2020 National Flash Fiction Day Youth Competition

Guest judge: Hannah Daniell is the winner of the 2019 National Flash Fiction Day Youth Competition, and an active member of the Christchurch writing community.

Contents:

1st place:

Exhaust – Minha Choi (age 17; Daejeon, South Korea)

2nd place:

Fish Hook Scars – Derrin Smith (age 16; Rangiora, New Zealand)

3rd place:

The Ballad of Light – Natalie Wang (age 17; Texas, United States)
Dragon Rider – Denika Mead (age 16; Lower Hutt, New Zealand)

Highly commended:

Do you remember? – Phoebe Robertson (age 18; Wellington, New Zealand)
These are my leaves – Samuel Turner-O’Keeffe (age 18; Auckland, New Zealand)

Commended:

The Beans – Cadence Chung (age 16; Wellington, New Zealand)
On One Particular MRT Ride – Thee Sim Ling (age 13; Singapore)
Sugar High – Amanda Kay (age 15; California, United States)

Short list:

The Crazy Chemist – Izzy Harrison (age 09; Auckland, New Zealand)
Fairy Lights – Sophia Zhang (age 14; Chicago, United States)
Grey – Jorja Coyote Rosser (age 17; New Plymouth, New Zealand)
Islands – Eva de Jong (age 18; Wellington, New Zealand)
Narcissus – Stella Li (age 16; New Jersey, United States)
Puppeteer Awash in Salt – Penelope Duran (age 17; Frankfurt, Germany)
The Taniwha – Lucy Kennedy (age 12; Auckland, New Zealand)
Tea for Two – Hannah Wilson (age 16; Wellington, New Zealand)
Trek – Yejin Suh (age 17; New Jersey, United States)

NFFD awards night

Youth discussion panel

NFFD YouTube channel


Exhaust – Minha Choi

I am exhausted from this race. Each lap spews out oil and I gulp it down in gallons, afraid my mother might get a whiff. This course is one of deception—smiles that fracture into filial ruins, crimson paint staining the ground. In her broken tongue, Mom says, “Ddal*, make your bloodline proud.” And it’s always with the undertones of “marry a citizen”, like some tragicomedic fantasy we share as Asian immigrant women.
I’m a broken yellow daughter, for in my dreams, I picnic with girls.
In this race, I’m illegal. An alien. We don’t talk of invisible demons or loving girls in this household, of the visceral fear of being chased by time.
My heart tears, sinewy like the doe my father skidded over on our Busan trip, back when I could breathe my native acrimonious oxygen. In this soil, defects are eradicated with machinery. It’s embedded with ghosts—girls, and that doe in the mirror.
Heartburn, heartache, how I wish collision would occur.
I don’t deserve the airbag. I close my eyes—and slam the entire weight of my leaden bones down on the brakes. The doe is alive, not bursting apart, no scathing dust tearing its lashes. I’m done, the race has stopped, I vomit out ten years’ worth of shuddering gasoline—
Umma, I don’t want to become a white man’s porcelain accessory, and the closest I’ve felt to heaven is with a girl.
But even in this dream, I keep my tail lights on. I imagine my light-waste tainting the starglow of my lineage, my siren-sobs polluting my mother’s hymns.
And I decide they are my roars: sputtering, defying the holy sun with 13-volt light of my own, and maybe a faint wish that she will look for me when my engine fails.
*(Korean, “daughter” or “girl”)

Minha Choi is a 17-year-old writer from Daejeon, South Korea. She lived in Austin and San Diego for the majority of her childhood, and she is currently attending an international school, working as the editor-in-chief of Ampersand Magazine and the school newspaper. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.


Fish Hook Scars – Derrin Smith

There’s seafoam slipping on my cheeks and bubbling from your throat. You’ve had too much of the saltwater. You’re not thinking clearly. We really should go home. But the current is tugging at my waist and longing latches over me like a net.
It’s too early to go home!
I’m not hard to persuade. There’s streetlight dappling on the curb, and with your lightweight laughter, I can’t see a drop of bad intentions. Plus the washed-out city sights have a certain charm. There’s always something we could see again. Pearls, prizes, promises. I just hope we won’t get lost.
The constellations can guide us.
It’s an unnaturally brilliant night on the town and the moon is out in full force trying to tug us to the surface. But you’re right, as usual. The stars can still be made out so I agree to stay to lighten the mood.
Don’t worry so much.
You get a headache from all the light while we drift through downtown. The evening takes back its knife-edge and you’re pulled into a temperamental riptide. Yelling washes over the line in the sand; the roadside coral goes pale. As waves punch down you smell more of smoke than sea spray.
This is all your fault.
We come out of the fight in a place I’ve never seen. In the watery light of some back-alley, your fingers look like fish hooks. Oil is smudged beneath my eyes. Tied around my throat is a line to reel me back in.
I swear I didn’t mean it.
Come morning, when the city is beached on the sand, it rains hard enough to take the colour from my clothes. The hues blur together until they turn bruise-coloured and litter my skin.

Derrin Smith is a 16 year old student at Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery who’s currently working towards achieving her lifelong goal of becoming a cryptid.


The Ballad of Light – Natalie Wang

No one understood the towers for what they were. That was what the man said, after all, pacing in front of our porch like he was trying to pry apart our very house.
“You’ve seen the towers,” he asked me, in the rare times he acknowledged my presence.
I bobbed my head up and down frantically like I was starving. I should have gone inside the house long ago. The man never drew close, though; he watched the sunset with me, the auric flushing out into a deep indigo gradient.
“The towers,” he began, and I resigned myself to a night on the porch, “are—have you ever been Far East? To China, Mongolia, Arabia? They have very strange architecture. They mold it out of—” He paused. “Beautiful stone. Ancient stone. You catch it at the right angle and it glitters. The sun beams along it and the place lights up like a lantern.”
“I see,” I answered. If I closed my right eye the sun would look like it was melting on Ms. Kaine’s roof; if I squeezed my left eye shut, the sun would break into golden splinters on the long runs of Mr. Korschafe’s daffodils. And if I closed both eyes, I imagined I could reach out for a world beyond a backwater town weathered by the heat, its roads spiraling out like a tendril of mist. At this time of day the street sloped downwards at a gentle angle, like the plane of the earth had tilted toward the cosmos’ chasms, and we were all inevitable pins and balls rolling to our fate. For now the man and I stood steady, grounded by the buildings around us and the flesh and bone knitting beneath our skin, but one day we would become dust.
Natalie Wang is a seventeen-year-old rising senior currently residing in Texas. Her writing has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art and Writing Alliance, the New York Times’ Learning Network, and the Iowa Young Writers Studio, as well as several international and teen magazines. In her free time, she enjoys reading through film scripts and catching up on the latest books and webcomics.

Dragon Rider – Denika Mead

My sister laughs and I turn to look at her. I grin, my laughter mingling with hers as adrenaline courses through our veins.
Her face is radiant with joy as the dragon soars up, climbing higher and higher through wisps of cloud. She grabs my waist as the dragon dives, plummeting towards the haze of green marking the ground.
The dragon throws out its wings and we float on the air currents above a carpet of green. Winding blue rivers cut through the forest.
I glance at my sister. Her eyes are as bright as the dragon’s scales. We soar towards the horizon, lined blood red as the sun sets. We glide through the never-ending sky on a creature whose wings glimmer molten golds and sunset reds.
My mum touches my shoulder and I jerk upright on the couch. As I meet her eyes, fresh tears spill over my cheeks.
“It’s time to go.”
I nod. My legs are weak as I follow her to the door. I catch sight of myself in the mirror. Dressed head to toe in black. The only spot of color is the golden dragon brooch on my right shoulder. My sister had loved dragons.
My chest constricts. I run my hand over the brooch’s cold surface and follow my mum out the door for my sister’s final flight.

Denika Mead lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She is 16 and has an unrelenting passion for fantasy and dystopian writing. She published her debut novel Royal Orchid, The Death-Hunters, in October 2019 when she was 15. The prequel to Royal Orchid, Into the Flames, was released on April 3rd, 2020. Her third book is in the early editing stages and is due to be released late 2020. Over the past few years, she has won and been a finalist in several youth writing competitions, including being a two-time finalist in the New Zealand Youth Laurate award 2018. Denika was a finalist in the Best New Talent category for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards in 2020. www.denikameadauthor.com


Do You Remember? – Phoebe Robertson

Do you remember being in Year Two? When we would pretend to be animals? Horses galloped across playgrounds that turned to meadows. Sandpits were the home of volcanic eruptions. Wooden structures would become homes, as we played pretend and crafted families of our own conception.
We turned into mothers and fathers. Looking after each other, we would mime the familiarity of life outside the classroom. Baking mudpies and concoctions from every color of the paintbrush. We would return with mud-caked hair and holes in clothing, but youth was enough to patch them, and ease our worries when they eventually opened back up again.
It didn’t take long for the mudpies to go stale, the concoctions to be tipped down the drain. Color running down the sides of volcanoes to fingertips and leaving nothing but black and white trails. The families split as cracks formed in reality and we grew further apart. No longer a collective, now shattered fragments of a once-perfect household.
Searching for the feeling of simpler times, liquor bottles scattered around rooms like the irregular patterns of a wild horse’s coat. We still ran, only it was to escape a reality that hunched shoulders and crushed backs under the weight of expectation. We walked a path to the future, full of brambles that ripped into clothes and made tears far too large to be patched by a mother’s sewing needle.
Connection was lost as the fragments scattered across the country, finding comfort in the contact of strangers. Those days of pretending seemed more like fiction than reality, as families were split and never heard from again. The occasional grain of sand in a bed sheet, mud trapped underneath fingernail, the only reminder of what once was.

Phoebe Robertson is poet studying in Wellington. Her work has previously appeared in Poetry NZ Yearbook, Flash Frontier, and Young NZ Writers. She spends her time loitering at Ivy.


These are my leaves – Samuel Turner-O’Keeffe

We went to the lake for a swim. It was cold. The horizon yawned and stretched its arms out, expecting to find nothing, but instead it plunged into a distant clump of greens and browns and dullness that lurked around the drop. Inside, the water sat and stank in its juices. Flaccid and flat.
The others scrambled to unroll the picnic blanket. Whooping, they dumped their clothes and their towels and their other things, and dashed towards the gloom. Sand kicked out from under their feet. Their fading laughter flashed, leering, cut in freeze-frame.
We took refuge behind a tree.
And it was under those branches, in the wind which blew through our hair and let your longer curls tickle my cheeks, that your eyes sparkled. You smiled. You murmured my name and snuggled closer. Your lips were centimetres from mine. And I nodded vaguely in acknowledgement. Uh-huh. I was watching the volleyball players behind your head, watching that younger one smack the ball hard over the net, watching this older one shrug and reply, watching the kicking sand and the laughter…
Do you remember
how I took your wrist instead of your hand?
I doubt that you even considered the prospect
that taking your hand was what I had planned
taking your hand on the flocculent sand
my face being kissed by your wandering strands…
I would have. I wish I had.
Now I’m scrambling on ice. Here I am, look at me! I’m green and brown and dull. These are my leaves. And those are my arms, stretching out
expecting to find your warmth
hoping to catch your fading, flashing laughter
plunging into nothing at all.
Samuel Turner-O’Keeffe is a university student from Auckland, New Zealand. A big fan of literature, he recently began writing creative pieces and hopes to continue doing so into the foreseeable future.

The Beans – Cadence Chung

The summer had come and gone; it was now winter, and the dry wrath of the sun had morphed into a blind white bitterness that tinged the edges of trees with frost. In their field, the beans trembled on their stalks, tossed by the wind as if leaning towards an elusive lover.
But there was something else, something that waited in the air like a slit-eyed beast. Not the searing summer nor the blinding winter, but something infra-black, a fever of malice. It trampled over the land with black paws, burning the trees and dousing the fields with sweet chemicals of oblivion. What is this creature, the beans wondered, that covers our home with such bitter waste?
This something else, it changed the humans, the hulking giants that routinely ripped their brethren from their homes. They would whisper to each other in hushed tones and hide in deep holes when the beast was nearby. What is this creature, the beans wondered, that frightens the humans so?
Yet the humans still followed it, chasing that charred-black, fiery beast with eyes chemical and hungry. They readied their metallic pods, releasing seeds in a rhythmic spray of death. Red stained the soil.
One day the beast came to the field, dropping fire onto the trees from above. The beast howled, and there the beans saw its trickery that fooled the humans so perfectly. It promises bravery, the beans thought, yet brings only pain. It promises glory, yet destroys everything that is glorious.
As the fiery death decimated the field, the beans hugged one another in their pods and prayed. Blackened with soot and set alight in flaming passion, the beans wondered, why do the humans follow this beast so blindly?

Cadence Chung is a high school student who loves storytelling, especially through poetry. She is inspired by classic literature and finds it fascinating how our past has influenced so many of our current-day attitudes.


On One Particular MRT Ride – Thee Sim Ling

The businesswoman tapped her smartwatch irritably. At the speed this train was crawling along, she would be three minutes—three minutes—late for her meeting! If she couldn’t make it in time, if she couldn’t secure a deal, if she lost the job which was her everlasting pride…it would be over. She needed her job. She wanted her job, not like the man with the cheap watch sitting two seats away. She would do anything—break a bone, sell her home, even risk her life—to succeed.
The entrepreneur glanced at his timepiece, the $5 plastic watch bought at a pasar malam, when he was a carefree child, like the schoolboy sitting opposite him. At the speed this train was zooming along, he would still be three minutes late for his meeting. Ah, whatever. The meeting had better be quick, though. He fished out his wallet, smiling at the miniature photo of his family. He would do anything—break a bone, sell his home, even risk his life—for his family.
The schoolboy checked his phone and groaned. After a long day of tuition, he was dragged to yet another cumbersome family gathering and he could do nothing about it. Like the useless fly outside the window. Why must he be forced to endure hours and hours of tuition—just for one moment in time called the “exams”? Why couldn’t he just have fun? He would do anything—break a bone, sell his phone, even risk his life—to have a little fun for once.
The fly outside the window flapped its wings desperately. It didn’t care about its job. It didn’t care about its family. It didn’t care about having fun. It only wanted to sur—
Bam.
An insect hit the window.
The insect fell off.
Thee Sim Ling is a thirteen-year-old from Singapore, and this story was inspired by the local Mass Rapid Transport trains in her country. Her work has been published in KidSpirit, Skipping Stones, and The Stone Soup. She is currently addicted to puzzle-solving, website building (lucindathee.com), and finding out how to do mental math fast.

Sugar High – Amanda Kay

On a summer day, I sip ice cream like soup from the carton. The warm liquid rolls down my tongue. The kid beside me is sucking on a lolly, the red tip of it peeking out of his closed lips. I hear laughter from my right side, from my left—they are all so sweet. Artificially sweet, but still.
These are my friends, who revel in saccharine spirits, who dance on burnt marshmallows, the sticky substance leaving residue on their toes. They dance like fairies; they dance as if life was as sweet as candy itself. As if we weren’t broken, torn things. Sinners.
The afternoon sun bakes us into the red dirt, the remnants of the night before untouched. We are the gods and the devils, the angels and demons. Our dreams are all so blurred that I can’t tell one person from another. We are one living, pulsating organism, whose metabolism feeds on sugary sweetness, who pretends like the world around them isn’t all bitter.
Colors flash before my eyes, the world laced in syrupy sugar. I still remember the time so long ago when I spilled cola on your shirt, the brown liquid seeping into your pink shirt, a stain that no detergent could remove. I remember so clearly the effervescent bubbles, rising up and up until all we could dream about were the beginnings of stars in a fairy floss sky, their wings extending ever higher, leaving behind wisps of sugar on the earth below.
Amanda Kay is a writer based in the Bay Area. She is a rising junior at Santa Clara High School. Her work has been published in The Rising Phoenix Review, Second Revolution Magazine, and The Foredge Review, among others. In her free time, she enjoys walking sandy beaches and drinking tea hot enough to burn her throat.

The Crazy Chemist – Izzy Harrison

“Hmmm, based on my calculations, I think we should add some more of this.” Squirt. “Let’s stir that in, just a little of this one, I think. Let’s test it in the Testinator.” Tom felt nervous, he might have found a cure for COVID-19! He stirred it up and poured it into a test tube, then slotted it in the Testinator—whirr, click. “Hmmm, it’s gone green and the machine says it is a cure! I am going to save lots and lots of lives and lockdown will be over!”
“Tom, what is this mess!! All of these leaves on the floor, and my best china cups, and also my blender! What is your dad going to say! Please tidy up and wash your hands!”
Tom’s daydream might have ended, but who knows, he might grow up and actually become a ground-breaking scientist! Go Tom!

Izzy Harrison is nine years old, and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.


Fairy Lights – Sophia Zhang

That time, we caught fairies. Sun sinking, pinks and reds dancing across the sky above the rustling grass fields. I was wearing gingham, and she was too—that tiny fairy whizzing around my head in a brilliant buzz. Her wings and eyelashes fluttered prettily as we watched, enraptured. Naturally, I had to keep her. I gently perched her on my shoulder and we returned to the picnic table, where there rested slices of toast. I took the strawberry jam and emptied the entire jar.
The fairy sat on the rim of the jar and dangled her legs in the glass pit, peering down hesitantly. I nudged her in and screwed the lid tight. Her limbs grew limp as we passed by with other fairies in other jars. The messy nest of red yarn lay tangled on her head, drenched with sweat, yet still she glowed true. I brought her in and out of life, each shock of my fingers flaying bone and blood of her soft body, carving chambers into her Tinkerbell heart. The jar lit up, lustrous strawberry-gold light finally freed. When darkness came about, we arranged all the luminous jars around us in the fields. That night, we ate strawberry toast by fairy light.

Sophia Zhang is a rising sophomore at Walter Payton College Prep and is fourteen in age but five at heart. She has been weaving stories and poems in her head since the dawn of time and is absolutely ecstatic to share them with others. Besides writing, Sophia spends her days playing piano, volleyball, or watching her favou0rite TV show on Netflix.


Grey – Jorja Coyote Rosser

The fourth horseman rides fast across the land, carving its path to mark its journey through our world. I’ve heard the gossip, but it’s just a flu, who cares? I lounge lazily in the sun as I half-follow a conversation my friends are having, waiting for the bell to ring. Minutes pass and we fight the steady flow of traffic to homeroom, not bothering to say goodbye, as we will see each other the next day.
The horseman crosses the sea, ravaging our towns, our people. Schools are closed, communities are closed, our world is closed. We are in a war zone. Masks and scarves cover faces, nobody can be trusted. A sideway glance is cast as the neighbour who pets my dog crosses the road to avoid me. The sun shines and the sky is clear, but there is no colour. Life has become grey.
 The horseman has many faces: your best friend, your neighbor, your own mother. He is nobody, he is everybody. This is what we read about in dystopian novels. We fight this modern battle. I sit in my house with my family, grasping at any small purpose I can find. I am waiting for everything to return to normal, for life to resume. Although the walls are only slightly off white, it just feels grey.
The horseman fights, but he cannot break our walls; our mana cannot be broken. We are not fooled by his faces; our united solitude scares him away. Defeated, he surrenders, fleeing across the land. The colour returns to the world. The sky is blue and the grass is greener than I’d noticed. The sun warms my bones and the exciting chirrup continues. My friends and I head to class. We make sure to say goodbye as we disperse.
Jorja Coyote Rosser is seventeen years old and attends Sacred Heart Girls’ College New Plymouth. In her spare time she enjoys baking, listening to music, and playing inline hockey, a sport for which she has represented New Zealand on several occasions.

Islands – Eva de Jong

Over a socially-distanced morning tea break, Max tells Mary he loves her. Mary is looking into her coffee when he confesses: “I love you, Mary.”
Mary pulls her dark hair behind her ear and removes a single AirPod.
“I’m good Max, how are you?”
“What?” he gasps, and then, “I—I’m good.”
Two metres of hollow space separates their tables. It is a government-ordered chasm, a distance that sets everybody apart for their own good. It could have been an ocean.
“Lousy isn’t it?” Mary holds up a limp mask between her fingers. Max thinks again about how she has the most beautiful pale hands he has ever seen.
“Lot of good it’ll do me; I can barely breathe in the bloody thing,” she sighs, and
Max gulps back the last of his coffee.
“It’s hard—it makes it hard, you know, to in some ways…breathe,” he agrees.
Mary looks at him blankly.
“Yeah,” she says, “You alright, mate?”
The curved points of Max’s ears are shiny and red, and he runs his hand over his glistening forehead.
“Yeah. Fine.” He drops his hand into his lap, eyes staying fixed on the wall ahead.
“I think the extra shifts are getting to everyone,” she says gently.
Max can feel her green eyes on him, soft and blinking.
“I better get back to work, Mary,” he whispers hoarsely. Then he leaps up from his seat and yanks his mask back over his mouth.
“Oh. See you soon then, Max!” She calls.
Max turns from his table and walks quickly away. There is a single moment, between turning and walking, when he could reach her table across the two-metre gap.  He could touch the hand that rests there, wrist upturned and the palm glowing white, like light pulsing from a bacteria-ridden angel.

Eva de Jong is eighteen years old, and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.


Narcissus – Stella Li

The first time I met you, we were knee-deep in clay. I held you tight that day, maybe too tight. Do you remember? The smell of earth and silt and mirrored love. I wondered if you would ever know what it feels like to hold yourself in your own palms.
It was easy for the first few years. I taught you to ride, your chubby thighs straddling the silken muscle of Pistol, that speckled Appaloosa with a chestnut forelock. You shrieked in delight, you wanted more even after dust coated your lashes and your knees had begun to crumble. I had to repair you that night, wrapping your joints in new mud.
We were alike. Maybe too much so, the way you sneezed at the light and laughed with your head thrown back. You picked fights. Held grudges. You were too easily dented by others’ touch.
The first time we fought, I could see everything I never wanted you to be: cracked, crumbling at my fingers. It was something about a boy; you said the word freedom like it meant something. It was late at night; the fireflies had flickered out and the moths had begun to gather around the porchlight. You missed curfew twice after that, but each time you were gone again before morning, leaving a smattering of dust in Pistol’s stall.
It was an obsession. I couldn’t—wouldn’t—see you differently; there were times when I wanted to smash you to pieces just to know what it felt like. But then I wouldn’t be able to hold myself again; there would be nothing left of my art. This is my burden: you sitting on my loamy shoulders, my fingers caked in slip.

Stella Li is a rising senior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North in New Jersey. An alumna of the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop and an editor of Ephimiliar Journal, she has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Kenyon Review Short Nonfiction Contest, the National Poetry Quarterly, and her mother, among others. When not scribbling angsty poetry out at 1AM, she can be found in her bed, under the covers, dreaming about dipping her feet in the Temple of Dendur water pool.


Puppeteer Awash in Salt – Penelope Duran

The shopping cart bucked in my sweaty palms, seeking to escape as I circled the aisles. Apples. Milk. Paprika. Salt.  Four items and then I could leave this hell.  Ben used to shop for Mom.
Apples. Milk. Paprika. All I needed was salt.  On aisle five, I stood paralysed as memories consumed me: saline crystals coating the kitchen tiles, Mum’s ruthless scolding echoing through the house. Ben defending me, saying my mistake did not call for a scene.  It was only salt.
Ben was right.  There was no need for theatrics.  With clenched fists, I walked to the shelf, where packets of salt stood like sentinels.  My hands burned as I grasped a package and then dropped it to extinguish the invisible fire.  The floor shimmered in a familiar sheet of white.
Like a ragdoll, I collapsed to the floor.  Ben flashed through my mind.  His eyes were empty, his neck twisted like a marionette’s.  An icy hand still clutched the steering wheel.  Ben would not have driven to the store if I had not spilled the salt.
A comforting hand touched my shoulder, and with it were assurances that my error was not grave.  It was only salt.  As I lifted the remains of the package, grains filtered through my fingertips, cleansing the venial sin.
Apples. Milk. Paprika. Salt. Gathered together, I rose, a puppeteer entangled no longer.
Penelope Duran’s educational journey began at Dyer St. Kindy in Lower Hutt, Wellington.  As a child in a U.S. diplomatic family, she has also lived in the Philippines, Egypt, Poland, and Germany.  She is educated in the German school system and has achieved recognition for her poems, short stories, and personal memoirs in English and German.  In addition to creative writing, Penny’s other passion is physics, and she enjoys ballet and ballroom dancing.

The Taniwha – Lucy Kennedy

“Bye, Mum!” I call as I walk out the door of my house. I’m going on a morning walk, to get some fresh air and to get away from the large pile of homework sitting on my desk.
I am at the opening of the nature walkway (it is a new one that I have never tried before) when suddenly from behind a kauri tree jumps a strange-looking man who wears long, brown robes like the trunk of a rough tree fern, and a hat made of ferns with a tui feather tucked into the flax strip that is acting as a hatband. Tangled in his long, white beard are bright red pohutukawa bristles, and his eyes shine like paua shells glistening in the sunlight. He holds a branch wrapped intricately with flax strips, with shells hanging, jangling in the light breeze. At his feet slinks a taniwha, sleek and slippery, with shiny curious eyes slyly gazing up at me.
As I stare at him in awe, he reaches into his robes and hands me a wooden box that smells of wet rain in the bush. He winks at me and stamps down his staff, and in a puff of honey-coloured smoke he is gone. I open the box and inside is a beautifully carved pounamu, cold in the palm of my hand… I put it on and gasp as the slinking, shimmering taniwha, which was hiding behind the kauri, comes to me and sits at my feet. I understand that ancient, powerful magic has brought us together, and that he is mine now, forever and ever.  I must take care of him.
Lucy Kennedy is 12 years old and was born in Auckland, New Zealand.  She loves cats, cups of tea, chocolate lamingtons, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (would recommend), and Tim Burton movies.  Lucy enjoys writing short stories and is currently working on her first novel.

Tea for Two – Hannah Wilson

You look at her and wonder. She’s like a toy adult. Elfin, big eyes made bigger with the help of mascara and liquid eyeliner, lips impossibly red. Red like the roses you gave your wife on her seventieth birthday.
She’s supposed to be a child. A child. You always associated childhood with tree climbing and pigtails and note passing in class. It’s different now, you’ve been told.
You steal another glance. You don’t want her to catch you looking, but you can’t resist. Then you look away, focusing instead on the tea pot, milk jug and cups in front of you. Tea for two. Your gaze flits to the empty chair opposite you.
You can’t bring yourself to drink the tea.
Turning towards her again, you notice the people seated around her for the first time. They’re all angled towards her. She’s a magnet, and not just for you.
Your gaze zeroes in on the slice of cake before her. Obscenely sweet and chocolaty like the ones your wife used to make. You never liked chocolate cake. But somehow it tasted good the way she baked it. Chocolate cake and tea for two.
Maybe you should order some cake. You wouldn’t have to eat it. It could just be for show. Like everything else in this modern world.
What’s she drinking? You allow your gaze to wander beyond the slice of cake. A martini. She raises the glass to those impossibly red lips, and then stops to pick something out before handing it to her mother. The olive.
Shaking your head, you turn back to your own beverage. Tea for two. Well, that’s what it’s supposed to be. But it’s still as lonely as you are.
Hannah Wilson is a 16-year-old high school student living in Wellington, New Zealand. She has loved reading and creative writing her entire life, and hopes to continue writing and also become a psychiatrist when she has finished high school.

Trek – Yejin Suh

“I’ve never been on one where they won’t tell us why we’re here.”
“Me neither.”
“So…”
“So?”
“So why do you think we’re here?”
“Well, I’ve been on a lot of these. I’ve made a list of, you know, all the possible reasons.”
“What are they?”
“First, natural resources.”
“We’ve no gear.”
“Bounty hunting.”
“No guns.”
“And looking for new homes.”
“On a planet with no civilization? No way.”
“Then…that’s it. That’s my whole list.”
“Oh.”
“Yeah.”
“Do you think…”
“What?”
“Nevermind.”
“No, tell me—”
“Do you think we’re in danger?”
“They’d—well, they’d tell us if we were, obviously.”
“How is that obvious?”
“Why would they—”
“Stupid, I know. Nevermind.”
“Do you think we’re in danger?”
“No. All we’ve been doing is walking. And the planet’s nice. Well—it’s nice, but it’s—”
“Quieter… she might hear us.”
“Sorry. The planet’s nice, but it’s kind of…”
“Off?”
“Yeah.”
“I’ve noticed, too. It’s—well, the obvious thing is the river…”
“There’s no way that’s a river. It looks like—”
“A mudslide? I know. It’s disgusting. There must be some kind of backlog.”
“And the glints.”
“What?”
“The silver glints, they’re everywhere. In the trees, the ground…”
“Huh. I didn’t even notice.”
“What are they?”
“I don’t know…probably mineral deposits.”
“I heard that some planets do that on purpose. Push out silver everywhere. So from outer space, it just looks like a part of the stars. Camouflage.”
“That’s neat. Like it’s alive.”
“You don’t think—?”
“What?”
“It could be—”
“Too loud—she’s looking back at us—”
“Sorry, sorry. You don’t think it could be alive?”
“Alive?”
“Imagine the river…”
“The river…”
“…full of dead meat, people acidified alive…”
“What?”
“…the silver glints, little bits of tech that the planet couldn’t digest…”
Yejin Suh is a student from New Jersey whose writing appears in Half Mystic, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Polyphony Lit, among others. She recently founded a speculative fiction publication, Wintermute Lit (www.wintermutelit.online).

NFFD Awards Night

Part 1: Guest readers and musicians
Part 2: Finalist readings (hosted by Renee Liang)


Youth discussion panel: Writing in short forms

See youth discussion panel here
Featuring:

Lucy Kennedy (age 12; Auckland, New Zealand – short-listed in 2020 NFFD youth competition)

Lucy Kennedy is 12 years old and was born in Auckland, New Zealand.  She loves cats, cups of tea, chocolate lamingtons, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (would recommend) and Tim Burton movies.  Lucy enjoys writing short stories and is currently working on her first novel.

Denika Mead (age 16; Wellington, New Zealand – 3rd place in 2020 NFFD youth competition)

Denika lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She is 16 and has an unrelenting passion for fantasy and dystopian writing. She published her debut novel Royal OrchidThe Death-Hunters, in October 2019 when she was 15. The prequel to Royal OrchidInto the Flames, was released on April 3rd, 2020. Her third book is in the early editing stages and is due to be released late 2020. Over the past few years, she has won and been a finalist in several youth writing competitions, including being a two-time finalist in the New Zealand Youth Laurate award 2018. Denika was a finalist in the Best New Talent category for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards in 2020. www.denikameadauthor.com

Penelope Duran (age 17; Frankfurt, Germany – short-listed in 2020 NFFD youth competition)

Penelope Duran’s educational journey began at Dyer St. Kindy in Lower Hutt, Wellington.  As a child in a U.S. diplomatic family, she has also lived in the Philippines, Egypt, Poland and Germany.  She is educated in the German school system and has achieved recognition for her poems, short stories and personal memoirs in English and German.  In addition to creative writing, Penny’s other passion is physics, and she enjoys ballet and ballroom dancing.

Freddie Gormack-Smith (age 19; Christchurch, New Zealand)

Freddie Gormack-Smith is a poet and flash fiction writer from Christchurch NZ, currently in his first year of an English degree at the University of Canterbury. Before that he was a student with the School for Young Writers in Christchurch from the age of 11, who successfully converted him to flash fiction and he hasn’t looked back since. His work has regularly appeared in the annual Re-draft anthologies and Write-On Magazine, where he had the privilege to be a featured writer in 2019.

Samantha Jory-Smart (age 19; Christchurch, New Zealand)

Samantha Jory-Smart currently studies at the University of Canterbury and is an established poet. Her poetry has received many awards, including first place in both the New Zealand Poetry Society’s Anthology open junior section 2018 and the We Could Be Heroes Poetry Competition 2017. In 2018, Samantha worked with Ōtākaro Ltd. to curate a poetry mural on Armagh Street. The poems were linked through their multi-faceted approaches to the topic of climate change. Last year, she spoke at the Enviro-Past conference about the intersection between art and climate change. She has also worked with the School for Young Writers throughout high school.

Moderator: Lola Elvy writes music, poetry, and other forms of creative fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing, she is passionate about language, mathematics, and the environment, and speaks English, German, and Swedish. After living and travelling for seventeen years on a sailboat, she is now based in Dunedin, studying Music and Physics at the University of Otago. Her poetry has been featured in Fast FibresOlentangy Review, and The Larger Geometry: poems for peace (anthology, 2018).


NFFD YouTube channel – see authors read their stories

2020 NFFD Youth Competition – Winners announced!

Winners for the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day competition have been announced!

Congratulations and thank you to all placing, short-listed, and long-listed writers for making this competition!


1st place:

Exhaust – Minha Choi (age 17; South Korea)

2nd place:

Fish Hook Scars – Derrin Smith (age 16; Rangiora, New Zealand)

3rd place:

The Ballad of Light – Natalie Wang (age 17; Texas, United States)
Dragon Rider – Denika Mead (age 16; Lower Hutt, New Zealand)

Highly commended:

Do you remember? – Phoebe Robertson (age 18; Wellington, New Zealand)
These are my leaves – Samuel Turner-O’Keeffe (age 18; Auckland, New Zealand)

Commended:

The Beans – Cadence Chung (age 16; Wellington, New Zealand)
On One Particular MRT Ride – Thee Sim Ling (age 13; Singapore)
Sugar High – Amanda Kay (age 15; California, United States)

Short list:

The Crazy Chemist – Izzy Harrison (age 09; Auckland, New Zealand)
Fairy Lights – Sophia Zhang (age 14; Chicago, United States)
Grey – Jorja Coyote Rosser (age 17; New Plymouth, New Zealand)
Islands – Eva de Jong (age 18; Wellington, New Zealand)
Narcissus – Stella Li (age 16; New Jersey, United States)
Puppeteer Awash in Salt – Penelope Duran (age 17; Frankfurt, Germany)
The Taniwha – Lucy Kennedy (age 12; Auckland, New Zealand)
Tea for Two – Hannah Wilson (age 16; Wellington, New Zealand)
Trek – Yejin Suh (age 17; New Jersey, United States)

Long list:

Backwaters and back yards – Nadezhda Macey (age 17; Wellington, New Zealand)
Blood Money – Amelia Kirkness (age 16; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Chicken Eye – Oli Kirke (age 13; Timaru, New Zealand)
The Choice – Sarah-Kate Simons (age 14; Southbridge, New Zealand)
Dear Mimi Murphy – Micaiah Veer (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Demons in Mysticalandia – Aanvika Santhanam (age 07; Auckland, New Zealand)
The Drawing – Lucy Kennedy (age 12; Auckland, New Zealand)
Dream of Red Shutters – Nadezhda Macey (age 17; Wellington, New Zealand)
Grandad’s Jazz – Chloe Morrison-Clarke (age 13; Christchurch, New Zealand)
His Map – Kate Atkinson (age 18; New Plymouth, New Zealand)
In Sand, in Stone, in Light – Annabella T. (age 15; Wellington, New Zealand)
Kitso and the Dragon – Denika Mead (age 16; Lower Hutt, New Zealand)
The Language Misfits – Oli Kirke (age 13; Timaru, New Zealand)
Malfunction – Reuben Veenstra (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Mirror – Micah Bradburn (age 13; Dunedin, New Zealand)
Octoboy – Sheryl Lai (age 10; Auckland, New Zealand)
Pillow Fortress – Penelope Duran (age 17; Frankfurt, Germany)
Potatoes – Cindy Xiong (age 15; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Rebirth – Zachary Duff (age 15; Dunedin, New Zealand)
Stalactite – Naomi Dana (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
A Thing of Beauty Means Joy Forever – Annabella T. (age 15; Wellington, New Zealand)
Woodland Things – Amelia Kirkness (age 16; Christchurch, New Zealand)

Submissions Notice – August 2020 Issue: Unthemed

(Recently closed)
Information about National Flash Fiction Day 2020 here

About the August 2020 issue: 

  • Submission period: 16 June to 31 July 2020
  • Theme: No theme
  • Artists/authors notified in August 2020

Guest editor: E Wen Wong is a year-13 student at Burnside High School (Christchurch, New Zealand). Since becoming passionate about poetry through Paula Green’s Poetry Box, E Wen has had her work featured in various anthologies, on the back of local buses, and on display in the Guernsey Airport. In 2019, E Wen placed first in the Poetry New Zealand Student Yearbook Poetry Competition and runner-up in the National Schools Poetry Award.

Submission guidelines:

  • What to submit:
    • Submissions may be any form of creative art. That includes writing (essays, short stories, micro stories, poetry—any forms of writing), photography, visual art (digital art included), music, et cetera.
    • We welcome previously published work, and simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but we advise that the artist/author informs us if the submission is accepted or published elsewhere.
    • There are no limits as to the length of written submissions, but prose submissions under five thousand words are preferable (though exceptions may be made).
    • Artists/authors may submit up to five pieces each.
  • How to submit: Submit through email at fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com. In your email submission, please include the following:
    • Your age
    • Your geographical location
    • A brief bio (approximately 50 words, or three sentences)

Please send written submissions as downloadable .txt.rtf, or .docx documents. Please do not send documents via Google Documents or other online sharing platforms, as these are private and can be restricted for us.

  • Who can submit: There is no strict age limit for submitters. We are a youth journal, and our submitters currently range in age from four to twenty-six years old. We encourage international and diverse submissions. As a general guide to what we’re looking for, our previous issues can be found here.

There is no theme for the August 2020 issue. Submission themes are not strict and may be interpreted freely. We are always excited to receive a variety of submissions and see how different perspectives respond to an overarching idea: some pieces may relate to a theme concretely, using it to convey a message in a new way, while others may be more abstract, making the audience work a little harder to see the connection. There is never one way to respond to a theme. In every case, we encourage you to have fun with it and push your boundaries—be creative, and see what you can do.

Any inquiries may be emailed directly to us.


Contact: fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com

Fingers comma Toes Logo Final

January 2020 Issue / Artwork: Red

Contents:

[Untitled 01] – Ruby Allan (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand) 
New Zealand Fairy Tern – Ava MacKay (age 11; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Whisper of the Wind  – Kimberly Currie (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
[Untitled 01] – Jana Thea (age 15; Dunedin, New Zealand)
Ice – Alexander Foulds (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Blue Duck / Whio – Tom Nalder (age 11; Christchurch, New Zealand)
A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words – Sophie Yu (age 21; Auckland, New Zealand)
Star Girl – Sylvie King (age 13; Christchurch, New Zealand)
[Untitled] – Pieta Bayley (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
[Untitled 02] – Jana Thea (age 15; Dunedin, New Zealand)
if i committed – Lauren Young (age 17; Connecticut, United States)
Storm at Sea – Natsuki Hastie (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
[Untitled 02] – Ruby Allan (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Things That Bugged Bob – Eliza Sellier (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
A Silent Cry – Oshadha Perera (age 14; Invercargill, New Zealand)
[Untitled 03] – Jana Thea (age 15; Dunedin, New Zealand)
Naglfar – Pieta Bayley (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Still Life with Violin – Sophie Yu (age 21; Auckland, New Zealand)
Keep Calm and Carry – Charlie Knight (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Yellow-Eyed Penguin / Hoiho – Tom Nalder (age 11; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Feature interview: E Wen Wong and P.S. Our Beaches

[Untitled 01] – Ruby Allan

Ruby Allan is twelve years old and lives in Christchurch New Zealand. She has loved drawing and writing for as long as she can remember, and has been published in fingers comma toes and a few other writing companies.


New Zealand Fairy Tern – Ava MacKay

small, white, grey and black
feathers flutter wildly
twisting over the ocean
looking for a fishy prey
feet and beak shine
like newly minted coins
as they dive towards
the shimmering ocean
their ovoid eggs lie waiting
like hidden treasure
in a sandy dip
by the shore
Ava MacKay is eleven years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She enjoys reading many different books for inspiration for her writing. She also loves singing and is learning the piano in her spare time.

The Whisper of the Wind – Kimberly Currie

The whisper of the wind
slowly moves towards me
I glance out at the views
birds floating around me
I walk down the misty street
Raindrops glisten
a streetlight blazes down on my eyes
I fall further and further into the dream
my memories fly by
like a cloud on a windy day
I look up at the sky
the rainbow falling
down to the big pot of gold
at the end

Kimberly Currie is twelve years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


[Untitled 01] – Jana Thea

Jana Thea is fifteen years old and lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.


Ice – Alexander Foulds

Cracks in the ice
Deep cuts like a saw
Big ball of white and snow
Feasting on a seal
Cracks grow wider
Joining together
Narrowing the escape of the bear
And the ice plate breaks off like a crumb of a cookie
He’s stuck
This is where he will sadly die
Reduce your fossil fuels and greenhouse gases
Save the bears

Alexander Foulds is ten years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Blue Duck / Whio – Tom Nalder

He calls you with his wheezy whistle
from the mountain river
of the Kepler track.
He begs you to catch
the caddis fly
for his lunch.
He dives into the river
and swims away
then towards you.
“Come and catch me
if you can.”

Tom Nalder is eleven years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. His favourite colour is yellow, and he really likes cheetahs and would like to learn a lot about animals. He would also like to be a scientist.


A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words – Sophie Yu

Sophie Yu is a fourthyear medical student studying with the University of Auckland. Art has become a visual language that portrays her growth in ideas and experiences to all viewers. With these as her inspirations, she’s been able to create more original works that hopefully inspire others and evoke her viewers’ own interpretations.


Star Girl – Sylvie King

They have always said that no one can hear you scream in space. It is often used as a threat, but I never saw it as a comfort, until I was 10 years old.
Asteroids. Planets. Stars. A world of confusion. A dark, eerie setting. A home.
My tears group into asteroids, frozen ice from the soul. I have no one to hold on to but the comfort of the ever-burning sun. I lie awake at night, upon the surface of Mars, dust storms keeping me warm as I watch the Earth rotate by. Holding up a telescope, I look down to my long-gone home. I see the Commonwealth, the water, the grass. Every year, I turn the lights off. I put a pause on all energy. I make Earth whole again, because here up in space, I have control.
I have been here so long, the stars accept me as one of their own. I rest with them, I glow with them, and I burn with them. My friends are the planets, the exoplanets, the protoplanets. I watched my human friends burn up in the STS missions, Challenger and Columbia, and watched them land on the moon, Lunar in the Apollo missions. Every step humans take leads them closer to me, so I take a step backwards, shielded by the darkness and infinity of space. I climbed here myself after Earth didn’t accept me. Here, space took me in, protected me, taught me.
Some days I look down on Earth with jealousy. I see my brothers and sisters in the Royal Commonwealth, and I wish I was down there with all humanity, although peace no longer reigns. Then, I remember the connection I have up here, the spark of the shooting star that is my heart. I shield myself up here, and I watch, and I wait. And then I wait some more.
In years and years to come, I will be joined to the Commonwealth. I will be lonely no more, my screams and tears comforted by more than just the infinite, dark stretch of space. In years and years to come, I will run out of supplies, run out of the spirit that led me here. In years and years to come, I will return to what I once called my haven. In years and years to come, gravity will pull down on me once more. But for now, I live only with who accepts me. Hydrogen and Helium, the majority of space, accept me.
I place my star-crested crown upon my head, willing gravity to abide. I look through a mirror planet, see my graceful reflection staring at me. The crown rests slightly above my head, and I can see it rotating in my reflection. It spins slightly to the left, and I see the tiny gemstone that is my last piece of Earth. It was a gift to me from the Royal Commonwealth when they funded my solo space exploration. I treasure my last thread of connection to the Royal Commonwealth, my long gone home. I treasure it with my life.
I tether down my telescope to the surface of Mars. The Martian dust is eager to release my telescope from its grasp. I direct my equilateral frame up to Earth, the weight leaning towards Polaris, the Northern Cross. I look down towards Earth, and strength fills my mind. The telescope is so strong I can see the continents and countries. I see England, New Zealand, Africa, the Commonwealth countries, and I glance one more time at the life I used to have.
They say it takes years to call it “home”, but for me, it only took flying to the place I saw through my telescope. I have seen the unseeable, done the undoable. But here I am, in a world created years ago, in a world I recreated to include myself inside it. Here I am, the girl of the stars. Here I am, in space, looking down on humans, looking down on who I once was.
Here I am, in my home.

Sylvie King is thirteen years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


[Untitled] – Pieta Bayley

we’re building an altar to a broken world, I tell you. we’re pretty sure we can fix it.
but we wish we didn’t have to.
we’re using torchlight on our phones for candles, I tell you. the rage behind our irises
is fiery enough as it is.
we’re standing on its polished bones, digging up its ashes.
someone cremated it with fossil fuels while we were moonfaced and giggling
in a cradle they built for us from the thing that cost the least.

Pieta Bayley is fourteen years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She enjoys stories in all their forms—and, when they hide, will resort to telling them herself.


[Untitled 02] – Jana Thea

Jana Thea is fifteen years old and lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.


if i committed – Lauren Young

if i committed myself, maybe i would be happier, maybe i would
be satisfied, maybe i would be able to smile without dying inside, like a
vase of poisoned flowers.
if i committed myself to you, i would be lost in the galaxy that is your existence, drowning
in the scent of white lilies and dead birds,
i would be hopeless, clutching your hand like it was the fishing line and i was the stupid fish
dreaming of not starving, of taking and eating, of living on and on and on,
i would be carving life into death and mercury into immortality, because i’d want a forever and
an everlasting, but never a sudden gone.
if i committed to perfection, you’d see an empty body and broken soul, too immersed in numbers
and meaningless words, too confused about choices and truth, too sober to turn around and face
the philosopher.
if i committed to kindness, i’d be made of stars and glass and a thousand cranes, ready to shield
against bullets of letters and metal, praying for grace and smiles and the damn sun—only to be
cast down and hanging from a tree in a soulless forest.
if i committed to the truth, i’d be hoarse before people listened to my screams, exhausted from
witnessing and knowing and standing on a podium in front of an empty stage—being a messenger
meant visions and regrets and what-ifs and never enough time to deliver.
if i committed murder, you’d only see my guilt and not know why, the evidence existing only in
my head, pale fingers and cracked tibias buried more than six feet below the black roses, my
fingerprints not there because i am a whisper of a silenced ghost
the judge, jury, and executioner.
if i committed suicide, i would disappear into oceans deep, blood frozen and eyes closed, flesh
covered by the sand of time, my last words only an echo of golden trumpets; you’d look up into
the sky and see the constellation and wonder if I was ever real.
Lauren Young is a seventeen-year-old high school student from Connecticut. She’s interested in photography, art, and both the natural sciences and humanities. She’s been recently trying her hand at creative writing, and can be found figure skating, sleeping, or reading during her free time.

Storm at Sea – Natsuki Hastie

Waves crashing with anger
Sucking up dust
Clouds flying fiercely
The typhoon threatens my waka
My waka drinks the waves to make
Sure I stay warm and dry
I say a karakia hoping the typhoon will stop
A green blur in the distance
It’s land

Natsuki Hastie is 10 years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


[Untitled 02] – Ruby Allan

Ruby Allan is twelve years old and lives in Christchurch New Zealand. She has loved drawing and writing for as long as she can remember, and has been published in fingers comma toes and a few other writing companies.


Things That Bugged Bob – Eliza Sellier

There were certain things that annoyed Bob. Bob was a worm. He hated how bees got so much attention, like water for the bees, or people saying, ‘Aren’t we lucky to have bees that turn nectar into honey?’ But actually, he had grown the beautiful saffron flowers himself. It made him nearly explode when the gardener put a net over the scrumptious cabbages or the superb snow peas—it looked so ugly. He screamed when the violet flowers were crooked. He hated parsley, it made his eyes water.
He made his decision…he was going on strike!
Eliza Sellier is a passionate ten-year-old vegetarian from Christchurch, New Zealand, who loves everything to do with animals, be it playing with them, reading about them or writing stories about them. While she loves bugs, her favourite animals are monkeys and orangutans!

A Silent Cry – Oshadha Perera

A silent cry within the heart
A massive loss for the world
Sad news for all of us
When a green tree is cut
The wail of animals fills the air
The cry of nature fills the world
The howl of the sky, the charge of fury
When somebody chops a tree
Tons of oxygen will be lost
Nature’s beauty will reduce
Food and fruits will be scarce
When somebody cuts a tree
Global warming will increase
Temperatures will rise high
Hazards, disasters will strengthen
When somebody chops a tree
Every single tree is irreplaceable
Every single tree is valuable
With every chop you place on them
You slowly lead humans to extinction
Oshadha Perera is a high school student at Southland Boys High School and has a passion for writing. An avid chess player, he likes to read in his spare time.


[Untitled 03] Jana Thea

Jana Thea is fifteen years old and lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.


Naglfar – Pieta Bayley

A Character Examination From The Wrong Side Of Ragnarok
 
Hel was glad to see the ship crowded. The sheer volume of beings on the deck did a good job of concealing its hideousness. The entire vessel was huge and grotesque, made of toenails instead of wood. They were mainly the toenails of outlaws and peasants who died alone with no one to remove their nails postmortem. Hence the material for the ship was poorly manicured, obnoxiously long, scraggly and yellowed. They were cold and hard; broken at the tips and sharp to the touch. They linked and folded over each other like roof tiles. She had no doubt some of her subjects could identify their own nails in the mess. The newer ones were much better, their translucent forms rounded and clean. One still sported the chipped remains of vibrant pink nail polish. She looked away immediately. She didn’t need another reminder that these had belonged to someone. She could hardly look at her feet without retching.
Jormungand seemed to think this was a grossly amusing paradox. “All those years among rotting dead folk? I would have thought you’d be more stoic at the sight of this.” His long, serpentine body curved toward her, gently shoving her in his best impression of elbowing.
“I’d have thought so too,” she said, shuddering.
Jormungand laughed. “It’s good to see you again. I missed you all a lot.”
“I missed you too.” She was painfully aware that his existence had been the loneliest of them all, trapped beneath Midgard. No subjects, friends. A pang of guilt writhed uncomfortably inside her. “At least we’re all together now. For the end,” she continued.
Jormungand approximated a smile. “Yeah. I’m glad. I mean—I’m scared. But if I’m going out by my family’s side, I’m okay. Not happy, certainly. But better than I would be alone. I’d be terrified to die alone.”
Hel ran the back of her hand under her right eye. It came back wet.
“I suppose so,” she said.
Jormungand gave her a little nod. “Good luck, sister,” he said. “Be brave.
“I will.”
He coiled his neck back towards the rest of him, slowly curling into himself like coiling string around a finger. His scales glistened beneath the icy waves.
She straightened purposefully, addressing the assembled draugr.
“I presume none of you are leaving now?”
The crowd rippled with shaking heads.
“Good,” she said. “I need not remind you; this isn’t a fight between good and evil. It’s just a fight. You’re here because you want retribution and, honestly, I don’t blame you. Perhaps you didn’t die like a warrior to get here. But it’s the end of the world today! Am I right?”
 From their grey lips sprung resounding cheers.
“Let’s die like warriors now!”
She punched the air, as their enthusiasm grew and overtook hers.
Móðguðr stood in the front row and clapped. She had to drop her axe to do that. Her smile was sad and proud. 
Hel’s heart fluttered as she mirrored that smile. She spent long as she could mapping the stars in Móðguðr’s eyes and decided Jormungandr was right. If this was Ragnarok—if her endless, inevitable, unavoidable death was just about to seize her—it didn’t seem half so tragic around the people she loved.
A person stood as close as they could to the figurehead of the ship. It was a dragon with a fanged mouth twisted outward near the jaw to form a crescent moon arc, as if someone had turned its lips inside out. Its eyes were hollow and its long, narrow tongue hung hungrily from its mouth.
The person was alone up there; perhaps to isolate himself, or to distinguish himself as a leader on the ship, or to be the first to see the battleground of Ragnarok. Fenrir stepped forward, but a hand reached out swiftly to stop him. 
“Don’t,” said the voice that hand belonged to.
He exhaled indignantly, facing the voice in anger.
“Why n—Mother?”
Angrboda’s hair was wild and black, caramel face showing no sign of windburn. Her eyes narrowed against the snow. Her demeanour was characterised by fierce determination. She allowed herself the barest hint of a smile at seeing her son again.
He leaned his silver head on her for a moment, the closest the two of them would ever get to a hug. They were the kind of prideful creatures who didn’t need words to express how much they cared. The kind of people who’d each spent sleepless nights wondering if it was possible to save their family and friends on Ragnarok by fighting hard enough. People who worked on the assumption that you knew they’d die for you. 
They stood there a moment, mother and son, nearly grinning at their reunion, nearly crying that it had to happen then. At the end of the world.
“Are you afraid?” Angrboda asked.
Fenrir shook his head. “Doubtful? Yes. Afraid? Never. And certainly not now. I’m too angry to be afraid.”
She brushed the hilt of her heirloom sword. “Let’s give them Helheim.”
He grinned a little, before remembering why he was there.
“Why can’t I go over there?” He tipped his head toward the lone person at the front of the longship.
“It’s not a good time to disturb him,” she explained.
Fenrir ducked her hand. “Too late.”
“Fenrir!” called his mother.
He turned.
“Don’t be shocked by his face,” she said. “It isn’t what you’ll remember.”
Fenrir scoffed. Of course it won’t be, he thought. We haven’t seen each other in decades. Shocked by his face! Gods, it’s Ragnarok. I won’t be shocked by anything.
Still, he braced himself upon approaching.
As he drew nearer to the person he began to feel worried for him.
He had the pinched and disproportionate look of someone who’d been very thin for very long and was only now recovering. He looked like a broken animal, shoulders shaking with sobs. His hair was bobbed in rough lines, cut with a blunt knife. His skin had a ghostly pallor.
Fenrir shivered.
He was inches away when he was heard; the figure spun abruptly to meet his eyes.
He jolted.
From the ridge of the person’s nose, it spread down his cheeks like tears: scar tissue, pink and raised, marring the skin like a battleground.
Fenrir’s gold eyes widened.
The figure hastily wiped the sorrow from his expression, running his hands over his tears and wincing when he touched the peculiar wounds. He smudged the black makeup that circled his eyelids and painted lines from eye to cheekbone on each side of his face. He rested his hand on Fenrir’s neck.
“I haven’t seen you in aeons. How’ve you been?”
Fenrir dodged his gaze. “Does it matter?” he said.
The figure’s brows furrowed, fears confirmed. “No,” he said. “I suppose not.” He didn’t even attempt to conceal the lie. It mattered infinitely to him, but if Fenrir didn’t want to talk about it…
His hand shot up to the scarring on their face, a reflex response to imagined pain. It was becoming a habit. “We’re chained monsters of a feather, you and I,” he said.
Fenrir shuffled his feet.
“How have you been?” he asked, afraid of the answer.
He laughed quietly and bitterly. “Does it matter?” he parroted.
“Was it—” Fenrir indicated with his head to the horizon, where the gods would meet them.
“The gods? Yes. It was the gods. And I was a fool.”
“I’m sorry, Father,” Fenrir said.
His father, Loki, chucked once more. Each time he expressed some shadow of his former self he seemed more ghostly.
“For what?” he asked quietly.
“That this happened. Any of this,” Fenrir said.
“It’s not your fault. This happened to us because of what we’re about to do. Let’s make the most of it.”
Fenrir started to leave, but a nagging feeling dragged his feet to a standstill.
“He’s my friend. Tyr. No; he was my friend. It might destroy me.”
“It’s going to destroy us all,” Loki said.
“How am I going to do it?”
Loki paused for a moment. “How do you feel?” he asked.
Fenrir replied, “Like all the rage in the world. And still, I could never hurt him over it.”
Loki could not kneel parentally. His son was heads taller than he was. He looked up and said with all the honesty he could, “I know how it feels to be fighting all your friends. It’s the most stinging guilt you’ll ever feel. The conflict of being a traitor. Because you think that, even though it’s not what you want, you should do what’s best for them. You should protect them. Because they’re your friends. I did what I wanted to anyway. I got endless revenge on them… Because they were bad friends. They really were. But I also loved them. I know that Tyr liked you far more than my friends ever did me. He was a good friend to you. He didn’t mean for this to happen.”
Fenrir dropped his head.
“But neither did you,” Loki continued. “And now you must die at each other’s hands.”
“It feels like it’s supposed to happen. Gods, I want to make them pay,” Fenrir said. “And it feels so wrong too.”
“It feels unfair.”
Fenrir nodded.
Loki sighed. “I don’t know why it has to be this cruel, but it does. The inevitability of all of this…that’s what killed us. My blood brother was eaten by paranoia because he knew that this was how it ended. He’d do all this—” He made a sweeping gesture to the crew of the Naglfar, wronged and hurt by the Allfather. “—to delay it. I’m sure when it comes it will feel like relief. Completion.”
“I just need the strength to face him,” Fenrir said.
“You want my help with that?”
“Yes.”
The two stood in silent contemplation, on a ship that came from nightmares.
“Just think,” Loki said. “Is Tyr fighting you?”
“He will be.”
“Then you’re gonna fight back.”
Fenrir left. He thought about asking his father why he’d been crying, but decided not to.

 

Pieta Bayley is fourteen years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She enjoys stories in all their forms—and, when they hide, will resort to telling them herself.


Still Life with Violin – Sophie Yu

Sophie Yu is a fourth-year medical student studying with the University of Auckland. Art has become a visual language that portrays her growth in ideas and experiences to all viewers. With these as her inspirations, she’s been able to create more original works that hopefully inspire others and evoke her viewers’ own interpretations.


Keep Calm and Carry – Charlie Knight

Keep calm and carry a quiet noise
like ninjas running along rooftops
acoustic guitars playing in the background
closing my eyes and looking into the empty abyss
watching movies flicker before me
feeling the wind rush through the open window
seeing the trees sway around me
colouring the blank canvas of people’s lives
walking down lonely roads
feeling the grass below my feet
water washing up the shore onto my toes

Charlie Knight is twelve years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Yellow-Eyed Penguin / Hoiho – Tom Nalder

She wears yellow sunglasses
always.
Her black wings as smooth
as stone,
her chest as white as hail.
She loves to sing in Akaroa Harbour
and hide in dark side caves
under hanging cliffs.
This NZ bird of the year
is as brave as justice.

Tom Nalder is eleven years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.  His favourite colour is yellow, and he really likes cheetahs and would like to learn a lot about animals.  He would also like to be a scientist.


Feature interview: E Wen Wong and P.S. Our Beaches

P.S. Our Beaches – a Pollution Solution for Our Beaches (psbeaches.com)

“P.S. Our Beaches was founded by 13-year-old Cantabrian, E Wen Wong, as part of a 2016 Project Based Learning (PBL) initiative. From its humble beginnings as a plastics poetry project, P.S. Our Beaches has emerged as a diverse, nation-wide community, working to rid our beaches, waterways and oceans of single use plastics. At the heart of everything we do is a mission is to restore a positive environmental footprint for our oceans, both now and into the future.”

E Wen Wong is a year 13 student at Burnside High School. Since becoming passionate about poetry through Paula Green’s Poetry Box, E Wen has had her work featured in various anthologies, on the back of local buses, and on display in the Guernsey Airport. E Wen is on the committee of the New Zealand Poetry Society, and in 2019 placed first in the Poetry New Zealand Student Yearbook Poetry Competition and runner-up in the National Schools Poetry Award.

E Wen Wong speaking and reciting poetry at TEDx

fingers comma toes: Your website describes the project as emerging from a “plastics poetry project”. Can you tell us more about how that gave rise to P.S. Our Beaches?

E Wen Wong: In 2016, through a project-based learning initiative, I decided to use my growing passion for poetry as a platform for communicating environmental issues. I was honoured to receive two scholarships from the Bowseat Ocean Awareness programmes for the plastic pollution poetry anthologies I had written. These scholarships gave impetus to P.S. Our Beaches (Plastic Solution for Our Beaches), an organisation working to instigate change in New Zealand’s plastic pollution scene. Using this organisation as a foundation, we hope to advance the education and understanding of the effects of single-use plastics and the ways through which we can mitigate them.

fct: What are some of the other projects that P.S. Our Beaches has been involved with?

Tree planting at Styx Mill

EWW: In the past, P.S. Our Beaches has facilitated and promoted litter audits, awareness posts on sustainability initiatives and short interviews with organisations such as DoC and UNESCO. In April, we coordinated the inaugural EnviroPAST (Plastic and Sustainability Talks) Conference in which we welcomed over 100 young people to the Christchurch Art Gallery for two days of inspiration, education and action on environmental issues. The conference combined talks by leading academics, entrepreneurs and environmentalists, with workshops and tree planting at Styx Mill, thanks to the donation of 1000 plants by the Christchurch City Council and Trees for Canterbury. The support and willingness of organisations and individuals to share their expertise and inspire the next generation of environmental leaders was nothing short of incredible.

fct: In addition to P.S. Our Beaches, you’re also involved in technology and poetry, including your 2018 BIRD technology project about litter collection from beaches. Can you tell us more about that project?

E Wen Wong with BIRD

EWW: Attending the Limitless Conference in 2017 motivated me to build on the P.S. Our Beaches campaign to incorporate technology and solution-based thinking, layered between advocacy and awareness. Realising that Limitless’ guiding values of passion and purpose lasted long after the conference was over, I decided to combine my passions for technology and the environment by designing BIRD (Biomimicry Identification Robot Device), a UAV capable of detecting and georeferencing macro-plastics such as plastic bags and bottle tops. BIRD uses machine learning software and onboard GPS to provide georeferenced locations for any plastic pieces identified by the drone, which are then linked to a crowd-sourced beach clean-up app to guide users to each item of rubbish. With the intention of sharing the outcome I produce with the wider community, I hope that BIRD can serve as a further tool to inform, intrigue and inspire people to reduce your plastic usage and ensure that as little plastic as possible reaches our beaches and oceans.

Rubbish from one of the beach litter audits

fct: Is there a connection for you between the environment, poetry and technology?

EWW: Similarly to the BIRD project, the connection between poetry and the environment, for me, is also based off a drive to help build a better world, as well as the emerging youth movement. I have been a committee member on the New Zealand Poetry Society since 2017 and, through my work in this role, I am geared towards increasing youth involvement and ensuring that the perspectives of young people are incorporated within decision-making processes. Immersing myself in the arts in such ways has been empowering, as it has allowed me to draw parallels between dichotomous disciplines and ensure that I am always thinking in a way that is creative, dynamic and relevant to the world around us.

fct: You started this project when you were thirteen. What were some of the main challenges, for both the project itself and you personally, initiating it at such a young age?

EWW: One of the greatest challenges was recognising my lack of experience, being only thirteen. That, as you might expect, came with a significant lack of confidence and assurance in my actions. What helped me to overcome this was my intrinsic attitude of not being afraid to ask for help and obtain greater knowledge from environmental experts. A love of learning, as well as the environment at Burnside High School, where I am a student, meant that I was fortunate enough to be able to tap into the advice of exceptional leaders around me.

fct: What have you learned from the project?

EWW: Establishing P.S. Our Beaches and coordinating clean-ups, plantings and conferences has refined my organisational skills; it has taught me to prioritise and strive towards an end goal, to think globally, act locally and inspire change. To me, looking from this lens is invaluable as it keeps me grounded, grateful and growing while helping others to realise what they can achieve for themselves and the world around them.

Microplastics talk at EnviroPAST

Each individual project—for instance, EnviroPAST—has also taught me so much. Realising the impact the conference had on its delegates has taught me that EnviroPAST is much more than a conference. It is the collective body of people who are engaged and excited about making a difference, who are equipped with the tools they need to do so and the community that will support them from start to finish. It is my hope that the EnviroPAST conference will have a multiplier effect on our community, helping to spark similar events and actions which are led by the community we have built around the event. The experience has helped me to appreciate both the small wins and the bigger ones, the impact it has made on individuals and the wider community. I have learnt to combine creativity and environmental initiatives through poetry, virtual reality and live polls, increasing the confidence I have in communicating an environmental message. The experience has changed my attitudes by making me believe that my passion is not limited to my individual actions. The skills I have gained include the appreciation that leadership can take many forms, the importance of teamwork and critical thinking, designing runsheets, budgets and communicating with stakeholders. It has changed my actions by adding fuel to the P.S. Our Beaches movement, delving deeper into microplastics and social, entrepreneurial spins to the issue, while teaching me to use my passion for the environment as a vector for increasing public awareness about environmental issues.

Thanks to E Wen Wong for participating in this discussion. 


Submissions Notice – January 2020 Issue / Artwork: Red

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About the January 2020 issue:

  • Submission period: 21 October 2019 to 20 December 2019
  • Theme: Red (Note: only applies to visual artwork submissions)
  • Artists/authors notified in December 2019 and January 2020

Guest editor: Margaret Li

Margaret Li is in her final year at Saint Kentigern College in Auckland, New Zealand, and is interested in pursuing a Language and Literature degree in the UK. She reads widely in her spare time and enjoys the creative writing process, particularly with short stories and script writing. She approached fingers comma toes’  August 2019 theme Space by describing the senses evoked by The Clinic, exploring the often overwhelming pressures faced by young adults.

Submission guidelines:

  • What to submit:
    • Submissions may be any form of creative art. That includes writing (essays, short stories, micro stories, poetry—any forms of writing), photography, visual art (digital art included), music, et cetera.
    • We welcome previously published work, and simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but we advise that the artist/author informs us if the submission is accepted or published elsewhere.
    • There are no limits as to the length of written submissions, but prose submissions under five thousand words are preferable (though exceptions may be made).
    • Artists/authors may submit up to five pieces each.
  • How to submit: Submit through email at fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com. In your email submission, please include the following:
    • Your age
    • Your geographical location
    • A brief bio (approximately 50 words, or three sentences)

Please send written submissions as downloadable .txt.rtf, or .docx documents. Please do not send documents via Google Documents or other online sharing platforms, as these are private and can be restricted for us.

  • Who can submit: There is no strict age limit for submitters. We are a youth journal, and our submitters currently range in age from four to twenty-six years old. We encourage international and diverse submissions. As a general guide to what we’re looking for, our previous issues can be found here.

Submission themes for the January 2020 issue apply only to visual artwork. All other work may be unthemed. Submission themes are not strict and may be interpreted freely. We are always excited to receive a variety of submissions and experience how different perspectives respond to an overarching idea: some pieces may relate to a theme in a concrete manner, using it to convey a message in a new way, while others may be more abstract, making the audience work a little harder to see the connection. There is never one way to respond to a theme. In every case, we encourage you to have fun with it and push your boundaries—be creative, and see what you can do.

Any inquiries may be emailed directly to us.


Contact: fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com

Fingers comma Toes Logo Final

Podcast: Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon – The kids are alright

fingers comma toes has been featured this month in a podcast with Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon / The Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals in their episode The kids are alright. The podcast includes music paired with stories and poems from international writers four to sixteen years old. Contributors from fingers comma toes‘ pages include E Wen Wong, Harry Waddington, Josephine Parker, Joshua Persico, Lauren Sanders, Lucy Jessep, and Tom Nalder.

The podcast can be listened to or downloaded at secretlives.podbean.com. Many thanks to our contributors featured here for sharing their work, and to Mr. Bear for including us in this project! We hope you enjoy!


August 2019 Issue Space

Contents:

Mx. Universe – Liberty Tidberg (age 16; Elkhorn, Wisconsin, United States) 
Morphogenesis – Josephine Parker (age 07; Christchurch, New Zealand)
A Wasteland of Beauty – Reuben Veenstra (age 11; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Space Between the Walls – Adaeze Chukwuka (age 16; Maryland, United States)
Safe Space – Adaeze Chukwuka (age 16; Maryland, United States)
Coming, Going – Chloe Henkel (age 16; Darlington, Maryland, United States)
The Museum – Matthew Marshall (age 22; Hartford, Connecticut, United States)
Vacancy – Jana Heise (age 14; Dunedin, New Zealand)
Shadows from space – Naomi Dana (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Space – Ida van Kan (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Space – Max Henkel (age 17; Darlington, Maryland, United States)
The Waiting – Sylvie King (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
[Mural 1 – Kaufering Bahnhof] – Montessorischule Kaufering students (ages 14 to 18; Kaufering, Germany)
[Mural 2 – Kaufering Bahnhof] – Montessorischule Kaufering students (ages 14 to 18; Kaufering, Germany)
The Clinic – Margaret Li (age 17; Auckland, New Zealand)
The Moon of Cheetahs – Tom Nalder (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Space – Rain Wang (age 11; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Reflect – Hillary Walker (age 13; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Music of Movement – Jasmine Ryan (age 16; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Lost Moon – Millie Sarjeant (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Space to dream – Emma Geddes (age 09; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Space – Sophie Yu (age 20; Auckland, New Zealand)
Meaning Is Attached – Lauren Sanders (age 16; Austin, Texas, United States)
Space is a blanket – Chloe Wu (age 07; Christchurch, New Zealand)

Mx. Universe – Liberty Tidberg

Liberty Tidberg is a rising senior at Elkhorn High School in South-Central Wisconsin. Along with having a passion for the visual arts, Libby is an active member of her local Parkour gym. She currently works as a camp counselor for the rec department and as the social media consultant for the United Way of Walworth County and Dementia Friendly of Walworth County.


Morphogenesis – Josephine Parker

In space
planets
form shapes.
One hundred
hot planets
make one sun.
Long ago
planets
tormented the sun.
Parts of the sun
flew away like tears
and got colder
turned white
and formed stars.

Josephine Parker is seven years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Josie lives with her mum, dad, two older brothers, five cats, three goldfish, a pony, a dog, and too many chickens. Her favourite cat is black, fluffy, and named Ziggy. She especially enjoys writing poetry, drawing, and playing with Ziggy.


A Wasteland of Beauty – Reuben Veenstra

shimmering stars
as far as the eye can see
raging sun invades the night
colossal craters scattered across  planets
darkness
engulfs me like a warm blanket
black holes stealing stars
sweltering mars like an infinite desert
determined rockets hurtle into the abyss
mysterious  creatures scuttle across earth
space
a wasteland of beauty

Reuben Veenstra is eleven years old. He grew up in Hamilton and now lives in Christchurch. He enjoys playing football and writing poems.


The Space Between the Walls – Adaeze Chukwuka

Adaeze Chukwuka (16) The Space Between the Walls

Adaeze Chukwuka is a digital artist based on the eastern coast of the United States. Her work is inspired by the bright and colourful children’s books that she was obsessed with as a child. She likes to experiment with contrasting colours and lighting, creating pieces that demand to be looked at.


Safe Space -Adaeze Chukwuka

Adaeze Chukwuka (16) - Safe Space


Coming, Going – Chloe Henkel

There are a million people
And gaps the size of the sun
Between us
Are you pushing through this cluttered space
Or is it only me?

Chloe Henkel is an American artist and poet. When not writing or painting, she can probably be found playing the ukulele, listening to music, picking flowers, or catching up with friends. For more of her work, check out @chloe.creating on Instagram!


The Museum – Matthew Marshall

——Museums are labyrinths, their blueprints architected like a crossword—drawing you along each piece of the puzzle until its collection of white squares builds a solved installation.
——There is a couple behind me whose bodies, so tightly intertwined, are a Möbius strip of interlocked hands and feet. Their microscopic separation holding an infinite past.
——Paintings are one-way mirrors to interrogation rooms. Depending on proximity, you’re detective or suspect. With one canvas, you’re behind the glass, investigating, hoping the case isn’t as clear as yesterday’s clue: six letters for “we’re done.” The next, you’re wanted for questioning and see yourself in the reflective frame.
——The couple is in my elevator. One wants to view the fifth floor, the other the sixth. The disunity separates the lace of their knotted fingers. One hand, cold from the other’s evaporating sweat, touches two buttons.
——Click.
——Click.
——This painting, the one whose strokes demand attention like a torturous memory, is my barometer—gauging the pressure behind my eyes, inside my heart. Today, it reads: don’t text her.
——The couple splits. One is next to me, trudging through the exhibit, clinging to any image capable of distraction. The other unknowingly copies every stride from the floor below.

Matthew Marshall is a recent graduate of Michigan State University with a B.A. in English. While unpublished in the world of fiction, he has been awarded numerous creative writing scholarships and nominations, including the Anderson Essay Award, Creative Writing Award, and ultimately winning the Ambrose D. Patullo Scholarship for literary analysis in poetry. He lives in Hartford, Connecticut.


Vacancy – Jana Heise

Jana Heise (14) - Vacancy

Jana Heise is fourteen years old. She’s grown up on a sailboat and is intimate with the colour blue.


Shadows from space – Naomi Dana

Naomi Dana (14) - Shadows from space

Naomi Dana has loved space ever since a young age—she has at least twenty books on the subject, and her walls are plastered with posters about the solar system. She is fascinated with the colours that come from beyond this world, and loves knowing that there is more to life than we know. She is fourteen years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Space – Ida van Kan

The forever travelling sky
Dancing so the world can see
Space, please tell me where you are
I can be seen but not heard
If you look around I’m everywhere
Who am I?
I will forever look for you
What do you dream when the sun takes your place?
I’m clueless without you
Tell me where you go
I move freely but no one knows
Where I go
What am I?
And when you do, teach me how to
Dance like you
And listen to me sing like an angel
Stars in the sky that I behold
My face is the planets and
The stars are my hands
Who am I?
Space, please tell me what to do
When the sun is at its peak
Where is your starry face
That warms my heart through the troubled nights?

Ida van Kan is ten years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Space – Max Henkel

Max Henkel is an aspiring composer. When he’s not writing music, he enjoys walks in the forest, stargazing, and playing the piano.


The Waiting – Sylvie King

No one hears us scream
The everlasting bash of supernovas
Tell stories expected in the past
Of the protoplanets
Predicted to hold life
The life that could sustain us
In an exoplanet far away
We wait and we watch
Through our telescopes
As we set them on planes in the air
And we search until someone
Calls to join us in our void

Sylvie King has been contributing to creative writing for around five years. She has been published in a selection of sources, including Otago Daily Times, Toitoi, fingers comma toes, and The NZ Poetry Box. Her passions are writing, space, astronomy, engineering, and hanging out with her friends.


[Mural 1 – Kaufering Bahnhof] – Montessorischule Kaufering students

The Montessorischule Kaufering students are between fourteen and eighteen years old, and live in Kaufering, Germany. These two murals were painted as part of a school project in 2018, and can be found in the underpass at the Kaufering train station, located near the school. Photographs: Jael Hecht. 


[Mural 2 – Kaufering Bahnhof] – Montessorischule Kaufering students


The Clinic – Margaret Li

The clinic is empty apart from the receptionist and a tired-looking older woman. Flickering lights bounce off her garish lipstick – the flaky kind you buy at the pharmacy. She picks at the plaster blistering off the walls; her belly swells under a tank. Guilty, my eyes swerve away to the posters above her. Their furled edges morph into sneers, murmuring lies like safe and quick.
Under their unforgiving glare, I sink deeper into my chair.
Somewhere down the hallway, a door creaks open and a teenage girl comes out. My heart flutters thinking it’s my sister. It’s not.
This girl is older, her apple-pie cheeks swollen with innocence. A doctor waves her toward the front desk. The receptionist – not much older than me – pushes a form and a pen in her direction.
From the back, her broad oak-shoulders shudder.
Reception girl slides a box of Kleenex at her.
A warm draught, strawberry-scented and baby-powdered, crawls into my mouth. The bitter-sweet combination lingers in my throat, choking me.
‘Th-th-thanks,’ she stutters, blowing noisily.
Reception girl smiles through sooty lashes while taking another drag of her Marlboro.
I catch myself recoiling as the new girl drops down into the seat next to me, a wad of snot-smeared tissues clutched in her fist. She is near enough that if I reached out, I could squeeze her hand. Instead, I sink deeper.
The older woman seems to feel differently. Across from me, she tugs at her tank top. Beads of cold fear glisten at her hairline before rolling down her left temple. Behind closed lids, she replays that night. That man. That moment.
The second-guessing game consumes her.
The woman moves closer to the edge of her seat as if ready to bolt, and at the same time, frozen – a deer caught in the headlights of nobody’s car. Her knee jiggles up and down.
Up, down.
Up, down.
The silent war unfolding in the scrunched-up space between her brows echoes through my head. I cover my ears. But it’s too late.
Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down.
I watch my seat rattle.
Get me out of here.
The burning gaze of the room devours me as I rise, the plastic edge of my chair digging into tartan-skirt flesh. Breathless from not-running, I slam my palms into the door and push hard.
Freedom. Finally.
The cold air rushes to hug my cheeks. It’s breath, raw and dry on my skin, knocks the feeling back into my bones. I swill it down, thirsty to purge myself of the clinic; the people in it, the taste.
But the relief is short.
And too soon, the air is nothing more than a splash of water to the face.

Margaret Li is in her final year at Saint Kentigern College in Auckland, New Zealand, and is interested in pursuing a Language and Literature degree in the UK. She reads widely in her spare time and enjoys the creative writing process, particularly with short stories and script writing. She approached the theme ‘space’ by describing the senses evoked by The Clinic, exploring the often overwhelming pressures faced by young adults.


The Moon of Cheetahs – Tom Nalder

The moon protects
a living planet of Cheetahs.
They run with the wind.
They sleep with the wind.
They chirp with the wind.
At night the moon
carries them up to a bed
of silky yellow fur.
From there they watch the moon
make shooting stars.
From there they watch the moon
light the African forests.
You can see them
through your telescopes,
sleeping between spaces on Saturn’s
mysterious rock.

Tom Nalder is 10 years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. His favourite colour is yellow, and he really likes cheetahs and would like to learn a lot about animals. He would also like to be a scientist.


Space – Rain Wang

Rain Wang (11) - Space

Rain Wang is eleven years old. She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She enjoys reading and drawing. Her artwork Space, published in fingers comma toes‘ August 2019 issue, is her first publication.


Reflect – Hillary Walker

Hillary Walker (13) - Reflect

Hillary Walker is thirteen years old. She likes swimming and photography in her spare time. She also plays netball and does extracurricular activities. She doesn’t have a lot of time for photography, but would like to start focusing on it more.


The Music of Movement – Jasmine Ryan

You pulled me back and with a sweeping motion my hand reached towards yours, circling the air as we took bounding steps backwards, astronauts in zero gravity. My body glided closer to yours. My controlled movements matched yours like symmetry as the song brought us nearer, our fingertips within reach, our arms extending towards each other.
You got so close, but you were pulled away before I could reach you. The next line was sung; it took our bodies into different steps and as the music changed, you turned your back on me, and I on you. With the great, lilting melody and dreamy, driven music, we were swept across the stage in motions and movements of grace, of a flow that matched the run of the ocean between two continents. The current brought us together and then it threw us apart. We were but helpless waves in a vast sea trying to make our way to each other, but every time we got close, the space between us was stolen in larger and larger proportions.
With a rise in the music like a tidal wave drawing into the bay, it rose only to crash down, one final, dramatic note ending the song. We stood with our backs to each other, reaching up at the air as if it held something for us, and as the music stopped we stayed like that. The choreography ended with a gap between us that seemed like the distance of the vacuum between two galaxies, and I could feel your warmth but I could not feel your touch. The audience stood to clap and cheer for our dance that had taken the stage like the poetry of movement, but I wondered why it had to end this way, why the song had to emphasise the space between the two of us when all I wanted was for us not to act like two opposing continents, planets, universes. When all I wanted was for space to be a distance that was possible to cross so I could see you up close and hold you in my arms.

Jasmine Ryan is a sixteen-year-old year 12 high school student from Selwyn, Canterbury. She has been long-listed for the National Flash Fiction Day competition, and writing is something that she uses to express her creative ideas that she hopes can inspire thoughtfulness in readers.


The Lost Moon – Millie Sarjeant

Rain tickles the misty, remote mountains.
The possums tug my hair.
The smell of ash still lingers from the flames.
Sodden leaves brush my shoulders.
Midnight shakes hands with dawn.
Moss hugs a bridge as it bends above a stream.
Leaves swirl and scatter in a distant paddock.
Turf still glints with dew from the evening frost.
Musty, degrading bark.
Fresh, bubbling water.
A forgotten waka sways.
Jubilant takahē cry to each other.
Emerald brown ferns reach out to grab me.
I should be there in the inky sky,
My arms reaching out to take you home, but I’m gone.
I’ve been swallowed by the forest.

Millie Sarjeant is very interested in space and NASA and loves writing fairy tales with a New Zealand twist. She has been doing creative writing for two years, and has been published in Toi Toi, Extra, and The Jillion.


Space to dream – Emma Geddes

Emma Geddes (9) - Space to dream

Emma Geddes is nine years old. She really loves animals and wants to be a vet when she is older. She also enjoys school, reading, and all her sports, which are netball, dance, and water sports. She loves hanging out with her friends. She has two cats, Charlie (six months old in Space to dream) and Smokey.


Space – Sophie Yu

Sophie Yu (20) - Space

Sophie Yu is a third-year medical student at University of Auckland. Although she’s had to choose between science and art upon entering university, painting is something very important to her, and she hopes to maintain this hobby throughout her whole life.


Meaning is Attached – Lauren Sanders

“Physical location does not distance memory,”
a man once told me in response to my “if only…”
A hundred miles and I won’t feel this way.
Two hundred and it’s my baptism,
though I’m not religious anyways.
The moment is the only true definition,
our hours bathed in ever-shifting haze.
To hold onto these former pains is futile…
They are but ashes from the flame that, as I smile,
I call The Past.
I laugh I laugh I laugh.
I stare into the face of the cruel irony of it all—
over thoughts that once claimed my consciousness,
over a disorder that stole my identity.
This is a day that is brighter than bombs,
the day I choose to live.
This is the day all things must pass.
Today I am reborn. Today nothing lasts.

Lauren Sanders is sixteen years old, and lives in Austin, Texas. She is a guitarist and bass guitarist, as well as an indie rock enthusiast, who enjoys psychology and writing. One of her poems recently won the Texas Night Sky Festival contest and another has been published in the anthology series Upon Arrival.


Space is a blanket – Chloe Wu

Space is a blanket as soft as a feather
Space is inspiration for a bird passing by
A little tree reaches up to the sky
And says good bye
As it gets chopped down
A goldfish jumps
Over the moon
And lands in a galaxy
Of water
And flies through space
With excitement

Chloe Wu was born in Christchurch in 2011, and is a year 3 student at Ilam School (Christchurch, New Zealand). Chloe has had her poems published in the Otago Daily Times, and the New Zealand Poetry Box. Chloe enjoys reading, writing, playing piano (ABRSM grade 3), and dancing ballet (BBO grade 1).


Submissions Notice – August 2019 Issue Space

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About the August 2019 issue:

  • Submission period: 27 May 2019 to 31 July 2019
  • Theme: Space
  • Artists/authors notified in July and August 2019

Submission guidelines:

  • What to submit:
    • Submissions may be any form of creative art. That includes writing (essays, short stories, micro stories, poetry—any forms of writing), photography, visual art (digital art included), music, et cetera.
    • We welcome previously published work, and simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but we advise that the artist/author informs us if the submission is accepted or published elsewhere.
    • There are no limits as to the length of written submissions, but prose submissions under five thousand words are preferable (though exceptions may be made).
    • Artists/authors may submit up to five pieces each.
  • How to submit: Submit through email at fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com. In your email submission, please include the following:
    • Your age
    • Your geographical location
    • A brief bio (approximately 50 words, or three sentences)

Please send written submissions as downloadable .txt.rtf, or .docx documents. Please do not send documents via Google Documents or other online sharing platforms, as these are private and can be restricted for us.

  • Who can submit: There is no strict age limit for submitters. We are a youth journal, and our submitters currently range in age from four to twenty-six years old. We encourage international and diverse submissions. As a general guide to what we’re looking for, our previous issues can be found here.

Submission themes are not strict and may be interpreted freely. We are always excited to receive a variety of submissions and experience how different perspectives respond to an overarching idea: some pieces may relate to a theme in a concrete manner, using it to convey a message in a new way, while others may be more abstract, making the audience work a little harder to see the connection. There is never one way to respond to a theme. In every case, we encourage you to have fun with it and push your boundaries—be creative, and see what you can do.

Any inquiries may be emailed directly to us.


Contact: fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com

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