Category: writing contest

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!

“Of Silver and Swans” by Dana B.

Maman crooked her finger, beckoning her daughter forward.

“Why so afraid, my little cygnet?” she asked, holding out her hands so that the pooled moonlight glistened alluringly. She tilted her head, an unspoken challenge. “Don’t you want to reap the moon’s blessing?”

Lynette darted a glance at the moon, seeking a sign. Any sign that would let her get out of this, just once. But the moon’s lips were sealed. Read the rest!

“Swimming Upstream” by Rivka J.

I lean against a willow tree, heart racing, breathing hard. The cool summer breeze gently calms me. The Queen’s Guard fills the park, each woman drawing her sword and swinging it around threateningly. I finger the secret dagger hidden beneath my stolen belt and hope I won’t have to use it. Boys aren’t allowed to have weapons. I’ve seen younger boys been killed by guards just for wearing a belt. Read the rest!

“The Dragon Queen” by Leila M.

“Queen Gold, I challenge you for the throne of the Gold kingdom!” my daughter Winter hisses.

Dang it.

When female dragons like me lay eggs, they lay more than one at a time. They hatch at different times, when they’re ready-30 minutes to 3 years after they do. I laid all four eggs at the same time, but Spring hatched first, nine months after she was laid. However, dragon eggs require special care. Winter’s egg was turned upside down in the nest, even though I watched over the eggs. The turned egg gave her evil. Read the rest!

"The Frig” by Kyler

The Food Variety Show was finally over. That night, all the food in the refrigerator chatted excitedly.

“I don’t care!” said Mushroom. He had received the lowest score in the show. “I don’t care about popularity!”

“Of course, you don’t care,” muttered Cheese, “If you cared, then you wouldn’t be playing in the mulch and dirt all day.” Read the rest!

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.

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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!

14-18 Division Honorable Mentions:

  • The Cat and the Thing" by Wafaa L. — “The cat was on high alert. Ears pricked, eyes wide, body tense. It watched suspiciously as the round, strange thing floated in the air a few feet in front of him. It was dangerous – he could smell it…” Read the rest!
  • “Golden Dawn” by Yuchi Z. — “Venus’s scarred, tortured surface passed beneath Manuel’s gaze as the balloon gained altitude. The domed city of Jardines Ishtar, gleaming bright in the fiery sun, became faint on the horizon…” Read the rest!

  • “Center of the Universe” by Maneesh J. — “The astronauts looked out from the window of their spaceship at the bloodred world below them. All but one. While the others stared at Mars, their future home, one astronaut was gazing further…” Read the rest!

11-13 Division Honorable Mentions:

  • “A Balloon of Nightmares” by Ally N. — “The balloon is the color of midnight. This fits because this balloon in particular is not a happy balloon. It is rumored to hold all the evils and sorrows of this world…” Read the rest!

  • “The Balloon Festival” by Logan M. — “I release the balloon into the air, and see hundreds of others doing the same. I watch my balloon float up, a blue dot against the sea of red. People gasp and point at the abnormal balloon color…” Read the rest!

10 and Under Division Honorable Mentions:

  • “Silver Lily” by Iris D. — “IN THE SMALL MARKETPLACE of Shellkey, there was a silver balloon tied to a stake. No one knew how the balloon had never deflated, but it didn’t matter. The oddest thing about the balloon was that it had a girl in it…” Read the rest!
  • “Travel” by Gabrielle G. — “An old, gray dog was striding along a dusty road in the middle of a field. He was wondering about whether or not the old lady who lived down the road would give him some of her food…” Read the rest!
  • “The Time Balloon” by Leia F. — “The balloon was pink and shiny, like a wad of bubblegum. Mikayla loved blowing it up just a little, so her mom, a dentist, would freak out, thinking Mikayla was chewing gum…” Read the rest!

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.