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 Post subject: Best of the Slam
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2018 4:25 pm 

Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2018 10:21 pm
Posts: 3
Good writing is all about experimentation. To find the right subject, sometimes you have to explore a variety of themes; to find the right style, sometimes you have to try out a range of different forms. That's one of the things that makes The Slam so special--our writers' versatility. In this year's Best of The Slam, we have pieces covering history, chemistry, geography, psychology, literature; we have poetic forms from haiku to rhyming and free verse, and prose styles from microfiction to creative nonfiction. Our young writers aren't afraid to go out of their comfort zones to try out new subjects and styles. On The Slam, there are no set themes or models to follow: we encourage experimentation, as we believe that all writers need to experiment to grow.

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The Slam is Cicada's online counterpart: a community where writers ages 14-23 can submit their poems, stories, and creative nonfiction and receive feedback from their peers. Selection is competitive--but with twenty new pieces of writing going live each month, there's plenty of opportunity for writers of all abilities to contribute. While you're submitting your own work, you can also see what other teens are writing, post critiques, and read the monthly Slam Master's Rant, which offers ideas and advice for young writers.

Once every year, we choose a selection of our best Slam writers to feature right here in the pages of Cicada. These are talented young authors who are dedicated to improving their craft and to experimenting with different styles until they've found the perfect fit. Once you've read this year's best of the best, come join the ranks.

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--Ann Pedtke, Slam Master

JACKIE 0. DREAMS SHE IS IN OUTER SPACE AND SEES THE WORLD PRICKED WITH MILLIONS OF TINY LIGHTS

by Molly McGinnis

SAILING CROSS COUNTRY

by Emma Prichard

Leo could hardly believe her luck when she saw the boat.

Her latest ride had left her while she was in the rest stop bathroom. Jerk. Leo slouched in a sticky red booth in the food court, glaring at the cheap cup of coffee in front of her, the first few sips of which were settling sourly in her empty stomach. Across the room, the Burger King sign glowed, mocking her. Leo let her head thunk down onto the table. She was broke, she was hungry, and thanks to the heavy metal the jerk had been blasting out of the car speakers car speakers all night, exhausted. More importantly, she was still hours from Boston and didn't have a ride.

Lifting her head, Leo watched a smiling family of tourists, late leaf-peepers, heading toward their towering RV. If only, if only, Leo thought. Since there is power in the wishing, she clarified: The RV, not the family.

That was when the boat pulled into the parking lot. Technically, it was a yacht. A yacht strapped to the bed of a truck barely big enough to hold it. Painted white and dark blue, the yacht was thirty feet from bow to stern, and here, out of the water, it was at least twenty feet from keel to the top of the pilothouse.

"Hello, beautiful," Leo breathed.

For the moment she stayed still, trying to look bored while she finished her coffee. Not that it really mattered; no one was paying any attention to her. Outside, a tall, wiry man hopped out of the truck cab, giving the straps and pads holding the yacht in place only a cursory check. Mentally, Leo toasted his lack of diligence; she would depend on it later. The man came into the building, making a beeline for the bathrooms. Once he was out of sight, she moved.

Casually, but quickly, she walked over to the vessel. Looking up admiringly, she strolled around it. Lucky for her, an eight-wheeler had pulled into the spot directly beside the yacht, narrowing the areas where she could be seen to only a few feet on her right and left. She glanced around once more to be sure no one was nearby before climbing, slothlike, up one of the ropes securing the yacht to the truck bed.

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A minute and a little rope burn later, Leo slipped over the rail and dropped onto the deck. Keeping low, she crawled to the hatch. A caress from a hairpin popped open the lock and she was inside.

"Captain Leonora, reporting for duty," Leo snickered as she gazed around. Inside, the decor was just as ostentatious as the outside would suggest: lots of brass and carved mahogany. A table and couches were fixed to the floor. A counter and a small refrigerator made for a kitchen. To her surprise, in a storage compartment she found crackers, peanut butter, and a few other nonperishables. A feast!

For a while now, Leo had been growing suspicious of her current run of luck. By the time she found the large bed in the stern, she no longer cared. Fast asleep in seconds, she didn't even feel the lurch as the truck started down the highway.

Watching the world go by via porthole was at first disorienting, then exhilarating, and then restricting, as she was constantly shifting to get a better look at things. Was she bored? Yes. But was she comfortable, well fed, well rested, and well hidden? Definitely, yes. In fact, she didn't even mind having no way of directing where they were going. The truck had long since passed Boston and had made a few more pit stops, one long one during which the driver had slept for a few hours and Leo had snuck out to stretch and get her bearings. A short while later and they were back on the road.

"The next morning, Leo woke and thought she was at sea. Looking out the porthole, she saw waves going by. She blinked and realized they were passing by a lake, with the road so low and close to the shoreline that the yacht seemed to be floating in it. Leo giggled and looked at her watch: 4:30 A.m., just before dawn. Glancing out the other windows confirmed her hopes; the highway was empty at this early hour. So she gave in to a temptation that had been nagging her since she boarded. From a storage closet she pulled a folding deck chair, and slipped outside. Careful to stay in the blind spot behind the pilothouse, she set up the chair, tied it to a handy brass ring, and sat down to watch the sun come up over the road streaming away into the distance.

"Yes, Momma." She's halfway out the door already, black braids flying behind her as she leaps down the steps. The chickens scatter before her, squawking their indignation. She closes the gate behind her carefully before she turns her back on the house and starts down the dry dirt road.

Late summer dust rises in clouds around her as her bare brown feet hit the ground. She tips her head back from the dust and looks up at the clouds. I watch her skip along, wondering what shapes she sees in their puffy whiteness. At her age, I always saw the shapes of castles in the clouds on my way to work. To live in a castle was my dream then, though my childish idea of what a castle looked like was hardly what most people would describe. But to my eight-year-old eyes, the house where I worked looked more like a castle than anything I could imagine.

The Morgan house was three whole stories tall, with clean white walls, a dark green front door, and pristine windows on every side. I washed those windows nearly every day. It was my favorite job, since from most windows I could see Mrs. Morgan's flower gardens with their full rosebushes and softly nodding daffodils. The gardens were Mrs. Morgan's pride and joy, though I couldn't imagine that austere-looking lady with her perfect white hands ever working in them. She employed a gardener to keep the gardens trimmed and weeded and watered.

The only part of the house I preferred to the gardens was the tower. What purpose it served, I still don't know. The stairs leading up to it, though always carefully swept by me, were rarely used. Nothing was stored in the tower, and no one slept there or worked there. Despite this, I was sometimes sent up to wash the tower's single window.

I loved my time at the tower window. From it, I could look down over the town and watch everything that happened. I could see every truck that drove in from one of the outlying farms and observe which shops the owners went into and what they bought. I could see the general store keeper's hired boy fall asleep on the stoop, and I could see the storekeeper come out and shake him by the ear until he woke. Best of all, I could see the school and the schoolyard, where a dozen white boys and girls played every day at noon. Their happy laughter was the only sound loud enough to reach the high tower.

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I always lost track of time in the tower and would come down after half an hour to be cuffed and scolded by Mrs. Brack, the Morgans' rough, red-haired housekeeper. Pulling me along by my ear, she would threaten to tell the missus about my laziness, while I begged and pleaded until she let me go. I always feared she would carry out her threat and I would be sent away. If that were to happen, I knew my father would be angry, for my family depended on my small earnings.

The tolling of a distant bell breaks into my thoughts and reminds me I have breakfast dishes to wash. As I thrust my hands into my dishpan, the bell finishes the strokes of the hour. The sound is familiar now, but every time I hear it I recall the glorious day last year when the bell was first put up.

Everyone in town was there that day. I leaned on my husband's shoulder and Maybelle held my hand as we watched three of the town men lift the bell up. A fourth man wrapped a rope through the top of it several times over. When the bell was secured, three of the men climbed down from the bell tower while the fourth took hold of the rope's free end and gave a tug. The bell's rolling, musical voice resounded through the town.


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