Winter Short Story Award for New Writers: December 1, 2023 – January 28, 2024

The Masters Review’s Short Story Award for New Writers is a bi-annual contest that recognizes the best fiction and creative nonfiction from today’s emerging writers. Winners and honorable mentions receive agency review from five agencies as well as publication. The winning story earns $3,000, while the second and third place runners up receive $300 and $200, respectively.
January 21, 2022


Submissions closed. Thank you!


Get a head start on your new year’s resolution by submitting to The Masters Review’s Winter Short Story Award for New Writers! This award, which has been offered twice a year since 2016, pairs emerging writers with some of the industry’s top literary agents. Past finalists include Nana Nkweti, Nick Fuller Googins, Katie M. Flynn, Reena Shah, Rachel Cochran, and Claire Boyles, several of whom earned representation from one of our partnered agents as a result of this contest.

We welcome submissions of previously unpublished fiction or creative nonfiction up to 6,000 words. Returning to judge this year’s contest is the fantastic Kelly Link, whose debut novel, The Book of Love, is set to release in February 2024. Our contest runs from December 1, 2023, to January 28, 2024, and is open to any writer who has not published a novel or memoir with a major press. The first-place winner of this contest, selected by our guest judge, will receive a $3,000 grand prize, along with online publication. Second- and third-place winners will receive $300 and $200 respectively, along with online publication.

All finalists will receive agency review from our six partnered agencies. Participating agents include Nat Sobel from Sobel Weber, Victoria Cappello from The Bent Agency, Andrea Morrison from Writers House, Sarah Fuentes from United Talent Agency, Heather Schroder from Compass Talent, and Marin Takikawa from The Friedrich Agency.

Here’s what Kelly says about what she’s interested in as a judge:

“I’m looking for stories that feel as if they matter to the person who wrote them, where I have the sensation that I’m in conversation not only with another person, but with all of the writers and various communities that they’re in conversation with. I’m looking for stories that make a promise on the first page, telling me what matters in that story. I’m looking for stories that understand something of the genres from which they’re drawing, that feel as if the writer is taking a big swing. The subject matter doesn’t have to be big, the stakes don’t have to be high, but I want to feel as if there’s something lively and outsized about the language, or the voice, or what it tells me about how we live in the world.”

Submission Guidelines:

  • The first-place winner receives $3,000, online publication, and agency review.
  • The second- and third-place finalists receive cash prizes ($300/$200), online publication, and agency review.
  • Submissions of fiction or nonfiction must be under 6,000 words.
  • Submitted work must be previously unpublished. This includes personal blogs, social media accounts, and other websites. Previously published work will be automatically disqualified.
  • The entry fee is $20.
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions are allowed, though each submission requires a $20 entry fee.
  • If your submission is accepted elsewhere, please withdraw your submission on Submittable, or contact us otherwise to let us know the piece is no longer available.
  • We do not require anonymous submissions for this contest, but the guest judge will read the shortlist anonymously.
  • This contest is for emerging writers only. Writers with single-author book-length work published or under contract with a major press are ineligible. We are interested in providing a platform to new writers; authors with books published by indie presses and self-published authors are welcome to submit unpublished work.
  • International submissions are allowed, provided the work is written primarily in English. Some code-switching is warmly welcomed.
  • All submissions must be double-spaced with one-inch page margins and use Times New Roman or Garamond.
  • The contest’s deadline is 11:59pm PDT on January 28, 2024.
  • All entries are also considered for publication in New Voices.
  • Every submission will receive a response by the end of May 2024. The winners will be announced by the end of June 2024.
  • AI-generated submissions will be automatically disqualified.
  • Friends, family, and associates of the guest judge are not eligible for this award. Consider submitting to the summer contest instead!
  • A significant portion of the editorial letter fee is paid directly to your feedback editor.

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


Kelly Link is the author of White Cat, Black Dog, a national bestseller; Get in Trouble, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction; Magic for Beginners; Stranger Things Happen; and Pretty Monsters. Her debut novel, The Book of Love, is forthcoming from Random House in February 2024. Her short stories have been published in The Best American Short Stories and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. She is a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellow and has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the co-founder of Small Beer Press and co-edits the occasional zine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. She is also the co-owner of Book Moon, an independent bookstore in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Editorial Letter Option

If you’re interested in getting feedback on your writing, utilize our editorial letter add-on option. Our response to your submission will be accompanied by a one- to two-page letter from an experienced guest editor, who will offer observations on the strengths of the piece as well as opportunities for revision, where a revised version of your story might be a good fit, reading suggestions, and other comments on craft. Though there is an additional reading fee for this option, a significant portion of the fee is paid directly to your feedback editor. See a sample editorial letter.

Recent News from Past Winners

Congratulations to Donovan Swift, author of “Advanced Reader,” our 2022-2023 Winter Short Story Award for New Writers winner!
Second place: “Where They Come From” by Casey Quinn
Third place: “The River at the End of the Road” by Hillary Millán
Honorable mention: “The Developer” by Sarah Walsh

The 2022 shortlist can be found here.

All previous contest winners can be found on our Past Awards page.


At The Masters Review, our mission is to support emerging writers. We only accept submissions from writers who can benefit from a larger platform: typically, writers without published novels or story collections or with low circulation. We publish fiction and nonfiction online year-round and put out an annual anthology of the ten best emerging writers in the country, judged by an expert in the field. We publish craft essays, interviews and book reviews and hold workshops that connect emerging and established writers.

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