Fall 2012 Winning Essays on Living Large in a Tiny House

Rowan Treece

The YES! National Student Writing Competition gives students the chance to write for a real audience and be published by an award-winning magazine. Each quarter, students have the opportunity to read and respond to a selected YES! Magazine article.

For Fall 2012, participants read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, "Living Large in a Tiny House," by Carol Estes, a story about Dee Williams downsizing from a three-bedroom bungalow to an 84-square-foot house. The writing prompt was: “If you had the choice, what size house would you live in? What are important features your house would have, and what would you intentionally avoid?”

Congratulations to our essay winners: Middle School—Rowan Treece; High School—Ritika Mazumder; College–Chris Harrell; and Powerful Voice—Paw Soe.

And, thank you to all writers who submitted essays.

Middle School Winner Rowan Treece

Rowan Treece is a student at Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Oregon. Read Rowan's essay about the sustainable dance community home she would build so she could live with her ballet sisters every day and save the planet.



Ritika Mazumder_authormug
High School Winner Ritika Mazumder
Ritika Mazumder is a student at Houston High School in Germantown, Tennessee. Read Ritika's essay about her desire to have a smaller home so she can spend quality time with her family.



Chris Harrell

College Winner Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a student at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Read Chris' essay about how growing up in Kenya influenced his conscious choice to live intentionally here in the States.


Paw Soe

Powerful Voice Winner Paw Soe
Paw Soe is a student at New Tech Academy at Wayne High School in Wayne, Indiana. Read Paw's essay about how her Burmese roots taught her that a simple home with an abundant garden, not an extravagant mansion, is what brings happiness.


Dee Williams author mug

Author Response to Essay Winners
Dee Williams, whose story is about her downsizing from a three-bedroom bungalow to an 84-square-foot house, responds to essay winners of the Fall 2012 writing competition. Dee is still living large in her tiny house. She co-owns and most recently started working with Blue Rider Press on THE BIG TINY, a memoir due in the Spring of 2014


Fall 2012 Writing Competition Literary Gems


We received many powerful essays. Though not every participant can win the contest, we'd like to share some excerpts that caught our eye.


I will have a bay window that I can put small plants in as a greenhouse. The big plants will hang from the rafters. I won’t need to make a lot of money because living in this tiny house will be cheap. I will avoid stuff I don’t need like a lot of dressy clothes, power-sucking appliances like a microwave or refrigerator and a full-time job.
—Rain Morrell, grade 6, Kickapoo Homeschool Group, Ontario, Wisconsin

Have you ever needed to go to the restroom on an airplane? I love those toilets. If I could, I would install those in my house. They don’t even have that much water! I could even use the waste as compost for my garden!
—Tyler Nguyen, grade 6, Catlin Gabel School, Portland, Ore., who would choose to live in a big, old airplane

I’ve lived in a few homes in my lifetime, all of which were not the most lavish, but they were my homes. Thinking about this sparked something in me that made me realize that the size of your home doesn’t matter, but sharing it with the people you love creates all the difference
—Neisha Freshley, grade 11, New Tech Academy at Wayne High School, Fort Wayne, IN

I refuse to separate art from myself, and incorporating it into my home would give me the opportunity to delve further into my work. With any luck, this set up would lead my friends and me into many late-night weekend discussions of our pieces of all media. I cannot imagine a happier life than one filled with good art and good people.
—Cokie Thompson, grade 11, Houston High, Germantown, TN

This low-level lighting system can create romantic vibes when I have a date to when I’m just laying on my couch thinking. The brightness contrast can have a major impact on people’s thoughts.
—Nick Tabakis, Sacramento City College, Elk Grove, CA

Unlike Dee Williams, I would not like to build a new house. My house should be able to tell stories, it should have a history. Every time I would enter my house, new thoughts about former occupants, about the daily routine they experienced there, would rise up in my mind. Of course, the house should not be shabby, but every hole in the wall, for instance, will remind me that there were generations living there before me, and that there will also be some after me.
—Melanie Burger, Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg, University of Education, Heidelberg, Deutschland