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Anthology Team

Young Writers Anthology Editorial Team & Policies A Note from the Editors This anthology contains the winning works submitted for the annual Oklahoma Young Writers Contest, sponsored by the Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English, the state affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English. We received over 300 entries with the support of over 60 educators across the state of Oklahoma. The winners, ranging from grades 6-12, submitted works for short story, personal narrative, comic, poetry, descriptive paragraph, and expository essay. To the writers included in this year’s anthology, Congratulations on this prestigious achievement!

Young Writers Anthology Team OKCTE Board Member Reviewers Sarah J. Donovan Jo Flory Crag Hill Lara Searcy Kimberly Stormer Michelle Waters Rebecca Weber

Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English Executive Board Jennie Hanna, President Lara Searcy, Immediate Past President Jo Flory, President Elect

OSU Writing Mentors Reviewers & Editors Christine DeStefano Jairus Bradley Josie Baker Madison Burnett Bailey Davenport Michelle DeVincentis Garin Dudley Noah Estes Abigail Hambrick Sarah Leger Araceli Martinez Betsy Matlock Brooke Merrick Deanna Morton Ryan Ryan Brittany Rubin Sarah Sanders Xyouaxee Xiong

Justin Yates, Vice President Kimberly Stormer, Executive Secretary Lara Searcy, Treasurer Michelle Waters & Jennifer Williams, Oklahoma English Journal Editors Tessie Curran & Dani Nagel, Geraldine Burns Award Coordinators Sarah J. Donovan, Young Writers Contest Coordinator Crag Hill, Historian Rebecca Weber, Librarian Deb Wade, Elementary Sectional Officer Jason Stephenson, Secondary Sectional Officer Darla Tresner, Coordinator of Professional Development Jennifer Williams and Shaista Fenwick, ​Diversity Committee Regional Coordinators

Submission Policy & Review Process The Young Writers Anthology welcomes submissions from any student grades 6-12 in Oklahoma between November and January via online submission form. Teachers submit work on behalf of the students verifying they have read the work, have parent permission to enter the work for publication, and that the work is original. What is submitted must be a “final'' copy as we will not make requests for revisions. From January to March, the review board judges each entry using the same rubric developed by the Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English. Each piece is reviewed by multiple members of the review boards. During March, the editorial and layout teamwork to copy edit and create the anthology. All writers are notified in late March through teacher contact as to the status of their entry. Anthology writers will receive a certificate of congratulations at the OKCTE April gathering.

Justin Yates, East Lindsey Cherry, North ​Jason Poudrier, West

Editorial Policy

Tracy Hunt & Christina Kirk, Central

The Young Writers Anthology editorial staff reserves the right to edit minor errors such as grammatical and spelling issues.

Rachel Dowell, Private Schools Tessie Curran, New Teachers

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 2


contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

Table of Contents Cover Artwork by Sidney Hasenmyer, Bjork Portrait

Descriptive Paragraph Title

Author

Grade

School

Artwork by Gabrielle Dawess, Vengeful Ambitions; Daniel Yanez, portrait; Madelyn McDonald, portrait

Cold

Zoe Church

7

Owasso Public Schools

Running

Natalie Garland

11

Vinita High School

Only a Memory

Sydney Southward

12

Ringling High School

Alaskan Glacier

Breanne Roberts

11

Grove High School

My Neighborhood Forest

Abbigale Schiefelbein

7

Owasso 7th Grade Center

The Pond

Kate Woods

6

Sulfur Middle School

A Bad Day

Kennedy Sturgeon

10

Oklahoma Union

Family Tree

Cherish Smith

11

Norman High School

Performing Solo

Zoee Rolland

12

Grove High School

Homesick

Kaylee McCellan

11

Broken Arrow High School

Expository Essay Title

Author

Grade

School

Artwork by Olivia Helms, Nature Reimagine; Zachary Wisdom, acrylic landscape

Music: Stronger Than Any Superhero

Madison Lake

11

Piedmont High School

Legacy Review

Lucy Kershan

8

Homeschool

The Rising Prices of Insulin in the U.S.

Baylee Greg

11

Grove High School

ACL Injuries in Athletes

Alli Rae Nippert

10

US-169 & OK-10, Lenapah

Why is Distance Learning a Threat to America's Future?

Kelsi Lester

12

Ringling High School

Personal Narrative Title

Author

Grade

School Artwork by Gabrielle Dawes, Phoebus

The Unimportant Story of My Life

Emily Collins

9

Plainview High School

Scabs

Hope Wells

11

Broken Arrow High School

Battle on the Back Road

Sydney Pierce

11

Norman High School

The Ride of a Lifetime

Abbigale Schiefelbein

7

Owasso 7th Grade Center

Cutting the Tether

Will Madden

11

Norman High school

Pikachu

Catie Thai

12

Norman High School

Climb Out

Jacob Grimmett

12

Stilwell High School

My Locked Up Brother

Abbigail Rosencutter

10

Broken Arrow High School

The Dreams

Hailey Criss

9

Dale High School

Looking Back

Sarah Kienzle

12

Taloga High School

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 3


contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

Comic Title

Author

Grade

School

Artwork by Gabrielle Dawes, Guardian’s Plight

Newcomer

Zoe "Zed" Church

7

Owasso Public Schools

A Single Act

Arianna Snell

12

Grove High School

I Have Not

Ben Saenz

9

OK-10, Lenapah

Missed Bus

Nosrat Montaha

7

Owasso 7th Grade Center

Megan Gibbs

11

Grove High School

Author

Grade

School

Snakes in Her Head

Poem Title

Artwork by Chloe Hickerson, River Woman; Madelyn McDonald; Daniel Yanez, Daniel’s Sister; Christian Gregory, Red Skies; Kayden Casteel, Bee and Flower; Jonathan Barrett, Simple Hors

Self-Reliance

Chrysanna Harter

8

Commerce Middle School

Not Going Under

Mariah Martin

12

Ringling High School

Welcome to our Society

Nichole Egermeier

9

Oklahoma Union

Loneliness

Kylee Wilson

12

Broken Arrow High School

Only One Planet

Nihal Zehra Erez

6

Dove Science Academy MS

Holly Jolly Christmas

Bella Klingensmith

6

Byng Elementary

I’m

Everett Denney

6

Byng Elementary

Until I Meet You Again

Emmersyn Craig

6

Byng Elementary

Happy Place

Natalie Sloat

12

Ringling High School

fairy

Teo Fonseca

12

Broken Arrow High School

Two Pretty Best Friends

Logan Rosiere

10

Grove High School

The World of the Night

Nosrat Montaha

7

Owasso 7th Grade Center

Active Procrastination

Catie Thai

12

Norman High School

Sea of Desire

Grace Pinder

10

Grove High School

I Don’t Understand

Konnor Richardson

12

Community Christian School

Drowning

Victoria Williamson

10

Oklahoma Connections Academy

Broken Guitar Player

Cheyenne Round

11

Vinita High School

The Perspective of Gratitude

Ashley Ramirez

12

Harding Charter Preparatory High

A Country Life

Thane McFall

10

Oklahoma Union

How Far Would the Rock Sink?

Hayden Barrowman

8

Whittier Middle School

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 4


contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

Short Story Title

Author

Grade

School

Artwork by Jonathan Barrett, A Fall Walk, watercolor

Mycophobia

Jacob Whitlow

12

Broken Arrow High School

Just Me and Jonah

Kalli Tippens

8

Longfellow Middle School

Lost Soul Found

Ziting Gao

9

Jenks Freshman Academy

Mia

Emma Hilliard

10

Grove High School

The Cost of Freedom

Angie Delgado

7

Cheyenne Middle School

Accidit In Auruginem

Ellana Monks

8

Cheyenne Middle School

Get Up and Go Again

Madison Hull

7

Friend Public School

Mystery Murder

Kylea Bostick

6

Friend Public School

A New View

Olivia Kelly

11

Broken Arrow High School

The Pit of No Exit

Sophia Conway

6

Epic Charter Schools

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contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

Descriptive Paragraph OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 6


contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

Cold by Zoe Church, Owasso Public Schools The biting cold of an early Winter morning can sound almost tranquil, but when streaks of dawn just barely peak over the horizon and stars are still splattered across the sky like slipped paint, it’s less than pleasant. There’s no snow to speak of, but the ground is frozen through and crunches beneath your feet. Like a tundra, but the trees tower over you like frost giants. The mist of your breath becomes frozen crystals, and each inhale is sharp and almost painful. The scent of wet leaves, morning dew and pine needles fills the air. Crows and blackbirds sing a song to lure the sun out of hiding. But here, deep in the forest and caught in the dead of late December, you do feel more connected to the earth. You recall your ancestors, and you smile a bit when you remember that this exact moment has been experienced by many before you. You hear the birds, you see the stars, and for a moment, the burdens of the modern world are lifted from your shoulders. Cracks in frozen water remind you of the morning sky, and as you look back up, you see the sun greeting you. Golden oranges and vibrant reds swirl and mix with robin egg blue as owls head to bed for the night and the rest of the world rises from slumber. Moss covers the trunks of trees, and fallen logs, and mushrooms give you a little entrance to the world of the fae as they serve as nature’s recycling bins. Even rot, here in the forest, gives way for life. You realize that everything, including humans, is caught in the flowing dance of life and death, and that’s comforting. You’re free in Winter. But you’re still incredibly cold, and would much rather be inside versus camping.

Running by Natalie Garland, Vinita Public Schools Breathe in through the nostrils and out through the mouth. Breath consuming breathing exercises preserve any sort of air that has entered the lungs. Metallic, blood taste appears in the far back of the esophagus. Still struggling to maintain a sustainable pace to keep up with the others, the heart begins beating like a bass drum, harder, faster, stronger, feeling as if the organ may burst into tiny pieces. As if this is not annoying enough, a

sting, sharp as a knife, begins to form and accumulate right below the rib cage. Painful, annoying, and burdensome, the sting accompanied with the knife-like feeling quickly turns into a side stitch. Burning on fire from within the thigh becomes a warm surface. The burning sensation is a nuisance, but the shins begin begging for mercy. Maddening, this now develops into shin splints. Every step pounding the shins into the hard concrete creates this immense pain running from kneecap to ankle. A pain much stronger, and more noticeable, sharp, disappears when the ankle gets a brief second of relief when exchanging feet to take another step, but as soon as it pounds right back into the ground, this horrible pain returns without any hesitation. This is running.

Only a Memory by Sydney Southward, Ringling High School As I step into Pop Mike’s closet, his distinct, masculine aroma envelops my senses-- a masquerade that makes me believe he is still here. I close my eyes and take in deep breaths. His rustic, manly cologne still wallows in his dark, abandoned closet. Stagnant smells of sawdust, grass clippings, pungent oil, gasoline, and charcoal stained steaks pervade my nose. A rainbow colored array of button-ups hang on the left wall of his closet-- from his pearl snap, Sunday bests to his raggedy old cattle workin’ get ups. His diverse collection of threadbare cowboy boots and tennis shoes are perfectly symmetrical against the right wall, and together, they tell his story. Grass clippings cling to an old, cracked pair of faded, white Reebok tennis shoes. The clippings originated from the precise, symmetrical lines he stamped on his vividly green, seven acre lawn. Smells from sweet spring sunsets spent sitting on the back porch overlooking Pop Mike’s freshly clipped grass overwhelm my memory. Then, I catch a whiff of saccharine, seasoned wood. The craftsman’s dark, leather loafers permeate ambrosial sawdust, sticky tree sap, and orange oil from when he tediously crafted state of the art wooden shelves and benches. The tattered, rough grain of dark, red cedar planks spent countless hours being meticulously sanded and crafted into svelte masterpieces in his workshop. He once tediously crafted a beautiful memory box for me. I never would have imagined the first memory in my little

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contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

box would be his obituary. I then become suffocated by rancid waves of oil and gasoline resonating from his ancient, sweat soaked cowboy boots. In these cowboy boots he home-made a gigantic helicopter that once rested in his garage twenty years ago-- the contraption had an eloquent blue tint and a monstrous, intimidating stature. He discarded his contrived machine after a “hard landing.” After that memory falls from my mind, savory steak seasonings envelop my senses. A bittersweet charcoal aroma lingers around the master griller’s polo shirts. An unfathomable amount of prime beef-- ribeyes, filets, t-bones, tenderloins-- was grilled to smoky, rare, perfection on his rust-stained charcoal grill. After these moments of seemingly only yesterday’s memories, I step out of his closet, close the door, and solemnly reminisce on all of Pop Mike’s bittersweet smells.

Alaskan Glacier by Breanne Roberts, Grove High School I stand on the 11th deck balcony attached to my stateroom on the cruise ship bundled in over two layers of clothes to withstand the 40 degree day added to the icy chill from the wind and the frigid water misting across my face from the ocean. I can hear the squawking of birds and the splashes of otters and porpoises frolicking in the water and on top of the icebergs that are just barely poking out of the surface of the ocean. I can also hear the enormous splash of a whale, and in the distance you can just make out the triangular, Y shape of the whale’s tail. In front of me is a majestic and humongous glacier with snow-capped mountains standing tall and strong behind it in Glacier Bay, Alaska. The glacier is gigantic, bigger than the cruise ship I am standing on, the cruise ship over 950 feet long, 195 feet high, weighs over 110,000 tons, and holds over 4,000 people, guests and crew, makes the size of the glacier astounding. The glacier is a pale blue block of ice with innumerous cracks and crevasses dispersed across the expanse of ice. A consistent popping and sizzling sound can be heard echoing through the glacier. The popping and sizzling goes silent as the glacier calves off hundreds of pounds of ice, birthing an iceberg, resulting in a giant booming sound like an explosion going off. I jump in surprise, my heart racing so quickly I can hear the thump thump of my heartbeat in my ears.

I can’t stop my eyes from going wide or my mouth from dropping in awe. I feel so small and insignificant compared to the miraculous event of nature I am able to witness right in front of my eyes. Knowing that this glacier has stood here for thousands of years, survived through years of erosion and global warming makes my astonishment exponentially greater. The glacier gives me hope to fight through my own hardships. I know that for the rest of my life, anytime I feel like screaming at the world and giving up that I will think back to this exact moment and remember that I can survive and find a way to face my hardships just like the glacier.

My Neighborhood Forest by Abbigale Schiefelbein, Owasso Public Schools As I shuffled through the forest that I used to visit to clear my mind as a child, the once green leaves had turned to a dark orange, almost red, as autumn slowly approached. The sun had disappeared behind dark and dangerous clouds. The crying wind blew through the trees, scattering leaves in all directions as they scraped across the dirt floor that was turned red. Trees leaned sloppily inward, about to crash towards the ground at any moment. Blurs of small animals darted through my peripheral vision, trying desperately to find food for the cold winter that lies ahead of them. The Redwood tree I used to sit by everyday as I read for hours was now just a mere stump, a reminder of all of the memories the tree had held. I used to read and drink my mother’s pumpkin juice everyday, and I detected a hint of it in my mouth. Large footsteps engraved the ground around the tree, a sign that its cutting was only recent. The winding gravel path that led to the river called for me as the water rushed swiftly across its rocky bottom, the splashing sounds echoing through the air. Water droplets mixed with oxygen, my lungs struggling to find just air. Rumblings of thunder and flashes of lightning gave signs that a storm was near. The animals that were outside scurried back to their homes. The once rushing river became rapids, sounding fiercely. Rain came down in giant heaps from the dark sky above, and I knew it was time for me to return home.

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 8


contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

Pond by Kena Holder, Sulphur Middle School Hidden deep in the dense forest a short hike behind our house lays a fishing pond. Although the fishing pond has been there for many years I can still remember the day that my brother and I discovered it. The pond dam is covered with tall red oak trees with branches that stoop down to the ground scratching the mud and leaving bare earth as the wind blows. There are three large rocks covered with moss which lay on the far edge of the bank. Sitting peacefully like watchtowers over the waters expanse. Lily pads stretch out their fingers half-way across the narrow end of the kidney shaped pond. Growing on the nearest bank are reeds that obscure the red wing black birds nest from the watchful eyes of predators. Glimmering and glistening, light catching on every move, the surface of the pond lay motionless undisturbed. Frogs croak, birds chirp, yet it lays in secrecy. A leaf flutters down from an oak tree limb. The pond begins to ripple, circle after circle, growing larger and larger until it fades into nothing. The fresh smell of the pond enters my nostrils bringing with it the faint odor of fish. My mouth begins to water as the odor calls to mind the flavor of a family fish fry. Hidden deep in the dene forest a short hike behind our house lays a fishing pond; full of memories and in my heart forever.

A Bad Day by Kennedy Sturgeon, Oklahoma Union School The day started off just like any other day. My parents and my sisters and I were on our way to town. We loaded up in the truck and we started driving down the driveway when my grandma's dogs took my dog down right in front of the truck. My dad slammed on the brakes but unfortunately my dad didn't have enough time to stop. We felt the huge bump and at that moment I knew it wasn't going to be good. My dad got out of the truck and loaded him in the back of the truck. While my dad was doing that, my mom wouldn't let us look out the window. We took him home and my mom made us stay in the truck while she went to check on him. When she finally came back to get us I knew this was going to be the last time any of us got to see him. We all got to say our tearful goodbyes. My mom then made my sisters and

I load back up in the truck and drove us around to the front so we wouldn't see what was going to happen next. My mom ran into the house and got the gun for my dad. We sat there for a long time and I decided that I would be strong for my sisters since they didn't know what was really going on. When the dreadful gunshot finally sounded I couldn't hold in my pain anymore. I sobbed and sobbed while my sisters tried to comfort me and tell me it was going to be okay. But i couldn't stop crying for what felt like forever, since i knew that it wasn't going to be ok. I was never going to get to see my best friend again.

Family Tree by Cherish Smith, Norman High School A tree’s roots are vital to the rest of the tree because it nurtures and moves water to the branches. The skyscraping Sycamore, the sulking, weeping willow, Maple, Pine, Sweetgum, Douglas Fir, and much more are all different but have the same strong foundation. My family is like a tree, with the root of the tree being my mom, and the branches being my brothers and I. My mother’s knowledge, morals, traditions, ethics runs through my brothers and I, like water moving through the roots. She’s the root to the family holding firm in the soil with unfaltering love in all outwardly distractions, trials, and tribulations. She’s the part that keeps the family together even when the branches seem limp and far away.

Performing Solo by Zoee Rolland, Grove High School As the curtains open, I can feel the rush of the bustling audience struggling to get quiet. I close my eyes and take one last deep breath before taking my first step. Adrenaline fills my body as the music feeds my starving ears. My captivating smile brings the audience’s hungry eyes to attention and radiates throughout the stage. There are no other feelings like the euphoria of being on the stage. The cold marley floor graces my feet and ignites the comfortable and pleasurable feeling in my heart. My body and brain become numb, as I am dancing the choreography my brain knows like how my eyes know

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 9


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the back of my hand. I can hear my peer’s encouragement and the audience’s applause from the middle of the heavily illuminated stage. The lights create a deeply blinding hue, leaving the theater seats a clouded black. As the music comes to its last moments, my body feels a wave of relief knowing I have done what I had prepared to do. Leaving the stage amidst the roaring applause of the audience, I can see the gleaming eyes of support waiting to embrace me.

Homesick by Kaylee McClellan, Broken Arrow Highschool I step onto the porch, the cool, red stained, wood beams send a chill through my bare feet as I softly creep across the creaking porch to the ancient porch glider, the beams wethered and dull sit strongly in the pine green colored frame. It lets out a high pitched whine as I slowly lower myself to sit. I sit and close my eyes as I listen to the Northern Mockingbirds singing in unison, their high pitched chirps filling the air, along with the windchimes, unpredictable yet calm. I take a deep breath in of the scent of the Loblolly pine trees, as I slowly glide in concert with the whines the seat produces. A slight breeze brushes my hair off my shoulders, making me feel more free. Assuring me that this is where I’m supposed to be. I watch contentedly as my dog, a big, old ruby colored mutt, trudging and huffing his way up the steps to get to me. He greets me happily, tail wagging as fast as he can get it, plops his gigantic head onto my knee, panting happily.

Artwork, Daniel Yanez, portrait Artwork, Madelyn McDonald, portrait

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 10


contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

Expository Essay, Art: Nature Reimagined y Olivia Helms OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 11


contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

Music: Stronger Than Any Superhero by Madison Lake, Piedmont High School I have always held the belief that you can tell a lot about a person by their taste in music. Music has always had a special place in my heart, whether it be singing, playing the piano, playing drums and percussion, or simply listening and letting the words move me. I am a strong believer in the power of music to connect people to each other, to express feelings and emotions, teach impactful lessons, and connect people with their truest self. My freshman year of high school, I was on the student council with many upperclassmen. Music was the thing that connected me to them. My student council “buddy” is one of the main reasons I listen to the kind of music I listen to today. Our music taste was what brought us closer together and made me feel like a part of the council. I can’t help but think of Garrett every time I hear “Neon Moon” by Brooks and Dunn, or Sheridan each time “High Tops” by Del Water Gap floods my speakers, Shelby when my alarm set to “Malibu 1992” by COIN goes off each morning, or Logan when “Thick and Thin” by LANY comes on shuffle. These songs hold memories of my friends and remind me of the relationships I made and growth I’ve had since I first heard them. Throughout my time in band, I was able to play music with my closest friends. That was my favorite part- the relationships I had and the connection we felt when playing together. Every time I’ve performed a solo for a crowd, singing about holiday elves in elementary school, birthday parties in sixth grade, or even Charlie Brown in high school, I’ve felt connected to the audience. They watched me in a vulnerable, emotional state, and I was able to show them what I am passionate about. Music is a bridge between you and those around you. Sometimes, the best way to understand and represent your feelings is through song. One iconic example of this authenticity is the hit album Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. Each individual song in the album represents the heartache of the member who wrote it. This album resonated with listeners and became a top-seller because it was relatable and made people feel heard. I love to sing loudly in my car when no one is listening, just to express my moods without any fear of being judged. Expression is a huge part of music. The way I get to express myself is my favorite part of playing the piano. Performing “Old Friends” by Ben Rector with

three of my closest friends, two of which graduated last year, is one of my most cherished memories. That song represented our thoughts about each other, my feelings about their graduation, and our hopes for the future. Music is even relevant in my softball career. Whether it be during warmups, my walk up song as I prepare to bat, or our team anthem, songs represent our desire to win and our taste for competition. In every aspect of life, music is one of the best forms of self-expression. My taste in music is broad, encompassing many genres, decades, and atmospheres, but every song on my playlist holds a special place in my heart. Each one teaches me a different lesson about the world or about myself. “Born and Raised” by John Mayer eases my fears of the future and makes me feel understood. “Growing Pains” by COIN reflects my teenage anxiety and shows me it’s okay to not have everything figured out just yet. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, my personal favorite, brings to life the trials and tribulations within my relationships and teaches me that sometimes it’s okay to let go. My music is an excellent representation of my growth as a person throughout the past few years, shifting with each month, each person I meet, and each trial I go through. It reflects my personality, with some bright and extroverted songs, some songs about struggles, some about losing people you care about, and some about finding yourself. These songs introduce me to myself and show me that I am not alone in this jumbled world. Music is one of the most powerful tools known to mankind, more powerful than any superhero. Connecting you to lessons of the past that are still relevant today, to everyone around you, to your innermost thoughts, and to the authenticity of expression. While my taste may change with time, the way music affects me will not. When the “Night Changes,” I may no longer be a huge fan of One Direction. My love for The Bangles may not be an “Eternal Flame,” and there may come a point when I am no longer listening to Cyndi Lauper “Time After Time.” But, those songs will always be a part of who I am because of the memories they carry and the impact they had on me. Broken dreams. Broken hearts. Memories and moments in time. Doubt, denial, and wrong decisions. That is what music is to me- my life in a playlist.

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 12


contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

Legacy by Nikki Grimes Book Review by Lucy Kershen, Homeschool Nikki Grimes’s book, Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance, tackles tough subjects with bold, heartfelt words in “the language of love”: poetry. The book is a collection of poems by both the author Nikki Grimes and women poets from the time of the Harlem Renaissance which lasted from the 1910s to the 1930s. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a quick read that includes emotions and ideas intended to stay with them long after the last page is turned. I think that Legacy is important, insightful, and inspiring as the book’s poems consist of a wide range of topics such as nature, family, and childhood. The book even includes some of the current events that have been so important in 2020 such as racial justice and climate change. This book is not only a celebration of women and African Americans and the talents that they have contributed to the arts in the United States, it is a celebration of life itself. In Nikki Grimes’s poem, “Sweet Sister,” she celebrates the diversity in the natural world. Imagine a world without rosemary or rose, even for a moment. Where would the flavor or the fragrance be? How we’d miss the quiet pleasure earth brings to nose and tongue, of which we are not worthy. Earth, your generosity deserves to be met with love’s language.

In Legacy, you’ll find poems about the city and the country, family and friendship and self, dreams and hopes and wishes, all of which make up the experience of life on Earth. As much as this book is pleasant and entertaining, which is how you might feel when you read the poems like “Earth, I Thank You” by Anne Spencer and “Rondeau” by Jessie Redmon Fauset, it is also full of poems that are important in today’s times. In the poem “Judgement,” author Nikki Grimes says that the “sole sin” of Black people is “being labeled disposable souls.” Throughout the Racial Justice movement this year, people all over the United States and the world have been taking to the streets to say the same thing: Black people shouldn't be labeled disposable, because they aren’t disposable. Black lives matter. Another topic that Legacy touches on is climate change. You can tell that the author Nikki Grimes respects the earth and wants to convince others to take action in keeping it preserved for future generations, and she says so in her poetry, “We offer complaint without

apology for the / years of desecration Earth has suffered… Nature shouldered / the brunt of man’s mistreatment too long.” Part II of Legacy is titled “Earth Mother” and focuses on the pleasures of spending time in nature, as well as gratitude for the gifts that the Earth provides for us. As Grimes writes, “...it is the way / of creation to be faithful. Notice: each dawn the sun comes up.” I feel like this section, Part II, is important because climate change is such a huge topic right now, and we need to focus on it because 2020 presents a unique opportunity to fix this crisis. But just like Grimes says, we also have to remember that “it is the way / of creation to be faithful” and that we need to be grateful for what the Earth does for us, even as we harm it. One of my favorite things about this collection of poems is the way Nikki Grimes skillfully blends historical and contemporary writings and themes. Grimes uses the Golden Shovel method to write her poems. This method takes a line or section of another poem, called a striking line, and uses each word of that poem as the last word in the right margin of the new poem. For example, here is a short Golden Shovel poem I wrote using a line from “Dusk” by Angelina Weld Grimké. (Read Grimké’s entire poem in Legacy.) Drifting, dancing, and dreaming, the snow stirs about the dusk.

As you can see, I used Grimké’s line “and the dusk” to create a whole new poem. I think that the way Grimes uses this method of writing is very powerful because it takes a poem written in the past, during one of the largest artistic and cultural explosions in United States history, and uses pieces of that poem to create something that resonates today. Grimes’s poems, as well as the way she explains the Golden Shovel method, inspired me to write my own Golden Shovel poems. That’s another thing I really enjoyed about this book--it is inspiring. I was certainly inspired to write more poetry after reading it, and I think that many readers, young or old, will be too. If you are looking for a book that is thoughtful and thought-provoking, gracious and graceful, smart and spirited and soulful, Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance is a book that you should most definitely check out. Packed with inspiring and important poems, the book also features art from some of today’s women African-American artists, as well as a section on the Golden Shovel method, a section on the Harlem Renaissance, and biographies of all of the poets whose work appears in this book. I highly recommend this book to everyone as it is truly a

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phenomenal read, and I think that everyone will find at least one poem that will speak to them,resonate with them, or relate to them. After all, isn’t that what poetry is all about?

The Rising Prices of Insulin in the U.S by Baylee Gregg, Grove High School Insulin is a protein hormone medication used by diabetics to help regulate blood sugar levels. According to the CDC’s 2020 National Diabetes Report, nearly 7 million Americans are relying on some form of insulin to stay alive, but not many are fortunate enough to afford the incurable disease. In 1923, the year insulin was being discovered, Frederick Banting rejected the idea of putting his name on the patent. He claimed that it was dishonorable and immoral for a doctor to gain from a discovery that would save so many lives. Banting and his team of innovators sold the insulin patent to the University of Toronto for a measly $1, ensuring that everyone who was in need of this life-sustaining medication would be able to afford it. The United States prides itself with having one of the most expensive health care systems in the world. However, it has not performed as well as other rich countries. Why is that? On average, Type 1 Diabetics use two-to-three vials of fast acting insulin a month, plus a secondary basal insulin. Over the last decade, the cost of insulin tripled and the out-of-pocket prescription costs many diabetics face have nearly doubled. This issue is only prevalent in the United States, where Americans pay more than 10 times as much for insulin than Canadians do. Canada has certain price controls on the cost of pharmaceuticals, and the US doesn't do that. Instead, America has long taken a free market approach to pharmaceuticals. By 2016, the price of insulin per month rose to $450- and they continue to rise each year. The problem with insulin is that there can not be a “generic” form of the drug. It isn’t like choosing between Tylenol or acetaminophen, insulin is a human hormone that is replicated, which keeps the prices terribly high. President Donald Trump said during a debate, “Insulin, it was destroying families, destroying people. The cost.” He went on further to say, “I’m getting it so cheap it’s like water.” If this was true, a 10 minute shower would cost $3,600,000. Our president was referring to how much it costs to manufacture insulin, which does not reflect the price that has been set by big pharmaceutical companies. Unchecked corporate greed has gotten to the point where the cost of insulin has risen by 1000% since 1996, but the cost of production has only changed with inflation. Typically prices are set on where supply and

demand cross, however, that is dependent on the fact that as the demand increases, the price increases. Unfortunately, that is not the case for insulin, because the drug has a perfectly inelastic demand. This means that no matter what pharmaceutical companies charge, the demand doesn’t change because insulin is a life-saving prescription. It does not matter how deregulated the market is or how many companies produce insulin, all they do is decide to raise the price and diabetics all over the country have to pay for it in order to survive. Given the outrageous costs of this substance, many people aren’t able to shell out the hundreds of dollars needed each month to afford their condition. In fact, 1 in 4 people with diabetes report to rationing insulin due to financial stress. “Rationing” is a term used to describe when patients take less insulin than their prescribed dosage in order to make their prescription last longer, therefore delaying the patient from having to buy more insulin. People can suffer strokes, kidney failure, diabetic ketoacidosis, and in extreme cases even death without a sufficient amount of insulin. Novo Nordisk, one of the “big three” insulin manufacturers internationally, is offering an immediate one-time insulin supply option for people in the United States who have been rationing their prescriptions. The one-time supply is intended to help people keep their head above water until they can find a more sustainable and regular source of insulin. Every single diabetic that has to take insulin in order to stay alive deserves the right to have access to affordable insulin. The kind of misinformation that is spread by big pharmaceutical companies has a detrimental impact on our community, diabetics and non-diabetics alike need to keep fighting for people to know the truth. People are dying everyday because of the obscene prices set on not just insulin, but other drugs such as Epipens also. The ability to afford medication should never be life or death.

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Works Cited Rx Pricing, Sustainable. “Big Pharma Needs To Be Held Accountable For Lead Role In Rising Insulin Prices.” CSRxP, Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, 10 Apr. 2019, www.csrxp.org/big-pharma-needs-to-be-held-accountabl e-for-lead-role-in-rising-insulin-prices/. Shakeri, Sima. “Here's Why Insulin And Other Drugs Are Cheaper In Canada.” HuffPost Canada, HuffPost Canada, 29 July 2019, www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/insulin-cheaper-canada-am ericans_ca_5d3e2e49e4b0a6d6374181de. Insulin, Overpriced. “Why Insulin Is Overpriced.” PNHP, 7 Jan. 2020, pnhp.org/news/why-insulin-is-overpriced/. Insulin, Overpriced. “The Absurdly High Cost of Insulin.” "The Absurdly High Cost of Insulin" - as High as $350 a Bottle, Often 2 Bottles per Month Needed by Diabetics, 24 May 2019, www.natap.org/2019/HIV/052819_02.htm.

ACL Injuries in Athletes by Alli Nippert, Oklahoma Union Athletics and sports have become a huge part of society in the past 75 years. But with more sports,means more injuries. If you ask an athlete what their biggest fear athletically is, they would likely tell you that it is tearing their Anterior Cruciate Ligament. This injury is feared worldwide by athletes for a number of reasons, especially by female athletes who are more susceptible to having this injury than male athletes. The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) attaches the femur, or thighbone, to the tibia, which is the shin. The ACL is one of the key ligaments that stabilize your

knee joint. Your ACL allows you to suddenly change directions, pivot, and stop, all of which are necessary for athletes of any sport. Athletes can tear their ACL in a number of ways. Many tennis players tear their Anterior Cruciate Ligament as a result of pivoting with their foot firmly planted. If a volleyball or basketball player tears their ACL, it is most likely because the player landed on one leg after jumping. The sport with highest risk of tearing your ACL is football, the repetitive heavy impact from constant hits wears down the ACL making it lose its elasticity. While football has the highest ACL injury rate of any sport, all athletes are at risk of injuring their ACL. The risk factor varies between high school, college, and professional levels. At the high school level, according to a study by healthychildren.org, girls soccer has the highest ACL injuries or tears. Following girls soccer is boys football, girls basketball, and boys and girls lacrosse. In collegiate levels, an analysis from NCAA shows that the sport with the most ACL injuries is women’s gymnastics, followed by women’s basketball, women’s soccer, and men’s football. Studies show that female athletes tear their Anterior Cruciate Ligament more than male athletes. At both high school and collegiate levels, women are two to six times more likely to tear the ACL than men are. The reasons why women tear their ACL more are unclear, but there are many theories using the anatomical differences between men and women and the difference in hormones to give an explanation. One of the anatomical explanations is that women have a smaller intercondylar notch and ACL than men. The intercondylar notch is a groove in the femur in which in the ACL passes through, since the notch is smaller, it makes the ACL smaller. Another reason women are at a higher risk is due to the wider pelvis that women have. The wider pelvis causes women to turn their knees inward, towards the midline of their body, putting additional stress on the Anterior Cruciate Ligament. There are also some technical factors that put women at higher risk, one of which are flat-footed landings. Studies show that women typically land and jump with the soles of their feet instead of on the balls of their feet, which makes the knee absorb most of the shock. The hormonal risk comes into play because women have less testosterone, which increases muscle density, and women have more estrogen which causes looseness in tendons and ligaments. Anterior Cruciate Ligament tears are repairable with surgery and physical therapy. ACL’s cannot heal on their own, so surgery is necessary for full recovery. Some non-athletes that tear their ACL can choose to not do surgery because you can do most actions with a torn

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ACL, but for athletes who want to continue to play, they must have a surgery. During ACL reconstruction surgery, the torn ligament is removed with either a tendon from another part of the knee, such as the patella tendon, or from a deceased donor. Full recovery after an Anterior Cruciate Ligament reconstruction is a long process. On average, patients will walk unassisted 2-4 weeks after surgery but have up to 16 weeks of physical therapy to go through. It takes about eight to twelve months for athletes to get back to play their sport after surgery. Most athletes are back to 100% after surgery, but cannot perform like before due to fear of reinjury. Tearing your Anterior Cruciate Ligament may not end an athletes career anatomically, but it could hinder the athletes career mentally. Athletes and spectators have seen this injury countless times and seen the long term effects it has on athletes, making an ACL tear or an injury anywhere around the knee a fear.

Why is Distance Learning a Threat to America’s Future? by Kelsi Lester, Ringling High School Reading the news on our school’s Remind app came as a shock: “Students will not be returning from spring break. We will resume class through distance learning starting Monday.” As a junior in high school, I was enrolled in some of my hardest high school courses. Suddenly, I had to reconfigure my thoughts to receive and understand my education through distance learning. With my parents' support, I was able to overcome these challenges; however, upon returning to school, I found many of my classmates had encountered insurmountable difficulties. While distance learning has become our nation’s so-called “saving grace” due to the shutdown of schools across the nation, this trend was a rushed solution to the unprecedented pause of students’ educations rather than a well-developed system of safe learning. The effects of distance learning may be overlooked, but they are detrimental: a growing gap between prepared learners and unprepared learners, internal defeat within students, and a rise in domestic abuse. During their early years of education, the “smart kids” earn their place in the prestigious “smart kids” category. From the age of one their parents have been counting their toes with them, reminding them a cow goes “moo,” and showing them that the sky is blue. The privileged kids who have loved ones who are able to help out with homework or ensure that they’re completing their assignments will move to the upper rankings of their class; however, those who have parents

who work late or aren’t capable of helping them are likely to fall behind in academics. This trend of domiciliary impact gains more control once education is forced to happen in the home. Ultimately, distance learning will result in a growing gap between the advanced students and the less evolved students. Some may claim that a student’s home situation doesn’t have an effect on their academic performance; but, in fact, studies have shown that parents’ involvement in their child’s learning greatly impacts their academic achievements (DesMarais). While allowing students little access to help, distance learning can cause apathy in students. For example, in regular classroom settings, students are able to ask questions when they are struggling; however, learning remotely can cause difficulty when concepts are not easily understood. Frustration over not having immediate feedback or hand-on teaching demonstrations often leads to a devastating internal defeat, and in the worst case scenario, results in students dropping out of school. At my small rural school, the graduation class of 2020 only had one drop-out. On the other hand, my class, the class of 2021, has already had four drop-outs by the end of the first quarter of our senior year. While many outside spectators presume that getting help is as easy as an email or a phone call, the process of sending a text and waiting for a reply--which may be hours later--can thwart the impact of the immediate help. Nevertheless, in-person learning provides stimulation and encouragement that are difficult to transmit via Zoom. Another effect of distance learning is the endangerment of students. One must consider the potential negative outcomes that a child, typically in school for eight hours of the day, could experience at home. For example, the two meals a child receives at school relieve many families who have limited incomes; therefore, not being able to attend school enhances the possibility of students not attaining the proper nutrition. In addition, developing social skills is essential for one's future, and sadly, many children aren’t taught manners or even simple aspects of interaction at home; therefore, they learn these character traits at school. In some students’ lives, the only nurturing that they get is from their teachers. If this part of their life becomes non-existent, their development can falter. Also, domestic abuse rose as families began to spend their entire days together (Taub). Some argue that abuse will take place whether kids are in school or not, which is true. However, the rate of domestic violence has risen to a greater extent since the coronavirus shutdowns began. Despite the inconvenience of the pandemic, distance learning is resulting in a multitude of

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destructive outcomes that could greatly harm America’s future. The 0.28% mortality rate from coronavirus--which is even less for the age range of a typical student--does not outweigh the millions of students suffering from child abuse, neglect, and immense frustration (Coronavirus). Without an improvement in distance learning techniques, our nation will find itself in a downhill spiral as younger generations grow up with a less than stellar education.

Artwork by Zachary, acrylic landscape

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Personal Narrative

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The Unimportant Story of My Life by Emily Collins, Plainview High School

humor. Currently my mother is fifty one years old and my father is fifty four. But that’s not important. They didn’t really care to entertain a little blonde cry baby.

Beware this story isn’t for the faint of heart. It surely isn’t child appropriate. I couldn’t pick just one part of my life, so I’ll summarize. I’ve told this story many times before, mostly to case workers and shelter staff. I will only tell it one more time. So listen up and settle in. This is the raw “unimportant” story of my life.

It was sixth grade when my mom got arrested again. I was taken to the children shelter in Ardmore, Oklahoma. I was terrified, actually that is an understatement, I was petrified. On my fourth day, I was awoken by my temporary case worker. He told me I was going home with my dad. I kid you not, I jumped out of the bed. My mother had a no contact order and was sent to rehab in Oklahoma City. I dealt with my dad yelling at me and mentally abusing me for about two months. My mother was sent to Ardmore to live in a sober living house and later moved in to some old ladies rent house. We went to Ardmore and stayed the night with my mom (illegally). Soon after we found an apartment in Ardmore and lived there (still, illegally).

Let’s start with my earliest memories. I was four years old and my family just moved to Gainesville, Texas from Muenster, Texas. I had just switched the TV channel from an episode of Family Guy that I had already watched, to The Tweety and Sylvester Show. I knew what my parents were doing on the couch behind me but honestly I was used to it. I heard a loud bang on our front door. Before my parents could answer, the door bust open. A cop and my schizophrenic grandmother were in the doorway. The cop arrested my parents for a controlled substance and child neglect. I remember my grandmother pulling me away from my mother’s arms. From then on I hated my Grandmother. She wouldn’t feed me right and my aunt and uncle, who lived with her, were very much alcoholics. Though, they taught me games and life lessons, more than my own parents did. My mother ended up only getting two months in jail while my father got two years in prison. He missed my fifth and sixth birthday. Let’s skip ahead to the middle of my fourth grade year. I was living in Muenster, Texas with my mom and dad in a little RV park with no other children. One thing you need to know is I love cats, and I think cats love me too. Anyway, we packed up our stuff and my cats and moved to a cheap trailer in Thackerville, Oklahoma. My mother continued to abuse drugs and my father continued to yell at me for every mistake he made. My parents always talked of divorce, which at first made me sad, but soon after all the lies I hoped they would. My parents yelled at each other every day, every hour, every holiday, and they also roped me into it. My father only laid his hand on me a few times. My mom had a drug addiction, a gambling addiction, and a cheating addiction. She always cheated on my dad. All those guys paid for things in our house, TVs, air conditioners, heaters, and even our bills. My mother was on disability for COPD and from her getting shot when she was younger. We lived off the checks and her selling her food stamps. Don’t thinks I’m just talking about the bad in my life. There is some good in there. My mother taught me to count by grams. My father passed down his sense of

When the no contact order was over we moved to a new trailer down the block. My mom’s drug addiction did not go away in fact, it had gotten worse. My parents yelling had too. I fell in to a hole of depression and anxiety which, I already had. I was left alone most of the time at the house. All I had were my cats. I confided in them and grew attached. I started to self-harm and wear black all the time. That was when I got my first girlfriend. I told my parents that I was gay. My dad said as long as I didn’t date a black girl it was fine. And my mom said it was a phase. I introduced my mixed girlfriend to them and my parents seemed to like her. Anyway, that relationship went down like the titanic, after 6 months. My mom was doing drugs really bad when we moved to an old trailer in a bad neighborhood. My parents would leave me home alone all night long. I couldn’t fall asleep without them there because I was worried for them. So, I would go to school and fall asleep. My grades struggled and I almost failed eighth grade. I was already 15 and a half. My mom struck me and I called the cops on her. I am now in a foster home that I’ve been in for over six months. I love it here. I am hoping for my parents to get their rights taken away so I can get adopted after January thirteenth. By the way that is my birthday. I have had many new experiences and found true happiness. I love my new family. I know this narrative is a mess. I did not write this for people to pity me. And I did not write this to win a competition. I wrote this to share my story and to let others know, life truly gets better. Thank you for reading.

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Scabs by Hope Wells, Broken Arrow High School

happy. She told me about a thousand times that night that Luke gave her a hug.”

I tried to scratch off the thin layer of blood on my hands. I was very tempted to slip off my mask for a second and spit into my hands and use that to wash it off. I look down at my calf to see only more blood gush out of the scab I picked off. My leg looks like bloody murder. Giving up on trying to get the blood off, I use my hands to cover the gash. I was more embarrassed than anything.

My mom just said something, and she is not even related to Mimi. I need to say something. No one is talking right now.

“Is there anything anyone else wants to add? Any good memories of her?” No one said anything for a minute. My grandmother had asked me to speak, to say something, but I don't know what to say. This was the first one that I had ever been to. My aunt spoke up and talked about how she would listen to you like you were the only person in the room. That reminds me of the time then we sat on the porch together and talked about books. That was nice and probably the best memory I have of her. Mostly when I saw her, I would stop and give her a hug, say hello then run off somewhere else. I never really knew her. I never really really knew her like so many other people here. I don’t think I even have a right to say anything, but I keep telling myself that I will regret it if I don’t. Her husband is sitting right in front of me. I can tell he doesn’t know completely what’s going on. His daughter, my grandmother, is sitting right next to him, holding his hand. Papa has lost almost all his hearing over the years, Mimi always had a way translating for him when he could not understand anyone else. And now she’s gone… I wonder where he will go. Papa can’t live in the little house he shared with Mimi all alone. Maybe he will move in with my grandmother. But her house has stairs. “She always put her all into everything. Whether it was ironing one of her husband’s shirts and preparing Thanksgiving dinner.” I want to say something, if only to prove that I cared about Mimi and miss her too. But my hands are still red and my leg is still a mess. I don’t want anyone to see it. “She always wanted a red haired boy, so when Luke was born, she was so excited. But Luke was a very hands off baby and would cry whenever anyone but me picked him up. And I remember when he was like two, Luke gave his first willing hug to Mimi and she was just so

“She was always there-” My grandmother starts to share something. I stop myself and let her talk. She knew Mimi way better than I did. It’s her mother in there, not mine. I was too quiet and slow anyways.When she’s done I’ll try again, just for the sake of saying goodbye. My grandmother stops, so I try again. “She was always there, at every-” My grandmother cuts in again. I know that she didn’t hear me, that no one did. Maybe I’m supposed not say anything. What I was trying to say was dumb and stupid anyways. And there is that bloody mess of a leg. Maybe I should just stay quiet and let the people who knew her better speak. “Is there anything anyone else wants to add?” “Hope wants to say something.” It’s my aunt who speaks up for me. It feels like at once everyone turns to look at me. I think they see my leg and the blood. I want to be anywhere but here. “She just was at every birthday, game and thanksgiving. She was a constant in all our lives.” I don’t know if I spoke too quietly or if they just didn’t understand what I meant by constant. My grandmother and a few others look a bit puzzled. Was it stupid to add that? Should I have not said anything at all? I want them to stop looking at me. Do they see the blood I’m trying to cover with my hands? The service moves on and we wheel over her casket to the burial plot. The casket is beautiful and so much like her. Pearl white with pink painted flowers along the edges. The flowers are so similar to the ones she painted all the time, I wonder if she painted them herself. Papa is being wheeled over so close to the casket that he rests his hand on it. As we walk we pass other graves that had a similar ceremony. Each grave has two names, husband and wife buried together. We pass quite a few with the second death date marked 2020. Some graves still don’t have a second death date. And I realize

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that we are walking to Papa’s grave too. It scares me that he might need it soon. He also has tested positive. Half the people here are positive. Everyone is wearing masks and standing apart. I really want to hug my grandmother and Papa, but I just paid my two weeks and I don’t want to pay another two more. I want to see my friends at school and hug them. It feels like I’m choosing my friends over my family, but I can’t stay locked up in my room another two weeks and Dad has to go back to work… They have ropes and some kind of device that lowers the casket gently in. It's deep. Very deep. I wonder what Papa is thinking. One by one we leave as men fill the hole with dirt. Mimi did everything right. She and Papa hadn’t left their house since March. It was the caretakers that would come over and help out. It was too late when they found out they were positive. I don’t blame them, it’s hard to protect yourself from something you can’t see. I just find it ironic that it was the caretakers. I like to think that we were careful. I don’t know if I ever got it, but my Mom did. I would hate to be the reason someone else came to this place. The blood on my hands wouldn’t come off.

Battle on the Back Road by Sydney Pierce, Norman High School I’ve been told that a country road is the most dangerous place of all, and I’ve seen the evidence myself. The faded lines of dashed yellow paint were laid so long ago, it looks as if a small child chalked the path for me to follow along the winding bends of narrow bridges. The road is so narrow that I catch myself holding my breath at the sight of an oncoming car, thinking that it will make me small enough to squeeze past. Yet even in the worst case, pulling over is not an option, because the road I travel on to get home is lined with a gaping ditch deeper than I am tall. That far out, the streets lay empty. Empty of traffic, lights, and restraints. The country road is a place to experiment with freedom. Yet, the nightfall is a blanket, which hides the burdens along my path and disguises the dangers coming up in the rear. The incident occured only a minute’s drive from my house, but it may take closer to three for someone unfamiliar with the road’s twists. It was just before the corner where a stranger intruded on my ownership of the

empty road. The two of us were found experimenting with our presence on what was once familiar territory. Except it suddenly seems all unknown with the empty black sky casting its shadow, making the road below dissolve into the edges of the galaxy above. The only break in the depths of black were the headlights of my car and a sliver of the moon above. This remnant of light instills hope within me. Hope of a day’s return, but until then, I drive within the walls of bleakness, which guard my sight of the neighbors’ houses I pass by. Above, the stars dot the sky, the only eyes capable of breaking the barrier of darkness enclosing around my car. My father’s eyes reflect in the stars, for he anxiously pressed for a view, a confirmation of my arrival from the front window of our home. His voice resonates within me, breaking the loneliness of the dark everlasting tunnel I feel to be driving through. The warm wisp of his words had chased after me as I had departed from home earlier and sunk into me far past my ear. The restraints he sets over me keep me from taking a full tumble into the ditch. Along with his warm words feeling fresh on my chest is a desire to reach him, escaping from the cold shadows into the cozy feel of our shared space. Being a driver with only six months of experience, I challenge the freedom of the empty roads with just a handful of miles over the posted speed. Yet it was that extra push of the pedal, push of the limit, that kept my car from being able to stop in time to let the poor armadillo cross. There was an armadillo jaywalking across the street. The little fellow was hidden from my sight until the artificial light beaming from the head of the car was within reach of chiseling at the wall of the night. It was such a fast tortoise I had thought. The scampering creature was out of compliance for his species who, bored by the abandoned Oklahoma roads, usually find themselves dozing on the edge of the path. I didn’t expect this obstacle, but he wasn’t much different than usual potholes dotting the roads. I prepared to dodge. We shared a nervous shuffle, uncertain of who would let the other pass. With a tight grip, I jerked the wheel to dodge while the armadillo took a step to flee. A battle was at draw on the open back road with walls of the night containing any sign of a cry or evidence of the vanquished. Challenged in the realm of speed, he put his shell to use, staking to the defensive side. Pulling the shield, the armadillo brought his flee to a halt as the enemy came tumbling closer. It took everything out of him, but he gave everything to hold that shield steady, knocking the enemy off course. The wheels of my car took on such a heavy collision that they let out a rumbling cry.

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The radio was still playing music, but it was suddenly mute in my ears. My hand shook with the echo of the trembling wheels against the shell of the armadillo as I reached for my cell phone. Pleading for forgiveness, for affirmation, I couldn’t wait the minute’s drive to confess the crime to my father’s face. A pit was quickly growing deeper within my stomach as I knew the only one who could truly fill the vacancy was growing ever smaller until out of sight in my rearview mirror. It was when the light had returned to collect the remnant left in the night sky that I glimpsed the remains of the battle. He lay in a daze on a fine line between the edge of the road and the edge of the ditch. The sight pierced me with fear. Fear of falling like the armadillo, who appeared just as small as I feel in my seat behind the wheel. His chilled remains never were satisfied by the warmth of his desired destination that night. It was not because he was too small to trek the path, but because someone was big enough to barricade it. Because of this, I look to my father, the bigger of us two. His big words and big rules only reflect his fear of what the bigger people are doing. A year later and my confidence in driving has expanded, but my limits have not. The freedom of the open road is something I may never experience. Instead I choose to take shelter in the warmth of my father’s arms, basking in this time as his little girl, and avoiding the consequences of the bigger world.

The Ride of A Lifetime by Abbigail Schiefelbein, Owasso 7th Grade Center No. Not that one. Any ride but that one. The wind flowed through my hair as I practically bolted away from the monstrous red roller coaster that stood near the entrance of the theme park my family and I were visiting for vacation a few years ago. The screams from the coaster echoed through the air, my mouth getting dryer with every step. I had almost made my escape to a different ride, but my dad spotted the roller coaster. “Let’s ride that one!” my dad exclaimed. “Come on, it will be fun! If not, I’ll buy you ice cream.” With that bribe, there was no way I could decline. We strolled over to the start of the line and I took the slowest steps that I could. We finally got to the end of the line and I immediately gripped onto the hot black handrails for support. The bright sun shone on my skin, making my skin burn. The faint smell of nearby popcorn made everything a little better, though.

While standing in line for ninety minutes that slowly dragged on, the roller coaster loomed closer and closer. The cars whooshed by on the track as my hands started to shake while still gripping on to the handrails. The time finally came to get on the ride. The cast members told us our spots, and my dad and I quickly dashed over to them. Finally, our carts pulled into the landing dock. I plopped down in the seat and yanked over the restraint. My knuckles went white as my hands wrapped around the warm metal bars. We waited thirty seconds full of my feet bouncing on the ground, and then the cart took off. As our cart inched closer and closer to the top at a one hundred and eighty degree angle, I could taste the regret in my mouth. I squeezed my eyes shut, wanting to just teleport somewhere else. I opened my eyes to a sickening drop as a cold forceful wind blew against my face. Adrenaline pumped through my veins as our cart went up, down, and through loops! At some times, I could spot roller coasters from the other side of the park! The ride seemed like it would last all day, and I had hoped it would! After a few minutes, the ride screeched to a slow stop. The restraints glided up, and I hopped off of the ride, my dad following behind me. “Can we ride it again?” I pleaded when I reached my mom at the exit of the ride. She laughed, but I was completely serious. The big red roller coaster that I was so scared of two hours ago was now my favorite ride. I would have never experienced it if I had not pushed aside my nerves and rode the roller coaster. Now, I always take a chance whenever I see it, because you never know what some things can hold. Since riding that roller coaster, I have been able to do so many new things because I was brave enough to do so.

Cutting The Tether by Will Madden, Norman High School It was another dark and uneventful evening. The sun had gone down early and left an inky sky in its wake. As I looked up from my journal to stare out the living room window, I could see nothing but my own reflection floating in a sea of black. My physicality was a constant source of confusion for me, and now as I looked at it, I was just as perplexed as ever. Short, messy hair that looked too much like a pixie cut and the unwelcome protrusion of breasts beneath my strategically oversized sweatshirt. I had recently recognized for the first time

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that I was a boy, and yet my appearance still insisted otherwise. I regarded it with a calculated apathy born of hopelessness and confusion. What worth was there in being sad about things I couldn’t change?

Seeing my life laid out before me

Still, I couldn’t help but mourn the way things could have been if I were born in a different body. If my body had matched my soul, my desire, and my queerness, would be unfettered. I would be a bleeding, impossible manifestation of passion, and my passion would not have spines which pricked me as I held it. I would not shy away from it as I do now, thinking of all the ways I am insufficient. Life would be poetry, and I would gleefully fall face-first into it.

I am trapped forever in this cold, monotonous skin Which is so only because it is mine. I could wake up as a different person every day and I would never be satisfied Because inevitably, I would still be myself.

I could be feminine without being female, clothe myself in rebellion and red lipstick. Set the formula of my social existence on fire, heat myself in its flames and dance in the ashes. If I were cis I wouldn’t feel like I did then: caged by the knowledge that something will always be wrong with me, no matter how many scalpels ease their way into my flesh or how many times I try to rip the sky apart with a scream.

I am desperately numb Despite the passion I’m filled with when watching the lives of others unfurl like petals in the sun.

I am an enigma of knowledge and naivete, At once infantesimal and all-consuming, And I am perpetually lost in this place. The fragility of my experience frightens me like nothing else; Everything that I know is formed only from particles and waves for which I am a processor, Unsatisfied with the nature of my knowledge, Being that it is nothing but a collection of data points which, in their most consolidated form, still cannot hope to be fully understood. My Conditional Form becomes clear when I realize my torturous limitations, Like bars in a cell window I peer between them And see everything I could be if only nothing were true.

I glanced back down at the journal in my lap. I had been re-reading an old one. I liked looking back every once in a while, seeing what I was thinking a few months before. I would see the seeds of my true self burrowed between scraps of misplaced identity. But I would also see the continuity of some thoughts throughout all of my writing, and I would know those ideas were the boiled-down version of me, entirely separate from my position within social constructs.

I bend the rules but never break them because if I did it would all come flooding out, A torrent of would-be’s and could-never-be’s racing away, Leaving me with nothing left to define me, So that when I look in the mirror I do not see myself, but the husk which is what I thought I was.

All my life I’d been terrified of a precariousness that I could never quite grasp. I often pictured myself as an astronaut floating in an empty black sea, with only a tether holding me to the shuttle which was everything that I knew, as an umbilical cord ties an infant to its creator’s womb. I imagined what would happen if that cord were severed - I would float endlessly in a sea that was simultaneously nothing and everything. I would be trapped in a space without walls or gravity, which, being so, could not really be a space at all.

I had been so afraid of becoming lost in the endless void that surrounded me. But now, when I had seen the cord that held me to my shuttle for what it truly was, I welcomed the torrent. I welcomed the realization that my body was nothing but a husk and I welcomed the dissolution of my definition. Would it be so bad to lose myself? Or would I rather simply let myself go, unclip the tether with shaking fingers and see what’s out there, in oblivion?And I thought: “Maybe it’s time to break the rules.”

No, I will stay within the blurring lines for my tiny eternity, Let them guide me so as not to lose myself completely.

The page I was looking at was an attempt to express that precariousness. It was something I’d written months before, when I hadn’t even considered the idea that I could be trans. But what I wrote that day spoke to me now, as a trans person. This is what it said:

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Pikachu by Catie Thai, Norman High School Pikachu was egg yolk yellow when I first got him on my 4th birthday. His eyes were inky black with pearly white hi-lights, cheeks were like bright red traffic lights. He was chubby, slightly fuzzy, and the perfect hugging density. He smelled like new stuffed animal, a mixture of new fabric smell with a hint of factory processing. I squeezed him for the first time, beaming at his embroidered smile that beamed back at me. There were no other stuffed animals in my eyes besides him from then on. Pikachu quickly lost his new stuffed animal scent. He absorbed the smell of old car from road trips in my mom’s Honda Odyssey, picked up hints of rosin and perfume from violin performances, had lingering notes of Korean BBQ, pho, or dim sum from the most recent family gathering. The scents mix in his squishy yellow body, never fading away completely. I hug him when I go to bed, inhaling all of the memories as I doze off. The scent is cozy and familiar. Pikachu’s colors dulled over time. He attained many battle scars, from splattered with toothpaste when my toothbrush slipped out of my mouth, to BBQ sauce spills from my chicken nugget Happy Meals. He was my unexpected tissue, absorbing tears from my failed performances, still-too-low test scores, and stress from and about family I never confessed because they’re busy enough as it is. His vibrant yellow washed away with tears, hand soap, and tap water. My mom called him disgusting, nagging me to put him in the washing machine. I always refused, knowing that the detergent would erase all evidence of our experiences together. Pikachu’s chubby figure became limp. He was originally squishy yet firm, his belly round and ears continually perked. He was perfectly squeezable; I held him whenever I could. I hugged him in bed, his body warming mine under the thin sheets. He kept me company through all-nighters, spent studying and/or binge-watching, squished between my chin and my desk. He was my stress ball. I’d squeeze his ears when I opened up audition and test results, scrunch his face in my hand whenever I earned a lecture from my parents, choke him in my arms when I needed a hug but was too afraid to ask for one. The joyful embraces, angry clenches, and anxious squeezes deflated Pikachu, stuffing clumping inside him, fabric skin no longer taut. Now he sits limp, head slumped over his belly and ears drooping. I fold his head over his belly to mimic his former squishability. He still makes the best company.

Pikachu’s fuzzy texture wore off too. I constantly rolled spots of fabric from his head between my fingers. I did it unconsciously, whether I was listening to orchestral excerpts, grinding my almost-overdue homework, or sitting through heavy silences in the family car. Whatever wore down on my mind, I wore down on his body with my fingers. I rubbed away my stress from piling school work and activities, anxiety over family, fear of disappointing myself, and those around me. I rubbed spot after spot, choosing a new place once the fabric turned smooth. The spots eventually covered the whole back of his head, the area grey and stiff like an old t-shirt. He keeps smiling, carrying me through my struggles, and enduring my abuse. It’s been 13 years since my 4th birthday. Pikachu’s scent has settled in and his colors have faded. His body has become limp and his texture smooth. His body endured all of my highs and lows, from the giddy squeeze I gave him the night after my first kiss to the tears he soaked up when I looked up the overdose for Tylenol. He’s not just a stuffed animal, but a time capsule for my past 13 years and a best friend that I cannot live without.

Climb Out by Faith Phillips, Stilwell High School I looked at the time. 7:33 p.m. I turned to the treeline from which I had emerged. “I'm not going back yet,” I thought. Instead, I waded through the knee-high water to the other side of the creek and looked at the open field that stretched far in the distance. There was an old barn just to my left. I wandered in and looked at the abandoned stalls and rusting tools. After looking around for a time, I continued on. I walked through the field, barefoot and hot in the summer heat. I put my headphones on and started listening. Songs about love and loneliness pounded in my head. The farther I walked from home the better I felt. Nobody would bother me if they couldn't find me. But, of course, they called. I sighed when my phone rang and thought for a moment of ignoring it. But I answered. "Yes?" I asked sarcastically. "Where are you?" My mom asked. "I went for a walk," I responded.

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She told me my grandma was worried and she was coming home. I groaned. "Alright, I'll come home," I said and hung up. I continued to a small stream. I followed it through mud and overgrown plants that I'm pretty sure had a snake in it. I stepped through carefully on dead branches and got my headphones and shirt caught on limbs. I stepped and felt a thorn stick into the sole of my foot. I winced and pulled it out. I should wear shoes more often but I hated not feeling the ground beneath my feet, even if that meant stepping on thorns. My stubbornness was one of the only traits that I inherited from my family. The music continued and then my favorite song started. I smiled as “Born to Run” played. I looked around. What a beautiful world we live in. I reached the creek and started going down in the knee high water. My phone rang again. I groaned loudly, though nobody was around to hear. I answered. "Where are you now? We're coming to get you." I don't remember what I said exactly, but I made excuses so they didn't have to. She told me she would call again at 8:30. "Fine," I said, and waded through the high water holding my phone over my head. When I reached shallow water the phone rang yet again. “Just leave me alone please,” I thought before answering. I was a little surprised to hear my aunt. "Hey, where are you?" She asked. "Just walking through a cornfield," I replied, leaving the creek and stepping into a field with corn stalks just starting to poke up from the earth. "Well, everyone is looking for you," she said. "I’m fine. Tell them not to freak out." “I told them you’re eighteen now so you do whatever you want.” I am now eighteen, as of two days ago. I was closest with my aunt and her two girls. They were the only ones I could spend time with, without getting too annoyed. “Don’t worry, I’ll hurry," I told her. "And be careful."

The sun had gotten low since I left. The sky turned a warm shade of pink and purple. It must’ve been 9:00 when I found the road and kept on. I didn't want to go home. There were too many people. I can't wait to get out of here. I just want to pick everything up and run. I don't care where to, as long as it's far from here. “How am I going to do that though?” I wondered. The world had fallen apart in the last few months. People dying, riots, and plagues. Nothing was going to be easy in my life and all that just made it a lot harder. My phone rang. I ignored it. “I have my music and my art. As long as I have those things, it won’t be too bad. And when I get out of here I can be whomever I want to be,”I reassured myself. That’s all I wanted. To be me. But I was living someplace where people don't really like people like me. This place was like mud. Anything there is stuck or eating each other to stay alive. I guess I’ll just have to climb out.

My Locked Up Brother by Abbigail Rosencutter, Broken Arrow High School To: Alex R. From: Abbi R. Shipping address: idek the address lol 5/12/18 Hey bubs, I miss you. I hope you're okay, and better be staying out of trouble so you can come home sooner for good behavior. I want you to know i'm still standing up for you at home, and I really do have hope you can change despite what my mom and dad said the day everything happened. I just wish you wouldn't have done what you did so we could still be having jam sessions in the car but I know you were just trying to find a way to escape your pain. I really miss you dumbass. I miss talking shit on my mom with you, I miss sneaking out and driving around downtown at 3 in the morning with your friends and the windows rolled down, I miss having you in the house. I talked to your mom yesterday, she took me out to lunch, and we mostly just talked about how my mom is obnoxious and how i want her to adopt me, i love your mom so much Alex, she’s my favorite. Oh another thing,

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my mom grounded me for well uh we won't talk about it, but i'm sure you can guess… and now she's making me do online school so I turned your room into my office until you get back, sorry loser:) but I really miss you Al, and I never stop thinking about you. I just want my bestfriend back. i love u bub. xoxo, your favorite sister. To: Alex R. From: Abbi R. Shipping address: idek the address lol 6/3/18 Hi Al! The days just keep getting longer and longer with you not in them. The amount of times I've broken down because I just want you back is unreal, but I'm staying the strongest I can for you. I can never stop thinking about how you must feel, and the things that go on in jail, and if you're okay, I have so many questions. I know you told me to write about me and keep you updated so well I went to phoenix for a soccer showcase, and we won all our games, me and kort played for you. Oh and I also pierced my nose last week and you should've seen how mad my mom was, it was hilarious. Other than those 2 things, everything else has been the same o’le, except the fact that I never stop complaining about how much I miss you. Last week was my birthday but I didn't celebrate it this year because I said it wasn't the same with you gone, cause who would've sang me the PG 13 version of “happy birthday”, and who would've snuck out with me at 12 to go sit and watch the city lights on the church hill? It wouldn't have been the same, so we will celebrate when you come home. Anyway I really still miss you bubba, I hope you're okay. I'll write again soon, love you always <3.

To: Alex From: Abbi R. Shipping address: idek the address lol 7/26/18 Alex, I really can't even put into words how upset and pissed off I am. I have to literally write this letter to you secretly, because my mom is making me cut off all communication with you, no more letters, no more visitations, no more phone calls, nothing. I don't get it, I don't understand. You do one thing wrong and she thinks you're the worst person ever, but you're the only one keeping me alive everyday. I go through everyday thinking about you and the day you get out. My mom said I can't even see you when you get released, but i'm not going to let that happen. I promised you I would be there the day you walked through those doors, and I will be. I'm worried about you, I really hope things aren't completely awful there. I'm gonna try to write to you as many times as I can to let you know how things are going around here. Know this isn't goodbye at all, I'm still fighting for you, and going to be waiting for you, I'm getting my bestfriend back. Stay out of trouble for me bighead, I'm trying to see you sooner than later, and I'm sure all my friends and my therapist are tired of hearing how much I miss you. But oh well, i refuse to shut up until you're out of there, so maybe do them a favor and no fights Alex! I’ll see you soon, I'm sure of it. Love you forever bubba. Xoxo, lil sis

xoxo, abs

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The Dreams by Hailey Criss, Dale High School

“Baby, I went to this place. And you are here also.” I looked at him with a puzzled expression.

I have had a few dreams about my grandpa. They were difficult to process at first when I woke up, but I will always be thankful for the visits I have from him! He has made such a huge impact on my life, and I will forever be grateful for that. Figuring out what to write for this narrative was very difficult, but I decided that for my story submission, I would write about the dreams that I have about my Grandpa.

“Although you can’t see me, or hear me, I will always be right here. This is a place that you will be in one day, but not now,” he said. I could see a tear in his eye.

I am in the graveyard where my grandpa was buried. I looked away for a second, and I felt a cold breeze blow past me that made me turn around. When I looked back, my grandpa was standing in front of me, but just looking at me. When I tried to hug him, I couldn’t touch him. It was like I went right through him. Although I couldn’t touch him, he looked at me and told me he loved me, and that he always would. He started to fade away, and I tried to keep him there, but he told me, “It’s okay, baby. I love you!” And then, I woke up. That is something I will never forget—him telling me he loves me, always. The last time I had that dream, I was able to hug him and to feel him. That was one of the best things that has happened to me and also the hardest to deal with. I am at a funeral in a park. I am standing in the grass, the long pieces scraping my legs, making my legs itch. As I turn around, I see my Grandpa standing behind me. He started to walk away from me, but then he turned around. “Come with me, baby.” Reaching his arm out to me. I walked toward him, and took his hand. He led me to his motorcycle, and gave me a helmet. We got on the motorcycle, and he revved it, and we drove away. I was holding on to him so tight; I must have been hurting him. “I’m sorry if I am hurting you, Papa,” I yelled trying to let him hear me over the rushing wind. “You’re not hurting me. I can’t be hurt anymore,” he said. I was confused. How can he not be hurt? “Where did you go? You left, and I haven't seen you in years,” I cried. He stopped the motorcycle, and got off. He pulled me off next, taking my hand in his. He led me to an open space with no buildings, no people. It was like no one knew where this area was. He stopped, and bent down to look at me.

“What do you mean I will be here one day? I want to be here now, with you,” I cried. He looked at me and smiled. As I wiped off my tears, he started to speak again. “You will be here with me one day, but that day just isn’t today, baby,” he said with a calm voice. There was something behind him. It was a bright light, growing bigger, and bigger. “What is that behind you?” I asked him. “That is telling me that it is time for me to take you back to your momma,” he said. His voice was disappointed. He then took my hand again, leading me back to the buildings, people and noise. I could then start to see my mom. She was crying, and hugging family members. I took another look at my grandpa, and gave him a hug. He hugged me back. “It’s time for me to go now, baby. I love you so much, never forget that,” he said. I started to cry again. “I want you to stay! Why can’t you stay here with me?” I asked him. But he just chuckled, and looked at the ground. “I don’t belong here anymore, baby. But don’t worry, I will see you again in that place that I took you to. Tell your momma that Papa Smiley says hello,” he said. He smiled, and turned around to leave. Before I could get back to him, he disappeared into the light. I ran back to my mom, but before I got to her, I woke up again. That dream was harder to process. It was so real, and I could feel everything as if it had actually happened. These dreams are different from the ones that I usually have. They feel real. I would never trade these dreams for anything. It took me a while to realize that these are blessings. My mother doesn’t have dreams like these, nor does the rest of my family other than my cousin. It is just us. I only have dreams of him when I’m troubled, or there’s a hard day approaching. If I had one wish, it would be to have more dreams about him like these. I like to think of them as ways he tries to communicate with me.

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Until We Meet Again by Dorothy Ballard Those special memories of you Will always bring a smile For just a little while Then we could sit and talk again Just like we used to do You always meant so very much And always will do too The fact that you’re no longer here Will always cause me pain But you're forever in my heart Until we meet again. This poem has, and will continue to, remind me of my grandpa. I know he is here with me and always be with me through the good, and bad.

Looking Back by Sarah Kienzle, Taloga Schools When I was told the news, I was in shock, and it felt as if my heart fell to my stomach. I dreaded moving away from the place I grew up into some place in the country. The thought of leaving my friends and family I had in Washington left me heartbroken. I loved the beautiful scenery: the mountains that glistened in the distances, tall evergreen trees that filled the air with fresh fragrance, gigantic buildings which towered over the beautiful land, and the sun that lowered behind the magnificent mountains every evening leaving the sky purple and pink. This was my home with so many memories to be forgotten; I do not mean to forget these memories but with different challenges I face I have forgotten so many memories of my past.

information. I was terrified of change and was not ready for what Oklahoma had in store for me. On the move to Oklahoma, I had time to think about the different ways my life would change during this time. As we drove, I watched the empty flatland evolve into the steep mountains. I reflected on my life and realized that I should not be afraid of change; it will only help me grow and build on myself. When I got to my grandma’s house, after a three day drive, I remember sitting on the porch swing as the wind gently carried the joyful song of the surrounding birds, then walking down the old dirt road that were smothered in red, the stumpy trees with an abundance of shiny leaves, empty plains to be filled with livestock and historic homesteads, and lastly the way the skies looked in the evening with colors of gold, red, and dark orange. I looked at this new land and I felt ready for this new challenge I was faced with. This was a clean slate for me. I had nothing holding onto me. As time passed on I looked at Oklahoma with new inspiration, I was no longer afraid of this new chapter in life. Oklahoma was shockingly an easy transition for me, and I was greeted with fantastic friends who I will cherish forever. However, I have never truly felt at home here. Everyday I miss Washington more and more I long for the days I get to travel back to my true home. The place I felt comfortable and safe; this is the feeling I wish I could hold onto forever. I know that feeling is not how you become the person you are meant to be, however everyone needs change to grow and build on. So, even though I left my comfort and safety I have grown into someone I am proud of and no one can take this from me.

One specific place that held a special place in my heart was the ocean. I would go to one specific beach called Ocean Shore, and even though it was a few hours away from my house, it was worth the drive. My family would take camping trips to this beach and it was not a big town, but people would visit this beach strictly for the view. The walk leading up the beach was calm with slight wifts of the salty air, the tall grass swaying with the waves, the cold sand beneath your feet sending chills down your spine, looking into the horizon and seeing nothing but the water for miles. I remember looking at these things and feeling happy and free. I wish I could go back to this place everyday even for a second. When my family and friend found out I was moving to Oklahoma, they were not sure how to feel about the

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Newcomer by Zoe “Zed” Church, Owasso Public Schools

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A Single Act by Arianna Snell, Grove High School

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I Have Not by Ben Saenz, OK-10 Lenapah

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Missed Bus by Nosrat Montaha, Owasso 7th Grade Center

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Snakes in Her Head by Megan Gibbs, Grove High School

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Poetry, Artwork by Chloe Hickerson, River Woman: “This piece represents women in Chinese culture and how they have been underrepresented throughout history. The river dragon symbolizes the power that women possess even though it has not been acknowledged.”

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Self-Reliance by Chrysanna Harter, Commerce Middle School When my thoughts take a nosedive, A rejection of simplicity, Like my most introspective poetry On a constant decline, they ride, Until I’m dizzy Lost in my own iniquity Fainting from the weight Though I may feel and cause others to feel, Poems from these trails are wrong… Bad Poison to my own perception Others’ too When I meditate upon my own feeling Meditate without conviction to change Without prayer Or understanding Then I entangle my pride And fear of vulnerability With gravity, Merit Except for to overcome Except for to grow

Artwork by Madelyn McDonald

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Not Going Under by Mariah Martin, Ringling High School Not Going Under like a dog chases their tail or a kid reads the same book a hundred times we run in circles and i don’t understand why… we chase after things we’ll never catch we open the same book and expect a different ending we go back to people who hurt us …and i’m starting to understand why see... we know we’ll never catch up we know the ending will always be the same and deep down we even know… you never find love in an old habit but… you find familiarity you find a toxic kind of comfort and like a riptide it pulls you back into a sea of doubt just before you were finally going to reach the shore so now i understand… and i’m done chasing and reading and mostly i’m done forgiving i learned how to swim... against the tide and now i’m standing on the shore.

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Welcome to our Society by Nichole Egermeier, Oklahoma Union Welcome to our society, We hope you enjoy your stay, And please feel free to be yourself, As long as it is in the right way, Make sure you love your body, Not too much or we’ll tear you down, We’ll bully you for smiling, And then wonder why you frown, We’ll tell you that you’re worthless, That you shouldn't make a sound, And then cry with all the others, As you’re buried in the ground, You can fall in love with anyone, As long it’s who we choose, And we’ll let you have your opinions, But please shape them to our views, Welcome to our society, We promise that we won’t deceive, And one more rule now that you’re here, There’s no way you can leave.

Loneliness by Kylee Wilson, Broken Arrow HS the big pit of despair eats me whole, while I lay on my bed of tears wiping my face clean. the sound of a thousand drums consumes my chest, this feeling of darkness is stabbing my brain, my body is numb to its own existence. looking up at the ceiling in my bedroom, makes me feel like I am floating on a bed of pins and needles. I don’t understand it. my emotions have nowhere to go, I can’t bear this troubling pain of having nothing and no one to hear my every thought, every word, every feeling, that implodes like a broken bone. there is nothing worse than having a heart with no friends, or a mind that speaks to it's walls. just this feeling of loneliness, can break someone in half like a number two pencil.

Artwork, Daniel Yanez, Daniel’s Sister OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 38


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Holly Jolly Christmas by Bella Klingensmith, Byng Elementary Glistening icicles hanging from the rooftop, snow falling like there’s no tomorrow. Mother’s Christmas Tree standing tall and proud, with presents and eager children gathered round. A glinting star representing the savior, Hoping Santa recognized the good behavior. The glorious aroma of Christmas dinner filling the air, Grandma baking festive cookies for all to share. Grandpa telling the story of the birth of Christ, all of these things make Christmas nice. Remnants of Santa’s cookies left on a plate, with visions of reindeer leaving the gate. The magic of Christmas filling the air, lessens the fear and uncertainty of the past year.

Only One Planet by Nihal Zehra Erez, Dove Science Academy Middle School Oh your wondrous vivid green The most beautiful sight I have ever seen Gives us our needs, helps us heal It is like a fairytale, but yet it’s real And the magnificent blue that covers your face Defines you, refines you, helps us embrace The source of life that lets us live Oh the gratitude we should always give For all that you do for us, every single day And yet nobody ever seems to think this way We litter and cut, burn and break Whatever we see and like, we take We manipulate them and make them into items we use But we never think of the fire that lights this fuse And sometimes we think it will never burn out But it will one day, I can say without doubt That that day we will worry and panic about But it will be late, our world would have died And all we could do would be to run and hide But we can fix this, light a new fuse Recycle, reduce, and reuse Clean our oceans, clean our air Now is the time for us to care Let’s fix this mess that we have made And step into a bright tomorrow, without being afraid

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 39


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I’m by Everett Denney, Byng Elementary Inspired by: Crossover by Kwame Alexander I’m ballin’ I’m crossin’ He’s crossed up He’s fallin’ Hesitate THEN GO  Pull Up Jumper SWISH I’m UNSTOPPABLE I’m UNGUARDABLE When I drive, I’m JORDAN When I  STOP POP SHOOT the 3 I’m STEPH Compared to me  your skills grade is  F When you drive  I FLY AAAAND SMACK! That ball is going BACK One guy, I slip past him, EEEEEEEEEEEASY I’m flying I’m LEBRON I’m MAGIC I’m KOBE Nah, I’m in a class of my own

Until I Meet You Again by Emmersyn Craig, Byng Elementary Why did you have to go My everlasting sorrows flow When the night falls  I can hear your calls How soon you did go  Why I may never know  I see you in my dad  But, now he seems sad  I wish we got to talk more  Your ramen was galore  Your talent has me fazed in an everlasting daze You will forever be in my prayers  Sometimes I feel you’re still there  Though Grandpa has found another  I know you still love each other  I make you gifts to leave by your side  I wish we never had to say goodbye  I hope you know I loved you so  But know I must go  You will forever be in my heart  Until I meet you at the park  I love you so  And I’m sorry you had to go

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 40


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Happy Place by Natalie Sloat, Ringling High School Before my heroes rescued me, I lived in an unhappy place. A world full of hate and hurt. Then, everything was Colorless, all I could do was stay big-armed. One overwhelming Day my heroes came and took me away. The clock showed 3:08 a.m. when they pulled up. I had dreamt Of that day for 15 winters, but when it arrived, I was Terrified. Accepting the help would mean leaving the Place from which I spent my young years. They stood up straight, and looked mighty. They were ready To face anything so they could rescue me. Taking me meant Taking the responsibility of food providing, clothing, schooling, And taking care of the scars left from the damage from the unhappy place They too came from an unhappy place. Instead Of becoming unhappy people, they built themselves a life. They found careers and got advanced education, fought Fires, and shared their food and clothes to those in need of hope. They taught me how to see the good in the world again, And how to think about everything good I have when I feel afraid of all the bad They showed me that I still have places to go and things to see. I may not have their genetics, but i will one day Have their courage to take in kids from unhappy homes. These heroes, are my parents, and they make My world, the most colorful, Happy place.

Artwork by Christian Gregory, Red Skies, watercolor

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 41


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fairy by Teo Fonseca, Broken Arrow High School i’m not much for mythics and fairy tales i live in the present, never the past but i have a quirk, a kind of veil it’s delicate, the reason i’m outcast i’m not much for mythics and a fable but i am one, i live it all the time i’m not some pegasus in a stable i’m just me, no other way to align my dust is love, my wings - adoration i am a fairy, suitor, vehement i’ve found a novelty - fascination i glow bright, i stand tall and never rent the melody i sing is free and flung the steps following behind, flamboyant all are worthy of the bell to be rung when chimed, all should feel as they should: gallant community, understanding & trust all of these i’ve learned with others like me all i need is faith, trust, and pixie dust though i don’t need it, ‘cause i feel complete.

Two Pretty Best Friends by Logan Rosiere, Grove High School I have never seen two pretty best friends, It just seems that I can't comprehend, the fact I haven't seen them, it could be a him or it might be a ma'am, it makes me think that maybe I have blinked Or maybe I even winked, they might have even gone extinct. The second I see them, I will screech, I would finally be able to teach about the time I saw two pretty best friends, but I guess it would just depend on who would want to listen because they might not trust my vision, they most likely have never seen two pretty best friends, At least no one has ever told me about the time that they have indeed seen two pretty best friends, But the day someone tells me that they have I will be needing proof, because everyone has their own opinion, so everyone will think differently, but in the end, I have never seen two pretty best friends.

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 42


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The World of the Night by Nosrat Montaha, Owasso Seventh Grade Center At night when the owls start hooting and the birds start snoozing You lay your head down while being cozy under a blanket Even if it’s a moment, a miniscule moment You escape into a world of wonder and joy A world where pigs can fly A world where you become the president of squids A world where you battle aliens in 2079 A world where reality can bend right underneath your fingertips Some may call it an escape from reality Or an unforgettable adventure with you, yourself, and you Some may call it a waste of time Or a rare moment of peaceful bliss This world is known by many names Dreams, nightmares, fantasies, visions, hallucinations are some to name a few But there's one thing for certain Everytime you lay your head while being cozy under a blanket When the owls start hooting and the birds start snoozing You’ll get an opportunity to visit a world of wonder and imagination

Active Procrastination (after One Art by Elizabeth Bishop) by Catie Thai, Norman High School Procrastination is an art, like drawing or painting or music-making, but it’s only an art if you do it smart. Put something off every day. You can put that homework off for later (it’s not due until next week anyway). Procrastination is an art. Procrastinating longer, cutting deadlines closer: Your violin lesson tomorrow, your project due in an hour, your essay due yesterday. Picking and choosing what and when to put off would be smart. I delayed my SAT by a month. And now! I stare, blankly and wonderingly, at supplementals, because November is far away, isn’t it? Procrastination is an art. I put off practicing excerpts, hard ones. I underperformed auditions, average in my city, below that in my state, unfit for nationwide. I lost then because I didn’t procrastinate smart. ---I put off seeing you (those heart shaped lips, can’t I touch them tomorrow?), now you’re an ocean away. It’s true procrastination can be an art but you have to choose things (lose things) to do it smart.

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 43


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Sea of Desire by Grace Pinder, Grove High School I heard the ripples of the water in the distance and the cry of the seagulls. The warmth of the sand on your feet, with seashells crowding the beach. The crashing of the waves gave me chills. I could feel the blazing suns heat, and the soft, calm breeze. The water was as clear as a glass of champagne. No cloud cluttered the sky. Beachgoers fearlessly rushed in the water, while I laid under the sun. The sound of the deep was tempting with mermaids singing sailor chants and armed beasts howling our names. I rushed in the water, feeling the seaweed brushing against my skin. I was a girl in my paradise.

Artwork by Kayden Casteel, Bee and Flower: “I created this drawing because I appreciate the beauty that can be found in the simplest acts of nature.”

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 44


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I Don’t Understand by Konnor Richardson, Community Christian School This feeling is making me go crazy, From being sold on a sight to just being lazy. My heart is struggling to feel, That so innocent lifestyle that I dream to be real. If I had one chance to meet her in my dreams I’d never want to wake up, But I’m stuck here getting satisfaction from a cup. The distant shore seems so far from me, Loving a girl from the Atlantic to the Baltic Sea. I’m so scared that I will mess everything up with one question, How I long for one singular mention. My heart aches for the one I’m supposed to find, Because to me she’s my ruby, my one of a kind. Searching far and wide is not an option during these times, But I smile just thinking about those chimes. Thinking about meeting the one seems so divine, But as of right now it seems so asinine. I would very much like to know, This curse which is ailing me so. These feelings of hopelessness and loneliness crawl in, Stealing my joy like a snake urging me to sin. One step at a time is all that matters, seeing those loving eyes in that moment, my wall shatters. I hope I can show my love to the one who will give me a chance, Because once I meet her my heart will dance. I’ll meet you someday don’t you worry, And if I know you already, please don’t be in such a hurry. I’m a slow learner so please give me time to study, What it means to love you and not be crummy. I’ll fight my way to you just you wait, I just hope I'm not too late. I can’t wait to find the one with a plan, Or just fill the hole in my heart in whatever way you can.

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 45


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Drowning by Victoria Williamson, Oklahoma Connections Academy Salt water collides in waves inside of me It crashes against the sides of my stomach; my body It pulls me under and I wish to let out a cry for help A desperate cry for redemption The ocean inside of me moans and groans It wishes to take over: I will not let it I lie awake, waiting for the storm to pass Submerging in my fear Drowning The salt water brews up a riot inside of me "Help! Is there anyone there?"

I will not give in.I refuse to give in. I will not show them my pain I will not show them my weakness Salt water begins to pull me under I feel the pressure building up inside of me For days, months, years, even, have I collided with this raging storm Will I stay strong enough to fight? Will I stay strong enough to never let go? This riot of emotion; I refuse to give in Salty waves collide violently inside of me I can't let go! I can't give in! Drowning “Help! Is there anyone there?”

I let go I give in The salt water finally pulls me under Drowning Drowning Drowning Drowned

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Broken Guitar Player by Cheyenne Round, Vinita High School With the pluck of a string and the strum of a chord he’s singing with pride that he sure can’t afford. For when this gig’s over and it’s on to the next his mirth and his guitar are all he'll have left. His money’s all gone, lost to bars and late nights, and, the gas ain’t cheap in his old beat up ride. His band he once had, all packed up, headed home trying to forget their former life, of living on the road. He’s driven all the long drives. He’s lost his friends and numerous wives. Those cheap motels aren’t cheap for life. There’s only one thing that has not left his side, His old guitar, a friend for life.

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 47


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The Perspective of Gratitude by Ashley Ramirez Harding Charter Preparatory High School A weapon is given to you It is not what you do with it, it's what you think of it. We act out, yet we get punished. Those who think that it was their fault for the consequences, Are the ones with their heads down. But those who see it as a lesson to be learned, Are those with their heads up. To be grateful is to be accepting. Be thankful for those who stood next to your side. Accept the experiences that life has given you, Good or bad they are meant to be worthy. Gratitude can not only be filled with acceptations but also as Opportunities. You are able to imagine, You are able to learn, You are able to exist, Yet why do you think that you don’t deserve this. Everything is just a rough draft. You’re free but restricted. That’s what makes you afraid, To go to the final draft. The period of that sentence doesn’t define the end. Deep thoughts are distractions. That’s why everyone gives a reaction. Words are hidden messages, But look at the secret blessings. Focus on the sunrise, Not the sun rising. Gratitude is simple, Just accept what is given to you. Be aware that without it, it would be different.

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 48


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Artwork by Jonathon Barrett, Simple Horse OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 49


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How Far Would The Rock Sink? by Hayden Barrowman Whittier Middle School If you have a rock in your hand, and you throw it out of rage into the ocean how far would it sink? Say the ocean had an endless depth, how far would the rock fall? When would it reach the bottom? Now think back, say you threw the rock and while it wasn’t large, you don’t know how far it fell. Now say the rock was an insult and the ocean was another person, how would you know how much it hurt them? You simply wouldn’t. Why is that? Why could the aggressor not know the damage they dealt? In simple terms, the aggressor doesn’t know how deep the attack will go. The aggressor nor you know how far the rock sank, meaning you don't know how much pain the insult caused. You don’t know if the rock sank to the bottom or if it got snagged on trash on the way down. A person who seems fine isn’t always fine on the inside. Each person has their own past, where things like trauma, bullying, and depression dwell. If the rock sank to the bottom, how much pain would the person feel? How much did that person have to go through to feel pain all over again? Every day millions of people go through depression, trauma, and abuse, and how much more weight would that rock carry? How much farther would it sink when pain is already present? A simple insult could lead to a seemingly infinite source of pain for some people. On the other hand, this pain for others is dulled as their past was filled with joy and happiness. You can’t judge a book by its cover, nor an insult by its weight as everyone takes the insult differently. Where you might feel anger, another person could feel a wave of grief bringing them to the edge of sanity. If you have a rock in your hand, and you throw it out of rage into the ocean how far would it sink? What would it take for you to throw a boulder into the ocean, to see the waves come crashing down? It shouldn’t take anyone anything to choose to not throw a boulder out of rage, as the waves are someone’s emotions and they wanted to see them come crashing down. How far did the boulder sink? How much pain did it cause? We will simply never know the answers.

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 50


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Short Story, Jonathan Barrett, A Fall Walk, watercolor OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 51


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Mycophobia by Jacob Whitlow, Broken Arrow High School Mushrooms are our first cousins in the evolutionary tree. We are more closely related to them than they are to plants. We share 50% of our DNA with them. Mushrooms have valuable medicinal properties; Penicillin, the first antibiotic is a fungus. Some are also so toxic one bite can kill any adult human. Mushrooms of course are used to get high nowadays, but in ancient cultures they brought people closer to the gods with their Psilocybin. There have been reports of hallucinations that follow the exact life cycle of the mushroom eaten. Some mushrooms can live for thousands of years, others for only a day. Their spores are so prevalent in our air that every breath you take, there's at least one spore entering alongside. The biggest organism on the planet is a network of mycelium the size of a forest located in Oregon. In the reactor of chernobyl species of fungi have been identified, where no other organism is found. When you cross a field of mycelium the mushrooms are aware of your every step. Mushrooms are not like plants. They do not photosynthesize. They Eat. “Where am I?” he signaled. Gasping for air, he found none. His entire body unresponding. Organs, nerves, bones and muscles have become absent. “What is this?” his chemicals fired. Every feeling he once had was no longer there. He heard an explosive signal a nanometer away. “Welcome to the mycelium. Our posthumous social network.” “What?” he asked. “This is what happens at the end” they answered. “Once every carcass begins to decompose, we arrive. We have many names you've assigned to us. Yeast, Mold, Spores, Decay…. Rot.” “Or commonly known as mushrooms,” said another chemical.

“I'm confused,” mushrooms?”

he

said.

“I’m

talking

to

“Not talking anymore, you haven't the body for that now.” he heard another voice. “We speak chemically, the mycelium links us all to one another. Thin gossamers, spread throughout the tree of life. THAT is the mycelium.” “What happened to me? Why can’t I feel anything anymore?” He tried to move his limbs - nothing. He tried to see, smell and hear to no avail. He tried to think, he couldn't remember how. Consciousness had left him, replaced with hyphae. He has now become “we”, and “us”. “There is no point in trying. That body has been absorbed and transferred, passed along through channels. Its final act of decay is this. The mycelium said together, We share your cognition now.” “I was once like you, Brian Jones, age 49. Died in combat, 1972. I am the mycelium.” A different voice, “Sarah Filmore, 19, drug overdose 2014, I am the mycelium.” “Jacob Whitlow, 18, car accident.” “WE ARE THE MYCELIUM.” The network said. “Do you remember who you were?” “I can’t recall,” he said. “The last thing I remember was comfort.” “That was your sarcophagus, ”said the fungi. “We remember it clearly, too. We were the ones that freed you from that encampment.” “I should have been cremated.” He broadcasted through the branches. The mycelium responded. “We are one in the same now. Interwoven by the hyphae. Every rotten, decayed organism that has ever lived, lives on together with us. None can kill us in any way that matters. We are too vast to comprehend. We’ve always been here, you know. Every step of ground you’ve tread on in your life, has had us strewn within it. We are micrometers in diameter but trillions of miles in length. We engulf the earth in one continuous thread.

“Fungus if you prefer,” another chimed.

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And now I am a part of that thread. He “thought”. Carrying that feeling across the network of hyphae. “Don’t be so dismayed. Every person you know or have passed by, everyone you would have ever met will end up here.All of everything you know will end with we.” “We are the rot and we are the mould.” “You are now a part of the greatest conquest.”

Just Me and Jonah by Kalli Tippens, Longfellow Middle School As I hide in the back closet, I try to hold in my weeps as much as I can. He’s near, I can sense his presence lurking. I cautiously sit up, holding my phone in one hand and my side in the other. My mind's racing as I hear him pacing the hallways. Why had my mom chosen such a douchebag to remarry? I don’t think my mom had thought how much her new marriage would affect our lives. At first he seemed pretty cool, but he slowly showed his true self after time. Now that my moms gone, he’s all I have. It’s not like I could go back to my dad, he’s been in jail for armed robbery, and I don't think he’ll be out for a while. Besides, he’s not responsible enough to take care of a 14 year old child. I then hear my step-dad yelling from the other side of the house. I took a deep breath, quietly, and quickly began taking school supplies out of my bag, and putting in my phone charger, a jacket, water bottles and food I had fortunately found in my bedroom. It was nearly midnight, but I had to do this, I couldn’t bare living with him any second longer. I snuck over to my window and opened it with deep concentration praying for it not to make noise. I had snuck out before, but this time is much more important than any party I've snuck out to or any boys house. The window finally opens just barely enough for my scrawny body to crawl out of it. My feet hit the wet grass, and I started running as fast as I could. I wasn’t quite sure where I was planning to go, all I knew is it had to be far from here. I ran down the road, tears filling my eyes to where the small amount of lights from street lights seemed blurry. I knew that now that I had left, there was no turning back. If I went back, if my step-dad had found out I tried running away, he’d kill me himself. To him at this point, I was his next prey. I ran for what seemed like forever, my legs felt like they were jello, until finally I reached a part of townI

hadn’t recognized. Every street was filled with old, broken down buildings. It smelled of cigarettes and garbage, and there were many people walking past me, all of which made me feel uncomfortable. I wasn’t thinking of stopping here, but this is at least a resting point until I regain my strength from running. I found a bench and sat down with a sigh. I closed my eyes, thinking over what I had just done.There were cars zooming past me and people yelling. The cold wind blew my thick brown hair every which way and made my soft green eyes water. I lied down on the bench, used my bag as a pillow and my jacket as a blanket. I lay there staring at the cloudy, bland sky. I tried falling asleep, but the thought that my step-dad could end up calling someone to find me keeps me awake for hours. Once I realized there was no possible way for me to sleep, I got back on my feet and walked the opposite way from where I came. I walked with pride knowing that I stood up to my step-dad, showed him that he doesn’t control my life. That confident walk of mine soon ended as I approached a group of 3 adult men. They all reeked of alcohol, clearly drunk. I led my eyes to the floor and walked quickly past them. Right as I thought I got passed without trouble, one of the men rapidly blocked my path, looking down at me with a smirk. This man was boney and tall. He had dirty blonde hair, and a scruffy beard with beady eyes. “ Where do you think you’re going pretty little lady?” He barked in a maddening tone. I said in a calm but stern voice, “ Let me pass, you’re in my way.” The 3 men started roaring with laughter, but I locked eye contact with the man standing inches away, holding my breath, waiting for a response. I had felt intimidated by the man, and a heap of worry overflowed my senses. After seconds of silence the wasted man sighs and lets me pass. I walked quickly until I turned the corner to which I started running. I ran as fast as I could, looking back, begging god that I wouldn’t see the men chasing after me. The next thing I know I ran into something and fell in a muddy puddle. I looked up to see a boy. He was not much taller than me and seemed the same age,and had fair skin. He was thin, you could tell he hasn’t eaten in a few days. He runs his fingers through his curly, black hair to reveal his ocean blue eyes. “ Oh I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you coming,” he said in a kind voice.

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He stretched his arm out and reached for my hand. He helped me up as I looked down at my muddy clothes. I looked back up at him and faintly smiled and nodded. “I’m Jonah,” he said as I rang out my shirt. “ I’m Shay.” Something about the boy made me feel safe. He picked up my bag that had fallen in the puddle and handed it to me. “ What’s a young kid doing in a dark alley at 4am?” he asked with suspense. I replied with a matter of factly tone “ I could ask you the same question.”He smiles and shrugs. There was a long silence, then he grabbed my hand. “Come with me,” he says “I’ll show you where I hang.” I followed him through the dark alley. I know better than to trust a random stranger I met not 10 minutes ago, but something inside me just told me to trust him, so I did. Moments later, we arrived at a small shack. It was more hidden from all the chaos that was happening within the cold streets. “You live...here?” I stuttered. He gives off a quiet little chuckle “No, but this is where I’m staying, til we get caught.” “By who?” He pauses, “The police.” There were a lot of questions I had flooding my head like where his parents were, where his actual house is, and why he’s all alone. But I felt as though I had asked too many questions already and decided to leave it alone. He led me inside of the shack. Inside was dark, the room was filled with old wood and the smell of dust. On the floor lay a sleeping bag, a bucket of water with a rag and a lamp. “You should get some rest,” he blurted, “it looks like you haven’t slept in days.” I slowly nodded and yawned. He was right, I hadn’t. I tiredly walk over to his sleeping bag, and lay down. Right as my head hit the pillow, I realized I was much more tired than I thought.

I woke up many hours later, the sun was fully out, and was shining through the wood planks onto my face. I looked around and saw Jonah at the other side of the room. “You‘re awake. Did you sleep well?” I slowly nodded, I had slept better than I would’ve expected. I stood up and stretched my legs, realizing I had dry mud all over my shirt. “If you want I could wash that for you,” he said as he watched me try to pick it off. I smiled and nodded, took off my muddy shirt and handed it to him. Luckily my pants weren’t too muddy and my sports bra didn’t get any mud on it either. Jonah catches the shirt and starts dumping it in the bucket of water. As he tries scrubbing off the hard mud he asks me, “What happened to your side?” I looked down to see a black and blue bruise on my left side. I hadn’t noticed it since I decided I was going to run away, but I had been distracted. I sighed and said, “Well, my step-dad…” I paused. Did I really trust him enough to tell him what my step-dad has done to me? At this point I wasn’t sure about anything, so I went with my gut. After a long pause I said in a quiet voice,“ It’s nothing.” I knew that by the face Jonah had given me he hadn’t believed what I said, but I could tell he wanted to give me space, and said nothing. I reached over and grabbed my bag. I took out my jacket, and put it on. I went to close my bag to see a few water bottles, and packages of chips. I had forgotten that I grabbed those. I grabbed some and looked over at Jonah. “You want some?” He looked at me with kind, but sad eyes and says with a fake smile “Oh it’s okay, I’m not very hungry.” I knew that what he was saying was a lie, but instead of letting it go, I said in a demanding tone, “No, you have to be hungry, I know you are.” He started fidgeting with his hands and said in a genuine voice, “ I don’t want to take any away from you.”

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I looked back at the water and chips I held in my hands, and with a faint smile I said,“You have to stop worrying about me,” I tossed the water and chips to him, “ You need to eat.”

what was to come, but I didn’t care. All I knew was that I felt safe, and I was planning on feeling this way with Jonah for as long as I could.

He hesitantly opens the bag of chips, and sighs, “Thank you, Shay.”

Lost Soul Found by Ziting Gao, Jenks Freshman Academy

We spent hours telling each other our life stories. “So let me get this straight,” I said in a voice full of concentration, “Your parents left you in foster care when you were little, and 3 months ago you ran away from your foster home?” He pauses, takes a deep breath and slightly nods. “...I don’t understand, why would you run away?” He sighs and says in a calm way, “Well why did you run away?” I took a long pause to think about how I was going to word it,“Cause...my step-dad. He gets drunk a lot and...sometimes he gets violent.” He re-situates himself,“Well that’s the thing. Some people are just not capable of being good guardians.” I slowly looked over at him, and nodded with a settled smile, as a tear rolled down my cheek. Not long after, I heard something from outside. We both glanced over at the door, waiting for some other clue to where the sound was coming from. Jonah says in a panicked voice,“It’a a cop, we need to leave.” Jonah and I looked at each other, nodded, and started quickly packing all our stuff. We went out the back door, and started sprinting towards the busy streets of New Jersey. As the cop ran after us, we ran faster and faster. It was dark now, and the cop didn’t seem too in shape, so by the time we reached an alley, we stopped and caught our breath. We looked over at each other, panting, and started laughing. Something about running away from a cop thrilled me. We stayed in the dark, quiet alley way til all the stars were out. We lay down on the hard concrete ground, and looked up at the stars. “I always wonder why humans were blessed with such a beautiful sky when it's night,” he said in a quiet voice. For the first time in ages, I felt happy. No one standing in my way of being myself, no one to tell me how I feel, no one, just me, and Jonah. I didn’t know

It all began with a fizz, a bursting crackle of energy that met from the tips of two separate electric circuits. It was a coincidence, the grating together of these two cables that had been soaked in sewage water for ages. Thus came me, not a robot, not an android, or any kind of being too mythical or out of the ordinary. I was merely an existence without a physical body, sound, or mind to prove my existence. A lost soul trapped. The broken facility was then turned into a hospital, a big one, with large floor-to-ceiling windows lining whitewashed walls that in the morning gentle rays, emitted a silky glow. The walls morphed into something radiantly brighter in noon's talismanic glare and died back down in dawn's shrunken light. A set of SUV tires would screech down the hospital's entrance accompanied by a scurry of movement as the wheelchair's rimmed lip collided against the flagstones. Ambulance sirens screamed, and stretchers glided across white tiles. Through time, I have come to know that amid this massive building, I resided within a single security camera overlooking a room in the children's hospital. It was forty-eight years and one hundred days after my existence when the nurses wheeled in a young girl only just done with surgery. The girl that freed me from my trap. They hurried to hook her to the IV machine with all those dangling fluids and her oxygen concentrator. Her complexion was too much on the pale side, this Asian little girl, passed out from anesthesia, with her sunken cheekbones and very chapped lips. Drenched in sweat, her raven black hair that was once thickly lustrous clung to her forehead in rather messy knots. "Leah," her parents gently shook her awake. Her eyelids fluttered open, but her eyes remained murky like she was wandering in a sea of unconsciousness. One of the nurses checked her vitals and leaned over the rail of her bed, whispering, "How are you feeling, Leah?"

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"Good," she mumbled, and turning to see her parent's worry-stricken faces, managed a weak smile, then quickly nodded off again. Poor girl, I thought. My vision zoomed out on the patient's profile on the doctor's clipboard, reading how she had just had an appendectomy and the severe inflammation of her bowel. No child should have to undergo something so incredibly painful at such an age, I grieved, But no worries, she should be beaming in no time once she's showered with all the sweets by doting grandparents that come to visit. No one came on the next day, nor the day after. It was only her parents coming and going. Leah was groggy for the first day, passing in and out of sleep regularly like they were stops on a bus line. When awake, she seemed always here but not quite so, like her soul had invisibly departed from the body and couldn't find its way back. My heart wept for the girl. Not knowing the nature of my existence, I didn't find it too surprising that I was capable of feeling intense emotions like this. I had grieved along so many patients and their families that I don't think ten fingers could count it all. "She should get up and walk around for as much as she could today," the doctor advised on the second day, "Do that, and we'll see about when we could get you out of here, okay, girl?" Leah nodded and sent the doctor off with more strained smiles. She soon dozed off to sleep at seven in the morning. Bathed in a striped beam of sunlight from the window blinds, her cheeks rose and fell in a peaceful rhythm that set the whole room in a serene tone. However, it wasn't long before she woke with a weak groan. Her mother quickly set her laptop aside, "How painful is it, darling?" she reached to tuck a lock behind her ears. "Fiv...Four." Lie. "Um...," she struggled with the words, "Can you help me up? I want to walk when I've still got the energy," she not exactly pouted but pursed her lips into a determined line. I was impressed. Leah winced, and her mother and I definitely grimaced as she grappled up. Imagine the incisions on her stomach stretching and bending from the tiniest

movement, like hundreds of sharp knives twisting in and out of your body! Yet, she fought on. Gripping her mother's hand, she propped herself up from the bed and erected herself upright on her feet, knees shaking. "Good job, darling," her mother cooed, "Now, hold tight, and walk slowly." She took small, tentative steps since she's almost forgotten about the feel of walking and the sensation of her limbs being something other than numb. Left foot. Followed by right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Staring at her moving legs, the corners of her mouth lifted by a fraction. I felt myself smiling as well, but oh! I cringed as she lost her balance and tripped, nearly knocking over her IV pump. "I'm perfectly alright, mom," Leah assured, "No, I don't need to lie back down again. Let's walk for a bit more. I thought the doctor said this was good for me." My smile crawled only higher. "Sure, but don't push yourself, okay?" "I won't," she promised and continued walking, getting steadier and steadier with every round she made around the room. It hurt. Unlike her mother, I could see past her smiling facade, but why would she, a mere teenager, be willing to overexert herself like this? Legs wobbling and back a little hunched, Leah trudged around her not so big room for as long as fifteen minutes. Then, exhaustion won out and urged her back to bed. It became very late at night. Thin rays of moonlight rendered the gnarled trees outside into enlarged, monster-like shadows cavorting on the walls. I was so glad that Leah was much better now but obviously finding it troublesome to fall asleep. The pain must be nagging her. Little did I know that this was the night that shifted my once-incorrigible fate. At roughly two in the morn, Leah was still twitching and squirming in bed most restlessly. Even at night, I could discern her eyes as impossibly black with only flecks of hazel in it. They were like two dark glinting orbs, and it took me a while to notice that they were transfixed on me. On the security camera. Her mouth was moving really slowly in slow motion. I delved into every syllable with my utmost attention. She said, "It hurts," not out loud, probably not wanting to wake her mother, but those two words shattered my heart if I had one.

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"It hurts so much," she groaned. A mere girl at her age, she lied about the pain scale and refused any additional painkillers from the nurses just to calm her parents and to straighten the wrinkles on their foreheads. She was all nods and smiles when it came to the doctors or her parents, but at night, when nobody is looking, she cries out of how it ached more than anyone could imagine. Her lips were moving again, "If someone's there, can you keep it a secret?" My mind stopped dead in its train of thought. How did she know? "How childish of me," she spoke, "Of course there's no one there." I didn't know if it was relief or disappointment that washed over me. "I can't believe I'm talking to a security camera. But I can't sleep, and I'm feeling pretty lonely, so can we just pretend that you exist? Would you listen to my babblings?" "Yes," it was an ecstatic whisper. "You know, this stupid pain all began with a bowl of bad miso soup. Ridiculous, huh? It was Monday night, and this churning pain heaved inside my stomach like crashing waves in a turbulent storm. I curled myself into a ball on the sofa, draping the quilt over my body and hugging my knees to my chest, scared out of my wits..." "...Three hours. I thought if I could last and hold on to it for three more hours, daddy would be awake, and he would know what to do. Can you even believe it? I never contemplated the idea of waking him." "...But the pain only escalated. The tempestuous sea pounded on my little ship continuously and unrelentingly into splinters until one sole plank remained for me to hold on to. I remember grabbing onto my phone, and barely having the energy, typed letter by letter in the search bar, 'Could you die from food poisoning?'... Uh! I was being naive, sure. Appendicitis turned out to be more severe than what I thought could be solved by a visit to the bathroom and definitely not as serious as my worst fear. I only lasted one and a half hour. Just when dawn was breaking into the world with its million spots of brightness coalescing into one dandelion yellow glow permeating the sky, I yelled for my sister to run upstairs and get mom and dad.

I had surgery the next night, but I was stuck in hospital from 7 am. It wasn't a surprise that again, I didn't get more than two solid hours of sleep, and I was finding it immensely difficult to walk with the pain thrashing at my underbelly. It started off near my abdomen, then it went down, right, and spread all over the place. Being in the hospital the whole day didn't help. The problem with this hospital is that it's too big. Gigantic, actually. Mom and I had to walk to the other side for a blood test and then double back to the same spot we started on for an X-ray. I hated it the most when the doctors kept pressing on my stomach, asking me where it hurt the most, but couldn't they understand the simple fact that when it hurts, I had no idea where it bloody hurt more. Sorry." "Oh no, it's fine," I was too engrossed in her story that I almost forgot she was talking directly to me, "You had every right to be a little agitated." It's weird. What I say doesn't formulate into words and sentences that actually make a sound, but it's stranded in mid-air like an idea only conveyed halfway. "I could feel you telling me it's fine...," I was speechless, "Well, that's just my wishful thinking! Talking to a security camera, ha... Do you know why I always tell doctors the lowered version of my actual number on the pain scale? I don't want mom and dad to be worried, obviously, but mostly, I want to get out of this place. I liked my normal life. It's been good talking to you, Mr. security camera, but you don't exist. You were just a figment of my imagination." For a while, she grew silent, and soon, that much talking exhausted her and put her to sleep. Her features became much softer in sleep, the harsh lines creasing her brows straightening out to the youthful lines of a child. The next day, she and her parents busied themselves with getting out of the hospital. She's forgotten about last night. I knew it. I watched with mixed feelings as the most genuine smile now tugged on the girl's rosy lips. The prospect of finally being able to go home, how much she rejoiced in that! Her beautiful hair, now washed and coiled up in a bun, gradually receded out of my view, engulfed by the white doorway. You don't exist. That's what Leah said to me, and she was right. I don't. ***

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Down in the surveillance room, the security officer grudgingly snubbed out his cigarette and reached for his walkie-talkie, barking out an order at his boss, "The security camera in Room 203 is all blacked out, sir." "It's probably just a glitch, but I'll have it fixed."

Miia by Emma Hilliard, Grove High School Only about two percent of high school relationships last until marriage, and that scares me. I want this person to be my everything, for them to be the first thing I see when I wake up, but I don't even know who they are. I go to a pretty populous high school, so there are about two hundred or more students whose names I don't even know. About once a week I ask my friends, “who’s the new kid?”, and I will get told that they have been here since freshman year. So, yeah, it was pretty embarrassing when I fell in love with someone, and I didn't even know what grade they were in. “Psst!” Oliver practically yells from across our table in the library. I glance over at the librarian, but she continues to type at her computer, unaware of our not-so-subtle conversation. “Peter!” he shouts again. “What?” I whisper back to him, annoyance hinting in my voice. I can't see his mouth under his mask, so he raises his eyebrows wildly and gestures to my right with his eyes. I follow his gaze and am suddenly looking down Halie Comb’s shirt. She twirls a strand of platinum blonde hair around her finger, and she seems to lean down lower like she knows we’re looking. I look back to Oliver and roll my eyes in disgust before returning to my worksheet. I put my elbow on the table and lean into my hand, but Oliver jerks the table out from under my arms. I faceplant into the hard surface and hear a wet crack come from my nose. My eyes start to water and blur, so when I take off my mask I can't see much of anything. Oliver laughs hysterically. “Oh my God, dude! Your face!” At this, everyone turns to look at me. A few people gasp while some laugh like Oliver. I feel something wet run down my chin and wipe it with my sweater sleeve. It comes back a brilliant red. My eyes go wide as I stand up, knocking my chair over in the process.

“Mr. Moore!” the librarian shouts from her desk. I turn toward her, and she gasps. “Are you alright? Just go to the nurse.” I rub my eyes, clearing my vision, and glance at Oliver, who is busy stifling a laugh. I flip him the finger and grab a few paper towels, heading to the nurse’s office. On the way there, I pass Michael Vance. He says something that I can't hear, but I ignore him and continue to the nurse. Instead of his footsteps getting quieter as he walks away, they suddenly get louder and his face appears in my peripheral vision. Well, not his face. Just a big ball of blonde hair, black framed around where his eyes should be for his glasses, and a blob of red for his mask. “Are you okay?” he asks. I presume that is what he said the first time. “Yeah, I'm perfect,” I respond, getting angrier by the second. “Well, what happened? Did Oliver hit you again?” he asks, struggling to keep up with my long legs. “What? No - I mean, well - yes but - He didn't mean to.” I try to find the right words. Why do I have to explain my relationship with my friend? He didn't mean to, it was just an accident. “Why do you keep defending him? I swear every other week you go to the nurse because of him. Remember last year, you even went to the hospital!” Of course, I remember that. Oliver thought it would be funny to throw his skateboard into my feet. I tripped, hit my face on his outdoor fireplace, and had to get six stitches on my chin. “That wasn't his fault!” I snap. He stops, looking hurt. “It sounds like you’re saying that more to yourself,” he mutters before heading back to the library. I scoff, throw my backpack over my shoulders, and walk into the office. “Hold still, please,” the nurse says to me. She tilts my head forward, shoving gauze up my nostrils. “Ow ow ow ow ow-” “Hold still!” she says again.

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After a few moments, she releases my nose and sits back in her chair. “What’s wrong?” I say, still leaning forward. “Nothing. You're free to go.” “What?” I ask. Gauze and tissues are shoved up my nose so far I think they’re touching my brain. My chin and cheeks are covered in dried blood, and my mask is now unusable. “Go back to class. Your nose isn't broken, you are fine,” she says dryly. “But I-” “Go. Back. To. Class.” She gives me a death stare that makes me grab a disposable mask from a box on her desk and head to my sixth hour. I hate these masks. They never fit my face right, and they are uncomfortable. I pass the library again, but I pause in front of it. Crap. I forgot to tape the letter under the desk for Mia. Every other day for a few months, I have left a letter for Mia under the third desk from the left in the library. It started when I wrote, “I AM BORED,” on a piece of paper and taped it under that table. The next day, I noticed that it was only hanging by one end, so I went to put it back up, but I saw words in another handwriting. They read, “Me too.” I wrote back, “WHAT’S YOUR NAME?” “I like to go by Mia, but that's not my real name. hbu?” “PHIL,” I responded. And every day, a new response. We told each other everything; our home lives, our past relationships, our feelings. This anonymous person, our secret space to share everything, our confidant. We needn’t worry about how the other person will react to our information since we didn't know who they were. I've had girlfriends before, but I've never had a connection with someone like this. I didn't know who she was, but I wanted to be with her. To hold her close and wipe away her tears and kiss her; to let her know that I cared for her, truly.

The bell has already rung, and there is no one in the library this hour. I don't see the librarian either. The door creaks as I open it, making me cringe. I don't want anyone to see me here. I quickly take off my backpack and grab the letter from the front pocket. There’s tape on the librarian’s desk, so I grab it and begin tearing off pieces to use. I hear the door creak again, and my blood runs cold. Stupid anxiety. “Peter?” A familiar voice says. I spin around, hiding the tape behind my back, and am met with Michael staring at me, wide-eyed. “What are you doing here, Michael?” I ask, trying to be subtle. “Uhh, I…” his eyes dart back and forth as if he’s trying to make up an answer on the fly. “I thought I forgot something in here, but I just remembered it’s in Mr. Watts’ class.” he turns to leave, and I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding, but he stops. “What were you doing in here?” “I- I forgot my backpack,” I say quickly. Crap. I was wearing my backpack when he talked to me in the hall. “You were wearing your backpack when I talked to you in the hall.” “Uh, yeah- I meant my paper. That we were working on. For the last hour. Yeah.” Wow, super smooth, Peter. “Uh-huh. Well, now that you have it, I guess you can leave, right?” He chews on his bottom lip and rubs his neck. I follow his gaze under the third desk from the left. “What are you looking at?” I ask. “Nothing! Uh, I mean, nothing… Well, I am gonna go to fifth hour-” “Sixth hour,” I correct him. “Right! So, I am leaving for that. I’ll see you around I guess,” he mutters. I watch as he leaves the library dejectedly. Something was off about him, but I don't know. I've always thought Michael was cool. The class clown, the skateboarder, the attractive guy that wasn't really into any sports. We’ve never been friends per se,

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but we’ve been friendly. I don't believe he’s ever had any girlfriends, even though we’re both seniors.

would be open to a relationship when I figured out you were a boy?”

I continue tearing off tape, and I get lost in my thoughts as I put the note under the table. Once I'm done, I pick up my backpack and begin to leave.

He freezes, and I swear I can see tears welling up in his eyes.

Bring, bring, bring! “Crap! God fu-” I don't even have to turn around to know who is trying to sneak into the library. “Michael,” I saw without turning around. He doesn't respond. “Michael I know you're behind me. What are you doing?” I hear him tap his foot a few times before he says, “Nothing… What are you doing, huh? I thought you only had to pick up a paper,” he says.

“I just- I just thought- I don't know.” At this, he looks up at me, and I can see just how vulnerable he is in this moment. Who am I to say that I will only date women for the rest of my life? Maybe it’s time to expand my palate. “What if we,” I say, “hang out and see how it goes from there?” His mouth is covered, but his eyes give away his smile. “Are you serious?” he asks, ecstatic.

At this, I turn to face him. “And I thought you had forgotten your thing in Watts’. I guess we’re both liars.”

I take a deep breath. I claimed I loved the person who was on the other side of the handwriting. I wanted to spend my life with them, to hold them and love them, why should that change if their gender does?

I cross my arms. This can't be happening, this can't be happening, this can't be-

I reach out and take his hand; It’s surprisingly soft and warm.

“I'm gay, alright?” he says. He rocks back and forth on his heels and stares at the ground. “That’s why I've never had any girlfriends. I tried to come out in eighth grade, but my parents basically told me I was wrong, so I repressed it. I tried to want to date girls, but every time I would make a plan to ask one out it… I don't know, just seemed so fake. Like I was only doing it because I had no other options, but when I started leaving those notes to you, everything kind of came together. I figured out who I was, and that I don't have to hide it.”

As we walk, everything feels right. A few lingering students look us up and down, but I ignore them.

He continues to stare down, fidgeting with his hands, awaiting my response.

“Why did you refer to yourself as ‘Mia’ in the letters?”

I've never thought of myself as anything but straight. I've never looked at a boy and thought that I would share a part of my life romantically with them. My parents are Christian, so it’s always kind of been implied that I was ‘against’ it, but I've never really had a problem with it. I have gay friends. Well, a friend that is gay.

“What’s your sixth hour? I’ll walk you to it.” “Mrs. Mitchell,” he responds.

“I do have one question, though,” I say outside Mrs. Mitchell’s classroom. “And what’s that?”

“Mia is short for Michael.”

God, that’s like when someone calls me racist and I say, “I have black friends.” “I… well, I thought I was talking to a girl. I mean, you called yourself ‘Mia’, so why would you think that I

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The Cost of Freedom by Angie Delgado, Cheyenne Middle School My name is William Powell and I am enslaved. Today is July 15th, 1770. My brother, Matthew, and I have been sold to a wealthy family in Karlstein, Germany. Right now, we are on a ship with many other slaves. I heard the guards say that the trip would last at least 2 months. We have been sailing for a week. I have been chained down to the ground and so has my brother. We have also been stripped of our clothes. My brother has been beaten many times and was almost killed because he argued with the guards. I used to live in South Africa with my family. I was very happy and free until they arrived. I don’t know what I have done to be treated like this. I did not harm anyone nor did I speak out to make anyone angry and yet, I am treated like an animal. I turn to see my brother looking very hurt and sick. “William,” he whispers, “One day, we’ll be as free as the birds in the sky. I can promise you that.” Even though my brother has been beaten and starved, he is still very hopeful. He has always been like this, that’s one thing I love about him. Even when the world is burning, you can still see the hope in his eyes. It has been a month. Many slaves have died along the way. I am very grateful that I have not died yet. My brother learned his lesson not to argue with the guards when they almost threw him overboard. He hasn’t spoken since. A guard comes towards me with a can of corn. He threw it at me and told me to split it with everyone around me. The can was rather small. I had no desire to eat. So I pushed the can away from me. The guard saw what I had done, grabbed the can, forced my mouth open, and fed me the corn. “There you go, you little animal,” he said, violently. I didn’t know how much more I could take of this cruel treatment. We have arrived in the Batavian Republic. I am slightly happy that my brother and I have survived the journey. But I also mourn for the other innocent slaves who have died. The guards told us it would take a long time to get to Karlstein because it was inland. I tried to prepare for the long walk ahead, but my mind and body were too tired. All the slaves were chained together like a chain train. A couple of guards brought us out of the boat. And then we began the long journey to Karlstein. The walk was long and rough. Matthew could barely stand, let alone walk. I closed my eyes wishing it would all end.

Night has fallen and my legs aren't working anymore. The guards don’t want to stop to rest because they are worried that we will somehow run off. Matthew still hasn’t spoken. I was worried at the beginning of the trip and now I am even more worried. He just stares off into the distance. I have tried speaking to him but he does not respond. He looks terrified. I mean, aren’t we all? We have finally arrived in Karlstein. It is very early in the morning. I am very tired and I think I have come up with an illness. I am very hot and I have chills. The guards are saying that we are close to the plantation. I feel like I’m going to die. Matthew still hasn’t said a word. I wonder if God took his voice away. All of a sudden, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground. A guard came towards me with a rope in his hands. “You wild animal!” The guard shouts at me, “You can’t just sit wherever and whenever you want!” He started whipping me harder than any guard has ever whipped me. Silent tears stream down my face. I wanted to scream in agony, but I know that would only result in more whipping. “Next time you want to take a rest, I’ll kill you!” He cackled. Some of the other guards laughed. The guard pulled me up and then kicked me in the stomach. “Keep on walking!” Some other guard shouted. I kept crying silent tears. Matthew was in front of me and he turned around. He was crying as well. But when I looked deep into his eyes, there was that little beacon of hope that had always kept me going. In the distance I could see a very large house and little sod houses dotted in the back. When we arrived there was a white man with expensive looking attire. He looked at us all with a disgusted face. “Take them to the sod houses. I want at least 20 of them in each house,” He said with a heavy accent. “And after they get some clothes on, they will get right to work.” The guards led us to the houses. They put 20 of us, including Matthew, into a sod house. There were only men in our house. It was very cramped and hot. None of us said a thing. A man with a mustache came into the house and gave us each a shirt and trousers. “Now get to work, filthy creatures,” He ordered. It has been a week since I have arrived, and it has been pure torture. I have been beaten every day.

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Yesterday, I accidentally planted the wrong seed in the wrong place. It was a minor mistake that could have easily been fixed, but the owner didn’t think so. I have not seen Matthew very much. I only see him when we go to bed in the sod house. Now, I am heading to the plantations to work. Today, I must harvest the wheat. I walk as fast as I can because I am afraid that my owner will whip me if I don’t. When I arrive there are many slaves already harvesting wheat. I joined them. I harvest the wheat for what feels like hours when I hear on and off whispering behind me. I glance behind me. I see two men and a woman harvesting. They looked very busy. “They couldn’t have been whispering,” I think. I turn around facing the wheat again, trying to focus, when I hear the whispering again. This time, I knelt down so they wouldn’t see me looking at them. “We couldn’t do it,” The woman whispered, “It is a huge risk.” “We must if we want to live,” One of the men said. “Quiet down, both of you!” The other man exclaimed quietly, “Do you want to get caught?” “Of course we don’t, but escaping is very risky, Embaku. If we get caught, they are going to chop our heads off!” The woman said with a worried look on her face. They suddenly stopped whispering and I stood up. I had an urge to ask them if I could join. They would most likely let me. I’m a slave, they are a slave, we’re in this together. I turn around to face them. “Hey!” I whisper. The woman looks at me with a confused look. “What do you want?” She asks, looking around her. “Were you guys thinking of escaping?”

“That doesn’t matter,” I say, “What matters is that I want to go with you guys!” “There is no way!” Embaku exclaimed. “We only planned to bring us three and her child.” “Please! I’ll do anything!” I beg. “We can’t! If we take you with us, then we’re surely going to get caught!” The other man whispers. Then, we heard the shouts of the guards and immediately turned back to the wheat. “Hey, meet us here tomorrow,” The woman whispered. She picked up her basket of wheat and left. I finished my day’s work without getting beaten. When I went back to the sod house most of the slaves were already sleeping on the ground. I looked around and saw Matthew lying on the floor, sleeping. I go and lay next to him. “Hey Matthew, we might finally be free.” As soon as I got up, I headed for the same wheat field that we had been in yesterday. When I arrived I saw the woman, Embaku and that other man. I started acting if I was harvesting wheat when all three of them crawled through the wheat to my side. “Look, we have to make this quick,” The woman said as she started to harvest wheat. “Our owner is going to be on the lookout today.” “So, could I please come with you?” I ask with pleading eyes. “My brother and I desperately want to leave this horrid place.” The woman looks at the man and Embaku. Embaku nods his head slowly. The woman looks back at me. “Fine. Here’s our plan…” I stayed up that night and so did Matthew. I had told him the plan. I was so happy. I had this urge of excitement rushing through me. But, there was also that little bit of fear. What if we got caught or if one of us dies along the way? Then I heard a loud noise from outside. This woke many of the other men up. Some of the slaves went outside. There was a ton of commotion. The guards were outside trying to keep the rest of the slaves inside.

“How did you hear us?” She said, looking worried. The other two men look over at me.

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“Come on, Matthew. We have to go!” I say as I take Matthew’s hand. We push through the crowd of people until we arrive outside. I spot Arjana (the woman), Embaku, Akachi and Arjana’s son, Kinyu, running toward the woods as the guards were shooting their muskets at the other slaves who disobeyed. Matthew and I started running as fast as we could, trying to catch up to the others when I heard gunshots coming towards us. “GET THEM!” A guard screams. “RUN MATTHEW! RUN!” I shout. I ran so fast I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. “We’re so close Matthew! Just a bit more!” More gunshots fired until one finally caught up. I saw Matthew fall forwards. I stopped running and turned around to see him lying there, blood starting to stain his shirt. “NO! MATTHEW!” I look behind me. The guards were coming closer. I tried picking him up but he was two heavy for my weak body. My tears were blurring my vision The guards were coming even closer, gunshots were getting louder. “Matthew, I love you so much. You didn’t deserve this, but I know you’re in a better place now. You’re finally free!” I say kissing him on the forehead. Then, I ran. Faster than I had ever ran before. The forest coming closer, I could see Arjana and the others waiting for me at the edge. Finally I got there and we all ran into the forest, not even thinking of looking behind us. “I think… we lost… them,” Arjana pants. She was carrying a big basket with lots of food. “Come on, we must keep on going or else they may catch up with us,” Embaku says with his strong voice. He was carrying pails of water. “We can’t Embaku,” Arjana says, still panting, “Kinyu is just a little boy, he cannot run as much as you can.” Embaku looked a little hesitant. “Fine, we will climb the trees and sleep in them.”

“Climb in the trees?” Arjana scoffs. “What about the water and the food? It will surely fall if we try to climb the trees!” “It is the only way. The guards will never see us.” “Fine,” Arjana sighs, “But if we lose the food and water it will be your fault.” We were able to get up the trees quickly and silently without dropping our resources. I found a position where I was slightly comfortable and then I cried those silent tears. The brother I loved so dearly, is now gone. Deep down I knew he was free but I also knew that I couldn’t live in a world where my brother wasn’t by my side. I look down from the tree. The ground looked a million miles away. I stood up, catching my balance. “What are you doing, William?” Arjana asked. I look behind me. “I’m sorry, but I cannot truly be free knowing my brother is gone,” And then I jumped, knowing the pain would finally end, knowing that I wouldn’t have to live without my brother, knowing I would be happy again.

Accidit in Auruginem by Ellana Monks, Cheyenne Middle School accidit in aurunginum (acheedeet-in-ooroogeenem) (deathly coincidence) Have you ever come to know accidit in auruginum? It is rare, but it is plain. It is hidden under normalcy, and surrounded by paranoia. The same obsessions we carry with ourselves every day. For, accidit in auruginem is only but the roll of a dice, and you’d never see it coming. Burlington, Vermont. March 2nd, 2018. It was around 1:00 pm, and it had just begun to snow. These are the things James Ambrose noted as he walked out of Lyndon State College. The seemingly emotionless 22 year old glided down the campus stairs with the casual grace of a bored monarch. There were few people out due to the snow, and Ambrose wished to keep it that way. This made his life, and his job, considerably easier. When he made it to his car, he threw his coat in the back seat and set off to work. At around 2:00 pm, he arrived at his destination. Church Street wasn’t usually busy during the day, and

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with the cold it was even less so. Ambrose walked along the vacant sidewalk with his hands in his pockets, humming softly to himself no tune in particular. He then saw himself in one of the shop windows lining the sidewalk. James Ambrose looked nothing special. Dark brown hair and pale skin, he was all angles. He fashioned a black turtleneck and matching pants, with a beige trench coat over top. He fit right into the dreary weather, and soon the people that would come later tonight Ambrose took off again to his destination. After a few more minutes of walking, he had finally arrived at the Frog Hollow Craft Center. The Frog Hollow wasn’t much like the other museums in Burlington, those were big, bold, and modern in an aching way. This gallery was smaller, a quaint shop with all sorts of nick nacks and art pieces to look at. But Ambrose was not here to shop, nor was he here to admire sculptures. He entered the shop and greeted the receptionist, an older woman with cat eye glasses and bold red lipstick. “Bon après-midi, Mme Landerwell” Ambrose said as he walked toward the front desk. Mrs. Landerwell was born (and mostly raised) in Champagne, France, and spoke french better than she did english. It gave Ambrose a reason to learn another language. “Bon après-midi à toi aussi, petit lynx,” she replied sweetly. Landerwell had started using the nickname “little lynx” a couple days after Ambrose had first met her, and she’s called him that ever since.

“Ambrose!” Reynolds boomed, “How great it is to see you again!” the man jumped up and walked around to where Ambrose was standing. “I heard you completed the task I sent you off with last week, and with an excellent clean up I must say!” “Thank you, sir,” Ambrose replied. Reynolds placed his hands on Ambrose's shoulders with a laugh, “No need to call me that, son! You’ve been working with me for 3 years now, there’s no need for titles.” Working for you Mr. Reynolds, not with, Ambrose chided in his mind. “Well, son, I have another job for you,” he said passing a file folder into Ambrose’s hands. He flipped open the file and read, “Mark Johnson, CEO of Lincoln Nails,” he looked up from the file confused. “Can I ask what business this man has with you, sir?” “Well, son, he does have business with a very close friend of mine,” Reynolds explained, “And when my friend came up to me requesting that you help him with it, I simply couldn’t refuse!” Ambrose looked back at the file. It had all the information he needed, stretching from family history to favorite food. Mark Johnson shouldn’t cause him too much trouble.

“Do you know where Mr. Reynolds is?” Ambrose asked in french.

“So, kid, you up for it?” Reynolds said with a smile. Ambrose always wondered how a warm man like him got into so many messes.

Mrs. Landerwell pointed to the door behind her, “He should be in there.”

“As always,” he closed the file folder and slipped it into the inside of his coat.

“Thank you,” Ambrose nodded, then walked behind Mrs. Landerwell and opened the door.

“Great! I’ll send you your payment when I’ve heard you’ve completed the task,” Reynolds walked over to the door and opened it for Ambrose. “Don’t get into too much trouble, kid.”

The small, oval shaped room was decorated with piles of books and potted plants anywhere they could fit. There was a record player on one side of the room, with a large emerald armchair sitting next to it. On the opposite side of the room there was a wooden desk with papers and journals spread about the top, sitting in the chair behind it was Michael Reynolds. One of Ambrose’s employers. He was a tall, tan skinned man with a moustache that made him look like the villain in an old black and white movie.

“I won’t,” said Ambrose as he walked out of the door, then out of the shop. As he was driving home he thought about what day would be best to complete his job. Ambrose was still a college student, and if he ever wanted to become a surgeon, he needed good grades. So after a few seconds of contemplation, Saturday ended up as his best option. He didn’t have any friends, (apart from a roommate, of which he was quite fond of) so there weren't many

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hangouts, and never any parties. So Ambrose usually had his entire weekend to complete jobs. When he came to the stop light he leaned back in his seat, and looked at the case file on the passenger side. “Mark Johnson,” he whispered to himself, “no friends, no family, quite a pity.” He picked up the file and looked at the picture inside. The man had a slender face and bulging eyes. He had dirty blonde hair and bags under his eyes, making him look more like a tired office worker than an annoying CEO. Ambrose wondered what he had done to Reynolds' so called “friend” to the point of needing his services. The light turned green and he dropped the file into the passenger's seat of the car. “What a shame,” Ambrose sighed as he started back on the road, “You’ll be dead by Saturday and no one will care.”

Get Up and Go Again by Madison Hull, Friend Public School When the announcer called my name, I approached the pen and saw the barrels, I took a deep breath and said to myself. “You can do this, don’t stress.” I not only was saying that to myself but to Redbull, my Silver Dapple horse. My heartbeat was racing faster than Redbull could run. It wasn’t my first rodeo, but I was still pretty fresh in the runs. Then it was time to make a run, Redbull was freaking out a bit but then I kicked, yelled, and then I was off in the pen! We ran a 15.43 and I couldn’t be happier with him. Redbull ran his hardest and we won first place out of the whole rodeo! After our run, I was at my trailer, I gave Redbull his cool down and iced his tendons. They were sore and we had another run to make tomorrow so I had to make sure he got the treatment he deserved. I gave him some treats, loaded him into the trailer and went home. It was 7:38 p.m. when we left the rodeo. It was dark, Redbull and I were tired and ready for some rest. On our way home I couldn’t stop thinking how amazing Redbull is, I guess I never thought about it and there was something about tonight that was just really making me appreciate how good of a horse he is and has been. I was so proud. It was the next day and it was 8:45 a.m. I gave Redbull his oats and feed in the barn, it was rainy but we were still in the clear to make a run. I hooked up the trailer to my truck while Redbull ate. Round one of our

barrel race started at 11:03 a.m. I brushed Redbull, cleaned off my saddle, and took a 2-hour nap. I woke up at 10:30 and had to load up Redbull and hit the road. He was tired because he himself took a nap as well. I said to my mom “I’m sad you won’t be there to watch me but I know you’ll be in spirit, I love you.” Those were the last words I said to her before I left the house. We left and I was ready more than ever meanwhile, Redbull was trying to fall asleep on me in the trailer, man I love that horse. We made a few little stops for gas and snacks but we got there pretty early. It was 10:55 when we got there and quite a bit of people were running before us so we had time to get ready. I got him all saddled up and then finally at 11:25 it was our turn. We went in more ready than ever, Redbull was calmer than last time and I think it was just because he was tired. I was in the alleyway about to run down, I kicked Redbull to go down the alley but he refused. I kicked one more time but this time something unexpected happened. Redbull jumped into the air, went on his two back legs and started shaking his head. The reins flew out of my hands and over his head. I couldn’t stay holding on anymore and eventually fell off, I hit my head on a metal gate and almost got knocked out. I tried to get up but I couldn't, Redbull was still going crazy. He started backing up into the metal gate that I was leaning against holding my head. I started panicking and when I went to get up Redbull walked back into me and smashed me against the gate. He stepped on my ribcage, leg, ankle, and stomach. He stepped on my head again and I was finally knocked out. I woke up in the hospital, I had multiple IV’s in my arm and I was connected to an oxygen machine. I saw a nurse walk in, her name tag said, Mrs. Wilson. I asked her “Where am I, what happened?” She said, “Hailey, you had a severe rodeo accident that resulted in two broken ribs, a broken ankle, fractured leg, and a concussion that almost broke part of your skull.” I really thought about how lucky I was to not have a broken skull but the rest of my body I worried about a lot. Then it hit me, I started remembering about what happened with me and Redbull. I asked her if she knew what happened to my horse. She said to me “We really didn’t want this to come up but your horse has um..”

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She got very silent and started to tear up and I knew something happened, something horrible. She then continued with a shaky voice and said “Your horse RedBull, unfortunately, has passed away” My emotion was being very confused, sad, and curious. I said “How? How did he pass away, I mean yeah he freaked out but he didn’t get nearly as injured as I did.” I sat up very quickly and started shaking.

until my parents came. I sat there cold and in silence because the nurse had left the room, I was happy that she was gone though. With the pain I'm Going through, I need to be left alone. A couple of hours went by and I didn’t think my parents were going to come tonight, but the next thing I heard was.. “Oh my gosh, Hailey! Are you okay??!!” it was my mom. I said, “Yes, I’m fine.” Even though really wasn’t.

She responded with “heart attack, he couldn’t control himself because of it and we later found out that it was a heart attack. We were informed by the vet this morning, he tried his best to save Redbull but he died rapidly.”

I asked her what happened with Redbull and I heard it again. Heart attack. It didn’t seem real that he would've died from it, I mean he was a healthy horse with no severe problems. I was miserable in that hospital. I could barely move and I couldn’t sleep, not even with all the pain just thinking about Redbull.

I couldn’t control my emotions, I wanted to ask where my parents were but I didn’t even care about that. I broke down crying knowing that my rodeo buddy and best friend was gone all in one. I couldn’t cope with it. Redbull carried me everywhere that I have been in life and I didn’t even get to say goodbye, give him one last treat, one last hug even.

My leg started healing but because I tried to make a run for it the hospital wouldn’t let me leave. My parents were divorced and my dad and I didn’t communicate so he didn’t visit me in the hospital. I never knew him really so it didn’t bother me too badly. My ribs were completely healed and my leg was basically done but not completely.

I said “Where are my parents? Do they know that I am here?”

Then the day came, I got out and left. I got home for the first time in what felt like years. As soon as I got home my mom showed me where Redbull was buried, I visited his grave every day. I looked online at horses because I wanted to continue racing. We ended up cremating Redbull before his body decomposed. I found a new horse and named him Trigger, I loved Trigger but Redbull is my heart horse forever. I have his ashes in a locket with a picture of his face on the front. I still cry knowing that he isn’t with me physically but remember he is always in spirit running beside me. I race on Trigger but I run for Redbull. I have a stone with his name in the ground so it doesn’t move. I put pictures of me and him along with treats. An American Flag is in the ground by the stone. I will reunite with him someday but for now, I will run in honor of him.

She said, “Since this hospital is more North of Texas and you and your family live on the Southside it will take them a while but yes they are on their way.” I was happy to hear that they were on their way, I’m sure they would know more about Redbull than the hospital does. I couldn’t do anything, I had wires attached to my head and IV’s stuck in my arm along with being hooked up to an oxygen machine. I was stuck. I cried and needed to get out of there but I couldn’t make my body heal any faster and that killed me. I couldn't believe my horse was gone and I was strapped in. I had bruises on the side of my face and my forehead. I decided to get up, unattached myself from these wires, unhook my IV’s and tried to run but once I touched the ground I fell. I completely forgot that my leg was fractured and that two of my ribs were broken. The nurse heard me fall and she ran in, she picked me up and put me back on the bed. She said to me “what were you thinking?!” I was so frustrated and in pain that I just couldn't answer her. She hooked me up to everything and told me she was sorry about Redbull but I needed to stay here

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Mystery Murder by Kylea Bostick, Friend Public School As footsteps creaked on every step of the stairs. I saw my bedroom door handle turn slowly... My parents had just left yesterday, but it is only Monday so they´ll still be gone for the rest of the week. Jacob, my older brother is really mean, he's supposed to take care of me but he doesn't. He is always hanging out with his girlfriend. Her name is Savannah, she is really nice, unlike my brother. She has really pretty, long black hair, and is also really tall. It does leave me to take care of myself though. ¨Hey Bub,¨ I said. ¨What?¨ He asked, irritated. ¨When are you going to make dinner?¨ I asked, a little petrified. ¨Go make it yourself!¨ He yelled ¨Fine!¨ I yelled back. Well, let's go see what is in the pantry. We have Spaghetti, Mac & Cheese, and chips. Maybe we should go to the store. Umm… I guess I could make Mac & Cheese. Yeah, that’s fine. It took 30 minutes to cook. Mmm… I was starving, that Mac & Cheese was so good. ¨Goodnight Bub!¨ I said happily. ¨Whatever,¨ He said. I started heading to my room when. ¨Sorry Sis, goodnight.¨” He said, sounding happier than usual.

What lies there dead is Savannah. I ran up to Jacob's room. ¨JACOB, SAVANNAH IS DEAD,¨ I yell. ¨Wah, wah, what do you mean,¨ he said as his voice was breaking. ¨What do you mean she is dead!¨ ¨Come downstairs, blood is everywhere.¨ I told him. He shoved me out of the way knocking me down on the floor running down the stairs. ¨It's everywhere,¨ he said his voice breaking ¨how did this happen!¨ ¨Why would some...¨ he paused ¨Kate, get outside now!¨ ¨What about you?¨ I asked ¨I´ll be fine,¨ he said ¨ you just need to go to Kasen’s house, okay. I am going to call the police.¨ Kasen is Jacob’s best friend and he only lives down the street. It was a very tiring run but I made it. ¨Kasen,¨ I say as soon as he opens the door. ¨Yeah, what’s up?¨ he asked. ¨Jacob sent me over here because Savannah was lying dead on the living room floor. He also said that I do not need to be over there because they could still be inside.¨ I tell him. ¨Okay, hang on one second I am going to call Jacob,¨ he tells me.

OMG, guys, you heard that right, he just said sorry and goodnight in the same sentence.

Kasen walks to a corner and is on the phone for about an hour yelling things like check under the stairs or did you check under the sink. I am very confused at this point and you should be too. Finally, he walks back over to tell me the story.

I started back to my room and as soon as I hit the bed I was out. I slept like a baby. It was awesome, I have never slept better in my life.

¨ Jacob is checking the house to make sure you are safe to go back home,¨ he says ¨So, you should be able to sleep in your own bed tonight.¨

The next day when I woke up I ran straight downstairs to get something to eat for breakfast. What was there, was not pretty.

¨Okay!¨ I said more and more confident that things were going to be okay.

Blood everywhere, on the walls, the couch, and all over the floor…

About that time Kasen´s phone beeps. Kasen takes a look and says, ¨Your good to go home! Do you want me to walk you home?¨ he asked

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¨Yeah, I know you want to see Jacob anyway!¨ I tell him. ¨Alright then let us go!¨ he tells me, trying to keep me calm. Once we got to my house Kasen started to walk faster and faster. I was not sure if he was excited to see Jacob or if he just wanted to get inside. We got inside and the cops were soaking the blood out of the carpets. UGH... It still is disgusting to look at. They also had the body in a body bag. ¨Kate, I made you some spaghetti,¨ Jacob said ¨eat, then go fresh up, then I think it's time for bed.¨ ¨Okay, goodnight Bub! Goodnight Kasen!¨ I tell them both. ¨Goodnight!¨ they said together. After I ate and freshened up I headed to bed. Right before I fell asleep I heard footsteps on every step of the stairs. Then minutes later my door handle was slowly turning. The door shot open and in came a person in a creepy mask that had bloody handprints all over it. He also had a sharp, shiny, long knife. Before I could scream he grabbed a hold of me. I kicked and kicked but it never seemed to bother that guy, tell me why. I do not know what I can do to escape. Finally, about that time Jacob was coming to check on me. This person in the mask had closed the door so he could not hear anything. When he opened the door he saw the murderer’s foot. So, he ran down to the basement where we had kept all of the metal poles and all of our junk basically. He ran back up the stairs and came in with this big metal pole and whacked the guy on the side of the head. BAM! DIING! ¨WOAH, thank you, Bub!¨ I say in tears. All he did was tell me to shush so he could call the police. It took them a while to get here though. Once they made it, they cuffed him and took him away. We thought we were safe till we found out that the person was my best friend's dad. Ivy and I hang out all the time. So, when I go over there or she comes over here then I will have to be careful. I cannot wait for my parents to get home. I have a lot to tell them. Fortunately, they will be home tomorrow. I hope everything will be alright now that they got the guy in prison.

My parents will hopefully never leave us home alone for a week. That was the scariest thing I have ever experienced in my life so far. I never want anything like that to happen again. I am so very thankful that Jacob was there to help me even though he had no clue I was being attacked for the first 5 minutes., I am still glad he was there to keep me from getting killed by someone that knows me very well, and that has also seen me many times. It did not help at all that he knows how I react to things. So that led him to know when he needed to cover my mouth so I could not scream. I am still debating if I should tell Ivy that her Dad tried to kill me, but I don´t know how she would react if I told her. I mean her Dad is already in prison and she is having enough trouble believing that right now. I enjoy spending time with Jacob now. I most definitely know that this experience has brought us closer together. Well, today has been a long day. I am going to bed to get some rest before my parents come home. The next morning I woke up and went downstairs only to see that my parents were already home and they were talking to the police. I wonder what they are talking about. ¨Hey, Mom! Hey, Dad!¨ Isay while walking up to them ¨How was the trip?¨ ¨Oh Sweetie, are you alright?¨ my Mom asked ¨We are so sorry, we heard what happen. Why didn't you call us?¨ ¨Mom, chillout,¨ I say ¨I´m fine!¨ ¨Hey, Mom! Hey, Dad!¨ Jacob says coming down the stairs. ¨Assuming you already know about the whole situation?¨ ¨Yes,¨ My Dad said ¨ and we are proud of what you did to protect your sister!¨ ¨Yes, very proud!¨ Mom chirped in. ¨Shall we go out to eat for dinner?¨ Dad asked. ¨YEAH!¨ Jacob and I said together. “Well, see you later my dearest best friend! Also, please be safe and keep in contact with me. Bye!”

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A New View by Olivia Kelly, Broken Arrow High School It had all the promises of a pleasant evening. Clarissa had dressed into a gown that sparkled like moonlight with every twirl. As a maid twisted her hair up into an elaborate style, Clarissa felt a pang of homesickness. When she had first found out that her uncle and aunt were willing to take her in during debutante season, she jumped at the opportunity. Anything would be better than her ordinary small-town life… right? As she contemplated her decision now, she wondered if she had made the right choice. If she was swept up by some rich man, as her aunt and uncle hoped, would she ever hear the cicadas chirp at night again? Would she taste her mother’s spicy Louisiana cooking again? Clarissa was still in deep thought when a light tap on the door shook her from her questions. She cleared her throat and said, “Come in.” The door opened a crack, and the butler’s voice sounded throughout the chamber. “Miss, the dinner party is ready. Shall I escort you downstairs?” Clarissa got up and walked out the door, and took the butler’s arm once she was in the hallway. When they arrived in the large dining area, there was her aunt and uncle seated at one end, and several bored-looking young men in the adjoining seats. They all stood as the butler pulled the chair out for her, and took a seat once she was seated comfortably. As the first course was served, the suitors, her aunt, and her uncle talked quietly about upcoming social events. Clarissa herself ate in silence. What could she ever say to these refined young men? As the first course was taken away, one of the young men turned to her. “Excuse my manners. My name is Jonathan Sparrow. My family is not known as well as others, but I hope to bring attention to the Sparrow name by marrying a beautiful girl such as you if you’ll have me.” The table grew silent as Clarissa laughed out loud. “Is that- is that your idea of a marriage proposal?!” she giggled. “I barely know you! And besides, you are so desperate that you would marry a girl you just met! Why would I ever want to be with someone like you?” Sparrow grew stiff and arose from the table abruptly. “And why would I want to marry a rude girl like you? Good night.” His footsteps echoed throughout the dining hall as he made his way out. The other men appeared shocked, and her aunt and uncle were scandalized. Clarissa found herself being pulled up by her aunt. With an apologetic smile to the suitors, her aunt pulled her

into an adjacent hallway. “That is not how a lady should act. You will never get a suitor if you continue to act this way! Now, go find this poor Sparrow fellow, and apologize!” She was pushed out the door into the cold sunset. A slam from the door made her jump, and she peered nervously at the darkening horizon and saw a silhouette that looked similar to Sparrow’s body type. She picked up her dress and hurried her way over. “Mr. Sparrow, I’m terribly sorry for how I acted-” she began before a hand muffled her sudden scream. “Now, little lady, ya won’t be hurt if ya come quietly,” a Southern twang murmured in her ear. “I got some business, see-” “Unhand that young lady at once!” Clarissa turned at this new- yet familiar- voice. It was- Sparrow? She felt herself fall and was blinded for a split second, before she heard the fading footfalls of her potential kidnapper, and saw Sparrow’s hand offering to help her up. Once she was upright, she took Sparrow’s arm, expecting him to walk back to her aunt’s and uncle’s house, but instead, he began walking the other way, and it seemed that he had his eye on one particular house. Why was he taking her there? As if knowing her unspoken question, he said, “That’s my home, and it’s a bit closer than yours. My mother would have my head if she knew I allowed a young lady to go home in pain without tending to her first.” The pair arrived at Sparrow’s house before Clarissa remembered what she had gone to Sparrow for in the first place, but before she could utter a word, the door flung open, and a large woman stood there with her hands on her hips. “Jonny, you’re home a mite early. And who is this young woman you’ve brought? Oh poor thing, you’re all dirtied and bruised. Let me clean you up.” As Clarissa was being led away, she got a glimpse of Sparrow’s beet-red face and gaping mouth, and let out a laugh. Suddenly, she was in a whirlwind of scrubbing and stinging medicines and found herself sitting on a floral-patterned couch in a simple green dress. “Hopefully it's the right size, that used to be my daughter Libby’s dress,” the large woman, who seemed to appear out of nowhere, said. “Now, Cookie’s making dinner, and don’t refuse! You’ll hear the ding of the dinner bell when it’s ready. Go see if you can find Jonny. He’s probably hiding out on his rooftop recluse. The stairs are to your left. Just go up until you get to a widow’s walk on the roof. He’ll be there.” With that, there was a whisk

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of the woman’s skirts, and she was gone, although Clarissa swore she winked at her right before she left. She got up and began the long trek up the stairs, stopping at a few landings to catch her breath. Once she got to the top, she opened the door to the clear night and found herself facing Sparrow’s back. “Mother, please-” he began, then turned around to see who it really was. “Why are you up here?! Go away!” he said. “This is my private place!” He protectively arched his back to hide something, but what? “Your mother told me that I’d find you up here. She sent me to fetch you.” Clarissa inched past Sparrow to see what he was hiding. It was a canvas of a beautiful phoenix flying over a half-finished forest. “It’s wonderful!” she cried. “It’s like- the phoenix is looking for a new beginning after rising from the ashes once more.” Sparrow turned pink at this. “It’s nothing special,” he answered gruffly, but Clarissa could see that it struck a chord within him. Suddenly she remembered what she needed to say to him. “Before I forget, please forgive me for my rudeness earlier,” she said. He laughed. “Oh no, you were right. I was desperate to find someone who might- well, I don’t know. I just wanted to show my family that I was going to become a distinguished husband, not a reclusive artist.” “That’s what your family thinks you are? A reclusive artist?” “Well, they definitely don’t want me to end up one. I’ve never been the most social-” he stopped. After a beat of silence, he said, “Why am I telling you all this? I don’t-” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, I’m rambling. I just wish I could escape this prison and get a simple yet free life. Clarissa laughed. “I’ve been wishing for just the opposite! I’ve been living a simple, small-town life, and I was thrilled when something big came along.” She had been walking around while talking to him, but now she caught his eye and looked at him- really looked at himand there was something there that made her look longer. There was loneliness there, a longing look, a look that yearned for something… more. Someone who understood being trapped in a life they didn’t want, one they didn’t choose. “Perhaps…” she said, thinking. “Perhaps…?” he responded, a start in his eyes. “Maybe there’s something new here, maybe- maybe we could be- friends?”

“I’d like that a lot.” They smiled. “Could it be something more?” he asked. “Perhaps... someday.”

The Pit of No Exit by Sophia Conway, Epic Charter Schools In a universe different than ours, there was a planet with two very different creatures. One was scared of pretty much everything. The other was scared by almost nothing. Somehow, these two found themselves on an adventure together. “Ahhh!” yelped a light gray creature in its squeaky voice. It stopped in its tracks. The furry, four-legged creature was small, like the cats on our planet. He had a long bushy tail, and small sharp claws. “You scared me! I didn’t know you were there!” he said, his voice quivering. “Well, sorry about that,” laughed the other creature as she swished her tail playfully. “I didn’t know that you could be scared so easily.” She was a bit larger, black, with long sharp claws and a long, not bushy tail. “Hmf, not my fault that you scared me,” the gray creature muttered as he started to walk through the forest again. “Anyway, what is your name?” asked the black creature, following him. “Blink. What’s your name?” “Cream.” “I think you have a nice name,” Blink said. “Oh, thanks, you too,” replied Cream. “Thanks,” Blink said. “Where are we going?” Cream asked. “Oh, I never really thought about that,” Blink answered.

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contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

“Do you know where we are?” Cream asked. “No, I don't know where we are,” Blink said. “Do you?” “No, I was just following you. I thought that you knew where you were going,” Cream said. “That means we're lost!” Blink said. He started trembling.

“The Pit of No Exit?!” screeched Blink. “Yes,” the Pit Keeper answered. “So it has no exit?” Cream asked, making sure she understood. “Correct,” the Pit Keeper replied. “Is there any food or water in the Pit of No Exit?” Cream asked. “I’m thirsty...and hungry!”

“Why are you so scared?” Cream asked as she tilted her head curiously. “I don’t get it.” “I-I-I've never been lost before,” Blink admitted. “Oh, well don’t worry about it, I will get us home,” Cream said. Blink and Cream were so busy talking that they didn't see the pit in the ground in front of them and they fell right into it. The pit was just a small hole at the top, but as the two creatures discovered, it was very deep, about 30 feet, and long, almost a half a mile long. Thankfully, Blink and Cream didn’t get hurt when they fell. They landed on a pile of moorooms (moorooms are like mushrooms but bigger and softer). It was really dark at the bottom of the pit. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Blink screamed and Cream didn’t make a sound as they were falling. “Umpf” Blink and Cream grunted when they landed on the moorooms. “What do we have here?” asked a creepy voice in the darkness. Blink squealed when he heard the creepy voice. He was frozen with fear, but after a few seconds he could move again. He scooted closer to Cream. “Who are you?” Cream asked. “I am the Pit Keeper.” “Nice to meet you,” Cream said, trying to find the Pit Keeper in the darkness. “It’s not nice for you,” the Pit Keeper laughed, circling Blink and Cream from a distance. “What do you mean?” Cream asked. “This is the Pit of No Exit!” boomed the Pit Keeper.

The Pit Keeper laughed, “Of course not!” “So we are stuck here?” Cream asked, sitting down. “Yes,” the Pit Keeper said with a smile in his voice as he walked over to a corner in the dark pit. He lost interest very quickly because he’d never seen a creature escape the pit. Blink and Cream started pacing. Blink was terrified, Cream was trying to figure out how to get out, and they both felt doomed. “Cream, do you have any idea how to get out?” Blink asked hopefully as he turned to face Cream. “Nope.” “I don’t either,” Blink said, tail drooping. Blink and Cream decided to look for a way out. Both of them searched for an hour, but found nothing. Exhausted, they found another mound of moorooms, and went to sleep for the night. “I know what to do!” Cream exclaimed excitedly the next morning when she woke up. “What?!” Blink asked excitedly, jumping up immediately. “We need to use our claws to dig out of this pit!” Cream said. “My claws are very short,” Blink said, pawing the ground gently. “So?” Cream asked. “So, I can’t help much at all,” Blink said sadly. “That doesn’t matter,” Cream said. “Are you sure?” Blink asked. “What do I do?”

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 71


contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

“You can move the dirt that I dig up,” Cream replied. “Okay, that sounds great!” Blink said. “What are you planning?” the Pit Keeper asked suddenly from the darkness. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” yelled Cream and Blink, scared by the Pit Keeper’s voice. “Whatever it is, I'm sure it won’t work,” the Pit Keeper said, turning away and going back to his corner to sleep. “Don’t mind him,” Cream whispered to Blink, “I know it will work.” Cream started to dig and Blink cleared away the

When she was done, Cream looked at Blink and asked, “What do you think about going on another adventure?” Blink thought for a moment. “I don’t know, I am scared of pretty much everything,” he said. “That's okay, I’m scared of pretty much nothing,” said Cream. “Well,” said Blink, “I guess that last adventure wasn’t so bad. We did get out of the pit after all. Sure, I’m up for that.” Cream smiled and off they went, side by side, ready for their next adventure.

dirt. As the hole got bigger, Blink said happily, “I think the plan is going to work!” “I can’t wait until I can eat and drink again,” Cream said. “Me too,” agreed Blink. After a couple of hours, a drop of dew from the grass above hit Cream on the nose. “Look, we are almost there!” Cream exclaimed excitedly as she shook her nose to get the drop . “Really?” Blink asked. “Yes,” Cream said, digging faster than before. In a few short minutes, Cream was able to grab a tree root and pull herself out of the pit. She reached down and pulled Blink up. “We are out!” Blink said trotting around happily. Cream yelled down the new hole they had just made and crawled out of, “Bye Pit Keeper! Won’t see you soon.” Blink suddenly stopped trotting, “Where do we go now?” “Hmm,” Cream said, as she looked around for something to eat. “Come on, this way, there is a pond and some green grass over here.” The two new friends ate and drank in silence.

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 72


contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

Young Writers Anthology Teachers OKCTE would like to thank all teachers who supported writers in submitting pieces to this year’s Young Writers Contest. We celebrate all that you do to nurture the hearts and minds of writing students across Oklahoma. Darla Tresner

Bartlesville High School

Kimberly Shaw

Mangum High School

Catherine Warner

Beggs High School

Danielle O'Rourke

Moore High School

Marc Shaffer

Bluejacket Public Schools

Kari Carr

Morrison High School

Jafumbwa Asad-Pratt

Booker T Washington

Cara Y. Dominick

Moyers Public School

Brian Keathley

Broken Arrow High School

Elizabeth Vaughn

Norman High School

Destiny Darbison

Byng Elementary

Catie Thai

Norman High School

Michelle Baldwin

Cherokee High School

Sara Doolittle

Norman High School

Sherry Kettler

Cheyenne Middle School

Lauren Rowley

OK-10, Lenapah

Jordan Hopper

Cheyenne Middle School

Melissa Bible

Oklahoma Connections Academy

Michele Martin

Commerce Middle School

Genevieve Estes

Oklahoma Connections Academy

Kathryn Lawler

Community Christian School

Naomi A. Jones

Oklahoma Connections Academy

Taylor LeAnn Chesser

Dale High School

Andrea Friend

Owasso 7th Grade Center

Courtney Konakowitz

Dove Science Academy

Summer Boismier

Piedmont High School

Andrea Ozment

Epic Charter Schools

Sawyer Winland

Plainview High School, Ardmore

Sheryl Salisbury

Epic Charter Schools

Bailey White

Ringling High School

Kimberly Otwell

Epic Charter Schools

Kelly A. Howard

Ringling High School

Randi Uhles

Epic Charter Schools

Carly Williams

Riverfield Country Day School

Adrianna Cook

Fisher Elementary

Aryan Azizian

Robin Hill, Norman

Tammy Critchfield

Friend Public School

Morgan Kovar

Rush Springs Public Schools

Terri Guthridge

Grove High School

Janice H Ragan

Sequoyah Middle School, Edmond

Courtney Luman

Grove High School

Rebecca Owen

Shattuck High School

Sean Botts

Grove High School

Meredith Fuller

St. Pius X School, Tulsa

Amber Harrison

Grove High School

Kristy Self

Stillwater High School

Samantha Wood

Guthrie Junior High School

Dillon Graham

Stillwater Junior High School

Jillian M Thomas

Harding Charter Prep HS

Faith Phillips

Stilwell High School

Dallas Fields

Harding Fine Arts Academy

Andrea Carotenuti

Stratford Public Schools

Robin Needham

Healdton Middle School

Kena Holder

Sulphur Middle School

Donna Winchell

Home school, Noble

Chism Sander

Taloga High School

Julianna Kershen

Home school, Norman

Hollis Pearsall

Terra Verde Discovery School

Emily Stewart

Jenks Freshman Academy

Micah Keith

Tonkawa Middle School

Sheri Weaver

Locust Grove Middle School

Dianna L. Just

Vinita High School

Nichelle Reed

Longfellow Middle School

Cynthia Charboneau

Whittier Middle School, Norman

Shannon Peters

Stillwater Public Schools

Debra Detamore

Moore High School

OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 73


contents ∣ descriptive paragraph ∣ expository essay ∣ personal narrative ∣ comic ∣ poetry ∣ short story

The Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English is an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English. We promote improvement in the teaching of all phases of the English language arts, including reading, writing, thinking, and speaking, at all levels of education. We do our best to help English teachers by providing the best professional development at the lowest possible cost. Website: http://www.okcte.org/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oklacte Member Enrollment: http://www.okcte.org/membership.html One Year Membership - $25.00 Teacher Candidate Membership - $10.00 Geraldine Burns Award Winner - One Year - FREE ​ Your one-year membership entitles you to the OKCTE Fall Conference, Spring Workshop and Awards Ceremony, and an annual subscription to the Oklahoma English Journal. If you have any questions about membership, events, or publications, please email us at okcteenglish@gmail.com.

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OKCTE ∣ Young Writers Anthology ∣ 2021: 74

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