Fiction 59: High school winners

Juvenile hall students take the prizes

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Every time the CN&R opens up submissions for its two writing contests—Fiction 59 and Poetry 99—the newspaper receives a stack of entries from the students of Scott Bailey, education specialist at Table Mountain School inside Butte County Juvenile Hall. And each time, at least one story or poem by the school’s young writers (the names of whom are concealed to protect their identities) is selected for publication. This year, all the winners and honorable mentions in the high school category of Fiction 59 are from Table Mountain, so the CN&R asked Bailey to share a few words about the program:

The Writing Exchange is an anonymous exchange of writing between adjudicated youth residing in various juvenile hall facilities. In 2006, it started as a writing program between two Butte County Office of Education community day programs and soon became a program utilized by Table Mountain School inside Butte County Juvenile Hall. Lassen, Placer, Fresno, Siskiyou and Butte County juvenile halls all participate in the program. Students are given topics to write about and asked to put their stories on paper. They most often write intense first-person depictions of homelessness, abuse, addiction, loss and heartbreak. The program allows them to vent about and even purge some of the incredible difficulties they have faced.

Student writing and artwork from each facility are printed for students to read and posted on a blog at

Students share their stories, read them out loud, analyze the writing and connect with one another. Writing fiction is something the youth are now excited about and is a nice deviation from the normal routine of the program.

First place

Need a Ride

After losing his finger to the mower, John had to stop hitchhiking for a while. Walking past an art studio, he remembered his thumb. He decided to mold a ceramic fist with a perfect thumb sticking out. He hitchhiked again with his backpack and dog, Chago. John got picked up faster than he ever did with a real thumb.


Second place

Oro Dam Blvd.

I seemed to be walking through the deep streets of Oroville, wondering if I’m sleeping. Or am I awake? I ponder this for just a moment while I stroke a thick beard I never knew I had. Wondering if I should shave it, a giant cockroach in thinly braided wire spectacles asks me if I would like a cigarette.


Third place

Free Falling

Ralph was soaring high above the dull earth. He stepped to the rattling metal door. He would hurl himself at the world below. His stomach in his throat, he leaped toward the ground. The planet came plummeting toward him. He pulled the chute. Nothing happened. The ground approached, his mind racing. He screamed, “This is what I lived for!”


Honorable mentions

One Thousand Six Hundred and Ninety Days

It had been three years since Shane and his mother had spoken. In county’s juvenile hall they talked over the merciless blue phone. She told her son she was in a rehab and doing well. She had made plans for Shane and her to get clean and start their lives over again. Shane had no room for that whatsoever.


Dead Meat

Walking down the street, Alex noticed that a strange black van was following him. Trying not to panic, Alex started to walk faster. The black van began to speed up. Alex sprinted as fast as he could to his house, six blocks away. The van pulled in his driveway as if it lived there. Suddenly his mom got out.