Posted on: November 19, 2021 Posted by: Ethan Holesha Comments: 0

By Ethan Holesha, Managing Editor

Competing against writers from seven other colleges, two Moraine Valley students placed in the top three of their respective categories Thursday at the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Writers Festival.

In the midst of a long and grueling pandemic, writing has been a healthy escape for many college students. The Skyway Festival, a virtual event this year hosted by College of Lake County, celebrated their work.

Karolina Bachleda-Blaszczak took second place at the conference competition in the creative nonfiction/personal essay category for her piece, “The Hungriest Years of My Life.” She had previously taken first place in Moraine’s own literary competition.

“I wasn’t actually going to submit anything because I didn’t think it was that good,” she said in a short acceptance speech during the virtual event. “But then I submitted it anyway.” 

Author Kimberla Lawson Roby, who judged the nonfiction category, responded, “See. that’s why you’ve got to believe in you, no matter what. You have to. Thank you. It was wonderful.”

Bachleda-Blaszczak later said she was extremely happy with the results: “Of course I was shocked. I was hoping to place but didn’t actually think I would! This whole experience has been an amazing blessing.”

Cody Barton was the other writer who took home an award. Barton, who took first place at the MV literary contest, took third at the conference competition in the poetry category for her piece, “Drizzles are Deadly.”

“I wasn’t able to attend the conference, but I was pretty shocked when I got an email saying I placed third,” Barton said. “I didn’t think I would place at all since my poem was so interpretive. The poem didn’t have an implicit meaning, it is up to the reader to decide what it means.” 

Moraine Valley President Sylvia M. Jenkins attended the awards ceremony, and she gave her thoughts on the event: “It’s a nice opportunity that our students have to share their talents with other students from other colleges and to get the recognition they deserve for their hard work.”

Karolina Bachleda-Blaszczak (left) and Cody Barton found success at the Skyway conference literary competition. Bachleda-Blaszczak won second place in the creative nonfiction/personal essay category and Barton won third place in the poetry category.


During the festival, the competition judges held breakout sessions in which students read from their work.

Roby, the nonfiction judge, is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker and podcast host. She has published 28 books, including her faith-based, nonfiction title, “The Woman God Created You to Be: Finding Success Through Faith—Spiritually, Personally, and Professionally.” Roby had some words of encouragement for all of the writers who took part in the Skyway event, which was open to anyone from the eight participating colleges.

“I hope that whether you won today or not that you will please keep writing,” said Roby. “And for whatever it’s worth, I was rejected by every literary agent, when I started writing. I was rejected by every publishing house that I submitted to. And now just last month, I submitted my 29th book. So please, please don’t ever give up. Please, please keep writing because you all have so much talent, which means you have so much of a gift to offer the rest of the world.”

It’s a nice opportunity that our students have to share their talents with other students from other colleges and to get the recognition they deserve for their hard work.”

Sylvia M. Jenkins, Moraine Valley President

Judging the poetry category was Morris “Moe-mentum” Garrett. Moe-mentum has been writing poetry for 20 years and performing for nine. He has now found his life’s purpose in using his gift to inspire, encourage and enlighten people from all walks of life. He has performed at Living Word Christian Center, Mars Hill Church, Family & Faith Church, Malcolm X College and Touch of the Past.

“I love reading so much and trying to see the creative way somebody puts their words together that may be different from the next and just getting that message in the midst of it all and just taking it all in,” Moe-mentum said. “It was a great experience.”

This competition even gave him a new found passion for writing again. “Just reading them, I got so caught up in it,” he said. “Actually, I got inspired to write again. I hadn’t written in a while myself, so I just thank you poets for sharing everything.”

Bachleda-Blaszczak and Barton, as the first-place winners in Moraine’s literary competition, will also have the chance to compete at the international level next spring in a contest sponsored by the League for Innovation in the Community College. They will be joined by Tristin Dabrowski, whose fiction story “You’ve Done Wrong” won first place in Moraine’s short fiction category.

The League competition will involve students from schools across the U.S. and Canada. This competition is completely separate from Skyway. Submissions will be judged in May, and winners will be announced in June.

Last year, Moraine student Gabrielle Lynch took second place in the League competition for her personal essay, “In a World of Nancy Kerrigans.”