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2023 Contest Winners

South 85 Journal is honored to announce the winners of the 2023 Julia Peterkin Flash Fiction and Poetry Literary Award winners:

2023 Flash Fiction Award Winner

Winning story: “As To Your Comment That It Could Have Been Worse” by Caridad Moro-Gronlier.

Moro-Gronlier is the author of Tortillera (TRP 2021), winner of The TRP Southern Poetry Breakthrough Series and the chapbook Visionware (FLP 2009). She is a Contributing Editor for Grabbed: Poets and Writers Respond to Sexual Assault (Beacon Press, 2020) and Associate Editor for SWWIM Every Day an online daily poetry journal.

Judge’s comments: This piece is both technically sophisticated and emotionally resonant. The author creates an inner rhythm with spare, lyric language and the repetition of the word “worse.” Then, as the story progresses, the unfolding events become progressively worse. What begins as a bad date becomes a violent assault. The narrator’s revelation at the end saddens me, but also enlightens me. The narrator feels anger after 30 years, yet she directs that anger at herself. This surprised me at first, but it reinforces the guilt and self-blame that victims of sexual assault never truly get over. The narrator turns the blame and anger inward, as if sparing the reader of her feelings, which makes me feel even more for the narrator. She’s spent her whole adult life sparing others of the feelings she’s kept bottled up, and that is the saddest repercussion of all.

~ Susan Tekulve, Flash Fiction Judge

Flash Fiction Finalists

First Runner Up: “Incident at Shady Acres” by Luanne Castle
Second: “Devil Child” by Sahil Mehta
Third: “Alley Brats” by Kristian O’Hare

2023 Poetry Award Winner

Winning Poem: “A Black Poet Looks Back at his Boyhood” by Oak Morse.

Morse lives in Houston, Texas, where he teaches creative writing and theater and leads a youth poetry troop, the Phoenix Fire-Spitters. He was the winner of the 2017 Magpie Award for Poetry in Pulp Literature, a Finalist for the 2023 Honeybee Poetry Award and a Semi-Finalist for the 2020 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. A Warren Wilson MFA graduate, Oak has received Pushcart Prize nominations, fellowships from Brooklyn Poets, Twelve Literary Arts, Cave Canem’s Starshine and Clay as well as a Stars in the Classroom honor from the Houston Texans. His work appears in Black Warrior Review, Obsidian, Tupelo, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Nimrod,, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, among others.

Judge’s Comments: This poem proves the immense power of plain language honed and polished, built for conveying complexity and nuance. This well-sustained narrative of the teacher’s past and students’ present pleases both ear and brain, not to mention the heart. This is a love poem to, somehow, every person in it.”

~ Suzanne Cleary, Poetry Judge

Poetry Finalists

First Runner Up: “The Baby Cure” by Emma Bolden
Second: “Restoration” by J. A. Lagana
Third: “Cleveland School Fire” by Ann Chaldwell Humphries
Honorable Mention: “Peonies in Winter” by Lisa Higgs

The winning selections for this year’s contest will be published in the winter issue of South 85 Journal published in mid-December.

Summer Literary Contest Now Open

The 2023 Julia Peterkin Literary Award is currently open for submissions.

The winning selection in each category (poetry and flash fiction) will receive $500 and publication in the Fall / Winter issue of South 85 Journal.

Contest finalists will also be published.

This year’s poetry judge is the award-winning poet Suzanne Cleary.

Suzanne Cleary’s Crude Angel, her fourth full-length poetry collection, was published in November 2018 by BkMk Press (U of Missouri-Kansas City). Beauty Mark (BkMk 2013) won the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, and also received the Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize and the Patterson Award for Literary Excellence. Keeping Time (2002) and Trick Pear (2007) were published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Poets Marilyn Nelson and Robert Cording selected her collection Blue Cloth as winner of the 2004 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival chapbook competition.

Our flash fiction judge for this year is the award-winning prose writer Susan Tekluve.

Susan Tekulve is author of Second Shift: Essays and In the Garden of Stone, winner of the 2012 South Carolina First Novel Prize and a 2014 Gold IPPY Award. She’s also published a short story collection, Savage Pilgrims, and two fiction chapbooks, Washday and My Mother’s War Stories. Her work appears in  Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, The Georgia Review, Connecticut Review, The Louisville Review, Puerto del Sol, New Letters, and Shenandoah.


Spring / Summer Issue, 2023


Awful Big, Awful Good by Matt Izzi
Dead Cats by Patrick Strickland
Living with Wolves by Christie Marra
Revisionist History 101 by Mike Herndon
The Loneliness Cure by Mark Brazaitis

Creative Nonficiton

I Remember by Linda Briskin
Marking Time and Place by Alice Lowe
Person. Place. Prey. Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime. by Honey Rand
To the South are Banana Plantations by Harris Walker


a different sort of blues by Dana Tenille Weekes
biographies by David Galloway
Charisma came to me like a rubber doll by Susan Michele Coronel
How to Pick a Padlock by Patrick Wilcox
Most people have only one skeleton by Nadine Ellsworth-Moran
Magnolia by Greg Nelson
Mapping by Ellen Roberts Young
Roswell Mills: July 5, 1864 by Ann Malaspina
The Seagull that Melted by Kevin Pilkington
Uncle Bob Told Me by Christina Baumis
Yes, Fallen by Gordon W. Mennenga
The Dollmaker: Why You Should Have Read This Book Long Before Now by Jody Hobbs Hesler
Book Reviews
Fiction: The Woods of Fannin County by Janisse Ray, Review by John Krieg
Nonficton: Benjamin Banneker and Us by Rachel Webster, Review by Olivia Fishwick
Poetry: Through Our Water Like Fingers, a Review of Millicent Borges Accardi’s Quarantine Highway by Robert Manaster
Summer Issue Featured Image: SkyOceanBirds by Linda Briskin

Linda Briskin is a writer and photographer. She is intrigued by the permeability between the remembered and the imagined, and the ambiguities in what we choose to see. The fluidity between the natural and the constructed fascinates her. Her focus, then, is on inventing images rather than capturing them. Her photographs have been exhibited and published widely.

South 85 Journal

South 85 is Open for Submissions

South 85 Journal is excited to announce that we are open for general submissions until April 15, 2023. We consider all quality work and are especially interested in writing that demonstrates a strong voice and sense of place.
As the online literary journal for the Converse University Low-Residency MFA program, we are entering our 11th year of publication. Our editorial staff is comprised of experienced readers, writers, and editors who carefully consider every work of writing they receive.
We publish two issues online each year: the summer issue, which is published June 15th, and the winter “contest” issue–which features each year’s Julia Peterkin Literary Award winner–published December 15th.
We also nominate excellent works for the Pushcart Prize and the annual Best of the Net Anthology.
Past contributors include: Dustin Brookshire, Luanne Castle, Anthony D’Aries, Benjamin Garcia, Caroline Goodwin, Ann Chadwell Humphries, Justin Jannise, Eric Rasmussen, Katherine DiBella Seluja, Chris Stuck, and many more.
We published two stellar issues in 2022: The summer issue celebrating our 10th anniversary and the winter issue highlighting this year’s Julia Peterkin Literary Award winners and finalists in flash fiction and poetry. You can read them here:

Summer 2022: 10th Anniversary Celebration

Winter 2022: The Contest Issue

For more information and to submit your work for consideration, visit our Submittable page

Submit Here

The Winter Contest Issue

Flash Fiction Winner

Yellow Bird by Shannon Bowring

Flash Fiction Finalists

Paraiso by Donna Obeid

El Roca  by Hayley Nivelle

Santa Monica by Wynne Hungerford

Poetry Winner

Feathers and Wedges: A Golden Shovel by Karen Kilcup

Poetry Finalists

If I Get Alzheimer’s: Instructions for My Wife by Justin Hunt

Elixir for Knowing When To Surrender by Katherine DiBella Seluja

a mother mulls her son’s self-injuries by Dean Gessie

2022 Best of the Net Nominations


South 85 Journal is pleased to announce the nomination for the following works, which appear in the Summer 2022 issue, for this year’s Best of the Net Anthology.

The Best of the Net is an awards-based anthology designed to grant a platform to a diverse and growing collection of writers and publishers who are building an online literary landscape that seeks to break free of traditional publishing. This space has been created to bring greater respect to the continually expanding world of exceptional digital publishing. 


Imagine a Raw Egg  by Katerina Stoykova
Junk Trees  by Kristen Rembold
Voracious and Vegetarian  by Ivy Raff
A Faint Ticking  by Roger Pfingston
Prolapse: Etymology  by Lisa Allen
Open/Close/Open by Marjorie Maddox


Drenched  by Emily Fontenot

Girls Night  by Anthony D’Aries


Otherwise  by Michael Levan
10 Ways to Mother  by Madelaine Gnewski

Interested in a Writing Residency? Consider the Kimmel Harding Nelson.

Kimmel Harding Nelson Center

South 85 Journal is happy to present the first in a series of interviews featuring directors and administrators of various writing residencies to give our readers a peek into how these programs are organized and facilitated. Or first interview is with Holly McAdams Olson who is the current director of the Kimmel Harding Nelson Artist Residency in Nebraska City, Nebraska, and welcomes both visual artists and writers. Their twice yearly application deadlines are March 1 and September 1. You can apply here.

Tell us a little about the origins of the Kimmel Harding Nelson Artist Residency.

The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts is a program of the Richard P Kimmel and Laurine Kimmel Charitable Foundation. Laurine Kimmel was a well-known watercolor artist from Nebraska City. The residency program continues her and her husband Richard’s legacy of supporting the arts in Southeast Nebraska.

KHN is located in a unique Prairie-style residential complex built in 1969 by another established Nebraska City couple, Peg and Karl Nelson. Mrs. Nelson’s maiden name was Harding, and the complex was built on the site of a past Harding home. In honoring this history, the program was named the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and opened as an artist residency program in 2001.

What makes the KHN residency distinct from others?

KHN is known for its serenely quiet and homey feel. Just as the Nelsons designed the multi-unit luxury home to facilitate both independent living and ease of socializing, the facility’s architecture provides a superb layout and an intimately spacious setting for a small-cohort artist residency program. The facilities support up to five residents, generally in the mix of two visual artists, two writers, and one composer.

Main Gallery

Residency program models are as varied as their facilities and locations. While some programs are known for their chef-prepared meals and daily networking opportunities, KHN provides uninterrupted time and minimal obligations so that each individual can deep-dive into their own rhythms of work and exploration.

Nebraska City is a vibrant rural town with just over 7,000 people. As the home of Arbor Day, the town’s tree-lined brick streets, small museums, local shops, and sprawling parks provide many opportunities for residents to explore local attractions without the burden of too many events and “places to be” to detract their focus from their creative work.

What is your role in the organization today?

I have been the Program Director since 2017. I oversee all aspects of the residency program, our regional exhibition program, and the Kimmel Permanent Collection, which comprises over 250 visual artworks, 200 literary works, and 75 musical works (albums or scores) donated to the center by former residents.

What do you find most rewarding about your work with KHN?

I had fallen into grant writing and development work before coming to KHN five years ago. I often joke that after years of building case statements for why people should want to support, talk to, and listen to artists, now, I just get to. Taking part in boundless cross-disciplinary conversations between visual artists, writers, and composers is the most rewarding part of my job. As much as I love art of all varieties, even more, I love hearing artists talk about what they do and why. Considerations such as composition, design, and character development, as well as the hustle and logistics of piecing together a career, are both unique and universal for all media and disciplines. I just love the “aha” moments for myself and others when one individual’s work or process spurs someone of a different discipline to say, “huh, I never thought of it that way before. Say more”.

What about the residency most surprises writers who attend?

KHN is their first experience in Nebraska or the Midwest for many of our residents. Most report that the residency, our facilities, and their experiences with the local community exceed their expectations. For writers especially, we repeatedly hear that although time went faster than they had expected, their productivity exceeded their goals. In hindsight, many resident writers have stated that each week at KHN seemed the equivalent of a month’s worth of productivity in their daily lives.

Autumn in the Midwest

When and how do writers and artists apply?

We host two application cycles each year: March 1st and September 1st. The March deadline determines awards for the second half of the current year (July – December), and the September deadline determines the first half of the following year (January – June). All applications must be submitted through our online application portal (via Slideroom), and there is a $35 fee to apply. Writers submit up to 10 poems totaling no more than 30 pages, or two stories, essays, or book chapters totaling no more than 7,500 words; a résumé; two artist statements; and contact information for two references. Additional guidelines can be found on our website ( Writing applications are always our largest pool of applications. We generally receive about 100-120 writing applications each deadline and award approximately fifteen, two- to eight-week writing residencies each session.

What makes you laugh?

My husband would tell you that I do. I have an extremely dry and punny sense of humor, so often, other people in the room only awkwardly laugh because I am laughing. Or they just roll their eyes.


Holly McAdams Olson joined KHN as Director in February 2017. She holds a BFA in Ceramics from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as well as a BA in Arts Management and a Master of Business Administration from Bellevue University. Prior to joining KHN, Holly established her love for supporting artists and cultivating the Arts in Omaha, working at The Union for Contemporary Art, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and as a former board member of WhyArts? Inc. Holly lives in Union, Nebraska.

Summer Poetry and Flash Fiction Contest Underway

Submissions are now open for the Julia Peterkin Literary Awards in Flash Fiction and Poetry.

Established in 1998 by the Creative Writing program at Converse College, the Julia Peterkin Award is a national contest honoring both emerging and established  writers. The award is named for Converse graduate Julia Mood Peterkin, whose 1929 novel,  Scarlet Sister Mary, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in literature.

South 85 Journal seeks submissions of unpublished flash fiction of 850 words or fewer and previously unpublished poems of 50 lines or fewer.  We are especially interested in stories and poems that demonstrate a strong voice and/or a sense of place, but consider all quality writing.

The winning selection in each category will be awarded $500 and publication in the December issue of South 85 Journal. Contest finalists will also be selected and published alongside the winning selection.  Submissions are read blind by an outside judge.

Judges for this year’s contest are Cary Holladay for flash fiction and Ashley M. Jones for poetry.

Cary Holladay has published six short story collections, including Horse People, The Quick-Change Artist, and most recently, Brides in the Sky, as well as two novels and over 100 short stories and essays in journals and anthologies, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Arkansas Review, Five Points, The Georgia Review, The Hudson Review, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Sewanee Review, Southern Review, and Tin House. Her awards include an O. Henry Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is Professor Emeritus at the University of Memphis. She lives in Virginia.

Submit Flash Fiction Here

Ashley M. Jones is Poet Laureate of the state of Alabama (2022-2026). She received an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University (FIU), where she was a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellow. She is the author of three poetry collections: REPARATIONS NOW! (Hub City Press, 2021); dark // thing (Pleiades Press, 2019), winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry; and Magic City Gospel (Hub City Press, 2017), winner of the silver medal in poetry in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. Her poems and essays appear or are forthcoming in many journals and anthologies, including CNN, the Academy of American Poets, Poetry magazine, Tupelo Quarterly, Prelude, and The Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, among others.

Submit Poetry Here


Someone to Clean

by Walter Cummins

When the hospice nurse came down into the living room to tell Mason that Virginia had died, his first thought was to call Lila and ask her to clean.   Even as he followed the nurse back up the steps to the guest room, he wondered why of all things that notion came into his mind when he had to inform his children, some friends, and then the funeral home.  He hardly knew Lila, rarely saw her during the ten years she had arrived once a week to scrub and polish for Virginia.  She had been there the past Monday, sitting on the edge of Virginia’s bed, speaking softly.  From the hallway, Mason, working at home, had watched Virginia gaunt and ashen, barely nodding.  Then the nurse came, and Lila left without even dusting.

The nurse was a sturdy woman, hair cropped short, reading glasses dangling from a chain. At the doorway, she touched his arm, eyes soft with sympathy, but said nothing, just gestured toward the bed where she had pulled the covers up to Virginia’s chin. His wife’s mouth was open, jaw contorted as if she had made one last gasp for breath and froze in the midst of it. Had she wanted him to call Lila? Were those her last words, gasped to the nurse because he wasn’t there to hear? He shook his head, aware that he was being foolish.

Mason phoned the children, miles away, forewarned and awaiting his message.   He called the two daughters and a son in the order of their ages, the way he always did in an attempt not to pick favorites.  They had visited separately a month ago, spending time alone with their mother, saying their goodbyes, and Mason gave them privacy.  But despite the doctor’s predictions Virginia had lingered, and Mason put off sharing his own farewell, wanting more time as he rehearsed the words in his head, not believing he would ever have to speak them.

This night the conversations with his children were brief, his gulp of hesitation and then, “She’s gone.”  Soft sobs from both daughters despite the inevitable.  He could feel them squeezing their phones, groping for words.  He promised to give them details about the funeral tomorrow.  “All right,” they told him, both of them speaking in the same tone of voice.   It struck him how alike they had always sounded.  His son asked the exact time his mother had died, and that struck Mason as odd.  He hadn’t thought to look at his watch.  The nurse would know.   She was writing on forms in the next room, giving him privacy, but he could hear the tap of her pen.

While he waited for the undertakers, alone, the nurse gone to make another visit, he wondered if he really should call Lila, this stranger whose name had popped into his head. But she wasn’t a stranger to Virginia, who spoke of her often, recounting their weekly conversations, shaking her head at the endless series of miseries in Lila’s life. For all those years the day Lila was due to clean, his wife had left her work at the shop for an hour to unlock the door and talk over coffee before Lila began her chores.

“Do you consider her a friend?” he had asked Virginia once.

The question seemed to surprise her,  “I never thought of it that way, but I suppose she is.”

The word “suppose” echoed in Mason’s memory as he opened a kitchen drawer and searched through Virginia’s address book, realizing he didn’t know Lila’s last name.  But there was her number, under L, as if Virginia had not known either.

[Lately when sorrows come]

by Susan Laughter Meyers

                                                —with a line from Sappho

Spring 2012

Lately when sorrows come—fast, without warning—
whipping their wings down the sky,
I know to let them.
Not inviting them, but allowing each
with a deep breath as if inhaling a wish I can’t undo.

Some days the sky is so full of sorrows
they could be mistaken for shadows of unnamed
gods flapping the air with their loose black sleeves:
the god of head-on collisions,
the god of amputated limbs,
the god of I’ll-dress-you-in-mourning.

Is the buzz in the August trees,
that pulsing husk of repetition, an omen?
I hear it build to a final shaking. I hear it build
louder and louder, then nothing.
Like a long, picaresque novel that’s suddenly over.
Like the last inning of kickball until the rain.

What falls from the sky is not always rain
or any kind of weather. Call it precipitous.
I’m fooling myself, of course. Wearing sorrow
is nothing like skin shedding water.
It’s more like the weight of a cloak of crows.

And yet the sun still shines on the honey locust
arching its fringe over grass. Lit, too,
the pasture and its barbwire strung from post
to leaning post. See how the stump by the road
is rotting and how the small yellow leaves, twirling,
catch light on their way to the ground.

Susan Laughter Meyers, of Givhans, SC, is the author of Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press), winner of the inaugural SC Poetry Book Prize, the SIBA Book Award for Poetry, and the Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Her poetry has also appeared in The Southern ReviewBeloit Poetry Journal, and other journals, as well as Poetry Daily, and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry column. Her blog is at