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Nick Adams Short Story Contest

Each year, ACM sponsors the Nick Adams Short Story Contest. The contest, named for the young protagonist of many Hemingway stories, was established in 1973 with funds from an anonymous donor to encourage fiction writers at ACM colleges. A first prize of $1,000 is awarded to the author of the winning story.

2016 Nick Adams Contest

Nelson Ogbuagu

Nelson Ogbuagu

Nelson Ogbuagu, a senior at Grinnell College, was named the winner of the 44th annual ACM Nick Adams Short Story Contest and received the first prize of $1,000.

Ogbuagu’s story "Playing It Safe" was selected for the award by Chicago author Bill Hillmann, who served as the final judge for the contest.

Final Judge for the 2017 Contest

Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott, author of New York Times bestsellers American Rose and Sin in the Second City, will serve at final judge and select the winning story of the 2017 Nick Adams Short Story Contest.

Abbott’s most recent book, Liar Temptress Soldier Spy, was named one of the best books of 2014 by Library Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, Amazon, and Flavorwire, and was optioned by Sony for a mini-series.

Nick Adams Contest final judges in past years have included such literary luminaries as Joyce Carol Oates, Maya Angelou, John Updike, Audrey Niffenegger, Stuart Dybek, Anne Tyler, Saul Bellow, and many more. See the complete list of final judges.

About the Contest


Any student currently enrolled with good academic standing at an ACM college is eligible to enter the Nick Adams Contest. All entries must be submitted to the English department on the student’s home campus. You do not need to be an English major or enrolled in an English course to enter.

There is a 10,000 word limit for each story. Stories need not have been written especially for the competition, but they cannot previously have been published off-campus or been selected as a finalist in this contest.

Selection of finalists

Each English department selects the four best stories from the college to enter in the competition, which is coordinated by the ACM consortial office.

A small committee of faculty drawn from ACM colleges selects the finalist stories. A prominent writer serves as the contest's final judge each year and selects the winning story from among the finalists.