Alumna Becky Shirley '19 Wins 2020 Sewanee Review Fiction Contest for 'Poppy'

BY Nicole Saldarriaga, October 28, 2020

Recently The Sewanee Review announced the winners of its annual contest, awarding the prize in Fiction to alumna Becky Shirley '19. The Sewanee Review, which is the oldest continuously published literary quarterly in the US, is known for publishing talented emerging writers. Previous issues have featured "excerpts of Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O'Connor's first novels, and the early poetry of Robert Pen Warren, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and Christian Wiman."


Shirley's short story, "Poppy," was selected by judge Garth Greenwell, who called the story "a cannily structured story that balances the bewildered experience of childhood with the greater understanding of an adult. The voice is winning and fresh, both vulnerable and irreverent. But what's masterful is the density with which the story imagines a family's privacy, the sense it gives of a deeply inhabited, lovingly seen world. The story never stopped surprising me: not through narrative hijinks, but by the turns its very moving compassion takes, the sudden, unexpected sympathies it draws." 


This year, The Sewanee Review received over seven hundred submissions to their contest. Winners are awarded a monetary prize of $1000 each, as well as publication in the Review. The winners' work will appear in the upcoming Winter 2021 issue alongside nonfiction from Ross Gay, fiction by Brandon Taylor, poetry by Nikky Finney, and more. 


Becky Shirely is a writer from Oceanside, California who now lives in Manhattan. Her work has appeared in Vanishing Point Magazine, The Metaworker, No Contact Magazine, and Columbia Journal. When she is not abandoning half-finished cups of coffee around her apartment, she is editing a collection of short stories and writing her first novel.