Fiction Contest

Other Winners: 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009


517 manuscripts, from 49 states and 16 countries (the one missing state? North Dakota): US, Canada, Columbia, UK, Dominica, France, Australia, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Indonesia, Ireland, The Netherlands, United Arab Emerites, Switzerland, Germany, and Greece.

Authors: 50% men, 47% women, 3% not determined by name

Story collections: 20%. Children's novels: 15%


Going Anywhere stories by David Armstrong (Nevada)


The Trench Angel a novel by Michael Gutierrez (North Carolina)

The Trickster Woodchuck stories by Ted Pelton (New York)


Neruda, the White Raven, the Black Cat a novel by Pietro Corsi (California)
You Were Never Lovelier a novel by Lev Olsen (New York)


A Kind of Freedom a novel by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (California)
Third Daughter a novel by Vanessa Hua (California)
Only Ghosts a novel by Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk (Oregon)
I Didn’t Steal Your Mermaid a middle-grade novel by Richard Stim (California)
Regarding Theo a novel by Rebecca Spencer (Oregon)
The Canary Keeper stories by Dinah Cox (Oklahoma)
We Are the Children stories by Kate Krautkramer (Colorado)
Tales from Ma’s Watering Hole linked stories by Kaye Linden (Florida)
Cockpuncher stories by Zach Powers (Georgia)
The Demon Who Peddled Longing a novel by Khanh Ha (Maryland)
The Twenty and One Nights a novel by Barbara de la Cuesta (New Jersey)
Discoveries stories by Edie Cottrell (California)
Come by Here a novella and stores by Tom Noyes (Pennsylvania)
Stupid, Stupid Men stories by Jay Todd (Louisiana)
It Became Hard to Withhold Comfort stories by Jonny Diamond (New York)
Stealing for Orphans stories by John Blair (Texas)
Bind Me, I Still Can Sing stories by Michael Bourne (British Columbia, Canada)


Going Anywhere: stories by David Armstrong

The stories in Going Anywhere occupy the space between life’s dark realities and the fantastic leaps of faith people make to survive. A father seeks out a way to deal with the unexpected death of his daughter, a heroin-addicted mother kidnaps her own son to teach him about beauty, expectant parents wrestle with their own doubt, and one man searches for answers about the massacre of his neighbors. But beneath the human struggle is a prevailing sense of wonder—a public pool with miraculous properties, a church that requires its parishioners to carry the plasticized hands of corpses, a dog at a gas station with insight about a man’s marital indiscretions, and a worldwide epidemic of ghosts. Connecting them all is the journey: people traveling in search of solace, insight, clarity, and purpose, gathering up their own lives into discernible pieces of fact and conviction in the hopes of getting it right.

David Armstrong’s stories have won the Mississippi Review Prize, New South’s Annual Writing Contest, Yemassee’s William Richey Short Fiction Contest, Jabberwock Review’s Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize for Fiction, and Bear Deluxe Magazine’s Doug Fir Fiction Award, among others. He currently serves as fiction editor of Witness Magazine and is recipient of the Black Mountain Institute Fellowship at UNLV, where he is a PhD candidate in Fiction. His latest stories appear or are forthcoming in The Baltimore Review, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Potomac Review, Carve Magazine, and Apalachee Review. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife, Melinda, and their dog, Prynne.

The Trench Angel: a novel by Michael Gutierrez

Set in World War I France and 1919 Colorado, The Trench Angel explores the divisions caused by runaway capitalism and the fear instilled in a town by the specter of terrorism. When widower and war photographer Neal Stephens returns home, he discovers that Deputy Clyde O’Leary has been murdered and his sister has been charged with the crime.  In his effort to free her, he investigates the Pinkerton Detective Agency and its plot to break the strike of a local coal miner union.  Over the course of three violent days, Neal contends with a frightened town and his own father, Jesse Stephens, a notorious anarchist who disappeared fifteen years earlier. It is through this effort that he hopes to not only free his sister, but also understand his own part in the death of his wife.  Part mystery, part dark comedy, The Trench Angel examines the havoc wreaked upon war’s survivors, while also showing the dark side of the American Dream.

Originally from Los Angeles, Michael Gutierrez holds an MFA in fiction from the University of New Hampshire and an MA in history from the University of Massachusetts.  His work has been published by Scarab, The Pisgah Review, Untoward, and LA Weekly. He is currently a finalist for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship.  He resides with his wife in Chapel Hill, where teaches at the University of North Carolina.

The Trickster Woodchuck: stories by Ted Pelton

Ted Pelton is the author of four books -- the novel Malcolm & Jack (and other Famous American Criminals); a short story collection, Endorsed by Jack Chapeau; and two novellas, Bhang and Bartleby, the Sportscaster.  He has received National Endowment for the Arts and Isherwood Fellowships in fiction, as well as twice receiving residency fellowships at Vermont Studio Center.  Stories from The Trickster Woodchuck have appeared in or are forthcoming in The Brooklyn Rail, Gargoyle, Altered Scale, Fiction International, Del Sol Review, Yellow Edemwald Field, and the anthology, The &Now Awards. Pelton is also the founder of the nonprofit fiction press Starcherone Books, where he serves as Publisher, and is a Professor in the Humanities department at Medaille College of Buffalo, NY.

The Trickster Woodchuck is a story cycle, mostly in the medium of prose fiction but including also narrative verse and texts that employ features of creative nonfiction, taking as its inspiration Native American trickster tales.  Its hero, Woodchuck, has supernatural origins and is perhaps a savior figure to his people, woodchucks (a.k.a. marmots, groundhogs), who have been victimized both by sportsmen with rifles and by automobile drivers. But Woodchuck is also a trickster, unclear about his spiritual calling and seemingly more interested in pleasure than in fulfilling a proscribed destiny.  In the style of trickster tale cycles, the text complicates any easy attempt to define its central protagonist.  Woodchuck carries his penis in a box, and so is at turns the agent and the victim of his own desire, as his penis, with a mind seemingly of its own, escapes Woodchuck’s complete control.  In a series of adventures, Woodchuck meets an undead Hank Williams, a living but fated John F. Kennedy, and a mystic Harriet Tubman, among other confrontations with and refigurings of American myth.

Neruda, the White Raven, the Black Cat: a novel by Pietro Corsi

Born in Molise, in the mid-50s Pietro Corsi settled in Rome where he worked as a translator for the film industry and collaborated on the creation of radio programs. While later visiting Canada, he was offered a position at the weekly newspaper Il Cittadino Canadese. His first novel, La Giobba (in English Winter in Montreal, Guernica Ed., Bressani Prize 2002), was born from that experience. He resumed work as a translator in Mexico City, with the Churubusco film studios, at the same time writing articles on Italian cinema for Cine Mundial. Today he lives in California, Mexico and Molise: “following the sun,” as he likes to say. Read more at

Beginning with insidious thoughts contained in Pablo Neruda’s memorias, and brooding over the ancient legends of the Haida people in British Columbia (the white raven) and over Italian superstitions (the black cat), with transparent sensibility, the protagonist of this story transports us into the world of Italian emigration post World War II.

You Were Never Lovelier: a novel by Lev Olsen

You Were Never Lovelier is a comedy about a group of friends who become obsessed with money, matrimony and revenge.  An excerpt titled "I Would Like a Large Lobster" appeared on the zine The Gay Utopia.

Cockpuncher: stories by Zach Powers

Zach Powers lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia. His work has appeared in The Brooklyn Review, Phoebe, PANK, Caketrain, The Bitter Oleander, Quiddity, The Nervous Breakdown, and elsewhere. He is the founder of the literary arts nonprofit Seersucker Live ( He leads the writers’ workshop at the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home, where he also serves on the board of directors. His writing for television won an Emmy. Get to know him at

All seventeen stories in Cockpuncher are set just a step outside of reality, where the weird and fantastical are commonplace. One story is about children defying gravity, another about a man’s marriage to a lightbulb. There is an astronaut stranded in space and a bathroom with an endless row of stalls. The Devil appears as a character, as does a banjoist, as does a miracle worker. A foreign exchange student, haunted and taunted by the yaks of his homeland, discovers suburbia. An actor keeps living in the world of a film after filming has ended. The stories are tied together by their themes of convergence and divergence, characters coming together or growing apart. These basic human relationships are revealed through the lens of the playfully absurd.

I Didn't Steal Your Mermaid: a middle-grade novel by Richard Stim

I Didn’t Steal Your Mermaid is the second book in the Frankie Jackson mystery series, set on the houseboats of Sausalito. In this novel, 12-year-old Frankie dreams she saves a mermaid. Meanwhile, the town of Sausalito is buzzing with rumors about a wealthy woman who disappeared into the Bay wearing a million-dollar necklace shaped like a mermaid. Is it just a coincidence? That's what Frankie has to find out! 

Richard Stim is a former children’s audiobook producer, and the author of several children’s books including Ivan The Not-So-Terrible, recipient of the 2007 Honors Award from the National Parenting Publications Awards. Read more here.

We Are the Children: stories by Kate Krautkramer

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, The Tusculum Review, South Dakota Review, Confrontation, Weber: The American West, andthe New York Times.  She has  been included in The Beacon Best, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and Best of the West 2011. Krautkramer's commentary has also aired on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and Day to Day. Kate lives with her husband and children in rural northwest Colorado. 
Kate Krautkramer's short story collection We Are the Children explores issues of culture belonging and disconnection. The characters in the included stories struggle with emotional maturity and the affectations associated with assuming the role of adult or parent, particularly in chaotic or ambiguous cultural constructs. Stories from We Are the Children were also included in The Best of the West anthology and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. 

Third Daughter: a novel by Vanessa Hua

On the eve of the Cultural Revolution, Third Daughter is recruited for a ballroom dance troupe at the Sea Palaces, the opulent home of the Chairman.  She becomes his lover and, in time, his protégé. Despite plots against her by romantic rivals and scheming aides, she emerges from his tutelage as a model revolutionary too clever for her masters.  A teasing glimpse of documentary footage inspired my novel:  the jowly Chairman surrounded by giggling teenage dancers. Intrigued, I imagined how one might have influenced the course of the country’s youth revolution.

Vanessa Hua is an award-winning writer and journalist. Her fiction, essays, and articles have appeared in the Atlantic, ZYZZVA, The New York Times, Newsweek, Salon, and elsewhere.  Previously, as a staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, she covered Asian American issues and filed stories from China, South Korea, Panama, and Burma.  She will be a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing and writes about three generations under one roof, living with her husband, twin toddlers, and her widowed mother, at  She can be found at

The Demon Who Peddled Longing: a novel by Khanh Ha

Khanh Ha’s debut novel is FLESH (June 2012, Black Heron Press). He graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism.  He is at work on a new novel. His short stories have appeared in Outside in Literary & Travel Magazine, Red Savina Review (RSR), Cigale Literary Magazine, Mobius, DUCTS, and Lunch Ticket,and are forthcoming in the summer issues of Glint Literary Journal, Zymbol, Taj Mahal Review, The Mascara Literary Review, The Underground Voices (2013 December Anthology), and The Long Story (2014 March Anthology).
Visit his author website at


Set in post-war Vietnam, The Demon Who Peddled Longing brings together the damned, the unfit, the brave, who succumb by their own doing to the call of fate. Yet their desire to survive and to face life again never dies, so that when someone like the boy who is rescued by a fisherwoman takes his leave in the end, there is nothing left but a longing in the heart that goes with him.

It Became Hard to Withhold Comfort: stories by Jonny Diamond

Jonny Diamond is a recent refugee from the world of NYC media and now splits his time between Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley. His short fiction has appeared in Avery Anthology, Hobart Pulp, Exquisite Corpse, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, PRISM, Geist, and other oddly named journals. More of his writing can be found at

A senile elevator man, an insomniac thief, a virtuosic pet grief counselor, a wounded rock star, a mute rottweiler—these are some of the characters that live and die in Jonny Diamond's first story collection, It Became Hard to Withhold Comfort. And though these stories do not all take place in the suburbs, the endless suburbs are here throughout—overlit parking lots, trash-strewn medians, half-empty housing developments—a malign growth blossoming underfoot, a country you can never leave, no matter how far you go.

The Canary Keeper: stories by Dinah Cox   

Dinah Cox’s stories have been published or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Cream City Review, Copper Nickel, J Journal, Salt Hill, and elsewhere.She’s a longtime Associate Editor at Cimarron Review at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, the fictionalized version of which acts as the setting in the manuscript of her story collection, The Canary Keeper. The collection also features several linked stories about actors, dancers, dentists, restaurant waiters, and librarians, artists and thinkers all.  

Stealing for Orphans: stories by John Blair

My short story collection, American Standard, was the 2002 winner of the Drue Heinz Literature prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.  I’ve also published two books of poetry, The Occasions of Paradise (U. Tampa Press, 2012) and The Green Girls (LSU Press/Pleiades Press 2003).  I also have two novels from Ballantine/Del Rey & poems & stories in Poetry, The New York Quarterly, The Sewanee Review, The Antioch Review, New Letters, and elsewhere

Bind Me, I Still Can Sing: a novella and stories by Michael Bourne

Bind Me, I Still Can Sing is a collection of stories about love and all the trouble it can cause. In the title story, a young man must choose between his affection for a new girlfriend and the much older and more twisted love that binds him to his mother. In another story, set in New York City in the 1990s, an acting student falls in love with a wealthy, seriously ill classmate who harbors a tantalizing secret. And in the collection's final, novella-length story, a young black law school graduate who has just learned she is pregnant with her white boyfriend's child spends a painful weekend as the only nonwhite guest at a reunion of her boyfriend's extended family held at an eighteenth-century mansion in Southern Virginia located just miles from where her own ancestors were once enslaved.

Michael Bourne is a teacher and writer based in Vancouver, Canada. The stories in this collection have appeared either in print or online at The Cortland Review, River City, Red Wheelbarrow, The Orange City Review, and Tin House. He is a contributing editor for Poets & Writers Magazine and a staff writer for the literary site The Millions. His essays and reviews have appeared online in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Economist,The Baltimore Sun, and The Common. Read more about Michael Bourne here.

The Twenty and One Nights: a novel by Barbara de la Cuesta

Barbara de la Cuesta lived for fifteen years in South America, where she taught English and wrote feature articles for the Caracas Daily Journal.

Her submission, The Twenty and One Nights, grew out of an anecdote told to her by a friend, whose ex-husband actually walked in one night, having gotten absent mindedly, or drunkenly, off a commuter train at the old stop where they had lived together many years. What follows is a product of her imagination, which is frequently fed by her own experiences with eccentric renters, church choirs, restoring old houses, raising a daughter, and “laughter in kitchens.”

She has one published novel, The Spanish Teacher, winner of the Gival Press Fiction Prize in 2007.  The Twenty and One Nights and four others of her novels are available in the Kindle Store.

In of 2008, she received a fellowship to the Millay Colony, where she completed her last novel.  She is also a past recipient of a fellowship in fiction from the Massachusetts Artists’ Foundation, and the New Jersey Council on the Arts.    

A Kind of Freedom: a novel by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

In A Kind of Freedom, 22-year old American Robin Miller travels to the Dominican Republic to volunteer in a small, Haitian-Dominican village. She has grand plans to transform a struggling clinic and forms an especially close friendship with Neseley, the community’s respected leader. Then a brazen new American volunteer named Diamond arrives and leaves an unsettling impression on everyone who meets her. Despite the community’s reaction, Robin and Diamond are drawn to each other. But when Diamond has an affair with Neseley’s husband, the reputation of the community’s most highly regarded family is destroyed. Robin must decide whether to betray Diamond, whom she’s come to rely on, or Neseley, her true friend and the pillar of the community she set out to help. A Kind of Freedom is told through Neseley’s, Diamond’s and Robin’s perspectives with each character telling the part of the story that elicits her deepest shame. The book depicts the idealism of a generation and explores themes of race, culture, and class from a contemporary perspective.

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton studied Creative Writing at Dartmouth College and wrote a book of poetry there entitled Bleach. Born and raised in New Orleans, she lived in the Dominican Republic for a year after college. She is a lawyer by training, and has written one novel, A Kind of Freedom. Her work has been published in Grey Sparrow Journal.

Regarding Theo: a novel by Rebecca Spencer

Regarding Theo is written from the perspective of four very different people.  This book introduces well-intentioned characters who weave together to create a story about loneliness, imperfection and true love. Rebecca Spencer is a writer by night and an outpatient pediatric speech-language pathologist by day.

Discoveries: stories by Edie Cottrell

The twelve stories in Discoveries take the reader to the fictitious town of Red Wolf where the swampy Texas heat seeps in even behind closed doors.  One schoolgirl, who still believes in fairytale endings, settles for a one-night stand while another must unlearn everything her mother taught her about men.  Grieving his mother’s death, a man discovers he never knew her, or his girlfriend, at all.  A ghost visits a young woman who has moved into her dream house, an attorney confronts his own demons when his best friend is struck with a life-threatening illness, and the entire community ponders the too-close relationship between two sisters which has ended in tragedy.  Caught between their dreams and reality, the people of Red Wolf do the best they can in a world that often harbors dark secrets but just as often promises a discovery which might just change everything.

Edie Cottrell grew up in San Antonio, Texas.  After receiving her B.A. from the University of Texas, Austin, and her M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, she taught English and humanities at Merritt College in Oakland, California.  Recent fiction has appeared in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors (fiction contest finalist), The Healing Muse, and Puzzles of Faith and Patterns of Doubt.  Currently, she is working on a novel.

Stupid, Stupid Men: stories by Jay Todd

Stupid, Stupid Men is a collection of short stories about characters trying to get a grasp on what it means to be whom they are. While all can be considered literary fiction, many, such as 'The Man Who Shot Henry McCarty,' which was published in Fiction Weekly, and 'Goodbye, Mr. Wonderful,' which is forthcoming in the Xavier Review, play with the conventions of other genres. The collection begins with 'This Is Where,' which was awarded Second Prize in the first annual Southern California Review Fiction Contest. 'Goodnight, Reilly' was originally published in the Chicago Quarterly Review, 'Not Josef' in Paradigm, 'Horatio' in Phantasmagoria, and 'Outside Evansville' in The Armchair Aesthete. The collection concludes with 'When Will It End?' which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize after appearing in 971 Menu last year.

Jay Todd received his Ph.D. from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. He teaches literature and writing at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans and lives in Bogalusa, LA, with his wife and children. You can follow him at

Come by Here: A Novella and Stories by Tom Noyes

The pieces in Come by Here: A Novella and Stories are set in and around the Great Lakes region, and each in some way engages an environmental crisis or controversy. One story is set in the infamous Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, NY, and another takes place in Battle Creek, MI, the site of the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill.  Another story explores the controversies surrounding commercial fishing and invasive species in the Great Lakes, and the novella and title piece of the collection, set in what is now the ghost town of Centralia, PA, treats the subject of Pennsylvania’s mining legacy.

Tom Noyes has published two story collections, Behold Faith and Other Stories (2003) and Spooky Action at a Distance and Other Stories (2008), both with Dufour Editions.  The books garnered laudatory reviews in The New York Times Book Review, Kirkus Reviews and other forums, and were named finalists for such prizes as the Flannery O’Connor Award, the Grace Paley Prize, the Bakeless Prize and Stanford Libraries’ William Saroyan Award. Tom teaches in the creative writing program at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.  

Tales from Ma's Watering Hole: linked stories by Kaye Linden

Ma, a ninety- nine year old Australian aboriginal shaman, owns a Sydney café where the lonely and homeless gather.  Each evening, Ma, or one of her quirky patrons tells a story.

Ma’s patrons feel disconnected from their lost outback lands, but gain comfort in community and stories. Tales from Ma’s Watering Hole is a linked story collection that conveys the sardonic “tongue-in-cheek” humor of the Australian— resilient in hard times, spirits buoyed through camaraderie.  These tales weave together nostalgic themes relating to lands lost, families scattered and the joyful support found in human companionship.  Ma is the playful trickster who holds these stories together. 

Kaye was born and raised in Australia and taught by native aboriginals how to throw a boomerang.  As a result, she became interested in their mythology and hence Ma’s tales were eventually born. She currently lives in the USA. She has an MFA in fiction, is past editor and short fiction editor with the Bacopa Literary Review, current assistant editor for Soundings Review, short fiction adult education teacher at Santa Fe College, and medical editor for “epresent learning lecture reviews.” Kaye was nominated in 2011 for a Pushcart prize for a tale from “Tales from Ma’s Watering hole.” Her short stories, prose and haiku have been published in multiple journals. Visit Kaye at and sign up for her blog Singing for my friends.

Only Ghosts: a novel by Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk

Only Ghosts is not a ghost story, but the Nepali villagers of Batuwaa don’t know this. They believe an ancient soul dwells in a mysterious pool near their village. Asha and Arjun, lovers from separate castes, clandestinely meet in this hidden grove and discover its secrets. Certain that nothing haunts them, they perceive they are safe. But during Nepal’s tumultuous transition to democracy, no one is safe. When Asha and Arjun’s forbidden love gets tangled up in the village’s visions of wealth and revolution, the lovers are forced make a difficult choice between challenging their traditions and losing one another. Their choice will forever alter the sleepy village of Batuwaa. 

The author experienced Nepal’s democratic movement while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1990s, the time period of this story. Only Ghost also received Honorable Mention in the 2013 Great Novel Contest. The author and a group of six poets and musicians also put the story to music and performed it in 2012.  In addition to Only Ghosts, the author’s writing has won Best Short Story at Third Goal, and is found in publications such as Portland Bridge Poem Anthology, ECS Nepal Magazine, The Bicycle Review, ABC-Clio, and Peace Corps' Digital Library.  She is a founding member of the writing group The Guttery (, and lives today with her daughter in Portland, Oregon, where she teaches high school students from around the world, and writes and performs stories, poetry, and songs. Learn more at the Only Ghosts website:

cover art by Marianne Oberdoerster

Only Ghosts


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