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 Comacho Rourks, When We Drowned


Vanessa Banigo, The Nigerwife

Catherine Carberry, Untitled

Catherine Con Morse, The Notes

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

Marie Williams (Nia Forrester), Those Less Fortunate

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

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

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.