Short Story Contest Logo
Adult Winners

Readers desiring a break from Stanford's General Use Plan and the Terman/JCC controversy need look no further. This year's winning entries in the Palo Alto Weekly's Short Story Contest offer creative diversions.

Now in its 15th year, the contest attracted hundreds of entries from adults, young adults (15-17), teens (12-14), and children (9-11).

This week's short stories explore a variety of moods and settings. The first-place entry, "Venice, Again" by Jane Moorman of Palo Alto, paints an evocative portrait of one of the world's most romantic cities. Second-place winner Jamie Beckett of Palo Alto starkly describes a Vietnamese family's hazardous journey to America. The third-place winner, Deanna McCusker of Palo Alto, illustrates how the American Dream survives in the high-tech, overpriced world of Silicon Valley.

Selecting the top three stories from mountains of qualified candidates was not an easy task. Palo Alto Weekly staff members spent hours reading the stories before nominating 10 finalists, from which the panel of judges selected the top three.

The judges in the adult competition are local authors and writing teachers: Tom Parker, Ellen Sussman, and Kim Silveira Wolterbeek.

During the judging process, the names were removed from all the stories so that neither Weekly staff members nor contest judges knew the identities of the authors until after the winners were declared.

We included the judges' comments along with the winning entries in this issue to demonstrate the qualities our panel sought in a short story.

Thanks to all who entered. We enjoyed reading your stories. The competition was tight, so don't feel discouraged if you didn't win. Keep writing, and by all means try again in next year's short story contest.

New winner in short story contest

First Place
Jamie Beckett, The Journey

Second Place
Deanna McCusker, The Lucky Man

Honorable Mention
Jane Moorman
, Venice Again

Young Writers Winners

Names like Richard Paul Evans and Gabriel Garcia Marquez may top the fiction bestseller lists now, but wait a few years, and some of the names of the youth who won our short-story contest may be there.

The contest for younger writers was divided into three age groups: 9 to 11 years old; 12 to 14 years old; and 15 to 17 years old.

In the youngest age group, 11-year-old Sara Kwasnick's touching fictional depiction of a girl's relationship with her grandmother got the judges' attention. Teen winner Jamie Robinson's "subject: Civil War letters" is a moving series of letters from a woman to her child; and young adult first-place winner Jane Renaud's "Rules (the sixth of July)" is an experiment in using the established rules of story writing to actually put together a plot.

In selecting the winners, the Weekly's editorial staff screened a total of 95 entries in the three categories, then passed on 10 stories in each category to our panel of judges.

In the 15- to 17-year-olds category, the judges were Tom Parker, Ellen Sussman and Kim Silveira Wolterbeek, who also judged the adult stories. The other two categories--teens and children--were judged by Katy Obringer, who supervises the Palo Alto Children's Library, and children's authors Cynthia Chin-Lee and Caryn Huberman Yacowitz.

During judging, all names were removed from stories so neither the editorial staff nor the judges knew the authors' identities until after judging was complete.

The winners in the youth categories received $100 gift certificates to Printer's Inc., Kepler's books and Linden Tree books in Los Altos. The second- and third-place winners, whose stories appear on the Weekly's Web site at, received $75 and $50 gift certificates respectively.

15-17 year olds

First Place
Jane Renaud, Rules (the sixth of July)

Second Place
Kristine Yu, Being Great

Third Place
Lisa Bozman, Mother Russia Wears Red

12-14 year olds

First Place
Jamie Robinson, subject: Civil War letters

Second Place
Patricia Bass, The Accident

Third Place
Kalani Kai Leifer, No Guts, No Glory

9-11 year olds

First Place
Sarah Kwasnick, Grandma

Second Place
Caroline Hodge, I'm Still Leslie

Third Place
Jessie Carr, The Sand Dollars


TOM PARKER, Novelist & Writing Instructor, Foothill College, UC Extension Program
ELLEN SUSSMAN, Writer, writing teacher at UC Berkeley Extension & private classes
KIM SILVEIRA WOLTERRBEEK, Short story writer, Co-director of the Foothill Writers' Conference
KATY OBRINGER, Supervising Librarian, Palo Alto Children's Library
CYNTHIA CHIN-LEE, Children's Book Author

Past winners:

2022 winners | 2021 winners | 2020 winners | 2019 winners | 2018 winners | 2017 winners | 2016 winners | 2015 winners
2014 winners | 2012-2013 winners | 2011 winners | 2010 winners
2009 winners | 2008 winners | 2007 winners | 2006 winners | 2005 winners
2004 winners | 2003 winners | 2002 winners | 2001 winners | 2000 winners
1999 winners | 1998 winners | 1997 winners | 1996 winners

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.