Fifth Wednesday Journal Announces the Editor’s Prize Winners for 2014

FWJ does not sponsor contests or offer prizes based on reading fees. Each year we ask an established artist in his or her field to select the recipient of our Editor’s Prize in Fiction and Poetry. The field is limited to work published in Fifth Wednesday Journal. The author of the selected work in each genre receives a modest monetary award and recognition in our pages, as well as on our website. The winners this year were chosen from among works published in the fall 2013 and spring 2014 issues. We are proud to recognize them here.

nadelsonScott Nadelson in Fiction

“Between You and Me” by Scott Nadelson (FWJ fall 2013) was chosen for the 2014 Editor’s Prize in Fiction. Nadelson is the author of three story collections, most recently Aftermath, and a memoir, The Next Scott Nadelson: A Life in Progress. A winner of the Oregon Book Award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, and the Reform Judaism Prize, he teaches at Willamette University and in the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA Program at Pacific Lutheran University.

Carolyn Alessio writes about this story: The story begins innocuously, with Paul, a 58-year-old attorney contemplating the future — of his career and his seemingly humdrum personal life.  Soon, however, we meet Rabbi Mike, a gloriously frank and witty man who just happens to divine the true sources of tension in Paul’s life. In clear, disarmingly straightforward prose, Nadelson reminds readers not to ignore explosive impulses. When a refrain about knowledge pops up in the story, it is unbidden but perfectly applicable: “I know what I know. That’s knowledge. I feel what I know. That’s wisdom.”

alessioOur judge for the 2014 Editor’s Prize in Fiction

Carolyn Alessio was a 2014 finalist in the PEN/Bellwether novel prize for socially engaged fiction. A recipient of an NEA fellowship and Pushcart Prize, Alessio is prose editor for Crab Orchard Review. She teaches high school on Chicago’s Southwest Side.


okaCynthia Dewi Oka in Poetry

“How to Watch The Act of Killing,” by Cynthia Dewi Oka (FWJ Spring 2014) was chosen for the 2014 Editor’s Prize. Oka is author of the poetry collection Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (Dinah Press, 2012). Her work has or will soon appear in, Best American Poetry, As/Us, JMWW, Boxcar Poetry Review, Ozone Park Journal, Briarpatch Magazine, Kweli and others. She is poetry editor at Generations Literary Journal and a contributor to the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) anthology, Dismantle (Thread Makes Blanket, 2014). She lives in New Jersey.

Here is what Rachel Webster wrote about this poem: Oka writes of violence, fate, genocide, nationalism — even the sacred — in language that is impressive and original enough to match her profound subjects. This poem is ekphrastic — written after a documentary about mass killings in Indonesia — and yet the poem does not rely on knowledge of its source-film to move and awaken its readers. In the documentary, death squad leaders re-enact mass executions in the style of their favorite Hollywood movies, and the poem does important work of completing this double negative — admitting the framework of myth and artifice with its hook of a first line, “Remember, this is not real” — while making the brutalities of genocide ever more real. Thus, the poem becomes both a horrific depiction of pain and a compelling interrogation of the reader. While the poem asks us to think about the way representations of violence go on to perpetuate its horrors, however, it tips ultimately toward the actual, achieving a sense of gravitas and proportion that I find rare in contemporary poetry. Oka does not tread too conceptually around her subject and does not diminish the beauty, pain and cruelty of torture.  We watch as “fires laugh redly & the bamboo bleeds./ Black crowns of tualang trees & birds fall/ like sleet,” and “women’s faces purple, their thighs licked by flames like corn husks.” And we shudder at fate as “grandchildren & neighbors,/ strangers and childhood friends” “play the prey.” Oka’s poem accesses startlingly musical and visceral language, as it examines gorgeous, precious life being maimed, and “make-believe memory, myth shaped like a wail,/ looking for the body it belongs to.” This is high art of high stakes — a beautiful poem that deserves this year’s editor’s prize.

Webster also recognized two runners up: “Laundry” by Kendra Langdon Juskus (FWJ, fall 2013) and “Conclusions” by Chris Green (FWJ fall 2013).

websterOur judge for the 2014 Editor’s Prize in Poetry

Rachel Jamison Webster is author of the full-length collection of poetry, September(Northwestern University Press 2013) and the chapbook, The Blue Grotto (Dancing Girl Press 2009). Her poems and essays appear in many journals and anthologies, including Poetry, The Southern Review, The Paris Review and Narrative. She lives in Evanston, IL, with her small daughter, where she teaches poetry and literature at Northwestern University. She has edited two anthologies of writing by urban youth, and now edits the online anthology of international poetry, UniVerse, located at You can read more about Rachel at

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