The author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is David Butler.
Change the setting of your favorite story by selecting a random page in an atlas. Write the opening paragraph from this new perspective. How does the setting influence your story line and the characters?
Submit your responses by emailing email@example.com and you might be published on our website!
Spotlight ON…David Butler: The Kidnap Plot
An Interview with author David Butler
1. How long have you been writing? What made you decide to become an author?
I knew I wanted to be an author when I was eight years old and my dad gave me a copy of The Lord of the Rings. What made me want to write novels, and specifically fantasy novels, was the ability to tell truths about human beings by redrawing the world in which human beings live and act.
I took some detours on the way, including going to law school and working for more than ten years as a lawyer. I decided it was time to take my chance, and for two years I wrote full time. I found and lost an agent, wrote books alone and with my wife Emily, published in the indie space, found an agent again, and finally got an offer to publish The Kidnap Plot.
2. The Kidnap Plot is book one of your series, The Extraordinary Journeys of Clockwork Charlie. Can you tell us about how you came up with the idea for your book and your series?
Well, I have to be careful here, because if I tell you all of my sources of inspiration, it will give away some secrets in the book: spoilers! But I will say that I lived outside London for five years, so some of the places described in the book are real (or mostly real). For instance, there’s a platform in a train station which is real, and where I really caught a train home after work every day for two years.
3. At Society of Young Inklings, we often talk about ways to approach the creative process playfully. Do you have favorite exercises or activities that help you stay creative?
I think it’s really important to keep putting new inputs into your head. Creativity is what we call associating two or more things together that haven’t been associated before, or associating them in a new way. To be able to creative consistently, you need to consistently put new things in your head. That means new experiences, so be willing to try new foods. It means new people, so be willing to make friends wherever you go. It means new places, so look for opportunities to travel. And above all, read books.
If you find yourself stuck, I recommend this: deliberately associate things by force until your creative juices start working again. Pick up two objects, and ask yourself what is the story that involves both these objects? Pick an existing story, and open an atlas to a random page, to ask what would this story look like if I set it in this different place?
4. Do you have any tips for how to create a fast-paced plot?
I have two tips. One, conflict creates interest, so get conflict into your story as early as you can. That doesn’t have to mean a fight, but it means two people who want different things from each other and who will each try to get what they want.
Two, write in short units. Short scenes or short chapters that each end on a question or a new decision or a discovery or a cliffhanger will create the feeling of a very fast story that drags you along with it.
5. Are there authors who influenced or inspired your writing?
Yes. The stories I read over and over when I was young were written by J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Leguin (The Wizard of Earthsea), Susan Cooper (the Dark Is Rising Sequence), Isaac Asimov (the Foundation Trilogy), Lloyd Alexander (The Chronicles of Prydain), Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time), Katherine Kurtz (the Deryni books), and Patricia McKillip (The Riddle-Master of Hed).
6. What’s your favorite thing about writing? Least favorite?
The best thing about having published books is when a stranger comes up to you and says she’s read your book and it was important to her. That makes it all worth the effort. The worst thing about having published books is reading your reviews. Even when they’re positive, I get nervous reading them. I try never to read reviews.
The best part of writing is when two things fit together in your book that you didn’t see coming so you see something new and exciting about the story you’re writing. My least favorite part is the minute right before I start writing, when I’m trying to psych myself up to put eight pages onto paper.
7. What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
I think the hard thing is arranging my schedule so that I have consistent time to write. When I am most successful, it’s because I am making myself write in airports and hotels, and on planes, and sitting at the park while my kids play. It is very easy to surrender and tell myself that I don’t have enough time.
8. If you could tell your younger writing self something, what would it be?
Write a lot. If you are a young writer, your biggest advantage is time. Write lots and lots of words, and accept that many of them will not be amazing. But keep trying to write your best, because your best will become better and better as you go, until everything you write is fantastic.
A special thanks to David Butler!
Locate your local independent book store to purchase The Kidnap Plot, it is also available at most other nationwide bookstores or online.
Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Julie Shi! Julie finished 5th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Billy Meets Lilly” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!
Billy Meets Lilly
by Julie Shi
+++++Even though Billy was the only child, he could always find something fun to do.
+++++If it was raining, Billy built castles and dragons out of Legos in his cozy room.
+++++If it was shining, he ran outside to swing on his tire swing and build mud pies.
+++++All in all, Billy was happy with his life, and he figured he didn’t need a little sister to play with.
+++++So he thought his whole life would be ruined when his mother said eight simple yet devastating words, “Honey, you’re going to have a baby sister.”
+++++Billy stared at his mother, eyes the size of saucers and mouth the size of the moon. “What?” he finally managed to say.
+++++“A baby sister,” said his mother. “It’ll be great! You’ll be able to play with her!”
+++++“I can play with myself,” Billy grumbled.
+++++“Playing with your sister will be more fun,” said Billy’s father, who had overheard the conversation and just entered the room.
+++++“Who says?” asked Billy.
+++++“Please, honey,” said Billy’s mother. “You’ll see.”
+++++Oh, Billy did see. He sure did see. The night Billy’s mother brought the baby home, they were all cooing at her and smiling into the little basket that held her.
+++++“Billy!” called Billy’s mother. “Meet Lilly!”
+++++“Lilly?” asked Billy. “Out of all the names you could’ve chosen, you chose the name that rhymes with mine?”
+++++“Aww, Lilly, Lilly,” said Billy’s mother, making baby noises and completely ignoring Billy’s comment.
+++++“So,” Billy tried again, “Is it L-I-L-Y, or is it L-I-L-L-Y?”
+++++“The second one,” quickly answered Billy’s father, before turning back towards Lilly and smiling and rubbing her cheeks.
+++++Billy approached Lilly. He stared into the basket. There, nestled in a bunch of blankets, lay the ugliest baby Billy had ever seen. “Ughh,” he muttered.
+++++“Billy!” glared Billy’s mother.
+++++Billy sighed, trudging back up to his room. If he wasn’t being ignored, he was being glared at for making truthful remarks. If he wasn’t being glared at for making truthful remarks, he was being ignored. This “Lilly” had just popped into his life, and suddenly, his parents were forgetting about him and paying all their attention to Lilly. “Humph,” glared Billy at nothing in particular.
+++++That night, his parents could be heard making cooing noises at Lilly. They forgot to kiss Billy good-night.
+++++The next morning, Billy woke up, hoping for a change. His parents had probably thought how mean they were to him over the night, and now, they were going to apologize. So, Billy tromped down stairs, hopeful.
+++++There wasn’t a change.
+++++In fact, things were getting worse.
+++++Billy’s mother was sitting down with Lilly on her lap, petting her and making bubble noises. Billy’s father was fixing a batch of baby food and humming, “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round”.
+++++Billy poured his cereal into a bowl and then asked his dad to pour some milk for him. He wasn’t tall enough to reach the jug yet.
+++++“Wait,” grunted Billy’s father, sounding like he would rather be fixing baby food for Lilly than pouring milk for Billy.
+++++Billy waited, but his father never got to him. He didn’t eat breakfast that day. Billy packed his backpack and said, “Dad? Can you drive me to school?” Maybe, on the drive to school, Billy could talk to his dad.
+++++“Take the bus,” grunted his father. Billy’s hopes were instantly crushed.
+++++Billy dejectedly walked outside to wait for the bus. He felt like he was just air now: he was there, but he wasn’t worth speaking to.
+++++Billy couldn’t concentrate at school. When he was asked to multiply nine by eight, he replied, “seven.” When he was told to add seven and twenty-five, he replied, “five hundred.” He was snickered at and laughed at, but he didn’t care. Being a laughing stock was like being a king compared to being air.
+++++When Billy arrived home, his mother, who was holding Lilly, and his father, were sitting in the living room. His mother immediately said, “Billy! Go grab the book ‘Goodnight, Moon,’ and I’ll read it to Lilly.”
+++++Billy trudged towards the bookshelf. He had just arrived from school, and immediately, he was asked to do something for Lilly. He was spoken to, but only because of Lilly.
+++++Later in the day, Billy made up his mind. He was going to go convince his parents why Lilly had to go. He arrived in the living room, and a horrifying sight met his eyes. His mom was taking a nap with Lilly. Next to Lilly, lay Hippo, Billy’s favorite stuffed animal. Lilly was leaning on Hippo as if he was hers. But he wasn’t. Hippo was Billy’s! Billy leaned down and snatched Hippo from Lilly, glaring at her. Lilly blinked open an eye, and the instant she realized that Hippo was gone, she started bawling. Billy’s mother woke up. When she saw Billy holding the stuffed animal, and Lilly crying like a maniac, she shouted, “Billy! Give that stuffed animal back at once!”
+++++“No! It’s mine!” Billy protested.
+++++Lilly’s cries grew louder.
+++++“Billy!” warned his mom.
+++++“MOM! IT’S MINE!” Billy screamed. He didn’t know why, but he was sobbing now. “MINE!”
+++++The cries grew louder. Was it even possible for a two-day old baby to bawl like that? Maybe she was an alien coming to abduct him, thought Billy.
+++++“BILLY! SHE’S YOUR LITTLE SISTER! LET HER HAVE THE STUFFED ANIMAL!” Billy’s mom was shouting now.
+++++More crying, from both Lilly and Billy.
+++++“FINE! I’LL GIVE LILLY THE STUPID STUFFED ANIMAL!” screamed Billy. He slammed the stuffed animal down and stormed away.
+++++Distantly, Billy heard his mom shout something about going to his room, but he ignored her. He stormed into their library and plopped down on a chair.
+++++Billy was infuriated. This was too much! Hippo was his. His. Not Lilly’s, his. If they wanted to treat him like that, fine. Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine! Did they expect him to just stay and be ignored, though? Nope, not a chance. He had been pushed past the line. He was going to show them that he mattered.
+++++Billy was running away.
+++++He dried his tears and peered into the living room. His mother was already back asleep. Like I’m nothing, Billy thought. Like I’m just some person without any feelings.
+++++Then he slowly breathed and counted to ten, and he thought about what he would need. Well, he first needed a bag to carry things in. He had seen in cartoons and movies that runaways usually tied a small sack at the end of a long stick. But he was running away for a long time, and he didn’t have any long sticks. He’d need a bigger sack. Then he thought of his backpack. It was perfect! Bag: check, he silently thought.
+++++Next, he needed money. He put all his ten secretly stashed dollars into his backpack, but it wasn’t enough. He needed more. I need some money from Mom’s wallet, he thought. He felt a little guilty, but after he remembered how his mother had treated him when he had gotten back from school, all the guilt vanished. He snuck eighty dollars from his mom’s purse into his backpack. Money: check.
+++++He now needed to pack some food. The problem was, he needed to keep his food fresh; otherwise, it would rot. He finally put a box of cookies, plus five candies, into a bag, which he dropped into his backpack. Anyway, Billy thought, if it isn’t enough, I can always buy some more. Food: check.
+++++Lastly, he would need shelter and clean clothes for when he slept on the streets. He decided his blanket would be enough. He also stuffed an extra pair of clothes into his backpack. Shelter and clothing: check.
+++++Now, his backpack was bulging, and it was heavy, but Billy didn’t mind. As long as it could hold what he needed, he would carry it. Then he walked towards the front door. He knew it creaked when it opened, and he silently debated whether he should quickly wrench it open, or slowly open it to a crack and then slip through. He finally decided to do a little of both. He quickly opened the door to a little crack. He couldn’t fit. He opened the door a little more. He still couldn’t fit. He creaked open the door just a bit more, and he slipped through.
+++++Billy suddenly realized what he was doing. He was saying goodbye to his parents forever. His parents, his two most favorite people on earth. That is, Billy corrected, Until now. Images flashed through his head: His mom was asking him to pour orange juice for three-year old Lilly. His dad was giving Lilly all his stuffed animals. Then he firmly thought: They think they can treat me like that? I’m their child! I’m going to prove them wrong. I’m going to run away, and see how they like it then. I’ll give them a week without me, and then they’ll start to appreciate me.
+++++Then Billy realized: he should write a note. He hurried back into the house, grabbed a pen and a post-it, and scribbled, “Running away. -Billy.” Then he taped it to the front door, slipped outside again, and breathed a deep sigh.
+++++He looked outside and groaned. It was raining. He hadn’t planned it to rain. It never rained when people in the movies were running away. He figured he could just rest under the large tree in their front yard, and then get going. He walked to the tree and sat down.
+++++The steady drip drop of the rain soon lulled Billy into a sleepy trance. Stay awake, he glared at himself. But it was too much. He was tired, tired, tired…
+++++When Billy woke up, it wasn’t raining, but the sun was setting. It was already five o’clock in the afternoon. Great, Billy thought. Gotta get going.
+++++Then he saw his parents in the library room. The library had a large window facing out into the front yard, and Billy could see into it. In the library, Billy could see his mother and father painting… Oh no, they’re not, Billy thought. Billy’s parents were painting his baby chair, which was originally blue, pink. For Lilly. It was Billy’s. And they were going to give it to Lilly. Anger rose inside Billy.
+++++Then he saw his mother calling for someone. For Lilly, probably, sneered Billy. Then he realized that Lilly couldn’t walk yet. If his mother wanted Lilly, she would be walking into the living room to get her. Billy’s mother was calling for Billy.
+++++Billy’s mother looked worried and asked Billy’s father something. Then she called for Billy again. She called again. And again. She walked out of the library room. Billy lost sight of her, but he imagined the whole scene: Billy’s mother would see the note taped on the front door. She would snatch the note, read it, fingers trembling, read it again, and run to Billy’s father. Sure enough, Billy’s mother’s fingers were trembling when she ran back into the library room, and sure enough, she showed Billy’s father the note. The two of them collapsed into chairs. Billy’s father’s fingers also shook.
+++++This was all Billy could take. He couldn’t bear seeing his parents this pale and frightened. He rushed to the front door and tried to open the door. It was locked. He rang the doorbell. Billy saw his mother running towards him. He saw how her worried face turned delighted as she saw him, opened the door, and hugged him. “Why?” she breathed into his ear.
+++++Billy did not answer but hugged his mother tighter.
+++++That night, Billy explained why he had run away, and his mother and father apologized to him. They apologized for treating him like air, for ignoring him, for not helping him, for taking his baby chair and giving it to Lilly.
+++++As they sat on the couch, Billy whispered, “Do you love me?”
+++++“Of course!” stated his father.
+++++“To the moon and back,” smiled his mother.
+++++“Do you love Lilly more than me?” he asked.
+++++“No!” Billy’s father almost shouted.
+++++“It’s like asking which eye I love better, my right, or my left,” said Billy’s mother.
+++++“I like my right eye better,” Billy commented.
+++++“Billy, you know what I mean. I love you both. You’re both my children, and I will never love one over the other,” Billy’s mother said.
+++++Billy smiled at his parents and looked at Lilly again. She didn’t seem as ugly as she had before. In fact, she looked beautiful. Billy reached for Lilly and placed her in his lap.
+++++For the rest of the night, Billy’s family sat on the couch. They ate Billy’s favorite dinner and watched his favorite basketball game. Billy’s mother asked him how school was going, and Billy’s father asked him if he wanted to play baseball during the weekend.
+++++And the four of them were happy. They were a happy family, happy with life, happy to have each other.
Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Adelle Kang! Adelle finished 3rd grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Switched Jerseys” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!
by Adelle Kang
+++++Adelle, a girl in the All-star National Junior Basketball team was going Los Angeles to compete against a famous team. The coaches didn’t tell the players the name of it. Adelle’s team players were on their way in an airplane. Suddenly, Adelle desperately needed to go to the restroom. She stood up to go, but she bumped into a very tall person. She saw that it was Stephen Curry, her future beloved husband! He was wearing a Blue Golden State Warrior jersey. Adelle stood there, frozen. She couldn’t believe her eyes! It was actually Stephen Curry standing right there in front of her! She said, “Hi” very quietly. Stephen warmly greeted her back. For a couple minutes, they had a conversation about their basketball games they were going to have in Los Angeles. Their jersey numbers were both the same, 30. Adelle was too startled to remember that she had to go to the restroom. She headed straight back to her seat, still as startled as before. She started yawning and she thought to herself, that it would be a good idea to have a good nap for her big game the next day. She took off her jersey and wrapped herself in a cozy warm blanket. She put away her jersey in a little cubby in the back of the airplane. The next morning, when they had landed, Stephen went to wear his jersey. He picked up Adelle’s instead, thinking it was his because they had the same number! He didn’t know until he went to the restroom to change. Suddenly he remembered that jersey belonged to the girl he had bumped into the other day. He hurried off the plane to find the little girl. His jersey was too small for him which made his belly button show. Everyone started staring him because he was famous and also because of his belly button. He remembered when Adelle said she was going to play her game in the LA main gym, so he made his way there. When he arrived, he saw that Adelle was practicing for a game. The jersey was too big for her. She tripped over the long jersey when she was running back and forth. She also had a different team jersey, too. Oh no! Curry called her over to switch their jerseys. Their games were about to start in five minutes. They needed to rush. If they didn’t hurry to their games, they would be canceled because they were both the best in their teams. They needed to win their games because they were very important ones. If they lost, they would never get to play again. Curry explained how he accidentally took her jersey. Adelle said, “It is fine, but I think we need to hurry!!!” They went to the restrooms to change.
+++++All the bathroom stalls were locked. They thought that they were going to miss their game. They were in a panic now. Adelle was really scared. They tried to open the locker room, it was closed too. What were they going to go? Their games started in two minutes. Curry and Adelle stared at each other with their eyes wide open in fear of not making it on time. After about a few seconds, Curry said, “We have no choice.” Adelle and Curry were about to change where they were because they knew their games were more important. When they were about to switch jerseys, Adelle’s coach found her and told her that she needed to go right now, so they hurried up and left. When they got into the gym, they found out that they were going to play against each other! Since they didn’t have the time to change into their original jerseys, the players in Curry’s team passed the ball to Adelle because she was still in the wrong jersey. Luckily, Adelle’s team didn’t get confused by Curry wearing Adelle’s jersey because his belly button showed up. And he was too tall to be mistaken for Adelle. Adelle blended in with Curry’s team because she was fast. She zoomed past them and she SCORED! Adelle’s team had won! She never dreamed that she would beat Curry! Adelle and Curry shook hands and they decided to change clothes now. To this day, they laugh and talk about the first day they met. They married and lived happily ever after, playing basketball together every day.
2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Rithik Atreya
Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Rithik Atreya! Rithik finished 3rd grade this past school year. The story he submitted is called “Sia’s Bird” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!
by Rithik Atreya
+++++Lucius did not attract attention. That little bird was plain. Not much commotion occurred when Sia Agarwal showed off her pet. Sia was not popular. She was a new girl in the town. Sia tries to show a lot of affection to Lucius. But he doesn’t return the same back to her. He sometimes feels he might have a better life somewhere else.
+++++The bird simply kicked around, rather hard, attempting to knock the copper cage onto the floor. Never knowing, he would sometimes fall over. Once he vandalized a China pot since his copper cage toppled over. He would get wounded often. But Sia had a lot of care. A plain parrot seemed to not be smarter than Lucius. This was Sia’s opinion. From the area of Chicago, Sia’s hometown, they had moved approximately two-thousand miles from there. They were now located in L.A., California. As a punishment, there was a probation with zero snacks. Sia knew Lucius hated it more than any punishment. He was a bird with a huge appetite. This happened two months ago.
+++++Evening approached. Dinner (for Lucius) was the same daily thing. Bird food. That disgusting taste was the only thing his taste buds knew. One day Sia relocated the cage towards her well-known room. This was the center of all attraction. It was about one twenty square feet. She wasn’t rich, She was okay.
+++++Today was fascinating. The relocation to Sia’s room helped a lot. Finally Lucius’ popularity would increase a whole lot. Sia was in bed. Lucius assumed, literally assumed, that he could tell the future; which turned out to be a realistic proper one day achievement. His copper old rusting cage was going to be replaced with a brand new metal exchange! A call from the pet store occurred yesterday. The words clearly marked and projected with a simple small voice call.
The words were:
+++++“The production costs have exceeded a whole lot, due to tax issues affecting stock in our sale. The financial updates are very new. I’m very sorry for this misunderstanding, which brought up the cost to…$1,300!” Sia agreed with an unhappy expression. She informed this to her parents. Was this an infomercial? Lucius’ rapid mind raced through his brain like a shooting star. Sia called another pet shop. This one differed from the rest. The costs were all expensive. But individually, the cheapest one was the first option. Sia wiped her eyes. A tear rolled down her cheek. Lucius really needed a new cage. The next morning Sia’s parents agreed to at least check out the pet shop. In a while they arrived at their destination. Sia walked up to the desk. She cleared her throat. “Excuse me Madam, do you guys have a metal cage for birds?” Sia asked. “Please specify,” the lady at the counter replied. “A parrot cage, and a keyed lock, if you mind,” Sia specified. “Can you tell me the amount?” Sia asked. Sia walked towards her parents. Her mom whispered, “Sia! I’m sure the cost of your cage will be an arm and leg. I can’t spend too much on that bird. We never needed him. This will be your Christmas gift. Soon it will be your Birthday gift.” Sia’s mom never liked Lucius. Every year Sia would not get a gift due to Lucius. “Ma’am!” The lady at the front desk said. “Huh?” Sia asked. “Sorry,” Sia whispered. “You order will be ready tomorrow. Sia gave her a check. “Thank you,” The lady said. Sia and Lucius left for their house. She patted Lucius. “Everything is going to be alright,” She said. But Sia had not been ready for a problem out of the box. Money worries.
+++++Lucius looked out the window. The gleaming sun shone through a small opening in the Sia’s curtains. “Nice day huh?” Sia was sitting on her bed. Lucius could never ever find out when Sia gets up. But he knew that outside was below freezing. He had experienced the cold and dreary winter days. Never a few cold drops of snow would fall. It was the early morning of Christmas Eve. “C’mon! Let’s go get your new cage!” Sia said putting on her jacket.
+++++The number of trees was a lot but not as much as the tinsel. They were tied around trees and buildings. Sia saw Lucius shivering. Sia took off her scarf and gently wrapped it around Lucius. She reached the shop and discussed the metal exchange. They switched dirty rusted copper to brand new metal! “Bye, and thank you!” Sia said. This time it was another lady at the desk. “Wait,” The lady said. “I have something to tell you,” she said. Sia spun around. “What?” Sia asked. “I see danger. Danger in your eyes,” She said. Sia looked puzzled. “I’m sorry, I think I have to go,” Sia said smiling. She walked out. “Poor girl,” said the front desk lady.
+++++Sia hopped home, opened the door and went to her room. She put Lucius on her table. “C’mon,” Sia said. She gently let Lucius climb on her arm. She slowly kept him on his perch. “Aren’t you excited for Christmas? All the presents-” Lucius pecked her arm gently. “Oh right. No presents,” Sia replied. “At least it’s a fun day!” She said. “SIA!” her mom called. “I’ll be right back,” Sia told Lucius. “Look at this. The price for that cage is too much! THAT BIRD!” Her mom yelled. “Mom! Please calm down! He’s just a simple parrot,” Sia cried. “I DON’T CARE WHAT HE IS! SOON WE WON’T BE ABLE TO PAY MORTGAGE FOR THIS HOUSE!” She roared. “What?” Sia said. “What do you mean we can’t pay the mortgage for the house?” Sia asked. Her mom sighed. “Just go. Go from here,” Her mom said. Sia went out. Just at that moment, Sia remembered the lady from the front desk. I see danger. Danger in your eyes! This could be what she meant. Sia shook her head. “What nonsense!” She wondered aloud. This was really bad.
+++++The next day, Christmas didn’t turn out so well. This time a mail from the insurance company had come. This is what it said:
We have not received our monthly payment. Since it is
Christmas, we will give you time to pay till January
ninth. If we don’t receive the payment, we will not
accept you to have our insurance anymore. For
instance, if you don’t have enough, it isn’t our responsibility.
So please remember your due date for completing your payment.
Your Insurance company
For a kid like Sia, this was too much for her. Lucius on the other hand was not really understanding what was happening. But this was just the beginning of this tragedy.
Daylight on Dark Days
+++++December was coming to an end. The Agarwals had nearly a ten dollar bill. Slowly the dark days were coming in. They had sold a lot of items but had to use that money to pay the bills. But they still didn’t have enough for their insurance. The new year flew by. Still nothing. Nothing at all.
+++++This was it. More days flew by. Soon it had come to January ninth. As a bird, Lucius still wasn’t able to understand a thing that was happening, except the telephone ringing a thousand times. Sia was often depressed. Especially her parents. But then something worse began to happen. Sia’s mom had called her into her room. She leaned over to Sia and began saying, “Our only option to live is to sell- Sell what?” Sia interrupted. “Sell the bird,” She said. It is useless to say how bad Sia felt. In a day or so, Lucius would be off Sia’s eyes. Forever. But that day had approached. She gently stroked his fur and put him into his metal cage. “Farewell, Lucius. I’m sure we’ll meet again,” She said sniffling. Tears rushed down her eyes like waterfalls. She picked up a piece of paper and a pen. She wrote with her hand trembling:
If you have this bird, please treat him with
respect and kindness. His name is Lucius;
he would prefer that name than any other name.
clean his cage every day and give him a
meal that suits for birds. Try to avoid moldy bread,
And most of all do not let him get in contact with
chocolate. Thank you for your appreciation,
and please do your best to take care of him.
also, give him a shower. If you want to study
about this type of bird, it is called a parrot.
Thank you again.
Sia taped the note to the top of the cage. She again reached her hand into the cage to pat Lucius. She gave Lucius to her parents. But this wasn’t the end.
The Penultimate Peninsula
+++++As the wind swept across the roads on which the Agarwal’s house was located, Lucius had been sold. It was absolutely terrifying for Sia on the other hand. She had been with him for an extremely long period of time, but now that ‘Period of time’ was completely over. On the other hand, Lucius, was in his cage which was in a rusty unoiled automobile driving across the roads. Thankfully it was not a convertible. Lucius feared convertibles for one reason. Anyway, the automobile drove into a rickety road causing Lucius’ cage to rattle and slide back and forth. For one moment, Lucius thought he would topple over. But just then there was a thud causing him to officially topple over. The car skidded rotating rapidly in round circles. Lucius’ cage banged against the wall. Then the car window burst and shattered all over the floor. But the car hadn’t stopped. It still continued to skid down, down, down. Lucius came to consciousness when he felt his cage being held upright. There were people who had formal hats on and a uniform all over. There was a car which had parked next to the crashed car. It was saying ‘Emergency Medical Services’. Of course, Lucius couldn’t read. He was studying it with his black round eyes. His thoughts were interrupted by somebody saying, “Is everything okay, madam?”
+++++“Yes, thank you,” said the lady who was driving the car. Lucius’s new owner. “Do you need assistance driving home?” the man asked. “No, thanks. My house is nearby,” said Lucius’ new owner. “Just which way is hotel Quigley?” “Oh, it’s north of Parallel Avenue. Once you reach there, turn right on Crease Boulevard, and then you turn left on the Penultimate Peninsula. On your right, you will spot Quigley. “Thank you, sir. I am very messed up with my routes,” She said. The police smiled. “Try the car again,” he said. She pulled Lucius into the car. She pulled a lever sort of thingy. There was only the sound of the engine. No movement. “Try the ignition!” The police called out. The car engine roared. But, thankfully, it could slightly move across the street. Lucius slowly leaned down.
+++++In a while, the car had stopped in a parking lot. The gleaming afternoon sunlight shone into the smashed car. “Well, I guess we’re done with this ol’ car!” Lucius’s new owner said. They were at the Penultimate Peninsula. His new owner once again lifted his cage and took him outside. Finally, Lucius would get some clean fresh air! In front of Lucius and his new owner was a large building. Lucius caught a glimpse of very large letters spelling out ‘QUIGLEY’. Lucius’ new owner pushed open a transparent large glass door. “Welcome to hotel Quigley, Madam- Oh blimey! Is that a bird?” A uniformed man asked. “Yes, are there any objections on pets?” Lucius’ owner asked. “Yes madam. But we will allow only if he doesn’t come out of that cage. If by chance, we receive any complaints of guests anywhere around the building, we will have you to take him out. He is allowed anywhere except the lavatory, the lounge, and the bar. Also, try avoiding the cafè. Are we clear madam?” He asked. “Yes, we are.” Lucius’ new owner told the man something quickly and left the lobby and went towards the elevator. “Room 303,” Lucius’s new owner said. Lucius sighed. I am pretty sure you are thinking that birds do not sigh. But in this case, it was a bird-like sigh. Lucius’ new owner slid a key into a keyhole and then she opened the door.
George and Fiona
+++++“My name is Miranda. You better set the best example when my children come home” Lucius’ new owner Miranda said. She ripped off the note on Lucius’ cage and crumpled it into a ball. Lucius was horrified. She tossed it straight into a bin. Anyway, at that moment the door swung open. Lucius spotted two children. One was a boy and one was a girl. “George! Fiona! How was school?” Miranda asked. “Oh, mom it was great!” the boy replied. “Well, guess what? I’ve got a surprise for you. “Ta-da!” Miranda said pointing at Lucius. “A bird. Seriously, I come home happy and you give me a filthy creature? Man, you’re crazy,” George said walking towards his room. “Hey, watch your language!” Miranda shouted. “I don’t care!” He said and banged his room door. Miranda sighed once again. “He’s so cute!” Fiona said screeching. “I know right?” Miranda said with dramatic irony. Lucius could tell that because of her sarcastic smile. Fiona immediately dragged Lucius’ cage into George’s room. They both had the exact same room.
+++++George looked at Fiona. “MOM! Fiona’s annoying me!” George yelled. “Animals,” Miranda mumbled walking toward the room. “Fiona kindly get out of this room,” Miranda said. She always could never control George. After all, he was the oldest kid. Fiona began to cry. But, Lucius was the most annoyed. But he laid still in his cage. He kept thinking about Sia. He really wanted her back, more than ever.
In The Center
+++++George and Fiona were fighting literally every day. In the morning they fought over who got the bigger meal for breakfast. During the day after their school, they fought about who had lesser homework. And at night, they snored the loudest snores you’ve ever heard. Lucius was only peaceful around eleven in the morning. Thankfully, he would get a meal the same time Sia had fed him. But he had to manage to eat a new type of bird food. That was often delightful for Lucius because he would have a change in his old food Sia used to give him. But, still every day he would have a moment where he thought of Sia. It is very sad to lose someone you know very well. But, you never know what would happen next in life.
+++++It took a while for Lucius to figure that Miranda was a dowager. Lucius had realized this in his first weekend at her house as her husband never showed up, even, on weekdays. Lucius had not lost just one thing. He had lost everything except his new metal cage. Miranda’s inconvenience was at least better than Lucius’. Sia had erupted in tears that day he left. Lucius had remembered every small little tear of hers. Just at that moment, a light smell of smoke reached the room. The counter Lucius was on was directly in front of the window. Like anyone would do (or any bird), he looked out the window. Giant puffs of smoke were easing into the air. A building was burning down just like a rocket.
The Eye Of The Peril
+++++More and more smoke rose from the building. But worse, the building was attached to the hotel! Sirens filled the air. Fiona came in with her sibling and mom. “Did you see that fire!” George said clamorously. It was inconceivable for their family; other than Lucius, who denied living there but was reluctant, to not notice the burning building was completely attached to their own building. The person who called the fire department had only told the dispatcher that the building that was burning wasn’t that big. Lucius could not penetrate Miranda’s hostile criticism. Although it wasn’t that bad. Being annoyed wasn’t that bad. Fiona’s caring was not that bad. George’s hatred on Lucius wasn’t that bad. Even Miranda wasn’t that bad. Hotel Quigley wasn’t that bad. Probably one day everything wouldn’t be bad at all. First of all none of this would have happened if Lucius’s real mother had not been retrieved from the South American Amazon. In other words ‘Mission Amazon’. Suddenly, thicker smoke came into the room. It was too late. The fire had completely reached the hotel. If the dispatcher had heard that the burning building was connected to the hotel they would at least have a chance of survival. Hopefully.
Engulfed In Flames
+++++Blobs of disgusting air came into the building. That’s when the door heated up. Miranda slowly realized what was happening. Lucius looked outside again. But the smoke was so thick he could hardly see a thing. But after a while, Lucius saw a few spectators, ambulances, police cars, and only one fire truck! Faintly more and more fire trucks approached the hotel. But not in time for the fire to reach room 303. The flames first extended out to the kitchen. Miranda swooped out as fast as she could. It crossed the door and starting reaching out to George and Fiona’s room. They were already out and questioning Miranda very anxiously. When shattering and burning noises began to take place, the fire had come towards Lucius when suddenly – click! The padlock swung open. Miranda smiled at Lucius. She had finally done something nice. But this was no time to keep looking at each other. Lucius pecked open the cage and flew out through the open window. But something on his tail stung. He chose to land on a Sequoia tree right across the hotel. But as he lowered, his tail began hurting more. And then, he went down, down, down till everything was completely black.
+++++“Parrot? Parrot where? I need to see! Excuse me! Pardon me!” a loud voice was yelling. Lucius felt a gentle shaking. “Lucius! Lucius!” called a familiar voice. Lucius looked up. And that is when everything changed. The person was none other than Sia! Lucius looked in amazement as she smiled her biggest smile, looked her largest look, and patted her normalest pat. Sia looked at his tail and looked worried. Luckily there was a truck from a vet. So they left off in it.
+++++Perplexed, Lucius looked around. Suddenly he felt a budge on his tail. For a second, it stung more than ever, and then it felt like nothing had happened. “You are lucky your bird survived in such a terrible fire. You’re also lucky that he only got a little burn on his tail,” said the vet. Sia talked to him for a few minutes. Lucius didn’t understand what was happening, but as he always does, he assumed it as something bad. During that time, Lucius reflected on everything that happened. Penultimate Peninsula, Miranda, George, and Fiona, Hotel Quigley, Engulfed in Flames, Many things had happened. Soon voices started calling out loudly in Lucius mind. “My name is Miranda”, “Farewell Lucius”, “Did you see that fire!”. Just then, Sia’s mom entered. “I talked to Miranda. We can re-purchase Lucius if you want,” She said. “Really? Thanks, mom!” Sia said. She lifted Lucius’ cage. “C’mon. Are you ready to come with me?” Sia asked smiling. Of course Sia. If this happens again you don’t need to ask me. Just do it! Lucius thought. He did a bird-like nod. Sia’s mom and Sia smiled. They both looked at each other happily. “It’s a deal,” Sia’s mom said. “Okay!” Sia said and hugged her mom. “You’re the best, mom,” Sia said. “Let’s start over our lives as a newer better life,” Sia said. “My life will be the best life anyone has ever had.
+++++Usually, I’m sure you would close your curtains before nighttime. Sia closed them, but not fully. She always left a tiny opening in the curtains so in the mornings, broad daylight would shine into the house. Sia’s parents had done something which helped them get their money back. This time, Lucius was sure nothing bad like this would happen again. Sia’s mom began to show more kindness towards Lucius, as Sia’s dad had gotten used to him even before he left to Miranda’s place. In memoriam of hotel Quigley, Lucius would always look right while driving down the Penultimate Peninsula. Life was much better now. Sia was right on starting over. Soon, it was autumn. Sia had to start her first trimester in school. But Lucius would always wait patiently. Those were all pros. There were also cons. Lucius had to eat the same old bird food. The new metal exchange for his cage slowly became the old metal exchange But still, Lucius appreciated living with his true owner. He was now officially, Sia’s bird.
Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Amy Gillson! Amy finished 5th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called The Planting We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!
by Amy Gillson
+++++I awoke with a start. I tried to remember what I had been dreaming about – a world like Earth, but warmer. The temperatures climbed, the snow had melted, and the forest I lived in, Oak Hills, was flooded by what I assumed was the ocean. That wasn’t the worst part, though. I distinctly remembered my tree expelling me from my home, letting me drown in the murky water below. It was like no other dream I had ever had, as if someone had put the thought into my mind.
+++++Suddenly, a knock broke into my thoughts. I looked around my house wondering where it could have come from. The treehouse, really just a cozy hole in an oak’s trunk, was around a foot wide and half a foot long, with the roof resting around four inches from the floor. It was easy to see around the room, and nobody was there. The knocking continued, and I soon realized it could not be from the door. My door was round and sturdy, but it had a peephole on the top, so I would have been able to see who it was.
+++++“Who is it?” I called, to nobody in particular. But, to my surprise, someone answered.
+++++“Delivery! It’s Bushel here, with a package for you,” the voice replied, then continued in an embarrassed tone, “Um, I’m kind of stuck though,” the squirrel replied. I laughed.
+++++“Where? In the root again?” Whenever my friend came with a package, he would step in front of the wrong hole. In front of that hole, was the start of a bird’s nest. Unfortunately, the bottom was not fully done yet, and he always crashed through, falling down the length of half the tree until he landed in between two roots and had to be pulled out by one of his paws.
+++++“Maybe,” he said sheepishly. I could only imagine his face when he said that, and I smiled. Unlatching the door, I exited, soon rescuing Bushel from yet another pickle. I laughed again, remembering his many similar predicaments on our trip over the mountains and to the coast last year.
+++++“So,” I asked, “what’s the package?” Bushel swished his tail and motioned for me to come forward. It was small and oddly shaped covered with brown, wrinkled paper and tied with white string.
+++++“You’re needed. I don’t know why, but Magi wants you,” he whispered, handing me a box. I stifled a gasp. Magi was the leader of all rodents, not only squirrels. The last traces of thought about my strange dream vanished, and I scrambled to my feet.
+++++“Do you know why?” I asked a few minutes later, gathering a few of my belongings for the journey.
+++++Bushel shook his head, then said, “Oh! I almost forgot. Magi sent a letter as well.” After frantically digging through his sack of letters, he took out a small note. It read:
Although we have never met, I have been watching you closely. As you have a kind soul and a heart for adventure, I believe you are one of few that can help us. Please meet me at The Great Pine as soon as possible. (I would recommend some extra food and water, as it may be a long time until you return home.) Also – Do not open the package I have sent until you reach Magi’s Forest.
Magi, King of the Rodents
+++++Bushel walked me to my door before bidding me goodbye. I looked at him for a long time, knowing I wouldn’t see my friend for many suns. I knew I would always remember his gray coat with its unusual tiger-striped pattern.
+++++I finally tore my eyes off him and started to walk away. “Bye!” I called. “I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.”
+++++A few days later, The edge of Oak Hills, my village, was visible. The patch of trees thinned out, and I could see the lands beyond. On the hill I was standing on, I could see Magi’s Forest in the distance. Although it was beautiful, I noticed the forest was brown and dry with patches of dead trees. The usually snowy mountains were bare and desolate. My mind immediately recalled the dream I had had a few suns ago. But was it really just a dream? I continued to ponder this as I made a suitable nest for the night.
+++++I woke at midnight, shivering. I had the same dream as before, but this time I could remember everything. It had been a normal day, but as Bushel delivered a package, he got caught by a wave of water infiltrating the forest. I had tried to climb my tree to get away from the rising water, but the tree pushed me off, separating me from my home and everything I knew. I fell into the water below and noticed that it was much warmer than now. I was caught in the pulling tide and pushed under the water. When I could see again, I was in the ocean. I could recall fish screaming for the minerals of the deep sea that they could not get because there was so much more water between it and them. Likewise, the fish below screamed not for minerals, but for oxygen. Many of the coastal habitats were ruined like my home, and the animals there had no homes and struggled to survive. A blue jay tried to help me, but for every time he tried, another animal became endangered and he got farther and farther away. I tried to call for help, but my voice was stuck in my throat. A wave of hot water covered my head, but not after I got a glimpse of the mountains in the distance. Instead of ice and snow on them, they were brown and desolate. I would die along with the planet. Global warming. The words swam in my head, and I gasped. That’s why I was called to Magi! I had to keep global warming from happening. I scrambled to my feet, running as fast as I could towards the middle of the Large Forest, where Magi’s Forest was, and then Magi. I had to know how I could stop that dream from becoming reality!
+++++As I neared the entrance of Forest of Kin, a blue jay flew towards me. I looked at him closely, confused. He looked exactly like the one in my dream!
+++++“Hello, sir,” I said, trying to be as polite as possible in case he was somehow connected to my dream. Then I shook my head, telling myself that I was just being delusional. “What brings you here?”
+++++“Can I see your satchel?” he asked. “There is something I must know.” I nodded, a little puzzled, but handed it over. Reaching down, the blue jay nosed through my belongings until he found the mysterious package. “I’m Magi’s Messenger, see?” the blue jay continued. “As you must already know, blue jays are his mascot.” I did not know that, and found it odd that the leader of the rodents had a bird as its mascot. But I just watched as he pulled out the parcel, then nodded in thanks before flying away with it in its claws.
+++++“Hey!” I called. “Thief! That’s mine!” I climbed up the tallest tree I could find, then scampered through the branches, following the bird closely, but the jay was always a paw’s length away. Running from tree to tree for hours, as fast as I could, was tiring, but I finally caught up. The only problem was that the blue jay had disappeared! It took a minute for me to catch my breath, and as I did, I looked around. Above me, there was a cloudless blue sky partly blocked by a canopy of leaves and all around, redwood trees stretched up as high as the eye could see. I had only one thought: I was completely lost.
+++++“Lucky I brought you here, eh?” a voice said, startling me. “You’re lucky I kept going after you called me a thief!” The blue jay I had been chasing flew down, dropping my package.
+++++“Where are we?” I asked, completely befuddled.
+++++The blue jay laughed. “We’re in Magi’s Forest. So if you really didn’t know, now you know.” I slowly collected my bearings and took the parcel from the ground. I could finally open it, know what was inside! There was a world of possibilities for it. I didn’t want to ruin it. I wanted to be able to think that anything was possible.
+++++So, surprising even myself, I said, “Blue jay. What is your name?”
+++++Startled, he paused before replying, “Jay.”
+++++“Jay. Please… Can you open the package for me?” Jay looked at me curiously for a moment before nodding. Opening it slowly, Jay finally pulled off the string and slipped the object out of the bag.
+++++It was an acorn. I stared at it. It could have been anything, but it was just an acorn! Scrutinizing it, I decided it looked just like the others I had always picked at home except a half an inch larger than the average one. It could have been a natural phenomenon, but somehow I didn’t think it was.
+++++“Could you bring me to Magi, now?” I asked. “I’d like to talk to him.”
+++++Jay nodded. “He lives in The Great Pine, the oldest tree in the forest.” As we started walking, I tried to start some conversation.
+++++“So,” I asked, “Do you know what rodent Magi is?”
+++++Jay thought for a moment. “Well,” he finally said, “He’s not exactly a rodent.”
+++++“Oh. What is he, then? Have you seen him?”
+++++“That I am not allowed to say, but if you must know more, Magi isn’t what you’d expect.”
+++++“Oh,” I said again. My imagination grew, as I thought about what he could be. Is it possible he was a cross between all of the rodents? Or maybe even a Human? Or whatever you wanted him to be?
+++++As we settled down for the night, I knew the morning would put a new light on things. Once Magi told me what I had to do to stop global warming, who knew what would happen? After a long time with thoughts swirling in my head, I finally fell asleep.
+++++“Are we close yet?” I mumbled. I had been walking for hours, with Jay flying low overhead, and now was in the middle of the forest.
+++++“We’re there, actually,” Jay replied.
+++++“So when will I see Magi?” my excitement, anticipation, and curiosity grew.
+++++“Well –” Jay hesitated. “You don’t suppose you’re talking to him right now?”
+++++I laughed. “You’re joking, right? ” I asked, as we neared The Great Pine. Jay shook his head.
+++++“It’s always hard for travelers to grasp. That a bird with no manners, no flair of superiority, is the great King of the Rodents? Well, it’s true.”
+++++“Why are you a bird?”
+++++Magi sighed. “The name Magi was passed on from king to king, all rodents, until the one before me lost all of his. I was his closest friend and the best person to take the spot, so Magi chose me to take his place. There was much controversy, though, since I’m a bird. That’s why I’m kept hidden from the prying eye of the public.” Magi paused, then returned to the former subject. “Many never do take my advice. An unfortunate waste of time, energy, and magic. But, it’s the only way to test the animals I’ve given gifts to see if they’re worthy. So, will you be another one of them who don’t do anything?” I gaped at Jay – Magi – dumbfounded and slowly shook my head.
+++++“Good. Now, what can you do with an acorn?”
+++++Without stopping to think, I cried, “Eat them!” Magi stared at me with annoyance and slight disapproval, and I immediately regretted it. That was obviously not what I was supposed to do with the acorn.
+++++“Think about it while you return home.”
+++++“Wha-” I started. I was shocked. I came all this way just to learn I had to think about some acorn? Finally, I composed myself. “I will. Thank you.” I bowed, then turned towards home.
+++++As I walked, I had time to think about my feelings. An emotion was stirring inside of me, and finally, I realized what it was: disappointment. Magi was a bird, nothing magical, and he told me nothing that would help global warming.
+++++But still, I thought about what he said because he was still King of the Rodents and known to be very wise. Acorns were seeds. Seeds were dug in holes by squirrels. Squirrels found the seeds in the winter. The squirrels ate the seeds. The squirrels pooped out the seeds. The seeds either became fertilizer or became a plant. If the squirrel didn’t remember where the nuts were (which happens more times than I’ll admit), then the seed grows – that’s it! I had to plant the acorn!
+++++Just like the puffins I tried to save in my dream, I thought of the creatures in the forest. I knew they needed to be saved, but I also knew I couldn’t do it alone. We can plant trees!
+++++It was dawn, three months after I planted the acorn. The other rodents and I were gathered around what the beautiful seed had produced.
+++++“Thank you all for gathering here!” I shouted, projecting my voice throughout the crowd. “Some of you may have noticed that there is less rain, the trees are dying, and Winter is getting shorter. This is because of something called global warming. It threatens all of us. Creatures are losing their homes, not getting enough to drink, and dying because of this. If one of us tries to help, nothing will happen. It’s not enough to stop global warming. But, if everyone does something, it will make a difference. We can fight this curse on nature. We can work together and stop it from continuing to hurt our friends and families!” I paused, letting what I just said sink in. “I just planted one tree,” I said, motioning towards the sapling my acorn had produced. “It will do nothing to help global warming. But–” I stopped again– “if we all plant one tree we can create a forest. If we plant one tree and tell two others to do the same, we will create one hundred forests. One small thing, something that only takes a minute, can do a lot if we do it together.”
+++++I stepped off of the stump I was standing on and looked around at the crowd. The animals that had been afraid and feeling powerless were now enthusiastic and empowered. I saw them scatter, each looking for an acorn or seed to plant or looking for friends to enlighten. I knew then that my journey was complete but the planting had just begun.
Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Somi Hyun! Somi finished 4th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “The Fractured Dorothy” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!
The Fractured Dorothy
by Somi Hyun
+++++Dorothy ran across her uncle’s farm, clutching her shivering dog, Toto, in her arms. The ground shook with a powerful tremor. A crack appeared under Dorothy’s feet. She started to run when Toto started squirming in her arms. She lost her grip on her pet and he dashed away. “Toto! Wait!” Dorothy raced after Toto, her sides heaving. Suddenly, she stumbled on her high-heeled boots and fell onto the ground. As Dorothy tried to get on her feet, the ground opened up underneath her and she fell into complete darkness.
+++++Dorothy felt rather calm as she descended into the chasm. She even felt calm as a swollen purple bee-like creature landed on her nose. “Why, hello Mr. Midget. How do you d- oh no.” Dorothy suddenly recognized what insect it was. She had read “the Full Collection of Dangerous Insects” and it said that this creature was a Madness Midget, a dangerous bug that inflicted madness on everyone it landed on.
+++++Strangely, Dorothy felt fine. She concluded that she had some kind of immunity to the Midget. She was feeling very good about herself when she landed on… SAND?!?! Dorothy was surrounded by a candy desert. The sand consisted of fine grains of brown sugar. Tall sugar cube pyramids cast long shadows on toffee camels that were drinking from a lemonade oasis. Licorice palm trees hung low with sugared dates. The Midget plopped down beside her and lazily buzzed away.
+++++Suddenly, out of the blue, three figures appeared. The one on the right had the silhouette of a lion, the one on the left walked in a strange, droopy way, as though he were made of straw, and the one in the middle walked in a proud march, swinging an axe with every step. The strangest thing was that they were all headed toward her. They came into view as they neared her. The man with the axe said, “Hello young miss! I am the Tin Woodman-called the Woodman-, and these are my comrades, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow.”
+++++Dorothy was about to introduce herself when the midget flew into each person in turn, lazily bumping its snout against the Woodman’s nose, the Scarecrow’s chest, and the Cowardly Lion’s mane. A dreamy look came over their faces and Cowardly Lion joked, “I am the great Aslan! Roar-hiccup! HA HA HA HA!!!” They seemed to lose their minds. “Well, little miss,” the Tin Woodman said. “We are in the Candymedia Desert in the heart of OZ!. I mean, dessert. Hee hee! Get it?” The Woodman’s friends doubled over in mad laughter. Well, Dorothy thought. If it’s candy, I suppose it’s okay to eat.
+++++With that she started picking dates from a particularly small palm tree and dropped them in her blue checkered dress, humming as she worked. Soon she had enough for a decent lunch and sat down near a lemonade oasis. The Scarecrow silently crept up to her and sat next to her. He seemed the most unaffected by the midget, except for the occasional hiccup. “May I share some dates with you?” he asked politely.
+++++Just as the Scarecrow’s friends trotted over to join them, they heard the sound of beating wings and looked up. 4 winged monkeys were flying over them, carrying a (rather large) net. Before the friends could figure out what this would mean, the largest monkey screeched loudly to the others, and they dropped the net on Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Woodman.
+++++Dorothy was squashed against her friends as the monkeys flew off. Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion were cackling madly. Dorothy refused to panic, instead, going over in her mind why these banana-loving abominations would want to capture them. They had been flying for an hour or so when they saw in the distance a tall, ash-colored castle that seemed to be made of iron. Its tall spires seemed to touch the churning black clouds above it. There was only one word to describe it: Deadly. The biggest monkey said in a gruff voice, “We’re at the Witch’s palace. Uh… please don’t tease her.” The foursome stared at the monkey, and he blushed as red as a ripe tomato soaked in ketchup and rolled in red food coloring.
+++++Before any of them could ask about his statement and why he blushed so hard, they hit the ground. HARD. Dorothy rubbed her rump and looked around. They had landed at the entrance to the castle. Strangely, the structure looked pink from this point of view. The four friends marched into the palace, escorted by the monkeys. As soon as she stepped inside the throne room, Dorothy was blinded by pink. The floor was hot pink, the walls were magenta, and the ceilings were tinted with bubblegum pink. In the center of it all, the Witch stood, holding a bouquet of light pink roses and admiring her reflection in a mirror of pink stained glass. “What is it, guards? Did you have to interrupt my ‘Self-Appreciation’ time?,” the Witch screeched in a voice that sounded like nails on a chalkboard.
+++++“Your Majesty-,” a monkey with an indigo beret began. “Silence! I wish to know who possesses the red shoes!,” the Witch screamed at the monkey. “Y-your Majesty, the one with the checkered dress has it,” he said, pointing at Dorothy. The Witch turned towards Dorothy and asked in the most polite voice she could muster, “Darling, where are those red shoes? They are mine. I-uh-lost it the other day. I WANT THOSE RED SHOES!!!,” the Witch cried, losing all control and lunging for Dorothy. “What shoes? I don’t have any shoes other than the ones I’m wearing right now!” Dorothy cried, hopping away from the witch whose skin was turning very red.
+++++The Witch started to search Dorothy for the shoes, occasionally looking her up and down in disgust. I’m not a model to be studied at by a witch who is a lot uglier than me, Dorothy thought.
+++++Suddenly, Cowardly Lion spoke up. “Uh, Your Witchiness?” “Yes? What, you big cat?,” the Witch asked impatiently. “I think I know where the shoes are,” he said, pointing at his mane. The Witch dove at him, clawing at the Cowardly Lion’s golden hair. Finally, she untangled herself from the hair and held up two ruby-colored shoes above her head and cried triumphantly, “I finally have the ruby shoes! I will rule ALL! Mwa ha ha ha! Where did you find these shoes, Lion?” “Well,” Cowardly Lion said, giggling girlishly. “I picked them up at the Candymedia Desert. I thought they would look nice in my mane, but I forgot all about them.”
+++++Just then, Dorothy started tee-heeing. Soon, everyone was sniggering. The monkeys stood to the side of the throne room, trying desperately not to laugh. The Witch was enraged. She dove at Dorothy, both arms outstretched. She looked like a large dark green flying squirrel. Dorothy dodged to the right and screamed at the Tin Woodman, “Don’t just stand, ’ya tinhead! Conk her on the head with your axe or something!” But the Tin Woodman was busy. He was pacing around the room muttering, “Where is it? Where is it?!?!” “Huh? Where is what?” Dorothy asked. At that moment, the Witch seized Dorothy and hit her on the head with a stick. The last thing she heard before blacking out was the Witch’s mad cackling.
+++++“Dorothy? Wake up!” Dorothy blinked and opened her eyes. The pink UV light was blinding her. “Tin Woodman? Is that you?” Dorothy asked groggily. “Yes, it’s me. Get up! I made a new…friend,” the Tin Woodman replied. Dorothy turned to his voice and saw a monkey with a baby blue cape. “AAAGH! It’s a monkey! It has bat wings! It has huge teeth! It’s…crying?!?” Dorothy stared as the caped monkey as it continued to bawl. “He is going to show us how to destroy the Witch! Oh, and the Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow are over there, in case you were wondering,” the Tin Woodman said, giving the monkey a small shake. “Yes, I am. I think,” the monkey said quietly. “Weeellll,” Dorothy said. “Um, could you please TELL US THEN?” “All right, all right,” the monkey cried. “The Witch will only die if she touches laundry detergent.”
+++++Hmmm, Dorothy thought. I can only get laundry detergent from Kansas, but it’s a mess right now. “How are we supposed to get to the detergent?” the Scarecrow said, poking his head into their conversation. “I heard it grows in the Witch’s garden. No one is supposed to go there. “I’ll get it! I saw the garden while flying here in a net!” Dorothy said triumphantly. “All right. What if monkey here goes with you?” the Scarecrow asked. “Nah. I can manage.” The monkey breathed a sigh of relief. “On second thought, I’ll take him.” The monkey turned pale. “Yup, you are coming with me old buddie,” Dorothy told the petrified monkey.
+++++Soon, they were tromping through the halls of the pink castle. “Shhhhhhhh!” the monkey shushed her. They rounded a corner and stopped at…a dead end. “But it’s supposed to be here!” the monkey stammered. “Or maybe it’s supposed to be there!” Dorothy said, pointing at a hole in the ground. She crawled under…and gasped in surprise and horror.
+++++The garden was filled with rotting trees, and they had boxes and cans of laundry detergent strung on them. Dorothy cried, “The Witch is making this SO EASY!” She grabbed a can of detergent and ran back to the others. “Now all we have to do is give it to the Witch! I have an idea,” Dorothy told her friends. “Monkey will serve a drink to the Witch that is full of laundry detergent. Then we sit back and relax!” “Great plan!” everyone yelled. The next day, the monkey dressed in a frilly pink skirt (overseen by Dorothy). He mixed the detergent into a pink smoothie and walked slowly up to the Witch. “Your Witchiness here is your drink,” he said, trembling. “Yes, yes, put it here,” the Witch said, pointing to the coffee table. “But, aren’t you going to drink it?” the Monkey asked. “Not know,” she replied. “But you must drink it.” “I won’t.” “But aren’t you thirsty?” “No.” Finally, Dorothy lost patience. She did a ballerina leap to the Witch and dumped the contents of the drink on her head.
+++++The Witch let out a horrible scream. Her nails clawed at the hem of Dorothy’s dress as she dissolved into a murky goo. She let out a last shriek and she breathed no more (DUN DUN DUUNNN). Dorothy picked out the red slippers from the Witch puddle and put them on before her friends squished her into a hug. And that was the best feeling ever.
Ask nearly any author and she’ll shake her head and say: “I used to hate revision.” After this vehement declaration, one author might shrug and say he accepts revision as a necessary part of the process, another that she now loves revision. Last summer, at our Inklings Book celebration, young writer after young writer said the same: “Revision isn’t all that bad. Hard work, but worth it in the end.”
The question is, why do the overwhelming majority of writers experience a change of heart?
From what I’ve observed and experienced myself, there are three important aha! moments that lead a writer to a change of heart about revision. I’ll share those ahas! shortly, but before I do, let’s address the inevitable question: Why would I want to have a change of heart about revision? Won’t that mean more work?
Honestly, yes. But also, understanding what revision is—and isn’t—can help you tackle that other dreaded writing challenge: writer’s block. If you knew that rolling up your sleeves and putting in a little work would keep you from that horrible, dead-end, stuck-with-a-cement-block-on-your-head feeling, would you be willing to do the work? Or in other words, if you could transform “I can’t,” into “No problem,” would you?
If you would, read on. If not, maybe it’s best to bookmark this post and tuck it away for your next bout of writer’s block.
1. Revision isn’t the same thing as editing.
When I finished my first draft of my first novel, Luconeth, I made a checklist of items to tackle in my revision. One of the first items was to look through my book for all mentions of the word “smoky.” A key feature of my setting was a thick layer of clouds that separated the people who lived in castles on the tops of mountains, and the people who struggled to breathe in the forest below. Since I knew I’d overused the word, I pulled out my thesaurus. How many words for smoky are there? Not many, as it turns out.
The trouble was, I was fiddling with word choice when I hadn’t even considered the big picture. Many of the sentences I was agonizing over would ultimately be cut from the story entirely. Plus, my obsession over the details caused the analytical part of my brain to take over and shut out my creativity. I’ve since learned about the brain science of problem solving. Basically, there are pathways in our brains that allow for expansive, possibility-filled thinking, and others that allow us to weigh options and make critical decisions. When we try to do both at the same time, we’re setting up a mental battle for ourselves. Both kinds of pathways fire, and we end up feeling confused and frustrated.
For most writers, handing revision first and then tackling a word-by-word edit is the right choice. Save spelling, grammar and word-choice for your final read-through. But if revision isn’t reading through a manuscript with a red pen, what then, is it? This is the perfect question to lead us to our next aha!
2. Revision isn’t about fixing what’s wrong. It’s about improving what’s right.
Imagine how it would feel to have a person following you around all day, pointing out every single mistake you made. What if that person had a secret list of rules you’d never seen, so in addition to the mistakes you knew about, she was constantly shaking her head over choices you made that seemed perfectly okay to you?
For many people, this is how revision feels. Someone reads a writer’s story and tells him all of the things that are wrong with it. Possibly, the critiquer gives this feedback in the form of a compliment sandwich, so the writer is supposed to feel better about the list of mistakes because there are a few items in the story that aren’t so bad. No wonder revision is so universally despised!
After writing and revising more than ten novels, I can promise you, no one’s first draft is the best work he or she can do. In fact, the best first drafts are messy, passionate, and in need of structure. Remember how we have different pathways in our brains? Well, the best pathway for drafting a novel is the most creative, possibility-filled one you can tap into. And that mental pathway isn’t very structured. What you’ll end up with is the beating heart of your novel.
You’ll make all kinds of discoveries about what you’re trying to say, about who your characters really are, and about the actual problems they’re facing. Those aren’t mistakes. Those are opportunities! We don’t revise because we did something wrong the first time, we revise because each draft helps us see new layers we can add. Like a developing sketch, each layer of a novel, each revision, adds clarity and depth.
Revision is the process of revealing the heart of your novel. During revision, you’ll untangle your plot threads and character arcs, further define your setting and the world of your story, remove distracting scenes, and add missing scenes. To begin revision, the first question is: What’s working in my novel? What surprises have showed up during your writing process? Maybe you discover that the novel is funny. Or maybe you see new layers in your main character that you didn’t expect at first. Revision will help you make the most of these surprising gifts.
3. Revision helps you match what’s on the page to the image you have in your mind. (And the feeling you have in your heart.)
One of the most common reasons for writer’s block is the gap between what’s on the page and the clear, exciting idea that is in the writer’s mind. When we dream up a character or a setting, we see it in three-dimensional color. Once that idea is on the page in words and sentences and scenes, it can feel flat. Why? When we imagine, we can instantly add background layers, texture, depth and dimension.
These elements don’t usually show up in our first draft of a scene. Imagine a Pixar artist expecting the first sketch of a character to look like a final frame in the movie. Impossible!
In the same way, it’s impossible for any writer, no matter how talented he or she is, to do all the layering necessary to put a fully-dimensional mental image on the page in a first pass. So, how can that writer realize her vision? How can he share the feeling in his heart? Through revision. It’s the only way to make a piece of writing all that it can be.
Your Aha! Moments
I can tell you all of this about revision, but aha! moments can’t be experienced second-hand. If the idea of being able to bring your story more fully to life inspires you, I encourage you to try a different kind of revision. Try starting by reading through your novel, asking yourself, “What’s working?” When the voices in your head start pointing out all of your mistakes, spelling or otherwise, remind them that they are welcome to hang out in the back seat of the car for now. You will deal with mistakes later. Focus on that image in your mind, the feeling in your heart, and the surprises on the page. Allow revision to be play, and you’ll be surprised at how much fun you can have reworking your draft. I suspect you’ll also be delighted by how full and rich your story becomes.
Oh, and by the way, if you try a revision like this, we’d love to hear about your experience. Feel free to post your story below in the comment section. We love to hear from our Inklings.
2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Natalie Sharp
Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Natalie Sharp! Natalie finished 5th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Golden Fields” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!
by Natalie Sharp
+++++Long ago, when the Earth was new and just created, there were colorful gods who roamed the heavens above the clouds. After the gods were created, there came life after it. Almost suddenly, trees sprung from the ground, the sun started to shine, and humans started to walk the Earth. Sometimes, an occasional god flew down from the clouds and created plants or animals or even advice. There was one fun-loving, light-hearted, keen goddess who thought that the heavens were endless and the pink clouds stretched on and on, never anything new or exciting. So she was popular among the people since she walked on land the most. Her name was Golden Fields, god of agriculture and farming. Her hair was wild as a lion’s mane, and her eyes as bright and as blue as blue jay wings. When she floated down to land, she was happy to create vast fields of golden grain and wheat. That’s where she got her name. Occasionally, her friends Shining Sun and Running River, gods of light and water would come down with her and help the field grow. But they wouldn’t stay long, for water and light were needed all around the world. Since Golden Fields provided food (but also work) to the humans, they worshipped her as one of the major goddesses. She enjoyed their trust, but Golden Fields was mischievous as well as curious, so she loved to play tricks on the humans. The humans wouldn’t dare admit to Mother Earth that one of the most supplying gods teased them day and night. They needed her.
+++++Once, mischievous Golden Fields and playful Blazing Fire decided to create. Blazing Fire scampered off to craft flames for a warming fire. Golden Fields ran off to make a substantial field of corn. She crafted exquisite honey-colored corn stalks, reaching toward the sky. Soon enough, humans will come here and harvest these delicious stalks. Best savor them, though. Winter is coming, making it harder and harder to plant, she thought. And with that, she set out to find Blazing Fire. They met, sitting in a high tree.
+++++“Look at those beautiful crops I made. Wouldn’t it be a pity if they were destroyed,” she told him, addressing the rolling hills filled with specks of corn, making the hill look like it was plated with gold. “It would be a pity. That golden corn is the best I’ve ever seen. Let’s go look at them!” The impulsive decision sent Blazing Fire down the tree, with Golden Fields tailing behind. “Didn’t you hear what I said?” she called, as she sped after him at god speed. Apparently, he had not.
+++++Even though Blazing Fire was the god of fire and could destroy the crops in an instant, everything seemed fine with him around. He held a corn delicately in his hands. “I’m being very careful,” he assured her. So Golden Fields relaxed and took on a conceited attitude.
+++++“See the whole field glistening with golden specks! They are so beautiful.”
+++++“Beautiful indeed.” was the answer.
+++++Suddenly, Golden Fields laughed and grabbed Blazing Fire’s hand. They ran through the corn, flashy mustard colored corn whizzing past them as they sprinted through the crops. But as you know, Blazing Fire is the god of fire and could destroy the crops in an instant. Blazing Fire’s fingers skimmed across the stalks, making them start to singe. Then the whole stalk caught on fire. Then it started to spread. With Blazing Fire behind her, Golden Fields didn’t notice the burning corn. It turned from golden to black as it started to smolder, and soon enough, Golden Fields reached the end of the field. They lay panting there for a minute, then Golden Fields started to laugh.
+++++“That was so much fun! Let’s do it again.”
+++++“Okay, but after that, we go home,” panted Blazing Fire.
+++++So they clasped hands and turned back, only to find the beautiful crops burning. They were struck with terror. “I’ll call Running River. We need to clear the flames and make new corn before a human finds out!” cried Golden Fields. They flew into the air, but not before a human rushed out of his wooden barn.
+++++“The fields are on fire!” he shrieked.
+++++Golden Fields frantically turned to Blazing Fire and said, “You find Running River. I’ll deal with the human.”
+++++So Blazing Fire went up, Golden Fields went down.
+++++“Don’t worry,” she assured him, as she guided him out of the flames. “Help is on the way.”
+++++“Blazing Fire . . . ” cried the human.
+++++“It wasn’t Blazing Fire’s fault. I was showing him the crops . . . okay, maybe it was. But it was an accident. Running River is coming. Get out of the fire!” She shoved the human out of the way. Then the clouds grew dark. Rain was on the way. “Running River!” they both called. Indeed, Running River floated down from the clouds. “Out of the way,” he ordered. “Crops will always catch on fire. They will spread. Other things can catch on fire. I won’t always be there to help you. You hold in your hands the power of water. You can help others.” Running River took the human’s hand. He, with his finger, painted the symbol of water on it. Then he whispered something in the human’s ear. Golden Fields flew up to the pink clouds with Running River. “Why did you do that?” she asked Running River. “I can’t always help humans. They have always been so innocent. It’s time to change that.” Golden Fields would have liked to ask more, but she didn’t know what to say.
+++++When they reached the heavens, Mother Earth’s voice called out to them. “Mother Earth is calling us!” gasped Golden Fields.
+++++The voice said, “God and Goddess. You have been very foolish.”
+++++“What, us? We . . . we didn’t do anything!” exclaimed Golden Fields.
+++++“Stop talking!” hissed Running River.
+++++“You both did. Golden Fields, you led a dangerous force through a weak one. Your delicate crops caught on fire and burned to the ground. You were very thoughtless. Running River, you have given a power to a human, upsetting the balance between gods and humans. You cannot take this away. If you do something like this again, I will have every reason to punish you. You have been given a warning.” Mother Earth stopped talking. Running River glowered at Golden Fields and stalked off. She scoffed back. However, she didn’t stay for long. She jumped back down to land. Golden Fields had work to do. Guiltily, she made new corn. They were not sparkling and shining in the sun like the other ones, but dull, dark yellow. They were still edible, of course, but when the humans saw them and bit into them, they felt as dull and dark as the corn was.
+++++In a few days, light hearted Golden Fields had healed, and so she set to work. But her powers didn’t work as well on account of Soft Snow’s arrival. The hard, frosty ground made it hard to plant. Soon, snow would fall and she would not even be able to grow. Of course, this didn’t slow her down, so she traveled to another part of the world where it was dry and hot. She looked day and night for soil that was good for planting. But of course, the sand, red and hot, was not fit for corn or wheat. Golden Fields was determined to plant something, so when she saw a human walking across the desert, she thought about what Running Water did. “Hey! You!” she cried. The human turned her way, with a frantic look on his face. “Yes, come forward!” she said. “A goddess!” the human gasped. “I am dying of hunger and thirst. Please, create cacti so that I will cut it open with my knife and drink the juice. Please! I am dying!”
+++++“Oh, I don’t have to do it.” replied Golden Fields.
+++++“Please! Don’t be cruel!” he cried.
+++++“How about I give you the power of agriculture. You will be able to grow your own food in seconds!”
+++++“Yes, thank you! Thank you!”
+++++Golden Fields, with her finger, drew the symbol of agriculture on the back of the human’s hand. He instantly created all that he wished, and was never hungry again. Golden Fields flew back up to the clouds, looking at the little green spark of cacti among the scorching red sands of the desert.
+++++In minutes she flew back to the heart of the earth, where the heavens rested. As she began to fly up, she realized what she could do now. She could give! As she landed back on the other cold, wintery side of the world, Golden Fields remembered what Mother Earth said to her and Running River: ‘If you do something like this again, I will have every reason to punish you.’
+++++Uh oh . . . she thought. Mother Earth sees all. She undoubtedly saw me give instead of create. What will she do to me? Then she sighed and shook it off. Mother Earth could only see one at a time. She probably didn’t see Golden Fields right at that moment. So she went off happily to tell her friends what she could do. Suddenly a brown wolf whizzed past. “Running Wolf!” she cried, recognizing her friend. The wolf stopped, looked at her, and shifted into a human-like figure. “Golden Fields!” he laughed. “How is everything going?” “Great!” In fact, I have something to tell you. I can give!” “You can give?” “Yes, let me show you!” They ran together to a small village. There was a little girl walking across the road. “You have been chosen,” Golden Fields told the girl instantly. “Me?” “Yes, you!” Golden Fields ignored the puzzled look on her face. “Give me your hand.” The girl held it out, for she was taught to obey the gods’ every command. Golden Fields took it in her own and drew the symbol of agriculture on it.
+++++“You now hold in your hand the power of agriculture. You will never grow hungry again. Now go!” she said. The girl scampered off, maybe a little bit scared. She ran home to her mother and showed her powers to her family.
+++++“So?” asked Golden Fields. “Um . . . ” Running Wolf hesitated. It seemed wrong to turn humans into demigods. But then he realized humans were mostly helpless and didn’t live forever. They needed resources from Mother Earth to survive. “Good idea!” he answered. “Let’s do some more. I’ll spread the word!” Golden Fields giggled in excitement. Soon, the humans wouldn’t be so helpless.
+++++By sunset, all the gods knew the power to give and half the world had powers of their own. Golden Fields had forgotten Mother Earth’s threat. She didn’t think about how Mother Earth sees all. She would have likely seen the gods breaking the rules. Through the eyes of an eagle, Mother Earth saw the humans creating trees, animals, turning into birds, capturing shooting stars, flying, and so much more. She knew it was all the work of the gods when she saw one draw a symbol on one’s hand. Instantly Mother Earth flew down and said to the goddess (Heavy Rain) “How did you manage to give to this human?”
+++++“Oh, Golden Fields did it all, wise eagle. She invented the power to give,” she said.
+++++“And what of Running River? I heard he was giving long before Golden Fields gave her first power.”
+++++“Maybe Golden Fields learned it from him.”
+++++“Hmm.” thought Mother Earth. And flew off. So Golden Fields didn’t listen to my warning! I must find her. As a cheetah she ran over the earth, searching in every forest and looking in every village until she found the mischievous goddess. Golden Fields was laughing as she grew a field of wheat. Mother Earth turned into regular form and scolded, “Did you not listen to my warning?” Golden Fields jumped in surprise as she turned around. “M-mother Earth?” “Yes, it is me. We need to have a talk.” Mother Earth grabbed her hand and led her up above the clouds. “Have you told all the gods about the power to give?” “Uh . . . yes . . . ” Golden Fields said, barely above a whisper. “Do you not recall my warning you?” Mother Earth’s voice was raised. “No, ma’am.” was the answer.
+++++“ALL THE HUMANS HAVE MAGICAL POWERS!”
+++++“I know, but- ”
+++++“THERE IS NO WAY WE CAN TAKE THOSE BACK! THE EARTH IS FALLING APART AT ITS ALREADY VERY YOUNG AGE!”
+++++Golden Fields sighed. The goddess of agriculture was not only mischievous but also clever and smart. “I know how we can take them back.”
+++++She glimpsed a wall of cloud and put her hand on it.
+++++“Well?” asked Mother Earth.
+++++“Turn us – all of us – into a . . . a mask and hang us up on this wall. We won’t do any harm and our powers will be reduced to a minimum.”
+++++“A mask? Why would you think that?”
+++++“Because they resemble our faces and powers. Since no one will be wearing the mask, the powers won’t get out of control. . . . But they’ll still be there.”
+++++“Ah.” Mother Earth didn’t show it, but she did.
So, on January 1st, the start of a new year, the gods and goddesses gathered in one spot – in front of the cloud wall. Mother Earth started them off. “You all know why you’re here. To be punished. Because of you, there are no humans anymore. Just peasants and demigods. But there is a way we can bring back balance. I will turn you all into masks, hanging on this wall. No one will be able to wear them, and therefore no one will have your powers.” Before Mother Earth could lift her hand, Golden Fields thought, You brought this upon yourself. As though Mother Earth agreed, she softly looked at Golden Fields.
This day is known as the start of a new year, yet there is also another forgotten meaning. It is the day the Earth was reborn. As soon as the gods and goddesses turned into masks, the demigods finally turned back into humans, and the Earth became rebalanced. If you’re lucky enough, in an old forgotten place, you just might see a faded carving of how the Earth used to be, and the forgotten history of Earth will come back.
2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Padma Madhyasta
Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Padma Madhyasta! Padma finished 2nd grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Big and Small Friends” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!
Big and Small Friends
by Padma Madhyasta
+++++One afternoon, two hummingbirds, Hum and Gem, were flying around searching for a place to build a new house. Hum had shades of green, yellow and orange all over her body and had a dazzling blue neck. Gem had shades of green and yellow on her body and she had a pretty pink neck. They were the prettiest things, flying together from flower to flower sipping sweet nectar from their long, sleek beaks and looking for a tree to build a home. They stopped for a small break on a tree with purple fruits. They ate the delicious fruits and since it was getting dark, they decided to camp out on that tree for the night. Hum said, “We should build a house on this tree. It has delicious fruits.” But Gem said, “This tree has fruits and so it will attract many animals. We will not be safe here.” Hum agreed. In the morning they continued their search. They finally found a tree with two hollows in it. It had pink flowers all over the branches. Hum and Gem decided that it was the perfect tree to build their home. Over the next few days, they collected leaves, twigs, and yarn and started building their house together. It was finally ready and they were very happy. The house was small, warm and cozy. Hum and Gem started living in their new home. After a few days, Hum and Gem noticed that there was an owl in one of the hollows of the tree. They both were frightened that the owl would hurt them. But they continued to stay there as they liked their new home.
+++++The owl’s name was Owlina. Owlina was white in color with a gray belly and a pink bow on her head. She had recently made the hollow her home. She did not have any friends there. All the small animals and birds living in the tree were scared to talk or play with her as she was much bigger in size than them.
+++++One afternoon, Owlina knocked on Hum and Gem’s door. She wanted to get to know them and play with them. Hum and Gem looked through the keyhole and were scared. They did not open the door. Hum said, “Let’s fly away from here.” They crashed through their own house and flew away as fast as they could. Finally, Hum and Gem found another tree to settle down in and built a new house there.
+++++One day Hum and Gem were playing outside their new house. They saw a few ladybugs playing there too. Hum and Gem wanted to join in the game and approached the ladybugs to talk to them. But the ladybugs were afraid of Hum and Gem and they flew away. Hum and Gem were sad and they flew back to their home. At home, they had an unexpected letter waiting for them. They were surprised. They opened the letter and it was from Owlina. Owlina had found Hum and Gem’s new home and she wanted to apologize for frightening them away from their old house. Owlina wrote,
Dear Little Hummingbirds,
I am the owl that knocked on your door at your old house. My name is Owlina. I was lonely there and I wanted to be friends with you. I am sorry that I scared you out of your beautiful house. I promise that I will not hurt you. I just want to be friends with you. Hope you come back and play with me.
+++++After reading the letter, Hum said, “I do not believe this owl. She is not telling the truth.” On the other hand, Gem said, “I think Owlina is not lying. We were scared of her just like the ladybugs were scared of us today. We should go play with her.” Hum said, “No. I am not going. I do not want to get hurt.” Gem said, “I will go and see if she is friendly. I will be cautious. We will never know if we do not go.”
+++++Next day Gem flew to their old house to meet Owlina. She was cautious at first, but soon she found out that Owlina was friendly. Gem and Owlina played together the entire day and had a lot of fun. Hum was alone in the house, scared to go and play. She was also worried that Owlina might have hurt Gem. In the evening, Gem flew back home and told Hum about all the fun she had with Owlina. Hum missed out on all the fun because she was scared and did not want to try new things. Gem said, “Why don’t you come with me tomorrow? We can both play with Owlina and many other new friends there.”
+++++From then on, Owlina, Hum, and Gem slowly explored all around their new neighborhood and made many new friends in all different shapes, sizes, and colors.
+++++One summer evening, Hum and Gem were sitting on a tree enjoying the beautiful scenery around. Suddenly they heard a rumbling noise, an unusual gust of wind, and saw a cloud of dust. After the dust settled down, they saw two men, with guns in their hands, wearing boots, vests, and camouflage clothes getting down from their vehicle. Hum and Gem knew they were hunters. The hunters were looking around and they saw a young deer. They aimed and shot at the deer, almost hitting it but the deer was lucky to escape. The hunters were tired by now. One of them said, “Let’s go back home today as we are tired. We will come again tomorrow to the same jungle as it has lots of different animals.” Then the hunters went back to their vehicle and rode away forming a dust cloud again. Hum and Gem heard what the hunters talked about and they were frightened.
+++++Hum and Gem flew to Owlina and told her all that they had heard. Since Owlina was the wise one, they thought she could solve this problem. But Owlina said, “We are three small birds. We alone cannot protect the jungle. We have to call a meeting to inform everyone and make a plan for tomorrow.” So, Hum, Gem, and Owlina decided to go to the lion as he was the king of the jungle. Hum and Gem told the lion all about the hunters. The lion thought for a moment. Then he roared as loud as thunder. Hearing that roar, all the creatures in the jungle knew that they had to gather for a meeting at the big old tree. When all the creatures gathered together, the lion told them about the hunters.
+++++A tiger walked to the front of the gathering and said, “I will roar and pounce at the hunters with my sharp claws that they will run away like the little mice.”
+++++Next, an elephant walked to the front and said, “I will stomp my feet and shake the ground so that the hunters cannot move forward. And then I will pick them up with my trunk and throw them away.”
+++++Next, the monkeys said, “We will eat as many bananas as we can and throw all the peels on the ground in the hunters’ way. Then they will slip and fall down and cannot move further.”
+++++All the birds said, “We will fly to them and peck at their faces and eyes.” Hum, Gem, and Owlina were happy as they were eager to help save the jungle.
+++++All the mice said, “We will clutter around their feet and make them trip over and fall.”
+++++All the animals and birds laughed at the mice as they thought the mice were too small to help in any way. Though Hum, Gem, and Owlina felt bad for the mice, they agreed with others that the mice were too small to help. The ants also wanted to help save the jungle. But looking at the animals laugh at the mice, they thought that they were too tiny to help and so, they did not say anything. After it was decided that a few bigger animals were enough to fight the hunters away, all the creatures of the jungle went back to their homes and secured their doors and belongings and prepared for the next day.
+++++The next morning all the animals gathered at the same place where Hum and Gem had seen the hunters before. Hum, Gem, and Owlina were perched high up on a tree and ready with their friends to attack the hunters. At midday, they heard the rumbling noise, a gush of wind and saw a cloud of dust. The hunters got down from their vehicles with guns in their hands and started walking towards the jungle.
+++++Then the tiger let out a big roar. And the elephant trumpeted loudly. The hunters were scared. They fired their guns in the direction of the sound. Now all of the animals were scared by the gun sound and started running away in all directions. Hum, Gem, and Owlina also flew away to a far away tree and hid. But they could see the hunters. The hunters climbed up a tree and sat there waiting for some animal to come back so that they can shoot it.
+++++Meanwhile, the mice and the ants were hiding and they saw all of that happened. The mice decided that they will not let the hunters harm their jungle friends. So they charged all at once from different directions and started going up the tree towards the hunters. The hunters had no clue how to face so many mice. The mice charged at them and bit their hands, legs, nose, ears, and face. Some mice climbed up the hunters’ heads and ran around in their hair and pulled the hair out with their teeth. The hunters fell down to the ground.
+++++The ants saw the mice fighting the hunters and so they decided to go help the mice. All the ants snuck up from behind the hunters and get into their pants and shirts and bite them all over their bodies. The hunters screeched loudly with pain from the bites of the mice and the ants. Hum, Gem, and Owlina saw all this. They flew out of their hiding and pecked at the hunters’ eyes and nose. After some time, Owlina thought the hunters had learned their lesson and so, she asked the mice, ants, Hum, and Gem to stop attacking the hunters. Now the hunters got a chance to get up and run as fast as they could. And as they ran, they screamed, “We will never come to this jungle again.”
+++++The animals came back and saw that the hunters had run away. The animals thought that it was all because of the tiger and the elephant. So they all thanked the tiger and the elephant for being brave and saving their lives. But Gem said, “STOP! The tiger and elephant are not the heroes. They were scared and ran away just like you all. Hum, Owlina and I also flew away. The mice and the ants are the brave ones. They are the real heroes. Even though they are small, they attacked the hunters and drove them away. They showed us that no matter how big or small you are, you are all important to the jungle. Each one of us has our own strength which is unique to us.”
+++++The animals and birds realized their mistake and apologized to the mice and the ants and they thanked them for saving their lives. That day all of them learned a lesson not to laugh at others because of their size, shape or color as everyone is important and has his or her own specialty in this world which no one else has.
Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Mira Aradhya! Mira finished 4th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Lost In The Forest” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!
Lost In The Forest
by Mira Aradhya
+++++“Do I have to go to boarding school?”
+++++“Sorry Tara, but you have to,” said her dad.
+++++Tara mumbled something.
+++++“All right, well you have to start packing for the train tomorrow. Oh! And your friend Fifer is coming! You two are going to share a room on the train.”
+++++“Who’s Fifer?” Tara asked.
+++++“That girl in your school.”
+++++“Just because she’s in my school, doesn’t mean she’s my friend,” Tara said, rolling her eyes.
+++++“Just go pack,” said her dad.
+++++Tara went into her room and shut the door. She started packing all the things she wanted with her. Then she shoved all her stuff into her suitcases. When she was done, she went to dinner and then to bed dreaming about how horrible it would be at boarding school.
* * * * *
+++++The next morning Tara woke up and realized she had to get on the train in two hours. She groaned but climbed out of bed anyway. She got dressed, combed her hair, and brushed her teeth and then went to have breakfast.
+++++“Are you excited to go to your new school?” asked her mom.
+++++“How about making new friends?” +++++Tara shook her head.
+++++“Oh! Look at the time!” Tara’s dad interrupted, “We’ve got to leave! Come on everyone! Let’s get in the car!”
+++++They drove for 45 minutes until they got to the train station. Tara’s parents saw Fifer’s parents and they went over to talk them. Suddenly they heard a loud sound. DING! DING! DING!
+++++“It’s the train bell!” said Fifer’s mom excitedly.
+++++Tara and Fifer hopped onto the train while their parents waved at them. The train door closed and Fifer and Tara were left sitting on their beds. The train was a night train with two beds across from each other, in every room. Tara and Fifer sat there and stared at each other from across the room. Finally Tara decided to try to go to sleep. She laid down on the bed, but found the mattress was very rough. She got up and found a trunk, near the wall, full of blankets. She picked two of the thickest blankets out of it and put them down on the bed. Fifer took out her phone and started texting. Tara laid back on her bed and thought, This isn’t too bad.
+++++Just when Tara started to doze off, the conductor made an announcement. “The train is on fire! Everyone, try to get a fire extinguisher and put out the fire!”
+++++Everyone rushed to the two fire extinguishers in the hallway and started to try to put out the fire, but it was too big. Tara realized they weren’t going to be able to put out the fire in time. She looked out the window and saw that they were going over a bridge, and underneath was a huge forest with lots of trees.
+++++I can land in one of those, thought Tara.
+++++She looked at Fifer and said, “We’re going to have to jump.” Tara threw open the door and felt the wind blasting her face. They bent their legs to get ready for the jump, and leapt off the train, into the forest.
* * * * *
+++++When Tara woke up, it was the afternoon, and she didn’t know where she was. Then she remembered everything that had happened last night. She had a few cuts and bruises from the fall, but nothing severe, since she had landed in a bush. I must have been knocked unconscious from the fall, thought Tara. Then she remembered Fifer. “Fifer!” she yelled.
+++++She went looking all around, then tripped on something and fell. She looked down and realized it was Fifer. “Fifer!” she said, relieved, and she started shaking her.
+++++Fifer opened her eyes and said, “Huh? Where am I?”
+++++“We’re in a forest!” Tara answered.
+++++“What!? Ok, I’m going to try to call someone on my phone.”
+++++“You brought your phone!?”
+++++“Of course! I never go anywhere without it.”
+++++Tara rolled her eyes and said, “Ok, while you do that, I’m going to look around here.” Tara started walking around observing, when suddenly she heard Fifer scream.
+++++She spun around and said, “What is it?!”
+++++“My phone’s dead!” wailed Fifer.
+++++Tara rolled her eyes. “That is the least of our worries right now!” she said. “We don’t know where we are, so we’re going to have to start walking, until we find civilization.” She started walking forward and Fifer followed her. They had walked for about an hour, when they started getting hungry.
+++++“What are we going to eat?” asked Fifer.
+++++“Um… Well… I guess we’ll have to hunt for food,” answered Tara.
+++++“Ew! You can hunt for food. I’m gonna just sit here,” said Fifer as she sat down on a big rock.
+++++Tara rolled her eyes. She went over to a small creek and started reaching her hands in to try to catch fish. She tried for half an hour, but all the fish seemed to quickly swim away when they saw her hands. Finally, Tara gave up. Then, she remembered reading a book about how someone had to eat bugs and roots. She walked over to a tree and found lots of beetles scurrying around the base of the tree. She grabbed them in one hand, and in the other, she pulled up lots of roots from the tree. She walked over to Fifer, who was sleeping.
+++++“Fifer!” Tara yelled into Fifer’s ear.
+++++Fifer shot up from her napping place. “Did you get some food?” she asked. “Yeah,” said Tara. She showed Fifer the bugs and roots.
+++++“You mean, we have to eat… Those? They’re covered in dirt!” Fifer complained.
+++++“I know, I know. But these are the only things I could find. Here, watch. I’ll eat one,” replied Tara. She picked up a root and bit into it, then immediately spit it out. “Um… Okaaay. Maybe those don’t taste so good. The beetles might taste better.”
+++++“They’re gonna taste worse,” warned Fifer. Tara ignored her and lifted a beetle up to her mouth. She dropped it in, then started to chew it. She chewed for a second, then her eyes widened in disgust and she spit the beetle out, too. She gagged, then started wiping her tongue with the rim of her shirt.
+++++Fifer was biting her lip so hard, Tara thought it would start bleeding. Then Fifer doubled over with laughter. When she finally calmed down, she said, “ Let’s try to collect some berries.”
+++++They walked around for a little while and finally found a bush with little, blue berries. Fifer picked one off and popped it into her mouth. “These are really good!” she said excitedly. She and Tara started grabbing handfuls, then stuffed them in their pockets.
+++++Then, Tara became aware of the time. She looked up into the sky and saw the sky was a light purplish-pink shade, and the sun was starting to come down. “We should probably find a place to sleep,” she said.
+++++They walked for an hour and a half, until the sky was a violent indigo. Finally, they entered a small clearing. “We can sleep here,” said Fifer. They collected lots of leaves and put them in a big pile. Then, they gathered another pile of leaves. Then each of them laid down and used their pile of leaves as pillows. Tara was extremely tired so she fell asleep very fast even though she was freezing and the ground was very bumpy. She dreamed of home until she woke up.
* * * * *
+++++Tara yawned and stretched her arms, then went to go wake up Fifer. She walked over to where Fifer had slept, but she was gone. “Fifer!” she yelled.
+++++“Tara!” Fifer shrieked from far away.
+++++“Where are you?!”
+++++“I don’t know! I just woke up here!” answered Fifer. “I think I’m in a cave!”
+++++Tara looked down and saw big paw prints in the dirt. She followed them and they led her to a group of trees. She stepped into the middle of the bunch and kept following the paw prints until she saw a cave. She started toward it, then walked in. Drip. Drip. Drip. Tara looked over to where the sound was coming from and saw thick, golden honey dripping down the walls. She looked all around her and saw large claw marks covering the walls. She opened her mouth to scream, but a hand reached out and covered her mouth.
+++++Tara’s eyes widened in terror, then she came back to her senses and bit down on the hand.
+++++“Ow! Why’d you do that?!” said a voice. The hand on Tara’s mouth let go.
+++++Tara recognized the voice and squinted. She saw that the voice had come from Fifer. “Fifer?!” she shouted.
+++++“Shhh!” Fifer said, shushing Tara.
+++++“Why do we have to be quiet?” whispered Tara.
+++++Fifer gestured for Tara to follow her. They tiptoed, until Fifer held up her hand to stop Tara. She pointed to a big figure sleeping on the floor. Tara took a step closer and realized it was a bear. She started to open up her mouth again to scream.
+++++“Don’t!” Fifer whisper shouted.
+++++Tara let out an ear-splitting shriek.
+++++The bear’s ears pricked up, and it turned its head and growled at them. It got up slowly and took a step toward them, then roared ferociously and charged. Tara and Fifer both screamed and started scrambling to get to the entrance of the cave. Once they got outside, they started running to nowhere in particular. The bear was closing in on them, so Tara pulled Fifer behind a tree. The bear stopped running, made a confused face, and started looking wildly around him. Tara and Fifer waited a little while, until the bear passed them.
+++++Suddenly, Fifer got a funny look on her face. “A-a-a-a-” she stopped, then let out a loud sneeze. “CHOO!”
+++++Tara shot an angry look at her.
+++++“Sorry!” Fifer whispered, covering her nose.
+++++They heard heavy footsteps and turned to find the bear lumbering toward them. Tara grabbed Fifer’s wrist, and started running. They heard the bear roar behind them, which made them run even faster. Tara and Fifer both dove into a bush, then peeked out and saw that the bear had run straight past them. Tara breathed a sigh of relief. They got out of the bush and dusted themselves off.
+++++“That was close,” said Fifer.
+++++Tara nodded and her stomach growled.
+++++They took the berries they had in their pockets and devoured them. Then, they kept walking. They walked for half an hour when Tara tripped and hit the ground, her leg landing in a patch of leaves.
+++++“Ow!” she said.
+++++Fifer bent down to examine what she had tripped on. “Uh-oh,” she said.
+++++“What?” asked Tara.
+++++“This is poison ivy,” Fifer said, worriedly.
+++++“WHAT?!” yelled Tara.
+++++“Shhhh! The bear might come back!” Fifer warned. “And don’t worry. I went camping with my dad, and he taught me how to heal poison ivy. Unfortunately, the stuff we need isn’t in this particular area, so we’re going to have to keep walking.”
+++++They walked for 10 minutes and stopped at a creek. “Ok, first, we’re going to have to wash the place where the poison ivy touched you. But, you’re going to have to do it, because urushiol, which is the stuff inside poison ivy that causes the allergic reaction, will get all over my hands if I clean it out. Now, follow me,” said Fifer as she beckoned to Tara.
+++++They walked over to the creek and Fifer said, “Scoop up the water, pour it on your leg. Do that four times.” Once Tara finished, Fifer said, “Now you’re supposed to clean it with rubbing alcohol, but we don’t have any of that, so we’ll have to skip to the part after that. We’ll have to walk some more.”
+++++They walked for three more minutes when Fifer said, “Ah-ha! This is what we need.” She pointed to a plant with a long translucent stem that had yellow and orange flowers on it. Then, she went and grabbed a handful of the leaves. Additionally, she took a big long rock and a big flat stone. She placed the leaves on the flat stone, then she took the long rock and started mashing all the leaves up. When it was all mashed up she took all of it in her hand and gave it to Tara.
+++++“Now rub it all over your leg,” Fifer directed.
+++++Tara nodded and started smearing it on her leg. It was already nighttime, so once Tara finished, they found a place to sleep.
+++++“Maybe one of us should stay up and look to see if anything comes,” Tara said.
+++++“Ok,” Fifer responded.
+++++“I’ll go first,” Tara said.
+++++Fifer laid down and started to fall asleep. Tara stayed up for four hours, until her eyes started to droop. She started to shake Fifer until Fifer opened her eyes.
+++++“Is it my turn?” Fifer asked.
+++++Tara nodded. Fifer sat up and Tara laid down. She closed her eyes and fell asleep.
* * * * *
+++++When Tara woke up, Fifer already had lots of berries in her hands, for breakfast.
+++++“I decided to get food because I was really hungry,” she said, giving a handful to Tara.
+++++While Tara ate her berries she noticed that her leg was perfectly normal.
+++++“Fifer!” she said excitedly. “My leg healed!”
+++++Fifer gave her a thumbs up as she chewed her berries. When they finished their berries, they started walking. They walked for a couple of hours, until they came across a path.
+++++“What is a path doing here?” asked Fifer.
+++++“It looks kind of like a hiking trail!” said Tara.
+++++They started following it. Tara noticed there were less and less trees as they walked. They saw a family of four passing, and Tara took the chance to ask for directions.
+++++“Excuse me,” she said. “Where’s the nearest grocery store?”
+++++“Go straight, take two lefts, a right, then straight and you’ll be there,” said the mother of the family.
+++++“Thank you,” Fifer said.
+++++They finally walked out of the forest and started following the lady’s directions, until they reached the grocery store. Tara and Fifer walked over to a phone booth and Tara dialed her mom’s phone number.
+++++“Hello?” her mom answered.
+++++“Mom!” Tara said.
+++++“Tara?!” answered her mom. “Where are you? The fire on the train was all over the news!”
+++++Tara explained all the things that had happened to them, then told her mom where they were. After that, Fifer called her parents, talked to them for a little while, then hung up. Then, Tara and Fifer walked over to a bench and sat down to wait. They waited an hour, until a car drove up. Then, another one pulled up. Tara’s parents climbed out of the first car and Fifer’s parents came out of the other car. All of them ran over and embraced their children.
* * * * *
+++++“Come on!” yelled Tara. “We’re gonna be late on our first day of boarding school!”
+++++“I’m coming, I’m coming!” said Fifer, as she hopped off the train. They got their suitcases out of the train, and ran toward the school.
+++++“I heard that we’re going on some field trip for a week, where we have to try to survive in the wilderness! We’ll definitely be experts at that!” said Tara. Then, they walked off laughing.