Books·The First Page

Fly Fledgling Fly by Benjamin Wexler

Wexler, 16, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 10 to 12 category of The First Page student writing challenge.

2018 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

Benjamin Wexler, 16, is a 2018 finalist in the Grades 10 to 12 category for The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Benjamin Wexler)

Fly Fledgling Fly by Benjamin Wexler is one of 10 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 10 to 12 category. Students across Canada wrote the first page of a novel set 150 years in the future, imagining how a current-day trend or issue has played out. Nearly 2,400 students submitted their stories.

Wexler, a student at Herzliah High School in Montreal, Que., tackles anxiety in the face of global warming, space exploration and "immortal teenage impishness" in Fly Fledgling Fly.

Respond to the two following prompts in as much depth as possible in 60 words or less:

Humanity's future…
…lies in space. Not temporary excursions, not even probing the farthest reaches of the universe, but creating a sustainable habitat for humanity to spread. Saying utopia is within reach seems a little naive, but it is closer than most think. The possibilities are infinite and we cannot wait to be active members of the space generation.

"Almost done," Orson said. "And only, what, 12 hours in?"

"You'll live. Who's answering next?" Their silence said I was.

What do you three hope to get out of this program?
Responsibility is a trait only gained through trust, and one of the greatest values of this initiative is that it trusts its participants. You give your Fellows the freedom to learn, experience and live. We plan to take full advantage of that by pushing ourselves to innovate, ask questions and break down walls.

Giggling echoed all the length of my screen.

"Shhh. Shh-h-h-h," I said, looking into the laughing eyes at the corner of my display. "What if they can hear you?"

"This is very serious. We are serious people. Please impregnate us with love for learning and the stars." Ursula's voice echoed as if she had leaned into the mic.

"Hey now, she never said anything about pregnancy… and Send." On Orson's end, a definitive click.

"No space babies, folks. Always practice space… sorry, safe… sent!" The screen lit up with a confident green.

It was Ursula's turn. "… I'm not so sure about this. Maybe I should just wait a tide or 10, mull it over, you know?"

"Ursula, I will wade over there myself and press that button if you won't."

"Okay, okay. Point taken. I'm submitting."

I leaned back in my beanbag and breathed out. So this was what adults called "generational claustrophobia." I hadn't noticed it until then. Growing kids in a fast contracting world. Holding our breath in anticipation of the day we'd need to. The room felt a little bigger: at least the size of a space shuttle. Flashes of colour across the monitor showed my friends' triumphant messages, but nothing could distract me as I breathed out, and in, and out again.

I could feel it — I was going to Mars.

About The First Page student writing challenge

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2168. They wrote the first page of a book set 150 years in the future, with the protagonist facing an issue that's topical today and set the scene for how it's all playing out in a century and a half.

Two winning entries — one from the Grades 7 to 9 category and one from the Grades 10 to 12 category — will be chosen by award-winning YA writer Cherie Dimaline, author of The Marrow Thieves. The winner will be announced on CBC Books on Feb. 22, 2019.

Both winners will receive a one-year subscription to OwlCrate, which sends fresh boxes of books to young readers across Canada on a monthly basis. In addition, each of the winners' schools will receive 50 YA books.

CBC Books's next writing competition for students is the Shakespeare Selfie student writing challenge, which will open in April 2019.