Poem of Many Questions

Julia’s call-and-response poem is truly a haunting echo. Originally inspired by an image of a dolphin, the poem now omits the nature of the subject and object, and what began as dolphin becomes universal memory. This poem could be about any person we once knew and once questioned, or it could be the voice in our mind, speaking to our own lost inner self. Julia’s poem “Why?” leaves every possibility open, allowing the reader to see what this mirror shows them.

Katrina Goudey
Badgerdog Teaching Artist



Why do they treat you that way? Why? Do they do it on purpose?
Why do you hide your feelings? Why? Are they the reason for that?
Why do you let them treat you that way? Why? Do you want to be treated like that?
Why have you become like them? Why? Was this your goal the whole time? It’s better to be hated than loved for what you’re not.
Why did you choose them over me?

Julia Cramer

Curious and Curiouser

What is creative writing? Why is it important? Over five days, these Badgerdog creative writing summer campers answered those questions with thoughtful discussions and craft exercises that brought their imaginations to life on and off the page. Each day was packed with literary expression that yielded craft essays, creative nonfiction, fiction, fantasy, science fiction, horror, screenplays, and poetry. Even our daily breaks centered around fun word games like Bananagrams and Haiku Deathmatch. As you read their work, notice the detailed images that build new worlds in prose and the attention to line structure and form across their poems. It was a joy working with such curious writers who enjoy writing, came to the page with a playful spirit, and committed to showing up and writing it all down.

Amanda Johnston
Badgerdog Teaching Artist



Life is a game.
Everything is based on one
Good or bad decision taken.
Whether you will be the richest of
The world, wearing gold bars
And eating without making a choice about
Who to feed
Or if you will be not
As privileged, wearing
Rags and choosing who
To feed in a family.
It is based on one
Important decision.
Make your decision a
Good one.

Chaitanya Bokka


A World Away from World

At a secret set of coordinates in the ocean, there are eight portals that open up right at the crack of dusk and dawn. Every night, a different portal opens up. If you don’t make it out to the real world at dawn, you will be lost there (where you are) for a year and a week until the portal opens up again.

Once you exit the different world, you will end up in, another portal of the same color, not the portal you came from. Every Earth day (about 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 months in portal time), the portal opens up in a different spot in its world. There are four portals you can enter and four portals where you will exit. Each portal opens up a different world, and one earth night is about 2 ½ – 3 weeks, so be prepared or you could die there.

The first world is full of life and color and friendly animals. This world is meant not to be touched by the greedy and maniacal souls of the world. You may only enter if your soul is pure. You can get here through the green portal. The second portal, the blue one, is a world with five moons and never-ending night. You may think that without a sun, there’d be no light, but the moons are little individual suns themselves, not shedding pure white light, but blue moonlight, and reflecting off each other. These moons do not revolve normally, but stay the same distance from each other in pentagonal prisms.

There is one world that is up in a sky with beautiful hills as far as the eye can see. This world contains a naturalist civilization that lives in harmony with nature. No pollution, no buildings, but rather large huts and underground passageways. It is said that every single traveler or adventurer to ever visit this world has never returned. It can’t possibly be the civilization that took them out, but the journey one must take to get there. The journey has steep cliffs and large plateaus and one must simply know where they are going or, like I said, you will get lost in the orange portal.

And the last world through the red portal is unseen and untouched by anyone. It could be the portal to hell or a passage to immortality or heaven. No one knew until now.

An explorer by the name of Elario decides to go in and explore. Elario is in one of the few families who know about the portals, and one of even fewer who have explored the portals and came back alive. He lives in a two-story, three-bedroom, and four-bathroom house. He is an executive foreman at an underground construction company. He gets paid $20,000 a week, so he has a good life. He spends his vacations visiting the green world.

The families who know about the portals are part of a secret society (not like the one in the orange portal). It’s a society as old as time, and shrinking in numbers. It began when one Mexican family, one African family, and the last American family got lost in the orange portal.

Elario lives with his parents, his wife Maria, and his son and daughter. His son and daughter are the best of friends. Their names are Serina and Rodrigo. When Elario is traveling, his brother Arturo helps Maria with the kids. As for the African family, they stopped exploring the portals because they felt it was becoming too dangerous and risky. Keep in mind that traveling through these portals is like time-travel because one day on the other side is almost two weeks in the portals. The last of the American family is one single man by the name of John. He is the one aging as we speak in the orange portal.

The only way to get to the portals is by boat. As Elario prepares, he rents a fishing boat from a boating service and has his brother take him. Now, they are at the location and Elario is saying his goodbyes. For the first time in the history of the society, someone has jumped into the red portal.

Vince Guerra



I lived in a place called Icen. It was so cold that the water froze. Not many people lived there. There was only one building.

Once, with the class, we went outside. If you don’t know, there is a legend in Icen. A long time ago, there were two people. When they were living, this place was warm, though it had to be hidden from other people. The two people went to the outside world and told them about Icen. They were sent back to Icen and turned into two stones that would keep Icen from getting too cold and from being discovered.

Our class went outside and climbed the mountain and talked about the two stones.

“Will it be big?” Jin asked.

“I don’t know,” Sana said.

We decided to find the two stones to save Icen.

The next day, a girl named Icen came. She looked like she had a secret. What could it be? After school, we climbed the mountain and talked about the two stones.

“I think I know where it is,” Icen said. “There’s a hole at the top of the mountain. Inside, there’s a box that holds the two stones together.”

“OK! Let’s go!” Sana said.

We went to the very top of the mountain. There was a lot of smoke and it was hard to see. The wind was blowing, and it was hard to move.

“It’s there!” Icen said.

We got the two stones and then everything started to melt. Everything was green. A happy green! Then the ground started to melt. It was starting to melt Icen. Ahhhhh!

Nahyeon Park


The Witch’s Spell Book

I saw her, the witch       her face full of rage
She cut off his fingers       because he ripped off a single page
She knew he would not last        there were no spells she could cast
She threw him across the room real fast        then her spell book started to blast
She ran away and left us to die        then we heard her evil laugh
We got scared and started to cry        when I found my brother he was cut in half

Michaelian Trachtenberg



It comes after sadness
After rain pouring down
With the perfect amount
Of rain and sun
It forms
Red: like the big beach ball bouncing at the beach
Orange: like the adventurous animals aiming to get attention
Yellow: like the sunny seaside sand
Green: like the wet weeds waving under the waves
Blue: like the sky soaring safely on a summer’s day
Indigo: like the ocean observing over all the octopus
Violet: like the umbrellas of the underwater people
All shining next to
The sun and clouds
Calling for attention
Creating happiness

Anusha Razdan


My Body

My eyes, a map to guide me.
My mouth, a speaker calling out for all to hear.
My ears, a vortex sucking in sound.
My arms, a weapon to defend me.
My hands, a masterpiece creating works of art.
My back, a strength for me to rely on.
My legs, a cane to keep me steady.
My feet, a possibility to roam the earth.
But my brain, wisdom beyond compare.
And my life, a beacon of hope.

Thomas Mazzurana



Read me like an open book,
Break my spine and throw me away.
In between the lines, you took
My path to our yesterday.

My tears pool a waterfall,
Rivers on these dead pages.
Run me an ocean of grief. You call,
I’m willing to drown.

Every bitter thing you said
Imprisoned, caged within my head,
Left it typed in black and white,
All your hate and all your spite.

All of it there, in black and white:
All of your shades of gray.

Lily Sayre



Out in the cold, cold thin air
Between two tombs where you … despair
Under the ground where your loved ones sit
Six feet under they shall not shift
You want to be with them
You want to be dead
A million thoughts go through your head
The cold is rushing
The wind is strong
Suddenly you realize what is wrong
You lay on the ground you remove your coat
Now you feel nothing but you see a boat
It drifts down the River Styx
And your mind’s thoughts begin to drift
You don’t care so there you lie
You are happy to go, happy to die

Amira Mckaige



The grass glows green
The sun shines light
The sky is blue and bright
Full of life and air
A cool breeze through your hair
The fluttering of butterflies
How fast time can fly by

The leaves fall fast
The tree is bare
Too cold to last through the night

The flowers bloom
The birds all sing
Now it’s time to go back to spring

Lauren Larracas


Bored T.V.

sitting there                  still as a stone
staring at people         writing and laughing
coming and going       never moving
never on                        always off
this is                             no feelings
a sad T.V.                      a bored T.V.

Abram Smith



“Does this even count as a house?” Ivy scoffed, her eyes circling the Victorian-looking house like a hawk stalking its prey. Her mother, Grace, gave Ivy a little punch on her shoulder from behind. “Ow…” Ivy said, turning around, meeting her mother’s eyes.

“It’s the start of our new life, Ivy,” Grace said with a hint of sadness in her voice. Ivy knew how much her mother liked their old house, but the memories of her dad were horrifying.

Ivy gazed up upon the house, observing its surroundings. The Victorian-like house stood on dead grass, surrounded by leafless trees. Ivy looked back toward her mother again, observing her face, slightly full of regret.

Suddenly, the back door of the gray minivan slowly lifted up, and her older sister, Raven, tumbled out of it. Ivy wasn’t surprised, since Raven had always been accident-prone. Raven quickly got up and sprinted toward the house, her long, jet-black hair bouncing up and down. Her quick movements broke Ivy and Grace out of a daze, making them speed walk toward the front door.

After a few failed attempts to open the door, they finally got into the house. The house was sparkling clean, looking as if someone had cleaned it every day. “This house hasn’t been touched in six years…” Grace said, confused. Suddenly, Ivy heard a skittering sound upstairs and saw Raven sprinting to her room–or, well, what Ivy thought was her room. As her mother picked up the phone to answer a call, Ivy hurried upstairs to find out which room Raven had chosen.

Ivy softly walked down the hallway and found a slightly opened door, figuring it was Raven’s room. She reached for the doorknob and opened the door, making a high-pitched noise that echoed down the hallway. A sudden blast of cold air shocked Ivy, giving her unwanted goosebumps. Creeped out, she closed the door, not wanting to go back in. Suddenly, she saw Raven at the end of the hallway, her hair covering her face. “Raven?” Ivy asked. Raven didn’t reply. Curious, Ivy slowly tiptoed toward her. Raven didn’t move. Ivy groaned, hating her sister’s attitude. “Come on Rav…” Ivy started “Who’s Raven?” it answered.

Olivia Fisher


The Barn

One day, there was an ordinary barn. Or so you thought. The barn was big and red from the outside. Mysterious things would happen in that barn. Animals would vanish, food would disappear, and people would leave the barn crazy and obsessed with it. After these strange things occurred, the government sent people to destroy it, but they too came back super crazy. So then the government locked the barn doors. Years after that incident, a strange man with red eyes convinced John that he should enter the barn. John thought that the man was very weird. He had red eyes, didn’t know his name, and would only talk about the barn. But John still listened to him. When John went to ask the government if he could enter the barn, they said no in an instant. John wouldn’t give up, so he went to buy a chainsaw to cut open the lock. He went into the barn, and the doors shut behind him. When he looked around inside, there was a table with four chairs around it and six pieces of paper on it. John tried to unscramble the letters, but was too late. His eyes turned red suddenly. He left the barn crazy, looking for someone to bring to the barn.

Lucas Li


Wakeboard Camp

When I arrived at the building to sign-in for my wakeboarding camp Monday morning, I knew it was the start of a great week. When I got inside, I recognized two people: Andy and Matt, a.k.a. Bear. (Bear says he got his nickname when he was “eaten by a bear.”)

Later, when we got on the pontoon, I didn’t notice Charlie or Katy. Charlie and Katy had been there every year I had gone to that camp. When I asked about them, Andy said they had gone to college. There were three guys I hadn’t seen: William, Wilson, and Cullen.

That day, every time I got on the wakeboard, I just practiced jumping the wake. On Tuesday, I asked Matt to double with me so I could practice my 180. By the end of that day, I had almost nailed it, but I had also face-planted at least four or five times. Wednesday I doubled with Andy, Wilson, and Cullen. I wanted to do an exit 180, which is a 180 in midair, but first I needed to learn how to clear the wake. Each of them gave me some good tips. I doubled with a kid named Gage, but we accidentally collided. I also doubled with William’s brother, John Henry. When I was by myself, I went by the dam.

I was trying to clear the wake when the front tip of my board caught. I face-planted harder than I had that whole week, but I kept going because I didn’t want to give up. The next day, we were going to have a show at 3:00 p.m. when parents could come watch you show off. I was jumping off the top of the pontoon when they called me and told me it was my turn. During the show, I did three 180s and cleared the wake a few times. After camp was over, we thanked the counselors and left. I can’t wait to go back. I had so much fun!

Bonnie Daywood


Carpet Factory

Born to a river, raised by the sea
Life’s simple passive pleasures flow by me

The Force of Fire
Stolen by flames
Away from my village
Heading towards pain

Mountains and blue jays
Fill me with rage
Why am I here
Trapped in this cage

Thrown out of the robot
With circles for legs
Into the building
I think that’s how it’s said

Threading and threading
My family is gone
Under over under
No break until dawn

No laughter, no smiles
Only the work that consumes me
I want to escape but I’m stuck

In their circle
Their circle of greed
I miss life’s simple treasures
Like planting a seed
But I am forever stuck in the
Carpet factory

Anika Chokhavatia


Memory Tree

Lilac walked up to the tree and looked up at its many branches. She thought it was amazing how one tree could have so many limbs, so many segments that made up one huge tree. There was the trunk, sturdy and strong, like a father you can rest against. There were branches, comfortable and reliable, like a mother who will hold you in her arms. There were the roots, holding the tree in place, growing and discovering like a sibling or friend, supporting you. And then there were the petals.

There was a special feeling that connected Lilac to this tree and she intend to find out what that was. She sat and leaned against the tree. She looked up at the branches and watched the swirling petals. There were so many different petals. They weren’t all perfect, but Lilac thought that together they made the tree even more beautiful. She stood up and felt one of the petals on the lowest branch.

Slowly, the world around her melted away and was replaced with a familiar place, one she hardly remembered. She realized it was her room, but back when it was a nursery. She glanced down at the crib, where her bed usually was. In the crib a baby girl was looking sleepily up at the mobile hanging above her crib. With a jolt, Lilac realized the baby was her.

Baby Lilac started crying and Lilac went to comfort her, but in this place–a memory she was reliving, Lilac guessed–she couldn’t be seen by the baby or by her parents, who walked in a moment later. Her parents went over to the crib, picked up the baby, and rocked her back and forth, trying to calm the crying.

The scene melted away, leaving the teary-eyed baby and Lilac’s slightly younger parents behind. Unsure of what she’d just seen, she brushed her hand through the other petals and saw glimpses of her earliest years, scenes of crying and sleeping and a few precious baby laughs.

She reached higher for the other branches and felt the soft petals. These were of her toddler years. She soon discovered that the higher she adventured the newer the memories became. She had soon climbed to the highest reaches of the tree and, feeling the petals nearest, recognized a memory from the previous week.

The sky darkened when she looked up from her memory tree, and Lilac decided to leave, but resolved to come back as soon as she could to relive more memories. She was sure she would never tell another living soul about this place she had discovered.

Sara Sagues

The 15 Radical Potato Renegades

The process of bringing a new poem or story into the world involves tuning into the senses and removing whatever stands in the way of a fresh perspective. These young writers came to camp every day with an attitude of openness and the willingness to dig deep to find the materials needed to accomplish such a task. These magicians of narrative and technicians of the rhythmic line have the ability to conjure images, characters, and worlds instantly, and the following poems and stories are a sample of what is possible when such experts of the imagination practice their art together and support each other. This collection is a constellation of worlds, where the depths and complexities of human desires, joys, and struggles may be rediscovered through these writers’ impulse toward curiosity and surprise.

Adam Edelman
Badgerdog Teaching Artist


Roach History

I come home from school
I see a big fat roach
slimy and juicy
crawling away faster than
Leo Bolt, the fastest man alive
a round sphere is thrown
into the circle of time
with the roach spinning
with it
this sphere is blue with
scribbles of green
384 – 322 B.C.
Aristotle thinks the Earth is
the center of the solar
system… he was wrong

in Aristotle’s room
there was a roach

both roaches looked
the same

which makes
both roaches the

same roach

Will Sharp


Tiffany and the Moon

Tiffany was sick of her house. She was sick of having a smaller room than Barbie, and her closet was only the size of an RV. She wanted somewhere to live where she would have more space than her sister.

One night, she was staring at the moon and it hit her. The moon had all the space she needed without anyone to share it with. She rushed inside and asked Barbie, “Can I have money to buy a rocket?” Barbie, being the selfish person she was, declined.

Tiffany was riding her bike home from school, sulking, when she noticed a closed bank. She walked to the door and took out the pocket hammer Ken had given her. She broke the glass and walked inside, stealing all the money. Then she opened the unlocked door into the empty street and rode away while the alarm blared behind her.

Tiffany rode all the way to the rocket store and bought the pinkest-looking rocket she could find. Too impatient to wait, she flew to the moon, the Earth fading behind her.

Several years later, she settled on the moon and relaxed but could not get the ringing of the alarm out of her head. It was everywhere. She looked at the pink rocket and, for the first time, she regretted what she had done.

Himanshi Malik


Song on Thanksgiving Dinner

– after Czeslaw Milosz’s “A Song on the End of the World”

At the beginning of dinner
The fresh, clear water enters the cups
Warm gravy spills onto the steaming mashed potatoes
Rasberry jam splats and spreads itself onto the heated toast
Salted, crisp potato chips pour onto fancy plates
Sliced sausages and beef tastes perfect with BBQ sauce
The wonderful aroma of turkey takes over the house
Finally, the hot, crisp turkey slices into layers
And peppers and salts itself
Cold, freezing vanilla and chocolate ice cream
Heaps onto plates in gigantic scoops
The meal ends and the children go outside to
Play in the warm light of the sun
While adults turn on the TV to watch football
Stars play their hardest
Everyone waits for the next Thanksgiving
Everyone hopes it will be as good as this one

Joseph Park



– after Dara Wier’s “She Thinks She Hung the Moon”

My head is a broken motor.
The same song plays on repeat.
My head is an endless ocean.
It has jumping monkeys that can fly.
And my heart is a dark abyss,
If all bad thoughts would vanish from the Earth.
My heart is an unfinished tale.
It has experienced the strangling of wind.
My head is a beatdown system
That wishes paper could come to life.
My hands are rolling pencils
That may reveal unknown voices.
My heart is a heavy drumbeat
That may cause dreams to contain reality.
If it has a lightning storm that brings joy,
My head is a burning cabin.
It creates shoes that run on their own.

Natasha Telang



All set to go outside, the sun pops up
The cats are ready to meow
Gleaming its rays on us, the sun is out
The people are moving their brushes across their dirty teeth
The cats are anticipating their first meal
The sun is a vivid bright orange and yellow
The sky, blue as a puppy’s eyes
Getting dressed, the hungry people eat their meals
The energetic cats are anxious to play
The sun and sky, ready to start the day

Athvait Manikanatan


Sunshine’s Story

Once upon a time, in the Orchard of Happiness, lived a cherry named Sunshine. Sunshine was the brightest red cherry in her whole tree. There were many cherries that fell in love with her, but she did not love any of them. Her friends nagged her day and night to give some of them a chance, but every time she refused.

One day, in the apple tree across from her, Sunshine spotted a dazzling and handsome apple. His lush green leaves highlighted his deep red skin. He was so beautiful! He was always flirting with the other apples and never paid any attention to Sunshine. Nevertheless, Sunshine couldn’t stop thinking about him and would not give up. But her friends saw her looking lovestruck at the apple, and immediately reported her. The leader was furious, for it was against the law to fall in love with a Pomme. You could only love small-tree fruits, such as kumquats and figs. The leader ordered his guards to move her to the other side of the tree.

“Hey, let me go!” Sunshine demanded, but it was no use. During the struggle, a twig scratched her side, destroying her flawless skin. Her reputation was ruined! She was miserable. The guards finally set her down at the other end of the tree. Sunshine started to cry.

“Why are you crying?” a kind voice said. She looked up. Sunshine saw a purple fig with green stripes running down his sides. He had a concerned expression.

“Why do you care?” Sunshine asked bitterly.

“Because I can’t stand to see a beautiful cherry like you upset,” the fig replied.

“You think I’m pretty even though I have this horrible scratch on me?” she asked the fig, very surprised.

“Of course. It makes you look tough. My name is Stripes, by the way.”

“My name is Sunshine,” she said.

“That’s a pretty name. It suits you,” Stripes said happily. Sunshine blushed. She stopped crying. She thanked Stripes for making her feel better.

“Anything to see you smile,” he replied. They ended up loving each other and were together forever.

Maryn Medlock



I own an expensive supercar. My heart explodes as I race down the track. My hands are rattling roller coasters, trying to keep the car under control. I have sped down the steep snowy mountains of Colorado. My feet become slithering snakes as I turn side to side to slow down. I have ended the sorrow and sadness of war. My feet are thunderous elephants as I run through the streets, yelling that war is over and world peace has begun. I have ventured into the vast nothingness of space. My mind, an airport of thoughts, thinking about what we will find. I have traveled to some of the most famous places in the world. My arms are swinging pendulums as I run off the airplane, ready to explore and discover. I wish I could travel back in time and meet Muhammad Ali. My imagination is an open door, ready to make that dream into a reality.

Evan Deeny


What We Are

– after Dara Wier’s “She Thinks She Hung the Moon”

My head is a hungry pigeon scavenging in lively New York City.
My heart is a single teardrop streaming down powdered cheeks,
messing up makeup as I go.
My hands are dull steak knives, forgotten in the kitchen drawer.
I am a velveteen rabbit buried beneath the wet earth.

Your head is a rusty train trying its best to make the distance.
Your heart is a wild stallion, scarred yet powerful.
Your hands are the soft petals of a freshly sprouted daisy.
You are an unforgettable chaotic hurricane destroying everything you touch.

Our heads are drops of water spraying from a hidden waterfall.
Our hearts are pictured in a lonely Polaroid
laying on the creaky attic floorboards, collecting dust.
Our hands are woven into a cool-colored quilt, hiding in between the threads.
We are the sun rising and setting, painting the sky warm shades,
admired from the rooftop where you and I lay.

Sophie Holloway


A Rainy Day

A yellow daisy blooms
Basking in the sun
Until thick clouds cover it
Their color changing from white to gray
Water wets the ground
First the drops are small
Sliding down the daisy’s petals
There is only a quiet pitter-patter
Then the rain comes down hard
As a powerful sheet of water
And the daisy’s yellow is lost
In a sea of gray
For what seems like forever
The pouring downfall does not stop
Then the rain is gone
As fast as it appeared
The only sound is a flow of water trickling down the gutter
While all else is still
Even the sun, peeking out from behind the clouds,
Seems to have stopped midway
Through the morning sky
Shining on the blooming yellow daisy, wet with dew

Eve Nguyen


Song on a Day at the Beach

– after Czeslaw Milosz’s “A Song on the End of the World”

At the beach
Glittering waves crash upon the shore
Slippery dolphins are jumping out of the water
Seashells stud the sandy shoreline
The air smells of salt and sandy hair
The way it should be

The beach is joyous, celebratory, imaginative
Rosy-cheeked children run along the sand
Laughing and skipping, full of life
The way it should be

At the beach, you are peaceful and comforted
Brightly striped umbrellas are staked into the ground
Above beach towels to keep you dry
When the tide comes in

Then sunset strikes
Seagulls squawk their last before returning to their nests
As if being called home for dinner
The tide rolls away
Families pack up their memories from the day
Until I am the last one left in the cool darkness

At the beach, new days begin
New people walk the salty sand
For the beach is a place of new life
Every time the tide rolls in
Every time the tide rolls away

Emily Kahn


The Three Pups

There once was a mother wolf who had recently given birth. She treasured her three pups as if they were her life. She cared for them by feeding them salmon, licking their coats clean, teaching them how to enjoy the woods while respecting nature, and gently tucking them into bed every night.

One day, while the pups began preparing to head into the woods for lessons in hunting, their mother warned them, “Take caution, be observant of the environment, and always stick together!”

They all replied with an obedient tone, “Of course, Mother!” They ran off into the woods, carelessly yipping.

Lash and Cacti, the mother’s two favorites, began playing hide and seek with Ginga, the other pup. “Ready or not, here I come!” howled Lash. Lash bounded through the shrubbery until he came upon an oak tree where he located Cacti hiding in the roots.

“Hey, you found me! Now we must go find Ginga!” Cacti joyously said. They fumbled through the underbrush, howling Ginga’s name, but were unsuccessful. They briskly returned to their mother.

Their mother was in shock. “How could you two lose Ginga? I told you to stick together!” She was furious, but concern swept over her anger. They set off into the woods. “Ginga, Ginga!” they repeatedly called.

They dashed through the woods in panic. They checked behind every tree, rock, and bush. Ginga was nowhere to be found. Suddenly, they broke into a clearing, and a flash of sunlight hit them, blinding their vision for a brief moment.

Ginga, the scrawniest one with the worst hunting skills, sat in front of a pile of salmon. “Ginga! You had me so worried! Don’t ever split up from your siblings aga–“ his mother barked, only to be interrupted.

“Mother, look what I’ve caught! Now you, Lash, and Cacti don’t have to hunt tonight! Aren’t you proud?” Ginga beamed.

“Ginga, I will always be proud of you, but all that matters now is that you’re safe,” his mother responded. She protected her pups in a warm embrace, weeping as she vowed to herself to always protect her pups.

Honor Mackdanz


My Random Story

my bicycle pump is rusty
my car won’t work
a bicycle sits under a tree
the water jiggling in my glass
that sticker on my shirt
sticky tape on a dog
red birds that are mean
flat earth
round sun
a big caterpillar eats a city
cool dog with sunglasses
Clair bear rests in her den
dairy products in a store
green eyeballs in my head
bluebirds in a tree
my touchy story

Sean Ryan


Sparkler’s Talent

Once, in a place very far away, lived the Kingdom of Dragons. In the Kingdom lived a dark red dragoness named Sparkler. She had blue dots lining her wings and blue gemstones under her eyes. She spent her days in a small, cozy den at the edge of the Kingdom. It was nice there, but Sparkles was very sad. She had been banished from the castle, the center of the Kingdom, because she could not breathe fire like the other dragons. She tried many times to ignite the flame inside her, but she just couldn’t.

One day, she was walking out of her den when she heard a swoosh, boom! She looked up, startled, and saw the castle was being attacked! Flames engulfed the castle, and even from where she sat, Sparkler could hear the screams of terror. Before she knew it, she was flying full speed to help. She stared down at the crumbling castle, horrified.

Suddenly, she felt something strange inside her. She opened her mouth and breathed water! Sparkler quickly closed her mouth in shock. Then she thought, Wait! I can help with this! She opened her mouth again and breathed water all over the burning castle. Steam sprayed everywhere she went.

When Sparkler was sure she had extinguished all the fire, she landed on the remains of the castle. She looked around and saw crowds of surprised dragons beginning to swarm her, congratulating her on stopping the fire. A large shadow was cast over her and the crowd fell silent. The Queen. She swooped down and landed gracefully in front of Sparkler. The Queen, radiating power, towered over her. “Did you fix this?” she thundered.

“Ye-yes, Your Majesty,” Sparkler stammered.

“Thank you very much. You saved our kingdom, and for that, you are welcome to stay in the castle whenever you feel like it,” she announced.

“Thank you, your Majesty!” Sparkles said happily. She moved into the castle and lived there for the rest of her life and she lived happily ever after.

Kate Medlock


In My Head

– after Dara Wier’s “She Thinks She Hung the Moon”

In my head, the singsong voice of the jay never stops, like wings wanting to fly.
In my head, the howling and screaming cries of the distant coyote
silence – a broken window, cracked.
In my head, a salamander stops fearing and climbs out
from under his rock – an unsteady ladder.
In my head, the inner thoughts and feelings of flower
and tree circulate – like steamships, big and bright.
In my head, all the stars share stories from their travels
around the Milky Way – a starless night, clear.
In my head, the pyramids touch the moon and stars,
a black cat, mysterious and haunting.
In my head, the great works of the Greeks come alive
and speak – a book store open and waiting.
In my head, the slippery skipping stones of the river
have tea with the jagged ones of the sea – finger-like pencils drawing in the details.
In my head, turtle and tortoise explore outside their shells, a bomb shelter, secure.
In my head beautiful, hand-sewn rugs fly freely, a ball game, a home run.

Haley Kate Nettleship


The Forces of Nature

Mountains of molten magma-turned-lava
Rush down the volcano’s side
Blistering hot, a glorious golden-red
It sends out a call to every predator near
“I’m here”

The wind wildly blows as it sweeps through the streets
Twirling, whooshing, swooshing into the night
It throws down those who stand in the way
For what good are those who defy us?
The voices of the wind say

The night is dark, cold, and empty
Night is black, soulless, and a void without joy
But it can be merry, too
You just have to show it what to do

Stars flicker through endless nights
Never seeing the sun, never dimming the bright light
Still, they soar just beyond our reach
Knowing that a lesson, they still have to teach

Ramya Nambala

Ordinary Extraordinary

Each summer, we spend a day with our creative writing campers outside the classroom in a different sort of space—usually filled with visual art. In these museum galleries, our young writers encounter a different form of expression, find new ways to puzzle through an artist’s intention, and explore what visual representations can show us about the world and ourselves. This year, we are so grateful to have visited The Contemporary Austin and found inspiration among the work of Robert Therrien, a Los Angeles-based artist who works with familiar, everyday objects and places them in new contexts that invite endless interpretation. His installation (specifically designed for The Contemporary) featured a series of small black-and-white photographs of everyday household items; a chest of drawers against the wall replicated on the other side of that wall, surrounded by memorabilia; a metal door that leads to an uncertain destination, and a room of giant folding chairs and tables that make the viewer feel miniature by comparison. Our campers spent a morning writing stories and poems inspired by Therrien’s compelling work, joining in conversation with the artist, unleashing the multiple interpretations Therrien hopes to elicit. We are excited to share just some of their work with you. And so grateful to The Contemporary Austin for making this possible.

Cecily Sailer
Library Foundation Programs Manager

Four Different Ways to Look at a Bedroom

– inspired by Robert Therrien’s photographs


As the cold, harsh winter
swirls by,
a warm bed awaits.


On restless nights,
when I can’t get comfortable,
worries blanket my thoughts.


While a storm brews,
I hide from monsters
under reassuring covers.


On late nights,
when it took time to arrive,
my bed is still here.

Kyra Sampson
Upper Elementary Workshop, Austin Waldorf School

Robert Therrien, No title (room, panic doors), 2013–2014. Wood, brass, fluorescent light fixture, and mixed media. 121 x 107 1/4 x 151 inches. Installation view, Robert Therrien, The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, Austin, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.The Door
Robert Therrien, No title (room, panic doors), 2013–2014. Wood, brass, fluorescent light fixture, and mixed media. 121 x 107 1/4 x 151 inches. Installation view, Robert Therrien, The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, Austin, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.The Door

The Door

Behind the door is a
Classroom filled with buzzing children,
Another world full of magic,
A generous dragon,
A secret lab (don’t ask, it’s SECRET),
A humongous monster,
Blank nothing,
The last secret dinosaur,
A movie portal,
A dusty janitor’s closet,
A massive high school,
A normal kid,
Magic that can do almost anything,
A room that smells like roses,
Zombies that are very nice,
An old eye,
A white zucchini,
Pink and purple aliens,
An ancient passage that leads to treasure,
A secret,
People who turned into magical fairies.
Behind the door is a field of flowers under a sky full of stars.

Mannat Ahluwalia
Lower Elementary Workshop, The Girls’ School

Eleven Ways of Looking at Folding Chairs

– after Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”

  1. A midget you are, looking up at the enormosity of a human chair.
  2. Rust climbs up the green painted table like vines and weeds taking over a garden of flourishing flowers.
  3. Folded, lonely, against the stark white wall, the girl kindly unfolds you and sits her curly haired doll down for a tea party.
  4. The grandfather clock strikes precisely 1:37, and hundreds and hundreds of rats pour into the kitchen, looking for scraps of food under the depths of the cave-like table.
  5. In the world of candy, you could be a throne of chewed-up gum, but in my house you would be folded in a corner, never even glanced at.
  6. After a long day of shearing the sheep, the old, tired farmer sits down his behind and decides to retire.
  7. The chair creaks and croaks as she lies back and puts her huge feet on the rusty table.
  8. There are four chairs; there are four people. One is folded up. One person must sit on the floor.
  9. The folding chair was used for his wedding. It was also used for his funeral.
  10. The little white mouse climbs up the leg of the chair, surprising the cat. Doom awaits.
  11. The little boy stands on it, trying to sneak a cookie.

Ava Masterson
Upper Elementary Workshop, The Girls’ School

Robert Therrien, No title (room, pants with tambourines), 2014–2015. Wood, enamel on Masonite, and mixed media. 114 x 139 x 151 inches. Installation view, Robert Therrien, The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, Austin, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.
Robert Therrien, No title (room, pants with tambourines), 2014–2015. Wood, enamel on Masonite, and mixed media. 114 x 139 x 151 inches. Installation view, Robert Therrien, The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, Austin, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.

All He Wants Is Jane

– inspired by Robert Therrien’s photographs on display at The Contemporary Austin

James is a janitor at an elementary school. Everyday he brings home the cleaning supplies from the janitorial closet because he is afraid ghosts will take them. His grandmother told him ghost stories as a child. She was later found dead next to her Ouija board. James became paranoid. There is a black cloud over his bed. He found it at a flea market as an anti-ghost charm. He spent twenty dollars on it instead of the twenty-dollar chair his mom wanted at Target. His mom is still mad at him, but he does not care. His girlfriend, Jane, loves him, and that is all that matters. Jane is his life. When she is around, he feels invincible, but Jane is in Barbados now for work, so he is lonely and does not care if his bed is made. Right now, he is at Subway eating away his loneliness and crying into his Diet Coke. He knows the manager will come kick him out for disturbing the other customers. It happened yesterday. After he gets kicked out, he will go home and sob on his rumpled bed and fall asleep. But the manager hasn’t come to his booth yet, so he continues to cry and eat his soggy black pepper sub and drink his now salty Diet Coke. He will do this every day until Jane comes home. All he wants his Jane. James looks up from his food to see the manager.

Mae McMillin
Middle School Workshop, The Girls’ School

Pot, Pan, Hold

A string, extended in space, holding up an array of pots and pans. Pot, pan, strainer, pan, pot, bowl, pot, hold. The body put those up, stringing them one by one, drilling holes, the clank of metal on metal, ringing out in the empty room. The mind thinks, and remembers. Pot, pan, strainer, pan, pot, bowl, hold. Hanging it up so that it would hold onto the ceiling. Pot, pan, strainer, pan, pot, hold. The mind hurts. Callused hands carefully working, not wanting to smudge the clean metal. Pot, pan, strainer, pan, hold. The dark non-stick against the silver gray. Pot, pan, strainer, hold. One for each relative to remember. Pot, pan, hold. Mother, who died in childbirth. Father, killed by an angry mob on his way to work, trampled beneath a thousand feet. Pot, pan, hold. Brother, a fatal car accident when he was twenty. Pot, hold. Sister, diagnosed with cancer when she was two. Uncle and Grandpa, in the army a day too long. Hold. Hold. Auntie, who baked cookies until she burned with her house. Hold. Grandma. Hold. Pot, pan, strainer, pan, pot, bowl, pot, hold. A string, my string dangling silently in space, end barely brushing the floor. The knot frays undone. Hold.

Emma Buechler
High School Workshop, The Girls’ School of Austin

Badgerdog campers writing in the galleries of The Contemporary Austin
Badgerdog campers writing in the galleries of The Contemporary Austin

Eleven Gargantuan Perspectives of Giant Folding Chairs and Tables

– after Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”

  1. Mom and Dad confer in the living room

while I eat bread and jam at the table

and Brother leans against the wall, napping.

  1. A small rodent sticks his head up,

ears and nose peeking out behind

the metal legs of the table.

  1. I hear a noise: something

stomping up the stairs, coming towards

its chairs and table.

  1. The giant gently heaves himself onto

one of the folding chairs, motioning

for his wife to fill his bowl with tomato soup.

  1. The green metal on the chairs is edged with rust.

These chairs look to be about ten years old.

The tables stacked on top of each other

are blanketed in carpet like snow in a meadow.

  1. “Help me!” I cried as the shrink ray

zapped me and I went down and down.

  1. The lights flicked off and I opened my eyes.

My chair form turned into me: green eyes, dyed green hair,

green cardigan, green skirt, green leggings.

  1. Crash! The table slips, crashing onto the cement floor, making a dent, an ugly face.

I quickly try to escape with the others when Ms. Callie is suddenly

trapped by two chairs who block the door.

  1. At last! The secret treasure is here!

Now which chair is hiding that gold? Or is it the table?

  1. “Argh!” Mother cried. She scooted her chair back,

and it lifted her off, her feet dangling,

her high heels slipping off her feet.

  1. “There you are,” an eerie voice echoed as I stepped into the room.

Suddenly, I realized what was speaking.

The furniture.

Karina Schwab
Upper Elementary Workshop, The Girls’ School

A Giant Story

I’m so excited! I’m going to an art museum. “We’re here!” calls the teacher. We rushed out of the bus. The museum instructor gave us the rules. My class went up the elevator. Mrs. Lauren pushed Floor 2. Cole pushed the shrink button. The elevator started shaking. We grabbed onto the railing. Ding! We’re at floor number two. “Wow, look at this giant room!” said Mrs. Lauren. “Look at these giant chairs!” exclaimed Amani. “Awesome, look at these giant tables!” said Neel. “Cole, you shrunk us!” said Lilly. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to,” said Cole with a mischievous smile. We all went back to the elevator and made ourselves bigger. Except Cole, he stayed tiny. So we made him our pet.

Kinsey White
Lower Elementary Workshop, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church

I Seem to Be, But I Am

– inspired by Robert Therrien’s photographs

I seem to be an empty room
But I am full of imagination
I seem to be a simple spoon
But I am the beginning of creation
I seem to be a little man
But I am a little giant
I seem to be a tiny pan
But I am a bit defiant
I seem to be
But I am
I seem to be
But I am
I seem to be a pile of books
But I am a stock of knowledge

Lilith Potter
Upper Elementary Workshop, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church

Robert Therrien, No title (room, the other room), 2012–2014. Wood and mixed media. 120 x 107 x 155 inches. Installation view, Robert Therrien, The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, Austin, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.
Robert Therrien, No title (room, the other room), 2012–2014. Wood and mixed media. 120 x 107 x 155 inches. Installation view, Robert Therrien, The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, Austin, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.


I noticed the small wind-up toy on my dresser, from when I was younger; it had been almost four years since I gave it a passing thought. It was the shape of a puppy. I examined its painted features then turned it over to reveal the wind-up key. I took hold of the key and turned it clockwise. Once… twice… I finished the third turn, something happened.

The walls and everything around me started to grow. The dresser that used to be waist-level now towered over me like a skyscraper. I dropped the toy and tried to run towards the door, but suddenly the distance seemed to stretch on much further than before.

I looked around the gigantic version of my bedroom, and I noticed that the room had not grown bigger; I had become smaller. Based on the things around me, I guessed I was about five inches tall.

Suddenly, I heard thumping noises. They grew louder and louder until they halted. I didn’t dare turn around. I felt the hot, heavy breath blowing on my back like a powerful gust of wind. I turned around to face the creature but was almost knocked over. Not by the power of the breath, just the reeking smell of it.

The creature was covered in shiny, black fur. It had four thin legs and a tail that continuously wagged from side to side. It wore a plain, red collar around its neck. Though I knew this behemoth to be my friendly, harmless dog, at this size I wasn’t so sure how harmless he really was. I stood up and cautiously walked away from the monstrous dog and back to the wind-up toy.

“Good dog,” I mumbled. “Thanks for not eating me.” I took hold of the golden key and turned. Once… twice… three times… four… I wanted to be bigger so badly that I lost count.

Kate Hirschfeld
Middle School Workshop, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church

I Remember

I remember the taste. It was like liquid, rusted metal flowing inside my mouth. I remember the smell. Heavy. Like I’m breathing more dust than actual air. I remember the texture. Smooth, like the scales of a dry sea monster. But I don’t remember what it looked like, and I probably never will.

I remember it was there.

Hadar Rozenberg
High School Workshop, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church


A table, chairs, four
times life size,
a giant awakens
to them, the rust scrapes
on the big chair,
tables stacked on each other
like a squishing sock,
here and there no one,
but I spy on them,

Nimah Ahmed
Lower Elementary Workshop, The Khabele School

At the End of the Hall

A door at the end of the hall seemed to be yelling at me to open it. I walked toward it and soon started sprinting toward it, but it seemed to move further and further away. I tried to stop, but I couldn’t. My legs seemed to be moving on their own. I hit them, but still they kept running. My lungs were gasping for air, my throat was completely dry. I gasped like a fish out of water. My eyelids felt like closing, so I couldn’t help but close them. … Of course, though the girl was dead, quite completely, she kept on running, and the door always seemed to get further and further away.

Simona Kao
Upper Elementary Workshop, The Khabele School


– after Robert Therrien’s “No title (room, panic doors)”

we used to make whole towns
out of the withered building blocks
tucked away in your overflowing attic

and we built so many more mighty empires

because if you walk behind those sterile doors
you’ll find that I
have kept all our cherished memories
hanging from the dull walls

it’s like watching a young gazelle
dance through the dry savannah

or walking into a room
full of vivid photographs
freezing the smiles on our faces
preserving the imagination of our
young, wild minds

we were like two little kids
pretending to rule over our plastic towers
made of shiny yellow Legos.

Teresa Luo
Middle School Workshop, The Khabele School

2014 Forrest Preece Young Author’s Award

Each year, local arts patron and all-around fantastic guy, Forrest Preece, and his wife Linda Ball, honor two of the young writers in our Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp. This honor, the Forrest Preece Young Authors Award, recognizes the literary accomplishments and creative talents young people in our community.

We are pleased to celebrate this year’s winners, third-grader Brandee Benson, and ninth-grader Jenna Hoover. Last Friday, November 7, Forrest formally presented the awards to Brandee and Jenna at our annual Illumine gala.


We’re so grateful to Forrest and Linda for supporting celebrating the artistic achievements of Austin’s youth. In addition, we must thank our teaching instructors who share their talents with young creative writers.

Congratulations to Brandee and Jenna, whose winning pieces are published below.


Journey of a Baby Tooth

I am a tooth, a baby tooth. I wonder why I am called that, since, I mean, I am eight-years-old! When I was born, I found out I was attached to the pink stuff above me, and then I saw my brothers and sisters growing  around me, and we had to work really hard, pounding this icky, chewy   stuff. I also realized each of us were connected to one giant piece of the pink stuff, and I do have to admit, I grew pretty attached to mine. We were best buddies, and we loved each other dearly.

Each night, we would see this really scary razor thingie, and my pink thing and I avoided it as much as possible. Then I turned yellow for some reason. So, anyway, when the razor thingie came, it also had this gooey stuff that made us blue, and then we got rinsed. The worst part was when they stuck a hard rope between my brothers and sisters and me. Worst of all, it hurt my pink thing, so he was sad.

One day, I found that my older sister downstairs was wiggling free from her pink thing, and we talked a lot together about it. Then one day, she fell completely off her pink thing! We were so shocked! The last words she said before she was taken out of the house were “I will miss my pink thing!” Then she was gone. We were silent for a moment, and then someone else screamed, “I’m loose, too!” After that, it was chaos. My brothers and sisters became loose and fell, one after another.

We noticed a new baby tooth growing in an old baby tooth’s place. He was rather shy, so we each said hello to him. We welcomed him into the family. I didn’t startle anyone because I did not tell them that I was loose. Soon, I fell out, and everyone gasped. The last words I said were, “I love you all!”

I was put in a dark box and was delighted to find my lost brothers and sisters. We rejoiced, and I had a great, fun life in that box, where we were free. But I hope the new baby teeth will take care of our pink things and be happy.

Brandee Benson
3rd grade


Watches, Waltzes and Other Weightless Things

She carries a splint.
Not so much carries but wears,
a thing forced upon her wrist to
help a healing bone,
though it hasn’t done much
by way of healing.

She carries a bracelet.
Woven by a friend, it
rests on her right wrist always,
leaving red marks on her
pale, freckled skin when she writes.
It’s come slightly unraveled a
few times, one end poking through
in an attempt to escape,
though it hasn’t done much
by way of escaping.

She carries a jacket,
a red and white affair with
the number 13 on it in white
thread, a reversed zipper that
confused her at first but no
longer does. It’s a shield, in her
mind, a neon sign that reads, No, I’m
not different. Yes, I play soccer, or
used to,
though it hasn’t done much
by way of shielding.

She carries a fob watch,
the chain long enough to
nearly reach her waist, but
it’s of no consequence to her.
It’s newer than her other things,
with only a few days
separating now and when her
best friend gave it to her as an
almost-two-months-late present, but
timing doesn’t matter, the gift is
the important thing, a
reminder of their friendship,
as though she would
ever forget,
so it hasn’t done much
by way of reminding.

Above all, she carries
the words in her head,
a dance of letters unique to
herself, and the waltz seems
never to end, so she snatches up
a pencil and scribbles, the
scrawlings her way of explaining
the world to herself and
herself to the world,
though they never seem to do much
by way of explaining.

Jenna Hoover
9th grade

Expanded Worlds from C.D. Fulkes Middle School

Writers write. It can be a daunting task, but the young writers at C.D. Fulkes Middle School bravely put pencil to paper and engaged a world of words and new possibilities. These students tried difficult forms, such as contrapuntal poems, and imagined new worlds alongside the rich details of their daily lives while exploring elements of fantasy and creative nonfiction. I am proud of the work these students accomplished during our short time together, and I’m excited to share their work with the world on Unbound.

Amanda Johnston
Badgerdog Teaching Artist



I was in a field of flowers.
There were a trillion flowers –
blue, green, red, yellow, and some
were even see-through.


Over Winter Break

I ate my grandmother’s tamales
with my family. First time
without beans because
beans don’t go with tamales.


Love and Hate

Forever          Never
Stay                Goodbye


Three red colored pencils


I sat at my desk trying to finish homework. It was hard to concentrate since I kept drifting off. I finally decided that I should do my homework later. As I could not think, I pulled a pencil and a piece of paper from my desk drawer and started to doodle. At first, it was stable, but soon enough, my creations came alive. They got off the paper and moved around. I enjoyed watching them interact with each other. Before I realized it, my brother was calling me downstairs. I quickly put the doodles back on the paper and left. When I came back, my doodles had escaped. They had scattered my homework and were running rampant. I erased them and soon put everything back in order.



I was in the mountains when I was eleven. I was going into a really light wall when a twelve-hundred pound rock fell on top of me. I had huge muscles to pick it up and throw it down the cliff. Tan, tan…


Creative Poems

I have written poems.
I have written
100,000 poems.




Music is what has kept me here.
The sweet melodies – a pop against my ears,
each lyric a notion of sounds
put together to make me calm down.

Like relieving pressure off my shoulders,
it carries all my troubles away, into
a darkness where they can drown. While
it may seem sort of depressing, it shouldn’t
worry you that much. If it weren’t for
these words of wisdom, my brain would
falter against these words of wisdom. It’s
a form of reading.

Understanding and deciphering each line
keeps me busy, so as not to think about
my troubles. As far as it goes, it’s helped
guide me along my path in more ways
than one. A wise old woman – music really
is like that. A party in an earbud or speaker,
it makes me feel better.


These Hands

These hands have been through a lot.
These hands have so many battle scars.
You wouldn’t believe it.
These hands have wiped tears away and
sometimes even made them.
These hands will hold your future.
These hands can do just about anything.
These hands or your hands can do
good or evil. The choice is yours.



Oh, my brother,
banging and bruising his head.

Me and my mother worry, worry, worry together
about him, and whether one day his head won’t be strong.

We worry if it will explode.
Maybe he won’t survive.

I’m sure not eating isn’t helping.
He’s sure to become as skinny as a stick.

But together,
our family,

we will find a solution to this mess
and come out better.



My Mommy

My mother is happy. Like always.
My mother is sad when she is hurt.
My mother is sappy when she loves me.
So that’s, like, all the time.
My mother is mad when I argue.
My mother is crazy when she is happy.
Also, all the time.
My mother is lazy when she is tired.
My mother is the best.


These Hands

These hands are made for dancing.
These hands are made to write.
These hands were made for moving.
These hands were made to fight.

These hands were made to push.
These hands were made to pull.
These hands were made to lift.
These hands were made to rule.

These hands were made to hold.
These hands were made to hug.
These hands were made like gold.
These hands were made to love.

These hands were made to build.
These hands were meant to be.
These hands were made for change.
These hands were made for me.



My mom is cool.
My mom is bad.
My mom can cook.
My mom is sleepy.
My mom works.
My mom is cool.



These Hands

These hands have stories.
These hands have been through a lot.
These hands are in a battle.
These hands are too young to go.
These hands are under pressure.
The hands are done.


My Mother

My mother cooks the best.
My mother cares the best.
My mother helps the best.
My mother understands the best.
My mother cleans the best.
My mother is the best.




Sleep in my bed,
where the cold
cannot get me,
in the place
where I feel safe.



I see the bright screen
shine as I hear demons
screech while it slowly
gets darker in my own



Happy and Sad

Happy Halloween                Sad about getting toothaches
Joyful Christmas                  Depressed, no party or family
Delighted Hanukkah           Lonely, no family
Good Birthday                      Bad presents


Today, I

Today, I sang my favorite song.
Today, I wrote a poem.
Today, I learned a new unit in math.
Today, I watched The Lion King.
Today, I lost my best friend.
Today was a slightly good day.


Winter Break

On Christmas break
I stayed with my dad
and step-mama.
I watched TV all day
and got a new phone.



Oblivion / Existence

Crumbling towers                              In the reflection of shining eyes
Howling winds                                    Where daisies dance
People full with whimper                 Nestled into a sea of green
Humanity is brought                         They soak in the beauty
To its knees                                         Of the place they know


Sempiternal / Ending

Will we see the end                    Will we ever stop
Hold your breath                        Breathe in deep
Close your eyes                           We’re going nowhere



Winter Break

Over winter break, I was
driving with my two older cousins
all around the block
and on the street.



I slept
at my mom’s house.
I dreamt about losing my mom someday.
I ate with my mom
at my mom’s house.
Tasting the delicious food
with my mom in the house.


Forrest Preece Young Authors Award Winners

Friday evening, the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation honored some of the finest writers in Austin at its annual Illumine gala. This year’s honorees included fiction writer Stephen Harrigan, Nobel Prize winning physicist Dr. Steven Weinberg (for nonfiction), and young adult fiction writer Cynthia Lietich-Smith. This year’s Luminary Award went to Carmel Borders, founder of the Tapestry Foundation, which supports education and literacy initiatives in Central Texas.

For the first time this year, the Library Foundation honored two young writers, both participants in Badgerdog’s Creative Writing Summer Camp. The Forrest Preece Young Authors Award, sponsored of course by local arts patron and all-around fantastic guy, Forrest Preece, and his wife Linda Ball, recognizes the accomplishments and talents of young people in our community. This year’s winners are Katie Jackson, a sixth-grader at the Meridian School, and Emma Baumgardner, an eighth-grader at Kealing Middle School. As it happens, both writers attended Badgerdog’s summer camp session at The Griffin School, working with teaching artists Bradley Harrison and Nina McConigley, respectively. We’re so grateful to Forrest and Linda for supporting the creative endeavors of Austin’s young people. We must also thank Bradley, Nina, and all of our teaching artists for sharing their talents and passions with young writers.

Congratulations to Katie and Emma, whose winning pieces are featured here!

Katie Jackson, Forrest Preece, and Emma Baumgardner

Uprooting Trees

The Pixies of the Wind and the Spirits of the Clouds have been enemies for centuries. Pixies of the Wind have never revealed themselves to the human eye and can only travel with the power of air under their wings. They drag their air behind them and blow it around.

Wind Pixies live above the middle of the ocean in invisible, flying cities, but sometimes they must migrate to the land. As soon as they start flying, they are visible only to the Spirits of the Clouds, which are the only creatures that can ever see them. Then the Cloud Spirits’ faces turn purple with rage, and they start growling and screaming at the Pixies.

The Wind Pixies know they must speed up to get to the land before the Spirits start attacking. When they start to fly much faster, they push the water from the ocean with them as they travel towards land. Since the creatures aren’t believed to be much larger than bumblebees, it takes thousands to push one wave of the ocean. But if the Pixies aren’t fast enough, the Cloud Spirits will start to rain torrents of water upon them, each drop half the size of the Pixies themselves, and hurl their spears of fire.

The enraged Spirits chase the Wind Pixies all the way to the land, where their epic duel continues, the Pixies blowing their wind wildly, uprooting trees and carrying everything away, with the Cloud Spirits screaming at them with their purple faces and pouring their terrible fury onto the land. The Pixies of the Wind and the Spirits of the Clouds continue like this in their battle until both are too exhausted to fight any longer. The Pixies slowly return to their homes and the Spirits’ rage cools down and they float away. But be warned: their duel will never be over.

Katie Jackson

Breath Notes

I shape my way with movement
emerging in my throat
and slowly thread the needle
of song.
Bursting to breathe
open my lungs
sound takes moments. Standing
I move to the will of the way
my tongue clicks.
Lips hum,
body sways,
head resonates, bubbling.
And voices cling together,
linking arms,
thumbs pressed against index fingers.
Melody paints piano keys,
never grounded.
Lights pinch our eyes
Laced with sweat,
we burn
with the moment
of performing.
Teeth engulfing our sorrows
like we have wings.
Fourteen of us
living on the stage.
With our passion for music
curling around our chins
and stretching to our ears,
we smile.
We’re not going to be finished
as long as we carry
the note.

Emma Baumgardner