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Élan celebrates the work of students between 6th and 8th grades in our annual Middle School Writing Contest.

First Place


by Anoushka Dugar

The little girl couldn’t see.

The Sun had shut her eyelids,

So she couldn’t look at the stars

The Sun was a vain creature.


The little girl wanted to see color

So she walked across the cobblestone streets

Hissed at the fiery star in the sky

As breaths dribbled out of her mouth

trickling down her chin



have you closed my eyes?


(The Sun was too busy talking to the Moon.)


She waited,

to silence.


The little girl glided across

shattered glass of lost voices

Paused to look into a small pond


There was a fish with one eye who smiled


You want to see color I heard,


The little girl nodded



hold orange in your hand

And let its warmth travel into your veins

Until your whole body is filled with this light

Hear it.

Strum like a guitar

Slicing through your breath.


The little girl ran across a grassy knoll.

A dragonfly landed on her nose.


I heard the wind whispering.

You want to see color

What about green?

Like the soft underbelly of a mushroom.

Skin of a pond.


He buzzed away.

The little girl blinked.


She crawled across a street

of mud splotches and inky tears.

Picking at scabs of rain bites.


A frog watched her.


He croaked

Shrugging on a little coat.


Purple innit.

Color of the royals.

The queen herself likes the taste

A prickle tang on a brittle tongue.

Shame you can’t see it.




The sky is blue.

The girl recalled as she lay in her bed.


(The Sun was snoring in its cave of clouds)


What do you think Moon?


Go to bed,

she replied.


I want to see the stars!


Not now.


I hate you.


Is that so?


I hate you.


Can’t you see the color bleeding out my ears

Running like a thick sludge,

dripping through my rib cage

Until all I can feel is this rush in my head

burning a hole in the nook of my neck!


The Moon placed a frigid finger over her lips.


Dear girl, you hold the galaxy in your eyes.


The girl fluttered her lashes,

As her pupils burst with beams of light.

About the Writer...

     Anoushka Dugar is a 14 year old at Georgina P. Blach Intermediate School in Los Altos, California. She has a love for writing and reading poetry, as well as meeting fellow poets. One day, she hopes to be a published poet like Amanda Gorman.

Second Place

Patient Flowers

by Khloe Klopfer 

     The snow was dense and heavy on the snowdrop’s delicate stem, making her shiver and wail. When was the time to grow? Would it ever come? Or would she forever live in ugly torture? Would she forever live in darkness?

     Suddenly, the snowdrop’s wishful prayers had been answered by the beautiful force that holds this world in its fingertips. The snowdrop saw a sliver of light, a raindrop on a painfully humid day.

     She took it as a sign, her time would come soon, but she must be patient with herself, even if it hurt so horribly that she wished to scream in anger and frustration, she must wait.

     So she did.

     She waited, and waited, and waited.

     Until that one, singular raindrop, became a thundering storm. All the ice drifted away to a happier place, while the beautiful snowdrop stretched her wings as the clouds and the sun kissed her and warmed her until her pale smile brightened the earth much more than the sun ever could. The poppies may look at her in disgust, the roses may shun her beauty, but she was happy. She was proud of herself for holding onto that piece of thread that those cruel poppies and envious roses could never have held onto for so long. She had been patient, she had been kind, and her love would live on longer than the rusted petals of the roses and poppies could imagine in their dark, shadowed roots.

About the Writer...

     Khloe Klopfer is a theatre student. She loves to write relatable stories and loves reading fiction, especially Greek myths. She wants to pursue a career in the arts when she is older.

Third Place


by Ty'ana Pope 

     I could have killed him, that night in the woods.

     We were alone, no one around for miles, the silence between us filled with the crackling of the bonfire we had spent a near hour trying to figure out how to light safely. No one would have known what I did in those nights.

     I could have thrown him in the blazing fire, I could have impaled him like a finger brushing against old wood, I could have tied him up and left him under the dock at the lake for the leeches to feed on for all anyone would care.

     But I could not.

     I had done it so many times; I had chased people down for blocks on end, I had gutted people alive, and that is not even all of it, cause I had done so much more, and even better I had played my part to get away with it. I had been everyone’s worst nightmare. This should have been no issue for someone like me.

     But I just could not kill him, no matter how hard I tried, I could not. He was just too… something?

     I do not think there is even a word to describe him.

     His voice played so soft and sweet, almost in a way that sticks with you like sap no matter how much you try to wash it off.

     His eyes never glowed, only empty, only ever filled with light hope and deep sorrow.

     His hair always seemed so unkept, but not in a bad way, but in a way that felt like he did not have it in him to maintain his daily appearance.

     He carried a familiar scent to him, almost like home, not the building, but the feeling of a long-distance family that have not been brought together for years, but are finally coming back with one another, at a funeral, not exchanging a word, the despair in the room saying enough and more than they ever could.

     Stupidly, I let the night play on, to give him a chance, to let his actions, thoughts, and words give an explanation to his demeanor, and with that the fire no longer popper over us, instead our voices echoed over and throughout our campsite.

     But soon the fire did not pop at all, and unexpected rain poured from the sky flooding the ground around, just missing us with the incline of where we rested our site.

     We spoke for hours in the tent, waiting for the rain to stop.

     Though rather uncomfortable, he made sure there was no space left for an awkward silence to refill the air, and instead he told me stories; ones from his past, ones he had never told another, ones that told me that he trusted me, ones that made me want to sob into the sky until the angels heard my cries to spare him.

     And I nearly did cry at one point, but he noticed me, stopped, and grabbed my hand; they were rough, yet soft. Nothing about him matched, I was sure of it then. Even his hands contrasted every other thing about him.

     He began to apologize profusely for saying too much and asked if I had anything to say, anything to change the direction of the conversation. I did not.

     So, the rain having stopped by then, we moved on. He brought me outside, the smell of petrichor filling the air, easing the atmosphere. And deciding to take advantage of the now clear weather, he started to teach me.

     He taught me how to fish, how to find poisonous plants and berries, how to avoid them, how to cure any illness with them, how to turn them into a bittersweet honey like syrup. That was my favorite part; mushing the berries and watching their rich nectar ooze out into the little bowls until it was nothing but, the skins of them being taken out to dry out by the fire for a snack later into the night.

     The syrup we made was put in these almost childlike cups, sippy cups maybe. It tasted like what I imagine Ambrosia from those Greek stories tasting like. By the third sip I felt my body glow down to its core; my veins felt electric, my eyes felt like they had opened a new color spectrum, my muscles could climb my way up to the top Olympus from the underworld with no assistance.

     But if this were a Greek story, I would be Paris; falling for a forbidden beauty unknown without thinking about the consequences, because syrup is still syrup in a sippy cup, and it is an even deeper cut when it is poisonous.

     I should have seen it; building trust with a sob story, it was such a typical move, one I had used many times myself, my own game used against me. I should have taken it as my chance to strike, I was stupid not to.

     But I just had to let the night happen, just I let him play his game.

     I should have gotten him first, remove this first story and I would still hold my title. I would not be dead right now.

About the Writer...

     Ty'ana Pope is an 8th grade, advanced creative writing student at LaVilla, though it is her first year actually attending the school. She has not published or entered any contests before, but she is confident in her writing abilities and has an undeniable passion for writing. She mostly writes poems and short stories, but she is in the process of writing her own novels.

Honorable Mention

Barbarous Verdure 

by Kalliope Gonos 

     The stars look so gorgeous from the moon, each one shining millions of miles away, bright and pure. After an exhausting journey here, the beauty is most definitely appreciated. Though, this break while we run maintenance checks on the ship gives me time to think, and I realize just how scared I am for the next part of our ambitious journey. I have only an hour before I surrender myself to the will of technology and enter my cryogenic chamber. At least it's better than being stuck on the ship for a year. Mars is so far away, but this venture will be worth it. It has to be. Considering the state that earth is in, the fate of humanity depends on it. 
     I return to the ship and head towards the control panel to check for any final messages before our long-awaited departure for Mars. When I open the message port I see only one unread message, it's a call request from Director Ellroy Hall. I quickly accept the request and step backwards as the director's face appears on screen.  
     “Hello, Dr. Martin.” says Ellroy  
     “Hello, Director,” I reply. “I trust that everything is in order for your departure?” she asks. 

     “It all looks to be Director, we are awaiting the results of our temperature check in the chambers. We are expected to depart in twenty minutes.”  
     “Good,” she replies steadily. “I wish you, and your fellow pioneers good luck on this endeavor, see you in a year.” She then ends the call.  
     The results of the tests on the ship are all ideal. I take a moment to calm myself before climbing inside. “This could be the day that I die,” I think to myself, before entering my pod to sleep for 8760 hours.  
     I jolt awake, startled by the sudden warmth. My cryopod has opened. I rush to the window of the ship, shivering as I walk. When I look outside of the porthole window, I see something that no one has ever seen before: Mars, up close. It seems like I can see every crater, every canyon and mountain and fissure. I feel like I'm on top of the world. We made it.  
     After eating a large meal to regain my strength and sending in a message with word of our arrival to Mars, I meet with the others in my crew. We put on our suits and cautiously step into the pressurization chamber. I am the first to ever set foot on Mars. We start to take tests and samples of everything before loading them back into a separate pod to send back to earth when we stumble upon a large opening in the ground that seems to be some sort of cave. I volunteer to check it out while the others continue to collect samples.  
     As I descend into the cave paying close attention to my surroundings. I begin to see maroon vines growing on the walls and clinging to the ceiling. We have no prior knowledge of any life on Mars so I grab a sample quickly, as if I'm scared that the vines will disappear. Exhilarated and high off the adrenaline, I continue down the tunnel with a skip in my step. The once narrow shaft opens up into a wide cavern filled with blossoming undergrowth. Shades of purple, green, and pink fill the open space. I’m stunned as I try to take it all in. It's truly a miracle. The reason we had no idea that Mars contained life is because it was all under the surface! These plants grow using the light from phosphorus algae, as opposed to the sun. This is a scientific breakthrough that I am thrilled to share with the rest of my team, and eventually, the world.  
     As I try to leave the cave, samples in hand, I hear a low, rumbling sound. I look around in a flurry of panic, not knowing what the sound could be. Then I feel something snake around my ankle before pulling me backwards, hard. Gasping in shock, I claw at the appendage in vain. As I am dragged along the ground, I can feel the shards of glass from sample tubes digging into my back, drawing long lines of crimson down my body. Another limb juts out at me from the dark, grabbing my waist and pulling me into an upright position. It hurts, the limbs feel like they are constricting around me, my vision goes spotted around the edges. I can't breathe.  
     I hear a deep, almost otherworldly voice echoing throughout the chamber. The sound is so rough it hurts to listen to. The voice utters just a few sentences— simple yet menacing.  
     “You have destroyed the Earth. We have observed you, and your crimes. We will not let you do the same to us as you did to our counterpart,” it says this before the appendages begin to tighten. The one formerly around my ankle snakes up to wrap around my throat. I feel myself coughing wet, loud coughs. Blood leaks from my mouth, then dribbles down my chin. All I can feel is blistering pain. It's too late to be saved by the time my last breath rattles in my chest. I savor my last moment, before my eyes gently close. 

About the Writer...

     Kalliope Gonos is a 13 year old student at Thoreau Middle School. They enjoy writing and reading fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction. Kalliope enjoys settling down with a good book and a cup of tea on a rainy day.

Honorable Mention

The Burning Light of the Clock

by Jamari Weaver

Time, my old friend turned foe,  
Once a blank canvas I was free to paint my memories on,  
Now sand slipping through my fingers,  
When youth clouded my senses,  
The sprint towards the glowing light of an illuminated future started a fire,  
Flames burned me with ambition and passion,  
Leaving me with the scars of who I was,  
View clears with age,  
Lights become flashy advertisements hiding behind a unspoken cruel t
Then comes the turn around,  
Bombarded with emotion in an unconscious moment of reflection,  
The realization the run has been in the wrong direction your whole life,  
Fire now ash,  
Memories become priceless,  
Forgotten thoughts a sudden haven for rapture,  
What was blurs,  

The truths I once knew become unclear,  
You may attempt back to the ignorant paradise of the past ,  
But the burden of your knowledge replaces the once bliss of naivety,  
My essence withers with the exit of those play filled park days,  
The tune of my existence,  
Once a new classical piece of slow progression,  
Now an aged chaos of wrong notes and stressed keys,  
Reality drowns me as I attempt to reach the glimmering shine of a future of enjoyment not 
I can feel the invisible war,  
The fantasy of youth,  
The opening of my eyes,  
The two sides of my soul sparring for what?,  
A final decision?  
A black and white feeling?  
An escape from the suffocation at the hands of society?  
Maybe to stop the generational repetition,  
“Enjoy your youth while you can,”  
Pressure from the words,  
I am filled with rage for the ignorance exerted by a simple line,  
Of the audacity of those who forgot the war,  
But in the end it’s just time and me,  
The never-ending battle with my subconscious soldiers of emotion.  
Is time to be enjoyed?  
To be feared?  
To be angered by?  
To be reminisced?  
I know not the answer,  
I would rather bask in time’s incomprehension than fear the inevitable 

About the Writer...

     Jamari Weaver is a 14 year old student at Lakeside Jr. High School. Their favorite literary genre to write is poetry, but their favorite genre to read is fiction. The author they love the most is Leigh Bardugo.

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