San Antonio Book Festival - 2017 Fiction Contest Winners Announced

2017 Fiction Contest Winners Announced

The San Antonio Book Festival (SABF) revealed 10 winners from among 210 entries for its annual Fiction Contest. Students in grades 7-12 were asked to put their imaginations to work and write a story dedicated to the idea of “Building Bridges.”

Ayden Reece Thoma, a 7th grader at Concordia Lutheran School, won first place in the 7th/8th grade division for his story, “All in This Together.” In the 9th/10th grade category, Brian Yancelson, a 10th grader at Alamo Heights High School, won first place with his story, “The Other Side.” Ashleigh Houff, a 12th grader at William Howard Taft High School, won first place in the 11th/12th grade category with “An Afternoon with Red Evelyn.”

Ashleigh Houff, 1st place winner, William H. Taft High School

“The submissions this year really impressed our pool of judges,” said fiction contest co-chair Mark Kimberley. “We’re proud that the quality of the stories continues to reflect a bright, talented, and creative student body in Bexar County, and we’re pleased to see the contest grow with an increase in entries this year.

SABF’s fiction contest is sponsored by the Texas Cavaliers, who provide the cash prizes for all winners, first place through third, in each of the three categories. First-place winners receive $250 for themselves and $500 for their schools, second-place winners receive $150, and third-place winners receive $100. All of the winners will also be recognized at a special awards program during the 5th annual Book Festival on April 8.

“It was my honor and privilege to read the winning stories,” said Texas Cavalier Miguel Dilley. “I was taken aback by the quality and particularly moved by Ayden’s piece, which was about kindness and charity, which is something the Cavaliers promote.”

The three first-place winners were surprised in their classrooms with balloons, flowers, and cookies by Texas Cavaliers, the students’ parents, SABF Fiction Contest co-chairs Mark Kimberley and Tracey Lammert, and SABF staff.

To view a gallery of photos and videos from the surprise visits, click here

School librarians and teachers encouraged students to submit to the contest, either assigning it as part of the curriculum or singling out creative-minded students. Virginia Bigler, the librarian at Taft High School, suggested Ashleigh submit to the contest.

“She’s a fantastic writer,” Bigler said. “I felt like she had the potential to win it.”

Dana Maresh, an English teacher at Concordia Lutheran, assigned the contest to her classroom and had three finalists: Ayden, the first-place winner; Claire Rollwitz, who tied for third place; and Elizabeth Walter, who was among the finalists announced on February 1.

“I gave them creative rein and the students really ran with it,” Maresh said.

Brian Yancelson, the 10th grade winner, learned about the contest from Gemini Ink, a local literary center that offers creative writing courses.

“Writing is Brian’s passion,” said his mother, Melody Yancelson. “I’m glad he has outlets like this contest where he can apply his talent.”

In addition to cash prizes, the three winning stories are published in the Texas Cavaliers program and the three first-place winners are offered a spot on the Cavaliers float in the River Parade during Fiesta. Whataburger also provides meals for one year to the first-place winners.  

The 5th Annual SABF will take place on Saturday, April 8, 2017 from 9 am to 5 pm at the Central Library and Southwest School of Art. It is free and open to all. The Festival draws thousands for author presentations, panel discussions, book sales and signings, recipe demonstrations, children’s and teen activities, food trucks, and a vibrant marketplace. A schedule of events will be available in March.

7th/8th Grade Division:

1st place – Ayden Reece Thoma, “All in This Together,” Concordia Lutheran School, 7th grade

2nd place – Cindy Vilchis, “Fatal Love,” Whittier Middle School, 8th grade

3rd place (tie) – Corinthian Ewesuedo, “Winter in Summer,” Keystone School, 8th grade

3rd place (tie) – Claire Rollwitz, “The Importance of Building Bridges,” Concordia Lutheran School, 7th grade

9th/10th Grade Division:


1st place – Brian Yancelson, “The Other Side,” Alamo Heights High School, 10th grade

2nd place – Mia Mercer, “Building Bridges: A Uniting Touch,” Robert G. Cole High School, 10th grade

3rd place – Jacinta Murillo, “The Color Expert,” Marshall High School, 9th grade

11th/12th Grade Division:

(L to R) Texas Cavaliers Edward Steves and Miguel Dilley, Ashleigh Houff, and Virginia Bigler, librarian at William H. Taft High School

1st place – Ashleigh Houff, “An Afternoon with Red Evelyn,” William Howard Taft High School, 12th grade

2nd place – Niraja Surendran, “Blue-Green Sea,” Ronald Reagan High School, 12th grade

3rd place – Daniel Bertetti, “Bridge of Ice,” Claudia Taylor Johnson High School, 11th grade 

About the San Antonio Book Festival

The mission of the San Antonio Book Festival is to unite readers and writers in a celebration of ideas, books, libraries and literary culture. The signature program of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, SABF was first presented in April 2013. Founding Partners are the Texas Book Festival, the San Antonio Public Library, and Southwest School of Art. Through active partnerships with school districts and community organizations focused on literacy, education and culture, the Festival connects with educators, parents and students, pre-K through college. SABF reaches out to those who are well read and those who need to read well.

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