Storytellers of Tomorrow

2024 Winners 

“Wynswith and the Wanderer,” Victoria Birkett

This story captivates with its rich atmosphere, vivid imagery, and compelling character dynamics. The enchanting world is brought to life with sensory details, while authentic dialogue between the protagonist and the mysterious stranger adds depth. The author’s wry sense of humor provides a delightful contrast to the story’s darker elements.

First Place: “The Night I Opened My Eyes,” Xanthe Teijeiro

This story excels in creating a gripping narrative that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. The tension builds steadily as the protagonist grapples with the horrifying truth about their world and their desperate attempt to escape it. The vivid descriptions and atmospheric prose effectively convey the bleakness of the protagonist’s reality and the shocking revelation of the outside world. The climax is both heart-pounding and thought-provoking, leaving a lasting impact as the protagonist comes to terms with their newfound understanding.

Second Place: “Schuylkill Blythe,” Jessie Leitzel

This story masterfully weaves together elements of mystery, family dynamics, and the haunting beauty of rural Pennsylvania. Through rich prose and vivid imagery, the reader is drawn into Frey’s world, where the landscape itself feels like a character. The tense atmosphere and sense of foreboding build steadily, keeping readers on the edge of their seats until the heartbreaking conclusion.

Third Place: “Golden Ratio,” Claire He

The story’s brilliance lies in its masterful blend of mythological elements with a compelling narrative of sacrifice and redemption. Through vivid prose and rich character development, it explores themes of hubris, parental love, and the consequences of one’s actions. The pacing creates a sense of urgency and tension, while the atmospheric tone immerses readers in a world both familiar and fantastical. Ultimately, it’s the emotional depth and thought-provoking exploration of human nature that make this story truly exceptional.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

  • “The Peacocks Fly Southeast,” Renee Chen
  • “Underland,” Amariah Cruz
  • “Gen A,” Avah Dodson
  • “Golden Ratio,” Claire He
  • “Conservation of Sappho’s Momentum,” Emily Hsu
  • “Mirror, Mirror,” Parita Kottamasu
  • ”A Guide to How the World Ended: By Dr. Max Lowell (Me), the Last (?) Man On Earth,” Alexia Liu
  • “Major Tom,” Ryan Markovitz
  • “The Crimson Queen,” Estefania Martinez-Sobral Olyslager
  • “It Is the End and They Have Died,” Mayaan Ram
  • “Visitation,” Kaydance Rice
  • “Dead and Living Birds,” Ulyana Sharapova
  • “Preserve,” Mya Sinclair
  • “The Light Whispers,” Alexis Washington
  • “The Tale of Creusa,” Keira Watters
  • “The Color Merchant,” Grace Yan

First Place: “The Shopkeeper,” Brian Chan

“The Shopkeeper” serves as a rumination on who and what we come from. It is a story which centers place, ancestry, names, and colors worth carrying. Ram finds vibrancy in the ordinary as he becomes newly acquainted with Violet, the neighborhood’s new shop owner. Amidst the bells which signal the shop’s opening and closing doors, the two find moments of resonance, curiosity, and joy. This is a gorgeous, lyrical tale which, like the greatest stories do, grows deep rather than wide.

Second Place: “Sweet Corn,” Cathleen Balid

“Sweet Corn” is a story which explores self-discovery through utter fascination. Mari is a girl who knows what she wants. Kit, the story’s extremely observational narrator, is drawn to Mari for this reason among others. The author connects the dynamic relationships brought on by girlhood with human connection to the natural world through vivid, surprising, and imaginative language. This story exemplifies the beauty and wisdom that comes only with seeing another person deeply, deeply, deeply. 

Third Place: “Window View,” Isabelle Wei

What lives inside a window? Not only is “Window View” littered with poetic language and rich metaphor, the author also utilizes nontraditional form to mirror the breakdown of the story’s emotional content brilliantly. Our narrator zooms in on the small [the obscene red of a strawberry donut], in order to examine the very large [broken family]. The reader is initially drawn to the page for wildly imaginative description and stays for the many profound questions this story asks. 

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

  • “Two Trees,” Joonas Elo
  • “The Meaning of Life and Other Lies,” Avi Goldberg
  • “Cosmos,” Siri Iagnemma
  • “On the River,” Jane Laurence
  • “Through 1400,” Jessie Leitzel
  • “The Vanishing Point,” Jessica Li
  • “Aftertaste,” Sophie Lin
  • “Conversations at the End of the World,” Merrik Moriarty
  • “Dead angels on the way to work,” Angela Xu
  • “Before You Die, Here’s a Star,” Chelsea Zhu

First Place: “I Survived: Hawaii Wildfires 2023,” Tori Elliot

This harrowing piece, based on the writer’s real-life experience, has a good balance of dialogue, place as a character, compelling story, point of view and “voice” – that distinctive thing that shows a writer’s unique perspective.

Second Place: “Identity,” Keira Hammond

The writer tells a good story from an oft-ignored perspective using dialogue, conflict, a core question, and resolution in a way that gives power to their viewpoint.

Third Place: “In the City of Smiles,” Vincent Butas

This story takes the reader to another place. While dialogue is sparse, the author’s keen eye was key to understanding and awareness. Use of two languages with detailed definitions provides cultural context. Research and reporting add detail and context.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

  • “The Purple Dinosaur,” Amelia Barney
  • “The Other Family,” Izabella Blanco
  • “Transverse,” Tae Esperanza Cooper
  • “How to Rationalize a Potential Crime,” Iliana Demas
  • “The Shooting Hour,” Thomas Evans
  • “Connecting Myself to Yun Dong-ju’s Final Poem,” Daniel Han
  • “Stinky Fish,” Grace Huang
  • “Whispers in the Wall,” Aubrey Kajikawa
  • “Shooting Stars,” Cassiopeia Mitova
  • “Something More…,” Neha M.
  • “From Heaven to Hell,” Gianna Ostrovski
  • “In Guns, Who Trusts?,” Christopher Schwarting
  • “Innocence,” Jiho Shin
  • “The Further South You Go, The More Depressing It Is: Što Južnije To Tužnije,” Téa Vukosavljević
  • “Running To and Fro,”Zinnia Wu

First Place: “Little Peasant Boy,” William Owens

Imagine how medieval children might react to a time traveler bringing them a box of Froot Loops. What more do you need to know about why this is clearly going to be a lot of fun to play? With its provocative and funny writing and its so-simple-they’re-barely-rules rules system, this game inspires the imagination with a silly scenario that forces you to think about serious consequences. 

Second Place: “Pizza Rats,” Thaddeus Smilevski

A premise that immediately grabbed my attention: play as different kinds of rats trying to make an impression in the big city.  If you like rat-based puns (and I do!) the rules are a delight to read and the card-based system is elegant and easy to learn.

Third Place: “Kiwi RPG,” Sam Hughes

Despite its cute premise of playing as adorable kiwi birds, in fact this is a grim game of survival. It does a good job of creating a set of mechanics that mirror the hardscrabble life of a bird foraging for food while trying to avoid predators.

2023 Winners 

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

First place: “Time to Remodel” by Riona Duncan
A wonderful micro game about trying to deal with a less than totally helpful home AI. The premise is strong and instantly recognizable, and the elegant playing card mechanic for determining how the house does or (more likely) does not do what’s asked of it is great. The decision to limit the number of words used in the requests is very clever, and the player creation noun/adjective passing player creation systems adds another fun layer of interaction that resonates with the central theme of feeling out of control.

Second place: “Road Into Dawns” by Hunter Cornell
This tightly designed microgame of supernatural punk bands trying to make it big on the road does an excellent job squeezing theme and mechanics into every sentence of the rules. The core character attributes are perfectly thematic, and the way the system then pairs them with modifiers from the Instruments and Supernatural gives a wonderful variety of combinations. The three-part GM tables of Setting, Need, and Problem are all spot-on prompts for creating an immediately fun role-playing session that’s simple to play. Rock on!

Third place: “Reminisce: A Game of Leaving the Nest” by David Fadem
A family-dynamic spin on the social deduction game, the core concept of parents trying to figure out what is really going on with their children is immediately relatable. The “children” working together to create a set of unique memories that the “parents” must then match by only asking questions about the future is brilliant. The playing of the game itself is the reward, making for a structured but potentially moving cooperative storytelling experience.

Honorable Mentions:

In alphabetical order by game title

  • “Backstabbing Besties” by Kallena Burroughs
  • “Between the Trees” by Mya Tacey
  • “One More Step: The Paranormal Doctor” by Richard Vu
  • “One Step” by Viola Torres-Cardoso – Xochitl Torres-Cardoso
  • “Sleepless Tomorrow” by David Andino
  • “Tomorrow Con” by Dalton Meador
  • “Win Your Future” by Kimberly Duarte

2022 Winners

First Place: “Seashells” by Miliana Walton, The Webb School (TN)
This illustrated short story exemplifies the interdisciplinary spirit both Ringling and the Creative Writing Program strive to achieve. The layered simplicity of a young woman’s trip to the beach and poignant conversations with some of the ocean’s most essential objects delves into the fulfillment and emptiness of brief spiritual connections.  

Second Place: “The Magician” by Fiona Lu, Hillsdale High School (CA)
From its memorable opening line to its fantastical conclusion, this short story masterfully combines magical realism with a gritty, pulp-like sensibility, reinforcing the very human need to take risks when exploring the mysteries of our world and beyond. 

Third Place: “Geidmann’s Quintessential, All-Complete Zoo” by Kylie Wang, Campolindo High School (CA)
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to go to an intergalactic zoo, this is the story to take you there. The rich, detailed descriptions lull the reader into a welcomed trance, making the surprise ending all the more powerful. 

Honorable Mentions:
(in alphabetical order)

  • “Eraser Marks” by Emma Alexander, Wantagh High School (NY)
  • “Project Memory” by Abigail Cushman, Westborough High School (MA)
  • “The Kraken” by Bailey Fouraker, Florida Virtual School (FL)
  • “Pindrops of Scarlet” by Caroline Grier, John Jay High School (NY)
  • “Holiday Barbie” by Tien Hoang, J.R. Tucker High School (VA)
  • “Sights of the Eye” by Abby Hwang, Notre Dame High School (NJ)
  • “The Library of Rejections” by Serafina Hwang, Northgate High School (CA)
  • “Angel Graves” by Skylar Maranto, Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts and Technology (VA)
  • “Self Defense” by Joey Qi, Lowell High School (CA)
  • “Misfire” by Ulyana Sharapova, Magic Castle School (Russia)
  • “The Hall of Mirrors” by Alexandra Volkova, Bergen County Academies (NJ)
  • “Untitled Document” by Daria Volkova, New Trier High School (IL)
  • “Quicksand” by Bill Yang, Germantown Friends School (PA)

First Place: “Save Face” by Madeline Chun, The Hockaday School (TX)
This chilling first-person tale plunges the protagonist into a pool of raw honesty, allowing the reader to wade side-by-side in the deep seas of complex parental relationships.  The author harnesses a rare boldness seen only in fine storytelling and surprises the reader with moments of gobsmacking detail. 

Second Place: “Writing Myanmar” by Matt Hsu, San Francisco University High School (CA)
Experimental in form, this lyrical and captivating collection of vignettes follows a young Burmese poet as he attempts to make sense of daily life in the world around him with a family who is oceans away.  

Third Place: “Lists, Brunettes, and Poptarts” by Jordan Shaevitz, Princeton High School (NJ)
Deftly weaving between second and third-person point of view, this story packs a punch in its simplicity.  The author is a minimalist in style and a powerhouse in emotion as they commission their main character to embark on a sincere yet frank quest for truth and origin. 

Honorable Mentions:
(in alphabetical order)

  • “Congratulations” by Ruby Arthur (NYC)
  • “What It Means to Be Living” by Shem Brown, The Kinkaid School (TX)
  • “Vines” by ChiaYu Chou, Shanghai SMIC Private School (China)
  • “Things She Told Me” by Anna Ferris, Fox Chapel Area High School (PA)
  • “For You Alone” by Tony Foote, Cheney High School (WA)
  • “Flight” by Sophia Hall, Holton Arms (MD)
  • “Why Birds Crash into Windows” by Natalie Hampton, Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (TX)
  • “Diet Mountain Dew” by Jenny Hu, Seven Hills School (OH)
  • “Every Room” by Miceala Morano, Haas Hall Academy at the Jones Center (AR)
  • “Mother” by Sakshi Umrotkar, Mission San Jose High School (CA)

First Place: “Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in Quantum Mechanics” by Samantha Liu, Ridge High School (NJ)
Rhetorically rich and sophisticated in its structure, this account of the troubled relationship between two siblings brims with heart, humor, and melancholy.

Second Place: “Saturn Devouring his Child” by Jenny Hu, Seven Hills School (OH)
The author engages the senses in a way that is both beautiful and unsettling, and their deft use of allusion adds a brightness to the piece, keeping the tone serious without feeling heavy. 

Third Place: “lowercase moments” by Lucille Elliott, Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts and Technology (VA)
In language as unassuming as its title suggests, this short piece doesn’t flinch in its examination of the effects of grief on a family.

Honorable Mentions:
(in alphabetical order)

  • “stories from the street that raised me” by Emma Jade Cantrell, A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts (FL)
  • “Handiwork of a Lazy Priest” by Travis Cooper, Sequoia Choice Arizona Distance Learning (AZ)
  • “I Am From…” by Sade Copeland, Leon High School (FL)
  • “Cougar” by Avery Gendler, Interlochen Arts Academy (MI)
  • “The Buddha’s Belly” by Sophia Hall, Holton Arms (MD)
  • “The Last Indian” by Pranav Mukund, Greenhill School (TX)
  • “The Problem with Peace and Birds” by Brooke Nind, Westlake High School (CA)
  • “Daily Lives With Cognitive Biases” by Ayla Holland, Palmetto High School (FL)
  • “A Conversation with God” by Melissa Uchegbu, Alpharetta High School (GA)
  • “Middle School Feud with Time” by Sakshi Umrotkar, Mission San Jose High School (CA)


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