Write From The Heart

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is a highly prestigious contest that recognizes the most promising voices in middle and high school. This year, they received 350,000 entries. Only the top 15% of the entries receive an award. All of our eligible students participate, and some submit more than one piece. We had 21 winners!!

Today, we are going to give you some winners who submitted through our Creative Writing Workshops. Logan B. won a Silver Key in the Short Story category, and Anna F. won an Honorable Mention in the Flash Fiction category.

The Weirdest Job I Ever Had

By Logan B., Pennsylvania, 8th Grade

The wind blew straight into my face, messing up my greasy brown hair. I squinted, pulling my puffy, black coat tighter around my scrawny frame as I pressed forward. Trying not to think too hard about the snowstorm swirling around me, I marched down the sidewalk beside Main Street, focusing on reaching my destination.

I shouldn’t have been out that day. I should have been inside, eating chips and playing video games while putting off doing my homework. After all, I’d just finished suffering through seven hours of school. I’d earned some down time. Unfortunately, I had a new job.

Getting a job was all Mom’s idea. She wanted me to get some experience in the work force. “It will teach you responsibility,” she told me. “What you learn early on will benefit you for the rest of your life.” To be completely honest, I could care less about responsibility and life skills. I just wanted the pocket money. For months, I looked in the shoe store’s display window, gazing wistfully at a pair of stylish red sneakers to replace my old, unfashionable, mud brown trainers. Unfortunately, those shoes cost a fortune. That’s where the job came in.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I would work after school at the local library from 3:30 until 7:00. The job paid well enough. I would get thirty bucks each day I worked. At that rate, I would need to work for two weeks to afford the sneakers I wanted. Six days of hanging around old, musty books might be worth strutting around school with the latest fashion on my feet.

At long last, after what felt like hours of pressing through the snowstorm, I reached the library. Jaytown Public Library had served my town since its creation in the nineteenth century. Its builders had used dark brown wood for everything from the walls to the ceiling to the floor to the bookshelves. Its paint never peeled and its floors never creaked. Everything looked so posh and hoity-toity and fit for nerds with nothing better to do than to sit in a corner and read Shakespeare. If it weren’t for the money, I never, ever would have considered stepping into that library. I’d be the laughing stock of the whole school if a friend of mine saw me in there. My friends and I prided ourselves on being the skateboard park and gym class type of people.

I grabbed the brass handle of the large, imposing door, swung the door open, and marched into the library, running my long, pale fingers through my hair to remove any snow. I’d been told to go straight to the front desk and get information about my work from Mrs. Montgomery, the librarian.

It took no effort at all to find the front desk. The front door opened up into a small lobby with chairs and tables for geeks to sit and read their boring old tomes. Only a few students were there at the time. At the back of the lobby stood the front desk, vast, tall, and ornately carved, gleaming in all its glory under the glow from the light bulbs overhead. Sitting in the stiff, wooden chair behind the desk was none other than Mrs. Montgomery herself.

I’d only heard rumors of the librarian, but those rumors seemed pretty accurate. Mrs. Montgomery fit every stereotype of a librarian that I could think of. She’d pulled her iron gray hair into a tight bun at the nape of her neck. Her high- necked dress looked better suited for the 1910’s than the 2010’s. She peered at me from above the frames of her tortoiseshell spectacles. The kids at school said that Mrs. Montgomery would momentarily morph into a wolverine any time a student coughed, and that she had an old, hickory stick to flog anyone who talked in anything louder than a whisper. I was in no hurry to see if those rumors were true.

“Mr. Burns, I presume,” Mrs. Montgomery said, staring at me with her steely eyes.

“My friends call me Trey,” I replied lamely.

“Mr. Burns,” the librarian continued, not taking her eyes off me, “I also presume that you are here to begin your employment.”

I nodded.

“Then come here, Mr. Burns. I want to ask you some questions as a way of getting to know you.”

I didn’t like the sound of that, but I walked over to the front desk and returned the librarian’s gaze.

“So,” Mrs. Montgomery began, “why did you choose to work here?”

“My mom wanted me to get a job,” I answered, stuffing my hands in my pockets.

The librarian raised an eyebrow. “You have a noble mother. Why did you pick here to work and not anywhere else?”

“The pay was good, and the hours didn’t conflict with my schedule.”

“I see.” Mrs. Montgomery began writing down a few words on a piece of paper. I felt a sinking feeling in my gut. “Tell me, Mr. Burns, do you like to read?”

“Um…uh…” On one hand, I didn’t want to lie to my boss before my first day of work even started. Then again, if I said that I didn’t much care for reading, I might not even have a first day of work.

However, I was spared the chance to answer when the librarian added, “Never mind, your silence speaks volumes.”

I wanted very badly to leave this conversation and start with the work.

“So you say that you chose this job for the pay?” Mrs. Montgomery continued. “Tell me, what do you wish to buy with the money you earn from this job?”

“A pair of new sneakers.” Hopefully that was a good enough answer.

“New shoes, eh?” the librarian asked. “Understandable. Very well then, you may consider yourself Jaytown Public Library’s newest employee. Hang your coat in the back room, and you can start work right now. There’s a return pile of books over there, see that, in that back corner. You may start putting them back on the shelves. You do know how to do that, I suppose? The names of the authors go in alphabetical order.”

I nodded. “Thank you. I’ll get right on it.”

Once I’d hung up my coat in the back room, a boy a few years older than me came up to the front desk. “Excuse me, Mrs. Montgomery?” he asked. “I’m looking for the book ‘Famous Seventeenth-Century Poets,’ by Albert Mott, but I don’t know where to look.”

“I can help with that,” said a familiar voice. I looked up and saw a girl in my own grade at school waltz out from the women’s bathroom and over to the front desk. I recognized her as Lucretia Anthony. She wore thick-rimmed glasses and a concrete gray pinafore over her crimson sweater. I knew her well as one of the geekiest kids in class. The teachers all loved her, and she adored the attention. I, for one, hated to stay in the same room as her for more than two minutes. Her presence at the library made me dread my job all the more.

“Actually,” Mrs. Montgomery interjected, “I think our new Mr. Burns here should help with that. This little task would give him some much-needed practice.”

Lucretia looked at me scornfully. “Oh. Hello Trey.” She did not sound remotely pleased to see me. Maybe she was still mad at me for putting some glue on her chair a few weeks ago. She needed to lighten up.

“So, uh,” I said to the boy looking for the book on poets, “that book was written by Albert Moss?”

“No, it’s Mott. Albert Mott.” The boy looked at me like he didn’t want me working there either.

I sucked in a deep breath. “Right. I’ll go find it.” Before anyone could make me feel any more uncomfortable, I began walking briskly, not knowing where I was going. I only changed direction when Mrs. Montgomery cleared her throat and said, “The room with the poetry books is that way. The door is right by my desk, see?”

I stumbled into a large room lined with bookshelves of a very dark and well-polished wood. My shoes squeaked loudly on the polished floor, and the sudden noise made me flinch. For a few seconds, I merely stood in place, gawking at all of the books. So, so many books filled the shelves. Their covers varied from light tan to dark umber to black with white, horizontal stripes. Each book looked like they weighed a few pounds apiece and would take me a year or two to read through. I looked around frantically, trying to find a spine that bore the name of Albert Moss–no, Mott. Unfortunately, I was lost in this room. Totally lost.

A minute passed. Maybe two. Possibly three or four. I hastily walked around, staring at the books. The letters all blurred together and I could barely see straight. Just then, the door behind me swung open and Lucretia crossly strode over to a spot on one of the bookshelves. She pulled out a rather heavy book with a light brown spine and thrust it into my arms. “The book that the kid out there asked for,” Lucretia explained, sounding rather frustrated with me. “Go on. Stop bumbling around and go out and give it to him.”

The day passed slowly as I fumbled around the library, trying to settle into my job. Most of my little odd jobs ended in Lucretia or Mrs. Montgomery having to come and set me straight. When I returned home that night, Mom asked how the workday went.

“On the bright side,” I replied, “things can only improve from here.”

I was wrong.

I want to say that things improved as I continued my job at the library. I want to say that I learned much from my various odd jobs of returning books to bookshelves and retrieving boring old tomes for others to read. I want very, very dearly to say that I became the most valuable employee that Jaytown Public Library had ever seen.

I can’t say that.

Most of the time, I stuffed books into completely incorrect spots, and Lucretia had to walk behind me, correcting my frequent mistakes. “Trey, watch where you’re going, you just passed where you were supposed to put that book!” she would frequently tell me. “Trey, you moron, you put the book in backwards.” “Can’t you read? You put an ‘O’ name between two ‘E’ names.” “Hey, that’s my foot you just stepped on!” Each of her demeaning comments made me grit my teeth. If my arms weren’t always laden with books, I’d have ripped my hair out by then. Or hers.

Mrs. Montgomery always insisted on giving me the jobs that involved retrieving books for others even though I never knew where I was going. Just looking at all of the shelves overwhelmed me, and I’d stumble around and around in circles, requiring twenty minutes to find a single lousy book. By the time I had finished work on the Wednesday of my second week, I was exhausted and Lucretia strongly resembled a volatile time bomb that could explode on me at any moment. Mrs. Montgomery showed an extraordinary amount of patience for me, however. She never yelled at me or treated me as an inferior. Sure, she was prim and proper as always, but she seemed to have a kind heart. After all, she hadn’t even shown me her switch despite the temptation I gave her to use it. Still, I just couldn’t figure out why she gave me all of the hard jobs when Lucretia made it obvious how much she wanted them.

Finally, the second Friday rolled around. The only thing keeping me going forward was the thought of walking down the school hallways with a pair of those red sneakers fitted snugly around my feet. I numbly stumbled through my tasks at the library, barely even trying to get things right. In my final hour at work, Mrs. Montgomery had me look for a book called “Advanced Rocketry and Rocket Physics.” I dazedly walked amongst the wooden bookshelves, looking for the one book with that name. At last, I found it. When I picked it up, I nearly dropped it. The book was a lot heavier than I had expected, and it fell open in my hands. When I went to close it again, my eyes got stuck on the words at the top of the page. “How to Assemble a Homemade Rocket Part 1.”

Curious, I began reading. The list of materials had a lot of words that I didn’t know and couldn’t pronounce, but I focused on the words I did know. The procedure was rather complicated, but I thought that I got the gist of it. I subconsciously sat down on the library floor and continued reading, the book on my lap. I must have been sitting there for fifteen minutes or so before Mrs. Montgomery walked into the room.

Upon seeing her enter, I hastily stood up, my face growing red. “Oh, Mrs. Montgomery, ma’am, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know, I lost track of time, I just started reading and–”

“Don’t worry about it,” Mrs. Montgomery insisted, her mouth curling up in the first smile that I had ever seen on her. “You found it interesting?”

“Yeah,” I replied, confused as to why I wasn’t being scolded. “I’d sorta like to check it out–”

“Well, young Mr. Stevens out there has already checked it out, and he has been waiting patiently for a quarter of an hour.”

“I’m so sorry–”

“Stop apologizing, Mr. Burns, I’m serious. I had been sending you in here for two weeks in hopes that you would find something that you liked. I’m glad that you have.”

Everything clicked together in my head. So that was why Mrs. Montgomery had always used me and not Lucretia even though Lucretia was so much more experienced than I was. And now, here I was, sitting on the library floor reading about rocket science. I had become a complete and total nerd. And I liked it.

When 7:00 rolled around, I grabbed my two weeks’ pay and excitedly jogged down to the shoe store. I stopped by the display window, staring at that pair of sneakers that I’d been waiting to buy. They were begging me to buy them. Images of showing them off to all of my friends shot before my eyes.

Somehow, those pictures didn’t tempt me much anymore.

I reached down in my pocket, my fingers closing around the wad of cash in there. I’d worked hard to earn that. The days hadn’t been easy, but that old library had grown on me. I pulled my hand back out of my pocket and smiled. Maybe if I kept working at the library, I’d make enough money to buy a phone. Right now, however, there was something I wanted, but I didn’t know how to get it.

I ran back to the library as quickly as I could, hoping to get back there in time. Once I’d reached my destination, sweat was falling thick and fast down my forehead, and my throat burned, pleading for a short break.

Just as I’d caught my breath, the library door swung open. Lucretia walked out, took a look at my sweaty body, and asked, “Um, have you been running?”

Avoiding her question, I said, “Look, so, um, you know that book I got for the Stevens kid?”

“The one on rocketry?” she asked hesitantly. “Yeah. Yeah, I know it.”

“I know it’s checked out, but, um, is there some way that I can be first in line to get it when he brings it back?”

Lucretia gave me a very small smile–a teasing one this time, not a haughty one. “You’ve finally come around, huh? Come on, I’ll show you how to do that.”


Annie’s Visit to the Farm

By Anna F., Pennsylvania, 8th grade

11-year old Annie Whitebread held her breath in anticipation in the backseat of her family’s van as it turned around the corner, the stables of the Whitebread farm coming into view. It was a large farm, with three barns where the animals slept. Fenced-in pastures surrounded the buildings.

She was going to stay here for a couple of weeks with her Aunt Stacy and Uncle Harper Whitebread, and learn how to run a farm. Flutterflies grew in her stomach as her dad parked the van into the small driveway before the biggest barn. 

When she stepped out, Annie was engulfed in the smell of fresh golden hay, and the aroma of animals. They both walked down to the smallest barn, where Aunt Stacy had told them to meet her.

They found Aunt Stacy, holding a pail of paint in one hand, and a dripping brush in the other hand. Behind her was a large wooden gate, half-covered with paint, that kept the cows from getting out of the barn. Loose strands of Aunt Stacy’s sandy-blonde hair were blowing in her face, but the rest of it was tied up into a high ponytail.

“Hello!” she said, smiling kindly at Annie. 

Annie returned the smile. 

Stacy put down the pail of paint and stuck the paintbrush into it. “Are you ready?” she asked. Annie nodded. 

Annie’s dad hugged her, and said, “I’m going to go back to the car and put your things in the house.”

“Do you want to go feed the animals?” Aunt Stacy asked. 

“Sure!” said Annie. She followed Aunt Stacy around to the back of the barn. Aunt Stacy pushed aside the big red wooden door that led inside, and let Annie go in first.

The smell of animals was stronger, and the sounds were louder when Annie stepped inside the barn. Big brown cows roamed about here and there, standing up, laying down, walking around, and mooing sarcastically. At first, Annie was nervous when one of the cows approached her, but Aunt Stacy prompted her to pet its nose.

“They must be really happy today!” Aunt Stacy exclaimed. 

Annie laughed. She left the cow standing there, and followed Aunt Stacy over to a ladder that led to the hayloft. “Stay here while I get the bales. The floor-boards are really loose up there.”

So Annie stood waiting while Aunt Stacy went up to grab a few hay bales. One by one, five big bales fell from the loft, and when Aunt Stacy came down, Annie helped her carry them over to the center of the barn. There were a few scattered remains of recent feedings on the barn floor. The two neatly stacked up the hay bales in a pile.

The cows swarmed over, eager to get their share of the food. Then Annie and Aunt Stacy went back to the hayloft, Annie standing down at the bottom and Aunt Stacy tossing down the hay bales onto the floor.

Then Annie’s dad came in. When she came over to him he said, “Goodbye, sweetheart. Have a great time! Know that we’re very proud of you!” Annie whispered her own goodbye before her dad returned to the van, and drove back down the valley. 

Again Annie and Aunt Stacy carried four bales of hay over to the center of the barn, and dodged cows right and left as they stacked them on top of the other bales.

Then Aunt Stacy and Annie stood back, watching the cows hungrily munch at the hay bales. Aunt Stacy turned to Annie, and asked, “Should we go feed the horses now?” 

“Yes!” said Annie. She simply adored horses. She was hoping she would be able to spend most of her time here experiencing how to work with them.

Annie followed Aunt Stacy over to the horse stables. The doors opened to a long hall with stalls on each side. Some stalls were empty, but most had friendly velvety horse noses poking out on top of the doors. Annie looked at each horse in turn as Aunt Stacy told her the horses’ names.

Snow White was a white horse with gray spots running down her rump. Fudge was a glossy brown mare whose fur was too irresistible for Annie not to pet. Aunt Stacy gave Annie some baby carrots from out of her pocket to give to the horses.

There was also Missy, Mr. Mustache, Pecan, Oscar, and Dimples. Annie fell in love with Dimples at once. The black horse’s fur wrinkled in some areas on her face, making her look like she was smiling. “Will I get to ride her?” Annie asked as if in a dream. 

Aunt Stacy smiled. “Yes, you will soon. For now let’s give them their food.” And the two went to the back of the barn where there were tall stacks of hay for the horses. They juggled some bales back to the stalls, throwing in a bale in each stall.

Annie stood by Dimples’ stall, watching her tear at the fresh bale of hay. Annie reached out her hand to pet Dimples’ nose, but the horse turned its head away. Annie frowned. She looked over her shoulder to see Aunt Stacy standing against another stall, smirking with her arms crossed. “She’s just not used to you yet.” Aunt Stacy explained. Annie nodded and turned back to Dimples, resuming her watch.

After a while, Aunt Stacy walked over to Dimples’ stall, and asked Annie, “Would you like to help me make some cookies for our snack?”

“Sure!” Annie exclaimed.

So the two went into the house where they made two beautiful batches of chocolate-chocolate chip cookies.

Annie smiled to herself as she licked the bowl of leftover cookie dough clean. She was going to have a great time staying here with her aunt and uncle on the farm. She couldn’t wait to see what else was in store for her.


Interested in Preparing Your Own Story?

Is your child interested in taking our Creative Writing workshop so that they can enter the Scholastic Contest this fall?  Or perhaps they need a grammar refresher or help preparing college applications.

Whatever your need, we have a workshop designed to help. Our workshops last four weeks and are self-paced through each week–all assignments are due Friday EST. These classes are wonderful supplements to encourage your child in the things they do well, or help them focus in on the things they need to work on.

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