First-place entries from 25th Kenai Peninsula Writers’ Contest

First-place Winners

K-3 nonfiction

First-place winner: Sidney Jones

“If You Aren’t Falling”

If You Aren’t Falling, You Aren’t Learning

Last summer I learned to ride a bike. My bike is pink, purple and white. It used to have training wheels. My bike goes really fast. My babysitter Jamie, and my mommy, daddy and little sister Jenaka all helped me ride my bike.

At first riding my bike felt super scary. I cried almost every time I rode my bike.

My mommy and my daddy and Jamie helped me learn by running next to me. I earned treats for riding my bike. I rode on the spit and my favorite bike-riding treat was ice cream.

Sometimes I fell of my bike. I felt scared and frustrated. My daddy told me “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t learning.” My daddy’s dad, my papa Ken, told my daddy the same thing when daddy learned to ride his bike.

I felt happy when I could ride past all the flowers on the spit.

And I felt proud that I learned how to balance without training wheels. Next summer I’ll learn how to brake.

K-3 fiction

First-place winner: Taiga Reader

“Silver Feather’s Journey”

Once upon a long, long time ago in Homer Alaska, there lived a raven. His name was Silver Feather. The moonlight made his black feathers glimmer beautiful shades of purple and green. He had a colorful feather on his head because he was the leader. His village was called Feather of the Sun.

Those days were dark because an ancient quilt covered the sun. The quilt was so ancient that no one knew who made it. Since it was so dark, nature made it so all the animals could see in the dark. Since Silver Feather was the leader, he answered the important questions the animals brought to him. Another thing Silver Feather did as a leader was to protect the village.

One day Silver Feather decided that his village needed light. He told this to the animals and asked the Ravens if they would like to come with him to help lift the quilt off the sun. Three of the Ravens said “Oh yes, we would love to come with you!” After they said their goodbyes, the four ravens set off on their journey.

The journey took Silver Feather and the other three Ravens, who were named Silver Star, Silver Sky, and Silver Wave from 7:42 in the morning to 9:00 in the evening. After roosting on a star, they were all fresh the next morning to lift the quilt off the sun. After they ate a yummy breakfast of king salmon, they talked about how to get the quilt off the sun and all said “I think we should each take a corner of the quilt and lift it off the sun.” So that is what they did.

Just as the ravens returned to the star they had been staying on, beautiful and magical looking flowers rose out of it. Then beautiful birds that the ravens had never seen before appeared. “I am Shooting Star the leader, and we are the birds of the rainbow” said a rainbow-colored bird. Shooting Star flew to Silver Feather and gave him a beautiful bag of food embroidered with birds, flowers and the words, “Thank you with all of our hearts for bringing light to our universe.” Silver Feather and the other ravens looked inside the bag and gasped. It was halfway full of peanuts, ten little trout and a king crab. “Thank you so much!” said Silver Feather.

Then Shooting Star motioned for a fledgling to come. The little purple, green and pink bird smiled and said, “My name is Life Flower. We all thank you so much!” and gave to Silver Feather something that looked like a golden egg with a white rose on it. “Thank you so much!” said Silver Feather. Then Shooting Star said, “We would also like to give you the honor of planting the first galaxy rose” as she handed over the beautiful egg. “This can only be done with the sunlight you brought to us.” Silver Feather replied, “Of course!” and then asked Life Flower, “Could you help me plant this beautiful galaxy rose?” “Of course” exclaimed Life Flower. Life Flower said “you hold one side of the egg, and I will hold the other and then we will both give the egg love and the flower should bloom.” As they and then everyone else gave love to it, the rose on the egg transformed into a red rose and lots of beautiful petals kept growing on the rose.

Everyone stared in wonder at the blooming flower with smiles on their beaks. Seed pods started to grow on the pointy petals of the galaxy rose and a warm breeze gently blew the seeds all around the star and even on other planets and stars. Shooting Star gathered some seeds and put them in a woven bag and gave them to Silver Wave. “You can plant these on Earth” said Shooting Star with a smile. “Thank you so much!” said Silver Feather. “We will stay one more night and then leave in the morning.” Then Shooting Star surprised everyone by saying, “I think we should live on Earth for spring and summer and then come back to live here for the rest of the year. Would that be OK with you, Silver Feather?” Silver Feather replied, “Oh we would be ever so happy if you came to live with us. We also wonder what we should do with the ancient quilt?” Shooting Star answered, “Thank you! You can do anything you want with the ancient quilt. If you want to take it with you, you can even use it as a magic carpet.”

That night, everyone roosted on the star. It was a tight fit, but they managed it. The next morning they ate peanuts and trout for breakfast, and then all started going back because it was spring. Before Silver Feather, Silver Wave, Silver Star and Silver Sky left, they said “Thank you” to the star and all the beautiful flowers.

It took the birds about three and a half hours to get back to the animal village on Earth.

While the birds were flying back, the Ravens told the birds of the rainbow as much as they could about their village.

When they got to Earth all the animals greeted them with kind smiles and said “Hello, we are so happy you are back! Who are those beautiful birds who came with you?” “These are the birds of the rainbow” said Silver Feather. “Should we have a feast with this yummy food they gave us?” asked Silver Feather. “Oh yes, yes, yes! We would love to!” said the animals. So everyone had their fill and Silver Feather told the animals that the birds of the rainbow would be staying with them for spring and summer.

And so they lived happily ever after.

The End

4-6 poetry

First-place winner: Miranda Green


The ocean. I stop and look at the sunset as the waves crash around me. I’m stranded in the ocean and in need of help. I call. Nobody hears me. I splash. Nobody hears me. I swim.

Nobody sees me. I’m a shadow in the mist. Nobody sees my shadow. Nobody sees my mist. I continue to swim. The ocean getting deeper. I get nervous. I wish I could fly away with the birds that are calling back to me. I yell again. Then, my eyes slowly drift open. When I realize that it was a dream, my eyes close again as I go back to it.

4-6 nonfiction

First-place winner: Ilsa Gutschow


I opened my eyes. A canopy of brown fabric stretched above me. “Huh? Where am I?” I thought. Then I remembered that we had gone camping. The tent was dripping with water. I tried to sit up quietly to not wake the rest of my family, but I banged my head on the tent. I held back a yelp as cold water splashed on my face. Luckily, my family took no notice. My dad (or possibly my brother) snorted in his sleep. I yawned and looked at my watch; it was 6:23, it was not worth going back to sleep. I turned on my mp3 player to listen to an audiobook.

I shook my head. I had fallen asleep. The headphones were still jammed in my ear, and the audiobook was still playing. I looked at my wristwatch. I had only slept for four minutes. I wondered if that counted as sleep.When I felt the outside of my sleeping bag, it was wet. That definitely should not be happening. I remembered how earlier the tent had been dripping with water. Then, my mom’s eyes fluttered open. She sat up groggily.

“Why’s the tent wet? Did it leak?” She questioned me. I shrugged my shoulders.

“I don’t know,” I responded sleepily as I snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag “but it’s cold!”

“The tent had no way for moisture to escape.” My dad speculated as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

“Well it’s breakfast time, let’s get cooking!” My mom exclaimed.

In quick succession, everyone woke up. We got dressed and went out onto the frigid beach. While birds chirped in the distance, filling the morning with their songs, a group of seagulls splashed in the waves.

I went down the seaweed-covered beach to the ocean and sat on a rock. The frothing waves sprayed frigid, salty water in my face. I watched as the sun rose over the bay. Slowly, a sense of calm washed over me like swells from the cerulean ocean. I looked at the snow-capped mountains and pink-smeared sky. It made me think of something: “Even though the horizon is always dotted with clouds, like the sun, the future is bright.”

Back by the tent, my dad called for me. I sighed and regretfully headed back, thoughts swirling through my brain like random gusts of wind on the beach. An eagle called overhead and waves crashed. By the campsite, tall trees loomed above waving grasses.

I tasted my oatmeal, it wasn’t the best breakfast, but it was okay. It was quite bland, only a hint of cinnamon. On the log next to me sat my younger cousin, Naomi. She and her family had come from Seattle, Washington to visit us. Her short dark brown hair whipped around in the morning wind. Meanwhile my dad and my brother Finn stoked the fire and my mom took pictures of the rising sun. Back at the tent, my older cousin Sam and my uncle Mike were packing their things. The snow on the mountains across the bay sparkled in the morning light.

An hour later, we were all fed and packed. We started the long hike back to the car.

Naomi and I chased one another around, playing tag and Finn walked through the ocean getting soaked.

To the left, the light glistened on the salty tide, and on my right pushki and alders covered the steep hill and cliffs. A river tumbled through the cliffs and a trail led up the mountain. The sun had risen fully now and we were almost back to the car. When we reached the trail I looked back and I was reluctant to continue even though the campsite had disappeared.

But, I did want to take a shower; I was filthy. So I forged ahead, eager to go home.

As I slipped and slid my way up the muddy ridge, I thought about random things, like if the neighbors’ cats would’ve missed us. I trudged along, ready to go home. My feet were muddy and my shins were bruised. Finally, I saw the end of the trail and I began to run, but slipped on the slimy mud and almost fell flat on my face. I regained my balance and slowed down a bit.

When we were at last back at the car I swung off my backpack and put it in the back. I took off my raincoat and put it on the seat so I wouldn’t get it filthy. Everyone else got in the shiny, silver Toyota and buckled up. We sped away from the trailhead and I smiled remembering the extraordinary adventure we had just had. I was going to miss our campsite, but I was glad to be heading home. I remembered on the beach that morning what I had thought of while watching the sun, “Even though the horizon is always dotted with clouds, like the sun, the future is bright.”

4-6 fiction

First-place winner: Harrison Mayasich


This is a story about a boy named Hendrik and a wacky Halloween. It all started a few years ago…….. Hendrik was a nine-year-old boy in fourth grade. It was his favorite time of the year: HALLOWEEN. He was rounding a corner when he saw a creepy looking arch. His curiosity took over and he went in. On the other side it looked normal, but as he got farther in, he figured something out: everything was real! The skeletons, the costumes, everything! He then noticed that he had gone so far, he couldn’t see the arch anymore! So, he talked to a ghost (his costume was a ghost).

The ghost said, “Boo want woo bo to the arch, ask the Wise Goblin. He’ll wo what woo boo”.

The ghost floated away before Hendrik could ask, where is the Wise Goblin? So, he ventured off to find him. He went farther and farther until he saw a big castle. But the castle was heavily guarded. So, he hid behind a bush. Some of his ideas went like this: I sneak up behind a guard and knock him out; I find a group of ravens to fly me over; I sneak through the line to get inside. He picked his third idea and went off. Since the line was soooooooo long and there were so many guards and grumpy looking monsters (maybe that’s their normal expressions), he needed to be stealthy. He snuck up to the back of the line and waited until nobody was looking. Then he went up ten monsters. Then another ten. He did this until he was third in line.

When it was his turn, he said, “Oh great and powerful wise goblin. Where is the creepy arch.”

The Wise Goblin thought a bit then said, “The creepy arch, hmmmm? Here`s a map. You must follow these landmarks. First, head north. The map will tell you the rest.”

So, Hendrick set off to find the first landmark: a prickly tree full of vultures. Once he got there, I swooped on him and took the map! The only way to get the map back was to trick the vultures. So, he found some feathers that fell off the vultures and put them on over his ghost costume. Then he climbed the tree and sat right next to the vulture with the map.

Then Hendrick said in his most squawky voice, “Hey. I would like to see that map that you have.”

The vulture squawked and flew to a higher branch. So, Hendrick climbed higher. Then, when the vulture wasn’t looking, he snatched the map and climbed down the tree, thinking, I did it! I tricked a vulture! The next landmark was a graveyard. So, he set off north-west to find it. When he got there, he felt a little spooked. The graveyard seemed HAUNTED (of course it did because everything is real in that place).

Hendrick crept through the graveyard without making a noise. Suddenly, he fell into a hole! And above it, was a gravestone that said, “Billy Bob. 1906-1907.” Hendrick screamed and jumped out of the hole only to see Billy sitting right there! He looked pale blue with cold, unblinking eyes. Hendrick screamed even louder and sprinted out of that graveyard and in the direction of the last landmark: a haunted house! Hendrick got there quick since he was running. Once he got there, he saw the regular mansion with lightning in the background. He sighed and walked in. Turns out there was a party going on in there with The Monster Mash music going on in the background. Hendrick was surprised that it wasn’t the old knights and pictures with moving eyes. Creepy or not, he still crept through it carefully. Every once in a while, he’d come upon a monster who’d turn around and talk to him. He’d listen for a little bit, and then walk away. Once he saw the backdoor, the music stopped, and a big looking monster with three eyes, three legs and arms, stood up, and made a grumbling noise.

Then all the monsters wailed, “All hail King Three!”

They all fell into a bow and stayed there while King Three grumbled something. Then all of a suddenly, all the monsters turned to Hendrick. He did a little wave and sprinted out the back door. He knew that once he entered the creepy arch, they couldn’t go any farther. So, he ran all zigzag, trying to slow down the monsters. The arch was finally in view. All he had to do was enter it. A little bit farther……..a little bit farther……..

Everything was back to normal. The skeletons, the decorations, the costumes, everything. Hendrick was happy. He had finally made it through the arch and told the owners to take it down and to never put it up again. Once he got home from Trick-or- Treating, he had some pieces of candy, and went to bed, dreaming about his Halloween adventure!

7-9 poetry

First-place winner: Apphia Bowser

“My Garden”

Rubies and jewels, Sweet berries of mine, Glittering, glistening, Sparkling like wine.

Dew like diamonds, Flowers like crowns,

And gleaming here sweetly, Dark petals like gowns.

These bounties are special, To guard and to keep,

Lest invading marauders Weed up from the deep.

This garden of mine, More precious than gold,

In it I labor for riches so fine,

I must keep a watch to let it not mold.

This garden I love, Its beauty I treasure,

For this is my kingdom, And I am its queen.

7-9 nonfiction

First-place winner: Alex Eberle

“Hot Dogs are Cooking and I Want Them to Finish Already”

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon at my house, and all seemed well for me. I had a nice, warm, comfy seat on the sofa, and the summer seemed like it would never end.

Nevertheless, something was about to come that was to ruin my entire day: hunger. I felt like I was starving to death, and I needed to do something about it, lest my feelings become the truth. That Saturday was a particularly lazy day, and I felt I did not want to get up and make my food. As so, I got up to ask my dad to make some of America’s most prized confections: some hot dogs. Little did I know, my growing hunger would not be satisfied immediately.

“Dad, can you make some hot dogs?”, I asked, and my dad went straight to the kitchen to make them. At first, I was not that hungry, but soon I felt like I could eat a horse, three cows, two bald eagles, sixteen kangaroos, two slabs of concrete, five gorillas, eighteen hornets, and a bag of Doritos Dinamita. The hunger was overwhelming, and I could’ve died if I hadn’t got some snacks! I got up from my seat and went to the pantry and grabbed a large, flashy bag that felt like smooth fish scales in my hand. The bag was filled with tons of “XXTRA FLAMIN’ HOT” Cheetos chips. Even though they made my nose tingle when I put them next to my face, I threw a big handful in my mouth. “YEOWCH!” screamed my brain, as the chips that were branded to be “TWICE AS HOT!!!” as regular hot chips filled my mouth with the fiery power of layers upon layers of super-spicy chili powder, that left my mouth feeling like a pit of magma at the bottom of a volcano. While I eventually swallowed the fireball down, My stomach immediately swallowed everything up like a bottomless pit. My hunger would not be satisfied quite yet.

Even after I ate the chips, I was still hungry. I was so hungry that my mind would never stop thinking about the hot dogs, and how long it would take for them to cook. Nevertheless, I tried to do the impossible and try to distract my brain from the unkillable monster that was hunger. I got from the sofa and hopped on the chair which was sitting at my computer, and started my favorite computer game. This game was very difficult, and although it helped me forget a small bit about the hot dogs, the hard game filled me with a much worse feeling than hunger. The dastardly duo of hunger and anger lead to a miserable day and an extra-cranky brain, and this made me think about the hot dogs even more.

The hot dogs were still cooking, and I was getting really hungry, and I was not happy about it. I was pacing around the room with an angry look on my face; my brain was like the magma pit in my mouth, except this time, it was about to erupt. I could not take it anymore. I started to stomp, and growl like a bear. I tried to do things to distract myself, like bounce a ball, run around outside, and play on my phone, but nothing would work. The hunger would never stop, or escape my brain. It seemed hopeless, that the hot dogs had been lost to time forever. I would never be able to taste the savory goodness of the saintly sausages, the cheddar cheese inside them melting on my tongue, the spicy jalapeño adding a powerful burn, or the tangy mustard adding that extra burst of flavor. In my mind, definitely, all hope was lost. Or was it?

Earlier, I had said to myself that all hope was lost. However, I told a cardinal lie that would eventually rip apart the fabric of space-time. As it turns out, the hot dogs were almost ready and all my suffering and lamentation was in vain. “Bud, the hot dogs are ready!” yelled my dad as my heart soared like an eagle in the wind. The savory smell of the salutiferous sausages was overwhelming. I was so happy and hungry at the same time that my heart and my stomach both almost exploded. I immediately rushed over to the kitchen and grabbed a plate, carefully laying the hot dog on a bun, sauerkraut on the hot dog, and mustard on the sauerkraut. I took a big, crunchy bite that immediately filled my stomach with the almighty glory of delicious hot dogs. It was perfect. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and all was well for me. I had a nice, warm, comfy seat on the sofa, and the summer seemed like it would never end. The best part, however, was that my stomach was filled to the brim.

10-12 poetry

First-place winner: anonymous

“the day my body becomes mine once more”

the day this body becomes mine once more.

the day i can’t feel you on my skin when

the scars turn white

and the fingerprints smudge from my hips i

will be clean.

the day i stop glimpsing you

when i don’t go stiff as a corpse

and my chest rises its steady up downup downup down i

will be unafraid.

the day i can indulge the touch of a human when

i cry without shame

and i am worthy of love

i will be safe.

the day this body becomes mine once more when

i unshatter

and my lips no longer bear the taste of salt and despair i

will be truly alive.

10-12 fiction

First-place winner: Mason Watson

“Deep Waters”

It’s darn chilly out here! was his first thought. Upon a black sand beach which emanated an aura of despair, a man with an unwavering smile stood. The coast line greeted him with a harsh welcome, as cold winds roared and·an unrelenting black fog surrounded him. Deeply dark green waters clashed with the shore, never failing to shower him in the salty liquid each time. In the distance, unimaginably far, stood tall, imposing mountains that commanded obedience. To say this strange land was unwelcoming would be a vast understatement, however the man’s signature smile remained unchanged as he hummed a sickeningly merry tune completely unbefitting of his setting. In the distance, a somewhat tiny boat slowly bobbed through the waves, beelining for the shore at a snail’s pace.

The dinghy fell in place just shy of the sands, and water rippled slowly from the epicenter of the boat. A man was seated at the hull. Aside from his face which was casted in a deep shadow, his body was covered in robes from head to toe.

“We’ll be departing soon, sir. Are you ready?” The figure said in a low, gravely voice.

“Why thank you pal, I’m as ready as can be!”

The smiling man waded his feet through the water, which he noted was cold. Not a normal kind of cold per say, but the kind of chill that would house a dead body long after it was gone. He lifted his feet out of the water, shaking whatever decided to cling onto his foot off, and climbed onto the deck.

As the dinghy waded through the deep, murky waters, an uncomfortable silence was shared between the two. There had been some slight waves, but other than that it had been smooth sailing. The wind blew cold, violent air that fluttered the man’s robe only slightly.

“So would you like to tell me why I had to travel all the way there?” The robed man said, agitated.

“I have no idea pal, I apologize”

“I haven’t had to travel that far, work that hard for any passenger in… well years!” ‘Well maybe it was just a nice excuse to go on an adventure!!!” The smiley man said with a smiley smile.

Before the robed man could utter another word, he noticed fins swimming about the water.

“Struggle sharks! Really!?!?” He looked over to the joyous man. “See this is YOUR fault”

“I’m so sorry sir, I hope there’s something I can do to help.” “Nah forget it” The man said with a sigh.

Sharks circled the boat, occasionally popping out and snapping at the smiling man who was far too eager to reach in for a pet. The sharks had purple, blue faces with bulging eyes. They seemed to have bloody tears pour from their eyelids, and their neck looked as though it had been tied real tight.

“Y’know, I’ve never had a ride this bothersome before. What’s your deal? Can’t you move on?

“…How about we lighten the mood with some jokes haha… I’ll go first!” ”That smile isn’t going to help you”

For the first time, the robed man believed he saw a twinge in this joyous man’s unwavering smile, before he quickly got back to position. He did not tell any jokes however, not 1, not 2, or even 3 or 4. 0. Complacently O.

It had been an hour since they had left the beach of black sand, and their pace had slowed considerably. The sharks had begun chomping away atthis old ship, taking piece by piece its old wood. It seemed as though each piece, each board, told a thousand stories. They each told a thousand, and they could tell a thousand more. As the sharks took the boat, it had been taking potential. Potential to see the other shore, potential to go on a grand adventure, potential to live. The boat began sinking.

“You made this choice, it is now your duty to accept it. To move on.”

“I know that!!” The not so smiley man said, tears streaming down his once cheery face.

“I know that it’s my fault, that I chose this path. But…” The man gripped his forehead.

“I just don’t want this adventure to end just yet.”

The water had reached up to their knees, and yet that could not compare to the torrent of emotion that wafted through the air.

“I understand that, I really do. But it is our job to accept our fate with grace. That is the only key to true peace my friend.” The robed man spoke softly, before turning to the water.

“Are you going to sit here and sink, or will you face your reality? It’s up to you.” The man leapt into the water, and slowly sunk deeper and deeper into the abyss.

The man with a slight, warm grin. With tears staining his cheeks. He looked to the water, he tapped its surface, sending a ripple through the water. A shark came up to him, and he pet it on the head.

“Good boy” He said softly.

Slowly, he climbed out of the small boat, and into the water. The abyss, where he was meant to be.

A smell of chemicals and latex filled the room. Men could be heard slightly murmuring in the background. There was a monotone buzzing on the heart monitor. Then, there was a beat, followed by nothing. Then, a second beat, nothing. Then a third… a fourth… a fifth… and a sixth.

Adult/open poetry

First-place winner: Megan Corazza

“One Good Horse”

My Dad always says that in life, you only get one good woman and one good horse. So what happens when that mare dies, or you get a divorce?

Do you ever forget the way that horse would charge At a pack of snarling dogs like she was twice as large?

Do you forget the way that woman would pull the trigger on a moose And later that night in the tent, let her hair down, long and loose?

Do you forget the way that horse flew down the beach at low tide Full gallop, on the edge of the surf, eagles by her side?

Do you forget how the house smelled as she simmered a stew Cinnamon, red wine and pearl onions waiting just for you?

Do you forget the way she would stop in the woods and perk up her ears Her blowing breath and quivering sides telling you all her fears?

Do you forget that woman dancing to the country station on a beat up wooden floor? Or how you picked her up laughing and carried her through a door?

Do you forget how that horse stepped so fast up a mountain valley?

Or let her eyes drift shut while you stopped in a blueberry meadow to dally?

Do you forget the first time you saw her, when you thought…. “maybe?”

Or the quiet buzz of flies in the sunshine as she napped with your newborn baby?

Do you forget how that horse would walk right into the shop Or up onto the porch where you would let the reins drop?

Do you forget the day when you signed a paper

And she was gone from your life like a wisp or a vapor?

Do you forget turning off the excavator and staring across the creek?

Your mountain companion under the ground and wondering if you were going to be sick?

In life you only get one good woman and one good horse But another buckskin is bound to come along of course

And you won’t trust it, and you’ll keep your bridle on the wall

Until the green starts to fade, the days get shorter and the leaves begin to fall

Then you’ll put your nose under her mane to see how she smells

And talk to her over the fence, to see if she listens to the stories you tell

You’ll take her up mountains and through a river

A long test to watch her ears in the forest and feel her hide quiver

Dad is right, in life you only get one good horse,

But you can saddle up the next one without forgetting, and without remorse.

Adult open/nonfiction

First-place winner: Cynthia Atcheson

“No Dumb Grandchildren: A Tribute to My Grandpa, Alphabetically Arranged” (exerpt)


Grandpa preferred Dutch apple pie, the kind with cinnamon, sugar, flour and butter crumbs on top, fresh from the oven. He ate his pie with a slice of sharp Swiss cheese, because, as he said, “Apple pie without some cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.”


My grandpa, Leonard Wallace Basinger, met his bride-to-be, Agnes Anna, at a hymn sing for Mennonite young folks in North Lima, Ohio. He said, “When I walked in, I saw the most beautiful girl in the world. I knew I had to meet her.” He asked to drive her home, she said yes, and her brother came along as a chaperone. They were married in August of 1941 and raised four children together. Later, when she was bedridden with multiple sclerosis and had to wear a patch to keep her eyes from crossing, he still teased her and tickled her feet.


As a Mennonite, Grandpa was a conscientious objector to war. So instead of enlisting during World War II, he joined the Civilian Public Service and volunteered as an orderly at Lima State Hospital (a mental institution). One inmate there had a thumbnail so sharp he could split a wooden kitchen match in 10 pieces with it.

… Read more online at

Adult/open fiction

First-place winner: Tara Caribou

“Lost Years” (exerpt)

A woman holds my hand. I’ve never seen her before but she’s showing me a photograph of a handsome young couple standing in front of a blue Cadillac and now she’s started crying. She keeps asking if I remember him, in the faded photograph, but I’ve never seen him or her before. She insists she’s my daughter Deborah but my daughter is just a little girl. She lost her front teeth recently and I put them in an envelope to remember her fleeting childhood. This woman must be my age, maybe older. She tells me things she says are about my life that sometimes feel vaguely familiar yet surely I know my own life. She hugs me and it feels awkward to hug a stranger but she seems to need it. I wave to her when she says she’ll be back next Tuesday like always. But I never do see her again, poor woman.

… Read more online at

Adult/open flash fiction

First-place winner: Janna Wagner

“How to Knit a Warm Warm Sweater”

Buy a skein of wool from the hardware store. Whisper. You have been brave before. Whisper.

You can be brave again.

Shop online at two am. Buy clearance lingerie. Buy white lace and black fingerless gloves and leather garters.

Google: Green tea pills. Intermittent fasting. Type: How long does Botox last?


Download Tinder and then delete it. Find the beginning thread in the skein. Make a loop with your thumb. Cast on.

Begin to knit a warm warm sweater.

Make green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. Use extra black pepper. Reduce the sugar. Bring them to bed still in the pans. Cry.

Re-download Tinder. Expand age range. Lower standards. Think: you fool.

Reply. Tears in the ashtray. Cold black coffee. This might be the last text they’ll ever read from you. You have to say the real.

Say, I’m sorry. From the blood and the bones, I’m sorry.

Pick up the needles. Think about the beginning. You, in your black corset, dancing — breathless on Halloween. They. Spending the next month looking for that girl. You, just once, that girl.

Knit. Driving one needle through the loop on the other needle is very hard. It is easy to poke soft things.

Make it to the end of the row. Turn around (endlessly). Now purl. Think about the middle. Think about warships in the harbor. Think of the lantern, faltering in the belfry. Think about laughing and holding hands, a gluey happy puddle.

Turn around. Now knit.

Cry. How is the person you just made love to, the person that just held your trembling body steady to theirs – going to avoid your eyes in the bar? How is it that you are to be strangers? How?

Think about brandy. You have some left. Make mulled wine. Check your phone. There won’t be any more messages. Open saved iPhone notes. Read: “why do I love you? because you are one in a million.”

Consider the bookshelf. Consider that writers read in such times. Consider the word skein – a length of thread or yarn, loosely coiled…a tangled or complicated arrangement…a flock of wild geese or swans in flight.

Wild Geese. Open Mary Oliver. Read,

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves…

Whisper. You have been brave before. Whisper. You can be brave again.

Throw the needles. Unravel the lot. Think about the ending. Think about the flame in the light house, the moment the oil runs dry. Cry.

Think about bats and Longfellow and Paul Revere’s Ride…Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch…One, if by land, and two, if by sea;

Sit at the bar. Swipe left, right. You will definitely need two lanterns.

Pull out your knitting. Deliver fuel to the light house. Examine the inclement weather. Cast on.

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