Libraries announces circus-themed Short Stories contest winners

A Night at the Circus, Short Stories contest winner graphic
Credit: Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The winning writers of Penn State University Libraries Short Stories’ “A Night at the Circus” spring 2021 contest have been announced. Representing five Penn State campuses, the latest writing contest encouraged students, faculty and staff across the commonwealth to submit their best circus-themed creative writing in the form of short stories or poetry.

“We usually don’t receive much poetry compared to prose, so I was pleasantly surprised that about half our submissions were poems for ‘A Night at the Circus’,” said Leigh Montes, Short Edition intern and managing editor. “This contest theme must have sparked some poetry magic. I’m happy that Short Edition attracts not only talented short-story tellers, but talented poets as well.” 

Each of the four Libraries Short Stories Editorial Board winners and the People’s Choice winner will receive a $100 Visa gift card. All winning entries, including honorable mentions, will be added to the Libraries’ Short Edition short-story dispensers, located around the University Park campus and six campus libraries, and at Schlow Centre Region Library

The People’s Choice winner “My Dad Runs the Circus" received the most online reader votes via the Libraries Short Stories website during the contest. Author Jared Knorr is a senior studying film and video at Penn State’s University Park campus, from Berwick, Pennsylvania.

The Libraries Short Stories Editorial Board winners, chosen by the all-student editorial team and listed alphabetically by title, are:

— "A Night to Remember" a short story by Sabin Bottomstone, a junior at Penn State Berks studying writing and digital media, from Myerstown, Pennsylvania.

— “Circus Colors,” a short story by Teresa Murphy, a first year student studying business at the University Park campus, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

— “The Eyes of a Beautiful Beast,” a poem by Laura Tubbs, a sophomore studying biology at Penn State Behrend, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

— “Run Away to the Circus,” a short story by A.L. Wright, a senior studying sociology at Penn State Harrisburg.

Honorable mentions, chosen by the all-student editorial team and listed alphabetically by title, are:

— “Poisonous Puppeteer,” a poem by Ryan Crossman, a senior studying English at the University Park campus, from State College, Pennsylvania.

— “The Tricks,” a poem by Tessa Eberlein, a senior studying professional writing at Penn State Berks, from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

— "There Was an Old Lady who Ate the Circus," a poem by Jeanette Lage, a graduate student studying curriculum and instruction at Penn State’s World Campus, from Carthage, Missouri.

— "The View from Above," a poem by Ann Lipinski, a senior chemical engineering student at the University Park campus, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

— "Twin Flames," a short story by Ashton Zillhardt, a junior studying writing and digital media at Penn State Berks, from Mohnton, Pennsylvania.

To read all entries from the spring 2021 contest, as well as past contest submissions, visit the Libraries' Short Stories website. Anyone with a Penn State email address and anyone from Centre County, Pennsylvania, can sign up for an account to submit original creative works to the site, and can vote for and also leave reader comments on other writers’ stories. Centre County writers not affiliated with Penn State will have their work considered for distribution from Schlow Centre Region Library’s Short Edition short-story dispenser, and some will have their work added to the University Libraries’ nine other short-story dispensers, along with other previous contest winners.

Penn State Libraries short-story dispensers at the University Park campus can be found at: 

  • Paterno Library entrance
  • Pattee Library mall entrance
  • Grange Building entrance at Pollock Road

In addition, Penn State Libraries short-story dispensers also are at, or near:

  • Schlow Centre Region Library, State College, Pennsylvania
  • Penn State Abington College Library  
  • John M. Lilley Library at Penn State Behrend
  • Berks Thun Library at Penn State Berks
  • John D. Vairo Library at Penn State Brandywine
  • Penn State Harrisburg Library
  • Lee R. Glatfelter Library at Penn State York

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, some short story campus dispensers may be inoperable. For up-to-date information about dispenser access or for more information about “A Night at the Circus" writing contest, visit

Questions about the Libraries Short Stories writing contests, the Libraries Short Stories online platform, or short-story dispensers’ curricular or co-curricular use can be directed to Student Engagement Coordinator Hailley Fargo at [email protected].