Rebecca Thompson with Ann Head’s daughters Stacey Ahner and Nancy Thode

As creators and sponsors of the annual Ann Head Literary Prize for Short Story Fiction, the family of Ann Head is pleased to announce the winner of the fifth annual award is Beaufort High School senior Rebecca Thompson.

Thompson’s prize-winning story “The Canary Rain Boots” a contemporary fable, dusted with humor, in which the protagonist Wendell sits at his desk struggling to make sense of a calculus problem as a necessary part of achieving the single goal his set himself: Harvard University. Almost everything the overachieving Wendell does, and he does an awful lot, is to bring him closer to fulfilling that goal represented by the crimson Harvard pennant on his wall. Until, frustrated, staring at his window to the rainy day outside, he sees a flash of color. “It was,” Thompson, writes, “bright yellow—no, canary yellow—and belonged to a pair of oversized rain boots.” Could that really be a life changing experience? The story balances reflection, revelation, and comedy, but it ends with a kick to make sure we remember its lesson.

Thompson will receive a cash prize of $500 and her name will be engraved on the

Thompson with BHS teacher Michael Gautier & the Conroy Center’s Jonathan Haupt

Ann Head Literary Prize plaque to be permanently displayed at Beaufort High School. She will also be honored at the Pat Conroy Literary Center where she will be given the opportunity to read from her story later this summer.

Ranked academically in the Top Ten of her BHS graduating class, Thompson is a

past commander and current member of the Junior ROTC, the Green Team, and the Kitty Hawk Honor Society. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, DAYLO (Diversity Awareness Youth Literacy Organization), BHS orchestra, and Beaufort Children’s Theatre. A Beaufort County School District Senior Scholar and AP Scholar, Thompson has also been honored with the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship, the Nu Delta Omega Chapter Scholarship of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the Air Force ROTC Scholarship, the Air and Space Forces Association Award, the Distinguished Cadet Award, and National Sojourners Award, among other honors. She is the author of two published novels, The Girl in the Tree and its sequel, Seeking the Truth. Thompson will begin her studies in the Honors College at the University of South Carolina this fall, majoring in psychology.

Kenadie Daniels with Gautier and Haupt

Two Ann Head Literary Prize finalists were also identified by the judges this year: freshman Kenadie Daniels for her story “One Day,” and fellow freshman Shaniya Martin for “The Death of an Artist and the Resurrection of the Muse.”

“One Day” by Kenadie Daniels begins in a bright kitchen where a girl is making herself a sandwich for lunch, humming a tune while her sister runs around looking for something to eat. As ordinary as life in the kitchen seems, Daniels swiftly breaks the idyll. Readers finds themselves caught in the same kitchen at night while a father who claims to be repulsed by his eldest daughter’s body abuses her. In her spare prose, Daniels, without the need of being graphic, relentlessly details the horror of discovering that, from some homes, there is no escape.

Shaniya Martin starts her story, “The Death of the Artist and the Resurrection of the Muse,” with this sentence: “The world is dark and gray, and when I hold the paintbrush in my hand, nothing is created.” What starts out to be the tale of a young artist struggling to regain within herself the inspiration to paint reveals itself to be, instead, a gentle, unhurried love story.

The winning stories were chosen from entries written by BHS students and

Shaniya Martin with Gautier and Haupt

submitted for consideration. The high caliber of the stories made the decision of the judges, all family members of Ann Head, extremely difficult, although highly enjoyable. The family is grateful for the enthusiastic support of the BHS English Department and English teacher Michael Gautier, as well as for the support and partnership in this endeavor of Jonathan Haupt, executive director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center.

The family of Ann Head congratulates each of the students who submitted a story for the competition this year. They are writers all, and they have proved that they can each craft an original short story. Keep it up, writers of Beaufort High! Who knows how many more future Pat Conroys Beaufort High might foster?


About Ann Head: Writer Ann Head, the pen name of Anne Wales Christensen Head Morse (1915–1968), was the granddaughter of Abbie Holmes Christensen, who came to Beaufort during the Civil War to educate the recently freed enslaved populations of the Sea Islands. Moving back and forth between Boston and Beaufort, Ann carried on the family tradition of bucking traditions and creating new literary forms. Ann was Pat Conroy’s first creative writing teacher at Beaufort High School and became Conroy’s mentor, confidante, and friend. She was a central figure in Beaufort’s midcentury literary scene, befriending many of the famous authors who wintered in Beaufort, including Samuel Hopkins Adams (whom she considered her mentor), Somerset Maugham, John Marquand, and Katherine and E. B. White among others.

Ann published over fifty short stories and serials in the major national magazines

Ann Head

of her day, with many of her stories set in a small town just like Beaufort. She wrote of divorce, snobbery, affairs both emotional and sexual, prejudice, death, and out-of-wedlock childbirth, championing the non-typical heroines of the magazines that eagerly accepted her work. In addition, she authored four novels which were published internationally, most notably Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones, a compelling story of teen pregnancy which was on school reading lists for 50 years and is credited with helping create the Young Adult novel genre.

Ann died suddenly in 1968, at the age of 52, cutting short a vibrant life and promising literary career. She was posthumously inducted in our state’s literary hall of fame, the South Carolina Academy of Authors, on May 4, 2024. The life of Ann Head is chronicled by her daughter, Nancy Thode, in lectures originally presented at the Beaufort County Library and now available on YouTube, and in a forthcoming biography. To learn more about Ann Head, please visit her entry on Wikipedia. Her stories and books are available locally at the main branch of the Beaufort County Library.


Excerpt from “The Canary Rain Boot” by Rebecca Thompson, Ann Head Literary Prize Winner


Wendell failed his calculus test. He got a B.

He crumpled the results into a ball, tossing it in his bedroom wastebasket. This exam was definitely not fridge-worthy.

“Harvard won’t care about a B on a single calculus test.” His mom had tried to reassure him, surprising him with a trip to the local frozen yogurt shop and even buying him a Harvard sweatshirt. “Advanced Placement Calculus test,” Wendell emphasized as he pushed a lone chocolate chip through the melted ocean of strawberry yogurt.

Now, he was hidden in his room with his math textbook thrown open and his head buried in the tangled swoops and harsh angles of trigonometry. He recited definitions, scribbled down calculations, and reset his TI-84+ for good measure.

His phone buzzed on the table.

“Going out 4 dinner. Anyone wanna join?” read the text from his friend Mark in their obnoxious ten-person group chat.

His phone buzzed again and again as everyone typed out a response, eagerly accepting the invitation.

Wendell opened the app and let his thumbs hover over the keyboard. He wanted to go—he really did—but Harvard wasn’t in the dark, greasy booth at McDonald’s. Harvard was in the crisp pages of his textbook.

Sighing, he composed his infamous response. “Sry. Busy with HW.”

His phone instantly became a disturbed beehive.

“Dude! Again?!” asked Mark, adding a frowning emoji for good measure.

Wendell set his phone to Do-Not-Disturb and tossed it onto his bed, listening to the muffled thump when it settled in his sheets.

Sighing, he returned to studying with renewed energy, tracing the tiny, typed letters with his finger. Tap, tap, tap, rat-a-tap.

Wendell glanced at his window. The famous gloomy Louisiana weather never disappointed.

Rat-a-tat, tap, tap.

Gray popcorn clouds burst with rain, letting out a waterfall of dancing droplets. They mercilessly attacked the house, throwing themselves wildly against each asphalt shingle. Wendell scrunched his shoulders, trying to prevent the mesmerizing rhythm from worming their way into his head, twisting his practiced focus into a whirlwind of distracting thoughts. Did I sign up for the service thing in National Honor Society? I need to fix my opening move for chess. I have lacrosse practice and orchestra this Thursday, which should I go to? Do you think she’s outside?

His shoulders fell. The girl in the rain boots. Would she be out there, in the rain…?


Excerpt from “One Day” by Kenadie Daniels, Ann Head Literary Prize Finalist

I was standing at the kitchen island, making myself a sandwich for lunch, and humming the tune of “My Girl” by the Temptations. My little sister, Mia, was running around in the kitchen, looking for something to eat. I watched her and giggled as she struggled to grab something from out the freezer, eventually moving behind her and grabbing it for her.

“Really, an Icee as a snack?” I teased her playfully and she frowned and crossed her arms, “Be quiet!” she said in a sassy voice while turning away. I ruffled her hair and went back to my sandwich, beginning to eat as she ran to the living room, Icee in hand. That’s when I heard someone else enter the room. I turned my head as I heard someone walk in. My father flashed me a predatory smile as he walked past to speak with my mother. I froze and took a deep breath, quickly dashing to my room the second he was out of my line of sight.

I locked my door behind me and sat against the door, pulling my knees to my chest as tears began to trickle down my cheeks. I sat there for what felt like hours, just sobbing pitifully. I slowly crawled towards my bed and laid down. I covered myself in my sheets and hugged my old stuffed bear to my chest. I knew I was “too old” to rely on it for comfort, but it was all I had. I let my tears blur my vision and drown out everything around me, sobbing hysterically and hoping for a break from this constant mental stress. I let myself slip into sleep as exhaustion overcame me, but it was as if I couldn’t even escape my problems in my dreams.

I sat up and found myself in my childhood room, the bare mattress on the ground and toys littered on the floor. My bear was the only thing on my old bed, accompanied by an old quilt. I looked around the bare room for a few more seconds before opening the door and stepping out. To my surprise, I wasn’t met with solid ground, instead falling through the floor. I shouted out in shock, but was soon met with the cushion of a soft mattress.

I looked up to see my father, standing over me and grinning, an almost proud grin. I felt like an ant compared to him, his looming presence making me feel anxious beyond belief. He leaned closer and I felt my soul leave my body, a weight on my chest and tears in my eyes as I struggled to breath. As his hands landed on my body, my skin began to crawl. A disgusting feeling filled my body as I felt bile rise in my throat. I felt disgusting and ruined, tears streaking my cheeks as I darted up from my dreams. I wasn’t safe, not even in my dreams, not even in the single space that was truly mine to control….


Excerpt from “The Death of an Artist and the Resurrection of the Muse” by Shaniya Martin, Ann Head Literary Prize Finalist

 The world is dark and gray and when I hold the paintbrush in my hand, nothing is created. Six long months of my creative flow droughted. Paper upon paper filled with nothing. Canvas laying dry upon its isle like some form of empty throne. Isolated and empty just like a heart, as I feel, day by day, my passion slipping away. My head lays stone cold on my mattress as I feel my body yearn to do something. Move around, it tells me. Create art, be productive. Yet I do not move.

Drawing is draining and time consuming. Funny how something you love to do soon fades like all passion at some point. When my own art faded, I dropped out of my art college and, too ashamed of telling my parents, I moved to Arkansas with only a few thousand dollars to my name that I quickly spent on a trailer. Despite myself, I got a job at the local flower shop near the trailer lot which was convenient for me since I am without a car. Only an hour’s walk to the shop from here. It doesn’t pay as well as I would hope, but living by myself doesn’t make that too much of an issue. In fact, being by myself is good for me.

The evenings are peaceful with warm milky sunsets that sweep over my gangly body like a blanket. Back in high school, I perhaps would have painted it. Tried to capture the beauty of the skyline and the blessing that is our Mother Nature. But now, as I lay in my bed, I feel no reason to move. No reason to get up and paint the day, to flow watercolors like rivers and acrylics like oceans. To draw the ravens that caw outside my window in the late autumn day as the sunflowers in the gardens bow their heads to rest.

Oh, how I wish to draw again, to feel the breeze of inspiration once more and have it sink into my hollow bones. The spark of passion ignited like a flame in my heart, once so powerful like a forest fire turned to ash briskly floating away in the winds. My oils, once something I saw as beautiful, now lay ugly on my table. Their colors are not as vibrant as they once seemed. Art was a language I was once so fluent in, now a simple white parchment seems alien.

But none of that matters, because the sky is parting and gray turns to yellow, and yellow to orange, then orange to faint blue and, sadly, I know it’s time for my day’s work. I throw over my legs and make myself get ready for the day. Days seem to blur together for me. There’s no real variety. Time seeps into a gray blur of work then home like muddy watercolors. I scramble into my knitted striped sweater, an oversized red jacket, and a pair of dingy jeans as I have no reason to look good in such a small town. In fact, most avoid me. Being the new kid in a town where not many move out or in really makes you the black sheep. I pull on scuffed shoes, grab my messenger bag and walk outside to the painted properties of the trailer parks.

Dark silhouettes of different varieties contrast against the bleeding sky as brilliant golds seep through the gray clouds. Their residents either still sleep or suffer the same misfortune as me, forced to work an early shift. I pull my headphones from my bag and shove them into the lion’s mane I call hair. A very prominent dent appears where they lay, so as a resolve I pull up my hoodie and start my hour-long journey to Tony’s Flower Shop….