Fiction Contest

Past Winners: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

2016 Leapfrog Fiction Contest winners announced

18 manuscripts have been chosen out of 460 entries.

Click on the titles to see a description of the manuscript and author bio.

First Prize

The Quality of Mercy (novel) by Katayoun Medhat (United Kingdom)

Finalists

We Are the Children (stories) by Kate Krautkramer (Colorado)
The Worst May Be Over (stories) by George Looney (Pennsylvania)

Semifinalists

The Nevada Lean (novel) by Philip M. Hagen
On the Divide (stories) by Iver Arnegard (Colorado)
Oil (novel) by Raymond Beauchemin (Canada)
Knowing When to Die (stories) by Mort Castle (Illinois)
Journey to the Welcoming City (middle grade novel) by Gloria Whelan (Michigan)
100 Stories (stories) by Frank Burton (United Kingdom)
When the Spring Breeze Come Dancin' By (novel) by Rachel Snyder (Colorado)
Ms. Ming's Guide to Civilization (novel) by Jan Alexander (New York)

Honorable Mentions

As if Nothing (stories) by Dennis Wong (Hong Kong)
Bonefish (novel) by Allen Learst (Wisconsin)
Dogs and Days Don't Wait to Be Called (stories) by Jacob Weber (Maryland)
Flowers out of Bone (novel) by Ethel Morgan Smith (West Virginia)
Jerusalem as a Second Language (novel) by Rochelle Distelheim (Illinois)
Jonestown Perfume (novel) by Annie Dawid (Colorado)
Laerka (young adult novel) by Laura Matthias Bendoly (Ohio)
Last of the Heartwood (stories) by Lee Patton (Colorado)
Mango (novella) by Jeff Hayden (Colorado)
Monterey Gothic (stories) by Nicole Henares (California)
Runners Caught Stealing (novel) by John Nardone (Pennsylvania)
The Americans (novella and stories) by Jyotsna Sreenivasan (Ohio)
The Distance Between Stars (novel) by Jeff Elzinga (Wisconsin)
The Escaping Truth (novel) by Anatoly Molotkov (Oregon)
The Fight of His Wives (novel) by PJ Piccirillo (Pennsylvania)
The Place Where Buildings Go (novel) by Carrie Vrabel (Indiana)
Way Out Farm (novel) by Jane Harrington (Virginia)
You Can Only Save Yourself (stories) by Michelle Ross (Arizona)

 

The Quality of Mercy (novel) by Katayoun Medhat (United Kingdom)

On the trail of clues to a murder, K—aka Franz Kafka—small town cop, naturalized American citizen of European sensibilities, all-round square peg and latter day Quixote, embarks on an odyssey that leads him through the rural Southwest to the present-day Navajo ‘Rez,’ battling bureaucracy, bigotry and officialdom on the way. K is joined in his quest by Robbie Begay, Navajo tribal cop and sardonic commentator on intercultural relations. The unlikely duo’s road trip yields little in terms of tangible results, but establishes a transcontinental and trans-generational meeting of souls along universal historical fault-lines.

Katayoun Medhat was raised in Iran in a multicultural household and experienced her first significant cultural shock at a Catholic convent boarding school in rural Germany. She studied Anthropology in Berlin and London and meandered through a variety of occupations and organisations. Working in a residential adolescent psychiatric unit—which she now realizes was the sanest place she ever worked in—taught her much about individual resilience, the restorative power of groups and the human capacity to temper adverse experiences with humour. She went on to train and practice as a psychoanalytic intercultural psychotherapist before embarking on a PhD in Medical Anthropology, which led her to the Navajo Nation.

The Quality of Mercy, an ethnographic mystery, is her debut novel, where- true to real life—the trivial, the tragic and the absurd go hand-in-hand; boundaries between victims and perpetrators are blurred and history is a state of permanent transition. Katayoun’s stories have been short- and long-listed in the Fish and the Bristol Short Story Prize contests.

We Are the Children (stories) by Kate Krautkramer (Colorado)

We Are the Children is a group of stories whose characters contend with cultural disconnect and the ordeal of becoming adult. The stories explore angles on childhood and parenting and the beginnings, ends, and perimeters of each. In this collection, a stay at home dad confronts the ramifications of pediatric dentistry and professional sports, a pregnant veterinarian faces the facts of euthanasia, a brilliant, innocent boy is sent to the state penitentiary by his own father, a cuckolded bride sells rattlesnakes to save her farm, and a grown son eases his pain over his mother’s aging by tying her elder care to the rules of baseball, his only operative paradigm. In the title story, an American lumberyard worker and her immigrant Ethiopian coworker navigate the life choices of celibacy and survival while on a date to Starbucks. In We Are the Children, hostile yet accepted subcultures of American life lend context to the stories, stories that sketch the inescapable ache of having to grow up. 

Kate Krautkramer’s work has appeared in such publications as North American Review, Colorado Review, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, National Geographic Magazine, Washington Square, Zone 3, Mississippi Review, American Literary Review, and the New York Times. She has been included in The Beacon Best, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and Best of the West anthologies. Her commentary has also aired on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and Day to Day. Kate teaches kindergarten and lives in rural Colorado with her husband and children.

The Worst May Be Over (stories) by George Looney (Pennsylvania)

The sixteen lyrical and quirky stories of George Looney’s The Worst May Be Over include the story of a motel desk night clerk who decides to claim the anonymous man who died in one of the motel’s rooms as his long lost brother he must bury, the story of a man obsessed with, and haunted by, the man he killed with his car driving home one night and never even saw the face of, the story of an out-of-work circus juggler who is finding some loving yet cryptic notes from his wife taped around the house, and the story of a husband who has grown distant enough from his wife he believes she’s been robbing all-night convenience stores at gunpoint wearing a clown mask and has grown desperate enough to buy a mask like the one on the grainy security camera videos shown on the local news and troll the streets listening to a police scanner in the hopes of joining his wife in the midst of a robbery in order to recover their intimacy. These stories deal, in different and surprising and satisfying ways, with men and women in crisis who long for resolution and some sort of return to a place and time that never was.

George Looney’s books include Hermits in Our Own Flesh: The Epistles of an Anonymous Monk (Oloris Publishing, 2016), Meditations Before the Windows Fail (Lost Horse Press, 2015), the book-length poem Structures the Wind Sings Through (Full/Crescent Press, 2014), Monks Beginning to Waltz (Truman State University Press, 2012), A Short Bestiary of Love and Madness (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011), Open Between Us (Turning Point, 2010), The Precarious Rhetoric of Angels (2005 White Pine Press Poetry Prize), Attendant Ghosts (Cleveland State University Press, 2000), Animals Housed in the Pleasure of Flesh (1995 Bluestem Award), and the 2008 novella Hymn of Ash (the 2007 Elixir Press Fiction Chapbook Award).  His work has earned awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Ohio Arts Council, The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Missouri Review, New Letters, Zone 3, The Literary Review, and other journals, and he was selected as the 2010 Ohio Poet of the Year. He founded the BFA in Creative Writing Program at Penn State Erie, and is editor of the international literary journal Lake Effect, translation editor of Mid-American Review, and co-founder of the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival.

The Nevada Lean (novel) by Philip M. Hagen

On the Divide (stories) by Iver Arnegard (Colorado)

On The Divide is a collection of stories whose characters grapple with life in the margins. Hardscrabble men and women who survive the wildest parts of Colorado, Montana, and Alaska, but struggle to navigate their own emotions. These stories are about the high price people pay when independence and freedom are taken to the extreme. A struggle for openness and vulnerability fraught with violence, wonder, moments of crystalline beauty, and sometimes love.

Iver Arnegard's fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in the North American Review, The Missouri Review, Gulf Coast, Cimarron Review, Pilgrimage, Barrow Street, and elsewhere. His book, Whip & Spur, was published by Gold Line Press after winning their 2013 fiction competition. He's worked as a farmer and ranch hand, wilderness guide, waiter, dishwasher, construction worker and woodcutter. For years he lived in remote cabins across Alaska. He currently teaches creative writing at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

Oil (novella) by Raymond Beauchemin (Canada)

Raymond Beauchemin is a longtime journalist and editor. His published works include the novels Everything I Own and These Days Are Nights, plus Salut: The Quebec Microbrewery Beer Cookbook. He lives in Ontario. The novella Oil is part of a projected quartet of novellas set in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Knowing When to Die (stories) by Mort Castle (Illinois)

"The main thing about being a hero is to know when to die." That quote from Will Rogers provides the title and the theme of the stories in Knowing When to Die. These stories offer homages to Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, Edgar Allan Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald—and a harmonica playing World War I soldier, a high school guidance counselor who advises students and ghosts, and that lovelorn ape in a diving helmet, Ro-Man, from the film Robot Monster, who, even though he turned the deadly calcinator ray on this planet, still had a heart and soul.

A former stage hypnotist, folksinger, and high school teacher, Mort Castle has been a publishing writer since 1967, with hundreds of stories, articles, comics and books published in a dozen languages. With Ray Bradbury's biographer Sam Weller, Castle edited the award-winning anthology Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury (2012, William Morrow) and also with Weller, Carlos Guzman, and Chris Ryall, the graphic novel anthology Shadow Show: Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury (IDW, 2015). Castle has won three Bram Stoker Awards®, two Black Quill awards, the Golden Bot (Wired Magazine), and has been nominated for The Audie, The Shirley Jackson award, the International Horror Guild award and the Pushcart Prize.

Journey to the Welcoming City (YA/MG novel) by Gloria Whelan (Michigan)

Journey to the Welcoming City, though set in an earlier time and about India and Pakistan, is my response to the divisiveness we are seeing in our present relations with people of other cultures and other faiths. Noreen, Umar, Deema and Roshan are looking for that city where people are accepted and welcomed for whom they are.

My young adult novel Homeless Bird received a National Book Award. My stories have appeared in several literary quarterlies and anthologies, including The Gettysburg Review, The Virginia Quarterly, The Michigan Quarterly, The Missouri Review, The Notre Dame Review, and Prize Stories: O. Henry Awards. The story collection Living Together, published by Wayne State University Press, was a Foreword Reviews finalist, and received the Silver Medal in the Short Story Fiction category for the 2014 IPPY Awards.

100 Stories (stories) by Frank Burton (United Kingdom)

When the Spring Breeze Come Dancin' By (novel) by Rachel Snyder (Colorado)

Fragmented by the traumatic loss of her newborn daughter and desperate for human connection, young Cissey burrows deep into her psyche to create a well-ordered, Depression-era, rural community complete with general store, dressmaking shop, café, church, and idiosyncratic townsfolk living lives marked by a fragile regularity. As the demands of her psychological offspring grow increasingly burdensome, the shattered Cissey attempts to dissociate from her self-invented world, only to be stymied by inner turmoil and characters challenging her control and their own imminent demise. While the town devolves into a mystical entropy filled with blurred and overlapping realities, a quickly unraveling Cissey faces a heart-wrenching conundrum: how to ensure survival for her imaginary family while guaranteeing the same for herself.

My meandering writing life has spanned decades, including turns at journalism, advertising/marketing copywriting, magazine/newspaper columns, solo performance, and, most consistently, books and poetry that inspire greater self-awareness and invite people to embrace full-spectrum lives marked by joy, sadness, frustration, challenge, surrender, peace, and a continuing hunger to dig deep and spiritually evolve through the human experience. My spiritual poetry (audio and text) lives at www.rachelsnyder.wordpress.com; notable poetic moments include a reading at Word For Word Poetry Series in NYC’s Bryant Park (http://blog.bryantpark.org/2012/07/word-for-word-poetry-with-spiritual.html), and an Honorable Mention in the 2009 annual competition of Tiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature. My first book, 365 Words of Well-Being for Women (McGraw-Hill/Contemporary, 1997), was licensed as a Barnes & Noble inexpensive hardcover reprint version titled Words of Wisdom for Women (Fall River Press, 2003). Three other books are currently out of print: What There Is To Love About A Man (Sourcebooks, 1999); 365 Words of Well-Being for Mothers (McGraw-Hill, 2002); and Be Filled with Faith: Words of Well-Being to Strengthen Your Spirit (Blue Mountain Press, 2010). I currently live in a remote, rural community near the Colorado/New Mexico border, surrounded by land and sky and more cattle than people. When the Spring Breeze Come Dancin' By is my first work of fiction.

Ms. Ming's Guide to Civilization (novel) by Jan Alexander (New York)

Ms. Ming’s Guide to Civilization is a fractured utopian tale of 21st century economic inequality as seen by two broke young women who find themselves with a chance to save the world. Chinese-born Ming, an aspiring writer, NYU business-school dropout and self-described love vagabond, feels like an alien in her money-crazed homeland—and she finds America isn’t much better except for a small, struggling-against-extinction circle of friends she meets in New York. One of those friends is Zoe, a China scholar who grew up with an actress mother in a home that was like an off-off-Broadway stage set with perpetual funding problems. Both twenty-somethings are finding that their dreams get second billing to their worries about how to get by when everything costs so much. But when they travel together to the Sichuan outpost where Ming was born, they meet a mysterious Chinese hermit who just might be able to help them. That hermit is an immortal, none other than the thousand-year-old Monkey King from Chinese legend. The three create a new kind of paradise in hyper-capitalist China--but all isn’t as it seems in this land where business leaders look up to artists and thinkers, calling them society’s civilizers, and the strangest words you can hear are, “I can’t afford it.”

Jan Alexander is the fiction editor of Neworld Review, author of a previous novel, Getting to Lamma (published by Asia 2000 in Hong Kong), and co-author of Bad Girls of the Silver Screen (Carroll & Graf). Her short stories have also appeared in 34th Parallel, Everyday Fiction and Silver Birch Press. Previously a journalist in Hong Kong, she has taught Chinese cultural and political history at Brooklyn College. She now lives and works in Manhattan and is a mentor with Girls Write Now, a program that matches gifted high school girls from New York’s inner city with women writers and produces several public readings each year. http://www.janalexander.com/

As if Nothing (stories) by Dennis Wong (Hong Kong)

 

Bonefish (novel) by Allen Learst (Wisconsin)

Allen Learst has published fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in War, Literature and the Arts, Alaska Quarterly Review, Chattahoochee Review, Hawaii Review, Passages North, Ascent, The Literary Review, Pisgah, and Water~Stone. His essay, “The Blood of Children,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received a “Special Mention” in the 2008 Pushcart Prize XXXII Best of the Small Presses, and a “Notable” in the 2007 The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Marinette.

Dogs and Days Don't Wait to Be Called (stories) by Jacob Weber (Maryland

Dogs and Days Don’t Wait to Be Called is a series of stories about people who refuse (or perhaps fail) to accept that it might be better to just give up and end the thousand natural shocks the flesh is heir to. The woman impregnated by her captors after getting caught up in a human smuggling scheme, the ex-Marine whose manparts don’t work right after an unfortunate sexual mishap, the mother deciding whether her son should play his last football game in spite of a recent concussion, the pair of Eritrean refugees deciding if love is still an option after torture and cruelty: all stubbornly insist on continuing to expect something out of life, no matter how much life seems not to want to give it.

Jake Weber is a translator by day who volunteers as a mentor and English tutor to East African refugees. This has had the benefit for Jake of allowing him to steal stories from people much more interesting than he is. He has published fiction in The Baltimore Review. His blog on the frustrations of breaking into publishing—which he has vowed not to continue to post on until he has more definitively broken through—is workshopheretic.blogspot.com. He has written a novel about his day job as a translator that he would love to find a home for.

Flowers Out of Bone (novel) by Ethel Morgan Smith (West Virginia)

Flowers Out of Bone centers on the life of Grace, an African-American woman and successful entrepreneur who owns a chain of flower shops, Blooms, in Atlanta, Georgia. She and her college bound daughter, Emma, are returning home to Bone, Alabama. Emma has visited every summer since she was ten years old. With the exception of Big Mama’s funeral, Grace hasn’t returned since she left almost twenty years earlier. Her struggles appear to be about the complicated relationships with her aging mother, Beauty and troubled sister, Ruby, who is only able to find peace from Oprah, food, and God. But we soon learn Grace’s greater struggle is coming to grips with the events surrounding the murder of her young husband, whose body was found in a park twenty years earlier. Other than her belief that the murder was racially motivated, she has drawn very few conclusions about the murder. Not coming back to Bone for such a long time was the only way she could live. Fear has held this small town seized with silence and scared Grace away. But now that her beloved Big Mama is dead, and her mother is aging, Grace has come back home to understand her past and what happened on that spring night in 1970. Grace is shocked to learn that crime and drugs have reached this small town where she grew up. She overcomes fear with the love and support of the strong women in the community of Bone. We see her struggle with the past and the present through flashbacks and dreams as she uncovers the mysteries of her early life. Grace’s painful past echoes the rural South in the tradition of William Faulkner, Ernest Gaines, and Alice Walker. As landmark Civil Right cases are being revisited, so is the interest in the lives of the families and friends who were left behind. Combine that history with all of the recent killings of black bodies, this work is even more important. Flowers Out of Bone makes a giant step forward toward negotiating narrative of a specific time period making it a work of literature of social change because it moves The Civil Rights era forward. And like the narrative that it is, it writes a new history: therefore, a new culture is born.

Ethel Morgan Smith is the author of two books: From Whence Cometh My Help: The African American Community at Hollins College and Reflections of the Other: Being Black in Germany. She has also published in The New York Times, Callaloo, African American Review, and other national and international outlets. Ethel has received a Fulbright Scholar-Germany, Rockefeller Fellowship-Bellagio Italy, Visiting Artist-The American Academy in Rome, DuPont Fellow-Randolph Macon Women’s College, Visiting Scholar-Women’s Studies Research Center-Brandies University, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Bread Loaf Fellowship. She teaches at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

Jerusalem as a Second Language (novel) by Rochelle Distelheim (Illinois)

1993. The old Soviet Union is dead, the new Russia is awash in corruption and despair. This is the story of a family, the Zalinikovs; Manya, a concert pianist, Yuri, a gifted mathematician, Galina, a beautiful, narcissistic university student, secular Jews, who have lived by the rule that the less Jewish a Russian is, the safer he is. Until Yuri loses his post at The Academy, learns how to sell black market electronics, and is hustled for protection money by a low-level hustler. He falls into a melancholy, emerging determined to emigrate to Israel, where he can be a “real Jew.” And so begins their odyssey; part tragedy, part comedy, and always surprising. Against a background of marriage wigs, matchmaking television shows and a suicide bombing, the Zalinikovs confront the thin line between religion and skepticism, between Manya’s sense of exile and Yuri’s ecstatic reach for all things Israeli, asking, what does it mean to be Jewish, and what role does the mazel gene play in all of this?

Rochelle Distelheim’s short fiction has been published in The North American Review, Nimrod, Salamander, Ascent, Press 53 Anthology, Everywhere Stories, Other Voices, Story Quarterly, and has been awarded The Katharine Anne Porter Prize, The Salamander Second Prize, Finalist, Glimmer Train’s Emerging Writers, Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and Fellowships, Nominations for The Best American Short Stories and The PushCart Press Prize. “Jerusalem” has won the William Faulkner Society Gold Medal in novel.

Jonestown Perfume (novel) by Annie Dawid (Colorado)

Jonestown Perfume charts the rise and fall of the Peoples Temple, from its origins in the avant grade of the civil rights movement in 1950s Indianapolis, with the first integrated church in that city, to its horrible end in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978. Four protagonists, among them Mrs. Jim Jones and the Guyanese ambassador to the United States, make their way in and out of the movement, circling around its leader, Jim Jones, over a period of forty years. The novel begins on the 30th anniversary in 2008, when a reporter interviews one of the remaining survivors of the largest massacre of American citizens before 9/11.

Annie Dawid teaches creative writing at the University College, University of Denver. She was formerly professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. She won the 2016 International Rubery Award in fiction for her first book, and the Music Prize from Knuthouse Press in Fiction. Other awards include the Dana Award in the Essay, the Orlando Flash Fiction Award, The New Rocky Mountain Voices Award (drama) and the Northern Colorado Award in Creative Non-Fiction. Most recent publications are Tikkun and Litro. Multiple websites feature her short works, including TubeFlash, Spelk, Octavius, Nowhere, WeSaidGoTravel, Structo, Fiction Attic Press and others. Her three published volumes of fiction are: York Ferry: A Novel, Cane Hill Press, 1993, second printing Lily in the Desert: Stories, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2001; And Darkness Was Under His Feet: Stories of a Family, Litchfield Review Press, 2009.

Laerka (young adult novel) by Laura Matthias Bendoly (Ohio)

Laerka is a Southern Gothic thriller featuring Stella, the sixteen year old daughter of an out -of-work fisherman and Laerka, a mysterious Danish girl who leaps off a container ship into the Savannah River. Stella appoints herself as Laerka's rescuer. She and her sister Aleksandra have both been kidnapped by a Russian trafficker and forced to work in the off-highway strip trade. Together with a band of teenage skater punks, Stella busts the gang of traffickers, but not before discovering that both he and Laerka have a secret supernatural skill—she, to morph into the Rusalka mermaid, and he into the Vodyanoy water dragon.

Laura Bendoly is a writer, photographer and teacher of writing in Columbus, Ohio. She is the author of the 2015 thriller, The Estate and contributor to numerous on-line and in-print magazines. When not researching a book, she photographs architecture, landscapes, animals and people. When not behind the camera or in front of the screen, she does yoga and cycling, she runs, kayaks and swims and loves long walks in the mountains. Recently moved from Atlanta, she had a long career in the museum field and worked at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, the Atlanta History Center, the High Museum of Art and the Indiana University Art Museum. Laura lives with her husband and two children in the village of Upper Arlington.

Last of the Heartwood (stories) by Lee Patton (Colorado)

The stories in Last of the Heartwood, “Two Lives,” and “One Shoreline” are interrelated, following two working-class north coast California boys from opposite family types—one abusive and collapsing, the other nurturing and solid—from childhood through middle age.

Read in order, the collection is novel-like, though each story can stand on its own. The stories proceed in chronological order. Characters will reappear later, minor roles becoming major or vice-versa; boyhood stuff, school, career, marriage, divorce, and the illness and death of family members all unfold in the usual order of ordinary lives.

When I started thinking of these stories as having those inter-relationships, I saw how the force of history—personal, family, community, national and even international—drove the narrative line. Near the beginning, history cradles a boy hiding from his father in a redwood tree tunnel that his grandfather created. Then a faraway event in the American South overwhelms a California teenager. And, much later, as these two Californians travel separately in Ohio and Guatemala, “history” itself actually detonates in their paths, then explodes, forcing detours and escapes.

But neither character can escape the pull of home town and family. Overall, I wanted to focus on how family bonds, or the lack of them, drive life into unexpected destinations.

Lee Patton enjoyed a free-range childhood on northern California’s Mendocino Coast, attended college in Sacramento and the Bay Area, including ed-school at San Francisco State and an MA in the University of Denver's Writing Program. He once developed an accidental career as a mystery novelist and woke from a ten-year spell as an accidental playwright to concentrate on fiction and poetry. In non-fiction, he's focused on political satire, travel and environmental reportage.

Five of these stories have already been published in literary magazines, with "Last Orphan in Cincinnati" included in Best New Writing 2012; “Progress Toward a Proof” in Recovery: A Literary Journal (and winner of the 2006 Colorado Author’s League fiction prize); “Last Words” in Adirondack Review; and “Tidal Wave” in Hawaii-Pacific Review. “The Faith of Power” is included in Main Street Rag’s new Suspense Anthology. His first collection of stories, Au Bon Pain, was launched by JMS Books in May, 2012. His third novel, My Aim Is True, came out in 2015 from Dreamspinner Press.

Mango (novella) by Jeff Hayden (Colorado)

Mango is based on the true story of the unsolved murder of a young gay man in a small town on the southern coast of Puerto Rico in the 1950's. Less the portrait of a Hate Crime through the interaction of the principles, it looks at the ripple effect on the community at large, especially on the child at the center of the story, whose relationship to the crime is not altogether innocent.

Monterey Gothic (stories) by Nicole Henares (California)

Monterey Gothic is a short story cycle structured around the life of protagonist Aurelia Lorca, as she strives to understand the complexities of her Andalusian heritage and her home, the Monterey Peninsula. The stories are about family and lovers and ghosts, about losing lovers and finding sanity. How Aurelia wants so badly to connect to her past, and nostalgia for lost futures, while she is told you’re not allowed your past, you’re not allowed your heritage, and decides, I’m going to do this anyway.

Nicole Henares (Aurelia Lorca) is a poet, storyteller, and teacher who lives in San Francisco, California. She has her BA in English from UC Davis, her MFA in Writing and Consciousness from California Institute of Integral Studies, and is an alumna of the Voices of Our Nation Writing Workshops. Her work has appeared throughout the small press. She is interested in how Lorca’s duende, the duende of Andalusia and flamenco, is a cross cultural spirit.

Runners Caught Stealing (novel) by John Nardone (Pennsylvania)

In Runners Caught Stealing, Ebbets Field is still standing and home to the Major League franchise Brooklyn Titans, and the greatest of the team’s former players, Chip Cicero, has drawn two lifetime bans from the game and escaped federal indictment by exiling himself to Cuba. Throughout his chapters, Chip advocates for his readers to be selfish as he recasts his image as a winner on the field and off and extolls his exploits as a gambler, cheater, and womanizer, without censoring for obscenity or offense. Other sections of the book focus on Chip's longtime friend and newspaper reporter, Roger Dwyer, and revisit Chip's childhood, baseball career, and family life.

John Nardone a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and an Associate Professor of English at Lehigh Carbon Community College in eastern Pennsylvania. Sections of this work have been accepted at Atticus Review, Aethlon, and Red Rock Review. He has served as an editor at Big Fiction and book reviewer at Mid-American Review, and he is a co-host of the literary talk show Read First, Ask Later, which has featured George Saunders, Susan Orlean, and Chad Harbach as guests. He resides in Allentown, Pennsylvania with his wife and children. Runners Caught Stealing is his first novel.

The Americans (novella and stories) by Jyotsna Sreenivasan (Ohio)

This collection traces the story of immigrants from India from the birth of a second-generation child to the death of a first-generation immigrant. The characters in each story are different, but are linked by their shared Indian heritage. The novella and stories are arranged in reverse chronological order, based on the age of the second generation character. The title novella, "The Americans," explores the complicated relationship of an elderly immigrant mother (a doctor who embraced the American Dream) and her middle-aged Americanized daughter, who feels she has never lived up to her mother's goals for her. The stories reveal characters who are struggling to love and accept each other and themselves while grappling with cultural and generational clashes.

My novel And Laughter Fell from the Sky was published in 2012 by HarperCollins. My short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines (including Tampa Review and American Literary Review) and anthologies (including Confessions: Fact or Fiction? and Mamas and Papas: On the Sublime and Heartbreaking Art of Parenting). I am also the author of novels for children and reference books for high school and college students. I have received grants from the Washington, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and currently live in Columbus, Ohio. Please see my web site Second Generation Stories: Literature by Children of Immigrants, www.SecondGenStories.com.

The Distance Between Stars (novel) by Jeff Elzinga (Wisconsin)

An American diplomat searches for a missing journalist in an African country on the verge of civil war. The Distance between Stars is a story about duty, race, and national identity.

Jeff Elzinga is a graduate of the Writing Program at Columbia University. He formerly worked for the U.S. Department of State. Currently, he teaches courses on fiction writing in the BA/BFA writing major at Lakeland University in Wisconsin.

The Escaping Truth (novel) by Anatoly Molotkov (Oregon)

A tale of a lost individual drawn to sitting on other people’s porches, The Escaping Truth is an emotional, fluid story of transformation and healing through encounter. The novel employs an international cast to undertake a subtle investigation into personal and political traumas that affect us, and the individual’s search for meaning and redemption.

Born in Russia, A. Molotkov moved to the U.S. in 1990 and switched to writing in English in 1993. Published or accepted by Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, Cincinnati Review, Tampa Review, Raleigh Review, Cider Press Review, Pif, 2 River and many other journals, Molotkov is the winner of New Millennium Writings and Koeppel fiction contests, two poetry chapbook contests, and a 2015 Oregon Literary Fellowship. His full-length poetry collection, The Catalog of Broken Things, is forthcoming from Airlie Press in October 2016. Molotkov’s translation of a Chekhov story was included by Knopf in their Everyman Series. Visit him at AMolotkov.com.

The Fight of His Wives (novel) by PJ Piccirillo (Pennsylvania)

The Fight of His Wives opens in 1882 in Washington’s Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station. Narrator Anna Maria Sharpe is departing for the backwoods of north-central Pennsylvania, which she fled in her teens suspicious of her identity. She encounters Benjamin James, now a drifting, alcoholic longshoreman, who’d been implicated in the murder of his brother during Anna Maria’s childhood. Benjamin joins her on the journey, weaving the tale of the founders of their sordid hideaway settlement: his father, the infamous ex-slave Jedediah James; George Sharpe, a former indentured grist-miller whom Anna Maria believes was her grandfather; and the white women they had escaped with to the wild Sinnemahone country, Sarah James and Rosanna Sharpe. Through the story, Anna Maria learns that the man Benjamin had been accused of murdering had been her father, and the murderer, her half-brother.

Benjamin’s account of the life of Jedediah James reveals a fatal obsession with ownership driving this freed slave toward his reckoning. Hostilities build to a head between James and his wife’s father—the august revolutionary war veteran Samson Starret—as well as Sarah’s ex-suitor, Thomas Tillman, a man fixated on this woman whom an ex-slave stole from him on the eve of their arranged marriage. The scenes of The Fight of His Wives take the reader from a plantation in Virginia’s tidewater region to the tragic end of a whiskey and timber-pirating operation on the Susquehanna’s un-peopled and feral West Branch during the frontier decades after Pennsylvania’s last Indian purchase.

PJ Piccirillo is a resident writer for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, an instructor of English at Butler County Community College, and a literary scholar for the PA Humanities Council. His stories and articles have appeared in journals, magazines, and syndicates, including The Laurel Review, Ellipsis, Red Rock Review, and Pennsylvania Magazine. He has twice won the Appalachian Writers Association Award for Short Fiction and holds an MFA from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program.

The Place Where Buildings Go (novel) by Carrie Vrabel (Indiana)

The Place Where Buildings Go is narrated by a woman named Anne who lives with her mother in rural Indiana and has become distrustful of the human world, instead viewing her life as similar to the lives of domesticated animals. “Men split the world. The outside. The inside,” she says, “and now the outside is as strange and unfamiliar as a dream.” Anne and her mother go missing, and Anne’s notebook is found in their abandoned house and serves as a record of Anne and her mother’s lives. Anne asks herself questions about what it is to be a human being, to be part of a species that is capable of domesticating and killing other animals, and each other. Anne’s notebook explores alternative perspectives on the ideas of success, survival, and what it means to be good.

Carrie Vrabel has an undergraduate degree in English and a Master’s degree in Library Science from Indiana University, and completed the Comedy Writing program at Second City, after which she co-wrote and directed sketch comedy shows in the Chicago area. She has written and directed short films that have been screened at the Indy Film Fest and the Midwest Independent Film Festival. She recently completed a feature-length documentary about caregiving that was screened at the Hobnobben Film Festival. She lives in northern Indiana with her family.

Way Out Farm (novel) by Jane Harrington (Virginia)

Way Out Farm is a short novel that tells the story of two young Appalachian women whose lives are knitted together after one is left alone on a farm, her dreams of family shattered when her husband commits suicide, and the other is displaced when mountaintop removal mining threatens the well-being of her children.

Jane Harrington has written books for young adults (Scholastic, Lerner) and is now crafting literary fiction and creative nonfiction in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, where she teaches college writing. Among journals that have featured her work are Chautauqua, Mom Egg Review, Anthology of Appalachian Writers, and Portland Review. She is a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), and her stories have received many honors, most recently a Pushcart nomination and selection to the short list for the Colm Toíbín International Short Story Award in Ireland.

You Can Only Save Yourself (stories) by Michelle Ross (Arizona)

The characters in You Can Only Save Yourself long to or at least consider rescuing others, including family members, coworkers, strangers, and wild animals, but they encounter various obstacles: the other doesn’t want to be rescued; the rescue requires too much self-sacrifice; or the characters discover that who they really need to save is themselves. In “If My Mother Was the Final Girl,” a teenage girl tries to stitch together the shards of her mother’s childhood using slasher film tropes. In “How Many Ways Can You Die on a Bus?” a group of schoolchildren rebel against their bus driver’s warnings about the myriad ways danger can befall them on the commute to and from school. In “Alien Eye,” a teenage science geek talks to his finger, fantasizing that he’s transmitting messages to aliens. In “Cinéma Vérité,” a woman gives her estranged mother a ride to Crater of Diamonds State Park, where the mother plans to spend her dying days digging for treasure.

Michelle Ross earned an MFA in fiction from Indiana University. Stories in this collection have appeared or are forthcoming in Arroyo Literary Review, The Common, Cream City Review, Gulf Coast, Moon City Review, The Nervous Breakdown, and other journals. Slightly different versions of this collection were finalists this year for The Juniper Prize in Short Fiction and the New American Press Fiction Prize. She serves as fiction editor for Atticus Review, and lives in Tucson, Arizona. 

 

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