University of Southern Indiana

Thomas A. Wilhelmus Short Prose Award

2017 Winner: Desert Castles

J.A. Bernstein, black and white photo, holding book and leaning against wall outside

J.A. Bernstein is the author of a forthcoming novel, RACHEL’S TOMB (New Issues, 2019), which won the AWP Award Series, Hackney, and Knut House Prizes, and a forthcoming story collection, STICK-LIGHT (Eyewear, 2019). His creative prose has appeared in Shenandoah, Kenyon Review Online, Tampa Review, Boston Review, and other journals. A Chicago-native, he is an assistant professor in the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi and the fiction editor of Tikkun.

Desert Castles will be available for the 2019 AWP conference in Portland, OR.

View a complete list of finalists for the 2017 contest.

2016 Winner: "Meditation 36"

wadeauthorphotowebJulie Marie Wade is the author of eight collections of poetry and prose, most recently Catechism: A Love Story (Noctuary Press, 2016) and When I Was Straight: Poems (A Midsummer Night's Press, 2014). Her first lyric essay collection, Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures (Colgate University Press, 2010; Bywater Books, 2014), won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir, and her newest collection of poems, SIX (Red Hen Press, 2016), was selected by C.D. Wright as the winner of the AROHO/ To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize. Wade teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University and reviews regularly for The Rumpus and Lambda Literary Review. She is married to Angie Griffin and lives on Hollywood Beach.

“I really admire the loose-limbed movement of this memoir as it moves through times and places. And I also was taken with the motion on the other axesthe jumps from surface to depthin style and content.  She did "do the police in many voices" in this stunning and energetic lyrical and very personal essay."

—Michael Martone, 2016 judge

"Meditation 36" will appear in the fall 2016 issue.

View a complete list of finalists for the 2016 contest.

2015 Winner: "Mystery Girls"

Melorawolffweb Melora Wolff grew up in New York City and now lives near Saratoga Springs. Her essays have appeared in many journals, including Brick, The Normal School, and the New York Times and have been anthologized in The New Brick Reader and, most recently, in Every Father's Daughter: 24 Women Writers Remember Their Fathers. Shorter prose works have been selected for Best New Writing 2016 and Best American Fantasy. She has received two Notable Essay citations from Best American Essays (2012, 2014) and two Special Mentions in Nonfiction from the Pushcart Prizes (2014, 2015). Her writing has been supported by Fellowships from The Corporation of Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, The New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Stadler Center for Poetry. She currently teaches at Skidmore College.

“'Mystery Girls' stood out among some very strong submissions for its scope and its daring structure. The author takes a known moment of 20th-century American national history—New York during 1977’s 'Summer of Sam'—and makes it personal by tumbling that storied citywide fear into succinct scenes and details from her own teenage life. That volley between city and self, collective and individual, fills the essay with unpredictability. I was rocked by the layers and parallels of 'Mystery Girls' at my first reading of the essay, and when I dove back in a second time, I marveled at the untraditional swerves and turns the piece takes. 'Mystery Girls' has inside of it what I love most about essays: the ability to use the tools of form to wander, swerve, contradict, and—best of all—surprise."

—Elena Passarello, 2015 judge

"Mystery Girls" appears in the fall 2015 issue.

View a complete list of finalists for the 2015 contest.

2014 Winner: "Having Faith"

Terrance Flynn WEBTerrance Flynn is currently working on a memoir titled Dying to Meet You, a darkly humorous tale of having a daughter through surrogacy followed shortly by a heart transplant. He is 2013-14 Stanford Calderwood fellow at the MacDowell Colony, and a 2013 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices fellow. He was awarded a 2014 Promise Award by the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and is a finalist for the Wabash Prize for Nonfiction judged by Cheryl Strayed. He's been published in Slice Magazine, and has two essays forthcoming in Sycamore Review and Creative Nonfiction. His short fiction has been published by Cleis Press,, and in 2013, he won The Rattling Wall's annual microfiction contest. Terrance is a licensed psychotherapist currently living in Southern California with his partner and their four year old.

"Having Faith" appears in the fall 2014 issue.

View a complete list of finalists for the 2014 contest. 

 2013 Winner: "East of East"

Burton _GabrielleC (2)Gabrielle C. Burton is a writer and filmmaker in Columbus, Ohio. After going to film school at the ESAV in Toulouse, France, she founded her production company, Five Sisters Productions, with her four real-life sisters. Their award-winning films include Manna From Heaven (MGM/Sony), Temps (Netflix), Just Friends (Starz), The Happiest Day of His Life (MTV/LOGO), and Julia Sweeney's Letting Go of God (Showtime). Burton is currently helming Kings, Queens, & In-Betweens, a documentary on drag queens and kings in Columbus. As a writer, Burton's mentors include Andrea Hollander, Andrew Hudgins, and Verlyn Klinkenborg, and she will have a poem appearing in the upcoming Los Angeles Review

"East of East" appears in the fall 2013 issue. Read an interview with Gabrielle about her winning essay here.

View a list of finalists for the 2013 contest.

 2012 Winner: "Secrets of the Sun"

MacoMako Yoshikawa’s first novel, One Hundred and One Ways, was published by Bantam in 1999. A national bestseller in the States, it has been translated into six languages, including German, Swedish, and Hebrew. Yoshikawa’s second novel, Once Removed, also published by Bantam, came out in 2003. Writing awards include fellowships from the Bunting Institute of Harvard University, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the MacDowell Colony. Yoshikawa, who was born and raised in Princeton, NJ, spent two years of her childhood in Tokyo. She has also lived in England, France, Switzerland, and New Zealand. She attended Columbia University, received a Masters in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama at Lincoln College, Oxford, and has a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

"Secrets of the Sun" appears in the fall 2012 issue.

View a list of finalists from the 2012 contest

About Thomas Wilhelmus

thomasSIR founding editor Tom Wilhelmus is professor emeritus of English at the University of Southern Indiana where he taught and was an administrator for thirty-nine years. At USI he was Chair of the English Department for fifteen years, Associate Dean of Liberal Arts for thirteen years, and Acting Dean for one year. He was co-founder and -director of the RopeWalk Writers Retreat in New Harmony, and formerly served as Associate Producer and Producer of New Harmony Theatre. He was twice a director of the Evansville Philharmonic and was on the UE Friends of Music Board and a member of the selection committee for the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Awards conducted by the Indianapolis/Marion County Library Foundation. He was formerly a board member and chair of the Indiana Humanities Council, board member and president of the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana, and member of the Committee on the Future for the Indiana Arts Commission. His book reviews appear annually in the Hudson Review.

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