Fiction’s connection to the community


Today, The Acorn reveals the winners of its 12th annual Fiction in a Nutshell contest. It’s not easy to write poignant prose in just 100 words, but the talented contestants in our under-18 and 18-and-over age groups proved they were equal to the task. We received more than 60 submissions, and read stories that piqued our imagination, made us laugh, and tugged at our heartstrings.

This year’s winners were a little, say, on the dark side, but after more than 18 months of pandemic, who can blame them?

More than half the entries came in the youth category from the Oak Park Unified School district, where aspiring authors from elementary school on up to honors English class at the high school submitted their works.

More than once the judges were caught off guard by unexpected endings and double-crosses. There was sci-fi, drama, adventure, and romance. Try penning a Stephen King or a Joyce Carol Oates novel in just a couple of paragraphs, but our contestants proved they were up to the challenge.

During the selection process, several votes were taken by our group of judges, and some popular finalists, like the one about the bloodred soup served on a cold winter’s night, were eliminated.

Our 18-and-over winner, Karl Morris of Calabasas, gave us one of the best stories ever: a seat-of-the-pants tale about a tortured soul who . . . well . . . you’ll just have to read it for yourself on Page 26 to find out the ending.

Michael Cummings’ 100-word life tale about a man on death’s door, and Robert Haskell’s action-adventure about the one boy who stole another’s sneakers were excellent honorable mentions.

The under-18 category came down to two wonderful stories. One entry by high school junior Madelyne Cascione—about the dangerous intrigue at a masquerade ball—edged out a story written by 15-year-old

Michelle Bi in which toy teacups serve as witnesses to the stages of a child’s troubled upbringing.

In today’s world where success seems more judged by who has the best TikTok skills than by who can read and write well, The Acorn’s Fiction in a Nutshell contest stands proud. Our connection to the community runs deep and the response has been heartwarming.

One year, the San Fernando Valley Branch of the California Writers Club invited Acorn Fiction in a Nutshell winners to the club’s monthly meeting to read their stories aloud. We were honored, and hope this sort of community engagement continues. School participation is especially important, so thank you, teachers.

And thanks to all of you who sent us your 2021 fiction stories. It’s not easy to tell a tall tale in just a paragraph or two, but that was the fun of it, that was the challenge.

Keep honing those sharp imaginations.