A Surprise Win!

Today was the 3rd Annual “Write In the Valley” Event in Sumner, WA. Jason Black and Janna Cawrse-Esarey were scheduled to be there, and since this event was very close to home, it was something I didn’t want to miss.  I enjoy getting together with other writers and talking about writing. Sometimes you learn something new. Sometimes it’s a great opportunity to expand your network. Sometimes you get a genuine surprise. Today was a bit of all three for me.

One of the parts of the event is a short story competition. The last time I entered a short story competition, I was in high school, and I think I got second place. Today, I found out that I won first place in the Write In The Valley Competition. I was genuinely shocked, because I had read my friend Ben’s entry, and though his was better than mine, and since I didn’t hear my name called at #2, I thought for sure he had won the contest.

This is the second short story I’ve written in the last two months, and now I’m looking for opportunities to write and submit more!

Here were the requirements for the story:

  • Your characters’ names are Emma and George. 
  • They can know each other or not.
  • Their age is your choice.
  • Setting: any library
  • Situation: they find themselves accidentally locked in a library at closing time.
  • An ensuing storm knocks out electricity to the building–the only light comes from outside street lights.  George’s cell phone is dead; Emma only has one bar left on hers.  They end up spending the night in the library.  What happens?  Write their story–not to exceed 750 words! 

And here was my entry.

Night at the Library

“You have got to be kidding me.” George shook the exit door, and gave it a good kick when it didn’t budge. As if to spite him, the lights flickered and died, leaving only the glow from a few small emergency lights to illuminate the long stacks of books. Thunder shook the building.

“What did you do?” Emma stumbled behind him in the dark.

“I didn’t do anything. They locked us in.”

Emma pounded her fist on the door, and called out a brief shout for help. The thick door reflected her shrill screams back to their ears. George brushed against Emma’s arm. It was still very warm. That secret space on the second floor behind the journal racks had been cozy. He shook his head and tried to regain his focus.

“Son of a… Try your cell.” She said.

“No signal.” He kicked the door again. “Try yours.”

“I got one bar.” She tapped the keypad.

“Wait.” He grabbed at her hand. Who could they call? The police? The fire department? Renae worked 911 dispatch. If she was on duty and heard his voice, it would be no more than thirty seconds before she called Anne. There were few secrets in a small town. It would be hard to talk his way out of this one. Anne thought he was playing poker with the boys, not at the library. And certainly not at the library with ‘that little hussy’ Emma Hopkins.


“I’m thinking.” He said.

“Think faster. I have to get home.”

“And I don’t? Who do you want me to call? The Library Search and Rescue Team?”

“Call the police. They’ll let us out.”

“And what do we tell them? That we just must have missed the final call? That we were both so deep into our books that we missed the bell? How long does that story stand up at Mort’s in the morning?” Everyone showed up at Mort’s Café at some point during the day, and gossip travelled faster than Mort served his watery coffee.

“Shit.” Emma swore. She moved away from the door.

“Where are you going?” George’s eyes adjusted to the dark, and he followed her.

“We’ll have to break out. Break a window or something.” George winced. A broken window would be noticed, too. Emma picked up a hardcover book from a nearby rack. The only window on this side of the building was a large, plate-glass pane, etched with the words ‘Williamsport Carnegie Library. Built 1908’. Breaking that window would be heard all over town.

“Wait.” George put his hand onto Emma’s shoulder. “Not that one. One in back. This one will cost a fortune to replace.”

Emma held the book at the ready, but seemed to agree. She led him away from the front window, past the rows labeled Young Adult, and into the small bay where the children’s books waited for eager hands.

“How about this one?” She pointed to a small, six-paned window. They would both fit, but barely.


She threw the book before he readied himself. The glass shattered and sprayed across the concrete sidewalk outside. Emma brushed the glass off the sill with the edge of the book.

“Give me a boost.”

George lifted her carefully through the window. Grass crackled as her feet touched down on the other side. George followed. A shard of glass sliced along his right arm as he wiggled through –just deep enough to draw a thin line of blood to the surface.

“You okay?” Emma asked as he checked the cut.

“I’m fine.” He grimaced. His mind worked to come up with a reason for the cut. Anne would notice that for sure.

“So… I should go.” Emma turned to check to see if the way was clear.

“Right. Me too.” George hesitated. He looked at the glass covered concrete. The book lay propped against a No Parking sign. He stooped to pick it up. The streetlight provided enough illumination to read the cover. George laughed.


“Did you see the title?” he asked.

“No.” Emma admitted. He tilted the book towards her. She flashed that beautiful smile that had first attracted him to her, and his pulse quickened.

“Same time next week?” she asked.

George thought for a moment, nodded and thumbed the copy of “The Great Escape” now set firmly in his grasp. “Absolutely.”

3 Comments on “A Surprise Win!

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