The Masters Review Blog

May 25

New Voices: “Drop Zone Summer” by Nick Fuller Googins

Today, we are thrilled to share the winner of our Winter Short Story Award for New Writers: “Drop Zone Summer” by Nick Fuller Googins. This arresting, surprising, and perfectly pitched story is 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.

May 22

Essay: Literature and Technology

Every year, we use Short Story Month as an opportunity to dive deep into questions of craft. This year, we take a close look at how contemporary literature tackles technology. We discuss fiction that uses Instagram, selfies, text messages, and robots in order to help convey emotion, reflection, and meaning.

“So many futuristic tales ask this: where do we draw the line between ourselves and what we have created? If this is what it means to be a machine, what does it mean to be a person?”

The case could easily be made that literature and technology are opposites. Great literature is a celebration of our very humanity. It chronicles our subjectivity, our ugliness, our desires, and our fears. It is a record of critical thought and of lived experience. Technology on the other hand, is rote. It is comprised of mechanical parts, of code, of signals. It is pure functionality, devoid of thought.

No wonder we are so fascinated with it.

In fact, we’re obsessed. From Taylor Swift videos to Black Mirror to the Bladerunner sequel—there’s a wealth of contemporary media that interrogates our relationship with technology. Fiction is no exception. In the slush pile alone, we’ve seen many stories in the form of emails, several pieces featuring robots, a lot of fiction about drones, and one very special story that (somehow) analyzed complex trauma through emojis.

Here, we examine the ways in which technology is incorporated in contemporary stories and novels as a mirror that casts a different light on our own experience and a foil that shows us the best and worst of ourselves. Whether it’s the simple use of a text message or an encounter with AI, the use of technology in fiction often provides characters with an opportunity for self-reflection.

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I must admit that I’ve always found the selfie to be a strange and tragic form. In them, we look like bewildered creatures, staring into the lens, studying ourselves.

This conceit can be incredibly useful in fiction. It’s often very difficult to have a first-person narrator talk about themselves without it feeling contrived. Technology provides an easy solution to this problem. In Tom Perrotta’s recent novel Mrs. Fletcher, Eve, a middle-aged woman explores her own (sexual) identity after her only son leaves for college. In this passage, she examines the selfies she took after a new haircut:

They were really good—not just the haircut and the clothes, but the look on her face, and even the way she was standing with her hand on her hip, and her head canted at the perfect, self-possessed angle. Everything felt right and true, just the way she wanted it.

There I am, she thought.

 Imagine this same scene with Eve looking in a mirror, and it feels more than a little contrived. This sort of (literal) self-reflection would be very hard to achieve without the help of the selfie—a form which asks us to study ourselves from all angles. In the final line, “There I am,” Eve is reaffirming her own identity through this image. The cover for the book itself features a drawing of a woman in bed, looking at her phone, the light from its screen illuminating half her face.

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May 18

New Voices: “A History That Brings Me to You” by Katie M. Flynn

Today, we are thrilled to publish “A History That Brings Me to You” by Katie M. Flynn, the second-place winner of our Winter Short Story Award for New Writers. This story astounded us. It toggles between the point-of-view of a twelve-year-old girl whose parents are in the midst of a divorce and a neighbor across the way. The manner in which their narratives coalesce—and differ—is what makes this story so beautiful.

“Her father. That’s who her mother had been on the phone with. She knew that tone, that specific tenor of anger—only for him. Her mother hated him, the girl realized. Her mother hated her father. And then she knew it: he would have had to have done something truly terrible to make her mother hate him so, for her to carry this much rage.”

The Watson girl had only been missing a matter of minutes, yet she could feel the tension mounting, the disaster taking shape. Her cousins were calling her name loudly, angrily, like she should reveal herself, but there was no way she was going to do that. At home she’d given up on hide and seek. All the spots in her flat Tulsa house had long ago been scouted and discovered. Her mother had to pretend not to know where she was, and that wasn’t any fun, so the Watson girl played other games. But here, in Mankato, Minnesota, in a game that sprawled her aunt and uncle’s two-bedroom apartment and the mortuary below, hiding spots abounded. At first, she’d wandered the showroom, running her hands along those shiny wooden caskets with their silken insides, considered climbing in. No, that would have been too obvious. So she pushed past the door her uncle had specifically said not to open, the only room in the whole place where she wasn’t supposed to go. It was obvious why, the dead woman lying on a table, her pores showing like caverns through unevenly applied foundation, her cheeks green despite the clownish pink blush. The girl gently poked the woman’s cheek. Then she tried to lift an eyelid, which didn’t come easily, until she saw why—a flesh-colored disc, spiked and holding it in place. She pulled away, the eyelid half raised to terrifying effect, the spiked disc poking out.

She climbed into the waiting coffin, which she assumed belonged to the dead woman, who was not old in the way of a grandmother, but middle-aged like the Watson girl’s mother and very slender in her pale blue skirt suit. The girl liked the color choice, the shade of sky, and it made her like the woman, and she told her so, “I like you,” before she closed the lid, marveling at the chill the white silken fabric pulled from her skin. She was alive, in a dead woman’s box, and she knew she shouldn’t be there. Still, she didn’t get out. She did, however, reach down and remove her shoes, placing them on her chest so she’d be the only thing they’d dirty.

She could hear her cousins, those giants. They were teenage, the girl a senior who played center on the high school’s basketball team and had colossal thighs, always in shorts. The boy was only a year younger and stocky, a football player and a bit of a lady’s man, she’d heard her aunt say to her mother over their afternoon cocktail. He liked to tickle the Watson girl, who was twelve and still had the arachnid legs of a child, to get on top of her and make her laugh until a little pee escaped, a type of torture. He was handsome in a mean way and she was afraid of him. She could hear them on the other side of the door, trying to decide what to do. They agreed to check the yard out front, and she heard them go, and she was glad.

To read the rest of “A History That Brings Me to You” click here.

May 16

10 Stories About Technology

As part of our celebration of Short Story Month this year, we are studying the ways in which fiction grapples with technology—be it twitter, imagined futures populated by robots, or the unexpected power of the emoji. We would like to start our examination with a list of stories that tackle our relationship with tech. And what better way to read them then on the web? Here are ten stories that have definitely entered the information age, all available and waiting at your fingertips! Browse away.


“The Black Box” by Jennifer Egan

Technology is inextricably intertwined with communication, but how do we know if anyone is really listening? Here is a story about heroism, trust, and a very long data stream that documents the use of technology as espionage.

“Demonman” by Julialicia Case

The winner of our Summer Short Story Award for New Writers, this piece effectively contrasts the (initial) silliness of emojis with the horror of sexual assault. Told from a younger sister’s point of view, she uses emojis as her own language to describe a confusing and changed world.

“Likes” by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

Not all stories vilify technology, even when it is the most obvious disconnect between a father and his eleven-year-old daughter. He is constantly baffled by her Instagram account, and he doesn’t understand her social networks, but his willingness to soldier through his own bemusement is a lesson in true goodwill.

“Mika Model” by Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi has won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards, and it’s easy to see why. A detective is trying to decide if an android is human enough to be charged with murder, and the whole world says it isn’t. If you tell yourself something for long enough, can you ever truly come to believe it?

“Quantum Convention” by Eric Schlich

In a million different worlds, there must be a million different versions of yourself. Getting the chance to meet them might seem like an amazing windfall, but you’d better be prepared to face all of your failures, and all of your might-have-beens, and your eventual return to your own life.


May 15

Flash Fiction Contest Closes May 31

For us, spring is the season of longer days and shorter stories. You have just a little over two weeks left to submit to our Flash Fiction Contest, which will award $3000 and publication to the best story of 1000 words or less. Second and third place stories will be awarded $200 and $100 respectively, plus publication. So polish up those small wonders and send them our way. We can’t wait to be dazzled. Check out the full submission guidelines here.

<<Submit Here>>

May 11

New Voices: “Birth Stories” by Sarah Harris Wallman

Today we are pleased to present the third-place winner of our Short Story Award for New Writers: “Birth Stories” by Sarah Harris Wallman. We were immediately taken with this story which is told in short vignettes that chronicle the experiences of a group of neighborhood mothers in New Haven as the 2016 election draws near.


“Few of us could resist giving a full exegesis of our carefully chosen [baby] names. We liked literary and historical resonance. We dreaded the commonplace. We theorized what high school bullies would do with the raw material of these names; we imagined what they’d sound like in a history book, a profile in the Times, an obituary. These names would survive us when we weren’t around to tell the story of their birth. These names were the portion of destiny we got to choose.”

By the time the EMTs arrived, Clea was propped on her ruined towels with the baby on her chest, the pulsing purple cord still running between them. She didn’t want to cut it. She’d read studies, not that she could quote them just then, but she snarled at the EMTs like a feral raccoon and they agreed to wrap mother and child up together and carry them out on one stretcher. When she got the bill for two ambulance rides (really!), Clea used the fact of live cord to dispute the charge. We were one, she hissed into her phone at the customer service rep, head turned toward the shoulder that did not hold a sleeping Amaryllis, she was plugged in like a damn cell phone.

We all like Clea.

*     *     *

Monica hosted the potlucks at her apartment, once a month or more. They were a godsend. You can’t imagine how we longed for one another’s company, even though motherhood had rusted our conversational mechanism to the point where it was not unpleasant just to compare methods of combatting diaper rash. Most of us had advanced degrees. This was New Haven.

Monica was on her third child, and she knew best of all what we needed. She put out wine and plastic tumblers, a large bowl of rotini in oily walnut pesto. We all brought what we had time to grab: store-bought pies, cheeses, a half bag of clementines. The events of the day were discussed, of course, but some configuration of the women always ended up on the second-floor porch that overlooked the neighborhood, telling birth stories.

To read the rest of “Birth Stories” click here.

May 8

Debut Author Spotlight: How Black Swan Inspired My Book’s Cover by Ruth Joffre

Today, we are proud to continue our Debut Author Spotlight series with an essay from Ruth Joffre, whose debut story collection Night Beast is out today from Grove Atlantic. This collection is especially near and dear to our hearts because we had the pleasure of publishing the title story, which won our Fall Fiction Contest judged by Kelly Link. In this essay, Joffre discusses the joys and challenges of finding the perfect cover.

“When my editor at Grove asked me if I had any ideas about what the cover of Night Beast should look like, I admit I felt a bit paralyzed. What single image could represent all the short stories in this collection (which is itself so varied in form and style, including stories written in the second person and the third, the present and the past)?”

Night Beast has always felt like a particularly evocative title. I drew the title of my short story collection from the final story in the book, “Night Beast,” which won The Masters Review’s 2016 Fall Fiction Contest. Neither too specific nor too vague, the phrase “night beast” brings to mind images of a dark, ferocious predator without identifying any particular animal or even requiring the beast to be an animal. As is often the case in the collection, the “beast” can be a product of our own untamed desires. Fierce, territorial, and unrepentant, the beast raises its head when you least expect it, driving the narrator of the title story to pursue an ill-advised affair with her brother’s fiancée, a sleepwalker wrestling with her own demons. It’s beautiful and terrifying and refuses to be restrained.

How, then, to convey all this in a cover?

When my editor at Grove asked me if I had any ideas about what the cover of Night Beast should look like, I admit I felt a bit paralyzed. What single image could represent all the short stories in this collection (which is itself so varied in form and style, including stories written in the second person and the third, the present and the past)? Every writer must go through this: the immediate fear of getting it wrong followed by the elation, however preemptive, at the thought of getting it right. I began to fantasize about what my cover would look like, and eventually I realized that the fantasies were starting to self-segregate into discrete artistic directions.

I chose three to send to my editor.

The first direction was inspired by the artwork that accompanied “Night Beast” when it was first published in The Masters Review. Mysterious and surreal, the photograph features a woman in a white wedding dress walking through a verdant forest. Her back is turned, and she’s climbing a staircase, lifting the dress so the train won’t drag through the dirt; but there’s no one around, and there’s nothing to explain how the bride came to be here. She just is.


May 4

May Is Short Story Month

It’s the marvelous month of May. Along with the return of the sun and beautiful blooming things, May is Short Story Month. Every year, we dedicate our May content to a celebration of the short story form. This year, you can look forward to: our Winter Short Story Award winners, an interview with Rita Bullwinkel, whose debut short story collection is out this month, a contribution from Ruth Joffre whose first collection also launches this May, and an essay on the ever-advancing relationship between literature and technology. If you’re still hungry for awesome content that celebrates the short story, there is no shortage of fiction, essays, and interviews in our archives. Check out this interview with Aimee Bender and this essay on character folding by Rebecca Makkai (our Volume VII judge!) to get you started.

May 3

Ooligan Press’s Write to Publish 2018 Fiction Contest Winner: “The High Points” by Craig Kenworthy

Today, we are proud to publish the winner of Ooligan’s Write To Publish Short Fiction Contest: “The High Points” by Craig Kenworthy. We were happy to partner with Ooligan Press again to present another piece of short fiction. In “The High Points,” a woman unexpectedly becomes the guardian of her niece when her sister is abducted by aliens. Together, our narrator and her niece journey to the highest peaks in search of their lost sister and mother.

“But when your mom disappears into outer space, why wouldn’t a six-year-old think the best place to look for her is the highest point in each state?”

It’s rude when people give you things you don’t want. Like a child, for instance. Sure, I told my sister that I would take care of her daughter if anything ever happened to her. But Elaine never smoked, always wore her seatbelt, and wore sensible shoes when crossing the street. What were the chances?

And who expects an alien abduction these days? But that’s what happened. Elaine was lifted into the air, along with seven other patrons of a Starbucks in Centralia, Washington. Right off the outdoor patio. The authorities didn’t even try to make up a cover story. Not after all those cell phone videos hit Twitter. Some people even posted that stuff while it was happening. You’d think one of them would have grabbed Elaine by the leg, tried to pull her down.

I didn’t tell my niece Anna any of that. Not that we talked much at first. It messes you up, becoming a celebrity because your mom involuntarily left Earth for Planet X. And you can blame me for that. But you try raising a kid on a nurse’s aide salary. So, yes, I sold Anna’s story to whoever would pay: tabloids, TV, even some weird website that claimed they had been in touch with the aliens for the past thirty years. All of that goes for college. That’s the deal I made with myself.

Six months after the abduction, Anna brought home a library book about the fifty states. I didn’t think anything of it until her school called to say that she had run off while on a field trip to Mount Rainier National Park. A ranger found her above an area called Paradise, heading toward the mountain, carrying a woman’s shoe. Elaine’s shoe, the one that fell off during the abduction. When Anna got home, she refused to tell me anything.

To read the rest of “The High Points” click here.

May 1

Spring Book Reviews: A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley, The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin, & Night Beast by Ruth Joffre

Spring is in full bloom and wonderful books by debut authors are sprouting up everywhere. Today, we are proud to feature three reviews of titles that should not be missed this spring. First up, our reviewer Jenessa Abrams discusses A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley, a much-lauded debut collection that is out today. She writes: “Brinkley’s brilliant interrogation of what it means to be a man, specifically in the context of the lives of young men separated from their fathers, points to an essential blind spot in our current discourse.”

Next, Tessa Yang reviews Rebekah Frumkin’s first novel, The Comedown: “The Comedown is sprawling, and it is full of intrigue: a vanished father figure, a suitcase full of drug money, a pair of vindictive half-brothers, lots of ill-advised sex. Though the overarching plot can be hard to track, the book delights at the sentence level, where Frumkin masterfully assembles the small details that illustrate two families’ capacities for ruthlessness and love.”

And, finally, Alina Grabowski reviews Ruth Joffre’s debut collection Night Beast, which hits shelves next week. Grabowski writes: “A sense of foreboding threads through these stories, and reading them is like walking through unlit woods, unsure of just what you’ll find. Joffre frequently writes about women who are in trouble, or just a step away from it.”

A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley

In the age of the #MeToo Movement and the worldwide cultural shift, at least in awareness, to the ways in which gender and sexuality inform our experience of living in the world, Jamel Brinkley’s debut collection, A Lucky Man, comprised of tenderly poignant narratives of boys becoming men, of fractured intimacy, of masculinity as learned performance, is vital and necessary.

Brinkley’s brilliant interrogation of what it means to be a man, specifically in the context of the lives of young men separated from their fathers, points to an essential blind spot in our current discourse. We are living in a time where the narrative around men can feel singular or reductive: A man is either a savior or a villain. That is not the way that humanity works. People are more nuanced. This becomes even more salient when we add the dimension of race. Men of color are most often portrayed in popular culture as evil, as aggressor. This is a false narrative built upon a history of racism which perpetuates mass incarceration and violence.

Read more.

The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin

I always have a good feeling about a book that opens with a family tree. Something about the promised sprawl, the delicious intrigue captured in those many dates, arrows, question marks, and crisscrossing lines. Rebekah Frumkin’s debut novel does not disappoint on this front. The Comedown is sprawling, and it is full of intrigue: a vanished father figure, a suitcase full of drug money, a pair of vindictive half-brothers, lots of ill-advised sex. Though the overarching plot can be hard to track, the book delights at the sentence level, where Frumkin masterfully assembles the small details that illustrate two families’ capacities for ruthlessness and love.

Read more.



Night Beast by Ruth Joffre

I was first introduced to Ruth Joffre’s work as an assistant fiction editor at Nashville Review, when we published her story “Some of the Lies I Tell My Children,” in 2016. I was excited to see where her writing would take her, and her debut story collection, Night Beast and Other Stories, does not disappoint. It’s a mysterious and dark book, unafraid of confronting just how bleak life can be. In the title story, the narrator thinks, “…I had the experience not of dread but of knowing that something dreadful was coming and that I’d have to be ready for it.” The same could be said for the reader. A sense of foreboding threads through these stories, and reading them is like walking through unlit woods, unsure of just what you’ll find. Joffre frequently writes about women who are in trouble, or just a step away from it. In “Go West, and Grow Up,” the narrator, a girl who’s been living in the car with her mother for almost a year, narrowly escapes the owner of a dog she’s been petting, a man who slips a hand beneath her coat and says, “Don’t be coy, you must be earning a living somehow.” Read more.


Apr 30

Notes from The Slush: 2018 Winter Short Story Award

Every submission we read here at The Masters Review teaches us something new. Well, this year’s Winter Short Story Award for New Writers was no exception. It was a tough deliberation and, after the winners were chosen, we found that we still had a lot to talk about. Here, our editors discuss what makes a successful (and not quite as successful) submission. Thank you to all of our submitters for giving us so much to talk about.

“I agree we saw a lot of really polished work, it was difficult to compare the strengths and weaknesses of so many wonderful stories. That’s something you and I struggle with with a strong group: what are we valuing in this particular contest and what pushes a story forward?”

S: We just finished reading for our Winter Short Story Award for New Writers. As always, we received a large and strong crop of submissions. And, as usual, the stories we received surprised me. All three winning stories startled me for their sharp tonal contrasts and the way they subverted my expectations. I wanted to start by calling out our second-place story “A History That Brings Me To You” by Katie Flynn a bit, because that story basically toggles between two different POVs. While stories with shifting POVs often make it far in our deliberations, it’s actually pretty rare for them to be among the winners. So I thought I would ask: what are the challenges of stories with multiple POVs? What makes them succeed and/or fail in your eyes?

K: A changing POV story is so fun to read when it’s done well because it allows for a close look at multiple characters in a versatile way that can really add depth to a story. It’s a very specific narrative choice and can be a difficult technique to do well, so as you said, even though we see a lot of submissions with alternating POVs, it’s rare that one makes it to the winners circle. Alternating POV stories need to have distinct character voices and character development, clear switches in perspective, and both points of view need to be necessary for the story. We see writers make mistakes in each of these areas, but for me the biggest challenge we see over and over again is confusion in the narrative when points of view are switching. Too often writers are ineffective at presenting the new point of view and I’m taken so out of the world of the story, it undermines my trust and interest in the piece. To me this speaks to the work a writer puts into the story before she begins writing: understanding why each perspective is important, developing a strong anchor for that perspective, and seamlessly folding it into the piece. I’m not sure if you agree, but another area we see in toggling points of view is when one perspective is so much weaker than the main narrative. The result is an imbalanced story. Katie Flynn’s piece, on the other hand, did a great job of presenting a story that required both POVs and both were anchored in fully developed and flushed out characters. What mistakes do you see in this technique? What other reasons did you see that we rejected stories this round?

S: I agree that one of the biggest challenges for a story with a shifting POV is simply the transitions themselves. It’s also important that each POV feel essential to the story, and we do see a lot of really well-written pieces struggle in that department. “A History That Brings Me To You” only had two different POVs—and the toggle between two characters who we came to know well ended up being extremely effective. Now, we see a whole lot of really well-written stories that take on many more than two POVs. In fact, there was a vivid story that made it to the finalists round and included sections told from many different perspectives all united by their location in a particular summertime beach town; they also centered around a particular tragic event. While this story was really well done, it failed to go very deep. A story with many different POVs can sometimes feel like a panoramic camera shot—it covers a lot of ground well, but doesn’t stop on anything long enough to have staying power. We saw this with a few stories this round: they were structurally compelling and well-written, but ultimately they didn’t zoom in deep enough on any one character or emotion. There was one story that alternated between two different times—decades apart—in a characters’ life when she had run over an animal. There was another that told the story of the dissolution of a family’s relationship in a series of short vignettes that jumped forward and back in time. In both cases, the format ended up getting in the way of the deep character work that needed to be done. Still! It’s an honor to read so many great stories. What trends did you notice this round in terms of theme and content?

K: I agree we saw a lot of really polished work, it was difficult to compare the strengths and weaknesses of so many wonderful stories. That’s something you and I struggle with with a strong group: what are we valuing in this particular contest and what pushes a story forward? It can feel like a difficult metric, but you and I always come back to thorough, deep, and thoughtful stories with excellent character work, polished writing on the line level, and a solid, narrative arc. Some of the stories we were considering had holes in one or more of these areas: the logistics of the narrative weren’t clear enough or the character work wasn’t deep or satisfying to the right degree, or even, there was some confusion in place and time. I thought we saw a lot more experiments in form and in the premise of the story this round, and most of them were really satisfying and complete. I loved a story about God living in a domestic neighborhood and following the struggles of God’s neighbor who desperately needs a favor. There was another good piece about a strange high school where the girls are exploring their sexuality by getting naked as part of a class, and even, a modern Virgin Mary story, which all have obvious related themes. However, we also saw quite of bit of traditionally structured stories and ideas. One that I really enjoyed explored a man and a woman and the slow disintegration of their relationship. That is a pretty familiar idea, but it was presented in a really fresh way and extremely well written. One if its setbacks, however, was the story circled around the same emotion time and time again, to the point it didn’t feel like there was enough emotional development for the piece. It’s so interesting how unique and special each of the stories we see are. What did you think about some of the more traditional pieces we saw? What were some of the reasons those pieces were declined?

S: I agree with all of those comments about the content we saw this round. We love a good experimental or magical realist story but most of the pieces that made it to the final round this time were very traditional in form and content. It is interesting that we had that story about God living in a regular suburban neighborhood and the retelling of the Virgin Mary story. There were also a lot of pieces that explored different facets of female sexuality. We saw a whole lot of very strong traditional stories that lacked true staying power. There was one told in the retrospective voice from the point of view of a young woman whose friend had been killed when they were teenagers. There was another one that illustrated the story of a relationship and another in which a woman bluntly reflected on her romantic history. All of these stories were really readable and very well-crafted and we did discuss them. However, when it did come time to talk about them, I found that these stories had not stayed with me as powerfully; they hadn’t really gotten under my skin. I think that this was, at least partially, due to a lack of reflection on the part of the protagonists. They all did an exquisite job of telling their stories, but I wasn’t as sure what their stories meant to them. I’d like to give you a chance to talk about our winning story “Drop Zone Summer” by Nick Fuller Googins. What stood out to you about this piece?

K: I loved this piece! It’s special, too, because we have seen stories from Nick before and he was a New Voices author some years ago, so it’s a testament to really seeing an author’s career grow. “Drop Zone Summer” is about a Somali Refugee who works at a skydiving facility and is in love with one of the instructors, but that interest is unrequited. It’s one of those pieces that just works. It’s impeccable on the sentence level and Nick did a fantastic job of being thorough and complete in terms of the story’s themes. He addresses issues of identity, privilege, social status, and of course, love. Everything about the story feels fully earned and there is real exploration and growth by the protagonist as well as the secondary characters. It was also extremely fun and easy to read. I’m so pleased we’ll get the chance to share this story with agents and our readership. Our library continues to add wonderful work by emerging authors and I’m so happy for those writers and honored we get to share their work. Thanks, Sadye, this was an awesome group.
Apr 27

May Deadlines: 15 Lit Mags & Contests with Deadlines This Month

It’s finally feeling like spring, and the world is full of green growing things. Now it’s your turn to create something new, and send it off to one of these amazing events!

FEATURED The Masters Review Flash Fiction Contest

Never before has each word in a submission been worth so much…You might be limited to 1000 words, but the winner will be rewarded with 3000 dollars! Second and third place receive $200 and $100, respectively, and all stories are considered for publication. We’re only looking for previously unpublished stories, but you’re allowed both simultaneous and multiple submissions. Don’t miss it!
Entry Fee: $20 for 2 stories Deadline: May 31

FEATURED Frontier Poetry Industry Prize

If ever there was a time to shine and polish your most magnificent poem, this is it! This prize allows submitters the chance to be read by astoundingly influential people; this year it’s Don Share, Nicole Sealey, and Matt Zapruder. They will collaborate to choose one winning poem, and that winner receives $3000 and publication (Second and third place receive $200 and $100 respectively). Check it out!
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: May 15

Creative Nonfiction Grants

The Whiting Foundation offers a helping hand to authors in the midst of completing a book-length work of nonfiction for a general, not academic, audience by awarding up to eight grants of $40,000. They welcome submissions such as works on history, biography, the sciences, philosophy, travel writing, and even personal essays, but these projects must be under contract to a publisher in the United States. Work must have been ongoing for two years, to ensure that the author can identify upcoming challenges, but any applicants who fulfill all the requirements already know that this is an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don’t miss out!
Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: May 2

Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize

This amazing prize is available through Duke University, and it’s based on the collaboration between photographer Dorothea Lange and writer Paul Taylor. They’re looking for extended projects that rely on combining words and images, up to eighteen images and fifteen pages! Applications must include a project description, a statement, and a biography. The winner will receive $10,000, a feature story, and their work will be placed in the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University. More details here.
Entry Fee: $70 Deadline: May 15

Emerging Writer’s Contest

Ploughshares is now focusing on their commitment to promoting the work of up-and-coming writers, so there’s no better time to submit! This contest is meant to celebrate emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, awarding $2000 and publication to the winners of each category. Carmen Maria Machado is judging fiction, Roxane Gay is judging nonfiction, and Roger Reeves is judging poetry. Guidelines here.
Entry Fee: $24 Deadline: May 15

Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize

If you have a poem to share, Ruminate wants to read it! Judged by the impressive poet Ilya Kaminsky, the first-place prize is $1500 and publication. Each submission is only two poems, 40 lines or less, but there are no limits on the number of entries per person. Submit here.
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: May 15

The Loraine Williams Poetry Prize

Natasha Trethewey is judging this contest for The Georgia Review, and they are looking for a masterful poem! The final winner will receive $1000 and publication, but all submitted poems will be considered for publication (at $4 a line). Learn more here.
Entry Fee: $15 Deadline: May 15

Prophecy Creek Book Award in Speculative Fiction

If you write your fiction with a futuristic or supernatural bent, this is the contest you’ve been waiting for! Hidden River Press is looking for an original unpublished work of speculative fiction, and the winner will receive $1000 and publication. Make a note that submissions need to include a brief biography, outline, and full synopsis along with the full manuscript! More details here.
Entry Fee: $22 Deadline: May 15