Inklings Book Finalist: Larrabee Mitchell

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Larrabee Mitchell

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Larrabee Mitchell! Larrabee finished 2nd grade this past school year. The story he submitted is called “THE LEGEND OF CANIS LATRANS” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!



by Larrabee Mitchell

Chapter One: The Crime

+++++Zack Stewart woke up on a sunny day. He had a plan to rob the house across the street. He had been a criminal ever since the government turned him into one. Years ago, he was imprisoned for criticizing the government. He made a deal where he spent all his money to buy his freedom. Now he had to steal money.

+++++He packed his bag and got ready to commit the crime. With a rope, he lowered himself out of his window so as not to be seen. He crept through the bushes quietly and climbed up the wall of his neighbor’s house until he got to the window. He pried open the window and jumped inside. He tossed a beanie over the security camera and moved on.

+++++He took out a silent bomb and placed it on the wall. It blew the wall open, and there was the stash of money he was looking for. He unzipped his bag. And filled it with money. He jumped back out the window and climbed the rope into his house.

+++++He examined the money and flopped onto his bed. It was barely enough money. He plugged earbuds into his phone and started to listen to music.

+++++He was disturbed half way through a song by the sound of sirens. The police had found him. He slid down the rope with the bag of money and ran into the forest. He could hear the police as he crawled through the undergrowth.

+++++He reached a fence and hopped it. He was at the airport. He looked around and then saw a plane carrying cargo that was just about to leave. He ran towards it and dived through the door just as it closed. He hid himself, and the plane lifted off into the sky.

+++++He slowly fell asleep on the plane. He was on the run. He couldn’t get caught. He didn’t want to go back to prison. Then his whole life would be wasted.

Chapter Two: The Stowaway

+++++Zack didn’t do well on planes. He got so sick and for some reason also very thirsty. He could drink anything. Then he saw an open cargo box that held some sort of black formula.

+++++He took one of the test tubes from the box and examined it. It looked edible to him, but he decided to leave it, despite his thirst.

+++++Both his curiosity and his thirst grew. Finally, he couldn’t resist it anymore. He picked up the test tube and drank down the whole thing. It was thirst quenching and tasted much like coffee.

+++++Zack settled back down into a resting position.

+++++“Hey, how much longer till we get to our destination,” said Zack, forgetting that he was a stowaway.

+++++The startled pilot looked back and saw Zack. He said, “What are you doing here?”

+++++The pilot turned on the autopilot while he dealt with Zack.

+++++He marched towards Zack, but Zack had been in many fights as a criminal. Zack brought his knee up and hit the pilot’s stomach, sending him spiraling backward into the floor.

+++++In the middle of the battle, Zack figured out he could turn into a coyote. Then it dawned on him. The black formula had made it so he could shape shift into a coyote.

+++++Zack, in his coyote form, darted around the plane. He opened a window and slashed at the pilot with his claws. The pilot fell backward and out of the plane.

+++++Then Zack put the plane into a dive. Soon he could see an airport and landed the plane there. He turned into a coyote because coyotes can run 15 miles per hour faster than a human.

Chapter Three: The Car Chase

+++++Zack turned back into his human self and checked into a hotel. He opened the door to his room. He flopped onto the bed and dozed off. He only slept for a few minutes.

+++++He woke up and looked out his window only to see police cars in the parking lot. Zack jumped out the window just as the police burst into his room. The police looked out the window and saw him.

+++++Zack broke a car’s window and opened it. He made a key out of the things he could find in the car. He started up the engine and hit the gas pedal. Now the police had gotten into their cars too.

+++++Zack swerved out of the parking lot with the police on his tail. He made the car so it was on its back wheels. He used another car like a ramp and he was launched into the air.

+++++The police caught up with him. A police car bumped him from behind, but that only made Zack’s car go faster.

+++++Just as he drove past a fruit stand, Zack opened his car door and rolled out behind it. The police saw the car was empty but didn’t know where Zack had gone.

+++++Zack grabbed a newspaper and ran into the forest. He looked down at the newspaper. It read: Zack Stewart stole over three million dollars in cash from a house just across the street from his house. He then hid in a plane to get away from the police. It is believed that he can turn into a coyote and has now gathered the name Canis Latrans. Canis Latrans is the Latin and scientific name for coyote.

+++++Zack was surprised that the police knew his real name because his fake identity was Charles Anderson. He was in more danger than he thought. He turned into a coyote so he would be a forest animal and the police wouldn’t find him. He also hoped they wouldn’t find the money. The money was hidden underground near the airport.

Chapter Four: An Ally

+++++Zack woke up and turned into his human self. He stretched and then he started a fire. The fire crackled as the sun rose up into the sky.

+++++“I’ve heard a lot about you,” said a voice behind Zack.

+++++Zack turned around ready to fight. He pinned the woman who had been speaking against a tree and raised his fist.

+++++“Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell the police I found you,” said the woman.

+++++“Who are you?” said Zack, still pinning her to the tree.

+++++“I’m Jessica, and I’m here to help you run away from the police,” said the woman.

+++++Zack motioned for Jessica to sit down. They both sat down by the fire. Zack eyed Jessica suspiciously.

+++++Then Zack spoke, “So you say you’re here to help me?”

+++++“I am here to help you,’ said Jessica. “I hear you can turn into a coyote. Is it true?”

+++++“Yes, it’s true, but it hasn’t always been so,” said Zack.

+++++“What do you mean?” asked Jessica.

+++++“I drank this black formula, and ever since, I’ve been able to turn into a coyote,” said Zack.

+++++“Can I see?” asked Jessica.

+++++“Yes, but then we must rest,” said Zack.

+++++He turned into a coyote and scampered around the campsite. Jessica watched in awe as he did it.

+++++After that, they lay down by the fire and slept.

Chapter Five: Out of the Forest

+++++Zack woke up to the sound of voices. He shook Jessica awake and she rubbed her eyes.

+++++“I heard voices over here last night. I’m going to go check right now,” said a voice.

+++++“Don’t worry,” whispered Jessica. “I brought stunning guns.”

+++++Zack took one and turned it around in his hand. He shoved it in his waistband and climbed up a tree. Zack trained his stunning gun on the entrance to a clearing. One guy came walking through and Zack fired. A clean shot. Zack heard footsteps coming towards the clearing.

+++++Zack dropped from the tree. He started to run and motioned for Jessica to follow him. They ran through the forest and every once in a while turned to shoot behind them.

+++++They reached a sidewalk where two motorcycles were parked. Zack started one up with the key he had made. He tossed the key to Jessica and she did the same. They sped off on their motorcycles in search of a hiding spot.

+++++They finally found the ruins of an old building where they could hide. Zack and Jessica crawled into what used to be an elevator. They curled up and uncomfortably they slept.

Chapter Six: Captured and Rescued

+++++Zack woke up and heard a helicopter in the sky. Its headlights shone down on the ruins of the fallen building.

+++++Jessica woke up and then she said, “We’d better run.”

+++++They ran in different directions. Zack crawled across the ground, trying not to be seen in the darkness of night.

+++++Then, suddenly, the headlights were trained on him. He jumped into some nearby bushes. It was too late. The helicopter had seen him.

+++++Five people jumped out of the helicopter and moved in on Zack. He desperately turned into a coyote, but the men caught him and forced him back to human form.

+++++They handcuffed Zack, and then ropes dropped down from the helicopter and the men climbed up them. One man was holding Zack.

+++++Zack thought this was the end. He would surely be sentenced to death. The government would never let him get away twice. But it wasn’t the end.

+++++Jessica had seen Zack get captured. She was already forming a plan.

+++++She climbed up a tree and bent a branch. She jumped onto the branch just as she let go of it. The branch catapulted her into the sky. She caught hold of the helicopter, broke the window and jumped inside.

+++++She stunned everyone and then took the controls.

+++++“Thank-,” started Zack.

+++++“Thank me later, we got to move,” said Jessica.

Chapter Seven: New News

+++++Zack heard a movement in the helicopter. Then, suddenly, a man popped up from behind a seat and tried to disarm him. Zack put him in a headlock. He then let the man fall to the floor and stunned him.

+++++“We’ve got company,” said Jessica, looking at the radar.

+++++“There are more police helicopters behind us,” said Zack. “Can you get behind that mountain before they spot us?”

+++++“No problem,” said Jessica. “By the way, there’s something I need to show you.”

+++++She turned on the headlights. Zack looked down, and at the foot of the mountain was a huge army of animals.

+++++“They can all be human too,” said Jessica. “That man can turn into a golden eagle.”

+++++“Say what?” Zack asked. “I’m not the only shape shifter?”

+++++“No,” said Jessica. “There are many.”

+++++“Why did you really come to find me?” asked Zack.

+++++“You’re a legend,” said Jessica. “I need your help.”

+++++“What do you mean?” asked Zack.

+++++“I was with a criminal gang. We intercepted a plane carrying the same black liquid you found. I gave it to the others and they all gained the ability to shape shift into different animals. We formed an army,” said Jessica.

+++++“Why do you need me?” asked Zack.

+++++“A coyote is the only animal we’re missing. You are the missing piece. With you, we will be able take control of the whole state,” said Jessica.

+++++“I’m in,” said Zack.

Inklings Book Finalist: Inés García

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Inés García

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Inés García! Inés finished 7th grade this past school year. The poem she submitted is called “The Winter Woods” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!


The Winter Woods

by Inés García
Mother Nature slips under her white blanket, biting and cold.
And falls asleep…
The hares, the weasels slip out of their dirty, dank frocks and don their seamless white dresses, freshly laundered
The fox, she throws off her old summer clothing and buttons up her icy gown, elegant and blinding
They slip off into the freshly painted woods, pale shadows dancing on a pale floor
Time slows to a gentle stop and hops off his horse to take a nap
The rivers, they stop too, and crawl under transparent blankets
Peering out from blue, icy windows
Sound itself disappears in these woods
Leaving no trace at all
She lets the trees do all the talking
They whisper among themselves, their branches adorned with thousands of frozen pearls
-Beautifully quiet
White falls from the passive sky
It lands, gracefully on a deer’s nose
Its sisters fly off elsewhere
Birds of ice
Amid these colorless woods,
Hidden beneath a bush’s watchful eye
Lies Winter’s rubies
They glisten, they glimmer
Blood on paper
Dressed in Fire,
These holly berries rest

June 2017: Featuring Author Mandy Davis

The author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is Mandy Davis.

The Challenge: Things In Common

What are your favorite three books? Do they all have something in common? Are they all by the same author? Do they all start with the same letter? Is the main color of the cover art your favorite color? What other similarities do they have?

Submit your responses by emailing and you might be published on our website!

Spotlight ON…Mandy Davis and her new book SUPERSTAR

An Interview with author Mandy Davis

1. What are your top 3 favorite books?

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling (Is it cheating to name a whole series? I guess if I had to pick just one, I’d say Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Mischief managed.)

2. When/how did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

The year was 2008. I had been an elementary school teacher for five years. While I loved the actual teaching, the mountain of papers always needing to be graded was wearing me down. One October evening, I was working late at school. It was 7:30 pm or so. I was tired. I was hungry. I was considering my options.

Suddenly, a thought popped into my head. What if I wasn’t a teacher anymore? I looked around. Had anyone heard me think that? After spending the last decade working toward becoming the best teacher I could possibly be, it felt almost sacrilegious to imagine myself doing something else. And what could I possibly do? Without missing a beat, another thought popped in my head. I could write.

A few months later, I was at a conference for writing teachers. At this conference, we spent a lot of time actually writing, which made me realize that more than teaching people how to write, I wanted to write myself. I finished out the school year with my fourth graders, then went to graduate school to get my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, which is where I wrote the first draft of SUPERSTAR.

3. What’s your favorite thing about writing? Least favorite?

My favorite thing is that moment when my writing actually makes me start to feel something. It usually takes a while to get there, but once I feel that emotional resonance, I know I’ve found the story.

My least favorite thing about writing is the deadlines. While I know that deadlines are necessary and they can help me get moving on a project, the amount of time it takes to complete something is usually a big question mark for me. Sometimes, I can write pages and pages in a day. Other days, I struggle for every sentence. When I’m under a deadline, instead of relaxing into the work, which results in my best writing, I tend to freeze up because I’m scared I won’t finish the project on time. In order to work successfully under a deadline, I try to finish way before the actual date it’s due. That way, if the work takes a lot longer than I expect it to, I’ll have some wiggle room.

4. How much time per week do you spend writing?

When I’m having a writing week, I write full-time, which ends up being about 30 hours a week. But not every week is a writing week for me. I usually write for a few months at a time; then I take some time away for other work. Sometimes I do house projects. Other times, I take care of family. It’s really important for me to keep a healthy balance between my writing work and the other things I do, which I like to call “life work.”

But even during my weeks of life work when I’m not physically writing, my mind is still working on a story. I usually return to writing with a bunch of new insights and ideas for my current work in progress. The time away also allows me to come back to a project and see it with fresh eyes, which is an integral part of the revision process. That time away ends up being just as important to my creative process as the time I spend writing.

5. What is the most difficult part of your creative process?

The act of writing is like walking into a giant, dark room. It’s all unknown, and while some people find the unknown exciting, I happen to find it absolutely terrifying. The longer I’ve been away from the writing, the bigger and darker (and scarier) the room is. So, even though spending time away is necessary to my process, that first day back is always really scary. Sometimes, I find myself putting it off for days (or even weeks) just because I’m too afraid to face it. Eventually though, the story in my head gets fed up with my procrastination. It doesn’t care that I’m scared and that I have no idea how I’m going to write it. It just wants to get out of my head and become real. So eventually, I take a lot of deep breaths, face my fears, and sit down to write. And just like that, as soon as I actually start writing, the room lights up and I wonder what I was ever scared of in the first place.

6. What was your path to publication?

While in graduate school at Hamline University, I met a lot of amazing people, one of whom was Jill Davis. We found our way into the same writing group, and she began working as an editor at HarperCollins Publishers. For over a year, she would send me notes. Was SUPERSTAR done yet? Had I finished the revision? When was she going to see it? Eventually, I gave her a date when I’d have it done. I was a few days late, but I finally got it to her. She presented the book at an acquisitions meeting a few weeks later, and I had an offer. I found my agent (Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown) and within a few months I had signed my first contract.

7. If you could tell your younger writing self something, what would it be?

Looking back at my life, I realize now that I was always a writer. Before I was even in kindergarten, I used to tell my mom the stories, and she would write them down for me. But as I progressed through school, writing became less about what tugged at my heart and more about assignments and grades. I still enjoyed the process and the work of putting words on a page to make something meaningful, but somewhere around middle school I stopped writing for me. I didn’t start writing for myself again until that fateful October night when I decided I wanted to become a writer. If I could tell my younger writing self something, it would be to keep writing what is in your heart. The writing you do for yourself is just as important (if not more important) than the writing you do for others.

A special thanks to Mandy Davis!

Locate your local independent book store to purchase SUPERSTAR, it is also available at most other nationwide bookstores or online.

Inklings Book Finalist: Natalie Wong

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Natalie Wong

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Natalie Wong! Natalie finished 5th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Winky and Trouble” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!


Winky and Trouble

by Natalie Wong
+++++My name is Winky. I am a grey-blue stuffed elephant with a long trunk and fuzzy ears. I can actually move around on my own, but I lie still when humans are around so they don’t see me move. I live in a bright room with white walls and a bed with polka-dot sheets. My favorite hobby is taking lots of naps every day in that bed.

+++++My owner, who takes care of me, comes home every day and does her homework. After that, she usually plays with me until she has to shower. Usually.
+++++On one particular Friday afternoon, just as she scribbled a last word on an assignment the doorbell rang. She looked out the window, and rushed downstairs immediately once she saw who it was.

+++++I was still lying in bed, considering whether to try to go after her, when I heard two pairs of feet and voices clomping up the stairs. I quickly vetoed my idea of going after her and flopped back down on the bed. The door to the room opened, and my owner, along with another girl, came happily into the room, each eating a large chocolate chip cookie.

+++++I immediately took a dislike to this new girl. She was intruding in MY room, and she was taking up MY owner’s playtime with me! I kept very limp, but strained to see the girl in my peripheral vision. She had blonde hair and was wearing a yellow shirt with jeans. Blondie headed over to the resident computer with my owner and started playing some strange game with specks of light and oddly shaped snakes. I was very confused. Who was this girl, and what was she doing with my owner? One thing was very clear to me though: this girl was preventing my owner from playing with me!

+++++I had to get rid of her, but how? As I racked my brains, Blondie and my owner left the room. Thinking about my problem, I wished I could literally go up to my owner’s parents and talk to them about it.
+++++Maybe I could do or make something that forced the parents to ban people from coming over…
+++++Then it hit me, and I could practically see the light bulb on my head. I could create trouble! If my owner got in trouble, people couldn’t come over as a punishment, and she would be sent to her room where I was. It was a happily ever after for me and for her! I took stock of my tools: a roll of string, the flashlight on the bedside table, and my brilliant brain.

Later that week…

+++++Scampering quickly around to the dishwasher, I opened the door and pulled out the rack. After I was done there, all the silverware was out of order. Then I clambered up to the top of the counter and turned on the tap for cold water. The handle clicked as it turned, but no one heard it. The water only made a slight rushing noise, barely audible through the sound of cars driving past the house.

+++++A few mysterious minutes later, the stoves were turned on, drawers were randomly pulled out, and a pile of dirty dishes was in the sink.
+++++As I tiptoed out, or the closest thing I could do to tiptoeing, I accidentally tripped over the raised carpet on the floor with a muffled THUMP. I froze. A door was being pushed open, and footsteps were heading down to where I was. I tried not to scream and ran around behind the stairs to hide. Unfortunately, the footsteps grew louder and louder. A shadow loomed over me, and the big blinking eyes of my owner’s dad peered curiously at mine. The stairwell I was hiding behind was far enough from the kitchen that I couldn’t hear the stoves or water running. I went limp and tried to look lifeless. “What do we have here?” he muttered to himself. Picking me up, he crept back upstairs with me hanging limp from his hand and proceeded to my owner’s room. The door cracked open and her bleary eyes looked at me, confused. “I found this guy downstairs. Any idea how he got there?” the father asked. My owner shook her head, even more puzzled. “No,” she answered. Her dad shrugged and placed me in her hands, then closed the door and went downstairs again.

+++++That was a close call! My owner was staring at me, but then whispered, “I must’ve left you downstairs after dinner,” and laid back down to sleep. If she probed her memory, I knew she would realize that she’d been sleeping with me the whole time and that would be a whole other sticky situation I would have to figure out. Presently, I dreaded when her dad found out what I’d done, but at least I was safely back in my room for the night.

+++++That satisfaction was short lived. In the morning, when it wasn’t even eight yet, a piercing yell cut through the quiet.


+++++My owner groaned, but quickly hurried downstairs. She came back up half an hour later looking miserable and defiant.

+++++“I didn’t do it! Why won’t they just listen to me for once?! I wasn’t even downstairs last night! Then they said I had to clean it up! Seriously though, no playdates for six months?! And no, I don’t know how Winky got down there! Aaargh!!!” she grumbled while heatedly storming around the room. I felt twinges of shame, but at least there would be no playdates for a long time!

+++++As the day passed by, I noticed my owner seeming to feel more and more sad and angry. She often was sulking in our bedroom and rarely talked in a friendly manner with her parents while the hours wasted away.

+++++I started to worry that I had gone too far with the trouble, because my owner wasn’t acting like her normal self. Then when it was around six in the evening, she stormed upstairs, slammed her bedroom door shut, and started sniffling. “I’m not ever going to clean the kitchen up! I don’t care!” she furiously growled.

+++++I felt like the worst stuffy in the world, watching as tears dripped down her red and blotchy face, knowing that I caused them. Stuffies are supposed to support and comfort their owners, not make them sad and angry. I hadn’t thought about how badly my owner would be affected when I was making trouble. I’d been horribly selfish! This was all for my benefit, and I hadn’t thought twice about other people’s needs. That was it. No more trouble making, and no more selfishness, even if the visitors came every afternoon for the rest of my life.

+++++Seeing those tears also made me realize that my owner had to deal with a lot more stress and work than me. That night, I crept downstairs without a sound and cleaned all the trouble I had made up. The next day, my owner and her parents woke up and went to the kitchen as normal to make breakfast. From my perch up against the bedroom wall, I could hear heated conversation and a then squeal of delight. When my owner came back upstairs, she related everything that had happened to her with her parents. Little did she know that I already knew what had happened.

+++++“So I went downstairs and by some magic, everything had been cleaned up! Mommy and Daddy did question me, but they were questions that I could answer without being the one who caused it. I actually didn’t do it, but right now I’ll take their forgiveness because I really don’t want them mad at me for no reason at all again,” she explained. “Plus, because they think I did it, they said I could have dessert!” I smiled big in my heart, knowing that my owner would be happy again with her family. I also knew that I would try hard to be a better stuffy to her. Plus, I didn’t care, and I still don’t, how many visitors she got. I just wanted her to be happy.

Inklings Book Finalist: Callum Yeaman

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Callum Yeaman

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Callum Yeaman! Callum has just finished 7th grade this past school year. His story is called “The Prefect Apple Pie”. Callum tells us that this short story is based on the family story of how his grandmother learned to cook her apple pie. Now we want some apple pie… We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did! Leave a comment below on what you thought!


The Perfect Apple Pie

by Callum Yeaman

+++++It was three thirty-two on a sunny afternoon in 1965, and Julie was starting to panic. Her new husband, Henry, would be back from work at the military base at six, and she wanted to have a wonderful dinner on the table for him.
+++++Back in California Julie had cherished the apple pie that her mother used to bake. The apples were always perfectly coated in ginger, not too sweet, but juicy and seasoned with just a little bit of salt. The butter crust was cooked till the edges were a rich golden brown, and when you bit into it you were treated to a moist, scrumptious surprise, still warm from the oven. The pie seemed to smell of fall, the dough crispy like the weather, and the apples fragrant with cinnamon.
+++++Now, in the new house on the military base in Germany, Julie’s mouth watered. She was going to make an apple pie just like that. She started pacing up and down the small, plain, unfamiliar kitchen. To go along with the pie, Julie would prepare a chicken stuffed with carrots, zucchini and onions, just like her mom had done with the turkeys on Thanksgiving, her favorite meal of the year. Just like the turkey, Julie was going to make her chicken juicy, rich and succulent, with the aroma of freshly picked vegetables. She bounced around the room, visualizing how perfect it would look, imagining the look on Henry’s face when he would say, “Oh Julie. This is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.” He had already bragged to everybody on the base that his new wife was the best cook there was.
+++++The only problem was that Julie didn’t know how to cook. In California, her mom had been so eager to help that that she’d cooked delicious meals for Henry every night, and Julie had pretended that she’d baked them by herself.
+++++But now she was a married woman, nineteen years old, living in a strange country, with no mom or sisters to call. Julie examined the house with its plain green walls and the solemn painting of George Washington, which hung about three feet from where she was standing in the kitchen. It was so quiet in Germany, so different from her family’s house in California. So different than the walls covered with family pictures and the shelves cluttered with ornaments and filled to the brim with joy. At home, the rugs had been passed down for generations and the paintings all had meaning. In Germany there were no birds chirping outside, no friends stopping by, and nobody was ever on the streets. Just a line of houses: green and gray. Wherever you looked, green walls with a gray trim. Every house was the same. It was an eerie kind of order. A couple of hundred yards away, the big arched gate stood towering over the entry to the base. She could see the dirt pathway where Henry would return at the end of the day.
+++++But first, she had to make this meal. Earlier today Julie had gone to the store and bought every food and spice she could think of, filling the cabinets and making the cabin a little less austere.
+++++She cut a hole in the middle of the chicken, stuffed it with vegetables and herbs, and covered it with salt and pepper, just like her mother had done with the turkey. Unsure of what to do next, she preheated the oven to 500 degrees, which had to be hot enough, and threw the chicken in.
+++++Next up was the apple pie. Her mom had always bragged about making a perfect butter crust, but had never explained how to do it. Julie supposed she needed flour, apples (the green kind) ginger, water, sugar, nutmeg, and maybe cinnamon? She would probably need to throw some butter in there, too. Just as she poured the flour into the round silver bowl, she realized she had absolutely no idea what she was doing.
+++++Then the question came to her: What would happen if it all went drastically wrong? Everybody on the military base was probably already judging her already, watching for every mistake. To impress them, and most importantly, Henry, she had to make the perfect pie. With more purpose, she mixed the water, butter, flour, and shortening in the bowl. To her surprise, this made a sort of sticky, doughy thing, resembling an uncooked pie crust. She picked it up. The pastry was dripping wet in her hands. She figured that it would be fine if she just let it dry.
+++++“Ugh,” she grunted. Now she was irritated with her mom, who she had always admired so much. Why couldn’t she have taught her to cook sooner instead of covering up for her? Why hadn’t Julie told her mom to let her learn to do it by herself?
+++++Julie rolled out the gluey mixture, and curled it up at the sides. Next she would prepare the apples. She started to cook them with some ginger and nutmeg. She left them in the pan on full heat for five minutes, and soon they were burnt to a crisp. Now, what was she going to do?
+++++She the timer for half an hour and went back to the crust, mixing another batch of dough, and then another, until she’d used the whole bag of flour. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get it right. Flour spattered everywhere, all over the counter, on the floor and the oven––even in her hair! After the timer went off, she trudged over to the oven. As she opened it up, heat and smoke surged through the doors. It smelled like fall––if a fire had struck and all of the trees were burning down. When the smoke cleared, inside she saw what had once resembled a chicken. It was charred as a burnt piece of wood, and when she stabbed it with a fork it felt as solid as a rock. A tear stroked down Julie’s cheek, which was still scorching hot from the oven. Her nightmare was coming true!
+++++When she looked over at the clock the time was 5:15. She had to get her act together. Without thinking, she turned up the oven to 550 degrees, set the timer for 45 minutes, threw the apples into the crust, and shoved the whole thing in the oven.
+++++The next 45 minutes were the longest of her life. She thought about how everything had gone wrong and how Henry was going to hate her, and the whole town would be talking about her behind her back. She was never going to have a family or a husband who loved her.
+++++When the time came to take the pie out she placed her hand on the metal bar of the oven, scared about what was coming next. The sweet scent of apples wafted through the air but the room was as hot as coals on a grill. Without second thought, Julie threw the bar down, pulling open the oven. Soggy pieces of pie burst out into the kitchen, and what was left of the apples exploded from a pile of mush that must have once been the crust. She took step backward, slipped on one of the apple slices on the ground, and fell on the floor. She got up, infuriated, and bashed her elbow on the counter.
+++++“Ow! ” she yelled, hopping around in pain as the chicken fell to the floor, and the vegetables that she was about to remove spilled into the sink with all of the dirty dishes. She was kneeling on the floor, covered in flour, surrounded by a soggy, blackened heap when Henry walked in.
+++++“Julie! Are you okay? What happened!?” Henry stood over her. His expression was bewildered, his eyes swiveling between her and the demolished dinner.
+++++“Um, I think I burnt the pie,” she said, brushing a crumb off her shirt.
+++++“Well I can see that!” Henry said, “but how? Tell me the whole story.”
+++++Then it became clear that this was Julie’s time to apologize.
+++++“Henry, there is something have to tell you. When I met you, I knew how much you loved to eat. I thought you’d never marry me if you knew what a terrible cook I was. My mom felt bad for me, so every day before you got home, she would prepare a dinner, and I would pretend that it was actually me who made it. Today, my mom wasn’t there to help.”
+++++“Oh, Julie.” Henry wiped a bit of flour off her cheek. “You know I love you twice as much as any food I’ve ever tasted.” Crouching down on the floor beside her, he picked up one of the bits of crust that had exploded from the oven. “But, you know, this pie looks quite delicious.” He popped a bit of charred crust into his mouth, and nodded. “In fact, it might be the perfect pie.”
+++++As the two of them sat on the floor, laughing and picking at ruined bits of crust and fruit, Julie had to admit that Henry was right.
+++++It was the perfect apple pie.

Inklings Book Finalist: Alexa Zhang

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Alexa Zhang


Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Alexa Zhang! Alexa is wrapping up the third grade this year and submitted an ocean themed poem.


by Alexa Zhang

I am from nature,
       from those worlds,
       but especially the crystals of dew that hang,
       holding on, only to drop like rain.

The sea was where I had been cast into life
       and gained my name.

For I was born a blue angel,
       molten gold rippling through me,
       scattering the light.
The first thing I remember is
       twirling on a cloud and chasing dolphins, 
       happy and carefree.
But now I am resting on the beach,
       still as beautiful as before,
       still carefree, but limited.

Everyday, I must run to places where the land meets the sea.
Everyday, I hear the giggles of children as a melody,
like what I used to be.

But I am from nature and I am peaceful.
For I can remember,
       the sweet voice of the past.

We hope you enjoyed Alexa’s poem as much as we did, leave us a comment about it!

Inklings Book Finalist: Aarna Patil

2017 Inklings Book Contest finalist: Aarna Patil

Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Aarna Patil! Aama finished 2nd grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “George Climbs A Tree!” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!


George Climbs A Tree!

by Aarna Patil

Once there lived two friends, George and Tim. They were in second grade in the same school. They used to walk together from school to home everyday. Tim was full of mischief and liked to challenge his friends to do dangerous things. George always fell for the challenges Tim dared him to do.

On their way to home, there was a huge tree. One day they were walking as usual, when they reached the huge tree, Tim challenged George saying “Hey George, I dare you to climb to the top of this tree”.

“Nooooo, that is way too dangerous” shouted George. Tim started to tease George saying ”You are a scaredy cat”.
“Do it or else I will tell the entire school that you are so puny”.

George waited for a while thinking about climbing the tree, finally he said, ”okay fine, I will do it”.
George started to climb up the tree, when he was a few branches from the top, he felt like giving up the challenge but then he remembered Tim’s words. When he finally reached to the top, he looked down from the top and his legs started to shake profusely and he was too scared to get down.

“Tim, I can not get down. I am too scared that I might fall”, said George and started crying.

Tim told George not to panic and to take small steps down the tree but George was not ready to listen and continued crying.

Tim got very scared and thought if something happens to George, he might get in trouble so he started thinking of a way to get George down safely.

After a few minutes he came up with an idea, he asked George to wait for some time. Tim ran back to his house as quickly as he could, opened the door using the key under the door mat. Tim directly went to his room, he was out of breath but did not wait too long and quickly grabbed a comforter from his room and ran out of the door. When he reached the tree, George had stopped crying by then but was holding the tree trunk tightly.

Tim calmly told George about his idea of placing the comforter under the tree and George would jump down on it. George agreed on the same but he thought that if he jumped from this height he might get hurt so he started taking small steps down and when he got to the point where it was safe to jump, he jumped and landed with a big thud on the comforter.

”I am sorry I challenged you to climb that tree” apologized Tim. Then they both agreed that henceforth they would not challenge each other to do dangerous things.

Parent Corner: Magical Doorways

Build your improvisation muscles

Often, I start a writer’s workshop with the question, “Who has found themselves staring at a blank page, not sure what to write?” In nearly every classroom, at every age level, hands spring into the air. The way to avoid the blank page problem is to practice improvisation. Improv is all about creating something out of thin air.

Here’s a playful activity that will help you (and your young writers) build your improvisation muscles.

Parent Corner: Magical Doorways

Activity: Magical Doorways
Where to Play: Anywhere
Materials Needed: None
How to Play:
  1. While you’re out and about, stop for a moment and take a look around.
  2. Each player should choose something in eyesight that could be a magical doorway. Many objects might be a doorway: a clock, a music box, a painting, or even an abandoned shoe.
  3. As you continue on your way, each player should share a few details about the magical doorway he or she has chosen. How do you go through? What is immediately on the other side? What kinds of adventures can you have in the world on the other side? How do you return home?

May 2017: Featuring Author Kim Culbertson

The author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is Kim Culbertson.

The Challenge: Party Time

Our featured author, Kim Culbertson, talks to us about setting.

Pick one of your favorite places. Grab a pencil and paper or a new page in your word processor and describe it in detail (what does it look like, sound like, smell like?). Now, make that place the location of a party and describe it again. How did the party change your setting?

Submit your responses by emailing and you might be published on our website!


The Wonder of Us ” and Kim Culbertson


Kim Culbertson’s The Wonder of Us

An Interview with author Kim Culberston

1. When did you claim the title of being called writer? What about author?

What an interesting question — I love it. This is ultimately an identity question: how we define and label ourselves. It is one of the subjects I most love exploring in my work. I think that deep down I always knew I was a writer. I used to think, falsely, that you had to be published to call yourself a writer or an author and that is definitely not true. Being a writer or an author is a mindset, a lens — our own specific voice and interpretation of the world. And it is also doing the work. You are a writer if you are actively writing. Not necessarily every day, but in a way that you find meaningful and motivating. My daughter gave me a postcard with a quote from Picasso that says, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” Being a writer, for me, is doing the work.


2. This month we are talking about setting and descriptive language. How did you select the many different settings for your newest book “The Wonder of Us” released in April?
How would you describe your favorite setting/place in 3 juicy words?

I love to travel — everywhere I go in the world changes me in some way. I also love a good road trip novel, so for The Wonder of Us, I wanted that road trip feel but set in Europe, a place where I love to travel. In the novel, Abby, one of my main characters, is obsessed with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, so I knew I needed seven cities to parallel that. I wanted to set part of the novel in Florence as it’s one of my favorite cities, so that came to me first. My editor, Jody Corbett, and senior editor, David Levithan, suggested Berlin, which ended up being such a significant setting for this story. The other settings — London, Zurich, Edinburgh, Reykjavik, and the girls’ fictitious Northern California town of Yuba Ridge came from places that are special to me.

I don’t have a favorite setting or place — but I love any place that includes a vast, surprising, color-drenched sky.


3. If Riya and Abby of “The Wonder of Us” had to live in different time periods when would they live? How would it change them?

Abby is obsessed with Ancient History so I feel like she would choose to live somewhere with a significant culture of change, like Ancient Egypt or Greece. But she knows that life would be difficult in those times and as a girl she would not have the rights she has now, so that would be a big impact on her. Riya would undoubtedly live in the future, perhaps somewhere in space. And she would wear killer space shoes.


4. Would You Rather: Would you rather have to write stories ALWAYS in the same place? Or ALWAYS with the same characters?

That is such a difficult question because I love both so much. It’s also a question that seems to hint at asking if I’d rather write a series or stand alone novels. So, for the sake of this question, I’ll choose new characters. For now, I’ve always wanted to start over with new characters, which is why I’ve written stand alone novels so far. I write very much to understand people, so changing characters continues to allow me to live in new perspectives.


5. It has been about a year since the release of your last book “The Possibility of Now“. What have you learned about your characters or the story now that so much time has passed?

I wrote this novel very much from my teacher heart, from seeing so many of my students stressed about their futures. I’ve been surprised and touched by the many emails readers have sent me to tell me how much they related to Mara. But I’ve also had emails from readers saying, “Wow, these sorts of kids always annoy me, but now I understand them more.” And this makes me so happy because I don’t think we should just read books because we relate to a character. It’s equally important to read about people we don’t relate to — it builds our empathy and compassion to see into the viewpoints of people who are unlike us.

6. Is Amazon the best place to purchase or do you have another preferred retailer?

I’m a huge indie bookstore girl. My local bookstore The Book Seller in Grass Valley, CA has been so wonderful to me, so I alway encourage people to get the books from their local independent store. Also, if they’d like a signed copy, they can order through the Book Seller and I will happily go sign their book. Check out my bio and photo at

A special thanks to Kim Culbertson!

Locate your local independent book store to purchase The Wonder of Us, it is also available at most other nationwide bookstores or online.

An Improvisational Mindset

This post is by our founder and executive director, Naomi Kinsman. She has been sharing about the Society of Young Inklings teaching method called Writerly Play. To read more about it, see this previous post.

Writerly Play started as an experiment.

In theatre class, my students were using improv games to develop a collaborative script. They each wanted the story to go a different way. As their director, I needed them to find a compromise. However, as a writer, I saw their point. The games lit up their imaginations, connected with their hearts, and created ideas for plot lines that spiderwebbed out in hundreds of directions.

I decided to try using the improvisational games in a writing class. Success! Weeks one and two were an overwhelming success. However, by week three and four, each writer had started his or her story, and we needed to move beyond idea generation. What, I wondered, might the role of improvisation be in a writer’s process?
In theatre, improvisational games are often used to explore possibilities. Actors work on skills such as the ability to say yes to ideas, to physicalize characters in believable ways, and to deliver dialogue with excellent timing and clarity. My writers didn’t need to perform their stories for an audience. It didn’t make sense to take the improvisational games in the direction I’d been trained to take them: toward stronger performance skills. We needed to use the games to capture and develop ideas on the page.
Through experimentation, my students and I learned many things about how improvisation can inform and facilitate the writing process. We’ll explore more of what we discovered in coming weeks. Today, I want to focus on one of our first discoveries, which had to do with the questions, “What if…?” and “How might I…?
One of the fundamental differences between a writer who stares at a blank page and a writer who simply starts writing is the ability to ask oneself, “What if…?” or “How might I…?
The first writer waits for an idea to show up. She’s expecting the idea to look something like the beginning of a story, something along the lines of “Once upon a time, a frog…” Or, she may be searching her mind for a possible character, such as a giant or a dragon or a chef. If we could peek inside her mind, we’d see that the writer is concentrating deeply, rummaging around in her imagination for shreds of ideas, hoping to catch hold of something promising. If she does land on an idea, the first thing she does is launch an interrogation. What are the details of this possibility? Will it be interesting and exciting? Will she be able to write a whole story about it? Are there any weaknesses? If the idea doesn’t live up to her expectations, it’s tossed out, and she’s back to searching for the perfect idea.
No wonder she struggles to write anything down on her blank page.
Now, the second writer doesn’t start by waiting or rummaging. Instead, he asks himself, “What if…?” or “How might I…?” and fills in one of those two blanks with a question. “What if a dragon showed up on the school bus?” or “How might I start a story about a girl and her dog?”
The second writer doesn’t worry about whether this story will work out in the end. He might write for a few minutes, exploring the question he’s posed and decide he wants to start again. His questions are still there waiting for him. This is an important distinction, because with his questions, he can try again. “What if a mouse carved a boat out of cheese?” or “How else might I start a story about a girl and her dog?”
One of the most important skills improvisation teaches is the ability to ask productive questions without worrying about where the answers will lead. An improvisational scene need only take a minute or two to play out. After it is done, the actors can try another one. Improvisation is quick and requires very little commitment. When writers feel as though every idea they choose will take weeks to complete, of course they will labor over finding the perfect option. If, instead, a writer approaches his or her work with an improvisational mindset, writing becomes a series of fast-paced experiments. When an idea runs into a dead end, the writer can determine what didn’t work and start again with new information. The idea develops over time with each iteration.
Both writers may take a while to commit to a story. However, the writer with the improvisational mindset has much more to show for his thinking process. He has snippets of ideas that he can now weave into his work, while the writer who sought the perfect idea is still staring at her blank page.
The ability to ask these powerful questions, and to explore a story with an improvisational mindset is key to overcoming obstacles and blocks along the way. The creative process is always bumpy and a writer’s chances of getting stuck at some point are nearly 100%. That’s why Writerly Play focuses on helping writers learn to ask questions and to explore options. Over time, we’ve learned that in addition to traditional theatre games, there are many other improvisational games that tap into other kinds of play. Drawing, collage, question games, and many other activities develop mental flexibility and the ability to ask questions and play with possibilities.
What are your favorite games that stretch your ability to explore options? Feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below. Or, connect with us on Facebook or Twitter. We always love hearing from you.
To read more thoughts on how improv can play a role in your creative life, read this.
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