23rd annual Kenai Peninsula Writers Contest winners

Editor’s note: This list has been updated to note that judging for the contest was blind.



First: Put a Face on It by Jon Crocker of Anchor Point

Second: Maiduguri by Janna Wagner of Homer

Third: Dystopia Days by George Harbeson of Homer

Grades 10-12

First: Absence of My Father by Rian Ofstad of Ninilchik

Second: Untitled by Ndea Rollins of Nikiski

Third: N/A (insufficient entries)

Grades 7-9

First: A Chickadee by Eli Robinson of Homer

Second: The Falcon’s Meal by Eli Robinson of Homer

Third: N/A (insufficient entries)

Grades 4-6

First: Boat Kids by Ruby Gervais of Homer

Second: The Unicorn by Ryder Maguire of Nikiski

Third: Love by Pinky Sarber of Homer

Grades K-3

First: Fishing by Wylder Johnson of Homer

Second: Berry by Wylder Johnson of Homer

Third (tie): Peter Rabbit’s Christmas by Cyla Reynolds of Homer

and Crai by Ingrid Pederson of Homer



First: Low Point by Oceana Wills of Homer (Mature content; not appropriate for all readers)

Second: The Cat Man of Anchor Point by Jon Crocker of Anchor Point

Third: Grover’s Not-So-Incredibly-Normal Day by Jeffrey Eide of Homer

Grades 10-12

First: Chapter 1: A Perfect Storm by Olivia Cunningham of Anchor Point

Second: The Haunting of the Ferris Wheel by Olivia Cunningham of Anchor Point

Third: How to Properly Go Through a Hay Tunnel by Miriam Bowser of Kasilof

Grades 7-9

First: Odelle Knightly and the Whispering Hemlocks by Naomi Jones of Tyonek

Second: Basketball Story by Maria Kratsas of Kasilof

Third: How to Catch Lawbreakers by Ethan Bowser of Kasilof

Grades 4-6

First: A Curly Christmas Tail by Olin Braund of Homer

Second: The Picnic by Daniel Christ of Homer

Third: Blueberry Hills by Hadley Howell of Soldotna

Grades K-3

First: Turkey’s First Thanksgiving by Wylder Johnson of Homer

Second: August by Lila Shavelson of Homer

Third (tie): A Secret Door by Luca Multz of Homer

and Bruno’s First Christmas by Audrey Finkenbinder of Homer



First: Spared by Melissa Billups of Kenai (Mature content; not appropriate for all readers)

Second: Thank You Naw Thamee by Vivian Finlay of Homer

Third: An Eye for an Eye by Gordy Vernon of Homer

Grades 10-12

First: Life of Nina and the Late Ed Bailey by Alexis Schneider of Homer

Second: N/A (insufficient entries)

Third: N/A (insufficient entries)

Grades 7-9

First: N/A (insufficient entries)

Second: N/A (insufficient entries)

Third: N/A (insufficient entries)

Grades 4-6

First: Swanson River Boat Trip by Apphia Bowser of Kasilof

Second: Baseball Story by Elias Kratsas of Kasilof

Third: Traditional Bowhunting by Rhys Borland of Homer

Grades K-3

First: Giant Cactus by Wylder Johnson of Homer

Second: Alaska by Nakoa Cook of Homer

Third: N/A (insufficient entries)

Judges comments

Judging for the contest was blind, with judges reading copies of submissions with the author’s name removed.

Adult nonfiction

Rich Chiappone and Tom Kizzia, judges

First place: “Spared,” by Melissa Billups.

“The author uses the tools of fiction to tell a smart nonfiction memoir. She paints memorable scenes with specific details, she is efficient about what she leaves out, she establishes conflict and stakes early, and she escalates the tension. A sure storytelling instinct more than compensate for rough writing edges and leave us with a truly memorable character: an imperiled eighth grader in black fishnet nylons and makeup that was heavy and dark — ‘just how I liked it.’”

“This is a moving story of a young girl trying to figure out how to become a grown woman, with evocative details and vividly-drawn scenes from her difficult childhood. It is written with honest neutrality, never falling into the traps of self-pity or self-aggrandizement. A fine personal essay.”

Second place: “Thank you, Naw Thamee,” by Vivian Finlay

“This piece is impressive for holding a steady focus on its main character and looking back at the world and the author’s own life through those other eyes. The author’s deep empathy is a response to implicit questions about colonialism and white privilege.”

“A highly empathetic narration with great sensitivity toward a culture foreign to the author. Beautifully written. A great sense f authenticity throughout.”

Third place: “An Eye for an Eye,” by Gordy Vernon

“This piece one-ups the usual ‘bros in the backcountry’ narrative by establishing clear differences between the two wilderness dudes. The stakes in their clash over town and nature give the piece a satisfying arc and conclusion.”

Adult fiction:

Justin Herrman and Nancy Lord, judges

First place: “Low Point,” by Oceana Wills.

“Very strong in its evocation of place and character development, as well as solid writing mechanics and sensory details. It also tells an important story about family and addiction.”

More in Community

Town Crier

Sandhill cranes will be migrating through any day now. Our local cranes… Continue reading

Anni and Aggi. (Photo courtesy of Homer Animal Shelter)
Pets of the week: Anni and Aggi

What a sweet bonded pair these gals are. It’s hard to believe… Continue reading

David Andress
Duane (Gus) Floyd AndressMay 16, 1943-March 31, 2021

Duane (Gus) Floyd Andress May 16, 1943-March 31, 2021 Longtime Alaskan and… Continue reading

The Homer Police Station as seen Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Cops and Courts

Information about fire, police and troopers is taken from public records consisting… Continue reading

Gathering ingredients for Thai-inspired curry, an easy one-pan, weeknight meal, on April, 13, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: The building blocks of Thai

Curry can be anything you want it to be

Roasting eggplant slices for a versatile meal, photographed on March 10, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Eggplant for every occasion

Eggplants are surprisingly versatile.

A trumpeter swan feeds in Beluga Slough on Monday, April 12, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. According to local birders, both tundra and trumpeter swans have been seen in the area the past week. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Best Bets

Congratulations, citizen! You have diligently fulfilled your duties as a tax-paying, law-abiding… Continue reading

The Jubilee youth art show opened on Friday, April 2, 2021, at the Homer Council on the Arts in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Arts in brief

April is ‘youth in the arts’ month at HCOA The creativity of… Continue reading

Koby Etzwiler is a two-time Ptarmigan Arts scholarship recipient. His stickers can be found locally, in Juneau and online. (Photo courtesy of Ptarmigan Arts)
Ptarmigan Arts allery, community boost young artists’ dreams

For almost 25 years, Ptarmigan Arts Scholarship has been helping artists’ careers

Most Read