2024 Spring Writing Contests


GMU Rinehart Fiction Award | $500

GMU Rinehart Nonfiction Award | $500

GMU Rinehart Poetry Award | $500

Prolific in the early 20th century, Mary Roberts Rinehart was referred to as the "American Agatha Christie." In 1983, the Rinehart family established The Mary Roberts Rinehart Fund at George Mason University to assist aspiring writers. Open to the entire University Student Community, contestants for awards in fiction and nonfiction should submit a freestanding entry, such as a short story or a self-contained section of a book. No entry in fiction or nonfiction should exceed 20 pages. Writers of poetry should submit 1 single poem of 60 lines or less. The competition is open to currently enrolled George Mason students, graduate or undergraduate, including current BFA in Creative Writing and MFA in Creative Writing students. Students are limited to one submission. The work submitted cannot be previously published in any form, print or online.

These awards are open to the entire university student population.

Dan Rudy Fiction Award (MFA Students Only) | $500

The Dan Rudy Fiction Award was established by the family and friends of Dan Rudy (1947-1983), fiction writer and George Mason University MFA candidate. The prize is given for a single short story of 20 double-spaced pages or less. The competition is open to any currently enrolled MFA in Creative Writing student. Students are limited to one submission. The work submitted cannot be previously published in any form, print or online.

Mary Roberts Rinehart Nonfiction Award (MFA Students Only) | $500

To assist aspiring authors, the family of the late Mary Roberts Rinehart began a number of years ago awarding small grants to writers whose work showed particular promise. These awards were given to honor Ms. Rinehart, a writer of fiction and nonfiction, whose work was popular in the earlier decades of the 1900s. The prize is given for a single short piece of nonfiction (essay, memoir, etc.) 20 double-spaced pages or less. The competition is open to any currently enrolled MFA in Creative Writing student. Students are limited to one submission. The work submitted cannot be previously published in any form, print or online.

Mark Craver Poetry Award (MFA Students Only) | $500

This award honors Mark Craver, an MA and MFA alum as well as a popular Mason adjunct professor and area high school teacher until his death in January 2004. The award is given for a single poem of 60 lines or less, on any subject and in any form. The competition is open to any currently enrolled MFA in Creative Writing student. Students are limited to one submission. The work submitted cannot be previously published in any form, print or online.

Note: GMU-designated contest categories are open to any currently enrolled George Mason University undergraduate or graduate student, as established by the Mason Foundation and the directives of the honoree for whom the contest is named. In addition, there is one contest in each genre (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) for which only currently enrolled MFA students are eligible. 


See below. See previous contest pages for information on past judges.

Contest Submission Guidelines

1. Students are limited to one submission per contest and must submit a different work for each contest. (A poem or a story cannot be selected as winner of more than one contest.) Previously submitted winning entries cannot be re-submitted. Please check each contest for specific guidelines, such as word/page limit.

2. Students must submit an electronic copy of each submission in PDF format. Electronic copies in another format will not be accepted. Each entry should be saved with the title of the corresponding award + title of piece. (Ex. GMU Rinehart Fiction Award_Story Title).

3. Please use the following format for submission emails:

The SUBJECT of the email should be: First Name Last Name_Spring Writing Contest 2024. (Ex. Pat Doe_Spring Writing Contest 2024)
Include your G# and First and Last Name in the body of the email.
Each attachment should be titled with the name of the contest to which the entry is being submitted and the title of the piece (Ex. Mark Craver Poetry Award_Poem Title).

No identifying information other than the entry's title should appear on the submission itself.

Electronic submissions should be emailed to Rafaella Silva at rsilva8@gmu.edu and must be received by the posted deadline. The deadline for 2024 is Monday, April 1 at 12PM ET.

4. The purpose of these awards is to reward previously unrecognized work. Therefore, submissions must be previously unpublished.  Submissions will be considered as "published" if they have been accepted for or have appeared in any publication, including student magazines at this or other institutions. Work currently under submission will not be considered to be "published," and is eligible for these awards.

5. At the discretion of the judges, an award may be divided between two or more writers, or, if no submission is found to be of sufficient merit, an award may be withheld.

6. Award winners are contacted by email shortly before results are posted, usually in mid-April. Winners will be announced on the creative writing website. All winners will be invited to participate in the English Department Honors Reception held in May.


Please email Rafaella Silva, the English Department's Graduate Admissions Outreach Manager, at rsilva8@gmu.edu with questions.

Contest Judges

GMU Rinehart Fiction Award | $500

E.A. Aymar’s recent Anthony Award-nominated thriller, When She Left, will "appeal to fans of Elmore Leonard…with high-stakes violence tempered by humor and disarmingly sympathetic antiheroes" (Booklist). His previous thriller, No Home for Killers, received praise from the New York Times, Kirkus, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and was an instant Amazon Bestseller. They’re Gone was published to rave reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus (starred), and named one of the best books of 2020. A frequent contributor to the Washington Post, Ed is a former national board member of International Thriller Writers and an active member of Crime Writers of Color and Sisters in Crime. He was born in Panama and now lives and writes in the DMV. Ed earned his undergraduate degree with a concentration in creative writing from George Mason University and a Master's degree in literature from Marymount University.

GMU Rinehart Nonfiction Award | $500

John W. Miller is a Pittsburgh-based writer and filmmaker from Brussels, Belgium. He’s currently a contributing writer at America Magazine and chief economist for Trade Data Monitor. He co-directed the acclaimed 2020 PBS film "Moundsville," and founded moundsville.org, an online magazine dedicated to telling deeper stories about Appalachia and America. As a global correspondent for The Wall Street Journal for 13 years, he reported from six continents and over 40 countries, covering everything from Pittsburgh steel and diamond mines in Africa to the World Cup and Tour de France. John has also reported for TIME, NPR, and the Baltimore Sun, and has won awards from the New York Press Club, National Press Foundation, and German Marshall Fund.

GMU Rinehart Poetry Award | $500

Danielle Badra is a queer Arab-American writer. She is the Fairfax County Poet Laureate (2022-2024). Her poems have appeared in Mizna, Cincinnati Review, Duende, The Greensboro Review, Split This Rock, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and elsewhere. Dialogue with the Dead (Finishing Line Press, 2015) is her first chapbook, a collection of contrapuntal poems in dialogue with her deceased sister. Her manuscript, Like We Still Speak, was selected by Fady Joudah and Hayan Charara as the winner of the 2021 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize and published through the University of Arkansas Press. Dani is an alum of the MFA program at George Mason University.

Dan Rudy Fiction Award (MFA Students Only) | $500

Susan Muaddi Darraj is an award-winning writer of books for adults and children. Her new novel, Behind You Is the Sea, was published in January 2024 by HarperVia. It received praise from The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Ms Magazine, and it was named a Best Book of 2024 by The New Yorker and Apple Books. She won an American Book Award, two Arab American Book Awards, and a Maryland State Arts Council Independent Artists Award. In 2018, she was named a USA Artists Ford Fellow. Her books include her linked short story collection, A Curious Land, as well as the Farah Rocks children’s book series. Susan lives in Baltimore, where she teaches creative writing at Harford Community College and Johns Hopkins University. 

Mary Roberts Rinehart Nonfiction Award (MFA Students Only) | $500

Silas Hansen directs the creative writing program at Ball State University, where he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in creative writing and literary publishing since 2014. He is also the nonfiction editor of Waxwing. Silas earned a bachelor’s degree in English, women and gender studies, and political science from SUNY College at Brockport and completed an MFA from The Ohio State University. His essays have appeared or are forthcoming in literary magazines such as The Normal School, Colorado Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Redivider, and Hobart, featured on Slate and Catapult, and reprinted by anthologies including The Writer’s Presence: A Pool of Readings, Best of the Net, and The Spirit of Disruption: Landmark Essays from The Normal School.

Mark Craver Poetry Award (MFA Students Only) | $500

Taylor Johnson is the author of Inheritance (Alice James Books, 2020), winner of the 2021 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. His work appears in Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review, The Baffler, Scalawag, and elsewhere. Taylor is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and a recipient of the 2017 Larry Neal Writers’ Award from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the 2021 Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging Writers from Lambda Literary. Taylor was the inaugural 2022 Poet-in-Residence at the Guggenheim Museum. He is the Poet Laureate of Takoma Park, Maryland. With his wife, Elizabeth Bryant, Taylor curates the Green Way Reading Series at People’s Book in Takoma Park.