2022 Intermediate+ Word of the Day Short Story Contest Winners!

Thank you to everyone who submitted stories for our contest! We loved reading the legends from your regions and we have never had such a hard time choosing the winners and runners-up (those are the people who come in second, third, fourth, etc.). We wish everyone a very happy 2023.

And the winner is...

Juliette (Angoulême, France)

And the runner-ups are..

Jennifer Ortiz (Mexico City, Mexico), Alejandra Aguilar Reyes (Mexico City, Mexico), Lisa (Milan, Italy), Andrea (Bologna, Italy), Laura Ferrario (Trieste, Italy)


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

Here’s the winning story by Juliette!

Around the wet banks of what would later become a king’s favorite river, trees grew tall as foxes ran through the tall, dew-beaded grass. Once, above the Charente’s wet BANKS and amongst old trees, lived the first fairies of all, where the softest colors BLENDED into another in these endless meadows.

But once, Thunder appeared, RUMBLING from a distance, a giant, shapeless wall of clouds, darker than the night, slowly stretching over the faraway forests.

In these lands of peace, where no one had known anything else than golden horizons, the deer, the bugs, humans and bees, started to panic at the view of the space between them and the dark clouds NARROWING; soon, everyone started running towards the few caves their flat lands offered, or the only shield they could ever think of, the Tree.

All of the River’s FOLK would always cuddle up against her giant, venerable trunk for SHADE. Indeed, the Tree had very special leaves, leaves like every other tree used to be adorned with, but the greenest and strongest of them all: glass leaves, in between which the dancing wind would sing as, what would later be said, the most enchanting of mermaids.

But the Tree was rather a special mother. Since the most ancestral times, she traded with the Sun for longer days and sweeter fruits; sang to the Moon for endless water; whispered to the Fire underneath earth, “may you give my children warmth and protection.”

But when the Thunder came and even the River seemed to REAR in violent WAVES and everyone started QUIVERING against the Tree’s trunk, she suddenly became afraid too. She asked the Wind to sing in her leaves, but the Thunder didn’t seem to hear anything; she gently let sap FLOW into the grass down her hill, but the earth beneath it seemed to SHAKE even more. The Thunder’s roaring would only intensify. It would not let it speak to her, the Tree SEIZED; but what she could do, that, she knew, was allowing her people to wait for the storm to pass with a hopeful heart.

So the Tree changed her leaves’ color to glowing yellows and reds to give light, warmth and strength to anyone who could see her WIDE canopy.

However soon enough she started to feel her WHOLE trunk tremble, and, afraid that her leaves would break each other SHAKING this way, the Tree decided to trade their glass-hardness to paper-thinness, so that they could ride even the wildest wind without breaking, and fly towards the people hiding in caves to give them hope too.

And so as she was shaking, praying under the first Thunder in the world

Yellow lights raced through the storm

Appeasing the fairies and animals

STROKING the running river

Soon, soothing the whole land

The Thunder too

And when, for the first time before billions of them, the leaves slowly fell back onto the floor

The first autumn

Was born.

And here’s the first runner-up story by Jennifer Ortiz!

In the Bellybutton of the Moon

On that CHILLY 1978 February morning, he felt old as time. He spent all night listening to the dogs BARKING and wailing like the chorus of his Mexican tragedy. It was still dark outside. There was no point in staying in bed, yet he lay there praying for something that gave him hope, perhaps hot WATER. No, no mercy for him. Alas! If only he could go back to a time before his fortune PLUMMETED, he became a PETTY man or lived in this SLUM. Oh, how he longed to be an esteemed archaeologist again! NEVERTHELESS, after a cold shower, he got ready for a job he WHOLEHEARTEDLY detested: LABORER in the new subway construction.

He spent that day in a NARROW underground passage, feet deep in mud and face covered by hundred-year-old grime. He shoveled the dirt in a BLUR until there was no one left but him. Unfazed by his lonesomeness, he continued until he hit something. Slightly annoyed, he looked closer and saw a chiseled rock. Upon touching it, something akin to recognition FLARED inside him. Eagerly, he DUG all night and unearthed a gigantic round monolith with a woman in pieces, artfully sculpted, wearing a belt of snakes and skulls. It was pre-Hispanic; undoubtedly, valuable; absolutely, his meal ticket; thank God! He covered the stone and snuck out of there. Back home, he SCRUBBED his THIN hands transfixed and went to bed. He dreamed of battles, beating hearts and sacrificial rites.

Afterwards, he had visions of pyramids built on water and floating gardens. His steps collided with people wearing loin-cloths, feathered crowns and rattles on their feet. That’s not ODD in Mexico City; however, they seemed to want to GOBBLE up his soul. Furthermore, he was buzzing with a strange energy. His once-very-smart brain was running in circles, trying to shine a light on the enigma that was that woman. He investigated, talked to people with history tattooed on their faces, and dived into the myths buried by the UNYIELDING conquistadors until he found her: Coyolxauhqui. The Moon Goddess was defeated by her younger brother, the Sun, in a bloody encounter where she was CHOPPED UP and scattered over a mountain with snakes.

He visited her one last time. First, he got rid of the muck surrounding her. Then, with the utmost reverence and tenderness, he dusted her limbs and severed HEAD. “WAKE up. It’s time to go home; your penance is through,” he said to her. That day, the Moon shined as never before. She rests in a museum in the bellybutton of the city, where Tenochtitlan once rose proudly. He lives close by in the same wretched house. There is dirt under his NAILS still, but he is not world-WEARY anymore. On the Moon, he spies the figure of a dismembered woman flanked by bright stars. He knows she is smiling back at him and RECKONS he’ll do well; after all, he is in good grace with the heavens.


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Word of the Day is released Monday through Friday.

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