Exploring the art of prose


CRAFT First Chapters Contest 2024

CRAFT 2024 First Chapters Contest

$2,800 Awarded

Guest Judge: Kimberly King Parsons

June 1, 2024 – August 4, 2024submitAdd to Calendar

Isn’t the start of something new incredibly, deliciously exciting? Here at CRAFT, we want to share in that excitement by reading the first chapter(s) of your novel in progress. We long to immerse ourselves in novels over the summer, and what could be more thrilling than sampling the newest work out there? For the 2024 First Chapters Contest, we’re eager to read your first 5,000 words. Guest Judge Kimberly King Parsons is equally keen:

I love it when the beginning of a novel (especially the very first line) contains the stylistic signature and the tonal genetics for the whole book. I’m always looking for attention and care at the sentence level, beautiful acoustics, and a voice that begs me to follow it. Not every novel has to do everything at once, but I value humor, the subversive, complicated characters (especially “unlikeable” or “unreliable” narrators), and plots that aren’t afraid to swerve into the very weird or very dark. Most of all, I’m hoping for opening pages that feel as if only you—with your distinct authority, unique perspective, and precise choices—could have written them.

Submissions are open June 1 to August 4, 2024. Guest Judge Kimberly King Parsons will choose three winning excerpts from fifteen anonymized entries. Learn more in our guidelines below!


  • The First Chapters Contest is open to all fiction writers; CRAFT is a market for adult literary fiction.
  • International submissions are welcome. Work must be written primarily in English, but some code-switching/meshing is warmly welcomed.
  • Please send excerpts of book-length fiction only—please submit the first chapter or chapters* of your unpublished novels/novellas. Your novel need not be completely written.
  • Please do not submit short stories or nonfiction essays.
  • Please adhere to the 5,000 word count maximum*.
  • We review adult literary fiction, but are open to a variety of genres and styles, as long as you show excellence in your craft.
  • Submit previously unpublished work only—we do NOT review reprints or partial reprints for contests (including any form of self-publishing such as on blogs, personal websites, social media, et cetera.). Reprints will be automatically disqualified.
  • We allow simultaneous submissions—writers, please notify us and withdraw your excerpt if your work is accepted elsewhere.
  • We allow multiple submissions—please submit each excerpt as a separate submission accompanied by an entry fee.
  • Please note the $20 entry fee per submission.
  • Kindly double-space your submission and use Times New Roman 12. (Feel free to contact us directly if you need to change these formatting requirements for better accessibility.)
  • Please include a brief cover letter with your publication history (if applicable), and a summary of your book-length project. Also include any necessary content warnings, in consideration of our reading team.
  • We do not require anonymous submissions, but the guest judge will read the shortlist anonymized.
  • Writers from historically marginalized groups will be able to submit for FREE until we reach fifty free submissions. This free category will close when we reach capacity. No additional fee waivers will be granted.
  • We do not discriminate on the basis of age, ancestry, disability, family status, gender identity or expression, national origin, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation, or for any other reason.
  • Additionally, we do not tolerate discrimination in the writing we consider for publication: work we find discriminatory on any of the bases stated here will be declined without complete review.
  • Any AI-generated work submitted to this contest will be immediately disqualified.
  • Unless you’ve already secured the necessary permissions, please do not include quoted song lyrics in your submitted work.
  • Any work that does not adhere to these guidelines will be automatically disqualified.
  • Artful Editor is offering every entrant a 10% discount for query services—they will critique and edit your query letter, synopsis, and first fifty pages. Coupon code provided upon contest entry.
*Your entry may include more than your first chapter, up to 5,000 words total, but should contain complete sections—please do not leave us hanging midparagraph just to maximize word count—and must be the first chapter(s) of your book-length project, as if you were querying agents or publishing houses.


  • First place will receive $2,000 and a full manuscript critique of the novel or novella, up to 100K words, by Artful Editor.
  • Second and third place will receive $500 and $300, respectively.
  • First, second, and third place will receive an agent query workshop by Annalise Errico of Ladderbird Literary Agency—Annalise will offer feedback on the first 5,000 words of the project, the summary, and a query letter.
  • The top three excerpts will be published in CRAFT, each with an introduction by Guest Judge Kimberly King Parsons.
  • Each publication will include an author’s note (craft essay) written by each of the three winning writers.


  • Friends, family, and associates of the guest judge are not eligible for consideration for the award.
  • Our collaboration with editorial professionals and agents in the judging and awarding of our contests does not imply an endorsement or recognition from their agencies, houses, presses, universities, et cetera.
  • Check out our 2023 winners for examples of the type of work we seek.
  • As we only consider unpublished writing, and will publish the winning excerpts in December 2024, anything under contract to publish prior to March 2025 should not be entered.


Photo Credit: Evelynne Gomez Greenberg

KIMBERLY KING PARSONS is the author of the national bestselling novel We Were the Universe, a Dakota Johnson Book Club pick The New York Times calls “a profound, gutsy tale of grief’s dismantling power.” Parsons’s story collection, Black Light, was longlisted for the National Book Award and The Story Prize. A recipient of fellowships from Yaddo and Columbia University, Parsons won the 2020 National Magazine Award for “Foxes,” a story published in The Paris Review. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her partner and children. Find her on Instagram @kimberlykingparsons.


Founded in 2010, ARTFUL EDITOR is an editorial agency that helps writers elevate their prose and prepare their manuscripts for agent submission and publication. We offer honest manuscript reviews, developmental editing, and line editing. Our team is composed of book editors, published authors, and former in-house editors, many of whom also edit for traditional publishers. We’re based in Los Angeles, California, but work with writers from all over the world and at every stage of their careers. Find us on Instagram and Facebook.

ANNALISE ERRICO of Ladderbird Literary Agency is a graduate of Lesley University where she earned a BA in creative writing with a double minor in literature and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. She is excited about uplifting stories by authors with marginalized voices and intersectional identities, ultimately making room for the diverse voices that have long since been ignored and suppressed in the literary world and beyond. Find her on Twitter @AnnaliseErrico.

LADDERBIRD is a full-service boutique literary agency out of the Boston area with a passion for bringing marginalized voices to the forefront. We work with authors at all levels to create the right path toward achieving each author’s specific goals. It is our passion to create long-lasting relationships and to be the best advocate for our clients. At Ladderbird, we believe in building a supportive community that benefits all. Find us on Twitter @ladderbirdlit.


You may choose to receive editorial feedback on your excerpt. We will provide marginal notes, as well as a two-page global letter discussing the strengths of the writing and the recommended focus for revision. While editorial feedback is inherently subjective, our suggestions are always actionable and encouraging. We aim to have feedback completed within twelve weeks from the close of the contest. Work that we critique is not eligible for submission to future CRAFT contests, but can be revised and resubmitted in our general queues for further consideration.


JOANNA ACEVEDO (she/they) is the Pushcart-nominated author of three books and two chapbooks. Her work has been seen across the web and in print, including Free State Review, The Rumpus, and The Adroit Journal. She received her MFA in fiction from New York University in 2021 and also holds degrees from Bard College and The New School. Find her on Twitter @jo_avocado.

MELISSA BENTON BARKER is the flash fiction section editor at CRAFT. A graduate of the MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles, her writing appears in Longleaf Review, Moon City Review, Wigleaf, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Best Small Fictions 2021. She has received Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations. She lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

ALYSE BURNSIDE is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She holds an MFA from University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Nation, The Believer, and elsewhere. She’s working on a book.

KYLE COCHRUN (he/him) is a writer living in Seattle, Washington. He is a contributing writer for PopMatters, where he writes features, interviews, and album reviews. His essays and creative nonfiction have appeared in The Akron AnthologyWatershed Review, Echo, and CRAFT. He received an MFA in creative writing from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts graduate program.

ALEXA DORAN recently completed her PhD in poetry at Florida State University. Her full-length collection DM Me, Mother Darling won the 2020 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize and was published in April 2021 (Bauhan). She is also the author of the chapbook Nightsink, Faucet Me a Lullaby (Bottlecap Press 2019). Look for work from Doran in recent or upcoming issues of PleiadesWitness, Salt Hill Journal, and Gigantic Sequins, among others.

BRANDON DUDLEY is the  author of Hazards of Nature: Stories, selected by Sigrid Nunez as the winner of the 2020 Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Chapbook Contest. His writing, interviews, and criticism have appeared in New South, The Millions, The Forge, Fiction Writers Review, North by Northeast 2, and others. He holds an MFA from the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. He lives in Maine with his wife and two sons. Find him on Twitter @brandondudley8.

ROSS FEELER’s fiction has appeared in Electric Literature‘s “Recommended Reading,” The Common, New South, Potomac Review, Story | Houston, Hypertext, and others. His novel-in-progress received the Marianne Russo Award from the Key West Literary Seminar and was a finalist for James Jones First Novel Award. He teaches English at Texas State University.

B. B. GARIN is a writer living in Buffalo, New York. Her echapbook, New Songs for Old Radios, is available from Wordrunner Press. Her work has appeared in Hawaii Pacific Review, Luna Station Quarterly, Palooka, 3rd Wednesday, Crack the Spine, and more. She is currently a prose reader and blog contributor for The Masters Review. She continues to improve her craft at GrubStreet Writing Center, where she has developed several short fiction pieces, as well as two novels. Connect with her online @bb_garin.

COURTNEY HARLER (she/her) is a queer writer, editor, and educator based in Las Vegas, Nevada. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe (2017) and an MA in English (Literature) from Eastern Washington University (2013). Courtney is currently editor in chief of CRAFT and editorial director for Discover New Art, and has read and written for UNT’s Katherine Anne Porter Prize, The Masters Review, Funicular Magazine, Reflex Fiction, and Chicago Literati in recent years. She also hosts the literary podcast PWN’s Debut Review, as well as teaches and edits for Project Write Now, a nonprofit writing studio in New Jersey. For her creative work, Courtney has been honored by support from Key West Literary Seminar, Writing By Writers, Community of Writers, Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, and Nevada Arts Council. Courtney’s work has been published in multiple genres in literary magazines around the world. Find her on Instagram @CourtneyHarler.

KATELYN KEATING (she/her) was the editor in chief of CRAFT from 2018 to 2021 and now serves as editor at large. She was a 2017 fellow of the LA Review of Books Publishing Workshop and has been on their faculty since 2018, overseeing PubLab, leading the magazine track as a program manager, and serving as the publisher coordinator for LITLIT: The Little Literary Fair. She is a production manager with Berrett-Koehler Publishers, and was the production and operations manager at Prospect Park Books until it left California in 2021. Her essays appear in Crab Orchard ReviewFlywayLunch TicketTahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere. Katelyn has an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles, where she worked for two years on Lunch Ticket, serving as editor in chief for issues 11 and 12. Find her on Twitter @katelyn_keating.

JILL KOLONGOWSKI writes the Substack Tiny True Stories and is also the author of the essay collection Life Lessons Harry Potter Taught Me (Ulysses Press, 2017). Her work also appears in Electric Lit, Insider, the Los Angeles Review of BooksBrevityRiver Teeth, and elsewhere. Her essays have won Sundog Lit’s First Annual Contest series and the Diana Woods Memorial Prize in Creative Nonfiction at Lunch Ticket, and she earned her MFA from St. Mary’s College of California. Jill teaches writing at the College of San Mateo, and lives in Northern California with her husband and daughter. Find her on Twitter @jillkolongowski.

VAL M. MATHEWS is a big-hearted, fun-loving editor who teaches courses in developmental editing for the University of California Berkeley Extension, Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, and the Editorial Freelancers Association in New York City. Val also freelances on the side and works as an editorial consultant for CRAFT and The Masters Review. Previously, she was an editor for The Wild Rose Press, a small traditional publishing house in New York. She earned an MA in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University and a BFA from the University of Georgia. Fun fact about Val: She’s been an FAA-certified flight instructor for over twenty-five years, and in the past, she flew Lear jets for a living.

GABRIEL MOSELEY is a writer and editor from Seattle, Washington. His work has appeared in The Masters ReviewNordic KulturStratus, and Alaska Airlines’ Alaska Beyond Magazine. He received an MFA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and certificates in both editing and literary fiction from the University of Washington. He has been a finalist for the Made at Hugo House Writing Fellowship, LitMag’s Virginia Woolf Award for Short Fiction, and the Haleakalā National Park Residency. He is a guest editor for The Masters Review. 

GAGE SAYLOR is the assistant director of creative writing at Oklahoma State University. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Passages NorthTampa ReviewCrab Creek ReviewIron Horse, and elsewhere. He has won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize at Nimrod and is a previous semifinalist for the Kurt Vonnegut Speculative Fiction Prize at North American Review. He received his MFA at McNeese State University, where he was awarded the Robert Olen Butler Prize for Fiction.

After retiring from full-time work, DAVID K. SLAY completed a two-year program of short fiction writing workshops in the University of California, Los Angeles, Writers’ Program. His short stories, flash fiction, and microfiction can be found in a group of diverse literary journals, including Door Is A Jar, Gold Man Review, ImageOutWrite, The Magnolia Review, Random Sample Review, Ginosko Literary Journal, American Writers Review, and others. Nonfiction craft articles are in CRAFT and Submittable’s “Content for Creatives,” and he has served as a guest editor for Vestal Review. He has been a submissions reader for CRAFT since 2019, and is currently an associate editor for the short fiction section.