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Judges had a tough decision in selecting this year’s Sue Alexander Grant winner, which attracted more than 90 entries vying for a free coveted slot at the fall Working Writer’s Retreat.

The winner is a young adult novel by Kes Trester, an associate member (as yet unpublished). But with the promising manuscript Collision, we expect to welcome Kes to the ranks of PAL (published) members soon!

Our judges say Collision is a “well-written, tight, and exciting story that pulls the reader right in and delivers the goods.” Their synopsis:

Collision is today’s world news: dangerous, frightening, and a setting that is completely alien to our American way of life. It is a look into a people and lifestyle no democracy-loving American would ever want for themselves.

What do you call a super spunky girl who can always find trouble, knows hand-to-hand combat techniques, has a foreign ambassador dad, and is being chased through a marketplace in the Middle East? That would be Riley.

Riley begins her story by pulling off a daring rescue of a young girl whose only crime is going to school, and taking out the three very bad men who want the girl. Riley knows what will happen to the young girl if their pursuers catch them. She is not going to let that happen.

Confident and courageous, Riley knows how to handle herself, and she knows what plan of attack to follow. When her bodyguard, Benson, isn’t with her, all she needs to do is follow “Benson’s Rules.”  The hard part is facing Benson when she gets back to the embassy.

The grant only allows for one prize, but judges also singled out Dark in Nature, a young adult novel by associate member Maddie Rue Burke.

In this dystopian novel, a compelling main character and fascinating environmental details grab and hold the reader’s attention in the first chapter, “Death Gods.” Zoe’s trek into the “post-Pestilence” city takes her first to a laundromat, then to a pet store, and finally to a thrift shop. Tension present from the first paragraph builds throughout the chapter as we piece together this new life with hints of all she and others have lost. The shinigami — Japanese death gods — are scary enough. But they are only fractionally more frightening than the everyday circumstances of her life onboard the Locket, a train ferry with a single steam tower. Who is Cinder? Why is Sam so threatening? What happened to Zoe’s parents? And what is the answer to the shinigami’s question “What is your true nature?” Any fan of dystopian fiction will want to read on to find out.

Finally, the judges acknowledged the “great writing” in four other entries including young adult novels Beyond the Mississippi by PAL member Nicole Maggi, Animacy by associate member Jeannette Manning, Tat by associate member Jill Ackles, and middle grade novel Volcano Girl by associate member Paul Stenis.

Congratulations to all those recognized by our anonymous judges, who have these words of encouragement to everyone brave enough to submit to the contest: “We all start with that first word on paper. We all grow as writers as we continue to work at our craft. So grow on!”

For information about all contests sponsored by SCBWI-L.A., please see the new contest section of our web site.

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