Storytellers of Tomorrow Writing Contest

The Ringling College of Art and Design Creative Writing Program was created to support, empower, and honor young writers. It’s an exciting time to be a writer, thanks to the increasing number of narrative possibilities that new technologies and media offer. We believe that well-told stories can speak truths and communicate ideas in a way that nothing else can. Sign up to receive reminders about this contest each year.

2023 Winners Announced

First Place: “Ricochet” by Julia Chen
Judges’ Notes: “This taut music-themed story powerfully crescendos before reaching a haunting, memorable ending. It hits all the best notes and has strong, evocative writing throughout.”

Second Place: “Bitter” by April Yu
Judges’ Notes: “This variation on Snow White’s story has just the right amount of humor, heart, and hurt. The care and precision of language, too, is what makes this so memorable.”

Third Place: “Dubious Desiderium” by Felicia Powell
Judges’ Notes: “In a series of transcriptions of audio/video logs, we learn about the pressures a young woman faces from a tormented past. This science fiction story delves deep into issues about identity, community, and trust.”

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

  • “Nightmare Monster” by Brigid Davis

  • “A Light Through the Clouds” by Toby Davies

  • “Always in Style” by Hannah Englander

  • “Placebo” by Linen Golding

  • “Elliot, Is That You?” by Alexia Holliday

  • “The Exiled” by Anna Hurd

  • “Frosted Secrets” by Erin Hurd

  • “Left and Right” by Fiona Jin

  • “Solitaire” by Quinn Kennedy

  • “Acidos Eros” by Lea Krow

  • “Do You Dare?” by Julia Lane

  • “Wisteria” by Meaghan Levy

  • “Shrooms” by Oscar Lopez

  • “Attachment” by Raelie Loredo

  • “Pandora’s Purgatory” by Christian Maloney

  • “The Crime of Solitude” by Wareesha Qureshi

  • “The Secret of Eyro” by Marley Stauffer

  • “Starstruck” by Rebecca Tittl

  • “Papa’s Friends” by Emma van Heerden

  • “Lune (Insanity in 3 Acts)” by Jagger van Vliet

  • “Storm” by Ava Warford

  • “Chimney Talk” by Asenath Wetzsel

  • “Light and the Lack of It” by Angelina Yeung


First Place: “To Make Music” by Abby Rosenfeldt
Judges’ Notes: “A love story told in a series of summertime vignettes. The author’s gorgeous restraint echoes the characters’ inability to fully comprehend what they are to each other and heightened my connection to their relationship.”

Second Place: “Quiet Stays the Matador” by Erik Herrera
Judges’ Notes: “Using bold, visceral descriptions and surprisingly playful language, this story provides a heartbreaking examination of family traditions, masculinity, and violence.”

Third Place: “Social Suicide” by Anna Parker
Judges’ Notes: “While conducting a funeral for dolls, two girls begin the painful process of growing up. The author’s quiet humor sharpens the story’s sense of melancholy.”

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

  • “Return to Grass” by Nikitha Anand

  • “The Letter from Samarra” by Sonya Azencott

  • “Afflicted” by Savannah Bell

  • “The Milliner” by Maithreyi Bharathi

  • “Cleave” by Izabella Blancaneaux

  • “Highway Fog” by Kate Choi

  • “A Conversation with Trees” by Cora Hanfland

  • “Cinders” by Claire He

  • “August” by Audrey Jung

  • “The Final Judgement, or Independence Day” by Megha Khemka

  • “Last Winter, I Learned How to Love” by Heather Qin

  • “Ophelia Goes Down to the River” by Annalise Ross

  • “Lobotomy” by LaVie Saad

  • “Grapefruit Moon” by Emma Stapp

  • “Cigarette” by Katherine Streepey

  • “Tituba Speaks” by Arezu Kabuli

  • “My Dad and His Overgrown Child” Isabella Xu

First Place: “Ancestral Dissonance” by Kyo Lee
Judges’ Notes: “Through gorgeous imagery and striking metaphors, the writer probes the painful process of Americanization for a first-generation Korean immigrant. Everything about this deeply felt piece seems artful and intentional, from the segments titled with sounds to the snippets of dialogue. The language is breathtaking but never overstated. Here the writer describes extracting lemon juice to bleach her skin: I hollow the fruit the way I’ve learnt to excavate parts of myself, scrape murky yellow extract until all that remains is white walls bordering an empty shell. The tug of past and present, old country and new, inspires the writer and grips the reader.”

Second Place: “Peace of Mind” by Kat Davis
Judges’ Notes: “The writer captures the ‘monkey mind’ that so often bedevils anyone trying to meditate. You want to be like your teacher who goes on Buddhist retreats and speaks with a type of intelligence that either comes from decades of trying to articulate emotions like these into words, or parroting hippie articles online where people in the comments section do yoga and drink green tea & pretend to actually like the taste of kombucha. The spiraling prose is not aimless, however; it leads to a touching connection between sisters.”

Third Place: “For Naomi” by Jessica Bakar
Judges’ Notes: “Musing about a pseudonym, the writer describes how creative nonfiction writers work: We are explorers of the self, reverse engineers of emotion. This sophisticated example of ‘thinking on paper’ explores authenticity, friendship, and storytelling truth.“

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

  • “Visibility” by Yelaine Aquilar

  • “Holding Onto My Mother Tongue” by Sophene Avedissian

  • “Destructive Desolation” by Anna Bruner

  • “Fight Song” by Sophia Hall

  • “Maybe” by Hannah He

  • “White House” by Kate-Yeonjae Jeong

  • “Glass and Steam” by Quinn Kennedy

  • “Growing Pains” by Vivian Liu

  • “Under the Dewdrops” by Chiu-yi Rachel Ngai

  • “Fire and Ash” by Xiaoya Williams

  • “My Father Is an Analogy for God” by Sarai Winkler

  • “Korean, American, or Korean-American” by Nicholas Yoo

  • “The Butterfly” by Tiffany Zhang

  • “Clench” by Lynn Zhao

2023 Contest Details

High-school-age students are invited to submit unpublished, original English-language stories of up to 2,000 words in length for the 8th Annual “Storytellers of Tomorrow” Contest. The sole criterion for earning prizes in this contest is simply overall quality, meaning that well-edited, engaging, and evocative stories have the best chance of winning over the judges. 

Contest entries will be accepted from October 15, 2022-January 15, 2023. Click the button below to enter using the Contest Google form to submit. Please read through the answers in the FAQs in preparation of your submission. 


Creative Writing Program
Dr. Ryan G. Van Cleave
2700 North Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34234

Prizes in Each Category

1st prize

  • $1,000
  • 1:1 consultation about your writing with a literary agent or editor
  • iPad for each winner’s high school writing teacher
  • Ringling College Creative Writing T-shirt


2nd prize

  • $100
  • Ringling College Creative Writing T-shirt


3rd prize

  • $50
  • Ringling College Creative Writing T-shirt


Honorable mentions

  • Ringling College Creative Writing T-shirt


Judges’ Award

One full-tuition scholarship to Ringling College’s 2023 summer PreCollege program ($6,200 value)


What EXACTLY are the three submission categories?

  • Submission Category 1: Literary Stories
    Examples of this type of writing? Short fiction/flash fiction set in the real world and that emphasize style, character, and theme over plot
    Examples of writers who work in this vein? Tim O’Brien, O. Henry, John Green, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Robert Olen Butler, and Lorrie Moore

  • Submission Category 2: Genre Stories
    Examples of this type of writing? Horror stories, fantasy stories, mystery stories, science fiction, thriller stories
    Examples of writers who work in this vein? Neil Gaiman, Edgar Allen Poe, J.K. Rowling, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R.R. Martin, Philip K. Dick, and Patricia Highsmith

  • Submission Category 3: Nonfiction Stories
    Examples of this type of writing? Autobiographical essays, personal essays, creative nonfiction (including very well-written, story-based travel writing, nature writing, science writing, and/or biography)
    Examples of writers who work in this vein? Lauren Hillenbrand (Unbroken), Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle), Oliver Sacks (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), John Burroughs (“In Mammoth Cave”), Chuck Klosterman (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs), Jorge Luis Borges (“Blindness”), E.B. White (“Once More to the Lake”), and Annie Dillard (“Seeing”)

Will the contest entries be published?

The top winner in each category will be offered the opportunity for their work to be published in Shift, the Creative Writing Program’s literary arts journal. Beyond that offer of one-time publication, authors retain all rights to their stories.

What if I win first prize but don’t want my work published?
That’s a decision we will respect.

Can I submit to more than one category?
Yes. Though each piece can only win a prize in a single category so please send different pieces if you’d like to contend in more than one contest category.

Can I submit more than one entry for a single category?
No. It’s one entry per category per person. The maximum amount of entries anyone can send is three–one literary short story, one genre story, and one nonfiction piece.

You say you want “unpublished” work. What does that mean?
If you wrote something for a school assignment, that’s fine. If your piece ran in your school newspaper or school literary magazine, that’s fine too.

If your piece ran in a national periodical of any type (USA Today, Reader’s Digest, Boy’s Life, Seventeen, etc.)? That’s published. The same is true with posting your piece in online forums, blogs, and websites (personal ones or Wattpad). And if your piece was included in any textbook or anthology, that too counts as being published.

If you have any questions about this, please email us to ask.

I want to send in something different than a traditional short story. Can I do that?
Absolutely. While many submissions will be traditional short stories, we are also quite open to graphic narratives, scripts, picture book manuscripts, comics, and other literary forms/blends.

I’m a poet. Can I submit a poem?
You may submit anything you choose up to 2,000 words long, though poetry without an extremely strong narrative component likely doesn’t fit well in any of the submission categories. This is primarily a prose narrative contest.

What type of stories/subjects/themes do you want?
That’s entirely up to you, though a familiarity with the genre/style you’re writing in will surely be of help to you.

What are the judges REALLY looking for?
High-quality writing that engages the reader.

What are the common issues with most submissions?
Here are three of the top reasons most entries don’t make the cut.

  • Failure to follow the contest guidelines
  • Poor editing/proofreading
  • Cliché ideas/plots

I’m not an American citizen. Can I still submit?
If you’re a high-school-age student enrolled in a high-school curriculum and you’re writing in English? Yes.

I’m homeschooled. Can I enter the contest?
If you’re a high-school-age student enrolled in a high-school curriculum and you’re writing in English? Yes.

Is Ringling College associated with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus?
John Ringling was involved with the launching of the institution in 1931, but beyond that, we have no relationship to the circus beyond the association of his name. So the circus’ closing in 2017 had zero effect on Ringling College.

I’ve got a question that doesn’t seem to be answered anywhere. What do I do?  
Send in your question via email to with the subject line “Contest Question.”