Summer Story Contest 2013: Select Your Adventure

HEATHER MCELHATTON , Summer Story Contest coordinator | Updated 7/25/2013

This year’s Summer Story Contest lets you decide.

Illustration by Charlie Zimkus

CHOSEN. The winning writers of’s fifth annual Summer Story Contest have been chosen. This year the contest theme was “Select Your Adventure,” based on the original Bantam Books “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, popular in the 1980s and ’90s and written primarily for kids. The books allowed young readers to decide which way the story went, but never how it ultimately ended. Every choice you made (If you open the hidden door, turn to page 6 ... If you don’t, go to page 7... ) led to a different story. Some choices ended very well (You’ve discovered the buried treasure!) or slightly... not so well (You’ve fallen down a well and are eaten by mutant leeches!). The reader never knew how the story would end, and it ended differently every time. It was the ultimate reading adventure.

This year’s $1,000-winning story, “What We Did About Nuclear Warfare” by Rae Wood, is a great example of a classically composed “choose your own adventure”-style story and gives the reader a true conundrum — in this case, the end of the world — leading to a difficult decision. After Minnesota’s newly installed “apocalypse sirens” start wailing, do you flee into a bomb shelter or do you stay above ground? I won’t spoil the surprise; instead just turn to Wood’s pearl of a story and our three runners-up. Enjoy!

Heather McElhatton of Minneapolis is the bestselling author of “Pretty Little Mistakes,” an adult choose-your-own-adventure series published by Harpercollins ( Her latest novel is “Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Married.”

Summer Story Contest judges: Holly Braford, Simon Peter Groebner, Tim Ikeman, Will Martin, Alexis McKinnis, Jenna Ross, Caroline Royce, Jennie Schlossman. To reduce any bias, all story submissions were read with the authors’ names removed.