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Original Writing Competition

Established in 1958, the competition awards Utah writers for works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in a variety of forms for readers of all ages. Submissions must be original works and cannot be published or accepted for publication at the time of entry. Manuscripts are reviewed in a blind process by judges selected from outside of Utah. Past winners have included former Utah Poets Laureate David Lee, Ken Brewer, and Katharine Coles, as well as current Utah Poet Laureate Lance Larsen. There is no entry fee for the competition, and it is open to all Utah residents.

We celebrated the 2015 Utah Original Writing Competition winners at an event on Saturday, November 7, at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center. Click on the image below to view and download photos from the afternoon. 

2015 OWC program

2015 Utah Original Writing Competition Winners

Category A: Novel, judged by Ernest Hebert

First Place: The Salted Earth, by Eric Robertson (Salt Lake City)

Second Place: The Lord, My Shepherd, by Daniel Robertson (Provo)

Honorable Mention: Danger on Board, by Anne Stark (Paradise); Filet of Soul, by Courtney Davis (Provo)


Category B: Biography/Autobiography/History, judged by Poe Ballantine

First Place: Dreams of My Comrades, by Scott Zuckerman (Park City)

Second Place: Dear Little Fish, by Melissa Bond (Salt Lake City)

Honorable Mention: The Reluctant Boss, by Hector Griffin (Cottonwood Heights); Nine Lives of a Natural Redhead, by Marcee Blackerby (Salt Lake City)


Category C: Book-length Collection of Stories, judged by Katherine Bahr

First Place: New Myth: Stories, by Aaron Allen (Orem)

Second Place: City of Saints: Stories of the Mormon Corridor, by David Pace (Salt Lake City)

Honorable Mention: The Man Who Destroyed the Universe, by Gregory Deluca (St. George)


Category D: Young Adult Book, judged by Connie Goldsmith

First Place: The Dark Backward, by McKelle George (Lehi)

Second Place: All My Fairy Godmothers, by Katy Larson (Springville)

Honorable Mention: Rat Prince of Kusa, by Elena Jube (Provo); Better Than Dead, by Jessica Guernsey (Lindon)


Category E: Poetry, judged by Ellen Bass

First Place: “Waiting,” by Anne Vinsel (Salt Lake City)

Second Place: “Darlings from the Beginning,” by Ben Gunsberg (Logan)


Category F: Short Story, judged by Jon Billman

First Place: “The Whiskeyjack,” by Jenn Gibbs (Salt Lake City)

Second Place: “Eating Sushi in Mesquite,” by Lynn Kilpatrick (Salt Lake City)

Honorable Mention: “Long Lost,” by David Cawley (Centerville)


Category G: Narrative Nonfiction/Personal Essay, judged by Rus Bradburd

First Place: “The Other Amelia,” by James Ure (Salt Lake City)

Second Place: “Mystery, Knowledge, and the Worsening Light of the Ethereal Mind,” by Maximilian Werner (Salt Lake City)

Honorable Mention: “Guilt: Two Love Stories,” by Natasha Saje (Salt Lake City)

2015 Utah Original Writing Competition Judges

Category A: Novel – Ernest Hebert

Ernest Hebert was the first person to be tenured as a fiction writer at Dartmouth College, where he taught from 1988 to 2015. The author of 12 books, Hebert is best known for the Darby Chronicles, seven connected novels revolving around the imaginary New Hampshire town of Darby. The Dogs of March (1979), the first Darby novel, received a citation from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation (now the PEN/Hemingway Award). Live Free or Die, the fifth Darby novel, was named a “notable book of the year” by the New York Times in 1989. Spoonwood (2005), the sixth Darby novel, received an IPPY (Independent Publishers Book Award) for the best regional novel in the Northeast in 2005. His historical novel, The Old American, and his cyber punk novel, Mad Boys, won prizes from the New Hampshire Writers Project, a group which honored him with a lifetime achievement award in 2014. The New England Book Sellers Association chose Hebert as their Fiction Author of the Year for 2006. He and his wife live in Westmoreland, New Hampshire.

Category B: Biography/Autobiography/History – Poe Ballantine

Poe Ballantine was born in Denver and raised in San Diego. He dropped out of college and has spent most of his adult life traveling on the cheap. He is the winner of two Best American Essays, one Best American Short Story, and one Pushcart Prize. Ballantine’s most recent book is the essay collection Guidelines for Mountain Lion Safety. He lives in Chadron, Nebraska, with his wife and son.

Category C: Book-length Collection of Stories – Katherine (Kathy) Bahr

Kathy Bahr is a native of Augusta, Georgia, but traveled around the world as a military dependent, commonly known as an “army brat.”  She received an A. B. degree in philosophy and religion from the University of Georgia, an M. A. in English from Valdosta State University, and a PhD in English, also from UGA.  For the last 21 years, she has taught English and world literature, composition and ethics at Chadron State College in the Nebraska Panhandle.

Prior to her teaching career, she worked at the South Georgia Area Planning and Development Commission (Valdosta, GA), the American Bar Foundation (Chicago), and WESTAT, Inc. (Washington, D. C.).  As a possible point of interest to Utah residents, Spencer L. Kimball, the oldest son of Spencer W. Kimball, was conducting research at the Bar Foundation when she worked there. Her main publications are critical essays on the works of Matthew Arnold, the 19th-century critic and poet, and Mari Sandoz, the Nebraska Panhandle’s regional novelist and historian.  She is the recipient of the Frederic C. Luebke Award for Outstanding Regional Scholarship for her article “Collateral Damage: Veterans and Domestic Violence in Mari Sandoz’s The Tom-Walker.”  Recently retired, she hopes to do some long-postponed creative writing.

Category D: Young Adult Book – Connie Goldsmith

Connie Goldsmith writes nonfiction, primarily for Lerner’s school and library imprint for older young adult readers, Twenty-First Century Press. Her 17 nonfiction books (two due out in 2016) are about health, science, and history. Her most recent book, Bombs Over Bikini, was a Junior Library Guild selection, a Bank Street College Best Book, and won the 2015 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for California and Hawaii. Goldsmith has judged numerous writing contests, including for the Friends of the Sacramento Library, where she judged all categories, including young adult fiction. She reads YA fiction voraciously and reviews YA novels for The New York Journal of Books. She has read and reviewed more than 600 children’s books of all genres for California Kids, a Sacramento regional parenting publication, and has performed paid and unpaid critiques on all genres of juvenile writing for SCBWI-related events. Visit her websites at and

Category E: Poetry – Ellen Bass

Ellen Bass’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, and many other journals. Her most recent book, Like a Beggar, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2014. Previous poetry books include The Human Line and Mules of Love. She co-edited (with Florence Howe) the groundbreaking No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women. Among her awards are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council, two Pushcart Prizes, the Elliston Book Award, The Lambda Literary Award, The Pablo Neruda Prize from Nimrod/Hardman, the Larry Levis Prize from Missouri Review, and the New Letters Prize. Her nonfiction books include Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth and Their Allies and The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, which has been translated into 12 languages. She lives in Santa Cruz, California and teaches in the MFA writing program at Pacific University.

Category F: Short Story – Jon Billman

Jon Billman’s fiction has appeared in such magazines as Esquire, Zoetrope: All Story and The Paris Review. He’s a contributing writer for Outside magazine and teaches in the MFA program at Northern Michigan University. He lives with his family in a log cabin in the Upper Peninsula.

Category G: Narrative Nonfiction/Personal Essay – Rus Bradburd

Rus Bradburd’s new book, Make It, Take It, is a novel in stories. He is also the author of Forty Minutes of Hell and Paddy on the Hardwood. A Chicago native, he coached basketball at UTEP and New Mexico State for 14 seasons. He is a frequent contributor to SLAM magazine, and his essays have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, El Paso Times, Chicago Daily Southtown, Albuquerque Journal, Las Cruces Sun-News, African-American Perspectives, New Mexico Magazine, and Fiddler Magazine.

Click on the links below to see lists of winners in previous years.

2014 OWC List of Winners

2013 OWC List of Winners

2012 OWC List of Winners

2011 OWC List of Winners

2010 OWC List of Winners


Contact Alyssa Hickman Grove at or 801.236.7548.

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