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Pushcart Prize XLI

The Fifth Wednesday Journal editors are happy to announce the following writers have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for work published in our magazine in 2015. If selected their work will appear in the 2016 edition of Pushcart Prize XLI, due out in November 2016.

Joanne Diaz “Crossing Tsing Ma Bridge” Fall 2015 Issue 17

Joanne Diaz  “Why I Have Not Written Any of My Poems” Fall 2015 Issue 17

Maria Kuznetsova “The Foreigner” Spring 2015 Issue 16

Roberto Loiederman “The Roadblock” Spring 2015 Issue 16

Nicole Simonsen “Almost” Spring 2015 Issue 16

Rebecca Thomas “Surviving the Postseason” Spring 2015 Issue 16

We also send Fifth Wednesday Journal with our recommendations for recognition to the following popular anthologies.

Best American Essays
Best American Mystery Stories
Best American Nonrequired Reading
Best American Poetry
Best American Short Stories
Best of the West
Pen / O. Henry Prize

We welcome comments and names of additional anthologies that publish prize essays, stories, and poetry selected from American literary magazines.


Editor's Prize 2015

Each year we ask an established artist in his or her field to select the recipient of our Editor’s Prize in Fiction and Poetry. The field is limited to work published in Fifth Wednesday Journal. The author of the selected work receives a modest monetary award. The winners this year were chosen from work published in the fall 2014 and spring 2015 issues.


Angie Estes“Fabric” by Angie Estes (FWJ Spring 2015) was chosen for the 2015 Editor’s Prize. Estes is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Enchantée. Her previous book, Tryst,was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, an NEA Fellowship, and the Alice Fay di Castagnola Prize from the Poetry Society of America.

Here is what Anna Leahy wrote about this poem: From its first tercet, “Fabric” wraps the reader in texture and asks us to move our mouths around the words that are the fabric of the poem and that are the images of the title’s fabric. The first stanza ends with a “sprig,” which echoes into the second tercet: “lining: linen printed with red sprigs.” Just when the reader is immersed in the imagery, a shift occurs, and the poem goes bold and broad, with a ponderous, italicized statement and a widening to a historical moment of London in the eighteenth century. Nearing the end, we glimpse the stockyard and the Stockyard Inn, the repetition and juxtaposition an uncomfortable yet true image. The tercets continue to parse the connections, pushing us toward the next inevitable surprise. By the end, many things become like fabric: the sky, the child’s parka with its fur trim, the fence. Angie Estes, whose most recent book earned the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, has accomplished a great deal in this short poem, as this poem, like fabric, becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Leahy also recognized an honorable mention: Special mention goes to Karie Friedman’s poem, “Digging a Trench to Divert Snow Melt and Thinking of Gary Snyder” (FWJ, Spring 2015), for its deft use of the second person, couplets, and the questioning end. Each of these poetic techniques presents opportunities and challenges for a poet. They come together extraordinarily well in this poem. It is full of mud and muck and, ultimately, full of joy.”

Our judge for the 2015 Editor’s Prize in Poetry

Anna LeahyAnna Leahy's book Constituents of Matter won the Wick Poetry Prize, and her poems and essays appear widely, most recently in The Weeklings, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Nimrod. She teaches in the MFA and BFA programs at Chapman University, where she curates the Tabula Poetica reading series and edits the international journal TAB. She co-writes Lofty Ambitions blog at and had a coauthored photo essay in Fifth Wednesday Journal.


Nicole SimonsenNicole Simonsen’s first published story appeared in the November 2013 issue of Talking Writing. Since then, her work has appeared in multiple publications, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Full Grown People, and Bartleby Snopes. When she is not writing or taking care of her children, she teaches English at a public high school in Sacramento, California. The town of Locke, about forty minutes from her home, is a favorite getaway.

Here is what Jonis Agee had to say: "Almost" by Nicole Simonsen (FWJ Spring 2015) is a story that expands in all directions, leading the reader from one mystery to another, suspending time even, as Maria finally confronts the ineffable and the ultimate mystery: our own nature. Given the task of bringing happiness and relief to her sister Yazmin in her final dying days, Maria seeks every possibility, from jokes to shared girlhood secrets and exploits, until she brings a bag of fortune cookies to the hospice room and the two experience a momentary lifting of spirits. The scope of the story is achieved by the agility with which the narrative and language shift between the comedic and the tragic, embedding the most potent questions of our existence, for instance, in remembrance of the nuns said to be Brides of Christ in their Catholic school days: “The nuns are, like, his harem . . . that old polygamist! He would marry anyone.”

And later: “When the fortune was a good one, Yazmin would put the bits of cookie onto her tongue and let them dissolve like communion wafers.”

What is achieved in the give and take between the sisters is a sense of urgency as both struggle to stave off the inevitable. In lesser hands, the metaphors and symbols would become heavy-handed and drag the prose down, but Simonsen has an extraordinary touch, with active, energetic pacing that reflects the rising grief that Maria rushes to avoid. The title itself drips with a delicious irony that does double duty as gallows humor and as mantra for the ultimate question that confronts Maria.

In an unexpected move, Maria, seeking to replenish the fortune cookies, the only food her sister will eat, visits an historic Chinese settlement in her city. There, she directly experiences frozen time and is finally offered a choice which defines her sister’s fate and her own identity. While seeking to stop time and save her sister, Maria must admit the truth about her own desires and her own beliefs. Simonsen reminds us that when we face mortality, we are also confronting ourselves and the choice we make to endure the motion of living that can only bring us to the stasis of death and the mystery afterwards. Thus, she has written a story that resonates with profundity and originality.”

Our judge for the 2015 Editor’s Prize in Fiction

Jonis AgeeJonis Agee was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and grew up in Nebraska and Missouri, places where many of her stories and novels are set. She was educated at The University of Iowa (BA) and The State University of New York at Binghamton (MA, PhD). She is Adele Hall Professor of English at The University of Nebraska — Lincoln, where she teaches creative writing and twentieth-century fiction. She is the author five novels, five collections of short fiction, and two books of poetry. Her forthcoming novel is The Night Horse (William Morrow, 2016).

She owns twenty pairs of cowboy boots, some of them works of art, loves the open road, and believes that ecstasy and hard work are the basic ingredients of life and writing.

Photograph courtesy of Steve Kowalski

Enter Our Essay Competition

Attention Writers and Editors: To encourage you to voice your thoughts, FWJ is offering a reward for the best short essay of 800 words or fewer on the subject of small literary magazines and the advance toward a digital world for literature. We will print the best essay in our fall issue, publish it on our blog, and reward the author with a one-year subscription to Fifth Wednesday Journal, and a new FWJ T-shirt. Send your essay to: Put “Essay Competition” in the subject line and include your name, e-mail address, and a postal address in your message, but separate from your essay. Our senior editors will serve as a judges’ panel. Deadline for receipt of an eligible essay is July 1, 2015. We will announce the winner on August 15, 2015.


Named a “Notable” in 2014:

Best American Short Stories
“Between You and Me”
Scott Nadelson
FWJ in Fall 2013 Issue 13

Pushcart XXXIX
“Seeing is Believing: Born With the Spirits”
Anand Prahlad
FWJ in Fall 2013 Issue 13

Best American Short Stories
Jessica Treadway
FWJ in Fall 2013 Issue 13

Best American Essays
Nicole Walker
FWJ in Fall 2013 Issue 13

Fifth Wednesday Journal announces the Editor’s Prize Winners for 2014

FWJ does not sponsor contests or offer prizes based on reading fees. Each year we ask an established artist in his or her field to select the recipient of our Editor’s Prize in Fiction and Poetry. The field is limited to work published in Fifth Wednesday Journal. The author of the selected work in each genre receives a modest monetary award and recognition in our pages, as well as on our website. The winners this year were chosen from among works published in the fall 2013 and spring 2014 issues. We are proud to recognize them here.

Scott NadelsonScott Nadelson in Fiction

"Between You and Me" by Scott Nadelson (FWJ fall 2013) was chosen for the 2014 Editor’s Prize in Fiction. Nadelson is the author of three story collections, most recently Aftermath, and a memoir, The Next Scott Nadelson: A Life in Progress. A winner of the Oregon Book Award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, and the Reform Judaism Prize, he teaches at Willamette University and in the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA Program at Pacific Lutheran University.

Carolyn Alessio writes about this story: The story begins innocuously, with Paul, a 58-year-old attorney contemplating the future — of his career and his seemingly humdrum personal life.  Soon, however, we meet Rabbi Mike, a gloriously frank and witty man who just happens to divine the true sources of tension in Paul's life. In clear, disarmingly straightforward prose, Nadelson reminds readers not to ignore explosive impulses. When a refrain about knowledge pops up in the story, it is unbidden but perfectly applicable: "I know what I know. That's knowledge. I feel what I know. That's wisdom."

Carolyn AlessioOur judge for the 2014 Editor’s Prize in Fiction

Carolyn Alessio was a 2014 finalist in the PEN/Bellwether novel prize for socially engaged fiction. A recipient of an NEA fellowship and Pushcart Prize, Alessio is prose editor for Crab Orchard Review. She teaches high school on Chicago's Southwest Side. 

Cynthia Dewi OkaCynthia Dewi Oka in Poetry

“How to Watch The Act of Killing,” by Cynthia Dewi Oka (FWJ Spring 2014) was chosen for the 2014 Editor’s Prize. Oka is author of the poetry collection Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (Dinah Press, 2012). Her work has or will soon appear in, Best American Poetry, As/Us, JMWW, Boxcar Poetry Review, Ozone Park Journal, Briarpatch Magazine, Kweli and others. She is poetry editor at Generations Literary Journal and a contributor to the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) anthology, Dismantle (Thread Makes Blanket, 2014). She lives in New Jersey. 

Here is what Rachel Webster wrote about this poem: Oka writes of violence, fate, genocide, nationalism — even the sacred — in language that is impressive and original enough to match her profound subjects. This poem is ekphrastic — written after a documentary about mass killings in Indonesia — and yet the poem does not rely on knowledge of its source-film to move and awaken its readers. In the documentary, death squad leaders re-enact mass executions in the style of their favorite Hollywood movies, and the poem does important work of completing this double negative — admitting the framework of myth and artifice with its hook of a first line, “Remember, this is not real” — while making the brutalities of genocide ever more real. Thus, the poem becomes both a horrific depiction of pain and a compelling interrogation of the reader. While the poem asks us to think about the way representations of violence go on to perpetuate its horrors, however, it tips ultimately toward the actual, achieving a sense of gravitas and proportion that I find rare in contemporary poetry. Oka does not tread too conceptually around her subject and does not diminish the beauty, pain and cruelty of torture.  We watch as “fires laugh redly & the bamboo bleeds./ Black crowns of tualang trees & birds fall/ like sleet,” and “women’s faces purple, their thighs licked by flames like corn husks.” And we shudder at fate as “grandchildren & neighbors,/ strangers and childhood friends” “play the prey.” Oka’s poem accesses startlingly musical and visceral language, as it examines gorgeous, precious life being maimed, and “make-believe memory, myth shaped like a wail,/ looking for the body it belongs to.” This is high art of high stakes — a beautiful poem that deserves this year’s editor’s prize.      

Webster also recognized two runners up: “Laundry” by Kendra Langdon Juskus (FWJ, fall 2013) and “Conclusions” by Chris Green (FWJ fall 2013).

Rachel WebsterOur judge for the 2014 Editor’s Prize in Poetry

Rachel Jamison Webster is author of the full-length collection of poetry, September(Northwestern University Press 2013) and the chapbook, The Blue Grotto (Dancing Girl Press 2009). Her poems and essays appear in many journals and anthologies, including Poetry, The Southern Review, The Paris Review and Narrative. She lives in Evanston, IL, with her small daughter, where she teaches poetry and literature at Northwestern University.  She has edited two anthologies of writing by urban youth, and now edits the online anthology of international poetry, UniVerse, located at You can read more about Rachel at