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Winners of the 2020 Graphic Novel Making Contest

Graphic Novel Making Contest logo, written in blue and red comic font with a pencil

The 12th annual Graphic Novel Making Contest Awards Ceremony was hosted by San José Public Library Director, Jill Bourne, via Zoom on August 22, 2020. This year’s contest featured 173 submissions, copies of which can be viewed on Biblioboard. Due to COVID-19, the amazing Graphic Novel Making Contest Committee was able to host 38 programs virtually, with an astonishing attendance of 907. In addition, ceremony participants and attendees were treated to presentations by four industry insiders. This year, we had over 200 attendees watching our very first virtual award ceremony on both Zoom and on Youtube. Missed the Awards Ceremony? No fear, because there is a recording of the ceremony at the end of this post! Below is a written recap of the ceremony, but there are MANY more wonderful pieces of advice and inspiration from our guest speakers you can learn from in the recording!

Guest Speakers

Chad Sell

Chad Sell

The first guest speaker of the ceremony was Chad Sell. Chad Sell’s first children’s graphic novel was The Cardboard Kingdom, which he illustrated and co-wrote with a team of ten collaborators. Doodleville is his first full-length solo project, and it is set in Chicago, where he lives now with his husband and two cats. During his presentation, Chad inspired the participants by saying that they create their own magic, while showcasing a few of the actual participants' graphic novels. He also encouraged our participants in that if they did not win, to keep trying. Chad gave several great tips, such as sometimes when you look at someone else’s work within your age group or above, you can learn so much.  He ended his inspiring presentation by encouraging the participants to take inspiration from this community and in themselves.

Shannon Wright

Shannon Wright

The second guest speaker of the ceremony was Shannon Wright. Shannon is an illustrator and cartoonist whose work has been featured in The Guardian, TIME Magazine, NY Times, Mother Jones, NPR, Google, and Scholastic. She has a picture book titled My Mommy Medicine and her first graphic novel, Twins, will be released this October. Shannon revealed during the award ceremony that seeing the work that was submitted for this contest ignited a fire in her, and she was so inspired. She shared that just like some of our participants, she creates comics based on what was going on in the world. Shannon balances the serious issues that she creates with fun topics, such as a comic that she wrote about a girl fighting as she battles allergies. She ended her presentation by telling our participants that they are comic creators in any form with any type of tool, whether it’s a pencil or ball-point pen.

Shea Fontana

Shea Fontana

Shea Fontana is a writer for film, television, and graphic novels. Her credits include developing and writing the DC Super Hero Girls animated shorts. She has also written for top comic titles including Justice League, Wonder Woman, and Batman: Overdrive. Shea revealed that she did not finish creating her first graphic novel until she was 30, and she congratulated all of the participants for being light years ahead of her by submitting a finished graphic novel. She also shared her childhood experiences as a writer, in that she would enter all the writing contests, but never win. She encouraged our participants to not give up and to keep going. She revealed to participants that being a storyteller is like being a superhero, they all have a special superpower to create anything.

Gene Ha

Gene Ha

Gene is a NY Times bestselling comic book artist. He has won four Eisners, the highest award in American comics. Gene is best known for his work with writer Alan Moore, Top 10, and its prequel, The Forty-Niners. Gene lives outside Chicago in Berwyn, IL with his lovely wife, Lisa. During the award ceremony, Gene revealed that he was inspired by Ethan Castillo. Ethan is a Bay Area teen artist who is seen at the top conventions in the Bay Area and at San Diego Comic-Con. He approached Gene to get feedback and tips on his art and Gene was more than happy to help them out. Gene put himself in Ethan’s shoes and wished that he had a mentor at a young age as he was following his passion. Gene also shared the origin story of his career, and how during the pre-internet days he would photocopy his comics and send them to the two major publishers, Marvel and DC. Despite receiving a rejection letter from Marvel at first, these are now two companies that he has the amazing opportunity to work with.

The Winners

Now it is our pleasure to announce the winners of the 12th annual Graphic Novel Making Contest!


GNMC winners
Children 0-7 winners

Children, Ages 0-7

  • First Place: Vrinda Arvind, Nana Banana
  • Second Place: Elise Yoon, Skating Star
  • Third Place: Jasmine Jian, Herbal Master and the Fox
  • Honorable Mention: Arya Rao-Smith, How Oliver Found Love
  • Honorable Mention: Sonia Wang, Supergirl
Children 8-9 winners

Children, Ages 8-9

  • First Place: Samvith Mahadevan, Lost in the Cave: An Oggy & Chip Adventure
  • Second Place: Easha Sreeder, Coco’s Crazy Day
  • Third Place: Ahdia Mohamed, Ahdi the Supergirl
  • Honorable Mention: George Liu, The Alien’s Gift
  • Honorable Mention: Leo Zhou, The Thing in the Closet
Pre-teen winners

Pre-Teens, Ages 10-12

  • First Place: Adelyn Wu, The Adventures of the Bunnies in Our Backyard!
  • Second Place: Lucia Nguyen, Lost and Found
  • Third Place: Victoria Ramanovich, Goat Pro
  • Honorable Mention: Veronika Yakovets, The Cat vs. Dog Diaries
  • Honorable Mention: Denise Dinh, 2020
Teen winners

Teens, Ages 13-17

  • First Place: Natalie Walter, Velcropaws
  • Second Place: Claire Lin & Chandler Cook, Investigation
  • Third Place: Suzuka Kojima & Carissa Chou, King Papel and the Charming Kingdom
  • Honorable Mention: Vince Bruennert, Like Us
  • Honorable Mention: Chayla Venzon, Discord
Adult winners

Adults, Ages 18+

  • First Place: Elise Phan, Lumiere
  • Second Place: Gilbert Armendariz, The Hungry Hound
  • Third Place: Jacques Manjarrez, American Jew
  • Honorable Mention: Isla Myles, Scotsman’s Penny

Where to Read

View this year's winning and participant’s comics online through Biblioboard.

Recorded Award Ceremony

Missed the Award Ceremony? We have it recorded below for your viewing pleasure.

Prize Pickup

Prize Pickup

Prize pickup begins Wednesday, August 26, 2020 and ends Saturday, September 19, 2020. All participants and winners have received instructions through email. Let’s celebrate our participants and winners by taking a photo of you and your prizes when you pick them up, or at home! Take a photo of your awesome participant or winner and tag us @SanJoseLibrary on all social media platforms along with the hashtag #sjplgraphicnovels. If you have submitted an entry but have not received a prize pickup email, please check your email inbox, as well as the junk and spam folder. If you are still unable to find instructions, please contact us at



A BIG thank you to this year’s generous sponsors! We were able to provide prizes for the winners, as well as graphic novels for every participant thanks to the following:

  • San Jose Public Library Foundation
  • San Jose Museum of Arts
  • Sakura of America
  • Illusive Comics and Games
  • DC Comics


Thank you for supporting the 2020 Graphic Novel Making Contest. Stay safe and we will see you soon! Check back as we’ll be adding new graphic novel making programming in the coming months.

Blog Category
Graphic Novels

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