Southeast Missouri State University Press

Announcing the Winner of the 2019 Nilsen Prize

We are excited to announce the winner and finalists of the 2019 Nilsen Prize for a First Novel. The winning manuscript will be published, and the author will receive $2,000. Thank you to everyone who entered! It was an honor and a pleasure to read your words. The 2020 contest is open (at a lower price!) at:


Elizabeth Engelman – The Way of the Saints

Elizabeth Engelman is a recipient of the Marianne Russo Award and a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar Grant to Ireland. She was a 2019 top-ten finalist for the University of New Orleans Publishing Lab Prize, and her essays have appeared in The New York Times and Endeavor Magazine. She holds an MFA from the University of Tampa, an M.A. in Poetry from Lancaster University, and a B.A. from Carson-Newman University. Her poems have been published in Yale’s literary & art journal LETTERS, as well as the Riverside Center’s Anthology of Poetry. She lives with her family in St. Augustine, Florida, where she works at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. 

“The Way of the Saints is a multi-generational, historical collection of short stories, based on the author’s family and her personal experiences as the daughter of a Santeria priestess. The linked stories in the collection tell of three generations of Puerto Rican women: Paula, Isabel, and Esther as they navigate Puerto Rico’s Independence movement of the 1930’s, life in the 1950’s tenements of New York, and the opulence of 1980’s Westchester.”


Polly Buckingham – Long White Robe
Kevin Frey – A Walking Tour of Antananarivo with the Ghost of Jean-Joseph

Jeremy Griffin – Odessa
Kate McIntyre – Mad Prairie
Matthew Pitt – The BeEverything! Brothers