HCOA announces Writers’ Contest winners

Now in its 21st year, the Kenai Peninsula Writers’ Contest has been going on long enough that writers who might have first won the contest in elementary school are now winning as adults — like Hannah Heimbuch. Heimbuch, who won first prize in poetry for grade 6 and younger in 1996, won this year in the adult/open nonfiction category for “Feed Me.”

The writers’ contest is open to students and adults living on the Kenai Peninsula. The number of entries was down this year, with 247 separate entries, some by the same writer, and most from the greater Homer area, said contest coordinator Mary Langham.

The contest had strong support from local teachers, said HCOA executive director Gail Edgerly. Edgerly reminds teachers at the end of the school year and in the fall of HCOA educational opportunities like the Writers’ Contest and Jubilee, the performing arts contest run by HCOA, and encourages teachers to integrate the arts into curriculum. 

Teachers from the Russian Old Believer schools in Nikolaevsk, Razdolna, Voznesenka and Kachemak Selo in particular encouraged students to enter.

“That was really great to see,” Edgerly said.

The Russian Old Believer students are bilingual writers in Russian and English, Langham noted.

“They were merging their brains between two languages, which made it come out very unique,” she said. “The youth writing has a certain vividness.”

Once again, Homer writer Nancy Lord helped select the second-round judges. First round judging narrows each category to 10 entries, although many categories had less than 10 entries. Langham said that meant that in many categories, competition was not as intense.

For the first time, entering and judging was done online through a website called Submittable. All judging was blind, with judges not knowing the names of the authors.

For next year, Edgerly said she’d like to see more entries, especially from adults.

“It’s fantastic that kids are involved,” she said. “We love it that teachers value this. We’d love to see more adults.”

Entry fees support the contest, with proceeds also supporting the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference scholarship program. 

The winning entries can be read online through the HCOA website at www.homerart.org. Winning poets and writers are invited to read their works at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at the HCOA gallery.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.