I never liked my name. It’s just too…feminine. Any other name would be fine, any name but Mapel. I guess for some people, having a feminine name wouldn’t be so bad; just ask any of the girls in my grade. I’m the one girl who thinks otherwise. I’m the girl who doesn’t belong because, deep down, I know I’m not female. I hate anything that reminds me that I am. I hate my long, wavy, red hair. I wish it was short. I hate the parts that remind me that on the outside, I’m a female. I’m not a female. I know I’m a guy, no matter what my appearance is.

My friends don’t know my true identity, nor does my family. All they see is the shy, sweet girl next to them. When my older brother isn’t home, I sneak into his room and try on every possible outfit in front of the mirror. That was what I was doing: staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, seeing how my brother’s white polo shirt looked on me. The shirt reached down to my knees, but that didn’t stop me from admiring myself in it. It felt so right to be wearing boy clothes. Still, when I heard the garage door open, I knew I had to hurry. I had to keep my secret, well, a secret. I shoved my brother’s clothes into the dirty laundry basket, even though they were clean, and dashed out of the bathroom to my room.

Adysen Straw

Adysen Straw is a high school student at Washington Township Middle/High School. She grew up in a small town in Michigan until she moved to Indiana with her family. She loves to dance and is a member of her school’s dance team and a member at two dance studios. Last year, Adysen choreographed dances for her middle school’s musical, The Lion King Jr., as well as opening and closing the show with dance performances of her own. She has always loved writing and was the most inspired by her fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Rodich, while she attended Discovery Charter School. Adysen is an avid reader and is an ‘A’ student at her school. She enjoys going on vacations with her family. She aspires to attend the University of Notre Dame.

Patrick Ryan on “Like a Rainbow”

Being at home so much lately has given me plenty of time to catch up with old friends and reminisce. (Sound familiar?) One of the things I’ve been reminiscing about is my teen years and how wonderful they were—when they weren’t difficult. And they were difficult much of the time. A lot of that difficulty, I now realize, had to do with identity: who I was and who I wanted to be, how I saw myself and how I wanted others to see me. There was disparity across the board.

Adysen Straw’s short story “Like a Rainbow”—one of the winners of our Teen Writing Contest—is all about identity. From its very first sentence, the story plunges us into what it’s like to be a teen struggling with perception: the perception that comes from without, the perception that comes from within, and the disparity that (hopefully) one day becomes harmony. One Teen Story is delighted to bring you this endearing tale of self-acceptance and the crucial role friendship can play in that process.

Q&A by Patrick Ryan

PR: Where did the idea for this story come from?
AS: My 8th grade Composition teacher, Mrs. Bowman, assigned a short story that the class would have two weeks or so to work on. I wanted to push myself on a subject that — at the time — I had little knowledge of other than the fact that it existed. The topic intrigued me and, soon, “Like A Rainbow” was born.
PR: How did the story you ended up writing differ from the one you set out to write (if at all)
AS: I always have been one to write too much, and I had to write out this big fancy plot diagram (which I hate having to do). I wrote all this extra stuff on it that just simply didn’t make it into the final version because I ran out of time or found it didn’t improve the storyline.
PR: Alex seems like just about the best friend anyone could ever hope to have. Is he based on someone you know?
AS: No. At least at the time I wrote this, I did not base Alex on anyone. I would like to make a shout-out, though, to my own very supportive friends: Holly Sherrick, who is supportive of absolutely everyone no matter their shape or size, and Isabelle Byrt, my amazing friend who is patient when I pressure her into reading all my works whenever she comes over. They are so supportive of all of the wacky, different aspects of me, and I’m so lucky to be friends with them!
PR: One of the many things I admire in “Like a Rainbow” is where you decided to end the story. Reading it the first time, I was tense because I was worried about how the mother would react. But we never see the mother’s reaction, and that serves to remind the reader that the story isn’t just about dealing with one’s family; it’s also about friendship, and courage, enthusiasm, and support. Having said all that, how do you imagine things will go when Max’s parents meet the new him?
AS: I imagine Max’s mother will be shocked and tense but will hide all her concerns away, simply because she wants her child to be happy. Nicholas couldn’t care less about his brother because the two of them don’t have a very strong relationship anyway. (And it would certainly explain why all his clothes kept going missing!)
PR: Finish this sentence in just one word—the word you think best captures it: “This story is about __________.”?
AS: friendship
PR: What are you working on now?
AS: Lol. I could go on forever about everything I’m working on. My most worked-on items right now, though, include a story about a high school girl who’s a poet and — long story short — has a lot going on in less than a year. Another story I’m working on takes place in Ireland and is about a boy named Calalioseach, whose mother dies mysteriously in the forbidden woods near their village. It’s riddled with folklore, magic, adventure, and love. I also love the Norse Gods/Goddesses (thank you, Rick Riordan, for your amazing books!) and Marvel, so I’m doing a little story about those characters too.
PR: What is the best bit of advice about writing you have ever received?
AS: Um, I would have to say my best advice would be that if you get an idea in your head, but it’s for like the end or the middle of the story, write it down anyway and then simply connect the dots. I do it all the time and it really helps me get to a good point if I get stuck!