‘Southern Voices’ announces their winners for the Art and Writing Competitions


MSMS Official Website, cover art by Carter Moore

Pictured is the cover page of Southern Voices’ 2020 literary magazine issue.

Henry Sanders, Student Life Editor

The winners of the annual Southern Voices Art and Writing Competitions were announced Feb. 9. Their work will be published in the 2021 issue of Southern Voices literary magazine.

Each year, judges who are experienced in their own respective field of art and writing are asked to judge the submissions of Southern Voices. There are writing categories and art categories, each with top three place winners and an honorable mention section. 

MSMS English teacher and Southern Voices’ advisor Thomas Richardson believed the newest submissions, many of which were produced in his other sponsored club, Creative Writing Club, to be exceptional. “This year’s submissions were phenomenal,” Richardson said. “I’m biased, of course, and many of the pieces I’ve seen since their infancy stages, but you don’t have to take it from me. The outside judges were blown away. I know the magazine editors and staff will have a hard time squeezing in all the pieces they love into a final spread.”

While the name the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science might lead some people to label MSMS a STEM school, Richardson looks past the labels. “I don’t fall for the STEM school designation trap,” Richardson said. “At MSMS, we have students that are just plain awesome. Forget the labels of ‘math people’ and ‘humanities’ or ‘arts people.’ We have students with eclectic interests and who want to be better at everything they do. The literary magazine has a permanent place at MSMS because we’ve never been in the practice of pigeonholing students.” 

Editor-in-Chief of Southern Voices Shelby Tisdale agrees with Richardson and believes MSMS creative writers deserve more attention. “… I think that the efforts of students who are interested in the arts and humanities, even if they may be interested in STEM, shouldn’t go unnoticed,” Tisdale said. 

“When you hear Mississippi School for Math and Science you immediately think that every student in this school has a narrow focus,” Tisdale said. “But in truth, our student body is full of interdisciplinary thinkers. We have one of the, I would argue, strongest creative writing departments in the state.”

For senior Jaylin Jones, Southern Voices is a way to express the feelings that the South brings. “…to take a collection of the feelings and experiences of people here in the South, and the MSMS population, and give them a stage to not only let those voices be heard but to try to get as many people to hear them as possible.”

Jones won five awards in total for writing, three top three placements and two honorable mentions. Jones believes it to be hard to tell sometimes just how much the South has influenced him. “I’d say somewhere between completely and just a bit. It’s hard to tell because sometimes I have difficulty figuring out where the South ends and where I begin.”

While her parents were working in the garden at her house, senior Karlene Deng decided to grab her camera and take advantage of the bright, sunny day. “I literally just set my camera on the ground where the soil is, and I put my aperture, or F sock, very very low so that I wanted to create this mystic, hazy vibe.”

Karlene’s work didn’t go unnoticed by the judges as her submission for photography titled, “Dazed” won first place. The reason for her involvement in Southern Voices comes from a strive to leave something behind as her final semester of MSMS wraps up.

“Honestly, I just feel like it’s good to contribute to MSMS,” Deng said. “…the pictures that I put up I think would go along with a lot of the nonfiction stories and the poetry that would be placed in the magazine.”


The following awards were given to these students:





1st place–“Woodworking with Ashes,” Shelby Tisdale

2nd place–“Open Casket,” Jaylin Jones

3rd place–“Always Home,” Gracie Rowland

Honorable Mentions–“Submerged in the South,” Jaylin Jones; “Exodus,” Shelby Tisdale; “My Skeletons,” Lily Langstaff


Creative Nonfiction: 

1st place–“Lock and Key,” Stephanie Ressel

2nd place–“Everybody Has Something to Say,” Leslie Lewis

3rd place–“Out of Frame,” Jaylin Jones

Honorable Mentions–“In Memoriam,” Jaylin Jones; “Small Talk Prayers,” Shelby Tisdale



1st place–“Small Town Secrets,” Emma Spinks

2nd place–“Zion,” Jaylin Jones

3rd place–“The Turkey Vultures,” Shelby Tisdale

Honorable Mentions–“Jeremiah Split,” Amy Zhang; “The Homeless Man’s Funeral,” Shelby Tisdale





1st place–“Dazed,” Karlene Deng

2nd place–“Sandy Collection,” Weslyn McMurrin

3rd place–“A Lone Daisy,” Amanda Anderson



1st place—“Untitled 23,” Gracie Rowland

2nd place—“Man’s Best Friend,” Elena Eaton

3rd place—“Bob, A Still Life,” Sophia Toner



1st place—“Food for Thought,” Shelby Tisdale

2nd place—“Bike in Quarantine,” Sophia Toner

3rd place—“A Reminiscence,” Amanda Zhou


Other Media:

1st place—“Skeletons in the Closet,” Aastha Banga

2nd place—“Lost and Found,” James Harden

3rd place—“Octopus,” Taylor Wypyski