Petersburg Pilot -


Two Petersburg girls win writing competition


Two Petersburg students won awards in the Alaska Statewide Youth Art & Writing competition.

Helen Martin, 8th grader at Mitkof Middle School, won third place for an excerpt of a mystery novel she’s writing and another third place award for a flash fiction short story.

Martin’s mystery novel is set in Denmark and chronicles a girl who discovers a body in a bog on land her father owns.

“I’ve been writing for a really long time,” Martin said. “My mom has documents on her computer from when I was orating stories to her when I was five.”

Martin said she enjoys writing mystery stories for their plot twists and ability to keep her readers entertained.

Sydney Guthrie, Petersburg High School Freshman, brought home an award for flash fiction as well, tying with Martin for third place.

Flash fiction is a very short piece of writing that captures a scene or a moment of dialogue.

Guthrie’s piece is set at a funeral where a group of grieving people begins to deal with the loss of friends and family.

“I really love reading and it kind of went from there,” Guthrie said. “I read so much that I wanted to start writing my own stuff.”

F Magazine has run the statewide art and writing competition for 7-12 graders for the past five years.

"We encourage students to submit to as many competitions and as often as they can," said Teeka Ballas, publisher of F Magazine. "Each competition for youth in this state has its own thing to offer. Ours is 'No Censorship.' Art is about interpreting the nuances, mores and social norms. We believe it's just as important for young artists and writers to express themselves unhindered and uncensored as it is adults. And that's the kind of competition we want to encourage."

Guthrie also won an award during last year’s competition.

Sydney Guthrie’s contest entry “Sing Acrimony”

Seven graves. Seven dead. Seven lives finished. Not seven bodies though, not that much had been salvaged. Bits and pieces were recovered of the vessels. Enough though, enough to make it seem like their bodies were actually being laid to rest, and not just pieces of them. All the same it was not an open casket funeral, no one wanted to be reminded of what was missing. No, it would just fuel the sorrow and they did not need more of that.

The scene of the funeral was completed by music. It was a march. A slow march towards death. It was lovely though. Lovely in the eerie way that only death can be. The music ended before the ink ran out. No one was surprised.

It ended in shatters and shakes. The pianist, the now childless mother, stared down at her hands. They shook. They shook. They shook. Her face cracked and water rushed forth. Squelching sobs heaved up from the deep pits of her lungs, dark and mournful. No one spoke. Everyone watched, everyone waited. For an eternal moment her cries were the only noise the world held.

Then, like the tune of an old wind up toy being wound up after years of disuse, a song creaked to life. It swelled up, not from one direction but seemingly from all. It was craggy and raw, such as one’s throat after weeks of unrelenting sobs. Grief stained and angry, the lilting tune rose quickly to a cacophony, resonating about the glade, drifting out, then dissipating in the morning haze. The entire scene seemed distanced from reality. As though Time’s arms had come

to gently cup the mourners in a space away from the ticking of the clock, allowing them a brief reprieve from the world that forced their tears, their sorrow.

Tears unrelentingly gushed down their stoic faces. Their eyes pushed towards the darkening sky. And then as if the heavens had heard their sorrow, they fell open, and a gentle downpour caressed them like the comforting embrace of a mother. But they were not comforted, they were angry, they were raging. For their children, their family, their friends, were taken away and this was the only way that they could proclaim their acrimony. Every man, woman, and child stayed, the rain did not urge their peace. Their mouths open wide, chanting louder and louder with each passing note.

The rain did not subside, it grew ever relentless, drumming down upon the protestors, an endless beat trying to drown out their song. They were not cowed. No lightning accompanied the storm but the rancor of the gods thundered about them. Mortals should never question the will of the gods lest they wish to be destroyed. But their sorrow was too heavy; their enmity too fierce. They could not let this go, and in their hearts they knew that this would be their last stand, but stand they would.

They sang their dissent, spitting in the eye of the king of the gods. It did not last long, their gods had too much pride, the pride we gave them. The glade was enveloped with a sudden burst. Flames wrecked, savaged, and burnt, yet their song did not end. They shouted and screamed their song to the world, in opposition to the gods. Never letting go, never stopping. Their lungs burned, their skin peeled, they were beyond pain, this fickle mortal skin could not compare to the anguish and agony of their souls. They did not stop until the air could no longer reach their lungs and their hearts stopped.

They were swallowed up, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, babies, and a silence filled the air. But this silence rang. It rang with everything they had been trying to say. And they were heard. They had died. They had screamed. They had rebelled. They had protested. They had fought. They had done what no others had done, opposed the very gods that made them and gave them what they said was “free will.” Freedom was all they wanted, and they would get it. They died in the first battle of the war, a catalyst, a martyr, a symbol, and they would win.

An excerpt of Helen Martin’s award winning short fiction contest entry

“Oh my word! Beatrice!” My dad sounded frantic. He had been out in the bogs gathering plants. My mother came running out, clad in only her nightgown and robe, and she had curlers in her blonde hair.

“Mom, what is it?” I asked excitedly. I was dressed in my usual autumn gear; a huge gray sweatshirt and thick black leggings.

“Clara! You get back in the house right now!”

I rolled my eyes and went back to feeding the cats, Catloaf, Catbread and Elgin Lumpkin. Probably just a rare plant or something. Mother and dad came running back with a scared look in their eyes.

“Clara! Call the police!” Mum looked awful scared. I nodded and did as I was told. Dad grabbed the phone from my ear and yelled into the receiver.

“There’s a body, officer! A body right out in my bog!”

I tried to contain my amazement, but failed. “WHAT?” I screamed as mom tried to clear me out of the kitchen. She knows as well as I do about my immense fear of dead things. I was having trouble processing this when the wail of sirens blared outside our door. Mother was nervously biting her nails as a crew of five police officers paraded into our kitchen. The cats scurried away in fear.

“Officer Cartwright.” One of the hunky men with a goatee said. “I hear you may have found a recent murder victim in your, ehem, bogs.” He smelled strongly of cologne.

“That’s right, officer. I was collecting some roots when I think I saw a floating figure in one of the pools. As I got closer, I realized it was a man!” My dad replied with a mixture of excitement and worry.

Officer Cartwright gave a long, drawn out ‘hmmm’ and asked to see the body. I might be afraid of deadness, but I’ll do anything to solve a mystery. When Mother gave me the ‘go ahead’ look, I scampered into my thick black boots and ran to catch up. Fog surrounded the bogs, and for fear I might fall in, I called for our big black lab, Lucy. She could detect a pool even in the dead of night. I now could hear dad and the police officers.

“Right here! See that?” I walked up to dad’s side and leaned in to get a better look. It was a body alright, but it had a strange brown tinge about it, and I couldn’t get a good look with the fog.

“Take a note, Darson.” Cartwright gestured to a sickly boy, red hair, freckles, and a rather long, knotted nose. He looked my age, 15, at the most. “Dead body, presumably a man, found on Jimmy Hariss’s lot, 6:24 am, October 22.” Lucy went up to the body and sniffed it.

“Get your filthy mutt away from the evidence!” Cartwright yelled. Lucy cowered pitifully.

“You keep your filthy cologne to your own nose!” I yelled back. Cartwright walked slowly up to me with his chest puffed out in arrogance. As he was about to yell something witty, I turned my back and started to talk.

“This is clearly a case of murder. But, you may ask, who is this man? Why is he dead? How did he die? And, of course, who did it?” I said in my best Cartwright impersonation. He rolled his eyes.

“Who let this silly little girl intrude?” He drawled in a bored voice. “This is a crime



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