Category: by ywp contest winner

Last month, we challenged our Young Writers to submit a 400 word excerpt from their NaNoWriMo novels. From over 500 fabulous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and four Runners-Up. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

“Phantom Mare” by Miriam G. — Grand Prize Winner (13 and Under Age Group)

Had she gone deaf?

Desperate for sound, Sharon dashed from the room. Her feet pounded but she couldn’t hear them. The door of the kitchen banged but she couldn’t hear it. She smashed into the table but she couldn’t hear it.

The world was silent.

Gasping and terrified, she dashed into the front hall. Her fingers scrabbled at the lock, clumsy with fear. She managed to turn it and yanked open the door.

Fog, unnaturally thick and white, filled the doorway, pushing to come in. Sharon shrieked, unable to hear it, and slammed the door on the fog. She locked it and waited, trembling, before forcing herself to move back to the kitchen.

The kettle lay forgotten on the burner. The burner, which she had turned on—but was now cold.

She had closed the window. Even with her mind fractured by terror, she remembered closing it. But now it was open, the fog blown in, the curtains rustling in the breeze.

Sharon stumbled toward it, grabbed it, tried to shove it closed. But it wouldn’t budge.

The fog wrapped cold, misty fingers around her, and she sprang back, tripping over a chair. She fell to the ground without a noise. The chair landed on her hand, causing a jolt of pain, but she ignored it and scrambled up.

She backed away from the fog as it slithered through the window, curling about her. She looked for the stairs, to run up them and take shelter from the terrifying fog, but the mist was already swirling up the steps.

Instead she fled down the hall, to the back door. She grabbed the knob and shoved at it before her fractured mind remembered. That door was jammed, and always had been. She couldn’t flee there.

That left only one spot for her to take refuge in. The living room. Sharon took a deep, shuddering breath, then dodged through the fog and into the room. She slammed the door behind her and waiting in the silent dark.

Nothing moved.

No fog curled under the door. Was she safe? She looked slowly around the room, her gaze landing unexpectedly on the forest picture. The horse inside looked out with black eyes.

Wait…

There never had been a horse in the forest scene.

The horse turned its head to look at her, and peeled back its lips to reveal sharp white teeth.

Sharon screamed.


Special guest judge Kat Zhang had this to say about “Phantom Mare”: “I love how tense this scene is! The build-up to the reveal is heart-pounding, and there’s a great rhythm to the sentences.”


Miriam G. is an aspiring novelist who enjoys writing about dragons and horses. She would spend all day at the barn around horses and all evening writing. Eventually, she hopes to publish her books. She wants to become a good enough artist that she can illustrate her books. Admittedly, she’s fond of self-inflicted pain through an accelerated math course to catch up with her older brother. She lives with her two brothers, her parents, and the sweetest, most patient cat in the world.

Last month, we challenged our Young Writers to submit a 400 word excerpt from their NaNoWriMo novels. From over 500 fabulous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and four Runners-Up. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

“About Tea” by Noelle H. — Grand Prize Winner (14-18 age group)

On Tea Henshaw’s second day, she hit Calvin in the jaw. I don’t know what he said to her to make her do it, but I saw her knuckles connect with his skin. I saw him take it like a dog: first shocked and timid, but then bouncing back at her with big eyes.

You wouldn’t hit a girl, we said. You wouldn’t. Not with all these adults around, with all these authoritative eyes watching. Oh, but look—they’re not. They never are. We’re beyond their jurisdiction here, outside, on the edge of schoolyard and town. (And of course Calvin would hit a girl, we reminded ourselves, drawing our jackets tighter around blue autumn arms.)

We said all this from behind the fence. Chain-link. Along the rough line between grass and gravel.

They fought in the road.

She was wearing overalls, like a contractor or something, and they were cuffed all the way down at the ankles even though it was still eighty degrees out. Her work boots were gone, but that fringe remained. (When did she do it? Was it freshman year, maybe, that she cut her bangs?) It was an enduring mark of childish impulse.

She was no rabbit; she was slow and strong. Later when she stood beside me, she made me a dandelion beside an oak tree. She wasn’t really that tall. She just seemed it, because she hit Calvin.

We wanted her to hit him again. We wanted her to pummel him, to knee him in the nuts. We wanted to see him vomit on the ground. We wanted to breathe him in when he crumbled. We wanted to stand in her shade.

When Calvin hit her back, she shrank six inches.

He jabbed her in the stomach and she keeled over. He stood over her with his auburn hair eating the sun— absorbing it, folding it into a halo like in Renaissance paintings.

We don’t know what he said to her. She made no answer at first, just gave a tiny cry that maybe no one heard but me. I recognized that sound. It made us the same.

Tea Henshaw was born, and learned to walk, and spoke her first words between the same two bright yellow lines. (No passing, the lines said. Everyone passed on that road.)

She said, “Nice to meet you,” and they shook hands.

The September light was red.


Special guest judge Kat Zhang had this to say about “About Tea”: “I’m a sucker for a bold, unique voice, and I kept thinking about this excerpt long after I read it. The words paint a lovely, vibrant scene.” 


Noelle H. is a high school junior who enjoys writing, painting, swimming, and playing the violin. She has always loved stories. She has written one full novel (which is eternally in the editing stage), and hopes to finish a new version of it sometime this year. She plans to go to college for Art and Design, and dreams of working in animation.

Last month, we challenged our young writers (18 and under) to submit a 300-word story involving a balloon. From over 1,100 fabulous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and eight Honorable Mentions. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

“The Sacrifice” by Miriam G. — Grand Prize Winner (13 and Under Division)

Red to catch the dragon’s eye, the balloon floated away from the cliff. Shana struggled against her bonds, searching for the small knife she kept hidden in her sleeve as the balloon carried her farther into the sky. Below, her former tribesmen watched her float off. A sacrifice for the dragon. Some tribemates.

The knife slipped free, and Shana twisted, taking it in her bound hands. She sawed awkwardly at the rope. Dragon’s Mountain loomed closer, its two peaks spreading like bat’s wings.

Or dragon’s wings.

A perfect place for a dragon to live.

Finally the blade bit into the rope. Shana dragged at it, cutting into the fibers. She felt one break, snapping against her wrist as it did so. Others came after, quicker.

And still the balloon floated onwards.

The last fiber cracked apart, and Shana pulled her hands free from the rope. She bent to her feet and slashed the knife across the bonds.

She glanced up and could now see the dark hole of the dragon’s lair. The winds were perfect, pushing the red balloon closer and closer. Ever closer.

At last her feet were free. Shana stood and grabbed at the ropes attaching the basket to the balloon. Could she climb to the flame that kept her aloft, and blow it out? But the fire was too sheltered. She glanced down. Burnt, barren land, dotted with rivers of lava, changed to sharp craggy rock.

Something rumbled. Shana looked up. The dragon had emerged.

Black, massive, it spread its wings and loomed up. Stained teeth glinted as it lunged.

And Shana jumped. A desperate leap for freedom. She landed hard, heard snapping, felt pain. The rock scraped her. But she stumbled up and ran despite the agony. She would not be a dragon’s lunch.


Special guest judge Claire Kann had this to say about “The Sacrifice”:The tension in this story was spectacular! I loved the sparse but effective world-building, the sharp, clean prose, and the compelling imagery. The main character, Shana, was daring, scrappy, and resourceful—my favorite kind of protagonist.”


Miriam G. loves horses, cats, and randomly starting novels that will never have more than a chapter written of them. She is guilty of Writing Way Too Much About Dragons, and nearly everything she writes must include a dragon or it usually doesn’t amount to much. Additionally, she’s diagnosed with Adding Horses for No Particular Reason. Luckily, cats have managed to escape this horrible habit, partially because she lives with the sweetest kitty in the world.

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Last month, we challenged our young writers (18 and under) to submit a 300-word story involving a balloon. From over 1,100 fabulous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and eight Honorable Mentions. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

“Fate” by Lainey T. — Grand Prize Winner (14-18 Division)

Beatrice had never seen an unopened portal before.

A translucent balloon filled with olive green vines hovered over the sidewalk in front of her. Carmine flowers decorated the greenery, stray petals scattered on the ground.

The street was empty except for Beatrice and the balloon as if it was meant only for her eyes. Which was impossible, because Beatrice wasn’t supposed to discover portals. She was supposed to do her homework and go to class. Her friend, Alexis, always found the portals and dragged Beatrice along on her adventures.

Beatrice pulled out her phone to text Alexis. She was the one who slew dragons, saved kingdoms, and who was written about in history books across countless worlds. Beatrice tagged along as emotional support.

“Do you go looking for this stuff or something?” Beatrice had asked her once when they had entered a realm populated by giant, sentient rocks.

Alexis had grinned. “Adventure finds me, I guess.”

Yet here adventure was, finding Beatrice instead.

Even in their world, she was always the sidekick. A background character in Alexis’s story. She wasn’t interesting enough to be anyone else.

But maybe fate had chosen her this time. The thought was absurd because Beatrice was ordinary. She couldn’t lead armies or fight corrupt kings. For her to want more was ridiculous. It would be best to walk away; she had a physics test to study for.

Beatrice still didn’t move. Entering the portal might be the worst decision she could make, but she didn’t care anymore. What did she have to lose?

Perhaps fate had shown up at the wrong doorstep, but it had shown up all the same.

She grabbed the balloon and dug her nails in.

A pop.

A flash of light brighter than the sun.

The street was empty.


Special guest judge Claire Kann had this to say about “Fate”:What a fun, creative, and intriguing story! Beatrice, the world she lives in, and her goals are established quickly and masterfully. Immediately after finishing, all I could think was: where is the rest? I hope I get to read about Beatrice and her adventures someday.”


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Lainey T. is a writer who loves drawing, playing the harp, singing, and petting her dogs. She is going into her junior year of high school and enjoys reading young adult fantasy, realistic fiction, and occasionally science fiction. In her free time, she loves ranting about books to whoever will listen and listening to music. Her favorite part of writing is developing characters and she loves seeing them come to life on the page. She is passionate about storytelling and hopes to someday get her work published. 

Last month, we challenged our young writers (18 and under) to revise and submit a 400-word excerpt from their NaNoWriMo novel. From over 650 stupendous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and three Honorable Mentions. Today, we’re sharing our Honorable Mentions. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

Mackerel Sky by Anna — Honorable Mention

England, March 1939.

Rowan Everleigh was the sort of girl who drew one’s attention, seated alone on a train headed north, wearing her oldest clothes and surrounded by a trunk, two suitcases, a small bird cage and an animal cage. The other passengers stared as they passed her. Fully aware of the stares and whispers around her, Rowan valiantly swallowed her fear and set her chin, reading from the book on her lap as if quite unconcerned… 

Read the rest!


Imperfect by Lia — Honorable Mention

She stared at the cat, and the cat stared right back at her. The cat had never seen a human either, and it was just as confused with this large two-legged creature as Katherine was with it. It slowly took a step in the direction of a scraggly patch of trees. The cat hesitantly turned her back on her and lowered her body to a crouch, her attention now of an invisible object… 

Read the rest!


The Elementalists by Molly — Honorable Mention

We descended the stairs quickly and silently. I gripped Faith’s hand tightly, glancing over at her every so often to make sure the spell’s weird rule was still working. It always was—I was just feeling insanely paranoid. Internally, I knew it was stupid to underestimate magic. But if even one aspect of this plan failed, she and I would be in serious trouble… 

Read the rest!

Last month, we challenged our young writers (18 and under) to revise and submit a 400-word excerpt from their NaNoWriMo novel. From over 650 stupendous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and three Honorable Mentions. Today, we’re sharing our Honorable Mentions. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

Mackerel Sky by Anna — Honorable Mention

England, March 1939.

Rowan Everleigh was the sort of girl who drew one’s attention, seated alone on a train headed north, wearing her oldest clothes and surrounded by a trunk, two suitcases, a small bird cage and an animal cage. The other passengers stared as they passed her. Fully aware of the stares and whispers around her, Rowan valiantly swallowed her fear and set her chin, reading from the book on her lap as if quite unconcerned… 

Read the rest!


Imperfect by Lia — Honorable Mention

She stared at the cat, and the cat stared right back at her. The cat had never seen a human either, and it was just as confused with this large two-legged creature as Katherine was with it. It slowly took a step in the direction of a scraggly patch of trees. The cat hesitantly turned her back on her and lowered her body to a crouch, her attention now of an invisible object… 

Read the rest!


The Elementalists by Molly — Honorable Mention

We descended the stairs quickly and silently. I gripped Faith’s hand tightly, glancing over at her every so often to make sure the spell’s weird rule was still working. It always was—I was just feeling insanely paranoid. Internally, I knew it was stupid to underestimate magic. But if even one aspect of this plan failed, she and I would be in serious trouble… 

Read the rest!

Last month, we challenged our young writers (18 and under) to revise and submit a 400-word excerpt from their NaNoWriMo novel. From over 650 stupendous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and three Honorable Mentions. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

Just This Once by Stella — Grand Prize Winner (13 and Under Division)

The passenger drone purrs as we glide over the fish farms, spindly black grids stretching for miles. In front of us the border floats innocently, a line of solar transmission buoys. The iCom beeps and the flashing screen shows a red dot moving steadily towards the coast. Dad sighs deeply and taps the screen to lock in the location. He looks tired; this job’s getting to him.

I reach out and take his hand.

Dad hovers above the boat and I can’t help thinking it looks like a teardrop. He presses play and an automated voice echoes over the sea: “You are approaching New Zealand coastal waters. Our population must remain stable to be sustainable, and therefore all immigration is banned. You must leave these waters immediately.”

The people on the deck shout something as Dad lands the drone on our side of the border. He deactivates the windows as a woman calls out, “Please, help us. We’re running out of desalination filters.”

“Look… You’re gonna have to turn around. This is the New Zealand border. I’m sorry, I can’t let you through.”

Out of my window I notice that the group of children who had been pointing at our drone have fallen silent. A tall girl my age pushes forward. Her hair is stiff with salt, but her face is clean, her cheekbones pronounced.

“Where did you come from?” My voice is quiet.

She looks at me sadly.

“The beaches sparkled like a thousand suns were buried in the sand. The sea was the deepest of blues, and every morning we woke to the deafening sound of the shrikebill’s song. But the sea, that was once so dear to us, rose, and rose. It flooded our homes, drowning our island.”

I turn away from her hopeless face, and I whisper, “Can’t we let them in Dad? Just this once. They have nowhere else to go.”

His voice is stern, “Just this once is what happened to America. Now they’re overflowing with rubbish and pollution. There are concerns about their resources. They are facing the consequences of just this once.”

“But Dad…”

He flicks on the drone engine.

As we rise, I cast one fleeting glance back at the boat and see the girl standing on the prow like some figurehead of old and I imagine what it must have been like, to watch your home disappear under the waves.


Stella W. is an aspiring author who loves writing, swimming and hanging out with her friends. She has been published in Toitoi journal, has read her stories on the HeiHei listen app and has been commended in several short story competitions. She is a year 9 at high school and some of her favourite things are food, 5SOS, and reading (especially John Green). She loves to write her own novels and is hoping to publish her current project.

Last month, we challenged our young writers (18 and under) to revise and submit a 400-word excerpt from their NaNoWriMo novel. From over 650 stupendous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and three Honorable Mentions. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

Just This Once by Stella — Grand Prize Winner (13 and Under Division)

The passenger drone purrs as we glide over the fish farms, spindly black grids stretching for miles. In front of us the border floats innocently, a line of solar transmission buoys. The iCom beeps and the flashing screen shows a red dot moving steadily towards the coast. Dad sighs deeply and taps the screen to lock in the location. He looks tired; this job’s getting to him.

I reach out and take his hand.

Dad hovers above the boat and I can’t help thinking it looks like a teardrop. He presses play and an automated voice echoes over the sea: “You are approaching New Zealand coastal waters. Our population must remain stable to be sustainable, and therefore all immigration is banned. You must leave these waters immediately.”

The people on the deck shout something as Dad lands the drone on our side of the border. He deactivates the windows as a woman calls out, “Please, help us. We’re running out of desalination filters.”

“Look… You’re gonna have to turn around. This is the New Zealand border. I’m sorry, I can’t let you through.”

Out of my window I notice that the group of children who had been pointing at our drone have fallen silent. A tall girl my age pushes forward. Her hair is stiff with salt, but her face is clean, her cheekbones pronounced.

“Where did you come from?” My voice is quiet.

She looks at me sadly.

“The beaches sparkled like a thousand suns were buried in the sand. The sea was the deepest of blues, and every morning we woke to the deafening sound of the shrikebill’s song. But the sea, that was once so dear to us, rose, and rose. It flooded our homes, drowning our island.”

I turn away from her hopeless face, and I whisper, “Can’t we let them in Dad? Just this once. They have nowhere else to go.”

His voice is stern, “Just this once is what happened to America. Now they’re overflowing with rubbish and pollution. There are concerns about their resources. They are facing the consequences of just this once.”

“But Dad…”

He flicks on the drone engine.

As we rise, I cast one fleeting glance back at the boat and see the girl standing on the prow like some figurehead of old and I imagine what it must have been like, to watch your home disappear under the waves.


Stella W. is an aspiring author who loves writing, swimming and hanging out with her friends. She has been published in Toitoi journal, has read her stories on the HeiHei listen app and has been commended in several short story competitions. She is a year 9 at high school and some of her favourite things are food, 5SOS, and reading (especially John Green). She loves to write her own novels and is hoping to publish her current project.

Last month, we challenged our young writers (18 and under) to revise and submit a 400-word excerpt from their NaNoWriMo novel. From over 650 stupendous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and three Honorable Mentions. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

Splintered by Ben — Grand Prize Winner (14-18 Division)

“Do come inside.”

Leonard stepped into the room.

The room looked like an office belonging to someone rather important, the kind where the person sits facing the door behind a desk and waits for people to come inside so they can tell them to sit.

The woman sitting behind this particular expensive desk was strong-shouldered, dark-skinned, and wearing a crisp grey suit with a red tie. Her hair was in dreadlocks, pulled back in a ponytail, and she wore reflective sunglasses. She carried herself confidently, with the smile of one who had complete control. Leonard had worn that smile before, but he wasn’t wearing it now. Something about her struck Leonard as familiar, but he couldn’t place it.

She laced her fingers together and rested her hands on the table. “Good evening, Mr. Patel. Oh, but—is Kumar Patel your real name?” She smiled knowingly.

Leonard forced his voice calm. “Of course it is. Why wouldn’t it be?”

“Hmm. Well, Mr. Patel, you’ll be surprised to know we don’t have you on any lists here.”

“Maybe it’s a glitch? A misfiling?” Leonard suggested weakly. “I don’t know. I’m just trying to do my job.”

“Hmmm. Well. You’ll have to forgive me for this. We must take all necessary security measures, you understand.”

“Right,” Leonard nodded, but his eyes were focused on the nameplate on the desk. Grand Master Vesta O. Ellsworth, it read. He swallowed. He knew that name.

“My eyes are up here,” Vesta said with a hint of amusement.

“I wasn’t—but you’re wearing sunglasses.” Leonard’s eyes darted up to meet his doubled reflections.

Vesta’s smile split into a perfect white grin. Predatory. “Oh, are they a problem? Then let me just take them off.” She reached up and pulled away the glasses.

She opened her eyes. Leonard inhaled slightly.

The Grand Master of the Illuminati Society did not have what one could possibly call normal eyes. The irises had the precise color and reflectiveness as the sunglasses she had worn. Silver, mirror-like, and peculiarly captivating.

“That’s…” Leonard was at a loss for words.

“Different? Unusual?” Vesta suggested. “Mm, yes. But let’s not worry about that. You’re from another faction, aren’t you?”

“I don’t…” Leonard trailed off, his thoughts drifting into nonexistence. “What are you…?”

Vesta leaned across the desk, staring intently at Leonard. She didn’t blink. “Let’s try that again. What is your real name?


Ben is a teenage writer and thing-creator. He’s fond of sharp suits, birds, and science. Ben is not his legal name, but it’s one he likes. He has a lot of names. Others have described him as a cryptid, a chunk of the Void wearing a suit, a Teeth People, and a snake (in a good way). Ben cannot legally deny these claims. He dreams of being an eccentric man who lives with a lot of books and a lot of birds.

Last month, we challenged our young writers (18 and under) to revise and submit a 400-word excerpt from their NaNoWriMo novel. From over 650 stupendous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and three Honorable Mentions. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

Splintered by Ben — Grand Prize Winner (14-18 Division)

“Do come inside.”

Leonard stepped into the room.

The room looked like an office belonging to someone rather important, the kind where the person sits facing the door behind a desk and waits for people to come inside so they can tell them to sit.

The woman sitting behind this particular expensive desk was strong-shouldered, dark-skinned, and wearing a crisp grey suit with a red tie. Her hair was in dreadlocks, pulled back in a ponytail, and she wore reflective sunglasses. She carried herself confidently, with the smile of one who had complete control. Leonard had worn that smile before, but he wasn’t wearing it now. Something about her struck Leonard as familiar, but he couldn’t place it.

She laced her fingers together and rested her hands on the table. “Good evening, Mr. Patel. Oh, but—is Kumar Patel your real name?” She smiled knowingly.

Leonard forced his voice calm. “Of course it is. Why wouldn’t it be?”

“Hmm. Well, Mr. Patel, you’ll be surprised to know we don’t have you on any lists here.”

“Maybe it’s a glitch? A misfiling?” Leonard suggested weakly. “I don’t know. I’m just trying to do my job.”

“Hmmm. Well. You’ll have to forgive me for this. We must take all necessary security measures, you understand.”

“Right,” Leonard nodded, but his eyes were focused on the nameplate on the desk. Grand Master Vesta O. Ellsworth, it read. He swallowed. He knew that name.

“My eyes are up here,” Vesta said with a hint of amusement.

“I wasn’t—but you’re wearing sunglasses.” Leonard’s eyes darted up to meet his doubled reflections.

Vesta’s smile split into a perfect white grin. Predatory. “Oh, are they a problem? Then let me just take them off.” She reached up and pulled away the glasses.

She opened her eyes. Leonard inhaled slightly.

The Grand Master of the Illuminati Society did not have what one could possibly call normal eyes. The irises had the precise color and reflectiveness as the sunglasses she had worn. Silver, mirror-like, and peculiarly captivating.

“That’s…” Leonard was at a loss for words.

“Different? Unusual?” Vesta suggested. “Mm, yes. But let’s not worry about that. You’re from another faction, aren’t you?”

“I don’t…” Leonard trailed off, his thoughts drifting into nonexistence. “What are you…?”

Vesta leaned across the desk, staring intently at Leonard. She didn’t blink. “Let’s try that again. What is your real name?


Ben is a teenage writer and thing-creator. He’s fond of sharp suits, birds, and science. Ben is not his legal name, but it’s one he likes. He has a lot of names. Others have described him as a cryptid, a chunk of the Void wearing a suit, a Teeth People, and a snake (in a good way). Ben cannot legally deny these claims. He dreams of being an eccentric man who lives with a lot of books and a lot of birds.