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2020 Short Story Contest Winners

  The SDPL Short Story Contest will resume in 2022.

Join us in celebrating the San Diego Decameron Project, a project coordinated with local partners, Write Out Loud, the La Jolla Historical Society, and San Diego Writers, INK to collect and curate 100 winning short stories based loosely around the theme of the current pandemic. The stories are published, 25 each, on all four of the partner websites.

This year in addition to publication on the library website, the winners' stories, along with the 2018 and 2019 winning stories, are being read and performed on video by Write Out Loud as a partnership with the Library. As a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, WOL initiated Listen to This, a story performance and reading program where favorite stories are read and shared each day with the community. Join their growing local and international listenership and sign up for your free daily short stories read aloud by Write Out Loud performers.

2020 Contest Winners

Photo of Short Story Contest winner Carl Snow
Carl Snow  | 1st Place
Short Story: PDF icon 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 Writing.ie, 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: PDF icon 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

Watch Story Reading

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

Watch Story Reading

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: PDF icon The Crossing

Watch Story Reading

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: PDF icon White Balance

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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: PDF icon Abbott's Pursuit

Watch Story Reading

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: PDF icon The Award

Watch Story Reading

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

Watch Story Reading

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
Short Story: PDF icon Not Henry

Watch Story Reading

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.


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 ineligible.
  • Stories previously accepted in this contest in previous years are not eligible.
  • Simultaneous submissions to other writing contests are allowed.
  • Stories should be suitable for a general audience.
  • Authors must live in San Diego County.
  • Only (1) story per author.
  • See the FAQs for important manuscript guidelines.


  • 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 $125.00 second place award.
  • 3rd Place - Publication on the website of the San Diego Public Library – and $75.00 third place award.
  • Honorable Mention - Announcement on the library website – and a gift certificate from the Library Shop independent bookstore located in the Central Library.
  • Public reading of the top 3 winning stories at a special program honoring the winners.
  • Winners announced in early May.

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: literary, mystery and crime, science fiction, fantasy, horror, 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 16 and over 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 75 short stories will be accepted, based on a first come first served basis. Registration will automatically stop after the 75th author registers their manuscript.

Who will judge the Short Story Contest?

A Committee of Librarians with subject expertise in fiction, writing, publishing and literary studies 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 to enter in 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 on Monday, March 2 and must be completed and uploaded by Friday, April 3, 2020.

How long can a short story be and what other important rules are there?

The manuscript must be double spaced and not exceed 3000 words. Stories over 3000 words will be rejected without review. The manuscript must not have the author’s name anywhere in it. Pages must be numbered. The manuscript title must appear on every page. The manuscript must be saved as "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.

What happens to the stories entered in the Short Story Contest?

All the stories submitted will be archived. By entering the Short Story Contest, participants permit the library to use the stories for current or future programs. Stories may be spotlighted on the library website, used for public programs, or made available for research.

For questions or further clarification regarding the rules and guidelines, please contact us at localauthor@sandiego.gov.