Short Story Contest

A sense of belonging

Short Story Contest authors reflect on unconventional bonds forged in unexpected moments

Whether or not influenced by the abrupt and widespread isolation people around the globe experienced during the pandemic over the past year, the first-place winners of this year's Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest all submitted pieces that examine the need for people to feel connected to the world around them.

Each of the writers draws upon their personal experiences and those of people around them to weave together stories that uncover the things around us — people, nature and objects — that provide comfort and meaning in our lives.

From the two siblings accustomed to bouncing from home to home who finally find a sense of belonging when a colony of bees nest outside their bedroom to the socially ackward high school loners who form unexpected friendships after an otherwordly conductor hijacks their train to the close-knit group of friends who must learn how to move forward following the untimely death of one of their own, each story sheds light on the unconventional bonds people can forge in unlikely places during unexpected moments.

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, Meg Waite Clayton 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 Children's Books of Los Altos.

Adult Winners

First Place

Inna Tsirlin
The First Time

Second Place
Sylvia E. Halloran
No Place Like Home

Third Place
Cary Kelly

Honorable Mentions
The Out House Crooner, by Cathy Broderick
Please Remember Ron Nichols, by Jacob Halabe
Tears, by Bill Janssen
A Storm of Color, by Juliette Kilgore
A Smile Timed Life, by MaryAnn Saunders
The Flower Lady, by Eileen Skidmore

Young Adult 15-17

First Place

Claire Xu
Not The Unusual

Second Place
Skyler Hedblom
Sweaty Hands

Third Place
Jessica Wang

Honorable Mentions
My Dad's Dad, by Tenzin Chang
COVID Killed My Friendship, by Rebecca Kapiloff
Escape for a Moment, by Amelia Klingberg
Lunar New Year's Dinner, by Jack Poon
The Light of Leftover Storms, by Devon Shih
The Glimpse Before, by Kari Trail
The Beautiful Monster Within, by Sky Upender
Walking Forward, by Michael Zhang

Teen 12-14

First Place

Aaminah Memon
The Train to Nowhere

Second Place
Eine Youn

Third Place
Elise Chang
Too Far

Honorable Mentions
This Is How It Ends, by Kaitlyn Chen
Sour Purple Pomegranates, by Ayda Diril
Violet and the Time Machine, by Naomi Jones
Reiko's Flying Machine, by Mei Knutson
Messy Stitch, by Anika Nair
Grandma Honey's Almond Butter, by Claire Sun
Second Rate, by Benjamin Wu

Short Story Contest judges


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


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