One Teen Story Issue #67: Shira Zur’s “Dear Margot”

The time has come to publish the second of three winners from One Teen Story’s 2021 Teen Writing Contest. As I mentioned when introducing our previous winner, 2020 brought us more than 450 entrees, which is the most we’ve ever received. Given that our submission window didn’t open until September of that year, we found it very impressive that so many teens were tapping into their creative impulses during lockdown. Our goal was to pick the most outstanding entree in each age category (13-15, 16-17, 18-19), and our work was cut out for us.

For our second installment, we present to you “Dear Margot” by Shira Zur. This story is a good old-fashioned epistolary. More specifically, it’s a one-sided correspondence: a teen who refers to herself as “S.L.” is writing letters to her sister Margot—only, Margot has passed away. That premise brings with it several immediate questions any reader might have, such as How did Margot die? and Were the sisters close? and What’s the point of writing to a dead person? Questions, for me, make up at least a third of a good reading experience.

What I love most about this story, however, is that, while answering some of the questions we bring to the table, it also provides us with questions we might not even have thought to ask—and answers them, as well. In a fairly short amount of space, Shira Zur covers a lot of emotional ground, weaving together a portrait of two siblings out of the grief of the one who survived. We at One Teen Story are delighted to be ushering “Dear Margot” into the world.

To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.

One Teen Story Issue #66: Elane Kim’s “Smorzando”

As 2020 was nearing its close, we received more than 450 entrees for One Teen Story’s Teen Writing Contest—the most we’ve ever received. They came in from teen writers ranging in age from 13-19, and we grouped them into three categories: 13-15, 16-17, and 18-19. Our goal, as always, was to pick a winner and runner-up in each category, and our team of dedicated contest readers set the process in motion by diving into one of our favorite shared activities: reading. It was heartening, indeed, to discover that not only had the teens been writing during a tumultuous year, but they’d also produced some powerful, moving stories.

We’re pleased to present to you the winner of our 13-15 age category: Elane Kim, who has written a quietly moving story called “Smorzando.”

“Smorzando” is about two sisters, Amy and Maya, who have lost their mother, live with their grandmother, and share a passion for playing the piano. As is often the case in stories about siblings, there is rivalry: Amy is more dedicated (at first); Maya is more talented. The fact that Maya is the younger of the two sisters isn’t lost on Amy, who does her best to tolerate her sister’s immaturity while struggling to accept that, no matter how immature she is, Maya will always be the better pianist. Add to this Amy’s desire, as the older sister, to help keep alive the memories they share of their mother, whom they both dearly miss.

Elane Kim has written a tender and utterly convincing story about these two girls at a challenging juncture of their lives. We hope you enjoy “Smorzando” as much as we did.

Announcing the winners and runners-up of the 2021 Teen Writing Contest

We are thrilled to announce the winners and runners-up of our 2021 One Teen Story Teen Writing Contest! We received over 450 entries from teen writers across the globe, and narrowing it down was no easy feat. Each winner will receive $500 and publication in a forthcoming issue of One Teen Story.

Ages 13 – 15

Winner: “Smorzando” by Elane Kim 

“Even now, I know how to make tragedies digestible. Maya is like Eomma in that she likes the stories with happy endings best, so I learn how to offer half-truths, how to angle the light so that the princess waves from her tower. I don’t show her the bound hands, or the curtains, or the audience.”

— Elane Kim, “Smorzando”

Runner-up: “Set of Cards” by Jacqueline Lan

Ages 16 – 17

Winner: “Dear Margot” by Shira Zur

“Autumn was always your favorite; you’d pull out your soft hoodies and sweatpants and sit on the sofa, drinking mint tea with honey in small sips, watching the leaves rustle in the wind outside. I would watch you from the kitchen and think you looked like a portrait waiting to be painted.” 

—Shira Zur, “Dear Margot”

Runner-up: “Footnotes on Chinese-American Girlhoods” by May Hathaway

Ages 18 – 19

Winner: “The Frame Between Us” by Ethan Luk

“The Honda Odyssey ripped through the night, soared on the highway, and suddenly, we were racing against the current of other cars. We shared a secret silently acknowledged: we were together and that was all that mattered.”

— Ethan Luk, “The Frame Between Us”

Runner-Up: “The Liar’s Game” by Sophie Sheumaker

Subscribe to One Story or One Teen Story in print or on your mobile device to read the winners’ stories throughout the year. Our next Teen Writing Contest will take place in fall 2021. 

Support our mission to publish great teen fiction writers by donating or becoming a supporting member

OTS Issue #65: Gabriel Krawec’s “The Squatchers”

When I was nine years old, I went to the cinema and saw a very low-budget movie about Bigfoot. Because the movie was a documentary, I knew it was all true. Because I was nine, I had no idea that I was watching cheesy re-enactments of people’s encounters with the hairy maniac and thought it was all actual footage. As a result, I became obsessed with Bigfoot. I thought he could show up anytime, anywhere. I had difficulty falling asleep for a full year because I was convinced those oversized fists were going to crash through the window over my bed and grab me. Bigfoot strolling through a suburban neighborhood on the Florida coast seemed like a very real possibility to me.

I also started keeping an eye out for Bigfoot, and wouldn’t you know I saw him? Several times! Just a glimpse, but each time I dialed the police and reported the sighting, only to get very frustrated when the cops didn’t take me seriously.

So I was excited to encounter Gabriel Krawec’s “The Squatchers.” (The title is a reference to people who track Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch.) In this story, two teens meet up in the woods one night, both out with Squatching groups led by their obsessed fathers. One of these groups is out to observe; the other is out to kill. Neither group has ever seen a Sasquatch before—but that’s about to change.

“The Squatchers” is a funny and slightly sad story about what can happen to families in crisis. It’s also about how teens are sometimes a little wiser than their parents. This is the third and final winner of this year’s Teen Writing Contest, and we’re delighted to put Gabriel Krawec’s unusual tale into the hands of readers like you. We hope you enjoy it.

OTS #63: Erika Yip’s “Fifty Square Feet Within”

Erika Yip’s “Fifty Square Feet Within” is a story that gripped me from the beginning with its quiet, claustrophobic atmosphere and then held me at the edge of my seat right up till the end. Tian is a teen girl living with her mom in the Sheung Wan area of Hong Kong. They share extremely cramped quarters in a subdivided apartment, and her mother works long hours at two different jobs to pay for their food and lodging.

Because of her mother’s work hours and her own school schedule, Tian usually only sees her mother for the duration of a single meal a day: dinner. But one evening her mom doesn’t come home. And Tian has to figure out what to do next.

“Fifty Square Feet Within” reads like a mystery. It builds suspense as Tian takes matters into her own hands, and it conjures a feeling of claustrophobia that it maintains even when she steps out of her confined living space and ventures out into the larger world. Erika Yip’s story is one of the winners of our Teen Writing Contest, and we’re excited to be putting it into your hands. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.

OTS #62: Adysen Straw’s “Like a Rainbow”

Being at home so much lately has given me plenty of time to catch up with old friends and reminisce. (Sound familiar?) One of the things I’ve been reminiscing about is my teen years and how wonderful they were—when they weren’t difficult. And they were difficult much of the time. A lot of that difficulty, I now realize, had to do with identity: who I was and who I wanted to be, how I saw myself and how I wanted others to see me. There was disparity across the board.

Adysen Straw’s short story “Like a Rainbow”—one of the winners of our Teen Writing Contest—is all about identity. From its very first sentence, the story plunges us into what it’s like to be a teen struggling with perception: the perception that comes from without, the perception that comes from within, and the disparity that (hopefully) one day becomes harmony. One Teen Story is delighted to bring you this endearing tale of self-acceptance and the crucial role friendship can play in that process.

Announcing the winners and runners-up of the Teen Writing Contest

We are thrilled to announce the winners and runners-up of our 2020 One Teen Story Teen Writing Contest! We received over 300 entries from teen writers across the globe, and narrowing it down was no easy feat. Each winner will receive $500 and publication in a forthcoming issue of One Teen Story.

Ages 13 – 15

Winner: “Like a Rainbow” by Adysen Straw 

I reached up to pull my bangs out of my eyes and the boy in the mirror did the same. I didn’t want to look away. if I had been a girl, I might’ve said this guy was cute and crush-worthy. It took me a long couple of minutes to realize that this guy was me.”

— Adysen Straw, “Like a Rainbow”

Runner-up: “Saving Yellowstone” by Joe Palsha

Ages 16 – 17

Winner: “Fifty Square Feet Within” by Erika Yip

Mama is a fabric that has been worn and torn and stretched to near nothingness. She works two jobs—a waitress at Yiu Wah Café by day and a cleaning lady at the Hong Kong Museum of History by night—and we never have time to spend together.

—Erika Yip, “Fifty Square Feet Within”

Runner-up: “Containment” by Lukas Bacho

Ages 18 – 19

Winner: “The Squatchers” by Gabriel Krawec

Every weekend my dad and a small army who called themselves the SRA (Sasquatch Research Association) would drive into the woods to track down Bigfoot, set traps, and kill him. I remember the therapist said everyone deals with grief differently, that I should go too, so that I could ‘support’ him.

— Gabriel Krawec, “The Squatchers”

Runner-Up: “The Next Step” by Felix Foote

Subscribe to One Story or One Teen Story in print or on your mobile device to read the winners’ stories throughout the year. Our next Teen Writing Contest will take place in fall 2020. 

Support our mission to publish great teen fiction writers by donating or becoming a supporting member

Congratulations to the winners and runners-up!

OTS Issue #61: Kara Molnar’s “Free”

Spencer is a talented young man with dreams of being a great ballet star—only, a knee injury is thwarting his ambitions. Madeleine is a talented young woman who longs to be a concert violinist but suffers from a lack of confidence. Their first connection—from afar—comes through mutual admiration. But something much more powerful than fandom is at play here.

Kara Molnar’s “Free,” one of the winners of this year’s Teen Writing Contest, is about the expansive power of art to inspire across disciplines and barrel through challenges both physical and psychological. It’s also a wonderful reminder that passion is infectious. We hope you enjoy Kara’s short story as much as we did.

To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.

OTS#60: Juliet Cushing’s “Cicatriz”

When I was in high school, a friend of mine named James suddenly passed away. I remember feeling torn, angry, bewildered. And as I processed my grief, I began looking back in a way I never had before. It was more than just not having any future moments with James to look forward to; it was the (very new to me, then) phenomenon of having death illuminate life in a way that only death can. For the first time, I became aware of the value—the treasure trove—of the past. I looked back with purpose, one could almost say with a mission: my memories of James—memories that stretched back to junior high and went up to the day before he died—were James. Wrapping my head around that was a big (and uninvited) nudge toward adulthood.

Our new issue of One Teen Story wanders into similar territory. It’s called “Cicatriz” and is written by a wonderful emerging writer named Juliet Cushing. I won’t go into detail about it because I think it speaks beautifully for itself, but I will say that it takes a painful situation and illuminates it in a way that radiates off the page. The writing turns tragedy into art. “Cicatriz” is one of the winners of this year’s Teen Writing Contest. We’re proud to be presenting it to you.

To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.

OTS Issue #59: Emma Caton’s “And the War Stopped”

Two young soldiers from opposite sides of a battlefield meet in No Man’s Land with their hands raised. Others from both sides join them. So begins the Christmas Truce of WWI.

When I asked Emma Caton, author of the latest issue of One Teen Story, what drew her to the subject matter, she talked in our Q&A about the amount of hatred that “has to be present in order to go to war,” and yet the soldiers involved in the event were able to suspend their hatred for a few hours of peace and comradery. That fascinated her. And then she took it a step further and gave her young soldiers—one German, one British—a spark of romantic interest.

I was impressed by how swiftly this story moves, how deeply it cuts, and how sparsely it’s told. Emma had the idea from the get-go to write a love story, and she’s done just that. At the same time, she hasn’t shied away from the challenges these two young men face. The result is “And the War Stopped”—a powerful story of connection and longing in the most unlikely of circumstances, and one of the winners of our Teen Writing Contest. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.