SDHC Announces 2020 Veterans Story Contest

U.S. Army veteran Stephan Randall (above) of Sioux Falls won first place in the 2019 Veterans Story Contest, for his essay "Mountain Climber." Randall and other participants gathered for a Festival session in Deadwood where the winners were announced. SDHC is sponsoring the contest again in 2020. 

Submissions Accepted July 15-Aug. 15

The South Dakota Humanities Council is sponsoring a storytelling contest for veterans that will culminate with an awards ceremony at the South Dakota Festival of Books Oct. 2-4 in Brookings.

Written submissions will be accepted from July 15-Aug. 15 for the Veterans Story Contest, which is open to veterans or current service members of any branch of the United States military currently living in South Dakota.

Submissions Should Address Military Experience

Submissions should consist of new, unpublished material addressing the military experience, such as recovery or lessons learned. Individuals may submit up to 1,500 written words in any format — poetry, prose, fiction, creative nonfiction, etc. There is a limit of one submission per person. Entries must include name, address, phone and email.

During an interview with SDHC prior to his appearance at the 2017 Festival of Books in Deadwood, National Book Award-winning author Tim O'Brien said writing about war helps writers and readers find meaning in what happened.

"The word war is such an abstraction - it's almost meaningless as a word," O'Brien says. "It's not until it's something specific that it takes on any meaning, and often that's through a story."

Three finalists will be invited to the South Dakota Festival of Books in Brookings for a reading of their work by U.S. Navy veteran and 2020 Festival author Jerri Bell, who will announce the winners and hold a workshop specifically for veterans. Bell is one of many award-winning veteran authors who have appeared at the Festival of Books, which in the past has featured O'Brien and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler. Bell, the managing editor for "O-Dark-Thirty," the literary journal of the Veterans Writing Project, retired from the Navy in 2008. Her assignments included antisubmarine warfare in the Azores Islands, sea duty on USS Mount Whitney and HMS Sheffield, and attaché duty at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia.

2020 Festival of Books author Jerri Bell.

Bell a Pushcart Prize Nominee

Bell's fiction has been published in a variety of journals and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her nonfiction has been published in journals and newspapers and on blogs.

She and former Marine Tracy Crow are the co-authors of "It's My Country Too: Women's Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan" (2017, University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books).

The South Dakota Humanities Council, a statewide humanities organization that hosts the annual Festival, will ask the finalists to attend the Festival Oct. 2-4 in Brookings. Writers do not need to attend the Festival to submit work. A representative can read the author's work on the finalist's behalf.

Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place.

Stories should be submitted to:
Carolyn Marshall-Speakman
1215 Trail Ridge Rd Ste A
Brookings, SD 57006

For more information or questions, contact SDHC at 605-688-6113.

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