Short Story Contest

Short Story Contest: Journeys of self discovery

First-place winners serendipitously highlight common themes in their unique works

While the first-place winners of this year's Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest submitted pieces that were vastly different, one common theme surrounding them is journeys of self discovery. Each story follows a significant moment in the life of a troubled individual, including a 65-year-old cancer patient's surprisingly pleasant encounter with death, a young adult teaching abroad in Japan who is anxious and conflicted about returning home to the United States and a transgender teen at the beginning of his transition starting at a new school where he's adopting his new identity for the first time.

Each writer creatively and tactfully navigated sensitive and complex subjects to tell the hidden stories of fictional and non-fictional protagonists. Notably, the writers drew upon their personal experiences and those of people around them to breathe life into their works.

The writers also eloquently painted pictures of distinct settings from a cold, dark hospital room to the boys' locker room of a high school in London, England, to the quaint, rural town of Minakuchi, Shiga, Japan. In their own ways, each story sheds light on the beauty that can be found in the most unconventional places.

The Palo Alto Weekly thanks all of the writers who submitted stories for this year's contest; the judges for the Adult and Young Adult categories, Tom Parker, Nancy Packer and Debbie Duncan; and the Teen category judges Caryn Huberman Yacowitz, Marjorie Sayer and Nancy Etchemendy. Lastly, the Weekly extends its gratitude to the contest co-sponsors, Bell's Books of Palo Alto, Kepler's Books of Menlo Park and Linden Tree Books of Los Altos.



Adult Winners

First Place

Tyler Dinneen
Coffee and Cigarettes

Second Place
Monica McHenney
The Vow

Third Place
A. A. Norton
My Sweet Allele

Youth Winners

Teen 12-14

First Place

Sofia Lucas

Second Place
Sydney Ling
Skipping Stones

Third Place
Abigail Milne
Thank You, Ms. Natalia

Young Adult 15-17

First Place

Isabella Madruga
Dancing with Death

Second Place
Manya Zhao
Finding Ordinary

Third Place
Marvin Lin

Short Story Contest judges



Kepler's Books and Magazines, Palo Alto Linden Tree, Palo AltoBell's Books, Palo Alto


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