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

Though the SCBWI-Los Angeles isn’t able to schedule any in-person events for the remainder of 2020 due to the pandemic, the Sue Alexander Grant competition is a constant we felt was important to keep in place. 

We’re thrilled to announce this year’s winner—Nicholas Ponticello—for his young adult manuscript, Pigs in Clover

Our judges had the following to say about the winning manuscript:

  • “Joseph sucks us into his world from the first sentence. From the fresh premise of following our protagonist through unique treatments for his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, to the compelling cast of characters, to the perfect title, this YA story opens with such humor and heart, it’s destined to become a contemporary classic.”
  • “This story feels completely authentic from the start. Raw, striking, disturbing.”
  • “I cannot stop thinking about this manuscript. I’m super excited to see this book in print!”

Pigs in Clover is based on my experience coping with debilitating OCD and my struggle to overcome it through years of cognitive behavioral therapy,” said Ponticello, who was thrilled to get the news that he’d won. “I am honored to be the recipient of the 2020 Sue Alexander Grant, and I hope to use this opportunity to perfect my craft and bring awareness to a commonly misunderstood disorder.” 

“The quality of writing submitted to the Sue Alexander Grant was astounding,” said one of this year’s volunteer judges. “I was honored to be a part of SCBWI’s mission to encourage and support authors on their journeys to publication.” 

Two manuscripts were tied for second place, scoring just a little lower than Ponticello’s winning story. So congratulations are also in order to Laurie L. Young for her middle grade book, Grounded, and Maddie Rue for her YA entry, Primordial.

According to our judges, Grounded is a “high concept story that really worked. Rooted in a contemporary setting and told with a snappy middle grade voice, its a story about a girl who defies gravity…literally the skys the limit.” 

Judges called Primordialeerily atmospheric,” and a story that “lures us deeper and deeper into what feels like a mysterious, if not sinister, world. With a voice that leaps off the page.

Below is a little more information about these writers and their noteworthy manuscripts:

Pigs In Clover

How can you love a boy when all you can think about is killing him? Seventeen-year-old Joseph wrestles with harm OCD, and now he’s joining an eight-week residential program set in a clinic just outside of Palm Springs, isolated from everything he’s ever known.

Website: http://www.booleanop.com/

Twitter: @NickPonticello

Instagram: @NicholasPonticello


A girl who is immune to gravity and a boy who disappears when he feels bad, take on a global chemical company in an attempt to stop them from dominating the world through genetic manipulation, while hoping to undo their conditions before they graduate sixth grade.

Website: laurielyoung.com

Twitter: @laurielyoung 

Instagram: @laurielyoung_shouldbewriting


When strange events plague Penrose’s summer, she must team up with her ex-best friend and solve an environmental mystery before something unspeakable invades her hometown.

Website: www.madelinerue.com

Twitter: @MadelineRue

Instagram @Madeline.Rue

As the winner of the Sue Alexander Grant, Nicholas Ponticello will receive tuition to a future Working Writers Retreat.

Thanks again to our fabulous judges and congratulations to Nicholas, Laurie, Maddie and all of the writers who entered!

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Karol Ruth Silverstein writes screenplays and various genres of children’s books. Her YA debut Cursed from Charlesbridge Teen, won the 2020 Schneider Family Book Award in the teen category and was a Junior Library Guild selection. 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 authors.