Engineering student voted People’s Choice winner in libraries contest

May 9, 2022

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The winning submissions from Penn State University Libraries Short Stories’ “Written in the Stars” spring 2022 contest have been announced. Representing 50 submissions across 10 Penn State campuses, the latest writing contest encouraged students, faculty and staff across the commonwealth to submit their best “fate-themed” original short stories or poetry.

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 four honorable mentions, will be eligible for addition to the Libraries’ Short Edition short-story dispensers, located around the University Park campus and seven campus libraries, and at Schlow Centre Region Library in State College. 

The People’s Choice winner, “Leftover Destiny,” a poem written by Shruti Natal, received the most online reader votes via the Libraries Short Stories website during the contest. Natal, a third-year student from India studying industrial engineering at Penn State University Park, said her inspiration came from a Carl Sagan quote, and that “Despite it being out of control, human life and destiny is complex and worthy of appreciation.”

The student Editorial Board is comprised of eight students under the leadership of a Short Edition Editorial Board intern, most recently Ashton Zillhardt, who held the post for three years before graduating in May. In addition to leading the Editorial Board, many of Zillhardt’s submissions have earned Honorable Mentions in past writing contests.

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

  • Every Time I Die,” a poem by RRRadan, pen name for Michelle Paukett, a fourth-year student studying plant pathology and international agriculture and development at Penn State University Park, from Greene, New York.
  • Opposites,” a poem by Brendah Polanco, a senior studying criminal justice at Penn State Abington, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Strung-Out,” a short story by Sabin Bottomstone, a senior studying writing and digital media at Penn State Berks, from Myerstown, Pennsylvania.
  • "You are an Abyss," a short story by Gus Eberlein, a second-year student studying physics and astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University Park, from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

Honorable mentions, chosen by the all-student editorial team, are:

  • "The Fates’ Blind Eye," a short story by Mackenzie Siegel, a senior studying writing and digital media at Penn State Berks, from Reading, Pennsylvania.
  • "A Secret Message Ending in Forever," a short story by Ashton Zillhardt, a senior studying writing and digital media at Penn State Berks, from Mohnton, Pennsylvania.
  • "Fated," a poem by Kris Wilde, administrative support staff for nursing and radiology sciences at Penn State Schuylkill.
  • "Heavenly Bodies," a short story by Rebecca Horwitt, a childhood education assistant for the Arboretum at Penn State, University Park.

To read all entries from the spring 2022 contest, as well as past contest submissions, visit the Libraries' Short Stories website. Anyone with a Penn State email address can sign up for an account to submit original creative works to the site, as well as vote for and 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 may 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.
  • Madlyn L. Hanes Library at Penn State Harrisburg.
  • Lee R. Glatfelter Library at Penn State York.
  • Nesbitt Library at Penn State Wilkes-Barre.

For up-to-date information about dispenser access or for more information about the “Written in the Stars" writing contest, or the upcoming fall 2022 Short Story contest, titled “Among the Shadows,” visit  

If you’re a student interested in joining the Editorial Board, or have questions about the Libraries Short Stories writing contests, the Libraries Short Stories online platform, or short-story dispensers’ curricular or co-curricular use, contact Melissa Millar, public services coordinator for Berks Thun Library, at


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