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Creative Writing Contest Winning Entries Spotlighted

December 5, 2022 - Three EFSC students have been honored for their winning essays in the college's 15th annual fiction and narrative non-fiction writing contest.

six individuals standing in a line for a photo. The last three individuals are holding a winners certificate to the writing contest. Students had to submit an original entry to be part of the Creative Writing Prose Contest.

A three-judge panel made up of faculty and former students reviewed the entries based on language, style, originality and adherence to the formatting requirements and chose the winners, who received writing-themed prize packages ranging in value from $50 to $100 dollars.

The student winners are:

  • 1st place: Charlotte Ludwig with "Where the Boats Go"
  • 2nd place: Clarence Rainwater with "The Great Shark Hunt
  • 3rd place: Isabel Rather with "Silent Space" 

The awards ceremony was attended by Dr. Phil Simpson, the EFSC Dean who oversees the communications discipline, Dr. Sharon Cronk-Raby, the College-wide Chair for Communications and Library Science; and Palm Bay English Instructor, Elaine Fowler, who coordinated the contest.

Check below to read each winning student's original written entry. 

Accordian Table

First Place: "Where the Boats Go" (Fiction) - by Charlotte Ludwig

Summer days were waning. The leaves had that dark too-green hue that briefly gained strength before giving way to the true colors of autumn. Birds were slowly banding together like steadfast pilgrims, preparing for their crusade to warmer lands. Flowers and woodland creatures bloomed equally once more, as if to turn their faces to the light one last time, before turning away into the darkness of the coming frost. The whole forest world seemed to be taking one last full breath of rich, warm air. 

The river seemed to be the only form of life that still sang strongly. Its waters still rushed merrily downstream, foaming like a white freight train, leaving the nearby rocks laughing and chattering. Ice was a long way off, and there was still much adventure that could be found by the riverbank. 

A little boy and his grandfather liked to walk through the woods in the afternoon, looking at all the changes that were slowly appearing. The boy’s name was Henry and he especially enjoyed making little boats out of newspaper and sending them adrift on the river’s swift current. Being only seven years of age, these little boats were Henry’s pride and joy. He would fold them together lovingly, bringing shape and form to what was formerly only fit for the trash bin. 

As he made his boats, Henry would talk aloud to them, giving them names and identities, loading them with all the cargo of imagination that his child’s mind could muster. This was James, that one Thomas, this one also named Henry. And then, when their creator had pronounced them good, the boats would be slid into the cool waters of the river and sent out into the world.

Henry loved his creations, and he could not help feeling a little sad whenever he watched them leave his hands and glide swiftly down the river and out of sight, as if pulled by an invisible string to some secret place where he could not follow. 

One day, after another brave ship had been released, Henry breathed a sign that was especially heavy, and then took his grandfather’s hand. 

           “Grandfather,” he said quietly, “where do the boats go?” 

            Grandfather’s big hand closed warmly over Henry’s. 

            “To the sea,” replied Grandfather simply. 

            “Oh.” 

Henry thought for a bit. He had hoped that his boats would go somewhere, somewhere he might see them again. Henry had never been to the sea, but he was sure that where ever it was, his boats would be there, and that no one would be bothered if he took a few of them back. The thought contented him. 

        “Can I go to the sea sometime?” Henry asked.

        “I don’t see why not,” Grandfather answered.

Henry said nothing more then, but his sadness had disappeared as quickly as the boats had sailed away downstream. He would see his boats again! James and Thomas and Henry! He would draw them from the water and then listen as they told him about all their adventures and all they had seen on their journey to the sea. Henry would laugh and then take them home to rest, where they would be safe and dry forever.

From that day on, Henry folded his boats with more joy and fervor than ever. He would give them warnings, commands of bravery, and messages of love, tenderly preparing them for their trip. But before he placed them in the water to race away, he would say aloud, “Don’t worry, I’ll come find you when you reach the sea.”

Fall came. Flowers drooped and died, like weary messengers of past summer days. The trees shuddered and sent off little gold boats of their own, easing their burdened limbs. The birds had flown off and the animals were nestling together deep underground to sleep the long months away. Life and death were everywhere. 

Grandfather kept his word. By the time the cold winds of early November were whipping along the shore, Henry found himself standing on the edge of the seawall, overlooking the vast ocean. He stood for a moment, taking in the great blue space all around him. Then he jumped back from the ledge and began searching the shoreline, running on quick feet. He darted up and down the seawall, eyes scanning frantically.

        “Henry, what’s wrong?” Grandfather asked, concerned at his grandson’s odd behavior. Henry didn’t seem to be enjoying the view at all. 

        “My boats!” Henry cried desperately. “I can’t find them!” 

        “Your boats?” Grandfather repeated. “Henry? Henry!”

Henry looked up as his grandfather’s voice grew stern. Grandfather motioned Henry to him and Henry obeyed. 

Grandfather knelt to Henry’s height and took his hands. There were tears in the child’s eyes. 

        “My boats…” Henry whimpered. 

        “Your boats are gone, Henry,” Grandfather explained slowly. “Remember when you created them? Back by the river? How you filled them up with your hopes and dreams?” 

Henry nodded tearfully.

       “When they were ready, you set them free. You set them free to sail, to sink, or to find new shores. You set them free, Henry. And now you have to let them go.” 

Henry stared at him quietly, eyes solemn and wet. 

        “Some things are ours to make, but not to keep. Those boats are not yours anymore. They are their own. Perhaps new hands will find them. Let them go.” 

Grandfather squeezed Henry’s hand and smiled sadly at him. 

Henry looked up at his grandfather, and then looked past him and out to the sea, searching for his boats one last time. He felt something in him let loose, like an anchor that has been lifted after a long pause at sea. It drifted slowly out of him, was caught in the wind, then blown out to sea, like one last breathe of strength to urge on the little ships that held so much love.

Second Place: "The Great Shark Hunt" (Non-Fiction) - by Clarence Rainwater

The shark revealed itself a little after midnight. I caught a frightening glimpse of its enormous fin as it slithered, starboard, alongside the boat towards the stern and the trolling fishing rods, the hooks baited with freshly cut mullet. Finding the bait, the shark attacked it in a wild frenzy that shattered the boat’s wake. My heavy rod tipped over, its 100-pound test line unraveling like a loose thread yanked firmly from a wool sweater, The instant tension in my arms was but a warning of the physical pain ahead. As my eyes focused on all the commotion behind the boat, the captain buckled me up in a large, leather fishing-fighting belt, forcefully shoving the butt of the rod so it was positioned in the belt’s gimbal, secure against my abdomen. I pulled back on the bent rod with every ounce of strength I could muster, finally setting the 12/0 hook deep in the mouth of the beast. The shark took off on its first of many runs, attempting to put as much distance between itself and the boat as possible.

There was a perceptible rocking feeling where I stood on the deck as the shark sped away. My forearms ached, and I had broken out in a big sweat in the cool night breeze wafting up off the Gulf. The best I could do was let the shark run, when and where it wanted, lowering the rod slowly, then pulling back and reeling strenuously every time it stopped to rest.

My left forearm had assumed a reddish tint of strain, the muscles taunt, and solid like a bodybuilder. Occasionally, the tips of sporadic swells brushed over the boat, cooling me down, but leaving a bitter taste of salt water in my mouth and nostrils. The fish-fighting belt felt as if it was biting through my jacket, chaffing my skin, and embedding itself in my gut. I could hear the captain speaking to me, though his words were garbled from the wind and from the pain that now stretched from my arms and shoulders into my legs and feet. The captain wiped my sweating brow, and I opened my mouth wide to the bourbon he poured down my throat, straight from the bottle. I welcomed the burn in my throat and esophagus as it settled in my stomach. I asked for another slug from the bottle as it seemed to provide some relief for the pain. The reel stopped spinning, and I moaned and looked up to the full moon when the shark began another run, speculating to myself if I could continue as I began another tortuous round of reeling in the beast. 

At some point later, I heard the captain shout, “It’s a giant hammerhead!”

We could see the shark now in its full splendor, magnificent and solid white, and it appeared to be over half the length of the boat, which I guessed to be about 22-feet long. It had made countless runs, been reeled in, and made more runs, back and forth, for more than two hours. Through it all, it had surrendered what seemed like more than 200 yards from the point of its furthest advance away from the boat. Yet the giant white hammerhead continued to angrily circle the boat in an ever-decreasing circumference, a sight that unnerved me. It looked to me like it could charge the boat and break it in half, leaving us floating in the Gulf as it decided which one of us it was going to eat first. I could see that it bore a large scar across the left side of its back. It glided slowly, not more than a dozen feet off the boat’s stern. It was tired, defeated. The battle was over. After reeling it alongside the boat, we discussed putting a bullet or two in its head and figuring out a way to fasten it to the side of the boat without capsizing. I stared at the full moon.

“I want to let it go,” I said.

The captain looked at the shark and shook his head.

“It’s your call,” he said.

I watched the hammerhead swim away, free to one day fight again. Though I’d been severely tested, I couldn’t help but believe that if fate had ordained this meeting, this night, between man and beast, there was no way I was about to defame it by destroying this dangerous though magnificent creature for the sake of a trophy, or a taller tale to tell. As the boat turned back towards shore, a school of mullet skipped atop the water. The moonlight, reflecting off the Gulf, created an impression in my fatigued mind of a bridge of light, like a landing strip at an airport, extending from the boat’s stern to the horizon. I turned and caught a last glimpse of the great white’s mighty fin as it broke the surface of the water, seemingly navigating across this bridge of light reflecting off the water from the rays of the glorious moon.

Third Place: "Silent Space" (Fiction) - by Isabel Rather

When describing an explosion one thinks of the sound. Your mind grabbing onto just how loud it is.

How the ravenous oxygen absorption by the fire creates a nearly deafening crack. How the event is so bright you can feel your eyesight pop like the explosive itself.

What no one talks about Is the overwhelming silence that follows

No matter how frenzied one may be in the first movement of realizing you're alive, it cannot possibly overshadow the almost instantaneous absence.

The flame gone as quick as it came to be. The boom fading from the echoing walls. The world itself seemingly caught in a standstill. Nothing dares to make a sound after something so intensely forceful.

Any sound after simply becomes a whisper.

The cries upon the voyager were no exception.

The sirens are a dull echo in the back of his mind. The ringing of his ears warrants no reaction. It takes a moment before the pain hits him, All the nerves in his body lighting up with fiery white agony. Everything burning all at once. His veins a cacophony of fireworks dotting the plain of his body. A beautiful wave of scorching hot misery paving it's way across his very soul.

Leon registers a faint screaming among the chaos and distantly realizes that must be him. He can feel the muscles in his jaw stretching, the vibrations in his throat. 

Eyes still flickering with bright spots, Leon desperately blinks. Clawing for a distraction against his body's own misery. Everything felt wrong. Everything submerged under a layer of heavy fog.

He jumps desperately into his jumbled thought. Grabbing for a coherent explanation. His own brain teasing him with snippets of the flash, The sound, The scorching heat, and blinding light, The cries of surprise moments before the catastrophe.

Multiple cries-

Oh god

He has to find the rest of the crew

Leon coughs as a wave of clarity washes through him. 

Had it been hours? Minutes? seconds? 

How was he alive? 

Was he the only one? 

He grits his teeth, feeling the bones creak dangerously as he begins pushing the metal sheet off of his lower torso. Hot relief enveloping his body once the heated steel leaves him.

"Xavier!", Deaf to his own ears Leon holds his hand to his mouth to make certain his jaw was moving. 

His tongue heavy and useless in his own mouth, he cries again. "Molly"

And Once more. 

"Jack?"

The silence was excruciating, taunting him with the desperate hope that anything other than the ringing of his abused eardrums would answer him.

 now?

 Maybe now?

 please? 

Desperately the man rolls on to his stomach beginning to crawl. Every movement was agonizing. It burned, feeling as if his bones were attempting to separate themselves from their connected muscles.

"Is anyone there?" He stains for the tiniest peep. Hoping- No, Begging- for just one noise.

 "Please", it’s His voice- he's sure. Yet it sounds of a different man. Worn and desperate through the speakers of his helmet.

Leon used to love the silence that engulfed the voyager. The vessel mute to the once familiar bustling of earth as it floated thousands of miles away.  He had thought that the ship was quiet before.

It didn't hold a flame to this absence.

Someone lays ahead. Unrecognizable between the layers of haphazard rubble.

"Oh God" Leon digs his elbows down and pulls his body forward. "I'm here- I'm here" 

The silence bows not. 

"You're going to be okay now"

The force of it gives for nothing.

"You're going to be fine, alright?"

Reaching for the body, That last bit of hope clutching to his chest shrivels and falls.

The body of the lead engineer lays twisted among the metal. The purple hue in the face telling that a hole was punched through the outer layers of the ship. The pressure of the void washing away his precious air. Leon can just hope the crew was dead as soon as the explosion hit. He was the only one with his suit on. They would have felt every second of their lungs failing. 

With that thought the silence shattered. The band enclosing the forearm of his ruined suit makes itself known with a screeching cry. As abrupt as it came, it died. Almost as if it the noise itself exhausted the machine. 

Leon blood turns to ice in his veins. The terror affixed on his face, bathed in red from the flashing warning.

Oxygen failing. Oxygen failing. Oxygen failing. Oxygen failing.

Leon couldn’t move to fix it. He didn’t have the energy. 

Even if could, he knew that the closest oxygen tank was on the other side of the rubble and the click of his  lets him know that it's too late to try.

He was to die here.

If he had the air to do it, he's sure that he would let out a bitter laugh. Instead his chest hitches with lost breath.

Slowly, steadily, the ache in Leon's chest bloomed. It was harder to inhale, harder to fill his lungs with the air his body craved so horribly.

He becomes uncomfortably aware of his breathing. Brain hyper-focusing in on every movement of his chest. 

Inhale

His throat starts to itch

Exhale 

He can’t cough.

Inhale 

But he is certain he will try.

Exhale

At some point, the impulse will become too strong.

Inhale

It will happen. 

Exhale

He's in pain now. 

Inhale 

No longer could his lungs deflate. 

His eyes aren't closed but it's getting darker. The shadows in the corner of his eyes spreading fast, Swallowing what little he could still see.

His chest is uncomfortably bloated. His lungs filled to the breaking point and beyond. The need to cough is torture. It burns him alive.

Everything is fuzzy now 

He wheezes, a hissing exhale of air.

Quiet swallows the room. 

Nothing remains 

Nothing but silent space