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Contests

Boston Review is pleased to adopt a contest model shaped by social justice and accessibility concerns.

  • Contestants from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe pay an entry fee of $20, which helps subsidize the entry of contestants from outside of those countries, as well as those claiming hardship, all of whom pay nothing to enter our contests. Free entries and paid entries are read in the same way and given equal weight.
  • In addition, while a winner will be chosen in each genre, many more runners-up will have their work published, increasing the likelihood that entrants will have their work shared with Boston Review’s audience.
  • Finally, Boston Review commits to publishing an annual themed literary issue, and the contests share the issue’s theme. This offers contestants more transparency about what Boston Review’s editors are seeking in any given year. All contestants will receive a free copy of the issue.


In the next section you will find a description of this year’s theme for both contests, and then continue reading below that for genre-specific contest guidelines.


The Boston Review Annual Poetry Contest and the Aura Estrada Short Story Contest share the same theme this year:

Speculation

The world is always changing. But there are also inflection points in history when the world feels changed. Art can possess the prophetic quality to imagine where we are going. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that in a world-historical moment of global upheaval and transformation, speculative literature and other futurist arts are enjoying a renaissance.

As a creative faculty, speculation is Janus-faced, as likely to produce insight about the past as about the future.

The word itself invites thinking about how speculation has often driven the machinery of global politics. Speculation about the value of land and resources has fueled colonialism, empire, ideas of race and ethnicity, slavery and other exploitative labor systems, the booms and busts of commodities markets, and the ecological game of roulette that has left our planet teetering. Speculation continues to actively shape how and where we live through forces of displacement, gentrification, urbanization, and redevelopment.

But speculation can lead us to collectively imagine better futures, or better ways of understanding our past. Afrofuturism, for example, seeks to imagine a sustainable future for Black folks by first uncovering a workable past. Abolition, civil rights, and Black Lives Matter all speculate about a future free of racial violence, just as MeToo imagines one free of gendered violence.

In some of our most joyful private moments, we speculate about what will be delicious and pleasurable, about what notes will sound good played together on an instrument, about spirits and the afterlife, about what we wish a lover would say to us, about what aliens might be like if we ever met them. Such works of the speculative imagination are, thankfully, almost boundless, though we imagine them within the bounds of who we are and what we assume to be true about the world.

Speculation starts in the imagination but then goes out into the world with a variety of effects, not always predictable. Share with us your feats of imagining the past and future that help us better understand what it means to be present in the world. We welcome texts that deal with the roots, spaces, and impact of speculation. Tell us where speculation has gone wrong, and where it has triumphed. What roads has speculation led us to? 


Aura Estrada Short Story Contest

DeadlineMay 31, 2022 (free global/hardship entries); June 30, 2022 (paid entries)
First Prize:  $1,000 and publication

THIS YEAR’S JUDGE: JORDY ROSENBERG

Jordy Rosenberg

Jordy Rosenberg teaches in the English Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is the author of the novel Confessions of the Fox, as well as a monograph about eighteenth-century religious enthusiasts. Confessions of the Fox was a New York Times Editors’ Choice; was named one of the best books of the year by the New Yorker; and was long- and shortlisted for a number of awards, including the Lambda Literary Award and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Jordy’s work has been supported by fellowships and residencies, including those from The Lannan Foundation and The Ahmanson-Getty Foundation.   In his newest project, The Day Unravels What the Night Has Woven (a shameless ripoff of something Walter Benjamin once said), a yenta on her deathbed rewrites Karl Marx’s magnum opus, Capital. Liberties are taken. This hybrid work of fiction/creative nonfiction is forthcoming from Random House/One World.

Complete guidelines:
  • All entries must be related to this year’s theme of Speculation. We want the theme to be very broadly interpreted, but we also shouldn’t have to guess at the connection between the theme and your entry.
  • The winning author will receive $1,000 and have their work published in Boston Reviews special literary issue Speculation (February 2023). Some finalists and semi-finalists will also be published in the issue or online.
  • Stories must not exceed 5,000 words and must be unpublished.
  • “Unpublished” means it has never received print publication of any kind, nor is it available anywhere on the Internet. If a story is not available for Boston Review to publish as a first serial, it is not eligible to win the competition or be named as a finalist or semi-finalist.
  • Do not include a cover note. Your name should not appear anywhere in the uploaded file. All entries much be in English; translations are acceptable if they are done in collaboration with the author and the story is unpublished in any language.
  • Simultaneous submissions are OK but if your story is accepted elsewhere, you must immediately withdraw it via Submittable.
  • Submissions may not be modified after entry. The contest judge and Boston Review staff, however, reserve the right to recommend edits to the winning story as well as finalists and semi-finalists they are interested in publishing.
  • Contest entrants cannot have a close personal or professional relationship with this year’s judge or with any editors, staff, or contest screeners at Boston Review. For our purposes, “close” can be glossed as if you would socialize with any of these people, be in a position to ask them to help you with something (for example, write a recommendation or offer advice), or if there is any chance they would recongize your work even without seeing your name.
  • Make sure your address in Submittable is correct, as this is the address where your free copy of Speculation will be sent in early 2023.


Entries are accepted exclusively through Submittable. Please make sure to select the correct form, paid or free, depending on your circumstances:

Read winning stories from past years:

Yeoh Jo-Ann’s “Dog Tiger Horse” (2020)
Sabrina Helen Li’s Mother, Grow My Baby (Fall 2019)
Neshat Khan’s The Neighbors (Spring 2019)
Herselman Hattingh’s The Recorder (2018)
Gina Balibrera’s Álvaro (2017)
Mikayla Ávila Vilá’s Trumpeteers (2016)
Barbara Hamby’s Dole Girl (2015)
Leslee Becker’s Severance (2014)
Kerry-Lee Powell’s There Are Two Pools You May Drink From (2013)
Alexandra Thom’s The Piano (2012)
Kalpana Narayanan’s Aviator on the Prowl (2011)
Adam Sturtevant’s How Do I Explain? (2010)
Jessica Treglia’s Canceled (2009)
Patricia Engel’s Desaliento (2008)
Padma Viswanathan’s Transitory Cities (2007)
Tiphanie Yanique’s How to Escape from a Leper Colony (2006)
Lisa Chipongian’s Intramuros (2005)
D.S. Sulaitis’s If It’s Anywhere, It’s Behind Us (2004)
Gale Renee Walden’s Men I Don’t Talk to Anymore (2003)
Manini Nayar’s Home Fires (2002)
Kate Small’s One Night a Year (2001)
Girija Tropp’s The Pretty Ones Have Their Uses (2001)
Pauls Toutonghi’s Regeneration (2000)
Jacob M. Appel’s Shell Game with Organs (1999)
Kris Saknussemm’s Unpracticed Fingers Bungle Sadly Over Tiny Feathered Bodies (1998)
Kiki Delancey’s Jules Jr Michael Jules Jr (1997)
Mary Ann Jannazo’s No Runs, No Hits, No One Left on Base (1996)
Tom Paine’s The Milkman & I (1995)
Michael Dorris’s Layaway (1994)


Annual Poetry Contest

Deadline: May 31, 2022 (free global/hardship entries); June 30, 2022 (paid entries)
First Prize: $1,000 and publication

THIS YEAR’S JUDGE: DONIKA KELLY

Donika Kelly

Donika Kelly is author of The Renunciations, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Bestiary. Bestiary was the winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry, and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. A Cave Canem graduate fellow and member of the collective Poets at the End of the World, Donika has also received a Lannan Residency Fellowship, and a summer workshop fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center. She earned an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in English from Vanderbilt University. Her poems have been published in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the Paris Review, and Foglifter. She currently lives in Iowa City and is an assistant professor in the English Department at the University of Iowa, where she teaches creative writing.

Complete guidelines:

  • All entries must be related to this year’s theme of Speculation. We want the theme to be very broadly interpreted, but we also shouldn’t have to guess at the connection between the theme and your entry.
  • The winning author will receive $1,000 and have their work published in Boston Review’s special literary issue Speculation (February 2023). Some finalists and semi-finalists will also be published in the issue or online.
  • Send up to 5 poems or 10 pages, whichever comes first. The poems must be unpublished.
  • “Unpublished” means the poems have never received print publication of any kind, nor are they available anywhere on the Internet.
  • Simultaneous submissions are OK but if your poems are accepted or published elsewhere (including anywhere on the Internet), you must immediately withdraw them via Submittable. Individual poems can be withdrawn by adding a note to the entry. This does not invalidate the other poems from being considered; however, failure to notify Boston Review that some poems in the entry are no longer available may result in the entry as a whole being invalidated.
  • Do not include a cover note. Your name should not appear anywhere in the uploaded file. All entries much be in English; translations are acceptable if they are done in collaboration with the author and the poems are unpublished in any language.
  • Submissions may not be modified after entry. The contest judge and Boston Review staff, however, reserve the right to recommend edits to the winning story as well as finalists and semi-finalists they are interested in publishing.
  • Contest entrants cannot have a close personal or professional relationship with this year’s judge or with any editors, staff, or contest screeners at Boston Review. It is fine to have met these people, talked with them, perhaps even taken a workshop. For our purposes, “close” can be glossed as if you would socialize with any of these people, be in a position to ask them to help you with something (for example, write a recommendation or offer advice), or if there is any chance they would recognize your work even without seeing your name.
  • Make sure your address (mailing and email) in Submittable is correct, as this is the address where your free copy of Speculation will be sent in early 2023.


Entries are accepted exclusively through Submittable. Please make sure to select the correct form, paid or free, depending on your circumstances:

Read winning poems from past years:

Cheswayo Mphanza (2020)
C. X. Hua (2019)
Kim Parko (2018)
Mia Kang (2017)
Cori A. Winrock (2016)
Safiya Sinclair (2015)
Francine J. Harris (2014)
Scott Coffel (2013)
Sarah Crossland (2012)
Heather Tone (2011)
Anthony Caleshu (2010)
John Gallaher (2009)
Sarah Arvio (2008)
Elizabeth Willis (2007)
Marc Gaba (2006)
Mike Perrow (2005)
Michael Tod Edgerton (2004)
Susan Wheeler (2003)
Max Winter (2002)
D. A. Powell (2001)
Christopher Edgar (2000)
Stephanie Strickland (1999)
Daniel Bosch (1998)

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