This year, there were 242 young writers who submitted their works to the Inklings Book Contest. Wow! Many thanks for sharing your work with us. We consider it an honor to get to read it. Below is the list of winners and finalists. If that’s you, we’ll be in touch soon!
If you’ve spent any time with us, you’ve probably gathered that it’s Inklings Book Contest season here at Society of Young Inklings. We’ve been talking about our writing contest since January and now we’re in the final days of the submission period. As we wind down, we wanted to share the heart behind the contest. It’s not about competition—it’s about encouraging young writers.
Mentor Loraine McCormick with Inkling Louisa Pflaum at our 2017 Inklings Book Party
I started Society of Young Inklings because in second grade I had the chance to meet an author and talk with her about my writing. She looked me in the eye and said, “You’re an author.” Her belief in me made me believe in myself. When I started publishing books for young readers, one half of my lifelong dream came true. Society of Young Inklings came out of the other half of my dream—finding ways to connect creative youth with pros. The Inklings Book Contest is one of the most impactful ways we make that connection.
Writers deal with silence all the time. It’s heartbreaking to work on a piece for months (usually years!), work up the courage to submit it to an agent or editor, and receive only silence in reply. Our mentor team understands this reality. We know how silence feels because at one point or another in our careers, we’ve all experienced it. The reality of the publishing market is that agents and editors don’t have time to reply to every submission … in fact, they can only reply to a very small percentage of what comes across their desks. We wanted our writing contest to be different. We’re delighted that the Inklings Book Contest offers us the opportunity to band together and do what no one of us could do on our own. While one of us couldn’t possibly write back to 300 applicants, a team of pro volunteers absolutely can—which means that none of our writing contest applicants will have to hear that discouraging silence. Whether they win, are a finalist, or simply receive a note of encouragement in response to their application, every writer has the opportunity to learn and grow when they take part in the Inklings Book Contest.
If you’re a youth writer and you haven’t already, start working on your submission and send it in by March 15. We can’t wait to hear from you. If you’re an educator, a parent, or someone who knows a creative youth who has a voice that needs to be heard, please share the Inklings Book Contest. And if you’re a creative pro and you want to be part of this amazing collaborative feedback extravaganza, let us know. We’d love to have you as part of our community.
We dream that each year, more youth and more pros will come together for this meaningful collaboration. We’re celebrating youth voices and creative growth. Each application that flies into our inbox is another point of connection—one youth to one pro—and we all grow and gain perspective from the process.
As you know, the Inklings Book Contest is here! So, today, we’re interviewing Toby Jacob, one of our 2017 Inklings Book Contest winners. As you’ll read, at first, she didn’t even want to submit to the contest! We’re sure glad she did. Maybe you’re on the fence, too, wondering if you should send in that story or poem you’ve been working on. We hope you’ll be encouraged by Toby and submit today.
Toby Jacob, Age 14
How did you hear about the Inklings Book Contest?
There was a flyer in my creative writing classroom.
What made you decide to submit?
At first, I didn’t want to submit because I didn’t think I could win. But a good friend of mine convinced me.
Did you submit a story or a poem?
A poem, titled “Storm.”
What is it about?
It’s about personal experiences that I had with a kid at my school for most of elementary school.
How did you feel when you found out you were one of the winners?
I was so crazy happy and also really nervous about other people reading my work. But mostly I was really happy.
Tell us about the mentorship and revision part of the contest. What was your revision focus? Was it hard to revise?
I spent a lot of time trying to revise my poem so that it was shorter and more coherent. It was really hard for me to say goodbye to some parts because I really liked them, but in the end, all the edits that my mentor Naomi and I made were for the best. I had a ton of fun working with her and I learned a lot.
What writing have you been working on since?
Since I won the Inklings Book Contest, I continued mentorship with Naomi and right now we are working on a short story. It’s been so helpful to have someone to help guide me through this whole process. I’m really appreciating her help in creating and improving my writing.
Congratulations are in order for our newest young author, Avery Yue. Avery (age 11) recently revised and published her book, Salim’s Battle through the Your Name In Ink Program.
Avery with her brand new book!
In the Your Name in InkProgram, professional writers mentor youth through a 6-9 month revision process which results in a printed or published book, just like Avery’s. Click here to learn more about the program.
Salim’s Battle by Avery Yue
Calli has been trapped on the island of Baraka for what was two years in her life – but was actually two decades. When she learns about the evil snake named Salim who is trying to create a fictional army to take over the worlds, Calli has to take action. She teams up with Nick, the mischievous kid who fell to her island after touching a blackboard, and Archie, the wizard who is really bad at spells, but actually pretty good at comic relief. They battle lava monsters, meet funny people, and add an opinionated wolf, a small dragon, and a sad frog to their team. Calli’s story will take readers into a place of confusing worlds, including a land of lava and a backwards planet, wizards, talking pets, and a chipmunk who turns people evil.
All proceeds from book sales will benefit our scholarship program for future Your Name In Ink young authors.
Click below to buy your own copy of Salim’s Battle.
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: