Torch Prize Contest Details

Grey Moth TorchAbout Rafael Torch:

Rafael Torch died in December, 2011, at the age of 36, after a courageous four-year attempt to overcome sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. A native Chicagoan, Rafael graduated from Antioch College and obtained a Master’s Degree in Humanities from the University of Chicago in 2005 where he received numerous acclaims for his writings including the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award. Rafael dedicated his life to impacting lives of high school students. As a teacher at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, The Latin School of Chicago and The Meadows School in Las Vegas, NV, Rafael influenced hundreds of minds as he challenged his students to rise to their greatest potential. His students had a profound impact on his life and he cared for them deeply. Rafael was also a committed, passionate writer who drew upon personal experiences to find inspiration. Rafael, whose award-winning work and vivid essays have appeared in many journals including Crab Orchard Review, Antioch Review, North American Review,wrote with honesty, insight and wit. At the time of his death, Rafael’s immediate family included his beloved wife, Emily Olson-Torch and 4-month-old son, Rocco James. (adapted from Chicago Sun Times)

Contest Information:

You may submit only one piece of creative nonfiction, no longer than 30 pages in a Word document. All contact information should be entered in your cover letter. No names or addresses should appear on manuscripts, please. Your piece will be assigned a log number so it can be “read blind.” Simultaneous submission to other journals or competitions is not allowed. Payment will be required as part of the sign up procedure which will provide you with a one-year subscription of North American Review.

First Prize: $500
Deadline: April 1, 2019
Judge: Michael A. Martone

Michael Martone is currently a Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Alabama where he has been teaching since 1996. Before that, he taught at Syracuse University, Iowa State University, and Harvard University. He lives with the poet Theresa Pappas and their two sons Sam and Nick.

Martone was born and grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he attended the public schools. He studied at Butler University in Indianapolis and graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English. He is also a graduate of The Writing Seminars of The Johns Hopkins University.

Martone is the author of five books of short fiction including Seeing Eye published in September of 1995 by Zoland Books as well as Pensées: The Thoughts of Dan Quayle (Broad Ripple Press, 1994), Fort Wayne Is Seventh on Hitler's List (Indiana University Press, 1990), Safety Patrol (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), and Alive and Dead in Indiana (Alfred A. Knopf, 1984). He has edited two collections of essays about the Midwest: A Place of Sense: Essays in Search of the Midwest and Townships: Pieces of the Midwest (University of Iowa Press, 1988 and 1992). He edits Story County Books, and his newest book, The Flatness and Other Landscapes (University of Georgia Press, 2000), a collection of his own essays about the Midwest, won the AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction in 1998.



2018 Torch Prize Winner


"Aphasia" by Jane Armstrong


Lidia Yuknavitch


2017 Torch Prize Winner


 Dinty Moore

K. S. Philllips

"It was around midnight, somewhere north of where I was sitting in the waiting room of Johns Hopkins hospital, a corridor or two west of Sheikh Zayed’s noble portrait, that “the best surgeon in the world for this sort of thing,” as my mother said, was stopping my father’s heart and reaching into his chest. " 

The essay winner of the 2017 Torch Prize is K.S. Phillips. His essay titled “Eight Hours, With Cow,” will be featured in the 302.4 Fall Issue of the North American Review.

K.S. Phillips is currently a Ph.D. student in Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota. He has an MFA in Fiction from Louisiana State University and an MA in Classical Studies from the University of Minnesota. His fiction and essays have appeared in a handful of literary magazines, including Bryant Literary Review, CC&D Magazine, Hippocampus, and The Dangling Modifier. His current novel project earned a finalist slot for novel-in-progress at the Words and Music competition in New Orleans. He has lived and worked in Egypt, Indonesia, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.

The essay runner up of the 2017 Torch Prize is Refael Paul Arenson with his essay titled “Splendor,” which will be featured in the 302.4 Fall Issue of the North American Review.



2016 Torch Prize Winner


Patricia Hampl

Wendy A. Gaudin“In the beginning, there was Beauty. Beauty in the four directions. Beauty in the frigid and pale north where the pelican and the egret blend into the glittery frost; Beauty in the scorched and dark south where turtles take their sweet time, stewing in the faithful heat, and alligators swirl in shiny hot waters; Beauty in the rising plenty of the east, wet with the dew of eternal early mornings, of baby whistling ducks and cackling geese forever in their fluffy, untested feathers; Beauty in the dry and aging west, as grey haired red wolves say goodnight, goodnight.”

The essay winner of the 2016 Torch Prize is Wendy A. Gaudin. Her essay titled “Beauty”, is featured in the 301.4 Fall Issue of the North American Review.

Wendy A. Gaudin is an American historian, an essayist, a poet, and a university educator.  She is a descendant of Louisiana Creoles who migrated to California.

The essay runner up of the 2016 Torch Prize is Lynn Casteel Harper. Her essay titled “The Golden Hour”, was featured in the 302.1 Winter Issue of the North American Review.


2015 Torch Prize Winner


Eula Biss

Clinton Peters

“Before gunships, stolen children, ribbons, and sextants, Australia was the land of gnomes with giant feet that used to lie down and shade themselves with their ankles in the broiling heat of day.”

Clinton Crockett Peters’ essay, titled “Rabbits and Convicts,” was featured in the 300.4 Fall Issue of the North American Review.

Clinton Crockett Peters has an MFA from the University of Iowa and is pursuing a PhD in creative writing.  His work has been published in Shenandoah, Hunger Mountain, Fourth Genre, DIAGRAM,  and others. Visit and follow him on Twitter.