The Birdwhistle Prizes



In September of 1856, during only its fourteenth trip along the Missouri River, the steamboat Arabia took on water and sank, her hull ripped open by a walnut snag. The wreckage disappeared beneath the mud of the riverbed within days, obviating salvage. No life perished save a mule’s, tied fast to heavy equipment and there forgotten.


More than a century passed before a small team of excavators, led by era-specific maps, a proton magnetometer, and local legend, located the Arabia beneath more than a dozen meters of topsoil at the old Sortor farm. Across the winter of 1988, the team exposed the ship and her artifacts, among them a crate of china, jars of preserved food (still edible), standard supplies, and, curiously, a bound stack of leatherback journals pressed with Percy Birdwhistle’s name.* One passage announced his intentions to institute a set of annual awards, one in poetry, another in short fiction.


His wishes in mind, we now happily herald the inaugural Birdwhistle Prizes in Poetry and in Short Fiction. In the same vein, an anonymous donor—surely a member of the unofficial Percy Birdwhistle Fan Club—has sponsored a prize in Nonfiction.


The rules are as follows.


― Entrants will submit one (1) piece of previously unpublished work to one (1) category.

― Qualifying works of poetry must not exceed one (1) poem, nor should that poem exceed five (5) pages.

― Qualifying works of short fiction and nonfiction must not exceed 3,000 words and will indicate at the top right-hand side of the document the piece’s final word-count, excluding byline and title.

― The work must not be in consideration elsewhere; in other words, no simultaneous submissions.

― The submission period will remain open for thirty (30) days; after this period elapses, Editorial will notify each writer of her result.


Winners of each category will receive a prize of $50.00 USD via PayPal.


Failure to adhere to the rules here stated will disqualify delinquent writers from awards consideration.


Writers should submit manuscripts through our Submittable portal.



* In addition to his death having occurred nearly a decade prior to the shipwreck, there is no record that Mr. Birdwhistle had ever traveled so far west.