Exploring the art of prose


CRAFT First Chapters Contest

The CRAFT First Chapters Contest for unpublished first chapter excerpts of book-length fiction, up to 5,000 words, is an occasional contest. Three winners are selected by a guest judge, with $2,800 and publication awarded.


2019: Naomi Huffman
2021: Masie Cochran

Image shows a center aisle on an airplane with blue seats and a white ceiling; title card for "Vegaboy" by Leah Bailly.

Vegaboy by Leah Bailly

December 16, 2022

“Don’t live with your hand on the stove.” —Dave Hickey   Emergency Exit When you were barely one year old, I fled to Las Vegas. It’s not like I walked away from my first hit and straight to McCarran. I…

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Image shows two darkened Skee-Ball courts; title card for "Angels and Bears" by Sarah Harris Wallman.

Angels and Bears by Sarah Harris Wallman

December 9, 2022

“Only you can prevent….” —Smokey   LYLAS The ice cream truck is coming. Get moving. Raleigh yanks a drawer: a thatch of utensils skids toward the light, but no loose change. The next drawer resists her tug—promising! Maybe the previous…

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Image shows peaches in a white linen cloth; title card for "Frenzied, Desperate Birds" by Ra'Niqua Lee.

Frenzied, Desperate Birds by Ra’Niqua Lee

December 2, 2022

  MAY Grandma Robbie led Anthem heart-center of the peaches, a quiet intersection between four groves, perfect as the holy cross. The trees weren’t much taller than Anthem. Tall as the big sister she never had. Growing up an only…

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We the Liars by Sam Simas

December 17, 2021

  1997 James James steadied the table as Augie reached into the hazy air to disarm the smoke detector. The hem of Augie’s new sweatshirt lifted away from his stomach, and James glimpsed his hip bones, the bumps of his…

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Familiar Strangers by Sena Moon

December 10, 2021

  CH1 Grandpa Choi once sat me down and said, you’ve got a face that begs to study. “Jang Mi-in, you’ve got a face that needs education.” Needs. There wasn’t wiggle room in his vernacular. I knew what he meant;…

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We Drowned by Leigh Camacho Rourks

December 3, 2021

  PROLOGUE: RANA Rana cannot speak. She’s eight years old, but Rana is incapable of yelling out to her sister that a smell—a smell not quite like gasoline spilling from the undercarriage of a rusted out four-wheeler, a smell darker…

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Paradise Pawn by Meg Richardson

February 28, 2020

  We make a ton of money off Christmas in July, because customers have too much hope. It’s not their fault. Me and Rubina feed it to them. We decorate Paradise Pawn with tinsel and lights. We smile and hold…

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Little Squirrel by Tim Hickey

February 21, 2020

  But where exactly had it gone wrong this day? Probably when my brother-in-law-to-be, Ward DiBaptista, shouted at me to move the Tahoe so it wouldn’t rut the yard, or maybe just after that, when my fiancée’s entire family made…

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Empire of Dirt by Jonathan Bohr Heinen

February 14, 2020

  That morning, when they set out to follow the fence line that surrounded their property, Sarah Billard didn’t expect her daddy to stop at the southern section. She could hardly recall the last time seed had taken root there—all…

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