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Charlotte’s Paul Reali Wins Doris Betts Fiction Prize

Paul Reali of Charlotte is the winner of the Doris Betts Fiction Prize for his story, “How to Get Struck By Lightning.”

Reali will receive $250 from the North Carolina Writers’ Network and his story will be published in the 2024 print issue of the North Carolina Literary Review and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Reali is co-founder of Charlotte Lit, a nonprofit literary arts center in Charlotte. His fiction has also won first place in the Elizabeth Simpson Smith Short Story and Ruth Moose Flash Fiction competitions, and his play Fresh Paint was selected for the Playmakers 10-Minute Play Festival in 2022. Paul was awarded a Wildacres residency in 2022 and received a Regional Artist Project Grant from Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council in 2018. He has an MS in Creativity from SUNY Buffalo State and an MBA from Syracuse University.

Final judge David Joy, author of five novels including 2023’s Those We Thought We Knew, selected Reali’s story from 12 finalists, saying, “With strong openings and fluid breaks, ‘How To Get Struck By Lightning’ wonderfully captures the know-everything, know-nothing-ness of high school coming-of-age. In short order, the story’s lead is fully realized and fleshed by voice, quirks, and flaws. But more than anything the author manages to execute the hardest part: sticking the landing. This ending feels pitch perfect.”

Joy also selected “The Way Home” by Ronald Jackson of Durham for second place and “The Other Donners” by Kaylie Saidin of Wrightsville Beach for third. NCLR editors have selected two of the other finalists for publication: “All Things Work Together for Good” by Jeremy Griffin and “Where I’m Supposed to Be” by Gabi Stephens. These stories will be published in NCLR Online issues, and all of the authors will receive honoraria from the Network and nominations for the O. Henry Award.

NCLR reports that 183 stories were submitted to this year’s competition. The other finalists were “Reservoir Hill,” also by Jackson, as well as “The Loss of Small Things” by Melissa Cole, “Journey to the Center” by Polly Hansen, “The Witch Burns Down the Cook Out” by Chris Heavener, “Thurlene and the Ghost” by Sarah Archer Moulton, “Ablutions” by Barry Peters, and “Ghost Town” by David Westwood.

The annual Doris Betts Fiction Prize honors the late novelist and short story writer Doris Betts, and 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. For additional information, visit

Published since 1992 by East Carolina University and the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, the North Carolina Literary Review has won numerous awards and citations. Go to for subscription information to read the 2024 issue with the winning story.