The winners of the record-breaking Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends’ annual writing contests were announced Thursday, Aug. 16, on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
After a warm welcome from president of the Friends Norma Rees, the contests coordinator, Bethanne Snodgrass, took to the lectern.
According to Snodgrass, this year saw a 70 percent increase in submissions from previous years, with 52 total applicants. Additionally, there were 78 poetry submissions, which is nearly a fivefold increase from last year.
Snodgrass said the “best news” was that there were entries in both youth and young adult categories, which is an exciting first for the organization.
In addition to the unprecedented submission statistics, the contests also successfully transitioned to a fully-online submission process, reflecting the industry standard for literary journals and contests.
This year, Chautauqua Writers’ Center Week Seven writers-in-residence judged the contests. Prose writer-in-residence Lily Hoang judged adult prose, and poet-in-residence Charlotte Matthews judged adult poetry. Weekend Intensive instructor Brittany Cavallaro judged the youth and young adult categories.
Snodgrass read the list of winners, interspersed with comments from the judges and followed by a few readings.
Sander Moffitt, 16, took home the first-place award in young adult prose for the story “Conor.”
“This story is elegantly structured, with lovely, well-drawn characterizations,” Cavallaro said in her written remarks. “With sentences like ‘his hands were mottled with marker spots,’ the writer demonstrates their skill with musical language.”
Beatrice Gaines, 10, wrote “The Green House,” which won the youth combined poetry and prose category. As Gaines was out of town, she read her poem to the audience from a speaker phone:
“the warm sun letting up the mist/ strewn across the lake,/ the still, still lake./ the green house/ I look at,/ the many sections divided,/ panels running along to/ form a border from the children/ to the hateful world.”
The tone shifted toward the end.
“no longer is there mist/ over the blue toned lake;/ the sun is beating down on my shoulders,/ the tree blocking the green house is sparkling.”
Zoe Magley, 17, won the first place in young adult poetry for her work “Twinhood.” Her grandmother read her poem aloud.
The first lines read: “I am a June day sailing through December. When I live I do it with blades of grass between the gaps of my front teeth.”
The poem ended with: “And he is lingering, reveling in the slow, lilting fifth symphony: Doughy, drawn out, clinging to the last notes in a glassy silence until the stage grows Dark.”
Christopher Nye won first place in adult poetry with his poem “Faith.”
“Faith candidly shares a questioning, a wondering, a seeking,” Matthews said in her written judge’s statement. “It even ends with that question — but not without giving us great faith.”
Nye called into the contests to read his poem aloud.
From his desk at Orion Magazine, he read: “In earlier times faith made soil to grow saints, a compost to produce miracles. Full of micro-life, its dark humus gave purpose when worked into the gardens and groves of the everyday.”