Fiction Contest

Other Winners: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2009



First Prize

Allen Learst had been awarded First Prize for his linked story collection

"Dancing at the Gold Monkey"


The Immanence of God in the Tropics (stories) by George Rosen

Hollywood Buckaroo (novel) by Tracy DeBrincat

A World of Born (novel) by C. K. Killheffer


Rooms and Closets (stories) by Janice D. Soderling (Sweden)

Into the Wilderness (stories) by David Harris Ebenbach

Honorable Mention

Heart's Blood (novel) by Elizabeth Zinn Ervin

Revelation (novel) by Colin Winnette (forthcoming, Mutable Sound Press)

A Wilderness of Monkeys (stories) by Robert McKean

Splendorific by (stories) Liza Kleinman

Outside In (novel) by Scott Shachter

The Impossibility of Crows (novel) by Rosanne Daryl Thomas

Saluting the Magpie (stories) by Jacob M. Appel

Family Lovers by (stories) Norma Rosen

The Incurables (stories) by Mark Brazaitis

Sidewalk Dancing (stories) by Letitia L. Moffitt

The Water Monarchs (novel) by Zenju Earthlyn Marselean Manuel

We'd like to thank all the authors who submitted manuscripts.

Here are some interesting details about this year's entrants:

Total entries: 546. Short story collections: 24%. Authors: 52% men. 7% non-US. Countries: Australia,  Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Trinidad & Tobago, United Arab Emerites, and the United Kingdom.


George Rosen "Our Big Game"

In the stories of “Our Big Game,” George Rosen focuses on wanderers—expatriates, refugees, or the simply discontented—who have left behind the restrictions and the certainties of home. An English missionary sailing to 19th-century Africa to convert heathen he can barely imagine, a divorced American teacher of Business English seeking in Mexico in middle age a new language to understand his life, a group of veterans of the Old Left who find themselves strangers in the strange land that their own country has become—all look in new and different worlds for the surprise of hope and the rediscovery of love.

George Rosen was born in Chicago and educated at  Harvard. In addition to working as a political speechwriter, a high-school debate coach, and a low-income-housing consultant, he was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya, which served as the setting for his 1990 novel, Black Money (Scarborough House), called by Kirkus Reviews “a sophisticated, rich, and tantalizing portrait of East Africa” and by Library Journal “a strong study of power that corrupts at every level and of idealism that persists.” His short stories have appeared, among other places, in Harper’s, the Yale Review, the Harvard Review, and a Harcourt Brace anthology of crime fiction, A Matter of Crime. Rosen has reported on West Africa for the Atlantic, on Mexico for the Boston Globe, and writes frequently for the Globe’s op-ed page. He has been a radio commentator for the Boston NPR station, WBUR, and taught writing at Tufts University. His awards include the Frank O’Connor Memorial Award from the editors of Descant, two fellowships from the Artists Foundation, and most recently, a Fellowship in Fiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Tracy DeBrincat "Hollywood Buckaroo"

Tracy DeBrincat’s debut story collection, Moon Is Cotton & She Laugh All Night (Subito Press/University of Colorado), won the 2010 Prize for Innovative Fiction and is a 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist. Her prize-winning short stories and poetry have been published in journals from Another Chicago Magazine to Zyzzyva. Tracy’s hometown is San Francisco, but she loves living in Los Angeles, where she is a freelance creative advertising consultant and authors the blog Bigfoot Lives!

Hollywood Buckaroo is the darkly comic tale of a wannabe director coming to grips with love, death and family secrets while filming a hamburger commercial. Sander is a plumber's son and aspiring filmmaker whose thirtysomething life is in the toilet. Unable to grieve for his recently deceased dad, he takes advantage of an opportunity to direct a commercial starring a freshly rehabbed pop star on location in the old west town of Buckaroo for a producer who needs, well...someone with no talent. Amid Sander's efforts to prevent the troubled project from imploding, a host of eccentric locals jumpstart his creative juices and crack open the places in Sander’s heart where he loves and can grieve for his father.

Allen Learst "Dancing at the Gold Monkey"

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.

My stories reveal the aftermath of war through the voices of Vietnam veterans and their families. These stories take place in Detroit, a bleak environment that backgrounds the edgy, violent, and often dysfunctional motivations of my characters, who manage throughout their wanderings to exhibit moments of tenderness and compassion. My intention is to show my audience parallels between all wars, the suffering those who return from combat must confront and the suffering of those who survive war’s consequences: threats of violence, suicide, anxiety, alienation, and depression. These stories are about loss and redemption; they are about survival.

C. K. Killheffer "A World of Born"

Despite all we may know about the realities of agribusiness, for most of us ‘farm’ still means something small and appealingly human-scaled, a place of orchards and weathered barns, home to animals dear to us since childhood.  It is an ideal that we love and we yearn for because such places, like the animals they sustain, are now almost entirely lost to us, consumed by a condo and strip mall landscape.

That sense of longing forms the basis of A World of Born, which begins with the demise of one of these beloved farmsteads.  The novel follows the consequences of that loss – not for the human community, but for the animals living on the farm, who, sensing danger after the farmer dies, flee first into the woods, then into an increasingly suburban world, finally to the edge of the city itself.  The story looks through the animals’ eyes at our own predicament of loss, our own longing for the “world of born” that we've left behind.

C. K. Killheffer is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a manager at Yale University Library.  For ten years he worked on a small organic farm in Connecticut, a rich and varied experience which gave rise to much of the substance of A World of Born.  Killheffer's essays and fiction have appeared in Touchstone and Pilgrim, and he's currently at work on his second novel.

Janice D. Soderling "Rooms and Closets"

Janice D. Soderling is a writer, poet and translator. This collection of short stories and flash fiction ranges from lyrical prose through surrealism to narrative. Her awards for writing in English include first place in a short fiction competition at Glimmer Train Stories and the Harold Witt Memorial Award from Blue Unicorn for Best-of-Volume 2010; for her Swedish writing, she was recipient of the 2007 Artistic Women regional award from Stiftelsen för Kvinnlig konstnärskap och kreativitet  (Foundation for Women's Artistry and Creativity); her work appears more than one hundred print and online venues based in the United States, Canada, England, Australia and other countries, and in several American and Swedish anthologies.  She grew up in the United States but lives in Sweden.

David Harris Ebenbach "Into the Wilderness"

David Harris Ebenbach's first book of short stories, Between Camelots (University of Pittsburgh Press), won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize and the GLCA New Writer's Award. His poetry has appeared in, among other places, the Beloit Poetry Journal, Subtropics, and Mudfish. Recently awarded fellowships to the MacDowell Colony and the Vermont Studio Center and an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council, Ebenbach has a PhD in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College. Find out more at

The short story collection Into the Wilderness explores the powerful experience of parenting from many angles: an eager-to-connect divorced father takes his kids to a Jewish-themed baseball game; a lesbian couple tries to decide whether their toddler son needs a man in his life; one young couple debates the idea of parenthood while another struggles with infertility; a mother recovering from a difficult pregnancy throws herself back into the world of dance. We also get to know a new single mother named Judith in four stories scattered throughout the book. These stories both stand alone and, when taken together, form a novelistic narrative arc that takes the reader through Judith's challenging first weeks of motherhood, culminating in an intense and redemptive baby-naming ceremony. These stories -- the Judith stories and all the others -- approach the world of parenthood with freshness, sympathy, humor, complexity and awe. Several have been published in literary magazines, such as Agni, Ascent, the Antioch Review and the North American Review, and one was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Elizabeth Zinn Ervin "Heart's Blood"

Elizabeth Zinn grew up in Michigan and attended the University of Michigan and the University of Paris as a Fulbright Scholar.  After a career in music she spent eight years as Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Arizona before retiring to write fiction full time.  After a lifetime of authoring various nonfiction and academic works, she now has completed three novels, a collection of short stories, and a number of poems.  Her short story Dancer won an Honorable Mention in Glimmertrain’s 2010 Short Story Award for New Writers competition, placing it in the top 5% of over a thousand other works. She lives in a small town in the mountains of southern Arizona.

Heart’s Blood is a novel of place, filled with lyrical and cinematic descriptions of the grasslands and vistas of the southern Arizona border, the changing seasons, and the people who are part of the rich mix of rural life at the end of the 20th century.  It is a family saga, spanning two generations beginning in the early 1970s. The story follows the life of the central character, Tyler McNeil, from his impulsive (and fateful) decision to leave his itinerant existence, through unexpected parenthood, loss, love, and finally peace in his old age.  A cast of colorful characters wander in and out of the tale, sometimes taking center stage, sometimes weaving themselves into the tapestry of the whole.  We meet Mana, an illiterate and abused border crosser who bears a child and then vanishes; Lita, her infant daughter whom Ty adopts and raises; the complex and evil Blanco, leader of a powerful drug cartel; the frightening Marcela Beltran, Blanco’s wife, who only eats white food and covets Lita’s daughter; Claire, the love of Ty’s life whose stumbling heart threatens to take her from him; and, CJ, Ty’s natural son who rejects him when he learns of his parenthood.  These and many others serve up a hearty mixture of love, hate, murder, compassion, and humor. 

Scott Shachter "Outside In"

A mob boss, a schizophrenic painter, and a choir of interdimensional aliens with very sharp teeth are all that stand between Shawn and jazz stardom.  Shawn's music is more than just unusual. It's a portal to other worlds and a magnet for groupies so disturbed that they form a cult in his honor, scaring off the love of his life, the one person he can't do without.

Scott Shachter has performed his flutes, clarinets and saxophones in groups ranging from the American Symphony to Manhattan Transfer, as well as on more than fifty Broadway shows, including Billy Elliot, 42nd Street, Phantom and The Producers.  He has a Master of Arts, summa cum laude, from California State University, Northridge, and a Bachelor of Science, magna cum laude, from Temple University.  OUTSIDE IN, his first novel, reached the quarterfinals for the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Colin Winnette "Revelation" (forthcoming, Mutable Sound Press)

For Marcus, in the face of unrelenting catastrophe (the seven trumpets of the Book of Revelations, to be specific), the question of how to go on is impossible. There is no time. Hail, forest fires, swarms of locusts, the earth collapsing into itself, bodies falling from the sky, all of these things are daily happenings for Marcus, his family and his friends. The book chronicles Marcus' efforts to live in this catastrophic world, to find what human connections he can, and to question their function, as the chaos around him destroys the ground on which these relationships are formed.

Colin Winnette is an author and artist living in Chicago.  HIs award-winning novella Revelation is forthcoming in October 2011, with Mutable Sound.  His short work can be found in American Short Fiction, Alice Blue Review, Spork Press, Everyday Genius, and many others.  An excerpt from his new novel, In One Story, can be found in the May Issue of PANK Magazine.  You can find him online at  Or catch him in person this summer (2011), on tour with the poet Ben Clark. Dates and locations are available at or

Jacob M. Appel "Saluting the Magpie"

Jacob M. Appel has published over two hundred short stories in literary journals and has been short-listed for the Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize and Pushcart Prize on numerous occasions.  He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Creative Writing Program at New York University.  He currently teaches at the Gotham Writers' Workshop and practices medicine at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.  More at:

Robert McKean "A Wilderness of Monkeys"

A town that came together in the early 20th century as a stage set: a steelworks that ultimately stretched nine miles along the Ohio River; thirteen company-erected housing plans into which the laborers who spoke a myriad of languages were segregated ethnically and racially; a busy commercial area with a single main street running down through the center of a steep valley; 15,000 workers and their families—all this way of life comes to an abrupt end on August 8, 1983, when the conglomerate that owns the mill shuts it down.  A Wilderness of Monkeys, set in Ganaego, Pennsylvania, is a collection of interlocking stories whose characters form a diverse ethnic, racial, and generational stew of lives and passions.  Beneath the stories of the individuals runs the deeper story of Ganaego itself, its rise to a flourishing community and its fall into bankruptcy.  The stories range in era from 1937 through 2004.  At the heart of the book is the story of August 8, 1983, “Shutdown,” when the steelworks closed and everything changed, a day every Ganaegoan will always remember.

A Wilderness of Monkeys was a finalist in the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction; it was also a finalist in the Sewanee Writers’ Series.

 Robert McKean, recipient of a Massachusetts Arts Council grant, writes fiction set in and around the steel-mill towns of Western Pennsylvania. His work has been featured in a number of publications, including, most notably, The Kenyon Review, the Chicago Review, and the Dublin Quarterly.  His current projects are two novels: A Catalog of Crooked Thoughts, which explores profound loss and recovery; and Shutdown, which deals with the cataclysmic Rust-Belt Depression of the 1980s.  Shutdown was a finalist in the Heekin Group Foundation James Fellowship for the Novel in Progress and a semi-finalist in the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel. 

Mark Brazaitis "The Incurables"

Mark Brazaitis is the author of three books of fiction, including The River of Lost Voices: Stories from Guatemala, winner of the 1998 Iowa Short Fiction Award, and a book of poetry, The Other Language, winner of the 2008 ABZ Poetry Prize. His stories have appeared in The Sun, Ploughshares, Witness, Notre Dame Review, Confrontation, Beloit Fiction Journal, Western Humanities Review, and elsewhere. He directs the Creative Writing Program at West Virginia University.

The Incurables is about characters who believe they are stuck in inescapable situations.

Rosanne Daryl Thomas "The Impossibility of Crows"

The Impossibility of Crows is a serious, and often seriously funny, novel about love, the power of the natural world, the fragility of ideas and how perception often determines our fate.  

Leo Melampus is not exactly dead.  But then again, he never really lived.  When an earthquake casts his routine existence into the abyss, he feels strangely elated.  Free at last, Leo flees into the unknown and finds himself off the map in a town called Elysium Fields.  It’s almost heaven.  But not quite.  Crows communicate with unimaginable clarity.  Millions of narcissi dance in the fields.  A beautiful 19th century idea, seeking someone to think her once more into existence, takes human form. A romance novelist is hell-bent on making Leo into her hero and will not be deterred.  An elegant, charming widow appears to be a philanthropic murderess.   An artist paints the weather before it occurs.  In Elysium,  Leo learns to discern improbability from impossibility, to accept beauty he cannot always comprehend.  Confronting the malleability of perceived reality, Leo Melampus grasps the potential of his own imagination for shaping the world in which he lives.  But he’s not the only local citizen with an imagination.  When Leo’s wondrous Elysian idyll is poisoned by the relentless designs of the amorous novelist, Leo becomes the snake in his own paradise.  One of them has to go.  In trying to protect what he has come to love, will he destroy it forever?

In addition to The Impossibility of Crows, Rosanne Daryl Thomas has recently completed The Ladies of the Italian Class and the Urge to Purloin (writing as Edie Watson). She is currently working on the second Ladies of the Italian Class novel  and putting the final touches on a travel memoir.  Her novel The Angel Carver (Random House/Warner Books) was named a New York Times “Notable Book”, and featured by Barnes and Noble in “Discover Great New Writers”.   She is the author of Awaiting Grace (Picador US) and the memoir Beeing: Life, Motherhood and 180,000 Honeybees (Lyons Press/ Globe Pequot).  She both wrote and illustrated the graphic novella Coffee: The Bean of My Existence (An Owl Book/Holt).  Rosanne Daryl Thomas has an MFA in film from Columbia University and taught writing at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst honors college.  

Liza Kleinman "Splendorific"

Liza Kleinman is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Maine. Her fiction has appeared in several literary magazines, including Hayden's Ferry Review, The Greensboro Review, and Hawaii Review, and in the anthology Writes of Passage: Coming-of-Age Stories and Memoirs from the Hudson Review. She has an MFA in fiction writing from Indiana University.

Splendorific isa short story collection about people who get carried away with their illusions. A boy betrays his friend for the chance to win loot on a TV game show; a man paints his child's bedroom to resemble an old-time cafe; a woman remembers the day her uncle's loopy prediction came true. Characters walk the line between sane and crazy, often with one foot in each.

Letitia L. Moffitt "Sidewalk Dancing"

Letitia L. Moffitt was born and raised in Hawaii.  She received a doctoral degree in English and Creative Writing from Binghamton University in New York, and she currently teaches creative writing as an associate professor at Eastern Illinois University.  Her work—fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction—has been published in literary journals including PANK, Black Warrior Review, Aux Arc Review, Jabberwock Review, Coe Review, The MacGuffin, and Dos Passos Review.

Sidewalk Dancing consists of thirteen interconnected short stories focused on a multi-ethnic family in Hawaii. Six hours after shy, pragmatic Grace Chao and globetrotting dreamer George McGee get married, they hop on a plane to Oahu to start a new life, as chronicled in Sidewalk Dancing.  Together they build a house, raise a child, and run a popular local diner, even while they seem to be polar opposites in every way.  George keeps coming up with new, big ideas—for himself, his family, the world—while Grace simply wants the world to leave her alone. Their daughter Miranda wonders how two such different people could ever have gotten together, and how so many conflicts between her parents (and increasingly within herself) will ever be resolved. Miranda eventually begins to see that some people feel like outsiders no matter where they are, and this may be the one thing all her family members have in common.  Just as her parents struggle through conflicts of culture and character, Miranda struggles to find a sense of wholeness in her own identity and with her own relationships.

Zenju Earthlyn Marselean Manuel "The Water Monarchs"

Zenju Earthlyn Marselean Manuel is a Zen priest, visual artist, and author of many spiritual books including Tell Me Something About Buddhism (Hampton Roads Publishing, 2011).  She is a recipient of three Hedgebrook writers-in-residencies.  The Water Monarchs is her first novel.

In The Water Monarchs, set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a stabbing forces a family of slaves to leave St. Domingue/Haiti and take refuge on an Island that is unknown to the outside world and therefore unknown to slave owners.  Off the coast of Louisiana, on the new beautiful Island of Le Grand Du Pointe, their lives are shaped by the magic of water. The main character and narrator, Yuli, lives out a destiny created by the actions of her mother, Erzuli Pierrot, a slave of St. Domingue who was named for the Haitian Vodou Lwa spirit of love.

Norma Rosen "Family Lovers"

Norma Rosen has published four novels and a short-story collection. Family Lovers concerns lovers who have lost their connection to one another and seek new ones.


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