What happens when you make a mistake? A mistake that can’t be smoothed over, reconciled, or unmade? That’s a question for the ages—and for story.
We’re living in such fraught times. And too often the adults we see and hear on the public stage don’t fess up to their mistakes. So we roll along. But wait. In the hands of skilled writers, mistakes are gold. They are opportunities for drama, reflection, reversals of fate and fortune; at bottom, they are grim reminders of life lived and suffered. Who better to address the subject of “The Mistake” than students in high school, where every day looms as a minefield of potential blunders?
In this year’s Narrative “Tell Me a Story” High School Contest, we asked students around the world to address, in a six-hundred-word story or essay, a pivotal mistake. These young writers proved they are fearless in mining life’s hard lessons and finding grace when it’s in the offing, or, if not, revealing how truly painful mistakes can be.
What is a pivotal mistake when you’re fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, eighteen?
A weekend at home turns into a devastating hookup at the tender age of twelve; a superstar straight-A student goes on a shoplifting spree, if only to counter her parents’ relentless expectations; a boy cheats on his girlfriend in the most public of arenas, the homecoming dance; an immigrant spends his last pennies on a mistake that becomes the fruit of family legend.
These are not simple or easy stories. They are as much about what is left out of the tale, as what is given. Whether or not fiction, they read true—as good stories must. I have such respect for these unflinching messengers of candor, bravery, talent. We’re wise to heed them. —Carol Edgarian
Jocelyn Rojas, Next Generation Scholars
Rachel Wilkins, King City High School
And Don’t Miss: