2023 Short Short Story Contest

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Contest Year 4

All About the Contest

The challenge: write a 100 word story on one of these topics: dogs, ocean, umbrellas and winter.

Authors from 25 U.S. states and 12 countries submitted entries. Panels of three readers judged the stories using a rubric

Ethos LIteracy's Board of Directors chose the Best of Contest winner from the top scoring stories.

Second place stories were entered into a People's Choice vote on Ethos Literacy's website.

Enjoy reading these creative, short short stories.

The Winning Stories Honorable Mentions Best of Contest: Hind Legs Best Dog Story: Toy Soldiers Best Ocean Story: Sunil's Loves Best Umbrella Story: Striking Best Winter Story: Seasons of Life Best Youth Story: Frigid Flurry People's Choice: Why? Snowy Birthrights Murderer When Winter Comes Cordelia by the Sea Isaiah White Paper Replacement Honoralbe Mention Writers 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 About Ethos Literacy The Writers Contest Sponsors 1 2 4
Table of Contents

About Ethos Literacy

Literacy is the cornerstone of individual achievement and an equitable society Since 2009, Ethos Literacy has provided free tutoring to more than 1,500 adults.

Our main programs are basic literacy and English as a Second Language. We also teach everyday math and computer skills. Our writing program "New Words" is a unique approach to teaching literacy through creative writing.

2023 is the fourth year we've hosted the contest Thank you to all the writers who submitted stories.

The Writers

Priscilla Lawler

Aaron Sullivan is a father, historian, and author living near Philadelphia. By day a mildmannered professor of early American history at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ, he is always on call for two adorable, inexhaustible children and one very neurotic dog. Though previously published in the world of academic history, this is his first published work of fiction, a blessing and opportunity for which he is truly grateful.

Priscilla Lawler repressed her creative writing aspirations with graduate work in anthropology and a career as a computer instructor, only to have them resurface with a vengeance in her later years. She now writes from a cottage in the woods, a short walk from the beaches of Lake Michigan. “Hind Legs” is her first contest submission.

Zack Lewis

Zack Lewis is a ninth grade student in Northern New York. In his free time he enjoys text based roleplaying and drawing. He is an avid cartoon watcher, and enjoys writing detailed descriptions of scenery and/or people. He lives with three dogs and three cats, all of which are cuddly and beloved.

Chris Selochan

Thomas Gridic

Thomas is a warehouse worker and university dropout from the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia. His fiction trends towards fantasy, horror and action. He plays an ungodly amount of tabletop games, and is using his free time to write as much as he can get away with.

Chris Selochan is an attorney-at-law from Trinidad and Tobago who specializes in civil and criminal litigation He is the editor-in-chief of the lifestyle magazine ‘Paradise Pulse’ and has recently expanded his writing into the sphere of fiction. In his spare time, Chris enjoys photography, cricket, music and select television series.

Aaron Sullivan

Adam Steed

Adam Steed grew up in North Texas under the Big Sky. He wrote a well-received short story about dinosaurs in elementary school (which tragically has been lost to history) and has been writing ever since. Adam has worked in a number of fields in search of authentic human stories and currently works as a grant administrator for rural cities and counties in Texas He is a fantastic chef and cat-owner, though he rarely cooks for his cats.

Saya Bilobran

Saya Bilobran is twelve years old and aspires to be a writer when she grows up. She lives in Rio Rancho, New Mexico with her parents, little brother, and two cats. She likes to spend time reading, writing, playing video games, and participating in Girl Scouts.

Contest Sponsors

best of contest winner Hind Legs

Priscilla Lawler

“It isn’t hard to get a dog to dance,” he said, ruddy face gleaming. “Just a matter of finding the right music. A dachshund loves dancehall; a poodle, polka; a terrier, tango. Spaniels salsa; rottweilers rock!” We looked down at the chihuahua asleep at our feet and played classical, country, calypso – but she slept. We dug deep: Chinese opera, Celtic chant, Canadian folk. Her tiny snores were soft but audible.

It was the metal band rehearsing next door that woke her and saved us. “Ah, someone’s a mutt!” And the gorgeous distorted guitars swallowed the click of her prancing claws.

best of topic winner: dogs Toy Soldiers

Thomas Grdic

"The dogs of this city will grow fat off the bodies we lay to waste." The general's promise echoed in my head as I crawled, fumbling around the haze and biting cordite dust of the blast. Ears ringing, I dug at the sand where my rifle was half submerged, like two trunkless legs of stone. I stopped when I felt something staring, and looked up.

A tall black dog, eyes like lead, its gaze locked on me. Clenched in its jaw was a bloody human hand with the mangled remains of skin and uniform at the wrist. Mine. My hand.

best of topic winner: ocean Sunil's Loves

Chris Selochan

Sunil sat, pondering on his existence. Years ago, the ocean had taken his father and brother, as it had so many other fisherfolk. Yet Sunil persevered. It was all he knew. The fresh scent of the water and the triumph of a catch masqueraded the pain of loss, like the lure of a passionate but unfaithful lover.

Last week the ocean had taken his son, his most beloved. Still, amidst the pain, the captivation remained. Sunil rose and dove off the boat into the deep waters, offering no resistance to the waves. He was now one with all his loves.

best of topic winner: umbrellas

Striking Aaron Sullivan

It was a marvel of anti-meteorological engineering. The handle was mahogany, the canopy silk, the shaft steel, a blade against the sky. It was a wedding present and nearly new. She stood on the hilltop, aegis raised high, defying the downpour and all it represented: the damp ceremony that ruined her white dress, the rain-slick roads that caused the crash, the drizzle which drove away the other mourners and left her here, alone, stabbing a pointed silver tip up into weeping eyes of an unfair God. Unfair, unjust, unmerciful . . .

The lightning made her point for her.

best of topic winner: winter Seasons of Life Adam Steed

From his rocking chair, Gerald watched a leathery leaf fall from his Magnolia tree. A boy in a hat, coat, and mittens played in the snow. He grew as his snowman melted and the weather warmed. The boy, older, taller, kicked a soccer ball on green grass. He danced with a girl in a sundress. They married under the Magnolia tree. Its leaves turned brown. From rocking chairs on the porch the couple watched their children as they watched their children grow. Winter had come. Gerald looked from the falling leaf to the empty chair beside him and wept, smiling.

best youth story Frigid Flurry

Zack Lewis

My quivering breaths come out in puffs. Purple icicles I can barely recognize as my fingers pull thin sleeves further over themselves. A blinding flurry of snow relentlessly pours onto my cold husk of a body. I can’t tell if the frozen particles had multiplied beneath me or if I’ve fallen. The ground tilts without warning and I – unsuccessfully – attempt to grab for support. I'm airborne. Fuzzily, I stare at the joyful child that shakes my world. Her exclamations about a snow globe blend into the whirling winds surrounding me. My vision fails, and I’m one with the snow.

people's choice winner youth story Why?

Saya Bilobran

The sailor’s ship lay wrecked on the shore. A vast ocean divides the sailor and the treasure island. A parrot soars above, then lands.

“Oh Parrot! I can’t cross the ocean without my ship!” the sailor cries.

“Why not build another?” Parrot suggests.

“Why build ships only to crash? I can’t take another ship crashing!”

“Why worry about ships crashing, you haven’t a ship to crash!” Parrot asks. “Why have a heart if it isn’t full? Why be a sailor if you don’t sail? We will try and fail again, but if we don’t live life, why live?”

Snowy Birthrights

April Yu

The twin sisters were born into the frost, snowy birthrights grafted into doughy skin. Cursed children, pale as snow, the village whispered. Three hundred bones fisted between winter’s icy grip.

Only their mother cradled them against her chest. My beloved babies, she murmured. Unsealed their frozen eyelashes to December moonlight.

They’ll grow to have hearts of ice said the village as their skin multiplied into itself. But their mother held them close, didn’t say a word. The twin sisters had been born into the frost, yet they had been born from the thawing, and she knew they would never freeze.

honorable mention youth story

honorable mention ocean


It used to be beautiful. At times, I almost think it still is.

It’s nothing but a tomb, so vast and deep, it’s unfathomable; unmarked, and full of countless bodies.

I’m sickened by the sight of children playing at its edges. Families, couples, friends, all putting themselves at risk, and for what?

My brother was one of those children. We splashed and played together, but he went out too far. I was afraid, so I stayed back. Then the ocean took him, just like that.

Grief nearly destroyed me, while that cruel, blue water showed no signs of lamentation. Murderer.

honorable mention winter When Winter Comes

It’s summertime and my demons are calm. I’m milling around town being cheery, compassionate, and helpful - a good citizen. No thoughts of hunting. No thoughts of destruction. No thoughts of doling out my own form of justice. As winter approaches, I start prepping for those dark days and nights: cleaning my weapons, gathering my medical supplies, and stocking my pantry. I shorten my visits to town because I know what’s on the horizon. Looking out the window, I see the first snowflakes. The red phone in the basement rings. I run to answer it and smile. Winter has come.

Cordelia by the Sea

Eva Abrego

Cordelia was eight. She lived in a two-story house by the ocean in Astoria, Oregon. Her name meant daughter of the sea. Often at dusk, she went out alone and walked along the water. Tonight, Cordelia was thinking about how she'd found a loose floorboard under her bed. She was known for uncovering secrets. Inside was a photograph of a girl who looked like her standing in front of her house. The picture said 1965 with Emilia written on the bottom. The back said I'm watching you. She heard a knock on her window. Her second-floor bedroom.

mention youth story

honorable mention ocean Isaiah

Jessica Reese

Tears swelled in my eyes as my feet met the foot of the ocean. “Isaiah!” I howled his name, and the thunderous ocean bellowed it back to me. Then silence. He was safe. I picked up my sandals and started back towards the beachfront when a grey-haired lady bumped into me. The feather she held danced down to my feet. I picked it up and pointed it at her. “No,” she shook her head and then nodded at me. Another sign. His angel wing. Isaiah was safe. My baby Isaiah.

honorable mention winter White Paper

Chris Cochran

A frigid gust of wind nearly knocks me off the unsalted sidewalk. An icy intersection awaits, the pale WALKING PERSON faint behind blowing snow.

I have been spinning my wheels at the office for months yet deserted my car in minutes for doing the same. The slick surface of my driveway, my “lack of passion” at work— no grit.

I’ll show them.

I doggedly waddle atop the snowy crosswalk a few paces before the ice lurking beneath bites, my loafers providing zero traction.

My head and briefcase collide into concrete, blanketing the street with project proposals—no two discernibly different.

honorable mention umbrellas Replacement

Telia Backus

I sit in a dark closet corner. I long to feel the wind, the cool air. I can hear a little girl playing outside my door. She’s laughing, squealing as her toys enjoy their life outside.

I lose track of how long I’m trapped before the door opens. Someone grabs rain boots and jackets - yes!

The door closes on me. I’m confused, hurt. My purpose in life is to shield from the outdoors. Have I become insignificant?

The door creaks open. The rain boots are returned. Then the jacket. And one more joins us. A brand new umbrella.

Honorable Mention Writers

April Yu

Gail Godbey

Gail Godbey has been a human for almost 35 years and a writer for as long as she can remember. She hopes to take this fun, lifelong hobby of writing and make something of it. She is also passionate about running, rock climbing, and drawing. The best part about being creative is that you’re never bored; your brain is always working on something, even if you’re not quite sure what it is.

April Yu is a fourteen-year-old writer from New Jersey with an affinity for language, running, and human anatomy Her work is published in or forthcoming from Peach Mag, The Lumiere Review, Milk Candy Review, The Aurora Journal, FEED, and more. She is a graduate of the Alpha Workshop for Young Writers.

Deliah Lawrence

Eva Abrego

Eva Abrego is 13 years old and an eighth grader at Wilson Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her favorite subjects are science and English. She loves to read more than anything else in the world, and she likes to draw, play sports and tap dance.

Deliah Lawrence is a Maryland-based attorney and award-winning author of two romantic suspense novels (Gotta Let It Go and Gotta Get It Back) set in Baltimore She’s also a blogger and workshop facilitator who writes poetry and short stories. When Deliah isn’t busy writing, she enjoys reading a book, indulging in her addiction to investigation discovery shows, or painting her yet-to-be exhibited oil artworks of landscapes, portraits, or whatever else comes to her creative mind.

Jessica Reese

From Memphis, Tennessee by way of Detroit, Jessica Reese has been writing since 9 years old when she helped found the Creative Writers' Club for her elementary school. In college, she wrote and performed poetry, winning 2nd Prize in a cultural poetry contest, and it was also there that she began her freelance writing career. Currently, she has her own writing company, Illuminate Writing Company, where her projects range from writing resumes to editing manuscripts to writing web copy. She continues to write freelance and recently won three awards: the Curators' Choice Award (Something Or Other Publishing) and 2nd Place (SOOP) for her Mystery and Detective short story as well as the 2022 Real People Fellowship Award Winner for The Writers' at Dairy Hollow.

Chris Cochran has been teaching high school English for the past decade, learning as much from his students as they learn from him. He currently lives in Stevensville, Michigan with his wife and son.

Telia Backus

“I am a young adult currently working as a restaurant server and hoping to return to college in the fall. I loved writing as a kid, and with all the crazy events life throws at you, I forgot all about how much I enjoyed it. I’ve been reminded to challenge myself through my hobbies such as drawing, painting, and crochet I hope to make a name for myself through the things I love.”

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