Philadelphia Stories Selects 2016 Winner of National Short Story Contest

Magazine News

September 2016, Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Stories, a non-profit literary magazine, has chosen local author Kate Blakinger as the winner for its eighth annual Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction.

Board members pored over more than 300 submissions, narrowing the stories down to just 9 finalists which were then reviewed by renowned author and 2016 judge, Robin Black. Black chose Blakinger’s “The Hothouse Lounge,” saying she was impressed with how the story “knocked me down with its blade-sharp expressions of grief, of caring, of desire, all leaping out from the familiar feel of daily sadness, daily love, daily hope.”

This year’s second place winner is Dana De Greff, a freelance arts journalist and Master in Fine Arts candidate in fiction at University of Miami. Black said of her story “How to Make a Baseball Player Cry”: “This powerful response to Roberto Clemente’s life and tragic death has an energy to it and a heart as well that carried me through, engaged and moved, tangled in a respectfully revived sadness from many decades ago. A study in the need for and limits on empathy, ‘How To Make A Baseball Player Cry’ is a lyrical, affecting story that has stayed with me. Beautifully done.”

Third place is awarded to full-time author Charlie Watts, for his story “Found Wanting.” Black said of his winning piece: “Sometimes a stranger comes to town, and sometimes you are the stranger who steps into an unfamiliar place. ‘Found Wanting’ with its almost hallucinatory quality takes a man on a gritty journey from his life in powerful language and with unforgettable images, unforgettable lessons too in the tight circles people draw, sometimes unimaginably, around themselves. A terrifically absorbing story.”

The contest finalists (in no particular order) are:

  • Claire Luchette, “Tenders”
  • Robert Sullivan, “Short-Term Solutions to Uncomfortable Arm Syndrome”
  • Vanessa Brown, “Reckoning”
  • Diana Xin, “Some Kind of Grace”
  • William Pei, “Two Lives” and “Once a Cellist”


Blakinger will be honored at an awards dinner to be held at Rosemont College on Friday, October 7, 2016, followed by Philadelphia Stories’ annual Push to Publish Conference on Saturday, October 8, 2016. The annual conference will be held for on the campus of Rosemont College, which offers an MFA in Creative Writing and an M.A. in Publishing, and has actively supported the writing community through events like Push to Publish. Black will deliver the keynote address at the event.


Kate Blakinger lives in Philadelphia with her husband and son. Her short stories have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Harpur Palate, The Iowa Review, and other magazines. She holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she received the Meijer Postgraduate Fellowship. She has also received fellowships from the Elizabeth George Foundation, Jentel, the MacDowell Colony, and Penn State Altoona.

Dana De Greff grew up between Miami, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Cameroon and has taught English in Albacete, Spain and Patagonia, Chile. Currently, she is a Master in Fine Arts candidate in fiction at University of Miami. She also writes book reviews for The Miami Herald, is a freelance arts journalist, teaches poetry with O, Miami to children in Liberty City, and is working with Voice of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA/Voices) in community outreach.

Charlie Watts was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up on the campus of Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, and a family farm in Freedom, NH. He earned both his BFA (1986) and MFA (1992) from Brown University in Providence, RI, studying with writers including Meredith Steinbach, Robert Coover, John Hawkes, Edmund White, and Michael Ondaatje. Charlie, who returned to writing in 2013 after a long detour into communications consulting, has published work in Clerestory Journal and Carve magazine. He also has work forthcoming on The Drum, an online audio journal, and Narrative magazine. His story, Arrangements, won the 2015 Raymond Carver Short Story Contest. Charlie was also a finalist in the 2016 Hemingway Shorts contest sponsored by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park. He and his wife, a chaplain, have three grown children and live in Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

This annual national short fiction contest features a first place $2,000 cash award and invitation to an awards dinner on Friday, October 7th, on the campus of Rosemont College; a second place cash prize of $500; and third place cash prize of $250. The first place story will be published in the print issue of Fall 2016 of Philadelphia Stories; the second and third place winning stories will appear in the Fall 2016 online issue. The Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction is made possible by the generous support of the McGlinn and Hansma families.

For more on the Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction, go here

In Memoriam

Magazine News

Joe Drabyak, bookseller extraordinaire, past President of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, friend and mentor to many, sadly passed away on August 27th, 2010.

Joe was a supporter of PS by distributing the magazine at his store since we started 6 years ago. We are very sorry to hear about the loss to the local literary community, and our condolences go out to his friends and family.

He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten. We all pray he’s in a better place now, reading a “Joe Pick”, and making recommendations to all that are with him. Rest In Peace, Joe.

Arrangements for a memorial service are pending. We will post themtime and place as soon as they are finalized. Joe Drabyak, bookseller extraordinaire, past President of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, friend and mentor to many, sadly passed away on August 27th, 2010.

The person I spoke to at CCBMC said memories of and tributes to Joe Drabyak via email for possible future posting on his FACEBOOK page and for a keepsake book. You can e-mail these to

“PS Reads” Series Launches at Chester County Books!

Magazine News

We’re pleased to announce the launch of our latest endeavor — the PS Reads series — in which authors featured in The Best of Philadelphia Stories, Volume II take to the road and read at your favorite bookstore. Here’s a clip of Mitch Sommers reading from his short story, “Bando,” at our inaugural reading at Chester County Bookstore last Thursday. For more clips, feel free to visit the Philadelphia Stories YouTube channel. Or better yet, come out and see us at our next reading: Big Blue Marble on November 22!

Summer Reading at Robins by Christine Weiser

Magazine News

Today, we held our quarterly reading at Robins Bookstore, which we do to launch a new issue (the summer issue is hot off the presses now – click HERE to find free copies). It was a small group of readers, and they were all great.

Poet Eileen Moeller kicked off the reading. We’ve published her three times (no small feat with our particular poetry board!), and her reading was great, as always – funny, smart, insightful.

Next up was David Harris Ebenbach. We published David’s story “Shot” in our third issue, and we’re honored to publish another piece of his in our online issue (“The Forum” will be our July featured story). David managed to turn the story of a triple-X theater owner into a moving tale of loss and redemption. He’s working on a pornography-themed collection of stories, so stay tuned for steamy details.

I was happy to introduce Bill Connolly (whose poem “Highlights” appears in the summer issue) with the humble bio: Bill is an administrator from the Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional School District. Bill climbed on stage, saying how he was under-whelmed by his simple bio and he was honored to be included among such accomplished writers. That’s one of the things I love most about PS – when we have the chance to showcase both emerging as well as established writers. We’ve had many examples of writers whose work was first featured in PS, and they went on to great accomplishments. Our review system may not be perfect, but it’s so cool when we find gems like these.

Last up was poet Jason Jones, who said he liked his simple bio (Jason Jones is a graduate of Temple University. He lives and works in Philadelphia as an Editor for Taylor and Francs Group). Jason read his poem, “Physics” from the magazine, then recited three impressive works from memory.

I got home to some nice emails:

“What a great reading today — thanks so much for including me! Philadelphia Stories has now twice accepted some of my edgiest work, and I think it’s great you’re open to such things.” – David Harris Ebenbach

“Many thanks to all for your contributions to a wonderful event.  It was a honor to be included and share the microphone with such talented writers.” — Bill Connolly

I have to say – these are the kind of things that keep me going. It’s not always easy to find the 10-20 unpaid hours a week to keep PS alive, but when I go to these events, and people come up and thank Carla and me for the work we do (how often does THAT happen at your day job?), I remember that this is the most rewarding thing I do. Sure, not everyone’s so generous, and we get the occasional nasty emails (the most recent favorite: “take me off your fricking list you linguistic twit”), but for the most part, I’m proud to promote local writers and artists. Too often, Philly is lost in the cultural shadow of New York, and that’s a shame. We have some kick-ass talent here.