2019 Words and Music Competition Results!

We here in Peauxdunque are proud to run the Peauxdunque Review, and also proud of the Peauxdunque Review‘s partnership with the Words and Music Writers Conference to put on the annual Words and Music Writing Competition! Here are the results for the 2019 edition of the competition:

Short Story

The 2019 short story category of the Words and Music Writing Competition final-round judge was Kim Chinquee. Kim is a regular contributor to NOON, Denver Quarterly, Conjunctions, and has also published work in Ploughshares, The Nation, Story Quarterly, Fiction, Mississippi Review, and over a hundred other journals and anthologies. She is the author of the collections Oh Baby, Pretty, Pistol, Veer, Shot Girls and Wetsuit. She is Chief Editor of ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal) and Senior Editor of New World Writing. She co-directs the writing major at SUNY-Buffalo State, and lives in Glenwood, NY.

Kim selected the short story “Cherchez la Femme,” by Sheila Arndt as the 2019 winner in the short story category. Kim notes regarding the winning story: “The twists and turns in this piece are convincing, visceral, striking, and at times almost painful: the insides and outsides of this character’s body! Wow. The compelling voice, the oddness, the sensory details, the humor, and all the truths make it a real winner.” Sheila is a reader, writer, and MFA candidate living in New Orleans. She cares about the modern and postmodern, critical theory, Americana, saltwater, garlic, canines, old blues, and new dreams. She is beyond thrilled to have her story, “Cherchez la Femme,” chosen by and published with the Peauxdunque Review! Her poetry and prose has been published in The Tishman Review, Gravel, and Literary Orphans, among other places, and has received an Honorable Mention from Glimmer Train. Follow her: @ACokeWithYou_ and http://www.sheilamarndt.com

Kim selected “That Thing With Feathers” by Susan Finch as the runner-up, noting, “Really compelling conflict and plot, and the backgrounds about the other marriages. I really appreciate the hope in the end.” Susan is an Associate Professor at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Crab Orchard Review, New Ohio Review, Nimrod, Beloit Fiction Journal, and elsewhere. Her fiction has received several awards, and most recently, she was selected as a finalist for the Nelson Algren Literary Prize. Currently, she is working on a novel and a story collection.

There are six stories that are Honorable Mentions in the short story category: “I Too Can Slip,” by Courtney Sender; “All His Teeth,” by Alex Jennings; “Double Walker,” by Katherine Conner; “Rescue,” by Kaitlin Murphy-Knudsen; “The Seabird,” by Jack Cape; and “The Sky Ride,” by Missy Roback (Austin, Texas).

Creative Nonfiction

The 2019 creative nonfiction category of the Words and Music Writing Competition final-round judge was Nathaniel Rich. Nathaniel’s April 2019 release, Losing Earth: A Recent History (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux) chronicles the critical time period when scientists, politicians, and strategists, led by two unlikely heroes, risked their careers in a desperate, escalating campaign to convince the world to act on climate change before it was too late. Nathaniel is a writer-at-large for the New York Times Magazine; his essays on literature appear regularly in the Atlantic, Harper’s, and the New York Review of Books. His reported pieces have appeared in various anthologies, including the Best American Nonrequired Reading and the Best American Science and Nature Writing. Nathaniel is also the author of three novels: King Zeno (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018); Odds Against Tomorrow (FSG, 2013); and The Mayor’s Tongue (Riverhead, 2008). His short fiction has been published by McSweeney’s, Vice, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and the American Scholar; the stories “The Northeast Kingdom” and “Blue Rock” were both finalists for the National Magazine Award for Fiction, and the latter was awarded the 2017 Emily Clark Balch Prize for Fiction. Nathaniel served as Fiction Editor of the Paris Review between 2005 and 2010.

Nathaniel selected “Love for Sale,” by Benjamin Aleshire as the 2019 winner in the creative nonfiction category. Nathaniel notes regarding the winning piece: “The reflections of a poet for sale, who has seen too much and seen it too often, in ‘a sinking city on the vanishing coastline of a dying planet.’ The author has a poet’s sensibility for finding beauty in common places: stones smoothed by a river into hearts, balconies ‘weeping with ivy,’ a smily-face laced in cirrus. Soul-weary but light-hearted, ‘Love for Sale’ is an ode to the mysteries of language and the sorrows of enduring love.” Benjamin lives in New Orleans. His work has appeared in the The Times of London, Iowa Review, Boston Review, and on television in the US, China, and Spain. Andrei Codrescu selected his manuscript POET FOR HIRE as runner-up for the 2019 Faulkner-Wisdom prize in narrative nonfiction. As a poet-for-hire, his clients include Princeton University, House of Yes orgy-goers, Sir Tom Stoppard, Shakespeare & Co, the Bellagio, Bernie Sanders, and Jimmy Page. He serves as assistant poetry editor for Green Mountains Review. You can find him on Instagram at @benjamin_aleshire, or in the flesh at the corner of Royal & St. Peter.

Nathaniel selected “Cherall” by Nick R. Robinson as the runner-up, describing the piece as “The sprawling misadventures of an orphan who can’t bring himself to accept companionship, no matter how lonely he becomes. He finally finds something resembling a home though the process of writing, recounting a history of his failures and regrets.” Nick grew up in Junior Village, a Washington D.C.-based, government-run orphanage that was the largest and oldest institution of its kind in America. A ninth-grade dropout, Nick earned a general equivalency diploma and graduated from the University of the District of Columbia. In 2006, he left an executive position at Microsoft Corporation to begin the thirteen-year journey of scribing his coming-of-age memoir, Our Family Walks. A graduate of the creative writing programs at Florida Atlantic University (2009, MFA) and the University of Missouri (2016, Ph.D.), Nick is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Claflin University. He is represented by Miriam Altshuler and can be contacted at nickrobi@hotmail.com.

There are two pieces that are Honorable Mentions in the creative nonfiction category: “Glowing Wonders of Waitomo,” by Whitney Mackman; and “My Tree,” by Gavin McCall.


The 2019 poetry category of the Words and Music Writing Competition final-round judge was Brad Richard. Brad is the author of four collections of poetry–Habitations, Motion Studies, Butcher’s Sugar, Parasite Kingdom–and three chapbooks, The Men in the Dark, Curtain Optional, and Larval Songs. Recipient of numerous awards for his writing and teaching, he was named the 2015 Louisiana Artist of the Year. Founding chair of the creative writing program at Lusher Charter School, he directs the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards of South Louisiana.

Brad selected “All the Men Who Own My Underwear,” by Kate Leland as the 2019 winner in the poetry category. Brad notes regarding the winning poem: “In ‘All the Men Who Own My Underwear,’ the speaker details, with playful warmth and clinical detachment, how she sold her worn ‘black Calvin Klein knock-offs’ on Craiglist in order to finance her grad school application fees. A poem about power and knowledge, work and sexuality, fantasy and agency, it is never a poem about exploitation: the speaker’s business is to construct a persona which she sells, ‘double zipped inside plastic bags and overnighted for a fee,’ to willing buyers she need never meet. The poem’s craft is equally precise and purposeful, from the acephalic pentameter of the title to the unnerving use of passive voice throughout. Most disarming of all, however, is the poem’s humor, down to the last line: ‘All it felt like was laundry.’ Hat off to this marvelous poem and its author!” Kate is a poet from Austin, Texas. She is currently an MFA candidate at The University of Mississippi and holds a B.A. in English – Creative Writing from Hendrix College. She works as an associate editor with Sibling Rivalry Press Her work has appeared in The Hunger and Rust + Moth, and her debut chapbook I Wore The Only Garden I’ve Ever Grown was published in January 2017 with Headmistress Press. She lives in Mississippi with one cat and a collection of half-dead houseplants.

Brad selected “Pressing Day” by Yoruba Baltrip-Coleman as the runner-up, writing this about her piece: “Pressing Day’ evokes the memories of a girl whose grandmother regularly straightened her hair with a hot comb. In the world of that fraught ritual, ultimate authority resides in that comb ‘long as a ruler, the sovereign scepter,’ which literally forces the girl to bow her head and submit to it and all it represents. Half-willing, half-forced, the girl endures the ordeal and hides her ambivalence: ‘What if I don’t want hair that hangs? Who doesn’t?’ Richly patterned in its imagery and sounds, this was a great pleasure to read.” From Reno, Nevada but now a transformed New Orleanian, Yoruba began writing poetry and fiction after publishing several research articles at Dillard University, where she taught Health Education and Theory in the Department of Public Health. Yoruba was a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition in 2017 for both the poetry and novella categories, and short-listed in 2018 for poetry. In 2019 she was a finalist in the novel-in-progress category and runner-up in the poetry category. She also writes YA novels. Yoruba BC’s current poetry collection, Tangles, Knots and Knaps is forthcoming.

Seven poems have been designated as Honorable Mentions in the poetry category: “Exit Slip” and “Lake Looks Like a Lady Lake” by Ash Goedker;  “Capsized” and “Pomegranates” by Tiara Brown; “The Morning After My Brother’s Suicide” and “We Say Pain and It Means According to Which Organ,” by Kate Leland; and “Parasites,” by Kelly Anderson.

Short Story by a Public High School Student

The 2019 short story by a public high school student category of the Words and Music Writing Competition final-round judge was Maurice Carlos Ruffin. Maurice’s debut novel, We Cast a Shadow, was published by One World/Random House to widespread critical acclaim in January 2019. Maurice’s work has also appeared in Unfathomable City: a New Orleans atlas, AGNI, Kenyon Review, Callaloo, Massachusetts Review, the Bitter SouthernerLitHub, Virginia Quarterly Review, and the LA Times, among many others. He is the winner of the Iowa Review Fiction Award, the So to Speak Journal Short Story Award, and the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Competition for Novel in Progress.

Maurice selected “With Hindsight In Mind,” by Nichole Cloke as the 2019 winner in the public high school student short story category. Maurice notes regarding the winning story: “‘Hindsight’ is an ambitious story about a young woman reassessing a formative experience in her life: her rape by her teacher. The story is nuanced, provocative, and full of insight that will make readers reconsider the very nature of free will. This is an unforgettable work of fiction.” Nichole is a student at Benjamin Franklin High School and studies creative writing at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. She is the treasurer of Franklin’s Society of Women Engineers and is actively pursuing a career in engineering. She has received the 2019 Quarante Club Prize for Poetry, has won a Silver Key in the Humor Category of the Scholastic Writing Awards, and was a short story finalist in the 2019 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.

Maurice selected “Cicada” by Torey Bovie as the runner-up, writing of her story, “The narrator in Cicada speaks in a voice that both vivid and charming. He quickly and confidently transports us into a hilarious day in his life. Readers will wish they could spend even more time with the narrator and his family.

In addition, the editors of the Peauxdunque Review have designated an “Editor’s Choice” selection from among the remaining finalist pieces: “The Disappearance of Either My Objects or My Sanity,” by Nyela Joshua. This story was wowed over by the editorial staff, remarking on the story’s “bold, weird spirit,” and its “sparks of genius.” Other Honorable Mentions in the public high school student short story category are “Ernest and I,” by Pia Mulleady; “Mundele,” by Juliet Bel; “Streetcar to the 7th Ward,” by Donatella Henry; “Recalling the Gulf War,” by Elijah Zitler; and “Let the Good Times Roll,” by Sidne Gard.

Beyond the Bars

Zachary Lazar, final-round judge, Beyond the Bars

The 2019 Beyond the Bars category of the Words and Music Writing Competition final-round judge was Zachary Lazar, selecting winning work from entries by incarcerated juveniles nationwide. Zachary is the author of five books, including the novels Sway and I Pity the Poor Immigrant, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014. His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2015 John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for “a writer in mid-career whose work has demonstrated consistent excellence.” His latest novel, Vengeance, was published in February of 2018.

Zachary selected “Down Here,” a poem by Connor Sanders as the 2019 winner in the Beyond the Bars category. Zachary notes regarding the winning poem: “This is a solemn and powerful poem whose tight refrain makes every word matter.  It manages to have flow and force at the same time.” Zachary selected a poem by Griffin Batiste Tadoe, “Problem Child,” as the runner-up, writing, “This poem moves with grace and surprise even though it’s about tribulation. The poet uses images and rhythm to paint a vivid picture of the street.

Other finalists and Honorable Mentions in the Beyond the Bars category (identified here by titles and by the authors’ initials, per the request of the juvenile facility where this group of writers resides) are “Dim White Light” by A.L.; “I Am” by A.T.; “Message to the Streets” by Griffin Tadoe; “Life” by J.W.; “The Princess and the Frog” by K.C.; and “Whispers” by P.D..