Child holding a trophy.

Three Cheers for Our Storytelling Contest Winners!

Monday, August 14, 2023

The judges have meticulously pored over more than 100 entries for the fifth annual Synapse Storytelling Contest and today we're thrilled to announce the winners.

Winning submissions will be published on this website and in our newsletter this fall. And be sure to come back every week throughout the academic year to enjoy entries from all of our talented contest contributors.

First Place:

Drew Despereaux’s Skincrawl Horror takes first place in the fiction category for its Kafkaesque monologue, which gets under your skin, literally. The narrator’s voice is intimate, and timestamps create a sense of urgency amidst the stream of consciousness. The story is an engaging and biting commentary on identity, appearances and what it means to perceive and be perceived.

Sohini Halder’s Candlemaker takes first place in the poetry category. The poem is a well-written, artful, dramatic monologue from a candle, to its candlemaker. The outpouring of love and gratitude from the candle is a universal feeling to which everyone can relate.

Wynton Sims’ Reflections on the Past — Colorism, Self-Doubt, and Resiliency takes first place in the non-fiction category. Part prose part poetry, the work is a powerfully lyrical portrayal of the way the outer world influences the inner world for traditionally marginalized people, and the strength it takes to fight malevolent forces seeking to define them.

Kamellia Mehershahi’s The Soul of Alcatraz takes first place in the photography category. The image gives new meaning to the expression “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” It’s a beautiful portrait of a haunted site captured in a moment that hints at a universal force trying to bathe away sins of the past.

Second Place:

Simone Kurial’s Divisable Cities takes second place in the fiction category. Reading the story feels like being suspended in history. Kurial paints post-apocalyptic and mystical worlds rooted in the elements, each more fantastical as the one preceding it. The nameless narrator evokes a reverence to nature and mortality through its storytelling.

Paul Brandfonbrener’s My First Patient takes second place in the poetry category. The poem is a poignant work about medical practice. As the author recalls working with their first patient, they describe, with sensitivity and empathy, the kind of psychological burden that both patient and doctor experience.

Juli Riggs Dear Giardia takes second place in the non-fiction category. Sometimes you just have to laugh – and Riggs certainly delivers with her hilarious account her personal battle against giardiasis that does an excellent job of explaining the science of the infection while anthropomorphizing all the key players within the human body.

Cuyler Luck’s May Lake takes second place in the photography category. The image captures all of the elements of great photography – light and reflection, focal point and detail, composition and subject matter — all interplaying to create a mesmerizing tableau.

Third Place:

Woodger Faugas’ Through the Fog: A Vodou-Inspired Journey of Scientific Innovation takes third place in the fiction category. It is a vibrant and uplifting story of Tanio Guillaume, his struggle, and how his family and culture inspired him and pulled him out of his creative rut.

Nick Fiorentino – Darkness takes third place in the poetry category. The poem offers excellent writing and wonderful use of analogies to describe darkness. The sinister tone felt by the reader is simple and unique.

Giselle Perez-Aguilar’s Healing cycles of institutional harm with Indigenous wisdom takes third place in the non-fiction category. Following Perez-Aguilar’s journey as she works to heal from physical and spiritual injuries creates an empathy in readers that allows them to embrace her message of resistance and self-care.

Woodger Faugas' SF Beach takes third place in the photography category. Through the use of perspective, focus, and angle, a rippling beach is transformed into a sea of waves that viewers feel they can almost float away on.

Honorable mentions:

Apisit Kaewsanit - Loneliness in the Laboratory: A Ph.D. Student's Dilemma

Noah Greco – When I Arrived
Nick Fiorentino – Canada Water
Manami Diaz Tsuzuki – Anatomy Lab

Max Collard – Don’t Walk On Grass
Bri Matusovsky – Nudity and Clothing in Monkeys, Scientists, and Vaccines: What it Reveals, and What it Hides
Woodger Faugas – A Sight to Behold: My Experience as a Black Man and Prospective Juror In San Francisco’s Hallowed Halls of Justice

Thiago Silva – Cosmic Fabric of Time
Raymond Yin – Athabasca Glacier