2021 Intermediate+ Word of the Day Short Story Contest Winners!

Thank you to everyone who submitted stories for our contest! We had so many thoughtful, creative, and heartfelt entries that we were sorry not to be able to choose even more runners-up (those are the people who come in second, third, fourth, etc.). The Word of the Day team loved reading your stories about “time for a change.” We hope that 2022 will bring along lots of positive change for all of us.

And the winner is...

Rebecca Cardot (Saint-Joseph de Rivière, France)

And the runner-ups are..

Malena Laiño (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Chiara (Piacenza, Italy) Jean-Baptiste Darnet (St. Yrieix, France), Maria (Bucharest, Romania), Angioletta (Venegono Inferiore, Italy), Jennifer Ortiz (Mexico City, Mexico), José (Navarra, Spain) and Arianna Federici (Rome, Italy)


If you are on this list, please keep an eye out for an email from us about your prize after the new year!


And here’s the winning story by Rebecca, from Saint-Joseph de Rivière, France!

Her home sits in the middle of nowhere, between LUSH hills and GLOOMY landscapes. It is a STURDY house, as big as a castle, as small as a pebble. At this moment, it is BRIMMING with the shouts of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

Mother Earth is sitting on a stool, her elbow resting on the windowsill, her CHIN in her hand. She is not really listening to the conversation of the four seasons, but enjoys nonetheless having a noisy house. She is feeling tired and sad these days, and it is good to have company. Her BODY is growing old. Her face shows more wrinkles than she can count, her ginger hair peppered with grey. She used to look more beautiful, a beauty with an edge of wildness. Though she has to admit, she also had looked worse, a long time ago.

Her GREEN eyes, however, are as acute as ever and her attention is really on what is happening outside. She sees everything that does not go well in her world. The WASTE LITTERING the oceans, the fires BURNING all her precious trees, the disappearance of her beloved animals. It hurts deep inside her FLESH.

She also sees everything that could go worse but does not, humans trying to do better. Humans … such a complicated species. She might have outthought herself with this one but she has always loved trying things. Humans had finally realized that they had set their own house on fire––some of them at least. She knew she had not given them a brain for nothing!

So maybe, because they were trying, she would make another effort, give them a bit more time. Otherwise, well … it would not be the first time she changed her plans and chose a somewhat radical solution. Oh, dinosaurs had been such fun!

Suddenly, Fall screams and it brings Mother Earth’s attention back to her guests. She turns to face them and looks at them FONDLY. They always are such a JOLLY group, these four. They had shown up one day on her doorstep. She had not planned them. She knows that one day they might disappear as suddenly as they came, so she enjoys her time with them. There are a few others, too. Monsoon is currently HIKING somewhere, but it will soon come back for a tea; of that she has no doubt.

Winter says a little SLY, FROSTY WORD and Fall stands up, BRISTLING.

“That’s it! Either we do something to stop humans’ idiocy or I quit! I’m tired of working and working and not even having a few decent weeks in a few places to show my art.”

“Oh, my friend,” says Mother Earth. “No need to be so dramatic.”

She stands up and takes its hands in hers.

“Not yet, at least, she adds softly, PATTING its hands. Let’s settle for a smaller change, something just a tad less drastic, for now. A season change should do, don’t you think?”

And here’s the first runner-up story by Malena, from Buenos Aires, Argentina!

My aunt lives in a COASTAL town named Necochea. Whenever I arrive in the town, I can feel the reunion with the sea as soon as I am a few blocks away. The air becomes salty, the GULLS are flying over the sky, I can hear the waves screaming and the WIND GUSTS bringing sand thrown to hug you or SLAPPING your legs. That immense blue giant that welcomes me with the waves BILLOWS and breaks in violent puffs of foam and the GLARE over the sea seems to be thousands of tiny diamonds GLINTING over the WAVES.

I like to walk along the beach because I am looking for treasures, tiny things STRANDED on the beach. It is like a pact that I have with the sea. It takes something from me, but gives me something else in return. It took a necklace from me once, but gave me a ring on the shore. It took out an earring, but gave me a pink CLAM. It is a constant barter. I also think of everything that people lose in the sand. And the treasures there may be hidden by pirates or smugglers. That’s why I always walk along the beach keeping my sight to the ground. These treasures can be expensive things, such as brand-name sunglasses, or not, like a SHELL you can put your ear to and listen to the lullaby of the ocean.

This summer I went to visit my aunt because she was ILL. We went to swim together. The sea took out one of her favorite earrings, so that day I decided to STRIDE along the beach looking along the shore to see if I could find it or what the exchange was going to be this time. My aunt accompanied me. I told her about this deal I have with the sea and why I love walking on the beach, looking at the ground and gathering the treasures that I saw. We walked several kilometers while she laughed at my findings, because many were stones that seemed funny JESTS yelling. We continued walking and talking about our lives, while we searched the shore for the sea to surprise us. We BASKED and stayed for a while on some stones watching the movement of the WATER. The DAZZLE of the sunlight on the surface of the waves was beautiful. The wind SWAYED the STEMS of the flowers that were on the rocks’ CLEFTS. We relaxed and enjoyed until the sunset.

We walked back along the shore when it was already dark, the stars were TWINKLING in the sky. It was a magical moment. In the end, we didn’t find her earring, nor a great treasure in return. I understood that this time bartering had been the WHOLE experience, that day was a treasure in itself.

I think this is the reason why, to me, the beach now represents reunion, joy and not merely material treasures. This time simply with her and the sea, changed me.

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Word of the Day is released Monday through Friday.

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