Writing Contest For Participants
Students at participating Cavalcade of Authors West schools are invited to participate in the short story writing contest. Stories can be in prose or verse. There will be a middle and a high school division with a winner from each division.
All submissions are due March 1, 2019.
The best story from each school will be judged by a panel based on originality, unique style, creativity, and use of descriptive language. Stories must be original work of no more than 1,500 words.
Writers: Each school is allowed to submit one entry (Yes, librarians/teachers get to find the BEST one!). Submit an electronic copy of your original work to your librarian or lead teacher by the "to be announced" date at your school.
Librarians/Teachers: Schools must submit all entries through an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "2019 Writing Contest Entry." Be sure to include the writer's name, school, age and grade in your email. Winners will be announced at #COAWest19 and will receive awesome prizes from Barnes & Noble and COA West! We will also publish the winning stories here on our website and promote on all of our social media channels.
2018 Writing Contest Winners!
BY ISABELLE TAGUE, FRONTIER MIDDLE SCHOOL
Eighteen months. That’s equivalent to 1.5 years. 13,140 hours, or 788,401 minutes. 788,401 minutes and one second. Two. Three. Four-
My heart pounds as I let the pencil fall from my trembling grasp, re-reading the calculations. Tears well in my eyes- yet I clench my teeth, forcing them away. I don’t cry anymore. Worthless tears won’t bring him home. I slam my fist against the desk, scattering all my useless crap about. His paper boat tumbles to the floor. Sobs threaten to penetrate my chest but I hold them at bay, sliding off my stool onto the hardwood floor. Pulling my knees to my chest, I wrap my arms tightly around them, until I can
almost imagine it’s a hug. But I don't do that anymore either. No physical contact at all.
I sit there for another minute, rocking back and forth. Drawing in three deep breaths, I force myself to stand up, the hem of my shirt catching on a small nail protruding from the loose floorboard. Underneath, lies the last of his belongings- I couldn’t let them go. Ambling down the stairs to the kitchen and snagging an apple and a crayon, I turn and creep down the hall until I reach his room. Trying the door handle-
only to find it locked- I pull a hairpin from my curls and insert it into the keyhole, wiggling it around until the lock mechanism clicks. Slipping into the room and gently closing the door behind me, I collapse to my knees and tip my head back against the dresser- this and the desk being the only decor left in the room. They took everything else with them when they filed in one day, wearing strange masks, and bunchy white suits. They took everything he’d touched away, and never brought it back. They wouldn’t let me in- not even after they took away the stretcher covered with the white cloth. When I asked, they
told me it was him. My brother. But I simply told them the truth- no, it was not. They were incorrect, I said. My brother couldn’t be under there, because he was already gone. He’d run away, I would whisper, eyes darting side to side. He’s run away, like we always planned. Except he forgot me on accident- that’s why I have to wait right here for him to come back, so he can take me too. The baggy-clothed men would merely fake a smile and pat me on the head, as if I was a child. But seven is far past childhood- that’s
what he always told me.
“Annie,” he’d whisper to me, “to be seven, means you get to have adventures; to
go places and meet new people.” He’d tell me tales about how he was going to run away- and he’d take me too, now that I was seven. He even made me my very own adventure vest, sewn from his old Boy Scout outfit. He and I would race out to the backyard, me in my vest and him in his baseball cap. We made maps of where we would go once we ran away together- and we hid them under the loose floorboard in my bedroom. Except one day, we were out in the yard, when he started to cough. He did that a lot- but this time, some of the strawberry jam from our PB&J sammies had come back up I suppose- pooling on the ground and making him sway.
Mother wouldn’t let him outside after that, and I wasn’t allowed to see him. Every other day, a man in white with a funny crooked nose would visit him in his room, then come out and whisper to mother. Sometimes however, when I got bored of playing by myself, I’d sneak into his room and sit by his bed as he whispered me stories (quietly so mother didn’t hear), occasionally having to pause to wipe strawberry jam from his lips. One day after I snuck into the room, he asked me to grab some paper. A big thick stack, he’d instructed. So I did, and he did something wondrous-he made me my very own boat! I loved it so much, that I begged and begged until he taught me to make one all by myself. He then leaned over to me and whispered, “When we run away, if we ever get separated, just send a paper boat down the creek, and I’ll find it and come back to you-underst--” he was interrupted by lots of coughing, and red jam spilled all over him- onto the floor, and all over me. His eyes widened, and he desperately lunged for my hand. But I had grown frightened and drew back, scurrying out of the room, tears streaming down my cheeks. I ran to my room and slammed the door, crumpling on my bed. I sobbed and sobbed, terrified that mother would find out I’d been in his room.
She found me later on and sat beside me on the bed. She stroked my hair and cried with me for some reason, even though she was the reason for my tears.
We cried some more, then she enveloped me in a stifling hug, not noticing the jam stains splattered across my shirt. She squeezed her eyes shut, and told me he was gone- that my brother had gone to a better place. I was so shocked that I simply stopped crying, jumping off the bed and sprinting to his room- but the door was locked and I couldn’t get in. So I just sat, waiting for him to come out.
But he didn’t. He had run away without me, it seemed. And had locked the door behind him. He must’ve told mother he was going somewhere better, I suppose. And I’ll bet he was gonna take me with- if only I’d had the guts to take his hand. This was my fault. So when the baggy-clothed men showed up, I corrected them. He ran away, so no, he wasn’t under some blanket. And after they patted my head and whisked his belongings away, I grabbed paper and began making as many boats as I could- writing messages on each of them; that I’d still like to run away, and that I was still at home, so he should come and get me now. I ran to the creek and sent them free, one by one.
I awoke the next morning, but he hadn’t come yet. So I made another, and sent it down the river. Each day I did this, while gradually pushing the rest of my family away. If I had grabbed his hand, I would’ve been with him now. If I hadn’t spent so much time crying, I could’ve caught up with him. So now I don't allow contact or crying because I’d thrown away my chance, and I don’t need to risk missing another one.
Eighteen months. Equivalent to 547 days- and each day I’ve sent another boat
down the river for my brother, waiting for the day he comes back to take me away.
I’m still waiting-
And will as long as it takes.
Whiskey and Lemonade
BY EMILY HOPPE, OLYMPIA HIGH SCHOOL
“I’ve never liked this time of day,” he mutters, in the same aimlessly bitter way that I’m used to and no longer attempt to challenge. He gingerly lowers himself into the wooden lawn chair with a breathy sigh and a flicker of eyelids that indicate the simple task as something far more difficult than it should be. He doesn’t complain. In the time that I’ve known him he’s only ever complained about trivial things, never serious ones.
The chair has sat on this spot as long as I can remember, about ten yards back from the porch and just under the apple blossom that has been here even longer. It’s old and withered with a handmade warmth that only my grandfather’s woodwork possesses. A couple boards are wiggly and if you press too hard on the left armrest it’ll squeak in protest, but otherwise it’s as sturdy and practical as it ever was. There’s no second chair and I don’t expect there to be, just the spindle-legged side table onto which he places a drink and yesterday’s newspaper. I take a seat in the grass, cross legged, and ignore the dry tendrils that try to scratch at my legs. The grass is different here, more compacted and with thicker blades, different than the soft and skinny ones back home. I think they developed that way to conserve water.
I glance around at the sky, which has taken on a distinct yellow and orange sheen in the time since we left the house. The few clouds are touched with a bright and nameless pinkish yellow color on one side and the area surrounding the sun is vivid and blinding, though parts of the rest of the sky retain their baby blue hue. The grass and trees look almost aflame on the side facing the sun, turned the same color that candlelight turns paper, but they’re still green and dark on other. The apple blossom casts shifting grey patterns across my legs, reminiscent of lace, or coral. It’s stunning.
“Why not? Everybody likes golden hour, even Grandma.”
He doesn’t say anything for a moment and I wonder if he even heard me. I know his hearing is going, fraying a bit at the edges and worn in the middle, just like his memory, though he won’t admit to either. It’s a point of contention between my parents and him, and though I try to remain on the sidelines I know that hearing aids would make his life a little easier. Unfortunately there no such thing as memory aids, though I think he’d be too stubborn to use them if there were. He shrugs and takes a sip of his whiskey and I follow suit with my lemonade, waiting patiently.
“It’s not how I remember it.”
He says it with the same childish defiance that he uses when he talks about politics and before he finishes the last word I’m ready to argue. It’s dumb to expect something to look the same in your head as it does in reality, selfish to assume that the world will bend to our preferences. Best appreciate what’s in front of you, enjoy beauty without expectation. I prepare to tell him this, but when I look back he isn’t watching the horizon anymore and isn’t seeing how the sunrise burns through grandma’s poppies with enough ferocity to turn them translucent. He can’t even see how my lemonade has been turned amber by the bright sky. Instead he’s looking at the sudoku puzzle in the Arts section of the New York Times, writing in a seven. I breathe out through my teeth and try to remember that he’s allowed to be both right and wrong at the same time. That’s the privilege of the elderly. Of those who built our livelihoods. Of the dying.
“Yeah, I guess it isn’t.”
2017 Writing Contest Winners!
BY DENISE GONZALES, LOCHBURN MIDDLE SCHOOL
Fissures. Valleys. Canyons. Earth always, and always will have cracks, my it be big or small. Some disappear after a while but most linger. There's actually an old folk's tale about how each crack symbolizes a person's heartbreak; in a way, Earth is the book that documents the history of lost loves. Some say that the gods created Earth this way to make life interesting, others say it's merely impossible and coincidental. Eventually, more and more people started to believe as more 'coincidences' happened and generations and generations believed it ever since. The government, however, is still skeptical; they say that there are too many variables to consider: sudden earthquakes, sudden gaps on roads, the possibility of something on the other side. They enlisted scientists to figure things out. All that did was create more questions. However, they did find a connection between the size of a crack and the person it's linked to. The more damaged the person is, the wider the crack. Alarmed, they built a machine that predicts which people can create the most damage based on personal data and kept tabs on them. However, it failed to predict the Grand Canyon. After all, how broken would a person have to be to create a hole that size?
You've always found the idea of soulmates utterly ridiculous. The concept of cracks actually being broken hearts even more so; you vaguely remember your father saying the Earth is connected to everyone — that it feels what we feel. You find these ironic considering humans have always taken nature for granted. A lot of people have tried to convince you otherwise, your friends, your foster family, your 6th-grade teacher, but you refuse to make the same mistakes he did. You hate everything about love — it reminds you too much — until you met her.
You were meeting your friends at the Flaming Heaven Cafe for a surprise, it already unsettles you. Your friends aren't exactly the "good kids." Nothing good ever comes from their surprises, usually ending with a trip to the hospital of a night in jail.
"Come on, you've been working too hard on that job of yours," he said. "Besides you won't leave me with those animals, will you?"
"They're not animals, and if they are, that would make you one too," That earned you a punch, "I'm only coming since I have nothing else better to do than babysit you guys."
"Sure, keep telling yourself that. You know you love us."
"Nah, I'm pretty sure I love my job more," Another punch, " I better not regret this."
You instantly regretted saying those words feeling like you jinxed it. In the corner of the cafe, you see your friends setting up a stage. Of course. You should have known this would be another plan to get you to sing. At least this is better than the time when your friends somehow got everyone to sing spontaneously for three days. You really needed new friends. "I really hate you guys, you know," That caught their attention.
"Oh come on. Do you always have to be in a bad mood?"
"Only when I'm around idiots."
"You wound me."
They merely rolled their eyes and continued setting up. After spending so much time with you, they got used to your sarcasm seeing as that's how you show affection. Honestly, they would've been more worried if you started being nice. Humoring them, you started going to the stage."That's the spirit! Someone get a camera! We need to get video evidence of the royal highness singing."
Ignoring your rowdy friends, you began to strum a familiar tune — the one your father used to sing to you as a lullaby. As you sang, more and more customers came piling in, but you paid them no mind -- all except one. It bothered you — you're used to shutting everything and everyone out especially when you sing — but there's something about her that draws you. It's not her golden hair that seemed to shine like the sun, not her lips that curls into a beautiful smile, it isn't because she looked like the incarnate of beauty and grace. It's her eyes. Those familiar blue eyes you felt yourself drowning in. You were so busy staring, you didn't realize you finished the song until you heard the applause. You turned away blushing, both from the attention and the shy smile she sent you. You didn't see her again until she came up to you. It freaked your friends out when you sported a big, dopey smile for the rest of the week. Maybe, just maybe, there are such things as soulmates.
You were never supposed to fall in love. It was a simple job: go on a few dates, make them fall in love with you, break their heart, create chaos. You weren't supposed to fall in love with your target, be jealous because of them. It's your family's fault. All you had to do was break the heart of the person deemed the most dangerous. You expected big, scary, even evil, but you didn't expect a sarcastic puppy. You thought you convince your parents to stop. You were an idiot to think you could ever find love, not after what you've done. The lives you destroyed. You should have never walked in but you did. You could have refused to do it but you didn't. Now your whole world is falling apart.
"We have to do this, I'm sorry," That's what they said but you know better — they don't care. You've always been a pawn in their plan, "It was doomed anyways."
You struggled against them, this might be for the best but that doesn't mean you won't fight. It all happened so fast, first, you were fighting now you're lying on the ground bleeding. Maybe, you'll see your love again. Closing your eyes, the ground catching your tears as the wind carries your last few words,
"It's over, I'm sorry."
"I'm glad I met you."
Denise is from Lakewood, Washington. Her influences include Rick Riodan, Marissa Meyer, and hearing individual stories by aspiring authors. Her favorite genres are myths, fantasy and adventure. Denise loves writing, and especially enjoys creating different characters and situations for others to enjoy, creating new worlds and being able to control situations, the feeling that she is IN her own world (one she can control), bringing her ideas to live, and making people cry by capturing feelings and events that touch her readers.
BY ALYSSA YOUNG, LAKES HIGH SCHOOL
There are many stories in the world. So many in fact, only one man could ever know them all. His heart was so big and his dreams so true that Mother Earth asked him to watch over her while she slept, and to protect all the wonders of the night. They called him the man in the moon. He stayed to his post, way in the sky, and watched over all the night creatures. He gave them all hope.
The moon was overhead, one winter's eve, when he looked down to see a little girl alone in the forest. Her eyes were bandaged and she carried a stick, as if to cut down the entirety of her foes, viciously swinging back and fourth, this way and that, decimating small trees and shrubs until she had cut a circle of carnage. She fell to her knees, scraping them on the harsh foliage, weeping. The girl was terribly lost and had no hope of finding home, for the young girl was blind.
The moon, being so high, saw the girls father searching for her, not far off. The man took pity upon them both and took the circle of carnage and healed it, filling the space with luscious moss and never fading forget-me-nots and echinacea cone-flowers. The moss melted from the pool and dug through the forest underbrush to make the girl a path to her father. The moon whispered to the girl and told her where to find the moss and travel safely. So the girl rose, and with her stick gently bouncing on the spongy forest floor, the moon guided her home.
The moon returned one night, months after he first saw the girl, he again found himself over her grove. He saw her there, lying on her back, covered eyes facing him. Her hair glowed silver and gold in his light, and she twirled a wild bloom that he had given her. The warm glow shown brightly in the tears that not even bandaging could hide. She sat up and tore the cloth from her face. She felt the glow on her lids and lashes, and when the tears fell, they looked like liquid light. The moon smiled down at her in hopes of consoling her sadness, but she could not see him.
Nights came and went, the moon racing to catch his brother, and the whole world gawked when he finally did. As he passed Mother Earth’s other sun, he looked down in hopes the girl would be proud that he had again caught his brother, but she stood in the grove with a young man, not many years her senior. The moon saw the boy gently brush the not so little girl on the forehead with his lips. The moon gave them his blessing during his moment of triumph, and passed overhead in a great flurry of light.
Again the moon passed the grove, many moons later, and he saw the girl kneeling in the moss. The girl was no longer a girl but a beautiful young woman in a light cotton dress. She knelt in front of a babe swaddled in pink and white. The woman wanted the moon to share in her moment, so he smiled as he passed over her with a silvery bright warmth, and blessed her child, too.
The moon returned every month to the grove, when he was his brightest, to shine upon the woman and her daughter. She would smile upon feeling the quick silver dance on her skin and over her blind eyes, and her daughter squirmed and eventually the moon showed her the way home, too. The moon would whisper sweet nothings on the wind, to the woman and she loved him, too, though she never saw him.
The woman one night did not return, and the moon, not seeing her, assumed he was wrong about what day it must be. He came every night to see the woman, but she did not come.
Finally, eves later, he saw her in the grove, lying in a long box of dark wood lined with white satin and silk. Her hair was long and silver, her dress a soft white. A bouquet of sturdy forget-me-nots and echinacea cone-flowers lay upon her chest. Her eyes lay open and uncovered, looking forever at the open sky. The moon wept for his little ecliptic girl, whom he had saved from the forest so many, many moons ago.
Alyssa is from Lakewood, Washington. Her influences include Rick Riodan, Frank Beddor, Ally Condie, Brandon Mull, and J.K. Rowling. Her 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Tillman, also inspired her to do a lot of writing and encouraged her to just be herself. What she most enjoys about writing is putting her words on the page that another person can read -- She creates a lens for another person to look through and see a whole other world. About COA West 2017: "It's amazing that two of the people who have influenced me so much will actually be here at this conference!"