Middleton Students’ ‘Tiny Love Stories’

Inspired by the popular New York Times column, this fall, a group of Advanced Placement English Language and Composition students at Middleton High School (MHS) were tasked with creating “Tiny Love Stories.” 

Since the debut in 2018, the New York Times has published one of these bite-sized tales nearly weekly. The only stipulation is that the stories need to contain an interesting and compelling narrative, while also being 100 words or under. Modeling this format, MHS students also grappled with the challenge of this tight word limit while working on this project, as most times highschoolers struggle to meet a word count minimum, not maximum.  

The love stories touch upon a wide range of topics, partly because love means something different to everyone; what qualifies as a love story is completely at the discretion of the author. 

In 2020, authors Daniel Jones and Miya Lee adapted stories from the New York Times column to a collective novel, aptly named “Tiny Love Stories.” They describe these tales as “love lost, found and reclaimed. Love that’s romantic, familial, platonic and unexpected.” The narratives created by Middleton students did not fall short of this description. Here are some of the stories these students created, crafting their own meaning of love in less than 100 words.


“Don’t be a stranger” by Stevee Kraemer

I hear “Turn it up!” from the back. I turn the radio to 33, my rear view rattling with the shaky bass of my ‘96 Corolla. I missed the turn home, taking the long way to nowhere. I can’t dare disturb the precarious teenage air, or the voice of Lana Del Rey. I cannot think of tomorrow, only of now. Outside of the hoarse voices and girlish laughter, the turns took too fast, nothing exists. Not school starting in a month or my shift at 9 a.m. These moments, suspended time, stay with us long after we will become strangers.

“Bonfire” by Olivia Kim

Laughter as warm as a summer day fills the dense night air. Sparks like shooting stars fly into damp grass while marshmallows roast on the glowing coals. Everyone is happy, everyone is content, everyone feels the same burning love for the smoke, fire, hot embers, and the company that surrounds. Whispers of wishes that the night will never end fill up the empty space. Unfortunately, fires always burn out eventually.

“Utah” by Kaelana Faessler

I gaze out at the dry deserts of Utah. It’s summer before sophomore year and I’m at the age where I’ve begun to romanticize my life as a teen coming-of-age story. After eight hours in the car with my siblings, I’m at my mental limit. I plug in my earbuds and drown in Phoebe Bridgers’ “Punisher” album. I’m no longer in a sweaty, packed car, I’m drifting away to a calm and comfortable place as I continue looking out my window. The music distracts me from my surroundings and keeps me happy as it tunes out my incredibly annoying siblings.

“My Person” by Jenny Henke

No matter how big or little the fight, my sister was always there for me. Sara is my person. On Oct. 6, 2021, with big life aspirations, Sara was gone with no way to reach her other than the occasional letter every other week. My person was seemingly non-existent, leaving me feeling heavy with heartache and so many pent-up feelings I had no one to share with. I was lonely and had to find new ways to manage my mental health. It was the hardest eight months of my life.

“Piano” by Reganne Hartman

Since getting our piano from my old piano teacher, it has been part of me. Before, I had my small, quiet keyboard, but it never filled a room or was able to carry emotion the way my piano could. There have been moments when practicing seemed such a bore, and where I couldn’t play something quite right, leading to anger and spite towards the instrument, but I always came back. Back to play, to practice, to make music spilling with feeling. All the defeats that came with playing piano could never compare to the triumph that I felt making music.

“Untitled” by Genevieve Eck

Back when my age was in single digits, my great aunt surprised me with a little white stuffed puppy, a red scarf tied around its neck. She passed away some time later. Not too long after, my grandpa gifted me a little hand-carved wooden dog for my birthday. He passed away not too long ago. Neither I knew very well, but every so often my eyes wander across my dresser where they sit and I can feel their love lingering. After all, they managed to remember for years that my favorite animal as a little elementary-school girl was a dog.

“Everlasting Flowage” by Clara Cruz

As my grandmother seals the last cardboard box, foamy waves crash against the jagged shore for the final time. The sounds of birds and boats humming across the clear water seems to wrap me in a blanket of bittersweet joy. Our solemn goodbyes cause me to reminisce on every sunrise fishing trip, afternoon swim, and evening bonfire with neighbors. Holidays throughout my entire lifetime were spent with family around the grand dining table. When our minivan reaches the gravel road, a piece of my heart is left behind at the flowage and structure that will always be my second home. 


Fitting impactful narratives into 100 words or less is not the easiest feat. The objective of this lesson was to learn how to get your point across when confronted with a constricting word limit. To learn how to cut down on unnecessary “fluff” and wordiness  while strengthening the story. Developing this skill served its purpose to teach AP Language students how to cut down on words for essay limits, but this lesson also served a different purpose. Students had to get vulnerable with themselves, asking, “What is really important?” Especially when writing about love, these young writers rose to the challenge of saying less, that means more.