Read the winning stories and meet the authors who took top honors in this year's fiction contest.

Meet the Winners

First Place: "The Secrets of Celestial Navigation" by Patty O'Hara. "In some ways my writing is a legacy for my children—a peek at the person within Mom and Nana," says Patty. "My favorite part about this story was that it was a new genre for me and a challenge. The joy of it is the recognition!" This longtime writer is a mother of five, grandmother of 15, and lives in Aptos, California.

Judge Darcy Jacobs says: "Minuet, Flamenco, Peppermint Twist—I was immediately charmed by the descriptions of paint colors that pepper the opening paragraph. At first glance a somewhat breezy tale of the recently divorced Lauren, her teenage daughter, and Lucca, the man she hires to paint her house, but there is gravitas beneath the layers. Lauren is trying to bring color to her rental and to the single life she unexpectedly finds herself living. With humor, grace, and a few well-placed digs at the ex, Patty creates a character you not only root for, but you want to spend more time with too."

Read "The Secrets of Celestial Navigation" here

Second Place: "Divorce Circus" by Jennifer Dupree. "Writing is a huge challenge, but there's nothing like getting words to feel right on the page, seeing a story come to life and being surprised by your own creation," says Jennifer. She recently won a Maine Literary award and is currently working on a collection of linked stories.

Judge Emily Giffin says: "I was impressed by the caliber of the writing, particularly Jennifer's restrained yet detailed descriptions of that afternoon and Ralph's gamut of emotions. The disdain he held for his ex-wife, the unbridled love for his child, and the dizzying relief he experienced when tragic circumstances were so narrowly averted were all so palpable and vivid that I found myself thinking about the characters and story long after I finished it, the sure sign of any great work of fiction."

Read "Divorce Circus" here

Third Place: "The Ravens Are Leaving the Tower" by Sarah Grubb. "I enjoy establishing a connection with readers through characters and situations that they can identify with," Sarah says. "My stories are based heavily on setting, which I hope reminds them of a world beyond their own." She just received her MFA in fiction from Chatham University and now lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

Judge Charisse Meloto says: "A captivating story about a teen crisscrossing Europe, fulfilling her dying sister's wishes. The voice of the narrator, Juliet, is relatable and raw. Reminiscent of The Bucket List with shades of Eat, Pray, Love, this story is both beautiful and heartbreaking."

Read "The Ravens Are Leaving the Tower" here

Honorable Mentions: "Practical Lessons" by Valerie C. King and "Seven Years Bad Luck" by Susan Luckstone Jaffer

Meet the Judges

Emily Giffin, best-selling author of numerous novels, including Heart of the Matter (St. Martin's Press). "I truly loved many entries, for many different reasons, so it was extremely difficult to pick a favorite. I can still remember the trepidation and excitement I felt when submitting my entries to various contests. It was always nice to win (although I seldom did!), but sometimes it is just as important to go for it, finish the work, and put yourself on the line. You're a writer if you're entering contests such as these that celebrate our shared passion."

Charisse Meloto, Director of Publicity, Scholastic. "It was wonderful to see a wide range of plots, likable characters, and compelling narrative. I only wish I wasn't limited to choosing just three finalists, but ultimately I was drawn to the characters' authentic voice and engaging narratives. Kudos to Family Circle for providing a platform for aspiring and talented writers."

Linda Fears, Family Circle Editor-in-Chief

Darcy Jacobs, Family Circle Executive Editor

Originally published in the March 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.

Enter This Year's Contest

Read the rules for the Family Circle 2011 Fiction Writing Contest