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Contests

Boston Review is pleased to adopt a contest model shaped by social justice and accessibility concerns.

  • Contestants from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe pay an entry fee of $20, which helps subsidize the entry of contestants from outside of those countries, as well as those claiming hardship, all of whom pay nothing to enter our contests. Free entries and paid entries are read in the same way and given equal weight.
  • In addition, while a winner will be chosen in each genre, many more runners-up will have their work published, increasing the likelihood that entrants will have their work shared with Boston Review’s audience.
  • Finally, Boston Review commits to publishing an annual themed literary issue, and the contests share the issue’s theme. This offers contestants more transparency about what Boston Review’s editors are seeking in any given year. All contestants will receive a free copy of the issue, either in print (for paid entries) or digital (for unpaid entries).


In the next section you will find a description of this year’s theme for both contests, and then continue reading below that for genre-specific contest guidelines.


The Boston Review Annual Poetry Contest and the Aura Estrada Short Story Contest share the same theme this year:

Repair

We bear deep wounds—individually and collectively, for generations, for a lifetime, for a year, for a day. All have been worsened by a destructive period of pyrrhic politics that left us ill-equipped to respond to a global health catastrophe. As we struggle as a society to recover our footing and grieve our dead, Arts in Society believes that the literary arts must have a voice in the conversation about how we heal.

Tell us what it means to repair from a terrible rupture, a life-threatening harm or illness. How do we return to health, to wholeness? Is “return” even the right idea? We want to know if you think repair is possible from toxic politics, from pandemic, from racist horrors, from class warfare, from Islamophobia, from gendered violence and “reparative” therapy, from ecological brinksmanship.

Consider the meditations of Adrienne Rich:

Or the words of Cameron Awkward-Rich:

these scars bear witness
but whether to repair
or to destruction
I no longer know

Adrienne Rich, “Meditations for a Savage Child”

Sometimes you don’t die
when you’re supposed to
& now I have a choice
repair a world or build
a new one inside my body
 
Cameron Awkward-Rich, “Cento Between the Ending and the End”

Reflect on the Japanese art of 金継ぎ (kintsugi), where the repair is highlighted by a seam of gold.

We are thinking about the timeliness of Toni Morrison writing that wishes for a “return to normal” are distractions from righteous demands for something more revolutionary, more catalytic: “They fill their mind and hands with soap and repair . . . because what is waiting for them, in a suddenly idle moment, is the seep of rage. Molten. Thick and slow-moving. Mindful and particular about what in its path it chooses to bury. Or else, into a beat of time, and sideways under their breasts, slips a sorrow they don’t know where from.”

Or, as Haruki Murakami writes, “I don’t want to be ‘repaired’.”

But because we believe in the power of art, we are also thinking of when Jonathan Saffron Foer, in Everything Is Illuminated, says, “I can repair my mistakes when I perform mistakes. . . . With writing, we have second chances.”

Or when Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says: “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

Tell us where we go from here. Tell us how we get out of this mess.


Aura Estrada Short Story Contest

Deadline: May 31, 2021 (free global/hardship entries); June 30, 2021 (paid entries)
Judge: Kali Fajardo-Anstine
First Prize: $1,000 and publication

THIS YEAR’S JUDGE: KALI FAJARDO-ANSTINE

Kali Fajardo-Anstine is the author of Sabrina & Corina (One World, 2019), finalist for the National Book Award, the PEN/Bingham Prize, The Story Prize, The Saroyan International Prize, and winner of an American Book Award and Reading the West Award. Fajardo-Anstine is the 2019 recipient of the Denver Mayor’s Award for Global Impact in the Arts. Her writing has appeared in print and online at Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, O, the Oprah Magazine, The American Scholar, Boston Review, Bellevue Literary Review, The Idaho Review, Southwestern American Literature, and elsewhere. Kali has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, Tin House, and Hedgebrook. She holds an MFA from the University of Wyoming and is from Denver, Colorado. Her work has been translated into multiple languages.


Complete guidelines:

  • All entries must be related to this year’s theme of Repair. We want the theme to be very broadly interpreted, but we also shouldn’t have to guess at the connection between the theme and your entry.
  • The winning author will receive $1,000 and have their work published in Boston Review’s special literary issue Repair (March 2022). Some finalists and semi-finalists will also be published in the issue or online.
  • Stories must not exceed 5,000 words and must be unpublished.
  • “Unpublished” means it has never received print publication of any kind, nor is it available anywhere on the Internet. If a story is not available for Boston Review to publish as a first serial, it is not eligible to win the competition or be named as a finalist or semi-finalist.
  • Do not include a cover note. Your name should not appear anywhere in the uploaded file. All entries much be in English; translations are acceptable if they are done in collaboration with the author and the story is unpublished in any language.
  • Simultaneous submissions are OK but if your story is accepted elsewhere, you must immediately withdraw it via Submittable.
  • Submissions may not be modified after entry. The contest judge and Boston Review staff, however, reserve the right to recommend edits to the winning story as well as finalists and semi-finalists they are interested in publishing.
  • Contest entrants cannot have a close personal or professional relationship with this year’s judge or with any editors, staff, or contest screeners at Boston Review. For our purposes, “close” can be glossed as if you would socialize with any of these people, be in a position to ask them to help you with something (for example, write a recommendation or offer advice), or if there is any chance they would recongize your work even without seeing your name.
  • Make sure your address (mailing and email) in Submittable is correct, as this is the address where your free copy of Repair will be sent in early 2022.


Our contest is named after Aura Estrada (1977–2007), a promising young Mexican writer and student and wife of Francisco Goldman. This prize is meant to honor her memory by supporting other burgeoning writers. Aura’s writing, and more about her life, can be found here.

Entries are accepted exclusively through Submittable. Please make sure to select the correct form, paid or free, depending on your circumstances.


Read winning stories from past years:

Sabrina Helen Li’s Mother, Grow My Baby (Fall 2019)
Neshat Khan’s The Neighbors (Spring 2019)
Herselman Hattingh’s The Recorder (2018)
Gina Balibrera’s Álvaro (2017)
Mikayla Ávila Vilá’s Trumpeteers (2016)
Barbara Hamby’s Dole Girl (2015)
Leslee Becker’s Severance (2014)
Kerry-Lee Powell’s There Are Two Pools You May Drink From (2013)
Alexandra Thom’s The Piano (2012)
Kalpana Narayanan’s Aviator on the Prowl (2011)
Adam Sturtevant’s How Do I Explain? (2010)
Jessica Treglia’s Canceled (2009)
Patricia Engel’s Desaliento (2008)
Padma Viswanathan’s Transitory Cities (2007)
Tiphanie Yanique’s How to Escape from a Leper Colony (2006)
Lisa Chipongian’s Intramuros (2005)
D.S. Sulaitis’s If It’s Anywhere, It’s Behind Us (2004)
Gale Renee Walden’s Men I Don’t Talk to Anymore (2003)
Manini Nayar’s Home Fires (2002)
Kate Small’s One Night a Year (2001)
Girija Tropp’s The Pretty Ones Have Their Uses (2001)
Pauls Toutonghi’s Regeneration (2000)
Jacob M. Appel’s Shell Game with Organs (1999)
Kris Saknussemm’s Unpracticed Fingers Bungle Sadly Over Tiny Feathered Bodies (1998)
Kiki Delancey’s Jules Jr Michael Jules Jr (1997)
Mary Ann Jannazo’s No Runs, No Hits, No One Left on Base (1996)
Tom Paine’s The Milkman & I (1995)
Michael Dorris’s Layaway (1994)


Annual Poetry Contest

Deadline: May 31, 2021 (free global/hardship entries); June 30, 2021 (paid entries)
Judge: Sonia Sanchez
First Prize: $1,000 and publication

THIS YEAR’S JUDGE: SONIA SANCHEZ

Sonia Sanchez—poet, activist, scholar—was the Laura Carnell Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Temple University. She is the recipient of both the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. One of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement, Sanchez is the author of sixteen books.


Complete guidelines:

  • All entries must be related to this year’s theme of Repair. We want the theme to be very broadly interpreted, but we also shouldn’t have to guess at the connection between the theme and your entry.
  • The winning author will receive $1,000 and have their work published in Boston Review’s special literary issue Repair (March 2022). Some finalists and semi-finalists will also be published in the issue or online.
  • Send up to 5 poems or 10 pages, whichever comes first. The poems must be unpublished.
  • “Unpublished” means the poems have never received print publication of any kind, nor are they available anywhere on the Internet.
  • Simultaneous submissions are OK but if your poems are accepted or published elsewhere (including anywhere on the Internet), you must immediately withdraw them via Submittable. Individual poems can be withdrawn by adding a note to the entry. This does not invalidate the other poems from being considered; however, failure to notify Boston Review that some poems in the entry are no longer available may result in the entry as a whole being invalidated.
  • Do not include a cover note. Your name should not appear anywhere in the uploaded file. All entries much be in English; translations are acceptable if they are done in collaboration with the author and the poems are unpublished in any language.
  • Submissions may not be modified after entry. The contest judge and Boston Review staff, however, reserve the right to recommend edits to the winning story as well as finalists and semi-finalists they are interested in publishing.
  • Contest entrants cannot have a close personal or professional relationship with this year’s judge or with any editors, staff, or contest screeners at Boston Review. It is fine to have met these people, talked with them, perhaps even taken a workshop. For our purposes, “close” can be glossed as if you would socialize with any of these people, be in a position to ask them to help you with something (for example, write a recommendation or offer advice), or if there is any chance they would recognize your work even without seeing your name.
  • Make sure your address (mailing and email) in Submittable is correct, as this is the address where your free copy of Repair will be sent in early 2022.

 

Entries are accepted exclusively through Submittable. Please make sure to select the correct form, paid or free, depending on your circumstances:


Read winning poems from past years:

C. X. Hua (2019)
Kim Parko (2018)
Mia Kang (2017)
Cori A. Winrock (2016)
Safiya Sinclair (2015)
Francine J. Harris (2014)
Scott Coffel (2013)
Sarah Crossland (2012)
Heather Tone (2011)
Anthony Caleshu (2010)
John Gallaher (2009)
Sarah Arvio (2008)
Elizabeth Willis (2007)
Marc Gaba (2006)
Mike Perrow (2005)
Michael Tod Edgerton (2004)
Susan Wheeler (2003)
Max Winter (2002)
D. A. Powell (2001)
Christopher Edgar (2000)
Stephanie Strickland (1999)
Daniel Bosch (1998)