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Seven Days 'Til Heaven
By McKinley Mueller

My eyes roamed over the familiar scenery as memories of my childhood flooded my thoughts. Something in my peripherals caused me to turn my head to catch another glimpse of a reminder of one sad memory that was etched in my brain forever, a Luna moth, I thought to myself as a wave of sadness crashed over me....

My ten-year-old self was overjoyed to be spending eight days at my grandma's house all by myself ñ no parents, no siblings, just me and grandma. I loved being in Canada; it felt like I was in a different world because I had to have a passport and didn't know anyone. Grammy and I were on our morning walk on the path through the woods when she stopped abruptly to point at something. "Oh, look, Pumpkin, it's a Luna moth coming out of its cocoon ñ such a rare thing to see, indeed." I went through the oohs and aahs as I stared up at the magic above me. "Now you watch this thing, Hun, because it's only going to live for seven more days in our world," Grandma told me.

My curious self asked, "Where does it go when it dies?"

"I don't know, Sugar, but I'd like to think some place nice." The next day we went back to the spot where we saw the moth and to our disappointment it wasn't there. I turned around, crushed, ready to go back home, when Grandma said, "Look, honey, there it is!" She was pointing to this magnificent light green moth, big enough to be a bird with intricate designs etched on its back that were meant to look like eyes. The design was fascinating; it resembled a cake iced with luscious colors of pink, white, and tan piping, finally finishing with white and black gel tracing the bottom of the eye. Its wings were a whole other thing in themselves with the pastel lime color being showcased on a feathery canvas. "Six more days, Sugar, six more days."

When we got home I made a calendar with seven days on it and crossed off one with a big red X. We continued our ritual of a morning walk only to be pleasantly surprised time and time again with the honor of seeing it for four more days.

On the sixth day, I walked in the kitchen and was hit by the wonderful smell of her homemade chili. She was stirring the chili with one spoon while singing into another one. My face must have mirrored a look of mixed horror and surprise because she felt the need to explain why at 83 she was dancing around her kitchen like a spring chicken ñ a crazy one. "This song just came on the radio, you see, and it was your granddaddy and my song on our first date, and our first dance at our wedding. He used to love coming home to me, singing it."

I felt my face shift into a look of glee. "That's sweet, grandma."

"C'mere honey let's dance." We must've spent an entire hour just dancing around her small yellow kitchen, singing with all of our might. When she was tucking me in that night she said, "So something's been itching at the back of my mind, Sugar. The other day you asked me where moths go when they die. People rarely find the dead moth's bodies, but I did some thinking and decided that they most likely end up in heaven, so you haven't got to worry your pretty little head about a thing."

"Oh, all right," I said with a smile.

The next morning we went on our morning walk, but the Luna moth was nowhere in sight. "Hun, why don't we go home and make some lemonade?"

"Yeah, that sounds like fun!" But, it turned out I didn't have a knack for making lemonade.

"Here Sugar, why don't you look for that Luna moth one more time."

"Okay," I said. Rummaging through the vegetation there were we saw it when it was alive, I spotted it on the bottom of the sycamore tree. I was overjoyed because my grandma was going to be so proud of me for finding the Luna moth. I very carefully picked it up but once it was in my hands, I ran so fast I could feel the wind rushing by me as if I was an Olympic track runner. I couldn't wait to show grandma ñ what a perfect end to a perfect week. I ran up the front steps, my feet thudding on the old concrete, and opened the door. I was not prepared for what I would see. I went from being the happiest ten-year-old the world to being what I can only imagine as being the saddest ten-year-old. I was thinking I was going to come home to smiling grandma more excited than I was about the moth, but instead I came home to a very silent grandma.

First, I called my mom because I didn't know what to do. I mean, they tell you to call 911, but I was in Canada, and I've never been in one of those situations before where you actually have to dial those three numbers. Her first reply was, "What? Hang up and call 911." She also said she'd be on the next plane. They came, but they couldn't do anything about my grandma. That made me mad; after all, they were the paramedics; there was supposed to be able to do something about it! But they couldn't, she was already gone.

I blinked as I came back to reality, reminding myself that I'm 30 years old and that happened 20 years ago. In my mind I think that, based on what she said, the Luna moth and grandma met each other in heaven. She somehow knew that I had found that Luna moth and she was the proudest grandma of all.

"Seven Days 'Til Heaven" By McKinley Mueller | 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

Finalists
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

Finalists

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

Finalists
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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