2021 Veterans Story Contest Winner Announced

Pictured above is an honoring ceremony held at the 2017 South Dakota Festival of Books for a Veterans event. The South Dakota Festival of Books typically includes a Veterans writing component, including the annual Veterans Story Contest.

William Ellingson Wins First Prize for 'Wars Spawn Generations of Sacrifice'

The South Dakota Humanities Council is proud to announce the winner of the 2021 Veterans Story Contest, held in conjunction with the Virtual 2021 South Dakota Festival of Books Sept. 18-Oct. 10.

The contest, created for veterans to process war experiences through storytelling, called for entries from current or past service members who live in South Dakota.

The 2021 winner is William Ellingson of Flandreau, who served in the United States Marine Corp Reserves from February 1968 through March 1970. Ellingson wrote the winning entry on behalf of Second Lt. Robert K. Thompson, who served in the U.S. Army and was killed in action Feb. 12, 1951 in South Korea.

Click below to read Ellingson's story "Wars Spawn Generations of Sacrifice."

Army Veteran, Author Halloran Presents Awards

In second place was Stephen Randall for “Crop Duster,” while James Anderson garnered third place for “Bringing Walter Home.”

U.S. Army Veteran and 2021 Festival presenter Colin D. Halloran presented the awards during a special Virtual 2021 South Dakota Festival of Books ceremony. Halloran also conducted a writing workshop for veterans and a presentation about writing trauma. Halloran is an award-winning author who documented his combat experiences in Afghanistan in his memoir-in-verse Shortly Thereafter, which won the 2012 Main Street Rag Poetry Books Award and was named a Massachusetts Must-Read Book.

He has also published the poetry collections Icarian Flux and American Etiquette, along with many essays and short stories. When not writing, Halloran leads workshops that seek to promote personal and international healing and reconciliation through writing and the arts.

More About Veterans Writing Contests, Past and Present

Participants in the 2021 contest submitted unpublished poetry, prose, fiction, and creative nonfiction; 2021 marks the fifth year of the South Dakota Humanities Council’s Veterans Story Contest.

James R. Teller won the 2016 Veterans Writing Prize for his essay "The Reunion." The prize that year was presented by Ron Capps, creator of the Veterans Writing Project. Robert Speirs won the 2017 Veterans Writing Prize for his essay "A Prayer for Brian Bradley" with his award presented by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Robert Olen Butler. Butler, National Book Award winner Tim O’Brien and many other acclaimed veterans have appeared at the Festival of Books and assisted with veterans writing projects.

In 2019, Stephan Randall was declared the winner for his essay "Mountain Climber." Acclaimed author and Iraq War Veteran Brian Turner presented Randall with his prize. The 2020 winner was Jill Baker for her first-place poetry collection, "The Trigger Collection.” U.S. Navy Veteran Jerri Bell, an author, editor, and instructor with the Veterans Writing Project, presented Baker’s prize.

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