Los Angeles Region

Writers Day Contest Winners: 2024

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.


Second Runner-Up: Annette Bethers for My Paintbrush and Me

"My Paintbrush and Me” follows a child and her paintbrush on an adventurous journey through uncharted waters. As Paintbrush paints, a whole world opens up to the child. When Paintbrush paints a boat, the child floats down a sparkling river. But then Paintbrush paints a waterfall, and the child is swept over its edge. After a safe landing in the calm pool below, the adventure only intensifies. Paintbrush paints a purple river monster—and he’s a hungry one! This is a fun and imaginative picture book story with tons of illustration potential—just ask Paintbrush!

First Runner-Up: Mary Malhotra for Little Ghost’s First Fright 

Little Ghost’s brothers treated her like she was invisible (as indeed she was). “Come back after your first fright,” they teased. So when a little girl named Rose moved into the old house, Little Ghost got her chance to prove herself. But Rose wasn’t afraid of Little Ghost.  In fact, when Little Ghost managed to materialize (the ultimate technique in scare tactics), Rose’s father fainted, but Rose herself was delighted! Haunting Rose felt more like playing. And Little Ghost realized she liked it that way! She was through listening to her brothers. Little Ghost could be frightful, if she wanted to, but she was having too much fun playing with her new friend.

This funny, kid-friendly story shows how delightful it can feel to be seen for who you are, and that you should never be afraid to be yourself.

Winner: Trenise Ferreira for Summer Hair

In “Summer Hair,” the main character can’t wait for her cousin to come over and braid her hair. Every summer, this low-maintenance hairdo meant one very important thing: swimming, slip-n-sliding, and splashing all summer long without a care. Patience is key, though, since she’ll have to sit as her cousin braids her hair for eight hours straight!  Every kid will relate to waiting for summer and the freedom that comes with it to play and splash in the water. But in “Summer Hair,” the reader comes away with an appreciation of just how powerful this freedom is for the main character. As the author says, “I wrote this book for all the little black girls who feel confident and limitless when their hair is braided.” This beautifully written story presents a very engaging insight into this aspect of black culture.


Winner: Mary Shannon for Orphans of Stork Island

It’s been a bad week for eleven-year-old Michael. While his mom’s away (again), he’s tasked with looking after Theo, his pesky four-year-old brother, and their muddled grandmother. Dealing with one is hard; with two it’s near impossible. Things get worse when Theo insists on playing Flying Capes, his favorite game. To make up for giving Theo a bloody nose, Michael agrees. After he attaches one end of a tablecloth “sail” to his brother’s ankles and the other to his hands, Theo leaps from a picnic table and into the howling wind. Michael grabs Theo’s foot, but it’s no use, and he disappears into the clouds. All that’s left is a shoe. Thus begins this whimsical middle grade tale, whose engaging voice, strong, fast-paced writing, vivid descriptions, and clear stakes drew me in. The punchy narration immediately pulls 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.


Winner: Rilla Jaggia for The Lotus Princess & the Divine Chakra

In this winning manuscript, a young girl named Karnika is preparing to stake her claim to the throne previously held by her mother. But on a late-night visit to the training grounds, she encounters her scheming cousin, who announces his intention to challenge her claim. The judge commented: “The author has spent much time on the world-building for this manuscript. It feels epic and yet approachable. The pacing allows us to absorb the setting and back story while still moving the present forward. At the end of the 10 pages, I’m left wondering what happens at the coronation. Is the crown stolen from Karnika or not? As she chases the throne, and her cousin (metaphorically) chases her, there is a clock ticking towards the event. Self-doubt and weird family dynamics are in full swing: Mom is dead, guru won’t train her, she’s all alone with her feelings, she longs for affirmation from almost-Dad, and she needs to be taller, dammit! A solid outward and inward motivation at play. All in all, well done!


Runner-Up: Lillie Pardo for Fabulous Filipino Americans

Brief, expertly researched biographies introduce readers to 20 highly accomplished Filipino Americans from a diverse array of backgrounds. They are rappers and musicians; White House chefs and Newbery Award-winning authors; politicians, athletes, activists, and more. The author’s compassionate rendering of each subject delves into hardships faced and failures overcome, while celebrating perseverance, expertise, and the many contributions of those included. Young readers, regardless of background, will find much to admire and emulate in "Fabulous Filipino Americans". While they all have roots in the Philippines, the subjects come from different backgrounds and have forged their unique paths to success. What they have in common is that they are worthy of recognition.

Winner: Andy Narwahl for Better Than Dinosaurs

We know we’re in for a treat right from the opening scene of this clever, slightly subversive graphic novel, when the author describes the setting of the awards ceremony we’re about to witness. The theater has ‘Mesozoic touches. Instead of Greek columns, giant Ginkgo trees rendered in marble. Instead of human statues, dinosaurs.’  We are at the 15,374th Annual Extinction Awards where T-Rex has long reigned in nearly every category – including as the show’s announcer. But this year he’s in for a shock. His surprise co-host is on a mission to set the fossil record straight by recognizing the incredible extinct animals who aren't dinosaurs. T-Rex is flummoxed to find lesser-known fossils walking away with statues for Scariest Extinct Animal and Largest Predator. Equal parts funny and educational, "Better Than Dinosaurs" is a deftly drawn story young readers will eat up.