Fiction Contest Winners


Winner of the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, judged by Lori Ostlund:

Jonny Twoxfour for “Michigan is a State”

About the winning story, Ostlund said:

“The clear first-place winner, the gorgeously titled “Michigan is a State,” was an excruciating read—in the best possible way. We are there, just below the scalp of this narrator, privy to the steady buzz of her thoughts at the most granular level, big and small—death and a stain on a new dress—side by side, equally important, equally unimportant. The story is extremely funny, its humor so particular that it brings to mind Kurt Vonnegut’s stellar advice: ‘Write for an audience of one.’ As I read, I felt like that one, and I chose this story, in part, because of the pleasure that it will bring to so many other readers who will also feel like the author’s ‘one.’ As the humor moves from dark to absurd, I found myself thinking about the many questions—yes, both large and small—that the story asks me to consider, including whether the desire to disappear is really a desire to be fully seen.” 

Congratulations as well to our Finalists:

Kosiso Ugwueze for “Supernova” 

Zilla Jones for “Follow the Leader”



Winner of the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, judged by Stephanie Soileau:

Khanh Ha for “Night, This River”

About the winning story, Soileau said:

“The clear first-place winner is the gorgeously titled “Night, This River,” for its finely shaded characters, subtle and surprising relationships, and astonishing facility with the language and details of work on a fishing boat in Southeast Asia. This was so expertly done. One of those stories that evokes both admiration and a little envy.” 

Congratulations as well to our Finalists:

Lara Jacobs for “Pitchers of Milk, Now Empty”

Elizabeth Shultz for “Good Fences, Good Neighbors”



Winner of the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, judged by Minrose Gwin:

Nathan Newman for “GoodBuy!

About the winning story, Gwin said:

Voice is mysterious. It’s the most elusive but essential craft element in fiction, the oxygen of a story. The narrator of “GoodBuy!” wastes no time throwing her arm around you and buzzing in your ear like the neighborhood gossip, blowing life into this delightful but deadly serious story about two misbehaving octogenarians, Judy and Joanne, whose friendship dates back to early girlhood. It’s difficult to find comedy about very old people that doesn’t resort to stereotype or caricature, but the author of “GoodBuy!” succeeds in creating a stunning, fast-paced narrative of two lovable but complicated women, past, present, and future (and they do have a future). “GoodBuy!” delivers what Eudora Welty says is the prime objective of a short story: to offer “some fresh approximation of human truth,” in this case, truth served up with a final twist.

Congratulations as well to our Finalists:

Lisa Nikolidakis for With Mercy to the Stars”

Stephanie Pushaw for “Catching Larks” 



Winner of the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, judged by Marcy Dermansky:

Andrew De Silva for “Footlocker at the End of the World”

About the winning story, Dermansky said:

“The Footlocker at the End of the World” sucked me in from the start. We meet Ryan, a sad thirteen-year-old boy stranded at an expensive tennis academy for his first Thanksgiving far from home. He’s left to fend for himself with Igor and some of the other Russian tennis players, who turn out to be from Czechoslovakia, a home that no longer exists. Ryan thinks they’re bullies, but it turns out they are actually fine. Nice even. And a surprise visit from Ryan’s older brother results in a trip to the hockey rink, the shopping mall, and a Ponderosa Steakhouse.

This is a story full of sharp, funny, observations and a sense of free-floating melancholy. It left me with a lingering nostalgia for CDs and payphones and shopping establishments shut down long ago.


Stephanie Early Green for “A Very Special Episode”
Anne Guidry for “Disrepair”



Winner of the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, judged by Kiese Laymon:

“Vivien’s Sister” by Susan Isaak Lolis.

About the winning story, Laymon said:

“Vivien’s Sister” is a “how to” in the importance of texturing subtext in storytelling. While giving us a layered story filled with love, sex, loss, fear and memory, the piece most amazingly shows us how terrifying literal and metaphoric consumption is to families, and specifically to women. Food plays a huge role in this piece from beginning to end, and the minutiae of the storytelling is never overwhelmed by stunning descriptions of food cooking, food simmering, food ultimately being consumed. “Vivien’s Sister” is a marvelous literary achievement.”


“Emerald City” by Brian Birnbaum
“Monkey” by Marina Petrova


Winner of the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, judged by Anne Raeff:

  “Jazz Fan” by Jessica Walker

About the winning story, Raeff said:

“What I appreciated most about this story was the voice and the complexity of the narrator, who is pathetic and heroic at the same time, struggling to find dignity and meaning in his much-diminished life. What makes him heroic is that he recognizes the absurdity of his adulation of the long-dead musician and his dependence on his young roommate, Kayden. He is not ashamed of being a fan or the deal he has struck with Kayden, and so we are pulled into his world, into his pain but also into his triumph. This writer didn’t play it safe, and it worked. I love the ending…the last sentence was beautiful. I can still hear that middle C.”


“Come Dance with Me” by Kendall Klym
“Remainders” by Cady Vishniac

Honorable Mention:

“The Fox” by Mark Brandy
“What’s Behind You” by Jen Ferguson


Winner of the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, judged by David James Poissant:

“Hands Like Birds on Strings” by Barrett Bowlin 


“On the Far Edge of Paradise” by M. Sentell Haile
“Sundowning” by Justin Hermann
“How I Ended Up Here” by Anna Scotti


Winner of the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, judged by Jessamyn Ward:

“Practical Men” by Michael Chin


“A World of Baskets,” by Melanie Cordova
“The Foley Artist” by David Lee


Winner of the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, judged by Lucy Jane Bledsoe:

“Shit Weasel Is Late for Class” by Michael Gerhard Martin


Winner of the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction:

“Even Though He’s Still Alive” by Ari Braverman


“The Boy Who Had A Peach Tree Growing Out of His Head” by Hal Ackerman
“The Glitter and the Roar” by Seth Borgen
“Giant” by David Burtt
“Apocrypha” by Gabriel Houck
“Pull a Titus” by Ashley Shelby


Winner of the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction:

“An Incomplete List of My Wishes” by Jendi Reiter


“The Men and the Mare” by Matt Brock
“Lady of Sorrow” by Joan Corwin
“No-Heat Season” by Mary Beth Leymaster
“If, Then” by Katie Spillman