Skip to main content

Nick Adams Short Story Contest

Each spring, 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.


Any student currently enrolled with good academic standing at an ACM college is eligible to enter the Nick Adams Contest and may submit up to two stories to their English department.

The story need not have been written especially for the competition, but it cannot previously have been published off-campus or been a finalist in this contest.

Selection of finalists

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

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

Read the winning stories from the 2016 contest »


Contact Melissa Niksic, ACM Associate Vice President for Strategic Outreach and Communications

Past Judges

Nick Adams Contest final judges in past years have included such literary luminaries as Jane Smiley, Saul Bellow, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Anne Tyler, Maya Angelou, Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Hamilton, and Stuart Dybek. See the complete list of final judges.

Nick Adams Contest final judges in recent years

Maureen McCoy

Maureen McCoy - 2015

Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie Jo Campbell - 2014

Peter Geye

2013 - Peter Geye

Gina Frangello

2012 - Gina Frangello


2016 Nick Adams Contest

Nelson Ogbuagu from Grinnell College Named 2016 Nick Adams Winner for "Playing It Safe"

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

Nelson Ogbuagu

Nelson Ogbuagu

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 this year.

In commenting on "Playing It Safe," Hillmann wrote that it "reads as both an essay and a story, it is political and at the same time it's just a voice from a very particular time and place. It is a psychological thriller and a coming of age tale of an introspective and sensitive youth. In other words it works on a lot of levels."

A Chicago native, Ogbuagu is a senior majoring in economics at Grinnell College, where he is involved in student government and co-leads the Latin American Dance club. In the fall, he will join LinkedIn's Business Leadership Program for global sales in San Francisco.

Read more about Nelson Ogbuagu

and read his winning story!

While Ogbuagu's interest in creative writing stems from a love of hip-hop music and storytelling, he said that Grinnell provided him with the tools needed “to more powerfully etch those stories on paper.” He would like to thank Dean Bakopoulos, assistant professor of English at Grinnell College; Kiese Laymon, visiting author at Grinnell College; his friends and family; the initial faculty readers; and final judge.

Hillmann also awarded honorable mentions to three of the finalists:

Honorable MentionsFind out about the authors and read their stories!


Thirty-two stories written by students at ACM colleges were submitted for the 2016 contest. Diana Beck, Professor and Co-Chair of Educational Studies at Knox College, and Christina Eddington, Instructor of English as a Second Language at Beloit College, served as initial faculty readers for the contest, selecting six finalists from which Hillmann selected the winner and honorable mentions.

The other two stories selected as finalists by the faculty judges were “In Retrospect, an Impression” by Noah Bunnell from Carleton College and “Wilderness” by Maria Catherino from Cornell College.

Final Judge: Chicago Author Bill Hillmann

Bill Hillmann

Bill Hillmann

Bill Hillmann is the author of two books — a memoir entitled Mozos: A Decade Running with the Bulls of Spain (2015) and a novel, The Old Neighborhood (2014). The Old Neighborhood was named "Best Novel of 2014" by the Chicago Sun-Times, “Best New Book” by Chicago Reader, and received critical acclaim from Booklist and The Week.

Hillmann attended College of DuPage and later earned a bachelor's degree from Elmhurst College and an MFA from Columbia College Chicago. He lives in Chicago with his wife and works as a union construction laborer. Read more about Bill Hillmann