Winners of Monroe Writes Contest announced

The winners of the first “Monroe Writes” project have been announced. These three writers will be recognized this upcoming Monday, Nov. 4, from 5:30-6:30 at the Monroe-Walton Center for the Arts. In addition to the winners being recognized, Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, UGA professor of World Literature and author of four books, will be giving a reading from her work. The evening will begin with an announcement of the winners of the Monroe Writes! contest and a brief reading from the winning pieces, and it will conclude with a short Q & A with the Cahnmann-Taylor. Books will be available for sale, and there will be catering!

The award in the teen category in the Monroe Writes project went to “Lovey Dovey Poem,” by Clarissa Wright.
“This poem, and the illustrations that go along with it, is exuberant and playful. I chose it because I loved the confidence in the writing, especially in the rhymes, which, even when they’re describing fights, are joyful. My favorite couplet is, “I held him by his great chest fluff/And shouted ‘Stay away, rough stuff,'” said Jessica Hudgins, founder of the Georgia Writers Project.
Lovey-Dovey Poem / Clarissa Wright – PlushParty Fan (These are two pages of the 10 in the full poem)
Beth Dawkins, a judge in the adult category, chose two poems.
“Sending out a piece of writing to be judged isn’t easy. It takes both courage and commitment. We had so many wonderful entries and it wasn’t easy to make a decision. The pieces I picked used lush detail to expose quiet yet powerful moments,” Dawkins said, commenting the following on “The Secret Name,” by Laura Templeton. “Out of all the submissions this story kept coming back to me. The details in the piece painted a picture of not just the setting, but also the characters. It depicted real-life issues with an emotional punch.”

The Secret Name / Laura Templeton

Only Angelo is stupid enough to take a job bussing tables at a place called the California Café. Plopped smack dab in the middle of Brunswick, Georgia, the restaurant has the lopsided look of a place doomed to fail.

“What’s wrong with it?” Angelo chews a veggie burger and wipes tomato guts off his fingers.

Peeled-paint walls. Cobwebbed windows littered with bug carcasses. Sticky plastic tablecloths. That’s what. 

“People here don’t eat avocado sandwiches.” I’ve only been in town a month, but I know Brunswickians eat fried chicken and shrimp that pop like ripe grapes in your mouth. “Only three percent of Americans are vegetarians.”


“So why didn’t you get a job at a steak house?”

“I got a job where I could find one. Besides, we get free food.”

“Over three thousand jobs were created in Georgia last month. Surely you can find one somewhere else.”

Angelo doesn’t appreciate my factoids. I’ve learned this since we left L.A. two months ago. Angelo put a continent between him and the crime he committed. I suspect he’d like to hop on one of the ships that slide through the river and lengthen that by an ocean.

“Did you know salt marshes produce more food than cornfields? Tons of stuff lives in them.” I haven’t seen the marshes yet. 

“Don’t you have summer homework?”

I shrug. Little Women is in my backpack, but I’d rather surf the web on Angelo’s laptop.
I was zipping that very backpack when Angelo signed me out of fifth period science class. We were crossing into Arizona before I wised up. 

“You’re kidnapping me.”

“I’m rescuing you, Kara. I promised your dad I’d take care of—”

“I want to go home. I want Muffin.” 

I repeated these words each time we crossed a state line. I said them in Houston where I lost my name after Angelo bought papers saying he was legal and I was his daughter. I was still saying them when he signed in as A. Muñoz at the shoebox-looking hotel in Brunswick. I cried when a yellow cat slinked behind the dumpster by our room. Mom was so strung out she couldn’t remember to feed me. She’d never notice Muffin fading away to skinny-kitty nothingness. 

Now, Angelo looks almost happy, chewing his fake burger. “It’s okay here. We’ll buy a shrimp boat maybe. What do you say? Call it La Sobrina Loca.”

That sounds like something Dad would have said. I almost laugh. “The Crazy Niece? You’re the one who’s crazy, Angelo…” I point a carrot stick at him. “Peniche.” I whisper our forbidden name to remind us who we are. 

Angelo frowns. 

I look away. “I want to go—” But the word “home” cracks open in my head like an egg. “I want…to see the marshes.”

 So we do. I stand on their black-mud lip and imagine myself the figurehead on a shrimp boat, Spanish moss trailing like tears from my hair. I skim over water that feeds ten-thousand jillion things. 

Dawkins also chose “More / Better / Beautiful,” by Kaitlin Smith:
“When I first read this poem I was struck by the details of the garden. I could feel the cool soil in my hands and see the gray sky. It captures an emotion at the turning of autumn that is both captivating and nostalgic,” she said. “I hope everyone here will enjoy these pieces as much as I did.”
More / Better / Beautiful by Kaitlin Smith

October wind whispers around the garden, bare in new birth. Daisies and calla lilies wait quietly in their lush green cribs for the old day to turn new. I sit in the middle, hands in tempered soil, admiring the soft gray of the sky. Nothing speaks to me like silence. The old me is buried, but I still carry her heart. Somewhere, the sun is opening up its warmth to the cold of the season. I am not more than I was before, but the daisies don’t seem to mind. The language between us has changed after all, shifted into a gentler understanding. They only ask for a word or a gaze. As I do, with you. Maybe we’re something different. Maybe the soil will cleanse away the impurities we held on to for so long. A better world is a dream, but I see arugula thriving in the distance. We only have now and forever to become ourselves. A smile breaks over the robin’s beak and it flies to home. The new day has come in this little quietness of the afternoon. Catharsis is waiting.  

Beth Dawkins grew up on front porches in Good Hope, Ga. where she turned square bales of hay into magic castles. She is the volunteer coordinator for The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. You can find her stories in Flame Tree’s Heroic Fantasy Short Stories, If This Goes On, Apex Magazine, and forthcoming in Analog.
Jessica Hudgins is the founder of Georgia Writers’ Project. To get involved, or to enroll your student or child in an upcoming workshop, email Jessica at

Learn more about GWP at

Monday’s reading and reception is part of the Georgia Writers’ Project at the Monroe-Walton Center for the Arts and is supported by a grant from Georgia Humanities. 

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