2023 NFFD Long List Announced!

Congratulations to all long-listed writers!

2023 long list:

12:38 am
Aim: To Find Out If It Is Possible To Reach A Velocity At Which The Gravitational Influence of a Small Town Can be Escaped From
The Angry Banana
Before I’m gone
Better for Us
Cherry Red
Cold white world
The Day the Sky Fell
Fatherly Love
Final Decision
Fortune Cookie
Ghosts are Perpetual Motion Machines, Therefore Physicists Can’t Believe in Them
Golden Hour
Lipstick Crisis
The Part Time Life
Presumption of Death
River to the Hot Air Balloon
A robin’s story
sand dragons
Seagulls and the disc
She is the Present
She leaves me oranges
Till she tastes air
This Is My Attempt at Writing a Quiet Story
The Walled City
When Forty Men
when you get used to the new, shiny thing, it disappears

Adult long list published at nationalflash.org/competition

If your work is listed, please refrain from mentioning which title is yours, as judges are still deliberating.

Watch for the short list in early June! 

About the guest judge:
Joanna Cho / 조은선 is a writer and editor. Her debut book People Person was published by Te Herenga Waka University Press in 2022.

Read the NFFD interview with Joanna here! 

2023 NFFD Judge’s Interview: Joanna Cho

With only three weeks left to submit to this year’s National Flash Fiction Day competition, we’re delighted to share an interview with Joanna Cho, our 2023 youth judge! 
Joanna Cho / 조은선 is a writer and editor. Her debut book People Person was published by Te Herenga Waka University Press in 2022.

Lola Elvy at fingers comma toes: You recently studied creative nonfiction and poetry in Wellington, and a lot of your own poetry draws heavily on real-life inspiration. Where is the line for you between fiction and reality, and how do they intersect or influence each other? Do our realities shape what we create, does what we create shape our realities, or does the truth lie somewhere in-between?

Joanna Cho: For me, the line between fiction and reality is movable and it all mixes up—ultimately, whatever serves the heart of the story will become its reality. We can draw heavily from our own experiences and call it fiction, or manipulate the truth and call it non-fiction. I find thinking categorically just stresses me out… In my own writing, some of the obviously ‘fiction’ moments are from dreams that often feel just as real as real life—so yeah, anyway, we’re all bonkers right, lol.

LE: Though your debut book People Person is a poetry collection, it also has a strong narrative style, with some stanzas or even whole pieces in prose form. In your own writing, how important is the shape, structure, or form of a story/poem on the page to your creative process? When you consider form or other stylistic choices, do you have an imagined audience in mind, or are your measures purely introspective?

JC: It’s very important! Most of People Person was written during my MA year, when I was excited to learn new forms and try them out. So I would pair up a form with an idea and play around, but often ended up breaking the form when it felt too restrictive. I find templates are useful for writer’s block because you’re forced to practise restraint (in a paradoxical way that helps me), but then at a certain point, if it gets too stuffy, it’s important to let go of self-imposed rules. I choose longer forms when I know the story will need the space and more information. All my measures are introspective; I don’t have an imagined audience in mind.

LE: What inspires you to write?

JC: I write when I’m moved by things or find things crack up, in a deep, aching way, lol. My mum, and my partner(s)—I guess the people I am the most intimate with—inspire me to write. And that must be because I see their deep human-ness, am fascinated by it, and am entangled. But I also write to think—I don’t have much of an inner monologue and find I am best able to express myself or consider things when writing, so in a way it’s also a way for me to have second chances, to get things out—and to remember, and to have fun, and sometimes to get paid, haha. :’) I don’t know, though; it’s a hobby, and I just enjoy it the way I enjoy reading.

LE: Much of your writing feels firmly centred in a particular time and place—it’s hard to imagine many of your poems occurring in a different era or physical location, as their world feels so integral. How significant do you think the immediate environment is (spatially, temporally, geographically, culturally, etc.) in influencing your writing, and what people write in general?

JC: The immediate environment influences all of my writing in the way that I think it must do for everyone, as the present is all we really know. I guess a lot of my writing is nostalgic, and that makes me think I must lack imagination (recently I listened to something about nostalgia being the death of art), but on the other hand, with what I write, the world (my world) is everything, so I’m glad you found it firmly centered!

LE: Is there a connection for you between reading and writing? What kinds of writing do you like to read yourself, and has your reading helped shape your own narrative/poetic voice?

JC: What I like to read depends on time, mood, purpose, etc.—I like reading lots of different kinds of texts and styles and don’t have a favourite book or author, but I do have things I return to, although they tend to be out of familiarity, for comfort, e.g., Living in the Maniototo by Janet Frame, or The Balloon by Donald Barthelme. Everything I read and love shapes my voice but it’s hard to say exactly, because it could be one line from something, or a general tone…

LE: As an editor, what do you look for in a story? What do you hope to see from youth writing in this competition?

JC: I look for heart (that thing you can’t pinpoint but is alive throughout the writing), and strong, tight writing with sudden swells. I’m hoping to see personality and curiosity—show me that you’re enjoying writing! :-) I’m really excited to read all the stories!

Thank you, Joanna, for taking the time to participate in this discussion. And to our youth readers: don’t forget to submit your stories by April 30! We look forward to reading them! 

2022 National Flash Fiction Day Youth Competition

Adult winners published at nationalflash.org/winners


1st place:

On the curb – Chloe Morrison-Clarke (age 15; Christchurch, New Zealand)

2nd place:

Driving Lessons –  Sophia Hall (age 17; Washington, DC, United States)

3rd place:

Golden Hour –  Satori McCormick (age 17; Denver, CO, United States)


Danger, Danger! – Catriona Schoneveld (age 10; Oamaru, New Zealand)
In Memoriam: Emily Branje – Sophia Wood (age 11; Christchurch, New Zealand)
One Day – Isabelle Lloydd (age 17; Auckland, New Zealand)

Short list:

Alphabet Love – Sophia Kim (age 17; Southern California, CA, United States)
Breaking Down – Sarah-Kate Simons (age 17; Southbridge, New Zealand)
Closed Curtains – Sam Brophy (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Day the Jellyfish Came – Hannah Wilson (age 18; Wellington, New Zealand)
Fig Newtons – Jordan Woolley (age 16; Petaluma, CA, United States)
Gone with the Mist – Atom Gush (age 17; Wellington, New Zealand)
The Hole – Naomi Scissors (age 17; MD, United States)
My Grandmother’s Magical Measuring Tape in Her Mind – Rainie Tang (age 14; New Zealand)
A Picture of Me Taken From Another World – Julian Heidelberg (age 16; FL, United States)
Return of Nyctophobia – Emma Philips (age 16; Ararua, New Zealand)
Slow Song – Isabelle Lloydd (age 17; Auckland, New Zealand)
Strawberry Sundaes – Catherine Ji (age 14; San Diego, CA, United States)
What They Told Me – Atom Gush (age 17; Wellington, New Zealand)
Where is Waldo right now? – Abbi Kamalesan (age 15; Oakville, ON, United States)

Long list:

Adventuring, Pretending – Khristina Cabrera (age 17; NJ, United States)
The Bean/Pumpkin/Alien Potato – Savarna Yang (age 14; Dunedin, New Zealand)
Bird’s Eye View – Ewan Hamer (age 16; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Boatman’s Short Visit – Gaudencia Villanueva (Philippines)
The Building – Anji Sharrock (age 13; Northland, New Zealand)
A Filmmaker’s Dream – Dina Miranda (age 17; Southern California, CA, United States)
Genetics – Sophia Hall (age 17; Washington, DC, United States)
The girl across the street – Jessica Hurrell (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Good News Comes in Postcards – Denika Mead (age 18; Wellington, New Zealand)
The Great Soup-Off – Ella Buchner (age 10; MD, United Sates)
igneous – Anika Anjali Lippke (age 16; Livingston, NJ, United States)
Knowing Jude – Rhea Elavia (age 17; Auckland, New Zealand)
Memories Brown with Mud – Isabelle Lloydd (age 17; Auckland, New Zealand)
Nighttrain – Hannah Wilson (age 18; Wellington, New Zealand)
Our Songs – Olivia Glaysher (age 14; Auckland, New Zealand)
A Perfect Night – Ashley Malkin (age 15; CT, United States)
Person, Plural – Chloe Costa Baker (age 17; Swarthmore, PA, United States)
Spoonfed – Sophia Hall (age 17; Washington, DC, United States)
the strawberry moon – Elise D (age 14; Washington, DC, United States)
Tug – Chloe Morrison-Clarke (age 15; Christchurch, New Zealand)
We all meet “A Boy From Florida” once in our lifetime – Harsimran Kaur (age 17; India)
Webs – Priya Bartlett (age 13; Christchurch, New Zealand)

1st place:

On the curb – Chloe Morrison-Clarke

We slip out of the car into the night. A concrete oasis in the middle of town. Streetlights peer over hazy slopes, downward. Someone’s blasting ‘Once when I was 7 years old’ on a crummy speaker, glitching out.
I balance myself onto the curb and taste diesel. I could climb over this low boundary and lie on the road. Ridges against the curvature of my spine.
She’s grasping at my hand, wrist guards pressing into my palm.
“By the end of tonight, you’ll be doing this with me.” Lazy joy follows her downwards. Sporadic. Skates weaving over dimpled concrete. Humming.
I tell her to go, show me what she can do.
Here, clouds are low to the ground, obscuring starry red embers. Rubies fizzle out under ripped sneakers.   I stay in the shadows, learning what weed smells like.
The guy in a purple hoodie rolls the skateboard back and forth with his right foot. Rolls his cigarette back and forth between his fingers. Later, he’ll half stomp it out on this concrete ashtray and help me learn to drop in. I’ll stagger up from the curb, I’ll smile at this stranger while he shouts encouragement from over the edge of the metal bar, I’ll notice that edge of sickly smoke as he leans in.
once I was seven years old, my father told me, go get yourself some
friends or
you’ll be lonely
My friend, now she’s hovering over a new precipice, steep, not steep enough for anyone else  to retain interest as she hovers like a hesitant moth. Calculating, strategising. It won’t take any hours for her.  Seconds to calculate the worst case scenario, and then she’s jumping or perhaps falling, skimming over the edge.
Into the blackness of the bowl.

Chloe MorrisonClarke is fifteen years old at Papanui high. She loves writing flash fiction, learning from other writers, her two dogs, and rollerskating.

2nd place:

Driving Lessons – Sophia Hall

The used car ads in the Sunday newspaper were thumbed through over Katya’s warm honey kasha by my grandfather. He craved the rumble of an engine, the glide of a Lincoln town car across the smooth avenues, cruising cool like a toucan, mango sweet tropical breeze. I am just sixteen and he might have taught me by now, guided my foot to the pedal and my hand to the revving keys, but he is no longer trigger and impulse, so here I am in the backseat of your mother’s old car, learning something other than how to drive. There, in that empty parking garage of greasy fast food wrappers, abandoned shopping carts, gasoline, and piss, I remember how you adjusted me like the rearview mirror with both hands. I let you. You lifted me up with your arms locked around my chest and shook me back and forth. The spare change in the cupholder clattered. My heart and lungs rattled in my ribs like quarters. One, two, three, four makes a dollar, they told me in elementary school. That the teasing from boys only proved your significance. That you should chase them around the playground dizzy until collision. Spin in the carousel, the centrifugal force tearing away your skin, round and round and round because isn’t this love?

Sophia Hall can be found wearing a frog bucket hat and Van Gogh socks. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Writing Awards, the Library of Congress, and several other organizations. In 2022, she won the Smith College Poetry Prize for High School Girls. Sophia is also the Art and Social Justice Fellow at Strathmore Arts Center and Woolly Mammoth Theater Company. Her haiku have been displayed in prominent locations in the Washington DC Business District.

See Sophia read her story here.

3rd place:

Golden Hour – Satori McCormick

Imagine we are married on a planet nobody has heard of. Imagine we are so isolated from the universe that we are classified as our own species. Imagine the gods of immigration are benevolent, and there are two perfectly spherical moons impressed into the sky, which is a dusky lavender hinting at distant sandstorms. The planet is silent. On the horizon black sands sigh and shift as though the land is sleeping.
We live in the tropics where the atmosphere is so intense and choking it is impossible for mortals to breathe. The trees are giant, thrice the volume and height of redwoods on Earth. We have a treehouse and carnivorous flowers pimple its exterior, and when we rise in the morning we can touch the sky and wash our bodies in its waters because we have evolved to become divine. And we are blessed, blessed, blessed.
In the smoky apartment that is as dense as a fever dream in Houston I pray to the immigration gods with incense and virgin silence, offerings. I am so wealthy in offerings, those transient things that were perhaps not even yours to begin with. It is four a.m. You are working. I will leave soon for my own shift.
There is a golden hour after I come home from work and you wake up from a deep precious slumber and we can lie in bed for fifty-five minutes before your next shift starts. We are too exhausted to talk. The golden bioluminescence of the evening floods our bedroom and at this moment I can close my eyes and imagine: we are on our own planet. I marry you on sleeping black sands. We don’t even know what time is, and therefore death will catch us by surprise.

Satori McCormick is a seventeen-year-old rising senior from Denver, Colorado. Her work has been previously published in 805 Lit + Art, The Augment Review, The Daphne Review, and more.


Danger, Danger! – Catriona Schoneveld

It was a stormy night. The clouds leaked water down on the treacherous scene.
Oskar was soaked to the skin, but he had to protect himself from the dreaded dinosaur.
“We have to split up!” Zack yelled through the rain.
The dinosaur stalked towards them, jaws ready, waiting to strike…
“Boys, did you put the cat in the shower again?”

Catriona Schoneveld is ten years old and lives in Weston, Oamaru, New Zealand.

See Catriona read her story here.

In Memoriam: Emily Branje – Sophia Wood

I kneel by the grave and close my eyes and suddenly see her. “Come on then!” she chuckles, “We don’t have all day.” She pulls me up into the night sky with a glowing hand. Then she jumps along the stars with elegance. Her dance shoes make tapping noises as she goes. I feel safe up here like nothing could ever hurt me.
I feel a whoosh and a rocket ship swerves past me. She jumps onto the rocket ship and catches my hand and we fly at the speed of light towards the moon where we jump off and walk to the milky way. When we get there we see a small building made out of small white stars. It’s a milk bar! She orders an ice chocolate and sits down on one of the bar stools. She smiles at me and her dimples show. I feel warm inside.
She finishes the ice chocolate and pays the alien running the stand with some stars. Then we’re off again running along the floating rocks and bouncing off dwarf planets. We arrive at Saturn and go round and round and round on the rings. Next we float up to Venus and roast marshmallows until they’re brown and gooey.
She turns to me with a sad look in her eyes and whispers, “It’s time for you to go.”  She hugs me and I hug back. I wait and then I open my eyes. I’m back on earth. “Until next time, my friend.” I smile with tears in my eyes and walk away.

Sophia Wood is eleven years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She enjoys writing and has been published in the NZ Poetry Box. She likes using her imagination in new and interesting ways. Basketball and drama also hold a place in her heart

One Day – Isabelle Lloydd

The bell rings at three p.m. exactly and Canada and I hit the ground running. We beat our opponents, Room 4, to the school gate first. It’s close.
“Thirty seconds!” Canada hoots.
Her enormous brown eyes blink at a hundred kilometres an hour, and Room 4 yell dumb names at us, and then we’re running again. Belching cars, barking dogs, people as flat as the black tarmac roads. The sameness sticks to me. I run faster. At the bridge that slumps over Amy’s River, we collapse at the edge. Amy was a drowned girl with a missing front tooth. We swish our shoes through the warm air and kick each other’s black soles. I stare down into the water, which is messy and silver. There are stories inlaid into the currents, carried out to the sea to be fish food. Canada kicks me again. The gaping hole between her two front teeth suddenly throws my stomach around.
“Yeah?” I say.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
“Wrong currency.”
“A franc?”
Solemnly I explain, “The bank closed. There was a fire. All the computers who wear ties perished.”
There’s a pause, and then Canada says crisply, “Well it’s lucky I took out the loan for my sailboat already.” She smiles at me, and I smile back.
“Where you sailing to tomorrow C?” I ask.
“I’m thinking the Netherlands.”
We started this in the first lockdown. Think of a place you dream of being and take it for your name. Choose a new one every day. We have to recycle them now, because the pandemic’s been toying with us for years. But the shine hasn’t rubbed off. My mum says you gotta deal.
“Any room in your sailboat for me?”
One day we’ll jump onboard and follow Amy’s River out to sea.

Isabelle Lloydd is a seventeen-year-old feminist based in Auckland. She would like to go a week without anyone discussing Covid-19 case numbers or society’s impending financial doom!

Short list:

Alphabet Love – Sophia Kim

We are the little letters in the alphabet strung together to make up words. We tried to mush ourselves together to build things between us. I am the letter C.
C for calling you every time you asked.
C for crying whenever you left me alone.
C for caring even when my heart could no longer care.
And you were so far from my letter C, where my body curled just so. You were the letter G. We looked so alike but I was missing the little curl of your tail.
You were G for—
G for going away.
G for giving up.
G for gone.
I was told that for us to build  words together we had to have a vowel in between, as if I weren’t enough because of our distance.
You brought in an O. So round and well put together, finished and so whole. She was me if I were fully complete and if the parts of me that were missing were filled in. She was O.
O for other.
O for outstanding.
O for overwhelming.
She was so overwhelming with her perfection as she filled in the gap between us and finally with her there, we built the word COG. Suddenly we were an object. A word which means a part of a machine.
You and I could not just be. C,G has distance because without distance we are nothing. There is no word in which we can be together.
 But you and her—
G and O make go and go is such a beautiful word to describe a beautiful action. If I were a little complete maybe it could’ve been you and me.

Sophia Kim is currently at the Orange County School of the Arts for writing. She loves to spend her time with her friends, family, and dog (Mocha).

Breaking Down – Sarah-Kate Simons

The engine is on its last legs and Dad’s instructions are breaking up over the phone. We share a look, knowing we’re going to have to stop.  You swear, because if we stop and you can’t get us started again, this barren hill doesn’t come with free jump leads. Sighing, you put on the brakes, though we’re going at snail’s pace. The power pole we’re headed for favours its left side and bears the blood of the last car that lost its way here. We’re dead on our wheels with nothing to fear, though you trim the mirror on the wood as the car hauls itself onto the verge, a dying whale slumping onto a spit somewhere like we saw on the news.
You take up the bonnet, look over its innards like a doctor in search of disease, and I rest my back on the sun-burned side of the Prius while the shadow of the pole creeps its way across the fields towards the road.
I investigate the crimson streaks of paint that bear witness to the crash of the last unfortunate. Someone must’ve met their end here on this forsaken rock, from the evidence of stuffed animals, knick-knacks and wilted aloe flowers. The grave gifts protect remains of the car the clean-up team missed: three hand-span long splinters gouged from the pole, foam from the seats, a twisted spear of rusted metal.
Our engine sputters and you cheer it on as it chokes and gags back to life and I abandon the scene of suffering. I give it a farewell glance out of pity as you put us in gear and the shadow of the pole spools out behind us into the road. At this angle I swear it looks like a cross.

Sarah-Kate Simons is a poet and writer from rural Canterbury. She is widely published online, in magazines, and in anthologies. She has placed in several poetry and writing competitions, her two most recent wins being the 2021 NZPS International Junior Haiku Competition and the 2021 HG Wells International Short Story Competition.

Closed Curtains – Sam Brophy

Whenever we go past his house he is always sitting on his couch. He sits in his striped pyjamas, staring at the wall. All his curtains are closed, and Justin and I must peek through the gaps. We’re not spying on him, not really. Just curious. We always try to figure out what he is doing. Maybe he’s daydreaming. Or maybe he’s sleeping with his eyes open. I asked my dad about him one time. Dad said that I shouldn’t go back into his property.
When I asked Mum she told me that he used to be young and carefree. She told us about how he used to be married when he was younger. We asked where his wife was. She said she had passed away. Justin wasn’t sure what passed away meant, but I told him when we went back to my room. It meant she had died. Justin seemed to feel sorry for the man, and asked my Mum if she had any photos of the man and his wife. She said she did.
So Justin and I took the photos and an old school book. We stayed in my room for a while then walked down the road to the old man’s house. When we got there I tried to leave but Justin grabbed my arm and held onto me. He was very determined. We gently laid the book down on the man’s dusty doorstep and, with trembling fingers, Justin rang the doorbell.
Then we scampered off down the road and out of sight.
Whenever we walk past his house he still sits on his couch. But there is a difference. He sits on his couch with the book Justin and I made for him in his lap, light pouring in through his open curtains.

Sam Brophy is a student from Saint Andrews College. He likes writing.

The Day the Jellyfish Came – Hannah Wilson

The jellyfish appeared overnight in ghostly umbrella uniforms, their eyeless faceless heads bobbing like hollow moons. They took over the shoreline, that body of water we all loved so dearly. The waves still lapped unfaithfully against the sand, but the day the jellyfish came, no children played there.
The ocean was under siege by a great bobbing army. I’m sure they took joy in it, those jellyfish, translucent skin cold and slimy to the touch. Their barbed sting was lethal, and although eyeless, faceless, they seemed to be watching us.
They took only one prisoner. She waded out into the water to greet them, my little sister. She thought they were waving when they raised their stinging tentacles – gun to her head. No one heard her scream. She slipped under silently and closed her eyes as if sleeping, head nestled on a salty pillow made of hollow moons.
We found her in the evening, parts of her still floating. Skin translucent, you could have mistaken her for one of them and thought that she could sting too.
The day after the jellyfish came, they all disappeared before sunrise. The shoreline was ours once more, but the jellyfish stole the silver moon slivers of my sister. Soon she too would be eyeless, faceless, skin flaking like snow. She would be one with the ocean. I imagined her heart still beating somewhere. Out of habit perhaps. Or because it had nothing better to do.
I sat on the edge of the hospital bed and pressed the salty sheets against my face. They took over her little body, those armies of malignant cells. Holding her hand, cold to the touch, I tried to remember a day when my sister was more like the sun.

Hannah Wilson is an eighteen-year-old high school student living in Wellington, New Zealand, who is passionate about creative writing, literature, and feminism. She is currently writing a mini thesis on feminist literature, as well as various creative pieces which aim to center the experiences of women.

Fig Newtons – Jordon Woolley

We took the cushions off the couch and built forts and ate Fig Newtons until our stomachs felt like they’d spill over. You braided my hair. I put yours in ponytails, my hands too stumpy to braid yet.
We whispered about the pretty girls at school, the jealousies we created for ourselves.
We talked about how the rest of the class got popcorn while we got yelled at for going to the water fountain two at a time.
We spent hours in that fort, days and weeks and months, until the cushions were put back and we’d aged ten years, sitting cross-legged before the TV, our faces frozen by blue light from our phones.
Me in my new old doc martens, my mom’s when she was our age—she’d never broken them in. You said there was something artistic about wearing old shoes, about reshaping the soles to tell a new story in the same boot. I laughed and shoved a Fig Newton in my mouth.
I biked home. Neither of us could drive yet. Our parents believed we weren’t ready. How to be independent when there was only ever you?
What would it have been like to build those forts alone—to eat Oreos instead of Fig Newtons because I wouldn’t have you to convince me to try one?
Maybe I never really wanted someone at all. Maybe I would know how to drive right now instead of riding my bike everywhere. Far away and too far until I lose the pillow forts and Fig Newtons and street names and sleepover sounds and you and me and us.
Maybe there never really was a you and me and us.
Maybe I never really liked Fig Newtons in the first place.

Jordan Woolley is passionate about theatre and creative writing and especially enjoys stream of consciousness writing, because it offers a deeper connection to thoughts and emotions, often in surprising ways.

Gone with the Mist – Atom Gush

Every winter, when the world grows cold, the mist rises up from the sea. And every winter, something comes out of that mist and takes something from us.
At first, it took things that no one really cared about. A set of drawers that had sat on the street for months. A stray cat that no one had known what to do with. An unwanted memory from our next-door neighbour. A broken bicycle that I had been meaning to fix, but knew I never really would.
When it took the homeless man at the end of our street, some people spoke up. But they were the minority, and soon no one mentioned him anymore.
Then it took Evelin’s favourite horse, Lord Throrpington’s stately home, Alastair’s eyesight, my little brother’s birthday.
Old Lady Sommers began leaving it offerings. It left them alone, but took her.
Eventually, it took our parents. My older sister wanted to look for them, but she felt responsible for looking after us.
“Now that they’re gone, we have to be strong,” she would say to us, hoping we hadn’t noticed her wiping the tears from her cheeks.
Then it took my brother. “I have to get them back,” said my sister, “I’ll get everyone back.”
I told her not to. They were surely dead, I said. But she was determined. I wished her luck and pushed her out into the mists in a battered rowboat with a few days’ food and a rusty harpoon.
Now, everyone but me is gone, taken by the thing or lost like my sister. It is autumn and I can see the mist forming over the sea. I have packed my things and said goodbye to my home.
I am moving on. I have to.

Atom Gush is a seventeen-year-old student from Wellington. Aside from short stories, they particularly enjoy reading and writing interactive fiction.

The Hole – Naomi Scissors

The stars gleamed outside my window as I padded out of bed on bare feet. “Hurry up,” my sister hissed. We tiptoed down the stairs and winced when the front door squeaked as we closed it. Exploring, we called it. Running around the forest on summer nights and then sneaking back into bed before dawn. The dewy grass tickled our feet as we made our way into the woods behind our house.
“What do you think we’ll find today?” my sister asked, “Fairies? Princesses? Witches?” She clamped her fingernails into my shoulder, laughing maniacally, and I shivered. “Look,” she pointed to a hole between two trees, “A rabbit’s den.”
But that wasn’t what it seemed to be. It was wide enough for a person to fit through, and there was no way to tell how deep. Peering into it revealed only blackness as far as I could see.
“I dare you to jump in,” she said.
I shook my head.
“Scaredy cat,” she grinned,  “I’ll go first, but you have to promise to jump in after me.” She stepped into the hole, and as she disappeared into the ground the earth moved and sealed the entrance behind her.
“Did you see that?” I called. “Are you okay? Can you hear me?”
There was no reply. There wasn’t even any sign that there had been a hole, or a girl, for that matter. I pounded on the ground, calling for help into the silent summer night. No answer from below or above. Finally, I began to dig.
I dug all night, still driving my hands into the dirt when the first streaks of light coloured the sky, but not my hands, nor the shovels from the garden shed, nor the bulldozer we hired in from the city could unearth her.

Naomi Scissors is seventeen years old and lives in Maryland, United States. She loves books, movies, and Kanye West.

My Grandmother’s Magical Measuring Tape in Her Mind – Rainie Tang

“Tick-tock, tick-tock,” the clock whispers, hoping nobody can hear it. This lounge is strangely quiet, no one knows if anyone has ever lived in here, no one dares to move or change anything as if they are in a museum.
As usual, the white roses are standing in the naughty corner because they rebel. Every now and then, they get punished by the snip snip of secateurs. White floral tears fall down, but my grandmother wipes them away callously, warning others to behave properly. A magical measuring tape is slowly wrapping up in my grandmother’s mind like a vine, forcing ten white silk cushions to squish together on the brown leather couch and make them sit at an angle of exactly 45 degrees. The diffident blinds are always afraid to open up and meet my frightening grandmother, afraid to meet the sun, afraid to meet the world.  The speakers sit on the brown carpet, wondering when they will be able to speak again. Those industrious hard wooden chairs stand right in front of the couch, protecting the cushions from everyone, including guests. My grandmother, like a controlling wizard, demands the books to stand for an ideal class photo. All books immediately straighten their backs and line up from the shortest to tallest.
In this lifeless lounge, everything is either symmetrical or identical. It is stuck in a rectangular world inside a rectangular frame, a stage of the battle between geometry, science, and comfort.

Rainie Tang is fourteen and currently lives in New Zealand. Her hobbies are reading and doodling. She adores the Harry Potter series, especially Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

A Picture of Me Taken from Another World – Julian Heidelberg

Your photography teacher assigned a project on ‘people from another world’, and since I’m gay, you asked me to model. I thought the secluded hills might be the perfect place for you to kiss me, but you’re hidden behind the camera; I’m posing in silence, aside from the rush of the wind against the grass.
The clouds are grey wolves chasing across the sky and splitting it in their wake. I wore a skirt so your teacher would know I’m gay and give you full marks for model selection. The cold air whips it up, though, and I have to Marilyn to keep it from flying too far up my goosebumped thighs. I want you to drape your Indiana jacket around me and heat my bare arms with your calloused hand. I smile, the cold wind drying my mouth. I think about us living in the suburbs, rose thorns safely contained by a white picket fence, the scent of you flipping pancakes for me in the morning. But that dream is of a rigid world I can never fully pass into.
The camera flattens me, like the ‘confident’ drag queens painting over a lifetime of terror or the ‘brave’ AIDS victims with foreheads wet from disease. I want to tell you that I’m more than a photography project, that I like to write and think and feel feelings for boys I shouldn’t. But that might cause your big smile to falter, and I think I’d rather stay in the grey hills with you and your camera, untransported to my world of worry. Your photo of me will be a glimpse of someone from another world, an alien with a lapse in dimension.

Julian Heidelberg is a sixteen-year-old author unfortunately living in South Florida. His works are generally about sexuality and gender expression. When he isn’t writing, he is acting in community theatre, reading classics, or spending time with his cat Potato Chip.

See Julian read his story here.

The Return of Nyctophobia – Emma Philips

The world is dead in the light. Hot chocolate burns my mouth. Mum smiles and places a bookmark in Narnia. Kissing my forehead, she flicks the light off.
The world is alive in the dark. The night is heavy on my chest. Rising and falling. The shadows in  the corner breathe. Stagnant air hangs around me. I  hope the world is still there in the morning. In the dark everything runs away.
In the dawn I am silly, naïve. My fears are jokes to my friends at school. I laugh like I’m being strangled. Tonight the book finishes. They go home and they are kids again, not kings and heroes. The light flicks off and I go into the darkness
where I am no longer an adult. I am a child again, imagining the corners are breathing. Hot air on my face. Aroma of garlic and meat in the air. Shadows leer and tentacles of  car headlights flash through the gap in the curtains. Please sleep take me
and it does. After Mum reads the first few pages of The Hobbit. Burn my mouth with scalding hot chocolate; I fall asleep to Bilbo leaving the shire.
Leaving everything I knew for this brave new world. My mouth is still burnt. This time with coffee, consumed in huge steaming cups to ward off the night. Caffeine only wards off sleep, nothing can stand against the dark.
Mum doesn’t read me the bit about the dragon. She worries it will give me nightmares. I sneak a look anyway. With a torch,
under the darkness of my covers. I remember when I read the end of  The Hobbit. I remember when I spent a night awake in the darkness reading about a  dragon. I wish I was a brave ten year old again.

Emma Philips lives in Ararua, which is frequently forgotten on maps of New Zealand, and attends Ruawai College. Art, writing, reading, and farm jobs take up most of her spare time.

Slow Song – Isabelle Lloydd

“Stay awhile, please.” Rusty eyes, bloodless palms, soft hair wilting in the warmth of blankets. Your face is corrugated in sleepiness. There’s a familiar, baggy smile tangled around your lips. I caught it on a camera once. You looked at it concretely and said, “Maybe I’ll grow into her someday.” Then you grabbed the callused lump of my thumb and made me press delete. “Okay. I’m staying. Let me text my mum.” We know our manners. You wake up your phone: ten percent battery. A picture of a tree ribbed in thick black crops of shadows from a dead early morning last winter. June, I think. A room we curl up in is indistinct. Softened. God handed me a plastic remote, and I found my way to pause, mute, the red rubber idea of power off. The corners of the furniture seem moulded smooth, and distance is melted, diluted, between us. Bookcase and curtains, the careworn yellow edge of the couch. Once, rows of houses and restrictions stood between us like the lines of an army. The lamp stutters. A second which I fail to catch in reddish brown palms. Let’s not burn “bright”. Let’s go unseen. And save our lives from the ravenous throat of the internet. Outside, the rain pours down and slathers the roof in a thunderous melody. I brush your temple. In the sign of the cross your fingers have numbly pressed its freckles for a lifetime. You have thousands of them. Beneath flammable polyester snowbanks: torch light, compact anecdotes. I sweep toast crumbs from a pillow. Let’s hibernate in a rubble of white, suspended in the amniotic fluid of night-time. Your laughter smells like fish and chips. And ketchup. I’m warm. I’ll forget about the cold the world’s been brawling with for a second.

Isabelle Lloydd is a seventeen-year-old feminist based in Auckland. She would like to go a week without anyone discussing Covid-19 case numbers or society’s impending financial doom!

Strawberry Sundaes – Catherine Ji

The summer of 1962 was a stifling one.
On Sundays we rode our secondhand bicycles down to Amanda’s Corner Drug Store. It was sweltering, the weather, the kind that stuck thighs to chairs and made you sweat through your clothes. On Sundays, we sat down with our sticky thighs and flimsy shorts, and ordered two massive strawberry ice cream sundaes.
I dug through the pocket of my holey jeans for 70¢, and came up short a nickel, as I always did. I turned to my side.
Will, with his thinned hair and dim blue eyes, gazed at me inquisitively.
I opened my palms, displaying my scuffed coins.
He sighed. “Aren’t you paying this time?”
I grinned sheepishly, “I’ll pay you back later.”
He sighed again, as he always did, and handed me a nickel, warm with the heat of his palm.
As we climbed up the too-high stools, and put our elbows on the counter like adults, he pulled his hat down. It was a wide-brimmed sun hat borrowed from his mother. It shadowed his face, but Will wore it to hide his patchy hair.
By November, when we visited him in the hospital, his hair was completely gone, and he was as pale as the strawberry sundaes we had, but with none of the sweetness. And by the time his illness took a turn for the worse, December’s torrential hail had begun.
Will died in the summer of 1963.
On Sundays I rode my secondhand bicycle down to Amanda’s Corner Drug Store. As always, I ordered two ice cream sundaes, rustling in my pocket for the extra nickel I always seemed to forget. But I stopped myself.
Instead, I counted out five dimes, exactly, for one chocolate sundae.
And began crying, suddenly, for all no good reason.

Catherine Ji is fourteen years old and lives with her parents and two sisters in San Diego, California. She is an avid reader and enjoys writing poetry and short stories. Catherine writes best on rainy days, with a cup of warm milk.

What They Told Me – Atom Gush

Don’t stray from the path, they said. It’s not safe, they said. So, of course, I did.
The path is marked with lamp posts. To keep away the darkness, they told me, to ensure you don’t get lost. Who lights them? I asked. They did not respond, just looked at me in silence. I think they pitied me. They could not understand why I wanted to know.
They also told me there would be things hiding and watching me in the ash-black trees. Do not look back, they said, keep your eyes on the path. What are they? I asked. Hideous things, unspeakable things, things with teeth, and too many eyes, and foul, whispering words. It is better if you do not see them, do not draw their attention.
They had told me not to waver, though the journey was long. We are trusting you with this, they said, leaving unsaid the fact that no one else was left to go.
I thought I saw movement beyond the lamps, but I am tired and hungry. I sit down, bones aching. Above, the clouds part, revealing a halo of stars. The thing in the shadows opens its eyes, two new stars joining the constellation.
Your safety is of utmost importance, they said, we do not want you to come to harm, they said. While they said this, they gave me supplies for my journey. Not enough, we all knew, but this too was left unsaid.
I stand, walk off the path and out of the light. The thing towers over me, but its eyes hold no malice, only curiosity, perhaps a little fear. It holds out its arm, grown over with moss and flowers, and offers me a fruit.

Atom Gush is a seventeen-year-old student from Wellington. Aside from short stories, they particularly enjoy reading and writing interactive fiction.

Where is Waldo right now?  – Abbi Kamalesan

Waldo is currently at home, staying safe because obviously there is a pandemic going on. However, Waldo and Wenda were traveling right before quarantine started, which means Waldo has not gone outside since Friday, March 13th, not even for a walk. Why, might you ask? Well, Waldo is a good Samaritan and cares for the people in his neighborhood and does not want to risk a thing. He has been away from his sister (who is quarantining at her house) and the rest of his family and friends. The loneliness of self-isolation is really getting to him. So much so that this morning he even wore this really old black and yellow striped shirt instead of his normal red and white shirt just like his nemesis, Odlaw. Over the last few days, he has been acting differently, not like the usual Waldo. He has changed a lot over the last six months, discovering things like social injustice and racial tensions all over the world. He has started to realize that the bright and happy world he lived in is no longer sunny. To answer your question specifically, Waldo is sitting in his comfy rocking chair in his home library, reading a book titled Where’s Waldo. Like all of us, he has lost himself and the world he once knew. Frankly, Waldo is facing an identity crisis and is trying to find good in all the bad. It will take him time and lots of Where’s Waldo books, but he will get through it, just like the rest of us.

Abbi Kamalesan is a grade-ten student from Oakville, Ontario, Canada. She enjoys creative writing and has written numerous blogs and short stories. Besides school and writing, Abbi loves volunteering and has completed nearly 500 community service hours to date. She also enjoys outdoor activities like hikes, and making various art and crafts.

Long list: 

Adventuring, Pretending – Khristina Cabrera

Let’s pretend that we’re young again; I’ll tell you what we would do. We would wake in the wood, alive with the possibility of possibility itself, telling time from the position of the sun in the sky. We would have nothing but the clothes on our backs and the watercolour sky over our heads, alight with the sun’s path. Where are we going, you would ask with a laugh, to which I would say that we are headed nowhere and everywhere. Midas’ touch on the grass and the trees, turning all to glittering gold before our eyes, leading us to a creek that has been untouched by man thus far. We would be adventurers on new land, Francis Drake or Meriwether Lewis, swinging into the water, which would not be icy but warm enough, slick against our skin, dripping pearl-like off the ends of your golden hair.
After visiting the creek we would walk, no particular direction in mind, going wherever our feet would take us. During this walk we would discuss life and the dreams we have in mind—and at this point we would pretend that we were not older but still full of youth, capable of even having dreams. The trees nearby would curl their branches towards us as if listening to the universe’s secrets as spoken by our languid mouths. What useless secrets we would share! Our hands would be joined, because had yours been by your side, your knuckles would have kept brushing against mine.
Afterwards we would finally burst out of the wood, onto a hill that overlooks the sea. You would drop my hand, smile, and say that we should do this again sometime.
I would smile back. Yes, I would answer, whether the adventuring or the pretending, we should do it again.

Khristina Cabrera is seventeen years old and from New Jersey, USA. In her free time, she enjoys watching reality shows and listening to music. Her work has appeared in Love Letters, fingers comma toes, Cathartic Youth Literary Magazine, Agapanthus Collective, and others.

The Bean/Pumpkin/Alien Potato – Savarna Yang

The seed is brownish, lumpy. Medium sized. I say it’s a bean. Mum shakes her head and votes plump pumpkin seed. My sister insists it’s a tiny alien seed-potato.
We decide to plant it. We find a pot and fill it with dirt. Carefully I poke the bean/plump pumpkin seed/alien potato into the earth.
We wait. And wait. A week passes. Then two. We’ve almost given up when a bean/pumpkin/alien potato shoot appears in the box.
The shoot sprouts two small leaves. I bet Mum $10 that we’ll be eating beans for dinner by next month. She laughs and says she’s banking on pumpkin pie in autumn.
The shoot turns into a leafy plant. My sister researches the characteristics of alien potatoes.
The plant flowers: delicate purple bells with orange stamens. Mum is deflated; she’s never seen a pumpkin vine like this. I try to convince myself that beans always have purple flowers. My sister smirks: she has no doubt it’s an alien potato.
We wait in anticipation for the plant to fruit/root. One morning I notice three strange, yellow growths at the plant’s base. We all crowd around. The truth is about to be revealed!
My sister grabs a trowel – she wants to dig her potatoes up. I step in front of her. Not happening. I reach for one of the bulbous yellow fruitish/rootish…things. Like they’re magnetised, Mum and my sister do too.
My fingers brush something smooth but slimy. Suddenly the air seems to shimmer. My head swirls. I squeeze my eyes shut, hoping I won’t be sick. After a few seconds the feeling disappears and my eyes flick open again. My sister and mum have vanished. In their place are a giant orange pumpkin and a very bizarre potato.

Savarna Yang is fourteen and lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin.

Bird’s Eye View – Ewan Hamer

Every day I see the beach below. The blue waves collide with the golden sand. I see green trees, stretching far inland. I see crabs, dancing along the bank. I see my kin, gliding low and high, searching for their next meal. Then, there are the newcomers.
Every day I see the beach below. The newcomers sit on it. They make lights brighter than the sun, even in the darkest of hours. They sit around the flame, weaving tales and telling jokes in an incomprehensible language. They bring animals from the inland, eating them after putting them above those flames.
Every day I see the beach below. I watch the newcomers as they get on their strange crafts, made of the wood from the trees. They step onto these crafts and let the waves carry them away. Sometimes they’re small, other times they can carry hundreds.
Every day I see the beach below. I see people getting on and off more than ever. They always disappear into the inland, into those stone buildings. Sometimes they’re friendly to each other, trading food and strange materials. Other times they’re aggressive, fighting and killing.
Every day I see the beach below. Battles have been fought on it and blood has been spilt. Strange contraptions have come and gone, constantly replacing each other. Overtime they went from sailing the sea to sailing the clouds. Soaring, above even me. But now, they use the beach to put things they don’t want. They drain old things into the ocean. They throw new shiny stuff all along the coast. They sometimes throw food, even if they don’t realize it.
Every day I see the food below. Sometimes I have to steal it from the people, other times they just leave it there.

Ewan Hamer is a sixteen-year-old student from New Zealand. Ewan has been passionate about writing and storytelling since he was young, and hopes to carry that forth far into the future.

The Boatman’s Short Visit – Gaudencia Villanueva

The wooden door shut and I immediately knew I was not alone in the room. They were sitting on the study table. I grinned and sipped my barako coffee. “So…” I placed the mug beside them. “How many passengers have you had today?”
“When will you stop teasing me for being a boatman?”
I chuckled. “My mates are outside, by the way. You might want to greet them good night.”
“They’d surely freak out if they see me. And they’d lose it if I greet them good night. And you, you’re supposed to be scared.”
“Oh. Is this about the hooded cape, the sickle, and the face mask with a bone design?” I shrugged my shoulders. “It’s not that I’ve seen you myself.”
“Don’t you want to know what I look like?”
I lay down on the sleeping mat, my arms my pillow. “There’s no use doing that. You don’t look like anything. I’m more curious as to why they gave you sickle when your job is to row the boat.”
They laughed and shook their head. “A sickle, really? Maybe it’s supposed to be my oar,” they joked. The room then fell into eerie silence, the air leaden. I sighed then chuckled. “At least Emily said you’re kind…”
“Did she?..”
“I believe she did. Didn’t you ask her when you sent her off?”
They were about to say something when a loud bang cut them off. My housemates hit the door fourteen times before I opened it. It revealed their creased foreheads.
They passed beside my housemates casually and the latter didn’t notice.
“You’re talking with yourself again,” my housemates said in unison, troubled with my state, but I couldn’t pay enough attention. All I could think of is how I forgot to ask when will they visit again.

Gaudencia Villanueva is sixteen years old and lives in the Philippines.

The Building – Anji Sharrock

It’s been a month since Christmas, and it’s a little past 1:30 a.m. I’m in a car, no idea what’s happening. My aunty and uncle are in the front and my cousins and I are in the back. Everyone’s silent. Why does this happen to me? I got woken up a few minutes ago, but I know where we are going. The car is still silent. Even though it is only fifteen minutes, the drive seems so long. A ton of scenarios flood my mind. I don’t want to imagine any of them. My aunty is crying, my cousins are hugging me.
I know what happened but I don’t want to acknowledge it. I knew it would happen but not today, not this week, not this month, not this year, not even this decade. I hate it here. Why is life so unfortunate and unfair? We get there, walk up to the building slowly. It is a beautiful and starry night sky. My aunty is hugging me now. We walk into the elevator.
Ding—the doors slide open. We are on the highest level of the building. We are greeted by the nurse attendants. I look at my mother, and she looks tired. She’s been crying. Everyone in the room is now crying, including me. Why, why, why? I don’t feel anything. I’m just crying because of the people around me. I take his ring, from his left hand and put it through my golden necklace which was once his.

Anji Sharrock is thirteen years old and likes writing stories. She attends Huanui College.

A Filmmaker’s Dream – Dina Miranda

The homestead is an island heirloom in sea fields of wheat, white in the winter, else a delirious grey. The steader is a lonely son with hair the same; he kicks snow like foam off the ground and the old television hesitates like a twig about to snap. The porch sways in landlocked westerlies. Rifle warm by the bedside for his or a straying guest’s head, just in case, he says. He lets the pigs have their slop first, cores the apples himself, picks the night rain’s worms out of the trough. A film is on. Sea-legged and scurvy-toothed fakes with holes for eyes, the girl is saved, the producers live to see another day. How his mother cried when the fresh camera replaced the bills suffocating in the tobacco jar; how her tears dried when an heir’s tethering promise replaced the empty vow of fame. The word remains tied, the familial knot taut fast in angst. Hear a hollow shutter click—a muffled trigger in sea wind. How the first fruit goes to the worms.

Dina Miranda is a seventeen-year-old Filipino-American high school student from Southern California, USA. Anything involving words has intrigued them from a young age, from reading to spelling to, recently, writing. Presently, you can find them knitting or listening to all sorts of music.

Genetics – Sophia Hall

My mother weaved the wheat fields blossoming beneath the Caucasus mountains into my flax hair. I am a museum exhibition curated by magpies: sunflower seed carcasses, my grandfather’s crooked nose and protruding ears, crescent scars, snapdragons opening and closing like giant St. Bernard mouths. I broke my left arm three times. There is an impact on the earth where bone met dirt. I count my brother’s freckles under anaemic light, blood streaming onto snow, half moons of currant. I am falling, tossed overboard, rain sinking teeth into skin. I pick at the bumps on my chin, unrooting, erupting. Asleep under an ash blanket for millennia. Wake up, the man shines a flashlight in my eyes, the clock glows 4 a.m., there are sirens outside. My mother plays Uno in her hospital gown, reversing the depression with lithium pills. She comes back two weeks later,
I stay awake chanting кров кипить (blood boils) thrown under the waves of the briny Atlantic. Womanhood is a staircase winding x chromosomes entangled in bedsheets, so I stare at Buttons by Carl Sandburg because I once met that sunny man, shook his blond hand, pretended that he wrote poetry for me, that I kissed his cheek backstage, an ensemble girl giving status, never taking any for herself. The peonies bloom for one month in May, so sit on the brick and bury yourself until they wilt. Redemption comes from tears and pleading and then a bowl of cut up fruit. Open the window. Let the chill air sweep in and the rain patter gently. Peel the skin off a grape, exposing the inside, a quahog, a soft tongue, the womb and the blood. Remember.

Sophia Hall can be found wearing a frog bucket hat and Van Gogh socks. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Writing Awards, the Library of Congress, and several other organizations. In 2022, she won the Smith College Poetry Prize for High School Girls. Sophia is also the Art and Social Justice Fellow at Strathmore Arts Center and Woolly Mammoth Theater Company. Her haiku have been displayed in prominent locations in the Washington DC Business District.

See Sophia read her story here.

The Girl Across the Street – Jessica Hurrell

One day, I was walking in the park, and I saw a girl walking her dog. Her long, blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail and the curls reached halfway down her back. She wore black rugby shorts and a light purple jersey even though it was a cold winter’s day. Her blue eyes sparkled as she craned her head up to look at the sky.
She pointed at a seagull flying through the air. Her dog barked and jumped up, no doubt trying to catch it. The girl patted him on the head and walked farther down the street. She walked so purposefully. Her long stride made her look like she was in a hurry. But she wasn’t. I knew this because every so often, she would look up and point at the sky. Then her dog would catch up to her and try to see what she could see.
She was looking at a cloud. To me, it looked so majestic. The setting sun behind it made it look like a golden puffball. But when I looked back down at the girl, her grin had disappeared, replaced with a slight wobble in her lips. Her eyes betrayed everything. The bright blue colour seemed to fade, and with it, her expression changed. Suddenly, she bolted to catch up to her fleeing dog. Soon, she had rounded a corner and disappeared.

Jessica Hurrell is a twelve-year-old homeschooler from Christchurch, New Zealand. She loves to read and write and is currently working on her first novel. She enjoys every Saturday morning at Write On.

See Jessica read her story here.

Good News Comes in Postcards – Denika Mead

The rap on the door shattered the quiet Sunday morning. Lily froze. Her heart sped up, racing like a frantic horse.
She shook her head. It would be the postman. Maybe with a postcard. Good news came in postcards. “Excited for you to meet your new baby niece…Your uncle is recovering well from his broken leg…Looking forward to visiting soon.”
Yes, good news came in postcards. It would be a postcard. She couldn’t even think about the other possibility.
Lily forced herself to stand and walk to the door. Her body grew cold and numb, and every step seemed to take forever, as if she was walking through water.
Each day, the death toll climbed higher and higher as the conflict worsened. But Sam’s last letter had assured her that he was far from the action. That they would win before he even had to pick up a gun.
Her hand clenched on the door handle. A postcard. It would be a postcard from her husband, telling her he was on his way home.
She took a shaky breath and opened the door. Good news came in postcards. It would be a postcard.
It wasn’t.

Denika Mead is eighteen and lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She has an unrelenting passion for fantasy and dystopian writing. She is the author of the Royal Orchid series and The Last Kingdom. She is currently working towards the New Zealand Diploma of Writing for Creative Industries at Whitireia.

See Denika read her story here. 

The Great Soup-Off – Ella Buchner

“Soup!” I called out. It was a cold, snowy winter day, and nobody could say no to my mesmerising soup. Today was a normal day just like any other, until…
“No thanks,” said my annoying little brother Alex, “I made my own soup.”
After his somewhat confident statement, everyone rushed to try Alex’s soup, even me. It tasted like a bowl of old wall paste. It was so bad I even gagged! Suddenly I realized, I’m not letting my evil brother who I know is a rodent steal my thunder.
“If you think your soup is so great then why don’t you try and sell it?”
“Fine!” shouted Alex, “Loser never cooks soup again!”
And the soup contest was on.
At first, nobody came to buy from us, even though we lived on the busiest street in the neighborhood. Of course, lots of cars passed, but we can’t serve it to them, they’re busy driving. I got bored so I smelled my spicy, delicious soup, filled with cauliflower, squash, and potatoes, somehow unserved. Alex smelled his too. Finally, a customer came. First, she took my soup. Ha ha! Sorry Alex! But then, she took Alex’s.
“Why did you take both soups?” I asked.
“They both look delicious! Duh!” She replied.
We stared at each other. Is it possible for both of us to have good soup?
I looked at Alex.
“Why did you make soup?” I asked Alex.
“Because you did.” He replied. “You always make this amazing soup, and everyone loves it, so I wanted to be loved too.”
“You are loved, Alex, and even if nobody else does, I love you.”
“Thanks. Let’s call it a draw?”
“Sure. Let’s go home.”
So, in our large, blue parka jackets we headed to our nice, warm home.

Ella Buchner is ten years old and lives in Maryland near Washington, DC. One of her favourite hobbies is creative writing, and she’s been making stories since before she learned to write. Other hobbies she has include reading, cooking, and softball. Her favourite genre to write about is realistic fiction.

igneous – Anika Anjali Lippke

there was a pop and a bang and the streets lit ablaze.
the sky burst with gunpowder screams and magnetic color that trickled and snapped until they each met their individual ends. among them were the new births and old smoke that lingered like whiffs of a vanished soul.
enveloped in the sounds and the sparks he didn’t think he’d be okay once he pushed past their midst. his skin was on fire and he didn’t think he’d be okay once it all liberated him. his eyes and his skin had gone glassy with metallic sparks and translucent fluidity and he would not be okay once that brittle layer of glassy substance tightened around his skin and lost all of that lovely transparency.
once he hardened and all of that combustion reformed him into something solid and ultimately tangible once more.

Anika Anjali Lippke is a sixteen-year old novelist and a student of Newark Academy in Livingston, New Jersey.

Knowing Jude – Rhea Elavia

“Jude” she said, an undeniable panic whispered through the syllables. “Jude” she said, a trepidatious grief tethered to the end of the word.
“Jude” she said, a haunting tone.
“Jude” she said.
There it was, as it had always been, the look in the eye of someone who knew. Someone who had seen; not understood but rather feigned the equivalent of it.
“Jude.” The way she said it, different to anyone else’s. Holding tons, questioning  – Atlas holding the world, careful not to be tipped, cautious and pained.
A realisation.
“Jude.” She said, a muted tone void of any enchantment. The magic had dispersed, the illusion lifted.
“Jude” she said, trying to hurt it. Scratching, clawing, desperately trying to hold it as if that would take away any of her doubts. As if holding my name would change the truth, make it hers, crafting to her own desire.
Moments passed, the letter crumpled between her fingers – making her mark.
“Jude” she said, her knees betraying her.
Spluttering breaths, irregular sequences of heavy gasps and silent sobs; anger then panic, then guilt then pain. Interrupted by hopeful glances, her mind convincing her otherwise, sheltering her from consumption, momentarily deluding her conscious to think it wasn’t real… Then it started again, spluttering breaths, sequences of heavy gasps and silent sobs, anger then panic then guilt and pain.
Another moment passed.
“Oh, Jude.”
This time it was more for her comfort then mine.  She was nursing her own wounds, reigning in her pain, tucking it in to a box, pushing back the escaping edges, hastily shoving it, rushing to confine it back to where it came from.
She couldn’t.
She was left with the desolate silence of knowing.
The consuming, irreversible silence of knowing.

Rhea Elavia is a seventeen-year old student from Auckland, New Zealand. When she isn’t in school, she enjoys reading literary fiction and entering creative writing competitions—especially on cold, windy mornings.

Memories Brown with Mud – Isabelle Lloydd

When we walked the rocks, you always wanted to hold my hand. We explored their thick, clumsy forms in wellies, our hair tangled into convoluted knots by the onshore wind. You had spotty white palms. They were like bird’s eggs, mottled but smooth and soft as clay. My play dough friend. We moved at a hop, a clamber. Algae and refrigerator cold pools. Too deep in winter’s throes to swim. The rocks went on forever, so that the horizon was lumpy and spiky, hefting a thousand shoulders and spines. You said oddly, scrambling everything you said, that they were the bastard children of sleeping giants, a thousand Hagrids which Medusa turned to stone. When my dad made out our indistinct shapes returning for dinner, he wrecked his hair and threw us into the shower. We were like ship hulls, encased in mud from boot to hairline. Then he unearthed voluminous plastic bags from a cupboard and gave me the scissors to cut out holes for our necks and arms. Each plastic crater was a gaping smile without teeth or tongue, and lips as thin as a knife’s edge. The next day we got up before the sun and straggled out again. Our hands were woven together like flax artwork, and we were immersed in milky, non-composable dresses. The clouds were graphite sketches laced to the cliffs, and you looked shapeless and ghostly, your smile pale against the thunderstorm of rocks. I told you that my mum must have drawn this weather for me, because her hands were always stained pencil silver. Thank you for not laughing at me. She once said she would capture my face on a piece of paper, and after she’d caught it, I asked her to give my face back. I don’t remember if she did.

Isabelle Lloydd is a seventeen-year-old feminist based in Auckland. She would like to go a week without anyone discussing Covid-19 case numbers or society’s impending financial doom!

Nighttrain – Hannah Wilson

Most nights actually a bus, a hint of cotton candy vape juice soaked into the fuzzy patterned seats. A mask doesn’t stop the nicotine and propylene glycerol molecules shooting up my nostrils. It doesn’t stop the stale stench of cigarettes that embeds itself in the fabric of a coat, a pair of ripped jeans, the cold folds of human skin.
It’s the guy in front of me. Men all around me. That makes me hoarse, makes me choke. Though I am not the one who stamps on the amber butts every evening, after I have lit them with my fiery distaste for life. Even though all I really inspire is the recycled air trapped between the rugged red terrain of my lips and sickly warm double-layered cotton.
Later, we’ll pull up close against the curb in a street of derelict factories and office buildings and there’ll be another nameless middle-aged woman with a painted face to slump into the empty seat behind me, the cracks of her deep trenches filled in with muddy foundation.
Whose blonde-in-a-bottle hair helps her forget the grey scale quality of life. Whose presence relieves the malaise of being trapped in a bus brimming with balding men. And whose cheap Chemist Warehouse perfume helps mask the bouquet of vape juice and cigarettes that has found a new home in the folds of my Margaret Atwood hoodie.

Hannah Wilson is an eighteen-year-old high school student living in Wellington, New Zealand, who is passionate about creative writing, literature, and feminism. She is currently writing a mini thesis on feminist literature, as well as various creative pieces which aim to center the experiences of women.

Our Songs – Olivia Glaysher

Thud, tap. Thud, tap. Step in time to the beat. Thud, tap. Spot the neighbour waving. Thud, tap, stop. Music paused, headphones out. “Hi Mr Dubrick!” you call, grinning and waving. “Hello, Lucy,” he says, warm smile lighting up his face. “What song is it today?” “‘Driver’s License’, by Olivia Rodrigo.” “Ooh, I haven’t heard that one, I’ll listen to it and tell you how I liked it tomorrow, how about that?” You shoot him a thumbs up. Thud, tap. Headphones in, music unpaused. Thud, tap, Thud, tap.
Then the world goes dark.
Scritch, squeak. Scritch, squeak. Un-cap marker. Scritch, squeak. Scritch, squeak. Hold the sign up to the window. Big purple marker letters reading “Hi Mr Dubrick! The song for today is ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ by Elvis Presley! Hope you enjoy!” You sink into the squashy armchair, waiting for a response. Hearing a tap, you walk over to the window. Scrawly green marker letters read “Hello, Lucy! Great choice of song, that was my favourite when I was twelve.” Scritch, squeak. Scritch, squeak. Re-cap marker. Hold smiley face up to the window. Scritch, squeak. Scritch, squeak.
Then the sky falls.
Beep, murmur. Beep, murmur. Shuffle down the hallway. Beep, murmur. Find room 307. Beep, murmur. Open the door. “Hi Mr Dubrick,” you whisper, “how are you doing?” “As well as can be, considering,” he says, a sad half-smile crossing his face. “But anyway, what’s the song for today?” “‘Surface Pressure’, by Jessica Darrow,” you say, “here, I’ll play it for you.” “Awesome choice of song, Lucy,” he says, “I’ll listen to that one again!”
But he never gets a chance.

Olivia Glaysher is fourteen years old and lives in Auckland. She loves writing, playing underwater hockey, and hanging out in her school library.

A Perfect Night – Ashley Malkin

Mama said we’d be going home by ten, but midnight came and went, and we were still lounging on the linoleum waiting for the evening’s fever-sun to break. Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to leave, and so I didn’t. Aunts and uncles gossiped high above us kids on padded barstools, far away in an echelon of their own. Their beehive hairdos and throaty laughs got stuck in the humid air before they could float down to us, so squirming cousins had to guess at the latest mangled scandals. None of us knew the subjects of these tales, they might as well have been fairytale characters. A niece’s aunt’s brother was a better opener than a once upon a time.
When the little ones tired of hairdresser tales, I shepherded them outside into the crisp night air to look at the stars and pretend not to see the older ones hiding cigarettes in their palms. The little fenced-in yard had a different feel under the moon. Too young for the smoke of adolescence and too old for the games of the children, I sat idly by and tried not to muddy my proper dress that Mama had bought me only a week prior.
We remember it as a perfect night, even though it wasn’t. But the aunts and the uncles and even some of the cousins are long dead now, so who’s to correct us? Family photo album smiles are a curious type of lie. Mnemonics, really, a hint at the past, but never the full story. It’s funny how you only love those smiles once you can never return to them.

Ashley Malkin is a fifteen-year-old writer from Connecticut. Her work has been honored by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Connecticut Writing Project and the Lillian Butler Davey Awards. She loves cognitive science and curling up on the beach with a good book.

Person, Plural – Chloe Costa Baker

We are watching them and we are wondering if they will notice that we are watching them. We are trying to set them on fire with the intensity of our magnifying-glass gaze. We need them to burn too, desperately, as we have since September.
We have been wounded before—accidentally, or so we pretended. Even seeing him in person for the first time left a scar. Suddenly there he was in the library, no longer just pixels on a Zoom screen. As if searching for answers, the zipper on my shoe sliced into my calf, leaving a red dotted line like the one under a misspelled word.
That was when he—the kaleidoscope—multiplied, refracting, while I—the mirror—divided, fracturing. He (they) brimmed with possibility, with an elusive beauty that shifted and changed and rearranged with every passing second. I (we) suddenly became conscious of our many possible selves; our myriad flaws and desires were the cracks that warped each fleeting image.
Over eight long months, we accumulated tiny moments: glimpses in the hallway, high fives and “good work, Chloe” during track practice, their hand in ours for some inane Spanish class game. We treasured these tokens despite their lack of worth; we saved the memory because we forgot to savor their skin.
Now, we implore, so as not to implode. Notice us. Come to us. Be close to us. How did we overlook them for an entire year of online Spanish? How did we not always ache for their body to be next to ours, on ours, inside of ours, filling us with—
He looks up, his eyes meeting mine for an instant. I quickly look away.

Chloe Costa Baker is seventeen years old from Swarthmore, PA, United States.

Spoonfed – Sophia Hall

Behind the stucco walls where I crouch with a handful of salami saved from breakfast for a handful of fur and whisker my grandmother guts a fish, a skeleton exposed. Her knotted fingers peel away the white flesh, tucking each strip in a sheet of egg, white flour and hot oil while crooning a lullaby. In a stained apron and woven slippers, she strips a thick cabbage leaf by leaf, laying the wrinkled heart bare. Sweat beads from the dill and parsley hanging on the ceiling. Stirring the room with her hand-carved ladle, beet laden borscht boils on the wood-burning stove.
Crammed beside individually packaged Kraft cheese and stacked red-topped Tupperware, a silver stew pot sloshes in the white refrigerator. The gas stove ticks into flame. I stir the beets and onion and beef, bubbles rising. Through the window I watch the clouds, like a flock of geese, scatter. I dollop sour cream into the blue-china bowl. The soup runs red like the blood passed down mother to daughter. With each mouthful dribbling down my chin I become braids and stockings and mischief again, stealing scraps for the strays. My grandmother appears, taking the spoon. She is as large as Baba Yaga’s chicken legged house, and I am her egg. She blows on the broth and feeds my waiting, open mouth, saltiness in my swallow.

Sophia Hall can be found wearing a frog bucket hat and Van Gogh socks. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Writing Awards, the Library of Congress, and several other organizations. In 2022, she won the Smith College Poetry Prize for High School Girls. Sophia is also the Art and Social Justice Fellow at Strathmore Arts Center and Woolly Mammoth Theater Company. Her haiku have been displayed in prominent locations in the Washington DC Business District.

See Sophia read her story here. 

the strawberry moon – Elise D

a bright pink moon rising in June tells spring’s farewell and the welcome of summer. a scoopful of strawberry ice cream with marks from where little fingers have been, that milky strawberry taste i’m craving when the weather starts to change. what would the ripened moon taste like? i will set off for a flight between the start and end of infinity to reach the ruby moon, which gets sweeter and sweeter every year. i wish i could float between the darkness and the glowing moon, swing a rope on it like a cowboy, taste and make it as my own. i wish i could sail the pink surface of the moon, the sweet smell of cotton candy rushing into my nose, my mouth watering. the fluttering cherry blossom petals dance a  waltz,  a sign of welcoming. i wish i could hang out with the white, fluffy rabbit on the moon, sit for a while at a red and white table, and make cookies and bread together. i take a step toward the holed moon, just like an astronaut. a piece of soft low music turned on like a charm makes my heart hum, leading me one step closer. like a lolly that has been tossed onto a navy carpet, making me pick it up to taste it again. like the nightlight i turned on every night before going to bed, mine from my childhood, a bulb of hope hanging above the sailor-blue sky. between the moon and me, we build a small but solid bridge—i’m  in front of it ringing the door of dreams i’ve been looking for.

Elise D is fourteen years old and lives in Washington, DC, Unites States.

Tug – Chloe Morrison-Clarke

Spit salt slick back bun to catch landmarks. Just enough to escape the wrath of the ocean, dragging you back, watching as your hands trail through dense sand. Drag a board, aching. Salt lining your throat. Every breath is a culinary masterpiece.
Catch a breath, catch a wave, every glance is an imperfect blue.
Go with the water, you are not a fighter you are a survivor shrouded in the folds of a murky canvas. Green, like your eyes.
In water I am airless, smooth spinning in bubbles splash crash submerge skin torn and damaged, skin smooth supple and I, I am not the nostalgic remains of an uncovered pool, cocktails chocolate chips and haircuts, cut grass. I am
glassy submerged in rolling destruction, raw, provoked and ferocious, or I could be sunset pictures and eggshell blue. I am driftwood with towels draped over onto sugar cinnamon sand, I am salt stinging in cuts, I am refreshing, a glance of sunburn, drifting on the outer edges. Or perhaps I am defined by the
tug of panic when tides tug harder, perhaps
I shall become a warning not to surf alone, because
I am a fool.

Chloe MorrisonClarke is fifteen years old at Papanui high. She loves writing flash fiction, learning from other writers, her two dogs, and rollerskating.

We all meet “A Boy From Florida” once in our lifetime – Harsimran Kaur

At 31.1048° N, 77.1734° E, I saw a boy at Dominos from Florida who was called “A Boy From Florida.” At 7:13 pm, I fell in love with him as he talked about Scott Pilgrim Vs the Rest of the World and wisdom and the theory of ingenuity with another boy whose face I couldn’t fathom as my eyes were set on him and the way he talked about books and movies and poetry. Standing in the queue, I thought about the home we’ll build in Jacksonville, the spiders we’ll catch, a dog named Alpha we’ll pet and the pancakes we’ll try. Within fifteen minutes, my pizza was ready so I had to leave him and now it’s five days since I saw him and we’ll never meet again.

Harsimran Kaur is a seventeen-year-old high school senior from India. She works as an editor-in-chief for The Creative Zine. Her creative writing pieces appear in Jellyfish Review, Big Windows Review, BULL, Milk Candy Review, Parenthesis and elsewhere.

Webs – Priya Bartlett

She stares at a weathered canvas. Ashy dreams. The dust. Dark room. Cobwebs. Silver hair. Her shaking fingertips stretch forward like the spiders who pirouette their webs from brush to brush. The easel harder to reach. A stone pillar, frozen in an upright state. Two newspaper clippings.
…golden lion… award… famous… artwork wowing millions…
…stroke… world renowned… ended career… no chance of recovery…
She tries to recall the redback she once painted. Fluid. Graceful. Brazen. Hanging from snapdragon skulls. How it felt to spin colour across the cloth. How it felt to trap silk on the page. Webs in the rain.

Priya Bartlett is thirteen years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, dancing, and singing.

Judges’ comments:

General remarks from guest judge Jack Remiel Cottrell

The forty-two stories making up the long-list were all worthy contenders—congratulations to all the entrants for making my job very hard! As I read through them, I looked for deftly-handled prose, solid word-choice, interesting ideas, and good endings.

The genres ranged from the surreal to the literary, with comedy, horror, prose poetry and strict narrative all showing up. One thing I found particularly notable was the number of stories which featured the characters explicitly playing pretend. I guess when technology is so ubiquitous and you’re stuck inside all the time, pretending with your friends becomes the new ideal.

What the winning and commended entries have in common is that they all took risks. Risks with language, subject, and form. While on very different topics, each came at the idea of flash fiction with a different focus, and used that to craft effective, interesting, and beautiful stories.

Placing stories

On the Curb (first place) grabs the reader from the first sentence then keeps them hooked with imagery at once both natural and unusual. A “concrete oasis” should be an oxymoron, but in those two words the setting is laid out in front of us. It is also a fantastic example of layering in flash fiction—glitchy song lyrics written in half lines, giving the reader the same experience as the narrator. The use of a jump in time through the middle of the story works well, tying the moments and characters together, and the ending is particularly strong, with a solid, vivid image and a definite finish to the piece.

Driving Lessons (second place) is a compact piece of prose, covering a lot of ground in a very small space. Laid out in one block paragraph, this story captures myriad senses, imagery, and memory that overwhelm the reader as they do the narrator. The innocence of childhood experiences—counting change in primary school, carousel rides, learning to drive—is met with a sharp attention to detail that is intimate in nature but distanced by delivery—you adjusted me like the rearview mirror with both hands. Every phrase propels the story forward, so not a sentence is wasted—one of the challenges when writing small.

Golden Hour (third place) has quite a wonderful melding of speculative and realistic elements, and through the entire piece there is a dreamlike, wishful quality. It is a story that improves on a second or third reading, one of those pieces of very short fiction that is worth taking your time with as a reader—to think about the different connotations of time, the nature of gods, and the various meanings that the word “alien” can bring to mind.

Danger, Danger! (commended) shows just why you should never try to stretch out a story past its natural end point. At fifty-four words, this was the shortest story on the long list, but it didn’t need anything more. The last line is a great kicker that forces  the reader to re-evaluate what they read before, and the final word “again” brings to mind the childhood antics of Calvin and Hobbes.

In Memoriam: Emily Branje (commended) is written with a tone that is at once whimsical and delicate. Favourite childhood activities are taken to astronomical levels—drinking chocolate milk at the Milky Way milk bar, roasting marshmallows by the heat of Venus—while addressing a sensitive topic close to the heart. This story is gentle and genuine, and speaks to the irreplaceable bond of friendship.

One Day (commended) is a standout for its dialogue, avoiding the pitfalls of sounding too glib, too adult, or using too many adverbs. It also has a wonderful streak of the macabre in it, coupled with the imagination of youth in the face of life’s challenges—the image of computers wearing ties as they perished in the fire, the colloquial nature of Mum says you gotta deal. One Day was another with a strong ending, which is often the hardest part of flash fiction.

About the guest judge:

Jack Remiel Cottrell is an itinerant flash fiction and short story writer with a sideline as a volunteer rugby referee. He was runner-up in the Bath Flash Fiction’s 2018 Novella-in-Flash competition, and was shortlisted for a Sir Julius Vogel Award in 2020. Jack’s collection Ten Acceptable Acts of Arson and other very short stories was published by Canterbury University Press in August 2021.

Read the NFFD interview with Jack here! 

NFFD YouTube channel:

See authors read their stories and watch our Festival of Flash!

Find our full Festival of Flash programme here

2022 NFFD Short List Announced!

2022 short list:

Alphabet Love
Breaking Down
Closed Curtains
Danger, Danger!
The Day the Jellyfish Came
Driving Lessons
Fig Newtons
Golden Hour
Gone with the Mist
The Hole
In Memoriam: Emily Branje
My Grandmother’s Magical Measuring Tape in Her Mind
On the curb
One Day
A Picture of Me Taken From Another World
Return of Nyctophobia
Slow Song
Strawberry Sundaes
What They Told Me
Where is Waldo right now?

Adult short list published at nationalflash.org/winners

About the guest judge:

Jack Remiel Cottrell is an itinerant flash fiction and short story writer with a sideline as a volunteer rugby referee. He was runner-up in the Bath Flash Fiction’s 2018 Novella-in-Flash competition, and was shortlisted for a Sir Julius Vogel Award in 2020. Jack’s collection Ten Acceptable Acts of Arson and other very short stories was published by Canterbury University Press in August 2021.

Read the NFFD interview with Jack here! 

2022 NFFD Long List Announced!

2022 long list:

Adventuring, Pretending
Alphabet Love
The Bean/Pumpkin/Alien Potato
Bird’s Eye View
The Boatman’s Short Visit
Breaking Down
The Building
Closed Curtains
Danger, Danger!
The day the jellyfish came
Driving Lessons
Fig Newtons
A Filmmaker’s Dream
The girl across the street
Golden Hour
Gone with the Mist
Good News Comes in Postcards
The Great Soup-Off
The Hole
In Memoriam: Emily Branje
Knowing Jude
Memories Brown with Mud
My Grandmother’s Magical Memory Tape in Her Mind
On the curb
One Day
Our Songs
A Perfect Night
Person, Plural
A Picture of Me Taken from Another World
The Return of Nyctophobia
Slow Song
the strawberry moon
Strawberry Sundaes
We all meet “A Boy From Florida” once in our lifetime
What They Told Me
Where is Waldo right now?

Adult long list published at nationalflash.org/winners

About the guest judge:

Jack Remiel Cottrell is an itinerant flash fiction and short story writer with a sideline as a volunteer rugby referee. He was runner-up in the Bath Flash Fiction’s 2018 Novella-in-Flash competition, and was shortlisted for a Sir Julius Vogel Award in 2020. Jack’s collection Ten Acceptable Acts of Arson and other very short stories was published by Canterbury University Press in August 2021.

Read the NFFD interview with Jack here! 

2021 National Flash Fiction Day Youth Competition

Adult winners published at nationalflash.org/winners


1st place:

for anna – Kirsten Liang (age 13; Georgia, United States)

Runner up:

The multi-coloured sheep – Lucia Murphy (age 15; Wellington, New Zealand)

Highly commended:

Have you seen Abdullah? – Omar El Eraki (age 16; Cairo, Egypt)


Loss – Finn Kelly (age 09; Kapiti Coast, New Zealand)
Next Exit – Kirsten Liang (age 13; Georgia, United States)
Pocket-Sized Black Holes – Oshadha Perera (age 16; Invercargill, New Zealand)

Short list:

As cold as trees – Emily Burt (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Barnacles – Penelope Duran (age 18; Frankfurt, Germany)
Crocodiles – Chloe Morrison-Clarke (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Gravedigger – Theo E. (age 13; Christchurch, New Zealand)
House by the Railroad – Matthew Califano (age 14; Vermont, United States)
The Sock – Jorja Rosser (age 18; New Plymouth, New Zealand)

Highlights from the long list:

Antinous in a Coffee Shop – Khristina Cabrera (age 16; New Jersey, United States)
The Fisherman – Hunter Haynes (age 16; Auckland, New Zealand)
Quick Fingers – Miro Williams (age 17; Dunedin, New Zealand)
The Rainbow Egg – Lexia Roy (age 08; Clinton, New Zealand)

1st place:

for anna – Kirsten Liang

i’ll make us a shrink ray so we can get tiny, you said,

strawberry jello lips. if you were tiny, you’d sleep on a marshmallow, take a bite out of it once you awoke. if i were tiny, i’d ride hamsters like dragons, wear a thimble as a hat. we’d wake before dawn to watch the morning star over the fields, the sunflowers nodding to us: yes, this is how life should be. i said, giggling, if i were tiny, i’d roll down hills and braid us crowns of alligator

weed. you say, we’d wear skirts made of flower petals. i’d grow my hair out and never cut it, even once it got down to my ankles. every time someone came to get us, we’d fold ourselves in half. tiny, tinier. away from the grown-ups who garble into their phones, from the textbooks left cracked open on desks, from the numbers and the waiting rooms and the broken traffic lights. the tiger swats at us,  a claw shearing a few of your auburn curls. I pull you closer. we fold. once in half, and then once more. tinier, tinier. away from the glares and the closed
doors. the molecules sear through, tearing off our limbs, making us tinier, tinier. anna, every time we fold ourselves in half, we’ll be safer. i’ll hold you tight and holden will catch us before we fall. and we’ll keep folding, on and on, turning these bodies into origami sheets. tulip fold, crane base. until we’re small enough to use dandelions as parasols, to dance on someone’s fingertips. until we’re small enough to

remain unseen. they’ll never find us here. fold and fold and fold. small enough to hide from it all. small enough so that they will feel us in every breath they take.

Kirsten Liang is a 13-year-old writer from Atlanta, Georgia. She enjoys playing with her pets, watching movies, reading, writing, and asking her parents when she can get a dragon. Miss Liang‘s work has been recognized by numerous competitions, and she has won a national medal from the 2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

Runner up:

The multi-coloured sheep – Lucia Murphy

The sheep sat there, a splotch of colour amongst the other wacky pieces of art. It stood out, the puzzle pieces of colours interlocking to create a smooth skin. Even its eyes had little splashes of colour across them, the vibrance of its world shining through.
“Do we want to get it?” Mum asked. “I can’t really see where it would go.”
“It’s too expensive,” said my brother. “I don’t think it’s worth getting.”
I said nothing, but I watched Dad. I saw his face light up with a not-quite-suppressed grin. I could even see that splash of colour in his eyes, that view into the enigmatic world of the sheep.
“I think we should get it.” The joy in his voice was obvious to everyone in the family. I knew that the sheep would be coming with us, before my mum even opened her mouth to protest.
Patting the sheep on the head, I grinned. I could already see its place in our home, nestled up under the TV. The family sprawled across the sofa, chatting back and forth, stealing glances at the sheep.
I squatted down to look the sheep in the eye. “Looking forward to coming home with us?” I asked. I hadn’t expected a reply, but I could have sworn the sheep gave a tiny nod of its head.

Lucia Murphy is a high school student who hails from Wellington. She loves curling up with a good book and a warm muffin on a cold day.

Highly commended:

Have you seen Abdullah? – Omar El Eraki

Have you seen Abdhullah in the decrepit land where one cannot escape the sun’s golden strike? Even in the lilliputian common area where a large formerly-white sheet hangs from the tilted metal rods to shade the thick wool mats sodden with yesterday’s sweat, the heat still forces itself in as if accustomed to Syrian hospitality. Perhaps he is playing with the little boys who kick a deflated football around out of melancholic optimism, shooting in between two stones acting as goal posts. Yes, he must be playing with the little boys who are indifferent to the scrapings they receive from the rough sand and the dirt their faces are greeted with which is washed away by an agitated mother, only to return the following day. Or perhaps he is with his sister and the other women who occupy themselves kneading bread and watching it expand in the stone oven through fatigued eyes, pried open by the rigidity of the ground and its sudden pangs of consciousness. His father could have taken him to buy a chicken, although it isn’t likely his father would place him in such danger, for the markets are repeatedly raided by the hoodlums. Surely he cannot be with the hoodlums who repeatedly and unsuccessfully try to creep their way across the border into Turkey, getting shot or captured by border control in the process. Oh if he is with those hooligans I’ll show him! Perhaps he is with the elderly folk waiting at death’s door, preoccupying themselves by sharing anecdotes of a greater time where economic hardship was not such a culminating burden. Oh where could Abdullah be amidst this multitude of people expelled to isolation from a world that has given up on them?

Omar El Eraki is a 16-year-old high school junior from Cairo, Egypt. He has written this piece to commemorate those harmed by the poor political and socio-economic climate in the Middle East. Aside from his literary pursuits, Omar is a self-proclaimed historian who enjoys learning about different philosophies as well as investing in the stock market. He believes writing allows him to broaden his horizons.


Loss – Finn Kelly

Birth, life, death. These three words circled throughout Caleb’s mind, swirling around like a hurricane. As the sun turned into the moon, he slowly drifted away into a world of dreams. His grandfather had passed away and he had just found out about the news.
He woke up in the night multiple times thinking about his grandfather, his arm hanging off the bed like a rag doll. Caleb tried to get the thought out of his head, but he struggled to since he’d never experienced anything like this before.
He woke up to the loud chirping of birds perched on the leafy branch outside his window. They were sort of forming a melody, almost like a choir. As Caleb looked up at the birds they stared back down at him, tilting their heads. Caleb smiled weakly. He put on his clothes and left his room.
When Caleb entered the lounge his mum, Lisa, was sitting down on the breakfast bar in her distinct purple bathrobe holding a half-empty mug of tea. Caleb’s dad, Nigel, was spreading marmite on a piece of toast. That’s when his mum spotted Caleb looking around the room. She sighed and said sadly, “Come here.” Caleb walked towards her, the familiar floorboards creaking beneath him.
Lisa wrapped her arms around Caleb and apologized for what had happened. Then after a few moments she let go of him. “Now, what do you want for breakfast?” she said, attempting to smile.
But Caleb knew she was just trying to make him feel better. “I don’t have an appetite,” he said sadly.
Mum nodded her head and said quietly, “Ok. Ok.”

Finn Kelly is nine years old and lives on the Kāpiti Coast with his family, chickens, cats, tropical fish, and Archie the dog.  He is in year five at Raumati South School where he enjoys writing, maths, art, and sport in particular. He gets fantastic writing mentorship and encouragement from his two older siblings, Elsa (12) and Arlo (14), who are also keen writers. Finn avidly follows and plays soccer with his dad and friends, and in the weekend when he’s not playing premier club soccer he enjoys Minecraft, board games, and reading.

Next Exit – Kirsten Liang

9:58 PM.
ETA: 10:13 PM.
Almost home.
Spiralling alteration of five school arches, names blending together.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Cartoonist! Lawyer. I’m interested in the American justice system.
Highway cat-eyes narrow, how could I ever–
“How was the interview, *bǎobèi?”
My lips part, the chatter dances around my molars simply to perish midway.
Interviewer’s thistle tongue dips into memory—Why do you want to attend Randall Academy?
Because my Bàba says so. Because he’s always right and I’m always wrong. It’s the best place for me to accomplish…
Blink. Tear-swollen rivulets trace over themselves.
A stream of red eyes, beckoning to nowhere. A horn declares its fury.
Don’t look back.
“You’ll do better next time, bǎobèi*.
I’m so proud of you, his eyes whisper, though his monologue returns to “you need to be successful”–whatever the hell that means–to live the life he never had as an immigrant boy in Pennsylvania, speaking only Mandarin and some Taiwanese swears. Go back to Thailand, they sneered.
He stayed.
“I won’t always be here to drive you home,” he says, words like my old favorite sweater I can’t burrow into anymore.
The way he did before. Bike-riding, trips to tournaments, recitals, competitions, and joyrides at midnight–
Always behind the wheel. The tears rush, and I grab his elbow. The SUV veers right–
“Bàba, wǒ bùyào nǐ zǒu!”
Papa, I don’t want you to go.
I want to draw like Raina Telegemeier, Hergé, and Schulz, ten-year-old me declared. You can’t do that, said he. Why not? Bàba just shook his head. Yes, Bàba.
We’re heading home, but what if we take the next exit?
What if we drive without looking back?
And cruise evermore, if we take the next exit.

*Mandarin Chinese for “baby” or “treasure.”

Kirsten Liang is a 13-year-old writer from Atlanta, Georgia. She enjoys playing with her pets, watching movies, reading, writing, and asking her parents when she can get a dragon. Miss Liang‘s work has been recognized by numerous competitions, and she has won a national medal from the 2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

Pocket-Sized Black Holes – Oshadha Perera

That night when autumn leaves started dancing in the wind, playing freeze tag with the smooth ground, you told me that we wouldn’t leave each other until the sun became a red giant and blasted into a black hole, sucking us all in. But even in that cosmic power, we promised that we’d be holding hands until all the light was pulled into a vacuum. When you whispered, “How you doin’, mate?” to the sky, the sun almost sent an enveloped letter in the wind, saying, “Good, how ’bout you?” so I figured that it had an x amount of time left until its death, where x = the number of pixels in the horizon at sunset.
Traffic lights were making the night sky illuminate like a professional artist joined forces with a 2-year-old (the kind of 2-year-old who goes to bed with a multicoloured face) when we reached your house. You were knocking on the door when the sound came, the irresistible click click click click click.
Your hand break-danced on the way to your jean pocket, but your sharp-featured face had the same smile, as you mouthed a sorry and glanced at it.
Just one tiny glance.
You didn’t look up from the 100% brightness screen for a number of hours and I won’t even bother explaining what y equals to.

Oshadha Perera is 16 years old and comes from Invercargill, New Zealand.

Short list:

As cold as trees – Emily Burt

Orange leaves cover the forest floor. I helped pitch the tent in a clearing. It was as cold as the Arctic in the middle of winter.
Mum and I unpacked our bags and got ready for bed. I jumped into the warmth of my sleeping bag, like a warm breeze coming to me and only to me.
When I woke up to a noise that sounded like machines and fire I wanted to scream and wake the world, but I didn’t. I just sat up and tried to wake mum.
Mum woke up and said, “What is it?”
I said, “I don’t know.”
She laughed and poked her head out of the tent. So did I. The trees—they were all gone, just stumps.
When I screamed the world woke from a never-ending sleep. I wanted to leave this world forever but I couldn’t.
That morning the world went grey. The life with trees had ended.
As cold as the arctic when the world froze.

Emily Burt is 10 years old and comes from Christchurch, New Zealand.

Barnacles – Penelope Duran

A fallen mast.  A tattered sail.  A punctured bow.  The sailboat was a shamble.  Sighing, the sailor stroked the part of the hull that used to read Penelope.  His grandfather had always been so proud of the delicate cursive letters.
He recalled days when he and his grandfather side-by-side on the pier would scrape barnacles form the boat.  For hours, the arthropods provided relentless work.  When he asked how the boat had received her name, his grandfather grinned.  The vessel was as resilient as the weaver of legend, engendering faith that it would return from every odyssey.
Glaring at fading storm clouds overhead and armed with needle and thread, the sailor tended the mutilated sail.  Over and under.  Yet his mangled stitches would unravel as soon as they touched the fabric.  Perhaps this voyage would be the ship’s last.
The sailor considered scuttling the boat.  Perhaps he could grant Penelope a dramatic exit.  However, the barnacles lured him to cast such thoughts aside, recalling his grandfather’s light-hearted complaints.  Stubborn little creatures.  They hang on no matter how hard you pull.
A saw.  Broken planks.  A thousand nails.  The craft would never be the same without her sail.  The sailor would miss riding the winds, but he nevertheless found himself fond of the steadfast fishing boat.  He could envision adventures ahead.  Lulling swordfish from the deep.  Catching flying fish.  Gliding down the river.
As the sailor conjured in his mind the new tales, white cursive script glistened faintly in the sunlight as barnacles suckled the side of the boat.  Not a single one had fallen victim to his knife.  After all, they were just like him.

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 is the co-coordinator of her school’s weekly podcast on various forms of discrimination.

Crocodiles – Chloe Morrison-Clarke

When we were smaller, we played crocodiles. Feet darting over cracks in benches, ankles always at risk of the wide slats. Crocodiles lurked below, waiting for an opportunity to catch a reckless fool.  The courtyard rang with adrenaline soaked shrieks of those who made their move just when the stars had snapped out of alignment.
When we were bigger, our shovels pummelled hard earth, sliced thin roots of the apple tree.  I once sat in its branches, balanced above the threshold for tag, closer to the sky than ever before.
We replaced the wound with a time capsule, covering new tin with layers of dirt. The scar faded away.
When we were a bit older, the crocodiles took human form. This time, it was our conscience darting between the wide slats. If anyone were to be pulled into a world of crime or hatred, at least their ankles would be safe.
The sky seemed a little further away.
Last week,  we returned to the apple tree. We slit open an old scar, shovelling until we heard the clang of metal on metal. We remembered strawberry sticker collections, all the treasures buried in the sandbox—bracelets stolen from older siblings, shells we dug from the beach.
Speeches were made, toasts given. Our glasses full of sweet nostalgia, we prised open the metal tin.
I waited for ancient treasures, memories of witty remarks, childhood games, memoirs of friendships built to last.
We opened the lid to find a piece of playground bark, someone’s rusted toy car, a mouldy, shrivelled apple core, a plastic crocodile,  and a picture of a familiar-looking kid sitting amongst the branches of a young apple tree.
The sky still seems far away.

Chloe Morrison-Clarke is 14 years old and comes from Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Gravedigger – Theo E.
He knew he shouldn’t. It would be shameful. It would hurt his ego. It was just sitting there, though, unguarded, unable to defend itself. The warm summer breeze blew across his slick forehead, needling through his hair. He told himself he deserved it. That he needed it. He had been working so hard in the heat after all. He looked over his shoulder out the window to see the menacing-looking hole in the ground. He knew what he was going to use it for. That didn’t matter yet. He turned his head back around to the prize. He knelt, levelling himself with it.
“Oh, whatever.”
He swiped the can. The small fizzy tss tss, could be heard, closely followed by desperate gulping. The light popping of the fizzy liquid being poured down his throat, some slopping down his neck, seeping into his top. When no more could come out of the small lip of the can, he threw it at the wall.
“Back to work.”

Theo E. is 13 years old and comes from Christchurch, New Zealand.

House by the Railroad – Matthew Califano

No one can quite remember when the stately old Victorian house by the railroad first began falling into disrepair.  Once the pride of the county, the mansion’s gleaming white facade now stands blackened from soot, its windows boarded up, broken, or left open to the elements.  The Kataras own it, but they’ve been down on their luck since Lord-knows-when.  They seemed like perfectly nice folks.  Nobody ever had a bad thing to say about them.  Sometimes your luck just runs out, I guess. You know it when it happens, and there ain’t nothin’ you or anyone else can do about it. They’ve kept to themselves in that old house ever since. Now, every time the train comes by near the end of each month, starting about four months ago, one of them disappears. It started with the youngest son. He slipped in the tub and drowned. Then, his elder sister went walking up by the gorge one fine spring morning never to return.  Next, their father fell down a flight of stairs before breakfast one Saturday. One month ago to the day, the grandfather was talking to his wife, Old Mrs. Katara, in the kitchen. He went to fetch a book, and, when he came back, there she was, sprawled out dead on the floor. You might ask if anyone in this town did anything but watch as this tragedy unfolded.  The answer is no.  One look at that crumbling pile, and you just know this is a family whose number’s up.  There’s no help for it. Folks are just glad it’s not them, yet. Only two Kataras are still in there: the grandfather and his eldest grandson.
Oh, don’t go yet.  Just wait a while. The train comes by at noon.

Matthew Califano is a sophomore at Craftsbury Academy in Vermont. He is an avid writer, runner and student of the ancient world. His play No More Worlds to Conquer about one man’s self-destructive obsession with Alexander the Great won Dorset Theatre Festival’s 2020 Young Playwrights Competition.  His writing has also received both regional and national honors from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the National Junior Classical League.

The Sock – Jorja Rosser

A small sock lies in the middle of the road.
The sock is discoloured and muddy, so worn out it wouldn’t do much good anymore. Its wearer must have been a small child, so small that the sock would fit on a man’s thumb, but there are no children around at the moment. Nobody is coming back for it. Nobody is coming back for anything.
The sock has been there a while. It must’ve been dropped, dropped in a moment of panic, a moment of desperation, the moment families were told to pack their most precious belongings and leave. The soldiers didn’t take no for an answer. If you wanted to live you packed your belongings and left. The sock must’ve been dropped by one of the mothers, choking back tears, disbelieving, trying to appear calm for the children. Nobody saw the sock in the dark of night.
The owner of the sock must have been crying and screaming, not understanding why he was hoisted onto his mother’s hip in the middle of the night. The child wasn’t the only one crying, or the only one who didn’t understand why they were being hoarded like cattle toward the trains.
The sock is across the road from the local post office. Echoes of gunshots replace the sounds of laughter from the schoolyard around the corner. The town is more quiet now, and anyone still here carries about their time silently, carefully. Nobody wants to be noticed. Being noticed means you would likely end up another body on the pile. There is no aim other than survival, and at times even that seems pointless and impossible.
A small sock lies in the middle of the road, and the world burns around it.

Jorja Coyote Rosser is eighteen 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.

Highlights from the long list: 

Antinous in a Coffee Shop – Khristina Cabrera

His eyes were like blue fire, burning with righteous fury and a passion that would’ve torn anyone else apart, just from a mere look. His features were sharp and angled, with a permanent frown etched into the bow of his lip and his marble cheek, all the way down to his clenched fists, if hands knew how to frown. I was struck by the sudden feeling that I knew him from somewhere, perhaps Greek mythology or some vague folklore, passed down for hundreds of years through parted lips and ardent tongues. As he continued to glare at me, dark roast coffee soaking through his thin white button-down and my plastic cup lying at his feet, I hastily offered to retrieve napkins from the counter.
“Sure,” he muttered, in such a petulant way that I had to press my lips together to hide a smile.
I brought back the napkins, stacked one on top of the other, and offered them to him as if presenting a gift before a king’s court. Our fingertips brushed together as he took them from me. He wadded them up in his frowning hands and scrubbed, but the stubborn stain remained, right in the middle of his shirt. As he stormed out, leaving a trail of blue fire in his wake, I indulged in the selfish thought that I had left my mark on this startling god, dressed as an ordinary mortal. The door swung shut. My fingertips thrummed with the restless tingling of a freezing burn, the only proof that he had been in the coffee shop.

Khristina Cabrera is 16 years old and lives in New Jersey, United States.

The Fisherman

Perched upon a rock, the ocean’s lap tempts the man of the past. His beard matches the seafoam spit, his eyes tears of salt, skin curled like a turtle. Upon his grip, the rod tantalizes sweat, dancing a jive as the waves beat his lure. His orbs, firmly set upon the horizon, watching the sun beat down into the abyss. Behind, a young boy, perhaps an eighth of his age, crawls forward to interrogate. He moves swiftly, like a cat in the night, and positions himself next to the man.
Do you expect to learn from me young boy? he asks weakly, with a raspy tone, somewhat harsh, like his tongue is layered with thorns.
Yes, the boy responds, twiddling his fingers nervously, his eyes unable to focus on a specific point in time. I don’t know how to fish.
Why do you think I’d know? The man chuckles to himself, pushes his knees up from himself and lumbers away from the rock. The boy sits in silence, the waves providing no greater answer.

Hunter Haynes is 16 years old and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.

Quick Fingers – Miro Williams

As the saloon door swings open and the blinding sun of late afternoon is cast onto the rough-sawn timbers, an interruptive hush spreads across the room. Before the presence of the newest newcomer, even the loutish farmhands quit their ill-mannered debate over which barmaid has the “nicest rack”. While he bends his head forward, so as not to give himself another bruise on his forehead, his derby brushes against the top of the door frame. Taking the comically-large cigar from his lips he yells his order to the barman.
Jimmy! Fire it here, he says.
Jimmy slides the whiskey bottle down the wooden counter in one swift push, as he does every afternoon, and in one fluid motion the newcomer picks it up, flicks the cork off with that giant thumb of his, and drains the entire contents in a matter of moments. Despite the unnaturalness of such a string of events the bystanders bear no surprise. They’ve seen it all before.
He makes his pilgrimage through the fog of bodies and tobacco smoke, and passes saloon girls and old buggers frowning through great, bushy beards and too-poor-to-be-gambling men gambling away their fortunes in a fortnightly game of poker, which they were losing, not without frustration, to that dirty Mexican, Antonio.
He places his hefty frame on the seat, his feet on the pedals, and his ever-so-famous, giant fingers on the black and white keys. He removes his hat, revealing that bald dome of his, and then tilts his head back and laughs. His signature whiskey-voice bellows straight from his soul, and with its arrival comes the dancing and cheering from the rest of the cantina. Tunes weave into the night.
And the night is eternal, for this is Alfonso and Alfonso plays forever.

Miro Williams is 17 years old and lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.

The Rainbow Egg – Lexia Roy

Once upon a time there were two little children. There was a boy and a girl. Their names were Tom and Rosie. One day when they were outside Rosie spotted a rainbow egg. “Hey Tom!” exclaimed Rosie. “Come and look at what I’ve found!”
Tom ran over with a smile on his face. “I wonder what type of egg it is,” Tom said. They started to think.
Rosie jumped up. “I’ve got it!” Rosie exclaimed. “It’s a unicorn egg!”
Tom looked up at her. “Unicorns don’t lay eggs,” Tom reminded her. “Anyway, they aren’t real.”
“Oh yeah.” She looked down sadly.
“I’ve got it now!” exclaimed Tom. “I think it’s a dinosaur egg!
Rosie scratched her head. “I don’t think that’s a dinosaur egg. Dinosaurs are extinct.”
Tom paused to think for a moment. “Yes, you’re right,” he admitted. So they waited to see what it was when it hatched. Finally the egg hatched. It was a dinosaur with a unicorn horn and mane. “I wonder what it is,” said Rosie. Tom carefully lifted the creature out of its shell. When Rosie looked inside the shell, she said, “Wow! The inside of this egg looks like the inside of a paua shell!”
Just then they heard a sound. “What was that?” said Tom, looking around shaking.
“I don’t know,” squeaked Rosie. The children hid behind a tree, grabbed the egg shell and left the creature behind. As the monster approached, the children realized that the creatures were the same. The monster sat down and smelled the little creature.
“What and who are you?!” Tom was brave enough to shout.
The monster turned its head to the children. “My name is Pearl and I am a dinocorn.” Pearl took the small dinocorn and left.

Lexia Roy is 08 years old and lives in Cinton, South Otago, New Zealand.

About the guest judge:

Youth competition judge Kerry Lane is a poet and playwright living by the sea in Ōtepoti, Aotearoa. Current projects include a puppet theatre piece about Minnie Dean, a long-form podcast about the end of the world, and an experimental poetry-ish project about memory.

Read interview with Kerry Lane here

NFFD YouTube channel – see authors read their stories

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.


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)


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—
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 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.”
“Do you think…”
“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…”
“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.”
“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—?”
“It could be—”
“Too loud—she’s looking back at us—”
“Sorry, sorry. You don’t think it could be alive?”
“Imagine the river…”
“The river…”
“…full of dead meat, people acidified alive…”
“…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

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)


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)