GREENVILLE—The North Carolina Literary Review received a record number of submissions for the 2016 Doris Betts Fiction Prize competition, sponsored by the North Carolina Writers’ Network, the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages of development. "The Anderson Kid" by Anita Collins has been selected for the $250 prize, and “Rhino Girl” by Taylor Brown won Second Place. Both stories will be published in the North Carolina Literary Review in 2017.
Collins lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and two children. The daughter of an Air Force sergeant, she lived in Utah, the Netherlands, Germany, and Florida before her family settled in Tennessee when she was eight. She has a degree in English from Vanderbilt University and works for the University of North Carolina as a Change Management Senior Analyst in the ITS Department. She began writing fiction a few years ago, and this is her first time submitting to the Betts competition. Her winning story will also be her first publication.
Brown was a finalist in the 2014 Doris Betts Fiction Prize competition, and his story “World Without End” was published in NCLR Online 2015. He was raised in Georgia, graduated from the University of Georgia, and now lives in Wilmington. He is founder and editor-in-chief of BikeBound, a website for custom motorcycle enthusiasts. His debut novel Fallen Land was published by St. Martin’s earlier this year.
NCLR Fiction Editor Liza Wieland selected these two stories from twenty finalists, saying of the winning story, “I admire ‘The Anderson Kid’ for its clean and emotionally honest writing. The narrator, a diver who is working to find the body of a drowned swimmer, is both moved by his task and thoroughly businesslike. It’s this mix of compassion and focus that drew me to this story, and to the way the writer creates suspense even though we know what he will find. Through the lens of the diver’s work, literally through his mask, we see the family and friends of Evan Anderson, as well as the rest of the dive team. We become the diver; we experience his absolute need to see, even though we are terrified by what we will find.”
The second-place story also includes a “tough and compassionate” character, according to Wieland, who calls “Rhino Girl” “a real achievement, a story that explores a cause but does not sacrifice character for politics. In lush, evocative language (and in less than twenty pages), the writer accomplishes the depth and breadth of a novel, mixing present and past, dreams and vivid reality, danger, suspense, and the complications of love and lust. Malaya, a Filipino raised in America and an Iraq veteran, is on the trail of men poaching rhino horns in a starkly beautiful Mozambique. She is deeply compelling, part Lizbeth Salander, but mostly a thoroughly original creature.”
A record 185 stories were submitted to this year’s competition, “That’s 20 percent more than last year, about 50 percent more than the preceding several years,” reports NCLR Editor Margaret Bauer, who attributes the increase to “the networking skills of the North Carolina Writers’ Network.” She adds, “Receiving regular announcements about opportunities for writers is just one of the many benefits of membership. We are proud to be affiliated with the Network and happy to manage this competition for them. We have gotten the majority of the fiction published in our pages through this competition since 2006.”
The other finalists are Phil Bowie of New Bern for “Pocket Dream,” Tess Boyle of Burlington for “Manzanar and The Coincidences,” Mason Boyles of Carolina Beach for “Aid Station,” Sheryl Cornett of Chapel Hill for “Summer Solstice,” Kathryn Etters Lovatt of Camden for “Hatchlings,” Anne Felty of Davis for “Relics,” Paul Kurzeja of Charlotte for “To Relieve the Pain,” Vicki Lane of Marshall for “On the Coast of You Are Here,” Monica (Nikki) Leahy of Charlotte for “Making Beds,” Ray Morrison of Winston-Salem for “Return to Harmony,” Stephany Newberry-Davis of Biltmore Lake for “The Seahorse,” Rayford Norman of Fancy Gap for “Sea Change,” Brian Ownbey of Raleigh for “Lucky,” Patricia Poteat of Asheville for “Swimming Lessons,” Sherry Shaw of Gastonia for “Hyacinth Drive,” Denise Sherman of Raleigh for “The Circle is Unbroken”, and Chris Verner of Salisbury for “White Christmas.”
Fiction Editor Liza Wieland is the author of three collections of short stories and four novels, the most recent one, Land of Enchantment, published in 2015. The annual Doris Betts Fiction Prize honors the late novelist and short story writer Doris Betts. For additional information about the North Carolina Writers’ Network, visit www.ncwriters.org.
Published since 1992 by East Carolina University and the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, the North Carolina Literary Review is publishing its twenty-fifth print issue this summer.
A two-year subscription to NCLR will include the 2016 issue, featuring the winner from the 2015 Betts competition, as well as the 2017 issue, featuring the winning story from this year’s competition. For more information, go to http://www.nclr.ecu.edu and click on SUBSCRIPTIONS.