I'm delighted to announce the winners of the 2021 Chapter One Prize! 

Out of a total of 671 international submissions in this blind contest, 22 chapters rose to the top for final consideration; it was truly a challenge to select the top three winners, and reading each writer's work was a pleasure and a privilege. In addition to the three winners, six writers were selected for honorable mention status, and twelve were selected as notable. All are listed below—I encourage you to visit their websites and follow them on social media; these are all writers to watch! 

The writers showcased on this page represent a variety of genres for both adults and young adults: satire, historical, literary, fantasy, speculative, mystery and thriller. What their chapters shared in common is that while reading, I found myself feeling in utterly capable hands, enjoying myself as a reader (versus editor), fully immersed in the prose. As the judge, I was looking for the following elements, and each of these writers ticked all the boxes: a clear point of view; a tone appropriate to the genre and story; an introduction to the protagonist; a sense of what the story would be about; a gripping opening scene; a vivid setting or settings; and a chapter ending that urged readers on to the second chapter. 

Thanks to all who submitted, and congratulations to our winners. Outstanding work, everyone.

Some of the winners agreed to share their chapters, which you'll find links to below; enjoy!

Karen Palmer

FIRST PRIZE ($1,000)

KAREN PALMER, Birds of Paradise

Los Angeles, California, USA

Victoria Bell


VICTORIA BELL, The Weight of Air

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Jessica McCann



Phoenix, Arizona, USA


Katherine Lim, London, UK, for American Heroine

Twitter | Facebook

Matthew Murphy, Los Angeles, California, USA, for Happiest Place on Earth

Website | Twitter

Jaya Padmanabhan, Los Altos Hills, California, USA, for The Eleventh Letter

Website | Twitter

Laura Preble, El Cajon, California, USA, for Apple Poppins and Jiffy Down Under  

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

READ CHAPTER ONE of Apple Poppins

READ CHAPTER ONE of Jiffy Down Under

Yaron Regev, Raanana, Israelfor Adrimus



Charlotte Stuart, Vashon, Washington, USA > Raven's Grave

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads



Joshua Beggs, Kansas City, Kansas, USA, for Myrtlewood

Amy Bernstein, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, for The Nighthawkers


Shannon L. Cheesman, Coronado, California, USA, for The Death Whisper

Website | Facebook


Annie Dawid, Silver Cliff, Colorado, USA, for Paradise Undone: A Novel of Jonestown


Fredric Koeppel, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, for She Was a Child

Website | Facebook

Michelle Lerner, Flanders, New Jersey, USAfor Ring

Edward McSweegan, Kingston, Rhode Island, USA, for The Fever Hut



Em Parker, Brunswick, Maine, USA, for The Truth Is

Catherine Pezdirtz, Lake Barrington, Illinois, USA, for Being Lili


Mark Rhodes, Greenville, South Carolina, USA, for Assumption

Patrick Earl Ryan, San Francisco, California, USA, for Tobias and the Gentleman Vampire


Michael Sirois, Houston, Texas, USA, for The Hawthorn's Sting




Annie Dawid teaches creative writing at the University College, University of Denver. She was formerly professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. Her Page One Prize winning entry was taken from her novel Standing Beside Love, which was a finalist in three contests: the Retreat West competition, the Dana Awards in the Novel and the Faulkner novel-in-progress award.

“The Closer You Were, the Less You Knew,” won the 2019 Sequestrum Reprint Award and was published on that website in Spring 2020. Annie won second place in the 2018 London Independent Story Prize. In 2016, she won the International Rubery Award in fiction for her first book and the Music Prize from Knuthouse Press in Fiction. Other awards include the Dana Award in the Essay, the Orlando Flash Fiction Award, The New Rocky Mountain Voices Award (drama) and the Northern Colorado Award in Creative Non-Fiction.

Most recent publications: London Independent Story Project (2020), Pure Slush, Spelk, Arts & Letters, London Independent Story Prize, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Casket of Fictional Delights, Fictive Dream, Reflex Fiction, Windmill, and Joyland; non-fiction in Wordrunner Echapbook. and a poetry chapbook, Anatomie of the World, Finishing Line Press, 2017.



Michael was reading by the age of four, plowing through classics like Treasure Island before the first grade. In third grade he produced a playground version of Helen of Troy so he could cast himself as Paris, and Linda Leonard as Helen. She had great freckles. A poem about discovering lint in his navel and a story about fighting monsters on Mars soon followed, but in high school he fell in love with acting, and added that to his repertoire. 

In the late-1970’s, armed with English and Drama degrees, he taught writing, drama, and technology for two decades, but continued to act and write. One of his stories, Loonie Louie, placed in the top 100 of the 1989 Writer’s Digest’s Short Story contest. The 1990’s saw his one-act play, Baum in Limbo, produced in Houston. His screenplay, An Ordinary Day, survived the first round of cuts in the 2005 season of Project Greenlight, beating out over 5,000 other scripts. 

He retired from Rice in 2009, and lives with his wife, Minay, in a suburb of Houston, where he is hard at work on a third novel, The Hawthorn’s Sting (another thriller). Ideas for a few more are also floating around somewhere in that scary place he calls his brain.


Karen Palmer is the author of the novels All Saints and Border Dogs. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a MacDowell fellowship, and grants from the Colorado Council on the Arts. Her essay, “The Reader Is the Protagonist,” published in Virginia Quarterly Review, was selected by Leslie Jamison for inclusion in Best American Essays 2017; her short story, “Virtuoso Mio,” received a Pushcart Prize and is anthologized in The Bedford/St. Martin’s Introduction to Literature. Other writing has appeared in The Rumpus, The Kenyon Review, The Denver Post, Five Points, Arts & Letters, The Manifest-Station, and Kalliope. Karen has taught at UCLA Extension and at Lighthouse Writers in Denver, Colorado, and is currently working on a memoir and a novel.



Victoria Bell is an editor and writer based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia. In fiction, she’s interested in exploring the things people do to one another, whether on a nation-wide basis or within a family — she's currently working on a trilogy set in South Africa during the dying days of Apartheid, while she's also polishing up her novel The Weight of Air, about a mother-son relationship imploding within the dangerous, pressurized environment of a mountaineering expedition in Argentina.

Follow her on Twitter



Jessica McCann is a historical novelist and has worked for 30 years as a professional writer for magazines, universities, corporations and other organizations. Her debut novel, All Different Kinds of Free, was awarded the Freedom in Fiction Prize; her second novel, Peculiar Savage Beauty, was named Arizona Book of the Year and shortlisted for the international Rubery Book Award. McCann’s entry in the Chapter One Prize is from her novel-in-progress, Bitter Thaw. In all of her writing, McCann endeavors to share stories of ordinary people overcoming adversity to accomplish extraordinary things. 

McCann’s most recent release is a nonfiction book that offers a unique glimpse into her writing journey and process. In Words: Essays on Writing, Reading, and Life, McCann shares writing tips and her passion for books, as well as research that shows how reading improves our lives and connecting with nature improves creativity. With a philosophy that is equally pragmatic and optimistic, Words appeals to readers and writers alike.

Connect with Jessica: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads