Contests: Stories 2020

TWENTY-FOURTH ANNUAL ZOETROPE: ALL-STORY SHORT FICTION COMPETITION


Many thanks to all who entered the 2020 Short Fiction Competition. We appreciate the opportunity to read such bright and brilliant new work.

From more than 2,200 submissions, guest judge Téa Obreht honored the following stories.

First Prize:
“Meet Me at the Edge” by Deborah Forbes (Clifton, VA)
This is an impressive, lyrical, and deeply moving invitation into a family, a lineage, and a mind flickering out of existence. The writer juggles perspective and consciousness with artistry and sophistication. Our three main characters—complex, flawed, real—are rendered with stunning and economical clarity. That image of the turn in the stairs will stay with me forever.
—Téa Obreht

Second Prize:
“Darling” by Lucy Neave (Canberra, Australia)
What a dazzling, ominous, gritty achievement this piece is. Its setting is alive, gnawing at the reader’s sense of safety, of balance. The story turns on a dime from hilarity to horror. At its center sit two of life’s most uncomfortable truths: the tension between real and perceived knowledge is everlasting, and there are some things against which the passage of time and the accumulation of knowledge can never really steel us. —TO

Third Prize:
“Parents” by Kimberly Wei Wang (New York, NY)
We’ve seen the foundational premise of this story many times, but reading it, I was struck by the realization that I’d never actually felt it before. The tenderness of this narrative lens, the sense of place and time and love—it pulled my heart out. —TO

Fourth Prize:
“Earthenware” by Asha Thanki (St. Louis Park, MN)
There’s real poetry to the way the logic and disparate threads of this narrative weave together; flesh, home, selfhood, consciousness, faith all come down to the same heartbreaking thing, the same thumbprint. In order to make a story of such incredible scope and ambition work in so few pages, the writer puts enormous faith in the reader, and this faith pays off so beautifully. —TO

Fifth Prize:
“Alice” by Margaret Meehan (Brooklyn, NY)
A sharp, funny, living voice engines this hair-raising story. We read it with a sense of hope—though for what, we’re never sure, and this destabilizing effect is part of the writer’s magic. The ending blew me away. —TO

Honorable Mentions:
“Jacob, Jacob” by Will Berry (Austin, TX)
“Six Enumerated Complications of Gravity” by Jinwoo Chong (New York, NY)
“Rats” by Courtney Harler (Las Vegas, NV)
“Birds Instead of Therapy” by Lesley Howard (Blacksburg, VA)
“Totoyo” by Allison Keeley (Bacalar, Mexico)

First prize is $1,000; second prize, $500; and third prize, $250. Awarding fourth and fifth prizes is a first for us, yet Téa was so enraptured with so much of the work, we wished to expand the individual honors. The prizewinners and honorable mentions will be considered for representation by William Morris Endeavor; ICM; the Wylie Agency; Regal Literary; Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency; Markson Thoma Literary Agency; Inkwell Management; Sterling Lord Literistic; Aitken Alexander Associates; Barer Literary; the Gernert Company; and the Georges Borchardt Literary Agency.

The winning story, “Meet Me at the Edge” by Deborah Forbes, will be published in the print edition of our Spring 2021 issue.

The 2021 Short Fiction Competition opens July 1; for details, please visit the website this summer. And should you wish to receive updates by email, please write us at contests@all-story.com.

Thanks once more, and all good wishes for your work,
The editors


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