Meet the Winner!
“‘Open Season at the Café Rumba‘ has always held a special place in my heart, and I’m thrilled it has found a home in such a celebrated magazine,” says Rocchi, who was “beyond excited” on learning she had won first place, publication in the Post, and a prize of $500. “To be placed in the company of historic greats such as Ray Bradbury and Agatha Christie — not to mention Norman Rockwell — is truly an honor.”
Temperatures rise at Café Rumba as the spicy rhythms of Latin music heat up the atmosphere in the fast-paced tale about Nancy, a middle-aged divorcée embarking on a salsa adventure — in part inspired by the author’s own experience signing up solo for dance classes after college.
“Nancy, the story’s protagonist, emerged from a writing prompt in my very first class for my graduate writing degree, Rocchi says. In mere minutes, her voice — along with her fears, quirks, and hopes — appeared on the page, vibrant and undeniable, and I knew I had to follow her wherever she led me not where I led her. Through every draft of ‘Café Rumba’ and there have been many — I’ve rooted for Nancy to take a risk and thrive. I hope Post readers will feel the same and come to love her as much as I do.”
Since receiving an M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2015, Rocchi has published short stories in Mulberry Fork Review and Bourbon Penn literary journals as well as poetry and essays on spirituality on her website (juliarocchi.com). But “Open Season at the Café Rumba” is her first story published in a national magazine.
“To my fellow writers out there, bear this in mind: My story received 18 rejections before reaching The Saturday Evening Post,” Rocchi says. “Whatever you do, keep the faith — and keep submitting! The world wants to hear your voice.”
Meet the Runners-Up
Title: “Into Each Life”
Storyline: A boy befriends the filly tethered to a pole in his backyard — both longing to break free from the silence around them.
Bio: First short story published by a national magazine; 2015 Glimmer Train fiction contest honorable mention; 2016 Great American Fiction Contest honorable mention.
Title: “Lloyd and Mary”
Storyline: A successful real estate agent and his wife live life by rote until an unbearable loss shatters their well-ordered world.
Bio: First short story published by a national magazine; 2008 Associated Press award for humor columns; 2014 Frederick Buechner Award for excellence in writing.
Storyline: In 1966, Kelly is finishing her sabbatical in southern Turkey, a place that would disrupt her life forever.
Bio: Great American Fiction Contest runner-up in 2015 and honorable mention in 2017; honorable mention 2015 Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award.
Bari Lynn Hein
Storyline: Nursing an injury, Kate stares out the window of her 43rd-floor apartment and notices a face staring back.
Bio: First short story published by a national magazine; 2016 daCunha Editors Choice Award. For more, visit barilynnhein.com.
Donna Baier Stein
Title: “A Landing Called Compromise”
Storyline: Martha Blalock never liked Zula Blix, who flirts with every man in New Madrid Baptist Church, but soon both recognize what they have to lose.
Bio: Published work has appeared in Writers Digest, Virginia Quarterly Review, New York Quarterly, and many other publications. Her first novel, The Silver Baron’s Wife, was released in 2016, and her story collection Sympathetic People in 2015. For more, visit donnabaierstein.com.
Read the Best!
Post editors are delighted by the storytelling and fine writing of this year’s entrants. We’ve compiled the best stories our winner, runners-up, and honorable mentions in an e-book, available on your favorite platforms for $3.99. Order now at saturdayeveningpost.com/fiction-books.