Exploring the art of prose


CRAFT First Chapters Contest 2021


2021 CRAFT First Chapters Contest
Guest Judge: Masie Cochran of Tin House

Thank you to all the writers who sent first chapters to our 2021 CRAFT First Chapters Contest.

We are delighted to publish the winning entries in December. Congratulations to the winners, finalists, and honorable mentions.


First Place: Sam Simas, We the Liars
Second Place: Sena Moon, Familiar Strangers
Third Place: Leigh Camacho Rourks, When We Drowned


Vanessa Banigo, The Nigerwife
Catherine Carberry, Untitled
Catherine Con Morse, The Notes
Nia Forrester, Those Less Fortunate
C. Quintana, The Twisted Fate of La Media Luna
Steve Sanders, The Agreed Upon Facts
Kirsten Scott, Liberty Park
Amy Stuber, In a Dark Corner Shining
JJ Tan, Angels Unaware
Allison Torgan, Red State
John Vurro, Video Planet
Taylor Werner, What Empties As It Fills

The Rest of the Longlist

Shastri Akella, The Elephant Songs
Elspeth Hoare, The Horse Pond
Savannah Horton, Instructions for Affection
Sadie Kleinman, I Always Liked Dead People
Kristen Lowman, Arabian Eve
Jeff Martin, 86: A Life
Ilana Masad, Beings
Ellen Morris-Prewitt, In the Name of Mississippi
Gina Pfeffer-Mulligan, The Petticoat Instructor
Alejandro Puyana, Freedom Is a Feast
C. ranu (Carolyn Mikulencak), Where the Thin Winds Worry
Amaya Rivera, Call It Love
Nora Rodriguez-Camagna, Cinnamon Bread Under the Cherry Tree
Chaitali Sen, Ellora Roy
Grace Spulak, Loose On Earth
Martine van Bijlert, We Stay and We Go
Monica Wang, Productive Insecurity
Angel Zhang, The Light of Eternal Spring

Honorable Mentions

Claire Boswell, Sheila
Gloria J Brown-Marshall, Wicked Prayers
Jaime Campbell, Carriages
Lesley Dormen, Marriage Is Murder
Heather Harms, Little Black Holes
Jon Hickey, Big Chief
CJ, Landscape with Cattle
Keyoka Kinzy, The James Sisters
Jennifer Lee, The Translator
Lisa Lee, Top Girl
Carrie Muehle, Beauty for Ashes
Meghan O’Toole, Sundogs
Jennifer Raphael, Junior
Katie Robinson, I Hope You Remember Some Good Things Before You Go
James Stevens, It Ain’t Hard to Tell
Laura Yao, Mold
Na Zhong, My Mother’s Fiction

We’ll be back next summer for the 2022 CRAFT First Chapters Contest!

Masie Cochran is the Editorial Director at Tin House. Before coming to Tin House, she worked at InkWell Management Literary Agency in New York, New York.

Founded in 2010, The 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, copyediting, and one-on-one coaching. Our team is comprised of seasoned book editors, published authors, and former in-house editors, many of whom also edit for major publishing houses and independent presses. We’re based in Los Angeles, California, but work with writers from all over the world and at every stage of their careers. You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Beth Marshea is the owner and Lead Agent at Ladderbird Literary Agency. She has a BA in Literature and a Masters in Business Administration and is always looking for new and exciting ways to bring more diversity into publishing and beyond. Her tastes are wide ranging from Adult all the way to Picture Books in both fiction and nonfiction. Some the books she has championed include Adult fiction like Saving Ruby King and Becoming Sara King by Catherine Adel West, and  Everyman by M Shelly Conner; nonfiction like A Night at the Sweet Gum Head: A Decade of Drag, Drugs and Disco by Martin Padgett, YA like Strictly No Heroics by B.L. Radley, and picture books like The Leaping Laddoo by Harshita Jerath. What really compels her to take a project is a story with an urgency to be told. She wants stories from all communities that show new perspectives and allow honest voices to shine. Outside of agenting, Beth teaches writing in her local community with a focus on bringing reluctant writers and readers into the magical world of books.

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 towards 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.