Creative Writers’ Coffeehouse takes lighthearted approach, wins applause

Creative writers of all types filled the Seward County Community College student union Friday for the annual coffeehouse hosted by the SCCC English Department. Low lights and intimate seating balanced a lighthearted mood, with spoken word performances punctuated by laughter and applause. 

English Department chair Sherry Moentmann emceed the occasion, with support from fellow humanities instructors Jason Pete, Gina Moore, Miles Rothlisberger, Joy Jacquart, Magda Silva, and Amy Thompson. 

Jason Pete reads

SCCC creative writing instructor Jason Pete reads a humorous poem recounting an awkward dinner date, wearing a black beanie, a standard “serious poet” accessory offset by a cheery sweatshirt design.

Pete and Moentmann showcased some of their own work before turning the microphone over to winners of the SCCC Poetry Contest and writers selected for publication in the Spring 2023 edition of the SCCC arts journal Telolith. 

Moentmann’s presentation built on characters from her first Young Adult novel, which she published in 2018. “I’m working on a sequel, and this scene provides background on important characters,” she explained. 

First place winner in the open category, Terri Barnes of Tyrone, Okla., prefaced her reading with a double disclaimer: she didn’t see herself as a writer, and despite her role as humanities division coordinator, she didn’t have a secret advantage in the contest. “I was flabbergasted,” she said. The win was an especially meaningful accolade for Barnes, who will retire from her role in June, after three decades keeping the humanities division organized. (Listen to Barnes read her winning poem, “Camping,” at the link below.)

Second place open category winner Tirzah Howery of Liberal  also claimed the “Best poem by SCCC student” award with her work, “Who is left when the world is quiet?” Judge Laura Lee Washburn, director of creative writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, praised Howery’s use of form and noted that “the poem takes the reader on a journey.”  (Howery reads her poem in this link.)

Third place winner Matthew McIntyre of Liberal joked that his poem “She said, ‘The red foliage on that tree looks nice,’ but I could only see two trees in the distance,” could also claim a prize for longest title, shortest poem. Washburn noted that “the title draws us in right away” to a poem that is intense and meaningful. (McIntyre reads his poem in the link below.)

High school junior/senior winners were unable to attend and read their poems, but the program listed their work:

First Place: Water Runs Down the City Steps” by Scarlett Buchman of Liberal. Buchman also claimed the honorable mention spot with “The wind blows softly through the trees.”

Second Place: The Grendel in Me,” by Jaden Chancey of Mooreland, Okla.

Third Place: “Burned Love” by Daisy Chanez of Walsh, Colo. 

In the Young Poets category (grades 6-10), first place winner Kelsie Allenbaugh of Vilas, Colo., read her poem “The Country.” The judge praised Allenbaugh’s use of personal observed detail, “and a nice turn or surprise at the end when the cows huddle up to ward off coyotes.”

Second place winner Trenton Davis of Sublette, Kansas was unable to attend to read his poem “Korbin’s Church.”

Third place winner Alex Grahn of Vilas, Colo., read his poem “The little V6 Mustang,” followed by a brief display of the creative layout of the work. 

Other readers at the event included Hailey Allenbaugh of Vilas, Colo., Nessa Lickteig, and Ed Kentner of Liberal, whose poem “I wish I were that man,” is linked below.

SCCC English faculty distributed prize packages to winners, with more than $650 in cash and gifts awarded. The evening also featured several drawings for audience members, who won magnetic poetry kits, books, and other writing-related items.

Moentmann noted that 89 individual writers submitted work to the poetry contest, drawing entries from a four-state area. The entries were evaluated through blind process, meaning the judge did not receive the names or information about the writers. In addition to the annual poetry contest held each fall at SCCC, the college sponsors a creative writing club for students and community members, publishes Crusader news and media by students, and produces an annual arts journal titled Telolith, featuring visual arts and literary work by students.

For more information about writing opportunities at SCCC, contact

  • Jason Pete, 620-417-1456, Creative writing courses and SCribblers creative writing club
  • Gina Moore, 620-417-1457, Telolith journal
  • Miles Rothlisberger, 620-417-1459, Crusader student news and media
  • Sherry Moentmann, 620-417-1301, general inquiries about the English department and all its programs.

Categories: Awards & Honors, Humanities Division, Student Success

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