Prizes | Judges | Guidelines | Past Winners



Summer Literary Seminars is very excited to announce our 2015 Literary Contest, with prizes sponsored by Guernica, Fence Magazine, Ninth Letter, and the esteemed Graywolf Press. We are also thrilled to share that through a new collaboration with DISQUIET, the winners of this year's contest will be offered tuition, airfare, and accommodations to the 2015 DISQUIET International Program in Lisbon, Portugal. Judging the contest are award-winning writers Aimee Bender (fiction), Philip Graham (non fiction) and Brenda Shaughnessy (poetry).




Contest winners in the categories of fiction, poetry, and non fiction will have their winning work published in North America's leading publications. Additionally, they will win a full fellowship (airfare, tuition, and housing included) to the 2015 DISQUIET International Program in Lisbon, Portugal. (Note that prizes and fellowships cannot be applied to the 4-day SLS MTL workshop.)

The winner of the Graywolf Prize for the best novel excerpt of an emerging writer (you must have published no more than two novels) will receive full tuition for the 2015 DISQUIET International Program in Lisbon, Portugal, as well as publication on the Graywolf website. (All qualifying entries automatically considered, please note that you have published two or less novels in the body of your email.)

The winner of the Arkadii Dragomoshchenko Prize for Innovative Poetry will receive free tuition for the 2015 SLS Residencies program in Lithuania, as well as publication online. Full details here.

The winner of the Sutzkever Prize will receive free tuition for the 2015 SLS Residencies program in Lithuania, as well as publication online. Full details here.



Fiction Judge: Aimee Bender is the author of five books: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (1998) which was a NY Times Notable Book, An Invisible Sign of My Own (2000) which was an L.A. Times pick of the year, Willful Creatures (2005) which was nominated by The Believer as one of the best books of the year, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010) which recently won the SCIBA award for best fiction, and an Alex Award, and The Color Master, released this last August, a NY Times Notable book for 2013. Her short fiction has been published in Granta, GQ, Harper’s, Tin House, McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, and many more places, as well as heard on PRI’s This American Life and Selected Shorts. She has received two Pushcart prizes, was nominated for the TipTree award in 2005, and the Shirley Jackson short story award in 2010. Her fiction has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches creative writing at USC.


Non Fiction Judge: Philip Graham is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel How to Read an Unwritten Language, and the story collections The Art of the Knock and Interior Design. His non-fiction works are two memoirs of Africa (co-written with his wife, the anthropologist Alma Gottlieb), Parallel Worlds and Braided Worlds, and a collection of travel essays, The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Washington Post Magazine, Missouri Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and elsewhere. He teaches at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and is a core faculty member of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. A co-founder of Ninth Letter, Graham has served as both the fiction editor, nonfiction editor and, for the magazine’s website, as an editor-at-large. You can read his on-going collection of literary craft essays at his author website:

Poetry Judge: Brenda Shaughnessy is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Our Andromeda—one of The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2013. Her other books are Human Dark with Sugar, winner of the James Laughlin Award, and Interior with Sudden Joy.  Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Harpers, McSweeney’s, The Nation, The New Yorker, The Paris Review and elsewhere. She is a 2013 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow and Assistant Professor of English and in the M.F.A. Program at Rutgers University at Newark.  She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, son, and daughter.




The complete guidelines for the 2015 contest are as follows:

RDeadline: FEBRUARY 10, 2015 EXTENDED TO FEBRUARY 17, 2015

RAll entries will automatically be considered for the Graywolf, Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, and Sutzkever prizes, depending on content.

REligibility: Only previously unpublished work in English can be submitted. We accept entries from all ages and countries.
RAll entries should be in a standard type face and 12pt font and, if emailed, attached in .pdf, .doc or .rtf format.
RFor fiction: ONE short story or novel excerpt, maximum 20 (double-spaced) pages per entry.** NOTE: To qualify for the Graywolf Prize, you must have published no more than two novels (or none at all). Note in your subject line that you are submitting a novel excerpt.
RFor non fiction: ONE piece of non fiction, maximum 20 (double-spaced) pages per entry.
RFor poetry: No more than THREE poems per entry, up to 10 pages total.
REntrants may submit to any or all categories more than once; however, each entry must be accompanied by its own entry fee.
RIn your subject line, please include your name and type of submission (short story, novel excerpt, poetry, non fiction, Sutzkever prize etc) eg. Jane Smith - Poetry
RInclude your complete contact information (name, address, telephone, email address) on a cover page of the manuscript.
RWinners will be notified by late March 2015.
RPrevious First-Place winners may not re-enter in the same genre.

Entries can be submitted electronically, to: (NOTE: Please do not send payments to this address -- we request that if you pay online you use the Paypal button below.)

A $17 US reading fee must accompany each entry. Multiple entries are permissible, as long as they are accompanied by separate reading fees.

Fees can paid paid online, via Paypal, or to the address below, by cheque.



Click this button to pay the $17 (USD) Contest Fee.


NOTE: Online submissions and payments are preferred, but if you would rather submit the hard copy and pay by cheque, the address is below:

Summer Literary Seminars
2015 Literary Contest
English Department
Concordia University
1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Montreal, Quebec H3G 1M8 Canada

These are the complete contest guidelines.

Do not hesitate to contact SLS with any questions, by e-mail: – or by telephone: (514) 848-2424x4632.

We wish each and every one of you the best of luck with the contest!



2014 Winners:

FICTION (Judged by Aimee Bender)
First Place: Mark Labowskie (Brooklyn, NY) for "Eli's Comin'"
Second: Aram Kim (Seoul, Korea) for "White Bone Pine"
Third: Selena Anderson (Houston, TX) for "Blue Nile"

POETRY (Judged by Dorothea Lasky)
First Place: Monica McClure (Brooklyn, NY)
Second Place: Sandra Simonds (Tallahassee, FL)
Third Place: Douglas Piccinnini (Lambertville, NJ)

NON FICTION (Judged by Phillip Lopate)
First Place: Jaquira Diaz (Miami, FL)  for "Ordinary Girls"
Second Place: Kirstin Allio (Seattle, WA) for "Buddhism for Western Children"
Third Place: Onnesha Roychoudhuri (Brooklyn, NY) for "Where I'm Writing From"

GRAYWOLF PRIZE (for the best novel excerpt of an emerging writer)
Winner: Kari Pilgrim (Brooklyn, NY) for “Half of No”

Winner: Robert Glick (Rochester, NY) for “Three Options for a Successful Lunar Landing”

Winner: Maia Evrona (Boston, MA) for "With What Words; With What Silence; The Correspondence of Nelly Sachs and Paul Celan"

Winners: Maw Shein Win (Berkeley, CA), Katie Fowley (Brooklyn, NY), and Bela Shayevich (Chicago, IL)

Winners: Beatrice Smigasiewicz (Iowa City, IA) for "Oswiecim--or, the train station", Lauren Sallinger (Washington, DC) for "Hill 26", and Julia Zarankin (Toronto, ON) for "My Photographs Speak Yiddish."

2013 Winners:

FICTION (judged by Mary Gaitskill)
First Place: Ruth Joffre (Iowa City, Iowa)

Second Place: Andy Mozina (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
Third Place: Glenn Vanstrum (La Jolla, California)

POETRY (judged by Eileen Myles)
First Place: Jenny Zhang (Brooklyn, New York)
Second Place: CAConrad (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Third Place: Danniel Schoonebeek (Brooklyn, New York)

NON FICTION (judged by Ander Monson)
First Place:  Stuart Ross (Chicago, Illinois) 
Second Place:  Spring Ulmer (West Chester, Pennsylvania)
Third Place: William Scott Williams (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)

Graywolf Prize
Winner: Leah Bailly (Canada/Los Angeles, California)
Runners Up: Trudy Lewis (Columbia, Missouri), Margot Singer (Granville, Ohio), and Shehryar Fazli (Islamabad, Pakistan)

The Center for Fiction Prize (The Literarian)
Winner: Alake Pilgrim (Trinidad & Tobago)
Runners Up: Keya Mitra (Spokane, Washington) & Pam Zhang (San Francisco, California)

Sutzkever Centennial Translation Prize (judged by Ed Hirsch)
Winner: Lee Sharkey (Vienna, Maine )
Runners up: Jacob Oet (Swarthmore, Pennsylvania) & Heather Valencia (Thornhill, Scotland)

Arkadii Dragomoshchenko Prize for Innovative Poetry (judged by Charles Bernstein)
Winner: Maxwell Clark (New Haven, Connecticut)
Runners up: Lindsay Vella (Iowa City, Iowa) & Roberta Hatcher (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

2012 Winners:

FICTION (judged by Mary Gaitskill)
First Place: m k s volcofsky (Matthew Seidman) (Brooklyn, NY)
Second Place: Steinur Bell (Sarasota, FL)
Third Place: Aggie Zivaljevic (San Jose, CA)

POETRY (judged by Tony Hoagland)
First Place: Dianne Seuss (Kalamazoo, MI)
Second Place: Christopher Robinson (Federal Way, WA)
Third Place: Dawn Marie Knopf (Portland, OR)

NON-FICTION (judged by Ander Monson)
First Place: Will Mackin (Rio Rancho, NM)
Second Place: James Kates (Fitzwilliam, NH)
Third Place: Jim Ruland (San Diego, CA)

The Center for Fiction Award (The Literarian)
Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint (San Jose, CA)
Runners-up: Stacy Hardy & Margaret Meklin

Graywolf Prize
Snowden Wright (New York, NY)
Runners-up: Rachel Cantor, Diana Svennes-Smith, Emma Smith-Stevens, & Laura Pritchett

SLS-St. Petersburg Review Award
Gabriel Tallent, Ashley Wren Collins, Justin Boening, & Cori A. Winrock

SLS Award for Emerging Writers
Karina Slobogian, Ottessa Moshfegh, & Eric Fershtman

2011 Winners:

Fiction, judged by Jayne-Anne Phillips

First Place: Blair Bourassa (Kentville, NS)
Second Place: Matthew Baker (Nashville, TN)
Third Place: Rebecca Rukeyser (Iowa City, IA)

Poetry, judged by Matthew Zapruder

First Place: Lillian Bertram (Williamstown, MA)
Second Place: Chloe Honum (Provincetown, MA)
Third Place: Justin Boening (Missoula, MT)

East-European Roots Contest, judged by Phillip Lopate

First Place: Nikita Nelin "The Most Current History of the Russian Jew"
Second Place:
Daniella Gitlin "Notes From the Basin"
Third Place:
(tie) Steven Roiphe "Brighton Beach Memory Gap"
Randall Babtkis "Three Meditations"


2010 Winners:

Poetry, judged by Mary Jo Bang

First Place: Helen Dimos
Second Place: Hadara Bar-Nadav
Third Place: Lillian-Yvonne Bertram
Fiction, judged by Mary Gaitskill

First Place: Gina Frangello
Second Place: Mikael Awake
Third Place: Geoff Schmidt

2009 Winners:

Poetry, judged by Ann Lauterbach

First Place: Caron A. Levis
Second Place: Rachel Cantor
Third Place: Lisa Gornick
Fiction, judged by Lynne Tillman

First Place: Elizabeth Senja Spackman
Second Place: Ravi Shankar
Third Place: Michael C. Peterson

SLS/Matrix Magazine Editor's Choice Award: Mona Awad