2021 Drawing Contest-3 for ages 8 - 20

Artist Holding a Paintbrush


Deadline: September 1, 2021

Color: Black and White (gray shades are accepted)

Size: 5 X 8 or 8 X 5

Medium: Computer graphics or non-smearing on good quality paper

Format: High resolution 300 dpi or larger jpeg

Image by Goashape


Read the story

Submit a drawing considering the rubric posted on this website and following the guidelines.

Email it to zessayentry@yahoo.com or Mail to

PO BOX 572966

Tarzana, CA 91357

Include with your submission

1)full name, 2)email address, 3)phone number, 4)mailing address, 5)gender, and 6) birth-date

* Prize winner will be announced on October 15, 2021 on this website  

By submitting your drawing, you give Drawing Competition organizer the right to publish and use your drawing in any desired fashion

Color Paint Palette


The judges will categorize the submitted drawings into appropriate age groups. The winner in each age group will receive $100 dollars.

A minimum of four drawings per category must be submitted (or per judges’ and organizer’s discretion) for the contest in that category to be conducted.

Honorable mentions and/or Organizer’s choice awards may be given if applicable.

Writing Destiny

Spring 1934

Knot by knot, string by string, I weaved and I weaved. But, life wasn’t always like this, repetitive and demanding. In the past, my Maman (Mom) would come to wake my sisters and me with showers of kisses, and the smell of fresh naan barbari (bread) from the corner store would waft from the kitchen. We weren’t a rich family in terms of money, but the small moments we spent together were filled with richness. Maman was a Persian rug weaver, like her mother before, and her mother before. Baba (Dad) left to find work in Tehran after I was born, but we haven’t heard from him since. So it's just been my mom, my two little sisters (Donya, 11 and Jasmine, 15) and me, (Golnaz, 17) ever since.

The art of weaving has been passed down generation by generation through the repeating strokes of the hand and muscle memory. Maman wanted us to learn about weaving and pass down these traditions. She taught us every morning before school and every afternoon after school.


However, I was a bad weaver. It all seemed so tedious and mindless, but then my Maman would remind me “Golnaz, it’s a source of pride to be weaving Persian rugs.” “From the ancient times of Cyrus, the great Persian Empire has made rugs that last lifetimes and are demanded across the globe. You should be proud of your history”

“Yes Maman,” I would obey. But in my heart, while I admired her passion, I could not share it. Nevertheless, I learned how to weave, knot by knot and string by string.

In my small, local school located in the heart of Yazd, I was thriving in all my classes, earning exceptional grades and was top of my class. My maman didn’t know this, and I intended to keep it that way. She also didn’t know that my favorite subject in school was my Farsi poetry class. I loved reading Shah Nameh (Persian Book of Kings) and exploring its underlying meanings and beautiful language used by Ferdowsi. My teacher, Ms. Bastani was excited to talk to me about her new favorite poem and I would be equally as excited to read it. She believed in me and made me feel as if I was capable of leaving my historical weaving background. But, if I told my Maman about this underlying passion of mine, she would not understand. She had already decided my fate.

And then, it only took a moment for everything to change. For the fire that laid inside my Maman’s heart to burn away. In a moment my maman fell sick and her skin became hot from fever, and her body thinned from a lack of appetite. Doctors in Yazd couldn’t do much and we didn’t have the money to send her to Tehran for better treatments. All we could do was wait. Wait until the sound of her beating heart faded, and the moment her last breath disappeared.

“Take care of each other, and know that I will always love you,” she said.

As a Zoroastrian family, we wore white as a custom instead of black and prayed for three days straight. “Ashem Vohu Vaheeshetem, Asti, Ooshta, Asti, Ooshta Ahmaie, Hayat Ashaee, Vaishtaee, Ashem” Do the right thing for the sake of righteousness alone. But what was the right thing to do in a situation where you can’t control anything and the world around you seems to be controlling you?

            My sisters and I are alone. We don’t have much money to keep us stable for long enough. And I am the oldest. The one who is responsible for everything my mom was in charge of before.


A funeral in spring. Spring. The season of rebirth and the New Year. And now to us, it will always be the season of our withering lives. The funeral was held in our Fire Temple in Yazd where the fire has been kept alive for several hundred years and my entire neighborhood showed up to give their condolences.

Ms. Bastani came too, and she was wearing a grim attire. When she came in she held my hands and said: “Golnaz Jan, if you need anything, anything, please don’t hesitate to ask, I will always be here for you and your family.”

 Then my Persian blood of tarof (refusing everything) instantly spoke: “We will figure something out but thank you so much for the offer.” My life was in shambles and I had the nerve to refuse the one thing I needed the most: help.

Afterward, I decided to stop dwelling on the negative, because I didn’t realize how much love surrounded me until that funeral. Families came from work and their hectic lives just to show how much they cared about our mom and to help us out during the most difficult situations of our lives. I forced myself to be strong, my Maman always told us that it's not the action that happens to us that should define us, but our reactions. And her advice, now more than ever, was necessary to help me fight the pain that lay inside my heart.

After the funeral, when reality finally struck me, I realized I needed to make a decision. I needed to decide our current financial situation and my future happiness. I needed to find a way to make money and satisfy my own needs. My heart kept telling me to go to school and finish my education on my last year, but my brain kept pulling me back to my duty, of taking care of my sisters and finding a job. The only job I was capable of getting at this age was rug weaving. But my heart wanted to read and write poetry from dawn to dusk. And then, my brain would bring me back to the reality of our lack of money. I couldn’t betray my heart, or I could never be satisfied with my life. I couldn’t betray my brain, or I would suffer the dire consequences of reality. I kept asking myself, what is the right decision? What is the best way to satisfy both sides?

And then my brain and my heart met in the middle. I had to weave rugs, but only temporarily to keep up our financial situation. And I needed to set aside my stubborn Persian blood of Tarof and accept all the help I could get. I decided to contact Ms. Bastani and ask her to help me out with my poetry lessons in any spare time I had. This way my sisters could go to school and gain the education I had the luxury of earning when Maman was alive, and I could keep learning my poetry. So, while I longed to go to the University of Tehran in the following year and move to the city, I had to be patient. I had to play the new game Life wanted me to play.

 It’s funny how Life finds a way of bringing me back towards my fate. I didn’t choose to become a rug weaver. Life chose it for me. And I had to find a way to maneuver around the game Life was playing. But playing with Life takes a certain strategy and skill. It requires a driving goal in the mind and a driven plan.


Summer 1934

            The days have grown hotter and my work has gotten more and more difficult. After the funeral, I went through my mom’s carpet materials and stumbled upon an unfinished piece. It was a small wall carpet with a luxurious arrangement of bright yellow and orange clothing encompassing a beautiful woman that was dancing in a prairie field. And that’s when I got to work, deciding that I needed to let the legacy of my mother’s work live on.

            It’s been a few days since the moment I finished adding the final touches to the rug and it took me a while to find a seller. I would stand outside of the bazaar every day holding up the rug in hopes that someone would notice the beauty that lay inside the heart of my mother’s work. People would stop by and tell me how much they loved the traditional play of colors on the woman, but none had enough money. I had begun to give up, staying for fewer hours as I became more and more discouraged. Then one day, as I’m holding up the carpet, a man comes up to me and asks me for a price.

“Give me any price and I will pay for it.”

Thinking for a moment I said, “This carpet is priceless. It’s my mother’s legacy. You can decide its worth.”

Then he gave me a roll of money from his pockets, and I, in awe, just stared at the lump of paper I was about to exchange for my mother’s soul. But I had no choice. Our money was running out, and I reluctantly gave the man the carpet.

 That day I decided it was time to celebrate. I treated my sisters and me to some sweet, mouthwatering Bastani Sonati. This is the type of ice cream that makes you go to Ahura Mazda and back in one bite. It is a blend of smooth pistachios, enchanting rosewater, and delightful saffron.

“Golnaz can we PLEASE take some home,” Donya said almost done with her ice cream.

“You know it’s going to melt, so why would you ask” Jasmine bickering back at Donya.

“Calm down guys, just enjoy what you have now, and then we’ll worry about the future when it comes,” I said trying to enjoy my ice cream.

“But this moment is too good to be true, I just want to keep it forever,” Donya said.

And with that, we just sat there with dripping ice cream in the hot weather, and simply breathed in the beautiful moment.


Ms. Bastani and I set a schedule every night from 7 to 9 now that everyone was on summer vacation. I owe her my whole life and more for the kindness that she has shown me. We discuss the passion that lay in the heart of ShahNameh and the structure of each line.

Ms. Bastani would recite the great powerful lines of Ferdowsi, “How shall a man escape from that which is written; How shall he flee from his destiny?”

And that led to hours of discussion and thinking about life with my teacher.

I would ask “Do we get a choice in where our path leads? Are we allowed to have a choice when expectations drown our dreams? How can you choose your destiny when princes are born to be kings, and peasants are born to serve these kings?”

But then Ms. Bastani would say “You have a choice.”

 “There’s a soul in our body that makes decisions of your fate. You decide the path that you want to ride on, and while there are forces against it, in the end, you have the final decision. You make the judgment between conforming with expectations, slamming against them, or simply observing them. Whatever the right decision is, it is for you to decide. You don’t escape what is written, you write your own rules.”

After that, I was speechless. There is so much empowerment in her words that makes you feel as if the world is yours to grasp. If only my world was that easy to change.

Ms. Bastani forced me to go take the Konkour exam (College Entrance Exam.) even though she knew I couldn’t go. But she said, “At least you allow yourself to decide.


Fall 1934

The color of the leaves change. Leaves of bright green become a myriad of colors. Sunshine yellow, vibrant orange, and blood red. Leaves that fall and represent how fast our life is about change.


            It is 9 a.m. and there are a few hard knocks on our living room door. I was too lazy to get up from my comfortable bed and Donya was awake enough to open the door. At that moment I was dreaming about school and my old friends when we would talk at lunch. I dreamed about sitting in a classroom as I listened to Ms. Bastani’s angelic voice.

But my dream was ruined once Donya ran into my room and with shivering in her voice, “There was a strange man at our door claiming he shares our last name!”

I instantly woke up, “WHAT?” I whisper-screamed, “Did you let him in???”

“No of course not, I was too scared, but I said I would be back. Oh, Golnaz what if it’s too good to be true.”

“Okay, no need to start dreaming yet,” I said rushing to put on some decent clothes.

With butterflies in my stomach, I ran to the door, and Donya and Jasmine following. Then, with a deep breath, I opened it.

A man, with a fresh-shaved face, a brown suit, and a top hat, was revealed. He had a half-bald head and kind brown eyes but a structured face.

“Is this the Abadi residence?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

I would like to talk to Mrs. Abadi if that is possible.”

“She passed away a few months ago, I am afraid you are too late.”

His face suddenly turned extremely white, and his features softened to reveal his sadness.

“Would you like to come inside?” Jasmine asked.

“Yeah, you can stay for tea, or longer if you want,” Donya added.

His features brightened and he nodded.

During our conversation with him, we realized that he was our uncle. Our dad had struck a fortune in Tehran, but sadly he had died in a car accident and in his will, he left our mother and us the fortune he had struck in Tehran. Our uncle, however, was just as dirt-poor as we were. It was nice to have a relative after being alone for so long, so we asked him to stay for as long as he needed. And he offered to help take care of us until we got of age.

Now that our financial situation was better, I finally had the chance to go to the University of Tehran. Our uncle could take care of my sisters, and I would be allowed to study poetry for days on end.

But, why did it feel like it was too easy? Everything in my life has worked against me, and when it’s finally working for me, there was something in my heart that kept pulling me away from my lifelong dream. I loved my sisters too much to leave them. I loved Ms. Bastani and our late night talks too much to flee. I loved my life too much to fly away.

When I told Ms. Bastani this, she slapped my hands with her ruler. “How could you not take advantage of this opportunity!?”

“I can’t leave the place I love most. This is the place I feel most alive. Yes, it has caused me the most suffering and pain, but it is the place I am most at home.”

“I refuse to allow you to stay. You have sacrificed too much of your life to stay. Your potential is much more than this. Promise me you will think about it.”

Once again, my heart and my brain were at odds. I am so scared of leaving now that I have gotten used to my life. Deep down I know that to grow I have to set myself outside of my comfort zone. But my heart kept saying “What if everything you ever wanted was right in front of you?”

And then my brain came up with its counterargument, “Miracles only happen a few times in a lifetime and this is your one chance to take advantage of it.”

So, as I listened to both sides, I knew what the right decision was. I had to leave. I needed to figure out where I belonged in this world and the only way to find myself was by leaving. I loved Yazd. I loved my neighbors. I love Ms. Bastani. I loved my sisters. But I never had time to love myself.


Spring 1944

Why is it that people ask you where you see yourself in ten years like you have an answer? I never knew I would end up teaching poetry as a living. I never knew I would move back to Yazd one year after I had gone to Tehran. I never knew I would end up living back with my sisters. How could I know any of this? Life had its way of changing and altering my path, but I always stayed true to my core. 

I left university when I got word of Ms. Bastani’s funeral. I stayed in Yazd when I was offered a teaching position to live up to her legacy. I taught my sisters, and when they got older they began to teach alongside me. Jasmine taught math and Donya taught history. My uncle found a job that he loved and found a wife that he loved even more. My mother found her place in our lives too when I stumbled upon her soul, hanging, in an extravagant store. I bargained and negotiated the price with the store owner, and eventually returned her to her rightful place.

I couldn’t have asked for a better life than what I had at that moment. I had the opportunity to inspire children and help them realize their true potential. I was given the power to help students find themselves, not only through poetry but throughout their lives, similar to what Ms. Bastani had done for me.

If I ever had a conversation with Ferdowsi, I would tell him that I found the answer to his question. You cannot escape what’s written, what’s your destiny. You simply have to start writing it. 


Farnaz Behdinan was born in Tehran, Iran and has grown up as a Zoroastrian in the US. She is currently a senior in high school and has been involved in the Z studies classes ever since her freshman year. She has a passion for creative writing and creating art in all mediums. Next year she will be attending university and hopes to study business administration and design.

2020 Short Story Contest

2nd Place