meet the author

Woman in green sweater smiling looking into camera

What Remains Unspoken Writing Contest

By Jamie Lynn Heller
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Feb 15, 2024

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Jamie Lynn Heller has won our writing contest on the theme What Remains Unspoken with her piece "What I meant when I said, 'I'll remember you'."

Jamie Lynn Heller’s book Buried in the Suburbs was published in 2018 (Woodley Press) and received the 2019 Kansas Notable Book Award. Her chapbook Domesticated : Poetry From Around the House was published in 2015 (Finishing Line Press). She has 90+ poems published in literary journals and magazines (for a complete list of publications see jamielynnheller.blogspot.com).

What I meant when I said, ‘I’ll

Dark-haired woman in a denim shirt looking at camera

Mind Changes Writing Contest

By Sharon Beck-Doran
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Jan 5, 2024

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Sharon Beck-Doran has won our writing contest on the theme Mind Changes with her piece "Lights, Camera, Consent: How Women in Film Are Changing Our Minds About Sex."

Sharon Beck-Doran writes about faith and sexuality for her blog and podcast titled Relevant Faith Journey. She enjoys exploring ideas from a different perspective and invites her readers to join her in thinking deeper so that we might become better humans.

Lights, Camera, Consent: How Women in Film Are Changing Our Minds About Sex

In August of 2023, a monumental thing happened: Barbi

young woman smiling with chin in hands long dark hair looking directly into the camera

Mind Changes Writing Contest

By Ruth Wu
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Oct 25, 2023

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Ruth Wu has won our writing contest on the theme Mind Changes with her piece "Driving Lessons."

Ruthie Wu is a '22 graduate from Wheaton College (IL) and a full-time paraoptometric technician. Ruthie has written a play, Under the Table, performed by KC Public Theatre in May 2023, a children's book, Kitty Learns a New Lesson, available for preorder on Duck Duck Books, a song, Alongside You in collaboration with Dash Reimer, which is available on all streaming platforms, and her artwork, Cycle Views, is on exhibit in the Central Resource Branch

white woman with long grey hair in a blue plaid sleeveless shirt

All Together Now Contest Winner

By Ann Pai
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Sep 19, 2023

Joy at the Green Guitar

Two hundred or so folks, we
don't much know each other.
We're here for Joy,

for her live singing and guitar.
The first notes drip from her fingers
and we sigh like a water dipper's
lifted to our lips. We're one room now:
listening.

Joy's voice rises like
biscuits in the oven as day
sings to darkness. Her light
goes everywhere.

Her hands on the guitar
untie the knots in us. Her song
sorts the loose strands of us,
begins to knit us back together,

a blanket made of each other.
We’re enfolded snug,
in last rippling notes, applause,
gifts of gratitude, a next tune,
friends, neighbors, community

smiling woman with long red curly hair and a bluish green sweater

All Together Now Contest Winner

By Lindsey Weishar
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Sep 7, 2023

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Lindsey Weishar has won our writing contest on the theme All Together Now with her piece "To Get Her."

Lindsey Weishar holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is a contributor to a variety of outlets including Verily magazine, The Pitch, and the Ploughshares blog. Her chapbook, Matchbook Night, was published by Leaf Press (Canada) in 2018.

To get her

My sister’s nerves were disturbed by COVID
so I drove from Illinois to Kansas to get her.
The trick, said the red-headed girl
in my second-grade class, is to

bald man with glasses in long sleeved shirt looking pensive

Cycles Writing Contest Winner

By Steve Brisendine
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
May 4, 2023

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Steve Brisendine has won our writing contest on the theme of Cycles with his piece "Cyclone/cyclic."

Steve Brisendine is a writer, poet, occasional artist and recovering journalist living and working in Mission, Kansas. His most recent collections are Salt Holds No Secret But This (Spartan Press, 2022) and To Dance with Cassiopeia and Die (Alien Buddha Press, 2022). His work has also appeared in journals and anthologies including Modern Haiku, Flint Hills Review, Aji and Connecticut River Review. He holds no degrees, several longstanding

headshot blond woman smiling

Cycles Writing Contest Winner

By Claire McMurray
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Apr 12, 2023

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Claire McMurray has won our writing contest on the theme of Cycles with her piece "In And Out of Our Lives."

Claire is a former academic who now writes about special needs parenting. You can her find posts, articles, and winning non-fiction essays on her blog, I Don't Know How You Do It (www.idontknowhowyoudoit.org).

In and Out of Our Lives

My daughter, JJ, has a rare progressive genetic disorder. It has taken away her ability to speak, walk on her own, or use her hands in a purposeful way. She also struggles with epilepsy, eats through a feeding

Young smiling woman with long curly hair parted in middle in a white shirt and dark jacket

Cycles Writing Contest Winner

By Theresa Kopper
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Mar 30, 2023

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Theresa Kopper has won our writing contest on the theme of Cycles with her piece "Someone Forgotten."

I am just beginning my creative writing quest. I write as a hobby, in between taking care of my two children, and working as an environmental engineer. This story is about the harmful cycle of beauty, and how it impacts those most vulnerable. As well as, how our society rewards those who continue this cycle.

Someone Forgotten

It was small reminders, really— like how in groups, when someone tells a joke and people lock eyes and laugh, no one looks

smiling woman with shoulder length grey hair in a blue short sleeved top with one hand in her jeans pocket

Cycles Writing Contest Winner

By Lori Stratton
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Mar 1, 2023

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Lori Stratton has won our writing contest on the theme of Cycles with her piece "Seasons."

Lori Stratton is a high school English teacher, writer, mother, grandmother, wife, and daughter. Find more of her work on Medium at https://medium.com/@ljstratton50, and at lorijstratton.com.

Seasons

I appreciate the way the seasons melt together

and the way we never really know where

one starts and another ends

or which one comes first in the cycle.

The way March’s green first peeps

then shoots through

February’s remaining muddy white.

The way late

smiling black woman with glasses and a yellow and black checkered shirt in front of a book case

Ekphrasis Contest Winner

By Sandra Revelle
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Jan 23, 2023

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Sandra Revelle has won our writing contest on the theme of Ekphrasis with her piece "Diamonds." "Diamonds" is a written response to the image of Ruth Wilson Gilmore by Patricia Streeper which can be seen in "Patricia Streeper: Women's Work, Portraits of Strength and Contribution."

Sandra Revelle is primarily a textile artist and short story writer. Her art can be found at Remnantsarise.com

Diamonds

You ask why I stand with head erect; arms crossed in defiant confidence?

What kind of shields cascade down my body, these locs of redeeming

blond woman with shoulder length hair and glasses in a jean jacket with red shirt with field and sky behind

Ekphrasis Contest Winner

By Heather G. Taylor
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Jan 13, 2023

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Heather G. Taylor has won our writing contest on the theme of Ekphrasis with her piece "The Pieces."

Heather G. Taylor is a life-long fan of poetry. Her greatest poetry-related achievements include meeting former US Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser, and winning $5 in a dental-themed poetry contest. But she doesn't like to brag. She lives in Olathe, Kansas, with her husband, Rion, and their Golden Retriever, Jasper.

The Pieces
Inspired by Patti Streeper’s Ruth Wilson Gilmore

We are each our own puzzle.
Framed by our circumstances,
And missing so

Curly-haired blond woman with glasses, hands folded in front of her, looking pensive

Ekphrasis Writing Contest Winner

By Vicki Kohl
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Dec 12, 2022

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Vicki Kohl has won our writing contest on the theme of Ekphrasis with her piece "I Am Become a Name."

Vicki Kohl is a retired high school English and journalism teacher. Much of her writing for 30+ years were comments to students on their writing, letters of recommendation and emails. She did have an essay on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" win recognition from the Jane Austen Society of North America several years ago, so there's that. And she wrote the Olathe Community Theater's newsletter for several years. Other than that, she's

blonde bearded man in ball cap and blue shirt with baby in a backpack holding a feather

Oceans of Possibility Writing Contest Winner

By Ian James Fannin-Hughes
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Sep 17, 2022

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Ian James Fannin-Hughes has won our writing contest on the theme of Oceans of Possibility with his piece "All You Wanted Was the Ocean."

Ian is an environmental scientist, grower of too much okra, father of human children, and an aspiring fiction writer from the Kansas side of the Blue River Watershed.

All You Wanted Was the Ocean

You wouldn't shut up about the ocean, either of you.

Long before we set the trip in stone, before we showed either of you on a map, before you understood that the ocean was horizon-spanning, endless water. You

smiling woman with long strawberry blond hair in a blue sleevless top

Oceans of Possibility Writing Contest Winner

By Amber Dawkins

Rated by Helen H.
Aug 17, 2022

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Amber Dawkins has won our writing contest on the theme of Oceans of Possibility with her piece "Oceans of Possibility."

Amber loves jellybeans, morning snuggles, and new adventures. Personality tests peg her as 93% extroverted. She loves to write, but most of the time, you’ll find her behind her camera lens. Amber left her teaching position in 2016 to turn her passion into a full time photography career. She now spends time photographing homes for real estate agents and creating branding imagery for businesses by capturing their spaces

dark haired girl smiling

Oceans of Possibility Writing Contest Winner

By Molly Hopkins
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Jul 22, 2022

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Molly Hopkins has won our short story writing contest on the theme of Oceans of Possibility with her piece "Dead or Alive."

Molly Hopkins is a feisty individual, who lives out adventures in her mind as there is little she can do with her body. Driven to writing due to a severe chronic illness, Molly finds purpose, intrigue, and joy in the world of her imagination and the art of storytelling. For more of her work, visit www.goldinthegray.com.

Dead or Alive

I didn’t die the day I stepped on that landmine, but I might as well have. After

Blond woman in black clothes with a white spotted dog standing in front of a lake

Oceans of Possibility Writing Contest Winner

By Marcia Hurlow
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Jun 14, 2022

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Marcia Hurlow has won our writing contest on the theme of Oceans of Possibility with her piece "On Old Silver Beach with Jane."

Marcia L. Hurlow is a poet, fiction writer and journalist. She has a full-length book of poetry, Anomie (Edges Prize, WordTech) and five award-winning chapbooks of poetry. Her individual poems have appeared in Poetry, Wax Paper, Chicago Review, Poetry South, Louisville Review, River Styx, Poetry East and others. She is co-editor of Kansas City Voices.

ON OLD SILVER BEACH WITH JANE

As a child, Jane once asked her

red-haired, smiling young man in a blue collared shirt

The Unknown Writing Contest Winner

By Jack Vandeleuv
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
May 18, 2022

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Jack Vandeleuv has won our writing contest on the theme of The Unknown with his piece "Exhibit."

Jack Vandeleuv is a longtime Kansas City resident and former employee of Johnson County Library. He has not yet published any works of fiction.

Exhibit

Natalie was uncharacteristically quiet. Her classmates stomped their feet in anticipation, but she was careful with each step, almost reverent. The hall was simply designed, with black marble walls and a high ceiling. Spherical chandeliers cast light on the sea of craning heads above her. Billy

woman with blonde bangs and red lipstick

The Unknown Writing Contest Winner

By Claire McMurray
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Apr 6, 2022

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Claire McMurray has won our essay writing contest on the theme of The Unknown with her piece "Who Is She?" 

Claire McMurray has a doctorate in French from Yale University and runs a blog about special needs parenting at: www.idontknowhowyoudoit.org.

Who Is She?

Most parents of a four-year-old know a good deal about their child—everything from favorite colors and television characters to deep-seated fears and hopes for the future. Yet I know none of these things about my four-year-old. She is our family’s mystery.

When JJ was two, the few

smiling woman with short, wavy brown hair

The Unknown Writing Contest Winner

By Molly Hopkins
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Mar 17, 2022

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Molly Hopkins has won our short story writing contest on the theme of The Unknown with her piece "Kerplunk." 

Molly Hopkins is a feisty individual, who lives out adventures in her mind as there is little she can do with her body. Driven to writing due to a severe chronic illness, Molly finds purpose, intrigue, and joy in the world of her imagination and the art of storytelling. For more of her work, visit www.goldinthegray.com.

Kerplunk

I hear a warble, which isn’t too strange. I sometimes hear blurry noises when they are loud enough. The

Picture of B.J. Hollars' book cover for Go West, Young Man. Image of car driving over a globe.

Go West, Young Man

By B.J. Hollars
Star Rating
★★★★

Rated by Hannah Jane W.
Mar 14, 2022

When I began Go West, Young Man, I was initially most excited to learn more about the Oregon Trail.  However, as I continued to read about B.J. Hollars’ road trip to retrace the Oregon Trail with his six-year-old son, Henry, I found myself enjoying their journey just as much as the history of the Oregon Trail.  Maybe even more!  Though they had a strong connection prior to their journey, B.J. and Henry’s relationship flourishes, and it’s a joy to watch them make memories together. 

Go West, Young Man is the quiet kind of adventure book I most enjoy with lots of humor, interesting stories and

Annie Newcomer.

The Unknown Writing Contest Winner

By Annie Newcomer
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Feb 22, 2022

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Annie Newcomer has won our poetry writing contest on the theme of The Unknown with her piece "The Broken Plate: a Still Life." 

When we pause and wonder, I feel that we make better decisions for our world. It is easy to believe that the beauty of nature is invincible. But I believe it is tender and needs our care and not to be taken for granted. My nephew in Brooklyn, NYC created a beautiful collection of plates for my husband and self. Each is different and each is a work of art. When he gifted them to me, he was so excited to share that

Strawberry blonde woman in a sage green sweater seated in front of a piano between a toy rocket ship and art deco vace

The Unknown Writing Contest Winner

By Marcia Hurlow
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Feb 15, 2022

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Marcia Hurlow has won our poetry writing contest on the theme of The Unknown with her piece "Lost on Callisto." 

Marcia L. Hurlow is the author of one full-length poetry collection, Anomie (winner of the Edges prize, WordTech Press) and five chapbooks. Her individual poems have appeared in Poetry, Chicago Review, Poetry Northwest, Nimrod, Poetry East, Main Street Rag, Poetry South, River Styx and The Beloit Journal, among others. She is a two-time winner of the Al Smith Fellowship for Poetry, and co-editor of Kansas City Voices.

LOST ON

Dark haired man with a beard and mustache in a grey Truman Bulldogs longsleeved shirt in the woods

The Fools Journey Writing Contest Winner

By Dan Wikiera
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Dec 17, 2021

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Dan Wikiera has won our Essay writing contest on the theme of The Fools Journey with his piece "I Am the Fool." 

Lifelong Kansas City resident. Lifelong reader. Lifelong writer. This is my first foray into public writing.

It started as a whisper. A vague notion. A desire to open my own business, be my own boss. Create something from nothing. The American ideal, like white picket fences and apple pie. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know what. Or that I didn’t have any experience. I had the desire, the work ethic. I was naïve.

I decided on

Blond Woman in glasses and pendant necklace

The Fools Journey Writing Contest Winner

By Diana Richards
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Nov 19, 2021

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Diana Richards has won our short story writing contest on the theme of The fools Journey with her piece "Cactus." 

I can't add to the millions of statements from would-be writers as to why I write, and my biography isn't all that unique either: retired, like to write, writing is hard, love the library.

Cactus

Perhaps it was a dream, she thought. Perhaps if she pinched herself, she would wake up. But she didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to stay in this dream world, where people said “Excuse me”, and “I’m sorry”, and “How are you”, and

red haired woman in green sweater with a black and white dog

Tails and Tales Writing Contest Winner

By Marcia Hurlow
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Oct 13, 2021

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Marcia Hurlow has won our open category writing contest on the theme of Tails and Tales with her piece "Olfaction." 

Marcia L. Hurlow's first full-length collection of poetry, Anomie, won the Edges Prize. She also has five chapbooks. More than 400 of her individual poems have appeared in literary magazines, including Poetry, Chicago Review, River Styx, Poetry East, Nimrod, Poetry Northwest, Stand, Cold Mountain, Zone 3 and The Journal, among others. She is co-editor of Kansas City Voices.

Olfaction

I walk behind Lucky as he leaps
through

Blond woman in a red checkered shirt with a tan cowboy hat

Tails and Tales Writing Contest Winner

By Lauren Loya
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
Sep 13, 2021

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Lauren Loya has won our essay writing contest on the theme of Tails and Tales with her piece "Call Me Cuttlefish." 

Lauren Loya is a graduate of the Literature, Language, and Writing program at the University of Kansas. Her work has been featured in Coal City Review. A Kansas City native, her favorite local haunts include the Green Lady Lounge, Stroud’s, Antioch Park, and many of the shops and eateries along 39th Street West.

You can read more of her work at https://draculauren.wordpress.com/.

Call Me Cuttlefish

She pressed the packet of

Photo of Nadine Shookman

Bodies Writing Contest Winner

By Nadine Shookman

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
May 17, 2021

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Nadine Shookman has won our open writing contest on the theme of Bodies with her piece "Oma." 

Born in Germany, Nadine Shookman lives in Overland Park with her husband Jesse and a goldendoodle named Oatmeal. She works as a catastrophe modeler and spends her free time writing, drawing, and volunteering in the community.

Oma

I remember brushing my fingertips along the inside of my great-grandmother’s wrist, struck by how different her skin felt from mine. I was around eight years old, she in her eighties. I called her “Oma,” the German word

Photo of Kaylin Salmen

Bodies Writing Contest Winner

By Kaylin Salmen

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
May 14, 2021

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Kaylin Salmen has won our open writing contest on the theme of Bodies with her piece "Self-worth." 

Kaylin is a college senior at Kansas State University studying food science. She enjoys being outside, playing dungeons and dragons with friends, and art.

Self-worth

She remarks on the scars on my body
As if they were dents left in discarded
College apartment furniture,

But these marks
can be interpreted like runes
on cuneiform tablets.

These marks are not a curse,
But a prayer.
I know because I put them there,
Along with the tattooed

Photo of Dr. Virginia Brackett

Bodies Writing Contest Winner

By Virginia Brackett

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Feb 6, 2021

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Dr. Virginia Brackett has won our poetry writing contest on the theme of Bodies with her piece "Side Effects.”

Virginia Brackett’s 16 books have been cited by the New York Public Library; the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association; Tristate Books of Note; the American Library Association, Amelia Bloomer Project; and Booklist (Editor’s Choice, Reference Sources, 2008). Her 2019 memoir, In the Company of Patriots (Sunbury Press), focuses on her father’s death in the Korean Conflict and its effect on her family. She contributed the essay

Photo of Karen Morales

Reflections on Race Contest Winner

By Karen Morales

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Jan 30, 2021

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Karen Morales has won our open writing contest on the theme of Reflections on Race with her piece "Beyond Instagram Graphics.”

Karen Morales is a high school student who is passionate about journalism.

Beyond Instagram Graphics

I am a 17-year-old Guatemalan born and raised in Kansas. One could argue that I don’t look like the typical Guatemalan or Latina. My skin color is lighter compared to the rest of my family and my green-blue eyes stand out next to my parents’ brown eyes. I have been mistaken as White multiple times at Mexican