Veterans Story Contest

Revamped Veterans Writing Prize: Newly-Created Veterans Story Contest Concludes at 2019 Festival of Books

South Dakota State University Veterans Affairs and the South Dakota Humanities Council are sponsoring a new veterans storytelling contest that will culminate with an awards ceremony at the South Dakota Festival of Books Oct. 4-6 in Deadwood. While similar to the Veterans Writing Prize program conducted by SDHC in 2016 and 2017, the Veterans Story Contest features a new partnership with SDSU and a dual submission format allowing participants to submit 3-5 minute oral stories recorded on video or written stories of up to 1,500 words (past contests accepted written submissions only).

Submissions were accepted from May 10-August 15 for the Veterans Story Contest, which was open to veterans or current service members of any branch of the United States military currently living in South Dakota.

A USA flag rests against the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

A U.S. flag rests against the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. SDHC has partnered with SDSU for a veterans storytelling contest open to veterans or current service members of any branch of the United States military currently living in South Dakota. 

Submissions Must Be New, Unpublished

Submissions should consist of new, unpublished material addressing the military experience, such as recovery or lessons learned. Individuals were to submit either a three- to five-minute video or up to 1,500 written words in any format — poetry, prose, fiction, creative nonfiction, etc. Entries will be judged on content, not the production quality of videos or the technical quality of written content.

"There are many benefits for veterans to share their story through creative writing or any other humanities driven experience that can encourage healing, release or support others," said Connie Johnson, coordinator for Veterans Affairs at SDSU. Johnson is also the lone female Purple Heart recipient in North and South Dakota.

Three Finalists in Each Category Invited to Festival

Three finalists in each category, written and video, will be invited to the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood for a reading/showing of their work by U.S. Army veteran and author Brian Turner, who will announce the winners and hold a workshop specifically for veterans. Turner is one of many award-winning veteran authors who have appeared at the Festival of Books, which in the past has featured National Book Award winner Tim O'Brien and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler.

The South Dakota Humanities Council, a statewide humanities organization that hosts the annual Festival, will work with the finalists to support their attendance at the Festival Oct. 5 in Deadwood.  

Each category winner receives a cash prize of $500, second, $300; and third, $200. In addition, every veteran who submits a story receives one free ticket to Turner's writing workshop Oct. 4 in Deadwood.

For more information or questions, contact Johnson at or (605) 688-4700.

Past SDHC Veterans Contests

In 2016 and 2017, the South Dakota Humanities Council hosted the Veterans Writing Prize for military veterans and current service members who resided in South Dakota. Entries were accepted in multiple genres—poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction—with the winning authors presenting their work at the annual South Dakota Festival of Books. The Veterans Writing Prize attracted more than 50 submissions during its two years, with works representing many South Dakota communities and several branches of the U.S. military.

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." The award that year was presented by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Robert Olen Butler. Both essays will continue to be hosted on the South Dakota Humanities Council blog archives.

SDHC is excited about the new partnership with SDSU for the Veterans Story Contest and the opportunity to further encourage South Dakota Veterans and current service members to tell their stories. 

Event Calendar

11:30 am | Yankton Hillcrest Golf and Country Club
7:30 pm | Spearfish Senior Center
9:00 am | Lake Area Technical Institute
11:00 am | Warren M. Lee Center for Fine Arts, Colton Recital Hall