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Your Story 49 Winner: Defining Home

Categories: Your Story Competition.

Prompt: You’re stranded on a desert island with three items: a coconut, a mask and a dictionary. Write a story of 750 words or fewer that explains how you use these items to help you get off the island.

Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in competition #49 (either by entering, reading or voting).

Out of more than 400 entries, readers helped us pick “Defining Home” by Jamie-Lee Denton as the winner. For winning, Denton’s story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.

Winning Entry

“Defining Home”
by Jamie-Lee Denton

I fought with the light. I wanted so badly to believe that the tint that penetrated my eyelids was my little brother’s flashlight he had startled me with every Sunday before mom’s mandatory family breakfast. But I knew routine would not bring me comfort. I got up, looked out into the abyss and convinced myself that this was not real, but the hot sand below my feet usurped my imagination. “What if I am stuck here forever?”

I zipped open my backpack and looked at the coconut key ring my father gave me when I told him I was going on my eat, pray, love mission—just me and my boat. I remember the fear he had in his eyes when I told him I would go, but he knew better than to stop me when I had made up my mind about something so outrageous. “You were always a daredevil like your mama,” he had said as he squeezed the coconut into my hand.

Beside the key ring was my World Language Dictionary; I couldn’t wait to travel to France and chat with passers-by, defining and redefining words. I scavenged the rest of my bag for the mid-bit Oh Henry! chocolate bar I had abandoned when my boat hit the Maison Rock and began sinking. Nothing. No food, no fresh water, no company. Stranded.

By midday, I was ready to give up. I walked and cried but nature failed to feed me; she offered no breast. The trees bore no fruits; the ground, no starch; and the sea, no fish. I grabbed my backpack, sat under the tree and thought of the time mom had lost me in the grocery store, only to find me in the stationary isle covered in baby powder. I missed her laugh and suddenly reflection grew painful.

I took out my dictionary and began looking up words and reciting their definitions to distract my disposition. “Quell: to suppress. Imprest: an advance of money. Lilt: a little song or tune.” As I recited my fourth word, a wild boar began approaching me. Frantic, I reached for my backpack, pulled out the red Power Ranger mask I had kept from the Eighties Babies TV Show Convention while I was on a stop in Chile four days prior and disguised myself. Nervously, I read some more words: “Ingress: t-h-e-e the r-r-ight to e-n-t-er. Machinate: to con-con-contrive,” and the wild boar came closer. His predatory nature terrified me, so I stopped, but my lack of recital made the animal furious, so I began again: “Plethoric: overfull. Idiolect: a person’s individual speech pattern.”

This whole fiasco had me sweating uncontrollably, so I slowly took my mask off. Bad idea. The wild boar became increasingly rowdy, so I maintained my Power Ranger and my definitions. The animal confronted me and licked my face—how odd for a wild animal.

Curious to learn who or what I was, the boar interrogated me with its snout and searched my bag. Frightened, but unusually comforted, I watched as it ingested my coconut key ring. The boar ran and I followed behind it repeating words and definitions. Suddenly, the wild boar halted and spat out my key ring right beside a pile of coconuts. I could not believe it.

I carried the coconuts one by one to the seashore until it produced a mountain. The boar stayed close, celebrating as I recited a new word each time. While I sat on the coconut hill, a ship with some fishermen and farmers approached the shores. A bearded man with cinnamon-brown hair got out first. “Say, I bet you want off this island. How ’bout you give us those coconuts and we get you home?”

Things were moving so quickly that my response escaped from my mouth handicapped. “Uuhh…mm…Uhhhh. Ummm, OK.” The men wasted no time stocking the ship.

As I boarded, the wild boar followed behind me. I stopped reciting words, but it remained. I took my Power Ranger mask off, and still the boar was stagnant. The animal had become so accustomed to me that the very things that made him furious at first gave him comfort. He followed me on to the ship.

For me, home wouldn’t be too far now, but for the wild boar, he would be far away from home. I felt it only necessary to pick up my dictionary and appease him with another definition. “Home: any place of residence or refuge.”


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About Tiffany Luckey

Tiffany Luckey is the associate editor for Writer's Digest and the Writing Community at F+W Media. She runs a TV blog at www.anothertvblog.com.

45 Responses to Your Story 49 Winner: Defining Home

  1. jamielee3 says:

    Hi tiffany, How do we know which readers digest issue our works get published in? Is there any email notifications that goes around to competition winners? What exactly is the protocol? Thanks in advance.

  2. Rob says:

    Hi, Tiffany – I loved this contest as much as the Photo Prompt – learned way more than I thought I would – and actually have a story I’m proud of. I’m sure I’m not alone. The Photo Prompt’s Top 10 really showed how great first-liners can be done – and how much tough competition there is! Is there some way we can read, say, the top five finishers here? … i.e. after one’s missed the reader/voter deadline?
    . Thanks – Rob L.

  3. robertismanly says:

    If one were to notice an error in the story submitted, what is the recourse? If that story wins, in spite of the error, can it be fixed before it is printed?

  4. MikeFarad says:

    Are you allowed to have more than one of the items (e.g., two dictionaries)?

  5. MikeFarad says:

    What is the review process and timeline (e.g., when does voting begin and how long does it last, and when are the winners notified?)?

  6. MikeFarad says:

    What’s the review process and timeline? When will the winners be notified?

  7. AMuratori says:

    Hey Tiffany,

    I won’t be able to make the deadline. Could I still email you my story and get your opinion?


  8. Da Pakman says:

    Hi Tiffany,
    i used the submission form and it says it went through, but would it be okay to email it as well just as a safeguard?

  9. Dictionary3 says:

    Will the winner of this contest be published in the actual magazine or just on the website?

  10. PurpleWriter12 says:

    What time does voting open and when will it end for Your Story #49?

  11. winnieash9@gmail.com says:

    Hi Tiffany,
    I’ve submitted my entry three times because previous entries don’t seem to have reached you.

  12. KirstyXytsriK says:

    Hi Tiffany,

    I was wondering if you have to use the whole object to get off of the island or if you can use just a part of it. For example, could you use just a small part of the dictionary and disregard the rest of it?

    Thanks in advance.

  13. The Red Lion says:

    Hi Tiffany. Is there a way to add formatting into the online form? I have some italics in my story that are lost when I paste it. Thanks!

  14. ashabea21 says:

    Hello Tiffany, I am curious if other items may be used that one might find on an island such as leaves, bamboo, or other natural resources?
    Thank you!

  15. Laurel Sullivan says:

    Hi Tiffany,

    These items, the coconut, dictionary, and mask, must they be in the narrator’s possession, or can they be found or simply mentioned throughout the story?

  16. elites5 says:

    Hey Tiffany,
    I was just wondering what kind of mask the person is using?

  17. akaryu says:

    Not sure if this is posted somewhere, but I have two questions, specifically about the word limit. 1) Is punctuation accounted for in the word limit (i.e. a period counts for 1 word), or is it actual words. 2) Do hyphenated words count as 1 word or 2? i.e. ill-fated Thanks for any help.

  18. kaljam says:

    If you were picked up by that Carnival Cruise ship in the news and the ship broke down after you were aboard, would that constitute a rescue or a sequel?

  19. PurpleWriter12 says:

    HELLO PEOPLE YOUR STRANDED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SO THIS MEANS ALONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Cindy_The_Great says:

      You mean “YOU’RE” not “YOUR”. Before you start giving advice, correct your grammar idiot.

    • amauer3626 says:

      “Alone” is not quite how I would define stranded. You can be stranded some where with another person making the pair of you stranded.

      • swatchcat says:

        Thank you amauer3626, you are (you’re) correct.
        My daughter (just a kid) says there is a dictionary on the island so use it to spell correctly, in response to the other two comments on this thread. Just proves how well the American school systems teach when kids old enough to participate on this website, can not tell the difference between your and you’re. Thank you Tiffany for your patience with us.

  20. Tyler Simons says:

    Hey Tiffany ~

    I was just wondering, would you like us to include our short story’s title in the submission?

    Thanks for your time!

  21. HazelMayor says:

    Hello Tiffany,

    Just to confirm whether i’m alone on the island, or are there others?


  22. HazelMayor says:

    Hello Tiffany,

    Am i alone on the island, or are there others?


  23. Bryan Smith says:

    Hi Tiffany,

    If you were to apply movie ratings on responses to “Your Story” entries (e.g. G, PG, PG-13, …), what would be deemed acceptable for submissions?


  24. Bryan Smith says:

    Hi Tiffany – if you would equate writing content to that of a movie rating (G,PG, etc.), what is acceptable for submission?

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