A huge thank you to all who took the time to enter the 2022 Solano County Library Teen Writing Contest!
We were honored to read your work, and encourage each of you to continue writing.
Please enjoy the winning entries below!
27 Club by Lucy Kuhn
They told you you’d sell as long as you keep
like a bass drum pulse that thrums from
Camden to Seattle
to Greenhouses to Harlem
to LA hotels,
perennial hedonism that will be both your
eminence and your execution.
So give us your fervor
and give us your filth,
fly tonight if you think you’ll
LIVE FAST DIE YOUNG except
they can make dead things
lyrics dissected into disaster warnings get
dressed up as a lullaby
and you tried to tell them the blood isn’t the color of
They said you’ve got somethin’ but
not what to do if you’ve cheated yourself,
to gouge out the ugly and fossilize the agony;
this art needs a drum riff heartbeat
whether you try to swerve in the other direction or
plummet past the exit sign,
give us the ugly and give us your best-
Anthems with their ultraviolet prayers;
or a hidden
that wavers alongside the
white lighter flames to the beat of this
To the unwritten reprises
reverberating off the radio towers and
the stars outside bedroom windows
and candlelit stages
before the injected anchors and
the tilting weight of a million yesterdays.
This is remembrance
in the form of a skipping CD,
a hymn to the carved-out place between
the strobe lights and smoke
for the listless and
between the chorus and the bridge for the
They told you you’d make it
if you didn’t crash with the waves
and if you do go down
to go down
and when you’re hollowed out
around the unspoken choruses,
if the melodies mix with milligrams,
no less you are;
the good ones keep meeting the sky
and leaving us with the echo;
death’s just a different waiting venue.
Perform a tacenda from the edge,
belt it a prayer until you fall.
If anyone up there is
give them a show.
What Do I See? by Juliana Dionisio
I see a world full of hate and suffering,
anguish, and pain
Torn by division and destroyed all together
I see a world filled with people succumbed with sadness
Shattered from grieve and revenge
Seen their wrongdoings
Trying to get better
Choosing between doing good and bad
I see a world filled with trash and debris,
Covering our oceans and hurting everything in it
Plants and animals die because of our mistakes
I see a world getting hotter each and every day,
Burning because of our doings
The effects? Getting worse
Storms rising, increased drought
Who is to blame for all of these
I see a world split in the middle
Divided by color, race,
Why do we do this to our friends?
People are all equal and deserve respect,
love, and everything else all humans need
But what else do I see….
I see a world full of people rising up and doing good,
filled with love and kindness
Showing everyone the right path
Not everything in this world is bad
Doing good is not as hard as you think
Little by little the world is growing back
I see a world trying to get better,
picking up the mistakes and cleaning them up
Learning and relearning all the time
I see a world that can grow and change all the time
Now the only thing is…
Can the change be good?
Can we grow in a way that is right?
I hope to see a world that is great
We can do it now, knowing that one day, someday, we can get there
It doesn’t have to be big things, but many small deeds
combined to become great
The world doesn’t have to be perfect, but I want it to live, not die,
I Might Have Been by Julius Villanueva
I might have been a mighty oak those many years ago
But fate the cruel was on the prowl bent on haunches low
Fate with spiteful pleasure cast me at the feet of the mighty sycamore There I grew gnarled; straining and struggling for the sunlight I desired more Only able to taste what sifted through his branches just a phantom of its shine
Beneath his umbrage my trunk grew limp and my leaves waxed yellow as I declined I might have been a mighty oak those many years ago
If only I could have had a dulcet taste of the water below
The glutton’s fat tendrils were raping the earth of its greatest treasure His obscene indulgence had left me dry and had dessicated the heathers Never to have my days in the sun, never to be the crowned king of the glade stifled by the greatness of another, destined for the shade
I might have been a mighty oak those many years ago
But fate saw greatness as a seed I wasn’t meant to sow
Left in the gloom, writhing in desperation for the light
Hoping for what I might have been, a mighty oak aheight
SHORT STORY WINNERS
Home by Tyler Foy
The window behind his head invited swarms of sunbeams. The light caught in the tips of his hair warped its color from brown to a dull blonde. His earlobes shined red from the passing rays as if there were lightning bugs embedded within them.
The room, once cold and empty, was now overflowing with suffocating amounts of warmth and light. He shuddered and closed his eyes. Trembling fingers nervously wrapped around the back of his neck, mindlessly fidgeting as he sat.
In front of where he was sitting on the wooden floor sat a mirror smudged with dust; a constant reminder of its lack of use to him. He heard the house idly shift, as it often did on such days of fair weather. The walls and ceiling groaned and cracked as the house began to settle again, seeming to act as a reminder of the memories that lay between the walls. The boy opened his eyes again and sighed, removing his fingers from the base of his skull.
He inhaled, indulging in the scent of his house that he, oddly enough, found comforting; it smelled of dust, pine, stones left out in the rain, and a lingering odor from the old cigars his grandfather used to smoke…
The light from the room was quickly disappearing as the sun lowered past the horizon, surrendering to the stillness of the night. The boy shifted his weight and allowed his spine to slouch into a deep curve as he stretched like a cat. With that he sighed, closing his eyes one last time to let this feeling sink in. One calm moment—a mere freckle in the constellation of his life—passing by like the setting sun.
The coolness slowly crept up his spine, replacing the glowing gold in the room with a desaturated silver. The boy opened his eyes, staring directly at his reflection in the filthy mirror in front of him. He narrowed his eyes before blinking harshly. Visions of bright lights flashed behind his eyelids, squeezed shut over his eyes. He saw imagery that he didn’t immediately recognize—places he hadn’t remembered ever being, people he never met. One face in particular kept reappearing between vivid flashes of red and white; the haunting face of an old man. The man’s age was visible in the creases by his eyes and nose, a salt and peppered crown of hair receding at his temples. In the visions, he always had a stern look on his face, riding the border between disgust and disinterest. His pale, thin lips were pulled into a tight frown which produced more wrinkles at the base of his stubbled chin.
Despite the intensity of the old man’s expression, the visions never brought the boy negative feelings, rather, filling him with a strange tightness in his throat and chest.
The boy fought the tears welling up in his eyes for he didn’t think he should be crying; it was strange, he thought, it was odd to feel the need to sob after the image of some stranger played in his head once again. He tore his eyes open in frustration, still pushing the lump growing in his throat back down, and locked eyes with the mirror once more…
But he didn’t see his reflection, instead meeting the bored eyes of a familiar old face. His breath caught and he let out a choked gasp of realization.
The man was his grandfather, who hadn’t lived in this house in over 10 years.
The boy was still relatively young when he died, but he tried to hold onto the few memories they shared until they were stolen from him by the hands of time. His grandfather wasn’t a kind man. The boy’s parents were in the process of splitting up when he was born, an event that neither his father nor mother were happy about.
When he was three months old, his grandfather—a cold and distant retired banker—took him in after his parents’ differences became too much for them to handle.
The boy’s eyes grew wider as they darted around the room, jumping from old, framed newspaper clippings to old black-and-white photos stuck to the wall with cello tape. Memories that had been hidden from him by his own subconscious came flooding back to his being like a crashing wave.
He saw his grandfather teaching him to read and write, his first time riding a bike—his grandfather watching from the yard. His head was spinning with his memories playing like old cassettes in his eyes, tears now spilling freely down his cheeks, his erratic breathing slowing suddenly when a single memory played in front of him.
Unlike the others, he couldn’t place exactly when it took place. He was sitting in an old wicker chair at the dining room table, a set of chalky paints set in front of him, and a stack of wet paintings laid out in careful rows across the table. In the chair beside him sat his grandfather, humming a tune that he couldn’t place while reading one of the pocket-sized novels that lined the bookcases in the living room.
He saw himself looking up at the man, his grandfather’s eyes still flowing back and forth as he read. He watched his grandfather tab the page before turning his attention to him, the old
man’s focus set on the boy’s painting. A moment went by before the boy realized his grandfather was…smiling. He hadn’t ever seen him smile before.
The memory faded and the boy was back in the same room with the same dirty mirror sitting in front of him. He rubbed the tracks of tears off his face with his fingers roughly and spun around to sit with his back pushed against the mirror. Just before he buried his face into his knees as he hugged his legs tightly, his eyes flickered onto a wrinkled paper pressed onto the corner of the wall. Its corners were torn and warped with age, but it was clear that after all that time, he was reminded of how deeply his grandfather cared about him.
Blank Canvas by Quinn Aftab
Spiraling lightning. Vigorously whirling rainwater. The units of anciently gothic and crumbling pillars gouged my shattering heart.
My shattering heart.
My shattering heart.
I clutched my leather satchel, pretending it would carry all my broken pieces.
And then, I stared at the lifeless–and limbless body in front of me. A black, Victorian lace top drenched in burgundy blood, matching the set of earrings I gifted her last November–when we met. Not to mention, the typical beret hat of a French university-attending art student.
Not just any French art school student–my darling French art school student.
The scene flickered behind my eyes–recalling an evening in which she stood on the roof ledge of our shared Greek-style apartment. What I thought would be the finale to the first tenderness of my life.
We painted each other’s canvases with warm, soft varnishes.
She gently sewed the edges of my heart together with paper clips and fan brushes.
Maybe I was just a woman of delusion–a woman full of artful flesh, wearing a veil to my heartbeats. I wanted to be with her. I didn’t split apart at the seams and die when I was around her. I felt like I was her canvas, like she could paint me as all the cosmos and dreamy, flowing fishes in her raw sketchbooks.
She was a girl who talked to angels and played with the stars, and I was a girl who was fated to eternal soreness in an empty void near my chest.
But what I liked about her the most, is that she didn’t care. She made me laugh when I cried–so hard that I began to cry all over again. She made me smile just thinking of the way she kept tucking that one strand of hair behind her ear to fall back again. How she kept trying to tuck her colored pencils all into the same case.
I remember lying awake the next night, smiling–that case was just as full as my feelings for her–if not, less.
She gave me an empty canvas. The canvas she put her shimmering skies and tendrils of ever-so-gentle devotions in.
I wanted to fill that canvas with my feelings–soaring to the clouds and above the universe.
Until the incident.
Until she stood on the ledge of our apartment building. Even falling out into the universe below earth’s core–the ribbons of her cardigan gracefully floated in the air–she looked like an earth fairy.
I remember staring at the mole on her cheek, on the antique hospital bed.
“Mary, what were you thinking?”
My innocent remark led to the end of my universe.
“I’m sorry, who are you?”
Who am I?
The most important girl in my life is asking who am I?
I guess that hurt. But what really hurt was when Mary started hanging around with the new art student.
The girl with light brown hair and an arena of azure shadows in her eyes.
The girl who didn’t have weeping willows in her black eyes, and words threatening to fall off her hands–like the girl I saw in my mirror every morning.
I suddenly started to hate that reflection. If she wanted to pluck out my heart like a string on a violin and abruptly tear it out from my flesh, that would’ve been fine. I would still look into her adoring, downturned orbs and her robin-bird lips. I would look at her like she was one of those canvases she stayed up all night on, ink staining, daring to drip from her nails almost darker than her hair. But what she has done is worse–she left my heart beating faster than ever and didn’t even leave a wax seal on her letter of doom. She didn’t even deliver it at my doorstep. Our doorstep. The doorsteps she doesn’t stop to sit on and offer me a piece of cake from her tin boxes. She now goes through the door. She doesn’t wait to smile, or to take my hand. She just uses the door like it’s some damn door.
But how do I tell her that it hurts?
How do I tell her when I cannot even muster up this cluster–this bundle of raw, sweet, poisonous, and skinned pain?
Her promises were broken–and those fragments floated around in my blood–seeping through my bones, haunting my guts.
Oh god, I loved her. It was hard to love her. But why, why was it so easy for her to love me?
More lightning. Assertive whirling rain. The vague distinctions of anciently gothic and crumbling pillars gouged upon my empty chest.
My empty chest.
My empty chest.
I clutched my leather satchel, leaving all my broken pieces scattered on the concrete of a November evening.
And I left a canvas empty.
Curiosity Killed the Zadock by Giovanni Destin Grijalva
It was a sunny day outside, not that the rats had any indication of that. Where they lived was dark and a bit damp as well. It smelled like mold from where the washer was leaking. You guessed it: they lived in a garage.
They lived in constant fear of getting caught, scurrying for cover when a blinding light came on — a telltale sign that a Gritchen was coming in. These Gritchens were humongous and as tall as skyscrapers — to the rats, anyway. They were also rumored to have the ability to breathe fire and that their favorite treat was grilled rat sandwiches. However, though they feared for their lives when the piercing light came on, it was largely unnecessary. The hum—I mean Gritchens had no idea that rats lived in their garage. Plus, the Gritchens were peace activists; they cried when they accidentally stepped on a bug.
The only one that had any idea that rats lived in the garage was Muffin. Muffin was a Zadock. He had large, rodent-devouring teeth, and claws that could crush the bones of a rat. He, unlike the Gritchens, actually liked grilled rat sandwiches. They were his favorite treat. Though he knew of the rats’ existence and longed to tear the meat off their bones — he kept pleading with his owners on a daily basis — he was not allowed in the garage. So, the rat family was safe, for now.
Now, the rats lived off the food they were able to steal from the Gritchens. See, once a week, a ginormous animal would appear bearing food. The Gritchens seemed to have managed to tame this wild beast, which they called a Toy Yoda, and would take the food into the doorway to where the Gritchens lived. However, for a moment, the food was unguarded, and the rats were able to sneak off with some. Sometimes, it would be yummy stuff like a grape or two or a tiny bit of an apple. Other times, they were unable to grab anything but a bit of frozen okra, which they were not a fan of. So, the rats lived their life, scavenging for food and being somewhat malnourished.
This all changed one day when Roasted Marshmellow, a manly rat full of courage and quite a bit of fat — which may have been the reason his family was malnourished — was on scavenging duty. Making sure that the Gritchens were preoccupied, Marshy sprinted to the Toy Yoda and jumped on it. Then, he scurried to the food. When he arrived, he saw an orange block that was bigger than his room.
“Is this food?” he wondered. He sniffed it and tried to take a bite out of it. However, it had a thick layering of what he heard the Gritchens call play-stick. He, eventually, was able to bite a hole in the play-stick, but he had to hurry; the Gritchens would not be preoccupied for long. He nibbled a piece of the orange substance, and it was like his whole body went to heaven.
“This is amazing!” he squeaked. He gathered some of it and ran off to tell his family all about it.
Later, around the dinner card (the rat equivalent of a table), Roasted Marshmellow brought out his find: a substance he called peas.
“This is wonderful,” his wife Doughnut exclaimed when she had a bite of it.
“Yeah, Dad. Good find,” said his son, R.M. Jr.
His daughter, Toasted Marshmellow, who was a bit more inquisitive (though lacking in some common sense) asked him, “Where did you find this?”
“With the Toy Yoda as usual,” he said, and then, casually, he added, “I’m thinking of exploring the Gritchen’s residence to see if I can find more.”
Doughnut gasped, “Honey, you can’t really think of doing that. It’s too dangerous. What if the Gritchens decide to eat you? Oh, honey…”. And she started fussing over him; however, resolutely, Roasted Marshmellow said, “No, I’m going,” and off he went.
His first obstacle was the door where he had to sit patiently, waiting to see if a Gritchen would open it. He sat and waited and waited and waited. Then, he waited some more, and “Oh, the door’s opening!” But it was a false alarm. So, he waited some more and more and a bit more and…
Oops, that’s my readers. Moving on…
Finally, a Gritchen opened the door to the garage. Evidently, they were looking for a toy Bach. “Whatever that is,” thought Marshy as he ran past the Gritchen.
He used his amazing sense of smell to sniff for the peas, and almost immediately, he got a hit. So, he frolicked off making sure to be keeping an eye out for the Zadock. Of course, he was kind of blind, so he ran into a wall and then, another wall, and another one, and another — well, you get the point.
Finally, bruised and battered, he made it to where his sniffler said the peas was; however, there was only a big white object in front of him. He was so surprised that he did not notice Muffin sneaking up on him. When he finally turned around, it was too late; all he saw was a maw full of razor-sharp teeth. Then, everything went black.
Suddenly, there was a brilliant light replacing the pitch blackness.
“Where am I?” Marshy said groggily. Then, he saw something that made him stop. It was a handsome rat. He had large whiskers and a kind face, but for some reason he was wearing a blood-stain robe.
“Who are you?” Marshy asked the rat.
The rat seemed amused at this question, “I have been called many things over the years: the Great I Am, the Messiah, the Lamb. Do I look like a lamb?” He laughed.
“But what do I call you, Sir?” Marshy asked.
The rat paused thinking, “How about Cheesus? After all, you love cheese, don’t you? And I am sure you will love me.”
“What is this cheese?” Marshy asked, “I love peas.”
“Actually what you found is called cheese, not peas,” Cheesus said laughing, “Trust me, you would not like peas. Anyway, here you have an abundance of cheese.” He spread his arms wide, and Marshy realized that the whole place was made out of cheese.
“I am finally home,” he said.
“Yes, you are, my child,” Cheesus said.
The moral of this story? While curiosity is said to have killed the Zadock, it can kill anybody and not all of us are rewarded at the end of our days. Use the time you have wisely and build a relationship with Cheesus (who is in no way affiliated with Jesus).
CONGRATULATIONS, LUCY, JULIANA, JULIUS, TYLER, QUINN, AND GIOVANNI!