Frequently Asked Questions

1) Could you tell me how your contest works? How do you select your judges? And how do you assure that all entries are kept anonymous?

Each year, we choose a well-known fiction writer and poet, whose work we respect and admire, to serve as judges. We like to maintain a balance of gender and aesthetics, and prefer to work with writers who have distinguished careers. We allow judges to choose their own first readers, with the idea that they will be more liable to select a manuscript if it comes from readers akin to their aesthetic. Most often, judges do not opt for this choice; Sarabande then hires three published writers in each genre for the task of screening the manuscripts. We never use interns or students. Each of the three first readers selects up to fifteen manuscripts, which we then pass on to the judges for reading and selection. If the judge prefers a smaller number of manuscripts, Sarah Gorham and Jeffrey Skinner narrow the semi-finalists down to the appropriate number.

All manuscripts are read anonymously, at every stage of the process. They are logged into our office database via an assigned number. To ensure anonymity, we ask first readers to return any manuscript they might recognize as the work of a friend or colleague so that it can be read by another first reader. We inform judges of our eligibility stipulation that states: To avoid conflict of interest, students in a degree-granting program or close friends of a judge are ineligible to enter the contest in the genre for which their friend or teacher is serving as judge.

2) I know that your guidelines list the number of pages that a manuscript should be, but how many words is that?

As long as your manuscript is the appropriate number of pages, for either the fiction or poetry requirements, is double-spaced (for fiction), and in 12-point font, it will be considered for the contest. In fiction, you can generally count on 250-300 words per manuscript page.

3) I can’t get the Contest Entry Form to print . . . could you send me a copy?

Sure! Just mail a S.A.S.E. between January 1 and April 1 to Sarabande Books/822 E. Market Street/Louisville, KY 40206.

4) I submitted a manuscript to your mary McCarthy prize in fiction/ kathryn a. Morton prize in poetry contest and have not heard anything back yet. When can I expect to hear something?

If you sent a S.A.S.E. with your contest entry, you will receive the results in early to mid-September. You can also find results on our blog and through our monthly e-newsletter

5) Will finalists be considered for publication even if they do not win the contest?

Yes, they will. Sarabande generally publishes one or two additional manuscripts from the contest finalists. You are a finalist if you receive a letter telling you so. You will also receive a coupon for free entry to the next year’s contest. Semi-finalists are also informed with a note attached to our standard letter announcing the winner. If your collection is not a finalist or semi-finalist, you are welcome to try again next year, as we use a new set of readers and a new judge. Decisions regarding additional publication of finalists are made later in the year, according to need. If we decide to publish your manuscript, you will hear from us by telephone.

6) Are the living arrangements at Bernheim Forest wheelchair accessible? 

Unfortunately the living facilities are not accessible by wheelchair. If you have any other questions about the accessibility or possible accommodations you may require as a resident applicant please email your query to before submitting your application. 

7) Can my dog/spouse/child stay with me in the cabin if i receive the residency in bernheim forest? 

The residency is only for the writer who submits and is accepted into the residency program. We encourage each writer to take advantage of this time in solitude.