The Short Fiction Contest

The Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest Winners

May 4, 2020 — Janika Oza Wins 2020 KR Short Fiction Contest

We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the thirteenth annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest.

  • First Prize: Janika Oza: “Fish Stories”
  • Runner-up: Steffi Sin, “Dungeness”
  • Runner-up: Stanley Delgado, “Cactus Eater”
  • Honorable Mention: Jane Chong, “Brothers” and B.K. Elroy, “Choosing a Bow”

Judge Misha Rai writes:

Winner: “Fish Stories,” by Janika Oza

From the first surprising, food-laden, dream-like sentence, “Fish Stories” builds on a family’s story of loss and migration and hauntings—both welcome and unwelcome—in what structurally seems like a breath. Unfurled in one grief-invoking paragraph, what is marvelous about Oza’s story is how the divergent realities of both the mother and surviving child are made viscerally believable. Longing and grief, after all, look different to different people and can sometimes seem like an endlessly ongoing process, something this piece captures perfectly. I was equally impressed to see how in such short space, “Fish Stories” traverses whole continents, evoking the freeing and tragic nature of storytelling itself.

Runner-up: “Dungeness,” by Steffi Sin

“Dungeness,” at first glance, is deceptive; all of it tightly written, takes place in one scene. Yet, multi-generational interaction, distant roots brought into the home literally through news coverage on television, and family history in the form of passed down/inherited kitchen appliances are exquisitely explored through a cooking lesson—gendered and quietly funny, at times—to create a layered narrative that stayed with me long after I had finished reading this story.

Runner-up: “Cactus Eater,” by Stanley Delgado

The shocking final image of “Cactus Eater” is just that: a man biting a cactus, chewing on it, swallowing the pulp and needles, and asking if he should take another bite. To get to this beautiful congruity between the title and the end, there is an unusual tale of make-up, taping a television show, and a history lesson about technicolor cameras, that is really a clever commentary on race. And we get all this in 993 carefully chosen words.

The winner and runners-up will be published in the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of the Kenyon Review and will appear concurrently on KROnline in January 2021.


2020 Guidelines

Photo for the Short Fiction Contest pageThe contest is open to all writers who have not yet published a book of fiction. Submissions must be 1,200 words or fewer. The final judge will be Misha Rai, the current KR fellow in prose, whose work has been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award and received a Notable Mention in the Best American Essays 2019 edition. Her prose has been awarded fellowships or scholarships from The MacDowell Colony, The Dana Award in the Novel Category for her novel-in-progress, and the Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies. The Kenyon Review will publish the winning short story in the Jan/Feb 2021 issue, and the author will be awarded a scholarship to attend the 2020 Writers Workshop in Gambier, Ohio. Additional info on the Writers Workshop is available here.

Submission Guidelines

  • Writers must not have published a book of fiction at the time of submission. (We define a “published book of fiction” as a novel, novella or short story collection written by you and published by someone other than you in print, on the web, or in ebook format.)
  • Stories must be no more than 1,200 words in length.
  • One submission per entrant.
  • Please do not simultaneously submit your contest entry to another magazine or contest.
  • Please do not submit work that has been previously published.
  • All entries will be read blind. Before you submit, please remove your name and any other identifying information from your manuscript.
  • The submissions link will be active January 1st to 31st. All work must be submitted through our electronic system. We cannot accept paper submissions.
  • A $24 entry fee will be collected at the time of submission. Each entrant will receive a one-year subscription to the Kenyon Review which will start with the Mar/Apr 2020 issue. Current subscribers will receive a one-year extension on their current subscription. Please note: we are able to offer only domestic print subscriptions for this special contest rate. If you live abroad (including Canada), we will happily provide you with a digital-only one-year subscription to the magazine.
  • Winners will be announced in the late spring. You will receive an e-mail notifying you of any decisions regarding your work.

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Click here to view the past winners of the KR Short Fiction Contest