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Contest Winner Earns $1,000 Prize, Finalists Surprised with $500 Each

A panel of judges made up of Author Kevin Brockmeier, Laman Library Director Crystal Gates, and Arkansas Times Arts & Culture Editor Stephanie Smittle named recent Valley View High School graduate Haley McDaniel the winner of the Argenta Reading Series High School Writing Contest Saturday night.

McDaniel's short story, "The Weeping Willow," was chosen as one of four finalists from among a field of more than 50 qualifying submissions. Each of the four finalists read their piece at ARS's May 27 event in North Little Rock in front of a live audience and the panel of judges.

The other finalists, who were each surprised with a consolation prize of $500, included Britney Graves, who will begin her junior year at Bryant High School this fall, Bradi Matlock, a recent graduate from Har-Ber High School, and Gaylee Spurlock, who also recently graduated from Valley View High School.

L to R: Britney Graves, Bradi Matlock, Haley McDaniel, and Gaylee Spurlock

"The consolation prizes surprised me as much as it did the contestants," said ARS Director Guy Choate. "The judges told me how impressed they were with the readers and they didn't think any of them deserved to go home empty-handed. The Laman Public Library has been a great partner to us and because of their generosity tonight we were able to further support Arkansas students who want to study the literary arts at Arkansas colleges with a total of $2,500.”

The contest was open to all Arkansas high school students in grades 10-12, or students who had earned a GED within the past year, who also plan to attend an Arkansas college or university. Choate says the Argenta Reading Series will begin accepting submissions for next year’s contest in the fall.

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