contest results


Photo by Jenny Fong

August 2, 2017

We’re thrilled to announce the latest winner of our Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman: May-lee Chai, for her story collection Useful Phrases for Immigrants!

May-lee is the author of eight previous books and a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, among other honors. Her stories, essays, and journalism have appeared in publications such as The Rumpus, Gulf Coast, Entropy, and elsewhere. May-lee was born in California but has lived in fourteen states in the U.S. and four countries. She received her M.F.A. from San Francisco State University.

Useful Phrases for Immigrants was selected from 234 entries. The finalists included Jubilee by Jenn Givhan and Kissing the Indigo Sky by Angela Threatt. The winner was judged by author Tayari Jones. Jones was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where she spent most of her childhood, with the exception of the one year she and her family spent in Nigeria. Although she has not lived in her hometown for more than a decade, much of her writing centers on the urban South. “Although I now live in the northeast,” she explains, “my imagination lives in Atlanta.” Her novels include Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, and Silver Sparrow, all of which have received several awards and accolades, including the Hurston/Wright Award for Debut Fiction and the Lillian C. Smith Award for New Voices.

Congratulations to May-lee and all of our Bakwin Award finalists! Carolina Wren Press will publish May-lee’s collection Useful Phrases for Immigrants in 2018.


15977702_936782313118967_6825476967669272793_nJanuary 13, 2017
We’re thrilled to announce the latest winner of the Lee Smith Novel Prize: Beaut, by Donald Morrill.

Beaut is the unforgettable first-person account of a woman whose difficult children (and in particular her meth-addicted son known as “the Monster”) have ruled and overruled her life. As her children work variously to protect her, win her favor, and borrow her money, she sits in an apartment near a ring road of Des Moines typing the poetic and wry account of her life. She is processing two last-minute surprises: the prospect of new love and a house fire that may be the work of her troubled son. She writes, “I’m in need of a great reckoning.” With this reckoning, for herself and for another who is initially unnamed, she confronts her wobbly circumstances, her charge as a mother and grandmother, and her own desires for the future. In the telling, she revisits an early love affair, weighs a mother’s warring love and ambivalence, and illuminates the mysteries of inheritance, until finally, her family must radically revise their image of who she is—their mother, the ultimate assumption in their lives.

The purpose of the Lee Smith Novel Prize is to recognize and publish authors living in, writing about, or originally from the U.S. South. Donald Morrill, who currently teaches at the University of Tampa, is an esteemed poet and nonfiction writer, and we could not be more excited to publish his first novel!

Thanks to all who submitted, and congratulations to Don!


Dana Koster author photo

May 10, 2016
Carolina Wren Press is pleased to announce the winner of the 2016 Carolina Wren Press Poetry Series contest: Binary Stars by Dana Koster.

Binary Stars was chosen from a field of more than 175 entries by Sam Witt, poet and poetry editor for Jaded Ibis Press. Of the work, Sam Witt has written: Binary Stars, the debut book of poems by Dana Koster, is a profoundly moving, lyrically intelligent, and beautifully crafted series of poems, as complex in its metonymic interplay as it is breathtakingly pure in its human and natural moments.  It begins with a stunning question that sets the terms of this lyric universe: “How did we smell it when our heads were screwed / into our helmets?”  As the title suggests, Koster’s poems are expansive and galactic in their metaphoric reach, often engaging human relationships—parent and child, lover and lover—as the movement of heavenly bodies. But they are also equal parts naturalistic and surrealistic.  It’s as though John Donne, Stephen Hawking, and Emily Dickinson have teamed up to write poems.  They also have the delicacy and ecological imprint of a poem by Roethke, with poems like “Hummingbird Heart” operating at the macro, micro, quantum, and planetary level simultaneously:  “As long as you’re in there,” the speaker says to her in utero child, “I have two hearts. This old standard / that rattles my chest and yours– / swooping across the monitor, / little flutter on the screen.”

Dana Koster earned her BA in English from UC Berkeley and MFA in poetry from Cornell University. From 2011-2013, she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow. Koster’s poems have appeared in EPOCH, Indiana Review, Southern Humanities Review, the Cincinnati Review, MUZZLE Magazine, THRUSH Poetry Journal, The Collagist, and many others. She has work in the anthologies Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books and More Than Soil, More Than Sky: The Modesto Poets. In 2012, she was awarded a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize. She lives in Modesto, California, with her husband and young sons, where she works as a wedding photographer.

Binary Stars by Dana Koster and Little Domesday Clock by Sam Witt will be published by Carolina Wren Press in 2017.


Congratulations to the winner of the 2015 Doris Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman, Hola and Goodbye by Donna Miscolta! Carolina Wren Press will publish Hola and Goodbye in 2016.

Wall shot--Donna Miscolta

Donna Miscolta is the author of the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced. Her story “Ana’s Dance” won the 2013 Lascaux Prize for Short Fiction. Recent work has appeared in Bluestem, Hawaii Pacific Review, Waxwing, and Spartan. Her story “Strong Girls” will appear in Calyx’s 40th-anniversary issue, due out in March 2016. A 2014 recipient of an Artist Trust Fellowship, she has also received awards from 4Culture, the Bread Loaf/Rona Jaffe Foundation, and the City of Seattle, as well as residencies from Anderson Center, Artsmith, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook, Ragdale, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She lives in Seattle, but grew up in National City, CA. Find out more at


Photo by Carl Jones

Photo by Carl Jones

April 6, 2014

Carolina Wren Press is pleased to announce the winner of the inaugural Lee Smith Novel Prize: Mulberry by Paulette Boudreaux. Mulberry was selected from more than 170 contest entries.

Mulberry is a gripping tale of family crisis and personal strength that focuses on an eleven-year-old girl struggling to keep herself and her family, and her three younger brothers in particular, afloat in smalltown, segregated Mississippi during the early 1960s. “This elegantly written novel marks the powerful debut of an important voice,” says Carolina Wren Press co-director Robin Miura. “I am so pleased that we are able to publish such a talented emerging writer as the winner of the first-ever Lee Smith Novel Prize.”

The purpose of the Lee Smith Novel Prize is to recognize and publish authors living in, writing about, or originally from the U.S. South. “The press sees this prize as a way to acknowledge Lee Smith’s contributions to southern literature as a writer, teacher, and mentor while at the same time working to explore and expand the definition of southern literature,” says Miura.

Paulette Boudreaux is a Mississippi native who now lives in Los Gatos, California. She is a member of the English faculty of West Valley College and has published short stories and novel excerpts in national and international literary journals including Room of One’s Own, Acorn Whistle, Equinox: Writing for a New Culture, In the Margins, and Voices. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a master’s in fine arts degree from Mills College.


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