Letter From The Editor

Letter from the Editor

Trish Rodriguez—Editorial Director, Philadelphia Stories

This year, I had the honor of choosing the Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction finalists after several years of reading for the contest and being the contest coordinator. This has been no small feat. I worked with Teresa FitzPatrick, our Fiction Editor and Fiction Contest Coordinator, as we narrowed the hundreds of stories to submit the most resonant and well-crafted to this year’s judge, Oindrila Mukherjee, Ph.D. Oindrila was a previous second-place winner in 2015 with her story, “Cul de Sac.” She has gone on to great acclaim with her debut novel, The Dream Builders, published by Tin House Books this year.

It is also with bittersweet feelings that I must announce that this will be the last year for the Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction. We will miss working with and receiving support from the McGlinn/Hansma family. They have decided to focus more on the devastating disease that took their precious Marguerite away from them, pancreatic cancer, which has touched and devastated many of us. We appreciate the time, effort, and support for the McGlinn fiction contest that the McGlinn/Hansma family has provided to Philadelphia Stories these past ten years. To the McGlinn/Hansma family, we at Philadelphia Stories extend a heartfelt thank you. We would also like to thank all those who have submitted to the contest, read for the contest, and our past contest winners. Personally, I am thankful to have been a part of it. I am glad to have read so many excellent stories.

Reading for a contest is one way to recognize how subjective getting published is. There are so many great stories floating about in the world. Only a few can fit in the small, allowable space. I chose the stories I connected with out of those filtered by Teresa and our contest readers for Oindrila to decide which would receive the top prize. We read anonymously without knowing the writer’s background or publishing history. We just wanted to be moved by great stories.

Here are the winning stories with comments from Oindrila Mukherjee

First Place:

“Mirage” by Astha Gupta, Ann Arbor, MI

“Mirage” is a haunting story about grief and how it follows us everywhere, told in lyrical prose that evokes the melancholy beauty of landscapes, both geographical and emotional. It left me feeling both heartbroken and hopeful at the same time.

Second Place:

“The Doppler Effect” by Madeline McGrain Githler, Pittsford, NY

This quietly gripping story about memory and loss is set in such peaceful surroundings, and yet it has the low, sinister rumble of a train running through it, building suspense to an almost unbearable crescendo.

Third Place:

“The God of Ugly Things” by A.J. Bermudez, Boston, MA

“The God of Ugly Things,” set against a chilling backdrop and told in such authoritative prose, is a stunning depiction of how power and control can shift suddenly in a relationship, changing everyone forever.

The Editor’s Choice:

“Vicks Vapor Rub Covered Baby” by Jeannine Cook, Philadelphia, PA

With its rich details and strong voice of family legacy, “Vicks Vapor Rub Covered Baby” struck such an emotional punch that we had to include this story, which can be read online.

The other finalists were, in no particular order:

“Stunt Boy Bishu” by Nivedita Majumdar, San Bruno, CA

“Levittown” by Tina Smith Brown, Philadelphia, PA

“Daniel 9:22,” by Atlas Chambers, St. Petersburg, FL

“Anomaly,” by Laurel Sharon, Stamford, CT

“The Blond Bullfighter and the Police Parade,” by Viviane Vives, Spicewood, TX

“Chicken Grease,” by Mikhayla Robinson, Athens, GA


Letter From the Poetry Editor

Philadelphia Stories is proud to share the winning poem in this year’s Sandy Crimmins National Prize in Poetry! The poem, “Aphorism 31: The Immortality Box” by John Blair of San Marcos, TX was selected by the 2023 Crimmins judge, J.C, Todd. Blair will receive a prize of $1000 and an invitation to attend a hybrid reading and reception celebrating winners. Of this poem, Todd writes:


[T]he measure of the lines and the impeccable diction and syntax of the poem’s single, long sentence lead me through science into image, song, ritual, and finally prayer that “we say even when we don’t.” In a remarkable juncture of language and imagination, this continuous, sinuous motion of sound, sense and image creates a vessel shaped to its contents.


Philadelphia Stories awards two runners up selected by J.C. Todd with a $250 prize. Partridge Boswell of Woodstock, VT, is recognized for “That Vonnegut Thing,” described by Todd as a “deeply humorous poem of mourning” that is “unerringly structured for the speaking voice as it slips from bits of story and conversation that bound his parents into bits of quotes from novels that bind him and his friends.” Shabnam Piryaei of Berkeley, CA is recognized for “Learn to Tell Time!” which Todd describes as a “poem…on a vision-journey to deconstruct time, to stop or slow its perpetual forward motion in order to study ‘the simultaneous’ in which the irreconcilable beauty and violence of life coexist.” Todd also recognizes as honorable mentions the work of Corinne Newbegin of Tarzana, CA; Leena Joshi of Oakland, CA; Robb Fillman of Macungie, PA; and Liya Chang of Swarthmore, PA. Overall, judge J.C. Todd noted that the poems “engaged and surprised me with their range of human concerns and situations, their formal and free verse prosody, and their leaps into new sensibilities.”

Many of the poems here refer to writers and poets: Anne Sexton, Kurt Vonnegut, Audre Lorde, Carolyn Forché, Yusef Komunyakaa, and others. Reading these poems, I was moved by the ways we build communities through time and location. As writers, we balance isolation with connection, and digging into favorite books, websites, and magazines allows us to find friends and teachers and nemeses to write to and from and after.

Philadelphia Stories thanks J. C. Todd for her work and care in the selections of these poems. We also thank Joe Sullivan for his support of this contest and his enduring friendship with Philadelphia Stories. We must recognize Elijah Aharon for his consistent, helpful, and organized communication with our poetry editor, poetry screeners, and poets in his role as contest coordinator. We are forever grateful to Carla Spataro and Christine Weiser for their development of this community of writers and readers, and we celebrate the new leadership of editorial director, Trish Rodriguez and executive editor, Yalonda Rice. Above all, Philadelphia Stories thanks the poets who trust us with their work; your poems remind us that community is built through screens or over pages as well as through physical proximity. Each year, I feel our community of writers and readers deepen and expand, so thank you!



“Aphorism 31: The Immortality Box,” John Blair (San Marcos, TX)



“That Vonnegut Thing,” Partridge Boswell (Woodstock, VT)

“Learn to Tell Time!,” Shabnam Piryaei (Berkeley, CA)



“as a river,” Corinne Newbegin (Tarzana, CA)

“Test Site for a Memory Surface (I am Expelling This),” Leena Joshi (Oakland, CA)

“The Weight of Loss,” Robert Fillman (Macungie, PA)

“apparent death,” Liya Chang (Swarthmore, PA)



“Foxes & Hounds,” Jonathan Greenhause (Jersey City, NJ)

“It’s Not True What They Say about Thunder,” Erica Abbott (Clifton Heights, PA)

“The Reading,” Karen Rile (Philadelphia, PA)



“The Fawn,” Julie DeBoer (Seattle, WA)

“Prayer Beads,” Shakiba Hashemi (Aliso Viejo, CA)

“The Earth Remembers Seven Sorrows,” Marjorie Maddox (Williamsport, PA)

“Held Before Me as Blessing and Weapon,” Jen Karetnick (El Portal, FL)

“A Woman Was Running Along the Hudson,” Ayla Schultz (Brooklyn, NY)

“The Snake and the Eagle,” Ana Martinez (Shelter Island, NY)

“Song of a Suicide Addict and His Idols,” Ethan Altshul (West Chester, PA)



Letter From The Editor

Dear Members of the Philadelphia Stories Community,

Once again it is my pleasure to announce the winners of the McGlinn Fiction contest and to thank the McGlinn and Hansma families for their continued support of PS and the contest. In this issue you will see the first and second place stories, and an editor’s choice. The third place story will be printed in the Winter issue.

This is what the contest judge, Camille Acker, had to say about the first place story by Robert Sorrell Bynum. “’Here Is As Good A Place As Any’ deftly re-imagines apocalypse not just as the outer world collapsing, floods and abandoned highways, but also the inner, alcoholism, long-term relationships, and motherhood. The writer plays with form and language to create a beautifully strange and poignant world.” And this is what she had to say about the second place winning story by Gina Angelone. “’Portrait of A Stranger’ plunges face-first into the frustrated voice of a daughter navigating a distant, dysfunctional relationship with her father. The story is told with heart, ending on a loving note while still acknowledging how complicated love between a parent and child can be.”

Trish Rodriguez (our fiction editor) and I chose the editor’s choice story, by Holly Woodward. “’Tryst’ is a daring and heartbreaking story of love and friendship during the devasting days of AIDS in the 1980s.”

Philadelphia Stories has come a long way since our founding launch in September of 2004. Our budget and reach have grown over the years, and we’ve remained open to new ideas and modes of publication. At the core of everything we do is our mission, “… to cultivate a community of writers, artists, and readers in the Greater Philadelphia Area through publications, professional development, and promotion of area writers.” I know that I speak for executive director, Christine Weiser and the board of directors when I say thank you to all of you for your support over the years and congratulations to the winners of this year’s contest.


Writing for Social Justice: Dear Alice

Dear Alice,

If you are reading this, it is because yet again the Great Listener has deemed my seeking worth finding. I am placing in this letter a few questions which I hope to learn your thoughts. It is May 31, 2022. I am sitting with news of massacres. I have spent the last few months with your writing, rereading The Color Purple and rewatching the movie of the same name. Checking your website for new blog entries.

Earlier this month, I interviewed you after reading your newest book, Gathering Blossoms Under Fire, 50 years of your journal entries. I am a little over halfway done with The Same River Twice, playing Quincy Jones’ Color Purple movie soundtrack while I write you this letter with dreams of someday hosting a live listening party with you and Quincy as our special guests. We would chat music, the Color Purple soundtrack, and review copies of Quincy’s new book–12 Notes on Life and Creativity, alongside your extensive catalogue. Big dreamer. I know.

I wrote your staff requesting an opportunity to share space with you at the beginning of the year, and I get that I am one of a billion people who have that same prayer, so when I didn’t hear back I was not astonished, just patient until Sara Lomax Reese, head of the oldest local radio station in Philadelphia, calls me up and asks if I’d like to interview Alice Walker, I say: YES! And then cut a step. Yes to the Great Listener. Wave my hand in the air. Yes to fate. Close my eyes. Inhale. Yes to Alice.

You won’t believe this but on December 31, 2021, I wrote down all my wildest dreams for 2022 and right on top of my list, under complete my memoir, was your name–have tea and chat with Alice Walker. The tea didn’t happen just yet (but I have hope). Our chat began at 6 pm on May 12th at the Comcast Technology Center. But how does one squeeze a lifetime of questions into a 45-minute interview where I must share half the questions with a co-host and 15 minutes of the interview on audience questions. The day before the interview, my sister said, “Just make sure you have one good question because that might be all you get.” And she was almost right. I got to ask you about love, flowers, reparations, finances, and fame. But I still have so many other questions.

I will not write them all here today. Just one: I want to know your visions for the future of this world and how you see us getting there. After reading the journal entries in Gathering Blossoms, I am challenged on how to teach folks, especially young folks, how to practically apply the lessons the book so eloquently layers in. For instance, I just finished watching a documentary on Hulu about XXXtentacion, a young rapper with millions of fans who was shot dead at 20 years old during the height of his tumultuous career.

I wanted to understand XXXtentacion more because my 18-year- old son damn near worships him. “XXXtentacion to me is what Alice Walker is to you,” my son explains. In the documentary, XXXtentacion, like Mister______, like your grandfather, has a deep mix of undesirable qualities alongside great fragility. These qualities are attractive to millions of young people who listen to XXXtentacion and feel heard. And I am aware that in Philly, it’s the 16–24-year-olds who are both the most at risk (highest murder rate, highest suicide rate, highest rape rate) and share the highest opportunity for growth. I am aware that the young person who shot and killed elders in a Buffalo grocery store was 18 years old. That the young person who shot and killed babies in a Texas elementary school was 18 years old. That the cadre of conductors working in our shops come there to restore their belief in connection. And these are young people who just came out of years spent in the captivity of a global pandemic. I just want to know from your perspective how to love them better. How to reach the otherwise unreachable. How to get as many of your books into desiring hands as possible. How to get us writing letters like Nettie. And freely expressing ourselves like Shug and Sofia. And restoring ourselves like Celie.

I believe that your books are medicine, a soul rejuvenating elixir that will protect and guide us through the days to come if we read, hear, and apply the wisdom.

signed a revolutionary petunia,


For the last 10 years, Jeannine Cook has worked as a trusted writer for several startups, corporations, non-profits, and influencers. In addition to a holding a master’s degree from The University of the Arts, Jeannine is a Leeway Art & Transformation Grantee and a winner of the South Philly Review Difference Maker Award. Jeannine’s work has been recognized by several news outlets including Vogue Magazine, INC, MSNBC, The Strategist, and the Washington Post. She recently returned from Nairobi, Kenya facilitating social justice creative writing with youth from 15 countries around the world. She writes about the complex intersections of motherhood, activism, and community. Her pieces are featured in several publications including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Root Quarterly, Printworks, and midnight & indigo. She is the proud new owner of Harriett’s Bookshop in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.

Some Stuff Ain’t for Sale

Year 2. For the last two years, we have lived and witnessed a level of community that we believe is worth a testimony.

Our testimony is that we’ve witnessed folks bring us cases of water to get through sidewalk sales in smoldering summer heat; we’ve watched piles of love letters and thank you cards and flowers and awards stack up behind our desk from well-wishers; we’ve hosted author readings on street corners and the orchestra in our living room and athletes and artists of every genre lend us their best.

Our community has ensured a few dozen youth have a safe nourishing place to call home–running daily operations, hosting our pop-up shops, book giveaways, and now the trolley tours.

Our community drives us to write more, and build more, and to listen more even in the face of the overt and covert vileness that seeks to take the best of us away from us. Did you know somebody almost got away with me?

Our sister bookshops are a social experiment in sisterhood and even under undeniable odds, we are thriving and flying where it matters most. But, as with any experiment, there are results to report.

The lyrics from Ntzoke Shange’s 1976 choreopoem, for colored girls who considered suicide when the rainbow was enuf, provide context for one of the revelations that we wish to address–

“Somebody almost walked off wid alla of my stuff,” Shange’s character, Lady in Green, says as if swats these words with her hips as she shares about being in love with “a kleptomaniac who was workin hard at forgettin while stealin/stealin all my shit.”

On our journey, we are more and more often finding institutions, corporations, organizations, media engines, and political figures who are way too similar to Lady In Green’s kleptomaniac lover. We are finding institutions that we have “made way too much room for” attempting to seduce us into long term relationships, and even birthing their children, knowing just like “a man who’s ego walked round like Rodan’s shadow” that they have no intentions of true love.

Instead there is a demand for our votes, our dollars, our attention spans, our memories, our signatures, our image and likeness, and all manners of coercion to try to steal our “anonymous ripped off treasures.” But this stuff is mine, Mr. Lousiana Hotlink.

This is not the first time that institutions, corporations, organizations, media engines, and political figures have tried to take off with “our stuff in a plastic bag beneath their arms.” This is how it has gone for generations–through the slavery and the civil war and the jane crow and the jazz and the renaissance and the marches and the redlining and the free breakfasts and the cyphas and the cross colors at every turn taking a dime for things that we didn’t even know we had. “Why dont ya find yr own things,” Shange’s Lady In Green says as she shimmys.

But the warning in Shange’s piece is not for the greedy lover that we have made too much room for; we expect them to behave the way they have always behaved. No, the Lady in Green is calling out to her sisters from a place of both shock and caution. She reminds us that they can’t have us, unless we give us away. That it is our responsibility to hold on to our stuff and to get it back if and when it gets confiscated.

Unfortunately, in the past, while some stood firm in the conviction that “I gotta have me in my pocket,” others were freely given up “our fried plantains/ pineapple pear juice/ sun-ra & joseph & jules in exchange” not realizing that we are the only ones who can truly handle our stuff. Giving it up, generation after generation, is like throwing our stuff in the sewer. It’s like a mammy nursing her master’s baby, while her own children starve. Some stuff ain’t for sale. Our stuff is not up for commodification/publication/classification/gentrification/decoration/replication.

So yeah, we taking our stuff back. We want our rhythms & our voices. We want our open mouths. We want our arms wit the hot iron scars. We want our legs wit the flea bites. We want our calloused feet & quik language. We want our stuff.

Say it loud, like the Lady In Green,

Our own things’/ that is our name.

For the last 10 years, Jeannine Cook has worked as a trusted writer for several startups, corporations, non-profits, and influencers. In addition to a holding a master’s degree from The University of the Arts, Jeannine is a Leeway Art & Transformation Grantee and a winner of the South Philly Review Difference Maker Award. Jeannine’s work has been recognized by several news outlets including Vogue Magazine, INC, MSNBC, The Strategist, and the Washington Post. She recently returned from Nairobi, Kenya facilitating social justice creative writing with youth from 15 countries around the world. She writes about the complex intersections of motherhood, activism, and community. Her pieces are featured in several publications including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Root Quarterly, Printworks, and midnight & indigo. She is the proud new owner of Harriett’s Bookshop in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.

Letter From the Poetry Editor

Philadelphia Stories happily announces that the poem, “greens” by Edythe Rodriguez was selected as the winning poem in this year’s Sandy Crimmins National Prize in Poetry. Crimmins judge Cynthia Arrieu-King writes that “greens” is “virtuosic” and “handles its use of the page like a kind of spontaneous music.”

We are also awarding each of four runners up a $250 prize: Kelly Lorraine Andrews for “The Madonna of the Rabbit,” Stephanie Niu for “Abecedarian for Pinyin,” Aimee Seu for “Rich Friend,” and Alison Lubar for “You Can’t Say ‘Oriental.’” Poems from Liz Abrams-Morley, Cleveland Wall, Ike Pickett, and Mackenzie Kean were selected as honorable mentions by the judge. Poems from Lupita Eyde-Tucker, Courtney DuChene, Mikhayla Robinson, and Laura Tanenbaum were selected as “editor’s choices” by the contest readers, contest coordinators, and poetry editor and appear in the online Spring 2022 issue.

Along with Edythe Rodriguez, the winning poets will be celebrated with an online reading at the LitLife Poetry Festival’s closing reception on Saturday, April 23. Visit https://philadelphiastories.org/2022-litlife-poetry-conference/ for more information and to register for LitLife.

Joe Sullivan continues to support this contest and we are grateful for his enduring friendship with Philadelphia Stories. We are also grateful to contest coordinators Eli Aharon and Phoebe LaMont for their  consistent, helpful, and organized work. We thank Yalonda Rice, managing editor, for her flexibility and patience. Above all, we thank the poets who trust their work with us; reading your poems each year is a pleasure and a challenge that is humbling and humanizing.



“greens,” Edythe Rodriguez (Upper Darby, PA)



“The Madonna of the Rabbit,” Kelly Lorraine Andrews (Pittsburgh, PA)

“Abecedarian for Pinyin,” Stephanie Niu (New York, NY)

“Rich Friend,” Aimee Seu (Tallahassee, FL)

“You Can’t Say ‘Oriental,'” Alison Lubar (Cherry Hill, NJ)



“Her, Too,” Liz Abrams-Morley (Philadelphia, PA)

“How to Act,” Cleveland Wall (Bethlehem, PA)

“There are Horses in North Philadelphia! There are Figs in My Stomach!” Ike Pickett (Philadelphia, PA)

“Fiona Rice Does Not Talk to the Rabbits,” Mackenzie Kean (Freehold, NJ)



“Eucalyptus,” Lupita Eyde-Tucker (Melbourne Beach, FL)

“Ars Poetica Caught in Eternal Recurrence,” Courtney DuChene (Philadelphia, PA)

“In the Wake of Heat,” Mikhayla Robinson (Athens, GA)

“The Night Diana Died,” Laura Tanenbaum (Brooklyn, NY)



A Lion Who Lives in a Fear Filled World,” Shagufta Mulla (Independence, OR)

A Psalm of Assaf,” Jared Ijams (Brooklyn, NY)

“Advice for a New School Year,” Megan Merchant (Prescott, AZ)

“Advice to My Six-Year-Old Self,” Jane Miller (Wilmington, DE)

“Diptych: Brood X,” Matt Hohner (Baltimore, MD)

“Gathering and Letting Go,” Brendan Praniewicz (San Diego, CA)

“Ghost,” Nala Washington (Camp Springs, MD)

“Lovecraft,” Sean Hanrahan (Philadelphia, PA)

“Ode to the Laundromat,” Kathleen Shaw (Schwenksville, PA)

“Ornithology of Hunger,” Katherine Gaffney (Petal, MS)

“Raking the Leaves,” Steve Burke (Philadelphia, PA)

“same old same old,” Nicole Adabunu (Iowa City, IA)

“There’ll be no more writing around the thing,” L.J. Sysko (Wilmington, DE)

“Two Tones against Brick,” Alison Hicks (Havertown, PA)


Writing for Social Justice: Core Strength

“She ain’t nothing but a $5 hoe,” our booknerd, stripper friend chides while she two-step shimmies towards the pole in the center of her new home’s private library. We are in her house, Young Money’s Seeing Green playing on repeat in the background. This is her den of delectable book treats. Surrounded by the smell of seductive stunken leather and crumpled paper backs, this is where she reads and entertains. “Like Sula,” our friend reinforces her statement with eyebrows raised as she grips the titanium-gold pole and wraps her legs around it, careful not to stab herself with her spiked four inch heel.

The $5 hoes that she is talking about are activists who partner with corporate brands for trinkets and the long-term effects those relationships have on communities. We are talking about how much modern day branding is like the physical branding done to ancestors of the past. Always some colonialist loser with their hot irons and pitchforks wanting to inflict their names and their labels and their pain on someone else’s chest or ass or thigh. And how branding cannot be misconstrued with reparation.

And she is changing the subject to Toni Morrison’s 1973 book, Sula, knowing damn well we have been drinking. We are sitting at our booknerd stripper friend’s meticulous and neat desk pontificating over an Old Fashioned in our ripped jeans and a bleached-brown-from-black Strategic AF tee shirt. We could use some lotion–and some socks. She is one with her pole.

“A $5 hoe like Sula?” our booknerd stripper friend pokes at Toni Morrison’s free-spirited protagonist and title character. In this deep character study of a novel, Morrison channels two best friends, Sula and Nell. Readers get to experience the two women’s lifetime of decisions on love, friendship, community, loyalty, and philosophy. We get to examine their dubious choices and more importantly examine our own through them–asking ourselves throughout the story, which character we are more like under different life circumstances. Sula or Nell?

Then our booknerd stripper friend effortlessly flips herself upside down, legs spread V to the sky. Talk about core strength.

Morrison has created an ongoing sore spot in our friendship.

We state:

“Sula was spontaneous.”


She states:

“Sula was inscrupulous.”


We state:



She states:

“Bitch, you know what I mean.


She lands in a split that makes our cheeks ache.


We were asking her to imagine a world where Rosa Parks was sponsored by Aunt Jemima-selling syrup as she sauntered away from her seat in southern Alabama, where Fannie Lou Hamer was sponsored by Uncle Ben’s, pushing rice while delivering rants against racism at mass meetings in Mississippi. It is unimaginable.

“Don’t you dare say an unkind word about Ms. Parks,” she glances over her shoulder at us.

“What about Hamer?” Our hand gestures adamant towards the sky. “Morrison is speaking about the whole human,” our fingers like a maestro conducting our words. “We all a lil’ Sula from time to time. Not connecting our decisions to what is best for the community, not caring. We are all a lil’ Nell from time to time. Over sacrificing at our own peril. No need to choose between these two. Instead stand in the middle.” We rest our flailing arms at our sides.

Modern day branding tactics are sneaky and not nearly as visceral as cooking someone’s flesh with a burning hot piece of metal. Because of this, the tactics are a little harder to spot. They may disguise themselves in marketing lingo like partnership, campaign, and collaboration or hide behind financial backing calling themselves grants, fellowships, and awards knowing damn well they have an ulterior motive—let us put our names on your back, shoulder, or face like chattel.

“We had a woman reach out wanting to present a youth poetry award at the bookshop,” we say looking through our friend’s super neat Nicki Minaj cover collection.

“Sweet,” she is on the floor stretching. “You should stretch your hip,” she says tapping the floor where she wants us to sit down next to her.

“Right. No problem. Sure.” We ignore her and get back to our story. “But the closer we got to the event, the youth poetry award woman finally shared that the award was being sponsored by Gucci and that they wanted to pay us for using our venue as long as one of their representatives was able to present the award and speak to the press out front. But Gucci had literally just dropped their Blackface turtleneck line. We were like, ‘Sis, we could never host them after that.’ And the crazy thing is she couldn’t understand why not. They’d just given her a community ambassador fellowship, she said clutching her pearls. Five thousand dollars and that turtleneck thing was a thing of the past. So is slavery,” we rolled our eyes as she and her little check pranced out the door.

“Precisely. In my industry, the best of us live by a standard. We work by a code. We have to have each other’s backs. But there are those who don’t.” Our booknerd stripper friend is laid flat out on her back taking in deep breaths. “We say this is a hoe willing to mess it up for everyone else by accepting $5 to do some shit that the rest of us would never do at all because it doesn’t serve anyone—it doesn’t even serve the hoe. We chop those dumb bitches the fuck up at the end of the night because they make it harder for the rest of us having people think we are all $5 hoes,” she Floyd Mayweather jabs and uppercuts the air.

At this point, some of us may ask ourselves, why would anyone accept less than they deserve? And the answer is because we don’t know what we deserve and haven’t asked ourselves this question enough for actual feedback.

We stay quiet. We know very little about booknerd stripper culture. The closest we’ve come in support of our friend’s self-proclaimed, good hoe goals is cornrowing her braids into a crown that fit snugly beneath her platinum 40 inch.

“What about freedom, though?” we ask after a long minute of silence. “Aren’t people allowed to do whatever they want? Free will?”

“Yup, and those free hoes who do so without a standard among people who they can trust are easy prey. They always get picked off. Those people, like Sula, end up chopped and alone with people like me and Nell who have to come along and give them medicine and pick up their pieces.”

In Morrison’s novel, Nell ends up serving her lifelong friend, Sula, in her dying moments, even after what she perceives is Sula’s severe betrayal.

“What we always felt was missing from Sula and Nell’s relationship was a plan. A decision. A meeting of the minds,” we say looking down into our glass of Old Fashioned.

“Yup and the moral of the story is never be a $5 hoe, my G,” she says dozing off to sleep.

Ase. And so shall it be.

For the last 10 years, Jeannine Cook has worked as a trusted writer for several startups, corporations, non-profits, and influencers. In addition to a holding a master’s degree from The University of the Arts, Jeannine is a Leeway Art & Transformation Grantee and a winner of the South Philly Review Difference Maker Award. Jeannine’s work has been recognized by several news outlets including Vogue Magazine, INC, MSNBC, The Strategist, and the Washington Post. She recently returned from Nairobi, Kenya facilitating social justice creative writing with youth from 15 countries around the world. She writes about the complex intersections of motherhood, activism, and community. Her pieces are featured in several publications including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Root Quarterly, Printworks, and midnight & indigo. She is the proud new owner of Harriett’s Bookshop in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.


Letter From the Editor

by Carla Spataro, Editorial Director – Philadelphia Stories & PS Books

Every year I have the honor of choosing the finalists for the Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction. Over the past few years, I’ve been doing this in consultation with our Fiction Editor, Trish Rodriguez. As always there were many great stories to choose from this year. Sometimes Trish has to convince me to go back and read something again. Sometimes a second or third reading changes my mind, and sometimes it doesn’t. Usually, we end up with a list of either slightly less than or slightly more than 10 stories. If we’re on the fence about two or three, we look at the grouping as a whole and do our best to decide which stories will make the strongest connection with our readers. I almost always have a favorite, which is almost always never the same as the judge’s favorite – or Trish’s. This is why we have a judge, someone from outside the magazine, someone with a different take on the work and a different aesthetic. Judging art of any kind is purely subjective and writers who submit their work to contests, and for publication in general, need to keep that in mind. All it takes for a story to get published is for the author to find the right reader – and sometimes that takes a very long time.

I was so thrilled Rion Amilcar Schott agreed to be this year’s judge. When I first read his short story collection, The World Doesn’t Require You, I knew this was an author I wanted to meet and hoped that I would be able to convince him to come to Philadelphia. Sadly, this year’s Push to Publish Conference and events will be online again because of Covid concerns, and Rion Amilcar Scott will not be visiting us in person. However, we will still be hosting all the great readings, events, panels, and workshops that you’ve come to expect. And we’ll be doing it all on Zoom. You will still be able to spend the day with him by taking his short story Master Class, Dangerous Satires: Writing Ridiculousness for Ridiculous Times, on Friday, October 8, 2021 – and you’ll be able to “meet” the winners of this year’s contest and hear them read at our virtual celebration and reception on October 9, 2021. Find more details at www.philadelphiastories.org/push-to-publish-2021.

Here are the winning stories with comments from Rion Scott.

First Place: “Uncle” by Robin Lee Lovelace from Plainfield, Indiana. “Uncle” manages to be both funny and starkly gut-wrenching. There’s a tension that crept up on me and when it broke, left me feeling a real sense of loss.

Second Place: “Ameena Goes to America” by Rahad Abeer from Nashua, New Hampshire. In “Ameena Goes to America,” physical journeys become emotional journeys across time. The story left me with questions about the limits of love and forgiveness. It’s a really beautiful story.

Third Place: “Experimental Trials” by Olivia Fantini from Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Experimental Trials” is one of those stories that manages to be timely and timeless. A new vaccine causes people to float. And of course, there are the believers and the non-believers. Grounded, but with a sprinkling of magic, this story had me thinking about the borders of faith and science.

Finalists, in no particular order:

“Goodbye Mr. Lincoln” by Louise Smith, Arlington, VA

“Winged” by Natalie Gerich Brabson, Philadelphia, PA

“May All Be Happy” by Jyotsna Sreenivasan, Columbus, OH

“Ups and Downs” by Shelby Wardlaw, Jersey City, NJ

“Tejedora” by Kris Faatz, Parkville, MD



2022 AWP Conference Announcement!

The Nation’s Biggest Writing Conference Comes to Philadelphia 

The AWP Conference & Bookfair is the biggest annual writing conference in the United States, and it will be taking place at the Convention Center in Philadelphia in March 2022. 

The conference expects more than 12,000 writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers of contemporary creative writing to gather from March 23-26, 2022 to participate in hundreds of events – and Philadelphia Stories will be a premier sponsor of this event. 

This premiere sponsorship represents a unique opportunity to not just showcase Philadelphia Stories magazine to this national audience, but to showcase Philadelphia as a hub for the literary arts. 

The Winter 2022 issue of Philadelphia Stories will be distributed at the conference, and it is our goal to ensure this issue represents the diverse voices that make up our great city. Here are two ways you can participate in the issue:

  •     Submit your work: If you are a writer currently living in or from the Philadelphia metropolitan area, you may submit your fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or artwork to be considered for the special AWP Winter 2022 issue. We are specifically seeking submissions from diverse perspectives: all ethnicities, races, abilities, and gender identification. Find our guidelines here: https://philadelphiastories.org/submission-guidelines/
  •     Submit your literary organization to be considered for our AWP Resource Guide: The Winter 2022 AWP issue of Philadelphia Stories will include a special Resource Guide listing the wealth of literary resources available in the region, including independent bookstores, literary organizations, writing workshops, reading series, and more. You may submit your organization here to be considered: https://forms.gle/LWXq8W3tYpfmnmou8

As part of our AWP sponsorship, Philadelphia Stories will be offering scholarships to writers so they can attend the conference and bookfair. We also plan to have plenty of fun, hosting free readings, meet-ups, and cocktail parties. 

We look forward to working in partnership with the Philadelphia writing community to showcase our city as a place where the literary arts thrive.