Fifth Wednesday Journal Announces the Editor’s Prize Winners for 2015

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 receives a modest monetary award. The winners this year were chosen from work published in the fall 2014 and spring 2015 issues.


estes“Fabric” by Angie Estes (FWJ Spring 2015) was chosen for the 2015 Editor’s Prize. Estes is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Enchantée. Her previous book, Tryst,was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, an NEA Fellowship, and the Alice Fay di Castagnola Prize from the Poetry Society of America.

Here is what Anna Leahy wrote about this poem: From its first tercet, “Fabric” wraps the reader in texture and asks us to move our mouths around the words that are the fabric of the poem and that are the images of the title’s fabric. The first stanza ends with a “sprig,” which echoes into the second tercet: “lining: linen printed with red sprigs.” Just when the reader is immersed in the imagery, a shift occurs, and the poem goes bold and broad, with a ponderous, italicized statement and a widening to a historical moment of London in the eighteenth century. Nearing the end, we glimpse the stockyard and the Stockyard Inn, the repetition and juxtaposition an uncomfortable yet true image. The tercets continue to parse the connections, pushing us toward the next inevitable surprise. By the end, many things become like fabric: the sky, the child’s parka with its fur trim, the fence. Angie Estes, whose most recent book earned the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, has accomplished a great deal in this short poem, as this poem, like fabric, becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Leahy also recognized an honorable mention: Special mention goes to Karie Friedman’s poem, “Digging a Trench to Divert Snow Melt and Thinking of Gary Snyder” (FWJ, Spring 2015), for its deft use of the second person, couplets, and the questioning end. Each of these poetic techniques presents opportunities and challenges for a poet. They come together extraordinarily well in this poem. It is full of mud and muck and, ultimately, full of joy.”

leahyOur judge for the 2015 Editor’s Prize in Poetry

Anna Leahy‘s book Constituents of Matter won the Wick Poetry Prize, and her poems and essays appear widely, most recently in The Weeklings, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Nimrod. She teaches in the MFA and BFA programs at Chapman University, where she curates the Tabula Poetica reading series and edits the international journal TAB. She co-writes Lofty Ambitions blog at and had a coauthored photo essay in Fifth Wednesday Journal.


simonsenNicole Simonsen’s first published story appeared in the November 2013 issue of Talking Writing. Since then, her work has appeared in multiple publications, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Full Grown People, and Bartleby Snopes. When she is not writing or taking care of her children, she teaches English at a public high school in Sacramento, California. The town of Locke, about forty minutes from her home, is a favorite getaway.

Here is what Jonis Agee had to say: “Almost” by Nicole Simonsen (FWJ Spring 2015) is a story that expands in all directions, leading the reader from one mystery to another, suspending time even, as Maria finally confronts the ineffable and the ultimate mystery: our own nature. Given the task of bringing happiness and relief to her sister Yazmin in her final dying days, Maria seeks every possibility, from jokes to shared girlhood secrets and exploits, until she brings a bag of fortune cookies to the hospice room and the two experience a momentary lifting of spirits. The scope of the story is achieved by the agility with which the narrative and language shift between the comedic and the tragic, embedding the most potent questions of our existence, for instance, in remembrance of the nuns said to be Brides of Christ in their Catholic school days: “The nuns are, like, his harem . . . that old polygamist! He would marry anyone.”

And later: “When the fortune was a good one, Yazmin would put the bits of cookie onto her tongue and let them dissolve like communion wafers.”

What is achieved in the give and take between the sisters is a sense of urgency as both struggle to stave off the inevitable. In lesser hands, the metaphors and symbols would become heavy-handed and drag the prose down, but Simonsen has an extraordinary touch, with active, energetic pacing that reflects the rising grief that Maria rushes to avoid. The title itself drips with a delicious irony that does double duty as gallows humor and as mantra for the ultimate question that confronts Maria.

In an unexpected move, Maria, seeking to replenish the fortune cookies, the only food her sister will eat, visits an historic Chinese settlement in her city. There, she directly experiences frozen time and is finally offered a choice which defines her sister’s fate and her own identity. While seeking to stop time and save her sister, Maria must admit the truth about her own desires and her own beliefs. Simonsen reminds us that when we face mortality, we are also confronting ourselves and the choice we make to endure the motion of living that can only bring us to the stasis of death and the mystery afterwards. Thus, she has written a story that resonates with profundity and originality.”

ageeOur judge for the 2015 Editor’s Prize in Fiction

  Jonis Agee was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and grew up in Nebraska and Missouri, places where many of her stories and novels are set. She was educated at The University of Iowa (BA) and The State University of New York at Binghamton (MA, PhD). She is Adele Hall Professor of English at The University of Nebraska — Lincoln, where she teaches creative writing and twentieth-century fiction. She is the author five novels, five collections of short fiction, and two books of poetry. Her forthcoming novel is The Night Horse (William Morrow, 2016).

She owns twenty pairs of cowboy boots, some of them works of art, loves the open road, and believes that ecstasy and hard work are the basic ingredients of life and writing.

Photograph courtesy of Steve Kowalski

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