2018 Balcones Winners Announced

Austin Community College announces the winners of the 2018 Balcones Fiction and Poetry Prizes—The Good Echo by Shena McAuliffe and Rest by Margaree Little

Awards of $1,500 for outstanding books of fiction and poetry published during 2018

Balcones Fiction Prize

The 2018 Balcones Fiction Prize has been awarded to The Good Echo by Shena McAuliffe (Black Lawrence Press).

Final judge Jim Sanderson complimented the “fast-moving but rich plot…that unfolds with the pace of a suspense novel.”

Sanderson said: “Shena McAuliffe’s narrative techniques move the story forward and backward to account for three exceptional people. A dentist father’s root canal on his twelve-year-old son sets up the novel. The root canal causes an infection that then leads to the boy’s death. The boy, his father, and his mother take turns revealing the price that must be paid for this death. We get a dead child’s claim that death made him a better storyteller yet read his main concerns are those of an articulate twelve-year-old. We get the boy’s long-suffering yet reconciling mother charting her and her husband’s literal journeys through Europe and Africa and her psychological journey away from the young boy’s death. And most impressively we get the father’s journal entries that document his crusade against tooth decay and root canals. His entries are both scientific and evangelical hygiene crusade. The images of rabbits caught in a tornado and of false teeth in a glass on a honeymoon night appear in two scenes that show tenderness, despair, obsession, and self-delusion of a husband and wife.”

McAuliffe grew up in Wisconsin and Colorado. Her stories have been published in Conjunctions, Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, Alaska Quarterly Review and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis and a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Utah. She is an assistant professor of fiction at Union College.

Four finalists were named:
Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Mariner)
Mourning by Eduardo Halfon (Bellevue)
This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Graywolf)
When a Woman Rises by Christine Eber (Cinco Puntos)

Former winners of the Balcones Fiction Prize:
Spoils by Brian Van Reet, 2017
Bystanders by Tara Laskowski, 2016
People Like You by Margaret Malone, 2015
Hold the Dark by William Giraldi, 2014
Girls I Know by Douglas Trevor, 2013
We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen, 2012
Send Me Work by Katherine Karlin, 2011
Love Like Hate by Linh Dinh, 2010

Balcones Poetry Prize
The 2018 Balcones Poetry Prize has been awarded to Rest by Margaree Little (Four Way Books).

Rest, Margaree Little’s first collection of poetry, was inspired when, in 2010, she was working on a humanitarian mission near Tucson, Arizona, when she came upon the body of an unidentified man. This encounter led to a sequence of poems that examine the human cost of crossing the border.

In praising the book, the judges said “Rest is a searching, lyrical meditation,” and that Little “transforms her poems of witness into profound considerations of ethics and the worth of the Other.” She “elegantly and forcefully…uses a single encounter to bring the reader into a larger historical situation, while she keeps rotating the ethical lens…, questioning even herself and the act of writing.” “She cannot help but take the discovery personally, though at momentous risk” as she “attentively negotiates the borderland between discovery and loss.”

Little is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a Kenyon Review fellowship, a Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellowship and other awards. Her poems and criticism have appeared in American Poetry Review, New England Review, The Southern Review and elsewhere. She lives in Tucson and teaches at Pima Community College.

Four finalists were named:
The Gospel According to Wild Indigo by Cyrus Cassells (Southern Illinois University Press)
The English Boat by Donald Revell (Alice James Books)
Rail by Kai Carlson-Wee (Boa Editions)
After the Afterlife by T. R. Hummer (Acre Books)

The judges for the 2018 prize were Joseph Ahearn, a poet and professor at Austin Community College; Geoffrey Hall, a poet and author who lives in Austin; and Sasha West, a poet and professor at St. Edward’s University.

Former winners of the Balcones Poetry Prize:

Daylily Called it a Dangerous Moment, Alessandra Lynch, 2017
American Happiness, Jacqueline Allen Trimble, 2016
What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford, ed. Michael Wiegers, 2015
Once in the West, Michael Wiman, 2014
Interrobang, Jessica Piazza, 2013
When My Brother Was an Aztec, Natalie Diaz, 2012
Bone Fires, Mark Jarmon, 2011
Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been, Chase Twichell, 2010
Portrait and Dream, Bill Berkson, 2009
Dismantling the Hills, Michael McGriff, 2008
At the Drive-In Volcano, Aimee Nezhukumatahil, 2007
Drive, Lorna Dee Cervantes, 2006
No Accident, Aaron Anstett, 2005
Dancing on Main Street, Lorenzo Thomas, 2004
Bread Without Sorrow, John Hogden, 2002
Short History of Pets, Carol Potter, 2001
In the Surgical Theatre, Dana Levin, 2000
The Red-Shifting Web, Arthur Sze, 1999
Sparrow: New and Selected Poems, Reginald Gibbons, 1997
The Body Mutinies, Lucia Perillo, 1996
Every Substance Clothed, Kathleen Halme, 1995

Nominations for the 2019 Balcones Fiction and Poetry Prizes will be accepted from September 1, 2019 to January 31, 2020. To nominate a book, go to:


The Balcones Fiction and Poetry Prizes are sponsored by the Creative Writing Department at Austin Community College. The department offers a vibrant selection of creative writing courses in multiple genres in face-to-face and on-line formats, and awards an AA degree.