Posted on: October 30, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Malak Alomari, Freelance Contributor

American Girl dolls, a vampire sculptor, multiple facets of identity. What do all these have in common? They’re the topics of choice the winners of this year’s Moraine Valley Literary Competition tapped into to express themselves.

The MV Literary Competition is a yearly writing contest that celebrates the writing of Moraine students in various ways. Winners are not only recognized at Moraine, but the contest is a gateway to further competition, sending students’ work to compete at the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Writers Festival & Competition on Nov. 17.

The top five places for personal essay, fiction and poetry in Moraine’s competition were announced this week. No submissions were received in the drama category.

Nicole Kowal won first place for personal essay with “The Things I’ve Learned from Fourteen Years of Collecting American Girl Dolls.”

Kowal used this strange passion to build character: “This piece is really personal. I’ve been a collector of American Girl Dolls for 14 years and it’s been something that has remained consistent throughout my entire life. It’s always been my ‘thing.’

“I’ve learned so much from all the hardships of having a type of hobby that seems ‘childish,’ so this piece really pays tribute to all of that.”

Rosie Finnegan’s “The Vampire in My Home” won first place in the fiction category. She describes it as “inspired by the oval portrait by Edgar Allen Poe. It’s about a woman trapped in a relationship with her husband who only captures her beauty in his sculptures and fails to realize that it’s slowly killing her.” 

Ameera Judah’s “Living a Fake Identity” won first place for poetry. 

“As far as the emotional process of writing the piece, I would consider it to be musical in a sense,” Judah said. “It came together relatively fast, and it felt real to me, like my experiences jumped onto my screen and wrote themselves almost.”

The judges were Amani Wazwaz, Bill Hogan, Eric DeVillez, John Nash, Sandra Beauchamp and Amanda Pettigrew, all of whom teach in the communications department at Moraine. They were impressed overall with the quality of this year’s submissions.

“It was good seeing young writers playing with form and imagery free and clear of standard forms, clunky end-rhymes, et cetera,” said DeVillez, who helped judge the poetry category.

As far as judging goes, DeVillez says it’s pretty subjective.

“I don’t really look for anything in particular,” DeVillez said. “Imagery is the engine of good poetry, so I suppose I read and hope for a surprise to come roaring through town or maybe just whisper enough to turn my head a little bit? I really just read and let the work speak for itself.” 

The top three participants in each category will have their piece published in a special booklet showcasing art and literature, and will be recognized during a Moraine Valley Board of Trustees meeting next spring. 

I read and hope for a surprise to come roaring through town or maybe just whisper enough to turn my head a little bit…I really just read and let the work speak for itself.”

Eric DeVillez, poetry judge

The top five in each category will compete against submissions from the other seven colleges in the conference in the Skyway Writers Festival & Competition. This year, the festival will be hosted by Waubonsee Community College, which is a 45-minute drive from Moraine Valley. The event is free and offers writing workshops by published authors, an open-mic session, a keynote speaker, dinner, and the announcement of the 2022 Skyway award recipients.

Students from all eight colleges in the Skyway Conference are invited to attend the festival. Anyone from Moraine interested in attending should contact the MV literary competition coordinator, Lisa Couch, at

The first-place winners in each category of Moraine’s competition also will have their work submitted to the international competition sponsored by the League for Innovation in the Community College, to compete against entries from colleges around the U.S. and Canada. That competition involves prizes: $500 for first place, $200 for second place, and $100 for third place.

When asked what they look forward to now that they’ve won first place, the winners express their celebratory attitudes and hope for more success to come. 

“I’m excited to see my piece being published!” Judah said.

Finnegan is also excited to see her piece in print: “I’m hoping my piece does decently well in the Skyway competition, but I’m also pretty excited for the showcase booklet to be published. That will be the first time something that I’ve written in this vein will be published in print.”

2022 MV Literary Competition Winners  


First place: Ameera Judah, “Living a Fake Identity” 

Second place: Nick Stulga, “Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing w/ Iceberg Lettuce” 

Third place: Wren Theriault, “Spell” 

Fourth place: Evie Roth, “Diagnosis Day” 

Fifth place: Tamera Watkins, “To My Father” 


First place, Hannah (Rosie) Finnegan, “The Vampire in My Home” 

Second place, Noelle Chase, “The Argent Hourglass” 

Third place, Sofia Carrillo Ocon, “The Flight of Birds, The Fall of Humanity” 

Fourth place, Elijah, “Ziggy” 

Fifth place, Benjamin Mendez, “Stopping the Rain” 

Personal Essay (Creative Nonfiction) 

First place, Nicole Kowal, “The Things I’ve Learned from Fourteen Years of Collecting American Girl Dolls” 

Second place, Cameron Szyszka, “A Forever Hug” 

Third place, Sarah Diaz, “The Man I Call Dad” 

Fourth place, Paula Gorlo, “Child of an Immigrant” 

Fifth place, Savanna Wright, “Always Reach for the Stars”