Judges’ Thoughts on the Winning Submissions

The winners of Marlborough Public Library’s 4th Annual Teen Writing Competition were announced on Thursday night. Lending their expertise to the selection process were two panels of judges in various writing and literature-related fields. With the volume of fantastic submissions, the judges found choosing winners difficult, but were ultimately pleased with the ones recognized at the Teen Writing Competition Spotlight.

Winners of the Teen Writing Competition

Winners of the Teen Writing Competition. Left to right: Lillian Mills, Hailey Escobar, Karsyn Canale, Jacob Suvalskas, Grace Cormier, James Sauger, Chloe Wing, Rhiannon McEachern, Keerthi Balaji, and Xochi Hopwood. Not pictured: Jaelyn Kassoy and KD Zagzoug.

“How Photography Changed My Life” by Karsyn Canale took third place in the 6th-8th grade fiction/memoir category for her “heartfelt, clear writing [that] reveals character of both the writer and parent.” The judges also liked the quote by a famous photographer she used as an epigraph. In second place was Jaelyn Kassoy’s “Angel in the Sky,” about a loyal daughter who accepts magical beans as payment in lieu of $100 to help her struggling family. The judges loved Kassoy’s “reworking of classic tropes, unexpected twists, and original idea.” Taking home first prize was Chloe Wing’s “The Writing’s on the Wall.” Wing’s piece is about a history enthusiast’s lucky brush with a rare piece of Holocaust history written underneath her house’s wallpaper. Judges called the story “intriguing,” and lauded its “dimensional character” and “great details” that “make you want to find out what happened.”

In 9th-12th grade fiction/memoir, third place went to “The Succulent Man” by Rhiannon McEachern. It is a “wonderful modern day fable – This is very inventive, [with] a clever ending.” A man eschews the city for an oasis in the desert, and a twist ending will stay with the reader. James Sauger’s “Dead Foot,” a tale of sailors looking for treasure but finding a ghost ship, earned second place. It is “an ambitious and well-made fable” with “morbid and gothic description” that enriches the plot. KD Zagzoug won first place for “Violet.” The judges praised Zagzoug’s “intimacy and emotional intensity, and the way these feelings were dissolved and imbued with the description.” As the protagonist thinks of his/her late sister Violet, Zagzoug “tells a story without wallowing.”

Coming in third place for 6th-8th grade poetry was Lillian Mills’ “Book of Verse.” The speaker of the poem happens upon a poetry book, one that most would find bland, but she feels as if it chooses her. Judges thought that Mills’ “form sets it apart.” “The rhyming didn’t feel forced, and the word choice was great,” the judges wrote. In second place was Keerthi Balaji’s “Dawn of Tranquility,” in which the destruction by machines is shown from someone who sees them from nature’s perspective. Judges called the imagery “beautiful. A message makes it hit home and the rhyme really works!” Xochi Hopwood took first place for the “clever, unique form” in “Click. Click.” Confronting cyberbullying with a personal story, the speaker in the poem conveys a message that is “relevant and precise. The sounds are tied together with the emotions they bring upon.”

The judges selected “Growing Galaxies” by Grace Cormier for third place in the 9th-12th grade poetry category. Her poem “has great command of language in new and interesting ways to show love.” The judges add, “it is not easy to write a well-made, enjoyable sonnet. This is a wonderful love poem.” Jacob Suvalskas’ “The Winterborne Flower” was awarded second place for having such great control over its rhyming pattern that “it doesn’t take over the poem.” One judge writes, “gorgeous pastoral writing. I love the lyric intensity of this.” Finally, the first place winner was “Bloodstreams” by Hailey Escobar, “a truly haunting and bold poem.” The speaker is equal parts honest, forthright, and deeply human as they examine the wounds they cannot always heal in others. “The imagery is so fresh and will stay with me for some time,” a judge writes.

Though these pieces won, we received many wonderful submissions. Thank you to everyone who submitted their work, and we hope you’ll submit again next year! The Teen Writing Competition is held annually in the spring. You can read the winning submissions here!

About Our Judges
Our Judges had different backgrounds in writing and teen literature.  We’re so grateful that they volunteered their time to read all the submissions and came to the library to discuss the winners.  Our thanks go to Samuel Witt (award winning poet, writer, and journalist), Jenny O’Connell (YA author of The Book of Luke series), Sam Paradise (published fiction writer, finalist in the 2012 World’s Best Short-Short Story Contest and Assistant Managing Editor of The Worcester Review), Jeff Adair (editor of the Sudbury Town Crier, managing editor of the Community Newspaper Company, and an award winning journalist), Sarah Sapienza (co-founder for Worcester’s Poets’ Asylum), Diane McKamy (high school librarian), Cathy Rosenstock (former middle school librarian) and Regan Carmody (Teen Services at MPL).

Article written by Regan Carmody, MPL Teen Librarian (c) 2015
Photo submitted by the Wings (c) 2015