Uncategorized | September 09, 2014


By Anne Barngrover

For the next few weeks, we will be featuring narrative accounts “from the horse’s mouth,” so to speak—former winners in essay, fiction, and poetry of our Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize. All of our winners have different backgrounds, experiences, publication records, and responses to achieving this esteemed prize and honor. Today we hear from David Zoby, 2013’s essay winner; Fiona McFarlane, 2009’s fiction winner; and David Kirby, 2011’s poetry winner. Here is what they have to say:

David Zoby

“Winning the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize came as a surprise to me. My essay, ‘Cafe Misfit,’ had been through several revisions, and I was hoping to land it somewhere. I decided to dream big–I sent it to The Missouri Review‘s contest.

Whether I publish with TMR or not, I always feel that the editors there read my work. Over the years,  I’ve had some essays published with them, and a few near misses as well. Winning the contest invigorated me; I wrote several new essays last winter. I picked up the pace, and now I have a full-length manuscript which I can begin to shop around. The contest–and the trip to Columbia–let me meet the editors face-to-face, hang out and talk about writing.

People always ask what you’re going to do with the prize money. I bought a camper shell for my truck and drove the Alaska Highway with my dog, Rocket. There aren’t too many contests out there that can put you face-to-face with grizzly bears or let you spend a day contemplating glaciers.”

 Fiona McFarlane

“I found out I had won the 2009 Editors’ Prize for fiction in the Christmas break of my first year as an MFA student at the University of Texas. I was still in a kind of daze about that first semester: my first experience of writing workshops, of feedback from many voices, of Texas. It had been a wonderful, intense, surreal four months, and I spent Christmas with a friend in England’s Lake District. There were cottages, and snow, and coal fires. This was also quite surreal; and to receive the email from The Missouri Review with the news about the Editors’ Prize seemed as unlikely as all of it, and as wonderful. ‘Exotic Animal Medicine’ was the first story I ever submitted to a workshop. I sent it off to the mythical land of Missouri without any expectations at all.

It is, of course, incredibly encouraging to be chosen out of many entries as the winner of a prize. We know how subjective the act of reading is; to win feels, in many ways, like a beautiful coincidence: the right story for the right readers. As well as buoyed spirits, the prize came with a very generous reward, which paid some bills, bought some books, and made it possible for me to travel home to Australia the following summer, for the first time in nearly three years. I loved visiting Missouri for the award ceremony – to an Australian, Missouri is exotic and mysterious. I loved seeing my story in the pages of The Missouri Review. Four years after winning the prize, I published my first novel, The Night Guest. The process of writing a book can be lonely and baffling, but winning something like the Editors’ Prize is a magnificent reminder that there are other readers, other writers, who are ready to listen, and are working alongside you. The feeling stays with you, too, like a small, warm fire. I’ll always be grateful for it.”

And, last but not least, David Kirby:

“I take every prize and positive review, every horse laugh and back pat as an encouragement, much like those little Dixie cups of water people pass out to marathoners. In other words, the recognition is for something you’ve already done, but you’ve already done it, right? We’re in this for the long haul, so when someone praises my work, I don’t hear ‘Good job, old chap.’ Instead, that welcome voice is saying, ‘Not bad, boy — now let’s see what you can really do.'”

 Want to join them? You can submit to our 2014 Editors’ Prize Contest here. The deadline is October 1st–21 days remaining!