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By Karol Ruth Silverstein, SCBWI-L.A. Contest Coordinator

SAG_WinnerThe 2019 Sue Alexander Grant drew nearly 60 manuscripts, making the anonymous judges’ decisions all the more difficult. In fact, in the final scoring, the winning manuscript edged out the runner-up by a single point!

We’re thrilled to announce this year’s winner: Jennifer Rawlings for her YA manuscript Empty, a “highly compelling” story which “deftly weaves together intriguing past and present stories of three teenage girls from vastly different backgrounds who are now trapped together in a basement.”Jennifer Rawlings photo

When asked about her inspiration for writing this book, Rawlings shared, “Traveling to war zones changed the way I saw the world. I have seen firsthand the effects of war and poverty. I’ve seen unimaginable cruelty. I’ve also seen the incredible power of the human spirit, the triumph of friendship over hardship, and the miracles that working together can bring. I wanted to share these stories in this YA novel that is rooted in history and truth.”

Some of the judges’ comments on Empty include:

  • “Unforgettable details such as surviving on an onion for three days make this story stand out. The author sets up a suspenseful novel.”
  • “The voice of Lejla is clear and endearing. She comments on how the war in the former Yugoslavia affected her childhood in a straightforward fashion that informs the reader without slowing the story.”
  • “This narrative employs vivid language (‘inhaling smoke and exhaling despair’), great details (Drina cigarettes), and skillfully paced scenes.”

As the Sue Alexander Grant winner, Rawlings wins free tuition to the 2019 SCBWI-L.A. Working Writer’s Retreat being held at the Holy Spirit Retreat Center, September 27-29. The retreat is currently sold out, but it’s still possible to get added to the waitlist.

Laurisa ReyesCongratulations are definitely also in order to this year’s runner-up: Laurisa White Reyes for her multi-POV YA manuscript, Memorable.

The judges had the following to say about Memorable:

  • “The voices in this story are authentic as are the issues each is facing.”
  • “Ryan’s voice is strong, observant, and honest in a way that quickly advances the action while keeping the reader in the character’s head.”

Thanks again to our fabulous judges and congratulations to Jennifer, Laurisa, and all of the writers who entered!

If you’d like to learn more about next year’s SAG award or additional SCBWI-L.A. contests and how you can participate, check our contest page.

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.

KarolKarol Ruth Silverstein writes screenplays and various genres of children’s books. Her YA debut Cursed from Charlesbridge Teen, a Junior Library Guild selection, is out now. She is represented by Jen Linnan of Linnan Literary Management and lives in West Hollywood with her two exceptionally fluffy cats, Ninja and Boo.

Author photos provided by Jennifer Rawlings and Laurisa White Reyes. Stock image by Arek Olek.