Onalee Nicklin is best known for her fantasy or “storybook” pencil drawings, often depicting children as mermaids, elves, or characters in a story. She works mostly with graphite pencils, colored pencils, and sometimes does a little mixed media. “I hope my work inspires people to use their imagination, to dream, to read,” she says.
Onalee lives in a small cottage on a farm near Emporia, Kansas, with her husband, two cats, and numerous species of wildlife. She is the illustrator of the Kansas Notable Book (2022), Ava: A Year of Adventure in the Life of an American Avocet, story by Mandy Kern, and the author/illustrator of To Hide a Hazelnut (2023).
Lisa D. Stewart is a commercial writer in Prairie Village, Kansas, who writes magazine articles, feasibility studies, business plans, grant writing, and marketing. Between 1984 and 1999, she and her former husband created and grew Ortho-Flex Saddle Company, after a three-thousand-mile horse-back trip that taught them about the relationship between saddles and the biomechanics of the horse. The couple produced and sold patented saddles and tack in more than thirty countries. She has published more than one hundred articles on the topic of saddle fit. Lisa lives with her husband, Robert Stewart, editor emeritus of New Letters magazine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is the author of The Big Quiet: One Woman's Horseback Ride Home. (2020)
K.L. Barron is a writer of place: poetry and prose. Her prize-winning fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction has been published in New Letters, The Bennington Review, Little Balkans Review, terrain.org, ChickenBones (Library of Congress), among others, and in several anthologies. She has taught writing and literature at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas for nearly twenty years and lives and writes in the Flint Hills.
Her debut novel Thirst came out in November from Sea Crow Press.
Note from K.L. about the youth submissions:
I enjoyed reading the 7th and 8th grade fiction contest submissions and I applaud KAC for encouraging creativity in young writers and offering a supportive space to share it.
Curtis Becker, a Topeka-based writer, editor, and publisher, teaches English at Washburn University and Emporia State University. He is also a licensed Realtor® with Keller Williams One Legacy Partners, serving the Topeka and Emporia areas. Becker is the editor of Kansas Authors Clubs “Writing from the Center” literary zine. Most recently, his article “Giving Effective Feedback to Young Writers” appeared in Kansas English, a publication of the Kansas Association of Teachers of English. Becker is also a member of the Emporia Writers Group and The Writers Place of Kansas City. He is a frequenter of open mics, coffee shops, and bookstores across Northeast Kansas.
Curtis is the author of He Watched and Took Note (2018).
Jolene Haas grew up in Southeast Kansas listening to the many stories of her extended family members. Some stories were true, but most were creatively told with twists and turns in the events, depending on who was telling the story. As a young girl, she began writing her own stories. She loves to read and write middle grade and young adult fiction. Jolene has taught students in Pre-K through eighth grade for thirty years. She is a member of Kansas Authors Club and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Ronda Miller is a Life Coach and published author of five books of poetry. She teaches The Importance of Voice for Trauma Transformation in concert with Johnson County Library, School of Trades and The Department of Corrections. Miller sits on the board of The Writers Place and is a former state president of Kansas Authors Club, 2018 - 2019. She is the poetry editor for zine, The Write Bridge. Ronda is the author of To Love the Child (2019) and three books of poetry.
Note from Ronda about the youth submissions:
I was impressed with the submissions I had the opportunity to judge. Each one was interesting and well written. I was especially impressed with the depth of research, passion and knowledge that was shared. My decisions were difficult to make.
Carolyn Hall is an award winning author and her book Prairie Meals and Memories was named to one of the top 150 books on Kansas. Her writing has appeared in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, The Christian Science Monitor, several anthologies, the Kansas City Star, Produce Merchandizing Magazine, and The Best Times.
Jerilynn Henrikson has spent her life in Emporia, Kansas, which she considers her front porch to the rolling Flint Hills and expansive skies of East Central Kansas. Here she and her veterinarian husband Duane have raised four kids, who also love being half way to everywhere. Jerilynn has loved teaching English, collecting friends, and telling tales. Remembering Martha is her favorite, so far.
Linda Heggestad started writing poetry at about the age of the 7th and 8th grade poets in our contest. Her first volume of poetry, Cloud & Wind, was completed in 2020. Her second volume of poetry, Blooms & Glory, came out in July.
She loves poetry for its unique ability to capture a moment, a feeling, an image, an unforgettable experience. There is such freedom in this unique art form that is suspended between words and pictures, song and story.
Note from Linda about the youth submissions:
I want to celebrate each of you young artists and your efforts here. There were so many powerful images you have created in your poems – snakes wrapping around their next meal stealing the very life from it; being treated like trashy contraband; feeling trapped in a school situation from which you long to escape. There’s a girl in a mysterious castle exquisitely drawing maps, and someone lying awake at night hearing the songs of the stars in the sky. You’re doing beautiful work. Please keep writing. Please keep going in the struggles that you are experiencing now. It will get better, the road will widen, you will have other opportunities and fresh air. Just keep going, don’t give up. And lean into your writing: keep writing the beautiful things and the hard things and the things that are wrong and unjust and that hurt, and also the things that make it wondrous to be alive. Keep writing them – and keep living.