Young Winners Become Published Authors in EPIC's Second Annual New Voices Contest

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The first-round judges whittled the middle school and high school entries to the finalists back in November. Now, the final round is complete and the top slots have been announced, leaving 40 aspiring authors from 14 US states, Canada and Singapore celebrating their wins with friends and family.

It started out as a normal day for Leah Bernhardson, winner of the Award of Excellence in the Middle School Short Story category. "When I opened the email, I screamed and started jumping up and down. Then, I started shouting the news throughout my house. It turned my day from typical to memorable." That is happening not only for Leah, but also for 39 other lucky winners in the EPIC New Voices Contest 2007.

EPIC, The Electronically Published Internet Connection, established the contest in 2005, awarding the first group of winners in 2006. Open to middle school and high school students around the world, whether home-schooled or attending public or private schools, each student is permitted to enter one work in each of his age-level categories (essay, short story and poetry).

Like most publishing industry organizations, literacy is a concern for EPIC. Thus, the contest is designed to aid in literacy, educate about e-books and give positive feedback and reward for excellence in writing.

The feedback comes in the form of written comments on all entries, made by the industry judges (authors, editors and publishers) and returned to the entrants by the contest coordinator, Lillie Ammann. The rewards include publication of the winning works in a free e-book (offered on EPIC's site) and print versions (which are sold at cost to winners), as well as prizes for the students. Since there is no entry fee for this contest, all prizes are donated by industry professionals or underwritten by EPIC itself.

And, the encouragement seems to be working. When she learned she was a Grand Prize winner, chosen as one of two first place winners to stand as the top writers of the year, Riya Madan commented, "This achievement will encourage me to come back to participate in the future EPIC and other writing competitions. I am sure I will be able to do even better the next time I participate in this competition." That is just the sort of dedication to craft EPIC had hoped to spark with the contest.

Teachers have caught on and are using this as part of their classroom curriculum, as the New Voices committee had hoped they would. Hence, there are schools that final children two years in a row like Kellogg Middle School in Rochester, MN, students who enter year after year like four-time finalist Alan Zhu, and groups of students who have entered classroom projects like the winning group from Drake Middle School in Arvada, CO.

But, EPIC doesn't stop there. They offer a free CD, which contains information for classroom teachers on not only the New Voices Contest, but also on using e-books in the classroom, advanced web searches for the kids, free self-editing programs and more. States Brenna Lyons, EPIC President, "If the kids get frustrated, they give up. That's the last thing a teacher wants, and the last thing a publishing industry professional wants. We both have the same aims. We want to raise strong readers, strong writers...and most of all, we want to raise informed individuals that know how to research and are confident enough to voice their thoughts and beliefs in an intelligent manner."

Marlene Koch, 3rd place winner in Middle School Poetry, sums it up pretty well. "I see this as an awesome opportunity for me and all other young, aspiring authors and poets. I'm so excited to learn that there are other kids out there who enjoy writing and that they can meet at the e-Fiesta!"

What is e-Fiesta? What does that have to do with the winners? All New Voices winners are invited to the e-Fiesta, a combination party and educational event about e-books and e-publishing, held in conjunction with EPIC's annual convention, EPICon. This year's e-Fiesta will be held Saturday, March 10th (the height of "Read an e-Book Week") at the Surfside Inn in Virginia Beach, VA. e-Fiesta is free to the public and to the winners.

The winners that want to attend and can do so get a chance to meet industry professionals face-to-face, receive their awards from EPIC personally and get to sign copies of their winning anthology for the crowd. Last year's attending winners, Jacy Eggum and Jennifer Strom, stated that the signing and the feedback forms were their most treasured memories of the New Voices Contest.

For those who cannot attend the e-Fiesta, life still holds the best. EPIC sends the non-attendee winners their prizes. In addition, their schools often hold an assembly to recognize their winners, especially once the free print copy for the school library arrives. Winners' libraries often keep a signed copy of the anthology on hand.

This year's New Voices winners are...


"Life is a Journey" by Riya Madan (MS Poetry)

"Empty Existence" by Julie Crippen (HS Short Story)


1st- "My Grandpa" by Caleb Targgart (Blackhawk Christian School)

2nd- "A Life Changing Experience" by Nathaniel Robison (Blackhawk Christian School)

3rd- "Citizenship in America" by Ishtpreet Singh (Kellogg Middle School)

Award of Excellence- "Nothing But Net Isn't Always A Good Thing" by Jacob Brauner (Blackhawk Christian School)

Honorable Mention- "2004 Mission Trip" by Patrick Ward (Blackhawk Christian School)


1st- "The Return of The Dragon" by Evelina Knodel (Kellogg Middle School)

2nd- "Rushing With Leslie" by J. Schumacher, A. Parkhurst, E. Ford and R. Snyder (Drake Middle School)

3rd- "Night's Outcast" by Sarah Riedel (North Scott Junior High)

Award of Excellence- "Letting Go" by Leah Bernhardson (Home-schooled)

Honorable Mention- "Goodbye Easter" by Carolyn Shanks (Pleasant Valley Junior High)

Honorable Mention- "The Adventures of Ardy" by Vivek Menon (Blue Valley Middle School)

Judge's Award- "Poe at Camp" by Jacob Crosby (Ellis Middle School)

Judge's Award- "Colors of Jessica" by Lindsey Halsey (Ellis Middle School)

Judge's Award- "Suspicious Shrimp" by Elizabeth Patterson (Home-schooled)

Judge's Award- "Chance" by Priscilla Barron (Ellis Middle School)

Judge's Award- "The Acne Regime" by Eli Tobar (Leander Middle School)


1st- "Life is a Journey" by Riya Madan (Kellogg Middle School)

2nd- "Mourning Sage" by Sarah Riedel (North Scott Junior High)

3rd- "PRESSURE" by Marlene Koch (Prairie Star Middle School)

Award of Excellence- "Climbing To The Top" by Tess Cooper Hudson (Ames Middle School)

Honorable Mention- "I AM" by Carolyn Shanks (Pleasant Valley Junior High)

Honorable Mention- "The Road" by Elia Broadbooks (Ankeny Christian Academy)

Judge's Award- "The Cure for Corruption" by Evelina Knodel (Kellogg Middle School)

Judge's Award- "The Power" by Christina Onken (Allamakee Junior High)

Judge's Award- "The Two Faces of Christmas" by MaLee Crouch (Hallsville Middle School)


1st- "An Unappreciated Wonder" by Alethia Chiang (Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute)

2nd- "The Advancement of Declination" by Alan Zhu (International School)

3rd- "Mastery of Mind and Soul" by Megan McGuire (North High School)

Award of Excellence- "A Mari Usque Ad Mare" by James Barron (W.P. Wagner)


1st- "Empty Existence" by Julie Crippen (Folsom High School)

2nd- "Resting In Peace" by Megan McGuire (North High School)

3rd- "Lovely Tiffany" by Courtney Kauling (Father Leo J. Austin C.S.S.)

Award of Excellence- "La Concorde" by Nash Riggins (Free State High School)


1st- "We" by Kesi Augustine (Bard High School)

2nd- "Just One Tear" by Jamie Solberg (Filmore Central)

3rd- "Cancer" by Ally Zimmerman (Vista Ridge High School)

Award of Excellence- "Renewing Rain" by Sarah Hayes (Mayo High School)

Honorable Mention- "Paradox" by Alan Zhu (International School)

Honorable Mention- "Q&A" by Logan W. Howard (Daniel High School)

Judge's Award- "Sleeping Beauty" by Sharon Hoosein (Kent Place School)

Judge's Award- "SHADOW" by Kristin Bong Jen-I (Methodist Girls Secondary)

Judge's Award- "My Dad, Mom, Family, and Country" by P. Brent Cantrell (West Hall High School)


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