Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest 2021
Congratulations to the winners of the 2021 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest!
First Prize $3,000 Fiction
Tamako Takamatsu, The Pastures of My Eccentric Uncle
First Prize $3,000 Nonfiction
Megan Falley, The Act of Vanishing
Honorable Mention $200
- Steven B. Deng, In Sense, Fiction
- Joseph Hernandez, Ash Wednesday, Fiction
- Shannon McAfee, I Am Mary, Fiction
- Stephanie Pushaw, Whitney in the Real World, Fiction
- Sarita Shera, My Fiancé Is a Robot, Fiction
- Yolande Clark-Jackson, How You Get There, Nonfiction
- Anne-Marie Corley, #metoo?, Nonfiction
- K. Lang-Slattery, Return to India, Nonfiction
- Priya Ranganathan, Field Notes from a Tiger Forest, Nonfiction
- William Thompson, My Cowboy Cousin, Nonfiction
In our 2021 contest, 2,513 entries were judged by Denne Michele Norris with assistance from Mina Manchester. Ms. Norris shares her thoughts below:
Every year there are several themes that emerge from the pool of finalists. This year, stories of youth, remembrance, grief, and a general sense of owning one's past rose to the surface. From childish familial adoration to finding one's value in the middle of fat camp, these are stories about young people proclaiming their place as important voices in our society. At every turn you'll find lush, luminous prose and narrative filled with tenderness, but if there's one thing these pieces all say, it's this: We are no longer here to merely be seen, and not heard. Run, don't walk. Lose yourself in these authors' words, and only come up for air when you absolutely must.
Mesmerizingly rhythmic, filled with color and voice and most importantly love, Tamako Takamatsu's "The Pastures of My Eccentric Uncle", the First Prize winner for Fiction, is a story that reminds us of the innocence and wonder of childhood.
Fiction Honorable Mentions went to:
- Steven B. Deng, "In Sense"—This is a gorgeous, atmospheric piece in which we fall in love with the fleeting nature of childhood and the loneliness that comes with time.
- Joseph Hernandez, "Ash Wednesday"—This story beautifully recounts the intensity and desperation of young, momentary love.
- Shannon McAfee, "I Am Mary"—This story beautifully captures the difficulty in doing what is right, and the strength it takes to go against the wishes of those you love.
- Stephanie Pushaw, "Whitney in the Real World"—Sleek, modern, and sexy, it has the inviting feeling of a story your friend tells you over happy hour at your neighborhood bar.
- Sarita Shera, "My Fiancé is a Robot"—Genuinely clever, exceedingly fun to read, this piece offers a rare bit of levity in a context that needs it.
In Megan Falley's incandescent essay "The Act of Vanishing", the First Prize winner for Nonfiction, we are invited into the topsy-turvy world of children's weight-loss camps, where reality seems suspended, and we root for every girl to find her worth and vanish into safety.
Nonfiction Honorable Mentions went to:
- Yolande Clark-Jackson, "How You Get There"—Written in the epistolary tradition, this piece is really a prayer over a mother's grief and an acknowledgement of the faith that becomes crucial for survival.
- Anne-Marie Corley, "#metoo?"—Topical and timely, this essay is simply one more woman claiming her past and adding her voice to many. It's a reminder that every story, every instance, every voice in this fight matters, and deserves space for telling, and for healing.
- K. Lang-Slattery, "Return to India"—A meditation on a journey in a beloved country, and the freedom we are all seeking.
- Priya Ranganathan, "Field Notes from a Tiger Forest"—Beautifully written with an atmosphere of iridescence, this essay of field notes is a reprieve that allows readers to bask in the wonders of the corporeal world.
- William Thompson, "My Cowboy Cousin"—Astonishingly honest, there's an enchanting intermingling of a young, eager voice with the realities of grief as told by a rather energetic narrator.
Ms. Norris is stepping back from judging our contest to focus on her new role as Editor-in-Chief of Electric Literature. We express our deep gratitude for finding so many wonderful entries over the years, and wish her the very best!
Read our press release about the winning entries.
See the guidelines for the current contest.
Denne Michele Norris
Denne Michele Norris (she/they) is a past judge of our Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest. She is the author of Awst Collection—Dennis Norris II, named one of the best books of 2018 by Powell's Books. A 2017 MacDowell Colony Fellow, a 2016 Tin House Scholar, and 2015 Kimbilio Fiction Fellow, she was a Peter Taylor Fellow for the 2019 Kenyon Review Fiction Workshop.
Her writing appears in Shondaland, INTO, The Rumpus, Apogee Journal, and SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere, and her short story Last Rites appears in Everyday People: The Color of Life, an anthology recently published by Atria Books, and her story "Daddy's Boy" appears in the new anthology Forward: 21st Century Flash Fiction. Her fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her story "Where Every Boy is Known and Loved" is a finalist for the 2018 Best Small Fictions Prize.
The former fiction editor for Apogee Journal and senior fiction editor for The Rumpus, she currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Electric Literature and co-host of the critically-acclaimed podcast Food 4 Thot. She lives in Harlem, where she is hard at work on her debut novel.
Mina Manchester, final judge of our Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest, is an Editor-at-large at Five South and former Assistant Editor for Narrative Magazine. She is currently an MFA candidate at the Sewanee School of Letters. Her work has appeared in HuffPost, Columbia Journal, The Normal School, Inscape, and elsewhere. She is a Pinch Literary Award Finalist, Cutthroat Journal Rick DeMarinis Short Story Award Finalist, and UCLA James Kirkwood Price in Creative Writing nominee. Mina is a workshop recipient at Kenyon Review Writing Workshop, The Writer's Hotel where she was a TA in 2020 and 2021, and Narrative Magazine's The Art of the Story. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.