbler say, One of you kids will grow up to kill the last zombie bastard. Principal Hart say, Must prepare the children for post-zombie adulthood. But humans always brag. Assumed it was lies.

I is zombie. Ma is zombie. Frank is zombie. We live in old Roberson house. We ate Robersons. Screamed and screamed. Shouldn’t eat baby first. Made Mr. and Mrs. Roberson loud. Screechy. Mental note for next time: Baby is dessert.

I sleep in dog bed. Robersons had big spotty Great Dane. Ate him. Sleep in his bed now. Fetal position. Frank trip over me sometimes. On purpose? Not Frank fan.

Frank met Ma at maternity ward. Ate babies together. Fell in love. Now stuck with Frank. Frank not real dad. Real dad somewhere out there? Mental note: Find real dad. Imagine: Real dad come back. Fight Frank. Rip head off. Put on chain link fence outside Roberson house. Warning: Ma off limits. Future Franks Keep Out!

Still too many humans, say Frank. Sometimes Frank go out for midnight snack. Get back into bed with bloody teeth. Gross, say Ma. If hunting, bring back for family, say Ma. Selfish. Frank get mad. Bite off Ma hand. Now Ma have one less hand.

Don’t hurt but annoying, say Ma. Easier to do things with two.

I kill Frank, I say.

Already dead, say Ma. Plus Frank bigger. Bite off your hand too maybe.

Will trade one less hand for one less Frank, I say.

He not all bad, say Ma.

But Frank not just zombie. Frank jerk zombie. Double bad. Bad squared.

To continue reading “Rip Your Throat Out” click here.

Apr 6

April Book Review: Girl A by Abigail Dean

In our first book review of April, reviewer Dan Mazzacane explores Abigail Dean’s Girl A, published in February of this year by Viking. Mazzacane writes, “[F]or all its darkness, there is tenderness, small moments of happiness between Lex and her adoptive father are welcome spots of light in these pages.” Read the full review below.

By the time Girl A, Abigail Dean’s debut novel, begins, the crime motivating its plot has already been solved. Alexandria Gracie has escaped her parents, who have been shot dead after keeping Lex and her siblings in abusive captivity. But Girl A is not a book about the act that triggered trauma, it is a study of the aftermath, carried out with a meticulous eye for the needs of its survivors. Our narrator, Lex, has no time for an audience’s emotions in the relation of her story. Her delivery of memories concerning the abuse is deliberately flat, often unsettling for its frankness, and utterly heartbreaking. For Lex, the relation of traumatic acts is simply reality.

Read more.

Apr 5

New Voices: “Smith” by Rob Franklin

In Rob Franklin’s “Smith,” this week’s New Voices story, the narrator, Smith, discovers his grandfather, not Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier in professional baseball, becoming the first Black man to play in the major leagues as the right fielder for the Chicago White Sox in 1921. “Smith” is a story about the legacy of passing and its continued manifestations.

He saw the man whom he supposed he could call his ​great-grandfather​—fair-skinned, square-jawed—strolling into an open MLB tryout as if it were the most natural thing in the world. High on the presumption that talent would be enough to grant him success. How profoundly, inconceivably American he must have looked. Finney would’ve been his height, Smith imagined—tall, as the men of his family were—but with fair skin that belied years beneath Southern sun. Slicked black hair, combed and bound to his scalp with oil, sweat, and the kind of gel that loosens curls into one contiguous wave.

The ink had bled to the point of abstraction. Well, almost. One could make out, if vaguely, an image—eighty, maybe ninety years old—torn from The West Memphis Gazebo Gazette​, a long defunct Arkansas paper whose microfiche was evidently available at the Chicago Public Library. In it, a family of ten was rendered, by the inattention to nuance that greyscale provides, almost entirely black. The single face spared from the image’s shadow hovered at its precise center, starkly white amid that unintelligible sea of brown and black, children whose expressions seemed to convey either the melancholy of the times or of their particular experience.

A Dixie Puzzler​, the headline promised, and below, in font so faint it gave the impression of an eye exam: Now and then, down here in Arkansas cotton country, a stranger will excitably tell of seeing a white man, with his Negro wife and eight children, living on a small farm not far from West Memphis. Quoted was a witless local, easily cast in one’s mind as a cartoon hillbilly, his stomach distended and a single sprig of hay protruding from his toothless mouth: “He was as white as I am and there I was ‘mistering’ him, when up comes a whole litter of colored kids calling him Daddy.”

The Dixie Puzzler​​, then, was just this: a man named Finneas Smith who “claim[ed] to be a Negro” ​ despite his whitemannish appearance, a then-common phenomenon, but in reverse. Whichever he​ was, his passing was only newsworthy given evidence that, in 1921, he’d broken the “color barrier” by​ walking on ​as a right fielder for the Chicago White Sox.​

To continue reading “Smith” click here.

Apr 2

Litmag Roadmap: Georgia

Georgia is in the new right now for not-great reasons, but there are still lovely lit mags in the state that need your support! Rebecca Williamson’s got you covered in this post:

Considering Georgia’s status as the fourth state of the country, its home to many historic landmarks, including the beautiful Savannah and pivotal Atlanta. Alongside its peaches, Georgia’s peanuts are also a prominent agricultural treat. Yet, Georgia isn’t all about the farm life, scenic natural views, and coastal cities. The state is rich in vibrant art and cultural scenes that draw many people. Writers and artists can definitely be inspired by Georgia’s plethora of literary magazines writers and artists can submit to:

The Georgia Review

This journal has been publishing each season out of the University of Georgia since 1947. Since then, it has expanded to include contributors and readers around the country. The Georgia Review searches for imaginative fiction, essays, poetry, or book reviews that challenge ideas that have become too rigid. The journal also encourages editorial collaboration between the staff and writers. Writers can submit via Submittable or mail between August 16 and May 14.

Five Points 

Founded by Georgia State University’s English Department in 1996, Five Points publishes three times each year. The journal is ranked in the top ten by Every Writer’s Resource and has had works appear in several best-of collections, including Best American Short Stories and Best American Poetry. The journal accepts fiction, poetry, flash fiction, nonfiction, and literary nonfiction. Submissions are currently open on Submittable until April 30.

Atlanta Review

The Atlanta Review is a biannual journal for poetry only; however, all kinds of poems are welcome, from lyric to experimental and everything in between. General submissions are included in each issue, but the fall/winter issue highlights contest winners, and the spring/summer is their international issue featuring poems and guest editors from around the world. Submittable is currently open until June 1 (but will reopen in September).

Lullwater Review 

Although this journal is only published once a year out of Emory University, they accept submissions from around the world. They consider art, fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry submissions that are emotionally evocative from both unrecognized and distinguished writers. Submissions are open year-round but are only accepted via email.

Stillpoint Literary Magazine 

This literary magazine publishes online regularly with one print issue each spring out of the University of Georgia. The journal seeks to publish unconventional works from established and emerging writers. The genres accepted are poetry, prose, visual arts, and reviews. Submissions for the print issue are closed, but submissions for online publication only are accepted on a rolling basis via email.

Wraparound South

Georgia Southern University’s literary magazine encourages work that explores and humanizes southern viewpoints or ideas relevant to the global culture, favoring underrepresented voices. Although the journal is based in the South, writers from around the world can submit poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, interviews, art, and hybrid forms/mixed genre works. Submissions for the spring/summer issue are closed, but the reading period for the fall/winter issue will open on August 1.

by Rebecca Williamson

Apr 1

2021 Flash Fiction Contest — Now Open!

Our annual Flash Fiction Contest is now open for submissions until May 30th! Submit up to 2 pieces of flash fiction in one document (each under 1,000 words). Stuart Dybek will select this year’s winners. The winning submission earns a $3,000 prize, while 2nd and 3rd place are paid $300 and $200 respectively. All finalists are published on our site. Finalists in this contest in the past have gone on to be selected for Best Small Fictions!


Our love of flash fiction runs deep. We are proud to offer a contest dedicated solely to flash. The winning writer will be awarded $3000 and publication in The Masters Review. Second and third place will be awarded $300 and $200, respectively, as well as publication in The Masters Review. So here it is: a home for your very best small fiction.



Stuart Dybek is the author of six books of fiction, including Ecstatic Cahoots, a collection of flash-length stories. He has also published two collections of poetry. His work is widely anthologized and magazine publication has included The New Yorker, Harpers, The Atlantic, Granta, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Dybek is the recipient of many literary awards, among them the REA Award and the PEN/Bernard Malamud Prize for “distinguished achievement in the short story”, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a John D. and a Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. His work has appeared in Best American Poetry and in Best American Fiction. He is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University.


  • Winner receives $3000 and publication
  • Second and third place prizes are $300 and $200 respectively and publication
  • Stories under 1000 words
  • $20 entry fee allows up to two stories (each under 1000 words) – if submitting two stories, please put them both in a SINGLE document
  • 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.)
  • International submissions allowed
  • Deadline: May 30th, 2021
  • Please no identifying information on your story
  • All stories are considered for publication
  • Dazzle us
  • To view a list of our most commonly asked questions regarding submitting to The Masters Review, please see our FAQ page


Author Rights

We purchase first serial rights for three months after publication, at which point all rights revert back to the author. Any reprints during that time are welcome, we simply ask for permission and acknowledgement.

Mar 28

Last Day to Submit: The Masters Review Anthology Vol. X

When the clock strikes midnight, submissions will close for our tenth edition of our annual anthology! Make sure to get your submissions in today for the chance to be selected by Diane Cook for our anthology of emerging writers! The full details can be found below:


Every year The Masters Review opens submissions to produce our anthology, a collection of ten stories and essays written by the best emerging authors. Our aim is to showcase ten writers who we believe will continue to produce great work. The ten winners are nationally distributed in a printed book with their stories and essays exposed to top agents, editors, and authors across the country. Our third volume was awarded the Silver Medal for Best Short Story Collection through the INDIEFAB Awards in 2015, and our fourth volume was an honorable mention for best anthology. This year we’ve partnered with word west, who will provide our winning 10 writers with a book from their catalog! Submit today to purchase your copy of Volume IX, or check us out on Amazon!


Each year The Masters Review pairs with a guest judge to select stories. Our editorial team produces a shortlist of stories, which our judge reviews to select winners. Our past judges include Lauren Groff, AM Homes, Lev Grossman, Kevin Brockmeier, Amy Hempel, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Makkai, Kate Bernheimer, and Rick Bass.


DIANE COOK‘s debut novel, The New Wilderness, was a finalist for 2020 The Booker Prize, and her story collection, Man V. Nature, was a finalist for the Guardian First Book Award, the Believer Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Award for First Fiction and the PEN/Hemingway award. Her writing has appeared in Harper’s, Zoetrope, Granta, and other publications, and anthologized in Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. She is a former producer for the radio program This American Life, and was the recipient of a 2016 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her family.

  • Previously unpublished works of fiction and narrative nonfiction only
  • Up to 7000 words
  • We accept simultaneous submissions as long as work is withdrawn if it is accepted elsewhere
  • Multiple submissions are allowed
  • International English submissions allowed
  • Emerging Writers Only. Writers must not have published a novel-length work at the time of submission (authors of short story collections and self-published titles can submit as can authors with novels or memoirs with a low distribution [about 5000 copies])
  • Standard formatting please (double-spaced, 12 pt font, pages numbered)
  • $20 entry fee
  • Deadline: March 28th, 2021
  • Please, no identifying information on your story
  • All submissions are considered for publication in the anthology as well as New Voices
  • If requesting an editorial letter, please indicate on your cover letter if the submissions is fiction or creative nonfiction
  • A significant portion of the editorial letter fees go to our feedback editor, according to the rates established by the EFA
  • To view a list of our most commonly asked questions regarding submitting to The Masters Review, please see our FAQ page.
  • Writers who have earned an Anthology Prize before and whose work appears in our printed book cannot submit to this category but are welcome to send us work in other open categories


    • $1,000 award.
    • Publication in our nationally distributed journal.
    • Exposure to over 50 literary agencies.
    • Contributor’s copy.
    • A book from word west
    • All writers are part of an exclusive mailing. We send our anthology to editors, writers, and literary institutions across the country.


Mar 26

April Deadlines: 12 Contests Ending Soon

Finally the temperatures are getting warmer, and the days are getting longer! Now that we have extra daylight to burn, you should SPRING into action and submit your work to one of these contests!

New South Writing Contest

New South’s competition is only open to those who haven’t published a book of prose or poetry, which is still a very large pool! EJ Koh is judging the prose entries, while Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach judges the poetry. The winners of each contest receive $1000, and there are no restrictions on style or genre. Learn more here!

Entry Fee: $18 Deadline: April 1

Nimrod Literary Awards

These awards, the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction and the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, are presented by Nimrod International Journal through the University of Tulsa. Contestants should enter 3-10 pages of poetry, or up to 7500 words of prose. The winner of each category will receive $2000, publication, and a trip to Tulsa for the Awards Ceremony and Writing Conference in October (if the global health situation allows)! Details here.

Entry Fee: $23 Deadline: April 1

The Orison Prizes in Poetry and Fiction

Every year Orison Books accepts submissions of full-length poetry and fiction manuscripts between December and April, and this year’s window is closing fast! Fiction entries may be novellas, novels, or collections of short stories and flash fiction, but they must be a minimum of 30,000 words. Poetry entries may be between 50 and 100 pages. Jericho Brown is judging poetry, Debra Spark is judging fiction, and the winners of each genre receive $1500, publication, and a standard royalties contract. Check it out!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: April 1

Red Hen Press Nonfiction Award

Red Hen Press wants to recognize the art of true storytelling through literary craft, and they welcome work from all authors! Essay collections, memoirs, research-driven works, and narrative nonfiction are all welcome, although they must be a minimum of 150 pages. The award is $1000, and also includes publication of the winning entry. Judged by Deborah Thompson! Submission guidelines here.

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: April 1


The Chautauqua Institution is an educational center in New York State, and their literary journal has always focused on personal, social, political, spiritual, and aesthetic inquiry. Now, after a year like 2020, Chautauqua is looking for work that captures the tenacity of the human spirit. This year they are sharing fall, summer, and winter issues, and this year’s theme is the inner strength, passion, stubborn determination, and perseverance that make up resilience. The current categories are poetry, fiction, flash, and creative nonfiction. Currently Chautauqua  has suspended payment to writers, but this is still an opportunity to be published. Learn more here.

Entry Fee: $2 Deadline: April 2

Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting

If you think you have that movie magic, now’s your chance! This contest awards up to five $35,000 fellowships to amateur screenwriters, who are allowed to enter up to three original screenplays no longer than 160 pages. Fellowship winners are expected to complete at least one original feature film screenplay during the Fellowship year. Do it!

Entry Fee: $63 Deadline: April 3

New Ohio Review Contest

All three of the New Ohio Review’s contests are ending this month, so enter now if you want to receive one of the three $1500 first-place prizes! Anthony Marra is judging the fiction section, Diane Seuss is judging the poetry section, and Jerald Walker is judging the nonfiction applicants. All of the winners and a selection of the runners up will be published! See more here.

Entry Fee: $22 Deadline: April 15

Cowles Poetry Book Prize

In honor of Vern Cowles, a man who loved literature, Southeast Missouri State University Press offers this prize for an unpublished poetry manuscript. It is open to any living poet writing in English, age 18 or older, and the manuscript only needs to be 48-100 pages! First place receives $2000, publication and distribution, and receives 30 copies of their book. Get started!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: April 16

The 2021 Gulf Coast Prizes

Here is an opportunity for all writers, as Gulf Coast’s contest rewards authors in nonfiction, fiction, and poetry! Kiese Laymon judges nonfiction, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah judges fiction, and Natalie Diaz judges poetry. The winner in each category receives $1500, and two honorable mentions in each category also receive $250. Make sure you submit to the correct category! Check it out here.

Entry Fee: $23 Deadline: April 16

Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize

Named after the first director of the University of Pittsburgh Press, this prize is offered for a first full-length book of poems! The winner receives a $5000 cash award as well as publication under the Pitt Poetry Series under its standard royalty contract. The winner will be announced in the fall, so get the process started now! Learn more here!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: April 30

F(r)iction Spring Contests

There are so many options in F(r)iction’s collection of contests, there’s bound to be something for everyone! Short stories are judged by Stephen Graham Jones, and the winner receives $1000. Flash fiction is judged by Damhnait Monaghan, and the winner receives $300. Poetry is judged by Emma Bolden and also receives $300. Finally, creative nonfiction is judged by Hannah Grieco, and the winner receives $1000. All winners and some finalists will be published. Check it out!

Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: April 30

Pro Forma Contest

Grist, and the University of Tennessee, is looking for authors who make the most of structures in writing, creating an interesting opportunity to play with form and function! Submissions can be fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or any other form of literary expression. Judged by Kayleb Rae Candrilli, first-place wins $1200 and publication in the journal. Don’t miss it!

Entry Fee: $18 Deadline: April 30

by Kimberly Guerin

Mar 26

New Voices Revisited: Drop Zone Summer by Nick Fuller Googins

In this month’s New Voices Revisited, we look back on the winner of our 2017 Winter Short Story Award for New Writers: “Drop Zone Summer” by Nick Fuller Googins. This story was picked as the winner by our staff, and told from the point-of-view of Osman, a Somali refugee who grew up in Maine. He’s spending his summer break from college working at a sky diving place, and he has found the thrill of jumping himself.

“At 6000 feet he never second-guesses the urges that spark his veins. He is not an African Marxist atheist in conservative Catholic Maine. He is not a clay jar for his community to fill with hope. He is not a lanky young man with all shapes of love for all types of people and nowhere for it to fit.”

Two weeks have passed since Cotter’s fall from the radio tower. His girlfriend, Liv, sparks with flashes of her former, easygoing self, remaining upbeat for customers and their tips, but she’s not fooling anyone. She’s most of all not fooling Osman. Osman watches her trot in from the landing area, grinning, Evel Knievel jumpsuit unzipped, sleeves knotted at the waist. She drops off her used parachute—Purple #3—and high-fives her next customer, a barrel-bodied guy wearing cargo shorts and a Phi Kappa Sigma t-shirt. Osman gathers the heap of purple nylon and dumps it in his section of the packing floor.

Osman packs parachutes for SkyHigh Maine. Liv jumps. That she only jumps with purple parachutes isn’t as superstitious as it sounds. The three purple rigs happen to be SkyHigh’s newest. Liv says they handle well in strong winds. Janice, SkyHigh’s owner, pays a flat rate of ten dollars per packed parachute. Osman finds that the new purple ones take longer. The stiff nylon is abrasive, unforgiving. He doesn’t mind spending the extra time.

This is Osman’s first summer packing. Liv got him the job. They are friends from Bates (“comrades,” they say, half-kidding). Liv was the charismatic, tanned-legged senior leader of the Global Justice Project, that coalition of anti-capitalist undergrads that held teach-ins, dropped banners, kicked military recruiters off campus. Osman was the wide-eyed freshman relieved to find one group in all of Great White Maine that let him be something other than Somali. Liv pitched SkyHigh on the drive to a rally at the Bath naval yards—for too many summers she’d wanted to organize the Haitian workers in the blueberry fields around SkyHigh’s drop zone. Osman was a natural, she said. Super chill. Everyone liked him. They could organize together, in their spare time. What did he think? Osman thought his internship with a socially responsible mutual fund in Portland suddenly stank of liberal hypocrisy and tedium. A week after finals he was on the packing floor for day one of training, learning from Cotter how to fold 400 square feet of nylon into a pack the size of a duffle.

It’s late August now, the final surge of tourist season. Osman and Liv have not organized the migrant workers. They have not grown intimate, working and living hip-to-hip. There has been no summertime leftist fling. The problem, of course, was Cotter. Still is Cotter. Fourteen days comatose in a hospital bed two hours away and his presence only grows stronger. Liv will disappear into her Airstream after work or drive to Maine Medical. Osman will lie awake in his tent, replaying the accident. He and Liv haven’t spoken—really spoken—in days. Broken femur, shattered arm, ruptured eardrums, fractured vertebrae. Osman has yet to visit.

To read the rest of “Drop Zone Summer” click here.

Mar 24

Introducing Our 2021 Flash Fiction Contest Judge: Stuart Dybek!

With our annual Flash Fiction Contest around the corner, we are proud to announce that Stuart Dybek will serve as this year’s guest judge! Stuart will select the winning three stories from the shortlist chosen by our volunteer readers and editors. The winning story earns a $3,000 prize along with publication! The contest opens April 1 and will run through May.

Submissions Open April 1st

Our love of flash fiction runs deep. We are proud to offer a contest dedicated solely to flash. The winning writer will be awarded $3000 and publication in The Masters Review. Second and third place will be awarded $300 and $200, respectively, as well as publication in The Masters Review. So here it is: a home for your very best small fiction.


Stuart Dybek is the author of six books of fiction, including Ecstatic Cahoots, a collection of flash-length stories. He has also published two collections of poetry. His work is widely anthologized and magazine publication has included The New Yorker, Harpers, The Atlantic, Granta, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Dybek is the recipient of many literary awards, among them the REA Award and the PEN/Bernard Malamud Prize for “distinguished achievement in the short story”, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a John D. and a Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. His work has appeared in Best American Poetry and in Best American Fiction. He is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University.


  • Winner receives $3000 and publication
  • Second and third place prizes are $300 and $200 respectively and publication
  • Stories under 1000 words
  • $20 entry fee allows up to two stories (each under 1000 words) – if submitting two stories, please put them both in a SINGLE document
  • 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.)
  • International submissions allowed
  • Deadline: May 30th, 2021
  • Please no identifying information on your story
  • All stories are considered for publication
  • Dazzle us
  • To view a list of our most commonly asked questions regarding submitting to The Masters Review, please see our FAQ page