We hold periodic contests that help us highlight the rich, challenging, and underappreciated world of the teachers. Judged by accomplished experts, these contests are open to everyone. Enter for a chance to win a cash prize!
“Stories Out of School” Flash Fiction Contest
Teachers have the most fascinating, difficult, and important job on the planet, and their workdays are filled with stories. Yet teachers seldom appear in fiction. This annual contest was created to inspire great stories about teachers and the rich and crazy world of schools.
Julia Alvarez, the beloved and acclaimed novelist, was this year’s judge. Her five finalists can be read at A Public Space by clicking the link below. “Sunshower,” the winning story, will also appear in A Public Space’s print edition. Two of the finalists are Fellows of The Academy for Teachers. Congratulations, all!
First Prize, $1,000
“Sunshower” by Josephine Sarvaas
"Pond School" by JoAnne Burger
"Class starts at 8. It’s 8:39." by Jonathan Hull, Academy Fellow
"Better Tomorrow" by Michele Johnson
“The Worm at the Core” by Bo Lewis, Academy Fellow
Read the Winning Stories
- The story’s protagonist, or its narrator, must be a K-12 teacher.
- Stories must be between 6 and 749 words and previously unpublished.
- Sentimentality is discouraged and education jargon is forbidden.
Jonathan Lethem, author of twelve novels, including Motherless Brooklyn, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, selected the winning stories. The first prize story was published in the print edition of A Public Space.
John Francis Istel, First Prize
John Francis Istel, first prize for "The Metaphor Game".
Lethem writes, “This piece has verve, compression, surprise, and courage on its side—everything you want, in barely three pages. The irony is deft, and it makes a fierce commentary on its social-justice theme and also the current state of disrepair in the world of metaphor.”
Rose Himber Howse, Runner-Up
In second place was Rose Himber Howse for her piece, "Ma’am".
Susan Choi, author of the 2019 National Book Award winner Trust Exercise, selected the winning stories which were published online by Electric Literature.
Jennifer Kaplan, First Prize
Jennifer Kaplan, first prize for "Field Trip".
Choi writes, “‘Field Trip’ is a cut-gem marvel of a story, every facet glittering with beauty and sly humor.”
Allison Torgan, Runner-Up
In second place was Allison Torgan for her piece, "The Sub".
Choi writes, “The Sub” is a love story. In less than one thousand well-chosen words, crises erupt, bonds are forged, lives are changed, and the once-hapless Sub who vowed to quit on Monday stays late Friday to lavish her students’ work with smiley-face stickers. They’ve filled her heart, as “The Sub” has filled ours.”
Cheryl Strayed, author of the #1 New York Times-bestselling memoir Wild, selected the winning stories which were published online by Tin House.
Sanatian Vataj, First Prize
Sanatian Vataj, first prize for "A Brief Description of Mister Kuka".
Strayed writes, “The writing in this piece is beautiful and precise, vivid, and sure-footed.”
Danielle Stonehirsch, Runner-Up
In second place was Danielle Stonehirsch for his piece, "The Language of Space".
Strayed writes, “‘The Language of Space’ is a moving story about the difference one powerful moment with one attentive teacher can make in the life of a student.”
Karen Russell, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her novel Swamplandia!, selected the winning stories which were published online by Tin House.
Walker Rutter-Bowman, First Prize
Walker Rutter-Bowman, first prize for "Crafts".
Russell writes, “This piece delighted me. Its author is an artist of the sentence. The teacher at its center, Mr. Fisher, is a wonderfully idiosyncratic creation. You wish a teacher this brilliant and caring and weird for every student.”
Emily Zdyrko, Runner-Up
In second place was Emily Zdyrko for her piece, "I Often Tell People".
Russell writes, “By some magic trick, this author has managed to distill years of teaching into a few skillful paragraphs. We might wish to separate teachers into two camps, the heroes and the villains, but this narrator reminds us that teachers are fully human (“I often tell people I feel like neither”); the voice here is tonally complex and totally convincing.”
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