Lessons / Zoetrope: All-Story Prize

Lessons / Zoetrope: All-Story Prize

Honestly, I almost didn’t enter this contest. I’m not sure why, though. I loved Ling Ma’s novel SEVERANCE. Francis Ford Coppola is one of my favorite directors, so I’d usually jump at the opportunity to get published in the journal that he founded with Adrienne Brodeur. It’s not just the star power: I’ve actually read and enjoyed Zoetrope, have even taught a few stories they published.

I was probably tired–it was a long semester–and submitting can get expensive after a while. I’m not sure what inspired me to enter the 2022 Zoetrope Contest, but I’m glad I did.

Many thanks to all who entered the 2022 Short Fiction Competition. We appreciate the opportunity to read such bright and brilliant new work.
From nearly 1,800 submissions, guest judge and 2019 PEN/Hemingway Award finalist Ling Ma honored the following stories.
First Prize:
“Egg” by Emily Crossen (El Cerrito, CA)
This story offers what I hope to find in fiction—new pathways for my brain to move. I was so intrigued by the worldview and perspective of the author. —Ling Ma
Second Prize:
“Chicken. Film. Youth.” by Cleo Qian (Brooklyn, NY)
I had so much fun reading this, and could not quite predict where it was going. When Mr. Kang’s life story entered the scene, I was as swept up as the other characters. —LM
Third Prize:
“Baghdad, Florida” by Robert Yune (Buckhannon, WV)
The details of veteran life are so precise and nuanced that they carry the imprint of lived experience, and showed me a new mentality. —LM
Honorable Mentions:
“The Tayyare Apartments” by Lauren Alwan (San Leandro, CA)
“The Jewel Thief” by JP Gritton (Durham, NC)
“That's Beautiful, Isn't It?” by Allison Keeley (Bacalar, Mexico)
“Giant Pink Flamingo Great for Pool Float” by Laura Lynes (London, England)
“The Hedgebergers” by Mark Mayer (Memphis, TN)
“Outside Voices” by Sarah Harris Wallman (New Haven, CT)
“The Child Is a Mother, Too” by Mary Wang (New York, NY)
First prize is $1,000; second prize, $500; and third prize, $250. The prizewinners and honorable mentions will be considered for representation by William Morris Endeavor; ICM; the Wylie Agency; Janklow & Nesbit; 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, “Egg” by Emily Crossen, will be published as a special online supplement to the Winter 2022/2023 edition.
The 2023 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

There’s a lesson here, for me as much as anyone. I almost didn’t submit my manuscript to the Mary McCarthy Prize back in 2017. In addition to the usual reasons, I’d been rejected numerous times from that contest without even placing. (That’s the case with Zoetrope as well).

For me, the lesson here isn’t about shotgunning work out into the world. My approach to submitting is best described as “ambitious strategy.” However, there’s always a legion of reasons to say “no.” Reasons not to leave the couch, not to leave your comfort zone, not to take a risk.

Good things don’t always happen when I say “yes,” but they seem to happen more often.


Postscript: Sarah Harris Wallman won an honorable mention for this contest in 2017 and 2022. She’s a prizewinning writer, and she was also the other TA in my MFA program at Pitt. She gave me invaluable feedback when I was writing my debut novel AND collection. I’ll always be grateful for that. My point is, the writing world really is a small town. That’s a really important thing to keep in mind when you’re operating in this space.

Also, while writing can be a lonely pursuit, if you do it long enough and keep in touch with people who take it as seriously as you do, connections form and re-form–and those connections can really help push everyone forward.