The Masters Review Blog

Mar 8

AWP Panels We Wouldn’t Miss

AWP is kicking off in Tampa, Florida and we are bummed that we won’t be there this year. It’s always such a wonderful opportunity to see old and new literary friends. There are so many awesome panels, but here are a few we would definitely be attending if we were there. Let us know how they are, guys! We hope to catch you at next year’s conference in our hometown of Portland, Oregon.



Learning Curve: The Challenge of Building Inclusive Communities

VIDA: Women in Literary Arts will host this important panel about how teachers, writers, and editors across the literary community can better address social issues relating to gender, sexual assault, privilege, and authorship. Don’t miss this one.
Panelists: Lynn Melnick, Hafizah Geter, Amy King, Hector Ramirez, Katherine Sullivan
Time: Thursday; 10:30 am – 11:45 am
Location: Grand Salon C, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor

Writing the Body in the 21st Century 

Graywolf Press is organizing this panel of fiction writers and poets who all write about the body in their own ways. It includes a reading and a discussion. Plus Carmen Maria Machado is one of the panelists!
Panelists: Steph Burt, Tarfia Faizullah, Carmen Maria Machado, Danez Smith, Steve Woodward
Time: Thursday; 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm
Location: Room 18 & 19, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Stranger and Truthier Than Truth: Fiction in the Age of Trump

We know that this is going to be a full room. In this panel, authors such as Kelly Link and Manuel Gonzales will talk about how writing with unreal elements can reveal important truths about our politically turbulent world. We are truly kicking ourselves for missing this one.
Panelists: Marie-Helene Bertino, Manuel Gonzales, Toni Jensen, Kelly Link, Helen Phillips
Time: Thursday; 4:30 pm – 5:45 pm
Location: Ballroom A, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

The Ecstasy and the Laundry: Gender, Families, and the Writing Life 

Sometimes, you just want to talk about the nitty gritty of the writing life, which includes how writing fits into your life. This panel focuses on how to balance creative space with domestic duties while avoiding outdated gender roles.
Panelists: Elizabeth Kadetsky, Imad Rahman, Jess Row, Emily Raboteau, Kate Tuttle
Time: Friday; 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm
Location: Room 16, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Mar 6

Literary Throwbacks: 8 Books That Are A Blast To The Past

Our nation’s nostalgia for bygone days is awfully pervasive, even for those of us born after those decades have ended! Here are eight books that will tug on your memories and your emotions, whether it’s the age of jive or the age of grunge. While all of these were published during the past few years, they are set in the later decades of the twentieth century. So settle down with these particular time machines, and you can take a quick trip to the fairly recent past. Without further ado, here are some of our favorite literary throwbacks!

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

A late-nineties suburb may seem idyllic, but there are secrets simmering below the surface, and constant suspicion. The crux of this novel is a battle between rules and freedom, a skirmish about the nature of art and identity, and a fight over the custody of a Chinese-American infant.

Best paired with: Zima!



South and West by Joan Didion

Less a book, and more a collection of notes, Didion takes us along with her as she drives through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama during the summer of 1970. Her impressions of syrupy heat and stifling racial tension are as relevant now as ever, and they offer a glimpse into the writing process of a legendary author.

Best paired with: Sweet Tea!


Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

There is something terribly wrong in the town of Nevada, Iowa, where movie rentals are being returned due to unsettling and eerie video additions. Video clerk Jeremy is caught up in the mystery, which stretches in time far past the 1990s, and becomes part of an impossible search for an unimaginable goal. This is definitely not your average cookie-cutter mystery!

Best paired with: Crystal Pepsi!


Ill Will by Dan Chaon

It is the height of the Satanic-cult panic during the 1980s, and a young boy’s tearful testimony sends his adopted brother Rusty to prison for life. 40 years later, and DNA evidence exonerates Rusty, sending everyone reeling. This is just the beginning of a slowly creeping mystery that peeks under the lies we tell ourselves, and shines a light on the perils of self-deception.

Best paired with: New Coke!


The Unseen World by Liz Moore

When Liz’s brilliant father begins losing his memories to Alzheimer’s, her quest to rediscover his past is a journey that connects her childhood to her adult life. Set in a cutting-edge computer science lab in 1980s Boston, the futuristic themes of virtual reality and artificial intelligence are delicately intertwined with thoughts on family, psychology, and compassion.

Best paired with: Lemon-Lime Slice!


Swing Time by Zadie Smith

The protagonist Tracey is a compelling and relatable character, who often thinks back to her grand goals as a dancer and close friends growing up in eighties London, a contrast to her current job as a personal assistant. Her nostalgia is our nostalgia, and while the juxtaposition of fond remembrance and reality isn’t comfortable, it is a piercing glance behind the curtains of memory.

Best paired with: Orange Tango!


Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

This touching and sentimental story takes place over the year of 1986, and follows two outcast teens as they try to navigate a tumultuous time—in anyone’s life! You will find yourself yearning for the incomparable eighties, and the rosy glow from your first love.

Best paired with: LifeSavers Soda!



Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

Set in the 1980s, amidst The Troubles in Northern Ireland, an 18-year-old boy has a strange connection to a girl who died in an ancient age, who has a haunting familiarity in his dreams. Winner of a Carnegie Medal and classified as a historical novel, a YA book, and children’s fiction, it occupies an interesting place on our list, but a well-recommended one nonetheless!

Best paired with: Club Rock Shandy!



by Kimberly Guerin

Mar 2

New Voices: “Lepidomancy” by Maria Lioutaia

Today, we are proud to present “Lepidomancy,” the second-place winner of our Fall Fiction Contest judged by Brian Evenson. This story blew us away from the start. In “Lepidomancy,” there exists a conservatory full of butterflies who can foretell people’s future. Hannah and her husband Steven have a daughter with a rare chromosomal disorder, and they must decide whether or not to take her to see the butterflies.

“The butterflies don’t seem to care for questions about the future of humanity, the outcomes of wars, the meaning of life. They won’t reveal winning lottery numbers, name which horse to bet your retirement fund on, or proclaim the outcome of an election. You can’t ask questions about someone else, either—only the personal is under their purview.”

The fortune-telling butterfly conservatory first opened in Beijing two years ago, in the refurbished Olympics velodrome, and when it became clear this wasn’t a stunt or a hoax, people waited in line for days to glimpse their destinies. A couple of months later the conservatory moved on to a stadium-sized complex erected in place of an abandoned Soviet-era village near Moscow, and people traveled from as far as Magadan to ask their questions. Cape Town, Oslo, Dubai, Adelaide followed. It’s the oldest human desire, to attempt some measure of control over the vagaries of fate. The butterflies arrived in their first North American location a month ago—a gleaming glass dome near Dead Horse Bay in south Brooklyn. The feverish buzz is that the butterflies haven’t been wrong once yet. Sitting up in bed at night, a pillow bunched behind her lower back, the laptop screen dimmed almost to black so as not to wake up Steven beside her, Hannah tracks the butterfly news stories, eyewitness reports, forums, with a hunger that won’t let her sleep. The steady hiss of their daughter’s ventilator from the next room fills the night.

*     *     *

When Hannah comes into the University of Pittsburgh Department of Biology office Monday morning, everyone is clustered around Beth’s desk with the kind of strained, zealot attention that can only mean one thing.

“I went!” Beth calls to her from the middle of the congregation.

There are five people in the office who have visited the butterflies already. Antoine—Dr. Siegal—was shown that he’ll meet his future spouse on a dog sledding trip, so he immediately booked a week-long excursion to the Yukon during winter break. They told the facilities services manager, Inna, that she’ll die at ninety-two, so she started smoking again after a decade on the wagon, sometimes sucking on two cigarettes at once. Arslan the grants administrator wouldn’t share what he asked or how the butterflies replied, but he was off for a week afterward and came back quiet, withdrawn, his gaze failing to find purchase on anything.

“I’m going to have three grandbabies!” Beth says. Her office is decorated with photos of her family clothespinned to a length of twine zigzagging across the wall, a progression of her only daughter featured in baby photos, graduation portraits, sun-lit vacation snaps, interspersed with evil eye charms and origami cranes dangling from strings.

“How did they show you?” asks Lee, the international student liaison, who went to the conservatory a week ago with her whole extended family as though it was Disneyland.

“Drew it—there I was, a toddler in my lap and two older children, a boy and a girl, sitting crosslegged beside me, looking up at me. I seem to be telling them a story.” Beth holds up her palms as though the image is still there, a fragile daguerreotype of her future progeny.

To read the rest of “Lepidomancy” click here.

Feb 27

February Book Review: Self-Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon

Today, we are pleased to feature a review of Self-Portrait With Boy, Rachel Lyon’s debut novel, which came out earlier this month. Our reviewer Tessa Yang writes: “With a vividly rendered setting, an emotionally turbulent narrative, and a spine-chilling dose of the paranormal, Self-Portrait with Boy has me dwelling on the dark side of creative expression and eager to see what Rachel Lyon produces next.”

Self-Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon

“I’ll tell you how it started. With a simple, tragic accident. The click of a shutter and a grown man’s beast-like howl.” With these opening lines, Rachel Lyon pulls us into a fast-paced and haunting narrative that dramatizes the friction between professional success and personal loyalty. When does art become exploitative? To what does the emerging artist owe her allegiance? To community? To love? To her own aspirations, and nothing else?

Lyon’s narrator, Lu Rile, is a recent art school grad living in Brooklyn in the early 90’s. She’s got big dreams and no money—a familiar combination, but rest assured, Lyon strips the starving artist cliché of all its tired romanticism. Real estate developers are closing in on Lu’s building, a ramshackle warehouse whose artist residents have been squatting for years. The landlord’s nowhere to be found. As Lu’s expenses swell (the tenants have hired a lawyer to file a suit for legal residency, and her father needs eye surgery), she finds herself working at a ritzy day school, a 24-hour Photo, and a health food store, and stealing from the latter because she still can’t afford groceries. Read more.

Feb 23

March Deadlines: 18 Lit Mags & Contests with Deadlines This Month

Spring is bursting into bloom, and so can your creativity. Take a small chance, submit to these contests, and watch your confidence grow!

FEATURED The Masters Review Anthology Prize

It’s finally that time of year again, when The Masters Review is accepting entries for our annual print anthology! Submissions can be fiction or narrative nonfiction, but they need to be less than 8000 words. The 10 winners will be published in the seventh volume of The Masters Review, and will each receive $500. This contest is judged by the fantastic Rebecca Makkai, and she will be looking for today’s best new emerging writers. Get started!
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: March 31

2018 Contest: The Future

The future is always full of possibilities, and Sonora Review is willing to pay you to find out your thoughts on the subject! Each year they award $1000 and publication to a winning short story, essay, and poem, and this year’s contest theme is The Future. Charles Yu is judging fiction, Rubén Martínez is judging nonfiction, and Harmony Holiday is judging poetry. Get ready here!
Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: March 1

International Poetry Competition

In this contest meant for poets, the Atlanta Review is looking for original and unpublished creative work. Entrants can send in up to 10 poems, although the reading fee increases after the first two poems. The Grand Prize winner will receive $1000 and publication, but the next twenty winners will also be published! Learn more here.
Entry Fee: $11 & up Deadline: March 1

Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency

This is a unique chance for any author who feels the need for unparalleled solitude while working on their current project! In return for an hour a day of maintenance, the resident receives a $5000 stipend and the use of a comfortable house in the Rogue River backcountry of southwestern Oregon for up to 10 months. Applications need to include a brief resume, a 20-page writing sample, and a letter explaining your suitability for the experience. More details here!
Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: March 1

Non/Fiction Collection Prize

Journal is looking to publish the best essay/short story collection written this year, and they are very upfront about their plan! The contest is open to writers of fiction and creative nonfiction, and entries must be less than 350 pages. The winner receives $1500 and a publishing contract from The Ohio State University Press. Check it out!
Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: March 1

Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Fellowships

This is a golden opportunity for any student finishing up their MFA or PhD in Creative Writing by August 15! If that’s you, then here is your chance to receive a nine-month fellowship that includes a stipend of $38,000, generous health benefits, and several teaching assignments. It is also important that applicants have not published more than one book. Applications must include a resume and a writing sample. Apply here!
Entry Fee: $50 Deadline: March 1

The Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize

If you want a chance to have your story of 750 words or less read aloud on Selected Shorts—then enter this contest! The winner will also be published in Electric Literature, earn $1000, and get a free course through Gotham Writers. This year’s judge is Jess Walter. So cool. Check out all the deets here.
Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: March 1

Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction

Colorado State University sponsors this prize, through the Colorado Review, and awards $2000 and publication to the winner. There are no theme restrictions, but entries must be over 2500 words to qualify! Judged by Margot Livesey, all submissions will be considered for publication. More details here.
Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: March 14


Feb 21

Stories That Teach: “Letter to the Lady of the House” by Richard Bausch & the Power of Schmaltz

In our Stories That Teach series, we take a close look at our favorite tales to see what they can teach us about craft. We’ve examined the fictional lessons and social relevance of Susan Minot’s story “Lust,” dissected the elegant sentences in Lauren Groff’s “Ghosts and Empties,” and considered what makes Steven Barthelme’s “Heaven” so effective. In our February edition of Stories That Teach, we discuss one of our old favorites: “Letter to the Lady of the House” by Richard Bausch. Here, we question the notion that sentiment is for suckers and examine what makes this romantic—but realistic— epistolary story so moving. 

“In “Letter to the Lady of the House,” sheer sappiness bumps up against moments of ugliness. Grand proclamations about the nature of love follow descriptions of the mundane. Its sentimentality is not only excusable; it’s extremely effective.”

Listen to “Letter to the Lady of the House” here.

Discussed by Sadye Teiser

I will admit that I used to listen to Richard Bausch’s story “Letter to the Lady of the House” (as it was read on This American Life) every Valentine’s Day. And I would cry. The entire story takes the form of a letter that a husband writes to his wife the night before his seventieth birthday. She has gone to sleep after an evening of petty arguing and, after some whiskey, he decides that the best way to make his feelings known is by writing her a good, old-fashioned letter.

There is a reason why people disparage Hallmark sentimentality. After all, isn’t one of the first things that we learn in writing workshops the old adage Show Don’t Tell? It’s easy to dismiss a sentimental story as having flimsy craft. But letters encourage us to be direct. Especially when they are written to someone we love, they promote sappiness. A letter is a particularly risky form for a story to take. So, how do you write a successful story in the epistolary form? And is schmaltz really so bad for fiction?

Richard Bausch’s story “Letter to the Lady of the House” first appeared in The New Yorker way back in 1989. I will admit that it has many lines that would be at home in a Hallmark card. However, several elements save the story from falling into a pit of mushiness. First, its sentimentality is often combined with harsh, but realistic, observations on marriage. Second, although it has its abstractions: the story is rooted in the commonplace.

The letter starts out by recounting the small stuff. The husband, John, and his wife, Marie, fight about whether or not the pepper that the husband puts on his potatoes will upset his stomach. She goes to bed angry. He drinks whiskey. He watches TV. He thinks about how they have to prepare the house for their children and grandchildren’s visit tomorrow. He considers leaving: going for a walk around the block, or sleeping in a hotel for the night, or perhaps never returning at all. He makes this decidedly ungenerous proclamation:

I saw our life together now as the day to day round of petty quarreling and tension, that it’s mostly been over the past couple of years or so. And I wanted out as sincerely as I ever wanted out of anything.

Now, that is something that you would never find on a greeting card. However, it is a realistic thought for a couple in the middle of a fight, after decades of marriage. Then, of course, the tone softens. The husband stands in the bedroom doorway and looks in on his wife, asleep under the covers, and thinks only of her smallness, her vulnerability. He goes for a walk in their neighborhood. He is seized by the fleeting but strong feeling that this is his last night on this earth. Well, of course, he returns home and gets a little bit sentimental. (I usually start crying right around here:)

When I stood in the entrance of our room and looked at you again, wondering if I would make it through to the morning, I suddenly found myself trying to think what I would say to you if indeed this were the last time I would ever be able to speak to you. And I began to know I would write you this letter.


Feb 16

New Voices: “Together, Maureen” by Amanda Emil Anderson

Today, we are pleased to present the third-place winner of our Fall Fiction Contest judged by Brian Evenson: “Together, Maureen” by Amanda Emil Anderson. In this story a woman, Maureen, literally becomes two different people after the sudden loss of her husband. The new Maureen and the old Maureen are left to mourn their loss together and to figure out the next step in their lives.

“Despite the visitors, Maureen and Maureen are mostly alone. Trailing one another from the living room to the kitchen, or waiting to turn into the driveway with the blinker softly ticking, the old Maureen will be struck with a thought: that was my life, and now this is. The idea plays in her head like a mantra. How strange, at this age, to get to know a new version of herself.”

First there is Maureen pacing a wide cement dock, watching rescue divers dip below the frozen lake and emerge minutes later numbed, empty-handed. This for hours.

Everything that comes after—condolences, casseroles—will happen to a different Maureen. The Maureen of now worries the lid of a gas-station coffee long gone cold. She tucks strands of gray hair under her hat, shuffles her boots against cement. By this point she could tell you many things about the dock: forty-five steps long, twelve steps across, pebbled and barnacled and slick with black ice where the lake has lapped up over its bounds. Large enough for a number of boats to tie up (in better weather), for over a dozen police officers to cluster, walkie talkies squealing, and yet the expanse feels too small to contain her.

She, this Maureen, still thinks there is a chance, or did think so; the feeling recedes with the sliding sun, lower and lower as the lake and horizon blur into an endless icy blue.

*      *      *

No—first is Whit, raspy-voiced and reedy, neither bad nor good. Whit manning the fuel pumps at his uncle’s gas station. Whit silent beside her at a school dance, his hand a thrill against her back. In an army uniform, in waders, in a borrowed suit on their wedding day. Whit who is not quite the man she expects, after they marry, but then again who is?

There is Whit with his hand a vice at the nape of their sons’ necks, just daring them to fuck up. His hand a vice around her wrist. Whit in his recliner with the TV blaring, and at the dinner table forking peas into his mouth, nothing to say, and in their still dark bedroom during deer season, soft and tender, telling her to get back to sleep while he tugs on thick socks. There is Whit at the end, collapsing through the ice with a Bud in one hand and a fishing pole in the other.

But there’ll be time enough to think on this later.

A diver is pulled back to the dock on an inflatable raft. Shivering, weak, he unhitches a harness from his shoulders. “It was like looking through tissue paper under there,” he says.

She thinks of an elementary school project, crinkled waves and seaweed inside a shoebox. Whit a flimsy paper doll glued to the cardboard.

The police chief guides her toward land. “I’m sorry. We’ll continue the recovery when conditions improve,” he says, and she’s lived through enough winters to know the difference between a rescue and a recovery. Overnight the temperature will plummet and ice will clot every opening in thick, jagged slabs. There’s no chance of finding him alive. Now they are only hoping for a body.

A new Maureen lets the chief lead her toward her car. The old Maureen waits a moment longer at the edge of the lake, not so easily convinced, then hurries to catch up to herself.

To read the rest of “Together, Maureen” click here.

Feb 15

Ooligan Press 2018 Write to Publish Flash Fiction Contest!

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



-Submissions are OPEN NOW and the deadline is March 1

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

-Submissions must be original & previously unpublished

-Submission fee: $10

Send submissions to:

Fee payable here.

Feb 13

Eight New Voices Stories To Read on Valentine’s Day

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Browse our full New Voices archive here.

by Sadye Teiser

Feb 9

Fall Fiction Contest Judged by Brian Evenson: Winners!

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


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

Second Place Story:

“Lepidomancy” by Maria Lioutaia

Third Place Story:

“Together, Maureen” by Amanda Emil Anderson

Honorable Mentions:

“The Deca-Life Crisis” by Jessi Lewis

“Fog Area” by Ben Sandman

The winning stories will publish on the site this winter.

Feb 6

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

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

Submission Guidelines:

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


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


<<Submit Here>>

Feb 2

New Voices: “Mistakes of Thought” by Youmi Park

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s going on, Lilah?”

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

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

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

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

Mama looked up at me and shrugged.

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

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

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

“I-lle-gu-lal-ly,” Mama repeated.



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

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

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

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

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