2014 William Peden Prize Winner: "The Sea Latch"

By Michael Nye

We are pleased to announce that Cara Blue Adams’s short story “The Sea Latch” has been selected as the winner of this year’s William Peden Prize, our annual $1000 award for the best short story published in the previous volume year. Adams’s stories and essays have appeared in Narrative, Epoch, Mississippi Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and The Sun, among many others. She has been awarded the Kenyon Review Short Fiction Prize, and scholarships and fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and she is an assistant professor of creative writing at Coastal Carolina University. A big, loud huzzah for Cara!

Our judge this year was Jessica Francis Kane, the author of three books (most recently This Close) whose work has twice appeared in our pages. There is no separate application process for the award. A few weeks ago, we sent an email to Jessica and asked if she would be our judge (we always use an outside judge for the Peden Prize) and she said, yeah sure, and we fired off copies of Volume 36, and in a few weeks, after agonizing over the decision, Jessica made her selection. Cara’s story appeared in our Spring 2013 issue; here’s an excerpt from her story:

When I thought of the girl Agnes’s ex-boyfriend Mike had gotten pregnant, a girl who lived in a trailer with her mother and the baby and who could easily be my sister, I thought of weedy grass, the scrubby, dried-out kind that grows on hard-packed soil. I wanted not to be the person my mother and Agnes thought I was: a person who would judge her for her decision, think she was stupid and backward. But at the same time, I wanted to shake her. How could I not, when I remembered her at five years old, trudging after me up the hill on the way to the school bus in her red rain boots, struggling to keep up?

If you haven’t read it already you can order a copy of this issue from our online store. Also! Cara will be coming to Columbia, Missouri this autumn. Our annual Peden Prize reception and reading will be held on Monday October 13th. We will have more details forthcoming, but as always, this event will be free and open to the public. If you’re in the area, you should come by, drink wine, eat hors d’oeuvres, meet Cara, and hear a terrific reading!

Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye

Don’t Talk To Me About the Flapping of A Butterfly’s Wings


Today’s blog post is written by TMR contributor Jeffrey Condran

There are many ways to define “success” as a writer. Writing teachers always focus on craft, and I think they’re right. What really is better than the satisfaction of knowing you got it right—the true dialogue, the description that operates on multiple levels, the existential moment well rendered as all the pieces of the writerly puzzle are drawn, nearly perfectly, to their center of gravity? Truly, these are the reasons to write and to keep writing. And yet, there’s always this other moment when you “have written,” when the craft of writing is temporarily put to bed and you have to think of yourself as a writer in the world, a person who must find readers for this book you’ve made. It’s a daunting moment.

The story of finding my way in the literary world is intimately connected to The Missouri Review. In 2009, my story, “Praha” was accepted for publication. It was a wonderful experience to work with the fiction editor, Evelyn Somers. I think every fiction writer has an editor fantasy. This idea that there’s a person out there who loves your work, and because they get it, are in a position to make it better. This, for me, was Evelyn. It felt, for the first time as a writer, that I was in it together with someone. Sometimes her questions were line item things: Is Beton (a Czech drink of Becharovka and tonic) a proper noun? Sometimes it was a deeper question. Would the character say this just here? What if he never said it at all? What might that silence mean? In any case, this editorial process made a story I was already excited about into something special. I’ll be forever grateful.

The fact that it was beautifully published almost goes without saying. The images that accompanied the text and the quotes they pulled out to give special attention to were perfect. I could have died with happiness right then.

And yet, there was more. The TMR publication was like magic. Suddenly, like wind created from the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, the literary doors blew open: The Blue Earth Review, The Red Rock Review, Pinyon, and then The Kenyon Review, and Epoch. I’m joking a little bit. How does one gauge the influence of a strong publication? It is impossible to know.

Prague Summer ImageHowever, when Steve Yarbrough selected “Praha” for TMR’s William Peden Prize, I was stupefied. TMR’s best story for 2009? What does that mean? For a little while it meant that I’d visit Columbia, MO, give a reading, and be interviewed by the local NPR affiliate. It meant, for a day at least, that I’d be wined and dined like a literary celebrity. Picked up at the airport, put up in a hotel, and entertained like something that I’d written or said actually mattered to somebody who didn’t already love me anyway. To drink martinis with Speer Morgan and Kris Somerville and Michael Nye—it was a wonderful night.

But how did it happen? If you ask Steve Yarbrough, who was the judge for the Peden Prize, he’d probably say that here was good writing. However, it can’t be denied that there’s a lot of good writing out there. What did he see? Why at that moment, did he see it? The idiosyncrasy of the moment is undeniable. A connection was made. Yarbrough was a reader with an interest in Central Europe. He’s a realist writer and “Praha” was a realist fiction. Call it whatever you wish. Serendipity. Fate. Luck. Okay. Sign me up.

What I can tell you is that the Peden Prize helped me get into the Sewanee Writer’s conference, and in three days in July 2012, upon arriving at the conference, I had a story accepted for publication, Press 53 agreed to publish my story collection, A Fingerprint Repeated, and I found an agent: the Georges Borchardt Agency. Within another six months, my novel Prague Summer had been accepted for publication by Counterpoint, and, frankly, nearly all of my literary dreams come true.

The truth is that I’m living a completely literary life these days. I’m writing, I’m teaching, and I’m publishing books as the co-founder of Braddock Avenue Books. Under these many hats, I often speak to young writers—most recently at the Yale Writer’s Conference—writers who want to know how to make their way in the literary world. Mostly I fall back on the truest thing I know—craft. But what I really want to say, what I should say and often do, is publish a story in The Missouri Review.

Jeffrey Condran Author PhotoJeffrey Condran is the author of the story collection, A Fingerprint Repeated.  His debut novel, Prague Summer, will be published by Counterpoint in August 2014.  His fiction has appeared in journals such as The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, and Epoch, and has been awarded the 2010 William Peden Prize and Pushcart Prize nominations.  He is an Assistant Professor of English at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and the Co-founder of Braddock Avenue Books.

2013 William Peden Prize Winner: The Queen of Pacific Tides by Rose Whitmore


The Missouri Review is pleased to announce that Rose Whitmore’s short story The Queen of Pacific Tides is the winner of this year’s William Peden Prize. The prize is our annual $1000 reward for the best short story published in a previous volume of The Missouri Review. Whitmore, a native of San Francisco, earned her MFA in fiction at the University of New Hampshire and is now a Freelance writer. Her writing has appeared in Mason’s Road, Fourth Genre and the 2013 California Prose Directory, an anthology about the state of California. She has work forthcoming in the Mid-American Review and The Sun. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Queen of Pacific Tides was written “as an unconscious anthem for my home, my place of being, when I was very far away from it,” says Whitmore.

Whitmore’s Fiction story was published in The Missouri Review’s Summer 2012 ‘Reinvention’ Issue (35.2.) When writing the award-winning story, Whitmore explains that the story found her “through it’s own book of words” after a circus had travelled through a town near her. “I was on a deadline for workshop and all I could hear was the elephants,” Whitmore says. “All I could see was that special moment when the acrobats leave their swings and hover in the air, extended, reaching for each other. That moment became the cornerstone around which all other relationships in the story developed,”

Whitmore’s childhood was brimming with fishing, backpacking, and trips to Baja. As a child, Whitmore and her family used to follow the runs of smelt along the northern coast of California. Whitmore remembers a time when she use to stand with her “bucket of fish and sell it to a cannery filled with men in yellow rubber suits, men with toothpicks in their mouths and fish beneath their fingernails.”

The Peden Prize is given in memory of Dr. William Hardwood Peden, who was a professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia from 1948 to 1979. Most importantly, Peden was one of the co-founders of The Missouri Review. Unlike most awards and contests, there is no separate application process for the Peden Prize. In order to win this award, one must simply have been previously published in our recent volumes. Additionally, The Missouri Review hires an outside judge whom selects each winner of the Peden Prize.

“There are many stories about young girls on the precipice of adolescence, digging in their heels against change, but The Queen of Pacific Tides manages to surprise on every level,” says contest judge Tina May Hall, author of The Physics of Imaginary Objects. “After the delightful first few pages, which are layered with chewy words such as ‘purse seiners,’ ‘mung’ and ‘grunion,’ I thought the story couldn’t get much better,”.

An excerpt from The Queen of Pacific Tides:

Ten years ago today my father went overboard in a stern trawler fifty miles offshore, and I’m headed down to the breakers for an omen. It’s early morning, and the clouds are cutting strips of the Pacific clean silver when I slip down the bluffs to the beach. It’s a steep path, lined with ferns and trillium that bloom purple and white. The shore is dotted with the last of the night smelters hauling their loads into rust-checkered pickups. The waves are out with the tide, leaving traces of foam on the shore like a comb over wet hair. The Eureka Fish Company lurks on the horizon, jutting out on barnacled pilings into the Pacific like an old ship on stilts, the aluminum roof reflecting patches of early light. Here, the stink and rot of the cannery fades into tufts of sea-spray. I can see our fleet of purse seiners, trollers and old-time squid jiggers in the docks, idle and giant. From this distance, most people would mistake the cannery for the flotsam of development hanging over the ocean, an eyesore of industry, but to me it’s more than just fish scales and mung. It’s got a berth that holds vats of cod and the pulse of Eureka in its floors. Made of dusty redwood planks that creak in the tides, it’s home: our airless, two-bedroom apartment saddles the scaling room. It’s where Mama keeps the books and where, above a shipment of herring and sea bass, I was born.

Whitmore will receive her check and will read her magical story, The Queen of Pacific Tides at the annual Peden Prize party located at Orr Street Studios, 106 Orr Street on Monday, September 30th, at 6:30 p.m. The Missouri Review would like to welcome the public to come honor this author and to enjoy music, champagne and strawberries. You can RSVP by joining the Facebook event here.

“Ruby, (the story’s protagonist) was out there in Imagination Land, sticking a marble in her mouth for a long time before I realized she belonged above the creaking pillars of the Eureka Fish Company, saturated with its smells and sounds and fluttering fish scales,” Whitmore says. Whitmore explains that the “language of smelting, of the sand and guts and wind, shaped the characters for me, even though I wrote around their stories for a very long time.”

Whitmore would like to give credit to the Granite State and her MFA program in New Hampshire that gave her the freedom to see her version of the West Coast. Additionally, Whitmore acknowledged winter, “that dark night sky, that lovely pulse beneath the snow” which drove her to reminisce of her sunny California paradise.

The Queen of Pacific Tides is “a gorgeous story all around and is one of those that will stay with you, will sneak into your dreams and perfume them in strange and wonderful ways” says Hall.

Congratulations, Rose!

For more information about the Peden Prize, visit: The Missouri Review’s website at www.missourireview.com.

Don't Duck The Silver Bullet!

Next week, on Monday October 8th, The Missouri Review will honor the writer A.R. Rea, this year’s recipient of our annual Peden Prize, which is given to the best short story from the previous volume year, as chosen by an outside judge. A reading and reception will by held at P.S. Gallery in downtown Columbia. This event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 630 pm, and light hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served.

Our prize winner, A.R. Rea, has published her stories and essays in Pushcart Prize XXXVThe Kenyon ReviewThe Iowa ReviewIndiana ReviewNew South and has been awarded fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Institute of Creative Writing in Wisconsin and Jentel Artist Residency in Wyoming.

Because our summer 2011 issue (in which “The Silver Bullet” first appeared) has sold out, we’ve printed a limited edition, single story run of Rea’s work. We’re giving this away free (free!) at the door. These snazzy editions easily fit in your back jeans pocket, and if (when!) you come to our event, I’m positive Rea would be delighted to sign your copy and pose for a picture.

So if you’re in the surrounding Columbia area next Monday, you should attend! We’d be delighted to see you there.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye

Seth Fried On His Peden Prize Selection

Author Seth Fried was the judge for this year’s annual Peden Prize, an award given to the best short story published in the previous volume year. Please enjoy this post from Seth on how he made his selection of A.R. Rea’s “The Silver Bullet”. He is mildly comfortable with the idea that you’ll appreciate his sense of humor. Or not…

When you judge a fiction contest, there is a standard procedure that adheres largely to common sense. As judge, you print out the pieces being considered for the prize, and then carefully read all of them until you find that one special story containing an elusive and unnamable quality which causes you to suspect that its author might not mind splitting the prize money with you. It was with this in mind that I, Seth Fried, set out to judge The Missouri Review’s prestigious William Peden Prize, which honors the best short story to have been published in TMR in a volume year. The award has previously been given to such fiction greats as Robert Olen Butler and Wally Lamb; it is also associated with a $1,000 prize. And while I only felt comfortable extorting half that amount from the winning author, I was still thrilled to be chosen as this year’s judge.

However, my role in determining the winner became more complicated once I began to take a look back at all the remarkable fiction that TMR published last year. As I read one affecting and brilliantly crafted short story after another, I started to get the queasy feeling that typically accompanies the realization that I am taking something seriously. And because I am only capable of two emotions (extortion and self-doubt), I immediately began to despair over my inability to discriminate between one piece of superbly wrought fiction and another.

TMR is one of the best curated magazines in the country, and so the quality of the work was not really up for debate. The problem I was faced with was this: What criteria does one use in order to distinguish great work from great work? Should I select a story just because I particularly enjoyed it? Or should I select a story because I found it challenging? After all, it is not the sole purpose of art to be delightful; it is also supposed to help us grow as people. Should I prefer a story that stimulated me intellectually over one that stimulated me emotionally? Should a piece get special consideration if it managed to make me laugh? Should I be more concerned with the author’s use of language or ideas? Should I single a story out because it is an insightful reflection of our times or because it could be read in any time, place, or context and still be as effective?

These are the questions that I struggled with while I entertained the possibility of not rigging the Peden Prize. I most likely would have buckled under the weight of them if it weren’t for the fact that I inevitably came across a short story called The Silver Bullet by A.R Rea, which is one of the most poignant, energetic and stirring short stories I have ever read.

Set in Colorado in the 1980’s, Rea’s story depicts the McKinley family as they cope with impending bankruptcy. The family hears of a local radio promotion that promises $2,000 to the first person who can find a keg, the silver bullet, that has been hidden somewhere in the Colorado wilderness. Motivated to find the keg out of desperation and a downtrodden sense of ingenuity, the family embarks on a quest that is equal parts farce and tragedy.

Even when I subjected this story to the list of criteria above, it was apparent that I couldn’t think of one negative thing to say about it. I both enjoyed Rea’s story and found it challenging. The Silver Bullet is delightful, but its far reaching sadness and the flawed nature of its characters makes the experience of reading it unsettling in an essential way. Like Sherwood Anderson, Rea is able to transmit to the reader an intense affection for her characters no matter how deeply flawed they might be. The story was stimulating on both an emotional and intellectual level in that Rea’s touching description of the McKinley family was also an incredibly thoughtful examination of what it actually means to be passionate, to live in the moment, and to love. The story made me laugh, the language was somehow both evocative and precise, and the ideas driving the story shed important light on what it means to be a person. Finally, though Rea is only depicting a single episode in this family’s history, she is also able to evoke a lifetime of hope and disappointment that makes this quintesstianlly American story seem universal.

All that said, I would still have no problem extorting half the prize money from Rea, if it weren’t for the fact that I see it as rather fitting that she should receive a prize that is, in a material sense, comparable to the one offered to the protagonists in her story. It links Rea to her characters in a way that I find encouraging. Just as a reader gets the sense that the search for the silver bullet and its prize is indicative of so much more for the McKinley family, I am hopeful that Rea receiving this year’s Peden Prize will be just one victory in a long and celebrated career.

Seth Fried is the author of The Great Frustration. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Tin House, One Story, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, and Vice, and have been anthologized in The Better of McSweeney’s, Volume 2 and The Pushcart Prize XXXV: The Best of the Small Presses. Visit him online at sethfried.com

2011 William Peden Prize Winner: "The Silver Bullet"

We are pleased to announce that A.R. Rea’s short story “The Silver Bullet” is the winner of this year’s William Peden Prize, our annual $1000 award for the best short story published in the previous volume of The Missouri Review. Her stories and essays have appeared in Pushcart Prize XXXV, The Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, Indiana Review, New South and has been awarded fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Institute of Creative Writing in Wisconsin and Jentel Artist Residency in Wyoming.

Our judge was Seth Fried, author of The Great Frustration. Seth made his selection from the stories published in Volume 34 (2011). There is no separate application process for the award. A few weeks ago, we sent an email to Seth and asked if he wouldn’t mind being our judge, rereading the last four issues (because he’s a contributor and subscriber, you know, he’s actually already read ‘em), and he graciously agreed. Seth will be posting to our blog in the forthcoming soon and provide a more detailed explanation of what he loved about this story. In the meanwhile, here’s an excerpt:

By the summer of 1984, bankruptcy was so close we could taste it. It tasted like beans, which we ate with growing frequency, and it tasted like fear. It tasted like the cigarettes my mother lit one off the next. My father, meanwhile, fell into deep silences. He stood with his arms crossed, contemplating our many orange Herefords, once valuable enough to warrant his near-constant attention, now worth less than three dimes a pound. The cows looked back, chewing their cuds, oblivious to soaring feed prices, unacquainted with terms like “mortgaged” and “remortgaged.” Neighbors came by to look at the equipment, offering such trifling amounts that my father’s face reddened. He turned them down, but they called again, offering less.

If you haven’t read it already (why haven’t you read it already?!), “The Silver Bullet” is in the Summer 2011 issue, which you’ll have to dig for because that issue is sold out. However! Rea will be coming to Columbia, Missouri this autumn. Our annual Peden Prize reception and reading will be held at P.S. Gallery on Monday October 8th at 630 pm. This event will be free and open to the public. If you’re in the area, you should come by, drink wine, eat hors d’oeuvres, and hear a terrific reading!

Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye

This Is Your Song Not Mine

Two big annoucements to hit you over the noggin with. Well, hit you softly. Like with a Nerf bat. More of a love tap, really…


We are pleased to annouce that Tien-Yi Lee is the winner of our annual William Peden Prize, our annual $1000 award for the best short story published in the previous year. Our judge was Lucy Ferriss, who made her selection from the stories published in Volume 33 (2010). There is no separate application process for the award. A few weeks ago, we made a phone call and asked Lucy if she wouldn’t mind being our judge, re-reading the last four issues (because she’s a subscriber, you know, she’s actually already read ’em), and she graciously agreed. Of Tien-Yi’s story, Lucy wrote:

“Lee’s story pulls off an extraordinary trick. The rule is that the first-person story must, in the end, be about the narrator. But “How I Came to Love You” seems to insist that it’s about the narrator’s sister and “this Yonah.” Only ever so gradually, with slight turns of phrase and the slow march of events, do we find ourselves changing along with the narrator, until the central relationship becomes that between her and Yonah, and the ending is both a revelation and an “Oh, yes” moment.

“Everything in the story is handled with both delicacy and precision; nothing is sentimentalized; even Lucia’s mental illness is presented as the evanescent and frustrating phenomenon it must be. I found myself moved by this story in ways I never would have expected–mostly by the story itself, the organic whole of it, not one moment or another.”

I know, right? If you haven’t read it already (why haven’t you read it already?!), Tien-Yi’s story is in the Fall 2010 issue, which you can snag here.

More good news! We just received an email from Robert Atwan, the series editor of the Best American Essays. He informed us that the guest editor, Edwidge Danticat, has selected Rachel Riederer’s essay “Patient” for the 2011 anthology. Holla! Atwan wrote that he and Danticat both loved the essay and that it was one of the first ones selected. The new Best American Essays 2011 will be out in October.

Buy why wait that long? Go ahead and re-read Rachel’s essay now, or, if need be, you can go here and order a copy of the Spring 2011 issue, which is a pretty good one.

Our entire staff is really, really happy for Tien-Yi and Rachel. We’re proud to have published their work, humbled that they sent it to us in the first place, and delighted that both pieces will receive the wider acknowledgment they deserve. Congratulations to you both!

Michael Nye is the managing editor of the Missouri Review.

News on Paul Eggers and Jude Nutter

Poets & Writers is one of the few magazines I read cover to cover. I usually start with the classifieds and then make my way to the front. This month, in the Recent Winners section, I found two authors who have been published in The Missouri Review: fiction writer Paul Eggers and poet Jude Nutter.

Paul won The Missouri Review Peden Prize in 2006 with his longish short story, “This Way, Uncle, Into the Palace.” He recently won the 2008 Ohio State University Prize in Short Fiction for his collection, The Departure Lounge. When he came to Missouri in November, 2006, to accept the Peden Prize, Paul graciously granted me an interview, which you can listen to online here.

Jude Nutter’s poems were selected from among several hundred entries for first place in The Missouri Review 2007 Editors’ Prize Contest. According to Poets & Writers, she recently received a 2008 McKnight Artist Fellowship from the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, a $25,000 award.

Congrats to Paul and Jude, and kudos to The Missouri Review for continuing to publish excellent contemporary literature.

Peden Prize Photos

We had a wonderful evening Monday night with Peden Prize winner Seth Fried.

Seth Fried reads

Seth read from a new piece he’s working on concerning a group of brewers addressing a public health crisis. A good time was had by all!

Friends and staffers of TMR enjoy the Peden Prize reading.