2017 Writing Contest: Adult Fiction — First Place

"The Spider and I" by Michael Owens

My wife discovered a grass spider living in our kitchen. It had built a dense web in an empty wine caddy sitting on the floor next to a tall cabinet. The spider sat half-in, half-out of a funnel-shaped hole in its web, patiently waiting for the giants that were my wife and myself to go away. Creeping out at night when we slept to forage in the dark and quiet.

2017 Writing Contest: Adult Fiction — Second Place

"The Last Letter" by Elizabeth Martinez

Present day: What do I say knowing it will be my last letter to him? I’ve been thinking about this for days now. Isn’t it fascinating what we think about when we know we are leaving this life? It should be inspirational, a letter of gratitude, I told myself. Nothing sad or regretful. Only the best memories we’ve experienced together in the last thirty years. 

2017 Writing Contest: Adult Fiction — Third Place

"Pretend the Ocean" by Nathan V. Baker

Jane found John inside of a seashell that she purchased whimsically while she was on Lake Ontario’s northwestern shore. Certain varieties of shells, apparently, are expensive in Toronto, and Jane assumed this was because of the septentrional orientation. Transit always upped the value of any commodity outside of its own acclimation zone, and just trying to kick your feet out in the form of walking came with taxes and tolls and tickets, Jane knew that. 

2017 Writing Contest: Adult Nonfiction — First Place

"Havana Motor Club" by Ray Lopez

The Cuban taxi driver twisted the ignition key and the 1952 Chevy Bel Air engine woke up. He wheeled us onto the endless parade of traffic. El Centro in Habana Vieja is an automobile time machine. Taxi drivers named Richie, Potsie, Fonzie, Pastel, and Omar constantly dust fenders, hoods, and polish windshields. 

2017 Writing Contest: Adult Nonfiction — Second Place

"Where Are You From?" by Eliza Donahue

Where are you from? It may seem like a simple question, but it rarely has a simple answer. When I moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, to attend college, I would tell people that I was from Santa Fe, New Mexico. What I didn’t tell them was that when I was a young child we lived in a pink adobe house with blue trim, a vegetable garden out back, and a single aspen tree out front, surrounded by dead and dying grass and weeds. 

2017 Writing Contest: Adult Nonfiction — Third Place

"Grammy's Doorbell" by Tom Alesi

Last Sunday’s New Mexican included a feature about doorbells. The various doorbells pictured got me to thinking about how they serve to announce all manner of news to a household; happy, sad, warm, annoying, interesting and devastating. One of the doorbells pictured was just like Grammy Schick’s.

2017 Writing Contest: Adult Poetry — First Place

"Border Crossings" by Anne Valley-Fox

An archaeologist, digging along migrant trails / in sand & caliche, uncovered (among / myriad objects) an evening dress, / pink hair curlers, a pair of high heel shoes. / He says on the radio that early immigrants / probably underestimated the arduous / nature of their journey ... as he / underestimates a woman's resolve / to be beautiful. Now he has prize money…

2017 Writing Contest: Adult Poetry -- Second Place

"Ms. Davis Jones" by Carrie M. Cannella

They called her up and he breathed in her salty smell as she promenaded past / he could imagine her in the nude / He watched her step up watched her meet his eyes watched the embers there burning he knew / and she smiled so coquettishly. …

2017 Writing Contest: Adult Poetry — Third Place

"Swirl" by Christopher Watson

Never simple neglect; it must be exotic. I doubt / my father knew the family anymore than I did, / which was not at all. Hippie-homesteaders, living / in a remote part of New Mexico, where tornadoes / might gouge twenty-foot-wide wounds. The girl …

2017 Writing Contest: Teen Prose -- First Place

"Welcome to Harlan County" by Ashley Hart, age eighteen

    My name is Haileigh Browne, I am fifteen years old and living with my mom. My parents got a divorce so my mom and I moved to a place called Harlan County, Kentucky. We drove up to a small apartment that we would be living in. The curtains were a dark blood red, ...

    2017 Writing Contest: Teen Prose -- Second Place

    "When We Dream" by Sachi Mitchell, age thirteen

      Eyes search in the darkness while galaxies swim in and out of view. Dark hues of blue, green, and purple shine brightly in the silence. The Astro 2 slowly slips through the empty expanse of space, so full of stars, yet cold, cruel, and reassuring. A pale face stares back at me, ...

      2017 Writing Contest: Teen Poetry — First Place

      "Too Late" by Michael Carthy, age fifteen

        A reason to be angry? / There’s no reason to be angry / Bullets rained from a hotel window / Like Zeus’ lightning bolts raining from the heavens /Fifty-nine people / Permanently erased from the Earth …

        2017 Writing Contest: Teen Poetry -- Second Place

        "Homecoming" by Hannah Laga Abram, age seventeen

          Here is there is everywhere and still / I feel I am missing the coordinates / of place. / Weight falls slowly upwards through hand-quilted evenings. / Keys closed in the medicine cabinet because …

          2017 Writing Contest: Teen Poetry — Third Place

          "Close Your Eyes" by Deedee Jansen, age fourteen

            I want to fly / And see a bird’s-eye view. / To soar above the land / And see the people talking / walking hand-in-hand. / Unique each in their own way. / But always there accepting. Surely every single day. …

            2017 Writing Contest: Kids' Prose -- Second Place

            "The Time When Family Is Important" by Melissa Hernandez, age eleven

              Once upon a time, there was a moose, a mouse, a bunny, and a bear. The moose’s name was Jack. Jack was the nice one. The bunny’s name was Rock. Rock was the tough one. The bear’s name was Scott. Scott was the one who played any kind of sport. Then there was Emily, the mouse. Emily was very kind.

              2017 Writing Contest: Kids' Prose -- First Place

              "Don't Kill Me (Please)" by Desirae Gucito, age twelve

                This is written by a turkey. I will soon be eaten for Thanksgiving. I do not think I should be eaten. I should not be eaten because there are lots of other turkeys in the world. I am too young to die, and people will not pay to eat me.

                2017 Writing Contest: Kids' Poetry — First Place

                "Hansel and Gretel" by Sofia Errera, age eleven

                  Hansel and Gretel, as hard as metal, / Traveled through the woods and found a house of goods. / It was such a treat, the house made out of sweet, / Was eaten and bitten by Hansel and Gretel. …

                  2017 Writing Contest: Kids' Prose — Second Place

                  "Deep in the Mountains" by Claire Kullman, age nine

                    Deep in the Mountains where new secrets are born there is a bear / She stores up the food she has found for the long sleep ahead / She looks after her cubs to make sure they are safe / Deep in the Mountains there chirps a marmot / He loves his new cliffside after the other was destroyed by a terrible fire …

                    2017 Writing Contest: Kids' Poetry — Third Place

                    "The Poet of Fire" by Gina Trentacosta, age twelve

                      The poet of fire walks beneath the molten ground / she stands atop volcanoes / deciding if they should hold their fire, or blow into a puff of smoke / the poet of fire rides down the ooey-gooey slide that instantly turns to ash / she runs with the children …

                      2017 Writing Contest: Kids' Prose -- Honorable Mention

                      "Christmas Miracle!" by Darien Bamack, age twelve

                        It was on Christmas Eve when it all happened! / “Hey Luis!” said Bryan. / “Hey Bryan, wanna go to the wood shop!” / Ok, let's go! Last one is a rotten egg!” /So they ran and ran until they reached the wood shop. It was so cold as if ...

                        2017 Writing Contest: Kids' Prose -- Honorable Mention

                        "The Best Christmas Ever" by Landon W. Roser, age eleven

                          I was filled with anticipation. I could not find any way to fill the time, to make time go faster. I just wanted it to happen, because when Nolan walks through the door, the best Christmas will take place. My brother Nolan was staying for Christmas!

                          2017 Writing Contest: Adult Poetry -- Honorable Mention

                          "Dark Halls of Honey" by Mary McGinnis

                          As a child, I chewed on honeycomb, / when I had a sore throat. / That was a time when my mother hovered around me, / and fed me bread soaked in lullaby and milk, ...

                          I’m stuck. Where can I be? / Each door goes into a room of something that I used to know. / My brain is lost in a maze of thoughts. / They invite me into the rooms that the doors open up to. / The people tell me, It’ll be fine, now come inside, but I know that I’ll never be allowed to leave. …

                          A man is sitting on a park bench reading a tattered newspaper on a cool Saturday evening. The squirrels are running around gathering their nuts to store before the harsh winter comes, the fall leaves scatter across the ground while the cool breeze hits them, and the children run through the streets playing their games of tag and hopscotch. The man forces a smile as he starts to get up, then falls back on the park bench as if his legs went numb.

                            In the middle of a boring 5th grade civics lesson the school principal opens the door. A small skinny boy with big black eyes walks behind her. The principal says something to the teacher, who looks annoyed. The principal doesn’t look at the boy as she leaves the room. I can tell he’s scared by the way he stares at the floor, holding himself like he’s afraid to breathe. The teacher uses her mean voice. “This is Alfilio. He’s from Colombia. He only speaks Spanish.”

                              The busy sounds in Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return exhibit twisted, echoed, and bounced through my ears. My friend Aiga, my sister Meridian, and I floated past a brightly painted monster statue eating a fiery-red corndog as if we were in a trance, then into an ocean of people and even a more colorful variety of curious noise. …

                              2016 has been a year of loss, with the deaths of a startling number of beloved musicians, including David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen. The year in electoral politics was similarly bleak, and the national mood has only gotten more darkly surreal in the last month, just as submissions to the annual Pasatiempo writing contest poured in. What seemed to unite all the pieces this year was a sense of urgency — both to get words on paper and to have them read.

                              Betty Boop was forced to give up mascara due to her incessant crying. When her creator died, all of his notebooks and journals were scrutinized, and those containing only minor characters were discarded. Mrs. Margaret Boop, Betty’s mother, was among them.

                                Frost permeated Taos Valley one late spring morning as Patrociño got up from his homemade bed with metal springs and a wool-filled mattress. He sipped his coffee, scooped up his calabacitas with his tortilla, and thought about his garden. He would have a supply of dried squash, posole, beets, carrots, turnips and other delicacies to enjoy during the long winter months.

                                  You can call me a frequent daydreamer. If you know me, you know I will stare out the rusting window in my English class, at the clouds, drifting to a whole other world. It is a bad habit and I should probably try to get better. But I can’t help remembering while I sit in English, my first period class, every day: I am not dreaming about being a hero, or ending starvation, or what happened yesterday, …

                                    Ever since I was born, I have been separated from others by a wall. It is a glass wall, a one-way mirror, where I can see others but they cannot see me. Ever since I can remember, I had no need to break down the wall. I happily lived in solitude, with not a care in the world. No one could see me, so I simply ignored the fact that I could see them and just looked down and paid attention to whatever I happened to be doing. As the years went by, I heard the people on the other side of the wall pounding on the glass, wondering if anyone was inside.

                                      The ghosts of youth keep my thin gray hair coarse and thick and brown, / Keep my sagging soft skin tight and smooth over muscle hard / From the long effortless days of work / And nights of love and laughter. …

                                        death stalks the night / rattles and crouches through / skeletal trees & withered chamisa / its frozen breath scours still streams / searching for life to snuff out: / those with fur, feathers — or none at all — / will they survive the night? …

                                        I’m running. I hear the labored breathing of the beast behind me. My breath rasps harshly in out, in out, in out. Its claws rake down my back, sending blinding streaks of agony down my back. I stumble, but keep going. When I start seeing double, I know this is the end. I’m half delirious with pain.

                                        It started with the bees. More like it ended with the bees. With the extinction of honey bees, pollination of plants took a big hit. Most of the food crops, like corn and soy and the like, were made sure to be saved and carefully grown in labs where they could be pollinated without bees. The flowers were not seen with the same importance and soon the once brightly colored fields and gardens faded to dull, grey emptiness. It didn’t take long for people to miss the beautiful quality of a flower, but by then it was too late.

                                        I had never thought that way. I had never felt that way. I had never acted that way. I didn’t belong here, in this other world. Almost everything was thrown in the direction of currency. People talked of the Industrial Revolution like it was centuries ago, even though their life is framed around it. Even my father suffered from this type of thought. …