Announcing the Winner and Finalists of The Rooted and Winged Writing Contest

Judging for Writer Site’s Rooted and Winged Writing Contest is completed. The winner of the contest and of the $250 award is Merril D. Smith for her poem “How I Learned”!

How I Learned

recurring patterns, star shapes
and spirals, leaves and shells are echoes,

the vibrations and reverberations of before-time
the ineffable radiance, the glimmering streams

whose crystalline traces created
seas and a world
where we swim before we can fly—

fractals that connect past and future.

Birds sing the harmonies of stars,
trees and seas bear primeval secrets, 
tremulous whispers flow underground and
across continents, waves of knowledge
break on fallow shores,
snippets coast on spindrift, 
we feel the droplets, taste the salt, hear only susurration--

perhaps we understood once,

the whispers, the songs, the patterns,
like puzzle pieces, fragments 
I have glimpsed, 

in a dream,
a tightrope journey over a dark, uncharted crevasse
my arms outstretched for balance,

and then 

upside-down and in-between
the visible and the unknown--

but my ancestors spread wings
that covered centuries
to catch me, guide me,

You can, they said
as they showed me that I have my own wings—
unfold them, fly. This, too, is part of the pattern.

The finalists, in no particular order, are:
*Jess L. Parker
*Serena Agusto-Cox
*Stephanie L. Harper 
The finalists will be receiving a Rooted and Winged tote bag. Congratulations to all three because the scores were very close.


K.E. Ogden is a two-time judge for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Prize and a two-time winner of the Academy of American Poets Henri Coulette Memorial Prize from Cal State Los Angeles. Her debut collection of poems, What the Body Already Knows, is winner of the Finishing Line Press New Women’s Voices poetry prize and is in presale now [[]]to be released September 2022. Her poems, essays, and fiction have been published in Kenyon Review Online, Brevity, anderbo, Claudius Speaks, Louisiana Literature and elsewhere, and her plays have been staged at several university theaters. A typewriter lover and avid book artist, her digital quilt piece “My President: A Politics of Hope” was published by writer Gretchen Henderson as part of the “Unstitched States” project [[]] . ​Ogden lives in Los Angeles where she teaches at Pasadena City College and in the Young Writers at Kenyon program each summer in Gambier, Ohio. Visit her on the web at [[]]​

K. E. Ogden

Suanne Schafer was born in West Texas at the height of the Cold War. Her world travels and pioneer ancestors fuel her writing. A genetic distrust of happily-ever-afters gives rise to strong female protagonists who battle tough environments and intersect with men who might—or might not—love them. A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE depicts an early 20th century artist in West Texas while HUNTING THE DEVIL explores the plight of an American physician during the Rwandan genocide. BIRDIE looks at women’s rights in the 19th century through the eyes of a teenage girl committed to an insane asylum. Suanne has served as an editor for a mainstream/romance publishing house and fiction editor for a literary magazine as well as freelance editing. Follow her on and

Suanne Schafer

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Recent fiction publications include Woven Tale Press, Dash, Pinyon, Aji, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and Evening Street Review. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published in 2018. Her debut poetry collection, “Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance,” was published by Paul Stream Press in September 2021. Learn more about her work at

Elizabeth Gauffeau


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29 responses to “Announcing the Winner and Finalists of The Rooted and Winged Writing Contest

  1. Pingback: Winner of the Rooted and Winged Writing Contest – Yesterday and today: Merril's historical musings

  2. Congratulations to Merril, and to my co-finalists, Jess and Serena!

    Thank you, Luanne, K.E., Suanne, and Liz for running such a unique and inspiring contest!

  3. Thank you so much, Luanne! Such an honor! And thank you to the judges, K.E., Suanne, and Liz. Congratulations to Jess, Serena, and Stephanie!

  4. A huge congratulations to Merril and the finalists!!

  5. Susan Scott

    Such a beautiful entry! Loved it and many congratulations Merril!!

  6. Well done, Merril and congratulations to all.

  7. Wonderful! Congratulations to Merril, Jess, Stephanie and Serena!

  8. Beautiful poem, Merrill. Congratulations to everyone. Really inspiring contest. I think I wrote at least 4 poems for it.

  9. How wonderful! Congratulations. This poem is so beautiful.
    Congrats to all.

  10. Such a beautiful poem, Merril. I could feel you taking off into flight. Congratulations to you and the co-finalists!

  11. Oh, and Luanne, what an awesome contest! Well done 🙂

  12. Congratulations to all. Merril I really liked this poem with its fractals and patterns. It read smooth like a nautilus, a curved ancient tale of swimming into flight.

  13. Congratulations to Merril. Well done.

  14. Congratulations to the winner and finalists!
    Great contest!

  15. Beautiful words that tantalize and make one wonder…congratulations to everyone!

  16. Classic Merril

  17. My goodness, what a powerful poem.

  18. What amazing artists, one and all.