Boston Review has 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 is 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 publishes 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 receive a free copy of the issue, either in print (for paid entries) or digital (for unpaid entries).

Complete instructions for submission to each contest can be found below. Please make sure that you choose the category, paid or free entry, that applies to you. They are separate forms.

We are currently closed to general fiction and poetry submissions, but we are open to nonfiction pitches and submissions.


Deadline: May 31, 2020

Judge: Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Prize: $1,000

THE THEME OF THIS YEAR’S CONTEST IS....

ANCESTORS

Who are your people? Who made you who you are? What about you only makes sense to someone who knows where you’re from? What’s a secret about your past?

It is rare now for people to stay where they were raised, and usually when we encounter one another—whether in person or online—it is in contexts that obscure if not outright hide details about our past. But even in moments of pure self-invention, we are always shaped by it. Ancestors asks today’s most imaginative writers to consider what it means to be made and fashioned by others: parents, grandparents, family, the deep past, the animal and natural world, epigenetic memory, predispositions for health or illness, political forebears, inherited social and economic circumstances, settled (and unsettled) ideas about gender and sex, class and racial history, the elders of whatever you feel beholden to or unable to outrun—not to mention your own best and worst decisions. Can we choose our family, or is blood always thicker? And looking forward, what will it mean to be ancestors ourselves, and how will our descendants remember us?

______________________________

THIS YEAR’S JUDGE: ALEXIS PAULINE GUMBS


Alexis Pauline Gumbs 


Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a community-cherished writer, a queer Black feminist scholar and an aspirational cousin to you and everyone you know. Alexis is the author of Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity (Duke Press, 2016), M Archive: After the End of the World (Duke Press 2018) and Dub: Finding Ceremony (forthcoming Duke Press, 2020).  She is also the co-editor of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines (PM Press, 2016).   The Anguilla Literary Festival called Alexis "The Pride of Anguilla." A Publisher's Weekly starred review of her most recent book called her work "groundbreaking." Bitch Magazine calls Alexis "a literary treasure."  North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green says "Like Audre Lorde, Gumbs writes for the complexity of her vision." A proud Barnard graduate, Alexis was the first person to research in the archival papers of Audre Lorde at Spelman College, June Jordan at Harvard University and Lucille Clifton at Emory University during her research for her dissertation "We Can Learn to Mother Ourselves," towards the completion of her doctorate in English, African and African American Studies and Women and Gender Studies at Duke University.  Alexis is now the provost of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind in Durham, NC and co-founder of the Black Feminist Bookmobile, Black Feminist Film School and the Mobile Homecoming Trust Living Library and Archive of Queer Black Brilliance.  Alexis is also Creative Writing Editor of Feminist Studies and celebrant in residence at NorthStar Church of the Arts in Durham, NC.

______________________________

HOW TO ENTER:

This form is for paid entry for those living in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe. For those living outside of those countries, as well as those experiencing hardship, please enter the contest for free HERE.

Complete guidelines:

  • All entries must be related to this year’s theme of ancestors. 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 Ancestors (January 2021). Numerous runners-up will also be published in the issue.
  • Send us up to 5 poems or 10 pages, whichever comes first. All work must be previously unpublished. No cover note is necessary, and names should not appear anywhere in the submission. 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.
  • 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.
  • Contest entrants cannot have a close personal or professional relationship with this year’s judge, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, or with any editors or staff at Boston Review.
  • Make sure your address (mailing and email) in Submittable is correct, as this is the address where your free copy of Ancestors will be sent in early 2021.

Read winning poems from past years:


Deadline: May 31, 2020

Judge: Ivelisse Rodriguez

Prize: $1,000

THE THEME OF THIS YEAR’S CONTEST IS....

ANCESTORS

Who are your people? Who made you who you are? What about you only makes sense to someone who knows where you’re from? What’s a secret about your past?

It is rare now for people to stay where they were raised, and usually when we encounter one another—whether in person or online—it is in contexts that obscure if not outright hide details about our past. But even in moments of pure self-invention, we are always shaped by it. Ancestors asks today’s most imaginative writers to consider what it means to be made and fashioned by others: parents, grandparents, family, the deep past, the animal and natural world, epigenetic memory, predispositions for health or illness, political forebears, inherited social and economic circumstances, settled (and unsettled) ideas about gender and sex, class and racial history, the elders of whatever you feel beholden to or unable to outrun—not to mention your own best and worst decisions. Can we choose our family, or is blood always thicker? And looking forward, what will it mean to be ancestors ourselves, and how will our descendants remember us?

______________________________

THIS YEAR’S JUDGE: IVELISSE RODRIGUEZ


Ivelisse Rodriguez 


Ivelisse Rodriguez’s debut short story collection Love War Stories is a 2019 PEN/Faulkner finalist and a 2018 Foreword Reviews INDIES finalist. She has published fiction in the Boston Review, Obsidian, Kweli, the Bilingual Review, Aster(ix), and other publications. She is the founder and editor of an interview series focused on contemporary Puerto Rican writers published in Centro Voices. She was a senior fiction editor at Kweli and is a Kimbilio fellow and a VONA/Voices alum. She earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College and a Ph.D. in English-creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. To learn more about Ivelisse, visit: www.ivelisserodriguez.com.

______________________________

HOW TO ENTER:

This form is for paid entry for those living in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe. For those living outside of those countries, as well as those experiencing hardship, please enter the contest HERE.


Complete guidelines:

  • All entries must be related to this year’s theme of ancestors. 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 Ancestors (January 2021). Numerous runners-up will also be published in the issue.
  • Stories must not exceed 5,000 words and must be previously unpublished. No cover note is necessary for online submission. Names should not appear on the stories themselves. 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.
  • Contest entrants cannot have a close personal or professional relationship with this year’s judge, Ivelisse Rodriguez, or with any editors or staff at Boston Review.
  • Make sure your address (mailing and email) in Submittable is correct, as this is the address where your free copy of Ancestors will be sent in early 2021.


Our contest is named after Aura Estrada (1977–2007), a promising young Mexican writer and student and wife of Francisco Goldman. This prize is meant to honor her memory by supporting other burgeoning writers. Aura's writing, and more about her life, can be found here.

Read winning stories from past years: 

PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING GUIDELINES BEFORE SUBMITTING.

1. You may submit pitches and unsolicited nonfiction up to 5,000 words.

2. Please include your contact information, including an email address, in all documents you submit. Your submission may be rejected out of hand if your submission letter and attached document do not contain an email address.

3. If you have published work elsewhere, please include links to clips of your other writing.

4. If you are submitting a pitch instead of a draft, please describe in detail what argument you intend to make and what structure, length, and shape you expect the essay to take. Pitches shorter than a couple of sentences are almost always rejected out of hand.

5. Submissions tend to perform better when they show some familiarity with work Boston Review has published.

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