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Robert Wallace Wins His Second Doris Betts Fiction Prize

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Robert Wallace of Durham is the winner of the 2017 Doris Betts Fiction Prize competition for his story “The Science of Air.” He will receive a prize of $250 from the North Carolina Writers’ Network, and his story will be published in the North Carolina Literary Review’s 2018 issue.  

Wallace, who received the 2010 Doris Betts Fiction Prize for “As Break the Wave Upon the Sea” (published in NCLR 2011), is a recipient of an Emerging Artist Grant from the Durham Arts Council and a Writer’s Fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council. He has published one novel and has had fiction and nonfiction published in various venues, including the Raleigh News & Observer, Wellspring, and The O. Henry Festival Stories. His story, “As Break the Wave Upon the Sea,” was also featured in Brian Glover’s essay on teaching with the North Carolina Literary Review, published in NCLR Online 2016

NCLR Fiction Editor Liza Wieland selected Wallace’s story from 15 finalists, saying “In ‘The Science of Air,’ guilt, sadness, and wisdom conspire to make a gracefully introspective work of fiction. I admire this story for its deftly rendered sense of place and sensory detail, its reserve and precision”. Just under 150 stories were submitted to this year’s competition. Wieland also picked “Banjo” by William Polf for second place and publication in NCLR Online 2018.

Polf, a retired hospital executive, moved from New York City to North Carolina to write. His stories have appeared in The Milo Review, Still Point Arts Quarterly, and The Tishman Review, and he was a finalist for the 2013 Glimmer Train Short Story Award.  

Other finalists for the 2017 Doris Betts Fiction Prize were “True Story” by Gary Powell, “Broken Things” by Jane Shlenksy, “Village Life” by Laura Moretz, “The Tiniest Sound of Breaking” by A.G. Kramer, “The Gate” by Laura Golden, “In Guantanamo” by Callie Lewis, “My Name on a Grain of Rice” by Kathryn Etters Lovatt, “Dysfunctional Slumber Parties” by Alli Marshall, “The Mission” by Alan Michael Parker, “Vondalee Puts on Her Cat Eye Glasses” by Vicki Lane, “The Old Americans” by Bryan Giemza, “Abstracting” by Mason Boyles, and “Keeping Company in Lucama” by Mathew Gingrich. 

The annual Doris Betts Fiction Prize honors the late novelist and short story writer Doris Betts, the first to call North Carolina “the writingest state.” The competition is sponsored by the nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network, the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages of development. Betts’s support of writers, both her UNC students and countless other protégés, is manifested in the Network’s reminder that, particularly in North Carolina, “Nobody Writes Alone.” For additional information about the North Carolina Writers’ Network, visit

Published since 1992 at East Carolina University, the North Carolina Literary Review has won numerous awards and citations. Fiction Editor Liza Wieland is the author of four novels and three collections of short stories.  

A two-year subscription to NCLR will include the 2017 issue, featuring the winner from the 2016 Betts competition, as well as the 2018 issue, featuring Wallace’s winning story from this year’s competition. Subscribe at

Robert Wallace