Kathleen McCloud: Light Years, 2017, oil on canvas, courtesy GF Contemporary

This has been a year of upheaval. The two major political parties appear to be fracturing as they battle for power in Washington, D.C., while families and communities seem to be engaged in a culture war, the likes of which the United States hasn’t seen since the 1960s. Race, women’s rights, gender identity, mass violence, and environmental conservation are just a few of the hot-button topics that more and more of us are engaging with, in casual conversation and on our social media feeds.

Stories submitted to Pasatiempo’s annual writing contest — the winners of which are published in these pages — wrestled with many of these themes either overtly or obliquely. Place was an important theme for many of our adult writers this year in the nonfiction category, whether the subject was world travel or a hometown. Love is always a popular topic among our fiction writers, and this year it was often anchored in the surreal or steeped in the dystopian. The winning poems are especially accomplished and finely wrought, with empowered women — and a fair amount of sass — in the spotlight.

The youngest prose writers submitted Christmas-themed stories full of hope, while teenagers’ stories dealt largely with fear, loss, and the quest for comfort in perilous times. Even so, that thread of hope runs through those pieces, too. Children and teenagers wrote poems about self-empowerment in various forms — some earnest and some cynical — including acceptance of difference, interest in the natural world, and an overall concern for humanity. Some teen writers have been entering the contest every year since they were children. The editors, reporters, and designers at Pasatiempo and The Santa Fe New Mexican who volunteer to judge the contest love to see their writing grow.

We invite you to take your time with these stories written by your fellow Santa Feans this weekend. And we hope you consider entering next year.

Pasatiempo thanks local businesses and vendors for generously donating prizes to the winners: Bee Hive Books, Center for Contemporary Arts, Connerly Chiropractic, Acupuncture, & Physical Medicine Group, Counter Intelligence, Design Warehouse, Ecco Gelato and Espresso, Harrell House Bug Museum, Lensic Performing Arts Center, Moon Rabbit Toys, Op.Cit Books, Performance Santa Fe, Santa Fe Bar & Grill, The Santa FeNew Mexican, Santa Fe Pens, Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen, and Toyopolis. 

Happy holidays!