Well, that was a wild and crazy ride. There were 58 entries and so many dinosaurs and skeletons, and ‘it was all a dream’s, it was incredible!!
Some stories kind of forgot about the story starter and went off in totally unrelated directions. Some of you forgot to check your stories for spelling mistakes. Some of you had one big chunk of writing instead of dividing your story into paragraphs. These made some stories a challenge to read. It is really worth fixing these issues before pressing send.
But there was also a lot to like. I loved this descriptive line in Cathy Zhang’s (Campbell’s Bay School) story – “This farm’s too quiet, I could almost hear my blood running through my veins.” This one from Indigo Tomlinson (Whakatane Intermediate) – The girls suddenly became aware of an ominous yet discordant ticking, like a group of old ladies all knitting at once. And this one – “If mum was here, she would have found it in an instant” added Isla. They both laughed – from Siena Hays (Campbell’s Bay School). Mothers are indeed famous for finding things when no one else can. I loved the name William Kelly (Brooklyn Primary in Wellington) came up with for the bone whistle – a bazoothesizer!
I really enjoyed this last bit in Vicki Murdoch’s story (Point Chevalier Primary), which made the most of Willow’s comments in the starter –
“Willow. You were so rude to me, and made me feel insecure in myself. Although I wasn’t the prettiest person ever, does that matter? No! I don’t accept your apology.” Willow’s crying features hardened immediately.
“You…” she seethed defiantly. But Isla was having none of it.
“Goodbye. And it’s foraging, NOT fossicking.”
And I laughed out loud at Jessica Alexander’s opening line (Matamata Intermediate) – “Maybe if we ignore the problem it will go away?” Willow said in a shaky voice. If only!
Some writers came up with surprising and entertaining reasons for why the bone whistle changed everything, including Michael Jackson and the song Thriller in one case ( Elena Louise McCrossan from Berkley Normal Middle School), and penguins in another (Yuki Nishimura from Campbell’s Bay School). Grace Downie (Clearview Primary) did some great work continuing to develop the characters of Isla and Willow, building on the story starter. Taylor Goddard’s story (Lincoln Primary) created a new riff on Greek mythology involving Apollo and Orpheus. I enjoyed the stories written by Lyndey Jiang (West Park School), and William Kelly (Brooklyn Primary), and the twist at the end of Carys Silva’s story was chilling (Stonefield’s School). Vanessa Leong (Remuera Primary) drew on Alice in Wonderland in an interesting way for her story, and Indigo Tomlinson (Whakatane Intermediate) wrote a beautifully crafted Dali-esque tale.
It was difficult to pick a winner. A bunch of stories had fun clever ideas that I really liked. There was some wonderful strong writing. There were some cool twists. But these didn’t always occur in the same entry. Ultimately though, I loved mythology when I was at primary school myself, and the one story that stood out to me as having an interesting idea based on the starter, a well thought through story structure, and good writing was the entry from Taylor Goddard (Lincoln Primary). Congratulations Taylor!!
Our guest Penguin author, Chris Mousdale, award winning illustrator of picture book, Brodie and writer of the novel, A Place of Stone and Darkness, had this to say:
Some lovely words to roll around the mouth: “Fossicking”, “Foraging”, “Galumphed”. Melinda’s story starter begins with the mundane and ordinary; a day out, playing in the woods. But – as is so often the case – from play comes the unexpected and the extraordinary.
Taylor installs a cast of Greek monsters and demons and we’re instantly amongst them. There’s a chase and nail-biting action. Our protagonists are in a tight spot – how will they react? The two girls fall back on their education. Knowing who Apollo was and what he represented they formulate a plan – to communicate, in a language the enemy will understand.
In this case the language is music and, to paraphrase Congreve, “the savage breast is soothed”.
Taylor’s story is brisk with an exciting momentum. The music is evoked with a water simile: it “flowed over them…like a stream bubbling in a forest,” bringing us along for the action with the characters, then delivering us back home, safe in a peaceful resolution.
The dialogue is truthful, the interaction between Willow and Isla well observed. This is good writing – a story based on truthful character allows us to travel into far-fetched and fantastic worlds and to believe them.
Melinda’s Story Starter: The Wrong Note
Willow and Isla had been mucking around in the woods on the hill above their town all day.
Willow called it fossicking.
Isla called it foraging.
“It’s only foraging if we can eat it,” said Willow.
“Humph,” Isla replied.
“This is definitely a fossick,” Willow went on, holding up the bone she’d just pulled from a hole at the base of a tree trunk.
“That’s disgusting,” Isla said.
“It’s NOT!” Willow insisted. “It’s super old. It probably hasn’t been alive for like a hundred years. I mean look at it.”
They both peered at the bone, almost like a shin but not quite.
“There are holes in it,” breathed Willow. And before either of them could think, she raised the bone to her mouth and blew in to the largest hole at the top. A single long note.
The noise was sweeter and deeper than they expected. A shiver crawled down their spines. The ground seemed to hiccup, the sunlight swelling in a terrible, brilliant way, and then everything was normal again. Nearly.
“I think we should go home,” Isla said.
“Yes, lets,” Willow agreed. She let the bone drop to the ground.
They held hands as they galumphed down the path between the trees, hopping over the twisty vines and slippery rocks in their way. They emerged out of the bush near the bottom of the hill, just as the sun began to pull the horizon up over itself.
“My goodness!” Willow gasped.
“Oh Willow, what did you do?!” Isla squeaked, her eyes wide at the sight before them.
Where had everybody gone? And what were those frightening things that had taken their place?
Taylor Goddard’s Story
Terrifying creatures replaced the humans. One looked like a dragon, except it had thousands of necks leading to heads that spewed poison. Others looked like demons with flames for hair and blood-red eyes that seemed to whisper “death, horror and despair.” Thousands of the creatures were too horrible to describe. Isla stared at them, her eyes wide with terror.
“Those,” she said her voice trembling, “are from Greek mythology.”
“Don’t be crazy,” Willow whispered.
“YOU DARE PLAY MY INSTRUMENT?!” A voice boomed.
There was a blinding flash of light and a figure appeared, it towered over them, casting shadows across the fields.
“I SPENT YEARS TRYING TO FIND THE RIGHT BONE TO CRAFT THAT INSTRUMENT AND TWO MORTALS COME AND TRY IT! YOU WILL PAY FOR THIS, YOU WILL SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE IN FEAR OF THE CREATURES FROM TARTARUS!”
In a flash, the figure was gone. Willow and Isla had no time to contemplate what happened, a monster that was half man and half bull had noticed their presence. The creature roared and charged at them.
“RUN!!!” Willow screamed.
They sprinted away, they knew they wouldn’t outrun the monster, then Willow had an idea.
“The tree!” Willow pointed to a large, old eucalyptus.
Isla reached it first, she scrambled up it, grabbing onto bits of bark that sometimes ripped off under her weight. Willow came after her, she could hear the monster’s feet thudding heavily against the ground. Isla grabbed onto a branch, pulled herself onto it then bent down to help Willow. Suddenly, the tree shook, Isla looked past Willow and saw the creature ramming its horns into the tree and roaring up at them. Finally Willow was beside Isla, they were both breathing in small, difficult gasps.
“That… was too… close,” Willow panted.
All Isla could do to reply was nod.
The girls waited for the monster to leave.
“That was Apollo,” Isla said.
“Don’t be silly.”
They were silent for a while, finally the monster lost interest and left.
“How do we escape this… whatever this place is,” Willow said quietly.
“I don’t know, Apollo is the god of music right?”
“When Orpheus played Apollo’s lyre, Apollo was going to punish him.”
“But he didn’t,” Willow smiled, remembering the story of how the musician got his lyre, “because Orpheus played so beautifully, Apollo spared him, and gave him his lyre.”
“Exactly,” Isla said.
“So you want me to play that instrument? What if it makes Apollo angrier?”
“D’you have a better idea?”
So Isla and Willow timidly got down from the eucalyptus and found their way to the instrument. Willow picked it up and put one of the holes to her lips, she gently blew out and music flowed over them. It sounded like a stream bubbling in a forest, and made them feel like they were in a sunlit field of flowers. Willow started to play and after a few minutes Apollo appeared and listened. When Willow was finished Apollo sighed,
“Keep it.” He smiled and nodded at the instrument, “I can make another one someday. You can go home now.”
The ground shuddered and the world was normal again. Isla fell down to the ground, exhausted. Willow smiled then continued to play her new instrument.