2020 Texas Observer Short Story Contest

The 2020 Texas Observer Short Story Contest is now closed

This year’s guest judge is Bryan Washington.

Bryan Washington has written for The New Yorker, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, and the BBC. He’s the author of Lot, as well as the forthcoming Memorial, and he lives in Houston. Contest entrants, take note: “I gravitate towards stories with distinct voices, a keen sense of place, and a palpable intimacy,” Bryan tells us.

GRAND PRIZE: $1,000 and publication in an Observer print issue
GUEST JUDGE: Bryan Washington
DEADLINE: July 13 July 20


  • 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. This year, we will sponsor some submissions and wave the entry fee. Entries from Black writers, writers from communities of color, and other marginalized voices will be prioritized for sponsorship. Email [email protected] with requests and questions.
  • All stories must be submitted via the online form below. 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  • All entries must be unpublished. Simultaneous submissions are welcome, but stories must be withdrawn from the contest immediately upon acceptance elsewhere.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 Bryan Washington 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 2019 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.

Entry form