2020 Utah Original Writing Competition

Winners of the 2020 Utah Original Writing Competition

The Utah Division of Arts & Museums and the SLCC Community Writing Center have chosen 18 writers in seven categories as the winners of the 61st annual Utah Original Writing Competition. The winners were selected from a total of 291 entries from Utah-based writers.

Manuscripts were reviewed in an anonymous process by judges who reside outside of Utah. First- and second-place winners are awarded prize money ranging from $150 to $1,000, depending on the category.

An event celebrating Utah writers and the Original Writing Competition will take place on Wednesday, November 4, 2020, from 6-8 p.m. via Zoom. There will be an awards ceremony and readings by previous competition winners.

Past winners of the Utah Original Writing Competition include four past Utah Poets Laureate, including David Lee, Ken Brewer, Katharine Coles, and Lance Larsen.

Category A: Novel, judged by Roy Scranton

  • First Place: The Prayer of St. Francis, by Travis Petersen (Salt Lake City)
  • Second Place: New Baby, by Iris Moulton (Salt Lake City)
  • Honorable Mention:Rush, by Larry Menlove (Payson)

Category B: Creative Nonfiction Book, judged by Tessa Fontaine

  • First Place: Non, by Iris Moulton (Salt Lake City )
  • Second Place: Who will water the flowers, by Calvin Jolley (Salt Lake City)
  • Honorable Mention:Whore’s Blood, by Marilynn Rockelman (Salt Lake City)

Category C: Book-length Collection of Short Stories, judged by Erika Wurth

  • First Place: Good-Day Haircut and Other Stories, by Ranjan Adiga (North Salt Lake)
  • Second Place: This Will Be On the Exam, by Jeremy Spencer Rees (Provo)
  • Honorable Mention:The Companion Claws, by Larry Menlove (Payson)

Category D: Young Adult Book, judged by Lanre Akinsiku

  • First Place: Space for Nothing Else, by Steven Johnson (Salt Lake City)
  • Second Place: Welcome to Foxmouth, by Lesley Hart Gunn (Provo)
  • Honorable Mention:Mastermind, by Kristen Evans (Salt Lake City)

Category E: Poetry, judged by John Lee Clark

  • First Place: Untitled, by Cindy King (St. George)
  • Second Place: Aperitifs, by Brian Gray (Salt Lake City)
  • Honorable Mention: Untitled, by Britt Allen (Logan)

Category F: Short Story, judged by Carol Guess

  • First Place: “Bird Off a Barbed Wire,” by Tessa Barkan (Boulder)
  • Second Place: “Day One,” by Kristen Evans (Salt Lake City)
  • Honorable Mention: “The Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel,” by Leah Fretwell (Lehi)

Category G: Category G: Creative Nonfiction Essay, judged by Steven Church

  • First Place: “In the Aftermath, Redemption,” by Naomi Clegg (Salt Lake City)
  • Second Place: “Wool Girl,” by Natalie Hopkins (Lehi)
  • Honorable Mention: “Pierced,” by Andrew Romriell (Sandy)

Since 1958, the Utah Original Writing Competition has awarded Utah writers for works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in a variety of forms. The competition’s mission is to aid Utah writers on their path to publication and broader recognition. Submissions must be original works and, with some exceptions, cannot be published or accepted for publication at the time of entry. Manuscripts are reviewed in an anonymous process by judges selected from outside of Utah. There is no entry fee, and it is open to all Utah residents age 18 and over.

2020 Utah Original Writing Competition Judges


Lanre Akinsiku

Lanre Akinsiku is the author of Blacktop Vol. 1-4 (Penguin Young Readers, 2016-2017), a young adult series that won recognition from the New York Public Library, Publishers Weekly, and the Junior Library Guild. His fiction and essays have appeared in NPR, the Washington Post, the Kenyon Review, Zocalo Public Square, Gawker, and elsewhere. His forthcoming young adult novel will be published by HarperCollins.


Steven Church

Steven Church is the author of 6 books of creative nonfiction, most recently the collection of essays, I’m Just Getting to the Disturbing Part: On Work, Fear, and Fatherhood and the book-length essay, One With the Tiger: Sublime and Violent Encounters Between Humans and Animals, and he edited the anthology of essays, The Spirit of Disruption: Selections from The Normal School. He Coordinates the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Fresno State and is a founding editor of the literary magazine, The Normal School.


John Lee Clark

John Lee Clark is a DeafBlind poet and essayist. His poems recently appeared in American Poetry Review, The Nation, The New York Times, The Paris Review, and Poetry magazine, which awarded him the 2019 Frederick Bock Prize. He is the author of the essay collection Where I Stand (Handtype Press, 2014), and his recent essay “Tactile Art” received the 2020 National Magazine Award. A leader in the Protactile movement, he travels widely teaching Protactile language and doing linguistic and ethnographic research, especially through grants with Western Oregon University and Saint Louis University. He makes his home in Hopkins, Minnesota, with artist and author Adrean Clark, their three sons, and a Deaf cat.


Carol Guess

Carol Guess is the author of books of poetry and prose, including Doll Studies: Forensics and Tinderbox Lawn. A frequent collaborator, she writes across genres and illuminates historically marginalized material. In 2014 she was awarded the Philolexian Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement by Columbia University. She teaches at Western Washington University and lives in Seattle.


Tessa Fontaine

Tessa Fontaine is the author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, finalist for the Utah Book Award, and best book of 2018 from Southern Living, Amazon Editors’, Refinery29, PopMatters, and the New York Post. Other writing can be found in The New York Times, Glamour, The Believer, LitHub, and Creative Nonfiction. Tessa won the 2016 AWP Intro Award in Nonfiction, founded Salt Lake City’s Writers in the Schools program, and has taught in prisons and jails around the country. She currently lives in North Carolina, where she teaches creative writing at Warren Wilson College.


Roy Scranton

Roy Scranton is the author of I Heart Oklahoma! (Soho Press, 2019), Total Mobilization: World War II and American Literature (University of Chicago Press, 2019), We’re Doomed. Now What? (Soho Press, 2018), War Porn (Soho Press, 2016), and Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization (City Lights, 2015). He has written for the New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Nation, the New Republic, and elsewhere, and he co-edited What Future: The Years Best Ideas to Reclaim, Reanimate & Reinvent Our Future (Unnamed Press, 2017) and Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War (Da Capo, 2013). He is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, where he teaches creative writing.


Erika T. Wurth

Erika T. Wurth’s publications include two novels, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend and You Who Enter Here, two collections of poetry and a collection of short stories, Buckskin Cocaine. A writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, she teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and has been a guest writer at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Buzzfeed, Boulevard, LitHub, The Writers Chronicle, Bitch, Waxwing and The Kenyon Review. She will be faculty at Breadloaf in 2020, is a Kenyon Review Writers Workshop Scholar, attended the Tin House Summer Workshop, and has been chosen as a narrative artist for the Meow Wolf Denver installation. She is Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee and was raised outside of Denver, where she lives with her partner, her two stepchildren, and her extremely fluffy dogs.