Where do we go from here?
Posed to sixth- through 12th-graders who live or go to school in the county, teenagers answered this mid-pandemic question for this year’s Carver County Library’s Teen Six-Word Story Contest.
The first annual October competition, inspired by writer Ernest Hemingway, amassed 182 entries. Last year’s theme was “2020 In Six Words.”
“The legend is somebody challenged Ernest Hemingway to write a sad story in six words, and his story was: For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” says Ingrid Rimmereide, associate youth services librarian at the Chanhassen Library.
The adolescent writers blew Rimmereide away with their talent again this year.
“It’s amazing the brilliance that these kids can put together in six words,” she says.
Take Lola Barton, who won the top 10th-grade prize of 18 entries. She channeled her tough year into her story. Barton, who is homeschooled in Mayer, recently moved from Cologne with her family during the pandemic.
The trickiest part was fitting that all into half a dozen words.
“Cuz I wanted to get it to be how it felt and explain it, but in only six words that’s kind of hard,” Lola says. “I kind of wrote it in the way I would like to be a friend and how I would like others to be friends towards me.”
After about 15 minutes, her story felt right: “Choose compassion, kindness, joy and authenticity.”
“I just hope that from my poem, people are encouraged to think more about others and choose to enjoy the days that they are in instead of rushing about, worrying about things,” Lola says.
Some day, Lola says she might like to write a book. But for now, she’ll use her $50 Barnes & Noble prize gift card to stock up on other authors’ work.
This year’s library contest’s ninth-grade winner is Max Vivas, who goes to Chanhassen High School.
A teacher mentioned the contest in class and he settled on a story in a handful of minutes: “Much time lost, many things gained.”
As for losses, Max says he missed a lot of school material (looking at you, Algebra 1) and all the things that would’ve come with a normal school year. But it wasn’t all bad.
The second-youngest of four children, Max’s whole family was home: His dad had a zero-minute work commute and his eldest siblings returned from college to ride out the pandemic in Chanhassen.
“We got much more family time,” Max says. “Every lunch time, my mom would always say, like, ‘It’s so nice for all of us to be together.’”
Max says he’ll see where his writing takes him, potentially taking after his dad, who has won international writing and poetry contests, he says. In the shorter-term, Max plans to “definitely” join the speech team next year.
Rimmereide says she’s proud of the teamwork with colleague Branch Manager Patrick Jones, who she says worked mostly with teenagers before coming to Carver County.
On top of that, it can be difficult to get teenagers to participate in library programs, she says, making the often-quick six-word contest even more of a favorite. But speedy doesn’t equate to easy.
“It’s not like a whole essay, but to encapsulate a story or a thought or a feeling in six words requires some thought and good use of vocabulary words,” says Jodi Edstrom, Chaska Library branch manager. “Some of (the entries) were just brilliant. It gives me hope for the future. These kids are thoughtful and articulate and very creative.”
Though maybe not quite as well-known just yet, these teenagers are closer to reaching Hemingway’s literary legacy — six words closer, to be exact.