The number of awards given in each category is proportional to the number of qualifying entries. This year, the first-place winners in each category will receive a manuscript critique from one of our faculty members plus free tuition to next year’s Writers Day event.
Runner-up: Ronna Mandel for Digger Delivers
Digger has dreamt about digging on a construction site ever since leaving the assembly line. But when the day finally comes, the smell of diesel makes him sick, the scratchy soil hurts his bucket, and the loud noise is unbearable! What good is a digger that can’t dig? But before quitting and giving up on his dream, Digger discovers a new way he can succeed on the job. His contributions prove invaluable, and he is soon reassigned and promoted to Maintenance Manager. He may not dig, but he sure does deliver! Presented in a fun and relatable way, this is an uplifting story that delivers a bucket-load of hope and comfort, as it explores strategies for dealing with sensory processing issues. Back matter adds a personal note, as well as other relevant information.
Winner: Patricia Toht for Frank Pushes the Buttons
In this funny, kid-friendly story, Frank can’t resist pushing buttons — including his parents’ buttons (like Mom’s phone and Dad’s TV). Or other people’s buttons (like water fountains and elevator buttons). Things go wrong (which the author leaves open to hilarious interpretation). And Frank is warned, “No more buttons!” Frank tries, he really does. But a school field trip to a jelly bean factory, loaded with buttons of all shapes and sizes, proves too tempting! When chaos ensues, the class is kicked off the tour and sent home without the bag of jelly beans they were promised. Everyone’s upset with Frank. Now it’s up to Frank to figure out how to make things right. And when he does, it leads to a delightful surprise!
Runner-up: Laurie L. Young for The Cursed Treasure of the Family Flotsam
A grabby first line is always a key to success, and this one is grabby indeed: “Abigail and Augustus Flotsam hadn’t meant to kill their stepmother, but clearly, they had gone too far.” With that offbeat and unexpected line, we are introduced to twins Abigail and Augustus, who must cope with an absent father – and, of course, the more pressing issue of the stepmother who has been inadvertently poisoned by them. The writing is clever and funny, for smart, mature readers. The story’s slightly British tone makes the outrageous feel matter-of-fact, and it’s clear we are in a world with different rules from our own. The opening ten pages do not hint at what the ‘cursed treasure’ might be, but when twins are trying to dispose of the body of their stepmother, there’s no doubt that readers will keep reading to find out.
Winner: Vincent X. Kirsch for Firefly: Act One
Barnacle Bay is a seaside village and tourist attraction, complete with a lighthouse, pier, and a ton of locals named Brewster. But the favorite place of the narrator — Endicott Webster Brewster the fourth, also known as “Lobster” — is the theater. He’s spent his summers there as a “firefly,” a kid actor playing whatever roles are available each season. But this year, Lobster gets some terrible news. The firefly position has been given to two of the town’s meanest boys. Lobster’s life is ruined. The punchy narration immediately draws you into a fast-paced story with clear stakes, set in a small town that is bound to get even quirkier as the plot continues. Lobster is a dramatic, emotional, and lovable main character, and readers will want to go along for the ride to find out what happens next when he’s dealt the most crushing blow of his life. The strong middle grade voice and engaging humor in these pages creates a vivid sense of place to unfold a story with clear stakes and great promise. It’s an enjoyable, laugh-out-loud read from beginning to end.
Winner: Nicholas Ponticello for The Sarafe Bride
Instantly engaging and harrowing, we follow Rayna as she’s prepared to be sold at auction. She hopes her ugliness and patchy skin and hair (due to a disorder akin to trichotillomania) will save her from a life of servitude as a wife and mother. To her horror, she’s dubbed a sarafe bride—something so unusual and flawed that it’s desirable. At the end of the excerpt, Rayna is, in fact, sold—and surprisingly to a high-ranking man in the community. She has no idea what fate awaits her with this turn of events, and readers will be just as desperate to find out as Rayna is. The author handles setting up the specifics of Rayna’s world, which involves a mix of Old World customs and modern technology (much like The Hunger Games) and her compulsive disorder so deftly, these first ten pages could serve as a mentor text for doing exposition brilliantly. I can’t wait to read the rest of this story!