Jeanne Leiby Memorial Chapbook Series

The life and work of Jeanne Leiby (1967-2011) are remembered in our prose/graphic narrative chapbook series. As editor of The Florida Review from 2004 through 2007, Leiby breathed new life into the magazine. Leiby brought comics to TFR, initiated the journal’s first website, published the 30th anniversary issue, and established CRW 4724, the course that has offered internships and taught editorial skills to hundreds of undergraduate students at UCF. She also loved her work with both graduate students and with emerging authors. She left The Florida Review to become the first female editor of The Southern Review at Louisiana State University before her tragic death in 2011. She is fondly remembered for her boundless energy, love of literature, and intellectual vitality. We hope she would find solace in the publication of these chapbooks in the genres she championed over the course of her too-short career.

See our Submissions page for guidelines and deadlines.

See our Store to purchase chapbooks.

2018 Chapbook Winner

Autopsy and Everything After by Michael Chin

Autopsy and Everything After collects stories of the seedy underworld of professional wrestling and the dreams and hopes of those that inhabit it. Final contest judge Juan Martinez noted, “There is so much pathos and beauty and good humor in these pieces. I loved spending time with these people, how they surprised me, how much I learned about the itinerant wrestling world and how that world contains all of ours—our dead fathers, our lost exes, our fears and hopes.”

Michael Chin is an alumnus of the Oregon State University MFA program. He has previously published two hybrid chapbooks, Distance Traveled with Bent Window Books and The Leo Burke Finish with Gimmick Press, and is a contributing editor for Moss.

We would also like to recognize our two finalists:

  • Ahsa Dore for Disfigure Studies*
  • Ethel Smith for We Ready

2017 Chapbook Winner

Second Wife by Rita Ciresi

The winner of the sixth annual Jeanne Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award is Rita Ciresi for her trenchant collection of flash fiction, Second Wife. The housewives that populate Second Wife are estranged from themselves and others. They mourn lost children, plot revenge against their former husbands, lust after the bag boy at the grocery store, seek marital advice from a psychic, and regret the emptiness of an affair. In this collection of linked flash fiction, Flannery O’Connor Award-winning author Rita Ciresi offers a peek into the private thoughts of ordinary women with cutting precision. As noted by this year’s final judge, Robert Venditti, “Second Wife is bursting with wit, tragedy, humor, and heart. Rita Ciresi’s collection of short and flash fiction brings together over twenty stories of loss, longing, and love, each one echoing with a voice as powerful and true as the emotions it speaks of.”

Rita Ciresi is author of the novels Bring Back My Body to MePink SlipBlue Italian, andRemind Me Again Why I Married You, and two award-winning story collections, Sometimes I Dream in Italian and Mother Rocket. She is professor of English at the University of South Florida, a faculty mentor for the Bay Path University MFA program in creative nonfiction, and fiction editor of 2 Bridges Review.

2016 Chapbook Winner

The Persistence of Rivers by Alison Townsend

The Florida Review is pleased to announce the winner of the fifth annual Jeanne Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award: The Persistence of Rivers by Alison Townsend.

  • Second place: Mass Pike Quartet by Gregory Wolos

Alison Townsend is the author of two award-winning books of poetry, The Blue Dress: Poems and Prose Poems and Persephone in America, and two other chapbooks, And Still the Music and What the Body Knows. Her poetry and essays appear in Chatauqua, Feminist Studies, Paraboloa, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. She has received a Pushcart Prize, the Crab Orchard Open Poetry Competition Prize, “notable” mentions in Best American Essays, as well as a Wisconsin Arts Board fellowship. An award-winning teacher, she is Professor Emerita of English at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

This year’s contest judge, Vanessa Blakeslee, commented about The Persistence of Rivers: I was enthralled by these essays, sensual and luminous as the bodies of water that Alison Townsend brings so sharply into focus throughout. From early childhood memories of her grandparents’ farmhouse on the banks of the Perkiomen in eastern Pennsylvania, to her cabin’s front porch facing the Wisconsin River, Townsend draws you deep, each river carrying forth its revelations. Townsend’s voice evokes Thoreau and Dillard, yet her prose remains masterfully singular in its subject, lyricism, and poignancy.

Judge Vanessa Blakeslee is author of the collection of short fiction Train Shots (Burrow Press, 2014) and the novel Juventud (Curbside Splendor, 2015). She has been widely published in literary magazines and has been awarded numerous residencies and grants. She is a former student of Jeanne Leiby, in whose memory our chapbook competition is held.

In addition, we would like to note the work of another finalist (in nonfiction), an excerpt of which was published in 42.1 of The Florida Review (Spring 2018):

  • Bill Glose, The Desert Came Home

2015 Chapbook Winner

Reno by Nat Akin

The Florida Review is pleased to announce the winner of the fourth annual Jeanne Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award: Reno, by Nat Akin.

  • Second place: Home or Away, by John Hearn
  • Third place: The Violin House, by Oindrilla Muhkerjee

Nat Akin’s short fiction has appeared in The Missouri Review, Ecotone, and Tampa Review. He is a prior recipient of one of two annual fellowships awarded for Literary Arts by the Tennessee Arts Commission. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

The contest judge, Patricia Grace King, had this to say about the winning manuscript: Lush and lyrical, Reno, by Nat Akin, explores important questions of heritage and homeland. Evoking a small Florida beach town in all of its dimmed, gritty splendor, Reno is pure pleasure—from this vivid setting to the deftly drawn characters who are alternately drawn to and compelled to leave it.

Patricia Grace King’s stories appear in The Gettysburg Review, Ploughshares, Narrative Magazine, Nimrod, and other journals. Her chapbooks, The Death of Carrie Bradshaw and Rubia, won the Kore Press Short Fiction Contest and The Florida Review’s Jeanne Leiby Memorial Contest, respectively. She was the 2013-2014 Carol Houck Smith Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and is currently a fiction editor for Kore Press.

2014 Chapbook Winner

The Rug Bazaar by Marylee McDonald

The Florida Review is pleased to announce the results of our third Jeanne Leiby chapbook award. The judge this year was David James Poissant, author of The Heaven of Animals, Lizard Man, and award-winning stories in too many journals to mention.

  • Winner: The Rug Bazaar, by Marylee McDonald
  • Second place: In the Air a Shining Heart, by Lydia Copeland Gwyn
  • Third place: What to Say to Aliens, by Marc Sheehan

Here’s what the judge had to say about the winning work and the award in general:

The Rug Bazaar is a duet of stories, both of which concern American women traveling in Turkey. Both are love stories, and both seem to fly in the face of everything you’d think a love story could be. These are independent stories, yet, as a pair, they harmonize. In music, we might call this “call and response,” how one instrument follows another, and, in following, comments on the first. I’ll leave it to the reader to pick the order in which these two pieces might best be read. But, surely, read them both! Much of the beauty of The Rug Bazaar is to be found in the way each story complements the other.

Jeanne Leiby, the writer, editor, and teacher in whose memory this chapbook series is named, was a mentor to me early in my career. I wish I’d known her well enough to call her a friend. She published two of my stories during her short time at The Southern Review, and I was always grateful, not just for the publication, but for her taking the stories she took. Jeanne took risks. She was a fan of unusual stories, a friend to the weird. The stories you’ll find here, “Youthful Acts of Charity” and “Bound by Love and Blood,” are two such stories. I can’t say whether Jeanne would have admired them as I admire them, but, as Jake says at the end of The Sun Also Rises, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”


2013 Chapbook Winner

A Year of Silence by Polly Buckingham

The judge for the 2012 Jeanne M. Leiby Chapbook Award was Lex Williford, author of the novel Macauley’s Thumb, and coeditor of the Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. His work has appeared in American Literary Review, Glimmer Train, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere.

Williford sent the following to describe the chapbook award winners, the award, and the award’s namesake:

The three finalists for the Jeanne Leiby Chapbook Award each deal with the mysteries of grief from three different points of view:

  • First Place: “A Year of Silence” by Polly Buckingham
  • Second Place: “Magnify, Sanctify” by Sharon Solwitz
  • Third Place: “Do You Believe in Ghosts?” by Leslie Pietrzyk

In the winning story, “A Year of Silence,” a man who has lost his wife to a terrorist attack in the London Tube tries to take care of his daughter, a gifted seven-year-old pianist, who gradually loses her ability to feel the keys of her instrument, to play the music her mother loved or, after surgery, to use her hands for even the most simple task. Stranded in a cottage with no electricity and little food in an unrelenting winter flood rising from the North Sea, the two characters survive the cold wind- and rain-swept Outer Hebrides, an almost perfect embodiment of a depthless and unending grief.

While all three stories reveal courage in their unflinching depictions of loss—the lost son of a Jew who no longer believes in God in “Magnify, Sanctify,” the lost husband of a narrator with an inimitable voice tough, authentic and tender as Jeanne Leiby’s–“A Year of Silence,” as its title suggests, strikes me most powerfully in its willingness to strip away the loudness of the modern world in all its meaningless busyness—a too-easy escape from countless un-grieved losses—so that, in the great silence of a great loss, we can see grief in its purest, rawest, most terrifying form, then receive the greater gift of renewed feeling, a girl who’s lost her hands for a long, silent year drawing a portrait of her lost mother.

The last time I saw Jeanne Leiby was at an Associated Writing Programs conference, just a year or so after she became editor of the prestigious Southern Review. A former editor of the Florida Review and the Black Warrior Review when I was the magazine’s faculty advisor, she’d also been one of my most memorable, gifted workshop students at the University of Alabama, one of those rare young writers whose voice and vision were unlike any other writer’s I’d ever read, uttlerly unsentimental, with a unique gift of dark humor and an unflinching honesty delivered with genuine empathy, generosity and kindness. How could I forget “Vinegar Tasting,” which she wrote for the first graduate workshop I ever taught, a story later published in the Indiana Review and in her Doris Bakwin Prize-winning story collection, Downriver?

When she saw me at AWP, she hugged me and said something I’ll never forget, though I can’t say it here, a single simple declarative sentence, a simple kindness, that I see as the beginning of the end of one of the most difficult periods in my life, a long period of private grief she helped bring to an end. A year later, she was gone, too young, too soon, at the beginning of what had already become a distinguished career as a writer and editor.

Being asked to judge the chapbook contest in Jeanne’s name has been a simple kindness Jocelyn Bartkevicius and the editors of the Florida Review have given me, helping me, and others, I hope, in bringing a depthless grief to whatever end is possible, in a celebration of Jeanne’s remarkable life, work and spirit.


2012 Chapbook Winner

Rubia by Patricia Grace King

The winner was “Rubia,” by Patricia Grace King. She received $500, and letterpress, hand-bound chapbook publication. Second was “Foreign Service” by Julia Lichtblau, and third place “The Geometry of Children.” They received tuition at writers conferences and their work appears in The Florida Review 37.1.

The judge was David Huddle, whose books include Black Snake at the Family Reunion (Louisiana State University Press, 2012), Nothing Can Make Me Do This (Tupelo Press, 2011), Glory River (Louisiana State University Press, 2008), Grayscale (Louisiana State University Press, 2003), La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), and Story of a Million Years (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). His work has appeared in such journals as Esquire, Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Southern Review, The New Yorker, and Yale Review.

Huddle wrote of “Rubia”:

It is so deftly and subtly written and so smart about so many topics–soccer, travel, youth, language, race, culture, love, and the sexes–that to read it is to feel secretly wise about the world.