Creative Writing Winners

2020 Contest Winners

The April Perennial (2020 edition) will be published and distributed this spring, and we're excited that our Call for Submissions for Spring 2022 will be available in August 2021.

Kelsey B. Toney

Guest Speaker

Kelsey B. Toney, a Dallas native, is a writer of YA novels, speaker of inspiration to people of all ages, and maker of You Tube videos who encourages writers to create. Kelsey lives to share stories that prove none of us are ever alone. To learn more about her righteousness, visit her website.

For more information about the Creative Writing Awards, please contact Jacob Arnold at

Previous Guests

Michael Jernigan - 2019 add

Michael JerniganMichael Jernigan is a Marine who proudly served with Company E 2nd Battalion 2nd Marine regiment. On August 22, 2004 while on a deployment in Iraq, Michael’s platoon was on patrol when it was hit by two 155mm artillery shells buried under the ground. The Improvised Explosive Devise threw him 20 meters from their Humvee. Michael suffered life treating and life changing injuries that day. 45% of his cranium was crushed in. He had shrapnel enter in his right eye and exit through his left eye, cutting everything in between. He had to have two fingers reattached and his left knee fully reconstructed. He fractured his patella and cut his femoral artery. Michael went through 30 major surgeries in the first 12 months and spent 16 months in hospitals and rehab facilities.

It has been thirteen years since the attack. Michael has taken his second chance at life and turned it into something that is never taken for granted. He volunteers his time whenever it is needed and al-ways offers a helping hand. For his dedication and continual community service Michael was award the ‘Veteran of the Year Award’ from his hometown of St. Petersburg Florida. Eleven years ago, Michael Co-founded Paws for Patriots at South Eastern Guide Dogs; which provides guide dogs and service animals to veterans. He has touched thousands of lives through his motivational speaking, peer to peer counseling and most recently his book, titled “Vision”. Michael’s continued service to others has not gone unnoticed and on November 9, 2017 Michael was awarded ‘The Ross Perot Patriot award’. He has turned the most traumatic experience of his life into a life filled with a new purpose; to help others gain their vision. Michael’s favorite saying is, “It wasn’t until I lost my sight, that I gained my vision”. Too often people solely rely on their eyes to see, but miss out on life’s most precious moments, the ones you can’t see, but only feel. Michael truly embodies what it means to be a Marine, “honor, courage, commitment”.

C.C. Hunter - 2018 add
Cristy Craig A.K.A C.C. Hunter

C. C. Hunter is the New York Times best selling author of over thirty-five books, including her wildly popular Shadow Falls and Shadow Falls: After Dark series. In addition to winning numerous awards and rave reviews for her novels, C.C. is also a photojournalist, motivational speaker, and writing coach.

The first book of her new paranormal young adult series, The Mortician's Daughter: One Foot in the Grave was released on October 31st 2017. And Wednesday Books published her contemporary young adult and hardcover debut This Heart of Mine this past February.

C. C. currently resides in Texas with her husband, junkyard dog, Lady, and whatever wild creatures that meander out from woods surrounding her home.

C.C. Hunter is a pseudonym. Her real name is Christie Craig, and she also writes humorous romantic suspense romance novels.

Visit Her Website

Nick Del Calzo - 2017 add
Nick Del Calzo, Guest Speaker 2017

Nick Del Calzo is living his dream by pursuing documentary, black and white portraiture. He devotes his talents to conceiving and producing photographic projects that advance human values. His first book and national exhibition, The Triumphant Spirit: Portraits & Stories of Holocaust Survivors, was featured on the CBS Sunday Morning show and on CNN. He also created the NY Times Best Seller, Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. It features 156 of our nation's most honored heroes--recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. This body of work is on permanent display in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon and at the Center for American Values in Pueblo, CO.

His newest book, Wings of Valor: Honoring America’s Fighter Aces, was published by US Naval Institute Press. Nick has received numerous national awards.

John Coe Robbins - 2016 add
John Coe Robbins, Guest Speaker 2016

John Coe Robbins is a career professional writer.  His novel Maya Lord was published in 2011, and a film based on the book is currently in development by Roland Emmerich, the director of more than a dozen major films including The Patriot, Stargate, 2012, and Independence Day.

John also wrote and produced the Emmy-nominated and TV Hugo Award-winning Documentary Dying To Live, which follows the lives of four potential organ transplant recipients as they wait for an organ to become available. The documentary was syndicated nationally to public television stations.

Previously, John worked as a television feature reporter and documentary writer and producer at TV stations in Georgia and Michigan. His stories have appeared on ABC, CNN, Discovery and A&E and have won numerous awards.

Beginning in 1994, he established a writing company that develops scripts for documentaries, broadcast spots, and corporate video and multimedia productions.

John holds a B.A. from Duke University and a M.A. in Communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He and his wife Sarah live in Fort Worth, where Sarah is a professor at TCU.

Jaye Wells - 2015 add
Author Jaye Wells

Jaye Wells is a USA Today-best selling author of urban fantasy and speculative crime fiction. She's currently working toward her Masters of Fine Arts degree in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University.

Raised by booksellers, she loved reading books from a very young age. That gateway drug eventually led to a full-blown writing addiction. When she’s not chasing the word dragon, she loves to travel, drink good bourbon, and do things that scare her so she can put them in her books. Jaye lives in Texas.

Nancy Turner - 2014 add
Nancy Turner

I started college in earnest along with my two children, in 1992, intending to get a degree and teach High School English. I graduated from Pima Community College with an AS degree in 1995, entered the University of Arizona an Honors Student, spent three years on the Dean’s List and received the 1997 Poets Award, the 1998 College of Fine Arts Creative Achievement Award, and the 1999 Outstanding Senior Award. I graduated in 1999 with a triple major in Creative Writing, Art, and Music.

By that time my first two novels had been published by HarperCollins, Inc., and I changed my focus from teaching to writing. Doing research, to me, is the iceberg under the novel’s point, rather like working on a master’s thesis in history every day of my life. I love words, I love the work of editing. My novels have all been rewritten cover to cover a minimum of five times, most of them more. I never outline. I start with a character and a problem. The things I discover about heroic people’s lives lived in centuries past fill me with passion and purpose for my own.

My books begin with research to provide a historical backdrop for the characters I create. They include:

  • These Is My Words, a story based on family history. My great grandparents were Territorial pioneers, and the story is set in the 1880s, a time when my great-great uncle Sylvester and his family lived in “the west end of New Mexico Territory.”
  • Sarah’s Quilt and The Star Garden continue the saga of the Prine and Elliot families as they battle the elements and bandits, the railroad, and cattle rustlers to carve out a life in the desert.

  •  The Water and The Blood is a story of redemption, racism and prejudice, set on the home front during WWII. It is based on real events and the connection with present day makes it more poignant.

  • My Name is Resolute is my newest novel coming in February 2014. Set in New England in the years preceding the Revolutionary War, Resolute Talbot goes from being the pampered daughter of a planter to an indentured servant. When she escapes, she finds herself alone in Massachusetts. Over the years she makes her life, and when the fist of British tyranny begins to choke her family, she becomes part of a very real web of spies, many of them women, who smuggled messages, food, and clothing through British lines.

I've been married 43 years, have two kids, four grandkids and two dogs. My books have been translated into five languages, I was named Arizona Author of the Year, and These Is My Words won the title of One Book Arizona in 2008.

All my novels deal in some way with larger issues, running the gamut from slavery and racism to ecology, education, and especially honor, yet the stories are not told with an agenda, simply with the idea of watching the characters make choices that might face any of us.

Alan Birkelbach - 2013 add
Author Alan Birkelbach

Alan Birkelbach, a native Texan, was the 2005 Poet Laureate of Texas. His work has appeared in journals and anthologies such as Grasslands Review, Borderlands, The Langdon Review, and Concho River Review. He has received a Fellowship Grant from the Writer’s League of Texas, been named as one of the Distinguished Poets of Dallas, was nominated for a Wrangler, Spur, and Pushcart Prizes, and is a member of The Academy of American Poets. He has been a featured reader at the Texas Book Festival twice, and has spoken at schools and colleges across the state.

He has nine collections of poetry:

  • Bone Song
  • Weighed in the Balances
  • No Boundaries
  • New and Selected Works
  • Translating the Prairie
  • Smurglets Are Everywhere
  • Rogue Waves
  • The Thread
  • No End of Vision

Translating the Prairie, an art and poetry book about the history of Plano, was a Prize Winner at the 2010 North Texas Book Festival. No End of Vision, a collaboration with the 2010 Poet Laureate of Texas Karla K. Morton, was a finalist in the 2012 National Indie Book Competition. Smurglets Are Everywhere was a 2011 nominee for The Texas Institute of Letters Children’s poetry book of the year.

He is serving as the editor for the Texas Poet Laureate Series published by TCU Press. His current project is acting as the editor for a volume of poetry by Robert E. Howard (the creator of Conan). And he is working on his first novel.

Joseph L. Galloway - 2012 add
Author Joe Galloway

Joseph L. Galloway, one of America’s premier war and foreign correspondents for half a century, recently retired as the senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers. Before that he held an assignment as a special consultant to General Colin Powell at the State Department.

Galloway, a native of Refugio, Texas, spent 22 years as a foreign and war correspondent and bureau chief for United Press International, and nearly 20 years as a senior editor and senior writer for U.S. News & World Report magazine. He joined Knight Ridder in the fall of 2002.

During the course of 15 years of foreign postings—including assignments in Japan, Indonesia, India, Singapore and three years as UPI bureau chief in Moscow in the former Soviet Union—Galloway served four tours as a war correspondent in Vietnam and also covered the 1971 India-Pakistan War and half a dozen other combat operations.

In 1990-1991 Galloway covered Desert Shield and Desert Storm, riding with the 24 Infantry Division (Mech) in the assault into Iraq. Galloway also covered the Haiti incursion and made trips to Iraq to cover the current war in 2003 and 2005-2006.

“[Galloway] The finest combat correspondent of our generation—a soldier’s reporter and a soldier’s friend.”— Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf

He is co-author, with Lt. Gen. (ret) Hal G. Moore, of the national bestseller “We Were Soldiers Once-And Young” which has been made into a critically acclaimed movie “We Were Soldiers”, starring Mel Gibson. “We Were Soldiers Once... and Young” is presently in print in six different languages and more than 1.2 million copies have been sold.

Galloway also co-authored “Triumph Without Victory: The History of the Persian Gulf War” for Times Books, and he and Gen. Moore in 2008 published their sequel to We Were Soldiers, a work titled: We Are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam.

Last year Military History magazine polled 50 leading historians to choose the Ten Greatest Books Ever Written on War. "We Were Soldiers Once… and Young" was among those ten books.
On May 1, 1998, Galloway was decorated with a Bronze Star Medal with V for rescuing wounded soldiers under fire in the Ia Drang Valley, in November 1965. His is the only medal of valor the U.S. Army awarded to a civilian for actions during the Vietnam War.

Galloway received the National Magazine Award in 1991 for a U.S. News cover article on the 25 anniversary of the Ia Drang Battles, and the National News Media Award of the U.S. Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1992 for coverage of the Gulf War. In 2000, he received the President’s Award for the Arts of the Vietnam Veterans Association of America. In 2001, he received the BG Robert L. Denig Award for Distinguished Service presented by the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association.

In 2005, he received the Abraham Lincoln Award of the Union League Club of Philadelphia, and the John Reagan (Tex) McCrary Award of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Galloway was awarded the 2011 Doughboy Award, the highest honor the Infantry can bestow on an individual. Few civilians have ever received a Doughboy. On Veterans Day, 2011, he received the Legacy of Service Award of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

Galloway is a member of the boards of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the nonprofit organization No Greater Love founded to assist the victims of war, the 1st Cavalry Division Association, the National Infantry Museum, the School of Social Studies of The Citadel in Charleston, S.C., the Museum of America’s Wars, and the Military Reporters and Editors Association. Galloway is the recipient of honorary doctorate degrees from Norwich University and Mount St. Mary’s College.

He has lived in his native South Texas since retiring from Knight Ridder in 2006. His son Lee Galloway is a sergeant on the Corpus Christi (TX) Police Department. Another son, Joshua, lives in Virginia. He has two stepdaughters, Alison of Chapel Hill, N.C., and Abigail of Indianapolis, IN., and a stepson, Lex Rudel of Chapel Hill, from a second marriage.

Jennifer Lee Carrell - 2011 add

Jennifer Lee CarrellChildhood

I was born in Washington, D. C. in the spring of 1962. As soon as my father finished med school and residency, we moved back to Arizona, where both my parents are from. I grew up in Tucson. From my dad, I learned to love wild places, especially the wide open spaces of the Sonoran Desert and the aeries of the Rocky Mountain West. From my mom, I learned to love stories and books.

I knew I wanted to write books as soon as I learned to read. The first long story I remember writing dates from about the second grade. It was full of talking animals—heavily influenced by The Wind in the Willows and the Narnia series. My “fallback” career choices were ballerina and astronaut.

My favorite childhood books include the Little House, The Dark is Rising, Oz, Narnia, Wizard of Earthsea, and A Wrinkle in Time series.

Favorite particular books include

  • The Hobbit
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harriet the Spy
  • Gone-Away Lake
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • My Side of the Mountain
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • The Four-Story Mistake
  • The Borrowers
  • The Egypt Game

My Scholarly Life

In high school, my favorite subjects were English and Physics. As an undergraduate at Stanford, I thought I would major in microbiology until I took a course on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with a dynamic and very funny professor at the same time as I was slogging through an excruciatingly dull chemistry course. I dropped the chem. and switched majors to English. Though my dad teased me about majoring in fairy tales, I never looked back.

While writing my senior honors thesis on The Lord of the Rings and its roots in medieval English literature and Norse mythology, on a whim I signed up for a class in beginning Old Norse (i.e., Old Icelandic). Again, a superb professor captured my attention and changed the course of my life. I went on to study Old Norse at Oxford University.

Having learned how to speak with the Vikings, I moved on to a Ph.D. in English Lit at Harvard. From Old Norse and Old English, I gradually drifted forward in time to focus on late medieval and Renaissance English literature—Chaucer through Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

When I finished my dissertation, I took a post as a lecturer in Harvard’s History and Literature Program, where I team-taught both the Medieval and Renaissance seminars.

Outside the classroom, serendipity came calling by two very different routes: a novel I had begun a few years earlier (a still-unfinished magic realist tale about the 19th-century southwest) kept forcing its way into my attention, wanting to be written. And I began – again on a whim – to take some acting courses, on the theory that if I wanted to spend my life teaching Shakespeare, I should know something about the theater from the inside.

Problem was, I found I liked Shakespeare much better on stage than on the page. I taught a course on Shakespeare in Performance, and at the end of the term, my students decided to start up a Shakespeare company at Harvard. They did – I helped them – and I wound up learning to direct by being tossed in at the deep end.

Gradually, I began to remember something I’d almost forgotten: that I’d always wanted to write stories, not write about them. The demands of university-level academics, however, meant that I wasn't’t going to be able to do both…

My Writing Life

In 1997, the Smithsonian magazine bought my idea for a story about Shakespeare’s surprising popularity among cowboys, miners, and mountain men in the wild American West. I took a deep breath, jumped ship from academics, and moved back home to Tucson – a good place to be a starving artist. In August 1998, the Smithsonian published “How the Bard Won the West” – my first published piece of non-academic writing.

In addition to free-lancing for the Smithsonian, I became a performing arts critic for the Arizona Daily Star, where I covered classical music, opera, and dance (and occasionally theater and film as well). I also did some work as a dramaturg (or literary researcher) for the Arizona Theatre Company.

In the fall of 2001, Dutton bought my first book, The Speckled Monster – as an idea. Then I had to sit down and write it. Since then, I have had the luck and the luxury to be a full-time writer of books.

I write (almost) every day. I have an office that looks over my garden and into the desert, with the city and mountains beyond.

A sense of place is key to my imagination: whenever possible I visit the places I write about. I also look at photos or paintings, and research background like food, clothing, furniture, music, local flora and fauna, traditions and legends, habits of speech, even weather and change of seasons. I do my best to dig up local recipes and try them, or at the very least, to get hold of a place’s characteristic spices and learn its scents and tastes.

I often listen to music when I write – mostly classical. I find that Beethoven and Bach demand too much attention, but a lot of baroque music works nicely as background. When I really need to concentrate, I’ll crank up a good film soundtrack – they’re made to be mood-enhancing background.

When I’m not writing, I like to cook, garden, travel, hike, go to the theater, symphony, and ballet, read, and watch movies. I’m a fan of the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox. Whenever I can (which is not often enough), I ride – there’s not much that’s more exhilarating than a good gallop across open country on the back of a horse.

I live in Tucson with my husband, son, two dogs, and three cats.


I like big stories about people who turn out to be extraordinary when they find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. It’s why I like epics, and it’s why I like Shakespeare. It’s also why I have little patience with small, gray stories about people with small, gray souls. They’re – well – small and gray.

I also like books that create thick worlds – books that sweep me somewhere else and hold me there with sights, sounds, smells, history, languages, legends. Whether that somewhere is real or imaginary, historical or current-day matters far less to me than the fullness of the creation: I like reading best when it feels like exploring.

My favorite fiction includes: Laxdaela saga, Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, Possession by A.S. Byatt, The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, and Malory’s Morte D’Arthur. I will read anything by Shakespeare, Austen, Tolstoy, Dickens, Borges, Woolf, Dinesen, Hemingway, and García Márquez. I also enjoy the historical fiction of Mary Renault, Dorothy Dunnett, Patrick O’Brian, and Sarah Dunant. My favorite thriller and mystery writers include Phil Rickman, Arturo Perez Reverte, Jacqueline Winspear, and Rebecca Cantrell.

Favorite non-fiction: Biographies of larger-than-life people like Alexander the Great and Queen Elizabeth I of England. One of my old stand-by is Amy Kelly’s Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings. I’ll read anything by Antonia Fraser. David Roberts’s Once They Moved Like The Wind (about Geronimo, Cochise, and the Chiricahua Apache) changed the way I think about the American West. I also like histories of what it was like to be an average, everyday person caught in big events, e.g., John Keegan’s The Face of Battle. “Big idea” books tend to hang on my mind a long time; Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, Matt Ridley’s Genome, and Natalie Angier’s Woman.

Favorite poems/poets: Beowulf, The Odyssey, The Canterbury Tales, Thomas Wyatt, John Donne, Keats, Tennyson, Gerard Manley Hopkins – and, of course, Shakespeare.

Karla K. Morton - 2010 add
Author Karla K. Morton

Karla K. Morton, the 2010 Texas State Poet Laureate, is a celebrated poet, author, and storyteller. She is the author of Wee Cowrin' Timorous Beastie (a North Texas Book Festival Awards Finalist), Redefining Beauty (a poetry collection written during her journey through cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery) and several upcoming books, including Becoming Superman, Names We've Never Known, Stirring Goldfish and Karla K. Morton: New and Selected Poems, a collection of her works as part of the Poet Laureate series by the Texas Christian University Press (to be published in 2010).

Ms. Morton’s poetry, which spans many subjects and forms, has also been published in a variety of literary journals, including descant (winner of Betsy Colquitt Award), AmarilloBay, the Concho River Review, the Southwestern American Literature, Oak Bend Review, Wichita Falls Literary and Art Review, The Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas, the Texas Poetry Calendar, Illya's Honey, Austin International Poetry Anthology, New Texas, Denton Writer's League Anthology, and ARDENT.

In her role as 2010 Texas State Poet Laureate, Ms. Morton has created a Little Town, Texas Tour, taking poetry and the arts into schools across Texas, focusing particularly on small towns underserved by the arts. Additionally, she serves as a board member of the Greater Denton Arts Council, a founding member and board member of the Denton Poets’ Assembly (part of the Poetry Society of Texas) and as a member of the esteemed Western Writers of America, the Writer’s League of Texas and the Academy of American Poets.

She has been featured on the Art of Living Gallery national television show (episode titled “Commemorating Life”) and loves to promote poetry, logging hundreds of miles across Texas, reading her work at such venues as schools, universities, bookstores, the Langdon Weekend, the Salado Highland Games and the North Texas Irish Festival.

Morton was born in Fort Worth, graduated from Mansfield High School, holds a Journalism degree from Texas A&M University and currently resides in Denton, Texas, with her two children and husband. For more information, please visit or on Facebook.