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Emily Wortman-Wunder selected Cassidy McCants as the 2020 Innovative Short Fiction Contest winner for her short story, “The Things I Took From Your House.”

Emily said “I loved this story’s sly and surprising voice, the way it skipped along in a wry wistful way and then plunged in the knife.”

Cassidy McCants is a writer and editor from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She received her B.A. in creative writing from University of Arkansas and her M.F.A. in fiction writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she is Managing Editor of Nimrod International Journal. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Lascaux Review, Liars’ League NYC, Gravel, The Idle Class, Filling Station, Witch Craft Magazine, and other publications, and her stories have received honorable mentions from Glimmer Train Press.

This year’s finalists were Kelly HillPloy Pirapokin, and Miranda Williams.

2020 Innovative Short Fiction Contest

Contest Judge: Emily Wortman-Wunder

Prize: $500, publication, copies of the issue,

and a copy of the judge’s book

About the Contest

The winning story will be published in The Conium Review‘s next issue. The winning author will receive $500, five copies of the issue, and a copy of the judge’s latest book.

Innovative short fiction should take risks that pay off. Don’t tell us a story we’ve already heard before. Show us something new with your subject, style, or characters.

The 2020 contest judge is Emily Wortman-Wunder. Emily is the author of Not a Thing to Comfort You (University of Iowa Press, 2019). If you are a family member, coworker, or student of the judge, you are ineligible for this contest.

Contest Deadlines

Submissions must be received between May 1st, 2020 and July 1st, 2020. All submissions must include a $15.00 entry fee. The winner will be announced on or around September 15th, 2020.

Submission Guidelines

All manuscripts must be submitted through our Submittable page between May 1st, 2020 and July 1st, 2020. Your submission may include any combination of flash fictions or short stories up to 7,500 total words. Upload your submission as a single manuscript file. Your name should not appear anywhere on the manuscript. The judge reads blind, and she will recuse herself from considering any manuscript where the writer is identifiable. In the unlikely event that the judge is unable to select a winner, The Conium Review editorial staff will make the final decision.

In the “Biography Statement” field, please include a two or three sentence third-person bio. This bio will not be viewable by the contest judge. If you win the contest, your bio appears inside the published issue of The Conium Review along with the winning story.

Submissions must be unpublished, original work. Simultaneous submissions are allowed, but you must withdraw your story immediately if it is accepted elsewhere. If you withdraw your submission, the entry fee is not returned.

This contest abides by the Council of Literary Magazines & Presses code of ethics.  Thank you for submitting!

About the 2020 Contest Judge

Emily Wortman-Wunder’s book of short stories, Not a Thing to Comfort You (University of Iowa Press, 2019), won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. Her fiction and essays have won awards from NimrodThe North American ReviewThe Atlantic, and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Emily was also the winner of our 2018 innovative short fiction contest, judged by Maryse Meijer, and we’re overjoyed to celebrate her new book and have welcome her as a judge.


 Praise for Not a Thing to Comfort You

  • “I couldn’t help but think of Andrea Barrett when I read this collection with all its funny, inventive stories in which the natural world and humanity collide with each other. There’s such careful attention paid in these stories, to people and the environment alike.” —Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House and Her Body and Other Parties
  • “Populated with all manner of wild animals, endangered species, and flawed people, the endlessly readable stories in Not A Thing to Comfort You remind me of campfire ranger talks, if the rangers are Annie Proulx or Raymond Carver and the untended campfire burns down an entire forest.” —Justin Hocking, author, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld: A Memoir
  • “Emily Wortman-Wunder’s stunning stories demand our attention. Graceful in style, bountiful in their knowledge of the natural world, they move effortlessly from Beethoven concertos to bear hibernacula, from suburban homes to rural trailers. These stories don’t mind getting their hands dirty excavating secrets, but they just as painstakingly illuminate lives in search of love and connection. A rich and affecting collection.”—Steven Schwartz, author, Madagascar: New and Selected Stories
  • “There’s a sleight-of-hand magic in Not a Thing to Comfort You. Emily Wortman-Wunder’s characters are palpable and complex, and her psychological insights rival the likes of Jonathan Franzen and Jane Smiley.” —BK Loren, author, Theft: A Novel

Archived Contest Pages