The 25th Annual Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest

The lowdown on the 2017 submissions, judges, 10 finalists, and the prize-winning stories

Death, we know, is a part of life. It turns out to have been a big part of the 25th Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest, too.

In a large number of this year's entries, including the 10 finalists, characters experienced the loss of someone close or could see such a loss coming and were caught up in the process of grieving. In life, the void at the heart of that process can make feelings difficult to articulate, but in fiction, words can be found to describe the pain and turmoil inside, and we readers can understand what it means to endure the death of a sister who drove you crazy when she was alive, a parent when you yourself are still a child, a lover who doesn't speak your language.

Grief may not be something we're eager to see in our own lives, but in the lives of these characters, it proved illuminating and memorable. So said the judges assembled for the contest this year – all of whom had judged the contest the two years previous because, hey, you don't want to break up the band when it works so well. They felt that the best captured not just the absence that we experience when someone dies but also our own transformation – as judge Annie La Ganga put it in describing the impact of one story, "You are a kind of ghost. The person you were when that person was alive is gone." The foursome discussed the finalists' merits in depth and with much admiration, and they came to consensus on the top stories and honorable mentions with surprising ease (one of the major reasons I didn't want this particular band broken up).

I bow humbly to them for their generosity and good nature in judging this year, as in previous years, and once more, the delight of the meal we shared was exceeded only by their company. I also honor the squadron of first-readers who ensured that each of the 373 submissions was read twice and ranked. My heartfelt gratitude to: Nick Barbaro, Brian Barry, Wayne Alan Brenner, Katarina Brown, Jessi Cape, Mark Fagan, Cassidy Frazier, Liz Franklin, Darlene Jones, Kimberley Jones, Michael King, Josh Kupecki, Sarah Marloff, Will McCarthy, Gerald McLeod, Kat McNevins, Tamar Price, James Renovitch, Karena Rogers, R.U. Steinberg, Greg Stitt, Jason Stout, Katie Walsh, Tucker Whatley, and Danielle White. Thanks also to our marketing gurus Dan Hardick, Karena Rogers, and Sarah Wolf; and co-sponsor BookPeople.

In closing: The call for entries this year resulted in about the same number as last year, but our addition of an online submission process brought us a huge influx of stories from outside the U.S.: 41 tales from 16 countries on five continents. That's on top of entries from 32 other states, plus the District of Columbia. In its 25th year, the contest has truly become a global event, though half of the stories come from Central Texas. Our thanks to all of the writers who participated and to you, dear readers, without whom this contest couldn't exist.

The Winners

First Place: "The Shape of Human Hearts"
Eric Shattuck is a freelance writer living in Austin. His fiction has been published in more than a dozen journals, including The Nottingham Review and Neon Literary Magazine, and appeared on the Wigleaf list of Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions of 2017.

Second Place: "Why Eulagene?"
Emily West is a French translator specializing in scientific, technical, and commercial translation. Her work has been used to prosecute war criminals at the ICC and to sop up grease on fast food trays around the globe. She lives in East Austin and blogs about the language industry at

Third Place: "An Interlude: Pig River"
Su-Yee Lin is a writer from New York. Her work has been published in Day One, The Offing, Electric Literature, Strange Horizons, Nashville Review, Interfictions, NANO Fiction, and elsewhere. A 2012 Fulbright fellow to China, she was also a 2014 fellow at the Center for Fiction.

Honorable Mention: "For Danny, Twelve Years Old"
Lucas Loredo has had his work featured in Best American Short Stories, The Rumpus, The Washington Square Review, and The Southwest Review and has been profiled by Time Out New York, Juxtapoz, and The Wall Street Journal. He is now an MFA fellow at the Michener Center for Writers in his hometown.

Honorable Mention: "Equilibrium"
Erin Lockwood was born in Mexico City with a formative stop in San Antonio before moving to the Northeast. After graduate school in New York City, she taught English at an all-boys private school there. Her return to Texas last summer sparked a desire to write. This is her first public effort.

Other Finalists (in alphabetical order by author):
Robert Glover, "Rowing"
Robert Maslin, "Two Stepping"
E.S. Sparks, "The Buffalo Do"
Donna L. Turello, "Cherry Pie"
Abe Louise Young, "A Person With No People"

The Judges

Raul Garza won first place in the 22nd Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest with his story "In the Room." He wrote the plays Fantasmaville, which won the National Latino Playwriting Award; Confessions of a Mexpatriate; and "MyHEB," a Best of the Fest selection in the FronteraFest Short Fringe. He is also co-founder and creative director of TKO Advertising.

Annie La Ganga is the author of Stoners and Self-Appointed Saints, A Memoir and creator-performer of the solo shows Surprise Annie, produced by Rubber Repertory, and The Major Arcana, produced with Portland Story Theater. With Rebecca Beegle, she runs the Grownup Lady Story Company, an enterprise for storytelling performance and coaching.

Steve Moore co-founded Physical Plant Theater in 1994 and has written most of its shows. Among his plays are Nightswim and The Kindermann Depiction, both recipients of the Austin Critics Table's David Mark Cohen New Play Award, and the text play Computer Simulation of the Ocean. He holds an MFA in playwriting from the Michener Center for Writers.

Amanda Eyre Ward is the author of six novels, including How to Be Lost and Close Your Eyes, which was named in Kirkus' Best Books of 2011 and won the Elle magazine Fiction Book of the Year. Her most recent novel, The Nearness of You, was released this spring.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest, Raul Garza, Annie La Ganga, Steve Moore, Amanda Eyre Ward, Eric Shattuck, Emily West, Su-Yee Lin, Lucas Loredo, Erin Lockwood, Robert Maslin, E.S. Sparks, Robert Glover, Donna L. Turello, Abe Louise Young

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