I wanted to try something a little different with my story-starter this time round. To take you keen young writers out of a contemporary setting and put you into a fantastical, historical one. With witches! As a child, I spent many a happy, weekend morning in bed with my Mum reading fairytales. Some really worried me. The foolish emperor running around town in the nuddy, in The Emperor’s New Clothes. Some made me quite sad. Rapunzel locked in the tower by the wicked sorceress, only able to be rescued if she let down her rope of golden hair. (Thank goodness for the prince riding past.) The boastful miller in Rumplestiltskin sending his daughter away to endlessly spin straw into gold for the greedy king.
Thankfully in fairytales, more often than not, good eventually overcomes evil. With Pearl and The Golden Apples, ‘greed shall not be rewarded’ was a recurring theme in the many entries. For example:
Khloe Demetriou, 12, Highlands Intermediate’s witch encouraged Pearl to try a golden apple, then turned her into a kitten and warned, “From this day on you will not eat another golden apple, if you do I’ll turn you into something you won’t be happy with.” The golden apples were too tempting. “Her hands were small, slimy and the colour of seaweed … Oh no, I’m a frog.”
I loved all the wicked crones with their debilitating powers, and the magical apples (especially the apples with gold seeds!) along with the tales of intrigue you wove into your stories. But hocus pocus, stir the witches brew, it was hard to pick one winner. Many many stories were well imagined, original, descriptive and often spooky.
My highlighter jumped on the following passages:
Naomi George, 10, Thorndon School described the noise Pearl heard as, “It sounded like thunder had tried to be sweet and failed.” And her aptly named witch, Autumn Hallow “had blazing red hair, twisted into a long plait that fell over her shoulder.”
Olivia Morriss, 11, Oamaru Intermediate also had a “copper-red” haired witch with glowing, reddy-brown eyes. “As the woman moved closer her large cognac eyes could be seen, taking in the sunlight, shining golden.” Brilliant!
Alexandra Cavanagh, 11, Thorndon School had a “forest demon” … “standing in the moonlight was a tall, skinny woman with grey-white skin grey-black hair, long, sharp fingernails and red-brown, bloodshot eyes.”
Claire Tisdall, 10, Strath Taieri School. “Green, mist soon whirled out of the sack. It had a wisp of a voice, but it was very, very, deep. I thought everyone knew about the curse of the Golden apple tree…”
Indigo Tomlinson, 12, Whakatane Intermediate. I loved Indigo’s enchanting but dangerous faeries. “A circle of tiny people, with butterfly wings that caught the light and shimmered like iridescent opals. The voice flowed from them like nectar and Pearl found herself enchanted by their otherworldly looks.”
Elaine, 10, Thorndon Primary. “Pearl turned around and saw something like the wendigo, the deer head and boney body with the dull and neverending eyes.” FREAKY.
Lily Dawson, 13, Stonefields School. “Are you here to take my apples?” It asked. Pearl reached for Darcy’s reins. Before she could grab them the tree’s branches reached down and lifted her into the air.” Argghghghgh.
Charlotte Barr, 12, Balmacewen Intermediate. “The voice continued to sing, “A witch with a nose, two eyes and three warts, one whose skin is the colour of quartz!”
In fact, it was a story with a catchy verse, great pacing and an excellent final, double twist that is my chosen WINNER. So without further a do, Margaux Astrid Detera, 10, Thordon Primary, take a bow. Congratulations, Margaux!
** Eileen Merrimen, the author of the award winning YA novels, Pieces of You, Catch Me When You Fall, and Invisibly Breathing, is our guest Penguin judge this week. Here are Eileen’s comments on Margaux’s winning story:
“A vivid story with wonderful imagery and pace. The verse near the start really caught my attention. Loved that twist at the end.” Eileen Merriman
And to all the other fantastic entrants, you’re cool! Keep writing!
Jane’s Story Starter: Pearl and Golden Apples
“Rise and shine, sleepyhead,” said Ma, tugging back Pearl’s quilt. “I need you to ride over to the old miner’s place and collect some golden apples.”
“Golden apples?” said Pearl warily. She lifted the sack curtain over the window above her bed and peered out. Sunlight danced on the tall poplar tree that stood like a giant sentinel beside their tiny stone cottage. An invisible breeze carried three yellow leaves; they fluttered down towards Pearl like corn-coloured butterflies.
Ma was stirring porridge at the coalrange. She slapped a bowl down on the table, startling Pearl from her reverie.
“Shall I just get blackberries, Ma? Folk say that apple tree belongs to a witch who puts curses on the children who pick ’em!”
“Nonsense,” said Ma.
“So why are the apples gold, then?” asked Pearl.
“Because they’re Golden Ambrosia apples, silly-billy. No one’s lived there for years. Don’t dally, the weather’s changing.”
Pearl pulled on her woollen riding habit and slowly laced up her leather boots. Her porridge tasted like dust.
Darcy, her big black horse, was waiting at the gate. He whinnied, hello, flicking his head. Pearl whispered to him, “You wouldn’t be acting so fresh if you knew where we’re headed.”
Darcy munched his oats, while Pearl brushed him down and plaited his long forelock. She buckled on her largest saddlebags and slipped her tin whistle in one and a crust of bread wrapped in muslin in the other. She grabbed her shawl and the pair trotted off.
By the time Pearl had played all her tunes and eaten the bread, they arrived at the golden apple tree. Without daring to scout around, Pearl rode Darcy right up beside its laden branches and started picking. She’d almost filled one bag when Darcy snorted and started jigging. All the silvereyes darted from the tree and Pearl heard a strange voice …
Margaux Astrid Detera’s winning story:
“wHo dArE EnTeR mY fOrEST!” Pearl’s eyes widened! Her blood rushed down quickly to her legs, making her tremble. She looked at Darcy terrified, observing his every move… He was looking behind her. Pearl shut her eyes, starting to feel the tears bubbling… As every single teardrop splashed onto the ground, she slowly turned around, and opened her eyes… Her vision wasn’t clear, because of the burning hot tears, but from what she could identify:
A black pointy hat
A broom with a cat
A smug little grin
With a long pointy chin
A black lace dress
With potions for a mess
And a pretty big wart
She cackled and she snort
It was pretty clear to Pearl that what she was looking at was an evil cackling witch. “I-I’m sorry! I must be on my way!” Pearl pleaded for her dear life, “Oh no! It is a weekend after all?! I insist, please stay…” The evil witch smirked at her own statement. Pearl laughed nervously and dashed terrified towards Darcy, the evil witch laughed once again “You can’t escape me child, I’ll always be, just behind your shoulder!” The evil witch cackled as she snatched her broom and tapped it onto the ground three times, she then disappeared… Pearl leaped onto Darcy’s back, then galloped away, horrified.
Once Pearl had got home, she called out to her mother, “MA! ARE YOU THERE?” no response… Pearl knew that her mother was getting a bit old so she took a long time to get to the door, while she was waiting, she gazed in amazement at the outstanding view. She was flabbergasted that an ugly witch like the one she just encountered, could live in a world as perfect as this! “Pearl! What are you doing here back so early?” exclaimed Pearl’s mother, “Ma, I-i saw a witch!” Pearl stuttered “Nonsense! I have not seen those golems in centuries!” Ma said confused.
“WELL THEY ARE STILL VERY REAL! AND SHE THREATENED ME, THAT SHE WILL ALWAYS BE BEHIND MY BACK!” Pearl yelled with frustration, her mother just couldn’t understand! Unfortunately, Pearl’s mother never understood. So she had to grow up with the thought that in any second, an evil witch could snatch her life away…
25 years later…
“Bye honey! Bye children! See you all after work and school!” Pearl called out happily, “Oh I must freshen up before I cook!” Pearl said to herself. After she was done drying her face with a towel lying around, she looked at herself in the mirror… But standing right behind her was the same terrible witch she saw 25 years ago…
That was the last person she saw until she dropped into this strange spiral.
After work and school.
“Hi mummy!” exclaimed Pearl’s children “Hi honey!” said Pearl’s husband sweetly. “Hey guys!” the evil witch smirked.
2nd place goes to Olivia Morriss, 11, Oamaru Intermediate
3rd place goes to William Kelly, 8, Brooklyn Primary, Wellington
Congratulations, Olivia and William!!