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By Sydney R. Lewark

Isa Barrow, sat in a corner of the ball room surrounded by no one but her servants, watching the lavishly dressed guests glide across the dance floor in the low candle and fire light. The women's wide skirts swooped across the floor, and their heeled shoes clicked against its marble surface. Every dress was different, some gold, white, red, yellow, blue, green, ivory, and silver; every corset was jeweled, laced, or decorated with exotic flowers. Long billowy sleeves trailed through the air, and expensive jewelry brushed against milk white skin. The men were not as extravagantly dressed, but every coat and silk shirt was pressed perfectly, every boot polished, every sleeve buttoned in place.

It was a masquerade ball, so each face was hidden behind a mask, leaving Isa to wonder who was who in the crowd, whom she could trust, and whom she couldn't.

Isa herself, was wearing a black dress, long white bodice, and a tight corset underneath. The sleeves were low on her shoulders, reaching past her hands in black and white lace; the whole dress was covered in tiny cream and rose pearls. Matching pearls were sewn into her simple half-black, half-white mask, and hung on thread through her long dark brown hair.

The ball was in honor of her 17th birthday, but really was just an excuse for her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Wales, to throw another party and flaunt that they had more money than everyone attending it. Isa's home, a huge castle on a hill, surrounded by miles of peaceful meadows, extravagant gardens, sapphire lakes, and emerald forests, had been turned into a fairytale place. The gardens had been trimmed and pruned to perfection, the ponds alight with candles on tiny flower boats, and each inch of every room cleaned and set sparkling in candle light.

The reason Isa sat in the corner, on the night of her 17th birthday, watching from behind a mask, as countless young women, far less beautiful then her, get asked to dance by many a handsome young man was because......

"Isa" a male voice asked casually from behind her. "Isa Barrow, isn't it"

She didn't even turn her head to acknowledge the speaker.

"Yes" she answered heavily.

"I'm Isa"

"And may I ask Isa, why a girl as stunning as yourself is not dancing".

Still keeping her gaze straight in front of her, she slowly lifted her skirt to reveal a stockinged leg, the top half long and thin, but everything below the knee missing. She had been born like that, crippled, helpless in the eyes of the world, and unable to do anything about it. Isa had been told there was no use for a broken human being, and as the years past, she begun to believe that was true.

Isa expected, like everyone before him, that this young man would turn and awkwardly walk away, leaving her broken heart, to be torn into pieces again. The pain of being rejected and outcast had been driven so deep, that she was beyond the years of crying and this time only cringed when the man began to speak.

"Well" he said calmly. "I still see no reason for you not to dance".

Very quickly, and with strong trustworthy movements, he picked Isa up out of her chair and held her tightly, one hand behind her back and the other wrapped securely around her crippled and non crippled leg.

Isa's long black and lace skirt brushed the floor, a thousands pearls rolling in the candle light, and for the first time, she looked into his eyes. They were framed by a red and white mask, and the eye slits were small, but Isa could distinctly see that one was ice blue, and the other a deep swirling aqua. She couldn't draw her gaze away from his face.

"You have amazing eyes" she whispered.

A smile touched his lips, and a slight moment of relief crossed his face.

"You know not everyone thinks that"

Isa laughed, wondering how anyone could look at his eyes and not be awed.

"Well, I think that you have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen".

His smile grew wider, and Isa noticed how tall and striking he looked in a red coat, white silk shirt, black knee high boots, and ivory sash.

"And I think you are in need of a dance partner" he answered.

Without hesitation, the boy with the different colored eyes, carried the crippled beauty out into the middle of the ballroom.

Isa wrapped her arms tightly around his neck as he began to turn to the fast beat of the music. The world blurred around them, until it seemed that everything, all the guests, servants, musicians, candles, food, chairs, tables, had disappeared, and they were spinning alone on the dance floor.

Isa's dress flared out and whipped around wildly, the tiny pearls clinking together in the folds of the thick fabric. As he continued to twirl in wide sweeping arcs feet not faltering, Isa realized they were laughing loudly, and wondered who this mysterious boy with the different colored eyes was.

"What's your name" she asked breathlessly, her words swallowed up by the wind they had created.

"Ash" he replied, spinning faster and faster.

Isa watched the absolute joy on his face, as he spun with her in his arms, watched his beautiful eyes on her, and for one moment everything, every horrible, heartbreaking moment of her life, and lost herself in the gaze of this perfect boy.

Letting go of everything, Isa threw her head back, and let her long dark hair fly out behind her, the air rushed past her face, and curled around her closed eyes, Ash held onto her tightly as she flung her arms behind her, embracing full on the rush of the wind, created by the wake of her elegant skirt.

A smile crossed Isa's face, as she realized she was flying.

"Flying" By Sydney R. Lewark | StoryMakers 2012 | Rocky Mountain PBS
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2013 StoryMakers competition a great success!

This year we received more than 730 entries across 88 cities in Colorado.
We were blown away by the talent! This state is home to some truly gifted authors.

Congratulations to our winners and finalists of the 2013 StoryMakers writing contest!

6th grade finalists

Olivia Janicek, Denver – 1st place
Maxwell Wilderson, Fort Morgan – 2nd place
Grace Patrick, Greeley – 3rd place
Ezequiel Meraz, Fort Lupton
Aileen Le, Arvada
Rebecca Chapman, Denver
Joseph Quintana, Highlands Ranch
Caitlin Kincaid, Colorado Springs

7th grade finalists

Rachel Foote, Longmont – 1st place
Edie Tavel, Denver – 2nd place
Colin Cannici, Lakewood – 3rd place
Andrew Swanback, Arvada
Ella Beringer, Castle Rock
Melody Lipke, Alamosa
Benny Khouri, Fort Collins
Emma Risdon, Longmont

8th grade finalists

Mia Nelson, Denver – 1st place
Roger Nakagawa, Denver – 2nd place
Kendal McMaster, Denver – 3rd place
Nadia Stoker, Broomfield
Elliott Wyatt, Denver
Molly Worford, Denver
Gabriella Tuell, Broomfield
Aileen Ma, Longmont

These 3 winners and 5 runners-up per grade received:

  • Digital storytelling workshop and tour of our television studios
  • Stories published on our website
  • Awesome prizes, like Kindle Fires
  • Awards luncheon for students and families featuring keynote speaker, local author and radio personality Dom TestaCentury Link.png

StoryMakers At a Glance:

  • Each year, Rocky Mountain PBS offers this unique writing contest to middle school students statewide. We are in our seventh year!
  • The contest is sponsored by CenturyLink, a longtime supporter of the program who helped conceive of the idea back in 2007 with the education department at Rocky Mountain PBS and has helped to make it possible ever since
  • Open to students in 6th, 7th and 8th grades in Colorado. Entries are judged on originality, creative expression and storytelling
  • Our three winners – one in each grade – were selected out of more than 700 applicants across the state
  • Winners and finalists met in December for a digital storytelling workshop and seminar with Rocky Mountain PBS’ executive director of I-News, Laura Frank, on the value of investigative journalism, and were celebrated at a luncheon on January 4th featuring keynote speaker and bestselling author, Dom Testa.
  • Stories were creative and powerful -- so extraordinary that the 45 volunteer judges often stopped to marvel “Wait, how old is this writer?”
  • Contest picks up again in the summer 2014 with an October submission deadline.

2013 StoryMakers Winners Featured on TV

Watch a segment of Colorado's Best Kids featuring our 2013 StoryMakers winners (video below):

2012 StoryMakers Winners and Finalists

StoryMakers Writing Contest

The 2012 Winners and Finalists are:

6th Grade
1st - Christian Olsen, "Without A Home" - Littleton, Goddard Middle School
2nd - Lydia MacRavey, "Little Bear's Arrow" - Centennial, Home Schooled
3rd - Elizabeth Blackmun, "Lady of the Lake" - Denver, Denver School of the Arts

Chloe Applegate, "Rainin's River" - Denver, Denver School of the Arts
Ella Beringer, "The Chase" - Castle Rock, Soaring Hawk
Ashlyn Kofford, "The Life Necklace" - Longmont, Westview Middle School
Drew Sims, "A Little Help" - La Junta, La Junta Intermediate School
William Underhill, "Bernard" - Denver, Denver School of the Arts

7th Grade
1st - Annie Lell, "Blue Moon" - Arvada, Oberon Middle School
2nd - Mia Nelson, "Deaf Prayers"
 - Denver, Denver School of the Arts
3rd - Jake Daniel, "Through the Eyes of a Golf Ball"
 - Grand Junction, Holy Family Catholic School


Nash Marez, "Adventure to Milkdud" - Grand Junction, Holy Family Catholic School 
Gillian Palazzini, 
"Through the Eyes of the Insane" - Merino, Home Schooled 
Clarice Reiner, 
"The Song of a Second" - Arvada, Oberon Middle School 
Britney Sarazen, "
Bullied to Bully" - Fort Lupton, Quest Academy 
Sydney Taylor,
 "Xanthe Soto, Girl Genius: Wind Power" - Denver, Homeschooled

8th Grade
1st - Erin Mallory, "Tricking the Sheep" - Windsor, Saint Joseph's Catholic School
2nd - McKinley Mueller, "Seven Days 'Til Heaven" - Ridgway, Ridgway Secondary School
3rd - Sydney Lewark, "Flying" - Denver, Denver Waldorf School

Kinsey Brashears, "Elena Smith" - Fort Morgan, Fort Morgan Middle School
Torryn Elliot
, "The Adventures of Cedric" - Granby, East Grand Middle School
Abigail Weeks
, "Simplicity" - Centennial, West Middle School
Claire Wineman
, "The Conversion" - Denver, Denver School of the Arts
Margaux Woellner
, "The Maligned Hedgehog" - Englewood, West Middle School

Parent Testimonial

"I wanted to thank you for the Rocky Mountain PBS StoryMakers program. My daughter took part in the competition and was a runner up for the 8th grade group. The whole process was so thrilling for her to be part of. When we were at the studio for the celebration in January, she told us she felt like a movie star. She loved learning to record her story and download illustrations, but most of all I think she loved the fact that so many people were involved in the whole process, and that most were involved through volunteering. 

She was so inspired... Our children need to feel important in order to succeed, and every small step counts. This support needs to be more than just parents and teachers. When our children see other adults and important people involved in their futures, it paints a bigger picture for them. Thank you for painting part of this bigger picture." 

-The Bretts, Eaton, Co.

Rocky Mountain PBS and CenturyLink encourage teenagers to keep reading and writing.  

Thanks to everyone submitting a story and special thanks to our major sponsor, CenturyLink.

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