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The 2018 Adrift Short Story Contest


​We are excited to announce Claire Agnes' "Terminal Velocity" as the winner of our first Adrift Short Story Contest! Here's what our guest judge, David Jauss, had to say...

Terminal velocity is the term for the maximum speed an object, or person, falling through the air can achieve—and if a skydiver doesn’t pull the ripcord on his parachute in time, the velocity can be terminal in another sense too.  In this powerful and moving story, the narrator’s father reaches terminal velocity while skydiving, then later that day disappears, terminating his relationship with his family.  In the free fall of her grief, his daughter reaches a kind of terminal velocity too, and the girl she was disappears, never to return.  Reader, be forewarned: your heart is going to free-fall.


In addition, the Driftwood editors have decided to publish the runner-up, "The Starling Killers" by Joe Totten, in which a man and a boy hunt the land for crop-eating starlings. 

"Terminal Velocity" will be published in January 2019, and "The Starling Killers" will be published in July 2019. We would also like to congratulate three other finalists whose work stood out to us:

  • David Macpherson, "Penetrations"

  • Holly Baker, "Queen of Crows"

  • Jen Fawkes, "Mannequin and Wife"

Lastly, we want to extend our warmest gratitude to everyone who submitted to the contest, including the thirty-five semi-finalists. There were hundreds of wonderful short stories sent in, and many of them deserve—and will find—publication. We are ecstatic to continue to publish works of literary fiction that forefront language and take narrative, structural, and thematic risks, and the support of our community of readers and submitters is continually cherished and appreciated. 

Below are the guidelines of the 2018 contest, kept here for posterity's sake. The guidelines for the 2019 contest have changed considerably; please check the 2019 contest page for those.


  • Submissions will be open from May 15th until July 31st.

  • Guest judge reads finalists.

  • Winner will be announced in November 2018.

  • The winning short story will be published in early 2019.



  • Fiction only.

  • 1,000-6,000 word limit.

  • A standard, 12-point font is preferred. 

  • The work must not have been previously published.

  • Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but
    please withdraw the work if the story has been
    accepted elsewhere.

  • Submit works written in English only, no translations.

  • Please submit your manuscript in a .doc, .docx, or PDF format.

  • We read submissions blind, so please do not include your name, email, or any identifying characteristics on the manuscript itself.

  • Base submission cost is $10. Additionally, we are offering an $18 dollar submission option that will include a print copy of the issue in which the winning story will be published. 


  • The winner will receive $300 dollars and 10 copies of the issue in which the story appears. The winner will also have the opportunity to be interviewed about their work; the interview will be published alongside the story.

  • If a runner-up is chosen, their work will be offered publication, an accompanying interview, $100, and five copies of the issue in which their work appears.

Guest Judge

David Jauss is the author of four collections of short stories (Crimes of Passion, Black Maps, Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories, and Nice People: New & Selected Stories II); two collections of poems (Improvising Rivers and You Are Not Here); and a collection of essays (On Writing Fiction). He has also edited or coedited three anthologies, including Best of Crazyhorse, where he was fiction editor for ten years. His short stories have been published in numerous magazines and reprinted in Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Awards: Prize Stories, and, twice, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, as well as in The Pushcart Book of Short Stories: The Best Stories from the Pushcart Prize and other anthologies. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a James A. Michener/Copernicus Society of America Fellowship, and three fellowships from the Arkansas Arts Council and one from the Minnesota State Arts Board. His collection Black Maps received the Associated Writers and Writing Programs Award for Short Fiction. A professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, he teaches in the low-residency MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

writing contest, david jauss, writing award
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