Although all four runners-up in the 2014 Texas Observer short story contest wrote about, or from, Texas, the winning story took us outside of the Lone Star State entirely for the first time in the contest’s history. Not only out of Texas, but out of the United States. China is the setting of Ling Ma’s “Fuzhou Nighttime Feeling,” chosen as the contest’s best entry by guest judge Elizabeth McCracken.
This year’s challenge to writers is two-fold: bring the trophy back home, or take it even further afield.
2015 guest judge Stephen Graham Jones says he’s looking for a story with “a fast start and a real ending, and a voice that makes me want to hear more, keep turning the pages.”
Jones is the author of 15 novels and six story collections in a range of genres from literary fiction to horror. A member of the Blackfeet tribe, he grew up in a place “too small to even have a post office,” and in 2012 published Growing Up Dead in Texas, a novel about that place (Greenwood, Texas) that offers a dazzling mix of fiction, memoir and reportage about a devastating cotton fire. If we could recommend one book by which to get a sense of Jones’ style, Growing Up Dead in Texas is the one.
The prize for winning this year’s contest is a check for $1,000, publication in our annual October Books Issue and subsequent publication online. Past winners include Brian Allen Carr, who has since published six books; Ashley Hope Perez, whose 2013 winner, “3:17,” is an excerpt from her upcoming novel, Out of Darkness; and Ma, who recently won the Graywolf SLS Prize for best novel excerpt from an emerging writer.
As many as four finalists also will be published online, and up to 25 honorable mentions will have their names and story titles published.
So bring us your fast starts and your real endings, writers. Make the pages turn.
Nellie Downer’s story checks every box on the list of attributes guest judge Bryan Washington appreciates in short fiction: “stories with distinct voices, a keen sense of place, and a palpable intimacy.”