2016 Literary Contest Winners

ACC Writers Studio 2016 Literary Contest Winners

ACC Writers Studio is happy to announce the winners of its 2016 literary contest. First place winners receive $250, an invitation to attend our Writers Studio Literary Festival on April 23, 2016 where they will read from their winning work, and publication in next year’s ACC art and literary journal, Progenitor. Second place winners are our guests at the Writers Studio Literary Festival. 

Congratulations to the winners of the contest and many thanks to everyone who entered our 2016 Writers Studio Literary Contest. The judges were impressed by the quality of work in all categories this year. 


Final Judge: Laura Pritchett


Laura FarnsworthLaura Farnsworth: Wyoming

Laura Farnsworth, MA, is a Denver-based writer, gardener, and botanical illustrator. Her works appear in private collection and in print.  She collects old entomology books and troubled shelter dogs.
This story, told in a strong voice and with a confident sensibility, feels utterly unique (how many stories start with a prostate swimming in the glass jar of the mind?). I like the bravery of it – the final scene, especially. The pacing, characterization, and arc are solid and engaging. Beautiful story.

Runner Up:

Spencer Stachler: Old Crow

Evelyn Old Crow Bueno is simply a fascinating character; so is this landscape. The historical components are well-rendered and inherently interesting. This is a solid, beautiful story of a place and time that feel unique and fresh.


Learn to Dance for Your Wedding by Steven Lehti
Outlander by Darryl Halbrooks


Final Judge: Steve Harvey


Kristin LeclaireKristin Leclaire: Portraits

Kristin Leclaire's nonfiction has appeared in Literary Mama and The Bohemyth, and she recently won the Denver Stories on Stage flash fiction contest. One of her essays made the Masters Review 2015 shortlist and was a finalist for the Annie Dillard Award for creative nonfiction. This year four of her essays will appear in print anthologies, including a new book by Creative Nonfiction called Becoming a Teacher. One of her essays was also a semifinalist for Ruminate Magazine’s 2016 Vandermey Nonfiction Prize. Kristin is a longtime member of Lighthouse Writers, and she teaches high school English in Littleton, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two toddlers.

"Portraits" is a moving account of the author's four-year-old son, Sam, a four-year old artist with a severe heart condition.  The essay avoids sentimentality through its keen eye for detail, its rich use of metaphor, and a thorough understanding of children and children's art.  The essay builds to its penultimate moment with sentences like this, describing the chaos of a code blue warning at the hospital:  "I felt the hospital's chaos again this summer with one, soul-shaking code blue that made my hands quake like they were trying to hold together a cracked-open world."  She tells us that it "hurts her fingertips" to type Sam's prognosis of "ongoing morbidity and mortality."  She wants to "climb Mount Olympus with him" making the "hospital small as a pebble, and Sam's heart full as a star." "Portraits" is an unrelentingly intense tribute to a mother's love for an ill child.

Runner Up:

Jeff Irwin: A Stranger in Morocco

"A Stranger in Morocco" tells the story of the author as a Peace Corps worker resisting the urge to yield out of loneliness to ambiguous feelings of romantic love for a young woman named Fatima in Morocco.  It has a strong sense of place and builds in a series of scenes leading up to the moment that he felt the attraction to Fatima the most keenly.  It is here that the writing is particular exact as it attempts to capture this mixture of feelings:  "I...notice that Fatima's wearing perfume tonight, and despite the cold, a blouse that's more revealing than usual...[she] leans across me to retrieve a book from the banquette on my side.  I feel the soft swell of her breast across my chest, our faces inches apart."  "A Stranger in Morocco" captures these temptations with skill and insight.


Chicken Head by Kelly Compton
In a Foreign Land by Lois Hjelmstad
Happy Holy Week by A. J. Paxton


Final Judge: Nicky Beer


Quinn Elise RennerfeldtQuinn Elise Rennerfeldt: But what if the blood is a bone thing

Quinn Rennerfeldt earned her degree in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her recent works can be found in Bird’s Thumb, Sassafras Literary Magazine, and Slipstream. She was also the recipient of Breakwater Review's Peseroff Prize for Poetry in 2015. When not reading or writing, you might find her running the streets of Denver, searching for strange bugs, or spending time with her daughter, husband, and ornery cat.

I love how this poem takes a great human paradox as its subject—that to love a person is to love someone housed in a mortal body prone to injury and disease. And this poem represents that paradox in such precise language, juxtaposing imagery of “the hallowed heart/ that is probably sweet-tasting / and mild” with cancer’s “mouth half-cocked and smiling.” I trust and praise this poem’s acknowledgment that to love is to risk grief.

Runner Up:

Sandra McGarry: Never Thanked the Bird

I admire how this poem examines domesticity and eros, but remains in a place of ambiguity throughout. No easy answers are on offer here: yes, there’s a nesting bird and a blooming apple tree in May, but the beloved becomes an ambivalent figure, eyes hidden by a drooping hat, and an estimator comes to cast the shadow of money over the whole idyll. Complex and thoughtful work. 


So Many Flowers by Sandra McGarry
Atlas of Our Remote Island and Evidence of Possible Alternate Universes by Kathleen Willard
A Delicate Invasion by Anita Jepson-Gilbert
Imbroglio and insensate barriers by Lary Kleeman
Ten Thousand Raindrops and Wolves by Beth Paulson