Entries for the 2018 youth writing contest are currently being judged. Winners will be contacted by phone or email. Winning entries will also be posted here.

Youth Writing Winners 2017

Massachusetts Senior Category (grade 9-12)

First Place "Salmon Fever" by Tauri Adamczyk
10th grade, Taunton, MA
“Splash.” I glance over to see an immense ripple of where a robust salmon has lunged out of the surface of the crystalline water. Around me, vibrant leaves of autumn dance through the chilly October air and paint the river with warm hues of red and orange. With the cold wind biting my cheeks and the jostling current of the surging river testing my balance, I sling out another cast. I stay focused on the neon bobber that is in the swirling abyss of the river, fighting to stay afloat, a mere speck in swirling chaos.
For what seems like the hundredth cast, I throw my bobber out to the middle of the rushing current. The river is lined shoulder to shoulder with fishermen who follow this pattern. Although repetitive, no one tires of it. Everyone is searching for the same thing, seeking the thrill that comes with catching and admiring the brawn and beauty of the salmon. In the midst of salmon season on The Salmon River, today has been a slow day on the water. Dusk is approaching and our final spot has yet to show any action. The glowing sun is still raining its last golden rays from the darkening sky above. A beautiful sight that opposes the frigid chill in the crisp autumn air.
 I watch as my bobber disappears in a cloud of frothy, swirling foam, I gently pull the rod back to free my bobber from the bubbles when I feel a heavy resistance on the line. Instantaneously, I pull the pole back to set the hook and immediately begin reeling; however, I am quickly halted because the reel starts to scream its cry of a salmon on the run. “Fish going down!” I yell with excitement and adrenaline pumping through my veins. I keep the rod tip high as the fish takes out line at a furious pace. Finally, the fish begins to slacken, I use this to my advantage instantly. I pull my rod tip up then quickly reel back down the the water. I continue this until I spot the bobber, signalling that the fish is close. It is the coho salmon, sporting a hooked upper lip, he is an absolute beauty, showcasing power and grace.
Suddenly, he darts upstream with ferocity, using his powerful tail to slice through the current. The drag begins its taunting tune once again. Using the same tactic, I maneuver the salmon through the turbulent river. After a long battle, my father scoops the fish and lays him ashore. The stygian silver and striking scarlet shine in the suns finals rays of the day.  Thanking the beautiful creature, I admire the determination of a salmon. Every year they make their nonstop run up the river, through a battlefield of hooks and raging currents so they can lay and fertilize their eggs. As a fisherman, you must admire and respect not only the sport, but the fish, for fishing would be nothing without their fortitude and intelligence.

Second Place "Hare Hunt" by James M. Lacefield
9th grade, Haverhill, MA

Somewhere, I heard a crow call out. The snow-laden branches of countless evergreen
trees gave the wilderness a hushed, brittle appearance, as if a single breath could shatter the Earth
itself. The Maine mountains towered above me, their majestic snow-covered peaks buffeted by
the heavy winds, creating a trail of ice and snow that stretched out into the brilliant blue sky. I
cradled a beautiful Browning A5 shotgun in my gloved hands, and trotted along the deep snow
drifts, trying to keep up with the beagles. I finally came upon a clearing in the pines that offered
a vantage point a few hundred yards in front of the howling dogs. I crouched down, a difficult
task while wearing thick snow pants, and shouldered my shotgun. The dogs were closer, louder.
They were definitely on one. The clearing that I sat in was about fifteen yards in width, and
maybe thirty yards long, which would make shooting a moving target traveling at over twenty
miles an hour almost impossible to hit. The beagles were closer still, and I could hear them
plowing through the wind-blown snow. I saw a flicker of movement in the underbrush to my
right. Immediately, I brought my cheek to the stock and looked down the barrel. Suddenly, a
white blur shot out from the thick pines and leapt into the middle of the clearing. I brought my
finger down on the safety and flicked it off, then, almost by instinct, I placed my finger on the
trigger. In this split second, the blur was gone. I had not even gotten a shot off.
Thirty seconds later, two beagles came plodding out of the woodline, howling at the scent
of the rabbit. The smaller of the two trotted over to me and placed his paws on my lap, and
looked up at me with brown eyes. I patted him on the head and stood up. After a minute, the
beagle jumped back into the pines and ran after the rabbit. Having been told that rabbits tend to
run in circles and return to the same general area, I decided to stay in the same spot rather than
chase the hare and dogs, neither of whom I could never beat in a race, especially through the
thick forests of Maine.

Roughly twenty minutes later, I heard the beagles begin to get closer. Again, I brought
my gun to my shoulder, and my cheek to the stock. This time, I would be ready, or at least I
thought I would. Again, the dogs became closer, and sounded like they were gaining on the
rabbit. I saw another flicker in the heavy pines to my right, just in the same spot as the first time.
As the rabbit got closer to the clearing, I flicked off the safety. It reached the edge of the pines,
and I put my finger on the trigger, leading it with the bead of my shotgun, and fired.
The stew tasted mighty good that night.

Third Place "All Mountains Unclimbed" by Anthony Zalev  
10th grade, Southborough, MA

Jutting out like spikes into the skies, mountains were created to be conquered by only those with the will to push on. Each of these towers of rock is different with unique challenges and rewards to those who are willing to attempt the summit of them. The challenge of climbing any mountain is the same as completing any great achievement. Every journey to the top begins at the bottom. Here, everyone is equal no matter their past. What happens from this point onwards determines the reward.
Once someone starts climbing they can quickly get enveloped into the maze of possibilities that surrounds the main goal. With so much beauty to admire and explore, anyone can quickly get lost in exploring every minor path that branches off from the main one they attempting to travel. Each of these has their own beauty, let it be a raging river of water shed or a quiet section of forest. Spend no time exploring these and an part of the beauty of the final accomplishment is lost. However, spend too much and you won’t have the time or the drive to complete the main goal.
In any accomplishment, the initial push is simply that, the first one. You quickly tire before coming even close to the end. Every ridge you climb presents yet another one, even taller and steeper for you to conquer, broken up only periodically with small sections of flat ground. By focusing on each ridge versus the whole mountain a once impossible task is broken up into a series of manageable ones; compartmentalize.
The location of the summit will come with hints along the way. Encouraging snippets to keep you moving, as the exhaustion of the task at hand sets in. Let it be the shrinking trees or the sometimes omnipresent howling of wind, it is almost like a final test of worthiness of the journey. With muscles aching and a wary mind the summit of any mountain seems more beautiful than before when you looked at it from afar after being sprinkled with a journeyman’s sweat and tears. The summit should not feel like a single objective completed, but more the final piece in a puzzle being put in place.
Admiration should rival the reflection of the journey, each mutually supporting the other.  However, with the task at its climax, larger mountains present themselves almost in defiance in the distance, waiting to be conquered. So the journey continues right from the end of the last one this time, with the lessons and memories of the last achievement, to help one accomplish the next challenge that once seemed impossible.

Honorable Mention "Amherst" by Evan Mizerak  
11th grade, Holden, MA

It was now almost twilight, and Eliot yawned as a bruised purple sky draped a calming light over the grassy expanse before him. He absentmindedly itched a bug bite on his neck, inwardly chiding himself for not applying bug spray as his mother had cautioned him to. Eliot had one day left in Amherst at his cousin’s house, and he stood next to him now under a narrow awning.
Eliot’s cousin wordlessly nudged him, placing a wet cloth in his clammy palm. They had spent the afternoon dodging barefoot about the common across from his cousin’s house, and the soles of their feet had now adopted a gentle umber shade. Eliot began to wash his feet, then stopped as he saw a glimmer before him. Looking up, he saw a group of fireflies flitting about, gentle beacons in the dimming sky. He dropped his cloth and emerged into the field, freshly-cut blades of grass weaving themselves amongst his toes. Eliot’s cousin followed earnestly in his wake; their eyes were transfixed by the spectacle before them.
As the two traversed the cooling grass, more fireflies joined their comrades in the ever-darkening sky. A shiver ran through Eliot’s body, and he couldn’t discern whether to attribute it to the dropping temperature or the sight above him. He had spent the better part of the summer immersed in nature, but this was new. This was different.
More beautiful fireflies, more lanterns of the night began to adorn the late summer sky, and Eliot was at once aware of the irrevocably brilliant scene before him. Sugar maple branches wavered in the gentle breeze, and unseen crickets chirped their somber cadence. The sky was now speckled with a multifaceted brilliance: the lustrous insects still floated about as stars began to define themselves on nature’s cool-colored canvas above.
Occasionally, a squirrel would rustle a leaf, a layered sound amongst the crickets. Amidst all this, the boys followed the flies silently, mouths agape.
When they reached the dusty expanse at the treeline marking the edge of the common, Eliot and his cousin watched the flies enter the forest, taking their omnipresent glimmer with them. Mother Nature had flipped her switch, and the common was dark once more, save for the stars. A collective quaver ran through the boys, and this time they heeded its chill and walked back across the street.
The two took warm showers and tucked themselves into bed, where they lay in sustained awe. Wide smiles plastered themselves across the faces of both boys as their eyelids grew heavy and sleep began to overtake them. It was now night, and fatigue dominated the cousins. Even so, they rose from their sheets minutes later, electing to set up a tent in the field where they had seen the fireflies.
A quiet amity between them, the boys scanned the coal-black sky and eventually succumbed to slumber. Behind their eyelids were everlasting images of the late summer beacons, their lanterns in the night.

Massachusetts Junior Category (grade 6-8)

First Place "The Sign" by Ada Gebauer  
6th grade, Southborough, MA

The wind moans at the crisp autumn leaves, forcing them to let go of the branches they desperately cling to. Most leaves flutter helplessly to the ground. But one drifts slowly through the air until it drops into a clear, small pond, causing ripples to spread across the water’s smooth surface, which will soon be frozen. You know that these are signs of the cold, menacing winter’s approach. A frosty breeze whisks past you, leaving you chattering.

You begin to trudge through the leaves toward an unknown destination. As they crunch under your worn out sneakers, your ears open up to the world of sounds around you. Owls hoot, chipmunks and squirrels scurry across the bed of leaves, and you can even pinpoint the sound of a woodpecker stabbing its beak into the bark of a tree. The cold is beginning to overwhelm you and you can’t help but daydream about the luxury of wool blankets and glowing fire places.

 A sudden splash interrupts your thoughts. You look up from the ground to find a lake that seems to go on forever. You figure you must have walked a long way. Someone is in a canoe near the bank of the lake. Above the boat, the sky is a beautiful mix of reds and oranges and you can just make out the silhouette of the person in the canoe. As the canoe pulls closer to the bank, your eyes stay fixed on the silhouette rowing the boat. Soon, it is beached, and someone is walking toward you. As the mysterious person grows closer, you can tell that she is a young girl. Her long black hair flows behind her as she walks across the beach. She quickens her stride and is soon beside you. She stares at you with her sea green eyes as if she is burrowing a hole right through your soul. At last, she takes your hand and you run with her across the beach toward, yet again, an unknown destination

Your feet ache from running, but the bewilderment inside you propels you forward. Finally, you stop before what appears to be a deserted village. In the silence of the oncoming night, the girl runs to a lone house separated from the others and climbs up to the roof. She motions for you to follow. Once upon the roof of the house, you tell her wonderous stories. Although she does not seem to speak, she nods in understanding. All at once, she rises to her feet, leaps down from the roof, and takes off running toward the beach. You chase her back to where you began wandering. Unexpectedly, she whispers four words: “Go, winter is coming.” With that she takes off, leaving you with no choice but to head home. That night, you lie awake in bed processing your newest adventure. You know that whatever the season, you will never forget the girl with the sea green eyes and her warning. Never.

Second Place "An Unforgettable Hike" by Olivia Spadazzi  
7th grade, Rutland, MA

On that grey November day, my dad and I forfeited our Saturday chores to go hiking together – something that we love but rarely have time to do. As our car sped along the road, I fiddled with the strap of my camera case and wondered if I would get any good pictures. Our destination was the Quabbin Reservoir. It was not long before we pulled into the tiny parking lot and began to tromp along the paved trail towards Dana Center, the half-way point.
Chilly and damp, it was not the best day to go hiking. Clouds dragged across the sky, and whenever the sun came out it was only for a few minutes. However, we soon pocketed our gloves and hats because our brisk walk warmed us after the first half mile.
 When we finally reached Dana Center, I glanced around for something intriguing to take pictures of. Signs marked the remnants of old buildings. In a small field to the right, dried milkweed pods lay strewn about over matted meadow grass. The air smelled damp and sweet. A little path led into the field, beckoning us to come explore. On the other side of the field, the path became perilously steep and littered with slippery pine needles. We shimmied down it and gazed upon a beautiful lake.
The day passed pleasantly. Hiking towards the reservoir, we sidetracked to explore the wreckage of an old plane crash. The reservoir was exceptionally low. What once was covered in vast amounts of water was only mud and dead grass. Daddy and I walked over the marshy ground, mud sucking at our shoes. After nearly an hour of wandering around taking pictures, we headed back. Both of us were tired. Our shoes were caked with mud and our legs were sore.
As we trudged up a hill miles later, we finally reached Dana Center again. What a welcoming sight it was!  Just as I was pleading that we stop and rest, I spotted a creature waddling across the road. “What's that?” I asked, stopping in the middle of a sentence.
Daddy answered, “I don't know!”
“Maybe it's a beaver,” I suggested as I whipped out my camera and zoomed in.
“Nope, it's a porcupine!” I declared excitedly.
Snapping pictures as we walked, I felt excitement growing inside of me. It was always a thrill to shoot pictures of live wild animals. We crept closer and closer. When I had gotten as near as I dared, my dad bravely (or perhaps foolishly) chased it across the road. Grinning, I watched him sneak into the brush beside the porcupine with his camera. Mr. Porcupine was not too happy with this arrangement, and began to puff up his arsenal of quills.  Eventually Daddy backed off and the porcupine fled into the brush.  
Forgetting our tired legs, we soon reached the car and were headed home.  Although it was not the perfect day for a hike, it is our most memorable hike yet.

Third Place "Fast, Faster" by Juliette Piovoso
7th grade, Southborough, MA

I run free
Free from all of them
The wind hits my whiskers
The once dimness of the day turns black
The snow glitters around my long body
The orange coat covering my body warms me
But only for sometime
They tip toe behind me
I hit something hard
Long and narrow
Something green
But I can't run
I push
My whiskers hit the tight solid wood
My eyelids creak open
A rounded shaped object
I hear the silence
Tiptoes behind hit my shadow
My paws extend before my brain does
A boat?
A screech of noise hits my ears
I’m drifting
Drifting off
To nowhere
The trees begin to disappear
The cold forest night darkens
Even more
But I can't
I will fall
I sit
I wait
In silence
The snow glitters down
I close my eyes
I burrow myself in a little corner
And wait
Wait until someone saves me
Until then
Honorable Mention "Walking On Water" by Srishti Kaushik  
7th grade, Southborough, MA

Decked up in snow-proof gear, we put on our snowshoes, buzzing with excitement
for our journey ahead. We had no idea what awaited us. Waving goodbye to my mom, we
were off. As we were laughing at each other when someone stumbled or a branch hit their
face, my dad bent down to pick up something and a chunk of snow hit his head. We
laughed and I yelled, “The trees are starting a snowball fight!”. Finally, we reached the
brink of the Woods and Wetlands. The Wetlands are, well, wetlands, with cattails, the
open land, the terrible smell, all of that. I tested out the ground, to make sure it wasn’t too
watery. We decided to continue. It was beautiful, walking through the cattails, trees
surrounding us in every direction. I thought about different routes, one to the Sudbury
Trail, where we walk our dog. It’s a nice wooded walk next to an aqueduct lined with a
row of tall, tall pine trees. The sun was in the middle of the sky, looking down at us. I
bumped into a cattail and fluff went everywhere and my dog leaped up, trying to catch it
in her mouth. Soon, we were almost to the other side of the Woods. My dad trudged up
next to me, walking a little further, without testing the ground first. His foot went down,
then the other one. Murky water rose up around his boots, pouring into them soaking his
pants. We all were backing away, unsure of what to do as he struggled to reach higher
ground which only made more water pour into the hole. Most people say stuff like, If
someone falls through ice, I’ll drop everything and hoist them out. Easier said than done!
I was much lighter than him and if I went closer to help I might fall in too. My dog, who
was still a puppy would get excited and follow me into the freezing water, and that would
be worse for her than it would for me. Then, the terrible swampy smell rose up again and
as I looked around, there was murky water rising up from all our tracks, we had been
walking on water. Now the water was melting all the snow and seeping into the
untouched snow. My dad scrambled out and we quickly walked back through the rest of
the woods, only slowing when we were back near our house. I held back a branch for my
sister, saying, “Careful.” and releasing it. It hit her in the stomach and I walked forward
looking back at her laughing. When I looked forward, there was a low hanging branch
right in front of my face and I yelled and fell straight on my back in surprise. Then me
and my sister began laughing as my dog ran over to ‘help me up’. Back home, as I
warmed up, I laughed again, remembering how we walked on water.

Maine Junior Category (grade 6-8)

First Place "Montana Buck Hunt" by William Maines
8th grade, Gray, ME

    Mike pulled into the grown-in logging road where Tim and Mark were already waiting. He climbed out and headed into the woods with Tim, Mark, and his cocker spaniel, Bullet. It was snowing and there were two feet of snow on the ground.
    It was Sunday, and the day before, Mike had shot a huge 12-point buck. He lived in Cutbank, Montana, with his wife, Heather and his dog, Bullet. He was headed out with Bullet and two buddies to drag out the buck which he had left hanging in a tree the day before.
As they approached the tree, they noticed the ground was covered in wolf tracks circling the tree.
“That’s not good,” Mike said.
They took down the buck and started the drag. Soon, Tim, who was ahead with his rifle as Mike and Mark were dragging, called back to them.
“Come ‘ere, guys, quick,” he said. Mike and Mark dropped the rope and walked up to Tim. Bullet was growling deeply and looking ahead, and Tim had his rifle ready and up.
There in the snow were grizzly tracks that were 8 inches wide, and so fresh they seemed to be still steaming. “We have to get out of here,” Mike whispered.
They grabbed their rifles and slowly started to move away from the tracks. After only a minute, Bullet’s growls got louder and he started to nip at Mike to stop. He was alert, tense, and staring at the thick pine trees straight ahead.
Suddenly, Mike saw movement in the brush ahead. He looked up just in time to see a blur of brown as something huge erupted out of the trees. In a series of barks, Bullet sprang forward. Mike raised his gun but the grizzly was on top of him. The bear plowed past Mike and Bullet, knocking them over and then it turned and charged again. As it lunged towards Mike, a shot rang out over the mountains. The bear shuddered but pushed on towards Mike, snarling menacingly and showing it’s teeth. Another shot rang out, but the bear sprang forward and swiped at Mike, throwing him into the snow. The grizzly lumbered toward Mike, who was defenseless without his rifle. Suddenly there was a blur of gray and Bullet was on the bear. As Bullet thrashed around on the bear, two more shots rang out and the bear was dead. Bullet had saved Mike’s life.
Mike was shocked as he stared at the enormous bruin, undoubtedly the biggest he had ever seen. He thanked Tim and
Mark—if not for their excellent shooting, Mike would be bear food.
    By lunch time both the bear and buck were loaded into the trucks. At the tagging station, the buck tipped the scales at 310 pounds, the biggest ever taken in Montana, and the grizzly also set a record, weighing in at 800 pounds. That night Mike and Heather ate venison for supper, Bullet had a biscuit, and Mike already couldn’t wait for next deer season.

Second Place "Trapped" by Michael Maines
6th grade, Gray, ME

As Drew and his father, Danny, loaded the truck for their Alaskan moose hunt, the phone rang. Danny answered. Tears filled Danny’s eyes. “What’s wrong?” asked Drew. “Your grandmother… Sh… She died this morning.” Drew’s wristwatch caught his eye, which his grandmother had given to him. It read 5:54.
* * *
One year later, a Remington bullet whistled through the air, into a moose’s spine, quickly and painlessly killing it. Drew instinctively rechambered his Winchester .308, in case a second shot was needed. The moose laid there, still and silent.
After waiting 30 minutes, they trudged over to the moose and gutted and quartered it. It was a small bull, so they were able to carry all four quarters at once. On the hike back with the meat, Drew asked, “Dad, could we climb that ridge to see the view?”
“Yeah, we can check it out,” replied Danny. They hiked
 up through the snow to the top of the ridge. They had a 360 degree view of wilderness, silence, and solitude. They breathed in the endless beauty, but dusk was rapidly gaining on them.
They began following their tracks out, and took a brief break on the way down, to catch their breath. Rrrumble… “Uh, dad, do you hear that?”
“We need to go. NOW!” Danny demanded.
“Why? What is it?” Drew pleaded. Then he was swooped off the ground by Danny. Drew felt the ground shaking. He looked up. There it was. That was the problem. A huge white cloud of snow, ice, and debris was careening toward them. Danny stumbled through the powder, to a boulder, which would hopefully provide shelter from the impact. They squeezed close to the boulder. The rumbling got closer, louder, scarier. Was it coming? Drew didn’t feel anything. BOOM! Yes, it was coming.
Drew felt ice and rocks tear his skin, and snow chill him to the bone. Snow filled his clothes and clogged his throat. The moose meat was ripped away from him. As the snow settled, he felt it crushing him. He got his arms free and dug out a small pocket around himself. Then he dug towards where he thought his father was. A hand punctured the snow. Drew dug harder. “Dad!” he exclaimed. They’d found each other. A sharp stick had gouged deep into Danny’s leg. Danny moaned with pain. Drew took off his scarf and wrapped up his dad’s leg, to stop the bleeding. “Drew, get out the satellite beacon and try to send a distress signal,” Danny said weakly. Drew knew his dad wouldn’t last much longer. He worked quickly, and hoped the satellite signal would penetrate through the snow.
It was 5:50, and Drew was losing hope. His dad was barely surviving. Drew was praying for a miracle. Drew looked at his watch again. It was 5:54, the time he would always remember. And then, he heard it. It was getting nearer, coming closer, getting louder. It was the beautiful sound of a helicopter.