Southeast Missouri State University Press

Announcing the 2017 Nilsen Prize for a First Novel Winner and Finalists

Southeast Missouri State University Press is thrilled to announce the winner and finalists of our Nilsen Prize for a First Novel. This was the first year that the contest was held through Submittable, and we found that it really sped up the process. If it seems like we’re announcing the winner earlier than usual, that has a lot to do with it, but much of the credit for that goes to our fantastic interns and Graduate Assistants who worked hard all fall and the first month and a half of spring semester to read through the many, many wonderful manuscripts we received, to help pick our finalists and winner. Without further ado, then, here are the results:


Avery Colt is a Snake, A Thief, A Liar by Ron Austin

Austin’s semi-autobiographical, linked story collection follows the misadventures of Avery Colt as he  struggles to survive in North St. Louis alongside his family. Learning the best way to slaughter a goat, rebuilding his family’s corner market, and reckoning the weight of a revolver are a few of the challenges Avery faces. As he matures through each page, Avery takes control of his circumstances and attempts dangerous feats of alchemy. By confronting his own fears and limitations, he seeks to transform cruelty into compassion, rind into fruit, despair into hope. Charged with urgency and emotion, Austin’s prose faithfully renders a community determined to overcome crisis with strength, dark humor, and plenty of heart. The book will be published in Fall 2019.

Stories from the collection have been published in Black Warrior Review, Natural Bridge, Draft Horse, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, december, The Masters Review, Ninth Letter, Cog, Tahoma Literary Review, and Story Quarterly.


Ron A. Austin holds a MFA from the University of Missouri–St. Louis, has served as an editor for december and River Styx, and is a 2016 Regional Arts Commission Fellow. He has taught creative writing at the Pierre Laclede Honors College. He, his partner Jennie, and son Elijah live in St. Louis with a whippet named Carmen.


We Eat This Gold by Chris Drew
Weird Pig
by Robert Long Foreman
A Sensual Guide to Housekeeping by Jeff Hayden
The Last Innocent Year: Stories by Kerry Jones
Someday Everything Will All Make Sense by Carol LaHines
Boys and Girls by Jane McDermott

Thank you all for your entries. Next year’s contest is open as of now. We can’t wait to read what you send!