The Plaza Literary Prize 2018 – Jury

The Plaza Literary Prize welcomes our 2018 Jury–Jonathan Alexander, Panio Gianopoulos, Namrata Poddar, Irena Praitis, and Héctor Tobar–an inspiring panel of authors, editors, journalists, and professors. Submissions for our annual novella competition begin on March 1, 2017. When the submission period closes on April 30, 2017, our judges will select one (1) novella to be published by 1888.

Jonathan Alexander is a writer, literacy scholar, and cultural critic. The author, co-author or editor of thirteen books, he is Chancellor’s Professor of English and Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, where he also serves as the Founding Director of the Center for Excellence in Writing & Communication.  He is the YA editor and a frequent contributor for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Panio Gianopoulos is the author of the story collection, How to Get Into Our House and Where We Keep the Money, and the novella, A Familiar Beast. His stories, essays, and poetry have appeared in Tin House, Northwest Review, Salon, The Rattling Wall, Chicago Quarterly Review, Big Fiction, The Brooklyn Rail, Catamaran Literary Reader, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. A recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Award for Non-Fiction, he has been included in the anthologies The Bastard on the Couch, Cooking and Stealing: The Tin House Non-Fiction Reader, and The Encyclopedia of Exes.

Namrata Poddar writes fiction, non-fiction, occasionally translates Francophone writers of Afro-Asian diaspora into English and serves as Interviews Editor for Kweli where she curates a series on Race, Power, and Storytelling. For over a decade, her work has explored the intersection of storytelling and social justice via race, class, gender, place and migration. Her creative work has appeared in The Margins, Transition, Literary Hub, Electric Literature, Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly, The Feminist Wire, Necessary Fiction, Longreads (forthcoming) and elsewhere. As a literary critic, her work on islands and coastal cultures have appeared in English and in French in anthologies on the Caribbean, Pacific, and Indian Ocean across the world. She holds a Ph.D. in French Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, an MFA in fiction from Bennington Writing Seminars, and Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Transnational Cultures from UCLA where she taught contemporary multiethnic literature in the departments of English, African, Global, French & Francophone Studies and Honors Collegium. She has lived in different parts of the world and currently calls Huntington Beach home.

Irena Praitis’s fifth book The Last Stone in the Circle received the 2015 Red Mountain Press Poetry Prize.  Her poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared in more than 100 journals including Southwest Review, Denver Quarterly, and Rattle. She was a Fulbright Scholar in Vilnius, Lithuania, and is a professor of creative writing and literature at California State University, Fullerton.  She lives in Fullerton, California, with her son Ishaan.

Héctor Tobar is the Los Angeles-born author of four books, including the novels The Tattooed Soldier and The Barbarian Nurseries. His non-fiction Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of Thirty-Three Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle that Set Them Free, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize: it was also a New York Times bestseller and adapted into the film The 33The Barbarian Nurseries was a New York Times Notable Book and won the California Book Award Gold Medal for fiction. Tobar’s fiction has also appeared in Zyzzyva and in Best American Short Stories 2016. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Irvine, and has taught writing and journalism at Pomona College and the University of Oregon; he is currently an associate professor at UC Irvine. As a journalist, he was a foreign correspondent with the Los Angeles Times in Buenos Aires and Mexico City, and a part of the reporting team that earned a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Tobar has also been an op-ed writer for the New York Times and a contributor to the New Yorker. He is the son of Guatemalan immigrants.



The Plaza Literary Prize is a national novella competition. We believe a great story is never defined by its length and welcome all genres and themes with compelling characters and evocative moments. We’re looking for our generation’s Hemingway, Oates, or Steinbeck. The City of Orange, California was incorporated on April 6, 1888. The center of the town became known as the Plaza, which has become a symbol of the community and a catalyst for storytelling.


  1. Write a novella and submit via Submittable.
  2. Submissions are accepted from March 1 through April 30. Our team of readers will consider each submission for content, craft, and voice and select ten (10) finalists to be reviewed by our jury. One (1) novella will be selected for publication with cover artwork by Christian Dellavedova.


1888 publishes contemporary novellas through The Plaza Literary Prize, an annual anthology of international short stories titled The Cost of Paper, and community essays supporting our Why We Write project. Click here to view our collection.

Artwork courtesy Christian Dellavedova.