Meet the 2016 Great American Fiction Contest Prize Winners

The Saturday Evening Post salutes these fine writers and the more than 330 others who entered our 2016 contest.

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We’re pleased to announce Celeste McMaster the winner of our 2016 Great American Fiction Contest! Read her prize-winning story “Zelda, Burning” and the stories from our five runners-up below.


Meet the Winner!

Celeste McMaster

Celeste McMaster

“I screamed and stomped around so much my husband thought I’d seen a mouse,” says McMaster on learning “Zelda, Burning” took first place in the 2016 Great American Fiction Contest, winning publication in the Post and online, and a prize of $500.

The story evolved over an eight-year period. “My American literature professor suggested I write on Zelda Fitzgerald, so she planted the seed, but I didn’t follow her advice until I went to graduate school,” she says. “I started the story in a creative writing class imagining what Zelda must have felt in her last years.”

After completing her Ph.D., McMaster took a position as English professor at Charleston Southern University. Attending the Appalachian Writers Workshop, she returned home and felt “reinvigorated to revise the story.”

Zelda, Burning” revolves around actual historic events. “It is true that Zelda died in a fire in the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, and that she danced, painted, and wrote,” says the author. “But I took creative liberties as to Scott and others haunting her while she was in the hospital.”

Guest judge and author Michael Knight found the winning entry a beautifully written account of Zelda’s time in the mental institution and her troubled romance with F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Scene by scene, line by lovely line, Celeste McMasters breathes life into a version of Zelda Fitzgerald that is as complex and compelling as you will find.”

Zelda, Burning” is McMaster’s first story for a national magazine, though she has published in literary journals, including New Delta Review, Dos Passos Review, and Arkansas Review.

Meet the Runners-Up!

Each runner-up receives $100 and publication of his or her work on our website. (To read the prize-winning stories, click the titles or images below.) We salute these fine writers and the more than 330 others who entered our 2016 contest.

Ruth Knafo Setton

Ruth Knafo Setton

Title:The Magic Circle

Story Line: On a fall night in 1963, a young immigrant struggles to support his family and hold on to a dream.

Bio: Published essays and stories in The Jerusalem Post, Literary Traveler, and North American Review, as well as a novel, The Road to Fez (2011).

Marlene Olin

Marlene Olin

Title:A Ring, Some Pearls, Perhaps a Watch

Story Line: Where was the boy nobody played with, and what did he see?

Bio: Published stories in Edge, The Maine Review, among other literary journals, as well as in the Post‘s online series #NewFictionFriday.

Jake Teeny

Jake Teeny

Title:Welcoming Death

Story Line: Was Perry really face to face with Death, or was it all just an elaborate dream?

Bio: First short story published by a national consumer publication; short stories published in Easy Street, Gemini, and other literary magazines.

Eileen M Hopsicker

Eileen M. Hopsicker

Title:Five in the Fifth

Story Line: Working at the Evergreen Nursing Home, young Jerry Keller didn’t think much about the future until he met Millie.

Bio: First short story published by a national consumer publication; first novel The Balance of Justice will be released in spring 2017.

Jim Gray

Jim Gray

Title:A Short Ride to Mercy

Story Line: Sam didn’t become his dog until Marlene left. The older they got, the more they depended on each other — more so than ever.

Bio: Published mysteries in Woman’s World magazine, as well as stories in leterary magazines; runner-up in 2015 Great American Fiction Contest.

Cover for The Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest 2016
Read ’Em All
Post editors are delighted by the amazing storytelling and fine writing of this year’s entrants. We’ve compiled 30 of the best stories — our winner, runners-up, and semifinalists — in an e-book, available on your favorite platforms for $3.99. Order now at

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