Thursday, October 15, 2020

The 2020 Story Prize Judges: Ismail Muhammad, Margot Sage-EL, and Karen Shepard

Clockwise from top left: Ismail Muhammad, Margot Sage-EL,
and Karen Shepard (photo by Barry Goldstein)

We're pleased to announce this year's judges for The Story Prize: writer and critic Ismail Muhammad, bookseller Margot Sage-EL, and writer Karen Shepard.

Each year we enlist three independent members of the literary community to select the winner of The Story Prize from among the three finalists that Founder Julie Lindsey and Director Larry Dark choose from among the typically more than 100 short story collections submitted for the prize. We alternate years between having a bookseller or a librarian as a judge. At least one of the judges is a writer and the other is often a critic or editor.

The final deadline for 2020 entries is November 16. We will announce the three finalists in early January 2021. 

To view more than 50 guest Instagram posts by writers who have published short story collections in 2020, go to

About the Judges

Ismail Muhammad is a writer and critic based in Oakland, California. He works as the criticism editor of The Believer, and his writing has appeared in The Nation, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications.

Margot Sage-EL is the owner of Watchung Booksellers, an independent bookseller serving the greater Montclair, New Jersey, community since 1996. She founded Great Owl Books in 1994, a Parents' Choice Award mail order catalog featuring multicultural children's books. She has served on the board of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association and on the ABA's Bookseller Advisory Council.

Karen Shepard is a Chinese-American born and raised in New York City. She is the author of four novels, An Empire of Women, The Bad Boy’s Wife, Don’t I Know You? and The Celestials, and one story collection, Kiss Me Someone. She teaches at Williams College.