2017 Short Story Contest

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The 2017 Texas Observer Short Story Contest is now closed.

The winning story, "Muriel," by Wendy Lerner Lym, was published in our October issue and was awarded a $1,000 cash prize.

Read the finalists here:


"Malena" by Kim Henderson


"A Thunder Note in an Angry Sky" by Randall G. Arnold


"Stakes" by Deirdre Coyle


This year's guest judge is Deb Olin Unferth. She is the author of four books, most recently the story collection Wait Till You See Me Dance. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Harper’s, The Paris Review, Granta, Vice, Tin House, the New York Times and McSweeney’s. She received four Pushcart Prizes, a Creative Capital grant and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. An associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, she also runs a prison creative writing program at the John B. Connally Unit.  

Portrait of Deb Olin Unferth

GRAND PRIZE: $1,000 and publication in the Observer’s October 2017 Issue
GUEST JUDGE: Deb Olin Unferth
DEADLINE: Monday, August 21, 1:00 pm (CST)


  • Finalists may be eligible for publication online at texasobserver.org. 
  • Contest is open to any and all participants regardless of location.
  • No restrictions on genre or theme; Texas settings encouraged but not required.
  • Stories must not exceed 2,500 words.
  • Entry fee is $25 per submission.
  • All stories must be submitted via this online form. No hard copies, please.

Rules and regulations

  • All entries must be unpublished. Simultaneous submissions are welcome, but stories must be withdrawn from the contest immediately upon acceptance elsewhere. The entry fee will not be refunded. (Note: If your story is posted on a personal blog, please remove it before submitting.)
  • While multiple entries are welcome, each story requires the entry fee. There is no limit on the number of times you may enter.
  • Please attach your story in Microsoft Word format (PDF also acceptable, but not preferred). Your name must not appear anywhere on the manuscript itself, as the contest is judged anonymously.
  • Entries exceeding 2,500 words will be disqualified. The entry fee will not be refunded.
  • Students, former students and current professional colleagues of guest judge Deb Olin Unferth are ineligible.
  • Previous contest winners and finalists are not eligible; current and former employees of The Texas Observer and their family members are not eligible. Freelancers who have contributed more than one bylined article to The Texas Observer since June 2016 are not eligible. Previous contest honorable mention authors are free to submit.
  • Address all questions to Observer fiction editor David Duhr: [email protected]. No phone calls, please.
  • Accepted file types: pdf, doc, docx.
    Make sure the file does not include your name.
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