Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 10 judged by Michele Powles

Wow! Who knew there could be so many options for the contents of a fridge? Lockdown has not dulled your imaginations one bit. Well done everyone! With over 130 entries, anyone who gets a mention really stood out because there were some fantastic efforts, definitely some future novelists in the group here!

There were some common themes that emerged this time – crazy magical food, portals to another dimension, monsters, slime and witches all appeared in more than one story. I particularly loved Ruby Shepherd’s broccoli monster, Aria Llewellyn’s carrot nosed giraffe, Kaydee Marsh’s jelly trampoline and spaghetti rescue rope, Jonah Hinds epic food battle with carrot daggers and onion swords, and Janna Chans’ possessed Buddha hand – one cool looking piece of fruit (google it if you haven’t heard of it).

There were a lot of other types of monsters too, particularly blue and green, gooey and goopy ones. The slime is strong with all of you. Oh, and a fair few fluffy creatures in the fridge too. Possums and chinchillas were a fave, who turned out not to be quite so fluffy and cute, even if they did like eating cheese.

There were some truly wonderful descriptions. Congratulations on bringing your work to life with such vivid images and a really great understanding of metaphor and simile. Impressive! Special mention for descriptive prowess goes to Gracie Moodie, Arshiya Tuli, Sophie Vincent, Elsa Hurley, Bella Chen, and Gracie (from Bethlehem college, not sure of your last name).

A few special mentions. For pure creativity: Emma Herrett, loved your top tips, who knew you could google how to remove a strange creature that looks like your teacher from your fridge and find a good answer. Javhan Eka, I enjoyed your Dr. Wondertainments Magical Meat horror movie twist, it made me wonder what you’d been watching this lockdown, and Lennox of Epsom Normal Primary School managed to pull off a great twist on the “it was all a dream” narrative that we generally encourage writers to stay away from. Paige from Helensville Primary, making your story work within Prodigy game play was particularly clever, well done.

I also wanted to reward spine tingling tension. Bill Kelly from Brookland Primary school, you had me squirming as the kids dragged their lizard to the bathroom. And Beni T, your dismembered clown is going to give me nightmares.

And now…drum roll please, the runner up this time is Indigo Tomlinson. A wonderful story, rich with descriptions like “fantastical ribbons of green and purple, unspooling across the night like ribbons” and an emotional edge that made for a really satisfying read. It was a very close result this time around.

But the winner of a $20 book voucher, is Taylor Goddard from Lincoln Primary School! Congratulations on delivering a really fun, well thought out and structured story with a particularly good use of dialogue.

Well done to all of you who entered, keep up the great work!

Michele’s Story Starter

“Nothing has miraculously appeared since you last looked!”

Tor swung the fridge door closed and sighed at his mum. “But I’m hungry.”

Mum patted him on the head distractedly as if he was a puppy. “I’ll make lunch once I’m off my next call and you’ve finished your math. I have to go, don’t come downstairs.”

Tor picked up his iPad and looked at the 20 math questions his teacher had set. Fractions were his least favourite thing. Okay, that wasn’t true, class Zoom calls where everyone had to share were his least favourite thing, but fractions came in close. Lockdown was laaaaaame.

“Done and done.”

Tor looked up at his brother Duncan. “You are not.”

Duncan wiggled his eyebrows. “Level 39.”

Tor snorted. “Prodigy doesn’t count as school work.”

“Does if you’re in Miss Morelli’s class.”

Tor shuddered. Miss Morelli might set the least amount of home-schooling work, but she was creepy. End of story. When she looked at him with her dark, flashy eyes, Tor always got a sucking sensation like she was trying to pull his brain out through his eyes.

Tor grabbed his brother’s iPad. “You’ve still got this task to do.” He clicked on it:

Lockdown Life Lessons

Share a story and snapshots of life in lockdown. Things you’ve seen on a walk, things you’ve grown, creatures from your fridge, silly tales about your pets or family.

Weird. 

Duncan cleared his throat; it was a sort of strangled sound. “Ummmmmm, I thought you said there was nothing in here.”

Tor looked up, and saw Duncan bathed in the light from the fridge, his face twisted in a strange expression…

Taylor’s Winning Story

Tor could swear he heard angels singing, like in those movies when an incredible thing was about to happen and the camera zooms in on someone’s shocked expression.

It was exactly like that but with no camera and no movie.

And with a chipmunk in the fridge.

“It’s so beautiful!” Duncan said tears welling up in his eyes.

Tor looked from his brother to the chipmunk then back again.

“Have you had a knock to the head?” Asked Tor, genuinely concerned for his brother’s health. “Or is it the lack of chocolate biscuits in your diet?”

“I had three biscuits this morning,” replied Duncan without taking his eyes off the chipmunk.

“Duncan,” Tor treaded carefully towards his brother, not wanting to be caught in the chipmunk’s cute but deadly gaze. “You need to step away from the chipmunk. And eat less biscuits.”

Duncan took a couple paces back, until the golden light coming from the chipmunk couldn’t reach him. He shook his head then rubbed his eyes, trying to grasp onto what had just happened.

“We have a chipmunk in the fridge,” Duncan said.

“Oh really? I didn’t notice,” Tor muttered under his breath.

“Go talk to it.”

Tor looked at Duncan like he was mad, but there was a chipmunk in the fridge and that problem had to be dealt with first. He would worry about his brother’s sanity after.

Tor walked to the chipmunk.

“Good afternoon, err, chipmunk.”

“Good afternoon,” the chipmunk replied.

Tor blinked twice in astonishment.

“What… um… may I ask what you are doing in our fridge?”

“I was looking for a face mask.”

Tor wasn’t quite sure what to say.

“In the fridge?”

“Yes,” the chipmunk nodded. “You humans always look in the fridge before you put a face mask on to get food so I thought they would be in here.”

“Oh. We keep our face masks in a drawer,” Tor said, grabbing out a blue one and showing it to the chipmunk. “You can keep it if you want.”

“Thank you,” the little animal grasped the face mask in it’s paws and hopped down from it’s perch. “If you are having trouble with dividing numbers I always use short division. Search it up.”

And with that the chipmunk scampered away.

Tor and Duncan stood where they were, bewildered by what transpired. Duncan was the first to recover from his shock.

“Well,” Duncan said, brushing his hands together, like he was pretending to get rid of dust. “I have a Lockdown Life Lessons story about a chipmunk to start. See you at lunch.”

Tor took another couple minutes to calm his confused brain. He then took a big breath and laughed.

There had been a talking, magical chipmunk in their fridge who had wanted a face mask.

What are the chances?

He heard Mum come up the stairs.

“Almost ready for lunch?”

“Yeah,” Tor smiled. “I just need to learn short division.”

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 8 judged by Jane Bloomfield

First of all a hearty pat on the back to everyone who sent in a story. Writers write! You are all writers. Thanks for entering my story comp – “Magic At McMinty Towers.”

Elena 10, Lilly  10, Nova 8, Bronte 10, Kaylin 13, Jessica 12, Sophie 9, Lauren 9, Benjamin 13, Chantelle 9, Sienna 10, Mali 9, Samantha 12, Elise 11, Leonie 11, Jack 10, Addison 12, Asha 13, Sophia 11, Belle 12, Hugo 10, Luciana 10, Millie 9, Bayla 10, Tula 10, Leo 10, Sophie 11, Amelia 10, Emily 9, Juliet 10, Briar 9, Sophie 9, Jack 10, Cyla 10, Lauren 12, Adele Z 10, Lillian 10, Leo 8, Frank 10, Carol 10, Cooper 10, Lara 10, Vishak 11, Anja 11, Lyla 11, Lilah 11, Holly J 11, Tanya 11, Acsayahm 11, Sophie V 10, Makere 10,  Chloe 10, Oliver 11, Michaela 10, Emmy 10, Thea 10, Janna 10, Savannah 10, Emma 11, Mia 11, Seth 11, Sienna 12, Stella 9, Zola 9, Menzie 9, Kincaid 10, Niamh 11, Bill 9, Charlotte 11, Alice 11, Thakkshan 11, Sienna 9, Bella 10, Zoe 11, Loughlan 10, Claudia 10, Laxshay 9, Trae 11, Leila 10, Elina 10, Emer 13, Aria 12, Aurie 13, Adele S 10, Indigo T 13, Arshiya 11, Emmy 11, Danika 11, Johnna 11, Angela 10, Holly  11, Yeih 10, Nehali 11, Shaun 8, Arya 10, Cleo 11, Madeline 13, Alice L 10, Teresa 11, Sophie A 10, Heeya 11, Fiona 10, Cedar 10, Bianca 10, Olivia 11, Charlotte B 10, Sophie W 10, Olivia10, Suie 11, Libby 9, Indigo L 11, Amy 10,  Isla 10, Ava 10, Max 12, Henry 11, Aaliya 10, Mila 10, Flynn 10, Lenie 9, Maya 10, Lucas 11, Fred 9, Amber 9, Sophie M 11, Rose 8, An 10, Ava 11, Sophie Q 10, Elsa 10, George 9, Maisie 8, Rithika 10, Briana 9, Micaela 11, Stella 8, Maia 10, Annie 11, Bella D 10, Allyana 9, Mattie 12, Scarlett 7, Levi 8, Bailee 11, Shiloh 11, Maia A 11, Owen 11, Nia 11, Lara S 9, Jerry 12, Maggie 10, Jessica H 10, Coco 11, Sherine 11.

What a great collection of magical mayhem there was! Every writer confidently wrote stories using magical realism. This shows you’ve all read widely (and watched movies) in this genre. Excellent. There were plenty of neat plot set-ups, tricky challenges, great sibling rivalry (often with one twin stuck on the ceiling, or turned into a frog) and fantastically creative witchcraft and wizardry.

Along with fun, spooky details. There were many variations of: lairs, levitation, dragon’s blood, children’s blood, magic chants, forbidden forests, black cats, broomsticks, crystal trees, crystal lakes, trolls, pirates, cauldrons, wands, evil spells, rhyming spells, frogs, boils, rats, black pointy hats, capes, talking scrolls, goblin spit, smashed toenails, worn maps on parchment paper, alicorns, wax seals, riddles, demons, snakes, ghosts, skeletons, dusty grimoires, orbs, staffs, spells in Latin, cockroaches, crows, aliens, ogres, cobwebs, a mage, lizards, castles, moats, broom cupboards, monsters and more. (I might stash this great cache-of-tricks for my next magic story!)

I wish I’d had a spell or a magic wand for choosing the winning story because it was a very tricky job indeed, the standard of writing was so high. After much chanting (I mean reading and re-reading) it was the combination of well-observed, magical imagery, an immediate story set-up providing a face-off with two evil antagonists, which lead to a clever conclusion, which helped me decide.

In First Place – Juliet Young, 10, Halswell

Congratulations, Juliet! Read Juliet’s winning clever, double-crossing tale below.
I’ll be in touch with Juliet to arrange sending out her prize.

In Second Place – Indigo Tomlinson, 13, Huanui

Indigo’s story was written beautifully and had a clever fairy-tale twist with a magic mirror. “Something strange was happening. The mirror seemed to melt, a pool of mercury muddling with the blood on her palm, glowing silver like distilled moonlight. The strange liquid seemed to seep inside of her and as it did, Maeve felt a curious mixture of terror and delight.”

Well done, Indigo!

Highly Commended

An Nguyen 10, South Hornby.

An had beautiful detailing in her chest, and an ornate gold ring and watch with fantastic powers. “Two blue laser-like lights shot from the jewellery forming a kind of vacuum portal sucking the twins in into it.”

Commended

Bella Chen 10, Auckland.

Bella created great tension when Mark, after a fight with his twin over the wizard kit had to find a spell to return Maeve from a pile of dust.

“Bringing Back Spell
Ingredients:
.Blood of a child
.Water from a wishing well
.A Star
.Smashed Toenails
As the cloud starts to form, shout the name of the thing you want to bring back.”

Jane’s Story Starter –

Mark and Maeve skipped along the dark corridors of McMinty Towers, and into the dining hall. They expected to see their mother sitting at the head of the table. Instead, they found a letter pinned to the top of a large, black chest.

My Dear Twins,

First of all, Happy Birthday!

This chest contains two magical things:

1 x Witch-Starter-Kit   &

1 x Wizard- Starter-Kit

Please choose one kit. Choose carefully as you cannot swap your kit once you have chosen. However, Mark may choose the Witch-Starter-Kit, while Maeve might choose the Wizard-Starter-Kit. It doesn’t matter.

Please write down each spell you test, and the results. A few words of warning. When starting out, I advise all young witches and wizards to use their new powers wisely. Because spells, when not followed correctly can go terribly wrong. Terribly wrong!

Good luck. Good luck, I repeat. You will need it.

Yours in witchcraft

Mother Witch McMinty

Mark shrugged his shoulders. Maeve opened the chest …

Juliet’s winning story –

 She gasped. The chest was brimming with clumps of light, pulsating and writhing. “Mother NEVER prepared us for this!” she accused.

“Which one’s which?” Mark wondered. There were two colours, cobalt blue and poison green. The twins eyed them.

“I bags green!” Maeve shrieked, her hand shooting out to clasp the green.

Mark sighed. “I guess I’ll have blue, then.” His twin reverently placed the green orb onto the stone flagged floor. When Mark did the same, the orbs shattered and two beings emerged. One was a delicate fairy clothed in a ragged blue dress, her body a gentle aquamarine. The other was a snake, marked with jagged lines of green. They both started at the sight of the twins.

“Get back!” the fairy screamed.

“Otherwise, I will poison you!” The snake hissed in agreement.

“What do you mean?” Mark asked, crocheting his eyebrows together. The Fairy opened her mouth, displaying fangs lathered with a blue substance.

Maeve’s face creased like a crumpled cloak. “Why are you like this?” she asked.

“Your mother trapped us in here!” the snake rasped. “The Lady Emmaline’s powers got strangled out of her like a wet cloth, leaving only her poison!”

The fairy’s head nodded grimly. “Lord Banter’s magic left, as he’s claustrophobic.” The twins mirrored each other’s disbelief.

“That’s why YOU’RE going to help us destroy her power.” Lord Banter hissed.
“We can’t!” the twins said in unison. “She’s our mother!”

Lady Emmaline grimaced. “Would you willingly help if we revealed that she sabotaged your results from Magic High so you didn’t get in?” Lord Banter rasped.

Mark’s eyes widened. “What?” Maeve croaked. “She sabotaged us?” A pot of emotions simmered in Mark’s stomach.

“Or if we said she made you fall off you brooms?” Lady Emmaline elaborated. “Or if …”

“STOP!” cried Maeve, “we’ll help!”

“Good,” Lord Banter said huskily. “Let’s go downstairs. She’ll be there.”

Mark fiddled with the family crest pinned on his cloak, the picture showing the wand crossed over dragon’s fire. Lord Banter glided along, agile and free. Lady Emmaline skipped along, her lank blue hair swinging. Maeve’s side clashed against his, like the Cyanean Rocks.

“Almost at victory!” Lord Banter hiss-murmured.

The click-clack of the twin’s shoes sounded desolate, which echoed their mood.

“Almost there!” Lady Emmaline called.

Maeve’s stomach swirled uneasily. She raised an eyebrow at Mark, questioningly. Mark shrugged back an undulation of answer.

“Almost there, really!” Lord Banter cried cheerfully, and Mark noticed his voice had gone up a notch.

“Heyyyyy…” Mark muttered. “A challenge!” Maeve finished, and was in action before Mark’s heartbeat. They chanted The Explosion Spell and the holograms splattered across the floor in gory glory.

Their beautiful Mother McGinty flowed out of her lab. “You passed!” she declared, holding out her hand to collect the written spells. The twins shared a glance of nervousness.

“We didn’t actually write down any spells.” Maeve admitted. McGinty galaxy grinned.

“Never mind!” she cried. “You used your initiative and spectacular brains and conjured a solution when you realised something was wrong. I’m proud of you two. Well done.” Maeve smiled. “Now mop the corridor!” she ordered, grimacing as she lifted her foot out of the congealed substance. The twins groaned and Mother McGinty smiled. “Scram!” was all she said before vanishing into the atoms.

(end)

+Well done, all writers! Keep writing. Jane x

Posted in The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 6 judged by Elena De Roo

There were thirty entries from all around Aotearoa, from Southland to the Tutukaka Coast, and I enjoyed reading every single one of them. Well done to everyone who entered! I thought the overall quality of the writing was outstanding. 

I was impressed by the range of inventive ingredients in your “wisherpies.”(Kudos to Taine from Sylvia Park School for coining the word “wisherpy” meaning “wish recipe”)

Grace’s (Bethlehem College) list impressed me with its poetic qualities:
A raindrop from the sun
A hair from the head of a dreamer
A lifetime of good and gold
A hope from the fire within
A wave in the middle of a storm
A dream
A wish

Eva from Churton Park School had an intriguing mix of the everyday and the magical in her list of ingredients:
Mayonnaise
Salt Water
Tree Bark
A Star
I loved the way Jono decided to use a dried starfish instead of a star, and your powerful description once the final ingredient is added.
“… the bowl exploded into a puff of smoke, thunder clapped, the sea roared as the recipe floated into the air and a voice called out ‘make your wish now’ …….”

I really liked the thought and detail Angela from Taupo Intermediate put into her recipe method, especially the ominous warning.
“Grind the lemon candy into a powder, along with the huckleberries and flower petals. Slice the peacock feather into the smallest possible pieces after boiling in a pot with three cups of spring water … Mix well. Let sit for 22 minutes …
WARNING: DO NOT DRINK ALL IN ONE SIP, AND DO NOT FORGET THE CINNAMON!!!!!!!”

Julia from St Cuthberts College spiced up her ingredients list with the addition of “an annoying little brother.”  

Elise from Southland Girls High invented a clever rhyming incantation to say over the mixture “Magic bring the light in me, a wish is what I plead of thee.”

But my favourite ingredients, “grated unicorn horn and ogre snot”, were created by Juliet (Halswell School).  I especially liked your comic twist of turning Ash into an “Ashicorn” with a horn that “looked soft and was a subtle shade of blue” and Anaru into an ogre “carbuncled, green, stagnant and slouched”  making them the source of the ingredients.  “Jono grated the Ashicorn’s horn with such vigour that he grated his fingers more than once. I was failing at Anaru’s nose-blowing routine. He defiantly sat there, his bead-like eyes glinting angrily … pruney arms crossed.”  Great choice of descriptive words, without over-doing it, and very funny too!

But of course no matter how strange and wonderful the ingredients were the wishes didn’t always go to plan.

”They [the cupcakes] look so good,” Anaru said. “But what about the icing? I wish we had some.”  (Sophie – Churton Park School)

“’Well I wish that this goop would turn into a cupcake,’ Ash said … Slowly, the gloop started to take shape, it was as if invisible hands were moulding it into the shape of a cupcake … it grew bigger and bigger until it finally stopped at the size of a chair … the cupcake formed a mouth. The mouth opened wide and before Ash could register what had happened, he was swallowed.”  (Yang Yang Lei, Marina View School)

Taylor’s (Lincoln Park Primary) character begins by wishing sensibly, then sneaks in a little extra wish as well, which is a nice touch. “’I wish for us to leave and I wish for everything to be okay … and if flying is an option, I’d like that too,’ I whispered. “

I liked the vivid picture Mattie, from Nelson Intermediate, created with his description of a grumpy genie:  “… a slightly chubby genie floated above Anaru’s head. It looked around the room, its face covered in wrinkles like hundreds of interlocking valleys and two caves for a nose. The genie zipped around the room and shovelled all the cupcakes into its mouth then glared down at us. ‘Well hurry up, what’s your wish?’ it demanded.’”

And Janisha from Tirimoana Primary wrote this beautiful line bringing her, Shakespeare-loving, Nana character’s voice to life: “Even now, I could remember her lovely lilting accent soaring through the words, lightly deciphering the harder phrases and chuckling occasionally at the porter’s antics in her favourite, Macbeth …”

Araav (Balmoral School) – “This recipe is to be kept in uttermost silence … The Elder ones have signed a pact to protect this with their soul … It made me wonder what Nana actually did when she said she socialised at the nursing home hosting long games of bingo. Even though we all saw though the lie, we kept that to ourselves … We can all agree Nana was good at many things but lying was not her strong suit.” Your story has an epic quality to it, with some wonderful description and a nice mix of humour, mystery and suspense. Well done!

Finally, I whittled the thirty down to a short short-list

Jerry  (Churchill Park School) – “We all flopped onto the sofa in despair as the rain gently ‘pitter-pattered’ on the roof. The sky rumbled and flashed in the distance. What a gloomy day it was. “ This is a great beginning, it really sets the scene. And what a superb idea to hide the secret ingredient inside a Pickle and Brussel Sprout Lasagne recipe – it made for a great story.

Indigo from Huanui College cleverly used personification to make the wish a character in its own right. “Suddenly the ink seemed to rise off the page, and it twisted through the air like black ribbons, twining together into the shape of a hunchbacked old woman. She was made up of half-formed streaks and tears dripped like viscous oil from her unseeing eye sockets …” Wonderfully evocative description and I loved your ending too.
“’Well everyone makes mistakes,’ I said gently, feeling a bit sorry for her, ‘I think you just need to accept that you did something wrong and move on.’
Mum ALWAYS said that when Jono and I had a fight.
Suddenly a gust of wind blew through the kitchen, and the witch seemed to disintegrate into fragments of dust that scattered to the corners of the room as though swept by an invisible broom.
The lights flickered back on.
I looked at the piece of paper still lying innocently on the bench.
Two words etched in black lettering curled across the page.
Thank you. “  

And my winner is:

Bill Kelly from Brooklyn Primary School

I was won over by the way your story made me laugh, its attention to detail, the nice balance of dialogue, description and plot, and its simple but clever ending. Big congratulations! I’ll be in touch shortly, to find out where to send your prize.

Elena’s Story Starter

Even though Jono and I both had friends over, the rainy afternoon seemed to be stretching out forever. 

“What about baking something,” called Mum from her home office, when Jono and Anaru started chasing each other around the living room, whooping loudly. “There’s a recipe for cupcakes somewhere in Nana’s old scrap book.”

It sounded like a good idea, especially as we could eat them afterwards.

While Ash and I turned the pages, Jono and Anaru looked over our shoulders. The recipes, most of them in Nana’s spidery writing, were dotted with grease spots and had interesting titles, like Tapioca Pudding and Lemon Barley Water.  

“Give it here. I’ll find the cupcakes,” said Anaru. He started rifling through the pages and a small square of folded paper fell out. “Bet that’s it.”

The faintly lined paper was yellowed at the edges and almost falling apart along the fold lines. I laid it out carefully on the bench. ~ RECIPE FOR A WISH ~ it began, in Nana’s best printing.

Bill’s Story

1 snail’s shell (ideally a magic variety)
1 Tbs of red sand
Juice of a fresh lemon
3 teeth (crushed)
5 drops of black ink

The first ingredient was simply a matter of a trip to the top of our garden. Deep in the foliage Ash found a sparkly gold snail shell the size of a button, hopefully it was a magic one. For the second ingredient we ran to the sheer rock face that separated our home from the waves of the wild Pacific and climbed down the steep stairs. Rain sprayed in our faces and water filled our gumboots as we waded out to Kaipara’s Rock. The small island named in 1824 after the fastest runner in Aotearoa who drowned when he fell from the rock and hit his head. I scooped up a handful of red sand and put it in one of Jono’s old plastic beach buckets along with the snail shell.

Soaking wet we trudged home for tea. Mum had made hot soup and Nana’s scones. “How will we get teeth?” asked Jono. Anaru offered to pull out three of his baby teeth using a rubber band attached to the door knob, which Jono got very excited about but Mum thought wasn’t a good idea.

“Let’s not worry about the teeth for now” said Ash bringing us back to the task “we need a lemon.”

“You’re in luck” Mum volunteered “There’s one in the veggie box this week, it’s still fresh.”

“Thanks Mum” I replied “but where do you think we can find some teeth?”

Mum looked like she was thinking hard.

“I know”, shouted Jono as he jumped up from the table “the rat trap.”

We all grimaced, “Eww gross!”

“It’s the best idea we have got” stressed Jono. We spent the next 20 minutes poking around Dad’s rat traps at the top of garden, trying to avoid losing a finger in the process. Finally my hand felt the stiff body of a dead rat and we carefully carried it back down to the house.

Jono laid the rat on the kitchen table.

“Out”, shouted Mum so we trouped back into the garden and Ash used his pocket knife to ease out three sharp teeth. It was grim. Jono and Anaru made gagging noises and then Anaru kicked the body over the fence into the neighbours while we used rocks to grind the teeth down and add them to the bucket.

Our final ingredient, the black ink. I found one of Mum’s old ball-point pens and snapped it so the ink spread across my fingers. As I slowly added 5 drops into the mixture we crowded over the bucket and watched as the potion began to fizz and splutter. Yellow bubbles sprayed on to the bench and a smell like cat pee filled the room.

“What should we wish for?” I asked.

“A huge lolly” said Jono,

“Lego” added Anaru,

“To Captain the Black Caps” countered Ash,

“No!” I said, “we need to wish for something special.”

We all looked at each other. “After three, say the most important thing you can think of that would change the world forever.” Then I counted down slowly, “Three… Two… One… We wish for… “

“Kindness” we said in unison..  

Posted in The Winner

FABO Story Report for competition 5 judged by Sue Copsey

Thanks to everyone who entered this round of FABO. I wondered what you’d think the blood moon signified, anticipating plenty of werewolves, vampires and monsters, and I wasn’t disappointed. Just … a little grossed out, perhaps! Some of you didn’t hold back in your descriptions about what a rampaging monster might do when there’s a blood moon (yikes). I’ll be keeping my windows shut if there’s another!

Before I share the winning story, many honourable mentions – you all have the best imaginations! To: Ana Sarniak-Thomson for a well-paced story with plenty of action; Shiloh Weavers – lovely description of Charlie turning into a monster; Anna Duff, who described Charlie’s fear as being ‘worse than the time she had to sing in front of the whole school’. I loved Sophie Strugnell’s story, especially the part about food being named after the charmed little girl: ‘There were Morgana biscuits, Morgana cupcakes, Morgana Brussels sprouts … the brussels sprouts were soon take down and replaced with Morgana lemonade.’ It really works to put a bit of humour into a horror story.

Mattie Lang deserves a mention for her tomato-sauce-loving bunny from Mars. Mereania Makoare’s story had a moral, summed up in her last line: ‘I learned to always listen to my mum, respect our culture, and never, ever leave the windows open on a blood moon.’ And Sophie Cooper, I loved your plot twist at the end 😉 Elizabeth Stroebel’s story was beautifully written and stood out to me as an editor, for its total lack of mistakes, its spelling and punctuation all just so. Lauren McKenzie was a hot contender for first place – I loved your well-written apocalyptic story with a great twist at the end. Another special mention, to Shaun Zixu, who at the age of seven wrote a great little blood-curdling tale about a dog eating the moon and making it bleed. Amara Shah wrote about why the moon turned red – blame the vampires! Amelie Forrester’s beautiful description of a ghost blew me away: ‘She had big, round, milky eyes framed by snowy lashes. Her skin was pearly, with frosty hair that carried a tint of red …’ and her story ended ‘All ghosts aren’t bad’, which as an author of ghost stories, I totally agree with!

Richard Xu your story was so fast paced it really bowled along. Kennedy Lee’s excellent story was terrifying. More lovely writing from Gracie Moody, Charlotte Houliston, Isabel Foster and Juliet Young (who described Charlie’s nerves as feeling like ‘fantails flitting in his gut’). I loved Johnna Zixu’s description of passing through a ghost as being like ‘showering in ice cubes’. Araav Das Roy came VERY close to winning for inventive use of language, especially ‘sweat ran down his face faster than a Maserati’.

My overall winner is nine-year-old Isabel Wadham from Remuera Primary School, whose story stood out because of its lovely description, its pace, its clever theme (each blood moon is an omen of a natural disaster) and the touch of humour at the end. Here’s Isabel’s story:

Sue’s Story Starter

‘I hope the sky stays clear for tonight,’ said Charlie’s mum. ‘This only happens once in a blue moon.’

‘Once in a red moon, don’t you mean?’ said Dad, helping himself to more salad.

‘Silly me, of course. Red moon.’

Blood moon,’ said Charlie. ‘Why does it turn red?’

Charlie regretted the words immediately – Oh no, what have I done? – as Dad reached for a tomato and began, ‘So, imagine this tomato is the sun …’

Ten minutes later, when the large, medium and small tomatoes were back on their plates, Mum said, ‘Well that’s interesting, but where I come from, a blood moon has a different significance.’

‘How so?’ said Dad.

‘Let’s just say, we should keep the bedroom windows shut tonight.’

Isabel’s Winning Story

After that unearthly dinner, Charlie brushed her teeth. As chalk white foam flowed out of her mouth, notions were gushing through her mind. What did Mum mean by “where I come from”? What is a blood moon? Why did Dad use so many tomatoes?

Charlie inched into her bunk bed, questions that needed to be answered lurched around her brain, questions that needed to be answered NOW! It was around 10:30 at night, but Charlie was still wide awake. She stood up, with her back hunched, and toddled to the end of the hall. 

On the other side of the door, Charlie’s parents were discussing, but Charlie could only faintly apprehend what they were saying. So she flicked back her creamy cocoa brown hair, and tucked her fringe behind her ears. “I can hear much better now!” she thought.

Mum said “A different natural disaster happens every year when there is a blood moon, shouldn’t we be worried?!”


“Well, 2020 was a landslide, 2019 was a volcano, 2018 was a tornado, should we warn Charlie?” Dad replied, anxiously. 


“It’s late, we’ll let her rest for now,” Mum said in a drowsy tone. “But remember, the redder the moon, the wilder the disaster!” 

Charlie was panic-stricken, and was breathing as loudly as never before. She gently tiptoed to her room, but instead of climbing into her bunk bed, she gazed out the window. The moon was a bloodshot red, with a baffling feel to it, and a smoky grey cloud, with its tip covering the moon. Charlie was dazzled, but then she remembered what Mum said. “The redder the moon, the wilder the disaster,” she whispered to herself. All the dazzle melted into pain and fear.

Beneath the moon, the ocean started to inhale all the water, sucking it further and further away from Charlie. A wave formed. Charlie’s heart dropped lifeless. The wave wasn’t like the ones in cartoons, teal and transparent, usually with a face on it. This one was as black as a panther, staring it’s vicious eye at you. On the top of the tsunami, there was a livid dollop of milk white foam bubbling with rage.

Mum and Dad suddenly burst through the room. “TSUNAMI!!!” Dad yelped, with a bewildered look on his face.

But Mum just strutted away, with her heels making a “CLICK!” each step she made. Mum noticed that Dad and Charlie weren’t following, so she called from the hall, “Follow me!” 
Charlie and Dad were confused, but did what she said anyway, like they always did. They all dashed up their local mountain, and boy, Mum could really run in heels! 

The smoky grey tsunami had everything in it. It was like the merry go round at the park, but this one has howling people in it, praying to live just one more day. The sickening tsunami came under the family but then suddenly pulled away and… THEY LIVED! Mum said to Charlie in a cocky tone, “It happened all the time where I grew up, you guys should get used to it!”

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story Report for Competition 3 judged by Helen Vivienne Fletcher

Thanks to everyone who entered a story this fortnight. Jessie, Sarah and Tom certainly got up to some adventures! I had a hard time picking a winner, and there were several stories I came back to many times before finally deciding.

Before I announce the winner, I have a few honourable mentions.

Nella Thomson and Anna Duff had some lovely descriptive language throughout their stories – good use of metaphors and similes!

Adele N had some great humour, with the kids mailing themselves to Paris in order to get the money to fly to Japan. One small problem with that – they then also had to raise the money to get home from France!

Grace Moodie and Adele Stack created fascinating mythology behind the origins of the coin. Grace with three imagined ancient coins, and Adele with an Inca Temple at the heart of her story.

Zhongheng Wu and Caitlin Young took the story down a sci fi track, Caitlin with Sarah turning out to be an alien, and Zhongheng with the inventor of Bitcoin and an intriguing secret project called Oasis 9.

Bill Kelly had a great adventure story, set in a museum, with our heroes getting themselves into a bit of trouble… or not as it turns out in a clever twist at the end.

Niamh Murray’s story was thoughtfully written, telling us two sides to the story – Sarah’s and the story of a supposed villain who had stolen the coin. Villains aren’t always what they seem, and Niamh gave this one a fascinating backstory.

And the winner is…

Indigo Tomlinson. Indigo’s story particularly appealed to me because it felt like a complete story, with interesting descriptions – I loved the line about the anxious typewriter! The dark twist at the end was creepy, but fit the story well, and made for a satisfying conclusion.

My story starter: The Garage Sale

“Is that the best price you can give me?”

Jessie glanced between the man and the $1.50 price tag dangling from the necklace held between his fingers.

“Well … we’re fundraising for our school trip to Japan,” she said, hesitantly.

The man’s arched eyebrow told Jessie that wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear. His piercing stare reminded Jessie of the ones her teacher gave her when she’d forgotten to do her homework.

Her shoulders slumped. “One dollar, okay?”

The man’s face softened, and he dropped two coins on the makeshift counter. He started to turn away, then glanced back. “Good luck with the fundraising, kid. Perhaps you’ll reach your goal faster than you think.” He winked, then walked away, taking the necklace with him.

Jessie swept the coins into the cashbox without looking at them. She couldn’t help thinking they would make the goal faster with that extra 50 cents!

“You’re such a soft touch, Jessie.” Sarah grinned from behind a rack of second-hand clothes.

Tom shook his head. “Not her fault. Some people will haggle over any price.”

Jessie sighed. Tom was right, but they were never going to raise enough for the trip if people kept asking for discounts. This was the third garage sale they’d held, and they were still nowhere near meeting their fundraising target.

“How much have we made today?” Sarah asked.

Jessie opened the cashbox, tipping the money out to count it. The rattle of coins stopped disappointingly soon. Sarah and Tom both groaned.

“We’ll never get to Tokyo at this rate!”

Sarah started sorting the coins into piles.

“Hey, what’s this one?” Tom held up a large bronze coin. It was bigger than any of the others, and it had a strange spiral symbol in the middle. “I’ve never seen money like this before…”

Sarah’s face paled. “I have,” she said. “But you’re not going to believe where …”

Indigo’s Story

Before Sarah could continue, Tom spat on his thumb and started rubbing the surface of the coin idly. An electric shock ripped the air apart and an urgent “ding” like the sound of an anxious typewriter reaching the edge of the page, evaporated into the air. Jessie felt her body fragment into mist, and she was slurped up into the atmosphere like the last dregs of hot chocolate in the bottom of the mug.

They were standing in an abandoned courtyard. Above them the sky was the colour of tea-stained paper, and in front a cracking marble fountain stood, bubbling dejectedly like half-flat lemonade.

Slowly, Jessie walked towards the dribbling fountain. It gurgled anxiously as she approached. At the base of the fountain thousands more unusual coins created a crazy-paving pattern.

“It’s like a wishing well!” Sarah exclaimed, “That’s where I’ve seen a coin like that before.”

“Maybe that’s what the man meant!” Jessie exclaimed excitedly, “He knew we could use the coin and make a wish to go to Tokyo!”

Fingers trembling with anticipation Jessie released the coin into the fountain. As it tumbled the surface caught the light in odd and unknowing contours of strangeness, and winked at her, as though they shared a secret.

The fountain began to shake at the sides, and from the water rose a terrifying figure. As they watched the man seemed to morph and change shape subtly, elongating shadows filling the empty grooves on his forehead and the wasted hollows of his sunken cheeks. Where his right eye should have been, a silver coin gleamed menacingly.

Jessie gasped and took a step back, heart pounding.
The man’s nails, stained with murky verdigris, tapped impatiently on the rim of the pathetically pouting fountain.

“Ahhhh….” his voice rang out like the chink of coins in the bottom of a wishing well.

“Uh, hi!” Jessie gave him the blatantly cheerful smile she usually reserved specifically for visits to the dentist.

“I see you made a wish….” the man reached out one spindly arm, and Jessie noticed tattoos running up and down every inch of exposed skin, embossed like indents in metal.

“Well…” Jessie felt her merry-go-lucky fairground facade falling away.

“Who are you?” Tom asked, no trace of fear in his brash voice.

The man gave a wide smile and Jessie saw that his teeth were made of coppery bronze.
“I am the Wish-Granter, boy.” The way he said “boy” sounded like an insult, spat from his mouth like something distasteful. “The wishes give me life, and in return I make them come true.”

“So we can go to Tokyo?” Jessie asked hopefully. The man gave a bitter little quirk of the lips,

“Be careful what you wish for.” He melted into the shadows like a dying candle.

Jessie raced to the fountain and scrambled to retrieve the wish coin. But it was lost amid the others. The man’s final words had been a warning. The sky darkened…..

Three newly polished coins chinked into the wishing well of Tokyo airport, as though dropped from an invisible hand. If anyone had looked closer, they would have seen the faces of Tom, Sarah and Jessie, engraved in harsh lines on the silvered surface.
But no-one did.
Be careful what you wish for indeed.

Posted in The Winner

FABO Story Report judged by Kathy White

Thanks to everyone who answered the Fabo call and sent in a story. A special high-five goes to Mr Clarke’s class at Hoon Hay School, who worked on Fabo Story as soon as the new term started. It’s great to see  new faces, but it’s also nice to see the keen writers from last year back again. 

I got excited by YOU using your imagination and seeing all the different directions you took this Stewart Island adventure. 

Having a word limit can be difficult, but you’ll get better with practice. You need to choose a story that you can tell within that word count, that will have a beginning, middle and end.

If you only wrote a few sentences, you probably didn’t win the competition this time. If the story you wrote wasn’t closely connected to the story starter, or if you didn’t finish your story, you probably also didn’t win the prize, even if the writing was AMAZING. And some of you DID write amazing stories that didn’t finish. Some stories are simply too big to tell within 500 words. If that’s the case, you need to rethink the size of your plot and make it a short story rather than a novel. Make it simpler.

Here are some of the entertaining things you DID include in your stories this week.

I liked it when you thought about who the rat was,  the qualities of the heroes and villains in your story, and what they wanted most. 

Bill Kelly said: “I am Bileford, the son of the Great Rat of Rakiura, and I wish to unite the warring tribes of this island.”

Natasha said: “It is foreseen that a child of Willow the patron of the kiwi will free the kiwi birds of their worst enemy the rats” whispers the voice again from the shadows. “You think its me?” I reply suddenly. “Of course” the rat whispers. 

Ava Schaumann’s fantails had a very specific goal: “Ridding Stewart Island of ALL humans that infest it!”

I liked it when you painted a picture with both actions and descriptions so I could see the scene in my head. 

Juno Ireland said: I start running. Without even a glance back at the lonely, rickety toilet on top of the hill, I sprint down the other side of the slope. Remy’s tail thumping against my neck as our torch light shadows chase us. As the star-encrusted sky turns an inky indigo, we approach the gnarly trees that mark the beginning of the bush.

Bill Kelly said: Ensuring I have my torch secure in my pocket, we set off, trudging into the darkness of the bush. We pass towering podocarps, that make elaborate patterns overhead with intertwining branches and flowering rātā. On the forest floor in the low growing ferns, creatures rustle and the ground seems alive.

I loved the language you used.

And when you used sight, sound and smells in your descriptions.

In the dark outside, the whistle tastes of magic, of old things, rust, and sea salt …. (Indigo Tomlinson).

I liked it when you were funny. 

Stella Johnson said: “Bristle you’re back!” An older looking creature scurried to greet the rat. Bristle must be her name, I thought. There isn’t one bristle on her rat-pelt. I think these creatures need to choose more appropriate names for their family.

Juliet Young’s spooky story about ghosts had its funny moments: Feeling the crescent-shaped whistle in my palm, I put it to my mouth and heave a deep breath – difficult when surrounded by ghosts, you could easily swallow one ….

Indigo Tomlinson’s main character used the magic whistle to change the diet of rats, and inflict a bit of torture on her brother Sam at the same time. She wrote: “What’re we gonna eat now?” asks one. There is a clamour of concerned voices. I smile wickedly,
“Well, if you go over to the North Arm Hut, there’s a boy there who really needs someone to clean up his toe jams.”

I liked it when you surprised me with a twist. 

Katy McLeod wrote about a rat that gave a series of instructions, then blew the whistle and shrank until he was invisible. You might think the main character would have followed the rat, but did she? No. She didn’t want to shrink, so she “betrays the trusty rat” and instead tricked her brother into blowing the whistle.

I wasn’t expecting that.

I loved it when you captured something special about the characters in the way you made them speak and interact.

Ridima wrote: The rat bowed down and said, “I am Prince Templeton Augustine Willis the Fourth, raised in the palace of Rattingburgh.” Reading the expression on my face, he said, “Just call me Tom.”

And I loved it when you logically tied together all the elements from the story starter and included a beginning, middle and end.

That’s why my winner this week is 12 year-old Anwen Davies. Congratulations, Anwen. Your plot pacing, your descriptions and your dialogue were good, and you even managed to weave the football theme further into your story. We’ll be in touch to organise your prize soon.

Adventure on Stewart Island

kiwi2
Photo by the Graf boys

“This place is pure magic,” I whisper. I’m watching a white-tailed deer amble past the North Arm Hut. She stops next to the picnic table and bends down to nibble at the leaves on the ground. Right where we had lunch today. Behind the hut, I can hear two possums squabbling and then a thump as one of them falls out of a tree onto the corrugated iron roof.

This natural magnificence all happens as the sun goes down, painting a rosy glow across the bay, and it all would be perfect … except Dad and Sam haven’t noticed any of it. They’re still talking about football. Unbelievable.

I glance over at them drying the dinner dishes. “Hey, are we still getting up early to look for kiwi?”

“Absolutely,” Dad says. “How about I wake you at 4?” He winks at me.

“No way, José. We’re on holiday,” Sam says, flicking his tea-towel at Dad. “I’m not going anywhere before lunchtime.”

kiwi1
Photo by the Graf boys

Dad shrugs at me as if to say there’s nothing he can do. I know he likes sleeping in as much as Sam, and Sam is the laziest brother a girl could have.

“This IS MY birthday present,” I remind them. “And I want to hear and see a kiwi. It’s all I want.” But Sam’s already back to talking about Ronaldo and his famous free kicks, and why he thinks he might be talented enough to be Ronaldo the Second. Right now, I’d like to give him a famous free kick of my own.

I flop onto my bed in the bunkroom and reach under my pillow for the treasure I found earlier. It’s a golden crescent-shaped whistle. The initials KW are scratched onto the back of it, which is kind of freaky because those are my initials and it even looks like my writing. But it’s not mine.  I try blowing it again for what must be the 6th or 7th time today but there’s still no sound coming out. Not even a rattle. Perhaps I need to give it a good blast.

I tuck it into my swanndri pocket, grab my torch and a roll of toilet paper, and slip out the back door. It’s a bit of a hike up a steep hill to the toilet, and you do have to check the seat for spiders, but it’s the only place for a girl to get privacy here, and even then you have to put your foot against the door to stop annoying brothers from barging in.

I’m just about to drop my pants when a small voice squeaks. “I’m so pleased you called. It was so faint, I nearly missed it.” In the halo of my torchlight, I see a young rat perched on the edge of the basin. “Are you ready to go? Do you have your whistle? We don’t have much time.”

Anwen’s Winning Story…

Never in my life had I ever felt so frightened. My whole body shook and I started to feel that the toilet seat might start talking to me. “Who are you”

“No time, do you have the whistle?”

It takes me a while to click, does the rat mean the whistle I found earlier?

“Well” Squeaked the rat sounding a little impatient.

“I, I have it here” I utter, fumbling for it in my Swanndri pocket.

“You ready?” He says enthusiastically.

“Where are we go-”

“Just trust me and come” he interrupted, “Come.”

Reluctantly but with excitement I followed the rat into the thick undergrowth of the native bush, breathing in the cold, thick night air. I wondered where we were going as we start to quickly head down hill. For the rat it was easy as he scuffled over the leaves where a path his size seemed to have been made. But at my height, I was having a real fight with the bracken and ferns, not to mention the spiders webs.

The wind howled and twisted through the branches. I shivered. It started getting more exposed now and as the trees opened up ahead, we came into a clearing.

I squinted, then gasped as I looked down in front of me. It seemed that I was about to enter a football pitch. Not any old pitch, but one the size of a table with fern fronds for goal posts. What stunned me most of all was that the players were animals – big, plump rats and little stubby kiwis.

“What’s going on” I burst out. The rat glared at me, then he suddenly smiles. “ I suppose I better explain. All the rats and kiwi’s living on Stewart Island meet on the full moon for a game of football – forest style.”

“Why am I here?” I asked, still puzzled.

“Well, the reason you are here is this.”

The rat explained that every ten years they assigned a new referee for their game, and this time I was the chosen one – me, Katie Walker.

“You are KW – Katerina Whites daughter”

I nearly fainted for the second time that evening.

How did the rat know my mother, Katerina White?

My mother who had left me when I was 2 and who died 10 years ago of cancer. The rat seemed to read my mind and responded straight away. “Your mother, used to be our referee, many full moons ago. That was her whistle, the whistle you will blow tonight”

I nodded, barely able to take it all in. There remained one question for the rat.

“This whistle doesn’t seem to work” I mutter.

The rat pauses then replies;
“Yes, you are right, it only works in the correct light – moonlight from a full moon.”

As the rat nods at me, I fish the whistle out of my pocket and blow. But it doesn’t sound like any whistle I’ve heard before; It sounds like music, a lullaby perhaps. The game begins. I don’t know how, but I just seem to know the right time to make a call, to blow the whistle.

Well, maybe Dad and Sam’s obsession with football wasn’t for no reason after all.

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 11 judged by Melinda Szymanik

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.”

“It was.”

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?”

Willow nodded.

“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?”

“Well… no.”

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.

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 10 judged by Jane Bloomfield

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 Bloomfield

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.

(end)

2nd place goes to Olivia Morriss, 11, Oamaru Intermediate

&

3rd place goes to William Kelly, 8, Brooklyn Primary, Wellington

Congratulations, Olivia and William!!

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 9 judged by Kyle Mewburn

It’s always very exciting to be the judge of a Fabo round. It’s also a bit nerve-wracking because it’s generally so hard to decide on just one winner. This round we were absolutely inundated with lots of great stories with imaginative plots, clever characterisations and some fantastic writing.

So many entries were brimming with imagination. Rutendo of Tokoroa had Lucy battling an evil puffin group. While Harman of Ormiston went one step further with a puffin CEO of a secret world government.

Lucy of Balmoral had the fictional Lucy meeting a wizened old woman with a weird collection of stones. Her story was full of lovely similes – the stone was warm, like hot chocolate on a winter’s morning.

Khloe of Highlands decided to go to Narnia with some great descriptive writing – She glanced up, to see a white tree, covered in crystalline snow, with a kiss of falling leaves, slanted in between the parted hedge.

Juno of St Dominic’s had many wonderful descriptions as Lucy was given a tour of the monster zoo by a man with “a fluffy moustache, like a storm cloud” and met the neanderthal giant whose “face was like a big map, with wrinkles as routes, joining everywhere across it, and a chin like an upside-down mountain.”

Indigo of Whakatane took us to Fantasia with some very clever scene setting and characterisation – Ignoring dotty Mrs. Plummer pottering around the hedge, muttering to it as though it were an old friend come to tea.

Evelyn of Clearview had a scary encounter with zombies. Anika of Thorndon had an eerie encounter with the Grim Reaper. And in William of Brooklyn’s story, Lucy met the fabulously eccentric Sir Albert Von Albatross.

It was almost impossible to choose a winner. It was SOOOOOO close. But if you’ve been paying attention during the competitions, you might have realised every judge has a different set of judging criteria – things which especially tickle our fancies.

The winning story ticked so many of my personal judging boxes. A storyline sparkling with originality, a strong writing voice and loads of fantastic similes. This was also a story with a lot of heart.

This week’s winner is Juno Ireland of St Dominic’s Primary School.

And this is what our special guest Puffin judge, Heather Haylock – author of the wonderful Granny McFlitter series – had to say about Juno’s winning story.

“This story holds some powerful imagery. I love the idea of the monster’s face being like a map, with wrinkles as routes and a chin like an upside-down mountain. The writing flows naturally and cleverly packs a lot of information about the setting and the characters into a small space. I like Lucy’s immediate emotional connection with the captive creatures (“their eyes said it all”), and the light dusting of humour (I wonder what a Monster Vanquisher 2000 does?). Juno’s story certainly gave Lucy the beginnings of the exceptional day of her dreams. I want to know what happens next!”

CONGRATULATIONS! If you message us we’ll tell you how to claim your special prize.

To everyone else, keep on sending in those entries!
Kyle

Kyle’s Story Starter

As Lucy heaved her way through the dark hedge, her imagination whirled like an out-of-control merry-go-round. There could be anything waiting on the other side. A TOP SECRET government spy base patrolled by snarling watchdogs. An evil puffin’s secret hideaway rimmed with laser detectors and booby traps. Or even a whole other world, like in the Narnia stories she’d just finished reading.

Not that she really, truly expected to find anything exciting on the other side. Stuff like that didn’t happen in real life. But after a week of boring school holidays she was desperate for just a scrap of adventure. It didn’t even have to be an actual adventure. If she found anything even mildly interesting, her imagination could do the rest. Then the day would be exceptional.

Lucy barged ahead in a fury of flailing arms like she was swimming against a twiggy tide. Or wrestling a woody sea serpent. When the hedge suddenly parted, she sprawled forward into sunshine.

But the sun quickly vanished as a shadowy shape loomed over her…

Juno Ireland’s winning story

Lucy peered up at a tall, bulky man. He had a fluffy moustache, like a storm cloud, a cream shirt, sunhat and a nametag reading: Paul. Complete with his kind smile, Paul had the resemblance of a zoo keeper.

“What brings you here today?” he asked, blowing his moutache upwards as he spoke. Lucy hesitated, but before she could reply, Paul said “Ah yes, a free tour of the Italian dragons, deadly kitties and the Neanderthal giant. Right this way”. He beckoned towards a high iron gate, almost as unpleasant as the idea of giants.

Lucy shuffled backwards, alarmed. “What’s in there?”. The man looked astonished, then confused, and then chuckled. “Why, the Zoo of Monsters” he said. And with that, he began walking forward, gently guiding Lucy to the heavily armed threshold.

Desperately thinking, Lucy imagined escaping, but then the reassuring sun reappeared, brightening her mood. She was curious after all. Slowing to a halt at the gate, she noticed that it was flanked with burly guards, each possessing an enormous gun with the words: MONSTER VANQUISHER 2000.

Lucy shuddered. Surely monsters weren’t real? However, as the guards swung open the gates, terrifying monsters stared back at her. In fact, their captivating gazes were so utterly hard and sad that she found herself looking away to avoid their monstrous expressions.

Spiky, scaly, fluffy creatures were sprawled over scorched terrain. Some monsters’ main features were sharp, jagged teeth, or great bundles of fur, or sleek glimmering scales, which made them look content and simple, but their eyes said it all. They missed their homes and the discouraging brick walls between them weren’t helping.

Lucy turned to protest on their behalf to Paul, except he handed her a map. A path with enclosures on either side snaked through the zoo. “This way to see the Neanderthal giant” he announced, strolling down the path. Eventually they reached the enclosure which absolutely stunned Lucy.

The most immense, caveman-like figure towered over them. His face was like a big map, with wrinkles as routes, joining everywhere across it, and a chin like an upside-down mountain. His heavy brow gave him the ultimate Neanderthal effect, forming a ridge over his eyes.

Lucy’s breathing turned shallow. Many unanswered questions swam in her head. Suddenly a huge gnarled hand gently grabbed Lucy’s waist and lifted her up and up. Her map fluttered down like a dove. She had second thoughts about the giant. He was probably just as lonely and desperate as the others. Still, it was so nerve-wracking being whisked into the air as Paul turned ant-sized below.

Soon Lucy was face-to-face with the giant. She tried a soft approach, touching his face. Hi grinned impishly, which looked terrible with his wrinkles and eyebrows. Then he turned and lowered her into another enclosure next to his. Lucy lay dazed on a rocky surface, and looked around.

The enclosure was barren with heaps of barbed wire around the edges. Hearing an abrupt rustle, Lucy turned. An exquisite thing stepped forward. With gleaming feathers the shades of sunset, a powerful orange-scarlet glow, and graceful legs the colour of golden wheat, the creature of myths stood before her. The phoenix!

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 8 judged by Weng Wai Chan

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.”
– Fleur

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…”