Mountain Xpress is pleased to announce that this year’s winner of the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize is our very own Arts & Entertainment editor and writer, Alli Marshall. Her story, “Catching Out,” was selected by author and prize judge, Ron Rash. With over 200 stories submitted, this year’s contest also marks the highest number of entries in the history of the prize, which is administered by the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNC Asheville. Marshall will receive $1,000 for her story, in addition to its publication in the spring 2017 edition of The Thomas Wolfe Review.
On its surface, “Catching Out,” centers on a woman working as a registrar at a college, who dreams of becoming a freight hopper. But at the story’s core, Marshall sees it being more about her character “discovering a secret self and tapping into the world between worlds — the magic that exists just beyond the mundane and goes unseen until a person hones her vision.”
Marshall, who holds an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College, started as a poet before exploring long-form fiction. In 2015, Logosophia Books published her debut novel, How to Talk to Rockstars. But short stories are different, Marshall notes. “It’s a much different process than writing a novel and allows me to approach character development and language in a different way,” she says.
At the time of the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Contest entry period, Marshall was working on a few different pieces. Her decision to submit “Catching Out,” was due in part to the contest’s guidelines of 3,000 words or less (a stipulation that certainly would have prevented Thomas Wolfe himself — known for writing libraries, rather than books — from entering the contest). Marshall acknowledges that she had to trim her story’s original draft “down a bit” to qualify. Ultimately, she feels these cuts “made the story stronger.”
Marshall is no stranger to the award circuit. Earlier this year she won the 2016 Shrewd Writer Award for flash fiction. She was also runner-up in the annual Broad River Review Rash Award in fiction. In addition to these awards, her poems and stories have appeared in Blurt!, Shuffle, Our State, MetroPop, FifeLines, and the Asheville Poetry Review.
This year’s judge of the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize is award-winning novelist Ron Rash, whose books include One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, The World Made Straight, The Cove and New York Times bestselling novel Serena. Rash has written four collections of poems and six collections of short stories, as well.
He also happens to be one of Marshall’s literary heroes. Over the years, she’s interviewed him a few times for Mountain Xpress. “He’s always been generous about answering a question or two about craft within the context of an interview,” Marshall says, adding: “He’s also inspiring to me, personally, because his career didn’t really take off until he was in his 40s.”
The Thomas Wolfe Review is indexed in American Humanities Index (AHI), Humanities International Complete, and MLA International Bibliography. Texts are available on-line at EBSCO, Gale, and ProQuest. For more information visit, the Thomas Wolfe Review.