Meet the 2016 Great American Fiction Contest Prize Winners

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

Mad Men—If It’s Not Nostalgia, What Is It?

Each week, nearly 2 million Americans watch the AMC show Mad Men: a meticulous recreation of the world and the people of an ad agency in the early 1960s.

What is surprising is the show’s popularity among younger viewers—who never saw the 1960s (or the ’70s or ’80s).

You would expect Mad Men to be popular among baby boomers. Every story line, every character, and every set features historical detail of the period that can trigger memories, if not nostalgia, among Americans who lived in those years—whether or not they worked for a flashy New York ad agency.

But how do you account for the show’s loyal viewers among 20-year-olds?

It might be the fascination of watching an America that is both foreign and familiar. The foreign America can be seen in the characters’ enthusiastic drinking and smoking, which is pursued on a scale that only our grandparents could relate to.

Click image to enter the 1963 Ad Gallery.
Click image to enter the 1963 Ad Gallery.

The familiar America is the world of advertising, which is so much a part of our lives in 21st-century America, it is almost our second language. We hear advertising’s familiar accents in politics, health care, education, religion, even in personal relationships.

Modern advertising proved itself in the 1920s. By the 1960s, though, it grew up.

Advertisers dropped the folksy tone and sensible appeals they were still using in the 1950s to sell their cars and laundry soap. The new ads were more colorful, more creative, and more entertaining. Major advertisers used copy and visuals so effective that, viewed today, they offer a fresh, vibrant view into that decade.

Of course, The Saturday Evening Post was an important part for any national ad campaign. Our readers comprised a highly desirable group of buyers, and the pages of our 1963 issues offer a broad window into the business and culture of the times.

If you’ve been following some of the plotting and machinations at Sterling Cooper, you may be interested in some of the finished products of 1963 ad campaigns. We’ve also included a few of the articles that surrounded these ads. In future Retrospectives, we hope to offer other advertising and visuals from this fascinating era to keep pace with the story line.

View our 1963 Ad Gallery