This year we received 200 applications from young writers across 7 states from over 35 different cities. Thanks to our star judges we have 23 winners and 58 finalists.
1st-4th GRADE STORY JUDGES
David Shannon: Internationally acclaimed picture book author and winner of many awards including Book Sense Best Picture Book, Golden Kite Award, and New York Times Best Illustrated Book List.
“Loved these stories – so imaginative and well-written. Usually it’s one or the other, even with grown-ups! It was really a pleasure to read them.” –David Shannon
Jennifer Fosberry: New York Times best-seller and author of the Isabella books.
“Wow what a difficult yet enjoyable task to judge these stories. I found it interesting to see that different authors showed different strengths and also different places to improve and grow in their craft. They were all so good. I am impressed at the level of story-telling and writing that I have seen with the Young Inklings competition.” –Jennifer Fosberry
1st-4th STORY WINNERS
Anabel Orozco –“Kai’s First Kiss/El Primer Beso De Kai” (Grade 1)
Dillon Mareth – “Mike’s Beaver Tail” (Grade 3)
Natalie Sharp – “The Skating Goat” (Grade 4)
Sahana Srinivasan – “The Mystery of the Disappearing Pets” (Grade 2)
Samantha Vargas –“Dusty” (Grade 2)
Sydney Goodwin – “Unspoken” (Grade 4)
Zoe Friedman – “My One-Inch Tall Life” (Grade 2)
5th-8th GRADE STORY JUDGES
Laura Ruby: Author of Bone Gap and winner of many awards, including the Printz Award.
“I was so impressed with the range of stories submitted, everything from historical fantasy, to folk tale, to humor. But more than that, I was impressed with the sheer talent of these young writers.” -Laura Ruby
Mandy Davis:Author of forthcoming middle-grade novel, Superstar.
“What a treat it was to read the writing of these talented young writers! While the pieces were all very different from one another, they all had one important thing in common: the unique voice of each writer shined through on the page.” –Mandy Davis
5th-8th GRADE STORY WINNERS
Aidan Wen – “Earth and Sky” (Grade 8)
Benjamin Hayes – “Whalewatching Past Westerndon” (Grade 5)
Erin Gray – “Saving Billy” (Grade 6)
Judge Cantrell – “The Ghost of the Underworld” (Grade 6)
Manasi Garg – “The Girl with the Light-Up Shoes” (Grade 7)
Maya Lopez – “A Journey to a New Land” (Grade 7)
Samantha James – “Hocus Pocus” (Grade 8)
Xiomara Guevara – “Silver Lining” (Grade 6)
1ST-4TH GRADE POETRY JUDGE
Tim McCanna: Author of 6 forthcoming picture books including Bitty Bot which comes out in October 2016.
“What an incredible range of poetic work from these Young Inklings! Sometimes quiet, sometimes fierce, sometimes super funny. But always fresh, inventive, and engaging. Exceptional work from an exceptional group of young writers.” —Tim McCanna
1ST-4TH GRADE POETRY WINNERS
Colin Chu – “Ten” (Grade 2)
Kendra Mills –“Leaves” (Grade 1)
Jasper Micheletti – “Beautiful Long Curly Hair” (Grade 2)
Juliana Baltz –“Whale Eating Contest” (Grade 3)
5th-8th GRADE POETRY JUDGE
Marilyn Hilton: Author of Full Cicada Moon and Found Things, winner of the 2015-16 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.
“Poetry expresses the breadth and depth of the human experience using an economy of words. As a reader and writer of poetry, it was a joy to see how these young poets chose to express their personal and unique perspectives of the world. All the writers deserve huge congratulations for their work, and I felt truly privileged to be able to read them.” – Marilyn Hilton
5th-8th GRADE POETRY WINNERS
Cianna Brown – “Races” (Grade 7)
Karishma Miranda – “Broken Beyond Repair” (Grade 6)
Rafael Stankeiewicz –“Long Lost Love” (Grade 8)
Sophia Zalewski –“The Storm Inside Her” (Grade 8)
Congratulations, winners! Be sure to check your email. You’ll be meeting your mentor and start working on your revisions soon! To see the list of finalists clickhere.
These were tough decisions. We were highly impressed with all of the talented writers who submitted their stories and poems, and can’t wait to tell each of you exactly what we loved about your work. Soon, all applicants will receive a special letter from our team about your submission. Be sure to watch your email inbox–we’ll be sending those letters throughout the month of April.
We are getting so excited for the Inklings Book Contest 2016!
March 15th is just around the corner, and we can’t wait to see which wonderful stories and poems will make up this year’s anthology. This year, we’ve brought on some superstars judges to help choose the winners! Submit your story or poem now to have it read by one of these illustrious authors…
Tim McCanna (1st-2nd grade fiction judge) author of 6 forthcoming picture books including Bitty Bot which comes out in October 2016.
Jennifer Fosberry (3rd-4th grade fiction judge) New York Times best-seller and author of the Isabella books.
David Shannon (5th-6th grade fiction judge) internationally acclaimed picture book author and winner of many awards including Booksense Best Picture Book, Golden Kite Award, and New York Times Best Illustrated Book List.
Laura Ruby (7th-8th grade fiction judge) author of Bone Gap and winner of many awards, including the Printz Award.
Mandy Davis (1st-4th grade poetry judge) author of forthcoming middle-grade novel, Superstar.
Marilyn Hilton (4th-8th poetry judge) author of Full Cicada Moon and Found Things, winner of the 2015-16 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.
Stories and poems must be submitted to the Inklings Book Contest by March 15! Find out more and submit your story or poem here.
Submit your story or poem to the Inklings Book Contest 2016
The Inklings Book is a professionally published volume that features short stories and poems by twenty young writers whose submissions are chosen from the annual Inklings Book Contest.
Any 1st – 8th grader can submit a story or poem for the contest. We’re looking for exceptional submissions with a strong point of view and for writers who are committed to the revision process. All contestants will receive a personalized editorial letter from our team of authors to help you take your writing to the next level.
Contest winners will receive two sessions with a mentor who will guide you through a focused revision process, and a copy of the Inklings Book 2016 with your story published in it!
Stories and poems must be submitted by March 15! Find out more and submit your story or poem here.
The book and author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is Clementine For Christmasby Daphne Benedis-Grab. We even have an author interview! Submit a response to the challenge and you may have a chance to be published online! What are you waiting for?
The Challenge: Getting To Know Your Character
Characters are the heart of a good story and the best, most memorable characters come alive as we read about them. Characters come to us in all kinds of ways but when you have one the next step is getting to know them, making them fully formed and three dimensional with their own backstory, preferences, and quirks. So once you have a character in mind, try interviewing them using the following questions and any others that feel relevant.
Where do you live and who do you live with?
How old are you and when is your birthday? What did you do for your birthday party when you turned 5?
What makes you happiest?
What is your deepest fear?
What is a secret you share only with your closest friends or maybe not with anyone at all?
What is your favorite kind of ice cream?
If you were an animal, what kind would you be and why?
What are six words that you would use to describe yourself?
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Not everything you discover about your character can or should be in your story – but knowing all this information makes the character come alive as you write.
It’s the holiday season in Frost Ridge! Josie usually keeps to herself at school, but the holidays are her favorite time of year, and she comes out of her shell when she and her dog, Clementine, volunteer with the kids at the local hospital. Josie loves dressing up in silly costumes, singing carols, and helping to prepare for the big Christmas Festival. That is, until she learns that this year’s Festival has been canceled. Meanwhile, Oscar’s parents’ constant fighting makes his home feel like a battle-field. To make matters worse, he gets into trouble at school and has to spend the holiday season volunteering at the hospital – even though he hates Christmas. Gabby’s life seems perfect…but Gabby also has a secret that could ruin everything, and when she winds up in the hospital, she’s sure the truth will be discovered. As if things couldn’t get worse, Josie’s beloved Clementine disappears, Oscar’s parents separate, and Gabby’s secret is uncovered. Together, can Josie, Oscar, and Gabby find a way to save the holiday, or will this be the worst Christmas ever?
An Interview with author Daphne Benedis-Grab:
1. You’ve written more than one book set at Christmas time, what is it about this season that inspires you?
I adore pretty much everything about the Christmas season: the carols, the tree trimming, the lights, the cookies. Then there are the deeper things that touch on the meaning and mystery of Christmas, that spirit of giving and friendship and love. I enjoy writing books that celebrate these things and also show the struggle to get past our own fears to a place of connecting with others.
2. In Clementine for Christmas, the story is told from multiple perspectives. How did you move the plot along clearly while still developing each character’s side story?
It took a lot of edits. But I started with an outline. I find that with the different characters, who each have their own arc and are also tied in the central story, I have to think the whole thing through. Each chapter has to turn the wheel forward, moving towards the final resolution, and for me that is the easiest to achieve if I map it all out before digging into the actual writing.
3. Clementine for Christmas has quite a surprising twist towards the end! What advice do you have in terms of setting up and revealing a twist?
I love a good twist and I’m pleased to hear it surprised you! I think the secret is having it carefully plotted, with seeds planted early on, so that a reader can go back, examine each event that happened, see the seeds and realize it all fits together and leads up to that twist. The trick is seeding it enough that it does make sense, yet not giving away too much because then readers will see it coming and it’s not a twist at all. I find for this to work, it’s important to have a critique partner read through an early draft and tell me how well it’s working and how I can make it even better.
4. There are many lessons to be learned from Clementine for Christmas: the value of friendship, learning to be oneself, the power of an apology and forgiveness – the list goes on! Which is your favorite and why?
All of these values are extremely important to me but there are moments in my life where one is especially central to my thinking, and right now that would be the power of apology, of owning our mistakes instead of denying them or hiding from them. It’s one of those things that is simple and easy to say, yet so hard to actually do.
5. Is there anything else you would like us to know about Clementine for Christmas?
That I hope readers connect to the characters and have moments that make them laugh, make them tear up a bit and leave them with something to think about. To me it’s essential that a book have an emotional impact and I very much hope that that’s what people experience when they read Clementine.
The book and author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is Dark Sparkle Tea by Tim J. Myers. We even have an author interview! Submit a response to the challenge and you may have a chance to be published online! What are you waiting for?
The Challenge: Dreaming Up Possibilities
When you think about it, sleeping and dreaming are very mysterious. We spend a third of our lifetimes asleep, and a lot of that time dreaming. Come up with ideas about why we sleep and/or dream and use them as the basis for a piece of writing. You could perhaps write about beings who don’t sleep and/or dream, or of humans who have special powers of sleep or dreaming, or you could write about the meaning of your own dreams. There are lots of possibilities!
The sun is setting, the moon begins to peek out from behind a cluster of wispy clouds, grown-up eyelids grow heavy as yawns make their way into the evening…but for us kids, it always seems like there should be at least five more minutes of play-time before bed! Dark Sparkle Tea, a collection of original poems by Tim J. Myers, offers a solution to such a predicament. With silly poems about a smelly skunk family all the way to touching lullabies, Dark Sparkle Tea is bound to have something for everyone in the family…and turn the bedtime stand-off into a giggle-fest with poems and illustrations that will ignite kids’ imaginations, nurture a love for language, and send them off to a snoozy dreamland.
An Interview with author Tim J. Myers:
1. Where did you come up with the idea to write Dark Sparkle Tea?
This book grew directly out of my in-the-trenches experience of parenthood. It’s amazing how consistently kids don’t want to go to bed at bedtime. A conflict as old as time: The parent knows the kid needs her sleep (as does the parent!), but the kid is wide-eyed and, as my wife puts it, “more than wiggly.” It’s a natural stand-off.
During the years when I went through this with my two young sons, I established a bedtime limit: two stories and then you sleep. One day I realized that, since they always wanted more, I could manipulate them, as it were, by offering a poem after the stories were done. In their lust for wakefulness they immediately agreed. So I started collecting various poems—beautiful, powerful poems, many of them written for adults—and my sons came to love them. For example, Harold Monro’s haunting “Overheard on a Salt Marsh”, which you can find here. (To this day, when one of my sons wants something he’ll sometimes say, “Give it me”).
Then I realized I could write my own poems for the bedtime ritual, an idea that warmed me to the bottom of my heart. And my first thought was—make it work for the kids AND the grown-ups. So Dark-Sparkle Tea was born, with its combination of crazy energized poems and slow, soothing, soporific ones. My main selling point is that the book is a kind of bait and switch: Pull the rug-rats in with wild and funny poems, then lull them with the lullabies.
2. It seems that each poem in this collection tells its own unique story. How did you generate ideas for each poem, and did you write them all at once or did they come together over time?
I’m always writing, so some of these poems already existed. But most were written for the book. Some came from my own experience, some from memories from childhood. Many were born, though, purely out of sound—that is, a certain beat to a line, and certain qualities of words coming together in phrases in ways that pleased my ear. That’s often what leads me into a poem.
I was also definitely influenced by Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. And my editor worked with me to trim the collection, dropping certain poems— those that were more literary, less action-oriented, dreamier, stranger.
3. What role does imagery play for you when you’re writing? And how do you translate the pictures in your head so vividly into words?
Well, first, thanks for saying that!
Imagery is—jeeze, I hesitate here, because it’s hard to specifically characterize something so fundamental. Sometimes I think poetry is like having a head full of fireworks and straining to get them onto the page. But not just huge loud fireworks— quiet glowing ones too. I love to read “Bees at Night” to an audience, both for the sound of it and because the images of homey, happy bees and the beauty of the night are so intoxicating to me. In a similar way—but with a very different result—I got a huge kick out of visualizing Frisky, my electric-guitar-playing hamster. Some of this, as I mentioned above, comes at least in part from my own childhood. I love, for instance, to visually imagine a train that comes to take you to Dreamland, as in the opening poem. If you’ve ever seen the superb animated movie Little Nemo in Dreamland, you’ll know what I’m talking about. So imagery is a huge part of my life as a writer, like an endless fountain flowing within me.
4. You use several different poetic forms in this book. Do you have any advice for young poets who might feel overwhelmed or struggle with form, rhyme, and other devices that give structure to poems?
I do have advice about that, but it’s really no different from what a coach or a teacher or a music teacher or anyone else teaching any craft will say. It’s difficult to master a form. It takes time and dedication and hard work. The trick, it seems to me, is to see the why of it. Artists tend to be those people who get so excited when they experience great art that they’re more-or-less permanently dazzled. Once you get that bedazzlement into you, it drives you—you can’t help it. You start to see all the labor as only a means to a end, a glorious end, so it stops feeling so difficult.
That’s why it’s crucial, in my opinion, that in teaching young people any craft we spend time sharing great works with them and helping them learn to love how those works affect them. Poets usually come to love form because of what it allows them to do. They don’t feel constrained by it, but liberated.
And a liberation that doesn’t come to us until we give deeply of ourselves—that’s a liberation you can trust.
5. Is there anything else you would like us to know about Dark Sparkle Tea?
There is something else—thanks for asking!
I wrote Dark-Sparkle Tea to make kids laugh and feel good, and to knock the little Tasmanian devils out. But this book comes from a deep part of me, from a place in my depths where who I am as an adult and who I was as a child aren’t separated as they are in daily life. This book is predicated on a way of seeing the relationship between children and adults. To me that relationship is utterly sacred.
Bedtime is more than just one more practical transition in a kid’s daily life. It’s a natural sacrament, I think—that is, if parents or guardians understand it and treat it as it’s meant to be treated. The world is often a hard and terrible place. But it isn’t all darkness. And at bedtime we grown-ups can give our kids a way of seeing the world, a way of feeling their lives, that’s based on all the great good the world also offers us.
At bedtime this great cosmic good takes on a small but powerful form. It’s an adult or guardian saying, “I love you. You are precious to me. You are good. And look at the good in the world.” All this can be said even if those words are never used. Because we sit close, and we share a story or a poem (or both!), and the adult gives all his or her attention to the child. For a child to feel safe and loved—this is a quiet goodness I can’t find adequate words to express. It’s a good that renews the world, not to mention what it means to the adult that child will grow up to be.
Here’s a poem that didn’t make the book. But I like it, because, even if only tangentially, symbolically, it speaks to that sense of being loved and being safe, both physically and psychologically, which is so powerful in making our children happy and strong:
The Ink Splat is our monthly activity letter filled with idea sparking challenges and resources guaranteed to inspire your creativity. The book and author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is A Hitch at the Fairmont by Jim Averbeck. We even have an author interview! Submit a response to the challenge and you may have a chance to be published online! What are you waiting for?
The Challenge: Writing In Circles
Randomly circle one word on each list, and create a story using them:
Who can resist a story full of mystery, adventure, and even a few laughs? A Hitch at the Fairmont by Jim Averbeck with illustration by Nick Bertozzi is a 416 page novel for young readers, set in our very own San Francisco, California! After the death of his mother, Jack Fair moves to the fancy Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco to live with his evil Aunt Edith. Jack fears that his life will now consist of nothing more than serving chocolates to his awful aunt and her pet chinchilla – until one night when Aunt Edith goes missing! Jack is left with nothing but a mysterious note written in… chocolate? He sets out to find his aunt alone, until he meets an unlikely partner: the one and only Alfred Hitchcock! Together, the two crime-solvers embark on a journey full of secret doorways, sinister clues, and hopefully the answer to what really happened to Jack’s mother and missing aunt!
Tips from author Jim Averbeck:
SYI: A Hitch at the Fairmont has such a unique setting. How did you decide on this setting? How did you research this setting?
JA: Richard Peck once said “We don’t write what we know, we write what we can research.” This scared me a little because I remembered doing a lot of dull research on assigned topics in high school and college. So I realized if I was going to be required to research, I had better like the topic. The two things that I thought of, that I read up on just for pleasure, were Alfred Hitchcock and San Francisco history. Luckily the two intersect, as he shot several films here, most notably was VERTIGO in 1956. So my setting was, well… set.
I researched San Francisco in many ways. I read what was online, and went to the library, of course. But because I live in the city I also visited any of the places I wanted to include in my story. I questioned people who lived here in 1956, including a friend’s father who was a policeman, and knew a lot about crime in that era. Another friend had a cousin who worked at the Fairmont Hotel. She arranged for me to interview the concierge (who met Hitchcock in 1976!) and also to have a tour of the hotel, from the $10,000 a night penthouse to the narrow dim corridors of the “back of the house” – the underground area where the staff works and stores all that is needed to run the place. One of my favorite things was browsing through the ephemera collection in the library. This is a collection of odds and ends from the period – cocktail napkins from the Tonga Room, menus from the hotel restaurant, postcards, etc. And of course, when all else fails – ask a librarian. I needed to know the price of taxi fare in 1956. The librarian I asked rubbed his chin for a minute or two, then went right to a book which had the information. Amazing!
SYI: At SYI, we talk about how nearly every book has a bit of mystery in it. Your book is a true mystery, though. What do you think writing a mystery taught you about writing that you’ll apply to your other books?
JA: I had to make a giant chart of when a clue dropped, how the character observed it and how he finally put the pieces together. I was constantly in the character’s head asking “Does he know this yet? What has he seen and what did he think about it?” So I guess my mystery writing taught me to stay close to the character’s point of view and to keep organized. It’s important to remember where that charter is emotionally and intellectually at any point in the story.
SYI: You’re also an illustrator. What role do visuals and visual thinking play in your writing process?
JA: I always envision a scene before writing it. In A Hitch At The Fairmont this envisioning process was made into a part of the book. Because the characters use cinematic conventions to solve the mystery, we used storyboards, like the ones used to lay out a movie before it is shot, to illustrate the action in each upcoming chapter.
SYI: How long did it take to write and revise A Hitch at the Fairmont? What was the most unexpected part of the process for you?
JA:I wrote it over a ten year period, but with many interruptions to work on books that came under contract. I would say the total time actually writing, from inception to publication, was probably one-and-one-half to two years. The most unexpected part was that it was my first novel and it sold on the first submission.
SYI: At SYI, we talk a lot about revision and in particular, about specific strategies to try out when we revise. Did you learn anything about revision while writing your book?
JA: I learned that one way to approach revision is to do like tasks together. That is to say, go through the manuscript pass by pass, working on a specific thing each pass. My first draft was a little bit of setting, but mostly dialogue and humor. Then I went through and fleshed out the setting descriptions. Then I worked on character emotions. Then I added sensory detail. So I was in a specific mode for each pass, and didn’t need to keep shifting gears, or get overwhelmed by all the work. It was like building a lasagna, one layer at a time.
SYI: Do you have any advice for our community about ways to come up with original story ideas?
JA: Learn the rules. Master them. Then subvert them.
Thanks Jim Averbeck!
The A Hitch at the Fairmont is available on Amazon!
For more information about author Jim Averbeck and his books visit his website here.
The Ink Splat is our monthly activity letter filled with inspiration sparking challenges and resources guaranteed to inspire your creativity. In this Ink Splat, the book and author spotlighted is Finding Serendipity By Angelica Banks along with an author interview! Submit a response to a challenge and you may have a chance to be published online! What are you waiting for?
The Challenge: Reaching The End
For this month’s challenge, write a story by starting with the end! What’s the final scene in your book? Write it out, then work backwards from there.
Reread some of your favorite endings, and try and figure out what makes them work. Is it some big reveal, a twist, a sudden realization by the main character? Then try and do the same thing in your ending!
Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks
When Tuesday McGillycuddy and her beloved dog, Baxterr, discover that Tuesday’s mother—the famous author Serendipity Smith—has gone missing, they set out on a magical adventure. In their quest to find Serendipity, they discover the mysterious and unpredictable place that stories come from. Here, Tuesday befriends the fearless Vivienne Small, learns to sail an enchanted boat, tangles with an evil pirate, and discovers the truth about her remarkable dog. Along the way, she learns what it means to be a writer and how difficult it can sometimes be to get all the way to The End ~ Angelica Banks is the pen name of two authors, Danielle Wood and Heather Rose, working together.
About the BOOK:
Q: What do you think is the coolest part of the magical world you have created?
A: It was only when we started writing together that we discovered we had a few shared fantasies. An unusual one was that we had both dreamed of being locked in a library overnight. So, one very cool thing that we created together was the great library where every story ever written is housed in an enormous and beautiful book room with a vast ceiling and shelves that go on almost forever. But another dream that we each had is one that we probably share with just about every child reader and that is the fantasy of being able to walk into the world of a book that you love. Tuesday has read all her mother’s stories about Vivienne Small, and loved them, but in Finding Serendipity she has the opportunity to go there in person.
About the PROCESS:
Q: Baxterr sounds like he’s just as involved in the story as Tuesday. What’s it like writing an animal character?
A: Baxterr with a double r was based on a very fine real-life dog called Axel Rooney, to whom Finding Serendipity is partly dedicated. There’s an old saying that dogs are the nicest people. Indeed, there really is nothing like the devotion, loyalty, courage, and optimism of a truly good dog. So I think you can tell that we really enjoyed writing Baxterr, not least because we could rely on him to be pure of heart at all times.
Q:How did you decide on your character’s names? Do you have a particular process?
A: One of the wonderful things about writing in a partnership is that neither one of us has to know everything about our stories. And it so happened that each of us knew the names of about half of our characters. Danielle knew the name of Tuesday McGillycuddy and Heather knew the name of her mother, Serendipity Smith. The name of the villain, Carsten Mothwood, though, was one that we made up together, as was the name of our loveable but irritating superstar teen writer Blake Luckhurst.
Q: Where did this wonderful idea come from?
A: Well, like most book-length ideas, this one came to us piece by piece. Some parts as if by magic and some by long, hard toil. There were some chapters that we wrote over and over and over again until we got them just right, and others that fell into place on the first try. Writing is a mysterious business. As our dear Librarian tells Tuesday: ‘a story is like a giant jigsaw puzzle: a jigsaw puzzle that would cover the whole floor of a room with its tiny pieces. But it’s not the sort of puzzle that comes with a box. There is no lid with a picture on it so that you can see what the puzzle will look like when it’s finished. And you have only some of the pieces. All you can do is keep looking and listening, sniffing about in all sorts of places until you find the next piece.’
Q: What’s it like working as one author?
A: It’s been an amazing amount of fun. Surprisingly it doesn’t take us any less time, but it certainly has made the long-distance marathon of novel writing more like a good bushwalk. There have been many conversations, fabulous companionship, good food, and an encouraging voice when one of us is losing confidence.
Q: A story about writing sounds like it could be very education for our young writers. Do you agree? In what ways could it be useful?
A: Heather has older children so she’s been helping out in classrooms for years and she noticed that many children not only never meet a ‘real’ writer, but they also have no books that help to teach them what the writing process involves. We hope Finding Serendipity is first of all a wonderful adventure series. And for those readers who are also budding writers, we hope it will inspire and encourage them to follow their writing dreams. Plus, we hope it gives all our readers a little bit of an insight into what it takes to be a writer, and the fun that can be had with words.
Q: Can we get a hint or two about the upcoming book in the series?
A: Ooooh, it’s very hush hush. But what we can tell you is that it’s called A Week Without Tuesday. We can also tell you that Tuesday, Vivienne and Baxterr return, along with some other favourite characters from Finding Serendipity. But there are also new characters including some surprising villains. Our readers get a glimpse into the extraordinary worlds that writers can create – and what it takes to look after them. Vivienne and Baxterr have to beat a seemingly relentless enemy, while Tuesday has to make the biggest decision of her life. We have loved writing this sequel and think our readers will love it too. It comes out in February 2016 in the USA so we apologise that our US readers have a little while to wait!
Check out more on the website here! Finding Serendipity is available on Amazon!
The Ink Splat is our monthly activity letter filled with inspiration sparking challenges and resources guaranteed to inspire your creativity. In this Ink Splat, the book and author spotlighted is Mark of the Thief By Jennifer Nielsen along with an author interview! Submit a response to a challenge and you may have a chance to be published online! What are you waiting for?
The Challenge: Historical Magic
Although Nielsen’s novel is primarily a Fantasy, it also has a lot to do with history. For this month’s writing challenge, pick a historical event or place and reinterpret the invents that happened there by adding a flare of magic! Turn the historical fantastical.
History-based stories require a lot of background research. Be sure you know the facts about your historical place or event before getting started on your story!
Mark of the Thief By Jennifer Nielsen
When Nic, a slave in the mines outside of Rome, is forced to enter a sealed cavern containing the lost treasures of Julius Caesar, he finds much more than gold and gemstones: He discovers an ancient bulla, an amulet that belonged to the great Caesar and is filled with a magic once reserved for the Gods — magic some Romans would kill for.
Now, with the deadly power of the bulla pulsing through his veins, Nic is determined to become free. But instead, he finds himself at the center of a ruthless conspiracy to overthrow the emperor and spark the Praetor War, a battle to destroy Rome from within. Traitors and spies lurk at every turn, each more desperate than the next to use Nic’s newfound powers for their own dark purposes.
In a quest to stop the rebellion, save Rome, and secure his own freedom, Nic must harness the magic within himself and defeat the empire’s most powerful and savage leaders.
About the PROCESS:
Q: Where did the inspiration for this story come from?
A: MARK OF THE THIEF had two inspirations. The first is this minor bit of trivia I stumbled upon that described how boys in Ancient Rome used to wear a golden amulet called a bulla. It was filled with gems that were believed to cause good luck. The second fact was that Emperor Julius Caesar used to claim he was a descendent of the Goddess Venus. He thought this would make him seem even more powerful than he actually was. So I thought, what if Caesar was telling the truth? Because if he really was a descendent of Venus, then he would be a demigod. And what if the magic of the Gods was stored in his bulla? The combination of those two ideas became the foundation for MARK OF THE THIEF.
Q: What is it like combining historical factor with fantastical elements? Are there any particular challenges?
A: There are always challenges to working within an established historical period – I am limited by the world as it existed then. However, within that world, there are always ways to build the fantasy. For example, the great Pantheon has only a single window in it – the oculus overhead. There are many theories about what the oculus was for, but they are only theories. That lingering question gives me a place to explore within the fantasy world, and I take every advantage of that!
Q: Did writing a historically centered novel such as this require a lot of research?
A: The research for this book was HUGE! There are scholars who get doctorates in the study of Ancient Rome, and then go on to study it for their fifty year career. The amount of detail we know about the empire is vast and extensive, and it existed for so long. In addition to the research, I also traveled to Rome to see the remains of the empire for myself, which was amazing. Honestly, there is no way I could ever learn everything about the empire, but I hope I’ve done it justice. MARK OF THE THIEF is a fantasy first, but I think it still offers young readers an insight into what life might have been like back then.
Q:What are the hardest and easiest parts about writing a novel for you?
A: Is there an easiest part to writing a novel? Really? If so, I wish someone would tell me!
For me, every novel is different. Sometimes it’s pulling the concept together. Sometimes it’s the first draft – that empty page staring back at me. And sometimes it’s knowing when to say done – to hit send on the final manuscript and know that whatever it is, is what it will always be.
Q: Why did you decide to self-pubslish? What was the experience like?
A: I wanted to get the book out, but at that point, I didn’t want a career as a writer. Self-publishing allowed me to get the book out on my terms, without dealing with the stress and heartache of trying to get an agent. It was, and still is, both a fascinating experience but also very hard work. Self-publishing isn’t necessarily easier than going the traditional route. It’s just a different set of challenges. Learning how to format the book took time and a lot of yelling at Microsoft Word.
About the AUTHOR:
Q: Did you have a favorite character in the book? A least favorite?
A: For this book, what I’m most enjoying is to see how the characters evolve, not only in the first book but throughout the series. At the start of MARK OF THE THIEF, Nic is thoroughly uneducated and inexperienced in the world, yet suddenly the weight of the empire dumps upon his shoulders. The other characters have their evolutions too – Aurelia, the tough and feisty plebeian girl; Crisps, the privileged son of a Senator; and even the villain, Radulf.
Q: A lot of your novels, including Mark of the Thief, seem to be historically based. Do you have an interest in history?
A: I’m a total history geek! I think the best stories ever told are the ones that actually happened. So many true stories are ones that, if I tried to tell it as a fictional story, people would say, “Oh, that sounds so made up!” That said, so far I’ve always done fantasies that take place in the past. My next story, A NIGHT DIVIDED, will be released on August 25 of this year. It’s a straight historical that involves a girl whose family is divided on the night the Berlin Wall goes up, and what she will attempt to try to reunite them again.
Q: Any advice for young writers?
A: For young authors – it’s very important to FINISH the project. It’s easy to give up when the writing gets hard, or when another shiny new idea presents itself, or when it’s obvious that the idea in our head doesn’t look much like the words on the paper. But you must type THE END. After that, you can edit, you can improve, and you can make it into the story you want it to be. But first, you finish.
Lastly, check out this awesome book trailer for Mark of the Thief!
Check out more on Jennifer’s website here! Mark of the Thief is available on Amazon!
Woah! With over 80 submissions this year we had a tough time choosing just 20 young writers to feature. We read stories and poems that made us gasp, think, laugh and FEEL! We are amazed by the pure talent and bravery of young writers. Thank you to all who submitted to the contest this year!
2015 INKLINGS BOOK CONTEST WINNERS:
1. Simple Magic by Phoebe Barrientos
2. 100 Shades of Summer by Samantha Sasaki
3. The Story of my Grandather’s Singing Bowl by Tal Dickman
4. The Sheriff and the Treehouse by Rachel Hoge
5. A Cat in Paris by Olivia Cisneros
6. What Others Couldn’t Dream by Evie Landreth
7. Dance With Me by Ashley Schwatka
8. Lost and Found by Sonia Kulasooriya
9. The Tree by Daniel Kao
10. The Little Fairy by Rachel Gould
11. The Mice by Rouli Freeman
12. William by Kiera Finlay
13. The Vegetarian Lion by Mitesh Jain
14. Poems by Katie Turk
15. The Shadow of the Dragon by Benjamin Bouie
16. Cherry Blossoms at Tidal Basin by Cynthia Wang
17. The Baseball Game by Kabir Buch
18. The Dragon Journey by Timothy Leung
19. Goodbye India by Sonia Cherian
20. Just a Rose by Ellie Turk
Congratulations, winners! Be sure to check your email. You’ll be meeting your mentor and start working on your revisions soon!
Remember every young writer who applied to the contest will receive a positive critique letter in the mail even those not chosen as a winner. Be sure to check your email and watch your mailbox for a special letter!
A HUGE thank you to our Inklings Book Sponsors!
Joe and Glenda Zanger.
It’s not too late to become a sponsor! Learn more here. Society of Young Inklings is a 501(c)(3)non-profit organization.