Editor’s picks

For Fiction 59, as well as Poetry 99, the CN&R editorial staff judges entries as a team. It’s a democracy, not a dictatorship, so my preferences don’t always prevail. That’s the way it should be. Creative writing is a matter of taste, and the six people here have different tastes, so the choices (winners and otherwise) aren’t at an individual’s whim.

Still, I admit there are times I’m tempted to act like a king. Pieces I really like don’t always gain favor with the others. For instance, I’d have awarded a Lyon Book gift certificate for “If I Knew Then …”—which made Honorable Mention—and given Honorable Mention to a second story from the same writer:

We sit in his room as he dictates mathematical theorem and physical science. He reads books. In my mind he was a wolf of the night, howling at the moon and not caring why. But instead he has answers. “God is chemical impulse, the misfire of a rogue synapse,” he says. I want to punch him in the face.

By Rachel Libby, Chico

Here are others that caught my eye:

The Haunted Forest
“What now? We’ve been running for an hour.”

“I know but they’re still behind us!”

“Can’t we stop now?”

“Do you want to get caught?”

“No way!”

“Then keep running!”


“We can lose them up here at the forest.”

“You mean the haunted woods?”

“Yes exactly!”

“But it’s haunted?”

“So what? Do you want to get caught?”


By Kahlil Johnson, age 9, Chico

A Bloody Question
Getting on the bus, he sees the goddess. He wriggles through the sweaty cramped bodies and finds a place within smelling distance of the queen. The bus lurches forward with a steady pace. The brakes screech, he launches forward only to elbow her in the nose. Bleeding, he asks if this is a bad time to ask her out.

By Heidi Rae Collar, Chico

When Will He Propose?
She nudged him, asking, “When are you going to pop the question?”

Here, in line at the car wash on a sweltering afternoon; while sharing a bag of pretzels? Could she be serious?

“When you least expect it, Baby,” he assured. She reached for more pretzels, half expecting to find a ring in the bottom of the salty bag.

By Carla Humbert, Chico

The Crossing
The ground shook as the train rumbled through the hot, sunbaked crossing. Suddenly, an unkempt man carrying a bag over his shoulder burst from the bushes. He dashed toward the boxcar, stumbling as he threw his bag through the opening. Frantically he raised one leg and barely pulled himself in. His shoe, with tongue flapping, rested against the rail.

By Van Wade, Chico

A Big Mistake
BANG! The gun shots rang out behind George as he raced his car down the street. The cops had been chasing him for the last three hours. George had dodged spike strips, helicopters, and almost being run off the road. He was trying to think of why the cops were chasing him when he realized this wasn’t his car!

By Sean Wolcott, age 16, Chico

The Grass Isn’t Greener
It was too bad about the house. French doors and tile floors—all gone to the government. I wondered about the new owner. Did they appreciate the wooden blinds and the curve of the molding as I had? I pictured their hand high at the auction, winning the bid. At least I wouldn’t have to mow the grass anymore.

By Diana Bishop, Chico

Borrowed Time
The first night was always magic. He carried us to our beds, dozing heads filled with tales of people and places you couldn’t imagine. Morning sun brought wondrous plans; the best times of our lives just around the corner … But the weight of unkept promises grew heavier each day, and Dad had to move on, before he was crushed.

By Michelle Bernal, Chico

Terror on Nova Drive
When our youngest child told us the neighbor’s son, Rashid, said the mysterious boxes, delivered late at night, contained “stuff for ABON,” I jokingly asked, “You mean a bomb?” He nodded. I froze. Shaken, I called the FBI, who arrived within the hour. Peeking out the window, I watched them approach our house. Thankfully, the boxes were from AVON.

By Mitch Bonar, Chico

All the Lonely People
A lineup of sad, lonely, web-cam distorted faces for me to review, along with catchy phrases like “Fishing for my Dream girl,” “Hot for You.” Fat, short, athletic, bald, and then I saw you, laughing like you thought it was funny too! It was that laugh that brought me to you. I will forever be grateful for laughter.

By Laurie Laurence, Chico

Mystery Meal
“I can’t believe I’m actually swallowing this,” I thought. She said it was beef stroganoff, I thought perhaps lizard stroganoff. While she talked I stared at the meal and it stared back at me. Maybe the food would mutate and ooze away. It was our third date and I realized the meal wouldn’t just vanish. I took another bite.

By Nicolas Arteaga, Chico

Blind Love
After her eye surgery, she was finally going to see the man she had shared her whole life with. There he stood, handsome, tall, but with no eyes. A man full of love, which she disliked and refused. With a mutilated heart, he sadly replied, “Take care of my eyes. I gave them to you with all my heart.”

By Claudia Soto, age 16, Hamilton City

Taking a Break
Emma was lazing on the porch swing, reading People, when the white Caddie pulled up. Squinting, she took a sip of her beer. When her husband, wearing wraparound shades and a tight black leather jacket, got out, her heart stalled. Then his hoochie girlfriend joined him and Emma sighed, relieved. For a minute she’d thought he wanted her back.

By Lynn Jacobs, Chico

Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold
She entered the room, excited to tell him the great news. Sneering, he stopped her, and said he was leaving: she was fat, had no class and was going nowhere—unlike his new girlfriend who, like himself, was a devotee of Gold’s Gym. Shocked, she quickly left, a small smile appearing as she clutched last night’s winning lottery ticket.

By Wanda Hough, Magalia

Spin the Bottle
It was Johnny’s turn. Every girl in the room pretended to be invisible, praying that they would not have to kiss the boy with the chapped lips and body odor, except for Emily Sue. Dumbstruck, the bottle landed on her. It was her chance to release her deepest darkest secret. Spin the bottle was no longer just a game.

By Brittany Farrar, Chico

Song of Regret
Music blared. I stood in the center of the room, my mind racing. I felt the beat of the song take over my body. Now I could actually feel the music, pulsating inside my brain, taking over the natural rhythm of my heart. As I closed my eyes, I realized that coming here tonight had been a big mistake.

By Kelly Murphy, age 14, Chico

Love Lost Is Love Gained
“And just like that she walked outta my life, forever. The depths of despair suffered were known to no man. Love and hate intermingled in the passionate throes of love making. The sweet taste of her lips, her gentle breath at my neck in our last embrace. Goodbye my sweet, my love!”

“I’m just going to the bathroom! Writers!”

By Roxanne Kollmann-Schroder, Brownsville

Finally, there’s one I absolutely loved and am so disappointed it came up one word shy of 59. To this young writer and everyone else, please enter again next year … and count carefully!

The Thief
It was 3:00 a.m. when I stuck the first lock-pick in the door. I knew that there was one man in the house sleeping in his bed, on the third floor. As I opened the door, I looked for the money he stole from my family, and left a note saying, “The student can beat the teacher.”By

Matt Price, age 11, Chico