teen writing contest runners up and honorable mentions


photo by anne mazer 

RUNNER UP  -- Ellen's Pick


This story is so poignant, I was tearing up at the end. It’s so beautifully circular, and such a wise and tender look at how we move through life. -- Ellen 



by Sarah Bosworth, age 15


I was six years old, clutching a wad of faded blanket in one fist and my mother’s hand in the other. Two doors loomed in the background, colorful toys littering the floor. She checked her watch, impatiently brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. “It’s time to go to school now, sweetie,” she explained, attempting to detangle my arms from her waist. I clung to her. “Mommy, don’t leave.”


I was twelve, watching the softly falling flakes outside the window, drawing curlicues on the frosted panes. In the background, glasses clinked merrily, lights twinkled and squeals of delight echoed throughout the house. The snow continued to fall, creating a blanket of white. “Time for bed,” my mother’s soft voice whispered, pulling me back to the warmth of my duvet and into dreams of prancing hooves.


I was fifteen and Joey Griffin had his hand intertwined with mine as he leaned in, our hearts racing in our chests, cheeks flaming. My stomach erupted with flutters and my eyes closed involuntarily. Our lips met with the ungracefulness of inexperience and it was like falling, falling without knowing or caring where the bottom was.


I was eighteen and wobbling in too high heels, graduation tassels floating in the wind. A diploma and congratulatory smile was presented, a shutter clicked and girls hugged, laughing. Boys thumped each other on the back and grinned, and parents wiped wet eyes with the backs of their hands. “We made it!”


I was twenty-six, and this time I didn’t wobble as I walked down the church aisle arm in arm with my father. My path was prepared for me with white rose petals, and somewhere off to the right a violin sang, speaking of love and all that is to come. Two brown eyes stared into the depths of mine as a golden band slid onto my finger.


I was thirty-two, my brow lined with exhaustion and the hand adorned with my wedding band enclosed in that of my husbands. “Isn’t he beautiful?” a voice asked, and I turned my head to see a crimson splotched face peeking out from between layers of blue and yellow fabric. As I wordlessly nodded, a fierce burning erupted in my heart, the flame of a love that can never die.


I was forty, dancing in the living room with my two children, my husband watching, smiling, from the doorway. The room was spinning, and for a moment the clutter vanished, the stress dissipated, all that existed was the laughter and matching grins my son and daughter wore, twirling around, suspended in time.


I was fifty-seven, looking back at paper memories strewn across the bedroom floor. A forgotten mug of coffee sits on the bedside table, and a quiet knock on the door jolts me out of my reverie. My husband kneels beside me, wiping away the liquid crystals that had unknowingly formed at the corners of my eyes, and begins to help me gather the photographs. “They’re not really gone,” he whispers. “Only a short plane ride away.”


I was seventy-two, bundled in a woolen sweater and scarf, playing in the snow with my grandchildren. A squeal of delight accompanies a cold thwack on my back. “I got Grammy! I got Grammy!” The youngest shouts, a smile splitting his rosy cheeks. Chuckling, I halfheartedly toss a cluster of flurries at him, content to watch the other two laugh as he tumbles into the snow and immediately bounces back up, hat covered in frosted white.


I was eighty-four, and my heart was breaking. Never again would he hand me a fresh cup of coffee, finished with the perfect amount of hazelnut cream. Never again would I hold his hand and look into those brown eyes as he whispered “I love you” in the depths of the night. Never again would we fight about petty things, laugh about silly things, cry together. Never again.


I am ninety-eight, and my hands are being held by my daughter and son. The world is beginning to fade around the edges, smudge slowly, but my heart is content. And suddenly, I am six years old again, caught in limbo, the line blurring as my daughter and I whisper to our mothers at the same time, “Mommy, don’t leave.”



RUNNER UP - Anne's Pick


Kathryn's fantasy spoof is well-written, playful, and original, and shows a fine sense of the ridiculous. Humor is often under-rated in writing, but I adore any writer who can make me smile.  -- Anne


Sullivan's 468th Battle      

by Kathryn Iseminger, age 16


 The giant mountain of poisonous seaweed crashed through the cathedral window.  Shards of stained glass flew through the air.  

“Not again,” Sullivan muttered, hopping onto a wooden pew to avoid the slowly-approaching seaweed.  Sullivan snatched his marshmallow gun out of its holster.  He had built it himself and it was colossal.  Sullivan aimed the white plastic nozzle at the broken window.  Trillions of rainbow marshmallows whizzed through the air, blocking his view.  

“How dare you break the rules of war!” an enraged voice shrieked from the window.  The marshmallow dust cleared, revealing an elfin figure with a pointed nose, a lavender cape and an angered expression.  It was Sullivan's arch enemy, Gerald L. Krakentoff.  “Thirteen years ago, on the thirty-first of May, you signed the contract, promising that you would never use rainbow marshmallows by means of war!  I HATE rainbow marshmallows!”  

“You used your seaweed,” Sullivan couldn't help adding.  He had one marshmallow left, a pink one.  Without making eye contact with the enemy, Sullivan loaded the last marshmallow into the shooter.  

Gerald didn't notice.  “That doesn't count! You know I loathe rainbow marshmallows more than you loathe poisonous seaweed!”

Sullivan ignored this remark and aimed the enormous marshmallow gun at his target.  He released the trigger.  Time froze as the soft, artificially-flavoured cylinder hurled across the sanctuary, colliding with a thuwmp on the stomach of Gerald L. Krakentoff.  Gerald stopped midsentence of his jabbering, horrified by the marshmallow which had taken up possession of his abdomen.  He glared wickedly at Sullivan, and Sullivan stared back.  They stayed in this position for about forty seconds.  Then, very slowly, Gerald said, "I know what you were trying to do.”  

 Sullivan said nothing.  

“Judging by the position of this evil little marshmallow, you were probably trying to hit my bellybutton, weren't you?” Gerald's voice grew louder and angrier with every word.  

“Well, as a matter of fact I was.  I've been trying to get your bellybutton for the past six years, and now I've won.  Ha ha.”  

Gerald's tone shifted from extreme fury to one of sickly sweet contentment. “You have not won.  You have failed.”

“Of course I've won.” Sullivan was wishing that Gerald would stop fiddling around and get to the point.  

“You have failed,” Gerald L. Krakentoff smirked, “because I don't have a bellybutton.”

This was too much for Sullivan.  

“Don't have a bellybutton!” he screamed.  “EVERYBODY has a bellybutton!”

“Well, I don't,” Gerald retorted, clearly enjoying himself.  

“Where did it go, then?”

"I had it surgically removed at the mature age of eight and a half.  I couldn't see any point in having one.  Owning a bellybutton is an immense waste of time and energy,”

Sullivan felt that Gerald could have saved even more time and energy by not having his bellybutton surgically removed in the first place, but he see any point mentioning this.

"You're lying.  You're only saying that because I did hit your bellybutton and you don't want to admit that I've finally succeeded in my life goal.”

“I'm doing nothing of the sort.”

“Prove it.”

“Prove what?”

 “Prove that you don't have a bellybutton.”


 “Aha, see, there's the proof.  You won't show me where your bellybutton ought to be because-”

 “Because I've brought you a present!” interrupted Gerald.

“Stop trying to change the subject.  Enemies don't give each other presents.”  

What happened next went by so quickly that it's a bit difficult to describe, but it went something like this: In one balletic hop, Gerald spun off the windowsill and flew over the repulsive puddle of poisonous seaweed and rainbow marshmallows.  From there he hopped deftly from one pew to the next, kangarooing to the back of the sanctuary.  Sullivan, having reached a state of panic, bounded after him.  

“Gerald!”  No answer.  Sullivan pressed his ear against the heavy kitchen door and listened.  Pots and pans clattering about.  Water running in the sink.  The gurgling of the dishwasher.  Somebody opening and closing the refrigerator.  

“Ha ha,” came the eely voice on the other side.  “You think I'm looking for your boring microwave collection.  Well, I'm not.”


“Then what are you doing?”  Sullivan's voice came out twisted.  

Gerald didn't answer.  Sullivan gave the door a frustrated kick.  Gerald had broken his stained glass window, he had messed up Sullivan's movie theatre and now he had locked Sullivan out of his own kitchen, and was probably plotting something terrible.  

 Without warning, the kitchen door burst open, knocking Sullivan to the ground.  

“I told you I was going to give you a present,” Gerald announced, ignoring the pain he had inflicted upon his enemy.  Gerald's right arm was raised to the ceiling, as though he were about to give a toast, but instead he was brandishing an aluminium pie plate piled with foamy whipped cream.  “It's the Unhealthiest Pecan Pie in the entire world.  You can eat it for thanksgiving.”

“It's not thanksgiving,” Sullivan snapped.  He couldn't understand what Gerald was plotting, but he was certain that the Unhealthiest Pecan Pie in the entire world was extremely suspicious.  “It's January.”  

“That doesn't matter.  Come in the kitchen, Sullivan.”  Gerald skipped back through the doorway.  “Try some.”




(in no particular order)


The Children of the Wood by Madison Kern

After the Funeral by Emiliann W

Forever and Always by Sophia Harne

The Little Raindrop by Tehila Leverton

The Way to Nowhere by Isabella Pfeiffer

The Surprise by Emma Hutchison

Girl on Mute by Tatum Tricarico

The WHAT is out to get us? By Natalie Dill

The Most Beautiful Things by Mykel Giese

Should I Run by Hanna Heiss

Clown Smile by Beth Bolon

The Old Piano by Anna H

Untitled by Tina Fang


And the winners are...

photo by Anne Mazer

Once again, we're pleased to announce our teen contest winners. As usual, it was a tough choice, but we hope you love these stories as much as we do. This time, we'll also be adding two runners-up and a list of honorable mentions. So please come back to this page in a week or so to see what new stories we post.

Congratulations again to our wonderful winners and thank you to everyone who entered. We're inspired by the amazing imaginations that all of you have. Keep writing! -- Anne and Ellen




Sunset Dresses

by Paige Solans, age 14


A child and a young man sit in the grassy meadow under a tree that has grown too tall and too old, playing cards. Low limbs swing lazily in the breeze accompanying the warm stickiness of the June air. The child, a young girl whose fresh, childish smile hasn't yet caught up with the rest of her body deals the cards. She is all smiles when she sees her cards, doesn't know she is supposed to hide them but that's what happens when you have a child play a game too old for her.

Across from her sits a man who looks about twenty-four. His eyes are much older, though. They are grey and dead and look like they were a stolen from someone who left this world a long, long time ago. He waits, slouched over, still dressed in his army uniform because he was too tired to change.

Everything is silent, but it's the kind of the silence that leaves warmth in your bones. The girl looks up from her cards to the man, narrows her eyes and surveys him with the sincerity of someone much older. “That’s a nice beard you got there, mister.”

The man looks up, reeled out of his daydreaming by her voice. “Thanks.”

The girl looks down at her cards again, then reaches over to her diminishing pile of poker chips. She doesn't hesitate to pick up a handful of chips and dump them on the grass between them. He on the other hand is careful, walking on a tightrope trying to decide whether to bluff or not. He takes another slow look at his cards before throwing them down. Fold.

She grins and scoops her chips back to their place next to her knee, beginning to deal the next hand. “Do you have to grow a beard to be in the army?” she asks suddenly.

His lips curve slightly, moving into something other than a concentrated frown for the first time today. “No, you don’t.”

“Then why does every soldier have one?”

“I don’t know.”

Silence hurries to fill the air again. The breeze twirls and pirouettes over to where the two are under the tree, running its cool fingers through the girl’s brown locks.

“Is there a war because people are trying to hurt us?”

He lets out a long and exasperated breathe. “No, not exactly.”

“Then why?”

He is still very concentrated on his cards when he answers, “The reason is very complicated.”

She on the other hand has grown bored looking at the queens and kings and starts surveying the meadow. The sun was beginning to hide itself behind the giant mountains in the distance and it had left behind a trail of pink and orange. The girl imagined her taking the beautiful picture in the sky, transforming it to fabric that she sews into a dress, allowing her to wear the sunset forever.

She turns her attention back to the soldier sitting across from her and thinks to herself that he could use a bit of the sun on his body too. Maybe then his skin wouldn't look so sickly white. “People say that a lot. They always say things are too hard for me to understand just so they won't have to explain it. Maybe it's because they are scared that if they do try to explain it, they would realize they don’t really understand it either.”

The soldier has realized that the girl is done playing the game of cards. He picks them up and places the deck together slowly and carefully, just like he does with everything else. When he is finished, he leans back against the tree trunk and stretches out his legs. “We are in a war because some people don’t know right from wrong so we have to show them.”

The girl turns to him abruptly. “But how do you know that something is wrong? How does anyone?”

“We know because we were born with a moral compass.”

“Where did we get these compasses from?”

He shrugs. “Maybe God gave it to us or maybe we were just born with it in our pockets.”

“Is there something wrong with the others guys’ compasses, the guys that we are fighting?”

“I’m not sure.”

Pause. “I think the problem is that everyone thinks they are above others, when they are not.”

“What do you mean,” he asks, puzzled, “sometimes some people can be better than others.”

She looks down, and pulls at the blades of grass. “No, they can’t.”

He is sitting up now, staring intently at the young girl in front of him, wrinkling his brows in confusion. “So, if another girl was dumber and meaner than you, you won't consider yourself better?”

She shakes her head. “No, I would consider myself smarter and nicer than her but that doesn't mean I’m better.”

He is surprised by her words. They belong to someone who has experienced a lot more life then she has and they seem funny coming out of her innocent mouth. Thoughts of what the girl’s words meant danced in his brain. Was she right? Could we all just be equal? After all, aren't we just all humans, made from the elements? We are all just hydrogen and carbon atoms, all comprised to create the same thing.

He stays there for a moment longer, staring at the child picking grass in front of him. Then, as quick as those thoughts appear, they are gone, floating away farther and farther from his reach. “Come on, let's get inside before the sun completely disappears.”

He stands and dusts nothing off of his pants. He stretches his large hand out to hers and the girl looks up at the sad young man in his uniform with searching eyes. She then places her hand in his and leads them out from beneath the cool embrace of the willow tree and the two walk off into the distance.





by Vivian P. DeRosa, age 13


She liked books far more than people, although she assumed this was usual. After all, she read of many characters who relied only on the waxy smell of dim-lit candles and the worn leather of book spines. In fact, in her novels, there were six hermits for every social, so, if anything, the ever inquiring neighbors were the ones who were on the strange side of things.

However, despite her reputation, she despises libraries. It seemed to her that the very building was an obstacle course, balancing cordial hellos to the college slackers managing the front desk, jumping through hurdles of mothers too tired to enforce rules on wailing toddlers and forty-year olds damaging their ears with headphones whose music could be heard throughout the floor.

So she was surprised indeed when in her mailbox poked out a crisp, purple notification. Eyebrows arched as her eyes scrutinized the Comic Sans writing. “The book The Archer’s Demise is overdue. Please visit your library, return the book, and pay your fees, or contact us through our email account,” she muttered.

She had never borrowed this book.

She scowled, glancing at the hair that fell in her face. What was once thick locks composed of blushing roses, has now had its ruby glow faded to a soft grey, and it's so fine that if she was to twirl a strand around her finger it would surely break right off. A sigh hiccuped out before she could stop it. It said what she dared not: She was getting too old for this.

Seeing as her near ancient computer viewed pressing the power button as a thirty minute wake up routine, she figured it would be quicker to walk to the library. Her feet slipped into ballet flats, although she didn’t dance. Her lips pursed as she walked briskly down the suburban street.

She had wanted to. She imagined it would be like flight. She pretended that swings gave her wings, and if she could get high enough, she’d be able to take off. But her classmates, they tore her wings and weighed her down, like chains. They said that ballerinas were supposed to be beautiful, and she wanted to shout back that maybe beauty wasn’t held in eye color or cheek bones but in grace and ideas, but she couldn’t find the words.  And she wanted to say that perhaps she wasn't the best dancer yet, but how could a flower blossom if it’s blocked from sunlight?

It was too late to fulfill dreams now, and it was the fault of those children, the painful consequence of undeveloped minds, that blockaded her.

At least, that’s what she thought standing in line to speak to the head librarian. She stepped up to face the young woman, whose crooked name tag read Maria and whose face held a radiant smile.

She almost had to grip the desk for support, as the sheer amount of cheer was a battle ram to her mind.

“I falsely received a letter in the mail claiming I had an overdue book. I never borrowed it.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry about that! We must have gotten the address wrong.” Maria said, still flashing that enormous grin. She wondered if the librarian had gotten surgery for her mouth to open that wide. “Why don’t you wait on that bench while I fix this?”

She took a seat, noticing a few seconds too late who her neighbor was. A tiny little creature, who couldn’t tie a bow with his shoelaces, so was instead attempting to use a glue stick to make the loops anyways. He took a break from his activity to gawk at the newcomer.

“Are those ballet shoes?” he asked.

She stiffened. “Yes,” she replied tightly.

“I know how to dance.” He boasted. “My mother made me take lessons. Do you know how to dance?” He said the last part of this as a dare, a contest.

“No.” She wanted to be just as abrupt with this statement, but her voice faltered at the end. To make up for it, she added, “But I’ve read many books on it.”

He nodded. “Cool. I used to come and listen to story-time here. But the reader quit.” He continues to try to make his bow. Then, his face brightens, almost to the point of Maria’s. She winced. “Hey, I’ve got a deal! How ‘bout you become the new reader, and I’ll give you dance lessons!”

“Oh no, dear me, I couldn’t,” she said at first. But then, she rolled the offer over in her head. Dance lessons. She struggled to make her decision as her eyes bore into the deep wrinkles that formed her hands. She might not have time for another chance. This was it. Even if it was with a child.

“Wait,” She said. “I’ll do it. But first, let me tie your shoes.”

And so began the collaboration.

By reading in the library she transmitted her fiery passion for books through stories, and proved to be “the coolest reader yet!” by Maria. She still cringed whenever she saw that librarian. The children coaxed first smiles from her, and then replaced her sighs with laughs. And the boy, William was a surprisingly good teacher. She had learned how to do the five basic ballet positions, and was slowly working her way through a song.

For several years, her hair may not have been the hue of the flower but her life had turned pretty rosy. But then, the library received a letter. It was crisp, purple, and followed two weeks of unexplained absence. It read, “The Last Will and Testament.” The last two lines were highlighted, though they needn’t be. For while the majority of the letter was written in Times New Roman, this was in Comic Sans. “To the Public Library I leave my book collection, for alerting me that happiness was overdue. And finally, to William, I leave my pair of  ballet shoes, for teaching me how to fly.”




Our Empty Promises

by Isadora Loftus, age 16

As you stared at me, fear shining in your small eyes, I promised that I would protect you, I promised to keep you safe, I promised I would never let anything hurt you. Before I go on I would like to apologize for making promises that I knew I couldn't keep. I just didn't think you would have to face this decision so soon.

 On your thirteenth birthday you asked me to define love and I didn't have an answer. You stared at me, your eyebrows wrinkled in confusion. "But I thought you always had answers. I thought you knew everything," you said. That was the first time I realized I had made a mistake. I wish I knew everything. I wish I knew how to protect you. I wish I could take your place, shield you from the world. I'm sorry. I can't. I can't keep my promises. I can't save you.

On the first day of the hundredth year we all wore blue. It was supposed to symbolize community, to show what we had become. But when we gathered in the greening for the official ceremonies I realized it was meaningless. If anything it showed the opposite, the need for everyone to be the same. There was no community here. Anything that was different from what we knew was shunned and judged harshly.

When this city was created the creators made a long list of strict rules. The rules state what you can do, say, and wear. These rules are often gender and age specific. From our birth we have very little input into our future, it is all already laid out for us. We go to school from the ages of four through sixteen. When we are seventeen through twenty we learn a trade, or apprentice the person whose job will someday be ours. These jobs are chosen for us when we are born. When we are twenty we are required to live apart from our parents and work. The rules control our lives, and I despise them, but this is where I live and the consequences for not following the rules are not worth my freedom.

Scanning the crowd I spotted you amongst the sea of blue. You were facing me. The hood on the back of your navy blue sweatshirt was pulled tightly around your face and you kept your eyes on me. I noticed a piece of white extending from the pocket of your jeans to your ears. Headphones, I quickly realized. Music was forbidden at ceremonies and community events. I pointed to my ears, trying to signal for you to take them off, but you had already turned away from me. A security guard, who had been patrolling the crowd, noticed you. He stepped towards you. I couldn't tell what he was saying, but I knew it wasn't good. I pushed through the crowd, trying to reach you. You tried to tug away from the guard who had a firm grip on your arm. You were shaking your head at him. Then he pulled the hood of your sweatshirt off.

 Your hair was gone. It was replaced by a sloppy pixie cut, as if you'd recklessly taken a pair of safety scissors and chopped it off. The security guard yelled and pulled the headphones roughly out of your ears. "I'm sorry," you yelled, "It was an accident, the scissors slipped! Please!" But the guard was pulling at your arm, dragging you across the greening. Tears were streaming down your face. I ran after you, pushing past anyone in my way. Just as the guard was pulling you out of sight you caught my eyes and screamed my name. I'll never forget that scream and the look of utter terror on your face. That was the second time.

The last time was three months ago. You were sixteen. Old enough to make your own choices. I was watching the girls your age from my window as they congregated at the cafe across the street. I asked you why you weren't there with them. You shrugged, looking up at me, "I guess I'm just not like them."

Two hours ago you knocked on my door. I knew. In the pit of my stomach I knew you were tired of pretending. The first thing you said when I opened the door was, "I'm leaving. I don't belong here. I never did. I'm not like these people." You stated this as a fact, your voice never wavering. You were calm, calmer than I'd ever seen you. Then you asked me to tell our parents. I promised I would, knowing that unlike the promises I had made to you years before this was one I could keep.

Our parents loved you, but they never understood you. I knew even though they would be devastated that deep down they would know, as I do, that you never belonged here. You pretended you did, you hid in the shadows, slipped past the questioning stares, and molded yourself to what society wanted. But it was always only an act.

Underneath the faking you never belonged and you knew that. When I made you those promises we both knew that they were promises that could not be kept. We just didn't want to admit that someday we would have to meet this fate.

But here we are with our empty promises saying goodbye for the last time. So I hug you and tell you I love you and that I am sorry. You are brave, braver than I ever was. I stand in my doorway and watch you walk away from everything you know into the unknown darkness of the descending night.



Sullivan's 468th Battle by Kathryn Iseminger age 16

Ten by Sarah Bosworth, age 




New! Teen Short Story Contest!

 photo by anne mazer


For ages 13 - 16 

Rules: Your story can be any length, but no longer than 1,000 words. You must be 13-16 years old to enter and live in the US or Canada. Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter will read and judge all entries. One story per person only, please. 


1st Prize $25 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble

2nd Prize $15 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble

3rd Prize $10 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble

All winning stories will be published on the Spilling Ink Creativity Blog. Honorable Mentions will be published, as well.

Deadline: March 9, 2015

How to Enter: Paste your story into the email message section of the contact page. Write "Story Contest" in the subject line. Remember to include your name, age, and story title, and a working email address.  

Send us your best stories! We can't wait to read them! -- Anne and Ellen


What's Behind That Door? Honorable Mentions

courtesy of

So what was behind those doors that hadn’t been opened in a hundred years? Let’s take a peek into the fertile imaginations of our contestants.



An excerpt from The Room At the End of the Hall by Leslie H, age 11

July 12,1943

Today is the day, I will find out what is behind the mystery door! The only problem is I have to sneak at night because my parents think the dumbwaiter is empty and I will “certainly fall to my death!”  I am kind of scared because the fourth floor has no windows and only one dingy room that used to be a study.  Mona Lisa hangs on the wall in the study just watching you work, no matter where you are so, I will have to stick to the hallway with my candle and more dusty pictures, but since they don’t watch your every move, I should be safe. Wish me luck, I’ll need it.

July 13, 1943

 I just found out what was behind that door!  A tiny room with old furniture, antiques, and rocking chair - that was rocking!  The tiny room was really dusty. Some of that dust was even black!  The room smells funny too, like a mixture of honey and tacos. Not a good smelling combination.

July 15, 1943

I think I figured out what that the black dust was!  The black dust is from an Ancient Greek warrior who plans to take over the world! I am really mad at myself because I let my curiosity get the best of me. What I need to do though is trap him behind the door again, and I know just how to do it.



An excerpt from an untitled story by Tehila L.


 Excitedly, I crept into the room. My flashlight flooded the small room with light, and I glanced around , curious to see what was hidden there. All that I saw was a wide drape hanging on the wall. It was hard to see, because it blended in with the walls. Cautiously, I removed the drape, and revealed a beautiful painting of a landscape, with tall trees that ran alongside the winding road. In the distance, you were able to see a small village, with tiny figures walking about. I squinted at the name scribbled in the left-hand corner. Vincent Van Gogh. I gasped. He was from the 1800s! Perfect! I had my entire report laid out!

Just.... why in the world would someone want to hide such a gorgeous painting? I mean, who would go out and buy a magnificent painting, then hide it behind a drape in a room hidden by a bookcase in another hidden room??



An excerpt from The Orphanage’s Hidden Door by Alison M, age 11


My hand reached for the door. I intended on opening the doorknob, but my hand knocked twice. The door was cold and it made bruises on my knuckles. Slowly, it opened.

 A closet. It was a closet.

Some interesting things about closets:

They hold things, they are small,

And some of them take you back in time.

That is this closet.

 It held one old boot. A shelf was on the top with a coat rack hanging below that. I stepped in, wanting a better look at the boot. Instead, When I got in the door shut and the closet was black as night.

It started to spin and shake. It was like riding a rollercoaster in the dark. I felt nauseous and uneasy. Finally, it stopped.




An excerpt from The Gold Locket by Megan, age 10

I got out of the car and my mom stood there and opened a velvet box. It held a beautiful, gold, heart locket with a silver chain. Inside was a picture of both of us. I walked to iron gate and looked back, my mom was gone. I put the locket in my pocket and opened the gate; I knocked on the blue, wooden door. A stubby, short old lady answered the door. She pulled me into the building. I fell and a sharp agonizing pain pierced my skin. A rusty old nail was stuck in my knee. I felt like an abused animal. “Get up,” she shouted. I got up and ran. Up the stairs, around corners, down hallways. I finally came to a door. It was the only wooden door in the hallway. It had a brass handle, and a brass knocker with a monster on it. I gave the door three solitary knocks. The fact I had to grab the handle that was in the monster’s mouth gave me chills. I heard heavy footsteps coming nearer, and nearer. I studied the door, like a pirate studying a map. I twisted the handle and opened the door. A bright light shone in the doorway, I stepped through the door. I studied my surroundings. I was in a winter wonderland. The mountains seemed to sweep commandingly into the heavens.




An excerpt from Behind the Door by Miah S, age 12


   I stepped inside the closet, and as I did I felt the floor beneath my feet give way just a little. A pressure pad, I realized. I whirled around to leave - who knew what sort of traps an old house like this one could have - just as the door slammed in my face and the closet was plunged into darkness. I felt for the doorknob, but before I found it the floor dropped out from under me, into a chute of some sort heading steeply down.

    I was too shocked to scream, so I silently whizzed down the chute for what seemed like miles, picking up more and more momentum the farther I went. Just as I was thinking that this would never end, the chute spit me out onto a pile of cushions caked with dust. Maybe the landing would have been pleasant 100 years ago, but right now it was disgusting. Not only were the pillows so dusty I couldn’t tell what color they were, but they bore signs of animals living in them. Animals like spiders and mice and earwigs. I shuddered and hurried to stand up. When I did I very nearly fell back down again.

 I was standing in the most enormous library I had ever seen.

 The walls were covered with floor to ceiling bookcases, their wood matching that in the house. Despite being underground the library had an airy feel and a high, arching ceiling.

 I slowly walked to the nearest bookshelf and reverently brushed my fingers along the spines of the books.



And the Winners Are....

Dear young writers who entered this contest,

Why did you have to write such good stories? It really isn't fair! You made our job very hard. We agonized over the winners. Please stop writing so well... we want to have an easier time judging for the next contest.

So here they are, our top three, chosen from a crowded field of outstanding entries. We hope you adore these stories as much as we do. Give these talented writers some love in the comments!  

And don't forget look for our next post, in which we will honor the creativity and imagination of some of the many other excellent entries we received.

Love, Anne and Ellen

 courtesy of




The Hidden Paradise

by Min Su, age 12


It was an old Victorian house in a rural area that my mother fell in love with. Looming over the smaller, more modern houses of my tiny new neighborhood, it cast deep shadows on the already dark street. The floorboards creaked of age, sounding like the terrified voices of agony as my parents moved to and fro from the house. To keep me busy, my mom had whispered to me to find my room. Well, at least what I wished were my room.

 So here I am. Wandering aimlessly around the 5,000-square-feet Victorian, avoiding the splinters my feet are sure to get  . . . until I find myself lost. A hallway stands massively in front of me, seeming to never end.

After what seems like a century, I find a dusty curtain at the end of the hall. It is thrown hastily across the entrance of something. The smell of mothballs and thick dust swirl into my nostrils, causing me to cough loudly. My eyes water from the dust circling me, and I squint at the door behind the ancient curtain. It’s nothing special, a low door made of auburn wood. Small, intricate designs line the perimeter of the door, but the rest is just plain, solid wood.

I cautiously knock on the door, hearing a loud thud from the other side. Wasn't this a single-family house? I couldn't recall my mom ever mentioning that another family would live with us.

The door screeches open, inching inch by inch, dragging me from my thoughts. Small flakes of rust join with the dust, causing an even smokier smell to erupt. A loud, piercing sound rings through the 1700’s Victorian, and I wince, covering my ears in vain.

When my eyes flutter open, I see yet another door. Nothing stands between the tiny gap between the doors, so who could have opened the door? Not even bothering to knock this time, I crash through the second door . . .

To find myself in a paradise. Lush green surrounds me from all sides, and tiny colorful flowers dot the hills. Butterflies . . . no . . . fairies fly busily around, always in seek of something. Rosy-cheeked children dance in a circle, their light feet bouncing on a particularly soft piece of the meadow. Golden hair flying, feet flying faster, they never seem to tire out. I am tempted to go join them; laugh with them, dance with them. Yet a small part of my mind yells at me to be cautious.

My feet drag in the direction of the children, but my brain reels back. The angel and devil bicker on my shoulder:

“They look like they’re having a fun time.”

“They’re complete strangers!” 

Rallying back and forth, I feel like my world is split in half. Which side should I take?!

While I stand there, mouth agape, a child runs up to me and tugs on my arm. That does it. I take the devil’s side. The angel and my conscious mind wilt, leaving my feet to start dancing. And dancing. And dancing. 

Centuries, millenniums pass. The glamour of the meadow slides away, like a mask being peeled off. I finally understand that it is not a fantasy I have stepped into a complete nightmare. 

The children that I once thought were rosy cheeked and lively, are skeletons with deep bags under hollow eye sockets. The lush field is full of bugs and scattered with various bones of plants. The fairies I once saw as beautiful are complete misery. They nip at your body and yap in your ears. Worse than that, however, are the legs of us—the skeletons. Our legs are enchanted, bound to the nightmare’s lull, and will not stop. On top of this nightmare is a soft coat of glamour, and if only I’d looked closely, taken the angel’s side, maybe I’d be back home, dancing of my own free will. 

I only hope that that door down the hallway is tightly shut and the house knocked down before anyone else enters this world of terror, and suffers the same insatiable life as me. 






The Reading Room

By Sophia H., age 12 


“Seriously Rebecca?” 

I turned to see my brother looking at me, eyebrow raised. He was right. What was I thinking? That I’d open the door and it would lead me into this alternate world? Still, I couldn’t help looking around me for some sort of . . . I don’t know, secret passage. But the harder I tried to see something that might indicate something magical, the more I knew that it was just a regular old closet, boring and ordinary. 

“Well, you never know,” I replied, determined not to let him be right. I closed the door, its hinges squeaking in protest, and turned around. My brother rolled his eyes. 

“You and your ‘magic’,” he said, but I could tell that was the end of it. Flynn was not one to tease, and I was thankful for that. We walked down the long hallway, and then, nearing the end, Flynn ran ahead and barged into his room, slamming the door behind him. He did not do it because he was upset or irritated. That was just his way. I was the opposite, described as quiet, studious, and calm. 

I soon entered the living room, a fire blazing on the hearth, casting eerie shadows all around me.  Mom sat in an armchair, reading a book and sipping her chamomile tea. Upon hearing my foot upon a creaky wooden floorboard she looked up at me and smiled. 

“Well, did you find anything magical in that closet of yours?” she asked cheerfully. 

I pulled out my ponytail and began to redo it. “Nope,” I replied, twisting the hairband around one more time and pulling it tight. 

She tilted her head, and gazed at me. 

“You know, you’re just like I was when I was your age.” 

“Really?” I said. 

“Oh yes. I was a bookworm, just as you are now, and I loved anything magical. I used to build fairy houses out in the backyard, and then sit, hidden in the forest, watching patiently and hoping that someday I’d see a fairy.” She sighed. “And you know what? I never did.” 

I knelt beside her on the floor, and she stroked my hair. 

“Rebecca?” she asked, and then paused. 

“Yes?” I said, prompting.

“Do you like it here?” 

I thought for a moment. Did I? Of course I missed my friends, well, the friends that I had. I didn’t think I missed school, except occasionally, because I liked homeschooling a lot better. Mom wasn’t exactly a perfect teacher, but she was learning, as was I. 

When we first moved here, I missed the city a lot, but now I’ve grown to like it here. Living in this log-cabin-like house, in the middle of the woods of New Hampshire was actually turning out to be better than I thought it would be. So, I honestly replied, “I think I do.” 

“Oh good. I thought you would.” My mom stretched, and stood up, closing her book after marking her place carefully with a beaded bookmark. “I’m going to go make dinner, and you need to find something to do.” 

I groaned. “Fine.” 

I plodded in the direction of my room, and then collapsed on my bed.  I still couldn’t stop thinking about that closet. What if there was something I had overlooked? 

I decided to go and check again. Maybe I would discover something I had missed the first time I looked it over. I reached the closet, and placed my hand on the cool brass knob, which had been worn to a dull bronze over the years.  Turning the knob, I slowly opened the door. 

Worn wood, dusty cobwebs, and a rickety shelf greeted me unmercifully. There was obviously no magic here! I stood there, gazing thoughtfully at it for a moment, and then shut the door carefully and retreated back to my room. 

Sitting down in my in my comfy chair, I began to think, turning an idea over and over in my head. The closet wasn’t magical, that was for sure, but maybe I could enchant it with my own kind of magic! 

After thinking for a minute or two I decided what to do. I went into the kitchen where I found Mom fixing supper, humming to herself. 

“Mom?” I asked. 

She paused her humming and turned to look at me. “Yes?” 

“I know that earlier you said I could use the closet for whatever I wanted. Is that offer still standing?” 

“Of course,” she replied. 

“Okay then, two things. Where did you put the big sponge? And do you know where a hammer might be?” 

“Is my Becca up to something?” 


“Alright I’ll leave you alone. Just promise me I can see it when you’re done.” 

“Of course,” I said, smiling to myself. 

“Well then, the sponge is by the fireplace along with the bucket, and the hammer is in the basement on the shelf.” 

“Thanks!” I called, already running towards the living room. 

After locating the sponge and hammer as well as a bucket of nails, I headed off to the closet with a big pail of soapy water on my arm. 

I worked for an hour, maybe a little longer, and then finally, exhausted, retreated back out into the hallway to survey my work. What I saw was nowhere near what the closet had looked like when I had started. The walls were clean, cobwebs removed, dust free. Glancing down, I saw my green disc chair resting on a rope rug, both of which I had taken from my room. I had also replaced the dim bulb that lit the large closet, and it gleamed its fullest.  All this was nothing however, compared to the treasures that lay upon the shelf. My favorite books sat there, just willing me to read them. For I had, in fact, used some of my ‘magic,' and created my own personal reading room. 







By Madeleine L., age 11


I just need a break. I just need to run. But when I run, my troubles follow me. I can’t escape them. They’ve already intertwined themselves around me, enclosed me, like a net. I can run but I can’t hide. I’ll never be able to hide.

Staircase after staircase. Hallway after hallway. The wallpaper’s always the same, too. It used to be an elaborate design, but now it’s peeling from the walls, rotting away. It used to be beautiful. But not anymore. Just like me. Because why am I here?

Why am I here? I’m too wrapped up in my grief to even think about why I’m here. It’s my dad. He’s gone. Gone forever. I think about his funeral a month ago. When my dad was lowered into the ground. And tears were running down my cheeks and I was thinking “stupid car crash.” Thinking of all the things I’d never do again. Thinking about how he died too young. Thinking about how I need him. Thinking about how I need not only him, but his love, his hugs, his kisses. And then I think of his welcoming green eyes and his dark hair. And his gleaming white smile. I remember when he had a princess tea party with me when I was five. And when he helped me with my homework when I was ten. It’s just too much, too much. It’s my memories. I’ll never be able to hide from my memories.

 Dad and my grandmother were in a car accident when they both died. This house was my grandmother’s. Well, technically it was my grandmother’s. She owned it, but she lived somewhere else and never went inside. Now I can see why. I can barely stand all the gloom and darkness of World War 3 these days, let alone living in a dark and dreary house.

 My close family has never been rich. We got by, with my dad working and my mom staying home and homeschooling me. But when my dad died, we didn’t have money coming in, so we had to move here. So far, I don’t like it. This house was built in 2014, hundreds of years ago. Built in 2014! So old! I’ll never be able to live here.

And now I’m screaming and crying, tears pouring down my cheeks. I’ll never be able to reach him again. Never, never, never. I’m running through the house, fleeing my mother, who’s pale with sadness as well, but who’s trying to act brave for me. My tears stream down my cheeks as I run helplessly around. Trying to escape.

I’m so blinded by my tears that I almost don’t notice when I run right smack into a door. I stand there, paralyzed, shocked for a few seconds, and then start to stare at the door. I don’t know why, it’s just a door. Seems like there are billions of doors in this house. But this one looks different.

I put my hand on the cold doorknob. It isn’t tarnished like the other doorknobs I’ve seen. In fact, this doorknob looks like it was cleaned just yesterday. But we came here this morning.

The metal looks so familiar. And then it hits me. My grandmother used to wear a gold necklace around her neck. A white gold necklace.

The memories have caught up to me again. “Jessa,” I can almost hear them calling. “Jessa.” I try, but I can’t make them go. So even though I’m hostile towards them, I’m forced to welcome them into my head.

I remember the last night I was with my dad. A bright summer day. We were packing up our picnic and Dad looked me in the eye. The sunset was behind him as he said, “Remember Jessa. If one door closes, another will open for you. All right?” He looked so serious, I couldn’t believe it. He was usually so silly and fun loving. So I just said, “All right.” Then he smiled, as if he had never reminded me of his saying. “All right, Sugar. Let’s go.”

 The “Sugar” nickname came from a princess tea party we had when I was five. I accidentally spilled sugar everywhere, and my dad said, “Whoops, sugar!” I thought he was addressing me, though, as “Sugar.” So it stuck.

I’m plunged back into the coldness of reality. It’s as though I’ve been resting on a hammock on a warm beach, and someone has rolled me into the freezing ocean. I feel my hand slowly turning the doorknob. And inside I find . . .

Art. I used to love art. Not anymore. Dad loved art. It was because of art that he died, too.

I find my legs carrying me around the room, my eyes searching the pieces of art. They are so breathtaking, so beautiful, I have to remind myself that I don’t care much for them anymore. I find famous paintings from the Louvre.

Wait a minute. I believed that these paintings were destroyed when Paris was attacked in World War 3 a few years ago. This war has lasted forever.

Dad taught me about these paintings. All about them. I wish now that he hadn’t. That he had not known about art. Because when he was in the car accident, he was driving to an art museum.

I find it funny that it’s a note that I take interest in. I pick it up. The paper is yellowed and old, like everything here. It reads:

War is red blood, but art is red paint. What do you want red to be?

What do I want red to be? And then it strikes me.

Did Dad die on purpose? Did he know these were here? I don’t know. All I know is that this is what he would want.

And now I finally know why I’m here.

“I need to show the world art,” I whisper. “I need to bring beauty and light back to the world.”