Other Halloweensie Contenders

I’ve already posted my entry for Susanna Hill’s annual Halloweensie kid lit contest this year. But, I had so much fun writing stories of 100 words or less using the words goodiesglow-in-the-dark, and goosebumps that I thought I’d create a post for the runner ups that I wrote. I could have entered multiple times, but I decided to just pick my favorite–which you can read here.

Below are the 2 other stories I wrote using the contest guidelines. Both of these come in at exactly 100 words. I hope you enjoy them!

Truth or Scare

On Johnson’s Farm, Jack-O-Lanterns flickered, dimmed, and finally darkened.

Goody wrappers littered fields.

Dried leaves became tumbleweeds.

Inside the barn, Gary Goose, Sam Sheep and Penelope Pig huddled in an empty stall for their annual “Scaredown”—repeating gossip overheard from humans.

“Junior wants a glow-in-the-dark wool hoodie,” whispered Penelope.

Sam shuddered, imagining the buzzing sheers.

“Grandma wants a new down pillow,” she added.

Gary shivered, remembering those awful goosebumps after plucking.

“What’ve you two got?” asked Penelope.

Gary and Sam gulped, and exchanged glances.

“You win.”

They simply couldn’t tell her about the weekend’s breakfast menu…

Sausage biscuits with gravy.

The Best Costume Ever

“Is my costume ready?” Lilly called.

Her mom made the best costumes. Last year Lilly was a glow-in-the-dark robot from outer space. The year before she was a ghastly ghoul that gave everyone some serious goosebumps!

This year, Mom had a new baby—and a whole lot less time.

Lilly tried to understand. Mom was tired and busy. But sometimes Lilly missed having her to herself.

“Ready!” call Mom.

When they set out for trick-or-treating, Mom’s hands were free for taking pictures, and holding collected goodies.

Lilly’s costume was the best ever.

A kangaroo…with her baby brother in her pouch.

And that’s a wrap for Halloweensie 2021! Thanks for stopping by and reading.

Halloweensie 2021

I won a prize in the fabulous Fall Writing Frenzy Contest earlier this month, so I decided to enter the amazing annual kid lit contest Halloweensie again this year. It’s hosted by author and blogger Susanna Hill. The rules are to write a 100-word Halloween story, using the words goodiesglow-in-the-dark, and goosebumps.

Thanks for stopping by! Here is my entry:

Title: Home for Halloween

Author: Melissa Miles

Word Count: 99

Sis and I decide to decorate our home for Halloween.

We cover the door with some Spanish Moss littering the curb. Spooky.

Someone’s discarded glow-in-the-dark stickers beautify our windows. Creepy.

Our woven plastic bag welcome mat is colorful. Cozy.

“There,” we say. “Not bad.”

We know the costumes we’ve created from clothes in our shared suitcase won’t give anyone goosebumps, but hopefully they’ll score us some goodies.

“I’m proud of you girls,” Mom says. “I promise it’s not forever.”

We set off hand-in-hand, leaving behind the parking lot’s glaring lights.

Hoping next year, our home won’t be the car.

*****UPDATE! I received an honorable mention for this story. Thanks to Susanna, and all the others who helped make this contest possible.

The Badge I received along with a gift card. Very nice surprise!

Fall Writing Frenzy 2021: The Accusation

I’m back to throw my hat into the ring for the third annual Fall Writing Frenzy, run by the amazing duo Kaitlyn Sanchez and Lydia Lukidis! Check out the contest link for all the details, but basically I’m writing a 200 word story based on the picture below. When I saw this old church in autumn, a strange story began to unfold. It’s written for a teen audience. Special thanks to the prize donors and special judge Ameerah Holliday! I hope you enjoy!

Photo Credit: Unsplash: Julia Solonina

The Accusation

(200 words)

The rising chants spur me forward. They’ve grown almost loud enough to drown out my hammering heart, and the crunching of leaves under my feet.
Am I too late?

The church comes into view.

Smoke prickles my nose.
What have I done?

I’m close enough now to hear shouted taunts—

“Witch!”
“Heretic!”
“Devil!”

All lies. But, who’ll believe me now?

Orange flames lash the pole. Crackling. Popping.

“Father!” I shout in vain. I’ll make him believe me.

But, I can’t push through the frenzied mob. I’m too late to stop this.

Even now, bound in ropes, Anna looks beautiful—chin high, face proud.

Does she know what I’ve done?

Guilt knots my insides.

But, Henry had wanted her. My Henry.

Before Anna came, I’d been enough.

So, I lied. “She cursed our crops.”

They needed a scapegoat, so they believed. It was easy, really.

Suddenly, there’s a loud bang, a green flash. I’m thrown backwards into the crowd.
Fear grips my throat like a fist. I’ll be trampled!

At the crowd’s collective gasp, I follow their gazes skyward.

Anna soars above us, one finger pointing at me.

Our eyes meet.

Then…
she’s gone.

Again, I wonder. What have I done?

UPDATE**** I won a critique from amazing kidlit author Dorian Cirrone. Thanks to everyone who puts this together every year!

Rocky’s Tale: Couch Pup to Mountaineer

Dog Superman GIF from Tenor.com

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

150 words

“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:

  1. Cut back on kibble
  2. Hit the treadmill
  3. Drink lots of water (Thank goodness there’s a doggie door!)
  4. Chase tail 3 times
  5. Chase squirrels around backyard
  6. 30 doggie push-ups
  7. Cut back to 5 naps
  8. 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.

The First Step

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

The Antagonist’s Turn

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

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.

Fall Writing Frenzy 2020

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

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.

A tangible keepsake of Mom’s last wish.

Now, I’ll never forget.

Middle Grade Review: Red, White, and Whole

Red, White, and Whole
                     Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca     
                      February 2021, Quill Tree Books 


Red, White, and Whole is a beautifully written and descriptive novel told completely in verse. The rich details about the 1980's pop music, fashion and styles will introduce young readers to a decade long before they were born, and fill older readers (like me!) with nostalgia for our teen years. 

Just as she did with Midsummer's Mayhem, author Rajani LaRocca brings food to life in ways that engage the senses and makes your mouth water. I'm definitely craving curry, samosas, and paneer as I'm writing this review!

More than anything, however, this book is about family. Main character Reha loves her family, and they love her. Her parents, like many who relocate to another country, surround themselves with a support network of other people who share their culture and traditions. In addition to this, she has extended family in India. Reha will need the support of all of these people when her mother is diagnosed with Leukemia.
But, Reha also has her school friends and she wants to fit in with them. What 13 y.o. doesn't? But since her mom makes her clothes and her family comes from another country, the reader easily sees how Reha feels as if she sticks out.  

I found myself identifying with Reha's struggle to fit in between two worlds--America and India. She doesn't feel as if she truly belongs in either one for much of the novel. The beautiful truth about this story is how universally relatable Reha's journey is. We've all walked that tightrope of our own hopes and dreams vs. our parents' expectations for us. In Reha's case, this is compounded by the fact she's an only child and her parents have sacrificed so much to give her opportunities. 

The novel's format suited this poignant story beautifully, as the author skillfully used verse to heighten the emotional impact of some of the most touching scenes. I'd be lying if I didn't admit to crying in a few places. You might want to grab a few tissues before you settle in to read.

This would be a great novel for 4th and 5th grade classrooms. Especially in rural areas like the town in which I currently live. Kids would enjoy the exposure to the different foods, celebrations and attire from Indian culture. I highly recommend this upcoming novel. Here is a link to pre order it.

Middle Grade Mystery

Image
Book Mail from SourceBooks Kids

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.

Building a World for Kids

 

 

orange and yellow tentWe just got the official news that our summer camp for kids with trachs was cancelled this year. With all the closings due to COVID-19, it’s no surprise, but it’s absolutely gut wrenching for the campers and the volunteers who go each year. Especially for the campers. Last summer, as we packed up to leave, the little boy I drove up from Savannah asked me what day it was. I told him it was Friday. He promptly replied, “Then I want to come back Saturday.” He meant the very next day. Camp is a world of its own. It’s an escape from reality.

I’ve been reflecting a good bit this past week about camp. About what it means for kids with special needs, whose daily lives are filled with treatments, procedures and medications. Kids who are often singled out and maybe even bullied at school because of their differences.

This reflection led me to remember a hectic day last summer. We’d just gotten our group of campers into the cafeteria for lunch, when two of mine said they needed to use the restroom. One of them uttered those dreaded words, “I don’t know if I can hold it.” SO, we set off at top speed for the bathrooms. The two  campers in my care had just shimmied through a row of other campers seated at long tables, when a little guy I didn’t know from a different special needs camp jumped up and stood between me and my little guys.

Before I could say a word about needing to catch up to my charges, he said (in such a serious tone of voice it was almost alarming), “I’m in that house too.”

He stared at me. Expectant. Waiting. I had no clue what he was talking about for a good 10 seconds (as I’m hoping we won’t completely miss lunch because we have to walk back to our cabin and changes clothes before the next activity). Then it hit me. I was wearing a T shirt with a printed Gryffindor logo on it. Luckily, I recovered fairly quickly, considering. “Oh, yeah,” I said. “I’m a Gryffindor through and through.” His face. It just lit up completely. We’d connected. Not through that physical place, as magical as it is. But through a world built by J.K. Rowling.

This is why I’m passionate about writing books for kids. They can’t always escape physically to a place where their problems feel miles away. But, hopefully they can always pick up a book and escape to a world built by an author. In these days of isolation, we need this more than ever! We need to build connections with people we might not get a chance to see in person like we used to. We need to see someone across a crowded room, and stop them to say, “I’m in that house too.”

Gryffindor Emblem Wall Cut Out HARRY POTTER WIZARDING WORLD