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2019 Contest

Catherine Johnson

Catherine Johnson from Carleton College was named winner of the 47th annual Nick Adams Short Story Contest for her short story, "Coming of Age in the Modern Midwest."

Final judge Audrey Petty, distinguished author of High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing, wrote that Johnson's story "is a resonant love story in more ways than one."

Petty also gave honorable mention recognition to Hanna Brown from Beloit College for "Ad Space."

In selecting this year's winner, Petty was impressed with all six of the finalist stories in the 2019 contest. "The reading was a pleasure; the choosing--on the other hand--was quite difficult," she noted. "All of the finalist stories are extremely compelling. The range of style, vision, situation, conflict, and form within the finalist portfolio is formidable and impressive." 

Winner: "Coming of Age in the Modern Midwest" by Catherine Johnson

In her comments on "Coming of Age in the Modern Midwest" Petty wrote:

"The author achieves an electric sense of place. The action of the story--the heart of the story--is the annual summer carnival in a small Illinois town. With tenderness and inquisitiveness, the narrator (and hometown girl) returns again and again to the event and the adventure of this summer gathering."

Catherine Johnson, from Galesburg, IL, is majoring in political science at Carleton College.

Honorable Mention: "Ad Space" by Hanna Brown

Hanna Brown


Hanna Brown, a senior creative writing major from Elgin, IL, says she has developed her writing while being at Beloit College because she has "helped edit the Beloit Fiction Journal for the past few years." 

Petty wrote, "'Ad Space' is a story of considerable power and precision. Bodies matter in this narrative: a day in the life of young Baxter as he works, shoulder-to-shoulder, with the summer crew at Cordova's, a hamburger joint with an insistently 1950s decor."  

From left: Nicole Hebel, Beilin Brower, Mira Braneck, and Abigail St. John

Finalists: "The range of style, vision, situation, conflict, and form within the finalist portfolio is formidable and impressive."

Forty-one stories were entered in the 2019 Nick Adams Contest through the English departments on ACM campuses, with each college allowed to enter up to four stories in the competition.

English professors Lise Kildegaard from Luther College and David Wright from Monmouth College served as initial faculty readers, choosing six finalist stories which were sent to Petty for judging. The finalists were:

Notably, Hanna Brown and Nicole Hebel have previously been finalists in the Nick Adams Short Story Contest. Brown was a finalist three times and awarded an honorable mention twice, in 2017 and 2019. Hebel was a finalist in 2018 and 2019.

Final Judge: Audrey Petty

Audrey Petty

Author and educator Audrey Petty served as final judge for the 47th annual Nick Adams Short Story Contest.  

Her stories have been published in Gumbo: An Anthology of African American Writing, Story Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, among others.  One of Petty’s most recent works, High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing, gathers firsthand accounts of 12 former residents of now-demolished Chicago Housing Authority high-rises.