2021 Spring Writing Contests

Spring 2021 Contest Winners Listed Here

2021 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 (except for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Nonfiction award this year, which needs to be submitted in Doc format). Each entry should be saved with the title of the corresponding award + title of piece. (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 2021. (Ex. Pat-Doe_Spring Writing Contest 2021)
  • Include your G# and First and Last Name in the body of the email (NOTE: If submitting to the Joseph A. Lohman prize, please include your date of birth in the body of the email, too). 
  • 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 2021 is March 15th 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. 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 2021, the judges are as follows:


Mark Craver Poetry Award

Judge: Lillian-Yvonne Bertram


Lillian-Yvonne Bertram is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, where they teach in and direct the UMass Boston MFA in Creative Writing Program. They have previously taught at St. Lawrence University, Ithaca College, and Williams College. They also direct the Chautauqua Institution Writers’ Festival. They are the author of the poetry collections Travesty Generator (Noemi Press, 2019), winner of the 2018 Noemi Press Poetry Prize, finalist for the National Poetry Series, and long-listed for the 2020 National Book Award in Poetry. Travesty Generator received the 2020 Poetry Society of America Anna Rabinowitz Prize for interdisciplinary and venturesome work. They are also the author of Personal Science (Tupelo Press, 2017); a slice from the cake made of air (Red Hen Press 2016); and But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise (Red Hen Press, 2012), chosen by Claudia Rankine as the winner of the 2010 Benjamin Saltman Award. Bertram’s other publications include the chapbook cutthroat glamours (Phantom Books, 2012), winner of the Phantom Books chapbook award; the artist book Grand Dessein (commissioned by Container Press), a mixed media artifact that meditates on the work and writing of the artist Paul Klee and was recently acquired by the Special Collections library at St. Lawrence University; and Tierra Fisurada, a Spanish poetry chapbook published in Argentina (Editoriales del Duende, 2002). 



Virginia Downs Poetry Award

Judge: Megan Fernandes


Megan Fernandes is a writer living in New York City. Her work has been published in The New YorkerTin House, Ploughshares, Denver Quarterly, Chicago Review, Boston Review, Rattle, Pank, The Common, Guernica, the Academy of American Poets, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among others. Her second book of poetry, Good Boys, was published with Tin House Books in February 2020. Fernandes is an Assistant Professor of English and the Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette College. 



Joseph A. Lohman III Poetry Award

Judge: Hayan Charara


Hayan Charara is a poet, children’s book author, essayist, and editor. His poetry books are Something Sinister (2016), The Sadness of Others (2006), The Alchemist’s Diary (2001), and the forthcoming These Trees, Those Leaves, This Flower, That Fruit (2022). His children’s book, The Three Lucys (2016), received the New Voices Award Honor, and he edited Inclined to Speak (2008), an anthology of contemporary Arab American poetry. With Fady Joudah, he is also a series editor of the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize. His honors include a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lucille Joy Prize in Poetry from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, the John Clare Prize, and the Arab American Book Award. Born in Detroit in 1972 to Arab immigrants, he studied biology and chemistry at Wayne State University before turning to poetry. He spent a decade in New York City, where he earned a master’s degree from New York University’s Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program. In 2004, he moved to Texas, where he eventually earned his PhD in literature and creative writing at the University of Houston. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Queens College, Jersey City University, the City University of New York-La Guardia, the University of Texas at Austin, Trinity University, and Our Lady of the Lake University. He currently teaches in the Honors College and the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston.



Mary Roberts Rinehart Poetry Award

Judge: Nicole Tong


Nicole Tong is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Fairfax County, Virginia. Her work has been supported by fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and George Mason University where she received her MFA. In 2016, she served as a Writer-in-Residence at Pope-Leighey House, a Frank Lloyd Wright property in Alexandria, Virginia. She is a recipient of the President's Sabbatical from Northern Virginia Community College where she is a Professor of English. Her writing has appeared in American Book Review, Cortland Review, and Yalobusha Review among others.



Mary Roberts Rinehart Nonfiction Award

Judge: Gail Griffin


Gail Griffin is the author of four books of nonfiction, including Grief’s Country: A Memoir in Pieces (2020, Michigan Notable Book) and “The Events of October”: Murder-Suicide on a Small Campus (2010). Her essays, poems, and flash nonfiction have been widely published and honored in publications including Southern Review, Fourth Genre, Missouri Review, and New Ohio Review. A native of Detroit, she taught literature, writing, and women’s studies for 36 years at Kalamazoo College (MI), where she won awards for both teaching and creative/scholarly work. She is at work on a collection of personal essays on the lived experience of whiteness and confrontations with racism, as well as on a poetry collection. She lives and writes in southwestern Michigan.





Mary Roberts Rinehart Fiction Award

Judge: Diane Zinna


Diane Zinna is originally from Long Island, New York. She received her MFA from the University of Florida and had been teaching creative writing for over ten years. She was formerly the executive co-director at AWP, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, which hosts the largest literary conference in North America each year. In 2014, Diane created the Writer to Writer Mentorship Program, helping to match more than six hundred writers over twelve seasons. She is the winner of the 2020 ArtsFairfax Artist Grant, and The All-Night Sun, her first novel, was longlisted for The Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. Diane lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with her husband and daughter. Learn more at dianezinna.com.



Alan Cheuse Nonfiction Award

Judge: Joe Bonomo


Joe Bonomo is the author of, most recently, No Place I Would Rather Be: Roger Angell and a Life in Baseball Writing and Field Recordings from the Inside, and the blog No Such Thing As Was. Since 2012 he's been the music columnist at The Normal School. He teaches at Northern Illinois University. Find him at @BonomoJoe and __bonomo__. 




Alan Cheuse Fiction Award

Judge: Madison Smartt Bell


Madison Smartt Bell is the author of twelve novels, including The Washington Square Ensemble (1983), Waiting for the End of the World (1985), Straight Cut (1986), The Year of Silence (1987), Doctor Sleep (1991), Save Me, Joe Louis (1993), Ten Indians (1997)  and Soldier's Joy, which received the Lillian Smith Award in 1989.  Bell has also published two collections of short stories: Zero db (1987) and Barking Man (1990).  In 2002, the novel Doctor Sleep was adapted as a film, Close Your Eyes, starring Goran Visnjic, Paddy Considine, and Shirley Henderson.  Forty Words For Fear, an album of songs co-written by Bell and  Wyn Cooper and inspired by the novel Anything Goes,was released by Gaff Music in 2003; other performers include Don Dixon, Jim Brock, Mitch Easter and Chris Frank. Bell's eighth novel, All Soul's Rising, was a finalist for the 1995 National Book Award and the 1996 PEN/Faulkner Award and winner of the 1996 Anisfield-Wolf award for the best book of the year dealing with matters of race. All Souls Rising, along with the second and third novels of his Haitian Revolutionary trilogy, Master of the Crossroads and The Stone That The Builder Refused, is available in a uniform edition from Vintage Contemporaries.  Toussaint Louverture: A Biography, appeared in 2007Devil's Dream, a novel based on the career of Nathan Bedford Forrest, was published by Pantheon in 2009.  His most recent novel is Behind the Moon. In 2020 he published Child of Light: A Biography of Robert Stone, and edited The Eye You See With: Selected Non Fiction of Robert Stone. Born and raised in Tennessee, he has lived in New York, Haiti, Paris and London and now lives in Baltimore, Maryland.  A graduate of Princeton University (A.B 1979) and Hollins College (M.A. 1981), he has taught in various creative writing programs, including the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. Since 1984 he has taught at Goucher College, along with his wife, the poet Elizabeth Spires. [Photo Credit: Stephanie Robinson]



Dan Rudy Fiction Award

Judge: Aaron Hamburger


Aaron Hamburger is the author of a story collection titled THE VIEW FROM STALIN’S HEAD which was awarded the Rome Prize by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and nominated for a Violet Quill Award. He has also written two novels: FAITH FOR BEGINNERS, nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, and NIRVANA IS HERE, winner of a Bronze Medal from the 2019 Foreword Reviews Indies Book Awards. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Village Voice, Tin House, Michigan Quarterly Review, Subtropics, Crazyhorse, Boulevard, Poets & Writers, Tablet, O, the Oprah Magazine, Out, The Bennigton Review, Nerve, Time Out, Details, and The Forward.  He has also won fellowships from Yaddo, Djerassi, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Edward F. Albee Foundation as well as first prize in the Dornstein Contest for Young Jewish Writers, and his short fiction and creative non-fiction have received special mentions in the Pushcart Prizes. He has taught creative writing at Columbia University, the George Washington University, New York University, Brooklyn College, and the Stonecoast MFA Program.



Shelley A. Marshall Fiction Award

Judge: Ava Homa


The first Kurdish woman to publish a novel in English, Ava Homa received much acclaim for her debut novel DAUGHTERS OF SMOKE AND FIRE (HaperCollins, Abrams 2020). She is a journalist and activist and holds an MA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Windsor. Her collection of short stories ECHOES FROM THE OTHER LAND was nominated for the Frank O’Connor International Prize and she is the inaugural recipient of the PEN Canada-Humber College Writers-In-Exile Scholarship. See more at www.AvaHoma.com