I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring again this year for the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest. Click here to learn more about this fun contest, and the wonderful folks who put many hours of their time into making it happen! Thank you to the amazing Kaitlyn Sanchez and Ciara O’Neal and ALL of the generous prize donors!
Rocky’s Tale: Couch Pup to Mountaineer
“Just a week until spring break in the mountains, Rocky!” My person says, scratching my belly.
The mountains? This couch pup better get in shape! I make a daily schedule:
Cut back on kibble
Hit the treadmill
Drink lots of water (Thank goodness there’s a doggie door!)
Chase tail 3 times
Chase squirrels around backyard
30 doggie push-ups
Cut back to 5 naps
No looking pitiful to score treats
I stick to my schedule—even #8! I’m ready. A champion mountain dog. Super Rocky. We’re finally on the road… I yodel out the window. “Rodel-ray-re-roo!”
Finally, the car stops at a cabin.
I survey my new domain. TV, check. Comfy couch, check. Treacherous hiking trails… Nope!
My kind of place! I shamelessly beg for treats until my belly’s full, then snuggle into the couch. Nap time. Maybe we’ll have steak for dinner.
I decided to write two completely different stories for Susanna Leonard Hill’s tenth annual Halloweensie Writing Contest this year. So, here’s the second one. It’s kind of an inside joke for all of us who first looked at the contest rules and thought we couldn’t do it! I hope you enjoy it!
The Impossible Assignment
“What’s wrong?” Henry’s sister Rachel asked.
“This assignment’s impossible. It’s bad enough having school on Halloween.”
She scanned his computer. “It’s definitely possible.”
“I can’t write a story in only 100 words using these three exact words.”
“Sure you can!”
“But how?” he wailed. Henry couldn’t trick-or-treat until he finished.
“Hmmm,” Rachel said. “I’ll be right back.”
At the sound of footsteps, Henry looked up.
“Why are you wearing my creepy skeleton mask?”
“There’s your story!” she said. “Write it down, and keep it short!”
“You’re the best!” Henry said with a grin as he started typing.
I wrote this little story for Susanna Leonard Hill’s tenth annual Halloweensie Writing Contest. It’s a fun and challenging task to write a Halloween story in only 100 words. To make it even more challenging, some form of these words has to be included in the story: Skeleton, creep and mask. I hope you enjoy it!
Sammy Skeleton’s Sticky Situation
Halloween was Sammy Skeleton’s favorite! But, before he’d gotten far… Squish. “What creep threw gum on the sidewalk?” His metatarsals were icky. His cuboid bone was sticky. “I’m a mess!” Tears filled his Sugar Skull mask. Before Sammy’s candy bucket was half-full, grass and leaves clung to his foot. Gretchen Ghoul laughed. Tommy Troll pointed with his club. But, Wendy Witch said, “Let me brew some Go-away Goo.” Clank. Clatter. His foot plunged into her cauldron. Sizzle. Frizzle. Then… “The gum’s gone!” Sammy shouted. “Thanks!” “Let’s finish trick-or-treating,” said Wendy. “Great,” agreed Sammy. “But, first I’ll get my shoes!”
So, The Fall Writing Frenzy challenges keep coming! Kaitlyn Sanchez, one of the contest organizers, posted this challenge: take a line from your original story and create a whole new story from that line. As before, we’d love for you to share with our community by posting to your blog and sharing using the #FallWritingFrenzy hashtag!
So, here’s my effort, coming in at just under 200 words. I kept the same character from my original, but aged her up to 18 and created a new story for her. The line from the original is in bold type. I hope you enjoy!
The First Step
I unpacked my shadow box, placing it gently on the desk. “What’s the deal with the leaf?” I looked over my shoulder, taking in my roommate’s smirk. “Just something I’ve had since I was a kid.” “Whatever,” she said, with a wave. “I’m walking to dinner.” I blinked back tears. She belonged here on this campus filled with traditions and old money—the Ivy League and all that. From the minute Dad dropped me off, I’d known I would never belong here. An imposter. Had it really only been a few hours ago? The essay that clinched my scholarship had been about that leaf—a tangible keepsake of Mom’s last wish. In the interviews, the selection committee told me how moved they’d been by my story, and my strength in sharing it with them. “I do belong here.” I said the words out loud, to steel my resolve. The committee had picked me. Me. This would be my first step on a long journey. To become a doctor. To devote myself to researching cancer—and ways to stop it’s growth. Placing my hand on the box, I said, “This is for you, Mom. I’ve got this.” And I did.
My last post was my entry to the Fall Writing Frenzy contest. The protagonist of my little story was a young girl helping her mother see the leaves change color “one last time” after her mom’s cancer came back.
So, today I saw this Twitter post by Kaitlyn Sanchez, one of the sponsors of the contest:
I need a good writing challenge, so I decided to come up with a story from the antagonist’s POV. In the case of my original Fall Writing Frenzy story, the antagonist isn’t a person. It’s a disease. Cancer. Yikes.
Challenge accepted! Here’s my story, which I also kept to the word limit of the original contest.
The Day I was Beaten
People hate me. Wait, that’s not a strong enough word. People despise me. I get called “the C word”—as if my name is too evil to speak. There are T-shirts and bumper stickers proclaiming “Cancer Sucks”—and worse, believe me. But, I have to keep this clean for kids.
Not that I normally watch out for kids. I mean, I grow uncontrollably fast in their tiny bodies just as easily as I grow in adults—another reason I’m so despised.
One recent autumn day, I felt ‘death ray level’ loathing directed at me by a little girl riding in a convertible with her parents. The family was saying goodbye. Making memories to cherish once my work in her mother’s body was done.
But they don’t know what I know.
Exactly 24 years later, that little girl—all grown up—will receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine for curing cancer. She’ll dedicate that award to her mother, and hold up a small shadow box containing a leaf. Her father will lead a standing ovation at the ceremony, with a lone tear rolling down his cheek.
That’s what I know. That autumn day was the beginning of the end for me.
I decided to throw my hat into the ring for the wonderful Fall Writing Frenzy Contest again this year. For those who don’t know, you pick an image and write a story for kids in 200 words or less. Mine is sad, but it’s the one that poured out of my beleaguered 2020 soul.
I hope it speaks to you in some way. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to the amazing Kaitlyn Sanchez and Lydia Lukidis for sponsoring this contest. And a huge thanks to all the donors!
Image 10 Mom’s Last Wish 2020 Fall Writing Frenzy 199 Words
“I want to see the leaves change color one last time,” Mom said in July when we heard her cancer was back—and worse than ever.
I swallowed hard, but couldn’t form words.
Dad walked over and took Mom’s hand. “We’ll make it happen. I promise.”
So we took Mom home, and kept her room filled with flowers, music, art—and as much laughter as we could manage. For me, laughter was the hardest part.
One early morning in October, Dad gently shook me awake. “Let’s give Mom her wish.”
A red convertible glowed against the sunrise.
I gawked, and Mom smiled. Dad said, “I figure we should do this right.”
As the morning fog burned off the highway, Mom looked between us. “It’s beautiful. This will go in our favorite memories album. Whenever we feel sad, we can flip to this day.”
I closed my eyes, memorizing the wind on my face, and the smell of damp air. But what if I can’t remember everything?
At the slightest touch against my arm, I opened my eyes.
A lone leaf—swirled yellow and orange, had dropped from above.
I recently won 3 mysteries written for kids in a Twitter chat with middle grade mystery writer, Lindsay Currie. Currie’s latest book Scritch, Scratch releases in September from Sourcebooks. In addition to Scritch, Scratch, I also received The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel and Coop Knows the Scoop by Taryn Sounders.
I enjoyed each of these titles immensely. They might have even motivated me to attempt a MG mystery novel of my own, but I really should revise all of the drafted manuscripts I have hanging around in my computer files first! If you’re a teacher, librarian or parent and know kids who would enjoy a mystery, I recommend these titles. Each book is quite different from the other two, so I’ll break them down a bit for you.
Scritch, Scratch is a mystery for sure, but it’s also a straight up ghost story! The main character Claire begins the story with familiar enough middle school angst–an annoying sibling, embarrassing parents, the new kid at school usurping her bestie, etc. However, things take a drastic turn when a ghost follows her home from assisting her father with one of his humiliating (to her, anyway) ghost tours. No spoilers, but this ghost is scary! Claire realizes that the only way to stop him from keeping her awake at night and terrified during the day is to figure out what he wants from her–and then do it. Even if she’s not sure she can. At heart, the story is about friendships and families, but has the added bonus of highlighting little known tragedies in Chicago history. I’ve visited Chicago a couple of times, but didn’t know any of these stories.
The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane is set in a boarding school in England, which piqued my interest immediately. I vividly remember reading the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time (as an adult) and discovering the whole world of houses, headmasters, common rooms, dormitories, detentions, and “skiving off” assignments. Those regular mundane parts of British school life were new to me, and I found them almost as magical as the actual magic at Hogwarts. Wellsworth isn’t a magical school, but it has plenty to hold a reader’s interest. The main character Emmy, gets sent to this school after the fall term has already started. For someone who was “the new kid” at school a few times myself, I really felt for her. Emmy makes a couple of loyal friends who help her unravel cryptic clues about her father–who disappeared when she was 3. This book is the first in a series, but I was happy to see it wrapped up and didn’t leave readers hanging.
Coop Knows the Scoop doesn’t have ghosts or boarding schools. What it does have is a small Georgia town called Windy Bottom, which becomes a character of its own. Coop and his friends are as surprised as anyone when a long-buried body is excavated on the town’s playground. But Coop never imagines his own family will get caught up in the drama and small town gossip surrounding the mysterious discovery. The town’s quirky cast of characters all become potential suspects in the investigation, but Coop and his friends are out to prove the police’s main suspect wouldn’t hurt a fly. They walk a fine line “helping” with the investigation, even after they’re forbidden to interfere again. Saunders drops enough clues to the killer’s identity for astute kids to figure it out before the end, but doesn’t make it too easy.
Kids have always enjoyed mysteries. As a kid, I loved Encyclopedia Brown, Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, and other mysteries. It’s great to see new MG mysteries being published for a new generation of readers. Kudos to these authors! Happy reading.