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Public Library

2024 Short Story Contest

Join us! Live Readings & Awards Event

It's time to celebrate our finalists, the talented and creative writers who have won this year's Short Story Contest! Please join us to learn the identities of our finalists and enjoy a delightful evening of live readings of the top three winning stories, performed by Write Out Loud, and sponsored by the Friends of San Diego Central Library. Q&A with the authors will follow. The Short Story Contest shines a spotlight on local writers and is a continuation of the Library’s robust support for local writing. Register here to secure your spot! 

black keyboard on grey background with SD Short story wording.

2024 Winners

Portrait of Walter Besecker
Walt Besecker | 1st Place
Short Story:  Tony and Carmella

Walt Besecker spent most of his adult life working in a variety of senior public service positions in the Washington, DC area before moving with his wife, Susan, to San Diego in 2019. He has long dreamed of writing and only recently began to make that dream a reality.

Headshot of Barbara Javor
Barbara Javor| 2nd Place
Short Story:  Surfer Pete

Barbara Javor, Ph.D., is a marine biologist who weaves science, natural history, and animals into her writing. She conceives stories during walks and bike rides which she calls “bicycle writing.” The COVID-19 quarantine period inspired the rewriting of lyrics of favorite old tunes and publishing Marine Biology Songs—Pier Reviewed!

Headshot of Carlos Tarrac
Carlos Tarrac| 3rd Place
Short Story:  The Bus Stop

Carlos Tarrac, a California-based educator with a Master’s in Education, is an accomplished author, translator, and illustrator. His works encompass narrative and poetry for both children and adults, gaining acclaim at events like the Book Festival of Paris, the Purple and Royal Dragonfly Awards, and the International Latino Book Awards.

Headshot of Amber Forbes
Amber Forbes| Shortlist
Short Story:  Garden

Amber Forbes moved from Australia to the USA and became an actual alien. Her writing explores concepts of society and humanity, and is full of aliens, spaceships, and questionable choices. She is currently writing the final novel in her series, The Rhaslok Chronicles, when not being distracted by her four cats.

Headshot of Clare Rolens
Clare Rolens| Shortlist
Short Story:  Passing of Squirrels

Clare Rolens is an English Professor at Palomar College. You can find her writing in Vestal Review, Bright Flash Literary Review, and Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, among others. She serves as a poetry editor for the journal One Sentence Poems, and can currently be found reading a detective story.

Headshot of Lawrence Weiner
Lawrence Philip| Shortlist
Short Story:  The Burble

Lawrence Philip is a novelist, prose writer, and poet living in the greater San Diego Area. His work has been published in The Story Starts Here, volume 2, and the San Diego Poetry Annual. He is seeking publication for his novel Becoming Captain Hook.

Headshot of Lucy Zhang
Lucy Zhang| Shortlist
Short Story:  Blessing

Lucy Zhang writes, codes, and watches anime. Her work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Wigleaf, Apex Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the author of the chapbooks HOLLOWED (Thirty West Publishing) and ABSORPTION (Harbor Review).

Headshot of Patricia Watts
Patricia Watts| Shortlist
Short Story:  Accommodation

Patricia Watts worked as a journalist for more than 20 years in Texas, Hawaii, and Alaska, then for 10 years investigated human rights cases for the State of Alaska. Paper Targets is the most recent of her five published novels. She has a son, daughter, and seven grandchildren.

Headshot of Sara Wilczynska
Sara Wilczynska| Shortlist
Short Story:  Walpurgis Night

A former Google software engineer turned watercolor artist, Sara weaves her creativity through words and colors. Her short story "Hippity-hop" earned her 3rd prize in the SDPL Short Story Contest 2022 and her literary works find a home in the pages of Helikopter, Aloka, and Lunaris Review magazines.

Headshot of ShuJen Walker Askew
SuhuJen Walker Askew| Shortlist

ShuJen Walker Askew writes short stories, poems, scripts, and plays in various genres. Her works can be viewed in college and San Diego anthologies. She is working on her first novel and pursuing an English degree. ShuJen is an electrical engineer by trade, mother of two, and enjoys writing.


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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

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
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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