2020 Spring Writing Contests

2020 Contests

Alan Cheuse Fiction Award | $500

Dan Rudy Fiction Award | $500

Shelley A. Marshall Fiction Award | $500

Mary Roberts Rinehart Fiction Award | $500

Mary Roberts Rinehart Nonfiction Award | $500

Alan Cheuse Nonfiction Award | $500

Mary Roberts Rinehart Poetry Award | $500

Mark Craver Poetry Award | $500

Virginia Downs Poetry Award | $500

Joseph A. Lohman III Poetry Award | $500

Contest Submission Guidelines:

1. Mason's Spring Writing Contests are open to all currently enrolled Mason students, graduate or undergraduate. The exceptions to this rule are the Mark Craver Poetry Contest, which is open to MFA poetry students only, and the Joseph A Lohman Poetry Contest, which stipulates that entrants must be 23 years-old or younger because winners will automatically be considered for the Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award (a $1,000 prize awarded by the Academy of American Poets).

2. 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.

3. 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 contest. (Ex. Mark Craver Poetry Award_Poem Title).

4. Please use the following format for submission emails:

  • The SUBJECT of the email should be: First Name-Last Name_Spring Writing Contest 2020. (Ex. Pat-Doe_Spring Writing Contest 2020)
  • Each attachment should contain the name of the contest to which the entry is being submitted and the title of the piece.
  • No identifying information other than the entry's title should appear on the submission itself.

Electronic submissions should be emailed to hmason2@gmu.edu and must be received by the posted deadline. The deadline for 2020 is March 16th at 11:59pm ET.

5. 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 Therefore, submissions must be previously unpublished.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.

6. 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, withheld.

7. An author not granted an award may apply in succeeding years, but once a writer receives an award, that writer may not apply for that same award again. Note: Receiving an honorable mention or runner-up prize in a previous year does not disqualify that student from entering the same contest again. This rule only applies to first-prize winners.

8. Award winners are contacted by email shortly before results are posted, usually in mid-April. With the permission of the writer, winning entries will be posted on the creative writing web site and the MFA listserv. All winners will be invited to participate in the English Department Honors Reception held in May.


Contest Judges:

Contest judges are selected and announced ahead of the submission deadline each year. Judges are selected and invited to participate each year by the creative writing director. In 2020, the judges are as follows:


Mark Craver Poetry Award

Judge: Molly McCully Brown


Molly McCully Brown is the author of the poetry collection The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded (Persea Books, 2017), which won the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize and was named a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017, and the forthcoming essay collection Places I’ve Taken my Body. (Persea Books, 2020) With Susannah Nevison, she is also the coauthor of the poetry collection In the Field Between Us (forthcoming from Persea Books, 2020). Brown has been the recipient of the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, a United States Artists Fellowship, a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship and the Jeff Baskin Writers Fellowship from the Oxford American magazine. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in The Paris Review, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review,  Crazyhorse, The New York Times, The Yale Review, Blackbird, and elsewhere. Raised in rural Virginia, she is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Stanford University, and the University of Mississippi, where she received her MFA.  She lives in Gambier, Ohio and teaches at Kenyon College, where she is the Kenyon Review Fellow in Poetry. 


Virginia Downs Poetry Award

Judge: January Gill O'Neil

Credit: John Andrews

January Gill O'Neil is the author of Rewilding (CavanKerry Press, 2018), Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press, 2014), winner of a 2015 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence, and Underlife (CavanKerry Press, 2009). She is an associate professor at Salem State University, and serves on the boards of AWP, Mass Poetry, and Montserrat College of Art. The recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, O'Neil is the 2019-2020 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, where she lives this academic year with her two children.


Joseph A. Lohman III Poetry Award

Judge: Sarah Browning

Credit: Kristin Adair

The daughter of a war refugee, Sarah Browning is the author of Killing Summer (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017) and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007). She is co-founder and for 10 years was Executive Director of Split This Rock. An Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, she is the recipient of the 2019 Lillian E. Smith Writer-in-Service Award, as well as fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, Yaddo, Mesa Refuge, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Adirondack Center for Writing. She has been guest editor or co-edited special issues of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Delaware Poetry Review, and POETRY magazine. For 13 years, Browning curated and co-hosted the Sunday Kind of Love poetry series at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC. She is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry and creative nonfiction at Rutgers University Camden. More at: http://www.sarahbrowning.net


Mary Roberts Rinehart Poetry Award

Judge: Alan Michael Parker

Credit: Chris Record

Alan Michael Parker is the author of nine collections of poems, including The Age of Discovery (forthcoming from Tupelo Press in 2020), and four novels. Awards for his poetry include three Pushcart Prizes, two selections in Best American Poetry, the North Carolina Book Award, the Brockman-Campbell Award, the Medwick Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Fineline Prize, the Scott Award, and the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize (in 2013, 2014, and 2019). New poems of his may be found in APR, Virginia Quarterly Review, the Academy of American Poets’ “Poem-a-Day” program, and elsewhere. Houchens Professor of English at Davidson College, he also teaches in the University of Tampa low-residency MFA program. He can be found at www.alanmichaelparker.com.


Mary Roberts Rinehart Nonfiction Award

Judge: Sean Murphy


Sean Murphy has appeared on NPR's "All Things Considered" and been quoted in USA Today, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and AdAge. His work has also appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, The New York Post, The Good Men Project, Memoir Magazine, and others. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and served as writer-in-residence of the Noepe Center at Martha's Vineyard. He’s Founding Director of 1455 (www.1455litarts.org). To learn more, please visit seanmurphy.net/ and @bullmurph.


Mary Roberts Rinehart Fiction Award

Judge: Jessica Anthony

Credit: Matt Cosby

Jessica Anthony is the author of The Convalescent (McSweeney’s/Grove) and Chopsticks (Penguin/Razorbill), a multimedia novel created in collaboration with designer Rodrigo Corral. Chopsticks, called a “21st Century Novel” by the Los Angeles Times, was an Amazon Book of the Month, won App of the Year, and was featured in a Wall Street Journal article on digital publishing. Anthony’s books have been published in several countries, and her short stories can be found in Best New American Voices, Best American Nonrequired Reading, McSweeney’s, The Idaho Review and elsewhere. She is the inaugural winner of McSweeney’s “Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award,” and has recently received fellowships from the Creative Capital Foundation for Innovative Literature, the Bogliasco Foundation in Bogliasco, Italy, and the Maine Arts Commission. Her next novel, Enter the Aardvark, will be published this spring by Little, Brown in the USA and Doubleday in the UK. She lives in Maine.


Alan Cheuse Nonfiction Award

Judge: John Lingan


John Lingan is the author of Homeplace: A Southern Town, a Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk. He is a contributor to the Washington Post Magazine, the New York Times, Oxford American, and many other publications, and is writing a biography of Creedence Clearwater Revival for Da Capo Press. johnlingan.com


Alan Cheuse Fiction Award

Judge: Mattew Norman


Matthew Norman’s new novel, Last Couple Standing, will be published in March 2020 by Ballantine Books. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Baltimore, Maryland and holds an MFA from George Mason University. His first novel, Domestic Violets, was nominated in the Best Humor Category at the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards, and his second novel, We're All Damaged, was an Amazon bestseller. Visit his blog at thenormannation.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @TheNormanNation.


Dan Rudy Fiction Award

Judge: Melissa Scholes Young

Scholes Young

Melissa Scholes Young is the author of the novel Flood, winner of the Literary Fiction Category for the 2017 Best Book Award from American Book Fest. Her writing has appeared in the AtlanticWashington Post, NarrativePloughsharesPoet Lore, and Poets & Writers. She’s a Contributing Editor for Fiction Writers Review and Editor of Grace in Darkness: D.C. Women Writers. Scholes Young was named a Bread Loaf Camargo Fellow and a Quarry Farm Fellow at the Center for Mark Twain Studies. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C.


Shelley A. Marshall Fiction Award

Judge: Patricia Smith


Patricia Smith is the author of the novel The Year of Needy Girls, a 2018 Lambda Literary Award finalist. She received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Make Out Creek, Hippocampus Magazine, The Masters Review, Heart and Humanity Magazine, Salon, Gris-Gris, Prime Number, Tusculum Review, So to Speak, and Parhelion Literary Magazine, where it was nominated for Best of the Net, as well as in several anthologies. Her essay, “Border War,” which appeared in Broad Street Magazine, received a Special Mention by Pushcart. A teacher of American literature and Creative Writing at the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School in Petersburg, she lives in Chester, VA.