Skip to main content

SDHC Sponsors Veterans Story Contest

June 3, 2023

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, September 22-24 in Deadwood.

August 9 is the deadline for written submissions 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Submissions should consist of new, unpublished material addressing the military experience, such as recovery or lessons learned.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. Please include a cover page with name, address, phone, email, and dates and branch of service.

Three finalists will be invited to the Festival of Books for a reading of their work. U.S. Army veteran and 2023 Festival author Brian Turner will announce the winners and hold a workshop specifically for veterans.

Turner served seven years in the U.S. Army, including one year as an infantry team leader in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to that, he was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999-2000 with the 10th Mountain Division. In his poetry and prose, Turner conveys both elegant and devastating portraits of what it means to be a soldier and a human being.

Turner’s memoir, My Life as a Foreign Country,made Powell’s Best Nonfiction of 2014 list. The book follows the experience of one soldier in one recent war, then expands to combine recollection and imagination, leaping centuries and continents to seek parallels in the histories of other men. The result is an opportunity to enter the head of a man still stalked by war, to experience conflict with new definition and lasting effect. 

Benjamin Busch called the memoir a “brilliant fever dream of war’s surreality, its lastingness, its place in families and in the fate of nations. Each sentence,” he said, “has been carefully measured, weighed with loss and vitality, the hard-earned language of a survivor who has seen the world destroyed and written it back to life.” 

Turner’s poetry books include Here, Bullet (2005) and Phantom Noise (2010), with three additional collections coming out in 2023: The Wild Delight of Wild Things, The Goodbye World Poem, and The Dead Peasant’s Handbook.

SDHC will collaborate with the finalists to support their attendance at the Festival Sept. 22-24 in Deadwood. 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:

Colby Christensen

1215 Trail Ridge Rd Ste A

Brookings, SD 57006

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

Learn more about humanities programming in South Dakota by signing up for SDHC e-Updates!