Annual Writing Contest

Library Writing Contest Winners Celebrated

More than 50 people came to the Palisades Library community room on October 3, to hear winners announced for the annual summer writing contest.

Actors Bill Jones and Christine Kludjian once again performed the winning pieces.

“The pen is mightier than the sword,” Jones said. “One of the stories that a child had written struck through my heart.”

“We hope we do you honor in reading them,” he said.

“We have the best time doing this,” Kludjian said, and added “this is all about process, the writing, the judging.” The actors, who have been acting partners for 25 years, welcomed the writers’ thoughts after each individual piece was performed. Many young authors didn’t offer thoughts, but were thrilled to hear their stories read aloud.

In addition to the refreshments served, which included McConnell’s ice cream (vanilla, strawberry and chocolate), which was also the contest theme this year, first place winners received $100 gift certificate to Diesel Bookstore in Brentwood, second was $50 and third was $25. Each person also received a gift card to Sweet Rose Creamery and a certificate for a free book at the Friends of the Library bookstore.

The stories in their entirety, can be found on the Friends of the Library website (visit:

Front row. Scribbler winners (left to right) are Riley Keston, Noah Benharash, Gabe Smith and Hudson Marks who pose with actors Bill Jones and Christine Kludjian.

SCRIBBLERS (first and second grades)

There was a first-place tie between Riley Keston (Marquez Elementary), who had also won the contest in 2017 and Noah Benharash (Palisades Elementary).

Keston’s tale “Kaboom” was about trying to figure out what was going on. “I tried chocolate, it tasted like vanilla. Vanilla tasted like strawberry. Am I going to turn 8 next year? Or was I going back to 6?” The answer finally came when his mom said, “Did you know it was opposite day?”

Benharash’s “Danger” Ice Cream was about the hero who went to a ice cream parlor and ate his ice cream so fast, he needed to go to the doctor. The doctor told him that he needed to eat more vegetables. “After that, I thought that ice cream was just too dangerous.”

Second place went to Gabe Smith (Palisades), who penned “The Best Birthday” and third was Hudson Marks’ (Marquez) “Spy Cream.”

Placing in the third and fourth grade category were James Marks (right) and Oliver O’Donnell.

JOTTERS (third and fourth grades)

Oliver O’Donnell (Palisades) captured first for the second year in a row in this category. His story “The Cold Case” was a detective story about Matthew, who lived in Italy and was an apprentice in an ice cream store. When his boss disappeared, he contacted the police and then went to look for him. He eventually found the criminal, who was sent to jail.

Second place was James Marks’ (Marquez) story “Atlantis” a fantasy adventure inspired by “Seven Wonders,” by Peter Lerangis.

Hannah Benharash (left) took second and third went to Justine Gustman. Not pictured is first place winner Parker Keston. Actors Bill Jones and Christine Kludjian acted out the stories.

SCRAWLERS (fifth and sixth grades)

First went to Parker Keston’s story “Middle School.” Keston (Archer School) took second last year as a fifth grader. She used the theme of the contest “Vanilla, Strawberry and Chocolate” as an analogy to the three schools she was trying to decide between for middle school. “Middle School comes in all shapes and sizes. How would I know which was right for me?” She explained that the elementary school (Marquez) had been chosen for her, but middle school was different. “I was choosing between three schools. Let’s call them strawberry, vanilla and chocolate.”

Second place was “Neapolitan Ridge” by Hannah Benharash (Palisades) and third was “The Ice Cream Detectives” by Justine Gustman (Seven Arrows).

Alana Kamins (left) took first and Lexi Palmer took third. Not pictured, second place winner Elsa O’Donnell. Actors Bill Jones and Christine Kludjian are in the back row.

SCRIBES (seventh and eighth grades)   

          Alana Kamins (Brentwood) took first place with “A ‘Classic’ Friendship.” The tale of three very different women from different countries who become friends when they enter college. “We are each other’s strawberry to chocolate to vanilla, but we were already building our friendship.”

Actress Kludjian admitted that the piece was challenging because she added the appropriate accent and variation in personality to the woman, with each of the characters becoming a unique person.

Kamins said “When you performed my story, you brought it to life. Before I could only hear the characters in my voice.”

Second place went to “Neapolitan Ice Cream” by Elsa O’Donnell (Paul Revere) and third went to Lexi Palmer (Calvary), who wrote “A Big Small Dream.”

AUTHORS (high school)

Sydney Forrester (Windward), who took third last year, won the category this year with “Nicknames.”

This was a sweet story about a male/female best friend, whose life changes when the guy starts dating someone. The girl tries to adapt but feels left out. She finally finds new friends, but when the guy’s girlfriend is left out, she reaches out to her.

Second place went to Claire Wiegand (Harvard Westlake) and third went to “Dear Charlie” by Mirabelle Weinbach (Brentwood). It was Weinbach’s piece that Jones felt so strongly about. She wrote “I couldn’t take all the strangers asking if I was okay, instead of asking if your were okay before you did this. Why didn’t you tell me how you were feeling?”

Capturing first place in the adult category was Patrice Conlin (center), who is surrounded by actors Bill Jones and Christine Kludjian.


First place went to Patrice Conlin for “Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry: a Meditation.” Second was Courtney Hobson with “Chocolate, Vanilla & Strawberry by Courtney Hobson and third place was “Great Grandparents” by Sue Pascoe.

The actors noted after the ceremony that the kids seem to be more introspective this year than in prior years. Jones said, “There was a lot of cheerfulness in these stories.” The actors asked if they thought there was a trend this year with the stories.

“There were more happy endings this year,” Kludjian said.

The top three winners in each age category in writing and art earned gift certificates ($100, $50 and $25) to Diesel Bookstore in the Brentwood Country Mart. All participants received a gift certificate to Sweet Rose Creamery on Monument.

Read the complete stories at:



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