Announcing the 7th Annual Contest Winners

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We are pleased to announce the winners and finalists of the 7th Annual Contests in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry.

Each winner is awarded a $500 prize, while each finalist is awarded $100. Both winners and finalists will be published in the next several weeks on


“Varya’s Black Suede Shoes” by Peter Justin Newall of Sydney, Australia

Peter Justin NewallJudge Kate Bernhiemer writes, “The story ‘Varya’s Black Suede Shoes’ has a wonderful, decorative style—a neighborhood has ‘uneven topography, like a goblin’s palace,’ a character’s face reveals ‘strong, mobile features,’ a wall displays ‘gilt-framed reproductions of  Degas ballerinas.’ This Odessa tale of destruction, history, books, and desire has a delicate, elusive aesthetics that is marvelous. Like the narrator, we watch the main character’s mysterious and elegant performance with curiosity, doubt, and compassion—it’s a double act: like the author, we know fiction is the land of make-believe. Imaginary and real at the same time. This is a mysteriously haunted story in the tradition of the Russian literature, city, and people whose survival it celebrates, with such a dignified voice.”

The finalist in fiction is “Everest” by Scott Spires.


“Geography of the Self” by Catherine Mauk of Canberra, Australia

catherine-maukJudge Lauret Savoy writes, “The essay ‘Geography of Self’ is a striking meditation on migration, place, heritage, and belonging. The author, a ‘person of two soils’—the American West and Australia—asks a crucial question: ‘[H]ow do we learn to belong to a place when the stories that perpetuate our understanding of who we are and how to be have arisen in other soils, when the stories layering this landscape belong to people with whom we have limited cultural or genealogical continuity?’ We would be wise to pay attention to the lessons offered.”

The finalists in nonfiction are “Life After Life” by DJ Lee and “The Fursuit of Happiness” by Meg Brown.


“Boyhood Trapped Between Water and Blood”, a long poem by William Wright of Marietta, Georgia

William WrightJudge Eamon Grennan writes, “I have to say that of all the good poems and selections submitted, my favorite was the long poem entitled ‘Boyhood Trapped Between Water & Blood.’ This brave poem begins with brief, plangent echoes of Dylan Thomas’s Poem in October–to set the springs of memory running in a landscape and a weather richly, powerfully, beautifully evoked:

Kestrels of light
lunged through the water surface and flattened into one great trellis
of sun, every contour of the creek bed
branded in a fire that wove
                                                               its shape into shapelessness.

Salamanders and crawdads never bothered me
nor the ticks that teemed on every branch—

                                                               I was alone
in that chapel of water and wind.

I lived in a yellow house smothered in leaf-shadow
and would dream at night of the creek, clear
as the smell of wood smoke
on a winter dusk blown with stars,
                                                               even as June rains
engraved the water

Quickly, however, both the angle and the poem’s temper shift and we are steeped in a deeply troubling memory–presented in a controlled language that never stumbles into melodrama. The poem presents us, then, with the horror such a childhood event –traumatic in its violence, its racial implications–lives in appalled memory. The poem lifts us, so, out its lyrically dylanesque evocations of the natural world into the politically charged territory of bigotry and violence, starkly presented, bravely faced up to.

And there in the bramble still lay his clothes.
And there on the jagged stone lay the vision of his head.

A boy, I craved design,
a structure through which I came to
understand or escape                                                                                                                                                                                    

words that followed me
like the sound of footfalls
in the leaf-litter just behind actual passage.

From here, through other laden sections, the poem continues–without flinching or losing hold of its difficult threads-, to end–in an evocation that has (I suspect) something of Wordsworth’s Prelude enlargements–in its dignified yet compact conclusion, as it comes to rest in:

a baseball field overgrown in sicklepod,
and every dusk for months
                               Seneca and I met to sift

through those mythic shapes, to stare
into the eye sockets of many skulls
as if they might rouse in us some memory
of another time, another creature,
to elude the heat and stifle

of that place, scalded with resentments
extravagant as the trees’ canopy,
the woods between my house
and the other world always nightfall,
                                              unbroken shadow.

“Grand! In the best sense grand. It was a pleasure to read and admire it.”

The finalists in poetry are “Smoke and Miracles” by Kevin Miller, three poems by Cecily Parks, and three poems by Katie Prince.


  • Fiction: Kate Bernheimer
    Kate Bernheimer is the editor of Fairy Tale Review; her most recent book is How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales.
  • Nonfiction: Lauret Savoy
    Lauret Savoy’s most recent book is Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape.
  • Poetry: Eamon Grennan
    Irish poet Eamon Grennan’s most recent book is Out of Sight: New and Selected Poems.

Next Contest

We will begin accepting submissions for the 8th Annual Contests in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry in January 2017. There will be no theme for the 2017 contest.

For additional information, view the contest guidelines or contact us.

Abstract image of city design in the sky by Sergey Nivens, courtesy Shutterstock. is the first online literary journal of place, publishing award-winning literature, art, editorials, and community case studies since 1998.