“Stories Out of School” Flash Fiction Contest

Teachers have the most fascinating, difficult, and important job on the planet, and their work days are filled with stories. Yet teachers seldom appear in fiction. This yearly contest, a joint venture of The Academy for Teachers and Tin House, was created to inspire honest, unsentimental stories about teachers and the rich and complex world of schools. There are two criteria for submissions. The story’s protagonist or its narrator has to be a teacher and the story has to be between 6 and 749 words.

The first-prize winner receives $1000; the second-prize winner, $500. Both will be published online by Tin House. Cheryl Strayed will judge this year’s contest. Strayed wrote the #1 New York Times-bestselling memoir Wild, as well as Tiny Beautiful Things, Brave Enough, and the novel Torch. She’s a co-author of The Sweet Spot, a column in The New York Times.

Submissions are no longer being accepted for the 2019 contest. Submissions for the 2020 contest will be accepted starting in June 2019.

2019 Contest

Cheryl Strayed, author of the #1 New York Times-bestselling memoir Wild, selected the winners.

Santian Vataj, first prize for “A Brief Description of Mister Kuka”

Santian Vataj was born in the former Yugoslavia to Albanian parents and raised in the Bronx, New York. Santian is a Fellow of The Academy for Teachers and currently works as a full-time history teacher at a public school in the Bronx. His work has appeared in the anthology The Writers Studio at 30, Prelude magazine’s website, 100 Word Story, and Silver Needle Press.

Danielle Stonehirsch, second prize for “The Language of Space”

Danielle Stonehirsch’s work has recently appeared in the Washington City Paper, Montgomery Magazine, and Roar: True Tales of Women Warriors. She has taught English and French in France and the US. Now, at First Book, she helps deliver diverse books to kids in need around the country. She is grateful for the support of her family and writing group.

2018 Contest

Karen Russell, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her novel Swamplandia!, selected the winners.

Walker Rutter-Bowman, first prize for “Crafts”

Walker Rutter-Bowman taught third and fourth grade and was the lower-school librarian at The Brearley School. He received his MFA in fiction from Syracuse University and now lives in Ithaca, NY, where he is at work on his first collection of stories.

Emily Zdyrko, second prize for “I Often Tell People”

Emily Zdyrko is an English teacher at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music, Art, and the Performing Arts. In her spare time she acquires shoes and degrees in English. A New York City native, she lives on the Upper West Side with Calypso, her semi-feral immigrant cat.

Santian Vataj, honorable mention for “The Fourth Sink”

Santian Vataj was born in the former Yugoslavia to Albanian parents and raised in the Bronx, where he currently teaches American history. He has previously published a short story which was included in The Writers Studio at 30 anthology and a poem in Prelude Magazine‘s website.

Devan Aptekar, honorable mention for “The Usurper”

Devan Aptekar teaches 8th-grade science at Tompkins Square Middle School on the Lower East Side of Manhattan after many years there as dean. A native New Yorker, he grew up by the beach in Brooklyn. While he has published more than 20 children’s books and loves teaching science, he is devoted to writing strange bittersweet novels.