2023 Writing & Video Winners

Best of Show, Writing – Virginia Staat

“In a Flash” ~  1st place, Newsletter and Web Writing category. Rocky Mountain Outdoors. January/February 2023.

In just a few paragraphs, this piece informs and engages the reader on the flash writing genre, successfully using those techniques to explain the genre.” – Mary Taylor Young, writing judge

Writing Judge: Mary Taylor Young

Author and naturalist Mary Taylor Young has been writing about the landscape and heritage of Colorado and the American West for 35 years. She just finished her 22nd book—Bluebird Seasons: Witnessing Climate Change In My Piece of the Wild—which was published in 2023 by the Chicago Review Press. Mary’s honors include the 2018 Frank Waters Award for exemplary literary achievement and a canon of writing that communicates a deep understanding, celebration and love of the West; 2019 induction into the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame; 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Colorado Authors’ League. She has been a RMOWP contest judge and convention presenter for many years.

Video Judge: Ann Lukacs

Ann fell in love with photography at an early age.  She has been working in the camera department in the motion picture industry for over 40 years.  Her industry experience coupled with her knowledge of living in the mountains has unwittingly realigned some of her work to location scouting.  In addition to working on major studio feature films and national commercials, she works as an independent filmmaker.  Working as a filmmaker has given her the experience of storytelling and how to combine all the various elements of production to create the final film.  Ann is the President/CEO of the “Park County Creative Alliance”, a newly formed nonprofit with the vision to “Unite Park County Through the Arts.”  In addition, Ann has been involved with promoting film production to Colorado.

Note: Comments from the judges appear in italics.

Winning Written Works:

24 Newspaper, Magazine – articles/columns/editorials/short stories
 Michael Salomone – Freaks on Flies. “A fun read with serious message, this piece makes great use of colorful words, alliteration and rhyme to reveal its serious topic—invasive species. Extra points for phrases like “funky Frankenstein fish” and “the click-and-pawl reel started to squeal.”
2nd Ron Belak– Timberline Tactics for Trout. Colorado Outdoors, March/April 2023. “Well-crafted article combining personal experience and poetic writing with fishing tips and hiking and camping how-to’s, shared throughout the story.”
3rd Ron Belak – Courteous and Responsible Fishing. Colorado Outdoors. January/February 2023. “A nicely-constructed, humorous piece that uses humor to convey angler etiquette. An enjoyable read even for the non-angler.”

26 Newsletter & Web Writing
 Virginia Staat – In a Flash. Rocky Mountain Outdoors. January/February 2023. “Tight, informative essay on flash nonfiction that cleverly mirrors the style of the flash writing genre it is explaining.”
2nd Virginia Staat – Trust Me. Rocky Mountain Outdoors. September/October 2022. 2023.“Personal essay that starts as a seeming travelogue then skillfully transitions into a lesson on writing.”
3rd Maryann Gaug – Pines of the High Windy Places. Nice personal essay that reveals exposition about high mountain pines in a gentle, readable style.”

28 Unpublished Written Works
 Judy Lehmkuhl – When Change Feels Like Loss. “Powerful poem speaking the poet’s strongly-felt loss of wild things and wild places. Very moving and effective.”
2nd Judy Lehmkuhl – The Dragonfly. “Nice ode to a fascinating insect, using it to express profound thoughts on death. Brief but effective.”

Winning Videos:

30 Full Length Video
Dan Bernskoetter – Red-shouldered Hawk Nesting. “This is the best storytelling video. This video captures this redhawk “family” and how they protect their new babies. While it would have been great to see a little more into the nest, you still experience the interaction. I especially like the look the hawk gives the squirrel. LOL. The on-screen narrative explains the timeline best.
2nd Dan Bernskoetter – Life on Rosburg Pond. “The music and narrative helped to tell the story of this wildlife pond. A longer lens would have been useful. The geese were a little confusing. It would have worked better to intermix several different types of wildlife. Also, feel free to use cutaway close up shots to make it more interesting. Adding different dimensions adds to the overall story of life on the pond.”  
3rd Ron Belak – Photographing Sandhill Cranes at Monte Vista. “Overall good but a few clips could be a little shorter.”

31 Video Clips
Maryann Gaug – Mountain Goats at Salt Lick. “What works well in this clip is the nice vista. It makes the shot more interesting, and you can get a visual perspective of where the goats live. The various levels of distance work well in this clip.”
2nd Maryann Gaug – Dia de los Muertos Dancers. “The colorful costumes of the dancers make this clip visually fun. It would have been nicer to have a more uncluttered background, but I don’t think the event allowed for that.”
3rd Dan Bernskoetter – Aggressive Wild Turkey Hen Behavior. “This clip demonstrates the protective mother watching out for her babies.” 
Honorable Mentions to Virginia Staat – Dueling Water Stomps. “This clip would have received a higher recognition if it had been shot using a tripod.” and Frank Zurey — Baby Goat Trying to Fit In (web master’s note: a nice clip shot on Mount Evans)


BookBaby is a full-service, print-on-demand (POD) publisher that specialize in both e-books and print books. You can solicit as much or as little help that you need from their staff. On the high end of services, they can edit your book, lay it out, design its cover, print it, market it and sell it online. On the low end of services, they will just print your book from a pdf file. The quality of their print books equals, and in some cases surpasses, offset printing, and an author can print as few as 25 books; offset printing only makes economic sense when printing at least 500 copies. POD publishers like BookBaby are a real service as they will print a single copy of one’s book, package it, mail it and process the transaction without any involvement of the author. BookBaby pays up to 50 percent royalties on printed books and up to 85 percent royalties on e-books sold through their service. BookBaby also partners with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ingram and others in marketing books. They have an easy-to-use online calculator for determining the cost of one’s book. Click on BookBaby for more information.

Screenshot of BookBaby’s website

Onward into 2023

By Virginia Parker Staat

Happy New Year to you and yours!

   As I write this, we are having the season’s first hard freeze in Texas. Our streets are lined with tropical plants wrapped or draped in colorful sheets and beach towels and looking like enormous Christmas packages. It’s our attempt to save the plants from freezing. It rarely works if the freeze lasts more than 24-hours. 

Continue reading Onward into 2023

Waterfalls and Voyageurs

Text & photos by Maryann Gaug

Split Rock Lighthouse; Lake Superior; Minnesota
Split Rock Lighthouse

Driving down a forested hill, the ocean appeared reaching to the horizon. Wait! Not an ocean, but Lake Superior! I’d never seen this largest of the Great Lakes. Once on the main north-south highway along Minnesota’s North Shore, my exploration started. I had with luck reserved five nights in three different state park campgrounds, giving me plenty of time to hike to waterfalls, past cascades, and to explore historic sites in between. My journey would cover 110 miles of Gichigami’s shore, the Ojibwe tribe’s name for the lake.

Continue reading Waterfalls and Voyageurs