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Public Library

2024 Short Story Contest

Welcome to the 7th Annual Short Story Contest, sponsored by the Friends of San Diego Central Library. The Short Story Contest, a part of the Local Author Program, continues the support that the Library provides to local writing, and shines a spotlight on local authors who craft short stories.

Only 100 short stories accepted
Stories must not exceed 3,000 words
Submission period:
Begins Monday, February 26th at 7:00 p.m.
Closes after 100th submission
black keyboard on grey background with SD Short story wording.


We have reached the maximum number of submissions. The form is now closed.


Rules & Guidelines

  • All entries are submitted online during a prescribed schedule set by the San Diego Public Library.
  • The contest is open to original, published or unpublished stories.
  • Stories that have won and/or placed in other writing contests are not eligible.
  • Stories submitted to this contest in previous years are not eligible.
  • Simultaneous submissions are allowed. You may submit a new story to our contest while it is also being considered for other contests, so long as it has not won or placed at the time of submission.
  • Stories should be suitable for a general audience.
  • Authors must live in San Diego County.
  • Only one (1) story per author.

Submission guidelines - Any deviations from these instructions may result in the disqualification of the short story from the contest.

  • The manuscript must not have the author’s name anywhere on its pages - the author's name should be in the file name (see below).
  • The manuscript must be double-spaced and not exceed 3,000 words.
  • Pages must be numbered, and the page number must appear in the footer of each page.
  • The manuscript title must appear in the header of every page.
  • The manuscript file name must be saved and submitted in this format: “Story Title – Author Name” (Ex.: Librarians in Love – Elsee Dewey).
  • Standard fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, or Georgia in 12 point font size must be used.
  • Authors must submit their stories in electronic format using the link indicated above - we will not accept any paper submissions or submissions by email.. Acceptable formats are: .docx, .pdf, or .rtf.

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  • 1st Place – Publication on the website of the San Diego Public Library and $300.00 first place award.
  • 2nd Place – Publication on the website of the San Diego Public Library and $200.00 second place award.
  • 3rd Place - Publication on the website of the San Diego Public Library and $100.00 third place award.
  • Public reading of the 3 winning stories at a special program honoring the winners.
  • Winners announced at the awards event on May 21.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the SDPL Short Story Contest?
The Short Story Contest is a short fiction competition open to all writers residing in San Diego County. All genres of fiction are acceptable including: literary, mystery and crime, thriller, suspense, science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, mixed-genre, and experimental.


What is the goal of the Short Story Contest?
The goal of the Short Story Contest is to nurture and foster local writing talent, and to provide a platform for the promotion and publication of short form fiction in the area.


Who’s eligible to enter the Short Story Contest?
All writers in San Diego County age 18 and older are eligible to enter the Short Story Contest. San Diego Public Library staff and members of affiliated organizations such as the San Diego Public Library Foundation, Friends of San Diego Public Library, and the Board of Library Commissioners are not allowed to participate in the contest.


How many short stories will be allowed to participate in the contest?
A maximum of 100 short stories will be accepted, based on a first come first served basis. Registration will automatically stop after the 100th author registers their manuscript.


Who will judge the Short Story Contest?
A committee of judges selected from library staff and associations affiliated with the library will judge the contest. Judging will be anonymous. When you enter the contest your story will be assigned a number. Judges will identify your story by title and number only.


Does it cost anything to enter the Short Story Contest?
There’s no fee to participate in the Short Story Contest. However the public library is always in need of support from the community that it serves. To support the library please visit the website of the Friends of San Diego Public Library and the San Diego Public Library Foundation.


What is the deadline to enter the Short Story Contest?
The Short Story Contest submission form will be available online at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, February 26, 2024. Submissions will remain open until we receive 100 stories - registration and submission will shut down after we’ve received the 100th submitted story, whenever that occurs.


Who owns the rights to the submitted stories?
Authors retain all rights to the stories they submit.
May I use A.I. to help generate my short story ?
Stories generated using A.I. programs are not eligible for the SDPL Short  Story Contest. A.I. stories are automatically disqualified.

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    Previous Winners

    2023 Contest Winners

    Photo of A. K. “Anna” McCutcheon
    A. K. McCutcheon | 1st Place
    Short Story:  The Offerings

    A.K. McCutcheon began crafting tales of magical realism to entertain her younger siblings. She set storytelling aside for an office administration career in radio broadcasting, magazine publishing, and theater management. Following her recent retirement, her passion for writing reignited with membership in writer’s communities online, where she advocates fiercely for Oxford commas. A.K. and her husband Dan enjoy movies, travel, and browsing used bookstores. 


    Photo of Tammie Elliott
    Tammie Elliott | 2nd Place
    Short Story:  The Last Word

    Tammie Rue Elliott always dreamed of writing. She has published one novel, short stories in literary magazines, and is a repeat contributor to the Chicken Soup series. She currently resides in San Diego, where she is working on completing the myriad of half-finished novels which reside on her computer. 

    Photos of Janice L. Newman
    Janice L. Newman | 3rd Place
    Short Story:  A Fairy’s Tale

    Janice L. Newman is the author of the acclaimed science fiction and fantasy romance collection “At First Contact” and, under the name Laura Weyr, the Rainbow Award-winning fantasy romance, “The Eighth Key.” She has contributed to both volumes of “Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women,” and is currently working on more thrilling science fiction and fantasy romances. 

    Photo of ShuJen Walker Askew
    ShuJen Walker Askew | Shortlist
    Short Story:  Their Daddy

    ShuJen Walker Askew writes short stories, poems, scripts, and plays in various genres. Her works can be viewed in college and professional San Diego anthologies. She is currently working on her first novel, Across All Skies. ShuJen is an Electrical Engineer by trade, mother of two, and enjoys writing. 

    Photo of Susan Gembrowski Baker
    Susan Gembrowski Baker | Shortlist
    Short Story:  Aloha

    Susan Gembrowski Baker is a member of the Dramatists Guild and of Around the Block Playwrights. The group showcases its work in staged readings at San Diego venues. She is a board member of San Diego Writers Ink and her short stories have been published in “A Year in Ink.” 

    Photo of Anna Glynne
    Anna Glynne | Shortlist
    Short Story:  Pioneertown

    Anna Glynne started writing short stories in 2020. Her story, "The Sea is a Deceitful Thing," was published by the San Diego Decameron Project. When she's not writing at her kitchen table in La Jolla, Anna enjoys hiking on the trails in Idyllwild with her husband and two college-aged daughters. 

    Photos of Regina Morin
    Regina Morin | Shortlist
    Short Story:  Name Your Poison

    Regina Morin’s first published poem appeared in a 1954 high school anthology. Since then she has written articles, plays and one musical. Her poems have appeared in several volumes of “A Year in Ink” and the “San Diego Poetry Annual.” “Name Your Poison” is her most recent foray into fiction. 

    Photo of John R. Morris
    John R. Morris | Shortlist
    Short Story:  The Lanyard

    John R. Morris, a native Californian, enjoys surfing, skiing, and traveling. He’s been writing since the 1980s and is a longstanding member of the Spring Valley Writers Group. His debut novel, “The King's Steel,” was released in 2022. John’s currently working on his second novel entitled “Planet in a Box.” 

    Photo of Deb Nordie
    Deb Nordie | Shortlist
    Short Story:  Grappling with Moby Dick

    Deb Nordlie has taught English since dinosaurs ruled the earth. After a lifetime of writing assignment sheets, she’s branched into writing life stories, believing “we are all anthologies filled with short stories and poems.” Occasionally though, she pens uncharacteristic oddball lit. A teacher of writing in adult school, she still continues to scribble away at the Great American Novel. You can view her work in the Chestnut Review, San Diego Poetry Annual, Coffee + Crumbs, Reminisce, Crown City Magazine, the San Diego Reader, and the Scapegoat Review

    Photo of Nicholas Tran
    Nicholas Tran | Shortlist
    Short Story:  The Abyssal Cloak

    Nick E. K. Tran is a San Diego native who graduated at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in marketing. He helps market beer during the day and writes at night. He likes to write short stories, poetry, and is currently writing his first novel.

    2022 Contest Winners

    David J Schmidt - Author Photo
    David J. Schmidt | 1st Place
    Short Story:  Enter the Laag

    David J. Schmidt is an author, podcaster, multilingual translator, and homebrewer who splits his time between Mexico City and San Diego, California. 

    Schmidt has published a variety of books, short stories, and articles in both English and Spanish, including Three Nights in the Clown Motel, a book of  “non-fiction horror,” as well as the series Gone Viral: Urban Legends of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

    Schmidt is the co-host of the podcast To Russia with Love. He speaks twelve languages and has been to 33 countries. He received his B.A. in psychology from Point Loma Nazarene University.


    David Hogan - Author Photo
    David Hogan | 2nd Place
    Short Story:  Love Too Soon
    David Hogan is the author of two novels, Hear Us Fade and The Last Island, both published by Betimes Books. His stage plays include the GTC National New Play Initiative award-winning Capital and No Sit – No Stand – No Lie, which opened the ‘Resilience of the Spirit’ Human Rights Festival. He has contributed to, Points in Case, The Good Life Review, and OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters, among others. 

    Sara Wilczyńska - Author Photo
    Sara Wilczyńska (pronounced Veel-chin-ska)  | 3rd Place
    Short Story:  Hippity-Hop

    Sara Wilczyńska was born and raised in Warsaw, Poland. She graduated in computer science and works as a software engineer at Google. After living in Barcelona, Edinburgh, London, Zurich and New York, she settled in San Diego. She teaches yoga and meditation and is a sound healing practitioner. She explores sticking words together into sentences, and presently flirts with short forms. Her work was published in Helikopter literary magazine.

    Translator’s bio: 
    Kate Webster is a Polish-to-English literary translator living in London, UK. She has translated short stories and essays by Joanna Rudniańska, Marta Kisiel and Agnieszka Graff, among others. Examples of her work can be found on the websites of Przekrój, Switch on Paper and Eurozine. Her translation of Barbara Sadurska's novel The Map is due to be published in 2021.

    Jerry Jamison - Author Photo
    Jerry Jamison  | Honorable Mention
    Short Story:  Original Fiction
    Jerry Jamison is a nationally award-winning copywriter with more than forty commendations to his credit. The author of ten novels, he is currently researching and writing on several headline-grabbing true crimes of the 1940s. His fifth book in the genre is in production. Jamison and his wife live in Chula Vista.

    2021 Contest Winners

    In 2021, the Short Story Contest was incorporated into the San Diego Decameron Project. Please click here for more information.

    2020 Contest Winners

    Photo of Short Story Contest winner Carl Snow
    Carl Snow  | 1st Place
    Short Story: Right Now

    Watch Story Reading

    Carl Snow is a native of Kansas City, Missouri. Carl Snow graduated from the University of Maryland and had a long career in the United States Navy. After retirement, he worked as Assistant Editor for The Hook magazine and then as Production Editor for the Topgun Journal at the Navy Fighter Weapons School. When Topgun moved to Fallon, Nevada, Carl remained in San Diego, working as a Technical Writer, researching and writing manufacturing process documents for hi-tech electronics manufacturers. Carl retired for good in March 2011 and volunteers in the Midway Museum Research Library in San Diego, California.

    Photo of Short Story Contest winner  David Hogan
    David Hogan  | 2nd Place

    Watch Story Reading

    David Hogan’s debut novel, The Last Island, is published by Betimes Books. The novel was a finalist in the San Diego Book Awards and the Kindle version was a bestseller in Australia and the U.K. His stage plays include the New Play Initiative award-winning Capital and No Sit – No Stand – No Lie, which opened the ‘Resilience of the Spirit’ Human Rights Festival. He’s a dual citizen of the US and Ireland and has contributed to, Irish Central, and Points in Case, among others. He has just completed a new novel, Hear Us Fade.

    Photo of Short Story Contest winner Cheyanne Nelson
    Cheyanne Nelson  | 3rd Place

    Watch Story Reading

    Cheyanne Nelson is a Sophomore at Valley Center High School. This is her first short story she has ever written, although she has worked on writing many books before. She has an interest in photography, music, writing, and art, along with riding her horses, and spending time in the desert with family. She is looking to enlist in the United States Marine Corps after graduating and gaining a PhD in Criminology and Psychology.

    Photo of Short Story Contest winner  Maddy Cowee
    Maddy Cowee  | Honorable Mention
    Short Story: Brilliant Blaze

    Watch Story Reading

    Maddy Cowee is an aspiring novelist who waits tables by day and writes by night. Raised on a steady diet of fantasy and fairy tales, she can be found reading, playing video games, and drawing. Though this is her first short story, she has worked as a fiction ghost writer and editorial columnist. Currently writing a novel, she hopes to see her books on shelves everywhere in the not-too-distant future.

    2019 Contest Winners

    Jeff Edwards, short story contest winner
    Jeff Edwards | 1st Place
    Jeff Edwards is a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer, Anti-Submarine Warfare Specialist, and consultant for the Defense Department. Trained extensively in mainframe computers, weapons systems, and naval combat tactics, he brings an experience-based edge of authenticity to his writing. Collectively, his novels have won the Admiral Nimitz Award for Outstanding Naval Fiction, the Reader's Choice Award, the Clive Cussler Grandmaster Award for Adventure Writing, the Military Writer's Society of America Gold Medal for Navy Fiction, and the American Author Medal. His novel, The Seventh Angel, was selected for the 2012 Chief of Naval Operations Professional Reading Program.

    Sarina Dahlan, short story contest winner
    Sarina Dahlan | 2nd Place
    Sarina Dahlan was born into an Indonesian family in Thailand. While children in the West grew up on fairytales, she learned parables through ghost stories, mythologies, and Japanese manga. A graduate of UCSD, she’s worked in careers as an advertising producer, corporate marketing strategist, small business owner, and a writer. She is the creator and manager of Wandering Wonder Woman, a blog by a global village of women who share travel stories, food recipes, and advice that promote a better world. She finds inspiration for her stories in travelling, the people she knows, and the places she has lived. Her debut short story collection, Shadow Play: Ten Tales from the In-between was published in 2018.

    Kim Keeline, short story contest winner
    Kim Keeline | 3rd Place
    Short Story: The Crossing
    Kim Keeline is the president of Partners in Crime: the San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the co-chair of the organizing committee bringing the conference Left Coast Crime to San Diego in March 2020. This is her first short story ever although she is working on several books. She is a freelance book publicist, web designer, graphic artist, and social media expert. She also is a volunteer steam train engineer on a 1907 Baldwin Locomotive at the Poway-Midland Railroad, which would explain why she is writing a mystery set in a train museum. She gives monthly talks to Oasis Learning Center or local libraries on literary or historical topics because what else does one do with a Ph.D. in English Literature if one leaves academia after 15 years of teaching?

    Makena Morgan, short story contest honorable mention
    Makena Morgan | Honorable Mention
    Short Story: White Balance
    Makena Sunao Morgan is a graduate from Chapman University, having studied with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing as a fourth generation Japanese American. He was inspired to become a writer after picking up a book on mythology during a trip to Japan. Since then he has begun exploring his heritage in more depth and one day dreams of teaching English in Japan for an extended period of time. His writing mainly focuses on science fiction and urban fantasy, with a focus on cultural mythology.

    2018 Contest Winners

    Photo of Aaron Garretson, short story contest winner
    Aaron Garretson | 1st Place
    Short Story: Abbott's Pursuit
    Aaron Garretson grew up in San Diego. He attended University City High School, received a bachelor’s in biochemistry from UCSD and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University in New York. His writing has appeared or is upcoming in Carrier Pigeon, SLAB, Opium, Night Train, The Village Voice, and Mexico City's Hermano Cerdo (in translation), among others. He has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was shortlisted for the Best American Nonrequired Reading. He currently works in an infectious diseases lab at UCSD.

    Photo of Jean Seager, short story contest winner
    Jean Seager | 2nd Place
    Short Story: The Award
    Jean Seager, a native Californian, is writing a short story collection about Jewish immigrants to America in the early twentieth century. Her stories have been published in the online magazine Mikrokosmos, the print magazine The Long Story, and the San Diego Writers Ink anthology A Year in Ink. She is an active member of San Diego Writers Ink, taking classes and participating in read and critique workshops for the past five years.

    Photo of Bruce Golden, short story contest winner
    Bruce Golden | 3rd Place
    Short Story: The Color of Silence
    Novelist, journalist, satirist, and native San Diegan Bruce Golden’s short stories have been published more than a hundred times across a score of countries and 30 anthologies. Asimov’s Science Fiction described his second novel, “If Mickey Spillane had collaborated with both Frederik Pohl and Philip K. Dick, he might have produced Bruce Golden’s Better Than Chocolate”--and about his novel Evergreen, "If you can imagine Ursula Le Guin channeling H. Rider Haggard, you'll have the barest conception of this stirring book, which centers around a mysterious artifact and the people in its thrall." His latest book, Monster Town, is a satirical send-up of old hard-boiled detective stories featuring movie monsters of the black & white era. It's currently in development for a possible TV series.

    Photo of Eleanor Bluestein, short story contest honorable mention
    Eleanor Bluestein | Honorable Mention
    Eleanor Bluestein has worked as a public school science teacher, editor of science textbooks, and designer of multimedia educational materials. Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales, her book of short stories, won the Chandra Prize for Short Fiction. Eleanor is thrilled to be honored by the San Diego Public Library. She and her husband are frequent and very appreciative users of the Pacific Beach Taylor Branch.

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