This is my first time as a judge for the FABO Story Competition and I am extremely impressed by the enthusiasm, originality, talent and hard work shown by the 140 young Kiwi writers who sent their stories in. I loved reading all the entries—it was like getting to open a present every time another story arrived in my inbox!
All the stories were special in some way and it is a shame that I can’t name all of them.
There were stories with wonderful sentences such as Olivia Morriss’s: Something about this man wants me to stay far away from him. Like, football field far away. He stops, and frowns down at me, making every fold and wrinkle in his face enlarge, so they look more like canyons and mountains to me.
Emily F told us a lot about the main character’s father with this great sentence: Funny how dad can be such a great guy, yet a guy with a very risky temper.
Some of you wrote what felt like the start of some very exciting longer stories and had me curious as to what was going to happen next, like Aisha G with Auntie Antoinette, her mysterious The B.U.T.T.O.N. Organization and a chilling poem:
…Thanks to our government’s secret:
Our lives have been corrupted.
Now we will stop this, led by the one and only Queen Antoinette.
Sarah P’s work had a great style, which made me want to keep reading because it was so engaging to read: My mind whirls so much, trying to think up some smart words to be my last ones, that I barely notice I had accidentally pushed a tiny, hidden button…
Anna’s story used many of the five senses, so that I felt that I was really in the story: THUMP! I open my eyes. I’m lying on the floor beside my bed. My chest is heaving. My whole body is covered in freezing cold sweat.
Meriania’s story was wonderfully original and told of inherited loss and family trauma: The box is a family heirloom that my great great grandfather lost and bad luck had come upon every generation.
Aleece’s story had a terrific simile: My hands were sweaty and I was shaking like a wet dog. I could visualise the shaking clearly!
Lincey had a great descriptive sentence: My mouth drops to the ground, eyes as big as pizzas, and I am like a muted ipad.
I loved Ruby A’s story, which contained an Ed Sheeran look-alike, as well as drama, sadness, action and humour: I felt awfully awkward as Mr Gee and this customer had invested themselves in a stare off.
The following people gave us wonderful images with their words:
Elena: He’s wearing a blue top hat, a ring made out of metal, a bracelet of blue bowstring strapped tight around his wrist, and a black cane with a red snake wrapping around it and the head as the grip.
Gemini: The bullies were dressed in ripped shorts and t-shirts with sweat dripping down their foreheads and gold chains wrapped around their neck so tight it looked like they were trying to strangle themselves.
Angus : Crocodiles came swimming out of a pristine blue-as-the-ocean river revealing stitches and stuffing pouring out of their stomach. Plastic babies playing with what looked like kites that had flown too far.
Eleanor D: The stranger disappeared, leaving behind green dust.
Arshiya showed us a beautiful room: Flaming orange tiles lined the wall. Emeralds, rubies and sapphires ornamented the strange pillars and sculptures that dotted the room.
Freya B gave us the story of a threatening man and an unexpected outcome: The man couldn’t even finish his next sentence , next thing you know the man was lying on the ground with blood on his head and Mr Gee still with the lamp high in the air.
I liked Jack R’s description: …then they heard a BOOM!!! and it scared the bones out of them!! and also Freya B-T’s image: …and in an instant we were far, far away from the tsunami of shadows.
Georgia W gave us a touching story of a father and child bond, forged in mutual loss: They have no idea what dad and I have been through. He is an amazing person who lost a loved one.
Alfie gave us a great story of a wizard who takes away negativity: …the wizard casted the spell and everything was fun and not boring… EXCEPT Rough Man McGee the king of being negative. It all ends well, though: … they fought hard but Rough Man McGee pulled out an IPhone and said “lets be friend and make a Tik Tok”
So they became good friends and made loads of videos.
I loved Daniel L’s original take on what is in the box. Three balaclava-clad men chase the main character for the box but he runs to his neighbour’s house with it: Mrs Wong will know how to open the box. After all she is the one that told me about it. It is the box with that house’s best sweet n sour pork recipe in the world! I can’t wait for dinner.
Milsy gave us a story of a car chase and ends with the irresistible sentences: “Good news dad, we’ve lost them.” “chur son, but where exactly are we?”
Brenna told us about a magnifying glass that shows you 100 years into the past when you look through it. A golden dragon rampages out of it, and I want to know what happens after this fantastic last sentence, which feels like the start of an epic fantasy: There is a massive dragon in this world now, and it’s all my fault.
Taylor gave us this delightful exchange, about dragons fighting in the sky: “Wait, cats?” I thought. “I didn’t brace myself for flying cats. I’m not sure cats are the best weapons.”
“They seem to work,” the dragon replied.
Caitlin made me laugh, as she wondered about a lady who came into the shop. She was wearing a skin-tight, leather crop top and leather jeans. ‘ Why on earth would a lady in her early 50’s wear a crop top and leather jeans?’ I thought to myself.
Alina’s story had drama, originality and humour: Panicking, I seize the first thing I can get hold of- a plastic baby- and hurl it desperately at the vampire woman. As I throw it, the dress lifts up and sadly, I get a great view of the fake nappy.
Many others deserve honourable mentions, such as James, with a tale of exploding toilets; Brooke and the fabulously named organisation Dark Mayhem; Charlotte and the identical triplet fathers; Indigo and the dangerous Wish-Granter; Miller and the massive swordfish trap; Lucy and her wonderfully chilling horror story of identical twins; Aranui and the scary happenings that turn out (luckily) to be a joke; Lexi with her story of Mr Fedo who helps to keep a garden glowing; Olivia F’s story about taming a dragon; Isla H about being able to see into the future; and Juno, who gave us a compelling story of the theft of the dragon box, with an unpleasant twist at the end.
Special mention must go to Lyndey and William (both 8 years old) whose stories were utterly delightful: Lyndey’s shouty, shiny dragon was hilarious and made me happy; William’s story was vigorous and funny: “Take Zat”, screams Mr Gee jumping out from behind the life-size Spiderman model and knocks him out with a mint condition Star Wars Republic cruiser.”
Many of these wonderful stories came very close to winning, but I have to choose one, and the winner for my story starter is Olivia Whale. Her story had terrific description and humour, and it also had a great theme and was an excellent short story. Well done Olivia W!
I sent it to Penguin author Fleur Beale, the author of many award-winning books for children and young adults. She is the only writer to have twice won the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-Loved Book: with Slide the Corner in 2007, and I Am Not Esther in 2009. This is what Fleur Beale said about Olivia Whale’s story:
“Olivia’s story is beautifully creepy! Making the dragon the focus rather than continuing with who or what comes through the opening door from the starter is the true writerly trick of not taking the obvious route. I love how the characters of Mr Gee and Ron are fleshed out and made real in a very few words. They give the story depth.
Another excellent aspect of the writing is that the descriptions move the plot forward. Thus while we’re reading about the beauty of the marble we’re also wondering what will happen next. And something exploding with a ‘satisfying POP’ is a great image. Explosions normally mean a huge bang, but a satisfying pop is so much more interesting.
I wanted to eat that hamburger. . .
This is a well-crafted story with good, ‘crunchy’ language and a twisty plot that reaches a satisfying conclusion and all within the word limit which isn’t the easiest thing to do.
Happy writing Olivia, and my very best wishes for your future writing explorations.”
Weng Wai Chan’s Story Starter
My favourite place in the world is the second-hand shop in Main Street. It’s crammed to the ceiling with all sorts of stuff. In fact, things hang from the ceiling too, like paper lanterns and the stuffed crocodile that always seems to be staring at me no matter where I am in the shop.
Mr Gee sits behind the counter, reading a newspaper and ignoring me. That’s one of the best things about this place—Mr Gee never talks to me unless I talk to him first, even on the days when I’ve spent hours here, reading or touching objects, while waiting for my dad to come and get me. The other thing I like is that there’s always something new to find.
Today, I walk past the old comics, the bin of plastic babies and the display of Star Wars toys, some of which are still ‘mint in box’—at least, that’s what it says on the sign beneath it.
Just past the musical penguins section is an old red wooden box that I’ve never seen before. A dragon is carved into the lid. Just as I touch it, I hear the front door of the shop open…
Olivia Whale’s Winning Entry
I glance up, before recentering my focus on the box. I trace my finger over the etched dragon’s patterns and features, its stomach, tail, and finally it’s multicolored eye of violet, ruby and silver, then flip it open. My jaw drops.
A marble. The small marble is nestled amongst the layers of black velvets, hidden. I flinch, and sweep the fuzzy blankets over. It’s a clouded grey, with mixes of smokey indigo and faded crimson. Amazing. Breathtaking. And… Changing?
The marbles sides strain, and with a satisfying little POP the marble explodes, leaving behind a hamburger. Huh?
The smooth tomatoes are diced thin and a vibrant glossy red; the crinkly green lettuce is finely chopped, crisp and cool; the moist Swiss cheese slices smell warm and homey; the thick meat patty is beefy and juicy dark; and the warm crusty buns hold the culinary perfection altogether, crafting my favorite meal.
Licking my lips, leaning for the burger, outstretching my finger…
“Ow!” I cry, as a sharp jolt of pain dances up and along to my shoulder, lunging for my neck. I brace myself, but it fades away as quickly as it came. What’s that old saying? Ah, yes, curiosity killed the cat.
The small pearl has rolled onto the ground.
I turn to leave, but…
“Meow,” It’s Ron.
Ron is Mr Gee’s cat. He’s sleek, white and small, about as big as my arm, with ginger patches – the biggest is on his head – and big, cinnamon colour eyes, filled with understanding and of course curiosity. But my favorite part about Ron is this: when I see him, he never fails to make me giggle, because I imagine him at the wheel of a rusty blue car with big, feathery angel wings, flying over acres of native bush and billowing blue waterfalls.
“Meow,” he repeats. Then he notices the marble.
His eyes grow large and longing as he takes in the marble, which morphs into a salmon in a snap, lying limp and disgustingly stinky on the wooden floorboards. Ron doesn’t seem to mind the pong ad he trots forward, and before I have time to stop him… he licks the fish.
“REOW!” Screeches Ron, flopping onto his back like a fly in a spasm of seizures. Then suddenly he is still, looking like some kind of sick, furry omelet. I place my hand on his chest: dead.
Curiosity killed the cat.
I use the Star Wars figurines to scoop up the colourful pearl, drop it into its wooden cocoon, then walk to the counter.
“Uh, Mr Gee? Is this yours?” I stutter.
He glares at me, looking suddenly reptilian. I can see swirls of grey, indigo, and crimson within them; his pasty skin gives of a scaly texture. “Ah yes…” He slurs, his melodic voice soft, sadistic. Then he smiles, with pointy, too-white teeth. “It seems curiosity truly did kill the cat…”