2021 DCTC Writing Contest Winners

1st Place: “Smile” by Shira Dols

The annual DCTC Student Writing Contest received 16 entries this spring. The contest’s theme centered on stories and essays demonstrating personal growth. Shira Dols, a Medical Assistant major, took first place with her entry, “Smile.” Korey Pollock, a Medical Coding Specialist major, took second place with her entry, “Tortured on the Table.” Tracie Provo, a Veterinary Technician major, took third place with her entry, “On Becoming a Midwife.”

Shira received a $350 scholarship for spring semester 2021; Korey received a $250 scholarship for spring semester 2021; Tracie received a $150 scholarship for spring semester 2021.

Jim Kosmo, author of Monsters in the Hallway and Still Standing: The Story of SSG John Kriesel, sponsored this year’s contest. A retired riverboat captain, Jim has won 16 national literary awards and was recognized twice as a national editor of the year.

“Overall, the quality of writing was very good this year making the reading enjoyable,” Jim said. “Shira Dols, the author of ‘Smile,’ may have a writing career and should consider entering more writing contests. As past chairman of a community board that oversees senior care centers, I felt that story.”

Learn more about Jim by visiting his website: Jim Kosmo.

Three students received honorable mention for their work:

“The Significance of Insignificance and the End of My Filler Arc”
by Jeremiah Runtsch

“A Late-Night Train Trip”
by Yan Ling Boho

“Bird and a Gecko”
by Rachel Keomanyvong

More about the winning authors…

Shira Dols

1st Prize 2021 DCTC Writing Contest

$350 Spring Semester 2021 scholarship

Age: 29
Hometown: Eagan, Minnesota
Major and degree earning at DCTC: Medical Assistant A.A.S.
DCTC graduation date: Spring 2022
Career plans: “I’m hoping to work in a primary care or specialty clinic as a CMA.”

Shira Dols Q & A

What do you like most about writing?

For me, writing is as essential as breathing or eating—self-expression is what keeps me alive and nourishes my soul. It’s a way of disappearing into another world. When I write, time stops, every real-life care goes away, and I can escape into a world of creativity where no idea is too crazy and no boundaries exist.

Who is your favorite writer and why?

Oh, man, that’s a hard question! I guess if I had to choose, I’d probably pick Shel Silverstein, first and foremost because his poetry anthologies are the oldest and most “well-loved” books on my shelf. I absolutely adore his wild imagination, his big heart (“The Giving Tree” still makes me cry!), his extremely creative made-up-word-ology, his humor, and his gentle reflective style. I want to be Shel Silverstein when I grow up!

What is your top goal as a writer?

When I write, I hope to inspire people to feel something, to come away changed somehow after reading—maybe to see the world or themselves a little differently, or to get in touch with a part of themselves they may feel afraid or ashamed of.

I want to open Pandora’s box and make it okay to shout from the rooftops the topics we usually silence as “not okay to talk about” and to humanize the concepts that frighten us. Most of all, I hope to make people laugh and to expose the sparks of humor hiding in the crevices of this thing we call life.

Excerpt from “Smile”

Betty Jo smiles and sighs. She lays back, and her face grows more somber.

“You’re a good person, Drea,” she says, “Really. You are.” Then, she murmurs, “Not like me.”

I pull up a chair and sit by her bedside. As she reflects, I gently rub her hand.

“I haven’t done a single thing for anybody since I’ve been on this planet,” she sighs, “except make people’s lives miserable. My late husband. My two sons. You aides.” She trails off, barely audible, “What good has my life been for anyone?”

Oh, Betty Jo. If only you knew. If only you knew.

She looks down as I’m rubbing her hand. I follow her gaze. My sleeve has drifted upward, revealing the telltale scar. Her eyes are questioning. Taking a chance, I pull my sleeve all the way up.

“Your life,” I say softly, “has literally saved mine.”

She pauses, surprised, then nods understandingly.

“You know, Drea?” she muses, “Maybe brightening just one person’s day is more than enough to make a life good.”

I swallow back tears, “Your life has been pretty darn good then.”

She nods with a smile and replies, “So has yours.”

We gaze at each other tenderly for a moment.

“This is getting way too sappy, isn’t it?” she notes.

“Yeah,” I confirm, “we’d better quit while we’re ahead.”

As I take my leave, she suddenly calls after me, “Drea?”

I turn.

“Never stop smiling,” she says softly. “That smile…my God. It’s like a rainbow.”

“It seems like each year the stories get better and are more polished. I enjoyed reading all the stories by these writers.”
Joe Campbell
DCTC English Faculty
DCTC 2021 Student Writing Contest Judge

Korey Pollock

“Tortured on the Table”
2nd Prize 2021 DCTC Writing Contest

$250 Spring Semester 2021 scholarship

Age: 32
Hometown: Rosemount, Minnesota
Major and degree earning at DCTC: Medical Coding Specialist A.A.S
DCTC graduation date: Spring 2022
Career plans: “I plan to work in either a hospital or clinic setting as a medical coder or auditor.”

Korey Pollock Q & A

What do you like most about writing?

The thing I love most about writing is getting lost in the moment and becoming so involved in writing that my consciousness of surroundings seems to disappear.

Who is your favorite writer and why?

My favorite writer is James Patterson. I admire Patterson’s writing of fast-paced, action-packed thrillers with short chapters where the pages “turn themselves.” His writing includes vividly drawn characters and grisly details within his twisted, suspenseful crime plots.

What is your top goal as a writer?

My top goal as a writer is to continue to learn how to express my thoughts and feelings into words in such a way that holds the ability to enhance and influence the lives of my readers.

Excerpt from “Tortured on the Table”

I was screaming, or trying to, tears streaming down my face. The doctor shushed my muffled cries for help and proceeded to move the scope further down into my esophagus. My brown eyes wide, as I stared helplessly at the inside of my throat on the twenty-four-inch color monitor mounted on the nearby wall.

The doctor firmly pressed my head back into the pillow, his hands as cold as his heart, as I continued to struggle to free myself of his torment. The young nurses stood over me as they pulled my hands away from the tube that the doctor kept forcing further down my esophagus. Pinning my arms to my side, they spoke in an annoyed tone, “Calm down, you’re only making it worse.”

Three to one, the odds were stacked against me. The doctor began the next step of inserting the balloon dilator. I just want this to end, I cannot take it anymore. Drenched in sweat, I looked around in fear, there was no urgency or remorse as my tormentors continued the procedure as if nothing abnormal was happening.

“Reading entries this year was a pleasure. What diversity in voice and human experience. What passion and expression. What art. I look forward to remembering the writings fondly over the summer.”
Wes Jorde
DCTC Philosophy Faculty
DCTC 2021 Student Writing Contest Judge

Tracie Provo

“On Becoming a Midwife”
3rd Prize 2021 DCTC Writing Contest

$150 Spring Semester 2021 scholarship

Age: 62 at end of May 2021
Hometown: Born in Clearfield County PA; her family moved to Rosemount, Minnesota, in 1961 and then to California in 1975
Major and degree earning at DCTC: Started out as an ArtEd hopeful in 1977 at the University of Minnesota; recently accepted into the Veterinary Technician program at DCTC for fall semester 2021
DCTC graduation date: May 2023
Career plans: “I plan to seek opportunities to work in, and write about, relief and rescue as well as production animal health and low-cost animal care options.”

Tracie Provo Q & A

What do you like most about writing?

I like all that I get to learn in the process of writing.

Who is your favorite writer and why?

I like authors that develop characters well enough for me to create a voice that they sound like to me while enjoying their books. Vince Flynn was the best.

What is your top goal as a writer?

To stay relevant. Writing motivates and drives my thoroughness while researching a topic.

Excerpt from “On Becoming a Midwife”

Many questions were asked and answered. My enlarging belly was measured to confirm it agreed with the number of weeks pregnant I was. Sylvia agreed to attend our baby’s birth and give prenatal and postnatal care and advice, as was her practice.

Her advice at our meetings each week of the last four of my pregnancy was indispensable. Our baby arrived, with Sylvia in attendance, perfect and pink. The postnatal care was to end  at six weeks. I had such passion for all I’d learned in preparation for each of our three baby’s births the idea of apprenticing with Sylvia to become a midwife went from wondering if I could, to a conversation, to an offer to attend a birth just to observe.

That first call came in just after midnight when our baby was about 8 weeks old. The directions I’d written took me about an hour away from home. I arrived at the location I hoped  was correct. While carrying my sleeping baby still in her car seat, the heavily overcast sky blocked any light from the moon or stars that might have offered a little help finding the entrance to the house on this homestead.

Tentatively opening the door of the house, (I was still hoping this was the right one), I found myself in a large entryway. In the dark, I could barely make out cubbies, shelves, and hooks laden with children’s winter boots, coats, and hats lining the walls.

“Amazing selection of stories this year. The writers showed remarkable creativity, style, empathy and intuition.”
Chris Hayes
Senior Writer and Photographer
DCTC and Inver Hills Marketing and Communications
DCTC 2021 Student Writing Contest Judge

Learn more about scholarship opportunities and the DCTC Foundation by contacting:

Kim Shaff
Executive Director of Foundation

Amy Eppen
Foundation Development Director

Learn more about the Veterinary Technician program at DCTC by contacting:

Nicole Nieman, CVT
Vet Tech Program Director & Faculty

Jonathan O’Hara
Academic and Financial Aid Advisor

Learn more about the Medical Assistant program at DCTC by contacting:

Kathleen Paukert
Medical Assistant Program Director

Erin Lund
Academic and Financial Aid Advisor