2016 Prize Judges


Debra Spark

Debra Spark is a professor at Colby College and instructor in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. She is the author of eight books, and has been the recipient of several awards including an NEA fellowship, a Bunting Institute fellowship from Radcliffe College, a Wisconsin Institute Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and the John Zacharis/Ploughshares Award for best first book. Spark’s book reviews, short stories, and essays have appeared in publications like Agni, The Cincinnati Review, Epoch, Five Points, Harvard Review, New England Review, and Ploughshares. Unknown Caller—Spark’s latest novel—will be published in the fall of 2016. Her first novel, Coconuts for the Saint, will also be reissued in the fall of 2016. A graduate of Yale University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Spark lives with her husband and son in North Yarmouth, Maine.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a professor at the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing. She has been a finalist for the Hurston Wright Legacy Award for Fiction and the Robert Olen Butler Prize for Short Fiction. She has also been the recipient of several awards including the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, the University of California’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at UCLA, and a DC Commission on the Arts Grant. Perkins-Valdez’s debut novel, Wench, was a New York Times bestseller and an O, The Oprah Magazine, Top Ten Pick of the Month. Her second novel, Balm, was an NPR top summer read for 2015. Perkins-Valdez’s fiction has appeared in the Kenyon Review, StoryQuarterly, and storySouth. A graduate of Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles, Perkins-Valdez lives in Washington, DC with her family.

Steve Yarbrough

Steve Yarbrough is a professor in the department of writing, literature, and publishing at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the author of nine books. He has won the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence, The California Book Award, the Mississippi Institute of the Arts and Letters Award for Fiction, and the Mississippi Authors Award. He has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Yarbrough’s fiction has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction, and The Pushcart Prize anthology. His fiction has also been published in Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Japan, and Poland. Yarbrough’s latest novel is The Realm of Last Chances. A graduate of the University of Mississippi and the University of Arkansas, Yarbrough lives in Stoneham, Massachusetts with his wife.