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Columbus State University

The Donald L. Jordan Prize for Literary Excellence

This annual prize carries a $10,000 award for an unpublished novel, collection of short stories, memoir, or essay collection. The winner will be offered a publishing contract with a new imprint at Columbus State University, DLJ Books.

The contest seeks manuscripts that engage a reader with upholding human values, such as trust, generosity, love, gratitude, or responsibility. We are not inclined to publish horror, science fiction, romance, fantasy, or young adult or children’s books.

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Previous Winners

Michelle Herman was the winner of the 2020 Prize for her novel Close-Up.

Michelle Herman is the author of three previous novels - Missing, Dog, and Devotion - and the novella collection A New and Glorious Life, as well as three essay collections - The Middle of Everything, Stories We Tell Ourselves (longlisted for the 2014 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay), and Like A Song (winner of the 2016 Devil's Kitchen Reading Award) - as well as a book for children, A Girl's Guide to Life. She has taught creative writing since 1988 at Ohio State, where she also directs a graduate interdisciplinary program in the arts and an all-scholarship summer writing program for teenagers in Columbus, Ohio.

Janisse Ray was the winner of the 2021 Prize for the essay collection, Just Visiting This Planet.

Janisse Ray is an American Writer whose subject most often falls into the borderland of nature and culture. She has published five books of nonfiction and a collection of eco-poetry. Ray has won an American Book Award, Pushcart Prize, Southern Bookseller Awards, Southern Environmental Law Center Writing Awards, and Eisenberg Award, among others. Her first book, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, was a New York Times Notable Book. She has been inducted into the GA Writers Hall of Fame and lives on an organic farm near Savannah. Red Lanterns, Ray's second book of poetry, is forthcoming in Spring, 2021.

DLJ Books

Donald L. Jordan founded a construction, real estate development and investment firm in his late teens. He began writing at age fourteen and has published non-fiction, short stories, and novels. In 1992, Mr. Jordan received the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Forest Stewardship Award which states that his practices, "leave the world a better place than you found for those who will follow."

The Editor of DLJ Books is Allen Gee, Professor of Creative Writing at Columbus State University. He is also the Editor for the multicultural imprint 2040 Books, and has been the Editor of Gulf Coast, and served for over a decade as the Fiction Editor for Arts & Letters. His website can be found at

The Donald L. Jordan Prize for Literary Excellence

Entry Deadline: September 15th, 2021

The prize is $10,000

One entry per $25.00

Authors retain all rights to their work when submitting

The winner will be offered a book contract for full-market, front list release.

The designated winner has to sign a book contract with DLJ Books, and then, only if a contract agreement is reached, will the prize money be awarded.  If a contract cannot be signed, the prize and cash award shall be awarded to another writer. The contest is open to international submissions.

  • Entries may include a brief synopsis, or introductory letter. Do not send personal correspondence to the Judge or the Editor.
  • Employees of Columbus State University and people who have studied or worked with the Judge or Editor are not eligible to compete for the prize.
  • Participation in other contests and programs and pursuing publication is allowed while the prize competition is open. We do ask that you notify us (email address needed) and withdraw your entry if you sign a publishing contract elsewhere.
  • Previously published material is eligible, meaning writing (stories or excerpts) published in magazines, literary journals, and by micro presses. Self-published books are eligible. If you have already published with a small press or a NY press, your book is not eligible.
  • If a winner is not chosen by the final judge, entrants will be permitted to submit another manuscript at no cost for the contest's following year.

The Judge for the 2022 Prize is Antonya Nelson.

She is the author of nine books of fiction (three novels and six collections of stories). Nelson's work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper's, Redbook and in many other magazines, as well as in anthologies such as The O. Henry Awards, and Best American Short Stories. Her books have been New York Times Notable Books of 1992, 1996, 1998, and 2000. She is the recipient of the Rea Award for Short Fiction, a 2000-2001 NEA Grant, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She teachers at the University of Houston and also in the Warren Wilson MFA program.

We seek unpublished literary fiction, short story collections or novels, memoirs, or essay collections. We are interested in well-crafted books, and we like American or global stories, whether the focus is on working, middle or upper class lives; we are interested in seeing the human condition illuminated in rural landscapes, suburbia, or the city. We also like books that focus on any race, or gender, books that let readers know about struggle and perseverance, but we aren’t inclined to favor vulgarity written simply to shock. We are not a publisher of "inspirational" writing, but we are extremely interested in manuscripts that engage a reader with upholding human values, such as trust, generosity, love, gratitude, or responsibility. We are not inclined to publish horror, science fiction, romance, fantasy, or young adult or children’s books.

Entry Information

To submit your book to the The Donald L. Jordan Prize for Literary Excellence contest, please submit your entry fee using the link below. You will receive a link to submit your entry on the confirmation email. Please note that you will need to provide your order confirmation number from your receipt email in order to submit your book entry.

Submit Entry Fee

When you receive your confirmation email, you will need to use the link listed as the "Order" on the email.

screenshot of an order email

Please email if you encounter any difficulties with this process.