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2024 Utah Original Writing Competition


In 2023, the Utah Division of Arts & Museums and the SLCC Community Writing Center chose 20 writers in seven categories as the winners of the 64th annual Utah Original Writing Competition. The winners were selected from over 200 entries from Utah-based writers.

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

An event celebrating Utah writers and the Original Writing Competition took place on Thursday, November 8, 2023, from 6-8 p.m. There was 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.

We’re excited to announce this year’s competition below.

2024 Submission Details

Since 1958, the annual Utah Original Writing Competition has celebrated Utah’s dynamic and varied voices and aided Utah writers on their path to publication and broader recognition. Numerous awardees selected by our nationally recognized judges have gone on to significant statewide and national acclaim. Please read through the entire guidelines before submitting.

Deadline: June 30, 2024 at 11:59 p.m.
Late manuscripts will not be accepted.

Submission Process: Please submit early to avoid technical issues. Submissions will only be accepted online via Submittable. The Submittable portal for submissions will open on May 1, 2024. 

Questions?: Contact the director of the SLCC Community Writing Center at

Printable Guidelines (PDF)


Category A: Novel, judged by Vi Khi Nao

  • First Place: Fracturing Consciousness by Sierra Branham (Spanish Fork)
  • Second Place: Mustang Ranch by Gary Lee Duncan (Moab)
  • Honorable Mention: Spinner by Lucy Tayco Price (Cedar City)

Category B: Creative Nonfiction Book, judged by Barrie Jean Borich  

  • First Place: Excursions with Scout by Carly Gooch (Murray)
  • Second Place: That Doesn’t Sound Like Him by Ella Stott (Riverton)
  • Honorable Mentions: The Other F**** Word by Brittany Lee Jacobson (West Jordan)

Category C: Book Length Collection of Poetry, judged by Knar Gavin

  • First Place: Coming Apocalypse Attractions by Cheyenne Nimes (Salt Lake City)
  • Second Place: Selenophile by Natalie Taylor (Holladay City)
  • Honorable Mentions: Practical Wolf by Adam Haver (Salt Lake City)

Category D:  Children’s Book, judged by Lakita Wilson

  • First Place: Cruise Caper by Sabrina Vienneau (Salt Lake City)
  • Second Place: The Piccadilly Bonesby Zachar Largey (Orem)
  • Honorable Mention: Ruby, Who? by Jill Campbell (Riverton)

Category E: Poetry, judged by Amaranth Borsuk

  • First Place: "Drought & Bones" by Robert Carney (Salt Lake City)
  • Second Place: "The Bright Time." by Cheyenne Nimes (Salt Lake City)
  • HonorableMention: "Thomas and Stubbs" by Shanan Ballam (Logan)

Category F: Short Fiction, judged by Caren Beilin 

  • First Place: "Phone in Hand" by Pamela Balluck (Salt Lake City)
  • Second Place: "Relativity Burger" by Elijah Zane Browne (South Jordan)
  • Honorable Mention:  "#WeBeFloating" by Lesley Hart Gunn (Provo)

Category G: Creative Nonfiction Essay, judged by Jessica Zafra

  • First Place: "Awash" by Ashley Wells (Providence)
  • Second Place: "Parallel Universes" by Darlene Young (South Jordan)
  • Honorable Mention: "The Visitor" by Bill Funk (Salt Lake City)

View the 2022, 2021, & 2020 Winners

2023 Utah Original Writing Competition Judges


Vi Khi Nao

Vi Khi Nao is the author of many books and is known for her work spanning poetry, fiction, play, film, and interdisciplinary collaborations. Her forthcoming novel, The Italian Letters, is scheduled for publication by Melville House in 2024. In the same year, she will release a co-authored manuscript titled, The Six Tones of Water with Sun Yung Shin, through Ricochet. Recognized as a former Black Mountain Institute fellow, Vi Khi Nao received the Jim Duggins, PhD Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize in 2022.

Barrie Jean Borich

Barrie Jean Borich is the author of the lyric memoir Apocalypse, Darling (2018), which was short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award. PopMatters said “Apocalypse, Darling soars and seems to live as a new form altogether. It's poetry, a meditation on life as ‘the other,’ creative nonfiction, and abstract art.” Her hybrid memoir-in-essays Body Geographic (2013) won a Lambda Literary Award in Memoir, and in a starred review Kirkus called the book “…an elegant literary map that celebrates shifting topographies as well as human bodies in motion, not only across water and land, but also through life.” Borich’s previous book, the memoir My Lesbian Husband (2000), won the American Library Association Stonewall Book Award. Borich’s most recent work appears in the literary journal Conjunctions, and her essays have been anthologized in: Bending Genre, Isherwood in TransitCritical Creative WritingWaveform: Twenty-First Century Essays by Women; and in After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays, and have been cited in Best American Essays and Best American Non-Required Reading. She is a professor in the Department of English-MFA/MA in Creative Writing and Publishing Program at DePaul University in Chicago, where she directs the LGBTQ Studies minor and edits Slag Glass Citya journal of the urban essay arts. Visit BJB at

Knar Gavin

Knar Gavin (they) is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, where they recently served as the Poetic Practice Fellow. Their dissertation, "'Fend for Meaningful Speech': Matters of Social Fact in Post-9/11 Docupoetry," attends to the prefigurative political possibilities that emerge in works of documentary and ecopoetry. Knar is also an environmental justice organizer engaged in efforts to oppose extractive industries and ecocidal development projects. They are the author of Vela. and their poetry and other writings have appeared in Annulet, Poetry, the Denver Quarterly, AGNI, the Journal, NiCHE, and Birdfeast, among others.


Lakita Wilson

Lakita Wilson is the author of several novels and nonfiction projects for children and young adults, including What is Black Lives Matter? and Who is Colin Kaepernick? part of the New York Times bestselling Who HQ Now series, the middle grade novel Be Real, Macy Weaver, and the young adult novel Last Chance Dance. Lakita was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Prince Goerge's County, Maryland. A 2017 recipient of SCBWI's Emerging Voices Award, Lakita received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She can be found online at


Amaranth Borsuk

Amaranth Borsuk is the author of the poetry collections Pomegranate Eater (Kore Press) and Handiwork (Slope Editions) as well as three collaborative books of poems. Her latest volume is The Book (MIT Press), a concise introduction to the book as object, content, idea, and interface. She is director of the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics at the University of Washington, Bothell.

Caren Beilin

Caren Beilin is the author of the novel Revenge of the Scapegoat (Dorothy, 2022), winner of the Vermont Book Award. Other recent books include Blackfishing the IUD (Wolfman Books, 2019) and SPAIN (Rescue Press, 2018). Her work appears in FenceAGNI, and Dreginald. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and lives close by, in Vermont. 

Jessica Zafra

Jessica Zafra is the author of the novel The Age of Umbrage, and of The Collected Stories of Jessica Zafra. Twisted, her influential column in the 1990s, spawned a dozen collections of books on travel, movies, music, and popular culture. Jessica’s essays have also appeared in Newsweek and The New Yorker. She has won Palanca Awards for her short stories and the National Book Award for her essay collection. Jessica has presented current affairs talk shows and travel documentaries on Philippine television. She is the holder of the Henry Lee Irwin, SJ Professorial Chair in Creative Writing at Ateneo de Manila University. She has just finished her second novel.