2023 Contest

2023 Winner: “Phantom” by Carling McQuinn

Carling McQuinn

“Phantom” by Carling McQuinn, a second-year student at Macalester College, has been selected as the winning story in ACM’s 2023 Nick Adams Short Story Contest. In her comments on McQuinn’s story, final judge Lan Samantha Chang wrote:

“This story really moved me. Luna’s observations of her beloved sister Sophie’s struggle with anorexia are skillfully detailed. The story unflinchingly renders the claustrophobia and pain of family love.”

Carling McQuinn, who is from Austin, Texas, is pursuing an English major and minors in French and economics. “I’ve been writing stories since I learned how to use a pencil…. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop” said McQuinn. “I’ve also been an avid reader my whole life; if I’m in the middle of a really good book, I find it hard to go back to the real world when I put it down. It’s always been my dream to write stories that provide readers with the escape that all my favorite books have given me.” McQuinn explained that fiction has always been her favorite genre to both read and write, as “there’s something incredibly rewarding about creating a whole new world through prose, even if it’s just a variation of our own.”

Learn more and meet the other finalists »

Final Judge: Lan Samantha Chang

Lan Samantha Chang
Lan Samantha Chang (Image Credit: Ife Oluwa Nihinlola)

Lan Samantha Chang, who directs the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is the author of three novels, most recently The Family Chao (2022), which takes inspiration from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and paints a portrait of a Chinese American family who owns a restaurant in a small town in Wisconsin. Publishers Weekly characterized the novel as a “timely, trenchant, and thoroughly entertaining book” in which “an immigrant family’s dreams are paid for in blood.” Chang’s second novel, All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost (2010), was described by NPR as “a full and resonant story of the pains and perils, falsehoods and truths of trying to be an American artist.” Her debut novel, Inheritance (2004), which takes place in both China and the United States across seven decades, tells the story of a family fractured by a global war and multiple generations of trauma. Chang has also published Hunger (1998), a novella and collection of short stories which illustrate the experiences of immigrant families devastated by loss. Her short stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, and The Best American Short Stories.

About the Nick Adams Short Story Contest

The Nick Adams Short Story Contest, now in its 51st year, is open to students currently enrolled at ACM colleges. Students must submit their entries to the English department on their home campus. The contest was established in 1973 with funds from an anonymous donor to encourage fiction writing at ACM colleges. Named for the young hero of many Hemingway stories, the contest offers a prize of $1,000 for the best story by an ACM student.


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