Exploring the art of fiction


CRAFT First Chapters Contest


2019 CRAFT First Chapters Contest

Guest Judge: Naomi Huffman of MCDxFSG and FSG Originals



In order to carefully consider each entry to this contest while respecting the time of our readers, we’ve had to extend our timeline. We’d anticipated sending the shortlist of finalists to Naomi Huffman by October 15, and announcing the winners by the end of November. We now anticipate having the shortlist to Naomi in early December, with results announced in January, and winning excerpts publishing in February and/or March. Entrants will be updated at each stage, and work that is not advancing will be released as quickly as possible.

Additionally, we’re happy to share we’ve been able to increase the grand prize from $2,000 to $2,500.

We thank you for your understanding, and again for your support.


Thank you to all of our submitters who sent excerpts to the contest! We are loving reading your work and can’t wait to share results with the world this winter.

Our plan:

All entrants will be contacted at each stage. We will have a longlist decided this fall. The shortlist of finalists will be sent to Naomi Huffman, with decisions made and the three winning excerpts publishing this winter.


The writers of the top three first chapters will receive:
  • Winner: $2,000 award and a manuscript critique of the novel or novella, up to 100K words, by The Artful Editor
  • Runners-up: $500 and $300 award respectively for the second and third place finalists
  • Agent review of the top three entries by Samantha Fingerhut of Compass Talent—Samantha will offer feedback on the first twenty-five pages of the project and accompanying query letters
  • Publication of the top three excerpts in CRAFT, each with an introduction by Naomi Huffman, and an Author’s Note (craft essay) to accompany the excerpt by each of the writers


Naomi Huffman is an editor and digital director at MCDxFSG and FSG Originals. Formerly, she ran the small press Curbside Splendor. In 2014, she established Book Fort, an organization that advocates for public literary spaces and collaborates with the annual Pitchfork Music Festival. Her work has appeared in BookForum, SSENSE, The Creative Independent, Chicago Tribune, Bookslut, Newcity, and elsewhere.


Samantha Fingerhut joined Compass Talent after teaching high school English in New York City public schools, with prior roles and internships at Chalberg & Sussman literary agency, The Susan Golomb Literary Agency, and the New Press. She is also a reader for One Story. Samantha is looking for literary fiction, speculative fiction and thrillers with a literary bent, and narrative nonfiction.


Compass Talent represents authors of literary and commercial fiction; upmarket non-fiction, including memoir, journalism, history, science, and cookbooks; and a select list of middle grade and YA. The agency has represented numerous bestsellers, including Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, Methland by Nick Reding, and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Bryan Mealer and William Kamkwamba, among others.


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.