I’m THRILLED to announce my 6400-word essay, Alcohol May Intensify Effect will be published in Issue Nineteen of Barrelhouse magazine. This D.C.-based publication started in 2004 with writers who envisioned a magazine that could be literary without being pretentious.

“I used to tell people that we want to be a literary magazine for people who don’t like literary magazines,” says Joe Killiany, one of the remaining founding editors. It seeks to bridge the gap between high-brow literary tastes and the mid-brow appreciation of daily joys like good music, bad television and a decent hot dog.

Check them out! https://www.barrelhousemag.com/

And stay tuned for the publication date! Better yet, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know!

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When I was 13, I won an award for the following short story, Why Me?

It’s the story of a student being bullied by the cool kids and forced to smoke a cigarette.

To this day, I have never smoked a cigarette.


WHY ME?

The fire bell screamed down the hallway, echoing loudly in our ears. The whole class jumped to its feet, giggling, chattering and slowly lining up into a far from suitable line as we quickly filed out in to the crowded hallway. The teachers pushed and shoved us down the stairs while "shushing" us constantly at the same time. The noise of the crowd and the bell was deafening. Finally, the procession was down the stairs and out the door. Our class lined up on the tennis courts, while Mrs. Muller took attendance. After a word from the principal on how we could speed the exit up, we walked back into the school. However, I was grabbed by the arm and pulled away from the crowd.

"Hey Judy!" It was Doreen, the toughest girl in grade nine. She was surrounded by three girls in tight jeans and "feathered back" hair. One of the girls was casually smoking a cigarette. I gulped and my legs started to shake.

"Yes?" I asked nervously.

"We're gonna play hooky!" she whispered. "Wanna come along?"

"Why me?" I questioned.

"Well, you're so perfect and you never do anything bad so, we thought we'd help ya out!"

"Well..."

"Aw, c'mon Judy, no one will notice us in this crowd. It's the perfect time," she grinned.

"Well, I really don't know Doreen. You see, I have this Biology test next period and I'd really like to do well on it."

"Fine," she laughed sarcastically, "I'll deal with you later Miss A+!"

The girl who was smoking took one last drag on her cigarette, dropped it on the ground and stomped it out.  Doreen turned to the girls, "C'mon we better split before this crowd thins out!"

With that they turned and jumped the fence. One jump was all it took them to hop the fence and they were free! My legs were still shaking.

This Biology test was pretty easy, I thought to myself, fifty minutes later, as I skimmed over it once more. I think I'll get about a B+. The bell rang and the papers were collected into a pile before we were allowed to leave. As I walked down the hall to my locker I breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't all off my conscience though. Doreen's threat was still heavy on my mind. When I reached my locker, I opened it and began to pack my bag for the weekend. The crowd was soon gone and I had the locker room to myself. Suddenly, my attention turned to some chatter coming up the stairs. It was Doreen!

I froze. Oh my god, I thought. Why me? Doreen came up the stairs with the same three girls trailing behind her like little puppies. She stopped in front of me with a fierce look on her face.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't little Judy packing her bags to study," she mocked with a smirk on her face.

"Yes, I was just finishing up here," I managed to say while locking my locker and zipping up my bag. I began to walk away.

"Not so fast, Judy," she yelled, "I still have to finish you off!" She grabbed me by my sweater and pushed me up against the lockers.

"We're gonna make you smoke!" Doreen stated triumphantly.

I gasped and my legs started to shake again as she produced a shabby, slim cigarette from her pocket. With her other hand she lit it with a lighter after letting me down for a second. She took a drag and then held it up to me.

"Girls!" she commanded and they grabbed my arms and pinned them back so I couldn't wriggle loose. "Now, smoke!"

I had no option but to smoke. My lips reluctantly wrapped around the butt and I sucked in. My whole world started to spin around me and my eyes began to water. I coughed and choked and gasped for air while Doreen stepped on the butt, smothering it completely.

"Well, Judy that's your punishment. Next time you disobey Doreen Fraser we'll make you do something worse!" With that command Doreen spun around and waltzed down the stairs with the three girls following her as obediently as before.

My eyes began to fill with tears as I grabbed my bag and raced for the other stairwell. By the time I was outside, tears were streaming down my face, making everything blurry. I ran home all the way. When I got to our front door I quietly opened it, threw down my bag and silently closed it again. Then I raced up the stairs, threw open my door, flopped onto my bed and sobbed for all I was worth.

Why me?

Henriette Ivanans, Grade 8
Marjorie Pickthall Literary Competition 1982
Bishop Strachan School
Junior Short Story, First Prize

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