Words of Winter

We are so excited to announce the winners of our writing contests!
Keep scrolling to read the full winning short story and poem.
Also, be sure to check out our podcast to meet the authors and hear a reading of their work!

Poetry Winner: Gabriel Flores

Gabriel Flores is an aspiring poet studying Creative Writing and Education at the University of Arizona. His experiences during childhood and as an armed forces veteran is a driving influence in the poetry he writes. Gabriel is currently writing a book of poetry that reflects on the young person’s journey into adulthood. He views the winter holidays as a time of remembrance, reflection, and progress. Gabriel hopes that he inspires his readers to ponder these aspects in this poem. Inquiries can be made at gabejflores7@gmail.com.

“Christmas Now”

I’d like to think

that I would go back to those days

of helpless anticipation of seeing

a gently lit tree

bordered by gifts

left by a man that set his half-eaten sugar cookie down on the little table

beside the fireplace.


And after walking across the newly

created crinkled carpet,

I’d go outside with friends,

where long-awaited basketball dreams were fulfilled

in pajamas and a sweater.



should I be given the chance,

I’d pretend that I was asleep until mom

whispered in my ear that Santa finally came.




-where I’m driving to now-

is only a taste of memories long-passed.


So I look to distant

coffee grounds-mountains

with their powdered milk caps

and picture a star at the peak,

imagining the stolen childhood tastes of that instant

drink on those cold mornings,

only to remember to watch the road.


And I clutch the wheel

with melancholy grip

of a time that can’t be re-lived-


Of a time that shouldn’t be re-lived,

only remembered,

sorrowful as it may be-


and continue down the road.

Nonfiction Winner: Logan Murphy

Logan Murphy is a senior at the University of Arizona, majoring in creative writing, and minoring in games and behavior. Growing up in Kansas, he did not have a lot to do other than make up monsters and tell stories about them to his friends and family. His love for storytelling led him to writing his own short stories- a medium that he uses to organize his imagination. When he is not writing, Logan enjoys playing and designing games, as well as music and boxing.

“There Is A Village in My Living Room”

Every December, a small village moves into my living room. Small in scale, that is, not in population.  Most of the year they live patiently in plastic tubs in the guest bedroom closet, but after we finish off the thanksgiving leftovers, my mom gives my dad the green light to start setting up his train. This train is not simply a decoration; it is the focal point of our holiday festivities. Setting it up usually includes moving all of the furniture around so the tracks can bob and weave around it, as well as making more space for the happy buildings and inhabitants of Christmas Village.

        A trip on the Christmas train would be nothing but pure joy. By the time you got into your seat, the front doors of the train station would be opening up, and the train would start chugging along. At first, staring out the window, you would see Santa’s workshop, full of elves making toys, Santa checking his list again, and his reindeer being fed. The North Pole is beautiful, especially at night, when the candy cane street lamps cover everything in amber.

        Farther along your trip, you would get down to Christmas Village, where all of the kids are off school, and enjoying the cold weather. They wait in line at the “Hot Cocoa Food Truck”, while others hang lights on their houses. In the middle of the Christmas Village, the lake has frozen over- perfect for pirouettes and pick-up hockey games.

        When you near the end of your trip you would come upon 4 peculiar buildings, seemingly different from the rest of the village. The first one that you would see is labeled “Music”. It is black and minimal, but beautifully artistic. The next is a classroom. It’s full of books, pencils and vibrant colors. The chalkboard in the back always reads a new, inspiring message. The next seems to have been decorated erratically, though extraordinarily imaginative. Aliens are invading it through the chimney, but despite the inherent danger, that place exuberates joy. The last house is labeled “Slugger”. Equally as haphazard as the last, baseballs seem to be flying out of every corner of this house, and the mayhem caused by them is nothing but memorable.

        This is the last thing you would see before pulling back into the station.


        Last year was the first time all my siblings weren’t around to play with the train together, and those houses and the end of the trip felt empty. For most of the year, our houses are packed up in separate plastic tubs and tucked away in the guest bedroom closet, and we wait with anticipation for the next time our whole village can come together again. Last year, though, that day never came.

        “If we miss it one time, it won’t be a tradition anymore.” That’s something my mom would always say. That’s why we still eat finger foods and watch movies together on Christmas Eve. That’s why we haven’t missed a Christmas Eve candlelight church service since I was born. That’s why we always wait to hang ornaments on the tree until we are all together. If we miss any of these even once, it would make an excuse for us to skip it the next year.

        As scary as it is to give up tradition, it does not always come at the cost of giving up why we do those things. Some day, when there is nobody to come change the message on the chalkboard, or throw you a baseball, it does not change the beautiful village we had built together every year by sitting around in the living room and playing with that train set. | My dad has since started getting each of us a train set of our own. He knows we aren’t going to be around forever, but he also knows how important these memories and traditions are to us. Some day, I will sit down in my own living room, with my own train, and my own family. That will be a perfectly lovely moment- a moment that would never happen without the perfect loveliness my dad has taught me year after year by putting together his train with him.

Thanks, dad, for the memories, past, present and future.

Honorary Mention: Sophie Rubin

Sophie Rubin is an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, currently 21 years old. She has a penchant for adopting chihuahuas and watching old movies. This short story was inspired by The Twilight Zone, and the cliché ending of a show where it turns out they were all just living in a snow globe.


Mary and Gary live on an island inside of a snow globe. They have a little cabin with a red door; it’s always winter under their glass dome.

About once a year the snow globe gets shaken up and down, and they have to cling with their boots to the bottom; once Mary detached and floated away, and it took her ages to float back down again, and by that time Gary had locked the cabin door and she had to sit out all night with plastic snowflakes stuck to her hair.

One day Gary climbed to the top of a snowy pine tree, and saw that the water did not reach the top of the dome.

“Mary come look at this- there’s a draught in the firmament.” Mary climbed the other pine tree and saw that it was true, and began crying. Her tear drops formed perfect spheres, and as salt water is denser than freshwater, they sank to the bottom of the globe and nestled among the plastic snowflakes.

“Let’s go inside and sit by the fire.”

The fire inside the cabin was always lit and flickering, blowing puffs of smoke from the chimney. The fire was very cozy and Mary and Gary felt comforted.

“I know what it is,” Mary said, “it was that beautiful cat who pushed us off the mantle, remember how we rocketed to the floor, and there was a terrible clink.”

Gary nodded, this was so. “You think there might be a crack somewhere, letting in all that contemptible air?”

“It’s the only explanation.”

If the water level dropped enough, it would be the end of them.

The next day they went hunting for the crack made by the clink.

Mary sighed, scaling the side of the house, “wouldn’t it have been easier if we were in a music box?”

Gary stood on the roof, inspecting the glass. “Why no, then we would be in darkness all year instead of winter, a much pleasanter season than darkness. Ah, Mary, is this it?” It was almost invisible, but looking at the right angle a thin sinister line was visible.

“What shall we do?” Mary said fearfully.

“There’s… the other snow globe,” Gary said, glancing at the table across the room from where their snow globe sat on the mantle. The other snow globe was much larger than theirs.

Mary said with awe, “the one with no firmament? Where the golden angels live?”

“We must escape to the other globe, it’s our only hope.”

“Do you think the angels will accept us?”

“Of course they will, they’re angels! And we have always wanted to visit them, now here’s our chance.”

Mary and Gary began to formulate a plan. They took bundles of plastic snow into the cabin, melting it in the cauldron above the fire. “We used to have our soup in there!” Gary cried. Skillfully, Mary crafted the melted snow into spaceman helmets for the two of them.

Donning their helmets, Mary and Gary went to the far reaches of the globe, and began to rush the wall at the same time. Little by little the snow globe edged over the mantle, again and again they rushed the wall, flurries of plastic snowflakes stirred up in their wake.

“Gary, it looks as if it’s snowing!”

“For the last time.”

With one last push, the globe went toppling over the edge of the mantle. The globe split open with frighteningly more than a clink; there was an immense shattering clatter, and they were suddenly on the floor, water leaking out in every which way. They crawled out from the ruins of their home, their helmets safely in place, protecting them from the unbreathable air. The cabin floated away on a stream of water against hardwood; finally the flame in the fireplace had extinguished.

They had timed it perfectly; the cat was just about to jump up onto the table to begin its daily worship of the angels in the other snow globe.

“We must run now!” 

The cat’s eyes narrowed as it prepared to make its leap; Mary and Gary just reached the tail in time and clung on. He swooped into the air, flicking his tail at the same time, and it was all they could do to hold on. They climbed the tail- they had had much practice on the snow covered pine trees, they climbed onto its back, to its head and to the tip of its pink nose.

“Thank you, beautiful cat!”

“Get along whiskers!”

And they jumped off, into the open top of the snow globe, and flung their helmets off as they did.

Floating slowly down, they could see what they weren’t able to from the mantle; there was a castle inside for them to live in! But it had no doors and the windows were just empty space. The golden angels swam by and gazed at them curiously. Eventually Mary and Gary came to rest in the gravel below. Mary gasped, “Gary is it possible- snow?”

George put the fish food down and looked more closely into the bowl, scratching his head. He muttered to himself, “that’s strange, I don’t recall putting those figurines in here… They’re wearing little snow jackets, woolen hats and boots.”

George turned to ask his wife if she had bought new decorations for the fish bowl, and saw the mess upon the floor.

“Oh, I thought I heard a clatter, the snow globe is broken! Snowball, bad kitty!”