2017 WC – 3rd Place: Brooklynn Coopers

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2017 WC – 2nd Place: Madison Edwards

“Be grateful for another day. Not everybody made it, so don’t take it for granted.” It was on a bright, humid day in the stunningly beautiful city of Naples, Florida, that I made my first kill. Looking back, I have only regret, shame, and the haunting memories that still stick with me.

The sun was blazing overhead, the sand was scorching, and the salty waves lightly lapped against the sand, a typical day at the beach in Naples, located on the Gulf of Mexico’s glittering waters. I lazily enjoyed the view from my perch on a beach chair. I could see my brothers and dad playing football, moving at a hurried pace to keep the sand from burning their feet, my mother floating in the pool half asleep, and my friend, Abby, sprawled out listening to music beside me as the sun bathed us both in its sultry rays. I was completely relaxed, having no premonition of what was to come.

I reveled in this beautiful day as the previous one had been threateningly gray, with strong winds and torrents of rain. Today no signs of the storms of days past remained. Or so I thought.

As the heat from the sizzling sun became almost unbearable, I gently shook Abby and asked if she would like to walk along the ocean shore, look for shells that sprinkled the sand, and wade in the ocean to cool off. She readily agreed. After a quick reapplication of sunscreen, we headed off.

As we reached the water with our small pail to collect shells, we saw one of the remnants of yesterday’s tempest. About four feet into the alkaline waters rested many beautiful conch shells, shifted close to shore by the churning waves of yesterday. Abby and I, having a special affinity for conch shells, felt absolutely elated. I set down the small green pail so I could wade in with Abby and pick up a few of the alluring shells. We grabbed two shells each, placing them in our bucket. Euphoric with our good luck, we each grabbed two more shells to carry up to our condo for safe keeping. We made the short trek back to the condo building. We clambered into the elevator that would take us to the seventh floor, where our lodgings were located. As the elevator climbed we chattered excitedly about the shells that stood apart from our usual finds. As we reached the seventh floor a cold, sharp object poked at my hand. Panicked, I looked down to discover that our stunning shells still had living inhabitants which had finally figured out that they were no longer in their aquatic home and had begun to stick their single, clawed foot out in protest. A strangled sound of horror escaped my throat as their slimy, oozing, hideous bodies began to emerge from their beautiful shells, attempting to find water but instead wrapping around my fingers. It took Abby only seconds to discover the cause of my panic as the shells in her hands were also coming alive.

As the elevator doors opened, we sprinted to the door of our condo, immediately dropping the shells and their repulsive dwellers. We quickly collected ourselves and found a bucket big enough to safely hold our eight conchs. Once they had been safely contained, we debated on whether to return them to their rightful home in the ocean or selfishly let them die and keep the shells. Unfortunately, our love of unique shells won out. We left all eight shells in the bucket, without water, and returned to the beach, assuming they would perish by the time we returned. The soothing sun quickly erased any thought of the suffering conchs, and we enjoyed the rest of our beach day without guilt. After the sun had set, we returned to our condo. Suddenly, we remembered our tortured conchs when the bucket came into view. We cautiously approached the bucket. No movement occurred from within. I gently prodded the bucket with my toe, and the bucket came alive with frantic clawing as they tried, in vain, to escape their confines. A shriek emerged from my throat, and I realized they weren’t dead as I had assumed they would be after hours without water. It turns out conchs, very similar to snails, have a protective layer of slime to preserve their skin and allow them to survive outside of water for many hours. As the regret and foolishness of our earlier decision sank in, I realized there was no going back on our decision. The beach closed at sundown, and the conchs wouldn’t make it until the morning. They were clearly suffering. So, we decided to put the poor, innocent creatures out of their misery.

After searching the condo, we decided to pour a mixture of bleach and water on the conchs to end this whole horrible ordeal. In a moment of steely courage, we booked it outside and dumped the potent mixture in the bucket. As the sounds of a frantic struggling from within the bucket reached our ears, we ran back into the condo, unable to bear the sounds of our mistake. A few hours later, we emerged to see if the bleach had done the trick. As I shook the bucket there were no signs of life, a small relief. However, knowing how hardy these creatures are, we decided to freeze them to be 100% sure they were completely dead. After tentatively removing them from the bucket and placing them on paper plates, we inserted them into the freezer and went to bed. The knowledge of what had transpired weighed heavily on us.

Eventually, morning came, and we opened the freezer. The conchs appeared to be in the same spot as we had left them. It was time. We needed to remove the dead creatures from the shells we had so desperately wanted the day before. However, you cannot simply pluck a frozen conch from its shell. You must boil them first.

We heated up a pot of water, our stomachs turning at the thought of what we must do. Using a pair of tongs, I dropped the icy shells into the scalding water with a small hiss. As the conchs unfroze, a vile yellow-green foam rose to the top of the water, releasing a horrendous smell. As everybody choked and gagged at the smell, we turned off the stove top. The time had come to remove the conchs. We gathered a trash bag, paper towels, and a pair of tweezers to pull the conchs out. Neither Abby nor I could bring ourselves to complete this final stage. We bribed my little brother into doing it with the promise of two of the lovely shells. He readily agreed, always one to be involved in something others considered gross or unpleasant. It turns out that conchs really do not like being removed from their homes, even when dead. Despite having been soaked in bleach, then frozen, then boiled, those little warriors were not giving their shells up easily, even from beyond the grave. After a solid half an hour of yanking, they wouldn’t come out. We boiled them again, the same noxious foam and smell rising. Finally, nearly twenty-four hours after we unknowingly plucked the conchs from the sea, the conchs were removed from the shells. The moment, void of victory, was a moment of realization that we had just intentionally murdered eight ocean creatures. A fact that still haunts our consciences.

The conch shells sit on a shelf in my room, surrounded by many other trip souvenirs with much less violence behind them. Every time I pass the beautiful shells, it is a weighty reminder of the Great Conch Debacle of 2015.

2017 WC – 1st Place: Adryanna O’Keefe

In the kingdom we call Attic,

A treasure chest, veiled in dust,

Conceals the riches of a dreamer,

The visions of a queen.

A mirror, framed in solid gold,

Entrusts to us an image sweet,

Of full cheeks tinted pink as posies

And eyes as dazzling as the seas.

Fabric cascades in gentle waves,

A waterfall of red,

And gathers in a puddle

Around two tiny feet.

Mother’s pearls from neck descend,

A moon in crimson sky,

Pint-sized fingers twist and twirl

Stars which hang on golden thread.

Sunshine drops in ringlets,

Her shoulders are its throne,

Proud it sits, framing rosie cheeks,

It’s only friend a lacy bow.

A gentle voice like music calls

And child shrugs off her daze.

Bare feet forthwith pitter-patter

As queen from loyal kingdom flees.

Some call it a fancy,

This Lilliputian’s dream,

Whom the world greets as a princess,

But who yearns to be a queen.

summer night

{moon sits in southeast}

amidst a throne

of clouds

filling the horizon

{sky above drenched}

in deep, deep blu


Why do I do

what I do?

Why does


do what they do?

Why do we

keep moving?

Why do we

want things,

like things,

have opinions,



we want…


But why

do we want



emily dickinson – hope is the thing with feathers

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

emily dickinson – a book

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

Unfading Flowers – a poetry analysis of “There is Another Sky” by Emily Dickinson

There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields –
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!

Emily Dickinson was a particularly eccentric woman, and her hundreds of poems reflected this. She capitalized many words on a whim, used dashes against the usual rules, and rarely gave a title to anything she wrote. In the poem “There is Another Sky,” (named after the first line,) Dickinson speaks to her brother using a metaphor, an image, and her usual interesting choice in words to give the reader a window into her feelings about what is happening.

At the beginning of the poem, Dickinson speaks about another place, “another sky,” that is better than earth, even “though it be darkness there.” She uses this place as a metaphor for some sort of afterlife, which is likely Heaven. She speaks of this afterlife, saying that the leaves are ever green, a frost has never come, and that one can hear the hum of bees in the unfading flowers. The ever-greenness of the leaves is a picture of the health and healing that she believes comes in the afterlife, and the lack of frost is a repetition of that idea. The humming of the bees contrasts the sad, “silent fields” of our world.

Dickinson’s imagery is another powerful element used heavily in this piece. The reader would not be able to read without immediately seeing in his mind everything she describes. As she opens the poem, one begins to see a vast, calm sky and a sunshine apart from our own, shining down on little groves of forests and bright gardens full of bright flowers. When one stops to consider this wording, it certainly sounds like a contrast to the way Biblical authors speak of this earth, saying “The sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes.” (James 1:11, from the ESV) In other words, while the Bible describes the fading flower of this world, Dickinson’s poem describes the unfading one of the next.

Throughout the poem, the creative poetess uses words that would not immediately come to the average person’s mind when describing the subjects at hand. For instance, she tells her brother to “Never mind faded forests.” While the reader may not easily be able to describe exactly what she is communicating, most would at least be able to feel what she means. A faded forest feels like a dark and dismal place of docile colors and little activity. Dickinson does the same thing with the words “silent fields.” A field being silent may not at first appear to be poetic, but she is not merely speaking of a field absent of farming equipment. This feeling she sets in the reader’s soul is depressing, almost post-apocalyptic. When understood in this light, it certainly makes the bright garden and bright bee seem much more welcoming.

Each of these three examples are only a sample of the force of poetic wisdom behind Dickinson’s famous poetry. By easily setting up metaphors, painting a clear image in the reader’s mind, and using words that magically give the right feeling, Emily Dickinson crafted poetry that will last forever in the minds of poetic pros and amateurs across the world.

(Note: I’m extremely proud of this paper because I got a 100% on it, first try, and didn’t have to do any redos at all, which is pretty rare with this writing teacher. I hope you enjoyed it!)