2020 Contest Winners

Join us in celebrating our winners!

Although this year’s conference was canceled, writers were still able to submit entries for our Poem or Page and WRAP (Wisconsin Regional Art Program) Writing Contests. We’re pleased to share them here, along with our judges’ comments.

Poem or Page Contest Winners



First Place – “Circle of Life,” by Lucinda Anne Tiajoloff

This rap-style poem brought out all kinds of emotions for the judges. The simple “yes” in the first line spins into a life of hard decisions and ends with the melancholy thought that this young woman ends up with the only thing valuable she’s ever had in her life. The stream-of-consciousness riffs and unpredictable word repetition mimic what it must feel like for the young woman. The rhythm and breathless enjambment of this single sentence sustained over nearly 40 lines swept us away and got us on our feet, applauding the writer’s skill.


Second Place – Untitled beginning with “How do I forgive,” by Char Braxton

A powerful message haunts us more and more as each line builds on this poem’s story and history. These are honest, heart-breaking confessions. Guttural fragments — punctuated by line breaks — ensure that every word matters. The inclusion of the specific “8 years old” for the child makes us almost stare into his eyes. Powerful, indeed.


Third Place – “When Life Is Bad On Both Sides,” by Rose E. Bingham

This poem uses cinematographic imagery to portray an episode in life we’ve all heard about or experienced, unfortunately. Along with stark details, the piece uses curt music such as “hands placed flat against an official vehicle,” to super-charge language with potent implication. The ending will also be a surprise to some but not to others. This poem makes a reader think and feel.




First Place – Untitled beginning with “There’s a recipe,” by Sally E. Rasmussen

This piece uses specific language, facts and a sense of humor. Professionally written, it meets the needs of a readership interested in family history, culture, cooking and the fondness many readers have for recipes and recipe boxes. The author’s writing is flawless and smooth. Very professional. Readers can trust this writer based on the confidence felt on the page.


Second Place – Untitled beginning with “My grandmother doted on me,” by Ann Knol

This entry became increasingly intimate and emotional as we read through it. Readers begin to feel the conflict in the writer’s life when she was a girl, and we ultimately meet an interesting grandmother. The author employs excellent details that reflect the time period and emotional makeup of the writer then and now.


Third Place – Untitled beginning with “The bus driver points ahead,” by Christa Bruhn

This page flows with mystery and danger. It’s also written flawlessly with no glaring mistakes. The story intrigues us; we want to know if these boys are going to be all right. Their confusion in being lost brought on our own fear for them. The action is immediate — always a good technique. This author didn’t waste our time; we’re inside the story immediately.




First Place – Untitled beginning with “From very early on, he had believed,” by Ann Knol

This is a fresh voice, a story concept that is stellar. It entertains. It’s funny. And we’d love to turn the page and keep reading. Excellent “voice” and mechanics.


Second Place – “Eight Cows Left,” by Pamela J. Fullerton

A mystery builds. What’s happening with this farmer and his wife, children and dog disappearing over time? The judges wanted to turn the page. The writing flows and is professional.


Third Place – “Infraction,” by Liz Stroud

This is stellar writing about a mysterious night in a fresh setting. A young woman in an “end-time community” in the Canadian Rockies awakens to the howl of a wolf that she’s befriended. Great details kept us intrigued all the way through.


Genre Fiction


First Place – Untitled beginning with “If Beethoven had been able,” by Chris Norbury

Great details and a sense of foreboding work well to pull in the reader. Jazzman sees cops across the room and plots his getaway. We’re in for a ride and we wanted to turn the page. Solid, professional craft on this page.


Second Place – “All That Glints Isn’t Gold,” by Patt Bray

The author made so many wise fiction choices here, including wasting no time in telling us that this protagonist has a special power and a big problem. In addition, there’s good emotion for the character and readers in the memory of the grandmother. The author also brings in an “object” that can be used for plot purposes — the “bevy of beautifully embroidered handkerchiefs.”


Third Place – Untitled beginning with “We stood there waiting,” by Jill D. Swenson

This is powerful all the way through because of the actions, the specificity of details, the objects used — starting with a tray of sweet rolls — and the patience the author has in describing the meeting of the old man and the girl. There’s a mysterious feel to what’s going on, too. The last paragraph on this page is almost a story unto itself. We were moved emotionally.


Young Adult Fiction


First Place – Untitled beginning with “I listened carefully,” by Valerie Biel

What’s not to like about living next to a cemetery that your father evidently takes care of and you wake up hearing an odd howl and Dad is missing? The girl calls herself Creepy Chloe, and she’s in action immediately. This is fun intrigue from the get-go. It’s well written, with good word choices and excellent punctuation.


Second Place – Untitled beginning with “Despite the danger,” by Tricia Wagner

The mysterious and bewitching crystal caves created an action start here for Livi. These are forbidden caves, but of course she heads into them and readers love that she does. Livi has a good reason to go inside, too — for the salt that her sick mother needs. The danger and details add up to excellent storytelling. A plot is underway with a character willing to take it on.  Punctuation and grammar are excellent.


Third Place – Untitled beginning with “The wind is to the desert as memories,” by Adrienne N. Roach

This mysterious entry takes us to a desert oasis in North Africa in 1898. The character is a butterfly — something we don’t encounter in fiction every day. The butterfly meets three men with their camels, and we have an encounter that may turn out badly. The last line on this page says it all. The judges would turn the page to see how this unusual story unfolds. The writing is clean, competent and free of errors.


Flash Fiction

No winners were selected.



WRAP Writing Contest Winners

Image 1: shabby wood-slat house.


First place — WRAP 10, Image 1, beginning with “The dust bellowed,” by Valerie Biel

This story has a powerful feeling of mystery, sadness and maybe danger. There is an air of unknown. I don’t know the full story, but I want too! Great metaphors and descriptions of the car, the worn-down house and his mother picking lilacs. I feel like I was viewing the scene live.


Image 5: a herd of cows making their way up a grassy green hill on a farm.

LLOYD SCARSETH; Milking Time (1941)

Second Place — WRAP 1, Image 5, beginning with “Suk! Suk!,” by Deb Cleveland

There is a lot of energy and expressiveness in this story. It feels nostalgic and like a dusty memory, a snapshot back in time of a family memory. The bowling ball metaphor is great.


Image 3: people make their way through the snowy streets of a town.

FRANCIS BURT; Village Blizzard (1947)

Third Place — WRAP 4, Image 3, beginning with “An artist looks out,” by Paula Rogge

This feels like an art history paper (in a good way). Very descriptive and use of the elements and principles of art and how the painting of this Wisconsin winter scene is laid out. Interesting approach coming from the artist’s perspective from her third-story window and detailing the Impressionistic style of the painting, capturing the scene quickly. The added sentence, “we are all in this together,” strikes a contemporary chord in our current world.


Fourth Choice (I know you didn’t ask for one) — WRAP 13 Image 5 The Herder’s Villanelle by Lisa Vihos

LLOYD SCARSETH; ‘Milking Time’ (1941), pictured above. This poem strikes me on a few levels. It is not only about country living, scenery, nature and also about life itself and that time is fleeting. Very profound and yet simple at the same time.


Image 2: Man with cane gives speech outside of a barn.

JOAN AREND; Farm Auction (1945)

Image 4: horses graze on a grassy hill near a farm.

LOIS IRELAND; Morning Glory (1948)