Pushcart Prize Nominees, 2014

Buffalo Almanack Pushcart Prize

With the passing of 2014 – our first full calendar year in operation – comes an exciting opportunity! Like the bulk of independent literary magazines in the United States, Buffalo Almanack is eligible to nominate a select number of contributed stories from the past twelve months for the Pushcart Prize, the marquee award of the “most honored literary project in America.”

For those of you who are writers, or are otherwise attuned to the small press buzz, it is likely that you have prior experience with the Pushcart. Given the extraordinary pool of nominating publishers and the exacerbating factor that each publisher is permitted to champion as many as six stories annually, it is easy to see how the last four decades of cosmic-level growth in the litmag population have left the rolls of the Pushcart longlist a devalued commodity. Though the Prize itself remains a hugely illustrious and elusive honor, many talented folks who write long enough and publish often enough manage to pick up a nomination – or two, or three, or four! – at some juncture of their career.

And yet getting nominated is also a huge freaking deal! At the least, it signifies that your story was held in the utmost regard by its publisher, foremost among all of those printed that year. I can say from my own experience that it’s hard enough landing an acceptance, let alone to be named the best of the issue, let alone to be named the best of the year! That’s as powerful a compliment as we editors can offer, and to tether that intimate commendation to a major, national sweepstakes is a true editorial blessing. We can’t do much to make Pushcart consideration more exclusive or the award more attainable, but we can do plenty to make Buffalo Almanack’s nomination feel like the personalized round of applause that it is.

LAYING DOWN THE GROUND RULES

Bearing all of this in mind, we’ve determined to anoint only one Pushcart story per year, and to further recognize that work as the official BUFFALO ALMANACK STORY OF THE YEAR!!! Yes, that gets three exclamation points. This is big stuff. Any of the sixteen stories that have appeared in the March, June, September and December 2014 issues of Buffalo Almanack can win, regardless of their prior Inkslinger award status. The chosen story will then be acknowledged as the “Story of the Year,” both on our website and in the announcement article of this and all future December issues. No special priority is granted to story length or style, or to specific authors based on personal identifying information (Sorry, it’s not possible for us to go blind on this one). And, of course, since this is also for our Pushcart pick, we’ll also forward the winning story along to prize committee with a very nice letter and a whole lot of hope.

It gets better! We will, beginning in February 2017, compile our four most recent Stories of the Year and re-print them together, with brand-new artwork and retrospective commentary in our quadrennial Issue of Champions. Pretty cool, right? I mean, we thought it was.

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NOT WITHOUT A COUPLE OF EXCEPTIONS

So, who’s our big winner? I’ll get to that in a moment. For now that we’ve established our basic set of rules in approaching the Pushcart Prize and our Story of the Year, we must go ahead and break them! Yes, faced with a pair of atypical circumstances, we’re forced to do things a bit differently in 2014 than we will in the future. Please know that both of these decisions, as with all choices involved in Pushcart and Story of the Year selection, were made only after a tremendous period of doubt and reflection. We try to operate our magazine within a mindset of ethical fairness, and never is that program more vital than in instances of acceptance and rejection.

First, I hope our earliest contributors will understand why we chose not to present a Pushcart nominee in 2013 – we had, at that time, published only eight stories and two issues, exactly half of our ordinary output. We were also exceedingly new, and had then (as perhaps we have now) a long way to go in staking our legitimacy as a publication. We did not think it appropriate under those limiting conditions to put forth a nominee.

TWO CHAMPIONS MORE

The time for 2013 Pushcarts has long since passed, but we’d still like to recognize the work we felt represented the strongest effort of any printed beneath our banner in that year. For this honor I have tapped Jared Yates Sexton’s “The Hook and the Haymaker,” a shit-tough yarn about a down-and-out boxer taking his licks in love and the ring.

Congratulations, Mr. Sexton! We’ll see you in the Issue of Champions in a little more than two years.

Secondly, we had the unbelievable fortune and privilege in 2014 to publish a new piece of fiction by acclaimed Winter’s Bone and The Maid’s Version author Daniel Woodrell, an eternal favorite of both mine and Katie’s long before we ever imagined that we’d be helping birth one of his hardscrabble tales of crime in the Missouri Ozarks into the world. In one sense, Mr. Woodrell is not so different from our other contributors: he works hard, he makes great art and he deserves to be heard. In another sense, most of our contributors are lesser-known (for now!) amateurs. Mr. Woodrell’s name and history carries a prestige that few others in our pages can duplicate. For this reason, we decided back in March that it would be best to turn in another direction for our Inkslinger Award.

Remember how I said we’d only designate one Pushcart nominee? Time for another judgment call. While it is true that we will only name one work as Story of the Year, that story will be accompanied in representing Buffalo Almanack before the Pushcart committee by Daniel Woodrell’s “Johanna Stull.” Mr. Woodrell’s standing and reputation again force us to tweak our own guidelines in the pursuit of fair recognition for outstanding work.

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THE BIG WINNER

Okay. That’s a long enough introduction. Here’s what you want to know: who won Story of the Year?

GREAT QUESTION.

Answer: Andy Bailey’s “The Parlay,” as seen in June’s Issue No. 4.

Why? Because it was funny. Because it was original. Because it told a story that took us places we never thought a story could takes us, like a underground Chinese gambling ring and the puke deck of the Las Vegas Stratosphere. Because it had heart and wit and whatever the hell moxie is. And because we think it, perhaps more than any other story we’ve yet run, symbolized the sort of weirdo risk-taking we’re looking for in our fiction. There’s not much else to it. We LOVE the Parlay, and we’re guessing a lot of you did as well.

Way to go Andy Bailey, Jared Yates Sexton and Daniel Woodrell! Two Stories of the Year, two Pushcart nominees and three fine examples of the literary master-class doing its thing. It’s been an honor to collaborate with and publish you all. We sincerely wish you – and all twenty-four of our fiction contributors – the best of everything writing has to offer.

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