Summer of 2010

Summer of 2010
The New York State
Summer Young Writers Institute
hat you hold in your hands are the poems and stories—true and imagined—that the students of the New York State Summer Young Writers Institute produced during one crazily
inventive week in July 2010, interspersed with photos and student comments that help to chronicle
the sights and emotions of our annual writing residency.
In its twelfth year, the Young Writers Institute is held at
Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, so that our students
can take advantage of the New York State Summer Writers
Institute, directed by Robert Boyers, which convenes on the
Skidmore campus for the entire month. Having the opportunity to work on their own writing in three classes each day, hear
accomplished writers in late-afternoon craft sessions or at
packed evening readings, and then try out their own works-inprogress during late-night reading sessions in the residence hall
means that our high school writers are thoroughly immersed
in the writing life for every waking hour. And here’s what we
have learned to expect: they love it.
These young writers are unique in any number of disparate
ways, but they all share a devotion to writing. That common
interest creates almost instantaneous bonding when they meet
each other, but it also encourages them to revel in the writing
atmosphere of our intensive, week-long workshop. More than
one hundred applicants send original writing samples each
April, and we choose the thirty-six best writers to attend the
Young Writers Institute. That ability to be selective pays off for us. 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 remarkably creative pieces in this anthology. It was our pleasure to watch as these
pieces unfolded during our Summer 2010 Workshop, and it’s your pleasure to discover them here.
William Patrick
New York State Summer
Young Writers Institute
Young Writers | 1
Summer 2010 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 NYSUT United, 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
A Monologue Concerning a Cross in a Forest
by Zak Breckenridge
Neighbors! I have had a dream, and I
am here to tell you all about the words
I have received. I am here to tell you
what you, yes you, can do to better
this community, to save this commu-
nity. So come gather and hear these
words from behind my teeth and find
Inspiration in this circle.
The Lord did come to me in my
sleep and did say unto me, “Bishop,”
he said, “Bishop, thou art the prophet
of thy people. Thou shalt unite thy
people in community and fear of my
majesty.” And He did tell me in that
dream that I must construct a massive
cross amongst our dams and lodges to
show our devotion. It shall stand far
over our heads at two and a half
cubits. I know the fish have been
scarce and our trials have been many.
The loss of Bucky to those tall animals
with the giant yellow growling beasts
that steal our trees was tragic, but we
can overcome. The Lord helps those in
need and, my friends, if we are anything, we are in need.
In this dream of mine the Lord
did show me a vision of the years now
past. He showed me how our lives
have been before. He reminded me of
those times of abundant fish and
plentiful wood and mud for our
lodges. He showed me a time of Love
and Brotherhood and Community;
and He showed me how I missed
those years and how
my heart did long
for them.
He then did
open my eyes to our
present, and I did
see in fresh and
divine light the thinning fish and the
black smog. He did
show me Bucky’s
skin wrapped
around one of those
massive creatures
and did show that
vacant smile on its
face; and then He
did show me
Bucky’s corpse, long
discarded by these
abominations, his
once broad tail now disintegrated. He
showed me the sadness and fear in
our hearts.
And finally He did grant me a
vision of our future if we do not heed
His Word. If we disregard His warnings and continue as we are now, we,
as shown to me by the Lord Himself
in my dream, all shall perish. I have
seen the fires of Hell on Earth as they
roiled around our twisted skeletons
and I have seen the pure destruction
of our race at the hands of those
beasts. I have seen pain and sorrow
like none could imagine.
But let Hope fill your hearts! For
the Lord can help us through this—to
a brighter future lit by His holy Light.
The cross that we will today erect shall
stand as an earthly symbol of our
devotion to Him, as a sign to Him that
we are ready to accept Him into our
lives and follow his Word; for this
Word can carry us through anything,
carry us even to battle against the
monsters of the choking smoke. To
build this cross we will be chewing
through trees, but we will also be
chewing through the chains of sorrow
and pain, sin and vice—to swim to
the Word. If we are anything, we are
industrious, and when correctly
directed, directed towards Faith, this
industriousness can be a powerful
weapon, a weapon against our towering, hairless foes.
The Lord hath called us, Brother
and Sisters, and called us to a noble
cause, to a cause that is true and just, a
cause under which we cannot fail. It is
a cause for which we must give up our
heathen ways. It is a cause for which
“I really appreciated the
easygoing, non-judgmental manner of the
students. Everyone was
accepting and genuinely excited about each
other’s work. I felt like my
writing really improved
over the course of the
week, and it was a humbling experience to be in
the presence of such
adept young writers.
Writing is hard work, but
together we made it easier and more fun.”
our lives must change, perhaps even
for the worst for a short time, but will
ultimately carry us teeth-first to
Victory. So let me hear it Brothers and
Sisters! Are you ready to break these
bonds, and chew these trees down,
and build this cross? Young Writers | 3
Forbidden Fruit
by Rebecca Brown
When I am deaf,
My taste buds are all burned,
My epidermal nerves no longer function,
My nose has been sheered from my face,
Then my eyes will truly feast on you,
A splash of varying maroon and sunshine,
An imperfect roundness to offset burning
Two main parts to play integral roles,
The skin I caress with longing eyes,
The stem that leads to the potential of cut
off nothingness.
When fire has burned my eyeballs,
My ears hear no more,
My taste buds no longer exist,
I feel nothing, but the heat of passion,
But I smell the sweetest scent wafting on the
Fumes that intoxicate all that inhale,
The smell of beauty and honey sweetness,
The glorifying scent of summer freedom.
When sinuses incapacitate my nose,
My eyeballs have been seared from their sockets,
My ear cells have all died,
My taste buds work incorrectly,
My fingers, my lips will feel your contours,
My skin trembles in pure joy at the prospect of
So lightly touching the delicate hairs that cover
Young Writers | 4
your body,
As my lips explore every part of your skin I thrill at
the softness,
But equally love the hardness of contrast,
Feeling the bumps, knowing every curve.
When my skin no longer observes the world and
My nose has not sniffed a whiff in memory,
My eyeballs don’t understand how beauty is
a sight,
My ears detect no sound,
But my tongue is electrified by an unearthly taste,
Juices roll over my tongue like gentle liquid fire,
You are sweet, you are bitter and sour,
You possess that salty zest that is still sweet.
When I taste nothing,
My skin feels no more,
My nose has no job,
My eyes envy every light they do not see,
Yet my ears strain for any trace of sound you may
No words are needed to establish our
Still the slightest note is a symphony of desire,
Speak to me, forsake the rules of your nature in
favor of passion.
My tongue no longer knows what taste buds are,
I have no sense of feeling,
I know no scents,
I am blind,
I am deaf,
But I am not senseless,
I still know you,
I visualize you on a deeper level,
Our intellects sing in tune to each other,
You are my forbidden fruit.
by Sarah Brown
A house, blanketed in foreboding shades of black
and gray, looming above the surface of the world,
the holder of the inner soul
expanse of time briefly visible in the fluttering folds
of its skirt, blown by the breeze coming through
the foreign glass panes that open to a balcony
A gate of black iron guarding a cobble path to
the entrance, covered only by the large wooden
door, its old gray paint beginning to break free
A set of deep maroon curtains billow in towards the
darkness of the room, stretching like arms, bidding
entrance to the fresh air
A room yet not a room, an opening to different
journeys, all washed in shades of reds
and gold
A curved line of small stone pillars protrude from
the edge of the sleet gray balcony, providing a
wall between the safe haven that is the house
and the open world
A crimson armchair with a chipped dark wood
frame, once overstuffed but deflated by probing
and pulling hands, the covering cloth worn from
A flight of stairs, faded lines on the banister from
lagging hands, steps worn in places from repetitive foot falls, ascending to the upper mysteries
A long pathway, lined by images of the past
framed with yellow edges surrounded by peeling
wallpaper, extends toward the distance, each of
the gateways on either side offering a different
end, each blocked by a part of a tree shaped by
man into a useful form
A garden envelopes the ground below, bright and
glowing, surrounding the dark gray and brown
A white rock bench, an unexpected but not
unwelcome visitor in the lush green garden that
nourishes dreams, a world blanketed
with growing flowers with petals of white reaching
A carpet, long and thin with holes eaten into the
dark red and gold tracings etched into the fabric
with brightly dyed thread
A door, with peeling finish dropping to the dusty
floor in brittle flakes and rusted hinges that protest
the opening of the entryway
A room decorated with miscellaneous artifacts,
each aged appropriately where they sit on the
clean and fresh hard wood, once covered by the
moth feasted rug with red and gold designs, a
baby’s chew toy lightly dented by teeth long fallen
out, a box with once bright-now-pale pink paint, still
occasionally releasing a calming melody, books
about princes and princesses, heroes and villains,
cliques and loners
A sheer white dress on a false body that stands by
the open French doors, memories lost in the
Young Writers | 5
Blue Bed
by Lily Cao
a blue bed sits in the corner, sheets unmade
borrowed from baby bear, never returned
capture the moment, perfection to spare
dead girls crossing, sleeping on tousled sheets
egests her, wants her out, needs her gone
flips her inside out, cutting, casting, calling
goldilocks doesn’t really have gold locks
her hair is mud brown with a yellowy sheen
introspective, surely not (she’s an idiot)
jars of honey are lined up on dust worn shelves
kicked and driven out of her own house of lies
left to fend for herself, and so she drinks—
momma bear’s plain porridge is first, but
no—it’s too hot, or too cold, or something like that
openly grimacing, her feet hurt from running
papa bear’s chair is too big, so is Momma’s
questions fill her vacant little head—it’s just so
right! It’s really, so right. Baby bear’s a match
so she sleeps in his blue little bed, eats his porridge
traces the worn out wood panels on his chair
untouchable, unwritten, like a ghost she thinks
veering, vrooming, crashing and cowering
waking up from nightmares to see they’re home
x-rays them like they’re made of wrapped rice paper
yelling, angry, voices make her unwelcome
zip and zap her, erase her, make her disappear.
Young Writers | 6
Worlds Apart
by Sam Del Rowe
haha what’s good with you, just postin?”
“Hi, Paul. Never say that again.”
“Chill son, I feel mad good I’m just
like…walking and shit. It’s mad chill bro”
“Yeah…I guess that’s…kinda cool,
I’m just at home, as usual.”
“Hey, Sky, I bet you’re writing some
gay Great Gatsby shit cause you’re a
fucking hipster.”
“And what exactly would lead you
to believe that the character of Jay
Gatsby is a homosexual?”
“Awww, Sky you know what I mean,
it’s just a saying.”
“That I find to be offensive. But
anyways, I was working on this piece
about my exes, but it’s really more of a
meditation on the meaning of love. I’ve
come to a roadblock with one of the
characters though.”
“Sky, man, why do you always have
to be so deep about everything, I
mean…what the fuck’s a meditation on
love? Are you the Buddha or something? Just talk about your lesbian exgirlfriend and how she made you gay.”
“Paul, it doesn’t work like that.”
“Yeah, alright, alright. I don’t need
one of your lectures. Hey, you know
what, man, I’m just like…walking and
like…thinking, and I’ve realized that
I’ve been with my girlfriend for mad
months, I think about four, I mean,
that’s a long time! I was kinda thinkin’
bout downgrading to friends with benefits, cause that’s mad chill, you know? I
mean I can, like, screw other girls.”
“Paul. Have you ever tried friends
with benefits?”
“Nah not really, it just sounds…
so chill.”
“Well, guess what? It’s not… ‘chill’
as you would say, because one person in
the relationship always ends up wanting
more. Just trust me on this one, you
don’t want to get into that.”
“Damn, Sky, why are you always so
depressing about things, you gotta just
live life, and just chill like I’m doing
right now. I’m just chilling…the night
is fresh here in LA, the stars are out, it’s
fucking beautiful, hey, can I ask you
something personal? Sky, are you really
gay? Cause you’ve screwed girls, I know
you’ve screwed girls, manly ones but
still…I know you like…boobs.”
“Paul. It’s not that simple. It’s not
black and white like that, it’s confusing.
Everyone, everything is confusing as hell,
okay? Look at yourself! Your girlfriend’s
manly and you don’t even know what a
real relationship is like, because you’ve
never had one for more than a week
until now, tell me that’s not confusing!”
“You know what man, suck’re a dick, you know that?”
“And you’re stoned.”
“Sky, you just gotta relax, why do
you always have to make everything so
serious, just let shit happen”
“So I’m gonna let myself be battered in the torrential current that is
called life? I don’t know about you,
Paul, but I didn’t sign up for that.”
“Yeah, that’s cool, Sky, listen, I was
acting mad weird at my sister’s cause
I’m mad stoned, she had a shitload of
weed cause she’s like an artist, ya know?
I think she makes…gold or some shit...”
“So you were acting weirdly.”
“Yeah man, I was…getting really
zooted and there was like…this
dude…this…guy there, and I remember just staring at this guy for a
long time.”
“What’d he look like?”
“You know what Sky, I barely
remember that shit, but he was kinda
tall and had this golden glow about him,
cause he was tanned, you know what
I’m sayin’? And he was mad ripped with
massive muscles, and he had this brown
hair, and man…I was just looking at
this guy…and I don’t remember a lot,
cause I’m zooted outta my mind, but I
vaguely remember walking over to this
guy, and then we just kinda…fell on the
floor, and we’re just sorta laying there
together and man....”
“Paul. Don’t even finish. I know
how it ends.”
“Man, I must be mad stoned, cause
I kinda want one of your stupid rants,
maybe you can help me figure out the
meaning of life or some shit.”
“Paul. Just don’t say anything.”
“But what’m I supposed to do Sky?
Dude I like…have a girlfriend, I
mean…I was so stoned I don’t know if
I imagined mad shit or not...I coulda
imagined the whole thing! Should I
like…tell my girlfriend? I mean, you’d
know how to handle shit like,
I’m tryin’ to find a McDonald’s and get
a happy meal with like some...Chicken
McNuggets. I got mad munchies
bro…ah shit, they got too many Burger
Kings in LA, I wish I was in New York
they got mad McDonald’s
should go to a McDonald’s.”
“Paul, Paul, stop talking. You just
had oral sex with…some random male
prostitute at your sister’s house in LA,
and you’re worried about finding a
“Damn Sky, why are you being such
a fag right now man?”
“Paul. Do you not realize the
extreme irony in calling me a fag given
your current situation?”
“Ah shut up, Sky, I’m just looking
for a McDonald's…”
“Paul. I’m gonna say something to
get your attention. I like…girls…I’m…
“I knew it man, you are straight, a
straight hipster! I knew all along you
liked boobs!”
“Yeah okay Paul whatever makes
you get it…I saw this girl, no, woman,
no, goddess, she was an Egyptian goddess, I swear to god she knows Ra.”
“Sky. Who the fuck is…Ra….”
“Nevermind. Point is, this…goddess
is female.”
“Cool man, sounds mad chill,
sounds like you got a serious chance of
getting yourself some…Oh shit! A
McDonald’s! There is a god! I gotta go
man, I’m mad hungry, we’ll
talk…sometime, peace, dude.”
“Yeah. Okay. Bye, Paul.” Young Writers | 7
by Leigh Gialanella
past the tray stands leaning against the
wall, a whole column of them fell forward, causing the whole room to
reverberate with the metallic, clinking
sounds they made as they hit the
ground. Standing about ten feet away
next to a newly set table, I watched
them fall, more interested in the heavy
tray I was balancing on one shoulder
than anything else.
As I started walking in that direction, I noticed that a number of elderly men and women were observing my
behavior, their gazes flickering first to
me and then to the tray stands lying
on the floor. When I looked
down at the crumpled
stands, the urge to do something spectacular came over
me. Carefully, tray still fixed
on my shoulder, I bent
down into a crouch, hoping
and praying that the tray’s
contents (water glasses,
bread plates, underliners,
mugs, and various eating
utensils) would stay on the
tray where they belonged.
As luck would have it, I
succeeded in lifting up the
tray stands with one hand
and somehow managed to
get myself up again, tray still
aloft. The same elderly people were now staring at me,
and a few of them clapped appreciatively. Thrilled over my accomplishment, I
gave them a huge smile, and then continued towards the kitchen.
At the time, this was a huge triumph for me. Only about four
months into my restaurant job, I
remembered well the first few days of
torture, as I tried unsuccessfully to
hold the large, round trays and
cringed every time they seemed
remotely heavy. Looking back now, I
guess I’ve come a long way, since I’m
now reluctantly capable of carrying six
dinners at a time and the tray ceases
to be frightening. . .most of the time.
Young Writers | 8
I started my first job last January
as a server at a local assisted living
community for the elderly. It was not
completely a voluntary commitment,
and in my first weeks, I bemoaned my
fate. How did restaurant servers ever
take down people’s orders correctly?
How could they possibly carry all of
those heavy trays? How did they manage to leave work on time, not a half
hour later? In those first adjusting
days (which lasted until April), I
feared handing out soups, particularly
the dreaded chicken broth, and sighed
inwardly every time I was asked for oil
and vinegar. The residents were diffi-
cult to serve, too. They’d ask me for
the “pink juice” and after some mental
mind-jogging, they would give me its
appropriate name, cranberry-orange.
I’d return with the juice in hand and
what do you know, it was cranberry
they wanted. Others ordered entrees,
immediately forgetting what they
ordered; when their meal was placed
before them, they adamantly protested
that it was not what they wanted at all:
could I get them the sirloin instead?
Then, of course, the residents
occasionally tended to be almost overfamiliar with us, saying things that no
one in their right minds would ever
tell their servers in the average restaurant. Perhaps they secretly considered
us their minions, their pawns to order
about—which, assuredly, they do on a
regular basis. For instance, when I was
attempting to take the order of one
woman, she began her order by randomly asking me, “How can you possibly see through those glasses?
They’re so dirty.” Although I inwardly
wondered why on earth she felt the
need to convey these sentiments, I
responded with a smile, agreeing with
her. But at least her remark was
intended to be constructive and I
found it most amusing. Other times,
I’d find myself growing
frustrated with our elderly populace because of
their less thoughtful comments. One time, I was
placed in section 5, one of
the two restaurant sectors
that proudly house our
“crazy old man tables.” At
the table, our most
famous insane resident,
his Russian buddy, and
their kindly friend were
joined by an add-on
halfway through their
meal. When I tried to ask
the rest of the table if they
would prefer to wait on
dinner until our latecomer was finished with his
appetizers, I was greeted by the
response: “You’re here to serve us, not
talk to us. We’re not here to talk to
you; we’re here to eat dinner,” or
something to that effect. I was definitely shocked at the time, but this
same man has quite a history of saying
rather inappropriate tidbits and generally harassing everyone he meets.
But the majority of the residents
are understanding and kind; in truth
they are, as a whole, a lovely bunch.
Most don’t care if some soup sloshes
over the bowl during the journey from
kitchen to table; most always seem
continued on page 9
continued from page 8
really happy to see me.
And at the moment, I think I’m
pretty comfortable now, familiar
with the residents and their idiosyncrasies. The job itself is no longer a
mystery, either. I am well aware of
the fact that “to dessert” is a perfectly acceptable verb for everyday use. I
also can tell you that two common
salad dressings can respectively be
called peppercorn and Russian. And
I don’t confuse cocktail sauce and
tartar sauce anymore, like I did in
the beginning.
Now that I have spent six
months serving dinners to the eld-
erly, I am finding my outlook
changing little by little. Yes, it’s true
that I still dread work each and
every day I must commit my time.
It’s true that I complain constantly
to my family and friends, that I
look like a thundercloud as I fasten
my bow tie in preparation for the
upcoming four hours. But I fancy
my opinion toward my job and the
people I dislike serving has
changed somewhat with time.
For one thing, getting to know
the residents has been a fulfilling
process, even if all I can say is that I
am aware of their food preferences.
she has experienced throughout
It’s nice to know that Ms. Claire
her life. When around my age, she
doesn’t like lettuce with her grilled
must have marveled at Henry
chicken and instead wants tomato
Ford’s Model-T. No doubt she tried
slices and mayonnaise. Moreover,
to incorporate the Roaring
it’s rather gratifying to anticipate
Twenties style into her clothing and
Ms. Petty’s desire for hot water to
appearance. As a young adult and
drink before she even asks for it.
beyond, she lived through two
And it makes me feel psychic to
world wars, the disconcerting,
know that Mr. White will want
abstract threat of the Cold War, the
vanilla ice cream with chocolate
sauce for dessert any time I happen feminist movement, the hippie
to serve him. I feel awesome when I movement, and the emerging faces
of name just a few.
get their preferences right and they
I made the mistake of sharing
acknowledge it, pleased with the
these thoughts with my mother.
fact that I have taken the time to
When I’d finished, she said “Admit
get to know their likes and dislikes.
it, Leigh, you do like your job. You
For the most part, I
like the old people!” don’t really get to learn
about personal lives,
but interesting tidbits
do find their way to
my ears. As I bus
“I’ll admit that I was scared
tables, I hear people
out of my mind about
reminiscing over
coming here. It was the
their past occupations. Other details
first time I had ever gone
come to the surface
to a summer camp without
and seem almost
a friend. My father practihard to believe. For
instance, the same
cally had to force me to
man who insulted
talk to people before he
me in section 5
left me to fend for myself.
happens to be a
really talented
After the initial awkwardartist; his drawings
ness, I realized that I didn’t
are posted in the
need to be afraid. I was in
hallways for all to view. Even at
a fairly advanced age, he still
a camp full of writers —
must be able to deftly draw
people who had similar
lines and carefully create beautastes and thoughts to
tiful images.
Then, of course, one of the
mine. I made friends faster
residents recently celebrated
than I ever had before. I
her birthday. I would have
really enjoyed hearing the
guessed her to be in her eighties or nineties, but apparently
different writing styles. It’s
she is one hundred and four
probably the most fun that
years old. Doing the math, I
I’ve ever had at a camp.”
found that she was born in
1906. One can only imagine the
changes in technologies, societal/gender roles, and politics
Young Writers | 9
by Maggie Guzman
her. Out beyond the thick wooden
walls dusted with cedar smoke and
memories, my daughter’s screams
rebounded off the apathetic mountains. I cut through the door, willing my soul to be as steady as the
geysers they say go off in constant
intervals in the dusty fire pits
near Rome.
My eyes adjusted quickly
enough in the darkness to see my
daughter, eyes wide in the moonlight, gripping her side where
blood ran like sunbeams. Enough,
it seemed, to fill the world. Beside
her crumpled form stood a wolf,
complacent, strangely calm, no sign
of knowing or caring what it had
done, no remnant of violence in its
ancient yellowed eyes. I stared into
the eyes of what I hoped would not
prove to be my daughter’s killer
and saw a challenge there. Its muscles were tense, moving like water
under silk as it slowly breathed in
and out never taking its eyes off my
face. I saw myself in its face; a sort
of ferocity, unbalanced by too
much time spent digging holes in
the world. I saw its fury, not vio-
Young Writers | 10
lent, but of a kind which wanted to
try the vague passions of human
emotion. It wanted to see if we
creatures who moved subtly then
rapidly and with callous enthusiasm into its land could brave the
dangers that it faced. I saw the land
reflected there—Dark pine trees
scattering their children to the
wind as they carelessly weaved their
towering forms—Mountains making rubble of the hills and carving
ever downwards with the passage
of time—Meadows permeated with
the ripe smell of clover and dandelions who always made room for
more by dying in the
winter. Death was in its
eyes, the knowledge of
too many deaths, and
the fear that it was too
late to give up on life.
The wolf moved
slowly, eying me with
curiosity as I watched
my daughter for a sign
of shallow movement
in muscle or bone, a
ripple of life under a
sea of blood and clothing. I made noise while
I wept to frighten it, as
my father had taught
me. I wanted to make it
think that I was
one of a pack, that
it had more to fear from me
than from a sickly deer. I
wanted to wake her father who
was in the house with the gun,
but even if he woke he wouldn’t respond to the screams. He
would cower, afraid of losing
his own life, and reminding
himself that in the Bible
women disappeared without
meaning or consequence like
Japheth’s unnamed sister, convincing himself it would be a
sin to interfere. I faced the
beast head-on and she met my
eyes with scathing derision and the
knowledge of her strength. My
tears burned, sizzled to a mist and
were gone as my mind filled with
desires to strip off my naked skin
and run. Run with her, run at her,
run far away.
She seemed to smile, her eyes
flushing my cheeks with their
intensity. She smelled the air, a
tremble of recognition sliding
through her coarse body and for
the first time she broke our gaze.
She nudged my daughter with her
head like a tame cat and my
daughter made a noise just loud
enough so that I knew she lived.
She took one last look at me, her
fervency reflecting the drumming
in my chest and left, leaving me
seething both with motherly rage
and kinship.
I ran to my daughter, heart
beating like the last sound in the
world. Seeing her wound I wanted
to faint, to inhabit a world of darkness for a while, to let someone else
take care of everything. But like the
wolf I was forced to will iron into
my heart, to make my blood course
blue with fire and initiative. Like
the wolf I did not have the luxury
of defeat. Snail
by Chloe Hamer
I want to be a snail, carrying my home on my back.
I want to fall asleep in Burma, Siberia, Kenya,
and dream in different languages,
wake up to different faces,
or wake up alone.
I want to be so comfortable with myself
that I don’t need an anchor,
just a sailboat
and a sea.
I want to believe that all lives are worth the same;
that circumstances create
monsters and prophets.
I want to take a bullet
for a nobody.
(In the shoulder, I reassure my friend.
And then I’ll get a sunflower tattoo
where the scar is
and tell her children fantastic stories
about its origin.)
I’ve spent plenty of years
in a nice house, with a library
and a dining room
with a beautiful chandelier,
and two fireplaces,
one of which we never use.
Let me trade my comfortable bed for dirt,
or rock,
or straw instead.
The Earth is just big enough
to satisfy my restlessness.
Young Writers | 11
Rationale for Demonic Possession
by Zach Hays
actually know I was allergic to
Compazine, and I can’t even say that I
knew what it was, other than my doctor telling me it would take away nausea, no problem. (I now firmly believe
that any doctor who uses the phrase
“no problem” is lying through his
teeth). I took the medicine for about
three days, and was pretty okay, apart
from the expected aches and pains of
being a whiny, angst-ridden teenager.
There was the chronic insomnia, but I
was, to be frank, used to that.
It wasn’t altogether unexpected,
then, when I began falling asleep in
English class one day, partially lulled
by the teacher’s droning, soporific
tones. He had the tendency to talk on
without the merest hint of a conclusion anywhere in sight, like a driver
refusing to acquiesce to his wife’s
demand that he stop for directions,
already. Running on perhaps three
hours of sleep on this particular day, it
wasn’t much of a shocker when I
began slipping to the side, though I’d
never started losing consciousness so
quickly before. It was when I found
myself at a forty-five degree angle,
mouth hanging wide open yet gasping
for a breath that I thought two interesting things: “Oh, eff, something’s
wrong with me, isn’t it?” and “At least
I might be able to get out of class.”
The teacher, as it turned out, was
fairly lenient when it came to kids not
being able to breathe in his class, and
he might as well have shoved me out
the door. I pivoted right, passing by
my French teacher, who gave me a loving “bonjour”, before asking if I was
okay. (I looked a bit off.) I merrily
responded that I was fine, just feeling
a bit under the weather, at the same
time inwardly contemplating ever
more creative means of getting my
precious oxygen. I hurried down the
steps to the lower floor, and into the
nurse’s office, where she sat at her desk
across from some freshman. I waved
to catch her attention, and she paused
in her conversation with the freshman
to ask what was wrong. In between
deepening breaths, I told her,
“Oh...just nearly...fainted...bit of trouble...breathing...” Naturally, she
jumped straight to attention and told
me to go lie down, which I did.
Granted, after a few seconds of staring
at the ceiling, the breathing was getting somewhat easier, but I was beginning to notice new symptoms. My
lower jaw was no longer in my control
—indeed, it was jutting angrily to the
left, clamping upwards with so much
force that I worried my teeth were
going to crack. I waited for the nurse,
trying to be patient, but it was taking
longer than I’d have liked. I could just
catch snatches of her conversation
“It’s refreshing to spend a
week with a group of creative, talented people
who have the same crazy
dream that you do.”
with another student, who, it seemed,
wanted to go home because he was
just “so mad” at this other kid who he
apparently wouldn’t be able to pass in
the hall without beating him to death.
My jaw was really starting to ache, and
I was making frequent trips to the
bathroom to splash sink water on my
face. I could, with immense will
power, pull my jaw back to a somewhat more normal position, but the
second I stopped paying attention, it’d
snap back to a state of abnormality.
Now I was really panicking, largely
out of not having any clue what was
going on. I really hoped I wasn’t having a seizure, and under the not
entirely misguided assumption that it
was something as bad as that, and that
it wouldn’t go away on its own, I
strolled up to the nurse’s desk. I
politely interrupted her, telling her
that I really needed a bit of help. She
handed me a plastic strip of a thing
that was probably intended to be a
thermometer, and told me to go lie
down again. After a few more such
interruptions on my part, with similar
responses by the nurse, and the ache
in my lower jaw becoming more
unbearable every minute, I finally
“Okay, I can’t breathe!” I shouted,
marking the first time I have ever
shouted at a faculty member. “Call my
parents, now!” The expression upon
the nurse’s face was unreadable,
though I think she may have been trying not to laugh at me, as my locked
jaw muscles were forcing me to speak
with a thick lisp. After a pause, the
nurse ripped the phone up to her ear,
and dialed the number I gave her.
“Mrs. Hays?” she spoke quickly
into the mouthpiece, “Hi there, this is
the school nurse. Your son, Zachary,
came to me just a couple of minutes
ago, telling me he’s having some issues.
He told me he was having a bit of
trouble breathing.” There was a pause,
and the sound of my mother’s frantic
tones issued forth, muted such that I
couldn’t distinguish any specific words.
“I assumed he was having a panic
attack, so I told him to go lie down,
you know, relax.” A pause. “No, I don’t
think ...” — My mother interrupted
her, something anybody who knew her
as well as I do would know to be completely unlike her. “That’s ... that’s fine.
I’ll let him know.” The nurse dropped
the phone, without letting me speak to
my own mother, I noticed, and glared
at me. The glaring was odd, because
she was still attempting to keep the rest
of her face passive. “Apparently your
mother has called your father. He’s
going to take you to the hospital.” I
nodded and replied with a brisk thank
you, and went to sit down before she
could tell me to do so.
My father arrived within about
continued on page 13
Young Writers | 12
continued from page 12
twenty minutes, a time I spent taking
deeper and deeper breaths, both to
calm myself and to fuel my natural
oxygen habit. The moment I saw his
car pull into the school parking lot
from the nurse’s office, I stormed from
the room, meeting him halfway. He
filled out the appropriate paperwork,
clarifying that he was indeed my
father and that he was indeed taking
me to the hospital and not to a brothel
or something. Once in the car, my dad
booked it for the hospital, taking razor
sharp turns and studiously ignoring
all the honks, middle fingers, and colorful language from the vehicles he
was currently racing past. In the
meantime, a nasty change had just
taken place: my lower jaw had loosened ... and then was forced open, my
tongue lolling out, my visage contorted into a silent scream. Though my
father was obviously trying hard to
keep his cool, he blanched noticeably. I
began repeating the verses, “Mary had
a little lamb, his fleece was white as
snow,” because it gave me some temporary control of my facial muscles,
though I could usually only get to the
word ‘lamb’ before my mouth was
ripped open again. You could have
summed my thoughts up as, “Ow, ow,
ow, ow, my face really hurts, is this
going to end?”
There were remarkably few people
in the hospital on this particular day;
the sickies must have been lounging
about at home, or, God forbid, school.
The people at the main desk were very
friendly, and asked my father what,
exactly, was wrong. He pointed his
index finger at my gaping mouth.
“Ah,” they said, “yeah, we’d better get
him in.” My father went to sit down,
and I headed for the opposite side of
the room and into a small bathroom,
both for the obvious reasons and to
try splashing more water on my face. I
stood in front of a long mirror,
regarding my shaking form with mild
amusement, somewhat exacerbated by
the black hole of my open maw. I
flicked droplets of water at my face,
relieved to some extent by the prickles
of coldness peppering my cheeks, and
then something nigh-miraculous happened. My face returned to normal. I
was stunned. Was I, maybe, cured?
Was it actually over? Was this horrible
ordeal just finished? I hurried out to
tell my father the good news, very
nearly skipping, and it should be said
that I very rarely have a predilection
for skipping.
Two things then happened in
quick succession. A hospital employee
popped out of a side door like a
Whack-A-Mole, calling my name, my
father standing up to explain that his
son was in the bathroom. At almost
the precise moment my father noticed
me, my head snapped to the side, as
though an invisible palm had taken
hold of my scalp and twisted it. The
pain was excruciating, and I am prepared to say that it was the worst I
have ever felt, though that may partially have been due to the shock of
having one’s head twisted about like
that girl from the Exorcist. I was hurriedly led into the sterile depths of the
hospital and onto a bed, where the
nurses immediately gave a ton of sympathy for the tormented and distorted
young child who had just come in, the
child whose neck seemed to be trying
very hard to imitate a corkscrew.
It took perhaps an hour for the
doctor to arrive, but I found myself
feeling relieved the moment he
pushed back the curtains and strolled
in. He looked like the protagonist of a
medical drama, showing off a set of
pearly-whites that could only have
belonged to a television actor. He
diagnosed me in an instant, asking if I
had, perchance, taken something
called Compazine, to which I nodded
vigorously (or, you know, tried to).
According to my TV doctor, one out
of every one-hundred people taking
this drug would have something called
a ‘dystonic reaction’, which essentially
meant having random, ever-changing
muscle seizures all over the body, an
issue quite easily solved by flushing
the drug out of my body, and giving
me a hearty dose of Benadryl. I didn’t
even wince as a needle slipped into my
left wrist, strange considering I’ve a
terrible aversion to anything that
looks even remotely like a hypodermic. I clearly recall urging the doctor,
as the nurses worked around me,
“Sooner might be better.” Benadryl has
the side-effect of knocking one at least
three-quarters into unconsciousness,
and I said something like, “Ah, that’s
much better,” as I floated into a comfortable, albeit somewhat achy, sleep.
After a little while, a time I cannot
properly account for because of the
meds, my father took me home. The
ride was quiet; my father was shellshocked and I was napping in the back
seat. Obviously, I was not going to be
returning to school, and when we
arrived home, I drifted to my bedroom. I curled up next to my cat, and
soon dropped into a dreamless sleep.
To this date, the ‘Compazine incident’ is the scariest thing that has ever
happened to me, and I took two
things out of that experience. For one
thing, I think I have discovered why
the concept of demonic possession is
so prevalent in history. Any idiot that
stumbled across that particular chemical cocktail and happened to be allergic to it, and ingested it would be in
for quite the scare. Without knowledge
of what in hell a “dystonic reaction” is,
it wouldn’t be entirely crazy to think
that there might be some folks ready
to blame invisible, malevolent entities,
messing about with us mortal folk.
The second thing I took from that
experience was an extreme, mostly
nonsensical paranoia about taking
medicine, or even eating things coming from a place I’m not familiar with.
Perhaps it’s just a wee bit crazy, but I
don’t plan on putting my life entirely
in some doctor’s hands. Young Writers | 13
by Sabrina Hua
“Ji de,” ordered the Buddhist monk. Remember.
I flinched when he grabbed my shoulder. The rosary
beads on his wrist were worn and his skin was warm and
pruned. I remained silent and looked up at his stiff chin. I
didn’t know how to say, “Leave me alone.” And his gaze had
me captured. The pious stranger’s dark eyes had looked so
much like mine but conveyed an unfamiliar intensity.
“Ni shi yi ge zhong guo ren.” You are Chinese.
“Wo zhi dao wo shi.” I know I am.
Of course I know, I thought, for I truly believed the mystical lyrics of an old Chinese folk song that had convinced
me that I was a descendant of the dragon’s descendants and
belonged to the Middle Kingdom, the Yellow River, and the
language spoken with a thousand tongues.
Why was he even questioning me? Wasn’t it obvious
that I was proud of my culture? Wasn’t that the reason why
I was there in China standing in his temple and committing
the idyllic sights to memory? I was proud— so, so proud—
of my ethnicity, of how it made me who I am. How could
he have not seen that? My pride even flowed like blood; it
travelled from my heart and through my body, running
relay races in my veins whenever I heard bamboo pipes and
saw scarlet flags.
“Wo men hua ren dou shi yi ge su. Ni yao ji de ni de gen.”
We Chinese are like a tree. You need to remember
your roots.
And I told him, “Dui bu qi. Wo bu ming bai.”
I’m sorry. I don’t understand.
His grip loosened. And the fierce desperation in his eyes
was replaced with disappointment. He whispered me a
blessing, but I didn’t understand.
I cried that day, for in the few exchanges we shared, I
had suddenly been struck by the weight of emptiness. I had
thought that I was Chinese until he told me to remember
my roots. It was then I realized that I couldn’t; it’s terribly
hard to remember something when you never knew of it.
And the scarlet flags and bamboo pipes became symbols
constantly reminding me to remember an unknown motherland.
I was born in America, not China.
I attended a school in New York and spoke English,
not Chinese.
Eating the food, hearing the language from others’ lips,
and knowing the vague outline of its history and stories is
not enough to make me feel Chinese. Looking Chinese isn’t
the same as feeling Chinese, and being Chinese cannot simply be confirmed by check marks or being told that you are
Chinese. Being Chinese comes from your xin zhong, the
depths of your heart.
I am still learning the significance of my surname. And
I’m still trying to become accustomed to hearing Chinese
spoken in my own voice. But I think that I’m finally starting to understand what it means to feel Chinese, slowly and
preciously. “I love the atmosphere you find in
this program. People here are
industrious and inventive, but they
also have youth and humor.”
Young Writers | 14
by Gretel Kauffman
Me, I am the wallpaper.
I don’t mean that I am flat
And excessively flowered,
Plastered on walls in large sheets
With my corners peeled away by bored and restless children
While their parents aren’t looking.
I am not for sale in large quantities
At Home Depot.
I mean that I am always here,
Clinging to the solid immovable structure
That is a wall.
Unnoticeable to some,
Oft bland and understated,
Sometimes obnoxious, ugly
And embarrassingly crude.
The furniture in the room
Is always shifting, changing, upgrading, fading.
People enter and exit,
But I remain,
And I observe.
“Although very short, this program has
forced me to hone my skills and develop
new ones that I would not have otherwise.
Because we’re forced to work in three different genres, we were not allowed to draw
back into the comfort zones that would
inhibit our growth as writers.”
Young Writers | 15
The Complete and Utter Ridiculous Truth
behind the Headline
by M.C. Kelly
Dear Mr. Editor,
My name is unimportant to the purpose of my writing you. You don’t know me, nor will you ever. I have
taken the time out of my very pressing schedule to point out a number of inconsistencies with the recent
story you ran, “Girl Helps Choking Friend.” My goal is to relay the truth of what happened—or rather, some
of the truth. While your story conveys that Allyson Robin saved the life of her classmate, Mary Golden, from
choking on gum, the truth is infinitely more interesting. I was there and can attest to the validity of my
claims. An hour prior to this so called act of heroism, I followed the two girls to the local pizza parlor—
which was very unclean, I must point out—and it is there I watched as Ms. Robin pulled out a once concealed glass vile and poured its contents into the soda of her so-called friend, Mary.
Your journalist claims that Ms. Robin performed the Heimlich to save Mary from choking on the piece
of gum she was chewing. It must be that your reporter does not do much at all of what his job title entails.
While Mary may have been chewing on gum, it was not the reason why Ms. Robin felt the need to save her.
I watched from the shadows at the filthy pizza parlor. I observed, and I saw Mary slip Ms. Robin an envelope after returning from the bathroom and ingesting her poisoned soda. I cannot tell you what was in that
envelope; I could speculate, but in this case, will not. I will tell you this: Ms. Robin realized in that moment
that if Mary were to die, the truth would come out. She did not perform the Heimlich to save Mary from
gum. She saved Mary from the very poison she gave her, and did so for other motivations. Mary would have
eventually begun oozing blood from every orifice had it not been for Ms. Robin, who injected her with the
antidote while pretending to perform the Heimlich. I found the needle in her school locker afterwards,
where the silly little girl stashed it in a frantic state of mind. I have generously left it there for you so you can
verify this information. Ms. Robin did not save Mary to spare her life, she saved Mary to protect her
own...and keep the contents of the envelope a secret.
The why: In about two days the Smithsonian Institute, which both students recently visited, will report
that the infamous and legendary Hope diamond has been replaced with a fake. Of course, they will first
delay such an announcement in some vain attempt to spare them the embarrassment, thus giving me some
extra time to spend. If you check both girls’ school records, as I’m sure you will, it will reveal that they did
indeed take a trip together, with the school, to the Smithsonian for a few days. And if you were to get your
hands on the surveillance footage of their hotel, you would see them sneaking through the lobby at a late
hour to meet a man. This man would be wearing black clothes, not a wrinkle in them, with his back precisely positioned so that his face was just out of view. Even as I write this letter, my eyes feast upon the dazzling
facets of the real Hope diamond. It will fit perfectly with the rest of my exquisite collection. I will not
explain my history with the girls nor recall my meeting with them, but I will tell you that appearances are
often deceiving, Mr. Editor, and both girls were equally devious.
I understand you cannot authenticate this letter as I hope you will try to do and take more caution than
you did with previous stories. So, after calling your wife at 2:00pm as you do every day, I urge you to walk
out the door to your office, and head down those red-carpeted stairs that you do each day like clockwork.
Out the door and five miles east, you will come to a forest. It is off the first path, behind the large boulder
and beneath thin layers of dirt, where you will find the dead bodies of both Ms. Robin and Ms. Golden. Both
have a single well placed-bullet to the head. I left them each with their money. They earned it, along with
everything else they got.
There will be no blood. There will be no fingerprints other than theirs. For such a messy crime scene, it
will be very clean—much cleaner than that filthy pizza shop. I have not informed the police of this unfortunate incident—I don’t normally dirty myself with the loss of life and I have to say I do not intend to again,
although, I must say I do clean up nicely. My main and only concern is, and always will be, my jewels.
I suspect the money will not be there forever. While I cannot prevent you from calling the authorities, I
urge you not to; it would be a waste of time. I will be long gone before anything of use is discovered.
My motives I admit are mysterious, but they are mine and mine alone, you silly little man. They will
remain unknown. I bid you farewell Mr. Editor. Now, you have a choice to make and I have a plane to catch.
A Concerned Citizen
Young Writers | 16
The Man Behind the Camera
by Yasmin Kelly
from sitting by a beautiful, soft pond
framed by tall oaks and cattails and
chirping birds. He gets it in the dead
of night, in the wee hours of the
morning, and inside a gray, dimly lit,
windowless room filled with whirring,
humming computers.
“Here’s what I do—I stay up all
night,” he says. He works in Media
Services at Skidmore College, where
I’m hunting for an interesting character on campus to profile. You’ll see
him at the Summer Writers’ readings,
but only for a few minutes: he is in
charge of the sound and lighting, and
while the growing audience cranes
their necks towards the stage—
where the real stars of the show
are—he stands in the back, surveying the scene and checking for
glitches to fix. He is very short, short
and stout like a hobbit, with wide
brown eyes and slightly pointed ears.
He has light gray hair (thinning, but
still tied back into a tiny bun) and
darker eyebrows. Sometimes he
wears spectacles, thin rectangular
ones that make him look bookish.
Above all, his eyes are kind and honest, especially when he speaks.
Past the Davis Auditorium I go,
following the arrows to the Media
Services room. Steve, a friend of my
mom’s boyfriend, has told me I could
come to see him if I ever should need
help, though I’ve hardly said two
words to him before. When he saw me
sidling shyly in through the open door
he immediately offered some:
“You dig Macs?” He pointed at the
computers, telling me I was welcome
to use them.
“Oh—well, actually, um. I was wondering if you would let me interview
you for a writing piece—a profile...”
It dawned on him. “Oh.”
He leaned back on his heels and
thought. “Well, I guess...” his voice
trailed off dubiously. “How personal
are we talkin’?” He looked uncomfortable. I expected as much from the
computer geek behind the scenes, but
he continued.
“Well, OK. I wouldn’t do this for
anyone else, you know.” I couldn’t tell
whether he was joking or not—so dry
is his voice sometimes. We pulled up
two gray swivel chairs and began.
He’s a quiet guy, so he says—in the
computer room he seldom paused to
let the silence in. He is the kind of person who thinks before he speaks: before
answering my questions (there were
really only two significant ones—he did
the rest) he pursed his lips and repeated
them to himself, taking his time to
search his mind for the right reply. He
told me that he is horrible at a formal
“I really enjoyed meeting
many awesome people with
literary interests, practicing
new forms of expression,
and learning about the
modern writing climate.”
debate and horrible at arguing. He’s
quiet in a phone call, talkative in an
email. Seeing himself in pictures or
being on camera is “like torture.”
Being on camera may be hell for
him, but behind the camera is his
kingdom. He tells me about his job,
the job that he loves, when during the
slow summer days he can have the
whole computer room to himself—
just him and the whirring machines.
He can sit for hours researching the
different types of software for sound
effects. E-mailing got him past his
shyness; he was absolutely certain that
discovering the first computers in his
twenties “really changed my life.” He
found himself in these huffing and
puffing monitors and hard drives that
surrounded us. Many people might be
tempted to think of him as some kind
of hermit, a recluse fatally attached to
an inanimate best friend, but his love
for computers is far away from the
kids nowadays who sit in front of the
screen all day to play video games:
“For me, [the computer] is more of a
tool than a plaything.”
Steve has used that tool to edit a
movie and to do the music, sound
effects and/or filming for several film
shorts. He’s revised and written parts
of scripts. He wishes that he had more
time to edit movies and carry out his
ideas with his friends…and more time
to write.
“I never liked to write like with a
pen…writing it all out is very tiresome…the way I write is things just
come to me, thought after thought
after thought, and I like being able to
take everything and move it around
[on the computer].” His penmanship
is terrible and he does not keep a
journal; when he was younger, he had
ideas and wrote them down but
always forgot them. But on the computer, he’s got a big file of all the ideas
that come to him, enough material for
several unfinished novels.
He simply likes the feeling of typing. It’s helped him to realize one
important thing about a first draft: “I
could actually correct it later.” He
stretches out his fingers in midair and
putters them over imaginary keys.
Then, my foolish idea of him as a
bookish wizard, spectacles complete,
was snuffed out. “I hardly read at all
though—because I’m dyslexic. Some
things I’ll read, but fiction—I never
read. The words just don’t hold as great
a meaning for me.” He doesn’t keep up
with or listen to much music anymore,
either: his love of the Beatles is connected with the nostalgia of childhood.
“Am I doing OK?” he kept asking
me, as we paused in the conversation.
At the end, when we both got up, he
joked, “I hope I passed.” He did tell
me, however, that our chat was not as
hard as he thought it would be. And
his eyes were kinder, more honest
than ever. “You’re just lucky you didn’t
bring a camera in here.” Young Writers | 17
by Andrew Kim
I am ice
I don’t mean that I am cold
Or that I am found in the winter
And hate the summer
I mean that I expand as I cool
So my mind can explore
I mean that I am transparent
I am water
I don’t mean that I can dissolve many things
Or that I flow all around our vast planet
And am essential to its very existence
I mean that I lack a definite and concrete form
So I occupy the containers given to me
I mean that I am a mere drop in the sea
I am vapor
I don’t mean that I am a great, blanketing form of white
Or that I rise up in the air and fill the Earth’s atmosphere
And have no boundaries that bind my existence to the ground
I mean that I provide a slight resistance that is easy to miss
So that people walk through me and never know who I am
I mean that I am the product of a great exertion of energy and effort
“I thoroughly enjoyed this week. I found
that I was so comfortable with everyone
and that, for once, I was a part of the incrowd. Everyone was so nice and
accepting, and I made some really great
friends. I learned a lot, and saw so many
different writing styles.”
Young Writers | 18
I Am From
by Toby Levy
I am from bright lights, a big city.
I was sprung in a concrete jungle where there are no second chances,
where peak success flirts with failure. I am from 5,000 dollar
bottles of Bordeaux, and Caspian caviar nestled on pearl spoons.
I am from Bronx Bombers who fire managers for 100 win seasons.
I am from the poorest slums, and 5th Avenue. From the projects and
The Plaza. I am from where they all think they’re
better than the rest, from the borough they call the center of the world.
I am from fast movers, “Get the fuck out of my way,” and *HONK*,
from a park that reeks of weed, and smells of horseshit,
from Strawberry Fields and Japanese Cherry Blossoms.
I am from Hip/Hop and Jazz and Friday shots of Grey Goose,
because here, “we go classy.”
From humid summers, and black-sleet winters.
From Bentleys to bikes, from Midtown to Malcolm X.
I am from ground zero; from Judaism without a God, and “Harvard or bust.”
I am from bitter racism, and from “looks are power, and money is
everything.” I am from trophy wives.
I am from Versace laden dogs, and pampered cats,
from power suits to drug dealers, and the musky
smell of woodchips on floors.
I am from a Le Creuset pot filled with black, white, yellow, red.
I am from a city I loathe, a city I love.
I am from bittersweet poetry.
“By the end of this week, I
felt like I had known my
fellow young writers for
years. Through our writing
we shared so much and
grew so much, as individuals and as a group.”
Young Writers | 19
Boyfriends: An Exposé On All Things Unrequited
by Lily Lopate
mixed messages concerning men,
both suspicious and sexual. But
regardless of her story she most
often ends with the moral of “You
have two options, kiddo, marry a
nice Jewish boy, or marry a doctor.”
My mother has always told me to
marry someone I love, and who
loves me back and who gets me, we
work, we fit. And my father has
always told me, cutting to the harsh
cold truth going against all my fantasies: “Lily, we all know the best
guy for you in the end would be a
nerd. Just face the facts and go for
the nerd. Marry the nerd.” But the
issue here at present is not so much
who to marry but rather how to
navigate this dilemma and conundrum of first loves and crushes. So
I’ve had three options—well, four,
including my own.
I started out well. I chose a nice,
good boy in second grade, one that
my family would’ve been proud of
and one that followed nearly all of
their guidelines. He was Indian and
his name was Nishant. He had
chubby cheeks and sweaty black
hair, always running around and
then panting, his hands clutched
around his knees. One time during
an independent math lesson, when
I was having trouble
grasping the concept of
money, he explained
how four quarters make
a dollar. And with each
quarter that he picked
up, his fingers pawing
the rug, he picked up
my hand with his, to
showcase. I never forgot
that math lesson.
I guess we had a
finger trend going
because when a table of
us were laughing over
goldfish, I gave him the
middle finger, only
because I was eager to
show him the ring that
I had won from a quarter machine (for which
I did my own calculations), and he
began to plead with me, tears
streaming down his face, “please
don’t!” and pushing my finger with
force down into my palm. The day
I told him I liked him, towards the
end of second grade, he was indifferent. And immediately after he
told me he and his family were
moving to Chicago.
So I guess you could say that
Nishant started my trend of unrequited crushes. And I began to
develop my pattern of picking very
attractive ethnic guys whose overall
appearance and image were foreign
to that of my family. The whole
idea of picking someone who was
different from what I knew was
exciting. After attending Hebrew
school I characterized the “nice
Jewish boy” as pale, gangly, nasal
voiced, with hat hair, not muscular,
lover of lox and cream cheese (a
predictable recipe for food peeking
out of their mouths), always talking about their grandmothers, etc.
In any case they weren’t interest-
ing. My dad would say, whispering
to me once in the synagogue as I
scanned the room with dissatisfaction: “You know, Lil, I’m gonna say
something you’re not gonna like
but sometimes it’s good to pick
someone who you feel comfortable
with, makes things go easier. Why
do you like to pick someone who is
always so different from us and
incompatible with you?” Just
beginning the hunt as a fresh fourteen-year-old, in the pews of the
synagogue, this was a lot to take in.
I knew my posture was more
relaxed and conversation flowed
naturally with them but Jewish
guys weren’t exciting to me; I felt at
home with them, and I resented
that. I wanted to live out the novel
of girls on an adventure pushing
themselves to unknown limits and
finding exotic love in return.
So, after I spent some time
mourning over India, I went in
search of new adventures in Italia.
And then Brazil or Spain, the two
kind of merged together. Neither
were long-term relationships, only
embarrassing month-long quandaries or obsessions, functioning as
a mental Rubik’s cube to grapple
But before and during and
after, I suppose, elementary and
middle school, there was one other
guy who would always compete:
the boy next door. “The dumb boy,”
as my father called him, when he
had stopped pretending he didn’t
know of my not-so-secret spy subject. “That boy is dumb, Lily. I’m
gonna tell you right now.” I
grinned, looking dazed into my
cereal bowl, instantly translating
his negative judgment into an
encouragement that we would
work. I just had to make him see it
first. I suppose this idea of “changing him” derived from a kind of
feminine psychology, a defective
continued on page 21
Young Writers | 20
continued from page 20
reasoning that I would bring out
the best in him, an imagining of
how I would transform his character from public to private, with me.
I had planned it all to a tee, the
whole idea very romantic and intimate. However, in doing this, I set
myself up for precarious high
stakes, high expectations and of
course, unpleasant surprise.
The boy next door was a big
deal for me. I felt as though I went
through all the states of dating,
inside my head of course. He was
my first kiss outside his stoop when
we were five, my first online and
outward flirtation, and let’s not
forget how he showed me the many
ways that a guy is just not that into
you, and the millions of ways that I
ignored them.
Here’s some background: he
was Italian. His passion was soccer.
We had nothing in common. And
when I would speak, he never did.
He only nodded occasionally, soon
walking away during my mid-sentence. At one point when we were
tweens, he threw his soccer ball
towards me—as a test of our compatibility, I’d assumed. I squealed
with giggles, throwing the ball
straight up in the air, and ran into
my house, slamming the door with
a toothy grin on my face.
Little by little over many years,
I saw the pieces come together, the
cumulative memories that I had
chosen to remember differently
from reality. For instance, the time
I gave him a hand-made decoupage
and glitter valentine and he delivered a white rose on my stoop with
a scribbled thank you, which I later
found out was his mother’s doing.
Or when we went through our
one-way relationship on Facebook,
my paragraphs of thoughts and his
mind-boggling clever remark
of “lol.”
Even my friends would pry
“what do you really see in him?” I
wasn’t sure; he was so convenient,
such easy access. He had a way of
dribbling his ball around his backyard and his occasional grunt of
“ughh man!” was like a drug to me.
I remember walking down our
street and seeing him up above, me
not looking my best, and carrying
grocery bags with one of my parents, which didn’t exactly read that
I was a “more than meets the eye:
fun and sassy” kinda girl. “You’ve
really got your head in the toilet
with this one” my mother would
say, as I would hastily break away
from her to cross the street and
hide behind a car. The way his cute
button face exchanged itself for his
hot six-pack when he hit puberty,
the way he never gave me notice as
though it was all a secret between
us were all good reasons for me to
make an excuse to flee the dinner
table every time I heard his voice
outside. Just to catch a glimpse, a
little bit of fantasy. A little touch of
something more that could be.
After many years of still having
a sweet spot for the boy next door,
I realized just how much I tormented myself over this. How
much more I had observed and
remembered about
him, knowing that he
knew nothing about me
in return. I was always
watching him and he
was never watching me.
I finally decided that he
really was uninteresting
and slow on the uptake.
“It took you that long?”
my father would say in
disbelief and then continuing to joke, “geeze
maybe you two are perfect for each other.” The
attraction to the dumb
guy, pardon my crudeness, was first and foremost my unmistakable
and undeniable attraction to hotness. I considered myself to have a
strong head on my shoulders in
many aspects of life except in this
department where my logic failed
me. I would explain to my father
“You can’t control matters of the
heart!” as though that would
explain it, my father always ready
with a quick comeback: “Yes. But
you can control your reason!” It
was better to look at the hot guys,
lapping up every morsel like eye
candy rather than go up and talk to
them. Because talking to them
ruined everything: they hadn’t read
the script! They weren’t saying the
right things! He was supposed to
be infatuated with me, not looking
at another girl! The reality collided
with my fantasy and the mixture
was like oil and water.
Freshman year of high school
was an adjustment shock, and in
many ways, the opposite from what
I had anticipated. But after that
first week when this boy helped me
with my locker lock, it was all over.
He had the best smell, especially in
the mornings. The combination of
his leather jacket mixed with the
crisp smell of air conditioning,
mixed with his morning shamcontinued on page 22
Young Writers | 21
continued from page 21
poo/aftershave was a recipe to
make me melt. I had never been
such mush in my life. I became a
self-conscious wreck around him. I
was Mr. Gloop in the Candyland
game. He, too, was ethnic, dark,
with curly black hair, perfect hands
with writer veins, and of course,
the ultimate ingredient—popular,
out of my league (I thought) and a
bad boy. If I wasn’t such a self-conscious wreck around him, I bet I
could’ve been the girl he was look-
ing for, but I was never able to talk,
correctly or grammatically that is,
my personality falling to the floor
like the books that I’d drop around
him. Regardless, out of all my
crushes, he was by far the most
intriguing. He was a puzzle that I
knew nothing about, and I made it
my mission to figure it out,
through speculation of course.
He was a slacker but there was
something sincerely intelligent
about him. He was supposedly a
good writer; his goal was to travel
and tour the world and, quote “fix
all the bullshit.” He was the one guy
that I didn’t need to convince
myself of our compatibility: we
Young Writers | 22
just to make my life miserable. Just
would’ve worked…if he hadn’t
ruined the plan and gotten expelled to make my life exciting.
Whenever I pry my cousin for
from school for dealing pot. (But
details concerning his dating life,
that wasn’t important, really.) We
he would of course pry into mine.
still would’ve worked…in some
He would always say, as I hid my
perplexing mismatched way. And I
blushing face in the dishes or in the
must confess, I liked him monogacupboard, busying myself, “you
mously for a year and a half.
know Lil, it should’ve happened by
(Impressive, I know.) I nearly
now, I mean it did for me, there’s
flunked my freshman algebra
just a point where they start to
midterm because his chair was
notice you, you pick up on the sigdirectly in front of mine and I
nals and it all sorta just happens.
couldn’t help but find his curly
Maybe you’re doing something
black hair and neck
more breathtaking than wrong?” Yes, maybe I am doing
something wrong, I’m sure. If I
quadratic equations.
My father would always were to do it all again, the many
crushes and unrequited loves and
joke harshly
trials and tribulations with myself
“hmmm…expelled for
dealing pot, juicy! Wow, and the opposite sex, I would
rearrange the pieces on the Ouija
Lil, you really know
board in a completely different orihow to pick ’em!” I
couldn’t ignore the but- entation. I wouldn’t repeat the
many moments where I questioned
terflies in my stomach
my qualities and physical appearwhenever I came close
to him, the way my ears ance. Maybe next time I should
play it more by the book? I’ve
would tingle when I
always heard this saying “You don’t
heard his voice, never
pick them, they pick you.” But who
being able to form corcontrols the picking in the game of
rect sentences around
love? I had always known I had
him, stapling my finger
three options, but I found myself,
twice just because he
over the years, picking up the dice
put his hand over mine
and rolling it, traveling two steps
to unclasp the stapler,
back, three steps forward, and one
or my incredible clumsiness when
step from the finish line, then back
trying to accomplish the arduous
to the starting place again, swallowgesture of waving hello—all
seemed a close approximation. Like ing, playing with more stupidity
and wisdom each time, the game of
my neighbor, he was the kind of
guy that frustrated you. And I liked unrequited love. that. He was the type
of person that made
“This week successfully ended my
me endlessly analyze
his effortless “hey” as
writer’s block and permitted me to
though I was meticube more social than ever because
lously diagramming
I was in a room with people just
his sentence. He
must’ve known I had
like me. I loved sharing my work
a thing for him,
with others, and others reading my
always giving me the
work. I loved this program!”
slimmest bit of
November Mornings
by Julia Malleck
I barely made the 7:21 train and
now have only 45 seconds to run
up four flights of stairs. My shoes
are sopping wet from the rain. My
backpack makes me feel like a
Sherpa. I slip off my shoes and
begin to sprint through the lobby,
passing the stray student who doesn’t give a flying fart in space if he
or she is late. I still give a fart.
I’m not sure why I care, but in
the cold weeks of November that
blend into slushy feet and bucket
seats on the subway, I feel oddly
fragile. I’m far enough into school
so that I’ve lost my summer vitality. School begins to drain me: my
laugh and my voice. Suddenly,
small things like making the train
or homeroom become colossal in
my mind. If I’m late, the day will be
a failure.
When I run into 402 South fifteen seconds late, hair damp, heart
damp, my morning greeting is
from one boy who says, “Julia
you’re late. You’re getting water all
over the floor.”
“I’m not late. I’ve just crossed an
invisible line drawn by human
Maybe Neanderthals.
beings.” No one laughs. Way to crys“What? I need to smell good,”
tallize your smarty pants Asian label,
he says. “Do you want to smell my
I think. I don’t know why I’m so
armpits? They smell great.”
edgy in this strange microclimate
He finishes the ceremony with a
called homeroom.
flourish, smelling the deodorant
I’m in my seat, peeling off the
socks from my feet that are saturat- with a, “mmm...” before capping it
with a pop.
ed with rainwater. I slyly wring
I open the front pouch of my
them out in the paper-recycling bin
bag to get my schedule, but it’s a
behind me.
lump of wet pulp bleeding ink colA girl floats into class late and
ors. It is like the texture of oatmeal
sits down next to me in a puff of
and I cannot get it off my fingers.
perfume. She gives me the up and
The girl with the cashmere
down look, and I might
sweaters next to me says, “What is
have sneered at her. I
forget about the expres- your favorite part of your body?” It
is said almost aggressively.
sions on my face someI start imagining isolated body
times. I’m hungry. I get
parts floating through space. A leg.
“You must be cold!” An arm. That indentation between
your nose and mouth. (I’ve never
she says worriedly. She
sounds loud, too loud. I known the name of it.)
“I’m rather fond of my earlean away from her.
“I’m freezing!” I say, lobes,” I pronounce after a few seconds of contemplation. She stops
trying to remedy my
idly twisting her hair and makes a
slip with a big grin.
certain face, a cross between confu“I love the winter; I
sion and I just-stepped-in-doghave so many cashmere
sweaters to wear.” I preThe bell rings. As we walk out
vent myself from menmy feet squelch in my sneakers. tioning it isn’t officially
winter yet, and if it
really were,
why is she
“The other writers in this prowearing a miniskirt?
gram surprised me with how
I turn my head away
when I hear gasps
diverse, and how accepting
around the room. The
of diversity, they were. Never
track star with the puka
before have I met a group of
shell necklace is putting
on deodorant. He has a
teenagers so open and
huge smirk on his face.
intriguing. With these stuMs. Delta is looking
dents, I have had some of
through baby pictures
on the computer.
the deepest and most can“That’s repulsive!” I
did conversations I have ever
say. Whoops, not a good
had. Everyone offered honidea, I think. Which
teenagers say the word
est, constructive critiques of
repulsive? Totally not coleach other’s work.”
loquial. But who flirts by
putting on deodorant?
Young Writers | 23
by Corinne Mather
“I am shh’d!”
Brittany fidgeted beneath the
belly of the old pickup, her dark
clothes scraping nosily across
damp tarmac. If she didn’t stop
moving, I knew we were going to
be caught. That didn’t seem to
stop the tight excitement churning in my stomach, nor the cracking of an amused grin as we
pressed closer together, trying to
be certain that no part of us was
obviously sticking out from
beneath the truck. The sky was
pitch-black and a chill had
draped itself across the quiet
night. Spring was just coming to
a close, but the summer heat had
yet to fall on our sleepy little
neighborhood in Keeseville, so we
bundled ourselves in black, perfect for camouflage on our well lit
street. As long as you kept your
distance from the tall street lamp
in the middle of the “field,” where
the shadows were thick and
heavy, a person could run clear
past you and not notice you if
you were still enough.
Regardless, it was never wise
to try to hide in plain sight, especially not on the nights when the
older kids joined the game.
Everyone knew the same tricks,
because at some point or another,
we’d probably hidden with them.
Manhunt was our favorite game
after Brittany and her family
moved into the bulky, square
apartment building next door to
my house. I had lots of friends
move in and out of those apartments, and Brittany and her two
siblings were the first of two new
additions to our extended family
that year.
Almost every evening that
summer we all got together,
laughing as we all dressed in as
much black clothing as we could
find, preparing ourselves for a
night of adrenaline rushes and
playful squeals of probably real
terror. As I’ve learned since then,
our brand of Manhunt was rather
disturbing. Most people play the
game in groups, one half chases
down the other half, and that’s
that. Not us though. It was every
kid for him or herself, unless preexisting truces were made—
which they usually were (and
they were usually broken)—and
one person, all alone, would stalk
the rest of us, all scattered across
pre-existing limits,
all the while pretending to be a psycho-crazy serial
killer. Naturally, I
was the best at it.
“I don’t see anyone,” Brittany whispered, trying unsuccessfully to keep her
blond hair away from
the dirty ground.
“Me either,” I
whispered back.
Now, when you’re
ten, it doesn’t matter
if you actually don’t
hear anything or
not, sitting
around under a truck gets boring.
Silently, or as silent as two giddy
kids can be, we crawled on our
elbows and knees from the safety
of our hiding place. The street
was silent, normal for the beginnings of our game, and we kept
our eyes peeled for Brittany’s
older brother, Derias, who was ‘it’
when we started. We stood just
outside of my house, one lot away
from the bend of our little side
street where the “field” began to
section us off from the main
road. The porch light glowed yellow like candlelight, and the
beams from the tall street lamp
stretched to meet the sidewalk. I
was in a spotlight, not a wise
move. I hissed at Brittany to
come to me, feeling the familiar
tickle of anxiety between my
shoulder blades as I spun and
kept my eyes open. She was on
her way when someone suddenly
let out a bellowing yell and leapt
out of the bed of the truck.
Derias laughed at our piercing
shrieks, and we tore off into the
darkness of our backyards. He
laughed the whole time, chasing
us down, his heavy footsteps
squishing as they pounded the
wet grass. It was a muddy game
that night.
I’ve never been a fast runner,
and my legs tended to fail me
most when I was afraid. Needless
to say, I always got caught, and
this time was no different. Derias
just laughed when he tapped me
on the shoulder and I stumbled
onto the wet ground, trying to
catch my breath as he disappeared off into the night.
I didn’t like being ‘it’ early on;
it’s probably more frightening than
being a potential victim because
you can at least hide with someone. But after a few rounds before
and later to come, I was always the
continued on page 25
Young Writers | 24
continued from page 24
most dreaded thing on that street.
My favorite victim was Andrew, a
boy my age who had been a constant
during my childhood.
He always gave me some reason
to target him. Whether it was just
taunting me into anger so intense I
couldn’t find words, or just playing
mean jokes on me, he found some
deep, great joy in it. A favorite tactic of his, guaranteed to tick me
off to no end was his love of
cheating at games, from board
games to “guns” when he’d get up
or shoot at me when he hadn’t
been “dead” as long as he was supposed to be.
He didn’t stop when it came to
Manhunt either; Andrew was forever going past the boundaries,
and because he lived farther up
the street, he felt he was entitled to
it, which put a damper on the
whole pay-back thing as I could
never find him. His older brother
Jamie had at least a bit more
sportsmanship in him.
I found Jamie this
time, aimlessly passing
through the “field”
right under the streetlight for anyone to see.
When I reached him, he
taunted me, dancing on
the balls of his feet,
shoulders hunched,
promising he wouldn’t
need to run but he’d
give me a fair chance.
His grin was smug, and
I cocked an eyebrow at
him. I did not like his
attitude, nor his underestimation
of my creep-tastic abilities. So I
smiled at him, and I waited, pacing
my steps as he laughed and continued his bouncing, until I felt I had
closed enough space between us.
His cocky grin shattered when I
lunged very suddenly, my fingertips
barely missing the fabric of his
shirt. “Holy sh—”
He didn’t stick around long
enough for me to catch the end of
that. After that I decided I’d found
my pattern, and whenever I didn’t
have a person in my sights I’d
mimic whatever creepy, fun, “bad
guy” mannerisms I could think of
from Buffy. I don’t know how often
I actually caught someone, so I
don’t really understand how I was
so “scary.” It might have been my
habit of giving chase before suddenly stopping, disappearing, and
reappearing some time later to do
it all again. Maybe they found my
inconsistent, unpredictability
frightening. All I know is, we
stopped playing Manhunt when
everyone was piled in the big pine
tree in the field, refusing to come
down until I went inside. I think I
lost interest after that anyway. “Assuming that I would be my usual apathetic, antisocial self, my mother’s one rule for when I would be
at the New York State Summer Young Writers Institute
was, “Be outgoing.” I suppose that if I were anywhere else but a writing camp filled with 35 other
students who were more or less just like me, I would
have had a painfully hard time. Every minute that I
have spent here was precious. I have never been
surrounded by like-minded people who were just as
enthusiastic and passionate about writing as I was,
and it was a beautiful and heartwarming sensation
learning that everybody around you — faculty and
peers alike — felt the same way you did. I may
sound redundant, but it’s just that mind-blowing.”
Young Writers | 25
Pursue Your Passion
by Joan O’Leary
we are all doing here, right? I
believe I have found my passion
within the art of stage management
and directing. When I’m working
on a project, work isn’t at all the
right word to use because I love
and cherish every precious minute
that I get to ‘pursue’ my directing
addictions. It’s an almost indescribable feeling when I get a good idea
for a show. Things just start clicking
and I just can’t stop writing and
thinking and planning everything
out, from the most miniscule
details to the broadest ideas. From
what color stitching the lead’s dress
should be to making sure all of the
kids understand the theme of the
play. I love the whole process. A
show for me is never finished until
it is performed. I write to show others the impossible is possible and
provide joy as an antidote to the
unimaginative and monotonous
routine of life. Socrates once said,
“Do what you love and you will
never work a day in your life,” and
I’ve pretty much mastered the art of
not working.
“Okay, okay everyone please
circle up. Guys, GUYS!” I’ve finally
got my cast of 23 kids under the
age of 13 to settle down, somewhat.
The three boys are punching each
other and fidgeting. I give them the
do-that-one-more-time-look and
they stop abruptly. “Okay, my name
is Joan O’Leary and I’m the director of ‘Odd Jobs and A Little Food
Poisoning.’ Thank you so much for
coming out for the show.” The kids
whisper to each other excitedly and
nervously. I’m so excited: I’ve been
prepping for this day for weeks
now, and I’m totally ready to meet
my cast. I split them up into age
groups and things start flying.
Some kids are dancing with
Christina, my 15-year-old choreographer, and some kids are singing
with Lorraine my 14-year-old
singing coach, and some people are
reading scenes with me. This petite
little blonde girl named Ally
Wallace just about knocks my socks
off with her singing voice and acting skills; Cooper Holmes and
Kevin Quinn are so adorable—and
comfortable in front of an audience—I know they’ll be perfect;
and I can tell that Camilla Varoli
has lots of potential. I see a spark
in her that is just waiting to be
turned into a full blown fire. I
don’t know how to explain it, but
everything fell into
place perfectly. I had all
the right kids plus
some, and I knew then
and there the show
would be great. And—
not to brag—but it was
pretty awesome.
My head spins with excitement
and mania. I get hyped up and talk
a mile a minute. I’m always creating new cheat sheets and making
notes and, well, of course, directing, directing, directing! I direct all
my shows, I always will, I hope. For
me, directing a show is more fun
than, well, basically anything you
can think of, and I’m really not just
saying it. I love to spend hours
planning our rehearsals and printing out notes and helping the
actors and making changes to the
script and getting the costumes and
making/finding the sets and, well,
the other three hundred other
things I do when I direct! I’m a
nutcase when it comes to organization, and for me directing feels like
organizing my play in a way that
people will get the most out of it
and have the most fun watching it.
I love finding my characters in real
life, what is commonly referred to
as “casting.” That’s one of my
favorite parts about directing. I
love seeing what I have to work
with and, well, making it work! I
love seeing someone at my audition who I just know will be a great
character, and I love discussing the
endless casting possibilities and the
effects the different actors will have
on the show. When a play is over—
it’s written, directed and it’s all
done—I feel a little sad, like part of
me has been released and is now
part of something I cannot control.
But it’s a good feeling—a “my work
here is done” kind of feeling.
continued on page 27
“At first we were all kind of socially awkward
and just sat and stared at each other. But
whenever you have a myriad of writers
together, they inevitably influence each
other, and that was valuable for me.”
Young Writers | 26
“This is my third year at the Institute, and
over the course of those three years my life
has been completely changed for the better. I’ve pretty much learned how to write
poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and how to
edit my writing effectively. Additionally, my
literary sensibilities have increased greatly.
This is one of the most important places to
me. Thank you, Bill Patrick.”
continued from page 26
Ally Wallace starred in the show
with Camilla supporting her all the
way, Cooper and Kevin had the audience laughing hysterically the entire
time, and all the other kids really held
their own and shined, despite the
craziness that was going on back stage.
I was on a roll, my head was spinning,
and I was barking orders in a whisper
and trying my hardest to make things
run perfectly, which never works. I
had a head set which was removed
from my possession by Christina after
I told the lighting booth to turn on
the lights when the stage crew was
changing the sets. And mayhem broke
out when we couldn’t find a little girl’s
skirt for the next scene and she went
on in just a leotard. And when Ally
kicked the fake boom box off the
stage, or when Cooper forgot his fake
cell phone and ran off stage, or when
Kevin got a wedgie half way through
the show, and, well, you can guess the
rest. Everything was far from perfect,
but very entertaining and the show
was a smashing success. I think the
mistakes and mishaps added to the
authenticity of the show and made it
more entertaining. Everyone was
beaming with pride after the show and
I was so proud of my cast and crew,
for really pulling it together in the end
and taking my craziness well, which
not everyone always does. I would have
never thought that we could pull it off.
Something weird and almost magical
happens during a show. Kids who usually mess something up, do it perfectly;
lines that I’d been begging to be memorized are suddenly memorized—
well—and everyone kind of goes into
“show mode” and turns on the charm
and gives one hundred percent. The
theater really is a magical place.
When I direct my plays it provides
me with a sense of worth and fulfillment. I feel accomplished, uncontrollably delighted and
appreciated. I love
giving back to my
community and
providing another
theater opportunity
for the students in
my area. I love going
to meetings, and I
am gaining lots of
important business
and marketing skills
that will be helpful
throughout my
entire life. Through
my works I am able
to benefit not only
myself but the peo-
ple in my shows and the people who
come to see them. I look at the stage
like I look at a blank sheet of paper,
filled with endless creative possibilities. With new shows come new lessons and new experiences that make
me wiser, smarter and happier. Life is
a lot like a show in a sense: you write
the general idea of it, change it along
the way, go with the surprises and
mishaps, enjoy it and embrace it. So
pursue your passion, and be amazed
by the results. The world is your stage,
what will you put on it? Young Writers | 27
I Am
by Jennie Ochshorn
I am a soccer ball
I don’t mean that I am kicked around
Through dirty fields of watching fans
And piercing whistles that always scream
Never ending roundness
I mean that I am indecisive following the wind
Always almost never certain
Rolling, rising, landing alive
Making up my mind
I am a Frisbee
I don’t mean that I am flat
Plate-like disc of entertainment
Soaring, riding on the air
Landing in a flop
I mean that I seek stability
Avoid wobbling or uneasy efforts
Desiring to fly straight and reach my goal
Eliminate free falling
I am a puck
I don’t mean that I am easily hit
Smacked by relentless wooden sticks
Screeching through the foggy ice
So slippery and worn
I mean that I can remain so still until
I feel a push that leaves me flying
All it takes to get me gliding
Sometimes not enough
Young Writers | 28
I Am From
by Taylor Ordines
I am from the jungles of Africa, the mountains of Greece, the forests of Spain.
I am from fruit and meat, from water and herbs.
From the roots of farmers, those that toil for the shoots and potatoes.
I am from the warriors, those that imperil, themselves, for their loveliest maiden.
I am from murderers and thieves, those that are separate of society
From anarchists and atheists, from Catholics and Christians.
I am from the forests of the New World, from which my state was built.
I am from the wooded hills and leafy lakes.
From the bickering men in dirty wigs, who know not what to do.
I am from the Natives, who showed me Alira,
Who showed me my life, who showed me myself, my spirit, and my sight.
From these roots I am steady, as my life unfolds.
“When I first arrived — this being my second year — right off the bat, I was
impressed by the program. What was
most surprising was the difference in the
group of young writers, and the way our
minds migrated from separate to whole.
Starting out awkward, quiet, and disconnected, we left our individual worlds
behind and, within days, got to know
more intriguing people than ever before.”
Young Writers | 29
by Emma Rainoff
I’m not going to talk about myself.
Not because I’m boring,
Or because I’m not worth talking about,
Or because I don’t think I could.
I won’t because you wouldn’t hear me.
You’ll want to hear about something else.
You wouldn’t write a poem about me.
I’m not going to talk about my lovers.
Not because they aren’t good company,
Or good to talk about,
Or interesting.
I won’t because to you, they’re strangers
Men and women that you’ve never known
You wouldn’t feel the same.
I’m not going to talk about you.
Not because you don’t want it,
Or because there’s nothing to talk about,
Or because anyone might mistake you for someone else.
I won’t because you, with all your gray hair and dead dreams,
Wouldn’t want to hear what I’m saying.
You’d only hear what you want to hear,
And you’d want to say it all yourself.
Young Writers | 30
Our Architecture
by Maddie Rojas Lynch
I am built crooked
Not like an old bench
Fraught with splinters and scars
From past lives and better days
But like a picture frame
Striving for perfect symmetry
Yet flawed and unfixable just the same
You are built gently
Not like a cushion
Lumpy and altered and with time
Stained with the marks of melancholy
But like a rocking chair
Lamenting and lulling little ears
Made for sweet songs and comforting caresses
We are built beautifully
Not like a chandelier
Glistening and gloating in dark hours
Shining just because it can
But like a skylight
Sun and skin coming together
In the bright August afternoon
“I loved being here. Everyone I spoke to
has become a friend. The classes were
helpful and the faculty (teachers?) were
fun. I felt happy to be here from the
moment I got off the photo I.D. line —
which was, admittedly, too long, and the
worst part of being here. I only wish we
could form a country of only awesome
writers, but that would be prejudice
against others. “
Young Writers | 31
A Lifetime
by Cassy Sarnell
I am Russia, Poland, Germany, perhaps Israel
I am not Maine, the cold winters and isolation
or cold people, if you ever encounter one.
I am not England, nor (if you go back enough)
France. Not noble, royal, loyal, brave
I might not be Israel. It remains
to be seen.
I am tall and skinny, pale (sometimes).
Or maybe short, tan, and fat
I am math and science and only language
because it speaks to me.
As such, I am an oddity.
I am True Blue, Goal Songs, Hen-rik
I am not baseball or softball, which I’m told
are entirely separate, though I don’t get it.
I am not muscles and abs and bodies
even if people think I am.
And I am certainly not Devil nor Island
even when the band-wagon stops for me.
I am proud of history and tradition
which comes with the New York territory.
Even though we’ve sucked since ‘94
and, before then, sometime in the past, so
“this one will last...”
I am Oasis, The Beatles, The Arctic Monkeys, and sometimes someone else
I am not Miley, nor Jonas, nor Disney
and pride myself on resisting, or having talent.
I am not Gaga, not 50, not Diddy
and I doubt I am beautifu-u-ul
even if what’s-his-face says so.
I am folky or grunge-y, depending on my mood
with Dylan and Mika and Cobain and, yes, Grohl.
I am reinvented and re-inspired and renewed.
I may be re-mastered some day
Young Writers | 32
Three Rounds
by Catherine Saterson
Yesterday at noon, rooted wriggled
from potted dirt and split their stems, bubbling
buds into blossoms, twisting towards the light.
Though today by dawn, they had become slack,
their milky skin slipped and stripped; they lost leaves
splotched yellow, thumbprint bruises burned in them.
Maybe tomorrow, perhaps in violet
twilight, from disintegrating blossoms
some pollen will catch wind into the night.
Yesterday at noon, the spiders, humming,
spun spindles, strummed their fibers, and crouched
they crept upon the sill, hairs catching light.
Though today by dawn, they scurried frantic,
panicked in empty corners, they scuttled,
hungry and looking for their lost cobwebs.
Maybe tomorrow, perhaps in violet
twilight, they will search for cracks and travel
through, snarling insects blown about the night.
Yesterday, in violet twilight, I held
my breath and all the night I swept the house
and shuttered it beneath electric light.
Today at noon, I felt I could not breathe,
the rooms too sterile and the air too stale,
all sucked hollow now. This was not a house.
Tomorrow, by dawn I will inhale deep
from every window opened through the night.
Young Writers | 33
by Carolyn Schultz
rhythm of shoes coming down the
hallway and he thought about his next
move. Being caught was simply not an
option. Those blue clad orderlies
would throw him right back into his
painfully white prison cell. Apparently
the color white was supposed to
repress violent outbursts or something
like that. It didn’t work in Dylan’s case.
The constant onslaught of the bright
color made him want to claw his eyes
out. Why couldn’t his room be the
same color as his bedspread, a nice soothing
blue color that didn’t hurt
his eyes? Maybe not. The
color might remind him of
orderlies and Dylan hated
orderlies. Green would be
a nice color. He’d always
thought sea foam green
was a pretty color...
Shut up about color
and figure out how you’re
going to avoid those order lies!
The Voice commanded
this in a resonating hiss.
Dylan rolled his eyes. The
Voice was always so damn
serious. He attempted to
follow its order but, as
always, his mind wandered
elsewhere. Dylan found himself contemplating whether or not he should
name the Voice or if it should simply
remain, the Voice. He had named the
other voices. . .
Damn it, Dylan! Concentrate!
“Fine!” Dylan whispered. Not quietly enough though. The tempo of the
walking feet switched from Andante to
Presto. With that, Dylan slipped into a
nearby room, whose inhabitant was
thankfully absent. The orderlies jogged
past without even bothering to glance
through the open doorway, their white
shoes clapping against the linoleum.
He almost snickered at their stupidity,
but remained silent under the strict
order of the Voice. The Voice could be
such a buzz kill. Dylan missed Giggles.
Giggles had been way more fun. Then
again, it had been Giggles’ fault that
people had discovered that he was crazy
in the first place. Dylan’s mind drifted
back six months to that fateful day.
Come on Dylan! Just do it! It’ll
be fun!
Dylan fumbled with his
McDonald’s bag, feeling indecisive. His
eyes flicked to the marble fountain that
was spouting crystal water. It was torture on such a hot June day. Hadn’t the
weather man said that today held the
highest temperatures for the year of
2009? The hot and humid breeze that
rearranged his sweaty, sandy blonde
hair only increased Dylan’s discomfort.
It also made Giggles’ idea seem even
better. It did sound kind of fun...
The general public unleashed mumbles of disapproval as Dylan pulled off
his itchy Price Chopper shirt and kicked
off his shoes.
Put the McDonald’s bag on
your head!
Dylan dumped its contents on the
ground. More disapproving mumblings.
He felt kind of sad. He was hungry and
had kind of wanted to eat the burger.
After fixing the greasy bag on his head,
Dylan felt slightly embarrassed.
Something told him that this wasn’t
quite socially acceptable. Hansel had
never told him to do something like this.
Under the careful instructions of his
most reasonable voice to date, Dylan
had been able to hold down his two jobs
(one at Price Chopper and the other at
a book store) and pay all of his bills.
Hansel had always told him not to do
anything outrageous. Outrageous things
got people noticed...
Don’t think about him! I’m much
more fun than he ever was,
aren’t I?
Dylan nodded, causing
the fast food bag to tilt
slightly to the left.
Then go play in that
fountain! This is a public
park, so that’s a public foun tain and it’s a hot day!
There’s nothing wrong with
having a little bit of fun.
Giggles was right, Dylan
decided. As long as his fun
wasn’t hurting anybody, how
could it be wrong? How
could he be punished for it?
With the trust of a small
child, he leapt over the
white, marble rim and
splashed. It was fun. Who
wouldn’t find kicking water
about and sticking your head under one
of the spouts fun? Dylan was enjoying
himself so very much that he did what
he always did when he was irrevocably
happy. It was then that people began
removing their cell phones from their
pockets and dialing.
“The sun’ll come out, tomorrow. Bet
your bottom dollar... “
Approaching sirens.
“Just thinkin’ ‘bout tomorrow clears
away the cobwebs and the sorrow... “
More sirens.
“I just stick out my chin and grin,
and say: Oh the sun will come out
Dylan smirked, in the empty
continued on page 35
Young Writers | 34
continued from page 34
room, at the memory. He didn’t regret
dancing in the fountain shirtless,
crowned with a McDonald’s bag, and
singing tunes from “Annie.” That particular experience had been quite liberating. It was what he did afterwards
that left him with some remorse. Still
on his self-made high, Dylan had
naively believed that it would be just
fine to tell that Police Officer that
Giggles had told him to do it and
when asked who Giggles was, he told
the truth. It was then that Dylan realized that the biggest mistake a crazy
person can make is to inform the
authorities that you are, in fact, crazy.
Dylan, they’re gone now. Make
your move!
Dylan nodded in agreement to the
Voice’s words: he needed to get out.
Being in this place was a punishment
that he didn’t deserve. He wasn’t one
of those dangerous insane people. He
had never had any intentions of hurting anyone. The only person that he
had ever harmed was himself and that
had been under the strict instructions
of Rave. Dylan shivered as he remembered the dark and seductive voice
that had convinced him that stealing
from his foster parent’s medicine cabinet was all right and later on, that
stealing from their liquor cabinet was
just fine as well. He remembered being
talked into taking their car before he
learned to drive and crashing it. He
remembered how the morphine the
doctors had given him to cope with
the pain of a broken arm and leg had
acted as a microphone for Rave’s
voice. Rave had liked that. There were
dark and twisted memories of drug
addiction and Dylan had felt that he
would be trapped that way forever.
Held prisoner by something that was
and wasn’t himself. After some time,
Rave went away. Rehab had stripped
Rave of his strength and Dylan had
vowed never to give it back. However,
the fear that he would return
remained. Just thinking about Rave
brought back some of the awful things
that he had done under his influence.
Dylan stood on the dark street corner, fidgeting slightly. He fingered the
cool plastic of the spray paint can. It
housed a bright green colored substance.
Green was his favorite color, but at the
time he wanted to throw the container
and watch it bounce across the asphalt
and if he was lucky, it would then roll
down the storm drain. He didn’t want
to do this. This was wrong, it just had to
What are you waiting for?
Rave’s growl seemed to fill all the
corners of Dylan’s teenage head. He
shivered and gripped the can tightly
and wished that Rave would just go
away. There had been a time when he
had been helpful, necessary even. It was
Rave who had taught him how to
defend himself and his mother against
father, but Rave had stayed even after
Dylan didn’t need him for that anymore. Father was in jail and mother
was…not here anymore…
Hurry up with it! If you keep standing out here like a hoodlum, someone is
going to call the police on you. Go on
and get some revenge!
“I don’t know if I want revenge,”
Dylan pleaded, his voice sounding
impossibly small in the darkness, “Can’t
I just go home?”
No! And what do
you mean you don’t
want revenge? That
man in that house is
your Uncle! Your
family! He knew
what your Daddy
was doing and he
didn’t do a thing to
stop it. Don’t you
remember what he
did to you…to your
The last part was
spoken as a taunt.
Dylan didn’t want to
remember, but he
would never be able
to forget. How could he forget how her
pretty brown eyes had stared right at
him without seeing him? He would
never forget how her favorite blue dress
had been redesigned with splatters of
Then go and spray paint his car!
Write all of the things that you want to
say to your Uncle!
“Don’t you mean what you want
me to say to him?” He let the question
slip past his lips with thinking and
regretted it immensely.
He didn’t need to hear another
word. Rave could get mean when he was
angry. Dylan ran up to the white
Cadillac that belonged to his Uncle,
shook the can, and began his work. He
sprayed every single curse that Rave
commanded on the pristine surface.
Dylan felt cold and empty while doing
this. His Uncle didn’t deserve this.
Dylan couldn’t bring himself to hate the
man. He simply did what any sane person would have done, he stayed away
from danger. The only small hurt that
he held against his Uncle was the fact
that he had not wanted him, but Dylan
couldn’t even blame him for that. There
was no way that his Uncle would ever
be able to look at him without seeing his
cruel and abusive older brother and
continued on page 36
Young Writers | 35
continued from page 35
maybe even his own father who had
taught his son to act like he had.
When the deed was almost done
he remembered what Rave had told
him: Write all of the things that you
want to say to him. Dylan did. He
sprayed two words upon the windshield. ‘I’m sorry.’
The Voice’s tone was softer this
time. The sound was enough to
remind Dylan that he was in an
empty room and not a darkened
street. The gentle prodding caused
Dylan to pull out his orderly’s
swipe card. The process of securing
this had been difficult, but worth
the trouble. The expression that
would be on Mark’s face once he
discovered that his swipe card had
been replaced by a library card
would be priceless as well. He’d
begun by switching his library card
with another patient named Hardy
and then switching Hardy’s library
card with Larry’s. All that was left
to do after that had been switching
Larry’s library card with Mike’s
swipe card. It only needed to con-
Young Writers | 36
fuse the orderlies long enough for
him to escape. If the plan worked
correctly then his orderly, Mark,
would realize that his swipe card
had been replaced by Larry’s library
card and confront Larry. Larry
would then show Mark what he
thinks is his library card and realize
that it’s actually Hardy’s
and so on. By the time
that they figured out
that it was Dylan who
had the swipe card, he
would be long gone. At
least, he hoped so.
With a deep breath,
he slipped out of the
room and sneaked his
way towards the exit
door that led towards
the alley where the
orderlies liked to go to
have their midday
smoke. Dylan hated the
smell of smoke.
Sometimes that very
scent clung to their
scrubs and he was
forced to inhale the
acrid swell as they brought him his
anti-psychotic medicine. This obviously didn’t work, by the way.
Before he knew it, he was at the
exit door. With anxious anticipation Dylan slid the key down the
gray, metal slot. He wanted to jump
for joy when the light flashed green
accompanied by the click of the
heavy door, but he repressed this.
The noise might lead to his capture.
He opened the door a small
amount and peaked out. The alley
was empty. Dylan opened the door
just enough for him to slip through
and shut the door quietly. He was
slightly disappointed when he realized the time of the day. It was
nighttime. There was no sun. He’d
been looking so very forward to
free air and sunshine.
Come on, Dylan, you’re 25, stop
pouting and get a move on! The sun
will be there for you tomorrow if you
get away, I promise!
“The sun’ll come out tomorrow.
So ya gotta hang on ’til tomorrow,”
Dylan sang quietly under his breath
as he broke into a brisk jog away from
his prison, “Come what may.
Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya,
tomorrow! You’re always a day away!”
Will you be quiet and run faster!
“Aw, you’re just grumpy ‘cause
you haven’t got a name. Don’t
worry, I’ll think of something,”
Dylan promised and then grinned
once an idea popped into his head,
“I’ll call you Victor!”
“’Cause I like the name and we
just sort of had a victory ’cause we
escaped from the mental hospital,”
Dylan explained, his hazel eyes
widening in excitement, “You call
someone that wins a victor and it’s
a name too, so it works! Oh and I
was meaning to ask you something...Do you think we could stop
by a Dairy Queen or something? I
could really go for an ice cream!”
You’re practically a wanted
man! What makes you think that
you can just walk into a place with
security cameras or even people who
could recognize you for that matter?
Are you stupid or something?
“Naw, I’m just crazy!” Blitz
by Kaitlyn Scoons
happened,” the soldier, Bill Rowan,
said. He held the shivering little
boy stiffly by the shoulders. The
small boy had sprinted towards
Bill, materializing from the gritty
London fog and wrapping his skinny arms around the soldier’s knees.
Fat tears were streaming down the
boy’s dirt-streaked face, leaving salty
tracks. Bill bent down carefully,
bringing the boy out in front of him.
“Daddy won’t get up,” the boy
quivered. Bill’s stomach dropped.
“Why don’t you take me to
your daddy?” Bill asked gently, taking the boy’s chapped hand. The
boy nodded vigorously, wiped his
dripping nose on his sleeve, and
pulled Bill down the bombed-out
street. The child let go of the soldier’s hand to point to the door of
a dilapidated apartment building.
Bill pulled out his radio and called
for medical services.
“Is your daddy in here?” Bill
asked, though he almost didn’t
want an answer. Most of the windows on the block were either broken or boarded up, and what used
to be the roofs and walls of buildings lay piled in the street. Vague
childhood memories of this city
block fought to surface in his mind,
but he pushed them back down.
“You have to help him,” the boy
pleaded, grabbing Bill’s sleeve and
yanking him towards the door. Bill
picked up the frantic child, trying
to protect him from
whatever had happened
here. He carried the boy
up the stairs and
through the only open
“Stay here, I’ll be
right back,” Bill said,
trying to sound confident while he sat the
boy down on a ratty
green couch. He could
see the bathroom from
the entryway.
Bill walked into the
room. A middle-aged
man lay crumpled on
the white tile floor, his
head framed by a halo
of his own blood. He
stepped forward to take
the man’s pulse. Nothing.
“We have a body,” Bill croaked
into his radio. He stood up slowly,
pressing his eyes with his fingertips. This was far from the first
body Bill had ever seen. He was
here to fight the war for his country, for London. But he didn’t know
how to tell a six-year-old that his
father was dead on the bathroom
floor. Every day he saw people die,
people he knew, but he’d never had
to explain why.
Bill took a few deep breaths,
trying to find the right words, if
there were any. He felt a little dizzy,
so he leaned against the sink, staring down the drain. Something
glinted from the dark pipe. Bill
fished out a locket that held the
picture of a young woman. The
photograph was wet, making it
look like the woman had been crying. He clicked the silver oval
closed, the sound of the metal clasp
echoing in the bathroom. For a few
seconds, Bill turned the necklace
over in his hands, and then he
slipped it into the breast pocket of
his uniform. Finally, he glanced
up. It was then that he saw
the scrawled note taped to
the mirror. “When I first came here, I was frightened about how
my writing would stand up against such learned
and outstanding writers. I soon learned that this program isn’t about criticism or comparing our works.
But it is about learning from our mistakes and coming to accept our writing styles and embracing
them as if they were our long-lost children. We
learned a lot about ourselves, and about the writing
world, and for that I am infinitely grateful.”
Young Writers | 37
Things I Will Not Write About
by Amanda Sternklar
I tell Mr. Fogle, Andy,
I’ll never write about my father again.
He is standing at that old, huge bookshelf,
looking for The Forgiveness Parade,
and I have my legs pulled up under me,
my chin resting, exhausted, on top.
I tell him I won’t write about
my father, or his father,
because writing is a magnifying glass,
and I don’t want to see them that clearly.
I won’t write about politics,
about screaming at my father
when he said Obama should die,
or about baseball, or football,
or sports in general.
Daddy made me a Jets fan
so I’d learn disappointment early.
“So don’t,” he says.
“No one will make you.
No one will make you write
about your best friend and his first boyfriend,
about sneaking out to Cumberland Farms,
about the smell of burnt pizza, how it means love,
about the accusing glint of light off of a sushi knife,
about the quiet space in the back shelves of a library,
about your love for Oscar Wilde and bubble tea,
about Andrew or Joshua, or, God forbid, Rebant.
“Don’t write about pills
or your first goldfish, first boyfriend,
or the time you stuck your hand in a ceiling fan,
or when you jumped off a bus in Mexico,
or the parties behind your house you weren’t invited to,
or the Strawberry Hill wine you’ll never, ever drink,
and please, God no more dead dogs.
Don’t write about your father,
or his father.”
“Good,” I say.
“Just so we’re clear.”
Young Writers | 38
What Have I Become?
by Jackie Sullivan
and red striped Adidas jacket waiting
for the warm sense of security that I’d
longed for. In Mr. Stern’s work-study
class, the face of a sweet angel
emerged and there wasn’t anything to
do but smile at the proximity of his
body to mine as we walked to take our
seats. It was crazy to think that in one
short week he’d already started controlling my life. That was it: I’ve
stepped out of the ring and surren-
dered my gloves to him. I was his now.
I suppose Nick wasn’t the only
force driving me toward change. There
were the self-absorbed, clothingobsessed, angry and verbally abusive
girls at my school who with a single
glare could make me feel lower than
the ground that I walked on. And
there was family pressure coming
from my new-to-college sister who
saw going to class as more of a voluntary task and drinking all night as a
necessity. There was the pressure of
society to finally leave my refreshingly
optimistic view on life. There were
even unknown pressures from new
friends and their views of me and
there were even pressures from expectations in the academic spectrum. But,
honestly I can’t say that any of these
factors pulled me more than Nick.
I can’t tell you that I wasn’t always
drawn to Nick or that I was the only
girl who felt this way, because then I
would be telling you a lie. I don’t
know what he did that won us all over
so quickly. Was it his winning smile or
his messy autumn-colored hair? Could
it have been his pebble-sized chocolate
brown eyes that almost twinkled when
he talked and when he listened had
such intensity that
they could bore
through a wall? Did
it spawn from his
pursuit of the
abnormal or his
pursuit of knowledge? Or was it a
combination of all
of these characteristics into one neat
package that sent us
through the roof?
His charm was tangible and for some
reason all you wanted to do was listen
to him speak which
was good because he
sure liked to talk.
I suppose Nick
didn’t lead me on at all so all the disdain I’ve felt for him over the years is
misplaced. It wasn’t like he treated me
much different from any of the other
girls but his fascination with my math
scores and willingness to sit near
me—instead of all his friends—during
work-study had thrown me through a
never-ending loop of confusion. I’d
tell myself it was a sign, that this overly, almost obnoxiously, social boy was
just shy and didn’t know how to say
what he meant. (Foolish girl, just giving your heart away as if it were nothing more than a stick of gum). Nick
and I obviously must’ve had different
indicators of interest.
As the weeks went by, with laughter and talking, I’d realized a change in
myself. I was no longer the happy-golucky girl I’d once known. I’d become
a female version of the Nick I knew.
When he told me he didn’t like my
music, I changed it. When he told me
he didn’t like my hair all tied up in a
messy ponytail, I let it down imitating
the wavy natural curls that both Nick
and I had. When he told me about his
views on life, I’d force myself into his
thought. Even the wardrobe choice
had become more dark and morbid
with many blacks and reds and very
little of my comfy tees and loose-fitting hand-me-down’s from my brother, I had once enjoyed. And when Nick
told me about his protest to wear
shorts I’d told my mother to donate
all my shorts to the poor...luckily, my
mother never listened to my delusional pleas. And when I caught onto the
fact that Nick wore a sweatshirt to
school no matter the weather outside,
may it be too hot or too cold for this
condition, again I conformed to his
idea and as previously mentioned my
red and black oversized Adidas sweatshirt came to be. I thought this change
in me would force him to have a
change of heart and he would proclaim his love to me...but again that
was an irrational thought and again I
got let down.
I started to feel despair...was I not
good enough? This self-doubt had
never plagued me before. Living such
an optimistic life, sheltered from the
darker human portrayal, I’d thrived on
change and ability. I’d always believed
those stupid things your mom told
you about how you could change the
world and how you could be all you
wanted to be. I was sure I’d messed up
the equation somehow, something
must’ve gone wrong. “When you give
yourself to someone and change so
drastically for them you had to be
rewarded. It wouldn’t be fair otherwise,” I’d thought…a delusional
thought but nevertheless my thought.
I’d pulled myself out of this state
continued on page 40
Young Writers | 39
continued from page 39
and back into my optimistic power.
I could fix this...I wasn’t a quitter.
That’s when things really got
messed up—when I thought I
deserved him for my diligent work.
You don’t earn a person from the
time you’ve can’t
earn a person at all. I still came to
the ridiculous and detrimental conclusion that: a) it was his fault for
my change and therefore; b) he
owed me the love that I’d so diligently built up in my heart for him.
“There was still hope,” I’d said as I
ferociously got out of bed and set
up a game plan to win him over.
I’d pretend that I was a-okay in
school, being sure not to let anyone
see me waver, especially Nick. But
when I got home I cried streams of
tears that pooled into ponds of
melancholy on my pillow. I’d
stopped eating dinner, relying on
the nutrition from lunch to get me
through the day. I didn’t talk to my
parents or my brother and most
weekends I spent alone in my room
writing terrible breakup poems
(even though we’d never been dating in the first place) instead of
hanging out with my friends like a
normal teenager. In a sign of desperation my mother would buy me
books like You are Special and
would often ask me “Where’s my
little darling gone to?” and all I’d
do was glare back at her through
glossed-over eyes. I’d already started to hate who I’d become but had
no momentum to change back and
no idea how to start.
Nick was all I could think
of...all I could dream of and I could
officially define myself as obsessed.
If I didn’t see Nick on a daily basis
I’d throw myself into a black crater
of nothingness. I’d talk to no one
and I’d see no one. He
was the air that I
breathed and the world
that I lived on. He was
the gravity that kept me
from floating into
As my obsession
became stronger so did
Nick’s pursuit of me.
Originally, I’d thought
maybe he noticed me,
but by now I was sure.
It was all so obvious.
That mischievous bastard got a sick high
from fucking with girls
and screwing them
over. I wished I wasn’t
nearly as obsessed so I
could’ve walked away
when he mysteriously showed up at
my locker and rejected his spontaneous hugs, when for a moment I
could breathe him in and get a
high that would push me through
the rest of the day. But being a
foolish girl I did not shiver from
his touch or divert my eyes from
the sight of this fiend.
As the months went by I
observed Nick. We were friends. We
hung out on most weekends and
texted every second of everyday, all
that being my doing. A year had
passed since I met him and with all
I had learned about his past and
present with girls (at the time the
biggest red light being his girlfriend Hannah) I couldn’t break his
hold on me. And although I
should’ve hated Hannah for she
held the heart of my most dear
Nick, I didn’t because in my mind,
he’d already been mine and she was
just a figurehead, and I was the real
prize. (I think this is mainly
because I’d never seen them do
anything romantic together.) In a
way we became best friends...but
then again best friends don’t try to
break your heart. We started fighting a lot; again, this was my fault.
I’d pick a fight with him just to
have something to talk about, some
way to hold his interest. And the
expectations became so delusional
and restrictive I couldn’t believe
what I said in hindsight. He couldn’t look at other girls or flirt either.
(Mind you, he wasn’t my
boyfriend.) I’d tell him if he didn’t
want to hurt me he wouldn’t do it.
By this time the now single Nick
got agitated at my rulings—as he
should’ve—though I never expected him to say what he did the summer afternoon.
As the sun fell I waited for him
to speak his I always did.
I let him take the lead. He did not
let out a sigh or show any form of
discomfort. He’d just stopped only
10 yards away from the now mutual friends at Sandhill Park. I stared
into his eyes but he looked over my
head to the horizon as if something
incredibly interesting was happening, like the sun was fighting the
moon for more time to stay up. His
black sweatshirt gave the same
amount of emotion as he did when
he told me in monotone. “Jackie
...I’m done. I don’t need to take any
more of your crap.” His arms
crossed and his already furrowed
continued on page 41
Young Writers | 40
continued from page 40
eyebrows pinched together forming
one super eyebrow. His eyes no
longer had the twinkle in them.
They were cold and detached from
the rest of his body. “Just leave me
“But...I didn’t mean to. I’m
sorry!” I said breathy like a chicken
about to get its head cut off. It was
as if my oxygen, my Nick, had
already started to leave me.
“It’s a little late for that,” he
said, breaking his strange concern
for the horizon, giving me one last
glance. He pitied me. But he said
no more as he turned his back and
walked away back to my friends,
the ones I’d so foolishly introduced
him to and the ones that I so foolishly had forgotten about. Woe
is me.
I felt sick...deranged...mad. I
was plagued with thoughts and yet
I felt nothing at all.
As I walked home the three
blocks, I couldn’t help but
think:”What changed? What had I
done wrong?” I was absorbed in
this self-contemplation to the point
where I couldn’t hear my two best
friends running to me. Jessica and
Katie grasped me in their warm
protective arms and hugged me
steadily saying things like
“Everything will be all right” and
hoped to walk me slowly off the
ledge like they’d done hundreds of
times before. It wasn’t until then
that I realized the tears that flew
down my cheeks like razorblades
digging into my skin; they filed
into all the wounds of my heart too
and stung with remembrance.
And yet there they were, my
two best friends I’d neglected for so
long, cradling me like a baby. They
are the true angels in this story.
And when I’d built up enough
courage to talk I only asked them
one thing: “What have I become?”
Later that night, as I lay awake
in bed, I thought of this horrific
cretin I must’ve become to repel
Nick so far away from me. I was as
strong as bug spray on mosquitoes.
That’s what he was, the bloodsucking mosquito and what was once a
nice and easy snack was now a fear
and improbability.
I was suddenly scared that I not
only acted like a cretin but I looked
like one too. As I turned on the
lights and approached the mirror I
was able to see a girl I didn’t recog-
nize. She had messy waves of hair
that framed her face and covered
her left eye. The eyes of this girl
were bloodshot and the cheeks rose
to a visible pink. The black and red
sweatshirt hung on her shoulders— for security of course—and
this figure had nothing left in her
at all. No fight. No sign of hope
at all.
I couldn’t help myself from
asking out loud, “What happened
to you?”
The girl smiled a sheepish smile
and mouthed the words, “How
much time do you have?”
I laughed at that, taking delight
in the fact that I still had humor. I
mean, it felt like a gaping hole had
torn me in two. No remains of
what used to be showed through
the tough exterior of this girl. I’d
not yet found this new girl. I didn’t
know what she liked or disliked but
I did know it’d take work to find
her. Work I was willing to do. The
bittersweet tears flew through my
eyes, because every ending brings a
new beginning. Young Writers | 41
Reflections on Life
by Kerri Tobin
support her head and move her
tiny hands. When she was a baby
her parents were unsure of exactly
what was wrong. A few doctors and
years later, they had their answer. It
was a key that unlocked the door to
an unavoidable and uncertain
future of struggle but also of tri-
umph. She was diagnosed with
muscular dystrophy. Slowly and
tortuously she lost abilities until
her fingers became the only part of
her physical being that could
respond to her functioning mind.
I am Colleen’s younger cousin.
Often times I would forget that she
was older by a year. With her being
a prisoner of an electric chair, I
always felt taller. She screamed
thinness, almost the kind of thin
that you see on the commercials
where starving children from
Africa are displayed so you are
moved to donate a dollar or two
every month. I fell on the fatter end
of the spectrum of chubbiness. If
you want proof, you can ask my
doctor. He might tell you about the
time the eleven-year-old was
brought to tears by the word “overweight” on his medical chart.
Young Writers | 42
Colleen and I seemed to share
nothing but the natural bonds of
cousins. Even that felt different
than with her sisters Kaitlyn and
Lauren. I was intimidated by the
chair and all that was not the same.
How could I relate and what would
I say? I worried about blurting out
the wrong thing that would hurt
what I saw as a fragile
being or awkwardly
having to ask her to
repeat herself because
despite how hard I tried
I couldn’t understand.
But more than that, I
was young and found it
easier to play Hideand-Go-Seek in the
dark with Kaitlyn,
Lauren, and the others.
My Nana and Poppa’s
basement protected me
with familiarity and
comfort. I enjoyed the
laughs and innocent
fun that occurred during our time there, but
Colleen rarely came
down to join us. The stairs succeeded in providing too much
stress for her and the trip was
deemed to be not worth it.
I’m older now and so is
Colleen. A perfect combination of
a timely growth spurt and a new
schedule of tennis practices a few
years ago caused stubborn pounds
to finally fall off my body. Checkups at the doctor became more
pleasant. Though it seemed impossible, Colleen lost weight, too. Her
skeletal frame frightens me,
because it seems like it’d be so simple to break her. We’re probably
about the same height now. I don’t
feel quite as tall anymore.
Our lives have become intertwined like two necklace chains
that are hopelessly tangled.
In knotted places, it can be
hard to tell where one life ends and
the other begins. I remember her
never-ending surgeries and the
uncertainty. I’ve seen the tears of
pent-up frustration and helplessness that fall from the cocoa eyes of
her mother and the tears of sympathy and unconditional love that fall
from the cotton candy blue eyes of
my mother.
My mother has a way with
Colleen that is hard to explain. I’ve
tried to mimic it, but it’s impossible. Their conversation flows easily,
and she has mastered an ability to
treat Colleen like nothing is wrong
without making it obvious she’s
trying hard to do so. I cannot fathom how she does it. My mom
continued on page 43
“Whenever I come here, I fall in love with writing all over again. During the year, I find
myself shunting off to one side. My mind
becomes clogged with other clutter. Here, I
don’t have to worry about all that clutter. It’s a
time for me to reboot, share and dream about
my characters with people who will care
about them, too.”
continued from page 42
makes efforts to go and see
Colleen, and to listen while my
aunt tries to figure out how to get
through everything going on with
her daughter. I used to be jealous
of Colleen’s relationship with my
mother. One time, my mom was
telling my aunt about writing an
essay on someone who had an
impact on her life. She wrote about
Colleen and I cried. It amuses me
now to think how silly I was being,
but the fact that she had chosen my
cousin, a girl so close to my age,
and not her own daughter made
me believe that she didn’t care as
much about me. Also, I would be
upset over something and my
mother would often argue “Think
about Colleen.” I would fill with
anger and guilt at this. It was true
that in comparison my problem
was not as difficult as those facing
Colleen, but I wanted to talk about
what was going on with me. I didn’t want to come off as whiny
because my life wasn’t that bad. I
only wished she would listen.
As I’ve matured,
I’ve learned to get over
the insecurities I used
as excuses and the
pointless envy. I spend
more time with
Colleen. Her wit is
much sharper than
mine. She likes to find
things we share in common so there is always
something for us to talk
about. She has many
concerns for my neglected turtle Buddy and
often asks if he happened to survive the
gap of time since our
last conversation. We
can agree that the Jonas Brothers
are sad excuses for actors, that I
look strikingly similar to Miranda
Cosgrove from “iCarly,” and that
playing Monopoly with our drunken Irish family at parties is far
more entertaining than it may
seem. If she were here with me
right now we’d both warn you that if
you’re not a member of the family
you should stand clear of our parties. She might add that the dysfunction can cause emotional scarring
and attending might not be worth
the bill to see a
I appreciate
having Colleen
in my life.
Although I
used to be
annoyed when
my mom told
me to compare
my struggles
with Coll’s, it’s
an important
perspective that I wouldn’t have
otherwise. I see her having to lie isolated on the couch and watch television all day because there’s nothing
else for her to do. Lately, she doesn’t
attend school. Sometimes she tries
to keep her mother or father or sisters from leaving the house because
she’s so bored and so scared. I find
it hard to even imagine what it must
be like.
Because of Colleen, I’ve come
to value inner strength. The doctors explained to her stunned parents that she would live to around
nine. She’s seventeen. If you met
my family you would know that
we’re the kind of people that cry at
every sad blockbuster movie, so
Colleen’s Sweet Sixteen was one of
the most emotional events I’ve
been able to witness. That day and
through nearly all of the others,
she’s shown unflappable humor.
Colleen is an essential part to
the family that I cherish more than
anything. Instead of tearing us
apart, her struggles and triumphs
have helped bring us much closer.
Family is the foundation that
you grow upon and I consider
myself lucky to have one that’s
so strong. Young Writers | 43
by John Volza
the dining room
we never ate in
never sat
never occupied not allowed
once had topiary wall paper
—white, blue, magenta
above the chair rail.
i once dreamed that the
botanic walls held thousands
of light switches
chair rail to ceiling.
a dream version of my sister
stood beside me.
neither of us flipped
a single switch.
“This program was so awesome. It made me
smile and smile. No, really. I wish I was a
mutant freak with five extra arms so I could
give it seven thumbs up. As it were, I am a
mostly normal — albeit slightly mad —
human child with only two thumbs, which will
have to suffice.”
Young Writers | 44
by Emma Warhover
engrave their name on the doorknocknot of impiety, but of special blessedWHEN I WAS YOUNGER, PERHAPS
er. (Their name probably derives from
ness if it were only accompanied by
between the ages of zero and thirteen,
some obscure fisherman.) My grandproper Calvinist sobriety) herself was
perhaps a little bit more than that, my
mother’s father, my great-grandfather,
not quite at the furthest temporal
family used to make routine trips to
extreme of my recorded genealogy, but was the last of us to try to frame the
the country, to the house where my
house in his own image. Known to me
as an example she is fairly representamaternal family lives. (My mother has
tive. She herself lived in the eighteenth as Captain Codding, old man Codding,
only one sister, my mother’s sister has
or, when it’s my mom, that “creepy old
century, moved west to Pennsylvania
had only one husband, and they have
guy,” he was a retired naval officer who
at some point, bought land, built the
only two children, so there were not
apparently spent most of his career
house, taught school, and began the
too many of us). Sometime since, my
floating around the South Pacific pickslow expansion of the house. These
mother and her sister have decided
ing up fishy jawbones and an inflated
ingredients multiplied in other ancesthat they don’t need to see each other
sense of his own authority. The jawtors.
all the time, and that their kids can’t
bones are still in the attic, both the
My mom has told me nothing
stand each other, so we don’t go there
shark mouth and the serrated sword of
anymore. The house, called Woodside, about Consider Wood, Wealthy’s
some unspecified predator, along with
marked its two hundredth anniversary rough contemporary, except that he
a rotting sidesaddle, a
of standing in Towanda,
decrepit spinning wheel,
Pennsylvania some time ago.
Not all of it has been there the
“I found the entire experience a rewarding paper dolls nearly a century old, and decay.
whole time, but the oldest
one. The woodsy campus setting provided
Codding’s gun collection
parts are easily recognizable by
a perfect backdrop to write. The teachers
was so massive that most
the stone and mortar chimney
of it had to be donated to a
outside and the copious renoenlightened me with facts and information
local historical museum,
vation inside. Built on land
I will surely use throughout my writing
and his book collection, all
that, long ago, was justly dirt
career, whether I become a writer or work
sets of matching massive
cheap, the house approaches
tomes with nothing interthe significance of something
in another field.”
esting in them, should
like an ancestral manse to us
have been donated too.
city dwellers.
Today, half the house
The most exciting thing
at Woodside, the half I
about the history of the house,
have slept in as a guest, is practically a
fought in the Revolutionary War and
to me, was the portrait in the big dinmuseum. Half or more than half the
that his name makes her think “oh,
ing room that is rarely used. It is a
house is decorated with reupholstered
you should consider wood for your
portrait without nuance of a stern
antiques and even the wood of the
countertop.” My grandmother says
woman of indeterminate age wearing
floors smells musty with age. These
that during her mother’s bid to join
a black dress and a headdress that
rooms cannot be lived in without
the D.A.R. he was the only ancestor
makes her shiny black hair nearly
thought. A person cannot climb into
she could come up with who was not
invisible. Somebody has nestled a
the bathtub with griffin’s feet, cannot
a Tory.
wreath of artificial purple flowers
click the antiquated button light
Even in other branches, my ancesaround the frame. She is—according
switch, cannot sleep in the old beds
to a much younger but already yellow- tors have always shown a strange tenwhich still sport spring mattresses and
dency to become teachers and often
ing caption in my aunt’s handwriting—Wealthy Tracy Hale, wife of John Latinists. My grandfather can list three carved bedposts without thinking that
they are going to mess up forever
“maiden aunts” and forgets the name
Hale and a schoolteacher. When we
had to do family trees in fourth grade, of a fourth who were educated in their some part of the past. This is what I
have derived from, though I completeown right. The married ones of the
I had my aunt send me a picture of
ly bypassed my father’s family, who are
same stripe apparently inevitably
the portrait, and was horribly proud
from Illinois and therefore don’t
became alcoholics.
that I was the only person with a piccount. I am from an old house in an
Of course, all the Hales’ descenture of a portrait on my project.
old backwater, itself mired in its
dants added to the house, even when
Wealthy Tracy Hale (her unusual first
own stagnation. their last name became a middle name
name probably derives from the
and the Coddings were the ones to
Puritan notion that wealth was a sign
Young Writers | 45
by Joy Westerman
Fire Escape
There are three windows in my bedroom and one
of them opens up to the fire escape. I like to sit on it
and eat cereal and drink water with ice. In the morning the air is thick with the smoke from the restaurant
on the corner and I can’t smell anything. The building
across from me has ivy along the entire back wall, layers upon layers, all the same shade, all the same size. If
I look at it too long I lean forward and become afraid
of falling. Mom says not to go on the fire escape, but I
do it anyway, even when she’s home. If I look straight
ahead I can see the grape arbor, or what’s left of it,
which are mostly rusted pipes. If I look down I realize
that I’m much closer to the ground than I had imagined, and instead I’ll turn my face to the sky. On days
like this it’s gray and I hear nothing and smell nothing
except my own chewing and my own sweat. Mornings
in the city are hot, so I’ll climb back inside and wait
for night, when a girl will come into my room and go
straight to the fire escape so she can smoke cigarettes
and tell me about her problems. Instead of listening I’ll
look slightly past her at the ivy, and wonder what
would happen if she fell. I remember that this room
used to be Mom’s room, and I could only go inside it
when she was at work. Once when I was younger, I
came home early from school with a friend, and we
went onto the fire escape and talked about boys. We
drank ice cubes out of chocolate pudding glasses, and
locked the door. When Mom came home we told her
we were just resting and she told us she had a
headache and to go downstairs.
Yoga Room/Moose Room
There is a room in our house that was once a
museum of moose. Eddie had a collection, the largest
I’ve ever seen, hundreds upon hundreds of stuffed
moose dolls and figurines. They accumulated throughout the years, until finally they overwhelmed us all and
Dad told him to put those fucking moose into the
guest room or he’d throw them in the trash. They
flopped over the storage bins and the thin bed, wilting.
Eddie would visit them sometimes, but only to add a
new addition to the collection. He gave them names
like King Tut, but he would always add the word
moose to the end. I made him a moose pillow on our
sewing machine and it was so soft that I wanted to
keep it but instead he put it on the floor in the moose
room, beneath King Tutmoose. I went in there one day
to climb onto the roof from the fire escape and when I
opened the window the brown fabric bodies started to
flutter. I closed the window and didn’t look back.
There’s a sign on the wall that says Moose Crossing. It’s
a yellow sign, a real sign; one Dad bought Eddie from
someplace out west where moose actually cross the
street and present a danger to pedestrians. Eddie says
moose are cute and he talks about hugging them and I
say moose are not cute and I talk about how Eddie is
fourteen. Now the room is Mom’s yoga room where
she exercises and builds muscle and loses weight and
longs to be better. The moose are scattered in Eddie’s
room, hiding under the bed and on the top shelf. He
pretends he doesn’t need them anymore but I see him
holding King Tutmoose when he sleeps. I don’t say
anything because what would be the point.
We sit on tiles on the kitchen floor, just because we
can. The tiles are pale green and we wear socks but no
shoes and sometimes we go barefoot. The room is big
because we knocked down a wall last year, the wall to
the guestroom. Now the guestroom is upstairs but we
never have guests. The refrigerator door doesn’t close
properly and sometimes when we leave for school we
forget to close it all the way and then the milk spoils.
Mom yells at us because milk is expensive nowadays
and she’s told us a million times to slam the door as
hard as possible. It’s hard to slam the door because
then the butter shelf breaks, but we can’t talk back to
Mom when she’s in one of her moods. There are two
windows in the kitchen and a door, which leads to the
backyard. From the windows you can hear everything
that happens outside. We have neighbors to the left
who smoke weed in the morning, and when we’re eatcontinued on page 47
Young Writers | 46
continued from page 46
“Even though I was running on about 4 or 5
hours of sleep every night, it was the most
fun and satisfying week of all my writing
experiences. The faculty are so funny and
the people are friendly and creative. It’s a
great atmosphere to be in. “
ing cereal the smell comes wafting in through the windows and we laugh a little bit, quietly. The smell permeates through our food and makes us tired, which is
why we always forget to put back the butter. We can’t
think when we’re in the kitchen. We just eat, or read
the paper, but only the Styles section. Sometimes we
make popcorn, usually with friends but more often
alone. We never sit on the floor when people are
watching. We have mice in the winter and we don’t tell
anyone. People come over and are surprised that we
have a backyard. I never even noticed, they’ll say. But
no one ever goes outside. Mostly, now that it’s hot, we
don’t even open the windows; we just turn on the air
conditioner. The sound is loud, too loud, and we can’t
concentrate anymore. Mom keeps the chocolate in
the pantry, on the top shelf, the one we can’t reach
without the stool. She says it’s hers but it doesn’t have
her name on it so we always get to it. We’ll take little
bites at a time, a couple of times a day, until the
chocolate is gone. She yells at us and we bite our lips
in shame, or maybe lie and say Dad must have eaten
it. We don’t like to get in trouble, but we always do.
Mom has a list of rules. She says we can’t have more
than four ounces of juice a day, not that we like juice
anyway. When she leaves for work we pour ourselves
tall glasses and drink four ounces, because that’s all
we can stomach. We go into the backyard and dump
the rest of the juice on the plants. Mom doesn’t like
candy either, so we have to hide it when we buy it
from the deli around the corner. We know all the
hiding places—behind the garbage can, inside Dad’s
coffee mug, in the pocket of Mom’s aprons. She never
finds it and we always eat it the first day anyway. When
we grow up we’re going to be fat, Mom says. She’s not
fat, not fat at all—she only weighs ninety-five pounds.
But we’re fat, because we eat too much and too often.
We think that knocking down the wall to let in more
light was a bad idea; we think it gave us more kitchen
space, which has led to us becoming fat. Mom doesn’t
know about the side effects of the kitchen; she spends
all her time upstairs. But we’re here every day. The
kitchen is at the back of the house, where it’s quietest,
and where the neighbors’ weed drifts through the windows. We like to sit in the kitchen and eat bread and
cheese, thinking about nothing. Young Writers | 47
The Chess Match
by Lydia Youngman
The doll is moving in from the garage, singing about how
it’s going to burn the house down. I’m more concerned
with beating the man in the closet at chess. He’s a competitive secret but I’m still trying to win when the game is disrupted by the cat who jumps on the board, scattering the
pieces everywhere.
The White Knight is upside down, trapped in the opening
of the soap dispenser. Two pawns have fallen into the toaster and are jumping in and out the two slots. Their new
range of motion excites them.
The Black Rook has fallen into a basket of matches where it
is found by the murderous doll who chomps on its head
while she digs through the basket in her quest for fire.
From under the rug, the White Queen watches, laughing
behind her hand.
Trapped inside his bubble world, jilted and disoriented, the
White Knight tries to get back on his white horse to save
the kingdom and ride off with the princess into the sunset.
The princess is a Koi fish swimming in a pond out back, all
white except for the imprint of an orange openmouthed
kiss planted on the top of her head. While navigating the
waters of her land, she comes across the Black Bishop sitting on a rock.
The doll finds the striking of a match quite difficult with
her immobile porcelain hands. She enlists the help of the
White Queen which is odd, as the White Queen has no
hands either. Except the kind to laugh behind.
The White Knight has caught a ride on the back of a
mighty steed—the cat that’d scattered the pieces in the first
place. The Knight dismounts the cat, sliding down his sleek
gray fur. He tightens his grip on his sword and charges onto
the carpet, which is now alight with flame.
The pawns in the toaster can feel the heat approaching.
They realize that if one pawn can cross the board and
become a queen, two pawns together can certainly become
heroes. They take off diagonally and make good progress in
opposite directions until one is captured by a falling teacup.
The teacup was pushed from an elevated location by the
Black Rook who, though missing a head, is very much alive.
And very much ready to take down the murderous doll.
Young Writers | 48
The Black Bishop, a piece who dabbles in magic, takes the
kiss that doesn’t belong to him from the back of the
princess and, in return, transforms her into ivory. As white
scales become white marble, a new chess piece is developed,
one who was never meant to have a place on the board.
A pawn jabs his spear upward until the tea cup dome above
him splits into a thousand hairline cracks. From the shards
of drink receptacles comes a brave hero, like a bird hatching
from its egg.
The princess sees the Knight facing off with the White
Queen. Her heart is in her throat—she wants to run to
them, but she knows if she does it means certain death for
them all. Though a knight is a prominent figure in a game
of chess, and though a queen is the most powerful piece on
the board, no one yet knows what tricks an ivory princess
has up her sleeve.
The doll sings her song brightly and through it makes other
plans to destroy the house. The fire is not enough. The doll
will kill every last inhabitant personally. Perchance with the
help of the White Queen whose weapon is poised above the
head of the White Knight. The murderous doll is amused
by two pieces of the same side fighting with each other.
The fire on the carpet has seeped through to the floorboards. The murderous doll scales a bookshelf where the
Black Rook is waiting, a heavy book end poised by the edge
of the top shelf. He pushes with a strength he never knew
he had, fueled by anger about his missing limb, and a burning desire for revenge. The book end plunges straight into
the skull of the murderous doll. The expressionless porcelain face cracks down the middle and she is consumed by
the flame. Through the sounds of war, no one notices that
the song of the murderous doll has been forever silenced.
The princess runs to the Knight and pushes him out of the
path of the deadly White Queen. He tumbles and skids a
few lengths, too weak and too far away to save the princess
from certain death. But he doesn’t have to, for right at that
moment, two new heroes have arrived. They’re short and
unlikely, but they have what it takes, knocking the White
Queen back into the fire. It is the capture of the final piece.
The White Knight approaches the princess. “You take my
breath away,” he says. “You saved me.” The princess answers
by pressing a kiss to his cheek. It is orange and openmouthed and it is where it belongs.
With order in the house restored, I turn to the man in the
closet. We decide to play a game of checkers.
I am the Stone that was First Cast
by Sinan Ziyalan
I am the stone that was first cast
I don’t mean I am on a journey,
another person being my destination.
Or that because I am flying high,
it will be a short flight.
I mean that I am charged with emotion
That set me off.
Able to lie idly
Or let fury fly.
I am the parted red sea
I don’t mean that I swallow up others
in a momentary show of the impossible.
That my moving is a boon to the few
and a bane to the many
I mean that I am undisturbed
Uninvolved, until when I do open up,
However rare, I swallow up another,
and they become a part of me emotionally
in a never ending slumber
I am the Alpha and the Omega
I don’t mean that I am god,
the supposed omniscient being.
Nor that I am one that gives nor takes
in reasoning only seen
by the ever mysterious me
I mean that I create.
I birth universes of characters
in well under seven days.
I breathe them into their three dimensions
over a much longer span of time.
I mean that I am for eternity
through the immortality of my creations.
I mean that I contain the souls of many more
slumbering within the ink of my pen
awaiting a page to be born
Young Writers | 49
New York State Summer Young Writers Institute
Summer 2010 Participants
Zak Breckenridge
Yasmin Kelly
Catherine Saterson
Rebecca Brown
Andrew Kim
Carolyn Schultz
West Nyack
Sarah Brown
Tobias Levy
Kaitlyn Scoons
Feura Bush
New York City
Lily Cao
Lily Lopate
Amanda Sternklar
Mohegan Lake
Samuel Del Rowe
Julia Malleck
Jacklyn Sullivan
White Plains
Leigh Gialanella
Corinne Mather
Kerri Tobin
West Islip
Margaret Guzman
Joan O’Leary
John Volza
Highland Mills
Lake Placid
New Hartford
Chloe Hamer
Jennie Ochshorn
Emma Warhover
New York City
Zachary Hays
Taylor Ordines
Joy Westerman
Sabrina Hua
Emma Rainoff
Lydia Youngman
New York City
Tuxedo Park
Gretel Kauffman
Maddie Rojas Lynch
Sinan Ziyalan
Michael Kelly
Cassandra Sarnell
Young Writers | 50
Young Writers | 51
Since its creation in 1984 by the state legislature to promote writing and the artistic imagination across
the state, the New York State Writers 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 1,000
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:
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.
Administrative Staff
William Patrick
Director, New York State Summer Young Writers Institute
New York State Writers Institute
William Kennedy
Executive Director
Donald Faulkner
Suzanne Lance
Assistant Director
Mark Koplik
Program Fellow
Skidmore College
James Chansky
Director, Summer Sessions
& Summer Special Programs
Christine Merrill
Program Coordinator
William Coffey
Katherine Humphreys
Resident Assistants
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