Writer-Author Janet Burroway Reveals Professional Relationship With Tom Jenks Prior to Her Big 2009 Contest Win

Not only do we have Janet Burroway now connected to Jenks and Edgarian prior to her big Narrative Magazine Winter 2009 Story Contest win this year, but in 2008 a fantastic coincidence took place: in the huge "Love Story" competition of 2008, we had Elizabeth Stuckey-French coming in first and Janet Burroway coming in third. Out of a field of many hundreds if not thousands of contestants, can it be just a coincidence that Burroway and Stuckey-French (who collaborated on a writing book together), were winners?

And now Burroway takes number one in the recent story contest after admitting openly to me in a recent letter that Jenks and Edgarian know her well? Judge for yourself. From the Burroway letter, detaling her relationship with Narrative's editors:

· I signed up on the Narrative web site, therefore read about the 2008 Love Story contest, sent in a story, “Blackout,” from a still-unfinished novel-in-stories, and won third prize.
· On the site I also learned that Narrative was having a party in New York that summer, in a week when I was to be there, so I wrote, again to an assistant, and invited myself. I was told I would be welcome.
· I went to the party, introduced myself to Tom Jenks and Carol Edgarian, who said very nice things about my work, but they were of course busy and we didn’t have a real conversation.
· When my novel Bridge of Sand was scheduled for publication by Harcourt, my agent sent a copy to Narrative, and they published an excerpt earlier this year, as did Prairie Schooner.
· When Carol Houck-Smith died (with whom I did have a very real and close relationship, though she kept rejecting my novels)­ I emailed Tom Jenks and asked if he would take her place on an AWP panel about the author-editor relationship ...

Obviously, Jenks knew Janet Burroway in several ways before personally choosing her to win the Winter 2009 Story Contest. She had invited Jenks to be on a panel, Jenks published a slice of her novel, she invited herself to a Narrative party and socialized enough with Jenks and Edgarian to receive praise for her work (without a conversation?), and she'd been a winner of a previous contest chosen by Jenks and Edgarian. And who knows what else?

What's wrong with this picture?

So why isn't Burroway agreeing to return the prize money rather than burrowing into me for calling them all out on it? In her letter, she states:

And on the other hand, you do successfully gain attention to yourself, because I will forward your letter and this reply to everyone who emailed congratulations and everyone implicated on your blog. But you shouldn’t call yourself a “recovering lawyer.” The point of recovery is to avoid drink or drugs or sex or whatever your addiction is, and you are far too litigious to be in recovery.

Janet Burroway

There is nothing "litigious" about it. No one threatened her, and yet, she appears to feel threatened.

Why Janet?

And here is my original email to her (due to her admitted relationship with the Narrative editors and her statement re going public with my mail and her response, I feel it my obligation to publish this):

Dear Janet Burroway,

I recently wrote a blog post article about ongoing fraud in contests sponsored by Narrative Magazine. Before I jump to conclusions due to hearsay about an alleged relationship you have had with Tom Jenks and Carol Edgarian, I want to ask you whether or not in fact you have had any form of relationship with Jenks or Edgarian prior to winning the recent Narrative Magazine contest. I am investigating this matter and speaking to various people involved in their ongoing scam. I have contacts with many people who will provide testimony that winners of their contests nearly all have prior relationships with them.

I urge you to think carefully before attempting to avoid this growing situation with Narrative. My blog has a reputation for expose and a factual article connecting you with Narrative before the contest was judged will not go well for anyone involved in the crime. Jenks and Edgarian, in my opinion, are engaged in highly unethical and even illegal behavior. Tricking hundreds of writers into entering contests they have no chance of winning is mail fraud and incurs federal penalties. For example, do a google search on Tom Jenks and you will find my blog post exposing his behavior, number three, I believe.

Please do the right thing and tell the truth about any relationship you've had with Jenks or Edgarian prior to being chosen for their contest. You must know that taking a prize under unethical circumstances makes you unethical also. Prizes accepted under such conditions must be returned immediately. That is the right thing to do, and I know you know that. I have no wish to do damage to your reputation, but this ongoing fraud by Narrative must come to an end.

If the rumors of your relationship with them are false, then please go on the record. If you had no relationship or contact whatsoever with Edgarian and/or Jenks prior to winning the contest,then all this will go away. This matter concerns everyone in the literary field in America. I really hope you can see that ...



  1. Anonymous1:08 AM

    hi liz...thanks for posting this....i'm watching with great curiosity to see what happens here. i think tom jenks must have some kind of clinical problem -- narcissism, perhaps, megalomania, certainly -- that allows him to so blatantly lay out, in public, on line, for god's sake, the prosecution's entire eventual case that he will most certainly be the defendant in. one could write a book based solely on this joker's shenanigans entitled 'Internet Detective 101 - How to Gather Evidence for a Crime Perpetuated in Cyberspace (subtitle - He Ain't no Bernie Madoff). Burroway, whose fiction books I like, by the way, is clearly either a dupe or just doesn't believe that anyone else will believe this incestual tale. the money and seeming prestige of winning contests with such massive prizes and the rapid breathing that ensues when someone like stuckey-french or burroway "wins" a contest, must be some kind of literary asphyxiophilia, the climax even more intense when they cash that check.

  2. Anonymous5:53 PM

    She went to a party for the magazine? She invited Jenks to be on a panel? This is your evidence that they have had close professional ties? Please. This is lame. I've been on a dozen panels with authors and editors, and I've been to a few social gatherings as well. Should I avoid having anything to do with them? If they sponsor a contest, should I not submit to it? Writers socialize, just as lawyers (or other professionals) do. I don't even see this as quid pro quo. Your argument is a stretch at best.

  3. No one said they had "close" ties, but they had ties. She was known to them in various ways.

    The point isn't whether the writer should or should not submit, the point is objectivity in the contest process. That has been violated.

  4. Anonymous7:19 AM

    No, it hasn't been violated in this instance. I would say, yes, it's unethical if the winner is a former student or teacher of the contest judge or a relation, but to eliminate oneself because you've served on a panel with the editor or because your publisher submitted an excerpt from a book for publication to the editor (which only bodes well that the editor may like your work, since they published it), or because you attended a party thrown by them -- that's utterly ludicrous. The fact is, Narrative pays a hefty cash award, so they're going to attract writers better known than you or me, especially given the fact that there are few (very few) commericial outlets for literary fiction that pay much. Sorry, Elizabeth, but you're not selling me on your argument here. Given the social networking of the average writer today, you'd have to have lived Emily Dickinson's life to be eligible to submit.

  5. IF the judges know the identity of the contestant, and more, have published her, given her a previous contest win (along with her close business associate!!!), and socialized with her, then it has been violated, BIG TIME! She was schmoozing with them, trying to do favors for Jenks, and that's only what she has confessed to.

    The fact that Narrative doesn't use independent judges and refuses to do so is evidence that a shady process is at work. There can't be a single winner of a Narrative contest who shouldn't be investigated for ties to Jenks and Edgarian.

  6. Rebecca M.3:11 PM

    I agree with you entirely Liz, and the Anon posting here is probably Burroway herself trying to wiggle out of it. She clearly had established a social relationship with the Narrative editors, and that fact alone should have forced the "judges" to pass on her work due to conflict of interest.

  7. Anonymous6:59 AM

    I love how whenever anyone posts an anonymous comment defending the person being accused there's always some nitwit who thinks it's the accused who's doing the posting. Burroway answered Liz's email; why would she post anonymously? Use some common sense. And if Liz doesn't want anonymous comments, then she can change the method by which people post here.

  8. David Grantham3:16 AM

    Hello Liz,
    Any chance you could explain this further? What you've shown here are extracts of a letter to you from Burroway and accusations of collusion. I'd have to agree that your email does have a threatening tone and Burroway seems to have replied with what you asked for - a full explanation of her sole dealings with Jenks. I also thought there was humour in the way she ended her message to you, you think no? Yes, you are right in saying "No one said they had "close" ties, but they had ties. She was known to them in various ways." But I don't think you have made any clear point. Maybe you could clairify why you say "She was schmoozing with them, trying to do favors for Jenks, and that's only what she has confessed to." Implying that despite her reply with the answers to your questions, you are simply resorting to calling her a liar? It would be great if you could outline more information, perhaps publishing Burroways complete letter to you would make things clearer for us reading your Blog with interest?

  9. To Anon above: Thanks for pointing that out, Ms. Janet Burroway!

    To David: Sir, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I need only ask you to look up rules most journals and presses use with regards contests. Narrative violated these rules and Janet Burroway knows it very well.


    Again, Janet Burroway knows this, but she makes an exception to keep her prize and her money.

    And I'm not directing this at you, David, but why is this all so hard for everyone to comprehend? Is it because Janet Burroway resembles a kindly Miss Marple type who can do no wrong?

  10. Some Guy Who's Not Janet Burroway6:58 AM

    "And I'm not directing this at you, David, but why is this all so hard for everyone to comprehend?"

    Because your definition of "FRIENDS AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATES" is unreasonably broad. Based on Janet Burroway's letter, I don't see any evidence that she is a "friend" or "business associate" of Janet Burroway's. This is the sort of conspiracy theory nonsense that readers of Literary Rejections on Display like to engage in (as evidenced here people thinking "anonymous" is Janet Burroway, when, in fact, anonymous is me: a 40-something male). Maybe the anonymi who agree with you are actually you, then.

    As for "Is it because Janet Burroway resembles a kindly Miss Marple type who can do no wrong?" If Burroway believed she crossed some ethical line, I seriously doubt she'd have answered your email. The person who's not comprehending any of this is, sadly, you.

  11. Anonymous10:26 AM

    "Litigious" doesn't necessarily mean threatening a lawsuit. It can mean "lawyer-y" in mindset, attitudes, approach to, in this case, a literature competition. Everyone knows that in itself is a sort of oxymoron, but everyone knows that publishing's a business, not literature itself, and it runs on the kind of schmoozing described here. Turning it into a sort of tabloid exposay (can't find accents on this keyboard) seems like a waste of time and energy, if not another kind of scam in its claim that it's worth the time it takes to read.

  12. Anonymous9:00 AM

    Oh,no! I've slept with everybody in the Pulitzer family; does this mean I can't accept any prizes? Barbara

  13. Anonymous6:04 PM

    As a fledgling writer currently enrolled in an MFA program, all this discussion is new to me. But my gut reaction is that it's just plain wrong to accept a prize from someone that knows you, knows your work, you have socialized with, and whom you have gotten a panel gig for.
    With the size of the award, it makes sense to judge entries blind, and not have them judged by the magazine staff. It is a simple matter to set up, and yes, entirely reasonable in light of the fact that you are "inviting" writers from all over to pay for the privelege of entering.
    The only value I can see of being in control of the winner selection, and choosing specific big-name writers is the narcissistic prestige that is hopefully generated for the editors.
    In such a case, I would think any writer would avoid such an arrangement, realizing the obvious, that the editors have a social status agenda, and not merely a mission to publish the best new work.

  14. Anonymous7:27 AM

    Just in case anyone is unsure whether the contests are shady, the SECOND place winner from that same contest was famous lit blogger Maud Newton, who also won a second cash prize from them this year (and posts on her blog about Narrative.) And Burroway and Stuckey-French aren't just random writers that Jenks and Edgarian wouldn't know; the book they collaborated on is a major text used to teach writing (as Jenks does.) And Jenks and Edgarian have been shown to award people they have blurbed and even edited before. Maybe this is what it takes to run a non-profit journal these days, but it isn't very fair.

  15. Anonymous11:30 AM

    I want to thank Web del Sol for bringing this conversation to my attention. As a writer and editor, I can tell you that it's not unusual to pay an entry fee for this sort of contest, but almost all of them are judged "blind" - the author's name appears nowhere on the ms. In addition, screeners, not the final judges, eliminate most submissions and choose finalists. Better-known writers don't get a free pass to the final round. The finalist judges are almost never the editors themselves - choosing an "outside" judge would be an easy way to avoid this conflict of interest. (Of course, Jenks and Edgarian would have to pay such a judge.)

    Outside the auspices of the contest, of course, a publisher is free to publish whoever they wish, but allowing this sort of unethical behavior, and even encouraging it, is a good reason not to submit, ever again, to Narrative Magazine, and to "de-subscribe" so that they can't continue to inflate their so-called subscription figures. This sort of BS makes me ashamed of my profession, though not of my vocation.

    Finally, it's very odd for a writer as well known as Janet Burroway to enter such a contest in the first place. Why not simply publish the story in the magazine outside the auspices of the contest, since she doesn't need the name recognition contests are designed to promote? All of this is very weird and unorthodox, as if Jenks (most famous for his former association with Gordon Lish at Esquire), feels that he's above the law. If so, that's unfortunate, because it makes him sound like BP, a company that's contemptuous of all the "small people." In fact, we should probably call Narrative the BP of literary culture and require them to clean up this mess.