Fiction contest winner Brooke Ballenger at a grotto in Pyatigorsk, Russia.
Brooke Ballenger has been named the grand-prize winner of the 2016 Memphis Magazine Fiction Contest for her story, “Grandfather’s Coat.” Ballenger is a 1986 graduate of Briarcrest Christian School who received a B.S. in agricultural journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and completed the requirements for a B.S. in equestrian science from Stephens College. She has an M.S. in instruction and curriculum leadership from the University of Memphis.
“Grandfather’s Coat” is the story of 15-year-old Valentina and her struggles, along with her mother, aunt, and grandfather, during the Leningrad Blockade in the early 1940s. Though Ballenger isn’t nearly old enough to have been there firsthand, she did live in St. Petersburg, Russia, from 1992 until 2009, working with an interdenominational organization in leadership development among college students and young professionals.
The story, Ballenger says, “is inspired by the mother of a close friend of mine in St. Petersburg. Her courage during the Leningrad Blockade made a deep impression on me, and I spent a good deal of time at her kitchen table over the years I lived there.”
She currently teaches Russian at Central High School and Bellevue Middle School, and is a member of the American Council of Teachers of Russian.
Honorable mention went to “Effects of the Wind” by Laryn Kragt Bakker, a recent Memphis transplant who does graphic design and web development for nonprofits through CEDC.org. His book, Clutching Dust and Stars, was awarded “Best First Novel” by Hearts and Minds Books when it was released in 2009.
Nathan Fan won honorable mention for his story, “The Devil Makes Three,” and is currently teaching 8th grade social studies at Wooddale Middle School. He has contributed stories to Californios Magazine and the anthology 1989: A Literary Tribute.
Thank you to our judges — Cary Holladay, Marilyn Sadler, John Bensko, and Alice Long — and, as always, to our sponsors, without whom this contest wouldn’t be possible: the Booksellers at Laurelwood and Burke’s BookStore.
Look for “Grandfather’s Coat” in the June 2016 issue of Memphis magazine.