Meet the 2019 SFK Press Novel Contest Winner!

Part historical fiction, part thriller, SALVATION is a compelling story, beautifully written and cinematic. Many times my heart jumped into my throat as I turned the page and I too, like Caswell’s Willie June, started holding my breath. Avery Caswell should be really proud of her work. It reminded me of Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones as it intersects with Julia Phillips’s Disappearing Earth.

—Devi S. Laskar, 2019 SFK Press Novel Contest Judge

Avery Caswell will receive a $1,500 advance, and her novel SALVATION will be published by SFK Press in 2020.

SALVATION by Avery Caswell


One August morning in 1971, two sisters, ages seven and nine, left Charlotte, NC for what they believed would be a two-week vacation with an itinerant evangelist. When the girls did not return, their mother claimed they had been kidnapped; other family members believed they had been sold.

“I couldn’t tell this story without Earthell Latta, the woman whose story this novel is based on,” says author Avery Caswell. “In today’s political climate, some might view our collaboration as risky. . . . Two women, one black, one white, have a story to share, a story about the South that stretches from North Carolina to Florida. . . . Telling stories, daring to step forward, trusting someone wholly different, this is how we navigate today’s tricky pathways and find our way out of narrowly defined ruts so that together we can build bridges.”

2019 SFK Press Novel Contest Judge

DEVI S. LASKAR is a native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She holds an MFA from Columbia University, an MA in South Asian Studies from the University of Illinois, and a BA in journalism and English from UNC-Chapel Hill. A former newspaper reporter, she is now a novelist, poet, photographer, and artist. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from such journals Rattle, Tin House, and Crab Orchard Review. She is an alumna of both The OpEd Project and VONA, among others, and has published two poetry chapbooks with Finishing Line Press. Her debut novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues (Counterpoint Press), was released this past February and grapples with the complexities of the second-generation American experience, what it means to be a woman of color in the workplace, and a sister, a wife, and a mother to daughters in today’s America.

The Contest Continues in 2020

The SFK Press Novel Contest is an annual contest now in its third consecutive year. The previous winning novels are Amidst This Fading Light by Rebecca Davis (released August 2018) and If Darkness Takes Us by Brenda Marie Smith (forthcoming October 15, 2019).

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