Summer of 2009
The New York State
Summer Young Writers Institute
his anthology contains poems, stories, and creative nonfiction pieces produced by the talented
high school writers of the 2009 New York State Summer Young Writers Institute. Now in its
eleventh year, the NYSSYWI is a week-long creative writing residency held in July on the campus
of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, to coincide with one week of the adult New
York State Summer Writers Institute. This prestigious writing program, sponsored by the New
York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany and
directed by Robert Boyers, brings internationally-famous writers like William Kennedy, Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks,
Robert Pinsky, and many others to Skidmore during the
month of July.
For our high-school writers, having the opportunity each
day to work on their own writing in three classes with a faculty of professional writers, to hear accomplished writers in lateafternoon craft sessions or at evening readings, and finally to
hone their own works-in-progress during late-night performance marathons in the residence hall meant that they were
thoroughly immersed in the writing life during every waking
hour. And judging by the photos and student comments
included in these pages, they loved it.
More than one hundred students from all regions of New
York State send original writing samples each April, and we
choose the thirty-six best writers to attend the Young Writers
Institute. These young writers are unique in any number of
disparate ways but they all share a devotion to writing, and
that common interest creates almost instantaneous bonding
when they meet each other. Year after year, we offer these students respect and recognition for
what they have already achieved, and in return we receive not only a committed, attentive group of
students for a week but also the dramatic, funny, moving, troubling, and remarkable creative
pieces in this anthology. It was our pleasure to watch as these pieces unfolded, and it will be your
pleasure to discover them here.
T
William Patrick
Director
New York State Summer
Young Writers Institute
Young Writers | 1
Summer 2009 Faculty
Kathleen Aguero’s most recent book of poetry, Daughter Of, is published by
Cedar Hill Books. The author of two previous books of poetry and editor of three
anthologies of multicultural literature from the University of Georgia Press, she is
a Professor of English at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, MA, teaching in
their low-residency MFA and undergraduate programs.
Liza Frenette is an assistant editor at New York Teacher, the official membership
newspaper published by New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). Author of
three novels for children, including Soft Shoulders, Ms. Frenette has published articles in Reader’s Digest and Adirondack Life, among other publications, and has won
first place feature and news writing awards from UPI and Associated Press.
Elaine Handley is a poet and fiction writer, as well as an Associate Professor of
Writing and Literature at Empire State College. Her poetry chapbooks, Notes from
the Fire Tower and Glacial Erratica won the Adirondack Center for Writing Award
in Poetry in 2006 and 2007, respectively. She is currently completing Deep River, a
historical novel about the Underground Railroad.
Richard Hoffman’s memoir, Half the House, first published in 1995 by
Harcourt Brace, was recently reissued in a new and expanded edition. He is also
author of the poetry collections Without Paradise and Gold Star Road, winner of
the 2007 Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize. Writer-in-Residence at Emerson
College, he also teaches in the Stonecoast MFA Program.
Bob Miner worked for Newsweek and has written for the New York Times,
Washington Post, The Village Voice, and Esquire. He has published two novels—Exes
and Mother’s Day—and is finishing up the third novel in this series, Father, Son and
Holy Ghost, as well as writing nonfiction about Istanbul, Turkey. Since 1980 he has
taught writing for the University at Albany and Empire State College, as well as for
Skidmore College, Syracuse University, Siena College, and the College of St. Rose.
William B. Patrick is the founder and director of the New York State Summer
Young Writers Institute. His latest book, Saving Troy, is a creative nonfiction chronicle of a year spent living and riding with professional firefighters and paramedics.
He has also published a memoir, an award-winning novel, and two books of poetry with BOA Editions. Mr. Patrick teaches writing for the College of St. Rose and
for the Stonecoast MFA Program.
Young Writers | 2
Earned Wings
by Conrad Baker
CHARLIE PUSHED OPEN THE BARN
door and set straight to work. His
boots echoed in the empty stalls as
he reached up and snatched an old
wad of leather off a nail. He had
brown, callous hands, almost a
proper rancher’s. Long summer
days and private whittling lessons
had colored those little hands.
Charlie swung a long leather cord
over his shoulders and pulled a
heavy red glove from an open stall
door. His hand disappeared inside,
the thick leather hanging loose
around his wrist. He turned to a
wooden post standing in the dust
behind him. Hunched on top was a
gray bird, a tall, thin hawk. Charlie
smiled to see her, showing some
new front teeth, and, standing tip-
toe, ran a chicken feather over her
belly. She was tall, with long yellow
legs and a neatly squared tail,
straight and stiff with wide dark
bars. Her shoulders and breast
were wide and strong, freckled
with seasonal browns. She wore a
tight hood, the leather cap to keep
her blind and quiet at night. Only a
long, stony beak was left poking
cold. The hawk stood tall, flashing
out. As she swayed with the chickin the sun, and curled her neck to
en feather a pair of bells at her
meet a morning breeze. Charlie
ankles clinked quietly. Trembling,
brought her to another post on the
Charlie pinched a tuft of feathers
lawn and held her to it, and she
on the hood. He
paused, took a
“My week at Skidmore was eyedeep breath, and
tugged those
opening & thrilling. It brought
feathers just a litback this part of myself that had
tle bit. The hood
diminished during the school year
fell away, and the
bird came alive.
since I felt so ‘different’. When I
His smile spread
met all of the staff and kids I realagain as her brilized – these are my ‘people’. An
liant brick red
eyes caught the
ideal writing experience!”
rising sun and
— LILY LOPATE
ignited, her feathers standing on
end. With difficulty,
jumped to the top, bells jingling
Charlie pushed the
sweetly. Charlie stood back from
cord through a hoop in
her, gripping his end of the long
her ankle bells. He
cord. Casting a long glance past the
dipped his hand into
house and the barn, the driveway
his pocket and proand the grazing fields, he held his
duced, at length, a fat,
arm high and sent his mouse sailbrown mouse. The
ing for the horizon. The hawk was
hawk bent forward
off the perch and after it, riding the
intently, long and low
breeze to a tiny spot in the grass.
and pointed. Charlie
The mouse disappeared in her
raised the glove, and,
golden fists, and she worried it like
on his toes, touched it
an old woman beating dough.
to her long, hooked
Charlie ran to her, and she jumped
feet. His voice was
up, the mouse gone. The leather
small, so his tiny, “Step
cord slipped elegantly from her
up” was lost in the
ankles and fell to the dewy grass.
empty barn. The bird
There was no knot tied in the end.
gripped her post,
Charlie cried aloud, but she was
bowed low and hopped
away, slicing folds of sunbaked
down to the glove, her
breeze as it swirled beneath her.
bells singing a brief note. Charlie,
Charlie stood stranded in the yard
beaming, brought her down. She
while she tore gracefully away, the
was heavier than he thought she’d
bells singing softly even after she
be, and her feet much stronger. He
had vanished.
kept his mouse just out of reach
Daddy would tell him later that
and moved carefully for the doors.
he was foolish to fly that bird.
Outside, the sun was already
“She’s got to earn her freedom,
blinding with no clouds to smother Charlie, and so do you and I. We’ve
it. The lawn smelled clean and
all got to earn our wings.” Young Writers | 3
The Cat Fight
by Chloe Barker-Benfield
“WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?” THE BACK“You can’t just get rid of her! If
light of my phone illuminated the bit- cats make your mom sick, then you
ing question.
shouldn’t have offered in the first
“Nothing.” The only response I
place. I told you that you shouldn’t
could think of. I knew what this was
have her.” I waited while there was a
about, but I didn’t want to believe it. I
lull in the flow of accusations. I picwas hoping the conversation would
tured Nole trying to text while he
just end; I didn’t want to fight, espemade a Quizno’s sub and gleefully
cially not about something so beloved, toyed with the idea of history repeatespecially not with Nole.
ing itself and my imagination spun
“Why can’t you take care of
out a picture of Nole being fired for
Whiskers? I thought she was ‘so
texting again.
happy’ and you ‘love taking care
of her.’” I felt nauseous. I had
“I honestly liked the teachers
said that, but only to comfort
more than I expected. They were
the young girl on the other side
so interesting and I wish I got to
of the world who had believed
Nole and was convinced that her
know them better. The kids here
small, gray cat was being kept in
made me get another chance to
a closet.
relook at my thoughts at how I
I wished I had never agreed
to take that cat. I wished that I
view people different than me
hadn’t received a call from India
and how I view the world. They
begging me to watch my friend’s
changed my “stereotypical” judgfamily pet for a week. I wished
her father hadn’t abandoned
ments on the types of people they
Whiskers and I wished I hadn’t
were. They brought my intellisaved him from having to take
gence out of my shell and made
her to a shelter. But none of my
wishes would come true and
me realize I had more in common
that dirty job had fallen onto my
with them than I thought.”
shoulders.
— ANONYMOUS
“I did what I said I would
do,” I replied, trying desperately
to defend myself. After spending four
“Keep your mom away from the
hours on the phone with various vetkitty!” The customers must have left.
erinarians and boarding facilities that
“Suck it up until we find someone
might be willing to watch the poor,
else. You’re responsible for the cat
little feline, I’d grown exhausted and
now. You can’t just board her and
self-righteous. “I’m going to take care
expect them [meaning his girlfriend
of her for a week; cats make my moth- and her little sister] to be able to pay
er ill; she’s sick, we can’t take care of
for it.” Another pause, I mentally
her for more than a week. You said
banned all Quizno’s.
you would take her after me but your
“They’re relying on you.” I was
mom said ‘no’. My mom is saying ‘no’
growing more and more sympathetic
to taking care of the cat for more than towards Nole’s boss. “If you can’t hana week.” There was a pause during
dle the cat and have to put her in a
which I cursed both our inability to
hotel then YOU pay for it.”
pay for the cat to be boarded and my
I could feel my blood boiling in
friend’s poor taste in men.
my veins. My eyes filled with tears
Young Writers | 4
born of frustration and rage. I just
wanted to do my friend a favor, I just
wanted to hear her say “thank you”.
“I did exactly what I said I would
do,” I repeated. “I’m taking care of her
for a week, that’s more than you did.
How about I drop her off at your
house if you’re so responsible?
Furthermore, it’s not up to me; it’s up
to my mom, and she told me from day
one that I could only keep the cat for
a week. Let’s see you pay for her to be
boarded. You were supposed to take
care of her for the second week. It’s
your week that’s falling through,
not mine.” I was angry–partially at
myself for stooping to Nole’s
level–partially at Nole for purposefully trying to hurt another person’s feelings.
“Yeah, my mom said I can’t.
Not my fault. At least I’m taking
responsibility for trying to find
someone to take care of her!”
“Ditto, but I also spent my
morning cleaning Whisker’s litter
box. You didn’t.”
“Big whoop! That’s part of
taking care of a cat! I have cats.
I know.”
“It’s not up to me, my mom
said I can’t keep her beyond a
week. I HAVE NO CHOICE.”
“See, I took responsibility and
found someone to take care of her.”
“Who is it? I’ll gladly drive
Whiskers to their house.”
“Drive her and all her things to
my house around seven today.”
I did drive Whiskers to Nole’s
house, or rather my mother drove
Whiskers and me to Nole’s house. As
Nole carried the tiny, frightened creature into his neighbor’s house, I stared
into her big, green eyes peeking over
his shoulder at me and saw a vulnerability in them that made me think of
her lonely owner on the other side of
the world. And I worried that both
their hearts would be broken. The Complexities of Desire
by Pooja Bhaskar
“AND I TOLD MR. HORAN THAT I
should get a trophy. Don’t you
think I should get a trophy?” Lori
was talking animatedly about nothing, as she often did. We were sitting in the Castleton Firehouse,
peeling and cutting apples for the
Girl Scout Apple Pie Sale that happened every fall.
“Why?” Anastasia snorted.
“Because I’m a super star!” said
Lori, striking some ridiculous pose.
The six of us laughed, some of us
with her, most of us at her. It was
all in good fun.
Kaycei laughed the hardest,
though. At that moment, I didn’t
know why; this was the sort of conversation that our lunch periods
were filled with. But then Kaycei
didn’t know that. She had stopped
hanging out with us three years ago
in the beginning of freshman year
when she quit the Girl Scout troop.
She was with us now because,
according to some complicated,
stupid rule, we made more money
with six girls in a troop instead of
five. We asked her if she would join
telling her she didn’t have to do
anything but help make pies, and
here she was.
“God,” Kaycei was saying, now, “I
haven’t had this much fun since, like,
June.” That was about five months.
“Are you serious?” We stared at
her. “We’re miserable being here,
and you’re having fun?”
“Well, yeah,” she said. “How are
you having fun if you’re miserable?”
“I don’t know,” said Lori, “We’re
always like this.”
“Huh,” Kaycei replied.
We went on peeling apples and
joking around. We didn’t talk about
it anymore, but later Lori and I said
to each other, “I can’t believe it’s
been five months since she’s had
that much fun. We’re always like
that. Why is she even friends with
those people?” ‘Those people’
referred to the girls on her volleyball team. “We were always better
friends to her than they are.”
And we had always been better
friends to her. In fact, I had always
been a better friend to her. In the
sixth grade, we were best friends. In
the seventh grade, a new girl moved
in and Kaycei decided to give me the
boot to be the new girl’s friend,
instead. After a year of hurt and hell,
Kaycei had had a fight with her new
best friend and came to me to ask
me if we could be
friends again. I’d always
been kind; I told her
yes, and gave her a second chance.
It turned out that
the second chance was
completely undeserved.
In eighth grade, Kaycei
and I had all the same
classes, but she spent a
great amount of her
time flirting with our
friend, Joe, and paying very little
attention to me. Aside from her, I
was virtually friendless and the fact
that she barely spent time with me
hurt. All this hurting she caused
me, even when I tried to talk to her
about it, and I still didn’t learn.
I forgave her, and that summer,
we spoke eagerly on the phone
about the coming year in high
school. But she had joined the volleyball team and found new friends
among her teammates; that was
when she stopped hanging around
us. Around me.
After a few arguments about the
way she was treating me, we drifted
apart and since then have had a few
conversations about trivial matters
in the lunch line. I suppose she
wanted to be popular, but I, like the
rest of my friends, couldn’t understand how that was more important
than having good friends.
I doubt that I had made any
sort of impression on her, but she
taught me a lot. Mostly, she taught
me not to expect much from people. But with the decisions that she
made, she also taught me the value
of happiness and having good
friends. And that the people you
think are your friends, or the people you think like you, might not.
She taught me to have thick skin.
And so, I’m grateful for our
friendship, if it could be considered
that. I still feel stupid for giving her
so many second chances but if I
hadn’t, I wouldn’t have learned
these things. I only hope that Kaycei
ends up learning what I could have
taught her: that friendship is more
important than popularity. Young Writers | 5
A Perfectly Innocent Christmas Letter
by Zak Breckenridge
Dear friends and family,
I am writing to wish you all
a very happy Christmas
and to give an update
on what’s going on in our little family.
Those of you with whom
we have little contact otherwise
may be under the impression
that we are now a family of eight.
This would, however, be a false assumption to make
as we have recently had our numbers
reduced to three,
and perhaps soon to be two
by the time you receive the letter
because Timmy has been suffering
from a spot of Leukemia lately,
which has hit our finances quite severely.
We were, as I mentioned in the last letter,
expecting a sixth child
some time around the New Year
but he was unavoidably miscarried
late in the third trimester.
The second to go was Jimmy,
who fell out of a chairlift in March
into a drunken snowboarder
who was going far too fast.
It turned out that he had a rib through his heart
or something
if I remember correctly.
A year can run together
so easily in the memory.
Third was Cindy.
Our family was hit by a rather
severe bout
of the Swine Flu in May
and Cindy ended up biting the dust.
Remember the one fatal case
in New York State?
That was Cindy.
Sadly, this was when the
welfare checks really
started decreasing.
It almost felt like
all of our income was
made up of sympathy gifts
Young Writers | 6
that we sold.
Those of us still living
practically survived on
casseroles.
Annie caught fire this summer
whilst cooking breakfast for the family
and none of us could save her.
People can be so clumsy.
Around the same time, David,
the children’s father
was in a mine that collapsed.
Silly bastard.
It was around this time
that fewer gifts arrived in the mail
and I have a lurking suspicion
that it’s connected with knowledge
that I, out of absolute
necessity,
was forced to buy caskets
in bulk.
Now is a time that
we need support,
especially monetary support,
from our friends and family,
no matter how distant.
In other news,
Steven, the only healthy child I have left,
has been doing quite well in school
and has a girlfriend named Sarah
who I quite like,
and
I am working on getting
my catering business off of the ground.
There is so much more to tell,
but I am feeling a bit of a headache
and maybe a fever
coming on. I think I’ll take a bit of
a lie-down now.
Happy Christmas,
hugs and kisses,
Bridget
Fire Hazard
by Rebecca Brown
I HAVE WORKED THE MAGIC OF FIRE EVER
since I was born. It’s a rarer power than
the other element-magic and not
looked upon kindly by those who wield
air, water, and earth. Many fire users
have been known to go astray from the
rules of society, creating destruction,
but I find it beautiful. Why not use a
gift such as this? My mother fears for
me, but I do not fear for myself. I have
never been attacked despite the many
threats thrown my way.
So, on a day like any other in the
summer of rural northern New York,
I was in an area of the woods that I
had thought was secluded. I was practicing with my fire in a place where I
knew loss of control would mean more
trouble than anything I had ever done
in my life, but that just made it a
fun challenge.
My favorite magical practice was
to cast flames into the air and then
bend them into the shapes of animals
that would gallop around me. They
were colored differently based on how
hot I made them, from cool red to
blazing blue, and they flickered more
or less based on how well the magic
was cast. It sent up about the same
amount of smoke as a campfire, but in
the past people have seldom come
searching for me to investigate the
source. This time was different.
I had just produced a cobra to join
a relatively cool red and orange flickering horse and a hot blue and white
tiger when I heard the sounds of
rustling in the bushes behind me. It
could be a frightened animal, so I did
not kill the fire yet.
Unfortunately, it was not an animal, but two girls. A blonde girl with
green eyes and a matching shirt
exclaimed, “I told you! It’s her! Damia
Lawrence is a stupid Burner!” Oh no. I
knew that tone of voice.
The second girl, a brunette I recognized as a water wielder cackled, “Let’s
get her.” Both girls raised their hands.
Anticipating a flood, I sent my fire
animals at them, but not quite fast
enough. They met their end in steam
and smoke as they collided with the
water between me and my attackers. In
the moment of obscurity, I turned and
ran. All I could do was buy time; maybe
make it to a more public place…
Apparently not. I heard heavy
footfalls behind me and the next
moment I had slipped in a puddle of
the fire and I was the one who had to
put it out. I was in a position of power.
Suddenly scared for a new reason,
I tried to shoot to my feet, but water
makes everything harder for me, so I
fell back down again when I was half
way up. The resulting splash alerted
them to my continued presence. They
then realized that their fate was hopeless, so they began attacking me again,
sending torrents of water at me.
Frightened of my own
power now, I did not
“Being completely immersed in such
cast a wall of protective
flame around myself.
a thriving, creative environment has
The force of the water
been one of the most inspirational
knocked my limp body
experiences of my life. I felt supportaround, engulfing me.
My air supply was cut
ed and appreciated in this writing
off. I could not breathe.
environment, never like I had felt in
I was living my worst
my English classes, where people
nightmare; my biggest
fear. I was drowning.
were afraid to critique and no stuNo, there was no point
dents really wanted to be there. The
in all of us dying. I
institute enveloped me in the ideas
fought it. I wrenched
my body back under
and support of an excellent faculty
control and tried to
and a wonderful group of students,
push myself upward,
and has really helped me improve
but that was no good, so
instead I insulated
as a writer.”
myself to the heat of the
— BEAL ST. GEORGE
average hearth-fire and
caused some of the
water that had not been there seconds
water to evaporate. Finally, I was free
before. Falling into the muddy water, I once more, at the edge of the suddenly
flailed out wildly with both my limbs
calm puddle.
and my panic-strengthened magic. I
My vision hazed over with fear
saw the light as a pride of lions eruptand I dragged myself out of the disased into being, but I only heard the
trous water, dripping and shivering,
screams that told me I had produced
and faced the three fires that had not
white-hot, water resistant flames. I
yet spread to the trees. Mustering all of
turned over in the water to peer
my control I stopped the fire comblearily at the two girls who were no
pletely and crawled forward. I looked
longer trying to attack me directly, but at the three blackened shapes and
sending hopeless streams of water at
knew there was no hope. I felt for
the flames engulfing them. They were
pulses, but there was nothing. No
also screeching as their skin was slowly chests rose and fell with air.
burned off. There was nothing they
I was a murderer. could do. I was the one who started
Young Writers | 7
Medicated
by Laura Colaneri
The last time I saw you, I wondered
at the chemicals
that gathered beneath your
eyelids. I saw fumes hover,
drifting out your ears. A smell,
like a metal gurney.
In an attempt to
flush out foreign fluids
that had taken you over, you traded
darting pupils
for glazed and idle corneas,
certain disruption
for uncertain results.
In search of your lost memories, I
have left for a time. I am collecting them
in snatches
like they were made. Losing them through holes in my pockets
as you did, tripping after them
as they crawl away.
The landscape is familiar
like you were when I first met you, and so
I have learned to tread the fringes of chemical spills
in the dark, skirting the puddles
you left behind.
When I return home, you will know by
the sound
of voices
in my pockets,
and I will repeat their stories to you softly
if your ears have not glazed over too.
Young Writers | 8
Convenience, Value, Service
by Jordan Ferrin
FIVE HOURS AND FORTY THREE MINUTES
to go.
The girl has timid brown eyes that
flicker around in agitation and studiously avoid my gaze. I glance at the
items she places on the register in front
of me and suppress a giggle: one hot
pink Venus razor-blade. One large box
Band-Aids.
Some items just shouldn’t be bought
together. Many items shouldn’t be
bought at all. Take for example Nad’s
Facial Hair Removal Strips. That’s right,
I really want “Nad’s” all over my face.
I try to find the humor in all situations, even at this shitty excuse for a
job. Facing the women’s aisle is always
good for a laugh. The toppled towers
of tampons, Vagicaine, and personal,
long-lasting, warming, stimulating,
strawberry flavored lubricants always
do a little to spice up the never ending
hours of monotony.
I scan the razor, and then the BandAids, both times reliving the screeching
beep whose sound-waves were manufactured somewhere in the depths of hell.
“Would you like a bag for that?” I
ask after she swipes her credit card. Her
umber irises flicker in my direction for a
fraction of a second and she nods her
head. “Have a nice day,” I say as I hand it
to her.
“Havanisday,” she mumbles and
races for the door.
Five hours and forty-one minutes to go.
The next customer is a woman
wearing a white sundress with red floral
designs. I recognize her as the mother of
some girl I used to have a crush on. She
places a box of tampons on the counter
and I wonder if they are for her or her
daughter. It’s an interesting thought:
“You know that tampon you’re wearing?
Yeah... I sold that to your mom.”
I take it from her and search its purple and white walls for a barcode, which
is not apparent to the eye on the first try.
I spin the box around a few more times
but for the life of me cannot find that
patch of zebra skin. I peer up from the
box to the mother’s face and she’s giving
me a dubious look like I’m some weirdo
who’s inspecting the exact absorbency
(super plus absorbency) of her tampons.
Then the phone rings.
“One second, ma’am,” I tell her as I
drop the bar code hiding box with relief.
I grab the phone to end its incessant
ringing and bring the receiver to my ear.
“Hello, how may I help you?” I say.
I’m answered by a voice that must
belong to some ancient relic of a man.
“Are the Depends on sale today?” he
queries me.
“Uhhm, I’m not sure, let me check
for you.”
“But are the Depends on sale
today?” he repeats louder.
“Let me check for you, sir,” I
respond, keeping the annoyance out of
my voice.
“Yeah the Depends…” I lower the
receiver from my ear and turn to Jill. She
is wearing the same powder-blue shirt
with red embroidered letters as me. She’s
short but kinda cute.
“Can you go to aisle seventeen and
check if there is a sale on Depends this
week?” I ask her.
“Sure,” she says. I can tell she’s excited.
The woman with the white dress
coughs very inconspicuously so I put the
phone on hold and turn back to the
tampons. After another few games of
spin the box, I spot the barcode half
under the pricing sticker. I have a quick
fight with the adhered label until I reveal
the code and scan the ‘tamps. The
woman swipes her credit card every
which way before finally getting it in
correctly and then departs, leaving me
thinking about what goes into her
daughter’s vagina.
Five hours and thirty-eight minutes to go.
My power-hungry, pot-bellied boss
comes down from his office and tells me
to go restock the drink fridge. I tell him
to go fuck himself... in my head. I
saunter over and into the fridge where
the frosty air nips my naked skin. There
are boxes of drinks stacked high up the
walls of the room. I grab an armful of
big red Gatorade bottles and dump
them none too gently into the drinks
shelf from behind. They slide down the
shoot and knock the bottle in the front
onto the floor, where its cap cracks like a
thin skull. A pool of red slowly forms on
the floor like I’m at the scene of some
recent murder. My boss would probably
consider this just as serious a crime.
I wait until the sticky pool of blood
has stopped spreading, and then I leave
the fridge quickly to find the mousy,
over-the-hill assistant manager.
“Someone broke a bottle of
Gatorade in the drink fridge,” I say.
“Oh my,” she exclaims, “I guess you’ll
have to grab the mop and clean it up.”
Five hours and thirty-three minutes to go.
After a session of scrubbing, the evidence has been erased, and soon enough
I’m back at the register. A kid I know
from school walks up to it. He’s a third
year super-senior, so let’s just say he’s in
the bottom three of the most intelligent
people I’ve met. He’s wearing a wifebeater even though he has pale white
arms with no muscles to speak of. His
face is covered in red splotches like a
mob of mosquitoes declared war on
him. All in all, he contains every attribute that would repel a girl and...and he’s
carrying a box of condoms. He places
his package of Mint Tingle Twisted
Pleasure Lubricated Latex Trojans in
front of me.
“These fit up to eight inches,” he tells
me with a lopsided grin.
“I’m sure they do,” I respond. The
phone rings and I snatch it up while I
scan the condoms with my other hand.
“Hello, how may I help...”
“Are the Depends on sale today?”
As soon as the gawky teen has left, I
walk up to the office quietly and leave
my two-week’s notice. Young Writers | 9
Untitled
by Leigh Gialanella
A mouse is squeaking, stone steps keep going down and down;
The air is thick with waiting, and one wonders
If it is safe
To venture down below, in the rubble, in the maze
Looking at the channels built for the use of man.
Such a mystery, dusty clouds are filled with gold!
Jewels are falling, a gilded sun bursting
Everywhere I step.
Some say that the air is still and heavy, that metal
Shrieks by night, but all I smell is rosewater
And sound delightfully mutes away.
Wonder what they all thought, harried and hastening as they were
Did their smiles reflect on the walls, the steps
Jump high for them as well?
The steps down did they seem both quick and light,
Knowing their ways with the aid of a bright flickering torch?
Did they see the ivy crawling up the walls and
Want to cry out with a created joy?
Surely they did not suffocate or step on shards of glass
In a world that such this is, good fortune would not concede
And maybe when they caught their ride, held the chilled icy poles in hand,
They knew that they were holding life.
Young Writers | 10
The Plan
by Natasha Gross
GO TO AU. JOIN THE PEACE CORPS.
Become a journalist. Save the world,
stop global warming, and, if I have
time, take down an oppressive government using nothing but my wit, my
pen, and some paper. Die young, taking a bullet for my best friend, whoever that will be.
That’s my life plan.
I think it’s a pretty good one.
It was December, two thousand
something, and Samantha Wesner had
become part of the group. Funny
phrase, “the group”. We weren’t a
group. We were a collection of five people who nobody else liked, who happened to get along with each other. We
walked around the playground, finding
little ice sculptures in the mounds of
snow piled up around the blacktop.
Sam was pretty. Angelic smile. Soft
hazel eyes that lit up. Artistic. Quiet.
Shy. Loveable in every way.
I hated her.
For two months.
Two Octobers later, I was waiting
to hear if she was still alive.
It’s July, and I’m sitting at a computer, writing a story. I’m missing
Sam. Her mother, Amanda. Her father,
Jake. My friends, my fairy god-family.
I’m missing banana bread right out of
the oven, and piano duets by whichever composer we pick up first. I’m
missing badminton on their sloping
lawn after a rain storm. I’m remembering our last philosophical discussion in their living room, watching
Star Trek, talking about guilt and
motivation.
It was all theoretical, of course.
Join the Peace Corps. Die young,
taking a bullet for my best friend,
whoever that will be.
In class they called me courageous.
I wasn’t sure what for. They asked me
why, why I would want to put myself
in such adverse situations, willingly. I
wondered that myself. I’d never really
thought about it before. For as long as
I can remember, I’ve been that way. It’s
just...part of my makeup. I want to
help, I want to defend, I want to
avenge. And I’m stubborn enough to
not let things get in my way.
“I’ve learned so much
during this week. You
really get to know the
‘tricks of the trade’
through this program.”
— LYDIA YOUNGMAN
It was the August before that
October, two thousand something
else, and Sam and I were walking in
the woods. Sunlight streamed through
the branches, water bubbled down a
stream. Everything shimmered the
way it would if you had left a dark
cave for your first time into day. We
were laughing at something two artistic, nature loving, momentarily childlike girls laugh at. We skipped back to
the house, drank iced tea in the hobbit-hole kitchen, and pulled little black
insects off our T-shirts and jeans.
Two weeks later, Sam was in the
hospital. They didn’t know what was
wrong with her.
Her birthday was in a week.
I’m not courageous. I’m not selfless. I’m not a decent person who
wants to help. I’m a kid who’s too
scared to see the person who loves
them most dying in a hospital, too
guilty to face her.
She was dying. Her birthday
passed. I couldn’t think of anything to
give her.
It was October, two thousand
something else, and I was waiting to
hear if she was still alive.
How could I ever have hated her?
The November after, I was scared, I
was guilty, and I was trying not to
laugh. I was staring at her half paralyzed
face in choir class. It looked like a truck
ran over half her face; flattened it. She
smiled. I felt myself edge away. She was
my friend, and all I wanted to do was
run away, and laugh until I could cry.
Go to AU. Join the Peace Corps.
Become a journalist. Save the world.
lt’s six Octobers after I met her,
four Novembers since she came back
to school.
Sam is healed. She’s beautiful; the
only traces left of the still-nameless
disease are her charming half smile,
with only one eyebrow raised.
It was the June before our senior
year, the last June before this July. We
played badminton in the sloping backyard, slipping on wet grass, squinting
in the newly brightened sun.
I was winning. As always.
It’s summer, two thousand every
year. We’re picnicking in the park,
watching the sun set behind West
Point on the Hudson River. We’re in a
giant tent, watching Shakespeare’s
plays. We understand him, understand
each other.
She cringes when I get to the end
of my great plan: Die young, taking a
bullet for my best friend, whoever that
will be.
She worries about me. I can see it.
I don’t understand it. I should have
been there to take that bullet for her.
It was December, two thousand last
year, and we were on the bus ride home
from school. She was one of the first
people I told. She hugged me, congratulated me, told me we’d have a coming-out party when we got home. Young Writers | 11
Untitled
by Margaret Guzman
THAT WOMAN IS WATCHING ME. I AM
woman follows. I try to push her back
drag me along while he tells me that
quite sure of it. She has no food. She is into the trashcan of my mind but
I’m a coward and the other man
merely sitting at the table in front
unlike the food, her smell remains.
laughs and “nothings” and laughs.
watching me. She is judging me.
When I arrive already shaken at
Far in the heart of the crowd, as I
I long to fake absorption in my
my interview, there is a man waiting at am pulled along, I see a woman
fries so that she will see that I do not
the door. He is tall and pale and hand- dressed in a neat black suit. The men
notice her and look away, but I cannot some and cruel. Something in his eyes
pull me in her direction but she drifts
tear my gaze away from hers. Anyway,
stops me from entering. Something in
backwards, always obscured by the
I know that she cannot be fooled. I see his smile mocks me.
crowd, so that I never quite see her
that I know her, although she is no
“What do you want here?” he asks
whole face. I know she wants to help
person that I have met. She is familiar
with a smile made of ice and misery.
me but that the men and the other
in the way of an individual who you
I do not answer. He already knows. woman behind me are too strong for
are accustomed to seeing only in the
“What makes you think you’re
her. She speaks but her voice is quiet
context of a group. By herself I am
worth it?” he asks me as the woman I
and lost among the constant jabbering
barely able to identify her, the
of the two men and the heat in
way that when a chunk of
the back of my head from the
“Overall, I think this week has really
hair is chopped from your
first woman’s eyes. The woman
head you are able to recognize
in the suit sadly repeats the
helped me to see myself as a writer,
it as your own only through
words until I just catch the word
prepared with the knowledge of what
close study.
“logic” clearly formed on her
makes such a passion challenging,
She knows that I took my
lips, before another man dressed
food today without paying.
all in black rises up behind her
unique, and (most of all) worthwhile. It
She knows everything I’ve
and stabs her through the heart.
was very rewarding to be immersed in
ever done. Yes, I remember
As she falls dead, I find that all I
literary teaching, and I know what I
now she stood behind me in
can see now is the man in black.
the long line when I, overHe looks at me over the bloody
learned will help me in the future.”
whelmed with impatience,
blade and licks it clean. It is as
— GABRIELLE HABER
took my food and slipped
though he has devoured my last
away. She stood so close
thread of calm thought as well,
behind me as though she would have
was supposed to have forgotten nods
and I scream and frantically try to free
liked to consume me.
in my peripheral vision. “You’re nothmyself from the grip of my captors.
I wish that she had ripped the
ing. Nothing. Nothing.” He repeats the
“Help!” all five of us cry desperatefood from my hands. I blame her. Why “nothings” over and over, his soft cruel ly but I barely notice and my head
should I be punished when she didn’t
voice forcing its way into my mind.
feels cloudy and the woman is staring
do a thing to stop me?
His words are already there in the
and she and the three men are saying,
A mall security guard walks by and
shadowed parts of my mind, but it is
“I hate you, I hate you, I hate you...”
I wait for her to tell him but she doeshis voice that makes them come alive.
and their words join the buzzing in
n’t even look away. I know she thinks
I feel that I am blind–an organism
my head and the man in black moves
that I should tell him. She doesn’t think made up of only one sense.
closer and closer and his face is shiftimpatience is a good excuse. I don’t
“Why won’t you leave me alone?”
ing, like he has so many faces, so that I
think she’d care much for any excuse.
we, all three of us, ask at once and this
do not know what he looks like, and
Her eyes stare at me steadily and
confuses me. The man laughs and the
he brings his hand to my face almost
composedly but I notice that her
woman stares and I stumble out of the gently and touches me and I am cold
hands are restless, twisting over and
office and into the street.
and I sob and he smiles and I am him.
under, interlocking and releasing finThe woman follows me, close
“I hate you,” all five of us say as
gers. When I look down, I see that I
behind, but the man stays closer, hook- one to me, calmly, and I am all alone
am doing the same thing.
ing his arm in mine and I know that I
on the busy street twisting my hands
Shaking, I tip my food and my
cannot shake him off. We are soon
over and under—interlocking and
thoughts about the woman into the
joined by another man, who hooks my releasing fingers—and I know that
garbage and leave the building. The
other arm, and he and the first man
this has been true all along. Young Writers | 12
Mittens and Potatoes
by Gabrielle Haber
“FUCKIN’ BASTARD!” I CRIED ACCUSINGLY.
My candy-sweet voice dripped
poison, echoing both teary embarrassment and ill-natured conviction.
I felt an exhilarated rush cradle my
insides; I had never sworn before in
my life. I yanked my mittens off dramatically and abandoned them to
the playground asphalt, where they
tossed blissfully in the London winds
like fat, knitted leaves. Swarms of
children, huddled together in the
cold like baby polar bears, paused
and turned to face me curiously.
“What happened, Gabrielle?”
piped up Ellie, a look of intense and
deliberate caring planted on her sixyear old features. She studied me
knowingly through a curtain of
auburn bangs, and then patted my
quivering frame sympathetically. I
sobbed harder, providing admirable
dedication to contributing towards
my own humiliation. I glanced
around my school’s playground,
fiercely searching for him. His burly
and menacing second-grader form
was nowhere to be seen among the
staring, pale figures.
“Mike threw a potato at my
face,” I whimpered. Ellie gasped, her
hands flailing to cover her mouth in
shock, as if I had spoken of a gruesome murder.
Through my loneliness and fright,
(and the actual physical pain of the
angry sting left as a result of a potato
being shot at one’s eye like a cannon),
I thought myself a soldier of sorts. I
had been wounded by the evil forces
of the older bullies who, as Mommy
assured me, were just too dull to be
nice. I felt myself a martyr for the
well-mannered, a brave humanitarian
taking one for the team.
Many doll-faced girls from my
grade now crowded around me,
riled in my defense and ready for
intense combat.
“We’ll get him damned good!”
declared tiny Cassie, fists clenched,
eyes narrow with a thirst for
vengeance, her already rosy-cheeked
complexion aflame with redness
from anger and cold. “He’s right
nasty,” agreed Emily, stepping
towards me. “The way he always pulls
your hair like this.” She clutched my
waist-length, tangled hair. Her bony
fingers slid through the unapologetic
barrier of knots as if running her
hands through sand at the beach,
through snow in the field. She
tugged. I winced and pushed her
away threateningly. Laughter.
“I reckon this sort of thing happens on account of you being a
Yankee,” another girl revealed to me
matter-of-factly. I blinked and turned
away, feeling as though my momentary importance and very being had
outgrown the restrictions of my little
body. I felt defenseless, wronged, a
victim and an outsider—but somehow all the more special because of
it, a sense of hard-earned grandeur
bubbling in my skipping heart. Tears
continued to travel down my face like
raindrops racing along a car window.
I had one hand pressed up against
my right eye.
“Maybe you’ll
need an eye patch,”
Ellie pondered.
“She’ll look like a
bloody pirate!” giggled
Emily. I couldn’t help
but chuckle through
my squeaky sobs.
Cassie charged
towards us with an air
of accomplishment,
my favorite lunchlady following her
curiously. I liked this
lunch-lady, despite
her tendency to call me “Julia,” a
name under which I had conversationally introduced an imaginary
friend of mine to her.
“Hello, Julia, is Gabrielle with
you today?” she’d often question
me playfully.
“No, I’m Gabrielle, my friend
here is Julia,” I’d correct her, gesturing
to the empty space next to me where
“Julia” supposedly stood. She’d often
simply pat my head and walk away.
“Come now, sweetie,” she said
gently, ushering me along with her
wing-like arms. “Mike stole those
potatoes from the lunch room, the little grave-digger.” She shook her head
and sighed.
We stepped rhythmically inside
my school’s brick facade, where I was
led to the infirmary. The bird-y
lunch lady sat me down on a chair,
handing me an ice packet after I was
told to wait. Wait, and wait patiently.
“Well, Julia, at least you’ll have
your friend Gabrielle here to keep
you company,” she said, waving a
lanky arm towards the vacant chair
next to mine, and winked at me.
I stared up at her and sighed, still
holding a mittenless hand to my
bruised eye. Young Writers | 13
Lost in the fog
by Isaac Handley-Miner
THE SUN GLISTENED OFF THE COOL, CLEAR
surface of the ocean. A light blanket of
fog was just beginning to slither its
way over the rippling water as I gazed
out over the sea from my perch on the
porch railing.
“It’s starting to get late, but I’m
sure we could still make it to the island
if you’re interested,” my dad said.
“Yeah, I’d love to,” I answered
enthusiastically.
Within ten minutes, my neighbor,
my parents and I were seated in the
old, rickety row boat we used to travel
short distances over the ocean. After
starting up the small, sputtering
motor we left the bay and set out over
the water.
As land had just slipped out of
sight, I suddenly noticed the skin on
my arms was crawling with dew.
Looking around me, I realized we had
glided right into the midst of a fog
denser than concrete. The swirling mist
enveloped our boat and its occupants
in a velvety blanket that was eerily tangible. I turned and looked to the rear of
the craft. There was my father, steering
the tiller, his face shrouded by the
creamy film of the mist.
“I hadn’t anticipated such a thick
fog,” I mused. No one answered me.
We took a compass reading and
carried on in the same direction we
had been traveling. The island wasn’t
too far away, so we reasoned it would
be safe to continue.
As the fog continued to curdle, it
became impossible to see ten feet in
front of us. My father entrusted me
with the job of watching out for rocks.
If we ran aground, it would be impossible to find help. I strained my eyes,
scanning the surface for any disturbance that could signify the existence
of an obstruction. Soon, the monotony and the sting of the salty spray
forced me to give them a break. Plus,
we would arrive at the island shortly.
But I couldn’t help feeling unsettled by
Young Writers | 14
the unbounded whiteness. It was frightening to stare into a vast nothingness.
The fog began playing tricks on my
mind. I saw haunting apparitions
materialize in the distance, only to dissolve into mist as we got closer. The
perpetual clunk of waves hitting the
boat sounded like the beating of far off
drums, dogging our voyage. My voice
“I had more fun this week than
any other summer in my life.”
— REBECCA BROWN
sounded strangely hollow and hung in
the air, muffled by the sea of fog.
I listened to the put-put-put of
the small motor and inhaled the noxious fumes from the oil. It had a calming effect. It offered some familiarity
to the bleak vacuum we found ourselves in. I tried to busy myself by
peeling off the white, chipped paint
from the bow of the boat. My stomach
twisted with uneasiness.
Minutes crept by, as the uniformity of eddying vapor dulled the brain.
I kept checking my watch. It had
been ten minutes since we’d left.
Fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes.
Twenty-five minutes.
“Surely we should be there already,
right?” I pondered aloud.
“Can’t be far now,” came the echo
from the rear of the boat.
I looked above me and vaguely
made out the shimmering golden orb
of the sun through the haze. It was
reassuring to know that the sun could
see us, even if no one else could.
Suddenly I began thinking What if
some monstrous oil tanker were to come
across our path? They wouldn’t be able
to see us in time and we had no way
to signal them. I was interrupted midthought by my father saying, “You
know, I never thought to check the gas
before we left.”
Lovely. We’re stuck in the middle
of the ocean in a terrible fog; we don’t
really have any idea where we are, we
could be run over any minute by some
large boat, and now we don’t even
know if we have enough gas to make it
to the island, not to mention back
home again.
The lump in my stomach swelled
to the size of a tennis ball. I almost
laughed at how stupid our situation
was. The only thing we had to battle
fate was a compass—a compass that
I wasn’t even sure was working
properly. It had been thirty-five minutes and we still hadn’t seen any sign
of an island that was only supposed to
be twenty minutes away.
We talked it over and decided our
best bet would be to continue in the
direction we were going. Hopefully we
would hit some land and figure out
where the hell we were. Ten more
minutes passed and still nothing. We
were all really beginning to panic now.
The churning and shifting fog echoed
our own thoughts. Do we turn around
and hope we’re heading back to our
island? Or do we simply carry on, perhaps drifting farther and farther away
from a safe haven?
Just as we were about to turn
around, I thought I caught a glimpse
of something through the fog. It
looked like a long, thin green object
off in the distance. As we floated
steadily closer, I realized that what I
was seeing were trees! Finally, we had
found land. The weight lifted off my
chest and I felt like a free man.
We spotted a small fishing boat
and pulled up alongside it. We asked
the fisherman where we were
In a thick Maine accent, he replied,
“Isle au Haut.”
It took us a few tries to figure out
what he was saying, so he showed us
on a map. We had hit the tip of the last
island before the open sea. Next stop?
Portugal. I looked back into the
swirling haze and felt my mind clear. Kiss the Pavement
by Cassandra Hartt
IT WAS THAT TIME OF YEAR WHEN DOGS
wished they could sweat. They couldn’t,
so they panted. All the time. Their pink
tongues spilled over their teeth and
lolled until the saliva became foam. The
pavement was new and smelled like the
heat that softened it.
Jem was precarious on the bike
with the banana seat because it didn’t
belong to him and there was a girl sitting on the handlebars, backwards, with
her sticky fingers over his eyes. The bike
was bubblegum pink and meant to look
vintage, even though it wasn’t. He
weaved along the blacktop leaving a
path like a wave in his wake.
The bike belonged to Piper, the girl
with the sweaty hands and the freckles.
She had gotten it yesterday for her
ninth birthday and loved it for all of
twelve minutes.
Jem remembered counting the
freckles sprinkled across the bridge of
her nose, losing track in the two hundreds and starting over. Once he had
used her speckled face for connect-thedots. The ink of the ballpoint pen had
not readily flowed over the layer of
greasy sunscreen, and he had to press
the tip of the pen deep into her fleshy
cheeks to create the shaky blue line connecting one splotch to the next.
As a little kid, he thought the blemished plane of her face seemed similar
to a galaxy light-years away. Full of mud
colored planets with irregular borders.
He never repeated to her what his dad
said about freckles: that you got them
from standing too close to a cow’s ass.
The bike wobbled dangerously
and Piper grabbed Jem’s ears to
steady herself.
“Let go of me!” She only
obeyed because a car was coming up
behind them.
Around the time he lost his first
tooth he had walked in on his mom
and Piper’s father. It was the middle of
August and their air conditioner was
broken. Jem had been going to get tam-
pons out of his parents’ bathroom.
Canons for his G.I. Joes. He remembered that the blinds were closed and
sweat dripped off her father’s nose. Jem
felt his mouth twist and pucker, like
drinking the pulp of fresh lemonade,
and he took a few hasty steps backwards, as if moving in the opposite
direction would make time follow suit.
He didn’t understand why their parents
couldn’t keep their clothes on. It wasn’t
that hot outside.
“Your dad and my mom were
kissing. And they didn’t have any clothes
on!” he had whispered in her ear when
he returned to the backyard. He liked the
way Piper’s hair smelled and how sometimes she painted her toenails pink.
She mirrored Jem’s wrinkled, indignant expression. His face looked pruny,
like toes after a long bath. “You mean
they were naked?”
He nodded and waited for her
reaction before he decided what his
would be.
“Gross!” She banished any sinister
connotation that bedroom of glowing
silhouettes had, what with its smell of
salty bodies and mysterious, sacred limits decaying. It was only disgusting, like
maggots in dirt or blisters full of pus.
Not scary.
They were riding the banana bike to
get to the store where they had popsicles and twist cones and Italian ice and
ice cream cookie sandwiches and hard
serve by the hand-packed pint. Piper
wasn’t allowed to eat dessert on days of
the week that ended in “y”. But then,
she wasn’t supposed to climb on the
handlebars and he wasn’t supposed to
let her. She figured that if you had
already broken one rule you might as
well break them all. Jem picked his battles, and those he chose didn’t involve
Piper. She covered his eyes again.
He tugged at her hand, half-heartedly because it was all in good fun, and
the bike meandered from the safe curb.
She saw a maroon mini van, a non-
threatening gem on the horizon, then
screamed because it was upon them.
Too close, and like a blindfold the color
overwhelmed her. At such an intimate
distance she saw that the van was more
of a red-violet than a violet-red.
Beneath her the bike shuddered and
was sucked under.
Jem howled. The front spokes of
the pink bike bent their backs to kiss
the pavement.
She sat on the ground, her mouth
open, her hands clutching either side of
her face, covering her ears. Her fingernails left tiny half-moon indentations in
her cheeks. Each semicircle was beaded
with blood. She couldn’t move and her
throat didn’t work like it was supposed
to because she seemed to have swallowed a wad of cotton balls. Her bike
had been yanked out from under her
and Piper’s elbows, her bare feet were
scuffed. Pebbles had wiggled their way
into the life lines in the folds of her
palms. There were tiny, sparkling rubies
all over her and the melting pavement.
There was no color in Jem’s face
because all of it had drained out his leg.
He was mostly made up of red. When
Piper saw that leg she saw the insides of
things that could be squished. Things
like spotted brown bananas and blue
Play-Doh. And, apparently, feet.
A woman yelled in her face, spit flying. She sounded like a dog, but really
she was saying “help” over and over.
There was lipstick on her front tooth.
She shrieked that Piper had to go get
somebody, but all Piper could think was
that she couldn’t leave Jem alone with
that lunatic. Because she might kidnap
him, because she was a stranger with a
car. They shouldn’t have even been talking to her. The maroon van and crimson blood and his hair the color of
autumn. A pool on the road and all
over his shorts and hands. Hands that
were shaking, his and hers. Piper started
to run, and then she didn’t stop. Young Writers | 15
Strikeout Summer
by Gretchen Hohmeyer
WHAMP GOES THE SMACK OF A
baseball into the catcher’s glove.
The pitcher of the team
Flapjack Grill/Carriage
Pharmacy—called the
“Medicated Pancakes” affectionately—is warming up for their
playoff game. Since this is my
little brother’s team, I should be
excited, but I’m not.
I turn to my mother as
we sit in the freezing metal
bleachers, “Derek should be on
the mound.”
Derek is, of course, my 13year-old brother. He is tossing
balls in the outfield among his
other teammates in their red
shirts with white writing. He is
determined to win this game—
more determined than he has
ever been. This is the last year
he will be eligible for Little
League, and the next league up
(which plays on Major League
standards) honestly scares him
a little.
My mother nods, “He’s put
so much work into this year. He
even practiced at home in the
pouring rain!”
It is Derek’s dedication to
this sport that has shocked me
the most. He has this permanent scowl on his face. He’s
moody and he refuses to go
after something if it gets hard. I
never believed he would have
had this season in him. I’d like
to say his hardcore practices
have paid off, but the thing he
has been working on the
most—the thing he loves the
most—has not been really any
part of his season.
“But Coach would rather
put Nelson on the
mound,” I say. “Because
Nelson is his son. But
Derek pitched so much
better than Nelson in just
two innings! And the fact
that he overcame his shyness and spoke up shows
an immense amount of
growth right there!”
In the beginning,
Derek refused to speak
about his wanting to pitch.
Instead, he watched silently
as Coach benched him and
the other players who are
not the “best,” in favor of
the divas who “are.” He
quieted his outrage when
Coach pitched his own son
or, worse, the boy who didn’t even want to stand anywhere
close to the mound.
What boosted his confidence
was the fact that Derek’s batting
practice had him hitting so well
that Coach moved him from
batting ninth to second. I
remember the day he came
home from one game, bouncing.
“I spoke up,” he had said.
“You what?” Mom
had squeaked, amazed and
incredulous.
“I asked Coach if I could
pitch.”
Mom had hugged him tight.
“Look at you, all grown up.”
Derek just grimaced.
He was supposed to pitch
that Thursday, but the game got
rained out just like too many
others that season. He took the
mound on Tuesday instead.
The whole family clutched
at the fence around the field
with more nerves than it
seemed Derek had.
The first inning, Derek
struck out all three batters he
faced. He quickly became the
topic of conversation with
Coach and his assistants, as well
as in the stands.
“Why didn’t this kid pitch
before?”
“Hey, this kid is good!”
“Just who is this kid?”
I proudly told anyone who
would listen, “Derek is my
little brother.”
The second inning had been
more of the same. He had let
some guys on base, but then
started striking them all out
again. However, just as he was
about to strike out his last batter, the rain started. It stormed
with a hammering downpour,
ear-shattering thunder and
vicious lightning. Our quick
sprint to the car soaked us.
Derek had dashed up and
jumped into the car. He was
dripping, flushed and—
uncharacteristically—smiling.
“I’m really sorry you couldn’t get that last out,” Dad said.
Derek turned his dazzling
smile on him. “It doesn’t matter.
continued on page 17
Young Writers | 16
continued from page 16
Now Coach has seen that I really have
practiced and it’s really paid off.”
I punched his shoulder. “Everyone
was talking about you. Coach will definitely pitch you again.”
But he wouldn’t.
Even now, that thought still
stings as I watch Derek warm up in
the outfield now as Coach’s son
Nelson warms up on the mound.
He is not a great pitcher, to say the
least. Yet Coach has pitched him
every day he can. Nelson has lost
more than one game for this team.
But I should be glad they are
here, in the final four of the playoffs. Coach had called the day
before and said that he’d seen
Derek out practicing.
It made Derek hopeful. “Maybe
he might let me pitch!”
I turned my thoughts to that
now. Maybe Coach will realize his
mistake and put Derek in instead.
Let him pitch, let him pitch.
Coach benches him for the first
three innings.
The first part of the game seems
promising. Their good batters hit
like they always do, and it’s two to zip
going into the third inning. If Nelson
can keep it together for one more
inning, he’ll hand it over to the team’s
best pitcher and we might have
a chance.
Wrong thought to have.
Nelson gives up four runs in one
inning. Coach keeps him in there,
though, until the end and Nelson
comes off the field, rather nonchalantly. It is four to two—a winnable game.
That is the score when Derek goes
into the outfield at the top of the
fourth. He likes it there well enough,
and he’ s been working on his fly balls.
He catches a few to get some outs and
the inning ends.
After the first part of the game,
not a player can hit the opposition’s
new pitcher. Derek is able to draw a
walk, trying to at least put himself on
base. No one manages to even get him
to second.
It’s got to be depressing when you
sixty feet instead of thirty-five. He is
already thinking of his new teammates
who will be as old as eighteen and
dwarf him, as some of his other teammates already did.
“I don’t think I’ll play next
year,” he mumbles to the floor.
“This was my fourth year
I sigh—typical Derek.
attending the institute and, as
When the going gets tough, he
gives up. It’s like his other
always, it was absolutely brilsport, ski jumping. He loved it
liant. The participants are
from the very first day and yet
among the most genius writers
he refused to do it in the summer and—when he got too
and fascinating people that I
good for the small hill and
have ever met, and the discusprogressed to the next biggest
sions and criticism they have
one—then collapsed just
because he didn’t want to put
provided have had profound
in the effort.
effects on my writing. Without
We get home, unload the
the institute, I would not be
car, and give Dad and Yale the
news, since each would have
nearly as good a writer or anyhad a heart attack had they
thing close to the same person,
gone. I go to the living room
and for that I am grateful.”
and read, trying not to think
about how disappointed Derek
— LAURA COLANERI
is and how he always surrenders
his dreams when he meets
adversity. But he is small for his
try your hardest yet there is nothing
age. He is emotional and isn’t accusyou can do. The game ends with a
tomed to dealing with people. Perhaps
score of five to two.
this is for the best. Yet I know he loves
When it is over, Derek seems to be
the sport so much, and his admission of
the only one not overjoyed to see the
defeat cracks my heart.
cupcakes someone’s mother has
It takes me a while to realize he’s
brought. His teammates are easily disnot inside.
tracted from loss, it seems, but Derek
I hear a faint grunting outside and
nearly walks out on Coach because he
look out the window. There is Derek,
doesn’t want anyone to see him cry.
who has measured sixty feet from the
I feel like crying.
pitching mound—to simulate the conHe is dejected on the car ride
ditions of his league next year—and
home. I try to cheer him up and, for a
put the Pitch Back there. The balls he
while, it works.
throws are nowhere near accurate and
“It’s been a strikeout summer for
some don’t even reach.
you and Yale,” I say. “Look forward to
When they don’t, he squares his
next year.”
shoulders and chucks another,
Derek is already thinking of then,
doggedly refusing to give up. This is a
when the field will be twice as big as a
new side of him that I have never
Little League one and where the disseen, and it makes me smile like nothtance from the mound to the plate is
ing ever has before. Young Writers | 17
Untitled
by Tessa Hunter
IT WAS DEEP INTO THE NIGHT,
that silent time where the darkness had become so thick that
you could hardly even see your
hand in front of your face if you
wanted to. A soft, brisk wind
whisked through the air, carrying with it the chill of the winter days to come.
But none of this mattered to
the man who was walking down
the empty street.
He paused now, having
reached his destination, and
turned to look up at the large
wrought iron gate, behind
which the dim outline of gravestones could be seen.
He gave the gate a gentle
push, making it swing open
with the creak of old age, and
then slipped stealthily inside.
This was an old cemetery,
filled with people who had died
centuries before, and many of
the gravestones bore inscriptions that were so worn they
were hardly legible.
The figure stalked amongst
the graves with little care for
any of them until he reached
the monument that stood at the
Young Writers | 18
very center of the graveyard.
The headstone was an enormous structure made of white
marble with a statue of an
angelic boy on the top.
The statue itself was hardly
He was exceedingly handsome with inky black hair
pulled back in a ribbon—the
onlooker knew for a fact that
the said ribbon had been a
snippet of fine silk—extenuat-
“This week has been such a beneficial
experience. I’ve learned more this week in
regards to creative writing than I have in a
very long time. The other young writers were
especially helpful, because I was able to
get their honest feedback on my work.
Meeting and befriending other people like
me was definitely one of the best parts of
this whole experience.”
— POOJA BHASKAR
an uncommon image, but it differed from others of its kind, for
its wings were fashioned from
dark marble instead of the normal white.
Placed below the statue was
a golden plaque where the
name of the deceased and their
length of life was engraved in
careful cursive lettering.
And right above this
plaque had been hung a
portrait of a young man
who couldn’t be more than
eighteen years of age.
ing the high, finely arched
cheekbones of his pale, aristocratic face. Chillingly deep blue
eyes glared out at the observer
over the bridge of a slender nose
that seemed to be uplifted in
some sort of distaste. And unlike
what one would have expected,
the pale, supple lips of this boy
were twisted down in a frown.
A smile crept onto the
mouth of the figure as he pressed
his fingers to the painting.
“It’s been awhile; since I last
visited my grave.” Class Trip
by Yasmin Kelly
On our class trip to California,
in the year I don’t know when
I was the one that stood behind
and watched the lunchboxes
while the other girls played.
In the year I don’t know how,
but a gray whale came up on the shore
and showed me the harpoon scars
on her back.
Survivors, whale blubber and desert mammals
listened to me and my lunchboxes.
The sand rats and the hummingbirds,
cougar, coyote, whales again,
survivors.
I gave them the food in my friends’
lunchboxes,
I think they might get mad
when I tell them
“the whale ate it.”
Young Writers | 19
Tracks
by Erik Koch
WHEN I WAS LEARNING TO SKI THE SNOW dom and tells me, “Thank you for skias if he wants everyone else on the lift
was hard. Not hard like cement, but
ing at Greek Peak.” I almost want to
to know why indeed he’s riding on the
like a stale pastry. Squeeze it between
make her try to remember me, not
bunny trail. “I broke my leg. I’m workyour thumb and index finger and
because I find her attractive, but just
ing my way back up.” Ah, an injury.
you’ll break through the crust and into for the hell of it. Most of the time she’s His coolness has been validated.
the warm custard. The snow was simi- incoherent and the words “Greek
“Yeah, me too,” I lie. Maybe he can’t
lar—ice on top, slush on botsee my rental skis through
tom. Your ski would pierce
the freezing rain. I pat my
the ice sometimes and you’d
left arm in confirmation.
“The NYSSYWI helped me grow as a
have to pull up with your leg
There’s a pause. He
more mature author by exposing me to
to get it out.
asks me, “What trail?”
a challenging yet rewarding program.
I rode up the bunny slope
“Oh, you know.” Now
lift, sitting next to old people
I’m done. I’ve only ever
I have interacted with other people
and Asian tourists who would
skied on one other trail
who share my interests, which has
frantically snap photos of the
ever with disastrous
broadened my outlook. Thank you!
evergreens as if they wouldn’t
results. “You know, the big
pass by them again in a
one.” I laugh seriously and
P.S. NYSSYWI is epically awesome.”
minute or so.
add, “I totally wiped out
— MARIA MAZZARO
There’s a bored, overon a mogul.” Maybe my
weight man who sits in a
correct use of ski terms
booth at the top of the lift. He’s often
Peak” turn into a Sneak a Leak or
can save me. He laughs too like he
asleep. His job is to wait for someone
some other rhyming combination.
might believe me. I can’t tell.
to fall off the lift. Every time a kid
The skis seem designed to obstruct you
“Where do you come up from?”
jumps ahead and nose dives into the
from adjusting them. In order to make
“Horseheads?”
off ramp, the whole lift stops.
them tighter, you must take the ski off,
“Oh.”
Today it is raining. The bus back
tighten and try it back on. Rinse and
It’s been almost five minutes since
to the supermarket in Horseheads
repeat. No matter how much time you
the lift stopped. I’m waiting for a red
doesn’t leave till dark and there’s plen- spend doing this, one ski will always be emergency sled guided by a park offity of gray daylight left. All the snowtighter than the other.
cial to speed under me. But no sled
boarders and kids who pay to get in,
It’s raining hard enough that you
ever comes. Perhaps the man in the
but don’t actually leave the cafeteria,
have to wipe the sleet droplets from
booth has just fallen asleep on the
are playing a game of who’s the
your goggles every few minutes. My
giant red STOP button. The snowbiggest badass of them all in the lodge
gloves are fingerless and I regret this.
boarder lights a cigarette and blows
at the bottom of the slope.
The snowboarder riding next to me
smoke out his nose, never offering me
I rent my skis directly from the
has a pierced eyebrow. His hair creeps
one, which I like. Innocence is fleeting.
resort because I really don’t like skiing
in matted ringlets from under his knit
People are always eager to snatch it
enough to buy my own. But most
hat. Moisture has fused the curls
from you, like a dirty magazine. The
weekends I need to get out of the
together into frozen dreadlocks. The
rain extinguishes his cherry and he
house. Anything is better than listening lift swings and the joint creaks above
has to relight it a few times before the
to the laments of a family affected by
us as he tries to peer to the front of
lift finally starts up again.
undiagnosed bouts of seasonal affecthe line to see what’s halted the lift.
We don’t speak the rest of the way.
tive disorder. The dogs will even begin
“Fucking kids,” he mutters. He
He hops gracefully off and speeds
to whimper at times during the incesappears experienced enough. The
away down the mountain, the butt of
sant conversations regarding the future board dangling from his foot is plashis cigarette smoldering in the snow. I
of public radio and the legitimate
tered with faded stickers. I wonder
grip my poles tightly and jump after
effects of classical music on babies.
why he’s riding on the bunny trail lift
him. The world seems to slide out
Every weekend I go to the same
in the first place.
from under me as I fall heavily on my
counter to get my boots. A girl with a
“What brings you to the bunny
ass. Everyone above me on the lift
fake diamond nose piercing and a fake trail?” I ask him.
groans collectively as it grinds yet
diamond earring stands there in bore“Oh well.” His voice is very loud,
again to a halt. Young Writers | 20
Richard the Great
by Katie Lasak
SAM STEPPED UNEASILY INTO THE
elevator beside her mother, causing
a sickly, churning feeling to spread
throughout her gut. Elevators had
always had this effect with her, and
though there was not yet a name
for this phobia, she was certain that
she had it. But little did she know
that the elevator would be the least
of her problems today. Soon
enough her rotten, roused up
stomach would only become more
agitated. She was here to see her
grandfather; 80 years old and fresh
off the operating table. A mere 26
hours before, a scalpel had broken
the skin and sawed through his
skull in an effort to remove a
tumor that had already stolen his
voice months before. His voice. The
man’s own voice. That troubled
Sam to the deepest level because
her grandfather was a great man,
and the thought that kept repeating
in her mind was “What’s a great
man without his voice?”
The elevator doors opened to a
deserted hallway, only decorated by
a lone wheelchair. Sam burst out of
the doors feeling a tiny bit queasy,
ready to faint. The whole “changing
momentum” thing never sat well
with her, but after a few moments
she was fine, soon walking down
the halls beside her mother. Sam’s
mother had a poor sense of direction but would never admittedly
declare when she was lost. Still,
Sam knew when she was.
“Should we go...” Sam’s mother
pointed to her right. “We need to
find D6.”
“Mom, don’t you come here,
like, everyday? You should know
this,” Sam said with a sigh, followed
by a look as if to proclaim Are you
for real, which was a basic teenage
expression. “See? This sign says that
if you go that way,” Sam pointed to
the right, her vacant hand placed
upon her mother’s shoulder “you
go towards Cs. Ds are this way.”
Sam gave her mother a small push
and began leading the way knowing that she’d
find the room, if even
upon mistake.
When Sam did successfully find the room
though, she was unable
to look in it, not knowing what to expect once
she entered through the
doorway. The uneasiness in her gut was
growing once again, but
she swallowed and
pushed it away. You’re
here for Grandfather,
Sam. No fainting. Sam
was a notorious fainter,
especially while in medical situations, which
was one of the reasons
she gave up on striving towards a
job in the medical field. So Sam
waited by
the doorway and gestured for her
mom to go in first and then followed behind.
The room was different than
she’d expected. She’d always imagined a hospital room as two beds, a
window, and a couple televisions
with a curtain separating the two
beds. But in this room sat a desk
with medical beds surrounding it.
Each bed was separated by a curtain, but Sam highly doubted that
the hospital’s attempt to give each
patient their own “room” to make
them feel more comfortable really
had an effect.
“Hey Dad!” Sam’s mother’s
tone was now upbeat, obviously
trying to keep the mood light and
positive. She bent down and
hugged Sam’s grandfather, with
Sam doing the same right after. He
didn’t seem like himself, sitting
upright on his bed, an IV in his
arm and a bandage a top his head
where what little hair he’d had
there before had been shaved. As
Sam sat beside her mother she felt
hope rising in her; he was better
than she’d expected. And with this
she figured it was going to be an
easier visit than earlier thought.
This was all erased as soon as her
grandfather began talking...or trying to talk rather.
“So what’s this? You didn’t eat?”
Sam’s mother directed her gaze
from him to a tray of untouched
salad, mashed potatoes, and chicken, indicating the source of her
question. He shook his head.
“Well...see they brought me
breakfast...” He was shaking as
he spoke.
“Did you eat it?” Sam’s mother’s tone was harsh upon this question. The elderly man nodded, as if
he were a small child being interrogated by their mother for eating a
cookie before dinner.
“It was...” he paused, as if trying
to find the words he wanted to use.
continued on page 22
Young Writers | 21
continued from page 21
This was the very problem the
tumor was causing; a loss for words.
Sam’s mother had told her the
doctors had said “There’s going to be
swelling. He’s going to get worse
before he gets better.” Still, everybody
knew that this surgery was only a
temporary fix, a fake tattoo. Her
grandfather continued to find the
words he so desperately sought out
for, obviously frustrated and worried
that the surgery had failed.
“They brought...” he sighed,
thinking. “So anyway...”
“No, no, go on. What’d they
bring? Pancakes? French toast?” Sam
could tell her grandfather was getting impatient, not wanting suggestions and just wanting to find the
words himself. He continued opening his mouth as if he wanted to say
something, but always gave up after
a few seconds. Seeing the man she’d
always looked up to for inspiration
not being able to simply say what
he’d eaten for breakfast caused a
wave of weakness to crash over Sam.
She felt faint. She’d never seen her
grandfather so helpless, and she
never had pictured that he’d be in
this sort of state.
Eventually her grandfather
picked up a nearby newspaper and a
pen with his brittle hands and began
writing something down.
“Goop?” Sam’s mother said with
a chuckle and a smile. “They brought
you goop for breakfast?” Her grandfather nodded. Goop? That’s the only
word he could think of? Sam thought
to herself. It was painful to watch.
Whoosh! Another wave of discomfort came over Sam.
“Yeah, and then I got no sleep
Young Writers | 22
last night because...I didn’t sleep.”
He nodded.
Whoosh!
“Do you want me to get you
some ear plugs? Will that help?”
Sam’s mother persisted, her grandfather nodding as a nurse popped out
from a bordering curtain.
“We can get him some. I’ll get
them in a minute,” she says. Both
nodded in sync, Sam’s grandfather
and mother, while Sam simply sat
still and put her head as close to her
knees as possible without seeming
rude. She wanted to visit, but she
also didn’t want to keel over, especially in front of her grandfather.
“There she is!” Sam’s grandfather
exclaimed to a nearby nurse who
was passing by on her way to her
desk, pointing to her.
“Who? You want her? The nurse?”
Sam’s mother tried to understand.
“No.” Whoosh!
“Then who do you want?” Sam’s
mother pleaded with him, now acting like a mother trying to make out
her infant’s first words. Sam’s grandfather was no infant. Whoosh!
“You. I want you.” Her grandfather smiled and they both gave a
small laugh. Sam was glad that he
was still able to keep
his exceptional brand
of humor even with
the state he was in.
Whoosh! Trying to
push her nauseating
feelings aside Sam sat
up straight, taking
long, deep breaths. No
fainting, Sam. Don’t
you faint.
“Well, we’ll let you
sleep then and get going,” Sam’s
mother said, noticing Sam’s odd
behavior. The nurse appeared from
behind Sam and handed the aged
man his ear plugs. Sam hated the
fact that she felt relief over the fact
that they were leaving, but one more
wave of uneasiness and she’d be on
the ground and out cold.
Sam and her mother stood up,
hugged the elderly man with the
bandaged up skull and no voice, and
began their trek back to the elevators. This was an experience Sam
would never forget, and she knew
that if she ever thought back on it,
no matter how many times she did,
that it would still break her heart to
see such a great man at a loss for
words over something as simple as
breakfast foods.
“He’ll be just fine Mom,” Sam
put an arm around her mother suddenly realizing it was the first time
she’d spoken since she’d entered
room D6. “He wouldn’t want us
upset, because that’d make him feel
guilty, and we don’t want him to feel
guilty.” They nodded together in
agreement as they reached the metal
doors of the elevators. Sensational Sitting Ducks
by Lily Lopate
“GET OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” EVA YELLED. HER
eyes were bloodshot, her mascara running, making her look like a rabid raccoon. I tried to touch her hand to
comfort her and began to extend my
arm. Her thigh was hot and clammy. I
hadn’t made it too far before she
yanked my wrist away. “I already said,
GET OUT!!! Jesus Christ are you that
dense!? Leave NOW! We both know
you don’t even wanna be here anymore
and don’t give a crap so get out!” Jen
was sitting beside her while Eva began
panting like a furious dog, now sweaty.
Her knees wobbled as she sat down on
the crumpled bed sheets. It was past
midnight. Jen leaned over, her loose Tshirt spilling out while her chest sandwiched together, greeting the cold
floor, simultaneously revealing her bra.
“Let’s turn on some news...some distraction,” she said. Her voice was shaky,
while her eyes jumped about spying
the corners of the dingy motel room.
Elizabeth also seemed shocked, we all
were, this meltdown seemed very sudden, out of nowhere. It thundered
down on us at this dark hour like a
hailstorm that slaps against your car
windows once you exit a tunnel. This
whole year had been the tunnel,
cradling us before we parted ways. This
fight was like the open highway—anything could happen. “The news is over,
Jen! Ok, got it?!” I barked at her slamming the door, only taking my key
card behind me.
Just down the hall was the boys’
room. I knocked on their door impatiently. I needed a distraction myself,
forget Eva! Boys seemed the only thing
here that would hold my interest at
this point. “We were so ready for this
trip,” I thought. “We even badgered the
teachers to give the four of us the same
room. Had we been this oblivious to the
subtle decline all along or was it really
unexplainable?” The sweaty adolescent
boys greeted me with braces and goofy
smiles at the door. They had this fake
demeanor about them like they had
just learned the proper stance for
being “sexy” or “cool”. I walked in—
their room was a mess and smelled of
cheese puffs and muddy clothes. I was
wearing the most unflattering T-shirt
that managed to reveal no attractive
features and I was pale with no makeup. The only good aspect was my pastel shorty-shorts, which showed off
my legs.
I’ve always liked my legs. But never
my mid-area. Always so round and I
felt like the entire circumference of my
stomach was equal to my intestine.
“Shut up, Bella,” I thought. “Don’t be so
self absorbed; there are bigger things
going on here than just you. You’ve
known these guys since 3rd grade.
You’re not going to do anything. Eva is
falling apart for some unknown reason
and yet you’re going to think
about…flirting or kissing?!” I took a
deep breath and explained to the guys,
who seemed starved for gossip, what
had just gone down. An hour went by
and a party had invited itself into their
room. Hot and excited bodies crowded
around, girls’ fat jiggling from their
thighs with pimples on their cheeks
and guys with sweaty hair strings over
their forehead.
There was one guy who was different from the rest of them. Still a jerk at
times, but not at this moment. Now he
was charming and attractive. His flannel
p.j.’s with polo and gym socks could’ve
been construed as preppy or childish
but seemed to only add to his charisma.
He was Italian and he had that effortless
curly hair flip going on. And the finest
hands and his Adam’s apple and jaw
structure were defined too. I had always
liked him on and off but sometimes
concealed it since my other friend Sasha
was always his go-to girl. He was the
kind of guy where if you fell on a hiking
trip he would briskly whip a first aid kit
out of his pocket and bandage your
ankle. Giving you that “it’ll be ok” look
at the same time. He knew how to cook,
spoke two languages—he had a lot that
was appealing. I snapped back into the
present and glanced over to him across
the room to see him leaning perfectly
against a cheap mahogany dresser. He
changed his weight from one foot to the
other and like sending a secret code, I
walked over to him. He cleared his
throat and put his beautiful hand on
one of the knobs in the drawer. I
brushed my hand through my hair. A
romantic technique I had learned from
chick flick movies and older friends. It
said: “yeah, I’m on your wavelength...
take me.”
It seemed to go all in slow motion
according to the Cinderella side of my
brain but my logical, sensible side
chimed in informing me it was all
happening within brief minutes. We
leaned into each other instinctively
and a moment occurred where I
could’ve very well kissed him. It
seemed he was nearly going to kiss
me. Just a few inches away from my
face. My lips. In a split second where
you are living life at a dream pace, our
extremities warm and relaxed, real
time kicks in and your mind speeds
on adrenaline and your muscles tighten. The moment was gone. He turned
away and his hand brushed over his
face like a washcloth but I never got to
see the rest. Sasha sauntered right up
to me at that moment. She was giggling without a care in the world. Her
black curly locks hopping up and
down. “C’mon! We are prank calling
in our room! You gotta come! You can
do your Indian accent.” I reluctantly
followed her, my slippers dragging
against the carpet and out of the
room. Away from him. I was being
forced to change gears and safety pin a
smile on my face. Another McDonald,
taxi guys, and Indian waiters’ impersonation. An hour later and we were
kicked out—“You’ve had your fun,
continued on page 24
Young Writers | 23
continued from page 23
now back to your rooms. And no
funny business along the way,” my
middle-aged middle school teacher
said. She was part of a whole different
world that I couldn’t even sort out
now. All I could think of was how furious I was with Eva for pulling me away.
Jen opened the door; her face was
tired and pissed yet empathetic and
friendly all at the same time. “We’re all
sleeping,” she said, motioning her
hand to the pitch-blackness. I obediently tucked myself into my hard
rough white covers in my bed. They
had a baby blue strip down the edge
like a hospital sheet. I was dreaming,
my body unwinding, my mind digesting. Suddenly mayhem broke loose.
Lights were whipped on, and tears and
screaming erupted. I felt like I had
entered the baby ward in a hopping
hospital and I hate babies. There were
hot tears rolling down people’s
cheeks, sleep deprivation crawling in
to haunt you in your tear ducts and
confusion, anticipation. It was a
drama. A Sunday lifetime thriller only
full speed ahead reality.
I opened my eyes to see Elizabeth’s
feet with pink toenail polish dangling
in over my bunk. Eva was shaking. She
let out a belch of a scream, her voice
running ragged and grizzly like a
drunk’s. The phone rang loudly, that
classic old-fashioned ring. I picked up.
It was the guys’ room inviting me over
again, Elizabeth too if she wanted.
“Really,” I said smiling and giggling a
tad. “Well... I would love to but...
things got a little out of hand...” My
conversation stopped there. Eva
scooped the phone viciously from my
grasp and yelled foully into the speaker. I imagined the guys’ ears going
back with shock just like a small dog
that had been scolded. “YOU!!!” Eva
yelled. Her veins bulging from her
neck. Her eyes red with fury. Her voice
more angry and full of gravel. Within
an instant her arm stretched across me
Young Writers | 24
and pulled the only lamp in the room
out of its socket. “AHHHHHHHH!!!”
she yelled, throwing it across the
room. It crashed and there was a
silence as it sat collapsed like a car
accident or a dilapidated cardboard
box in a corner. I looked over and met
eyes with Eva, who was shaking.
Having learned from our mothers
the ways to nurture and tend to, we
wrapped blankets around her and
wrung washcloths out in the sink to
soak on her neck. We were unstoppable. We had established a synchronized rhythm. There were no words.
Just utter comprehension of what
needed to be done. We settled down
like sitting ducks single file behind the
door. It looked like one of those “in
case of an emergency” demonstrations. Eva was first, her head hung
over heavy with her palm pressed
against the door. As though she was
wishing for the power to break down
the door like a transformer and bolt.
RUN. Then came Elizabeth holding an
extra blanket while tenderly rubbing
her shoulder, then Jill holding a newly
opened Poland Spring water bottle,
then me—holding nothing. On the
opposing right hand side of the wall
was a mirror. “What the hell is this?
What the hell are we doing?” I thought.
My back was slumped and my eyes
worn. This was the TV drama I had
always wondered about, but now that
it happened it was too heavy to handle. All I wanted was to be normal. (A
significant understatement at that.)
Having my night hanging out with the
guys. Doing something, doing whatever it was that I wanted, even if I wasn’t
able to articulate it. Other than this.
It is a year later. It is winter and it
is very cold. I am lonely and do not fit
in with the people in my new school.
These people irritate me with their
shallow talk about nothing. I do not
connect and have nothing to say, so I
think inside myself. The reality of
High School is far from my vision and
expectation. And I am disappointed. I
keep thinking about last year and that
night with the guys, Eva’s breakdown,
and later her dropping out of school,
her telling us that we had failed her as
friends. It’s still so raw and unresolved.
I keep thinking; “Was I selfish that I
wished I were with the guys instead of
being with Eva ? “Yes...No... Bella. Listen!
You cared about Eva but not enough to
let her rampage spoil your trip, you
wanted to enjoy yourself. Your subconscious told you that things would be different next year and this was one of the
last chances to be yourself, your ideal
social-balancing self before summer.”
I am thinking I wish I had more
guts in the beginning of September to
be myself. Make my vision of High
School happen. Instead I waited. I still
have this feeling in the pit of my
stomach, forever nagging at me like a
cat whipping its paw against a floorboard when it disapproves of its meal.
I think back to how freeing it felt to
not be strapped down by obligations
that night. In the midst of all that was
happening I had found clarity.
I guess I could say that was one of
the most memorable nights of my life.
But when assessing the night later on
with Jen, while drinking peach tea on
a bench, wearing fabulous sun hats at
the park, she would ask me: “So Bella,
do you think it all boils down to
‘would you rather...betray a boy or a
best friend?’ I do not read too much
into the “would you rather” and “truth
or dare” phenomenon, but regardless,
she was onto something. They say,
“boys will come and go but friends
last forever.” Well that may be all good
and true but as for me, on that night I
betrayed my friend, and just nearly did
something utterly sensational with a
guy. But the friend wasn’t much of a
friend and the guy, well...he was a
wish...or maybe just practice. Untitled
by Sidney Madsen
THERE IS A MAN ON A DUSTY ROAD.
snatching her body and throwing it
ripped shingles off the roof, hurling
There is a man who walks under a
sideways. She lurched, but caught her- them across the yard already covered
sullen sun across an endless plain.
self on the railing. A man ran up the
in blowing debris.
There is a man with a limp in his step
porch stairs from the path to the barn,
Something in him snapped. The
who is running away. He has no desti- his face anxious.
months of nursing his insane mother,
nation, no plan, no certainty. There is
“Ma? Ma? Are you alright? It’s just
alone, the sleepless nights spent coma heaviness in him, a great weight that a twister, it’ll pass, you’ve been through forting her intangible fears, bathing
rests on his shoulders. His shoes are
hundreds of these things.” He reached
her, cleaning her sheets and bed pan,
torn, his clothes tattered and he is
for her arm, trying to lead her inside.
staying on this broken-down ranch
brown. Brown as the plains, the dust,
“Get away from me! You aren’t
she refused to leave, miles and miles
the broken trees and twisted bark, the
Henry! What are you doing here? This
from anyone, without gratitude, and
clouds stretching to the end
this was what he got.
of the earth. There is a wind
He seized her by the
about him, a wind that
shoulders and wheeled her
“It is extremely gratifying to be amid
pushes him backwards, teararound, the wind roaring in
other writers whose work and curiosity
ing through his soul, blurhis ears, stripping him of
ring his squinted eyes, causreason. He shook her with a
about the world makes us realize that
ing an agony of memories to
violence he had never
through writing it is possible to realize
throw him back to that
known he possessed.
the worth of the way we think. The
house, that porch, that
“Why, Ma? Why? What
woman, that time.
did
I do to deserve this?
Young Writers Institute has taught me
His old mother, her face
Why won’t you come back
that the purpose is to affect the reader.”
parched, her hair yellowing,
to me? Why did you leave?”
— ABIGAIL SAVITCH-LEW
stood on the porch, yelling.
he yelled, his voice breaking,
Her voice was cracked and
his face contorted. She was
desperate as she called for
screaming too, for a man
her dead husband. Her fists were
is my house! I want my husband!” She
who would never come. She was like a
clenched around the peeling porch
pulled away from him, backing away
ragdoll caught in his fury, her body
railing, her knuckles white, the tenfrom the door, towards the steps and
limp, flopping back and forth, her
dons of her hands protruding. She
escape, her face terrified. The wind
head whipping forward on her neck.
was barefoot in a white nightgown
picked up an empty rain barrel, sending Then suddenly her voice was mute.
and from a distance she looked like
it crashing into the side of the house.
His body relaxed, he stopped his
the little girl, who, just awakened, ran
“Ma. It’s me, Paul, your son. You
shaking and pulled her to his chest in
downstairs, through the screen porch
know me.” He advanced slowly, as if
an embrace, burying his face in her
door and out onto the porch to gaze
towards a wild animal, his voice calm
hair, tears tracking down his dusty
wide-eyed at the outline of the tunnel
and low. “Now come here and let’s go
cheeks onto her head, oblivious of the
of wind, framed on the prairie horiin and get you out of this weather.
still advancing storm. “I’m sorry Ma.
zon many years ago. But it was an old
The doctor said–”
I’m so sorry,” he whispered to her, his
woman who heard the bang of the
“Get away from me! He’ll kill you
throat thick with remorse. He held her
shutters on the side of the ranch
if you lay a hand on me! He’ll kill you! close and she was quiet. After long
house and rose from her bed, conHenry! Henry!” She scrambled
minutes he spoke softly, “Let’s go
sumed with a suffocating fear. She had towards the stairs, but he took a step
inside where you’ll be safe, Ma.” Then
stumbled through the door, out onto
forwards and grabbed her arm as gen- he pulled her tight for one last time, a
the wood-planked porch and into the
tly as he could. He felt the arm tightgesture that was a plea for forgiveness,
whipping wind trying to find the only
en. It was as if his touch had
and let her go.
person who had ever kept her safe.
unleashed something in her. She spun
She crumpled. The sound of her
“Henry! Henry! Where are you?
around and slapped him. She was
body hitting the wood floor was surGet in here!” Her eyes were wild and
strong, stronger than he had expected. prisingly soft. He stood there.
searching as the wind toyed with her,
He staggered. She started to pull her
Motionless. Watching the wind play
ripping at her face and hair, then
other arm out of his grip. A gust
with her white nightgown. Young Writers | 25
Astronauts in Africa
by Julia Malleck
THE HERB GARDEN IS STILL FLAT
and dead, the stairs not yet covered in seedpods and moss. My
Dad and I are strolling in the
Botanical Gardens in early
spring. It’s cold enough out that
I still have to wear a red zipperdown fleece. He’ s wearing his
usual forest green Eastern
Athletic hat and jogging shoes,
hands resting lightly in his
jean pockets. The day is cool
and bright.
We’re walking to the food
court for lunch. I leave his side
and skip through the secret passageway under the pine trees
into the Shakespeare garden,
laughing in delight when I see
that I reach the cafeteria
before him.
Later, I have lentil soup for
lunch that I’m too afraid to eat
because it is scalding hot. A few
stragglers sit outside, daring the
cool breeze. The meshed metal
seats feel icy. As I wait for my
Young Writers | 26
soup to cool I remember something I’d been meaning to
ask–an especially goofy question I spent hours inventing. I
want it to sound perfect when I
finally open my lips to say it.
My Dad and I love playing the
game of posing ridiculous questions for each other.
“If an astronaut was in
outer space, spinning
around the Earth, could he
point to Africa and appear
there?” I ask. My hands are
tucked under my thighs,
legs swinging above the
brick ground where my
feet cannot yet touch.
My Dad looks up from
his usual tuna sandwich,
seeming resigned yet
amused, all too used to the
ditzy propositions of a
nine-year-old daughter.
“Julsie,” my Dad says,
“You can’t just point to one
place and appear there the
next second. There is the
traveling in-between the
two moments.”
“Yeah, I know,” I reply
absently, “but what if you were
floating above the entire Earth
and could see all the continents
like on a map? You could wait
until the Earth spun around a
bit, and then when your continent popped up you could just
pick it and appear there!”
My Dad’s mouth twitches a
bit as he bites into the pickle on
his plate. I finally chance some
soup. It is peppery and makes
my ears feel warm.
“Have you heard of the
atmosphere, Julia?”
“Not really. Well, it’s just a
bunch of clouds, right?”
“The atmosphere is made of
gases and it surrounds the
Earth. It is miles thick.”
“Yeah, well it has a couple
clouds.” I say defiantly.
“Don’t be o-b-noxious,”
he says.
I roll my eyes dramatically.
“The air is held in by a gravitational pull,” he continues. I lean
forward in my chair and sit up
straighter at this comment.
“That is what I’m talking
about gravity! It sucks you
down.” I imagine a comical
scene of an astronaut with his
shiny visor, plunging through
cirrus and cumulus clouds to a
plateau in Africa with roaming
wildebeests.
“Julia, listen,” my Dad says,
pointing into his eyes with his
fingers so I’ll look right at him.
It makes me giggle. “It doesn’t
work that way–no way, Jose.
You’ll learn later about this in
science, and the teachers will
make sure to plug all this
important information into
your squishy brain.”
I pretend to scowl as he ruffles my hair, but a smile is
threatening to break the surface.
“But look at my hands!” I
persist. I form each hand into a
small cup and place my hands
together to form a small circle. I
stick my right pinky up and
begin wiggling it.
“This is the Earth,” I say,
looking at my hands, “And this
is the astronaut,” I wave my
pinky enthusiastically.
“And that is your soup,” says
my Dad, smiling. A World of Pretend
by Corinne Mather
“YOU’RE DOING IT AGAIN!”
trouble laid in wait. In fact there were
only time she wasn’t feeling timid was
Katie’s tone was almost darker
times where the planning was almost as when she was angry with me. Guilt
than the shade of the old pine tree
much fun for everyone else as the actu- dropped into the pit of my stomach,
the three of us stood under. The
al games themselves, especially when
heavy like molasses. “You always have
ground was littered with pinecones
I’d attempt to draw their characters.
to be the boss of everything!”
like landmines and the bright sun
“I want long hair!” my little sister
“Yeah,” Breezy pouted. If it came
spun around it as though it was woven would shout.
down to a fight between Katie and me,
through the needles of the sap covered
“How’s that?”
Breezy was always more likely to pick
branches. I turned to face her, slightly
She’d nod happily and we’d move
our friend’s side. Probably because she
surprised at the interrupbegan recalling all the
tion of our game. Katie’s
times I picked on her.
frown deepened at my lack
“You always make
“This week not only helped me grow as
of a reaction. She appeared
yourself the most
to be pretty angry, her face
important!”
a writer but also as a person, being able
gaining more color under
“I don’t mean to!” I
to spend time with people who have the
the natural tan of her
protested.
same quirks and oddities as me was
slightly oily skin, an
“You always tell us
almost-pout tugging at the
what to say and how to
invaluable. Spending a week with other
corner of her mouth and
act,” she continued, and
hopeful writers like myself gave me a
watery brown eyes.
I knew she was right.
sense of belonging and security I need“What?” I asked. It was a
Katie nodded her head
dumb move though, I
in agreement.
ed as a writer. I loved this week at
already knew where she
“We don’t like it,”
Skidmore! The classes were informative
was heading.
she said.
and hilarious. That was very helpful with
“It’s just like always,”
With a bruised ego
she complained. “You’re
and wounded little girl
my writing.”
making yourself the main
feelings I hardened my
— CALEIGH McCUTCHEON
character, again!”
expression. “If I don’t
It was my turn to
do that stuff, you two
frown and then I felt the
never do anything!”
red flow like lava into my cheeks. Katie on to her clothes. Breezy was always
Which, to a degree, was true. I’m sure
had been using this accusation nearly
willing and creative. Unfortunately
now that it was my bossiness hamperevery time we began to play any sort
though, Katie was rather indecisive
ing my little sister, but with Katie...
of game. It wasn’t as if she was being
with many of her decisions when it
“We still don’t like it!” Katie
unjust in her claims. As a younger
came to things. She was shy, and in
adjusted her lopsided glasses.
child I was always rather bossy, and
being so bashful she’d block her own
“Fine,” I grumbled. I was tired of
even at eleven I still held on to the
untapped creativity. That left the rest
fighting with them all the time. “Then
childish tendencies. Especially when it
of us to try and prompt some
I won’t tell you what to do anymore,”
came to games.
responses out of her.
I shrugged.
No matter what the weather, time,
“Well,” I might have started. “What
Katie visibly relaxed, her shoulders
or situation, before anything else hapcolor eyes do you want?’ A shrug
easing and the permanent pout playpened, I made everyone sit down and
would often be her reply.
ing around her lips still trapped in the
decide on general information. This
“How about your hair? Length,
corner. Breezy looked triumphant,
particularly grated on my playmates’
color...?” She’d shake her head.
ready to face our make-believe world.
nerves as I’d force everyone to answer
I shifted out of the pool of bright
I stepped back. Katie looked around.
basic questions about their alternate
sunlight spilling onto my shoulder. It
She looked at Breezy, and she
selves. “Describe what you look like,”
was so hot out, the last thing I wanted
looked at me leaning against the big
I’d say. “What’s your name? What’s
to do was stand around.
old pine tree we all stood under.
your personality like?” The basics.
“It’s always the same,” she grumKatie adjusted her glasses.
But that wasn’t really where the
bled. It was beginning to feel like the
“Now what?”
Young Writers | 27
The Woes of the Ugly Duckling
By Maria Mazzaro
Dear Quack, Pip, Chirp, and Ducky,
I hope you are doing well in the country.
I myself love New York City.
Every morning my friends and I swim in Central Park and then we dry on the bank.
It is a quiet life in which we have deep philosophical debates
and flirt with the sensual love doves above us.
Despite my past,
my scorned past made so
by your callous cries of my unrequited beauty,
I am happy.
I relish those days on which I can peruse my inner thoughts of days long ago
and contently accept
my bitter past. I live each day knowing that I am now one of many
rather than many against the one.
Finally,
I am able to thrive.
You who tortured me so with your untrammeled turpitude,
you who had called me names and trampled my pierced heart,
you who I once called brothers–
you are the ones who harbor the blame.
And yet,
I forgive.
I oust you of your guilt, of your remorse, if any there be.
I will hold you in my thoughts
no more.
After I sign my name to this polished parchment
I will then sign away the haunted holdings you had
over my tainted yet untrampled soul.
With my signature,
I sign away all the holdings you may have held over me.
I shall reflect upon your collective image, voice, and words
no more.
So goodbye, Ducks.
And thank you for building my character
and helping me know the person I never want to be:
you.
Signed Forever,
Cornelius Testicules Penelope Anderson
Known by you as “The Ugly Duckling”
Young Writers | 28
It All Started With Chinese Food
by Caleigh McCutcheon
IT IS TWO IN THE MORNING AND I AM
watching a movie with my dad.
The movie is “Charlie’s Angels,” but
neither of us is really watching it,
and neither of us wants to admit
that we might be watching it. The
movie isn’t bad, but the fact that I
have an IV stuck in my wrist really
sours the mood. We have been here
since 6 o’clock last night, and I am
in a dreary state of disbelief and
uncaring. This damn hospital still
doesn’t know what is wrong with
me, but what they do know is that
my arms don’t like needles, and I
am not pregnant. The latter is a
very important question, and I can
only hope it is just procedure,
because I have been asked at least
four times. The first time I was
with a female nurse while my dad
was doing paperwork: they’re
tricky people. But I let them down,
answering awkwardly that I was
sure I was not pregnant. Later, with
each new doctor I was asked again,
and each time I became more
annoyed. I would like to think that
they were asking me so many times
because they wanted me to be
pregnant, then they would have a
better clue about what was wrong
with me. But I know what they
saw: a teenage girl with stomach
pain. For doctors, they are very
narrow minded, because do I look
pregnant? I don’t think so.
All of this happened when it
was still Friday night, and after
waiting a couple of hours, I was
finally seen to. The first thing they
had to do was to take my blood.
Some woman, blonde and cheery,
came in prepared to take my blood,
and all she needed was a vein. Like
all normal human beings I had
veins, but tonight
apparently my body did
not want to share. I first
got worried when she
couldn’t find a vein,
because I myself could
spot several. Then she
missed the veins, jabbing an uncomfortably
long needle into my
arm. When she finally
found one, nothing
happened. The needle
was in my arm, but
apparently there was no
blood coming out. She
laughed at the bad luck,
and tried again in my
wrist, but that also
failed. When she decided to switch arms I was really starting to not like her. Exasperated, I
mentioned how my feet were covered in veins, why couldn’t she just
stick me there? She laughed like I
was kidding and said she didn’t like
feet. I was very close to telling her
what I didn’t like. Finally, after
another couple of jabs in my left
arm, she found a vein, pumped out
some blood and left. Then they
decided to hook me up to an IV,
and someone else came in, quickly
attached me to the waiting IV, and
left. About twenty minutes later I
realized my arm was cold. My
whole arm felt frozen. We called in
a new nurse, a guy obviously on
the night shift, and he said something about how that was normal.
My dad was not convinced. So we
flagged someone else down and
this nurse took one look at my arm
and realized the IV was pumping
the fluid into my arm muscle, not
into a vein. This had been a waste.
She took out the IV, and managed to find a vein in my right
wrist, starting the IV process all
over again. When I had arrived
here originally at nine o’clock
Friday night, the pain in my stomach that had begun around five
had already gone. I felt fine. But
would they let me go? Of course
not, they needed to take some
expensive CAT scans first. Maybe
this was so my dad felt included.
After all, this was on his time
and money.
So as I watched “Charlie’s
Angels,” I got to drink a bucketload of Crystal Light, which is basically diet kool-aid, in preparation
for the CAT scan. The Crystal Light
was actually just for flavor, the real
stuff I was drinking was syrup that
would apparently light up my body
in the CAT scan. It really starts getting to you if hours ago you were
unable to finish dinner because
your torso felt like it was ripping in
half. So after I did my best to chug
the orange colored sludge, I was
informed that there was a line for
the CAT scan at three in the morning on Friday night. Drunken college kids apparently get first dibs on
the fancy machines. So I had to
wait, and wait, and meanwhile the
dye ran through my veins before I
even got a spot in line. So after a
few trips to the bathroom I had to
continued on page 30
Young Writers | 29
continued from page 29
the staff had yet to tell us what was
wrong with me. Almost sheepishly a
doctor came in and explained what
had happened. It
was appar“This is the first time I’ve ever done this sort
ently a comof thing. I was honestly shocked at the
mon problem in
entire friendliness of the group. The
women, he
teachers were great, the classes were
said, known
wonderful and the readings were good.
as an ovarian cyst. As I
The student readings we did in an
explained to
impromptu fashion were chuck full of
my friends
great commentary and immense peer
days later,
something
support - certainly a large highlight!”
in my
— GRETCHEN HOHMEYER
ovaries basically exploded. But by the time I got to the hosjust wishing that this stuff had cafpital the episode had already ended.
feine in it.
The two hours I spent rolling around
I had been told earlier by an
on my floor at home, unable to walk
unwilling assistant that they thought
or twist around, had been the worst
I might have appendicitis, the pain
part. The pain that made me almost
meaning that it was going to
black out was from a small ball of
explode, and I would therefore die if
tissue in one of my ovaries that sudit was not removed. The CAT scan
denly decided to pop. All women
was needed to see if my appendix
apparently can get ovarian cysts, but
was in fact enlarged. Then, if conmost never pop, and only the big
firmed a surgery would be set up
ones hurt. They warned me that it
immediately—yeah right. Obviously
would most likely
they felt certain it was not appenhappen again and for
dicitis because this whole process
some reason we
was not sped up at all. They seemed
thanked them. We had
quite confident that I wouldn’t sudto flag down another
denly die while waiting in line for
nurse to get the IV out
my turn with the CAT scan. Lucky
of my arm, which was
enough, I ended up having two CAT
very painful, but we
scans. It was around three in the
finally left the hospimorning, but I was just glad I got to
tal. I was exhausted,
lie down while the machine buzzed
my arms were sore,
and clicked around me.
and I was very hungry,
Sometime later I was rolled back
but I did have both
to my room for the night, and I
my ovaries and my
finally fell asleep, my arm resting on
appendix, so I guess
a pillow so I would not tug on the
IV. It was seven in the morning when something went right.
But in the end it
my dad woke me up so we could get
seems the hospital
out of there as fast as possible, but
drink the crap again, the staff promising me an opening with the CAT
scan. At this point, however, I was
Young Writers | 30
people were right. I mean I wasn’t
technically pregnant but the problem
had been in my ovaries. Strange.
We arrived home, exhausted and
starving, my younger sisters still
asleep. One had totally forgotten we
had even left last night, and the
youngest was never aware that we
had left at all. They seemed rather
excited by my experience; I just wanted my mom, who was away for the
whole weekend. Sometime later my
dad called and informed her of what
happened, but her reaction was
unexpected. She knew exactly what
an ovarian cyst was, she had had two
separate ones, and they apparently
ran in our family. My mom even had
painkillers up in the closet for just
such an occurrence.
What began as a normal Friday
night, with Chinese food and a
movie with my family, ended up
being a terribly long and ultimately
uneventful night. This process had
given me no new ways of looking at
life, no sudden appreciation for it. If
anything it gave me less confidence
in hospitals. At least now I had
homework and school to look forward to. A Letter To Myself In Case I Forget
By Gordon Reed
YOU ARE GORDON PENN REED, BORN
October 22, 1992 to Annette and
Robert, younger sibling of Susan.
his open casket, a body once moving and well. You were too scared to
get closer. However, you keep on
pushing
and arrive
in high
“Last night we all sat in the lounge in
school later
the dorms and read our writing to
that year.
You make
each other. Not only did we get pracfriends fast,
tice reading and critiquing literary
abandoning
work, but we grew closer and more
some of the
old but
comfortable with each other as well.
keeping the
Everyone is talented and friendly.”
essential
— CASSANDRA HARTT
ones. You
make it
through
this year,
You first lived on Battery Park
perhaps having a bit too much fun.
City, playing but disliking Little
This is written smack dab in
League baseball, running around
the middle of your high school
on the esplanade, gazing at the
experience. In the past year, you’ve
Twin Towers, eating ice cream in
lost three good friends to a heart
the sandbox, and going Uptown to
attack, a terrible accident and a suiTrinity school.
cide. You stay strong, realizing their
When you moved uptown, you
pain is over and that there is no
found poetry and found that unfaturning back the clock because
miliar settings can be tough to
time is measured in sand.
adjust to. The lower school is nice
Always remember spending
to you, a perfect balance between
younger days in the park, on the
interesting work and low expectaswings. Always remember walks
tions for children. You struggled
down the
through middle school, finding
esplanade.
much of it pointless except your
Always
own writing and your best friends.
remember the
You walked through halls of
Towers as they
unconvincing motivational posters. used to be.
“The best thing about you is that
Always
you are you.” You wonder what the
remember Joy
fuck that means? You wonder
McCormick’s
what’s the point if that’s what life
pre-school.
amounts to?
Always
You lose your Grandfather, the
remember
closest family member you’ve lost
Downtown
yet. It’s hard to get through, sitting
Day Camp.
in the back of the church peering at
Always
remember holiday trips to your
Aunt Gerry’s house in New Jersey.
Life is a strange ride, memories
lost and dreams dashed. I can’t
imagine it myself, but since I’m you
I have personal interest; if you forget please look at this. Remember
all these things. Remember
Granddaddy in Texas and how
your Uncle Jay drove you around
Texas in the front seat, even when
your mother didn’t want you to.
Remember your family in
California and their many, many
cats, especially Wheatie the gray
tabby, the favorite of them all.
Remember your parents and how,
despite getting on your nerves at
worst and healing your heart at
best, that they always had the
best intentions.
You are a writer. You are an
actor. You are a wrestler. You are a
lacrosse player. You are a Trinity
student. You are a son. You are a
brother. You are a Reed. You are
inconsistent. You are annoying. You
are funny at times. You are dumb at
times. Most importantly, cliche as it
may sound, you are you and that
sets you apart from the rest. Young Writers | 31
The Waters of Time
by Maddie Rojas Lynch
THE WAVES CRASHED LIKE CYMBALS ONTO
the golden, grainy shore. She gazed
towards the horizon, the wind slapping her face pink and detaching her
fiery red curls from behind her ears.
“You have such beautiful hair,” a
babysitter had once cooed, her tone as
warm as the rich hazelnut highlights,
interspersed in her locks from cartwheels under the sun. “Just like
Connor’s.” Charlotte was immediately
filled up with eternal happiness. The
idea of being just like Connor made her
grin like mad.
In her right hand, she grasped
tightly onto the little green army man
in her small fingers. Her tiny painted
nails burst with orange and pink hues,
a mirror image to the evening sky.
“Go on, Charlotte,” her mother
encouraged, making forward motions
with her hands. Her voice was light
and cheerful but her face revealed her
true thoughts. She was begging her,
pleading with her to have fun. She had
watched her daughter’s heart break
into a million pieces, the shards piercing her own heart as Charlotte’s face
fell every day. She tried to tell her it
was just a phase. How could she make
her understand that one day, one day
soon, he’d grow out of that phase?
One day soon he’d hold out his arms
for her to jump into once again.
Charlotte arched her back and
thrust her round belly out towards the
Cape Cod Bay, announcing her presence and competing for attention with
the roaring waves. As gracefully as a
dancer, she lightly raised her left foot
and dipped her big toe into the bluegreen foam. The water’s iciness bit her,
like a thousand tiny teeth nipping at
her plump toes. She shrieked and
jumped away from the bitter, blue torture. Her hands opened up and
splayed out, as if to push the ocean
away. In doing so, she launched the little green army man out into his first
maritime adventure.
Young Writers | 32
“There are twenty-five men here,”
dove into Connor, enveloping him in
Connor informed her on a warm July
her embrace, trying to make him feel
evening on their front porch, opening
what she was feeling; trying to make
up his yellow toy bin covered in Power
him understand that she needed him.
Ranger stickers. Charlotte’s heart
And for a moment, just a moment,
pounded in time with the cricket’s song,
he understood.
the music of the night. “I’ll still have
“What’s wrong?” he asked,
twenty-four of them. But I’m letting you stroking her back in relaxing circles.
have him.” Connor shoved a plastic sol“My man,” Charlotte cried,
dier in her face,
thinking he could get
“I never knew there were people out
a laugh out of scarthere who love writing as much as I do.
ing her with the
army man’s stern
Until now. The New York State Summer
expression. But
Young Writers Institute is an experience
Charlotte had
every aspiring teenage writer should
launched herself
onto him, her arms
have. Every single person cares for not
clasping fiercely
only their own writing, but everybody
around his waist,
else’s as well. It’s an environment full of
determined to never
let go. He paused
writing and empathy. And I’m a big
and then hugged her
believer in writing and empathy.”
back, because she
— KATIE LASAK
may have been his
little sister, but as little sisters go, she was all right.
“He’s gone.”
It had been a year since she
And then his shield went up. The
received the toy, and not once had she
shield he had built from growing insetaken him out of her sight. Now
curities, dreams broken, pressures of
Charlotte watched in horror as the litthe present and nightmares of the
tle green army man twisted and
future. Realizing she was not in any
turned in a bizarre dance of doom,
physical danger, he pushed her away,
finally landing with a loud plunk,
and again, her hope was shattered. She
being picked up by the wailing waves
was so numb that she barely felt her
and washed into the gloomy waters.
mother scoop her up, whispering in
There was nothing she could do but
her ear.
scream. So she did. She screamed and
“He’s back,” her mother said,
wailed and bawled, alarming tourists
pointing to the little green army man
who peeked up from their guidebooks who had indeed been washed up on
to find the source of the disturbance.
shore. “Look sweetie, he’s back.”
Tears rained down her face, sobs rakCharlotte’s eyes bugged out of her
ing through her body and ripping at
head, not believing what she saw. She
her chest as her family ran towards
tilted her head, peering up at a friendher. She turned and saw him, and
ly face, and for the first time in
hope burst through her like a ray of
months, Charlotte exchanged a gensunlight peeking out from a gray
uine smile with her mother.
cloud. She knew that he could make it
“Sometimes all it takes is a
better, if there was anyone who could
little time.” make it better, it was surely him. She
My Last Letter
by Perry Ross
Mom,
Set the other letters down underneath mine in the
wicker basket nearest the front door.
Remember to close the door.
Be sure to lock it.
Take a seat on the second step on the staircase in
the main entryway.
Let your feet touch the floor.
Think about me.
I know you’ve been longing for a call.
I know you’re worried.
I know you just need to hear my voice.
I know you.
But this is the only way my voice will be heard.
Rest your head against the newly painted white
walls.
Let the tears fall but
Think about me.
Hear my voice through my words.
Reassure yourself that this is me. This is my voice.
Listen to me as you read each line. Let your eyes
scan the page.
Hear my voice crack when you ask me how things
are.
Hear me whisper I want to come home.
But know I can’t.
Feel me hug my arms around your weakening body
as it slips.
Feel my fingers intertwined with yours.
Feel me pulsing your hand.
Know that I am scared.
Love me for the wrongs I have done.
Love me for hurting you.
We only have the future, mom.
Tell daddy I’m still his baby girl.
But first make sure he is sitting in his office,
Legs up on his white leather couch.
Reclined.
Give him this with a glass of wine.
Take his glasses off, and take your glasses off.
Hug each other. Kiss each other.
I’ll close my eyes.
Tell him that it’s going to be all right.
Assure him that it’s going to be all right.
Bring my brothers down to the basement.
Sit them down on the big auburn couch.
Let them yell.
Let them cry.
Let them cope.
Make them rest their heads on your shoulder.
Scratch their backs.
Be our mom.
Walk up the stairs near the kitchen.
Hold the railing.
Walk towards my bedroom but walk slowly.
Listen to the music playing while I shower.
Smell the burning when I straighten my hair.
Yell for dad. Wait for him.
But let him take his time.
Together, walk into my room.
Hold hands.
Lie in my bed.
Sing me a lullaby.
Let dad snore.
Close your eyes. Ignore your vertigo.
Goodnight, mom.
Young Writers | 33
Nai-nai’s Kitchen
by Abigail Savitch-Lew
ON EXAMINATION DAYS, I LIKED TO LEAVE
my host family’s apartment early in
the morning to sit in the courtyard by
the North Gate of the Yucai school.
There, in the company of strangers, I
would prepare for my oral presentations. On the fifteenth of August I
brought along my yellow teddy bear
and the Chinese figurine I had bought
for a friend. Sitting on one of the
stone benches in the brick-paved garden and holding a doll in each hand
like a much younger child, I would
practice my skits till eight o’clock.
The fifteenth of August was the
bluest day in Beijing that summer.
Walking under crusty trees and stepping on and off buses at You an men
wai boulevard, I could smell the sidewalk salts of autumn. At noon, after
completing my exams, I twirled in the
courtyard outside the language classrooms, crying, “It’s fall in Brooklyn!”
That very evening, my classmate Jake
said, “It’s summer in Minnesota! This
is the homiest day so far, if that is even
a word!” But when you are nearly
seven thousand miles away from your
hometown, words like homiest make
perfect sense.
For five weeks I had worked very
hard to make my host family’s apartment my home. I tried to sneak into
the kitchen and wash dishes before my
host father could shoo me away. I built
block towers with my three-year-old
host brother while understanding less
than half of what he yelped in my ear,
and I tasted nearly every dish my host
parents cooked. There was also Bing
Song, my father’s first cousin, who
lived in a more upscale apartment
with a chandelier and pink walls. He
had tried to show me with gifts of
expensive clothing and evening meals
of Peking Duck with his worldly,
English-speaking guests that his home
was my home.
By my sixth week in Beijing, I
sometimes grew tired of straining to
assimilate. Sometimes I had to abandon my Chinese foster home and my
father’s Chinese relatives, and become
a wanderer in Beijing, with only a
pineapple bread patty and a yellow
bear in hand.
On the fifteenth of August I was
not alone in the park, but was in fact
accompanied by fifteen to twenty
Chinese elders spread at a distance
from each other and practicing morning tai chi. The two women nearest to
my bench paced between the rows of
right decision. “Ni hao,” she replied. I
expected her to inquire from what
country I was visiting and what I was
doing in China, seeing as I was not at
the Olympics but in a courtyard by
The Temple of Agriculture, surrounded by elder people molding the air
with firm hands.
Instead, she asked if I was cold.
“A little cold,” I replied in her language. “But still good.”
“The stone you are sitting on is
wet,” she was saying. I leaned forward,
struggling to comprehend. “When
your clothes get wet
you...warm. And
“At first, I was just going to treat the prowarm is...you will
gram like school. I knew I was going to
get sick. You should
enjoy the writing, but I wasn’t sure about
protect...a towel.
Don’t get sick.” I
the kids. I ended up befriending, or at
assured her that I
least getting comfortable, with most of
was fine and anyway,
the kids here. I ended up really loving
that I had no towels,
although I wasn’t
the program, and not just the work.”
entirely clear on why
— NATASHA GROSSMAN
I needed one. At this
point the other
modest flowers, and I could see they
woman approached and withdrew a
were watching me. One had thin
folded plastic bag from her jacket
cheeks, and the other’s face was soft and pocket. “Yong zhe ge, yong zhe ge,” she
red like clay. Did the childish performwas whispering. “Use this.”
ance by the ethnically ambiguous girl
I tried to refuse but soon she was
with incorrect tone pronunciation
flattening the plastic bag on the unocamuse them? Were they irritated by the
cupied portion of the bench and
mumbling intruder? Eventually the thin demonstrating how a person should
cheeked woman approached me, and I
sit on a plastic bag in order to avoid
stopped rehearsing and looked up. Was
getting their pants wet so as not to
the proper address “a-yi hao” or “naicatch cold. Although she was a wholly
nai hao” ? The proper title depended
different person from Yen Yen, my
upon her age, and I could either disreGrandmother, when she spoke she
spect her by calling her what literally
reminded me of the four foot ten
translated as “mother’s younger sister”
immigrant I loved, who lived in
or dare to dub her “grandmother.”
Chinatown, Manhattan and who I had
There were two options.
thought about to no end since arriv“Nai-nai hao,” I breathed. “Hello
ing in China. In my mind, Yen Yen was
Grandmother.”
the unbreakable link between the
The woman smiled and the smile
country that was now fostering me
made her haggard cheeks look
and the country I had left. When the
younger, and I prayed I had made the
woman spoke and reminded me of my
continued on page 35
Young Writers | 34
continued from page 34
Grandmother, I complied and sat
down on the plastic bag, and
accepted a second bag to wrap over
my books.
“Xie-xie nai-nai, xie-xie, xiexie.” I thanked the two women,
hoping the expressiveness of my
face would make up for my lack of
vocabulary. The women were
pleased and returned to their
stretching rituals. I tried to resume
my rehearsal but found myself distracted by the crinkling of the
brown plastic bag under my butt
and when I looked up from the
faces of the yellow bear and the
doll, I saw that the round-faced
woman who had given me the plastic bags was still looking at me as
she swung her arms in circles. In
New York City, staring is an offense
excused only in children, but in
China staring is so common that it
is not the stare itself, but the hostility of a person’s eyes, that I know
to observe. On the woman’s
marked face was benevolence, tenderness. The courtyard smelled like
the clay-color of her face. I asked
myself why I was not talking with
her when she was showing such
interest in me, through her plastic
bags and her staring. I thought of
all the evenings I had irritated my
host family by asking questions
about their daily lives, the type of
inane, loving questions my parents
and I ask one another like, “Did
you get trapped in voice mail land
again?” and “What do you plan to
eat for lunch tomorrow?”
Eventually my host sister complained that my questions made no
sense and were not the sort of
questions most people asked. I
couldn’t help myself because I was
obsessed with practicing my
Chinese and thirsty for a sense of
connection with the people around
me. I was desperate for communication. I was talking to more street
guards, more shopkeepers, and
more old people than I ever had in
Brooklyn, but nothing seemed
enough. I was never alone, and I
didn’t know where to cry out of the
homesickness that had begun to
gnaw at me, so I would cry on the
crowded buses. How was it that in
the midst of so many people, it was
so possible to drift into isolation?
There was something in the
clay-face of the woman with the
plastic bags in her pockets that
caused me to approach
her. Before I could ask
her anything, she asked
me where I was from,
and where I was studying and why. She said
she had seen a group of
white and black
teenagers learning Taiji
by the Yucai school, and
she demanded to know
why a group of healthy
young people would be
practicing an old
woman’s sport. With a
nod at my backpack,
she said that you could
not learn Chinese out of a textbook, that to understand it you had
to talk with Chinese people, to converse on Friday mornings in such
courtyards. She wanted me to come
back all the time and practice with
her. I accepted the offer and
expressed my regret that I would be
leaving in eleven days.
I asked her if she was from
Beijing.
“No, I am from wen zhou,” she
told me in Mandarin. “I grew up in
wen zhou. I lived with my father,
mother, a sister, and two brothers.”
“I am staying with a Chinese
family in Beijing,” I told her. “They
are from wen zhou, too. I hear it is
very beautiful.”
“Beautiful it is, but there is sickness. My mother died when I was
six years old, and my father when I
was sixteen years old.” Her brothers
and sisters had passed away, too.
She was the only one still alive from
the household of her childhood. “I
was very alone. There was only me,”
she said. I understood, but she
repeated herself in as many ways as
she could, as if it was too important
a thing for me to misunderstand. “I
was always alone. I had no one.” She
was smiling.
“Do you live with anyone
now?” I asked.
“I live with my son,” she said. “I
live right over there.” She pointed
at the tenements outside the North
Gate with their cracked and curling
red roofs. I was invited to have dinner with her and her son. She
described how to enter the hutong.
At about that time I glanced at my
watch and saw I was already ten
minutes late to my eight o’clock
examination. I had to interrupt her.
“Feichang duibuqi,” I cried. “I’m
sorry. I must go take a test. My test
has already started. Thank you for
continued on page 36
Young Writers | 35
continued from page 35
back to the Northern
Gate courtyard to look
for her twice, once to
say a terminal
goodbye.
On our first day in
Beijing, I wrote in my
diary that it was moving to see the underwear hanging on plastic hangers from telephone wires in the
streets, to see the old
men grouped around
games of Chinese
chess, to hear the soft
laughs, the softer patting, and to watch the
tiny grandmothers
protecting even tinier children. “I
feel so at home among these people,”
I wrote. “And I want to know them
and let them know I am one of
them.” My
whole experi“I think every student attending the instience in Beijing
tute has, at some point, been labeled as was driven by
a geek, a nerd, an outcast. Having 36
the two-fold
desire to know
geeks attending the same program
the people of
saved us from those ideas. The message
China and to be
shared between the students here is ‘you recognized as
brethren. I
are not alone.’”
wanted them to
— CHLOE BARKER-BENFIELD
know my
grandmother
the Yucai school. I was running away had been one of them, and I wanted
to prove to myself that we were famfrom her; I was reminding myself
ily because wo-men dou-shi ren, we
that one should never walk into the
are all human beings. The quest to
homes of strangers, and that Naiprove that I belonged became a quest
nai’s home was no exception.
for homes to belong to, and in the
Nevertheless, all I wanted was to
sixth week of my stay I had nearly
smell the grease of her narrow
reached the conclusion that the only
kitchen, to remove the nubs of snow
home I could belong to was my
peas with her son at the kitchen
American one, in Brooklyn.
table, and be fed shrimp and bac
And yet, hadn’t China welcomed
choi in a bowl of hot rice. I assured
me every step along the way? Hadn’t
myself that I would visit her the folmy host family and my Uncle Bing
lowing week a few times so we could
Song brought me home, and hadn’t
continue our dialogue, and I did go
talking with me, Nai-nai. Thank you
for telling me your stories. Thank
you for helping me practice my
Chinese. Thank you. I don’t know
how to say...” She touched my arm.
“Go, go. You have a test. But
come back. Come back tomorrow.”
She spoke slowly and clearly, with
special emphasize on the tones, so
that I could comprehend with less
difficulty. We took hands. “You can
not learn Chinese in a textbook. You
can learn Chinese by talking with
Chinese people. Come to the courtyard again, and we will practice
your Chinese.”
“Yes,” I said. “I will come back next
week. I will come back and practice.” I
waved as I turned toward the road. I
waved till the trees obstructed my
view of her, and then I ran as fast as I
could past the Temple of Agriculture,
the soccer fields, and the buildings of
Young Writers | 36
the clay-lady invited me to dinner?
The night before my return
flight, my Uncle Bing Song’s family
took me out to his favorite western
restaurant. At the time, I was disappointed that I could not enjoy one
last Chinese banquet instead, but
now it is clear to me that he was
employing all his resources to help
me feel as if at home. It was a meaningful goodbye. And that night when
I returned to my host family’s apartment, my host sister and I said goodbye till two a.m. in the morning. We
threw life sized stuffed animals at
one another, explored the hidden
treasures of her bedroom drawers
and shelving, and struggled to comprehend how the five-person family
we had so strenuously pieced together would now be losing its latest
member.
I never again found the woman I
met in the courtyard. She left me
wondering about loneliness, about
displacement, about what it would
be like if I could never return to
Brooklyn. What did she do while her
son was at school? How did she survive her aloneness in the vast city to
which she didn’t belong? Untitled
by Alexander Scanlon
Dear Maria,
When you receive this letter, it will most likely be far past Christmas. I know it is long
overdue, and I should have told you this in person, but Merry Christmas...I love you. Do
you remember holding each other through the nights; me hugging you close so that you
wouldn’t toss in your sleep? Of myself always snoring and causing such a bother? I never
really apologized for that, and the many sleepless nights I must’ve cost you. More vividly
than anything else though, Maria, I remember when I promised you that I would love you
forever. I know that I said it moments before we were both accepted into the world of
dreams, yet I meant it. I mean it. I know I was more self aware at that point than I ever
had been in the past. Could it really be that distance became the cleaver that rended our
conjoined hearts?
Love lasts forever. I don’t know much about love, hell I still don’t even know what I
want to be in life yet, even after getting into college. But I’m convinced that love can never
dissipate. As much as you try to wish it from your heart, to work so hard as to make it
ooze out your skin in every tiny bead of sweat, love never really leaves you. You might
think that it has fully been purged from your body, and then one day it will resurface...free
of the forced strangulation. Time has given me the opportunity to think, if nothing else.
What else would we be if we never were able to solve life’s hardest questions, even if they
take a lifetime and over again to answer?
Love is not something that exists, Maria. Any scientist would easily agree on that. It is
not tangible. Not something that will comfort you, that will tell you it cares, and of course
not accompany you through your darkest nights. It is instead the philosopher who will
preach to you that love is more real than reality. Though we may see the meandering
stream that runs through a valley, we cannot feel it inside us. Love is different. It is something with no shape, form, or any measurable quantity...yet it does exist somehow. Love is
something that can’t be removed from your body without killing you. It is stored in the
empty places that sunlight, lightning, the cold and the probing thoughts of others may
never reach. It is, I know it to be true, irremovable. It is this love that has slumbered in me,
suppressed yet still very much alive and now awakened, that has driven me to write this
letter to you. Maria, would you ask death of me to forget the love that has built up in me
towards you over these many years? Simply because our lips may not caress every moment
of every day, in a life we both wish that we shared? True love sidesteps any physicality, my
dearest. Let it only be a promise for a more joyful future, one that I know can be ours...no
matter how grim things seem now. Love never fades, Maria. Months of picturing your face
has told me this much.
May someday our desires come true,
Daniel
Young Writers | 37
Welcome to Continental Airlines Flight 22
by Soniya Shah
“IF WE NEED TO MAKE AN
emergency landing, you are
instructed to use your seat cushion as a flotation device.
Chances are it will not save you,
but if you do survive the crash
you are welcome to keep it as a
souvenir, free of charge, but part
of your ticket cost covers those
seat cushions.”
The flight attendant is
young, in his mid twenties, with
pale blonde hair and emerald
eyes; he keeps making eye contact with me. The plane smells
stale and of Lysol. I wonder who
threw up on the last flight. It
will be a seven hour flight to
Peru on Continental Airlines. I
am afraid of flying and his
speech is not making me feel
any better. The obese man next
to me wearing a gaudy gold
class ring is chuckling away, eating a sub and lettuce is falling
out of his mouth. Beads of
sweat drip down his face.
There are more important
things to worry about than
obese lettuce man. The flight
attendant introduces himself as
Tony. I pick my lip as he talks
and curl my hair around my
index finger. I cannot stop fidgeting. I do not think he realizes
how claustrophobic I am. There
are still passengers entering the
plane and I remind myself I can
leave the plane at any time.
Actually, I wish I could. But
since my family is in the row
behind me in reality I cannot do that.
Someone announces
they are finally shutting
the doors to the aircraft
and I close my eyes for a
few seconds and pray. Tony
begins his spiel again for
the new passengers. We are
supposed to be amused.
“Welcome to
Continental Airlines Flight
22. Here at Continental, we
are all about your comfort,
safety and most importantly your money. I would
like to thank you on behalf
of all our CEOs for the
large paycheck they will
receive at the end of this
year,” he begins.
I can hear chuckles behind
me. I grip the seat handles and
will myself to listen. I have flown
a thousand times, but I need to
prepare myself every time. There
could be an emergency.
“Our number one priority is
your safety. Please take the time
to fasten your seatbelts now.
These seatbelts work just like
regular seatbelts. They are not
special airplane seatbelts. We do
not make them in the United
States. They are made in China
just like everything else. If you
don’t know how to fasten a seat-
belt, then I suggest you do not
go into public unsupervised,” he
says as he demonstrates how to
clasp the seatbelt.
I fiddle with the seatbelt.
What if we crash and I cannot
release the clasp? What if I cannot escape the plane? What will
I do?
“Under no circumstances are
you to walk around the cabin if
the seatbelt sign is illuminated. I
understand you may have to use
the bathroom, and I know you
will not comply with this rule.
But it is standard procedure to
tell you this. In case of an emergency, oxygen masks may drop
down. Please put your own
mask on before assisting anyone
else. After your mask is on, you
may assist a young child. If you
have two young children, decide
which one you love more,” he
grins right at me. I wish I could
flirt with him but I am too nervous. This is no time to flirt, but
could those eyes get any greener?
We begin to taxi in a large circle
at JFK airport.
“It is important for you to
put your seatbacks in the upright
position and stow your tray
tables. If your seat does not lean
back, the person behind you is
secretly thankful. I cannot switch
your seat since the flight is full.
The left wing is open if you
would like to sit there instead. As
you can see, we have six emergency exits in this plane,” he says.
I continue to grip the handles of
my seat. I am sitting two rows
from the bathroom and the
odors drifting toward me are not
making my situation better. Are
we there yet?
“If you are below the age of
fifteen you should not be sitting
continued on page 39
Young Writers | 38
continued from page 38
don’t advise testing them. There are
wonderful seats on the right wing
where you can sit and smoke. I hear
the breeze is satisfactory out there,” he
keeps talking. “It is now time to turn
off all electronic devices, including cell
phones. Do not turn these back on
during the duration of the flight. I
have tracking equipment that will pick
up your cell phone communication.”
He grins so people know he is joking.
I must keep my phone on. If there is
an emergency, I need to
call for help. People
should know my location.
“The institute is somewhere I can
“There is a help butbe myself without any reservations.
ton you may press if you
actually need assistance. If
The people in attendance are
I don’t immediately
always awesome and stimulate
respond pressing the butcreativity so my writing flourishers.”
ton more will make me
agitated and chances are I
— JORDAN FERRIN
will not come over. If I do,
I will bring a cup of ice
with me and you will become cold
emergency landing. You can have fun
very quickly,” he laughs. People are still
when sliding down these. It is like
being at an amusement park. Please be hanging onto his every word and I
question if he is paid to do this. We
sure to remove heels before sliding
are still traveling in circles, so he condown,” he continues.
tinues to talk and make jokes.
I do not understand what is so
“For your convenience during the
funny. What if we actually crashed?
duration of this flight to Lima, Peru,
Would these people know what to do?
we will provide you with some
I feel my claustrophobia intensifying.
refreshments. You must be above the
The walls of the plane are too close.
age of twenty-one to purchase alcohol,
The windows are not large enough
and yes, it does cost too much. I am
and most people have the shades
required to call all your liquid condrawn. Through the ones that are
sumption beverages as opposed to
open, all I can see are the lights of the
drinks because beverages sounds
city that never sleeps. There is no way
fancier. You will receive airplane food
I will be able to sleep on this flight.
that you don’t want or need to eat. I
There are too many dangers. Besides,
don’t cook these meals and I also have
obese lettuce man has moved onto
to eat them. I know they aren’t appeeating chocolate. His fingers unwrap a
tizing and I apologize in advance for
gooey mess of caramel and peanut
any food poisoning. Before I come
butter. His lips smack and he shoves
around with your refreshments, I will
the entire bar into his mouth. He is
hand out earphones. If you have
not a quiet eater.
brought your own I suggest you use
“There is no smoking allowed in
those because I have seen the earwax
the bathrooms. Yes, those smoke
on these. You could make a nice little
detectors do actually work. And I
in the emergency exit rows. If you are
in those rows, you have now made a
commitment. You will be the last to
leave the plane, even after the pilot
and myself. If you are playing a game
of Sudoku as I talk now, I suggest you
stop because this is actually important. The passengers in the emergency
exit rows will assist you out of the
plane. Giant yellow rubber slides will
come down and you will be expected
to slide down these in the event of an
candle for your grandmothers.”
I wonder if I can use the bathroom. Probably not.
“Since this is a long flight, there
are televisions stationed throughout
the plane. There will be a variety of
movies playing that you probably
never wished to see, but now is your
opportunity. There is elevator music
provided on channels five and seven.
We are expected to have a turbulent
flight so if it is necessary to get something from the overhead compartments, please be careful. I am not
trained or required to perform first
aid. I will remind you again at the end
of the flight to not forget any of your
personal belongings. They will not be
returned to you. Instead, I will distribute them among the other flight attendants and keep the best things for
myself,” he says. When will he be
done? When will we take off?
“Last but not least, we have provided itchy blankets and miniature pillows
for your comfort. Please let me know if
there is anything I can do for you during this flight. Again, my name is Tony.
Thank you for choosing Continental.
Tips are appreciated,” his conclusion is
followed by a round of applause.
The plane finally begins to take
off. I close my eyes and imagine the
mountains of Machu Picchu rising in
the misty fog of a Peruvian morning.
“Excuse me, sir. I need to use the
bathroom,” I say to obese lettuce man.
Chocolate is stuck in the creases of his
mouth. He is holding a full size bag of
potato chips. He manages to wiggle
out of his seat and into the aisle.
“You be careful in there, young
lady,” he wiggles a sausage finger at
me. “Don’t get stuck.”
I smile at him but as I walk to the
bathroom I realize the door could
jam. What if I can’t get out? No one
would hear me. I return to my seat. Six
and a half hours to go. Young Writers | 39
Crafting the Essay and Other Adventures
by Catherine Shattuck
With pencils that change color
We draw eyes under the influence
And gravestones on my father’s brain
The biography of a dress lays discarded in a corner
Because we are too busy with unicorns,
Duct tape and playing cards to
Consider the lobster
For all its literary worth
Everybody says it
Just don’t get lost trying to find the pasta
You may end up with cereal instead
Eating it for every meal
With your bright and shining soup fork
We wish for chopsticks
For we are only babies buying babies
Driving out on thin ice
On the wall a whale rides past the bricks
And a boy falls off his chair
Bored by what we see before us
We begin to pass around our exquisite corpse
Enhancing it, improving it
Until it becomes a tangled mess
And spontaneously combusts
Me talk pretty one day
Says as in Wonderland
To something like the butter
The manliest of them all
The duct tape stands and walks out the door
Searching for perfection that will take us all the
way to Gatica
Or at least to prairie home companion
Where we will listen to the most unwanted
Opera singers on Labor Day
At Walmart
Laughter echoes off the walls
And bursts into flame again
Together we rave
Bursting colors of light create a vortex
Go spend your time in Istanbul
And eat some American pie
Die, die, die, die
Live, live, live, live
Sex, sex, sex, sex
More, more, more, more
Young Writers | 40
It’s the end of the world as we know it
With pride the towels dangle off our shoulders
Thursdays really grind my gears
I remember
This I believe
Or this I do not believe
I almost saw this girl get killed
But I’ll eat what he’s wearing
Just don’t touch that tree
You may end up in a blanket
Lying together in the grass
We clash and we are the rinas
Wearing pajamas and lanyards
So drag out your love tape
To circle the soft serve
And end up back at sunrise
It is here we quothe the raven
And toast with plastic cups
If you haven’t started writing by now
This is the time to begin.
Untitled
by Anita Sicignano
I WAS BORN IN VENICE IN 1491, THE ONLY
daughter of a minor nobleman. We
were not the richest in the city, but we
were very comfortable; I had all that I
could ever desire, and was used to
receiving something as soon as I
demanded it. My brother Claudio had
been forced to take up the violin as a
child, but dropped it as soon as he
persuaded our father that his talents
lay elsewhere. Unknown to my family,
I had taken his violin and taught
myself how to play based on the lessons I had seen him receive; I loved it
more than anything in the world, the
place I was transported to when I
played. I knew that I had so much
more to learn, and I decided to be
brave and begged my father to send
me to a well-known music school in
the city; it only accepted boys, but I
knew that he could pull the strings
that would allow me to get in. He
completely refused, saying that the
only reason a girl should be away from
home was if she was in a convent; I
was devastated, and, being the spoiled
girl I was, refused to eat for a week.
My parents became terrified that I
would die, and my mother finally convinced my father to allow me to go to
the school.
I was jubilant; I immediately gave
up my hunger strike, polished my
brother’s old violin, and prepared
myself to have the most amazing
experience of my life. I was only sixteen when I left...I wonder if I would
have been quite so eager to go if I had
known that I was never to see my family again.
My first day was a rush of tours,
watching lessons, and demonstrating
my skill on various violins that felt
much different than my own, with
boys my own age and older gaping at
me the entire time; I had never associated with a male outside my own family, and eagerly lapped up this new-
found attention like a silly schoolgirl.
As the day went on, I became increasingly full of pride. Despite my lack of
formal lessons, all the teachers who
had heard me play had complimented
me on my style and tone, and were
shocked to hear that I had taught
myself. They did not seem to know
what to do with me; I demanded to
have a teacher that truly challenged
me, and I was just beginning to believe
that the entire experience was to be
nearly effortless when Nicolo stormed
into my life with his black cloak billowing out behind him.
He was a genius...there was no
other with his talent, his drive, his passion; he took one look at me, in my
purple brocade dress, my long, luxurious wavy hair, pouty pink lips, and
proud dark eyes, and laughed.
“You expect me to instruct this little girl?” he asked the master disdainfully, wrinkling his nose at me as if I
had a foul odor (which I certainly did
not, I was a purchaser of all the latest
perfumes), his thick dark eyebrows
lowering over his glinting black eyes to
give him quite a sinister appearance.
“I am not a little girl!” I snapped,
putting my hands on my hips and
glaring up the seemingly endless distance between us; the top of my head
was level with his shoulder. “I am sixteen years old, my father is the richest
in the city [this was a spur-of-themoment lie], and I have natural talent.
What have you to say for yourself?”
“I am twenty-two years old, my
father has been dead for eleven years,
and I am considered one of the best
violinists in Europe,” he said coldly,
looking down at me as if I were the
lowest worm that he did not wish to
step on, in fear of soiling his shoe.
“And if you are going to maintain your
present attitude, there is absolutely
nothing I can teach you.” With that, he
turned on his heels and stormed out of
the room, his traveling cloak hitting
me in the face as he did so.
The master and several other
teachers stared at the place he had
been in shock, not seeming to know
how to react; without knowing what I
was doing, I took off after him, my
footsteps echoing in the stone corridor. Being raised with five brothers, I
had never been very lady-like, and I
put that fact on display as I ran down
the hall, nearly tripping over my dress
several times; not wanting to fall, I
grabbed great fistfuls of the material
so that the skirt was raised to about
the level of my knees, and screamed,
“Wait! Please, comeback! I’m sorry!”
He stopped abruptly, allowing me
time to catch up with him. He simply
stood there, his back to me, as I tried
to catch my breath and think of what
on earth to say to this terrifying man.
“Well? Have you anything to say to
me? You are presently only wasting my
time,” he said uncaringly, not even
turning to look at me. I noticed that
his long black hair was loose, damp
and tangled from the rain outside.
“I apologize for my behavior,” I
said levelly, trying to keep my temper
under control. “I was told that you are
the best teacher to have, and I am very
eager to learn; if you would care to
teach me, I would be the most attentive pupil.” I racked my brains for his
name; the master had surely told me
at one point, but I just could not place
it. Suddenly, it came to me; “Nicolo,” I
whispered, and then cringed; my unladylike nature had struck again.
He slowly turned around, seeming
to have to cast his eyes so far down to
look at me; I realized that he was staring at my silk stocking-clad legs, and
immediately dropped my dress,
smoothing out the wrinkles my clammy hands had created. “Very well,” he
said brusquely, raising his gaze to my
face, his cold onyx eyes boring into
continued on page 42
Young Writers | 41
continued from page 41
mine. “I will be your teacher, but only
if you obey my every word; any disobedience whatsoever and I will move
on to someone more serious about the
violin than you. You will practice for
seven hours a day under my guidance,
and I shall instruct you in theory for
two hours; the rest of your time will
be spent practicing on your own. I will
not allow you to begin a new piece
until you have perfected the one I
have given you to my approval; you
can take your meals with the boys, but
you must take no more than twenty
minutes for each. I will wake you each
morning promptly at five o’clock;
when you retire at night is none of my
concern. And one last thing,” he
added, just as I was about to ask when
I was to bathe and relieve myself.
“Never call me by my first name
again; you shall address me as Maestro
Rainieri, or not speak to me at all,
which is preferable.” He seemed to feel
that he was done talking to me, and
started walking down the hall again,
beckoning me to follow him with a
wave of his hand.
“Maestro,” I began in my most
demure, docile voice, having to almost
run in order to keep up with him, “do
you know where my room is? The
porter had told me that he would put
my trunks there, and I would like to
refresh myself before we begin.”
“You will have little time for
refreshing yourself anymore, girl,” he
said indifferently, turning a corner so
sharply that his cloak hit me in the face
again. “And your room is adjoining
mine. I am not happy about it either,”
he said quickly, when I had gasped in
shock and protest. “I have no desire to
be kept awake all night by giggling and
candlelight under your door as you
write in your diary or whatever it is
girls your age do, and if you welcome
any of the boys into your room, I will
see to it personally that you are thrown
out of this school immediately.”
“I would never dream of doing
such a thing,” I said defensively, trying
my best to keep my tone calm and not
in the least bit rude. “And I do not
keep a diary, so you shall not be troubled by me in that aspect. Maestro,” I
added hastily, when he looked at me
pointedly with his eyebrows raised.
We continued walking (or in my
case, running) in silence, although I
occasionally heard the sounds of
music or laughter from behind closed
doors. Finally, after climbing several
flights of stairs, and walking what felt
like the length of the entire building,
we arrived at a wooden door, the
wood looking pale and new against
the old stone of the walls. Nicolo
pulled a key out of the pocket of his
cloak and unlocked the door, at least
having the decency to hold it open for
me to enter first. I did so, and was
immediately struck by how barren it
was: there was a sparsely-made bed, a
trunk, a violin case, a wooden music
stand, a small fireplace, and one grimy
window. “This is my room,” he said
rather unnecessarily, gesturing around
the nearly-empty space. “I just got in
today from Verona, which is why it
looks as if no one lives here. Your
room is through that door.” He handed me a small silver key, which I
clutched tightly in my hand, looking
around the room in a combination of
disgust and anticipation. “When we
are not together, I expect you to only
bother me for something incredibly
important. I have been told that you
are special in some way and require
private lessons, although there are no
more available classrooms, since the
year is already underway...that is why
we must have this arrangement.”
“I do not mind, as long as you are
teaching me,” I said in a small voice,
keeping my eyes on the dusty wooden
floor. If he wanted me to act like a meek
little girl, I was perfectly capable of
doing so; if that was the only way to get
him to instruct me, then I would just
have to pretend to be afraid of him.
After a moment, I looked up to see
that he was staring at me, his black
eyes softened considerably. “What is
your name, girl?” he asked, in the most
gentle tone I had heard from him yet.
“Caia La Rovere,” I answered, sensing that I was breaking through some
kind of barrier he had set up against
me as soon as he had laid eyes on me.
“I would like to apologize once again
for my behavior earlier, Maestro—”
“It’s all right, girl,” he sighed, sitting down on the end of his bed and
putting his head in his hands. “Go
freshen up, or whatever it was you
wanted to do; come back in here when
you are done, and we will begin.”
I stood there watching him for an
instant; his long black hair fallen over
his face, long legs stretched out, boots
covered in mud, still wearing his traveling cloak. Luckily, I came to my
senses and quickly ran to the door of
my room, fumbling with the key in
my rush to unlock it. Once I got
inside, I hastily closed the door behind
me, hoping that the fact that I practically slammed it shut would not anger
my Maestro any.
My room was just as bare as his
was, although it looked like whoever
readied it had tried to keep in mind
that a lady would inhabit it, and a
noble lady at that. There was a small
mirror, a chest of drawers for the multitudes of clothing I had brought with
me, and a little basin filled with water.
I sighed in relief, and washed my face
and hands, finally able to remove the
grime of the canals from my pale blossom-colored skin. I looked in the mirror, examining my reflection. My
thick, wavy dark brown hair hung
down to just below my full breasts,
which I realized were rather exposed
continued on page 43
Young Writers | 42
continued from page 42
in the dress I was wearing; my dark
eyes, framed by thick black eyelashes, looked just as quick and clever
as ever, my thick dark eyebrows
that I detested yet my mother
maintained gave me my beauty
adding to the sharp character of
my face; broad, high cheekbones, a
pointy chin, full pouty lips...I
looked every inch a beautiful,
clever Venetian girl. Yet, somehow,
my new Maestro saw me as an
insipid, silly thing, and from his
manner obviously did not find me
much to look at, either. Perhaps it
was because I was so much smaller
than he was; he probably could not
help but think of me as a child,
rather than a woman.
I opened my violin case, which
was lying next to one of my five
trunks, and carefully rosined my
bow, examining the polished reddish wood of the violin. It could
not have been the best of instruments, but I was sure that my father
would not buy one of his children
anything of poor quality. I carefully
picked it up by the neck and held it
and my bow in one hand, crossing
the room and gingerly pushing the
door open with the other.
Once I entered the room, I was
so proud of myself for getting
inside that I didn’t at first notice
that Nicolo was lying sprawled out
on the bed, arms dangling off the
sides of it; however, once I did, I
jumped a good three inches in the
air and squeaked with alarm. When
this did not cause any
reaction from him, I
cleared my throat in an
I-don’t-mean-tointrude-but-I’m-standing-here way, which also
did absolutely nothing.
Holding my breath,
expecting to be
reproached at any second, I slowly walked
over to him, cringing at
each creak of the floorboards. I suddenly
found myself leaning
over him, peering at his
seemingly sleeping face:
his eyes were closed,
and I noticed for the
first time that his eyelashes were just as long and dark as
mine; his nose was slightly
crooked, as if it had been broken at
some point; his lips were parted
slightly, and his breathing was deep
and even, further convincing me
that he was asleep and therefore
causing me to relax considerably. I
unabashedly studied the face of
whom I suddenly realized was the
most inconceivably beautiful man I
had ever met in my young life, and
who not only was I to spend nearly
every moment of the next few years
of my life with, but also seemed to
think very little of me. He had very
high cheekbones, a strong jaw; the
shadow of a beard showed on his
pale skin; his magnificent mane of
thick black hair was spread out
around his head like a halo, and I
forced myself to resist the temptation of touching it, or just touching
him.
“Time for you to go back to
your little room, Caia,” I told
myself under my breath, and
regretfully turned away from him
and started tiptoeing to the door of
my room, suddenly feeling like I
needed to be alone, and perhaps
start a diary.
Just as I had my hand on the
doorknob, he barked out, “Where
are you going, girl?”
I spun around, to see him sitting
up and showing no signs whatsoever
that he had been deeply asleep only
a few seconds ago. “Back to my
room, Maestro,” I explained, wondering how he could get me into
trouble for this; I was quite sure he
was capable of finding a way.
“You...erm...seemed to be asleep.”
“Then you should have woken
me,” he said testily, rising to his feet
and running a hand quickly
through his hair. “Don’t be so foolish, girl; there’s no need to be afraid
of me.”
Oh, really now? Isn’t that what
you want? But of course I would
never say such a thing to him; I
simply bowed my head and said,
“Yes, Maestro,” hating myself for
being so subservient but knowing
that it was going to be worth it
eventually.
“All right then, girl, play your
scales,” he commanded, looking at
me as if he was increasingly doubting the state of my sanity.
“Which ones?”
“All of them!” he shouted, as if
I should be able to read his mind.
“Unless you are not capable of
doing so?”
I sighed, and began to play, starting with G major. This was going to
be an awfully long education. Young Writers | 43
Selfish
by Alexandria Speller
It must be hard for
him
but the selfish part
of her wonders
if he thought of what this
would do to her
It was just the way
he was born.
And that’s what
he tries to tell her.
If she was listening
he couldn’t tell.
Everyone is calling
him brave, commending
the courage he must have
to expose himself to an unforgiving
world.
Yet all she sees, all she would
ever see is the coward that
couldn’t do it in the first place.
She didn’t understand
how hard it was
for him to hurt her.
Things only got worse,
he brought to her someone
he was so ignorantly calling
his first.
She slapped him.
He knew he deserved it.
They were in love.
They were once in love.
She loved him.
She still loved him.
But he so elegantly explained
he loved her
still did.
Just never could be ‘in’ love
with her.
continued on page 45
Young Writers | 44
continued from page 44
She slapped him.
So hard her hand
stung.
He deserved it.
‘In’ love, not
‘in’ love.
That was fine
for him.
But what she felt
and still feels
for all she tries not
he wanted it to be real
wanted to match the feelings
that he knew for her
were and are real.
She is not some
made up piece of fiction
used to put off family and friends.
And if people want to label her
Selfish
her defense is at least
she didn’t use him.
He knew she had a face,
real feelings
and that all he had done
was take advantage.
People could call her selfish
he didn’t correct them.
But he knew that
if she was selfish
Young Writers | 45
Rosebud
by Beal St. George
I FEEL REMOVED. SHE SITS CROSS-LEGGED
at the other end of the bed, blankets
curled around her, looking small and
hurt. She has transformed into a tiny,
wounded flower, a soft white rosebud,
petals damaged. Her graceful, dancer
body, usually structured and strong,
has collapsed into merely a silhouette.
Giant, sad eyes stare at me, and I wish
I could understand.
“Just tell me.” I hug one knee and
“The energy here is intense.
satisfied I’ve ever been with
— ALEXANDRIA SPELLER
try, with difficulty, not to let my mind
exaggerate, promising myself silently:
everything is fine, she’s going to be
okay. She is one of the strongest people I know. But not today.
She shakes, shivering in the wind
of our mood. I know she has something to say, and I know she wants to
tell me what is gnawing at her, what
strange chemical has the power to
deconstruct her tough body. When she
had called me, earlier that day, I was
still in my own life. I had chattered a
bubbly hello into the phone. The person on the other end of the line was
always so vivacious, happy to hear my
voice, but today she had sobbed into
my ear.
“I need to fucking talk to you right
now,” she had told me, her firm voice
cracking; she was broken. “Can you
come over?”
Because I loved her, it was okay to
throw my life into suspension. I had
been spending the day like you do in
summer, using it freely, squeezing out
every drop of happiness and sun. I
found myself dropping everything,
however, in the name of the strongest
friendship I have ever had.
“I’ll make it as soon as I can,”
I explain.
Young Writers | 46
“Are you sure?” she asks.
I reply, “Yes, it’s fine.” We hung
up. Her phone call twisted my stomach a million times. Nothing was fine.
But, feeling uneasy, I told everyone
otherwise.
I could see clearly as I pressed buttons on my phone, but my mind was a
blur. I left my friends sitting in the late
afternoon sun and walked north. The
phone rang four times, and my dad
answered.
“It’s nothing,” I
It’s the most
lied, when he asked
my writing.”
what was wrong. He
required a bit more
explanation. “I’m
fine, but she isn’t,” I
told him, seeking the answer I didn’t
yet have.
And he drove me all the way to
her house.
She answered the door and pulled
me into her, and I smelled her familiar
shampoo, could feel the tears running
down her face. We stood there, her
hands around my waist, holding tightly; my arms gently cradled her head as
her body shook with sobs. I wished I
could have given her whatever she
needed. If this could have healed her,
then I would never have needed to
know what was wrong. She was standing on one of my feet, rocking, and
neither of us noticed. She squeezed
me, then let go. I followed her down
the silent hallway to her room.
I watch her as she sits on one end
of her bed, and I feel distant. I cannot
get as close as I want to be; I am stuck
outside the land of tears.
I am asking her, gently, to tell me
what’s wrong. And then she meets her
sorrow head-on, starts talking. She
describes the kind of love she has felt
for the past year, sensitive and passionate, for a friend whom she knew
felt the same magic. This love is soft
cheeks and tender understanding. She
fidgets, telling me about the kind of
love she felt last night when the two
held each other so tightly that it
brought pain to her chest. She confides in me what it was like to be in
her presence and what it was like
when their bodies touched, linked by
friendship and obsession, two hungry
souls. Love has always been fascinating
to me. What other emotion can build
and deconstruct sheer bliss in the
space of a few seconds?
It is so mysterious, how the best
feelings quickly change into the worst.
I press a tissue into her fragile hand. I
can see in her delicate face what it is
like to have your love turn away from
you. I can hear in her quiet voice what
it is like for someone to tell you that
this was only a release, that she has
gotten it out of her system. She is
holding my hand. I have gotten you out
of my system, she has been told, and I
feel so sorry for her. I wish I could
find the girl that helped her grow, then
crushed her petals, pulled them out,
and ran, leaving remnants of my friend
like crumpled tissues on the floor.
“Don’t,” she warns me, “Please
don’t. I love her so much.”
I love you so much...
But she has entrusted me with this
secret. Now we are both torn between
the love she feels and the pain that
tugs at her. Her sad eyes are cast
toward the floor, she is folded up, wilted. That is how you look when you
really lose someone.
So I don’t say anything. For days, I
systematically avoid any interaction
between her friend and myself. We
don’t make eye contact, but every time
I see her, my throat fills with a million
questions and I want to burst open,
asking everything. How can love vanish so quickly? Where can you find
cruelty in your heart? Does it course,
metallic and cold, through your veins?
But I never get any answers. We are all
quiet here. Memoir of a Moment
by Seán Toomey
MY BIRTHDAY IS ON FEBRUARY 21,
during Winter Break. For my 16th
birthday, my dad, myself, a close
family friend, Pascal, his son, my
lifelong friend, Skylar, and another
family friend, Luke, set out on a
daunting expedition: live in my
family’s cabin in the Maine woods
in cold, cold February. I thought of
it at first as a Man versus Nature
adventure, where we would conquer the unstable and freezing conditions of a Maine forest. But it was
something else entirely. It was a
marriage of Man and Nature, an
acknowledgement that we are one
and the same.
Every day we were there we got
outside on our snowshoes and
started walking. It was breathtaking, the forest of needled trees
stunning as we walked along the ice
of the frozen river, bringing to
mind frozen tundra. The beauty of
nature is something else for someone who has grown up in the
urbanity of New York City where
seeing one star on any given night
is a surprise.
One afternoon a blizzard hit. It
snowed all through the night. Snow
has always seemed magical to me. It
is frozen water, yet it lands lightly on
our faces. To me it has always been a
great joy, one that I don’t experience
as much as I should living in New
York. Waking up the next day was
wonderful; the elegant majesty of
needled trees covered in snow is
something everyone should get to
see at some point in their lives. As
much as I love the hustle and bustle
of the city and I understand the
attraction of suburbia, this is something everyone should experience.
That night we went down to the
river, lay down on the ice and
looked up. We had flashlights and a
map of the heavens. Every single
constellation was vividly displayed
across the night sky; the sheer
power of the universe was mesmerizing. It caused a feeling of both significance and insignificance. We are
so very small in such a very large
place, yet we are the only intelligent
life we know of. I feel like that gives
us a certain mandate to not cause
nuclear Armageddon or hate each
other. We are the only ones we
know of to possess the gift of intelligence. It is a noble cause to preserve it. Faced with the inconceivable enormity of the universe our
wars and pettiness seem absolutely
and unequivocally stupid and
insignificant. The beauty we saw
that night is a powerful argument
for simply living in peace. “The classes were very creative and
allowed me to look at my work in completely different ways than ever before.
Mingling with other
writers, combined
with informal classes,
created a comfortable atmosphere
for learning.”
— LEIGH GIALANELLA
Young Writers | 47
Canoe
by Lydia Youngman
I remember
they wouldn’t let me carry the canoe.
Although I persisted
they only let me carry the fishhooks
and I got them stuck in my hand.
“This was my second year attending
and it was even better than the first
year. I have become a more focused
writer and thoroughly
enjoyed my time
here. Everyone has
given supportive
feedback and I feel
more accomplished
as a writer now.”
— SONIYA SHAH
Young Writers | 48
New York State Summer Young Writers Institute
Summer 2009 Participants
Conrad Baker
Cassandra Hartt
Gordon Reed
Grand Island
Glenville
New York
Chloe Barker-Benfield
Gretchen Hohmeyer
Maddie Rojas Lynch
Valatie
Lake Clear
Schenectady
Pooja Bhaskar
Tessa Hunter
Perry Ross
Castleton on Hudson
Greenwich
Chappaqua
Zak Breckenridge
Yasmin Kelly
Abigail Savitch-Lew
Essex
Brooklyn
Brooklyn
Rebecca Brown
Erik Koch
Alexander Scanlon
Peru
Elmira
Patterson
Laura Colaneri
Katherine Lasak
Soniya Shah
Troy
Hadley
East Amherst
Jordan Ferrin
Lily Lopate
Catherine Shattuck
Delmar
Brooklyn
Round Lake
Leigh Gialanella
Sidney Madsen
Anita Sicignano
Albany
Freeville
Patterson
Natasha Gross
Julia Malleck
Alexandria Speller
Millwood
Brooklyn
Albany
Margaret Guzman
Corinne Mather
Beal St. George
Highland Mills
Plattsburgh
Ithaca
Gabrielle Haber
Maria Mazzaro
Seán Toomey
Brooklyn
Staten Island
New York
Isaac Handley-Miner
Caleigh McCutcheon
Lydia Youngman
Middle Grove
Ithaca
Glenmont
Young Writers | 49
The New York State Writers Institute celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2009. Created in 1984 by the state
legislature to draw attention to writing and the artistic imagination across the state, the Institute has
emerged as one of the premiere sites in the country for presenting the literary arts. Over the course of three
decades the Institute has sponsored readings, lectures, panel discussions, symposia, and film events which
have featured appearances by over 900 artists—including six Nobel Prize winners, and 90 Pulitzer Prize winners—and has screened more than 600 films, from rare early prints to sneak previews of current releases.
The Institute is a major contributor to the educational resources and cultural life at the University at Albany,
where it is located, as well as the surrounding community. It is also identified by the writing and publishing
communities as a place dedicated to promoting serious literature, where writers and their work are held in
high esteem, where being an invited guest is considered an honor, and where talking about books is celebrated as the best conversation in the world.
Further information about Writers Institute programs may be obtained from its website at:
www.albany.edu/writers-inst.
Skidmore is an independent, four-year liberal arts college located about one mile from historic downtown Saratoga Springs, NY. Skidmore extends its academic year emphasis on experimentation and creativity across disciplines into the summer months, through its numerous institutes in the creative and
performing arts; the college’s Summer Term; programs in the liberal and studio arts for pre-college students; and by promoting a wide array of campus events including concerts, film screenings, lectures,
readings, and art exhibits.
Young Writers | 50
Administrative Staff
William Patrick
Director, New York State Summer Young Writers Institute
New York State Writers Institute
William Kennedy
Executive Director
Donald Faulkner
Director
Suzanne Lance
Assistant Director
Mark Koplik
Program Fellow
Skidmore College
James Chansky
Director, Summer Sessions
& Summer Special Programs
Christine Merrill
Program Coordinator
Danielle Gray-Lobe
DaeShawn Hall
Resident Assistants
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