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.
May 6, 2019 — Daphne Palasi Andreades Wins 2019 KR Short Fiction Contest
We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the twelfth annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest.
- First Prize: Daphne Palasi Andreades: “Brown Girls”
- Runner-up: Emily Everett, “Solitária”
- Runner-up: Susan Falco, “You Break It, You Own It”
Judge Mia Alvar writes:
Winner: “Brown Girls”
“Brown Girls” is a vibrant, pitch-perfect tale of growing up and making good, leaving home and looking back. The lives of young women of color from Queens, New York leap off these pages through a collective voice that feels at once frank and poetic, unexpected yet warmly familiar. In five—deceptively brief—vignettes, the author explores nuances of race and class, sex and marriage, family and community with great sensitivity and heart. And like the best short fiction, “Brown Girls” harnesses space and time masterfully, moving us through neighborhoods and cities, from first loves to future selves, all within 1185 well-chosen words. With every stirring image and tight, musical turn of phrase, this story charmed, often surprised, and deeply moved me.
The narrator is summoned to Rio to care for her ailing sister, a mercurial photographer of jungle landscapes and the animals who roam them. At her sister’s dying wish, the narrator transforms a darkroom, humidifier by hothouse flower, into a rainforest habitat like that of the black panther, her sister’s prize subject. “Solitária” beautifully weds the particulars of a place and a family with the universalities of love and loss. Is its (literally) wild denouement a stroke of magical realism, or the figment of a bereaved imagination? I think the answer is “yes,” and it’s a testament to this author’s skillful plotting and inventive power that the story can have it both ways.
Runner-up: “You Break It, You Own It”
More than halfway through this story, a boy misreads a shop’s posted “You Break It You Own It” policy, to shocking and brutal consequences. But well before that, ominous signals and tension-laced sentences unmistakably convey the atmosphere of fear and dread that already governs his young life. Here, in prose both lyrical and efficient, is an unforgettable child’s-eye view on the sometimes small yet infinitely devastating ways violence can remake itself.
The winner and runners-up will be published in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of the Kenyon Review and will appear concurrently on KROnline in January 2020.
May 1, 2018 — Laura Roque Wins 2018 KR Short Fiction Contest
We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the eleventh annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest.
- First Prize: Laura Roque, “Dientes for Dentures”
- Runner-up: Tyler Barton, “Spiritual Introduction to the Neighborhood”
- Runner-up: Christopher Fox, “Breaking”
- Honorable Mention: Jena Chapman Andres, “Unter den Linden”; and Alex Burchfield, “Taxidermy”
Judge Melinda Moustakis writes:
With prose that feels like a feverdream, urgent and fierce, “Dientes for Dentures” portrays three generations of women in Hialeah, Miami through the perspective of a granddaughter. The narrator and Mami are worried about Abuela, a complicated character who came to the U.S. from Cuba after losing her family to revolutionary violence but still, inexplicably, remains loyal to Fidel Castro. Paradoxes such as this create an unforgettable depiction of Abuela, who seems both mythologically strong and all too frail, and is now in hospice care. I couldn’t stop thinking about these three women and who they were to each other, their love and loyalty and misunderstandings. Abuela’s body becomes a map of scars and memory for the narrator even as her grandmother is losing her sense of the world in the present. An entire novel of experiences, a whole life, and a lineage of women are encapsulated in this brilliant and compact portrait.
In “Spiritual Introduction to the Neighborhood” a neighborhood in the Minnesota River valley is recast in a collage of modular fiction and the strange becomes familiar and the familiar become strange, and sometimes wondrous or sinister. The narrator, removed and intimate, singular and plural, is an unsettling camera and one never quite knows what image or character or street or animal or object will be in the next close-up. These tensions drive the story and it is that sense of hovering, of dissection, and of voyeurism that is the impressive accomplishment—plot can be as subtle as atmosphere, or spirit.
In “Breaking” a father hears there is a shooting at his daughter’s high school and he is miles away—in space. Sometimes writers find the perfect setting to amplify an already fraught situation in a way that adds to the emotional resonance. Unfortunately timely, this story runs the risk of becoming cloying or sentimental, but the vastness of space and the ability to see earth from a shuttle-eye’s view give breathing room to the concept. Universally, love travels across time and distance and a parent, suspended in excruciating limbo, in purgatory, waits for news.
This year, we are delighted to name two stories that have earned an Honorable Mention in the Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest: “Unter den Linden” by Chapman Andres and “Taxidermy” by Alex Burchfield.
The winner and runners-up will be published in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of the Kenyon Review and will appear concurrently on KROnline in January 2019.
May 9, 2017 — David Greendonner Wins 2017 KR Short Fiction Contest
We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the tenth annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest.
- First Prize: David Greendonner, “Lionel, for Worse”
- Runner-up: Kimberly King Parsons, “When Do We Worry”
- Runner-up: Lorain Urban, “Canto”
Judge Lee K. Abbott writes:
I chose “Lionel, For Worse” because of the writer’s obvious command of material that in other hands would be merely maudlin and because the writer fully exploited the virtues peculiar to short fiction, especially compression and brevity. Moreover, I found something to treasure—a turn of phrase, a word choice, an image—in virtually every sentence. The dialogue was life-like and revealing of character. Finally, I think the appearance of the two teenage girls who offer their condolences when our narrator and her husband are leaving the beach is a stroke of story genius. Would that more of us could make the mistake they do.
“When Do We Worry” had many of the same virtues as our winner, namely efficiency and a fine feel for the dynamics of a marriage in collapse. Its pacing was felicitous, as was its structure.
“Canto” had verve and drive and a fetchingly bittersweet tone. I loved the Point of View, which captured the consciousness of the focal character.
The winner and runners-up will be published in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue of the Kenyon Review and will appear concurrently on KROnline in January 2018.
May 2, 2016 — Eve Gleichman Wins 2016 KR Short Fiction Contest
We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the ninth annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest.
- First Prize: Eve Gleichman, “Butter”
- Runner-up: Dan Reiter, “Dance of the Old Century”
- Runner-up: Adam Soto, “The Babymoon”
- Honorable Mention: Geeta Tewari, “How I Became a Man”; Teresa Scollon, “Christmas Eve”
Judge Jaimy Gordon writes:
“Butter” is more minimalist in language and mundane in milieu than the kinds of fiction I usually incline to, but a certain gutsy integrity (integrity being a fictional illusion like any other) won me over. The voice the author has developed for the story is flat, terse, hypnotic, almost whispered; and it feels intensely candid. This is a work story, but not precisely about work. Rather, the narrator lets us in on an epoch of repeated humiliation under a sadistic boss that she experiences as almost a victory in a time of erotic heartbreak. There’s a pattern of self- and other-disgust, while many images of heat, melting, burning, flash by. These sophisticated paradoxes explode into an ending—unresolved yet satisfying—that I didn’t see coming. Is the narrator’s ride on a motorcycle behind her hated boss an act of ecstatic communion or of despair and self-immolation? It’s both, of course. The story’s surprises show abundantly how confessional realism, to be effective, requires as much imagination as any other fictional approach.
“Dance of the Old Century”: I both like and am embarrassed (in a good way) by this fragmented fictional meditation on time, vanity, anxiety, and the peculiar relations that take place between public and private in even the most intimate recesses of the so-called self. The setting is Paris, as it is now, since the terrorist attacks, and as it was such a little while ago, in what the protagonist perceives as the ecstatic, even orgasmic, innocence of the end of the “old” century, when he frequented dance bars like l’Enfer and the Bataclan. In the new century he has grown a beard, ethnic or stylish, that worries him—what do others see in it? He is married now, with a child—is it he or Paris that is so changed? Literally central to the story is a deft small scene from the “old” century in which he follows two Arab boys off a metro to a desolate playground in Vanves, on the outskirts, to score hashish—with an easy daring that would be impossible now.
“The Babymoon”: Shruti and Ana, a lesbian couple, have traveled to Pondicherry (and are headed for Sri Lanka) to celebrate their future pregnancy, planned for immediately after they return. Every turn of this image-rich, lush, prismatic excursion into lyrical realism—one traveler’s “stomach thing,” the other’s choice to go out alone, the unsettling sight of a flooded museum, losing each other in monsoon rain—turns out to have been a (failed) test of the devotion and readiness for self-sacrifice of its two protagonists. The story reveals poignantly how unready the two are, or rather, fear that they are, to become a perfect family. Their dilemma is illuminated by myth when the two women land by chance at a children’s performance of a tale from the Ramayana, concerning the services the marvelously loyal and helpful Hindu monkey god Hanuman renders to Rama—just as the story reaches its delicately uncertain denouement.
The winner and runners-up will be published in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of The Kenyon Review and will appear concurrently on KROnline in January 2017.
May 4, 2015 — Shasta Grant Wins 2015 KR Short Fiction Contest
We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the eighth annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest.
- First Prize: Shasta Grant, “Most Likely To”
- Runner-up: Rob Howell, “Mars or Elsewhere”
- Runner-up: Courtney Sender, “Black Harness”
Judge Ann Patchett writes:
In “Most Likely To,” Shasta Grant delivers a full narrative arc in four pages. Her characters experienced loss and were changed by it, a pretty remarkable feat to pull off in such a small space. Perfectly chosen details made both the characters and the setting memorable. This was the story that stayed with me.
Robert Howell gives us a completely delightful flight of imagination in “Mars or Elsewhere”. In dealing with a lover’s fantasy of what could happen were the couple to run off together, he creates a wild and atmospheric riff on possibility that read like jazz.
Courtney Sender matches the light topic of youthful lost love with the extreme heft of the Holocaust in “Black Harness” and comes up with a miraculous balance between the personal and the universal. I never could have imagined where this story was going and I was pleased by the surprise.
The winner and runners-up will be published in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of The Kenyon Review and will appear concurrently on KROnline in January 2015.
May 6, 2014 — Amy Blakemore Wins 2014 KR Short Fiction Contest
We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the seventh annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest.
- First Prize: Amy Victoria Blakemore, “Previously, Sparrows”
- Runner-up: Michael Capel, “Florida Arizona Buffalo Hawaii”
- Runner-up: Frank Fucile, “Slow and Steady”
- Honorable Mention: Jennifer Genest, “Ways to Prepare White Perch”; Landon Houle, “My Mother, Aged 58, Tattoos Her Face”; and Carrie Mullins, “The Last Supper”
Judge Katharine Weber writes:
Each of this year’s Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest winners offers a splendid instance of the power of short fiction to astonish, move, and delight the reader.
The winner of this year’s Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest, “Previously, Sparrows” by Amy Blakemore, is an inventive and compelling portrait of a relationship that reveals itself, sentence by graceful sentence, to be much more than a catalogue of domestic argument and reconciliation. The familiar territories of kitchen table and supermarket become uncommon and significant in this rich and strange narrative.
Runner-up story “Florida Arizona Buffalo Hawaii” by Michael Capel is a nuanced evocation of the intimacy and estrangement of boyhood friendships. Runner-up story “Slow and Steady” by Frank Fucile is a father-and-son narrative that excavates family history with its unalloyed language and rhythms of pick and shovel digging into the past.
This year, we are delighted to name three stories that have earned an Honorable Mention in the Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest: “Ways to Prepare White Perch” by Jennifer Genest, “My Mother, Aged 58, Tattoos Her Face” by Landon Houle, and “The Last Supper” by Carrie Mullins.
The winner and runners-up will be published in the Winter 2015 issue of The Kenyon Review and will appear concurrently on KROnline in January 2015.
May 7, 2013 — Heather Monley Wins 2013 KR Short Fiction Contest
We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the sixth annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest.
- First Prize: Heather Monley, “Town of Birds”
- Runner-up: Wes Holtermann, “Hurricane”
- Runner-up: Clarke Clayton, “Sculptures”
Judge Katharine Weber writes:
This year’s Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest winners are an impressive trio. The irresistible qualities of these confident and successful narratives made them prominent in a strong field of contenders.
The winner of this year’s Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest, “Town of Birds” by Heather Monley, is an astonishing swoop of language and image. Reading the first words— “In the town where the children turned into birds”—I was chilled and delighted. Where can we go from here? Deep into an incredible story of a town’s uncanny transformation, told by the child who has been left behind, a wistful narrator whose disturbing, elegiac account is an utterly extraordinary work of art. Most successful short fiction has something pleasingly familiar yet inventive that draws us in. “Town of Birds” is a quietly spectacular flight of imagination.
Runner-up story “Hurricane” by Wes Holtermann is a potent road trip tale of subtle transformation, set in an alienated and rain-drenched landscape during a time of bizarre plagues. Runner-up story “Sculptures” by Clarke Clayton is a graceful story that begins with a vivid description of young women being seen yet not seen by a sculptor, and it concludes years later when those women return themselves with a surprising inevitability to that clay.
All three authors were published in the Winter 2014 issue of The Kenyon Review and appeared concurrently on KROnline in December 2013.
May 8, 2012 — Cassie Gonzales Wins 2012 KR Short Fiction Contest
We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the fifth annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest.
- First Prize: Cassie Gonzales, “Sleeping Out”
- Runner-up: Andrea Dulanto, “Winter Clothes”
- Runner-up: Madiha Sattar, “Home”
In her comments on Gonzales’s story, Nancy Zafris wrote: “The foreignness of a foreign locale illumines the existential dislocation an old man experiences in this quiet, bravura story. Into just-enough plot are fed a succession of life’s accumulating small sadnesses, the kind of sorrow that can’t be quickly telegraphed—and yet the author does just that. Characters are well-drawn in a single, masterful stroke. The story is evocative, fully amplified, and wise.”
All three authors were published in the Winter 2013 issue of The Kenyon Review and appeared concurrently on KROnline in December 2012.
May 9, 2011 — Fan Li Wins 2011 KR Short Fiction Contest
We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the fourth annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest, for writers under the age of thirty.
- First Prize: Fan Li, “Chiasmus”
- Runner-up: Anna Kovatcheva, “September”
- Runner-up: Nichols Malick, “The Boy in the Lake”
In his comments on Li’s story, Ron Carlson wrote: “This story dances along its deft surface, a mother keeping track of her son’s travels with a lovely curiosity, which slowly gathers into the long submerged concern about their history. This story has heart and it reveals a talented writer with and understanding of language and pace and family and how to do a great deal in a small space.”
All three authors were published in the Winter 2012 issue of The Kenyon Review and appeared concurrently on KROnline in December 2011.
May 17, 2010 — Megan Anderegg Malone Wins 2010 KR Short Fiction Contest
We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the third annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest, for writers under the age of thirty.
- First Prize: Megan Anderegg Malone, “Death Threat”
- Runner-up: Christopher Feliciano Arnold, “Salt”
- Runner-up: Diana Kole, “Listened”
In her comments on Malone’s story, judge Louise Erdrich wrote: “The winner of this year’s Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest is “Death Threat,” a small piece of wisdom and terror. I usually dislike stories that begin with guns, but was won over by the veracity of the voice and by the extraordinary realization of the ending. The narrator’s father operates in the legal system and must inure himself to discouraging human dysfunction. But he allows himself deep sentiment over the death of a badly behaved old cat. In one final uncanny moment the young woman in “Death Threat” understands that her father is a person mourning, and afraid, in a world filled with power and pain.”
April 15, 2009 — Alexandra Zobel Wins 2009 KR Short Fiction Contest
We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the second annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest, for writers under the age of thirty.
- First Prize: Alexandra Zobel, “The Miles Tape Hypothesis”
- Runner-up: Jessica Lacher, “A Hypothesis”
- Runner-up: Mika Taylor, “Anchor Point”
Richard Ford, acclaimed author of the Frank Bascombe trilogy, including the novels The Sportswriter, Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land was the final judge. In his comments on Zobel’s story, Ford wrote: “Stylish, formally inventive, utterly confident in its grasp on narrative time and historical moment, this story is like a coolly consummate jazz riff on the august subject of failed possibilities redeemed by art.”
April 28, 2008 — Cara Blue Adams Wins 2008 KR Short Fiction Contest
We are pleased and excited to announce the winners of the first annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest, for writers under the age of thirty.
- First Prize: Cara Blue Adams, “I Met Loss the Other Day”
- Second Prize: Megan Mayhew Bergman, “Afterbirth”
- Third Prize: Nick Ripatrazone, “The Bearberry Elegies”
Commenting on Adams’ story, final judge Alice Hoffman wrote: “Here is a story that is both surprising and beautiful. If a singular and original voice is the mark of a natural writer, then here it is. This dark fable is wound up with gorgeous playful language: every word matters, every image counts.”
All three authors were published in the Winter 2009 issue of The Kenyon Review.