Philography — Schoo Literary Magazine — May 2023

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Philography

SCHOO MIDDLE SCHOOL

LINCOLN, NE

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE LEMONADE.

S c h o o L i t e r a r y M a g a z i n e

C o p y r i g h t © 2 0 2 3 b y P h i l o g r a p h y C o n t r i b u t o r s

A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d .

P u b l i s h e d i n t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s o f A m e r i c a . N o p a r t o f t h i s b o o k c a n b e r e p l i c a t e d o r r e p r o d u c e d w h a t s o e v e r w i t h o u t w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n .

P u b l i s h e d o n l i n e v i a C a n v a , H e y z i n e , a n d G o o g l e S i t e s .

C o v e r a r t a n d c o v e r p a g e c r e a t e d w i t h t h e h e l p o f

C a n v a s o f t w a r e .

E d i t e d b y :

A m a n d a P e t e r s e n , S c h o o E n g l i s h T e a c h e r

M a c k e n z i e S a n t o s , S c h o o E n g l i s h T e a c h e r

M a a r i b B a s i , S c h o o S t u d e n t

Z o r y a n a B r y c h k a , S c h o o S t u d e n t

A b i y o G a r a n g , S c h o o S t u d e n t

R e n G u i l l , S c h o o S t u d e n t

A m a l i a H o l t g r e w e , S c h o o S t u d e n t

M a d i M u l l e r , S c h o o S t u d e n t

M a y a R e z a b e k , S c h o o S t u d e n t

S h e l b y S w a p p , S c h o o S t u d e n t

M a r i a n n a Y e f i m c h u k , S c h o o S t u d e n t

D e a r R e a d e r ,

Welcome to the sophomore edition of Philography, Schoo Middle School's literary magazine made by students, for students.

Each week, students participated in Wisdom Wednesday, with the overall goal of strengthening their reading and writing stamina. Students wrote for approximately 10 minutes each week, and this creative writing process has culminated in the 2023 edition of Philography.

This year, students chose the theme When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade. You'll find this theme reflected in the numerous pieces of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction throughout this literary magazine.

We hope you enjoy the hard work our students have put forth this year! We give special thanks to our team of student editors; this project wouldn't have been possible without your tireless work.

Thank you for reading!

Sincerely,

MAY 2023

Poetry Fiction

1 Why Did You Leave Me | S. L.

2 An Ode to Bagels | Samuel S.

3 Summer | Saphyre Forrest

3 When Life Gives You Lemons | Baraah Abdallah

4 Decisions | Sarah Bielenberg

4 The Ring | JMK

5 My Magnolia | Arrow R

6 A New Creation | Zoryana B

7-8 Anxiety | Maya Gilster

9 sMothered | Kaylee Richards

10 Interstate | Zain Al-Shemmeri

10 Safe Space | P. S.

11 How to Cope with the Lemons of Life | B. L.

12 True Colors | J. L.

13 Healed | AL

13 She Fell | S. E.

14 Just Keep Stirring | Madison Muller

15 A Journey to Happiness | H. A.

15 Tools Expression | T. S.

16 Going Far Places | Jackson

17 Scapegoat | K. T.

17 Choice | Paul Lang

18 The Path That Has Been Paved | Kaylea C. Dowdy

19 Do I Really Belong Here? | Cody Le

20 Something Other Than Lemonade | Ren Faye

21 Life in Lemons | A. G. M.

28 Just My Luck | London Mika

29 Ants 2 | T. B.

29 Lemons and Grapes | Hector Hosey Alvarez

30 A Time of Change | Tony Nguyen

31-32 When Life Gives You Superpowers | J. P. Quevedo

32 The Bull | Xavier

33 The UFO Disaster | M. Jordan

33 Daisy | L. Y.

34 Lemons | J. P.

35 The Pimple | T. J. P.

36-38 Lost in the Darkness | Amalia Holtgrewe

39-40 Dairy Queen Lemons | L. H.

41 The Outside | Gio Dimas

42-44 Found Family | Shelby Swapp

45 Toilet | Valentina Puentes Castillo

46

The Alleyway | R. H.

47 Money Money Money | Emma Phan

47 Bullied | Danny Le

48-49 No Painting for Isabella | Skye D.

50-42 A Terrible Day | Avery Hollman

53-54 Getting Help | Ethan V.

55 Life Gets Better | H. J. H.

56 The Killer Meeting | Antonio Barnes

57

Someone | Flynn Ryan

58 Unfinished Business | Lexi Riggert

59-60 Ariana the Artist | Kondepudi Priyambika

61 People Have Problems | Caleb

61 Can You Just Get It Write | C. H.

62 Does It End? | Skye D.

63-65 The Galaxy Hoodie | Riley Turvey

66

67

21 The Past of Misery | Maarib Basi
22 Words on a Page | Adrian McCoy
22 When We Grow Up | Ashlyn Jensen
23 All I Want | R. S. 23 Lemons | C. Holmes
|
| Alex
| AH
It Was...There It Went | Hawk
24 The Photo | JMK 25 Insecurities
CJ 26 Perseverance
26 Storms
27 There
Emdad
Just One Wish | L. J.
Emo Emu | Lauren McKernan

2023 Philography Awards

Top Award in Poetry

Brooklynn Levander

Runner Up in Poetry

Zoryana Brychka

Honorees in Poetry

Haiman Adnan

Madison Muller

Jade Armintrout Kohl

Top Award in Fiction

Avery Hollman

Runner Up in Fiction

Amalia Holtgrewe

Honorees in Fiction

Lexi Riggert

Skye Dvorak

Lexi Young

Top Award in Nonfiction

Nate Hill Agange Alwir

Runner Up in Nonfiction

Honorees in Nonfiction

Emma Calkins

Taylor Kramer

Taylor Price

Look for the gold ribbon to read the 2023 award winner's work.
table of contents
Growing Up | S. J. 68 Belief | Ahmani Sulley
Sugared Lemonade Full of Personal Matter & Compassion | A. C. Manyiel 70 The Best School Ever | Julius K. Logan 70 Taking Control | Taylor 71 Mask | Ammar M. Ismail
One Day | Qamar Al Ameeri
Moving Forward | Joel
Don't Judge Others | Lexi Smith
Competition | T. V. K. 75 Insecurity | Agange 76 Imperfections | Lizzie Helmick 76 Masks | Nate Hill 77 Lemonade | E. R. 77 Moving | Colin Bell 78 Fighting Life's Battles | Carter J. Alfson 79 Bad Moments | Emma Calkins 79 Orange Juice | E. C. Student Art 80 Amalia Holtgrewe 81 Xuan Nguyen
Nonfiction 68
69
71
72
73
74

Poetry Poetry

Pieces in this section explore the emotions, passions, and experiences of life through poetic expression.

Why Did You Leave Me?

S.L.

I once knew a boy, His smile, brighter than the sun itself. His laugh, more infectious than a cold. But his smile has faded and his laughter, nonexistent.

Now all I see is his tear stained face. No smile, No laughter, Only pain, I ignored his cries for help.

And now he’s gone. Not a day goes by where I don’t feel the guilt of killing my friend.

You would still be here if I wasn’t so afraid.

Afraid that I would go back to that dark place with you if I helped.

And instead of helping you out, I left you there. You were drowning and your hand was reaching out for my help.

But instead I watched you sink to the bottom as bubbles came up to the surface.

I missed your ray of sunshine, and didn't want to be caught in your storm.

So here I am, wondering, why did you leave me? When I know the true answer. I am the reason you left.

1

An Ode to Bagels

Samuel S

What's more delicious than a nice lovely bagel, so nice and tasty, It feels like a fable.

You can eat it with butter, or cream cheese or try it toasted! It’ll heal those scabby knees

Filled with grain, a nice-tasty amazing food group!

So amazing and sweet, you’re stuck eating it in a loop!

No more than one, can heal your hunger

It’ll give you the strength to lift lots of lumber!

Season with everything, or nothing at all, enjoy a cinnamon raisin bagel, In the middle of the fall

It’s customizable, so don’t hold back. It’ll knock your shirt back onto its rack.

2
Art by Samuel S.

Summer

Saphyre Forrest

Summer is the best, Summer is for swimming, Summer is for swimsuits, Summer is for sleeping in, Summer has no homework,

Summer has no teenagers bossing me around, Summer is the best.

When life gives you lemons

Baraah Abdalla

When life gives you lemons, make

lemonade

Sour at first, but sweet in the end

Great in the summer

Under the Sun

But lemonade isn’t meant for everyone

3

Decisions

Every morning I wake up and the first thing I do is make a decision.

Whether that decision is simple or complex.

When I first wake up I decide what I want to wear, Shorts or pants, sweatshirt or crew neck. As my day goes on, I have to make more decisions.

As I grow up the decisions get harder. I become more indecisive.

I’m starting to choose high school classes, Before you know it I’ll be picking out colleges to go to

The Ring

JMK

I love your beauty

But it hurts to look at you

I have broke you

With some regret

It wasn't you

But who

It was the boy who gave me you

It was the boy who broke my heart

I don't mean to hurt you

Your beauty is undeniable

Trust me it's true

But I”m sorry for the hurt I gave you

Your beauty is too much for this broken heart

I'm sorry about my beautiful ring.

4
Goodbye
Ring

My Magnolia

Arrow R

I am like a magnolia tree

I am brought in from a far away place

I set down roots where I don't belong

I bend in the wind of even the slightest breeze

Easy to push over

Hard to set back up

My brain is like the trunk of the tree

Everything flows from the trunk to the very tips of my limbs

The branches are my thoughts, my ideas

But when the slighted wind blows

My trunk has no power to withstand it

I fall, I wilt, I die

Only to be set up and reborn

The flowers are my happiness, beautiful and full

But they shrivel up and die when any heat is put on them

My flowers are only temporary

I show my face as a beautiful tall tree

But inside I am consumed by insects

I am always in the background

The flowers in front of me always shine brighter

I want that one person to know me

Look at me and see more than what is on the outside

But to see inside to the real me

That one person who will look at my scars and loves me all the same

So when you see me look past my flowers and my bark

Look at me

5

The burdens drop me to my knees, Get up! GET UP!!! my brain pleads. But my legs are weak,

A New Creation

I try to yell for help but all that comes out is a squeak.

I am chained to the ground, Darkness envelops me, a thick fog settles over my old memories

Buildings crumble, so does my strength. The dust swirls leaving no room to breath.

Help is just out of arm's reach, But there is no other way out.

The deafening silence is louder than any sound.

Time slows and reality hits me; The pain pierces through my skin like a double edged sword,

And the sour, bitter taste overwhelms my senses.

Then I hear it, the sound of a gentle, lilting voice “Look up, look at the bright side.

There is an end to this tragedy”

I do as the voice tells me, I notice the calamity.

The struggling souls all around; They too are being broken down piece by piece ‘Till they are nothing but mere shells of what they used to be.

I realize that even in this madness I need to find peace.

Then, and only then, will I get to live life fully.

I slowly get up to my feet, Dusting off all the devastation that tries to cling to me.

I hear the voice speak again, “Inhale, exhale, it will be ok. You will eventually see the light of day” With the help of those around me I break through the wall of suffering And take a breath of fresh air.

“Look around at the life you’ve created.” This time I take a full turn and see the crumbling buildings restored. The dust turned to grass, In every direction trees bloom, Light and color fill every space and dark alley.

My hard work pays off and with a final parting gift

My encouragement waves a temporary goodbye

Now I look at the life around me, What has been so hard and painful has become something beautiful.

6
2023 Poetry RunnerUp

Anxiety

I wake up every morning with the same feeling day after day, and even though I pray I know that it will never go away. It’s hard to describe but it can be prescribed, it’s anxiety.

It’s the fear that makes you shake like you're falling apart, it feels like you are being hung by a thread too fragile but yet so easy to break. This monster is inside of you and lying to your mind, it poisons your brain and chokes you by a chain.

It weighs you down like a rock, shutting you in the dark. You hope to find a light only to realize there's nothing in sight. You lose every battle against it, every fight, every war, no shield nor sword can kill it.

You can tell them over and over again but they won't get it, they won't understand what you are going through until they become the ones living with it.

Sometimes the world is just a blur, a moving cycle that never ends but all you can do is try to blend in. “It's not a big deal, stop overreacting” they might say, how do you stop overreacting when your anxiety just keeps on occurring.

They are all judging you, keep your head down, and pretend you don't care.

You sit in your room at night as you gaze into the night sky, you watch the sun set and the sunrise. Everything seems to fall into its place.

You observe the stars until you find one star that isn’t bunched with the rest, and that star is you.

You feel like you don't belong, or that you don't place with the other stars. And that time you had a panic attack in the doctor's office, you have flashbacks.

Flashbacks of the doctors just staring at you helplessly as you sat there in that blue chair crying

While the doctor held you down in place, Those are the memories I want to disappear.

7

Dear me, it's been a year since I last sat in that blue chair and was not aware of what was about to happen.

It's now been 6 years since the first time you were diagnosed

I stay up past 11:00 every night, and in my head is a twirling tornado of thoughts that keep me racing past the clock.

It's now 11:30 and I'm sitting in my bed wishing it could stop.

Would if I get sick, Would if I don't graduate, Would if when you walk into that room kids will laugh at you.

would if they are judging you, would if people think you're weird, would if you become homeless, would if you you lose your family. would if you never find out your purpose, or what you want to do with your life? Would if you never live your stupid dream in Boston would if you're not smart enough? would if your friends move on and you're left standing there with no one. would if you never meet the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with, would if.

No one knows that you lock the door and cry yourself to sleep every night, Because you're sick of trying.

You're sick of hiding tears, you're sick of trying to act like everything is ok, or whenever someone asks you how you are doing you lie to their face and tell them you're fine when really you are just falling apart.

You're sick of trying to make people happy when really you are the one who wishes to be happy. Breathe.

It's just anxiety

8

My parents watch me constantly, and all I want to know.. When am I going to be set free, and released to grow?

I’m definitely used to baby talk, being called sweetie all the time. Please set me free from these names, my age is 14 not 9.

I always have to smile, real problems, I have none. My mom always assumes so, but as of now i’m done.

Done with the names, done with the babying, done just, overall. But whenever I try to explain to them, they push me and watch me fall.

You’re not independent, you need me, you’ll never make it alone. This is why I want to pack up, and get away from home.

I want to become my own person, who can do grown and adult things. But every time, I make my case. My mother’s heart, it stings.

She gets upset and cries to me, “I'm useless, you’re all grown!” But mom, this was bound to happen, I'm going to leave home.

From the nest I soar, my wings fully spread, My full potential, my face turning red.

From the smiling and freedom I feel at last, My true happiness and talent, now free from the wraps.

sMothered
9

Safe Space

P.S

The one place I feel safe

Secured and unjudged makes it my space

I can look in the mirror to see a true face

Unbothered and focused in my safe space

This is my safe space

My laugh is pure, my smile is clear

My anxiety calm with little to no fears

Keeping me busy is the music in my ears

But what is my safe place

My safe place is breathing and walking

It can even be talking. Some days

My safe place has four walls

And out the door I see a long hall

In this place nobody makes me feel small

This is the one space I feel safe

Which makes it my very own safe place.

The one place I feel safe

Secured and unjudged makes it my space

I can look in the mirror to see a true face

Unbothered and focused in my safe space.

Driving on the interstate, We pass lots of cars, Each with a person driving.

And then you proceed

To never, Ever, See them again

Each one seemingly exists to come and go.

But have you ever thought

Each person you see

Has lived a life like yours, And you only see them once.

They have grown, They have aged, They’ve had school, And they had work.

They’ve had friends, They’ve had families, They’ve had love

And they’ve had learning experiences.

They’ve had emotions, They’ve had grief and loss, They’ve had success, And they had moments.

They’ve had wins, They’ve had loses, They’ve had hobbies, And they have a personality.

You only see the person

With all these qualities and weaknesses

Once

And never again.

To them, You are just another driver, To be seen by them once, And never again.

INTERSTATE
Al-Shemmeri
Zain
10

How to Cope with the Lemons of Life.

I’m walking down the hall.

I reach into my pocket. A candy wrapper.

Headphones.

And my phone.

I put my headphones in.

Suddenly the world goes quiet.

No thoughts.

Just the beat and I.

I look down at my feet.

One step at a time.

I mean that figuratively and literally.

One step at a time to get to my classroom.

One step at a time to get over this despair and grief.

I turn to my left

There’s the classroom door.

Someone is talking about their dad.

I couldn’t make out what they were saying.

But I don't want to anyways.

I feel this rush of sadness flow through my body.

Oh.

The song had changed it. It makes me think of my dad.

I sit down in my seat.

The kid next to me. Is trying to talk to me.

I turn up the volume.

The teacher makes a motion as if I’m supposed to take out my headphones. I roll my eyes. I take them out.

Then, the room gets loud again. But it was a good kind of loud.

A kind of distraction.

I’ve learned to appreciate the loudness. When it’s loud, it drowns out my thoughts.

B.L
11 2023Top Awarein Poetry

True Colors

J.L

What's on your wall is your own art

Your own personality to people you don't know well

Starts off as an untouched plain wall in downtown

All boring and cracked up that no one would be interested in

When you do get to know those same people though

Your wall starts to get color and designs

That's because you are comfortable

You can show your actual personality around them

Showing your actual wall

The more you get comfortable with someone

The more art gets on your wall

Your personality around others you are comfortable with

Is your personality

A wall with your own designs all over it

Not a single gray color in sight

When your wall has all your own graffiti all over it

That means you're showing your real self

The person who you really are inside

No one can really change who you are

Those graffiti designs are your designs

Sure people might see one and copy it onto their own wall

But that doesn't matter because it's still on your wall

Your true colors

12

As the days go on, nobody notices

A reach for help is being called, yet nobody hears it

You laugh, you have fun

But when the day is done, you find yourself lost

Lost in your thoughts, fighting demons you can’t control

You’re kind-hearted, so different from the others

Therefore you’re the least unexpected

A constant battle that never ends

But eventually you let it all go

You release your anger, guilt, sadness, all insecurities

You find a peace of mind that only allows you to stay calm

You’re in control, you make the choice to bury yourself or to keep thriving

Although you’re still in a battle you find a way to accept it instead of causing tension

Healing, healing is that long step you’ve been pushing towards

You found it, you found your light

That peace of mind.

She fell S.E

She fell first but he body slammed soon after

She fell for his smile but he dreams of her laughter

She fell first but he loved her all along

And he listens to her voice like memorizing his favorite song

She fell first but only because it took him a second to catch his breath from falling

She fell first but he was in physical pain when she spoke of what she loved, but never mentioned his name

She fell first but oh god… when he fell it was so apparent that everyone could tell

She fell first but maybe thats a lie, the way he talks about her is definitely not shy

She fell first but now they stand together

And he says “nothing had ever worked before because I hadn't met you.”

Healed AL
13

Just Keep Stirring

Madison (Madi) Muller

Sugar, water, lemon juice.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

But when the clock strikes midnight- who's to say it will change?

Ideals and differences that make life the struggle

Sweet, life, sour

One step after the other, our lives are put in place

One step in front of the other

One step is all it takes

One step to stare in the face

Two steps to make a mistake

Many more steps, make no disgrace

Sweet, life, sour

Midnight into daylight

Sunshine into rain

The shadows of noon that fall after the clocktower sang

What new steps will the life of this world bring

Nonstop struggles sing

Taking no positive stance

Sweet, life, sour

But in the darkness

The scariest hours of night

The changing of the tides is here

Another battle to fight

Sweet, life, sour

So gather up your wounded

Your hurt souls unable to stand

And carve your mark

Make your way

Towards our promised land

Sweet, life, changed

It may not be filled with riches

May not be full of gold

But freedom lies beyond the gates

But you must remain bold

Sweet, life, better

So hold your dreams tightly

Push through, and fight

Follow through

And take a rest

In the nimble night

Sweet, life, simple

It will change

It will mock

It will never repeat

But life has its ways

To keep you off your feet

Sweet, life, struggle

It's as simple like a rhyme

Always changed by time

But when challenges arise

Take a stand

With all your pride

Sweet, life, strong

Life gives troubles, lemons and struggles

But it also gives us life, water, and fight

A whisper of kindness, sugar, and sweet

No matter the cost

It is always somehow- a treat.

Sweet, life, lived

14 2023 Poetry Honoree

A Journey to Happiness H.A

Another miserable afternoon, work that never ends.

Surely I would stay up past midnight out of anger. Suddenly, Islam.

Adhan or islamic talk, nobody will know how the idea came to mind. Made wudu and prayed, as I thought I should start.

Praying gave me a good feeling. Born to a muslim family, praying young. Coming and going with prayers, for I was a foolish child.

I was ashamed of not praying, For I was supposed to at the age of 7. A sudden increase in productivity had occurred.

Practicing Islam made me want to learn more.

Islam disciplined me and taught me values.

An important month was coming up, Ramadan. Ramadan, the most holy of the months,

It begins on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar.

A month to repent and to gain good deeds, A month where you pay charity and fast, A month to build your habits and knowledge.

I decided to fast.

Tools 2023 Poetry Honoree

While fasting, I felt good and free of regret. It was truly a great experience. One of the most important things was still left, the Quran. Oh the Quran, the word of Allah.

T.S Tools

Tools

expression
are used
create
introduce creativity
break
make tools
are dangerous
are different They invent
the possibilities
about ideas
To truly complete the Quran, one must implement everything from it into what they do. Everyone’s sins, we must seek forgiveness from Allah. We can try our best not to sin but it truly can’t be done. I still have so much to learn, the journey to gaining knowledge won’t end. Create something out of nothing. 15
They
Tools
Tools
They
They
Imagine
Think
Try

Going Far Places

Jackson

Going far places can have a lot of reactions

Depending on how you interpret the phrase

Going far places can mean traveling far and wide

To your heart's desire

And to the extent of the world

But what about those you left behind?

Growing out of people

And into new friend groups Workspaces, or environments

Can shape your entire life.

Though It is a life you chose, And a path you can take…

But only if you want.

Wanting something

Can be both selfish And selfless

Depending on which You are described as.

Wanting to go to far places

Means Letting go of attachment

And following your conscience

To wherever you may end up

The selflessness in going far places

Is treating yourself

And helping those around you

Being courteous and cordial.

Don’t be confused

Far places don't have to be a city or a country. It can be a different daycare, house, or high school Those of which can shape your personality and your friends.

Your maturity, mentality, and your sociability For the rest of your life.

16

Scapegoat

KT

I will no longer just stand still and always be the scapegoat

I will no longer take all the blame for your problems, they aren't my fault, as my problems are not your fault

For you must realize as I did long ago, that for every problem you have, you are the only one you have to blame!

Paul Lang

In our world, it seems like you can’t ever catch a break. The world is constantly moving and won’t wait for you.

That feeling of an uneasy life is hard, but once you embrace it, a rush of improvement will arrive. Most people set goals in life and accomplishments but quit before starting.

Many fail or realize it wasn’t meant for you. We don’t live to glide through time, it's about the experiences we bring. Wanting to do things is an opportunity most don’t have, We all have choices, so seize that moment. Every opportunity, every moment of your life is special. Even in the darkest moments of your life, there is salvation. Many times, people believe it’s the end, but the choices you make will change the path of your life. A familiar phrase is, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” A phrase known by many but not lived by all.

Everyone goes through a rough patch, but in the end, do you want to remember laying in bed or achieving something? You get a choice, so while everyone is looking for a relaxing or powerful life, take a chance. The bad things that happen to you don’t define you, the choices you make out of them do. Live life to the fullest and cherish every lasting moment, because you never know when it will truly end.

17
Choice

The Path that has been Paved

Are you always going to be stuck on the non moving train

That holds the past so very tight

So that each night before you go to bed

It pushes the past back in your head again and again

You have to fight for a better life

Please don’t let that knife hold you down

Don’t let your past keep making you drown

You’ve made so many friends

But you are still letting the halls of the past eat you alive

You need to stop you don't need to do this

You tell yourself you need to, that you have to!

That you have no other choice but you do

You don’t always have to follow through with everything that's happened to you

You will be okay at the end of the day as long as you don’t stray away from the path that has been paved for you It was paved for you to walk away from the past to walk away from the mask

To walk away from the hollow empty feeling you feel as you walk alone

To walk away from that never ending train that is stuck in the mud you call past

But no more

Because it needs to be known that it’s okay to not be okay

You always have the option to walk away

Just don’t stray from the path that has been paved

18

Do I Really Belong Here?

Where am I at?

Where am I walking toward?

I hear voices and laughter around me.

Yet what am I here for?

I hear you laugh at me.

But I don’t see a thing.

Do I really belong here?

I’m still walking.

I’m looking at the sky, but I can’t see it clearly. Maybe I’m looking at the ground.

I can’t tell the difference.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to tell the difference.

Do I really belong here?

I should really just turn around. I should start walking away. I’m not like the others. I’m not perfect like them. I can still hear their voices.

I can’t make them out but they are probably talking about me, Right?

Do I really belong here?

I felt a hand on my left shoulder.

I was ready to run away but the hand felt strangely warm. I looked to my left and I didn't see anyone. But I can tell someone is talking.

I take a closer look and realize that the person was talking to me.

“Do your best,” he says

Do I really belong here?

I blink and suddenly I feel much better, no more fog around, no more darkness.

I look around and I realize that people around were talking and they were talking about me.

But they weren’t making comments about me, they were cheering me on. I looked to the sky and saw someone. “Next person, it's your turn,” he says, then I started walking forward.

I walked onto a stage, in front of hundreds of faces, I then gave it my all Do I really belong here? ‘Cause I’m starting to enjoy it here.

19

Something Other Than Lemonade

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

A common phrase these days

A thing to say

When you lack a solution

Lemons are like the problems life throws your way

And supposedly lemonade is the only solution

But what if it’s not

Lemons are so many things

And can be solved so many ways

Beyond lemonade there are teas, desserts and much more

Be creative with your problems

Our lemons are viewed as blocks in the road

But lemons are opportunities to grow

A chance you can take to be a better person

A chance you are given to make a better life

A life made of lemonade can get old fast

You have many options

Don’t let a good one pass

20

Life in lemons

A.G.M.

When life gives you problems, you solve them just as if you receive lemons you make lemonade

But for me when life gives me lemons not only will I make lemonade but I will use it to kill the bugs in my life that don’t benefit me or I will use it to remove the blackheads from my face because I feel so insecure about how I look or I will maybe even use it to heal cracks in my heels just like parts in my life that feel cracked but the sweetness in my life heals it for me But when the lemons rot, it's harder to get it back to its fresh state or even back to the smaller problems you can try everything to stop it from rotting but eventually it’ll have to get thrown away and this whole time I was speaking about lemons but this isn’t about lemons

The Past of Misery

Maarib Basi

Misfortune, Anger, Sadness, What do they all have in common? They’ve fallen like sheets of rain, so what does it gain

The delivery of misery

They chain us to negativity

So what's the possibility of making it maim

Misfortune, Anger, Sadness can leave as fast as they came Positivity, Happiness, Luck will arrive in a flash

21

Even in bad situations you're told to have a good outlook on it. When I started to do that my life changed. Maybe it didn’t change in a specified direction, but nonetheless changed. I started to look at the little details. Like, “Oh, that is his favorite hoodie” and “Now I can see the meaning behind that.” Things that didn’t make sense suddenly were very clear. Even looking back a year I can see the changes. I can see where I stopped being pitiful. The quotes that never made sense have meaning now. The songs that were just words, are now words that were formed perfectly to make a line in a musical poem that shows emotion. I don’t start fights over the little things. I stopped listening to those that didn’t understand my mind and way of thinking. I finally made the lemonade that I longed for. I indulged in the new value I created which in turn, changed my viewpoints, my way of thinking, and my life.

When We Grow Up

Growing up is something we all do

But I think it’s something we are forced into. Our parents always think they are right I think we should start putting up a fight.

Being young, loved, and free Should come before responsibility. We can only be young once in our lives

Later on we can start becoming more wise.

Taking more time to do the fun things Will lead to more and more awakenings. Being young for more time

Changes what will go on in our minds.

Better thinking and more time to relax

Will take our minds off of the things we lack.

It will take more time for people to see

But once they do, there will be more opportunities.

More freedom and choice

Only will make people feel more joy.

22 Words On A Page Adrian McCoy

All

Some things bring me back

Back to 7,6,5,4

Radios flooded with 2010’s hits

Dark cool night drives

Spending my days playing games with friends

Spending my days playing games with friends

In elementary where everything smelt of crayola paint

But now i’m 14

I’m not 7,6,5,4

Playlists now littered with music that brought me joy, hoping they’ll bring me back

Now nearing high school

Soon 15,16,17,18

Childhood comes to a close

When all I want is 7,6,5,4

All I want is cool night drives

All I want is radios flooded with 2010’s hits

All I want is to spend my days playing with friends

All I want is 7,6,5,4…

Lemons

C. Holmes

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

When there is someone in your life who you value like a parent, sibling, a pet, friends

Spend time with them

Be happy with them

Make sure that they know you care

Because lemons don’t last forever.

And the sadness and longing you feel after you lost them

Is like the missing taste of the lemonade

23
I want R.S.

The photo on my wall.

It hurts to see

what came to be me

If all I see

Is the one who wounded me

I’m letting you know.

You have to go

Because seeing him hurts the most

Seeing you ripped hurts more

Even though

I have to let you go

I have to let it all go

The memories

The lies

The pain

The photos

But I can't give you up

The one thing I love most

You can't go

You're stuck on the wall

I'm sorry for you

I'm sorry for me

But seeing that boy

Makes me wanna leave

That was four months ago

Now you’re off the wall

I’m letting you go

I finally let go

The Photo JMK
Goodbye Photo 24 2023 Poetry Honoree

Insecurities CJ

We’re all different.

In some ways the same

But at the end of the day, we’re all different.

We call them flaws.

But they’re just differences.

Different beauty

Different noses

Different hair

Our imperfections

Not one of the same pair

Weirdly, there's judgment

For such natural things

Like the hair on our bodies, on our arms, and on our faces.

It’s scary, it is

To see what has happened

Seeing this world of people

That can't accept differences

I wish I was the same.

I do.

But then I realize it's not me.

It's you

You can't accept my differences.

Which almost brings out my hate toward you.

25

If you are not broken, you’re not whole.

If you face no challenges, you will never succeed. We must learn that only through failure and loss will we learn the greatest trait of success. Success is not given. Success will have its ups and downs.

Sweat, tears, disappointment, failure, let downs, and more. The sense of achievement is only made better through that of loss. Through all of this, we must persevere.

Even when the mountain looks too high to climb. Even when the road looks too long to walk.

Even when the moment seems too big to thrive in. By facing these challenges, and occasionally failing. We learn that the way to success is to persevere.

Storms

AH

Am I too old to hide under the bed? I’m stuck in a storm but the storm is in my head. All I see is lighting, and all I hear is thunder, one boom coming after the other. I once was blind but now I can see. The blinds' folds have unfolded for me. But try, as I might, to close my eyes back to black; back to not knowing. Because now I've seen how cruel the world can be. Endless nights with the intrusive thoughts clouding my brain, increasing the storms they just won’t go away. But blocking out the storms with my umbrella. The umbrella with friends helping me through things. The umbrella that has family being there for you, so you can feel heard. The umbrella helped overcome the storms. The umbrella washed away the storm clouds and thunder. The sun and rainbows greet me, along with a new beginning.

Perseverance Alex
26

There it was… there it went Hawk Emdad

We can vividly picture the first day, and now it is almost the last. Middle school has flown by so quickly, and a new chapter of life is approaching.

Walking through these doors for the first time, different for us than any other students in history. Covid caused our first day of school being our first time in the building. Everything was “new” and “unknown” to us, full of opportunities to explore.

The first day seemed like it was yesterday, However, that day we remember was almost three years ago.

We have grown and changed over these years, even if we feel like these years have barely started.

Next year, we are moving on to high school, a new chapter of our lives. We are given the opportunity to grow, change, and learn something about ourselves, that was unknown to us before.

27

Fiction Fiction

When it comes to fiction writing, students used many different types of prompts, including plot generators, scary story starters, and morphological charts.

Just My Luck

London Mika

It was a gloomy day. I was sick and tired of waiting on Lucky, the big stupid dog I adopted last year, to be done going to the bathroom. I walked inside my apartment soaked, water dripping all over my old oak floors. I was never a fortunate person. My toast always came out burnt from the toaster, when I would take a shower the water was always cold, and every time it rained my umbrella would always flip inside out. I was a very UNLUCKY person.

Then one day as I was walking down the street back to my apartment, I found a penny. And like any normal person I picked it up. Thinking nothing of it I kept that shiny penny in my pocket.

The next morning I woke up feeling strange. Something was different. I went to take a shower this morning. I prepared for the icy cold water to pour down, when it was warm. It felt like the warm sun drying you off after getting out of the pool. After that I decided to go and get some breakfast. I plopped the toast into the toaster. While waiting I got the butter and strawberry jelly out. Pop! The toast was done. I took it out of the toaster. It wasn’t burnt! It almost appeared that all my bad luck had disappeared. On my way to work the sun was shining, not a single cloud in sight. I went to stock the shelves. Normally I would drop the boxes and cans, but today, I felt lighter, more confident. As I was stocking the last shelf I noticed that I hadn't had any mishaps today. I patted my pockets on my light washed jeans. It was the PENNY. The penny was making me lucky.

Normally I don't believe in those things but it was the penny. The penny was the only thing different. After work I went back to my apartment. The traffic was busier than ever. I was waiting to cross the street. All of the cars slowed down and then the walk sign was on. I started walking when a person on a bike zipped by. I spun around chaotically trying to regain myself. That's when I heard a clunk. MY PENNY! I had dropped my penny and it was rolling across the entire road. I chased after it hoping to get it back. I didn’t want to be unlucky again. Swerving around cars and jumping over dogs I was desperate to get the penny. That's when it fell down the drain. “NOOOOOOOOOO!” I shouted, feeling crushed. I started to walk back home feeling sorrowful. “There went my lucky penny” I thought. That's when I realized that it wasn’t the penny that made me lucky. Maybe the luck came from inside me and I just haven't discovered it yet. Even if it was a penny, there was nothing I could do. I went home enjoying the new me I found. I sat down to drink a freshly squeezed cup of lemonade outside watching the sunset as Lucky played fetch. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

28

After escaping from the burning lab, to see if any ants came out of the building, to my horror, I saw the queen flying. Usually queen ants lose their wings after mating. She began to fly away. I began to chase after her. She landed in the backyard. I warned the residents of what was going to happen, but they didn’t believe me.

Then we heard a whimpering from the backyard moving. We investigated, and to our horror we saw a dog had been eaten by flying ants. We barricaded the house, but one ant got in and looked around. We didn't realize the ant got out.

It seemed everything was good, until millions of ants broke into the house, killing the family. But I saved the child. We hid in the basement. We waited until night when the ants slept. I found some gasoline and brought it to the colony. I poured it and set the colony on fire , but the queen managed to escape again. Without her colony, she can't kill humans. The child and I left the burning house, and set out to find our new home.

Lemons & Grapes

Hector Hosey Alvarez

You ever just feel like walking up to a lemonade stand and asking for grapes, but then surprise surprise they don’t have any grapes. That can be a pretty sour experience right, you might even say lemony, but you need to take that lemony experience and turn it into lemonade so instead of walking up to that lemonade stand over and over again stop and ask yourself maybe you want some lemonade today.

29 Ants 2 t.b.

A Time of Change

I run down the street gasping for more air. I picked myself up, and started sprinting until I knew that I was safe. As I ran down the narrow alleyway, I was cornered. I tried running different ways but I was blocked. My bullies came out of the sinister shadows, ready for vengeance. I could hear the baseball bat clanking on the ground as it got louder the closer it was. I felt the wind going towards me as the bully swung the bat into my stomach. I fell down and groaned. This wasn't the first time that I felt this pain.

Then another bully came and swung their bat, this time to my shin. Then another one and another one came after me. I wasn't able to do anything so all I had to do was take the pain. I felt like a hopeless and empty person not able to do anything. I didn't even know what I did wrong. It felt like they just did this to me for fun or for the smallest thing they didn't like about me.

After they were done they would rob me and run home. I felt ashamed and stupid that I couldn't do anything about it. I felt so weak that I couldn't defend myself. I hated everything about my life. My grades, my teachers, my classmates. It was all because they didn't even do anything or didn't even try to help me. It got so bad to the point where I couldn't even go to school. I had all F’s to end for the first semester. It was so frustrating. I even thought of ending it all right there.

But I felt something, I felt a presence and perseverance to keep moving on. So that's what I did. I kept working out and learning self defense to the point where from my head to my toes- I knew each of their motives for fighting. And I kept working and working till I earned enough money for better clothes and textbooks. Then I went back to school, and everything went away. The bullies were scared of me, they wouldn't even try to touch me. I started to get better grades, my classmates and teachers started to like me. It felt like everything changed when I started to pick myself up. I felt so much better about my life and that started to make me realize that my life was bad at first, but as I kept picking myself up and working harder than I used to- I was able to create a sustainable life that I enjoyed.

30

When Life Gives You Superpowers

J.P. Quevedo

There once was a short-eared owl named Mahmud. His whole family had superpowers. His dad could make anything out of thin air. His mom could run faster than the speed of light. His brother had super strength, and his sister could make a taco at any time. But Mahmud didn't have any super powers. He always felt left out when his family would go fight crime. His siblings always made fun of him for not having super powers. He became very depressed.

One night, his family gets a call for crime downtown. All Mahmud wants to do is go fight with his family but what is he supposed to do to help them. He stays home and watches their pet wombat named Sparky. After a while he hears a very very loud bang and looks outside. A big huge mushroom cloud goes up in the sky. He realizes that his family is fighting and gets very nervous that his family is in danger. He sits on the couch holding Sparky because of how scared he is. He doesn't move a muscle.

He hears a cracking sound as he looks at the front door and sees his family walk in. He gets super excited and runs to them to give them a big hug. He hugs his brother, his sister, his mom then he turns to hug his dad and… he isn't there. “Where is dad?” He says, with a tremble. His mom looks at him and says “I'm sorry buddy.” He didn't make it. He stares at her as he drops to the ground and starts to cry. His brother picks him up and gives him a hug. “What happened?” He says, as he has tears running down his face. He responds by saying “Did you hear that loud boom.” He nods his head as he is struggling to stand. “He jumped on top of it to protect us,” he says, as he starts to cry.

He decided to go to bed early after that as he was too sad to do anything he wanted to do. He looks out his window and looks up at the sky and says “Thank you dad, if you didn't jump on that bomb I wouldn’t have a family.” As his eyes start to water. He looks up one more time and sees a shooting star. He says as quickly as he can “I wish I could have my dad back”.

31

RING RING RING. CLAP. He slaps the alarm clock. He rolls out of bed and thinks about his dad again. He says to himself “I just wish I had the opportunity to save my dad”. BOOM everything around him changes and now he is downtown and sees his dad fighting with his family. He instantly wants to go give his dad a hug but then he sees a big metal pole flying at him. He is about to run away then his dad pops out of nowhere and next thing you know the rock is in millions of pieces. He looks at his dad and tells him “Thank you but.” then tells him “There is going to be a bomb. We have to get out of here now.” He now tells his dad that he shouldn't ask questions and just listen to him . He finally agrees and they go home. They get home to see that their pet wombat has trashed the place because no one was watching him. Then BOOM! The bomb explodes in the city. His dad turns to him slowly, “How did you know that was gonna happen.” ¨I just had a feeling, you know.¨ he says, with a calm soft voice. ¨ Well, thank you Mahmud.” ¨Anytime.¨ he says, as a tear falls from his eye.

The Bull

Xavier

The girl is not scared of the bull. He looks at her and runs headfirst towards the girl. She dodges the bull, then she grabs the bull. She pulls up the meat grinder and grinds up the bull.

32

The UFO DISASTER

One night, a farm family was outside checking the animals. Then all of sudden, they see a huge light come from the sky. They ran super fast. When they got closer, they saw that it was a big UFO, an alien spaceship, so they walked toward it. When they got closer it sucked them up, along with all of the things on the farm. Even their house and they were never seen again…….

Until 3 days later, that alien that was driving the spaceship died. There was no one else there. So the people started to go back to earth, but then a big giant alien pizza hit the UFO. They crashed into mars, and when they landed ………..they died because they didn't have spacesuits to be able to breathe.

THE END

Daisy L.Y.

2023 Fiction Honoree

Opal loves flowers, especially daisies, mainly because of her best friend. “Daisy!” she yelled as they ran through the meadow. “Wait for me!” Daisy looked back, her blond hair whipping around and laughter in her eyes. Daisy was always laughing, at herself, at other people, it didn’t matter. Laughter was Daisy’s life. Opal knew Daisy ever since the first day of kindergarten. 5 year olds with chubby faces and snotty noses, are now 15 year olds with hearts full of memories. Well, that’s how old they would be if Daisy was still around. Opal lays on her bed filling her thoughts with memories of Daisy, the times before Daisy’s smiles weren’t smiles anymore and before her laughter started to fade away. Opal never knew that her favorite flower was slowly fading away until she was gone. Memories swirled and danced in her head and to Opal, Daisy wasn’t yet dead. The late nights and sunny days felt so close, close enough to touch. Daisy was gray, but to Opal, she was the sun. Reminding her every morning, nothing is lost, I’ll be right here. Forever yours, Daisy, your favorite flower.

33

Lemons JP

One day there was a man that wasn’t very happy with his life. He thought things in his life weren’t good. He was sad. Then all of a sudden a lemon appeared on his kitchen table. The next day another lemon appeared. This went on for quite some time before he had enough lemons to make lemonade.

He got his lemons, sugar and water and made lemonade. After he made lemonade the lemons stopped appearing. Then the mad started to feel sad again. Then the lemons started to appear again.

He realized that when life gets bad he has to make the best of it. So that's what he did. Every time he got lemons he made lemonade. Eventually he had too much lemonade so he started giving it to others. Everyone loved this idea of getting lemonade on days they might need something to cheer them up. Sadly the man didn’t realize that the lemons would not come anymore since he was happy giving out lemonade. When the man understood that he would not get lemons, he didn’t get sad! Making lemonade for others made the man happy and he would keep doing it even if he didn't get free lemons. Once a week he would open his stand and happily give out lemonade to the people that need it. That’s how the man spent the rest of his life. Happy.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

34

The Pimple

TJP

As I look in the mirror I start to see this pimple on my forehead but, as usual, I didn't really think anything of it until I got to school and people started to notice and point it out. As if I didn't know. After a couple of periods, it started getting bigger and other people started to point it out and laugh. After I hear them laughing at me I think to myself, is it really that bad? After that passing period I start overthinking in class, wondering what others might say or do when they see I have a big pimple on my forehead. I'm thinking to myself saying ”nobody is gonna like me the way I look.” I tried to cover it up with my jacket but it wasn't working, people were still noticing it. After school I go home, look in the mirror again and start thinking about how I can't go to school with this on my forehead anymore. I'm telling my mom that I don't wanna go to school because of it, and she acts as if she doesn't care. So I start to feel like people are gonna think I’m ugly because of it, so I start to cover my face more in my pictures and cover my forehead in person so people won't be able to see the pimple I have there. After all this I've been insecure about my face.

35

Lost in the Darkness

January 8 170: It's been 3 months since I was kidnapped, they stole my moccasins, my dress, my feathers, and my life. Now they were going to take my final peace, to forever trap my soul here. They are going to cut my braids. I walked up the creaky stairs, with the Mary Janes they strapped on my feet digging into my ankles. I sat in the chair and the scissors gleamed. I believed all things, all spirits could live fully, live peacefully, but these, these were transmitting their evil energy. I could feel the arctic temperature the scissors emitted crawling around and grasping my neck. The metal blade creeped closer to my dark braids. Then snip, just like that it's over, my hair which used to fall to my waist hung loosely at my shoulders, It was over the only thing giving me my hope. I was chasing that drop of light, I was running, I was trying to reach it before the darkness consumed it, till the darkness consumed me.

“You’re failing, your ancestors are crying beyond the grave, your family doesn't want to see you anymore”, My brain was my one true enemy, at least the school said “You are going to be normal, you will finally be loved, you can finally be humane.“ I fell into my own abyss. I think they believed these things would help me, but they only made it worse. The same school that would cut and harm kids for speaking the only language they had ever known instead of english.

They believed that my entire life was a mistake, that I was a mistake. No, I needed to stop living in the past and travel there. I needed to escape this horrid place. There are white ladies guarding the doors and gates. If I waited till the moon rose they would be distracted, but I needed to get my leather dress and moccasins. I could be heard easily in this getup. I would have to wait until sunset…

36
2023
Fiction RunnerUp

Yes at last, Mrs.Smith was guarding the dormitory door, I should be able to sneak past with the help of a distraction, a simple screech should work well. *Scream* I have no time to waste, the darkness is my shadow. It is alongside me, it's the only thing giving me a chance. I roll and jump from cot to cot, I can see the light of the door as it creaks open, Mrs.Smith walks in, Yes, indeed, I could escape, but the darkness is gone. I was left a poor fish lost from its school, surrounded by blood thirsty sharks waiting to bite me piece by piece, being swallowed into the light. I froze, my body faced the harshest winters in the middle of summer’s warmth. I needed my darkness, the thing that held me back was saving me. I dashed around Mrs.Smith and blew out the small fire she was clutching. I flew like a hawk swooping for a mouse, extinguishing every small fire. Now with my darkness I quickly walked past the other women, in a matter of moments I was free. But, I needed my clothes. I snuck past the guards in the closet, there they were; my moccasins, feathers, and my favorite dress. I grabbed them and ran. I gazed back and watched the building I was trapped in with awe. As if it was going to try and reach out for the claim of my body, my mind. That is until a burst of light, many small fires consumed the structure, they melded and became larger.

My mind, my soul was screaming for me to run to get away, to run for moons, get as much distance away. I had no idea where my family was or how to get there. I left the site, and walked for many moons and many suns, only sleeping when I was surrounded by the trees. I changed my shoes and dress. Warm tears raced down my face when I was finally able to look and feel like myself. I was walking alongside the stone path since that's the only thing I remembered while being taken there. A man approached me on horseback. The man did not wear what the women in the school wore, he had pants like the ones my father would dress in. For some reason they looked tight and uncomfortable unlike my fathers. He spoke kindly and offered me faster speed on his horse. As we rode he asked me if I was from that school. I said yes, hoping he would move on and converse about something else. “I thought so, you are so civilized,” he said. Civilized, civilized, civilized, civilized, civilized, civilized. I heard the same words from those who cut my braids from a man who was going to save me. “Y- yes“ I muttered, I couldn't keep my voice, I was shaking, my body was tired, it was being fueled by rage and sorrow all in the same moment. I just sat there while the man took me into town, I tried to be aware but I couldn't and slept the distance.

37

He brought me to a place, it was the color of blood, and raw flesh, it was horrible. ‘This is evil’ I thought as they stripped the animal of its life only to then massacre it. The room was full of flat colors on the walls, the school had trees surrounding us, this was different. There were other children, some white, some from other tribes. I asked around to no avail until a blonde white girl gave me some information. “We are in an orphanage, your parents, they are gone “ That moment hit me, I was taken from my family, but I never questioned what happened to them. I was too focused on my misfortune. I turned away from the girl. I knew crying about it did no good, and yet my vision became blurry, ᏧᎦᏌᏬᎸ ran down my face and I held my head in my hands. The white girl pretended not to notice. I cried myself to sleep that night. In the morning, people shopped as though us children were beads for sale. A couple stared at me for a while, looking me up and down, analyzing my every characteristic. My breathing became rapid and their attention darted to another native boy. “So exotic“ I heard them say.

A few other couples passed by that day. All of them gave me a sight glance, maybe an ‘oo’ or ‘aah’ if they felt particular. Otherwise the next few days nobody stopped in, that was irrelevant though. The object of real importance was a poster. Of me? A piece of paper nailed into the trunk of the light pole featured my face. Under it read “Missing Native, If Found Please Return To Dwight Mission (Save her soul).”They were looking for me. In that moment I contemplated if I ever could really escape the death that had held my soul. I couldn't ponder for long, I needed to run…again.

38

Dairy Queen Lemons

I was at school one day and everything was normal, just a repeat of the day before, learning new things that I’m probably going to forget in a week. In Spanish, I sat down where I normally do, went to math and sat and learned about something I’m probably never going to need. I sewed in FCS and tried to not poke my finger with a needle, went to science and tried not to make Mrs. Martin mad, headed to health and sat through another boring period of typing notes, went to English, and then history. Halfway through history, I realized that I was going to Dairy Queen with my friend Olivia. I sat through the rest of history and went to the 7th grade lockers to grab my friend so we could leave. I saw her and we talked for a little before going to DQ. When we got there, there was a group of kids. They were pointing at people and laughing. Olivia and I sat near them and I overheard some of them talking.

“Wow, look at that girl! She looks homeless!” one of them whisper-shouted to the group. Her friends giggled and continued to make fun of a girl sitting across the street on a curb.

The girl that was being made fun looked up at the group of girls and just looked back down to her lap. She didn’t say anything to defend herself or ask the girls to just stop talking about her. I was able to see her shoulders shake a little, making her look like she was crying.

39

“Oh my gosh! She’s crying! What a little baby!” a different girl than before said to the girls. The group nodded in agreement and giggled to each other.

I looked away from them and went back to eating DQ with my friend. As we ate, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the girl across the street. She looked hungry and I was eating this for a snack. I looked at Olivia and said I’d be back. Walking over to the girl, I handed her my fries and a pretzel stick. I knew it wasn’t much but it was better than nothing. She looked up at me with tears in her eyes, whispered a quiet thank you, and took them from me. I walked back to my friend and asked if I could have a few of her fries. She let me have it and we continued to eat our food. The girls that were making fun of the girl across the street stopped and looked at me as if I had just done something stupid and weird. I ignored them and continued eating my food. Soon, the mean girls left and the girl across the street came over and gave me $20.

“I can’t take this, you need it more than I do,” I told her and handed her the money back. She ignored me and pushed the $20 back into my hand.

I thanked her and she left. When people say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, I’ll always think back to this moment. She was being bullied and when I gave her the food, instead of just ignoring it, she came back and gave me money as a thank you. She made lemonade when those girls were just acting like lemons.

40

The Outside

Gio Dimas

I was riding my bike down in Seattle going to Spokane when my tires popped. It was rainy and I was going down a mountain while the trees were crowding the road. The yellow lines kept on coming and going. I saw the other mountains in the distance, with quite a remarkable site, as the mountains disappeared into the clouds. While biking down the mountain I heard howls from the wolves. As the sky got darker, as day turned into night I decided to find a place in the woods to set up a tent and go to sleep. I found love with camping and decided to move into the woods. My friends helped me build a cabin, randomly I stood there asking myself, “Why do I love it out here?" But then I realized it's because of the smell of the pine trees, the sound of the lake, and the sound of the birds chirping in the morning. It has become my new lifestyle. I want to live here for the rest of my life.

41

Found Family

The clatter of cafeteria noise wrenches me from my after-math-class funk. Scuffling shoes, trays slamming on tables, and immature classmates daring each other to eat messy school lunch concoctions resonate in my ears. I smile softly; lunchtime is never boring here.

I snatch my tray off the counter and make my way over to my friends. Katie and Marie are talking about some book they’ve been reading, and Will and Ash are deep in conversation about a video game that’s releasing soon. Zara sits quietly, as usual, a sketchbook and some pencils scattered in front of her. I take my seat across from her and examine my lunch.

“Cam, do you even know what that is?” Katie asks somewhat disgustedly as she points to something on my tray. I follow her finger to see what she’s talking about, my eyes landing on the heaping mass of something brown, somehow looking unpleasantly squishy and rock-solid at the same time.

“Umm…” I trail off. “I’m pretty sure that’s the taco meat?” I reply hesitantly. I poke it with my fork, a section of it squelching as it falls away from the main lump. Katie shudders.

“Is it the vegetarian option?” Will pipes up, searching for a reason for the appearance of the food. I shrug.

“I don’t think it even really matters at this point. There can’t be an ounce of real meat in that entire thing,” Marie answers while dramatically holding her nose. “Honestly, Cam, why don’t you bring your lunch from home instead of risking your health by eating this?” Ash stifles a laugh at her words.

“Leave Cam alone, guys. If they want to eat the school lunch then that’s fine.” Zara says softly, her words barely heard above the volume of the cafeteria chatter. I don’t think any of our friends hear her, though, because they’ve already moved on to the next topic and no one acknowledges her words. I send a grateful smile her way. She twists her mouth into a little half-smirk before returning to her drawing.

42

The rest of the lunch period passes quickly, conversation topics speeding through half-lives and dying out as quickly as they came. The mood changes with each response; Will and Katie’s remarks eliciting raucous laughter while Zara inspires solemn discussions. This is how it's been since fate threw us together during our first year of middle school. From school projects to annoying siblings to trashy home lives, we’ve always given each other advice and supported each other wholeheartedly. I smile as I remember what my first impressions of them were.

While it’s true that it took a moment to get used to Marie’s snarky mannerisms, I could see almost immediately that she only acts the way she does because she doesn't always know how to communicate her emotions. She truly cares about the people around her, but she doesn’t like vulnerability. Once I understood that about her, we got along extremely well. I can handle her sharp words because I know what true messages lay behind them.

Will’s boisterous laughter nabs my attention. His sense of humor draws everyone to him. He’s a complete social butterfly and enjoys making people happy. He tends to act as mediator whenever our group’s petty arguments start getting out of hand, finding ways to help us reach compromises and keeping the mood light afterwards. He also loves planning group activities with Katie, finding things to do that everyone will enjoy. You can tell by the way he takes care to pick these things, he gets his gratification from watching us have fun.

Ash’s rare grin as he watches Marie and Will jibe at each other glints into view. Will and Ash have been friends since early elementary school, and when Will joined our group, Ash came with him. Ash is the kind of person that doesn’t talk much until he’s comfortable with the others, but once he reaches that point it takes a lot to get him to be quiet. He has lots of things on his mind and when he’s deep in thought he’s somber and silent, but once someone draws him out of his shell he likes to be social again. He enjoys his solitude and you can easily tell when his social quota for the day has been maxed out, but he also likes being around us and knowing that we won’t pressure him to be someone he’s not.

43

Zara’s papers shuffle and brush against her pencils, making them clack together. Zara is like Ash in that she doesn’t talk all that much, and while it takes a lot more effort to get her to talk, she’ll pipe in with startling comments during our conversations. She’s extremely smart and sometimes she says things that nobody knows how to react to. She takes the likely stupid conversation we were having and turns it into something borderline philosophical. She also has a great skill for art, and Christmas is the best because she always draws elaborate collages of group outings we’ve gone on, our favorite things, little bits and pieces of our lives sketched out for our presents. I like to think her quietness allows her to pay more attention to what happens around her.

Katie loudly reprimands Marie for picking on Will, something that the rest of us always find hilarious to watch. Katie’s like the mom of our group. Honestly, I think we would’ve fallen apart years ago if it weren’t for her. She loves reading and writing, and one of her favorite things to do is to give us all book recommendations based on our interests. She takes extreme care when picking these books; it’s a little bit intimidating how well she seems to know us. Aside from books, she also is the friend that brings extra snacks when we get together, and keeps track of all our performances and events and other things, making sure those that can, are there to support each other. She immediately notices whenever someone’s feeling down and checks in with them, offering a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. She genuinely cares about everyone around her and everybody knows it.

As I look around the table full of people that I’ve known for years, it hits me that these people, these beautiful humans that are so fiercely independent and yet fit so well together, became my family a long time ago. The thought warms my heart, even as Marie looks over at me with a concerned expression, asking why I’ve been staring off into space for the past five minutes. I snap out of my thoughts and smile.

I’m so incredibly lucky to have them.

44

Toilet

Valentina Puentes Castillo

This all starts off where a plumber went on a date with a 97 year old. He decided to take her to the new High Tea place. He got a reservation to make sure she didn’t have to wait as long as her previous love life. The plumber left to get the lovely old lady a gift, he went across the street, entered the jewelry shop and got a necklace. He walked back to the place where they ordered pasta. As they both ate, the woman started to have stomach problems so she drank medicine to relieve her pain. Their drinks got to their table, and overall they were having a good time. Then the plumber had to go to the restroom because he had too much water, so he walked in, closed the door and turned on the faucet to wash his hands before going to pee because he was kind of disgusted by the lady, but she was so wealthy and so he tried to ignore her ugliness. He washed his hands and turned around and boom! He sees this beautiful woman. Her hair was blowing in the air. That was the moment he realized he had met the love of his life. He sat on the floor and decided to have a date in the restroom.. He told her that he had a gift for her, he ran out of the restroom and ripped the necklace off the old lady. He realized he couldn’t take the necklace with her so he improvised. He ran across the street into his car, and grabbed his tools. He started screwing away and ripped her off the wall. Then a slight problem happened. He caused a water leak, he didn't have enough money to pay for that,(which is the whole reason he went on a date with a 97 year old.) Then he got an idea, he picked up his pick and started hitting the wall. He finally got a big enough hole and picked the beautiful toilet up with his bare hands. They planned their wedding in Hawaii. The toilet gave birth to two kids and they were called Plunger and Toilet Brush. The couple lived happily ever after.

45

The Alleyway

R.H.

There was once an empty alley in Downtown Lincoln, nothing really special, just a roadway dividing an ice cream shop and an old office building. One day, a boy wandered into the alleyway. The boy, having extra time on his hands, decided he could do something with this alleyway. This boy’s mind was special, being as creative and imaginative as it could be. Visualizing the alley, the pipes, wires and boxes, he knew he could make it shine. He took his bag off his back, taking out some spray paint, and he began painting the alley walls. After a little while of work, someone noticed him. The man that noticed him from a distance only noted the spray can and the boy’s hoodie. Thinking it was just another annoying teenage kid vandalizing his building. The man walked into the alley, stepping behind the boy, ready to confront him. But instead of doing so, the man looked up at what the boy was doing. He stopped, stepping back to view more of the wall, seeing vibrant and expressive colors in this dark and gloomy alley. The man instead decided to watch the wall as the boy painted more and more, eventually more people joining this man. Because the boy was so focused on painting, he never noticed the large crowd that eventually formed near him. Eventually another like minded person entered the crowd, seeing the marvelous job the boy had done. He walked up to the boy, asking him if he wanted help. The boy said sure, and the both of them went on with painting this alleyway. It was quite a large alleyway, having an immense area to paint. It was getting late, and as the crowd thinned the boy picked up his things and went home.

The next day when the boy came back to the alleyway, there was already a crowd there. A small group of people over the night and in the morning had continued painting for the boy. What was once his impulsive idea became a community project to bring out the positivity downtown area. People were doing their part in assisting, and it eventually was finished. Lights were placed throughout this alleyway, and it became a popular public display of art and community.

46

Money Money Money

“Patience Frankie!” Mom yelled. The blender was running, my little sister was stomping. Craziness was for school day mornings. My name is Liam. Just an ordinary 10th grade teen boy wanting to do something big in life. It was just my mom, my sister Frankie, and I. My mom always said I was the man of the house, but soon made for bigger things. I walk to school every morning as long as it’s 32 degrees and above. No other day was the same as today. On my way to school, Bellevue High, I saw a $20 bill in the middle of the road! I ran to get it but almost got ran over trying to pick it up. It was worth it though. As the day went by, the $20 was tucked safely away in my back pocket. I came home that day and told my family about the money. My mom of course had a great idea. She stated “Liam, take that money and any other coins or dollars you see on the street. You can invest it for something big”. Maybe she was right, and I did need to do that. So for the next 2 years of high school and 4 years of college, I took the time to look for any money laying anywhere. After 6 years, I took $5000 and rented a tattoo studio for myself. I was always meant for big things.

Bullied

Danny Le

A young teen has lots of struggles in his life. Everyday, he gets picked on at school since the bullies had nobody to pick on. They just targeted him . So everyday when school was over, he would come home looking all sad, and would go up to his room and lay on his bed. He stayed up every night just to think about the bullies who bullied him everyday. But then, he remembered he was born deaf and couldn’t hear anything. He couldn´t hear what the bullies were saying to him. So the next day when he came to school, the bullies were waiting for him just like they always do. They started calling him really rude names as he passed them. But he ignored them and had a smile on his face as he passed them. The bullies were confused and followed him. They kept calling him names but he didn’t care. Eventually they gave up and left him alone for the rest of the school year.

47

No painting for Isabella Skye D.

There was an old lady, who lived in our neighborhood. Everyone thought she was weird because she sat on her porch, in her rocking chair, while staring at an empty canvas.

On a dark night, Kate and Jenna walked down the sidewalk in front of the lady’s house, with a box of toilet paper in hand.

With the toilet paper in hand, they started covering her garden and house with it. Moments had passed when Jenna’s mom caught them. Anger suddenly bloomed through her face. “WHAT DO YOU GIRLS THINK YOU ARE DOING?”, she screamed.

“What are you to be doing to this poor lady’s house”

“You both are in HUGE trouble” she roared on and on

After a second she angrily pointed at Kate and said “Don’t think you are getting away with this. I’m texting your parents, right this second”

“No, no, no! Please don’t text them about this! If my parents find out, they are going to take my phone away!” Kate desperately said, begging.

“You girls are coming with me!” Laura said in an angry voice. That had forced Jenna and Kate to trail shamefully behind, up to the old lady’s porch. KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! In a beat, the lady appeared.

“Hello?” The old lady said, smiling

“I found my daughter and her friend throwing toilet paper all over your house. I was wondering if they would clean up their mess and your house as an apology.

“Of course, I don’t mind, an old lady like me could use all the help”

48

“MOM”, Jenna had started wailing. “Please tell me you're lying, I can’t clean this crazy lady's house!”

“I can, and I’m making you do it”, she said with a pleased smile.

“I will pick you both up in a couple of hours, you better have done some good work by then.” The old lady smiled and ushered us inside, “Come on girls, come on in, you can start by organizing those boxes in the corner”

The two girls started organizing the boxes diligently, until they came across a small one, far in the back, hiding. Across the top, with a red marker, it was tilted; Do Not Open. Jenna and Kate, being the snoopy people they were, decided to open it up, peering inside. The box contained various old painting supplies, and paintings, all of them with the name Isabelle. As they were peering inside, the old lady walked in. “What do you girls think you're doing looking through that!”

Both of the girls started shaking in fear. “W…w…we are sorry, we…didn’t know this was important to you,” Kate uttered, scared. The old lady frowned,

“If you don’t mind us asking, who is Isabella?...” Jenna questioned.

“Isabella….. Oh, no, no, no….. Please tell me you didn’t look in that box!” She suddenly stopped talking as tears welled up in her eyes. “Isabelle was my daughter… her favorite thing in the world was to paint. We would paint together all the time. Then one day she got sick. We waited for days for her to get better, but it just got worse. I had to take her to the hospital, but I was too late, and she didn’t make it… just like that she was gone.”

“Oh my god, we didn’t know you went through that,” Kate said “It’s ok, it happened a long time ago.” the old lady said.

49

A Terrible Day

Today sucked. When I first woke up in the morning, my fish was laying upside down in its tank. Isn’t that a lovely way to start the day? Then, the outfit that I was going to wear wasn’t clean. Well, it was. I had it laying out on that little junk chest beneath my window, all ready to go when I woke up in the morning. So, after having a small ceremony of flushing Lord Bloop Blop (I named him when I was young, don’t judge) down the toilet, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, then put on my clothes. But, when I was putting on my makeup, the pump thingy on my foundation stopped working! I kept trying to get it to work, but when it finally did it splattered everywhere, including on my shirt. So then I had to change clothes, even though I really wanted to wear the ones I’d already chosen today. I just threw on a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans, called it good, and finished my makeup.

When I went to eat breakfast, my smoothie was lumpy, then the milk in my cereal was past its expiration date. I just threw it all away then got my backpack ready for school, only to find that I forgot to clean my lunch box out over the weekend. The moldy half-sandwich was still in there for me to clean out. I started to pack my lunch only to find that we were out of lunch meat, meaning I would have to make a PB & J, which was not how this day was supposed to go.

I got to school later than usual; everyone was already inside and putting their things in their lockers when my dad was just pulling up in his truck, which smelled like old people and sunscreen. I rushed to my locker to put my stuff away then ran to class. Thankfully, I made it on time. I went through my day okay. I got everything done in my classes so I wouldn’t have homework and I happened to not make a fool of myself. But by my last period, math, I realized I forgot to do the homework. I quickly copied answers off of my friend, except I put my own twist on it so we wouldn’t get caught cheating. By the end of school, I felt pretty good about myself. Sure, my morning sucked, but other than that it was pretty good.

50
2023 Fiction TopAward

I was walking home from school when it started raining. I ran as fast as I could to get back home, but I was still quite a ways away. I quickly pulled my phone out to see what time it was only to see the date. It was my birthday!

How could I forget? Why did everyone else forget? Could this day get any worse? Apparently it could. I was running under some trees for cover when my head started getting bombarded by some mystery object. One look at the bright yellow color could tell me they were lemons. I continued running, hoping to escape whatever mysterious force hated me today.

When I finally made it home, I dashed in the door and slammed it with unnecessary force, locking it and leaning against it as I panted. I threw my backpack on the ground and ran over to my couch. I flopped over and screamed into the throw pillow sitting against the arm of the overly cushioned sofa. My sister strolled past me with her phone against her ear, talking to someone on the other side. She used her open arm to throw a pillow at my face and put her finger against her lips in the universal shh sign. I sighed and took deep breaths to calm down as I listened to her friend cuss over the phone about their ex or the newest movie with that one hot person or whatever.

Eventually, after catching my breath, I stood up and walked over to my backpack so I could work on my homework. But when I finally made my way over (I was tired and collapsed in the middle of the hallway), I saw that one of the pouches was unzipped. And in it, all of my soaked books and papers. My homework was completely ruined. I couldn’t even see whatever was printed on the pink paper, it was all smudged. I felt like crying. It was the worst birthday ever in the history of birthdays! I ran into my room, curled into a ball, and just laid there. No tears came. Only my sister.

“What are you doing?” She asked as she barged into my room and started rifling through my drawers.

“I feel like I should be asking you that. Can’t I just lay in a ball on the ground after a long and terrible day? Now why are you going through all of my stuff?” I didn’t look up from my spot on the ground, yet I was able to feel her eyes trained on me in her signature death glare.

“I need your lotion. The fancy kind. My hands are super dry.” I told her what drawer it was in. She grabbed it and started to leave, then turned back around. After a minute I heard her sigh.

51

“Are you gonna tell me what was so awful about your day?” I looked up and gave her my best ‘why do you care?’ look. “C’mon,” she added. “You know you can tell me.”

“It’s not that. The fact that you don’t know makes it so much worse.”

“Care to enlighten me then?” I groaned as I stood up, not wanting to move from my comfy spot on the ground. I sat on my bed next to her and recounted everything that happened since I woke up. When I finished, her face was pure shock.

“Happy birthday?” She lifted up jazz hands, hoping to make the fact that she forgot better. I turned my back to her.

“Listen, I’m sorry I forgot. And I’m sorry today’s been so terrible. But you can’t just mope about it all day! It’s your birthday! Make the most of it.” She grabbed my hand and pulled me up. “Let’s go outside.”

“It’s raining.” I protested, trying to steal my hand back.

“Exactly.”

An hour and lots of running around in the rain later, my sister and I were both sniffling on the couch with hot chocolate and tissues. My cold lasted for days after that but I didn’t care. Even though my birthday started out terribly, it didn’t end that way. I got a bunch of time to hang out with my sister away from her phone and drama.

When our parents came home, they freaked out over us, babying us and making sure we were okay. When they found out it was my birthday, there was an even bigger freak out. A week after that, we had a major celebration to make up for my birthday, with tons of big gifts, a fancy dinner, and quality time with my family. It was all I could’ve asked for.

Just because a day starts out bad doesn’t mean it’s going to end that way. So always look up when things are down. It will get better. You just might have to get a bad cold from being in the rain too much for it to happen.

52

Getting Help

Ethan V

Although a lot of people have many ways to settle a loss of someone close to them a lot of people like to grieve and when people grief they fall into a deep depression and sometimes it gets so worse that it causes suicidal thought so I’m here to share my story of grieving.

I was 8 years old. I just got out of school and I went to eat and do chores then I went to play basketball with some friends and around 6;30 my mom picked me up and she was crying. I asked her what was wrong but she wouldn't tell me. Later that night she called me into her room and said my grandma died. I was heartbroken and shocked I broke down in tears just thinking about her dying I went into my room and I started bursting into tears and I was filled with anger and confusion I didn't know what to do over the next 3 months i ghosted all my friends and I got so depressed that I wouldn't even talk to my own mom for 2 weeks straight.

Every single night I would cry myself to sleep and one time I got so angry I got in trouble because I broke my window. My hand was bleeding and I was crying and my mom saw just how bad my depression was so she tried to get me into therapy but when her new boyfriend came around everything started getting worse I started to have even more suicidal thoughts and I tried to tell someone but I couldn’t I was too scared and I wasn’t brave enough and even though I had friends I was to scared to tell anyone.

So when my mom saw i was having more outburst she insisted me to get therapy I tried it it helped for the first few months and after awhile it stopped working and so I started to listen to music to numb the pain and it was working so all the way up to 7th grade I would listen to music to numb the pain and then one day something happened that realized what I was doing wrong, I was ghosting all my friends and my anger was getting worse and worse every month so my mom signed me up to go to Boys Town and I was there for 5-6 months because I had to get the help I needed and I did but with my brothers keep teasing and it didn't help at all.

53

So over the next few months my anger would slowly rise back up with everything that happened and a lot of people like me are over thinkers I always would think that the worse is gonna happen and so I thought I was going back to Boys Town and I started to freak out but I remained calm and kept going to school of course sometimes I would skip but other than that I would keep going to school and doing my work.

Even now I look back and think about what I have done but I'm still angry because a lot of people are judging me for stuff and I don't like it and I don't know what to do but I know what I'm gonna keep going and keep moving on with my life and staying calm.

So to whoever reads this just know it ain’t worth getting in trouble for whatever you’re gonna do if you need to talk to someone I highly suggest your parents or a school counselor or maybe even a therapist or anyone you really trust because they know what’s right and they can help you with anything you need help with, so if you have anger issues and depression just take it from me and talk to someone you really trust.

54

Life Gets Better HJH

As you walk into a new school on the first day, all you feel is eyes on you. It's probably because you're new, but you still feel weird. As the weeks go on, all you hear are rumors about you. Ew-she literally has spiders on her eyes (they’re just eyelashes) ew she has claws (they’re just nails) And what are her outfits (they’re the same as everyone else's) . Everyone has this stuff, but just because it's on me and they don't know me they think it's different? As the weeks go on nothing changed, no new friends, just a loner with no one to talk to. All I could dream about was to make a good friend instead of eating lunch alone everyday. It's my second month at this school. I didn't expect to even talk to anyone at all. But when we got back from fall break this group of girls started walking up to me all I could think about was, did I do something wrong? Please don't embarrass me. ¨Sleepover at my house this weekend here's my number´ as she passes me a note with her number. No this is a set up of what just happened I thought to myself. As the weekend reaches I decide why not just go, nothing terrible could happen. When I got to her house it was her and 2 of her friends, I was terrified. By the end of the night- I’d never had so much fun. I was so sure that I wanted to be close with them. When I went back to school the next week, everyone was talking to me and they wouldn't stop following me, I was confused. Until a group of girls came running up to me and showed me what we posted on instagram and TikTok and everyone was commenting about me and how they never realized I could be that fun. Finally after a month people finally gave me a chance.

55

The Killer Meeting

Once upon a time, Michael Myers, famous known killer, was tired of trying to find victims to kill by himself. So on a cloudy, dark night, he set an advertisement for a haunted house. He waited and waited and waited but no one came. Then I saw the board and said,

“Hold up, ain’t that Michael Myers? The dude who escaped that Insane Asylum?” I just decided to continue walking. Then, I saw the house.

“Hold on, isn’t that the house from the advertisement board? Something’s smelling a little fishy here. But maybe he’s just trying to be nice and make friends.” I look around, no one is around me. Also, it looks like I’m in the middle of nowhere. I decided to open the door.

“Hellooo?” I called out. No answer. I heard something behind me. Shinnnnnnnk! Multiple of them. I slowly but also swiftly turned around. And there, I saw 4 killers.

“Hold on, there’s 4 of you? Wasn’t there 1 of you on the board?” I asked.

“Indeed, we are his friends. I’m Freddy Kruger, right there on the left is Jason Vorhees, he’s pretty quiet though. And on the right there is Jeff The Killer.” I gulped.

“We ain’t gonna kill ya if that’s what you were thinking.” Everyone nodded their heads in agreement.

“Huh? Wait, how do I know if this is not just an excuse or a trick?” I questioned Freddy. “Because we would’ve done it by now.” Jeff responded, with a very creepy voice.

“True. Wait, Jeff, since when could you talk? I thought you cut your mouth to forcefully be a creepy smile?” I confusingly asked Jeff.

“I did, but that doesn't mean I ain’t able to talk. And also, how do you know that?” He asked me.

“Well first, I can see it.” Then I decided to pull out my phone and I looked up Jeff The Killer and went to images.

“And second, this image.” I showed Jeff the image.

“Sheesh. I do look creepy.” So, what even is this, a meeting for all the people who escape that Insane Asylum?”

56

Someone

Flynn Ryan

One night a girl named Beth woke up in the middle of the night to see an older man sitting in the corner of her room.

She asked in a quiet voice “Who are you? What are you doing here?”

“Someone,” the man said with a scrappy voice.

For the last couple of hours Beth had been staring at the man. She wondered what he was doing here and who he was. She didn’t scream, didn’t tell her parents. She turned to look at the clock to find it was 3 in the morning. She looked back to find the man was gone. She stayed awake for a little longer but he didn’t show up ever again. The following day someone who looked just like the man in her room was found dead in his bed at the same time she first saw him. She wondered if maybe she could see ghosts.

The next night she saw a woman about middle aged. To test her theory she went to bed so that she could see the news the next morning. That morning she saw that a middle-aged woman had passed away. At that point she knew she was special. She thought about what she could do with this. It came right to her, she could try to somehow prevent it. But would that be the right thing? All she knew is that she had to do some sort of good with it and that’s what she would do.

57

Unfinished Business

“Go away!” she screamed, as the creature chased her until she couldn’t run anymore. She stepped back, she knew there was nowhere else to go. She looked around then stopped walking and screamed. She screamed until people came running to her house. The police knocked the door down. Everyone came running in, but it was too late for her. There layed her lifeless body with half of her skin gone from her stomach. No one knew what the cause of her death was, and no one ever will. That's when she woke up, “Guys I’m right here.” she said, jumping up and waving her hands. What's the matter with them, can’t they see me? She thought to herself. She walked around, all of the sudden someone walked right through her. She stood there in shock, she had soon realized that she was a ghost. “Why aren’t I in heaven?” she spoke out. “Is there something I still need to do here on earth?” she questioned. “WELL?” she asked, waiting for someone to say something. “Ugh. whatever. I’ll figure it out.” She told herself. She walked around looking for what it was that was unfinished. She looked at her lifeless body at the funeral. She then saw her best friend walk up. “Hey, I know you can’t hear me, but I’m going to miss you like crazy. Why’d it have to be you?” her best friend asked. “Hey I’m right here! I’ll always be here!” She screamed. For 3 months she watched over her friend. She was there for her making sure nothing would happen to her. She was always there whether her friend knew it or not. “You’re ready” She heard a voice say. A pair of stairs appeared in front of her. She walked up the stairs to hear a voice tell her “You did it. You finished your unfinished business.” “But she still needs me,” She told the voice. “No she doesn’t, you lead someone else to her. Someone who she needs.” the voice told her. That's when the gates opened up, she walked in to see all her grandparents and her parents. She hugged them with a huge smile on her face. “You did it!” they all said. The girl had finished her unfinished business.

58
2023 Fiction Honoree

Ariana The Artist

Kondepudi Priyambika

Ariana. A marvelous art student who was 18 years old and an amazing artist. She loved art so much. She would draw every second if she got the chance to. Since younger years, she always dreamt of becoming an artist. Unfortunately, it was crushed by her parents. They were not really fond of the idea of her becoming an artist. They forced her to become an engineer. When she heard about the idea, she argued with her parents about how it was not what she wanted, but what they wanted. This went on for what felt like days but nothing really worked out.

It had been 2 years and things were still the same but now Ariana was 20 years old, an adult. She never gave up the dream. In art class, her art teacher Ms.Gisella had seen how talented and passionate she was in her art. After a few days of seeing her art for a long time, she decided to inform her about an upcoming event. “Hey Ariana. I just want to say you are so talented in art. Also there is an upcoming art competition, would you like to join and represent the school?” asked Ms.Gisella. ”Umm…that is nice of you to suggest, but I sadly cannot join.” answered Ariana while she chuckled sadly. She had known about the competition before Ms.Gisella had even mentioned it. She really wanted to join but the thought about her parents finding out didn’t let her do anything.

The competition was in 2 weeks. Ariana was sorrowful. She was desperate to join but she just couldn’t. The only art she could do was doodles on her homework which she got scolded for too. Ariana came to art class and they had a new project to work on. ”Ok students, as you have seen what I have written on the whiteboard, this is a graded assignment and the best project will get a prize from me so do your best!” Ms.Gisella had announced to the class. As Ms.Gisella walked along Ariana’s table, she smiled at her. She looked at Ms.Gisella, a bit bewildered at what just happened. She shrugged it out and continued with the project.

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The project took 2 weeks to finish for the students and the due date happened to be close to the competition. When Ariana handed up her project to Ms.Gisella, she smiled and mouthed “Good job” to her. Two days had passed and so did the competition. Ariana had just arrived at school and she saw everyone, everyone looked at her amazed. They all saw the unseen side of Ariana. She was feeling a bit uncomfortable with all the staring going on. Suddenly, she was called to the assembly hall by the principal.”OH MY GOSH! What is going on?First the people staring, then this! Only God can save me from this. What did I ever do?”Ariana thought in her head while full of anxiety on the way to the hall. Questions filled her head and it was messed up. Finally, she arrived. She saw parents and students in the hall- including her parents. The sight of them sends shivers down her spine. She quietly sat with them not uttering a word. ”Hello everyone. Thank you for coming. I would like to announce the winner of the annual art competition. 3rd place is Grace Ong…2nd place Amber Heard finally 1st place is…Ariana Faith!! Congratulations!” Ariana looked surprised and at the same time, she looked as pale as a ghost while her parents were looking at her with their eyes as red as a bull. Suddenly, her parents bursted out. ”How could you! You cannot become an artist! We told you once. Do you need another round of scolding!” Everyone looked at them. The principal immediately sent the students to class and he talked to the parents. Finally, Ms.Giselle gave an explanation on how she was the one who submitted the work. As a result, Ariana’s parents were scolded; and they apologized to her and let her be what she wanted.

60

People have problems Caleb

Eugene had a routine. He worked from 7 to 3, did housework for an hour, then usually watched tv or read for an hour. He had recently started reading again as he learned it was good for him. At around 5 he made dinner; unless it was Friday in which he and one of his friends would go eat out somewhere. He knew this routine was far from perfect. Sometimes, while reading he would fall asleep and eat dinner late. Other times he would get caught at work and not be at home on time.

Jake had just been offered a pay raise, 120,000 dollars a year and was very happy about it. To celebrate he broke one of his rules and had alcohol. Jake's body was not ready for this so he slept in and got to work an hour late. This made him look bad because he had just gotten a raise but he got a warning from his boss and went on with his day. He was not worried as he was almost always a good worker and continued to be one. Jake just took his life for granted as when he was 11. He had lost his role model and very own mother.

can you just get it write

CH

This story starts off with a boy named James and a brother named Jameson. “Hi my name is James and I am 7 years old, I love to write and draw. Although it is illegal for me to learn it.” And my name is Jameson. I am also 7 years old but I like to play sports and watch tv.” The two brothers were so happy together until WWII started. James could not write because the Nazis raided their house and took all of their things and left them with no place to call home. The two brothers ran away from their parents which was a bad idea. If the Nazis found them they could get killed. They lived in Poland but escaped to England, but first they had to go through Germany. The two brothers ran straight through Germany. After weeks of running they finally made it out of Germany and hit England. “I really miss mum and dad.” Jameson said “ Yea me too.” said James. James found a pencil on the ground and picked up and started to write to their parents. “ Dear mum and dad, we miss you so much, we are sorry that we ran away. We made it past Germany into England. We are safe so don’t worry. Love James and Jameson” the message was sent right to their parents but they didn’t realize that their parents were captured and killed by the nazis. Three years later they were adopted by a British couple, and James was able to write and draw. And Jameson was able to play sports and watch TV. The London news company wanted to ask questions. He wrote a book about his journey, he wrote and wrote day and night. He also wrote more books and got a special pencil from a convention that he went to. He was eventually famous and a great writer

61

Does it end?

Skye D.

Henry enters a hotel after a long night at a gaming convention. The hotel was very old and for some reason the name at the front was scratched off. The hotel had a strange vibe to it but Henry didn’t know why. He walked to the clerk at the front desk and asked if he could get a room.

The clerk gave Henry a key and Henry got the same creepy vibe that he got when he entered the hotel. He walked through the door that leads to the rest of the hotel. Then the door behind him slams shut and then Henry hears a sound like the door locking. Henry starts walking through the endless halls trying to find his room. When he entered the next hall a tingle went down his spine and immediately felt like he needed to hide. He ran towards the clothes rack in the hall and hid behind it. He started hearing an inhuman scream. Just then something ran by so fast it knocked out the lights.

He went through a few and that thing kept coming. Then he came across a new entity. Henry heard the noise it made. He ran and hid behind a shelf. The thing ran through the room glowing a bright green. And it didn’t run through one like the other thing did. It ran back and forth through the room. Once it was over, Henry started walking through the halls again. Later after roaming the halls for some time he came across a new entity. Whenever he looks at the thing, it will cause him to feel tremendous pain. He had to look down the whole time until it disappeared. Then he moved on.

Henry started to go through more halls when he noticed something. Eyes were starting to appear on the walls. The more halls and the more rooms he went through the more eyes started to appear. Henry ran through the halls hoping to get out so he wouldn’t have to see the eyes anymore but it seemed to be getting worse. That was until he reached one hallway. A very long hallway with chandeliers and cool antique decorations. But no eyes. When he got to the end of the hall the lights turned red and patterns started forming on the walls. A blue light appeared in front of Henry and told him to follow it. It told Henry not to look behind him but he did it anyway. A tall about 7 foot figure with eyes for a face started chasing him through the halls. He started following the light , running and dodging things as the place around him started to collapse. He kept running and running. Slowly running out of energy. He was being tortured. That's when he started thinking. Will this ever end or will he be stuck here forever?

62 2023 Fiction Honoree

Riley Turvey

The Galaxy Hoodie

It was a nice, warm, crisp Friday morning. I wake up and look out my window, I sigh in relief as I know I haven’t missed my bus yet, because the roosters have not yet crowed, so I take the opportunity to quickly get ready. It’s 7:53 and my big orange bus gets to my location at 8:25. I take into consideration that I probably won’t have enough time to pick out an outfit thoroughly. So I just throw on a galaxy hoodie and black leggings. I brush my teeth and my hair, take an apple and run out the door. I run to my bus that just so happens to be waiting on just me, and I fling on into it like my life depends on it.

To my surprise when I am in the hallway of the bus, everyone's gaze is on me like I’m bright yellow, adrenaline rushes through me and not in a good way, I look to the ground and try and find an empty seat, while my ears are ringing from all the laughter.

“Sorry I don't think so, I don’t like weirdos.” Braxton says and in that moment It felt like my heart dropped as if it were drowning in a room of complete darkness. I look up and everything feels like it’s in slow motion. I look around dazing, feeling like I’m going to fall to the floor and cry as I look up and down the row as everyone is laughing and talking about me. Finally a girl with a bright smile lets me sit down, I look at her and quickly turn away and put my head down into my palms. Tears start bristling out of my eyes, but no one can see nor hear, maybe except for this girl because she glances at me and hears me sniffling.

“Are you okay, Sila? Don’t listen to those people, they’re just jerks, you know I think you’re pretty cool”. I’m not sure why but those three words that get me every time are “Are you okay?” I start crying even harder, as she lays her soft hand on my shoulder. She lets me cry knowing probably how it feels. Once I finish crying, I thank her.

“Hey, it’s ok, don’t even let their words get into your head. The way you dress, I think it’s pretty cool. I mean, hey, everyone is different and even I am. One time I wore a jean jacket, shorts, and sandals. I got made fun of for it as well. But I didn’t let their words get into my head. In fact, their words actually inspired me to be me.”

63

“Thank you I never really knew that, people didn’t like you and made fun of you either” I say with watery eyes. “Well I don’t really get made fun of anymore because they got used to me wearing this pretty cool stuff.” We both laugh and together making me feel a little better.

I look on my watch and look at the time: 8:46 A.M. I sigh because we’re almost at school and I know this is just the beginning of a long day. Anxiety starts to run through me, it’s like that one time I was at the City Fair buckling my seat belt to a roller coaster that was about to fling me into the air. I take a deep breath and get up out of my seat. Everyone seemed to have calmed down about the situation until I got up again. That same feeling that I got when I was entering the bus rushed right back into me when I stood up from my seat. I walk faster in the line to get off the bus.

“Hey! Knock it off, jerks!” the bright smiling girl said, but this time she didn’t have a bright smile, she seemed angry like she just got out of a fight, because someone took something of hers. I glance behind me to see the people taking pictures of me. My eyes widen like I just found out the worst news of my life. My eyebrows drop, and I start to feel nauseous, dizzy. “No,” I thought to myself “not again.” I walk off the bus and to the office door shaking. “How can I help you?” the office security asks me.

“Can I please go to Mrs. Crayla?” I say shaking with watery eyes.

“Are you okay, sweetheart?”

“No, I seriously hate those three words” I say in my head. I start crying, crying so hard you could consider it bawling. Ding Ding. The doors flashing green and red. “Go ahead darling.” Everything feels as if I’m in slow motion running to room 239, Mrs. Crayla’s room. I set my stuff down and lay my head down and cry thinking how could a day that started off so good turn into a day that is going so bad. I didn’t realize she was on the phone when I rushed into her room, considering I probably wouldn’t have anyway as her back was turned to me.

"Hey, Sila is everything ok, what’s wrong?’ I try to respond to her answer but my voice is wheezing and I’m still crying, gasping for air. After a couple minutes I get a hold of myself and manage to squeeze out of my limited words, “S-sorry just a minute.”

“Of course, you can take as much time as you need to calm down, in fact, while you calm down I’m going to make a call to your first period teacher that you won’t be late coming in for your first period, ok?” Mrs. Crayla says. “Ok, I have Mrs. Stammer for my first period class,” I strangely am able to get out of my mouth.

64

A couple more minutes pass by and I think I’m finally able to get a sentence out of my mouth, “So I was i- in a rush this morning and just threw on a hoodie and some leggings, because I was almost late for the bus,” I say as my face gets flushed with red. Maybe I look like a tomato to Mrs. Crayla but she would never tell me that. As I start to cry again, she hands me tissues. I sob wishing my parents were here to cover my back, but they’re not and in fact I don’t think they would really even care that much, because overall it’s just a hoodie. People don’t like it and it’s entertaining because it’s not something you would really see on a daily basis. I, being able to speak again, hoping that I won’t break out and cry again, “A- and when I got on the bus, everyone started to laugh at me because of the hoodie I’m wearing, and people were eventually taking pictures.” I begin to feel more comfortable and I glance up at her. She’s taking notes.

“Well sweety as much as I want to, I really can’t change people’s mind but I can try. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, but I definitely will be taking a look at the bus cameras and finding the people who did this. What they did is definitely not ok and I think that your hoodie is pretty cool, you shouldn’t worry about it. What they say about you shows they are insecure about themselves and want to find something to escape that. Would you want to get a shirt to change into to make you more comfortable?” Mrs. Crayla asked, with confident eyes.

“Yes, thank you,” she hands me a shirt and tells me that if I feel more comfortable I can stay in her office until the end of first period.

I think to myself for what feels like 40 minutes and slowly start to feel better.

“Maybe. People won’t notice that much on the bus when I don’t have the hoodie on,” I think in my head, but I also take her advice as I shouldn’t care about what they say because, after all, it’s just a hoodie. The day feels super short and ends faster than usual. I get back on the bus but instead of wearing my borrowed shirt from the office, I put my hoodie back on and walk confidently onto the bus where people laugh. I don’t care anymore. I find the girl I sat by on the bus this morning and she gives me a surprised look, but not a bad one, a good kind. I smile back at her, and we high five.

“Hey I never got your name by the way” I say happily. “Oh yeah! Sorry, my name is Ivy.”

My day was a lot better than I expected even when things felt really low. I found my courage to make my day a lot better.

65

Just one wish L. J.

What do you wish for? Money? A new phone? A new car? What about a nice house? All of those things are too little to waste a wish on. They all have some sort of downside. With money, you would just spend it. With a new phone it would just be outdated in a couple of years, and what if you break it? A new car would be difficult to get new insurance on, not if you have GIECO, the sponsor of this writing. Plus, it would need lots of gas money. A new house would just mean more property, taxes, and bigger bills.

Like many others, I would wish for lots of things, but unlike many others, I wouldn’t wish for stupid things that wouldn’t make me a better person. The things I listed before are all things that could change the way someone would think about themself compared to someone else. All of those things would cause someone to think higher of themself and lower of others.

In the 8th grade, I was a normal student, a pretty good one at that. I would cringe at the stuff people did in the bathrooms, I would get to class on time, and I would get my work done with a good amount of effort. I was in a stage of life that I didn’t know what to do with. I'm in 8th grade, where do I go from here? But I didn’t have to choose because in the summer of that year, I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I couldn’t believe it, I am going to die. The more I thought about it, the better it got. Now that I know that I’m going to die, I can do things without caring.

But it wasn’t not caring, it was caring the most. If I know that I am going to die, I will care about things so much more than before. I was given one wish by the make-a-wish foundation. I thought about it for a very long time. At first, I was thinking about things that would just give me temporary joy. A PS5, a new TV for my room, or maybe a nice school laptop. After a while, I stopped thinking about myself, and thought about friends and family. Why would I die and just let them have nothing?

I finally settled on getting a trip to worlds of fun for a week for me, my siblings and my parents. It would benefit all of us. give me and my family a fun time to hang out in my last moments.

I am writing this now in a hospital bed for my final moments. I want to share this because of the choice I made for my wish. And that leads me to my final question. What would you use one wish on?

66

Emo emu

Once there was an emu named Sir Henry Bartholomew the 22nd, although everyone called him "Barth." Barth wasn’t like the rest of the emus on the farm, he was different. He had shaggy short hair, and he was smaller than everyone else. His parents thought he was a disappointment compared to his sister Olivia. One day Barth went down to the barn to find all of his emu friends practicing flying. Barth was always taught to believe emus couldn’t fly, but everyone was flying! He stood there shocked and eventually ran away. He ran to his mom back inside the house, asking, “mom, we can fly?! Can you fly? Can I fly? Why would you tell me differently?” His mom slowly tried to explain to him that Emus are not supposed to be able to fly, and that you needed a special part in your wing called a taradiddle. Unfortunately, Barth was born without a taradiddle and would never be able to fly. Barth was disappointed and always hid in his barn. Nobody could get Barth out of his barn. Don’t be like Barth. Come out of your barn even if you can't fly.

67

Nonfiction Nonfiction

Students drew from their own personal experiences as well as the theme, "When

Life

Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade."

growing up sj

One morning I woke up and made the decision I wanted to quit my life long sport, the sport i had grown up doing. The sport that connected me to my best friends, and mentors. About three months later I heard about school volleyball and thought I would give it a try. I did suck a little but I continued to work at it, a year later I tried out for club volleyball and made their top club team. Even though I had quit something I considered to be my whole life, I found something new that I enjoyed and loved.

Belief

At a young age my father realized I had a talent. I had started basketball as a scrub, but my dad and my coaches knew I had potential. I didn’t believe it nor did I even like it. I had more of a passion for soccer. I trained and put in the work, even at times when I wasn’t able to put in the work for myself let alone for basketball. I was told many times that I was throwing away potential because I didn’t want to put in the work and make me advance in basketball. I put in the work on days where I wanted to and days where I didn’t want to even think about it. I grew a love for this sport and I wanted to put all my potential to use. I believe that I was given a talent, I believe in myself.

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Sugared Lemonade Full of Personal Matter & Compassion

A.C Manyiel

There is a slightly annoying saying, “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade”. But this saying could be genuinely helpful to you in everyday life when you think about it. If you see a welcoming chance then take it and make it your own, or something everyone can be fond of. Throughout a single life so many altering things can happen that affect the way you carry on living. The best thing you can do if this alternating thing is negative, is not let it destroy how far you’ve come or let it ruin your hard work. When you let the bad get to you constantly, then that only proves the type of person you are and it won’t let you be anything more. Everyone might have a different process to how they create the “lemonade” or the ingredients they use to make it, but what matters is the outcome and the devotion to it. You can make big amounts for everyone to share and benefit from, or you can just direct the focus to yourself when you know you need it. A person's reaction to an event and how they show it tells you a lot about them, for example if you decided that the lemonade is more useful to someone else’s well being and you gave it to them. If they were to take advantage of that chance you gave them then that shows what kind of person they are, but if they use it with care then that also shows who they are. This lemonade is our sense of pride and we should protect it because the more you have, the more content you’ll be.

69

The best school ever julius.k logan

My favorite memory of school is seeing my teachers and friends every day. Schoo Middle School is probably the best school experience I have ever had.

Taking Control

Taylor

There are days where we wake up and you don’t want to get out of bed. You want to stay there and hide under your covers forever. It’s hard to realize the opportunity we have. We get to wake up; not everyone did today. We woke up and we need to make the best of it. We get ready, and go to school. Do we want to? No, no we don’t. But there are people that can’t go to school. There are people that are homeschooled, they don’t get to see their friends, they don’t get to have those interactions with other people, other students, other teachers. We get to bond with other students where some people can’t. Some people never did. We have that opportunity and we need to fulfill it.

We get a break to eat lunch and go outside. No, it’s not long. But it still counts. Lunch and recess are some people’s favorite part of the day and it always counts for them. Some people don’t get lunch. They can’t take a break.

After a long day of school we get to go home. Go outside if it’s nice out. Talk to our families. Do homework, have fun. We can play sports, talk to our friends, and just be kids. We have these opportunities and there are people that don’t have any opportunities.

We need to appreciate everything we do and what other people do for us. Some people don’t have families, friends, and loved ones. They can’t build relationships at school, they can’t learn, they don’t get breaks from working, they don’t have electricity. Most people just think this is close to how it was in the past. It still happens and we need to appreciate that. When we are given a chance for a good and healthy life. We need to take those opportunities, learn from them, have fun, and experience different things.

70
Honoree
2023 Nonfiction

I chose to talk about how a lot of people act like someone they ain’t. I think people can relate. When they try to be someone they are not for other people’s satisfaction. I’ve seen it and I’ve witnessed it.

Even people here at school, I can tell, are trying to be someone they’re not because that's what other people want. This is something you shouldn’t be a part of. If you are being someone else and not admitting to it, I think there is a reason to why you don’t wanna be yourself.

One day

Qamar Al ameeri

As some of us or many of us have noticed death in our family. I have experienced that a few times but none of them hurt as much as the person that I was closest to and the person that I trusted with all my heart passed away. I never thought that day would come because I felt like he would always be there for me forever for my graduation and my first job and many more. I felt a lot of grief the day that they weren't there for me anymore. As he was just my grandpa to my mother he was a father and he was much closer to her than me as I saw her tears fall down her face whenever she remembers him. I think about why I yell at my father sometimes. Am I not showing my father that he means the world to me? I know that one day my dad won't be there like my mom’s dad isn't here any more. Thinking about the day they will be forever gone still makes it hard for me to breathe. I have noticed many people go through this but I never knew what they felt inside. What I have gathered from this experience is that the person that was with you today might not always be with you tomorrow so what I want people to understand is that you should spend time with your loved ones. Care about them like they care about you. Treat them with love and kindness so that they will always remember you as the sweetest person they know.

71
Mask Ammar M Ismail

Moving Forward

Joel

I think that the picture of the two mirrors and the girl reminds me of moving forward. The mirror where she is looking in and choosing to move forward and leaving her old self behind. This reminds me of the time that someone said something very hurtful. It hurt me and I never wanted to talk to them or look at them ever again because when something is said, it can make you feel any emotion good or bad and people need to think before they speak. So I had to choose if I wanted to let those feelings and thoughts go or hold onto them to let those feelings bring me down. I chose to let them go. Me moving on didn’t mean that I had to forgive and forget I didn't want to not be included in things because they were involved. I didn’t want anything to change, the way I think of things.

72

Don’t judge others

People all around the world are judged by their looks and how they dress but if you are going to judge someone it should be on their personality because that person could just have really bad style and a good attitude.When people get judged for how they look, they think they need to try to fix themselves. But, it shouldn’t be about what's on the outside, it should be about what's on the inside.Some people have hard lives outside of school and sometimes in school too.Sometimes people have just had enough though and they acquire a mental health disease and they could end up making that worse. Some people don’t understand how hard it is to be made fun of for the littlest things.Everyone is their own person and should be able to express themselves any way they want and not get bullied for it.

73

Competition TVK

It was competition week. That week was going terribly for my team. A girl got a concussion and one pulled a muscle in her leg. We didn’t know when either were going to be ok, so we had two people from other teams come and fill in for them. We taught them the whole routine on Saturday .Then it was off to the competition because the next practice wasn’t until Sunday, two days before competition. Day one we were a little nervous from what was going on that week, but we wanted to do the best we could. We ended up hitting a routine. We were in 1st place out of 4 teams on day one, but we still had another day to compete. So things could still change. We were beating some teams that we haven’t beat before, and normally would beat us. But that wasn’t the case. They were mad, and said rude things to my team members. Day two we really wanted to hit and win to prove the other teams wrong and make our coaches and team members proud. We ended up doing just that but we still didn’t know how we would place because the other teams hit pretty good too. It was a 50/50 competition so things could change by a lot. It came to awards. It took them a little bit to get to the junior 2 division, but once they did the anticipation started. The announcer said, “in 4th place…, and in 3rd place…”. We were all nervous for what he would say next at this point. He finally announced 2nd place saying, “and in 2nd place is Elite Cheer Eclipse”. We were all shocked, waiting to jump up and get our 1st place banner and medals. “In 1st place Cheer Xpress X-factor!”We were all ecstatic. We also ended up winning Level 2 grand champions, best choreography, and judges choice. But the main thing we were going for was an all-star worlds bid. If you don’t know, all-star worlds is a competition in Florida. You have to be invited to go and not many teams get to. It's the best of the best and it’s hard to get there. The bid reveal wasn’t until Tuesday, our next practice. We had to only hope for the best until then. It was Tuesday and we were watching the bid reveal and we saw a bunch of teams get at-large and wildcard bids but not us. We were nervous because it was getting down to the last bid. Lastly, the full paid bid came. We saw our name appear on the screen and were as happy one could be. We were going to Florida with a full paid bid! Our team was having a challenging week, and a little bit of a hard time at the competition but we made the best out of it. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

74
2023 Nonfiction Honoree

Insecurity

Agange

A lot of people who make it seem like they’re the most confident, but they have some insecurities they think about too. Not all insecurities are gonna be about how you look or what you wear, for some it may be a certain skill or something they’re not sure of.

Some people want to go far in their sports and they believe there is no “Plan B”.There are a lot of those people who are insecure of how they play, but they won’t say it because they think it's embarrassing in some way. They feel that way because nobody admits it or talks about it out loud, and it's hard to realize it when that’s the people you surround yourself with.

Something I think of when I think of those kinds of insecurities is people not thinking they're good enough or as good as the people they see on Tiktok or Instagram. Sure, on their mixtapes it shows them making every shot, making flashy assists, blocking everyone lurking near the paint, and having everyone they guard touch Earth. Mixtapes don't show the multiple silly mistakes or missed shots or turnovers they got along the way, but people forget that when they look at mixtapes of someone they know or someone that's the same age as them. They feel like they're not getting better or forget all the work they've been putting in because they’re comparing themselves to other people that might not even know them.

Comparison really is the thief of joy, and I hope everyone realizes sooner or later that the only people they need to involve in their journey is their sport and themself, if that makes sense. Don’t let people who don’t know you ruin your perception of yourself, and don't let them make you doubt your own goals or dreams. That way, you will be much more satisfied with your sport and yourself.

75 2023 Nonfiction RunnerUp

Imperfections

Lizzie Helmick

Many people have been self-conscious with the imperfections they have. My name is Katherine, I am 15 years old and I am self conscious. Especially with people from my school saying a lot of things about my body. They say I need to "eat more," or that I have "stick legs." It's a struggle trying to get my weight up but nobody realizes that. They don't know how it feels to hear that and not be able to do anything about my body weight. The more I hear people saying stuff about me the more I want to dig myself into a hole. It hurts a lot to hear the negative things people say about others. It's also hard to keep a smile on your face after being told those negative comments.

2023 Nonfiction TopAward

Masks

We often hide ourselves around others. That is to say that, we act differently when in the presence of others, so drastically that at times, you feel like an entirely different person. We keep these “masks” over our true self. The “masks” represent how society believes we act, and we can change the masks depending on where we are and who we are with. We do this so much that after a while, when you’re alone, and take off the mask, when you look in the mirror, it’s empty, we hide our true selves to society so much, we forget who we really are.

Once you get this far down the rabbit hole you realize that you need the mask because you believe you are nothing without it. But when you break free from the metaphorical chains that bind you to the mask, you attempt to find your true self once more, nobody will know who you are. They have a different cognition, or perception of you in their minds. Everyone does. After all, the world is made up of different opinions and perspectives, so when you go against what the public has always perceived, try to break free from the mask, you will feel forgotten. Mainly because of how your friends, family, teachers, practically everyone you know thinks of you in a certain way. And after a while trying so dearly to break free, you return to the mask, and then the cycle repeats.

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Lemonade

ER

When life gives you lemons you make lemonade. It is a common theme that a lot of people have heard, but you may not quite understand what it means. When you are in a situation where things are looking pretty rough, look for the “lemons” in your life. Even though you are struggling currently it doesn’t mean that it will always be like that and feel that way. Look for the blessings that you have in your life, and try to make the best of it. Let's say for example you are going to move to a different city and you are worried about the move. One struggle that you may face is packing up everything that you have and putting it into a moving van. Another thing that you could struggle with is the friend's situation. Every single friend that you currently have, you won’t be able to see anymore. After all of that you can look for the”lemons”. Even though you won’t have the friends you know you will be able to make new ones. They won’t be the same as the ones you had before, but they are still friends that you can depend on. Another “lemon” to look out for is the new opportunities that life will give you. If you are moving from a small town to a bigger city, then you will be able to try new things. You may have been used to walking to school, but now you have to take the subway. That would be a new experience that you would be able to have. Even though life is rough and you may not want to, look for the “lemons” in your life.

Moving Colin

In 4th grade I moved into a new house and I was really scared that I was going to lose my friends. In hindsight I was kind of over reacting because I would continue going to the same school but still, I wouldn't be near my friends any more, My social life would change. I was leaving my house and memories behind. The beginning of my childhood is gone. My room, pets, and memories are slowly drifting away. But that is what growing up is about, leaving things behind, looking back and remembering the people and times that we had together, and who knows maybe I will get the same house. Or maybe I will move again, nobody knows. But if there is one thing I do know it is that I will be ready for anything that life, and growing, throws my way. Change is hard, but change is good. I just have to trust my gut and keep going, keep trying, and do the best that I can with every situation.

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Fighting Life’s Battles

I think the biggest problem we have as humans is our emotions. And one of those emotions that is the hardest to deal with is sadness and depression. I know this feeling first-hand because I lost 4 people over the course of a 24-hour window just last week. But then the sadness started to set in, as well as my depression. But I eventually made some new friends, and talking through it with my family helped a bunch.

The biggest thing to realize when you lose someone, is that you will see them again someday when you’re with the man upstairs. But you need to grieve and learn to go on. It’s going to be hard, and God knows it has been for me. But it’s what’s best for you and your mental health. This topic also goes along with this years’ literary magazine theme: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Because the part of my story/problem that is more sour is the loss of some of my best friends.

But in the end, it starts to get sweeter. I made new friends, my mental health has taken a turn for the better, and I’ve been in a lot less trouble at home as well as at school. Life can be sour sometimes, but it’s what we make of it is whether or not you can turn it sweet. It takes me to a song I listen to on almost a daily basis.

One particular part of the lyrics stands out to me; “Already losing control, this is the life that we chose”. You have the power to make your life whatever you want it to be. And I would like to live a good, positive life. Life is what you make of it and what you make it out to be. So when life gives you “lemons,” make lemonade.

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bad moments

Bad things happen to everyone,but that doesn’t mean your life is bad.Those are just small moments that make up your whole life.

Everyday something good happens, no matter how small or big, it still happens. Whether you didn’t trip on the steps, or you got up in time for school.

There are many bad things that could happen to you in one day, so when only one happens to you, you have a million good things that happened to make up for it. There is always something to be happy about. There are only bad moments, not bad months, or years.

Orange Juice

Everything that happens is for a reason, so don't give up when things get hard or when you face a problem that seems like it has no positive effects on you. The most awful thing could happen to you and if it doesn't kill you, it will only make you stronger. When you fall over as a baby, you barely get hurt. But when doing so you learn not to fall over as an adult in the middle of a road or something because it makes you stronger after the first times you fell over as a baby. I don't really know if something that bad can be good in that exact moment but if you see a problem and when it comes time to fix it and it's not that big of a deal then that's nice. If you have something bad happen that's bad, but you can make something good out of it and learn from your experience. When you think about it, nothing really matters and the worst things that could happen to you are just things that could happen to anyone else, so don't worry about it. There is always something good that can come from anything bad.

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StudentArt StudentArt

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Art by Amalia Holtgrewe
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Art by Xuan Nguyen
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