The Winners of the 2019 Winter Contest!

Columbia Journal is excited to announce the winners and finalists of our 2019 Winter Contest, which was judged by Ruth Madievsky, Ada Calhoun, and Ottessa Moshfegh. We want to thank everyone who entered the contest for sharing their work with us, as well as our three wonderful judges, and express our congratulations to the winners and finalists.

The winners’ writing will appear in print in Columbia Journal’s Issue 58, to be released in May 2020.


Judged by Ruth Madievsky

Winner: “Civics Unit: Naturalization Test” by Mariya Zilberman
Finalists: “It’s easy to drown in your body” by Alicia Salvadeo, and “Before They Announced the Divorce” by Vanessa Batyko

Ruth Madievsky on the winner: “I was surprised and delighted by the form. It reminded me of Alejandro Zambra’s ‘Multiple Choice,’ a book of fiction written as a standardized test, which I loved. From the first line, I was very moved by the rich narrative and imagery of the answers provided to the naturalization test’s rigid questions. The tone shift that occurs between each question and its answer is so striking. ‘Every summer, the fires come’ — what an opening. It also hit me on a personal level: my parents had to take naturalization tests when we immigrated in the 90s, and I don’t think I’ve ever considered exactly what that looked like.”

[Check out some more of Ruth’s thoughts on poetry and life in this interview, conducted by Matthew Dix.]


Judged by Ada Calhoun

Winner: “Chimera” by Kathleen McNamara
Finalists: “M.O.G.” by Jessica Cerretani, and “Reaching First” by Daniel Rousseau

Ada Calhoun on the winner: “The author masterfully weaves science, mythology, and personal experience to paint an effective picture of a new mother’s quiet desperation. Overwhelmed at having become her baby’s everything — his ‘dat’ — she explores the collisions of temperament and family history that have led her to engage in attachment parenting, and describes her choices and at the world around her and with wit and poignance.”

[Check out some more of Ada’s thoughts on nonfiction and life in this interview, conducted by Rachel Keranen.]


Judged by Ottessa Moshfegh

Winner: “Breast Cancer and Your Arm!” by Julian Robles
Finalists: “As if from some great distance” by Leonora Desar, and “Shelter” by John Haggerty

Ottessa Moshfegh on the winner: “I’ve never seen a story like this, a medical treatment diary and a log of pain and illness, as well as an intimate portrayal of staying alive while dying. It was so well-crafted, moving, funny, peculiar, and had the ring of truth to it in a way that made me want to read on because I would learn something about life. I think it’s a major feat to write something so human and sophisticated in such an experimental form.”

[Check out some more of Ottessa’s thoughts on fiction and life in this interview, conducted by Elliot Alpern.]

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