What a teeth-chattering, blood-pumping, hair-raising and altogether breath-taking lot of stories there were in the final competition of the year. The perfect climax to another fabulously entertaining FABO Story year.
There were a lot of familiar names amongst the entries. It’s wonderful to know there are so many keen and rather talented young writers out there. Your teachers must be so excited to have you in their class!
As usual, choosing a winner proved a complicated and challenging process. With so many different writing styles and genres, it’s like trying to compare apples to orangutans. Judges always have their own personal preferences when deciding what makes one story better than another. For me, I’m always especially excited when writers use unexpectedly descriptive language or have a totally original idea.
There were so many examples of both. Like Brock’s: “screeching noise sounded like a rusty bike slowly going up a hill.” Or Freya’s: “Pippa was petrified, still like a glacier. In front of her was a man-chomping blood-sucking freshwater megaladon.”
I loved Kari’s menacing hunchback scene: Through it she could see the blurred outlines of four hunchbacked old men, howling together and waving gnarled fingers in the air to make complicated patterns. She shuddered.
‘’Created from darkness was the human’’ chanted one,
‘’Created from light was the soul,’’ another intoned,
‘’Brought together they made the norm,’’ chorused the third,
‘’But we will shatter that with this dawn,’’ the last man finished.
As for original ideas – WOW! How’s a judge supposed to choose between Julia’s banshees, Cameron’s vampire nightclub, Phoebe’s wise old purple dragon, Evie’s werewolf, Justin’s aliens bearing Medieval swords or Niamh’s shape-shifter keruru who can’t see windows? The FBI was certainly busy in this round of stories, too.
Many of the entries had a very strong narrative voice – which is so important if you want your story to stand out. Which is why I loved Hannah’s: The ground gave way beneath them. She choked on the grit and soil around her, her vision a messy haze. There was no time to be shocked. The last thing she saw before she blanked out was Archie’s blue baggy jeans, and that darn mahogany shirt. Was that really going to be the last thing she saw before she died?
And Isabella’s: Pippa woke in a glittering palace. At least, she assumed it was a palace, because on the mosaic tiled roof was the word PALACE, and she assumed it was glittering because, well, it was glittering.
It was almost impossible to pick a winner – so I picked two instead.
The first co-winner is Chloe Lamb from Horsham Downs Primary. The writing was very atmospheric with some very powerful descriptions: Lily pads and duckweed rippled as the dark silhouette made its way through the boggy ground towards her. The dripping tangle of hair twisted itself around the animal’s shoulders.
The second co-winner is Indi Taylor from Pt Chevalier Primary. It was a very skillful and entertaining piece of writing. Besides, how could anyone not like “egregious rabbits“?
On behalf of all the FABO judges, I’d like to thank all this year’s entrants for keeping us entertained, amused and inspired. Also a big thanks to the teachers and schools for your support. See you all next year.
In the meantime, keep writing!!
Kyle’s Story Starter
The night was as dark as a dragon’s lair. Pale stars glistened like crystals in the crisp, still air. It was almost silent, too, as though the world was holding its breath. There were only three sounds disturbing the peace. The gruff snuffling of sheep grazing amongst the tussock clumps. The distant whisper of the creek slithering over stones. And Archie’s regular: “Ka-Boosh!”
Pippa swung her torch around. “Do you have to do that?” she asked, already knowing the answer.
Archie’s face was a grinning deathmask. “Of course. Everyone knows if you stand on a landmine you get blown up.”
“They’re not mines, they’re cowpats. And you could avoid them… if you wanted.”
“That’s not much fun, Pip.”
“Well, could you stop it for a while? It’s annoying.”
Pippa swung her torch back to the path and stormed away.
“All right,” Archie said finally. Pippa could almost hear his eyeballs rolling in their sockets.
They’d walked the track to the creek so many times, Pippa was quite sure she could find her way blindfolded. But she kept her eyes peeled and her torch pointed firmly at the ground as she picked her way between the tussocks. The last thing she needed was to fall down a rabbit hole and break her leg again.
She glanced over her shoulder, hoping Archie was being a bit more careful too. When she saw him hunched forward holding a long stick like a rifle, his torch jerking wildly from left to right, she sighed.
“What now?” Archie asked, bewildered. “I’m being quiet, aren’t I?”
“Sometimes you’re such a… such an Archie,” said Pippa.
Archie smiled as if it was a compliment.
The field sloped away, falling towards the chuckling creek. They zig-zagged down the hill, following criss-crossing sheep tracks. Rabbits jerked upright as they were caught in a circle of torchlight. They looked more guilty than startled. Like they’d been caught doing something naughty.
An ear-shattering shriek split the night.
Pippa and Archie bolted upright.
“What was that?” asked Archie.
Pippa was too shocked to answer. Which didn’t make much difference because she didn’t actually have an answer. She’d never heard any sound like it before.
“Come on,” said Archie. “Let’s check it out.”
He sprang off the rock and dashed upstream before Pippa had a chance to argue. She wasn’t at all sure investigating was a good idea. The goosebumps tingling across her entire body suggested it wasn’t. But there was no stopping Archie, so she hurried in pursuit.
Another ear-piercing shriek echoed through the deep, misty valley. Pippa jumped. Archie’s eyes popped out of his head.
‘Let’s check our torch batteries, just in case.’ Archie peered through his torch’s glass casing. ‘Empty,’ he sighed, disappointed.
Pippa cautiously creaked open the case of her torch. ‘Completely…’
And that was when they plunged into terrifying darkness.
‘What do we do now?’ inquired Pippa.
Archie said nothing. For the first time in his life, the smart aleck would not talk. They both knew that it was too late to turn back. So, they stumbled down into the inky black. A soft moaning sound rattled their bones as they made their way down.
‘What was that?’ whispered Archie.
Pippa didn’t answer. Her eyes were fixed on the beast in front of them, her mouth wide open in terror.
A magnificent animal stood in front of her, its midnight black coat shimmering in the lowlight created by the moon on the water. Lily pads and duckweed rippled as the dark silhouette made its way through the boggy ground towards her. The dripping tangle of hair twisted itself around the animal’s shoulders. The creature snorted, a rumble of thunder. It looked something like a horse, except for those eyes. They would not let her go…
‘Pippa! Pippa!’ called Archie, rousing Pippa from the horse’s evil stare.
‘Archie?’ mumbled Pippa weakly, ‘Is that you?’
‘Yes, of course it’s me,’ huffed Archie. ‘C’mon, let’s get out of here.’
‘No’, argued Pippa indignantly, ‘I want to stroke the horse.’
‘Fine,’ snapped Archie, ‘But don’t say I didn’t tell you so.’ He turned grumpily, walking over to a rotting log, squatting on top of its moist surface. Meanwhile, Pippa cautiously picked her way through the bleak landscape. The horse nodded, an evil witch beckoning a lone traveller. Pippa raised her hand to pet the dark horse, hypnotised by its glowing eyes. It nuzzled her hand, a picture of pure warmth. Or was it?
As soon as she placed her soft hand on the horse’s muzzle, it kicked. It bucked. It leaped. It dove down into the water’s murky depths, dragging Pippa too, in its stained teeth. A large pool of crimson liquid spiralled up to the scummy surface of the water. It floated there, suspended between layers of algae.
‘Pippa!!!!!!!!!!’, Archie screamed, his face petrified. No answer. Then… Archie woke up, wrapped in sweaty sheets, calling Pippa’s name.
As if a switch had been flicked, the stars lost their twinkle. The pitch-blackness of the night sky seemed to consume the two in a solemn, almost sinister way. An abrupt gust of wind howled, taking the duo by surprise. Their torches flickered, and, in unison, stopped working. Archie whacked his, desperate to get it glowing again. The blaze it had been projecting was the only reason they could see anything. Now, the light had surrendered. And the shriek – that only seemed to get louder and more high-pitched – made Pippa and Archie’s midnight trip less like an adventure, and more like a mission. A mission to save someone; or something.
A jagged fork of lightning licked across the sky. It temporarily lit up the scene in front of Archie and Pippa. Small creatures marched around in a formation, much like sentinels. It seemed to be in a ceremonial way, as if it was a sacred dance. They were also chanting something that neither Pippa or Archie could decipher. The animals had long, floppy ears and twitching tails. Pippa gasped in shock as she realised what they were: egregious rabbits.
Archie carefully bent down, and found a nearby cow pat. He prodded its surface, checking if it had hardened. Successful, Archie grasped it, as well as others that were adjacent to it. If the bunnies were as evil as they looked, they needed to arm themselves. Pippa, too, gathered piles of dried cow poop, before they both set off towards the rabbits.
Encircled in the dark cape of night, the two crept towards the diabolical mammals. Once close enough, they could see that the bunnies weren’t just parading round in circles – they were guarding something.
Pippa had to crane her neck to see in, as did Archie. Inside the circle of rabbits there was a deep pit. And prowling around the outsides of the pit, making a high-pitched screech was… Marauder?
Marauder had been a stray cat. The siblings’ Dad had seen it hunting on their farm, and had decided to take it in to wage the war on pesky, breeding rabbits he had been trying to eradicate for years. He finally had a secret weapon to defeat them. But the bunnies were now obviously taking matters into their own paws – by eliminating their main threat, Marauder.
With a sudden chorus of mutters, the creatures attacked. Their feet came flying at Archie’s face, while Pippa was dealing with razor-like teeth trying to gnaw at her legs. Archie reached for the cow-pats he had stored under his arms, before flinging them at the rabbits; frisbee style. Some were knocked back into the pit (of doom), while others were sent, soaring into the air. Pippa copied his style; fighting off attackers of her own. Once she was sure Archie had her covered, she raced near the hole. While dodging fierce bunnies, she reached down to pick up a grateful Marauder. Then Pippa ran, triumphantly seeing that Archie was close on her heels.