Stories

Among other prizes, the Grand Prize winners have their manuscript published.                               You can preview and buy hard or soft cover books by clicking here.

2016 STORIES | Excerpts | Grand Prize & First Prize

Ellie Saves The Zoo cover    MADELYN GRACE ALTHAGE

Grand Prize 2016 | Elementary level

Ellie Saves The Zoo

Once upon a time there lived a happy little elephant named Ellie. He loved living in the zoo with his mommy and all of his animal friends. He especially loved to see the joyous children who visited. Everything in Ellie’s world seemed perfect! Until one day he saw the sign…
ZOO CLOSING

His mother explained that the zookeeper could no longer afford to keep the zoo open. Sadly, he sold it to a man named Mr. Greeds. Mr. Greeds was going to take the land and build condominiums! For humans! “He sold the zoo?”, Ellie wondered. “Isn’t this our home?” Ellie was confused. What was going to happen to him and his family and friends? All of the animals were devastated by the news but there was nothing they could do.
“Or was there?”.

That night, Ellie thought and thought and finally came up with a bright idea! “I’ll get a job and use the money to save the zoo! How hard can it be?” The next morning he gathered his mommy and friends to reveal his great plan. Ellie knew they would be so excited! They would all cheer and call him a hero! But that is not what happened at all. All of the animals were silent when suddenly they began laughing hysterically. One in particular, a sloth named Fred, made fun of Ellie the most. “You can’t get a job, you’re an eight year old zoo elephant!”
Ellie hung his head low and turned to his mommy. “Now, now baby Ellie, do not listen to them. I believe you can do anything if you follow your heart…”

The Edge cover     MIA PEHLIVANLAR

Grand Prize 2016 | Middle School level

The Edge

It wasn’t particularly busy on the I-85, so no one took much notice of the scrawny teenage girl standing at the highways edge, her matted jet-black hair hanging limply at her shoulders. No one saw her tentatively swing one leg over the barrier, perching herself precariously over the concrete several stories below. No one but the sandy haired, wild-eyed boy swerving down the highway in his mom’s silver Mercedes. “Hullo, Josephine!” he called through the half-open window. “Be careful there, you might fall over the e-“ he stopped at the sight of the girl’s tear-stained face. Grayson slowly began to piece together the situation. He heaved open the car door and ambled over to the frightened girl. Just as she took another step closer to the periphery of the highway, he grabbed her hand. “Don’t,” he said softly.

Eight months later

Josephine happily sauntered out of Ms. Sinclair’s office for the last time…..

I Appreciate Negative Space cover     ALEX GONGLEWSKI

Grand Prize 2016 | High School level

I Appreciate Negative Space

“Are you nervous?”

That was most definitely rhetorical- because why would someone be asking a question to which the answer was obvious? My eyes don’t meet hers; they instead find some kind of interest in the wall behind her chair. My lips are chapped since I couldn’t bring myself to actually use the unwrapped Chapstick in my jacket pocket. My fingers take positions that in any other situation would seriously worry me. The dull room seemed to be shrinking on me, and the only thing on my mind was getting the hell out. The words were probably a reassurance, like “in case you forgot the metaphorical cliff of anxiety you were just climbing, I’ll just ask you about it- but in a very calm robotic voice.” Yeah, it was most definitely a rhetorical question.

“I don’t know, am I?”

Of course I found myself answering it anyways, and not even seriously- my voice was laced in sarcasm…….

LOGAN SHAPIRO

First Place | Elementary level

How Hurricanes Came To Be

Once there were two brothers, Boreas and Notus. They were always together but also always fighting. While brothers often fight, this was not your ordinary family. Their parents were Zeus and Hera, King and Queen of the Gods. Hera was always trying to keep them from fighting so they would not upset their father. This went on for many years until one day, Zeus, who was trying to rest for a few minutes (Gods need rest too), was woken from his nap by the sounds of the two brothers fighting. Zeus decided he would separate the two as far away as possible and made Boreas the God of the North Wind and Notus the God of the South Wind. That way the two would be on opposite sides of the Earth and that would prevent them from fighting once and for all.
At first, there was peace between the brothers. However, Hera was not happy with her Husband Zeus’ decision to separate them. Many years later, humans began navigating the Oceans and the brothers enjoyed filling their sails with wind to fuel their journeys. The brothers actually worked in harmony. Since the North Wind could only blow south from the north and the South Wind could only blow north from the south, they had to work together to send vessels back and forth. separating them seemed to have worked to keep them from fighting.

One day all that changed…….

MEGAN MAGUIRE

First Place 2016 | Middle School level

Hearing Colors

Red

Sounds like waves crashing against the sand,

Our Vacation in Cancun

My whole family snorkeling

The color of togetherness

Sounds like the words “Grandma’s Gone,

She wasn’t in Cancun

Red brings up mixed emotions

It’s happy and sad

 

Orange

The sound of the oven timer when there are

cookies in the oven

The smell of that chocolate chip goodness

Tastes like cookies melting in your mouth

Feels like a hug from Grandma

She made the best cookies

I wish she were still here

NICOLE NIXON

First Place | High School level

Snow White After Ever After

The Prince and I rode his white horse to the gleaming palace in the distance as I bounced with excitement.  I finally had a prince! He looked so handsome…

“I`m glad I found you Snow.” The Prince interrupted my thoughts, “I`ve been looking for you for ages.”

I frowned, “My evil stepmother kept my existence a secret.  How did you know about me before you found me?”

“Because you`re my sister.” He replied.  I froze, staring at him with my mouth agape. “But… you gave me true love`s kiss.” I whispered.

“Yeah, because you`re my sister and I love you.” The Prince said, “Our father divorced our mother and married your stepmother when you were three. All three of you moved to the castle you grew up in.  However, that witch killed our father soon after and used magic to cloak your location.  I would have never happened upon you if I had been trying, but thankfully, I was simply out hunting the day I found you.”

I stared at him in shock, “I thought you rescued me because you fell in love with me.” “Don`t be silly.  Who falls in love at first sight?” the prince laughed.

I nodded, seeing the sense in his words, “Well that`s true.  What`s your name?”

“I`m Phillip.  Now we need to rescue another one of our sisters.  Her name is Aurora, though she`s also known as Sleeping Beauty. She`s in a dragon guarded castle.”

“Whoa, tight security.” I said.  Then Phillip turned into a dark forest.

“Why aren`t we going to the castle?” I asked nervously. This forest reminded me of the terrifying one I ran through to get away from the evil queen.

“Don`t worry.” Phillip said soothingly, “I`m just going to get a few more of our sisters.”

Geez, how many siblings do I have? I wondered.

Suddenly the horse bucked, and I fell to the ground.  I looked up to find a knife inches from my eyes, causing me to scream and cover my face, “Stand down Belle!  She`s with me!” Phillip called.  I peeked between my fingers to see a dark-haired woman with hazel eyes watching me with suspicion.

“Who is she?” Belle asked Phillip. I then pulled my hands away from my face, causing her to gasp, “Oh my gosh!  You`re Snow White!” I nodded tentatively, “Well hi Snow.  I`m your sister.  Well, half-sister.  We only have the same mother.” She pulled me to my feet, “How old are you?” Belle asked.

“I`m fourteen.” I answered, feeling a bit self-conscious.

Belle`s eyes widened, “Wow, you`re just a kid.” She turned to her brother who was tying the horse to a tree, “Are you sure she should come?  This is a dangerous mission.”

 

2015 STORIES | Excerpts | Grand Prize & First Prize

K-K-K-K-Katie Cover     MEGAN MAGUIRE

Grand Prize 2015 | Elementary level

K-K-K-K-Katie

Poetry

Free writing

My favorite thing to do Thoughts flowing onto my paper

Thoughts of wisdom, knowledge

The little person trapped inside of me,

Screaming to be free of this stutter that holds me down from the fun I could be

having

From the life I could have lived

That is the truth

And that is what I love most

Not the truth,

Poetry

Half Cover      ELIZABETH WOOSTER

Grand Prize 2015 | Middle School level

Half

“The certified letter lay on the table unopened as Patrice combed through the trunk of memories left by her deceased grandparents. Henry Alexander Lamont Franklin was a decorated soldier from World War II and Patrice’s grandfather. She was fascinated by the trunks contents: newspaper articles featuring her grandfather’s medals, uniform, and war stories all kept by her dear grandmother.  Patrice noticed a few new items added, which she was not familiar nor had nothing to do with the war. There were some loose keys, authenticity letters for some art work, a French newspaper article of a missing person and a body in a car. These must have been added by the soldier during his last visit to the states. Patrice remembers as a younger girl going through the trunk every summer here with Grandpa. But she had not gone through the trunk or seen Grandpa’s sisters since her visit to France.”

Horror of our Love Cover      ISIS ARGUELLO

Grand Prize 2015 | High School level

The Horror of our Love

“She was beautiful. Her skin so supple and flawless, as white and perfect as the glow of the moon among the clear water. Her eyes the most beautiful of lapis stones, her hair the brightest sunflower among fields. Her lips a ravishing plump strawberry. I wished for her to be mine. Only mine. But someone as lowly and as worthless as I could not but only dream of such a thing. I watched her from behind my  white mask. She seemed to glide across the golden floor of the grand ball. Smiling shamelessly at all who dared so much as look at her unmasked face. A green beast roared inside me and I was tempted to do much the same. But I waited. It wouldn’t do me much to be impatient. I had waited too long to ruin my moment of triumph. She would come to me, she did for everyone else. I dared not blink nor breathe as she began to head my direction.”

Congratulations to Isis who expanded her story and has now her new book published and sold at Barnes & Noble and on Amazon.

CAMILO GARRIDO

Frist Place 2015 | Elementary level

Opawesome

“The doors exploded open as hundreds of students flooded out of the school. They screamed, ran maniacally, and pushed each other away as they loaded the buses. Each of them had no clue that within in one of the many holes in the grand old trees that lined the entrance gate to the school lived an opossum. His name was Nathan, and he is definitely amongst the smartest animals in the world…….

The moon, that glittering crescent that radiates, hope, wonder, and curiosity to the creatures of the world. Nathan had nothing to worry about; there would definitely be plenty of mischievous animals to follow. Whether they were Opawesomes (like him) or not, he didn’t care. With that, Nathan climbed into his bed, knowing that there was another great day ahead of him.”

TRISTAN RIOTTI

Frist Place 2015 | Elementary level

Maximum Time Travel

“In the year 2059, a physicist named Dr. Maximum was working for ISL Laboratories. He was running tests on magnetic fields and set about to create a magnetic bracelet. He called it a rainbow magnetic bracelet because the energy coming off the magnet looked like a rainbow of colors. Not knowing what kind of power the bracelet possessed, he put the device on his wrist and was admiring the beautiful colors it was giving off. Suddenly, he found himself traveling through time and got teleported to the Wild West.”

ANNA DE LA O

Frist Place | Middle School level

Names and Faces

“You know that defining moment when you meet someone? When you see someone you don’t recognize, store them in the file of Unidentified Strangers in your brain, and think to yourself, Hey, look at that face. I don’t think I’ve seen that face. That is a very new face.

Then there is that extra-special moment, when you either do or don’t get to know the new face. Will they be that kind of Friendly Face that introduces themselves to random strangers whose dog sniffs their dog’s butt? Will they be a Sullen Face, who scowls and hurries away? Will they be a Sweet Face, smiling shyly and brightening your day considerably?”            

RYAN GUILLEN

First Place | High School level

Empty Handed

“The rain tore at Krag through the ridges in his scale mail.  He swayed with the ship as it yawed and rolled in the darkness, the heavens roiling above him.  Lightning split the sky, illuminating for  an instant the monstrous length of the warship and her crew’s resolute faces.  The lookout hollered from  the prow, and the helmsman hauled on the groaning tiller, the ship threatening to snap.  The crew scurried for  their weapons, the moonlight illuminating their blades.  Krag liberated his war pick from his belt, and set his mouth in a grim, hard line.

“At last, ” he whispered into the wind.  ”At last I will.”

2014 STORIES | Excerpts | Grand Prize & First Prize

IMG_2115  The Lucky One

 

 

 

GRACIELA LÉON

Grand Prize 2014 | Elementary level

The Lucky One

“Astrid Wild was probably the unluckiest girl, or at least she thought so. Why? Because, at 10, she almost never had any fun and most importantly she couldn’t even spend time with her parents. You see, Clara and William Wild have meetings literally every hour of the day, even if they are home and not traveling to this country or that city, they are always busy. Astrid Wild is the President’s daughter. So now you are probably thinking …wow, she’s so lucky, but you’re really wrong.
Even her friendships are complicated, always having to schedule play dates with nanny’s and bodyguards  just to go to the park, it’s not like regular neighborhood friends that can walk up to your door and ask if you can come and play … it’s the White House!”
 IMG_2119  A Blank Canvas  
 
 

QUINN HARRELSON

Grand Prize 2014 | Middle Level

A Blank Canvas

“Several weeks had passed since Maxwell Proctor had his first gallery show. His professor at Yale had recommended him to a gallery in Chelsea that had represented his childhood heroes and within a matter of months the lanky German owner of the gallery named Ansel, who told him that he wasn’t an art dealer, he was a gallerist who made artists’ careers, had given him a solo show. This was unheard of.  No artist fresh out of school ever got a solo show. After that show, he no longer had to bus tables, he was an instant art world celebrity.

In the long weeks after the show blank canvases hung around his loft and haunted him like ghosts. He could do nothing but blankly stare at them the way one would stare at the television set, while the phone rang off the hook with propositions of more solo shows around the globe, newspaper articles and even a documentary. His mail box was flooded with elaborate party invitations on thick card stock.  He was tom, should he go or should he paint.”

IMG_2117  Woven       KATHERINE COHEN

Grand Prize 2014 | High School Level

Woven

“Time is an inevitable force, shifting and changing and forever continuing as I hang in my final resting place. All I have now is time and my fading story. My long life began in late spring in a small mud hut. A tale is woven in my strands, one of laughter, love, and tears. My home was surrounded by rocky fingers sporadically reaching up as if to touch the sky. Rings of amber and orange wound around their stone fingers. The sky was vast, immeasurable, eternal.

 I was woven in the orange palm of the desert, created by caring hands with red and black dyed woolen yarn as life hummed gently around my growing patterns, as rain played its rare music on chalky ground, as life settled into my threads. Strand by strand, effort and tradition were interwoven with my balanced patterns. The world was bright and my colors brighter. As a new blanket woven with the tradition of centuries past, I was full of life and use and strength.

 In my first years of life, time passed without my knowledge. The sun rose and fell like the blink of an eye. Sunset was nothing more than a sign of an approaching day. Though the memory is faint, I still remember the squirming bundle of life I swathed. They called her Mai, a strong name for such a gentle creature. She was so small, her tiny heart fluttered fast and light as a bird under my red and black shelter. Her new breath was warm and soft, unassuming in the world we now shared.”

MARTIN JARAMILLO

First Place 2014 | Elementary Level

One Man’s Rebellion

“One sunny morning I woke up- and went to nearby houses begging people to join me if they agreed to end slavery. These neighbors lived in small houses and had small farms. This was good for me because if they had big plantations slavery might be important to them. One of my neighbors, John Clark, used to be a Federal soldier whose group of 50 men were captured by the Confederates. Only 12 of them escaped. He was one of them. Once I told him my ideas of rebelling against the Confederates, he was excited to join me!  He came with me for two reasons. First, to get revenge on the Confederates for killing some of his friends and second because his father was a Union general captured by the other side and killed.”

VALERIA LOPEZ-TRUJILLO

First Place 2014 |  Middle School Level

Things That Matter

“I didn’t understand. There was no possible way she could be here. It was hard to take in when she knocked on the front door. And now she was sitting in our living room, her sandy blond, long, straight hair covering her short, strapless, shiny, orange dress. My little sister kept looking at me and her, no doubt finding resemblances between the two of us. Her ponytail kept swishing whenever she turned. My father, who had recently came out from the bathroom, was studying the cracks on the floor with sunglasses that covered his red eyes. Every once in a while, he would glance up at her, but if she looked around where he was sitting for a second, he would look down at the cracks again. And me? I stared at my mother’s smug, small face. Her puffy lips were bright red, and her nose was stretched and turned up. Her eyes were small and green, the only noticeable difference between us, and they were cold and hard. She inspected the house with a face of disgust. We sat there for 20 minutes without talking to each other. I had a longing to leave but I couldn’t bring myself to get up. It’s been eight years since I last saw her; even all the pictures of her were thrown out. Finally my dad broke the silence….

… I walked up to the phone slowly as if it was a death machine. I didn’t want to but I knew I had to. There was something pushing me towards the phone, and I knew that I would never be able to do anything again if I didn’t confront her. I felt courage building up inside of me and the blood rushing through my veins. And before I reached the phone, I knew why I had to do it. I had to think of myself as the girl who stood up and said no to all the pretty things in life and said yes to all the true things. I stared at the phone for a long time and asked my dad for the phone number. My hands trembled as I dialed the number. I heard the dial tone and waited.”

ERIC CAI

First Place 2014 | High School Level

Misunderstanding

“It was 5:56 when Reid drove into a parking lot in front of a clean white building. He walked up to the thick glass door, pulled a key card from his wallet, and unlocked the electronic lock. The interior of the building was quite similar to the outside, boasting an orderly appearance…. He entered his laboratory, using the same key card that he used to open the front door. A blast of cold air met him as he stepped inside, and the familiar smell of newly cleaned laboratory equipment reached his nose. The laboratory, mimicking the rest of the building, also had the same immaculate image… Keeping to his every day morning ritual, Reid emptied a single packet of sugar into his coffee, left it to cool, and unwrapped the sandwich. He opened his mouth, ready to bite into his sandwich, when his pager, buried in his back pocket, went off….

That afternoon, the desperation in the atmosphere was higher than it had ever been before. Sick victims were dying every hour, and the few healthy villagers were brutally imprisoned in their own homes. Reid and Alan sat in a small laboratory, surrounded by test results and empty answers, on the verge of giving up. It was nearly midnight when Reid and Alan were forced to leave their lab and return home. As they walked through the darkness, Reid couldn’t help but notice that the streets, which had been bustling with excitement, were completely deserted now. That night, Reid dreamed of four years ago. Alan had approached him, asking him to help stop a contagious disease that was raging across several towns in western China. It took eighteen months, but in the end Reid and Alan had managed to find a cure. It was an experience that was both something that Reid wanted to forget, but also something that he considered one of the greatest accomplishments of his life.”

ILANA REISER

First Place 2014 | High School Level

The Tale Of Avadne And Amaris

“Her aqua eye peaked through the brush she was crouching behind, her calf length hair in folds behind her. She breathed quietly and steadily, not giving any hint that she was there. She slowly notched an arrow and pulled back. The gears of her bow moving silently into place. She looked down the length of the arrow and held her breath, steadying her aim. With the relaxing of her fingers the arrow flew true and struck the doe in the chest. It made a noise of distress but Evadne made no move. The doe run as best it could and disappeared into the forest…..

She heard a slight disturbance in the fallen leaves and turned to see a black wolf not ten feet away from her…. “You don’t need to be afraid of me.” Her eye widened and she took a step back. He stood and lifted one paw off the ground.”

2013 STORIES | Grand Prize

 IMG_2125  When The Animals

 

 

EMMA BEHARRY

Grand Prize 2013 | Elementary Level

When The Animals Could Talk

“Long, long ago in very, very ancient times, animals could talk. Instead of purring or roaring, howling and growling they talked like you and me.

Over the years most lost their magic. Very few still have it. It’s hard to find them but they do exist. This is the story how it all happened. Let’s travel back in time before the first humans were alive. Animals lived in happiness. They chatted and played well together. It was their magic that let them. It only worked when the animal was happy. This was life for hundreds, thousands, even millions of years. Until….a new creature came…a human! The animals saw her as a harmless creature and welcomed her. She thanked them, but then cut down trees and built a house. This hurt the feelings of animals. She made them happy by helping the hurt and healing the sick. This the animals appreciated much! Soon, the human population grew. Over the years, more trees were cut and more land was claimed.”

 IMG_2123  Silence's Sound

 

 

KATHERINE COHEN

Grand Prize 2013 | Middle School Level

Silence’s Sound

“There are words, everywhere. The words are floating, flying, whisking, dancing through the air around my head. I am happy at first, watching the words. They seem beautiful, although there are thousands. When I focus on each particular word, I open my mouth to try to speak it aloud. Nothing ever comes out. The harder I try, the faster the words fly. They begin to sting with every sharp letter. Infinite words to speak, but have no voice.

Fear crawls up my spine. I reach backwards to lean against a wall, to close my eyes and hide. The words are no longer beautiful, they are painful. There is no wall to lean against as the words plummet through my head. I fall, sinking into a raging sea of unspoken words. I am drowning, descending further and further into the words I can never speak.

The letters begin to fade, and through them I see a boy. He is the boy from the park.

He’s wearing that black jacket, zipped all the way to his chin. Disheveled black hair floats in the fog of disintegrating words. He slowly speaks, his question becomes painfully distinct. “What is your name?”

In that moment I crash onto shore. Alone, lying in the sand, two words are lapping my bare feet. The waves flow upward and recede. Back and forth. I am …

  I am …

I am…

 IMG_2121  I Remember     HANNAH JUNCO

Grand Prize 2013 | High School Level

I Remember

“I squint in the sunlight and wince with the creaking of my bones. Walking now at eighty years old is not like walking when I was eighteen, when I was young and in love. I sigh and continue my walk through Berlin’s park. My destination is just ahead. Nearly there…

The tree is tall and welcoming, aflame with falling leaves. I sit beneath its golden canopy and gaze up at its branches, all intertwining and cascading like the many memories that wash over me at this moment.

… “I’ve kept my promise, Franz. I’ve kept my promise.” Wind blows over the     park and roars soft, sweet nothings about me. The leaves fall tenderly like a grateful shower of praise. And looking up to the heavens, I could almost feel his smile in the warmth of the sun.