“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, for teachers and non-teachers, was created to inspire great stories about teachers and the rich and crazy world of schools.
The judge for this year's contest was Pulitzer Prize finalist and MacArthur "genius" Karen Russell. The winning story will be published in A Public Space's print edition and the author will receive $1,000.
"Orientation" by Jules Fitz Gerald
"Feral" by Esther Mathieu
"Cutting the Path" by Matt McGee
"What Frightens You?" by Eduardo Vaca
Read the Winning Stories
BD Wong reading
the 2019 wining story
"A Brief Description of Mister Kuka"
by Santian Vataj
at our annual fundraiser
Show Teachers the Love!
Daniel Handler, the author also known as Lemony Snicket, was this year's judge. The winning story was published in A Public Space's print edition and the author received $1,000. All of the runners-up were featured along with the winning story on A Public Space's website. Both the winner and one of the runners-up are Academy Fellows. Congratulations all!
Christopher Chilton, First Prize
Christopher Chilton, first prize for "Tree Club".
Handler writes, “Tree Club" captures so many moods at once—awkward camaraderie, everyday melancholy, yearning and defeat, small triumphs and cutting failures, all happening at once, just as they do in life. A lonely, droll marvel.”
"The Seating Charts" by Paul Macomber
"Snow Day Alphabet" by Jonathan Hull, Academy Fellow
Julia Álvarez, the beloved and acclaimed novelist, chose the winning stories. The first-prize story was published in the print edition of A Public Space. The four finalists were featured along with the winner on A Public Space's website. Two of the finalists are Fellows of The Academy for Teachers
Josephine Sarvaas, First Prize
Josephine Sarvaas, first prize for "Sunshower".
Álvarez writes, “I love the writer’s obvious passion for language and literature and yet his/her/their courage in addressing the limitations and literary assumptions teachers/literary aficionados bring into classrooms. How do we make these texts meaningful to students, especially those who don’t share our privileges or background? The story unfolds that moment of meaning in real time: we vividly see the narrator’s attempt to introduce students to the alien worlds and words in a text. Oh, how I love this gutsy teacher’s commitment to connect students in a new language with the mystery at the core of all great stories and poems. I admire the story’s international focus—displaced children from different parts of the world. The scenes are conveyed with great economy and compassion and humor. A resilient teacher who just won’t quit. The story delivers to the reader, as well as the students, a breakthrough moment of vibrance and hope, rays of sunshine in the midst of the showers of the present moment.”
"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
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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