Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 5 judged by Kathy White

You guys are fabulous. I had so much fun this week reading your stories – perhaps not so much fun trying to figure out who was going to win the prize this week, because there were so many people who wrote well – but thank you, thank you, thank you for putting so much thought into our 5th writing competition, The Oak Tree Gang.

There were 134 entries this time – from all over New Zealand, and even from children in the UK, Taiwan and Malaysia. One thing was certain, no matter how old you were (three amazing entries were from four-year-olds), or where you were from, you were all keen writers, making the most of your spare time in Lockdown. Awesome.

THE STORY STARTER – I’ve been a judge with Fabo for more than ten years, and it constantly amazes me how many different ideas, genres and styles can come from a single story-starter. Every single one of you sounded different, as if you have your own unique writing fingerprint.

Some of you didn’t use the story starter, and just wrote your own story, saying it wasn’t your style. Just remember that it’s good practice to experiment with writing in all genres and styles, because it helps you to figure out what you DO like, and it hones your writing skills. I also can’t give prizes to people who write a story that’s not connected to the story starter, no matter how good your writing is, so PLEASE always use the story starter and find a way to add your own flavour to it.

YOUR IDEAS – On the surface, this story starter was about a few kids who came home to a street with no oak trees and a monolithic tower outside their home. But what was it REALLY about? You sent me sinister plots of mind control and surveillance, rival gangs, Russian spy agencies and people stealing data and cats. Neighbours disappeared at the same rate as the trees, factories pumped out grey fumes into the air, and birds were killed by radiation from the towers. There were killer power poles and drones, evil household appliances and automated houses. I have to say, you really liked the drones 😊 and poor Tyler seemed to bear the brunt of them.

There were also heroes going into battle, bamboozling and destroying drones, infiltrating factories, rescuing kidnapped cats, taking on the lead role in a fight to protect the world against alien invaders, investigating the law around protecting 100-year-old oak trees, and protesting at the council office and in Oak Tree Lane. You had some very innovative solutions to protecting that last oak tree. It took on symbolic significance for a lot of you, as it should. I particularly liked Hannah Tait’s story about an old man, a Valiant, just before he died, passing a magical weapon to the Oak Tree Gang, to protect the last of the ancient trees that are vital to our world’s survival.

Of course, where there’s action and argument, there’s also sometimes failure and despair. Zahra was especially good at writing with emotion, as were Alex, Summer and Anna.

Will, Angus, Theo , Harry, Juno, Frida, Hannah, Alexander and Molly wrote great action sequences. I also enjoyed reading good dialogue (conversations between people), with the best examples building on the personalities of the characters. Indigo, Cora, Olivia, Holly, Theo, Taylor, Emily, Hannah, Sadra, Emelie, Bethany and Victoria were all good at this.

Here’s an example from Victoria Murdoch, whose character was a little sinister:

“I wasn’t expecting a crowd. That was simply your choice. I thought perhaps there would be a tagger-on, but young people do tend to stick to one another like magic potion gone wrong ….” His words slipped from his mouth like an eel moving through water.

And one from Theo Parks, building on the character Deano’s superior vocabulary skills:

“We’ve just come back from school camp. Do you have anything to do with this …” I wave my hand around the forest of stumps. “M-er …” I can’t think of anything to say. “Deforestation,” Deano said. I shot Deano a glare.

And from Bethany Scott-Donelan, showing the distinctive dialogue of an older sister:

My older sister Kim then bounded in, looking strangely joyful. “Ügh stop with your frowny faces, boys. I have an idea.”

Treasure in language – The best thing about your stories was the words that you used and how you put them together, whether it was to create a scene, a mood, or to show something about the characters and the relationships between them.

Here are some of my favourite lines from your writing this week –

“Then we will just have to say our goodbyes, and not only to our tree, but also to our gang.” It was the stinging truth, you can’t have an Oak Tree Gang without oak trees. (Emelie Wissel)

Everything around me became a blur, like this whole event was just a nightmare. But it wasn’t, this is the grim reality, and not even some kids that fell in love with their little forest could stop the buried truth. (Emelie Wissel)

I didn’t even care that I had missed crumpets. I don’t know what had gotten into me. I love crumpets. (Arshiya Tuli)

The driver was a huge brick of a man (Seb Gibbs)

The drone’s light examined us. It saw our imploring looks. With a grunt, it whirred away into the orange sky, and the sky’s colour began to change again. The whispers of the breeze rose to a roar. (Arshiya Tuli)

My mind was so much like the ocean, calm on the surface with so many deep undercurrents, all of them with their own purpose. (Samantha Muirhead)

One by one, the cats jumped, their parachutes floating like coloured jellyfish out behind them. (Ben Parker)

It was hell to see the last oak tree also bend down into saw dust. (Zahra Parker)

THE SHORTLIST

My overlong shortlist included Emelie, Indigo, Arshiya, Taylor, Seb, Finn, Zahra, Taylor, Theo, Angela, Juno, Karina, Will, Juliet, Amadeia, Emily, Lucia, Evie, Bethany, Hannah, Olivia and Samantha.

You all had moments of brilliance. Please don’t despair if I haven’t mentioned you in my report. Every week is a new competition and a new judge. This week is Sue Copsey, who has both a quirky sense of humour and a love of things ghostly. Don’t delay. Get writing and enter the 6th writing competition.

But now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for ….

The 5th writing competition winner is 12 year-old Indigo Tomlinson from Whakatane Intermediate. Her story is particularly strong in dialogue and imagery.

Here are some of my favourite lines –

There was an air of menace about him, as though we were dancing on the edge of an icicle.

… the red light gleamed like vampire eyes ëven in the hazy afternoon sun.

His smile was like barbed wire.

That’s how he was looking at us. Like we were unwanted gifts.

David Hill, author of various books including Kiwi Bites and picture books about Edmund Hillary, Joan Wiffen, Peter Blake, and Jacinda Ardern also said

“Congratulations to Indigo on her success. I’m impressed by the tightness of her story – the way she’s managed to fit so many events into a small space. Things move briskly, clearly, and it’s a clever, unsettling ending. I very much like her use of dialogue, which is such a good way of showing mood, characters, relationships. The people in her story are authentic, and there’s a nice range of feelings among them. A good layout also, with a variety of paragraph and sentence lengths. The story looks interesting on the page. Congratulations to a writer from whom I hope we’ll hear more in the future.”

And that pretty much says it all. Kia kaha, Indigo. We’ll be in touch about your prize, a book from our fabulous sponsor, Puffin Books, soon.

– Kathy

Kathy White’s Story Starter: The Oak Tree Gang

“So how was it?” Mum asked as she drove through the Heu Heu Street intersection. “You boys weren’t too happy about going on your first school camp.”

Deano leaned forward through the gap in the front seat. “It wasn’t too bad, Mrs G, apart from the horrific river run …”

Wills groaned.

” … and Wills getting called Puffin’ Billy because of his asthma,” I added. Wills coughed as if on cue.

“And the over-salted rabbit stew on toast was disgusting.” Deano pulled a face. “Please don’t add it to your fine culinary repertoire, Mrs G.”

Mum smiled at him.

I sighed. Deano always impressed my mum with his vocabulary. I just wished he didn’t manage to make me look quite so stupid in comparison.

I yawned and pressed my face against the window as we turned the corner into Oak Tree Lane. Suddenly I was more awake than I’d been all week. “What’s happened to all the trees?”

Last week the street had been full of magnificent 100-year-old oak trees, one on every grass verge. Now they were stumps in the ground smothered in a fine layer of sawdust. I felt sick.

“As long as they haven’t cut ours down,” Wills wheezed. “You can’t have an Oak Tree Gang without an oak tree.”

I knew the news was bad as soon as I saw Mum’s face in the rear-view mirror.

“A phone company cut them down yesterday,” she said. “I came home from work to find it looking like this.” She pointed ahead of the car.

Holy macaroni. Right where our tree used to be, outside number 14, was an enormous tower made of concrete and steel. On the top were three antennae, and a platform full of dark grey boxes with LED lights.
What had they done with our club-house? And where was the flying fox that went into the gully?

“No way! ” Deano yelled, stumbling out of the car before it had pulled into the driveway. “There must be a law against this.”

“Apparently not,” Mum sighed, slamming the door. “I called them and they said the tree wasn’t on our land. There’s just one tree left and they’re coming to cut that down tomorrow.”

“Oh woe is me,” Deano said, sinking to his knees.

I heard a sound behind me and turned to see my beautiful cat, Tyler, running toward me, the bell on his collar jangling, and his big belly swaying. He started rubbing himself against my jeans, a big smile on his whiskery grey face. He obviously didn’t understand that this was mega.

“Hang on a minute,” said Wills, squinting. He pointed to a grey box at the top of the tower. “That looks like a mammoth drone.”

That’s when the light came on. A red laser light. And its sights were focused on ….

Indigo Tomlinson’s Winning Entry

I was still fuming, but the red light gleamed like vampire eyes even in the hazy afternoon sun. It rotated slowly till the tip was focused directly on Wills, Deano and me. Wills took a step back, waxy skin pale and cheekbones pulled into sharp relief as he took hasty little puffs on his inhaler. Deano glowered at the structure.
‘’What is that drone thing?’’ I asked, Mum sighed and shrugged,

‘’I don’t know but I’m going to cook dinner. You boys must be starving!’’ she pulled a silly face, ‘’Fancy any more rabbit stew on toast?’’

‘’Muuuum!’’ I groaned. She made her way inside the house, and we were left alone with the towering monolith. The gigantic drone lifted off into the air and whirred towards the ground, with a sound like a ferocious wasp’s nest. I shivered. An ashy black bird it landed on the ground next to us and I was reminded of my Grandfather’s funeral, and the way everything felt heavy and smelled of plastic flowers from the dollar shop. It was a funeral really. The funeral of our Clubhouse. The funeral of the Oak Tree Gang.

‘’I can’t believe anyone could commit such vicious sacrilege!’’ Deano declared theatrically. Neither could I. Anger bubbled like a lava lamp inside me.

‘’Wait!’’ Wills cried, ‘’Jo, didn’t your Mum say there was one tree left?’’ I nodded slowly,

‘’But they’re cutting it down tomorrow’’ I replied, Deano narrowed his eyes,

‘’We can stop them!’’ he cried, ‘’Tie ourselves to the branches! Y’know, like those environmental thingys!’’

‘’I’m afraid you can’t.’’ a frozen voice like an alpine lake said from behind us. We whirled around. A businessman in a crisp blue suit stood waiting. He reminded me of a glacier. Polished, yet hard and cold. There was an air of menace about him, as though we were dancing on the knife edge of an icicle. He smiled. A perfect celebrity smile. Fake, and shiny the way you are when you get a birthday present you really don’t like. That’s how he was looking at us. Like we were unwanted gifts. Fear bloomed in my stomach like poisonous spores.

‘’My name is Arnold Blunderbuss.’’ he said, ‘’I work for a multi-million dollar company.’’ his smile was like barbed wire, ‘’People pay us to, discover things. I suppose you could call us the ‘’gossips.’’ We give them the information. They give us the money. ’’ He clearly had no practice talking to pre-adolescents.

‘’What he’s saying,’ Wills explained adjusting his round glasses, ‘’Is that his company is invading peoples privacy then selling their personal data, using the tower and the drone! They’re not telephone people at all!’’

‘’Gah!!’’ screamed Arnold Blunderbuss. He lunged for Wills, but with the hiss of an exploding kettle, Tyler (whom I had completely forgotten about) landed on Mr. Blunderbusses perfectly gelled hair and clawed viciously at his face. He worked as a very good pair of head cuffs until the police arrived.

A few weeks later I woke up and looked out the window. A glacial looking man in neon orange community service overalls was digging a hole down by the road. Next to him was a baby oak tree. I smiled.

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story Report for the second competition judged by Maureen Crisp!

When I wrote the story starter, I deliberately left a few ideas hanging to see what everyone would do. One of the tricks for following on with a story starter is to try and keep the setting the same, at least at the beginning. I put Rona into the backyard on a very stormy night. I was looking for stories that could continue the storm theme.

Lots of ideas came flooding in right at the beginning from Penguin Plagues, vampires in the storm, Owlbears, lost dogs, lost penguins from the zoo, zombies and witches. Then the flood slowed down to a trickle as if the writers knew that they had to take some time to think about what they were writing about.

Sean got off to a great start… and then finished with: it was all a dream. Many other writers also had their main characters waking up the next day.

When writers run out of ideas it can be very tempting to finish with the words ‘it was all a dream.’ Readers are left feeling cheated from a strong story ending that matched the strong story beginning. Endings are tricky… but if you look at the beginning, sometimes there is an idea for the end that will tie up the story nicely.

Many writers turned to horror stories for inspiration. That is fine but you have to be as creative with the ending as with the beginning. Horror always has a thread of hope in it. The main character must survive.

There were many creative creatures and themes in the stories with alien chickens, wild fires, the electrochicken monster, the golden dragons, evil chicken overlords and Chicken Evolution Clinics. Many writers decided that the penguin would be the main event so there were many zoo escapes. A penguin turning into a pegasus was an interesting idea along with a cockatrice. If you ever discover purple penguins you must feed them popcorn.

Many of you seem to be living with Mad Scientists. Your lives are filled with explosions, I know as resourceful Kiwi kids you will always triumph. As writers, if you mix in a little bit of real life you can make the stories much stronger.

Many stories ended on cliff hangers… which left me wanting to know what happened next. Unfortunately, we need complete stories with a satisfying ending.

Stories that impressed me came from all ages. Zoe, Oscar, Lincoln, India, Cartier, Evie, Salila, Madeleine, Victoria, Piper, Charlie, Maria, Hannah, Monte, Ecclesia, Evie, Margot, Serene, and Emma all had wonderfully creative stories that needed just a little more editing and a stronger ending.

There were some great lines written that really stood out. These people can be very pleased with the way they can convey emotion, action and humour in a story:

You could only hear the slow beating of their hearts and hard slapping rain pounding onto Rona’s wet jacket. – Cate

The shadow of truth is a special shadow that only comes when things are unfair and miserable. – Cartier

Suddenly the nightmarish storm grew furious. Her torch flickered in the darkness of the inky night. – Olivia

The penguin somehow had a fine coat of feathers, but he smelled like he was eating garbage for a week, which might have been the case, considering he was a penguin in the suburbs. – Thomas

Rona shivered, the chilly air flapping through her coat, thoroughly freezing her body. – Victoria

Splat! “Oof!”. Rona slipped, landing on her stomach face smooshed up against the squelchy mud. -Juno

Rona’s torch light illuminated a green, slimy, putrid crocodile with razor sharp gnashing teeth as well as a devious and sinister grin. – Samantha

Heading inside boots crunching along the path she took one last glance at the coop. – Emily

Out from the shadows emerged a cockatrice, a serpent-like creature with the head of a chicken, with the wings of a dragon from its shoulders. Everyone knows that you don’t look a cockatrice in the eye, or there are unforgivable consequences. – Sophie

Some of the only things I inherited from my father was his messy loose curls which with the addition of my brown hair, It looked like dying palm fronds had been dropped upon my head. – Kardelen

… a gust of wind made her ponytail stick to her face like a lolly wrapper to a child’s sticky fingers. – Kayla

Rona knew exactly what to do. Appear brave and better than her opponent, as then it might be not so confident, even if she was cowering with fear on the inside. She squared her shoulders and emitted a war cry as loud she could. – Grace

Rona realised the only chance of turning her feathery friends back into normal chickens was to get them struck by lightening again. – Cassie

The chickens could now be wild and live their dreams. – Megan

Mya, Juno, Olivia, Indie, Samantha, Florence, Theodora, Ria, Natasha, Victoria, Amelie, Denzel, Jenny, Hannah and Imogen wrote super stories with a lot of attention to detail. A special shout out to brother and sister writers – Cate and Tom Ambury who have great imaginations, and Milla for her impressive website research. (My cackle of glee woke up the family.)

In the end the winner popped out of 159 entries with impressive style. Well done Indigo Tomlinson for continuing the drama of the setting adding in some nice touches, a toy penguin and an Easter egg and the frustration and love of living with a special needs sibling.

Heather Haylock, Penguin author of the Granny McFlitter series of picture books said of the winning entry:
“Brilliant use of similes to tell a tale of rising tension against the backdrop of the rising storm. And I love the tender ending. Well done!”

– Maureen Crisp, Fabo Story Judge Round 2, 2020.

Maureen’s Story Starter

It was a dark and stormy night, so Rona made sure her torch worked before she stepped off the deck into the long wet grass.

‘It isn’t fair,’ she grumbled. Why did she have to check on the chickens?

Ever since last week’s explosion her mother hadn’t trusted her brother to do anything. Rona squelched through puddles, her gumboots making a squish suck sound until she found the path.

She flicked the torch around, the light was feeble in the gloom of the back yard. Wind whipped the branches so they clattered and crunched into each other making a brawl of sound. Rona’s hair was now getting plastered to her face with the torrents of rain.

‘I give up.’ Any chicken still outside the coop was going to be as brainless as her brother. She turned to head back to the house. The crack of lightening lit up the back yard. In the flash Rona saw the veggie garden, the washing line and a stray penguin.

Thunder rolled and faded. The dark gloom raced back into the yard. Rona stood frozen staring into the dark. She was looking right at a mountain of trouble for someone.

‘It’s not fair,’ she muttered as she went forward knowing that she was all that stood between her family and chaos. ‘Why me?’ …

Indigo’s Winning Story

As Rona made her way forwards her torch flickered and gave out, plunging her into blackness. Rona swore under her breath and fumbled with the switch, but her fingers were numb; slippery with water, and the torch fell away from her hands, lost to the dark regions of the grass. The wind lashed the tree tops and they danced like puppets under it’s unstoppable power. They looked exactly like her mother before she went out to a fancy dinner; runnning around chaotically, scrabbling in vain at pots and creams. Rona winced as lightning again illuminated the scene. The toy penguin lolled sideways, stuffing exploding from it’s plump, white stomach. Next to it her brother Bobby was kneeling in the vegetable patch, with his curly hair plastered to his face. He was digging frantically at the dirt and making agitated noises. Rona sighed. Sometimes it was really hard having a big brother with Down Syndrome. Last week, Mum had tried letting him help with the cooking. It hadn’t ended well. Bobby had got in a lot of trouble and he hadn’t even been allowed to check on the chooks – his favorite responsibility. Worse, Rona was supposed to be watching him. If Mum found out that Rona had accidentlay let Bobby outside in a thunder storm……

‘’Bobby!’’ Rona screamed, but he paid no attention.

‘’Find.’’ he said,

‘’What?”’ Rona yelled above the gale.

‘’Find.’’ Rona reached Bobby and heaved on his arm.

‘’Bobby, we need to go inside. Come on!’’ Bobby’s face was streaked with dirt and tears,

‘’Find.’’

‘’Find what, Bobby?”’ Rona asked, dropping to her knees and tossing through the earth.

‘’Easter egg.’’ Bobby replied. Rona exhaled. Bobby loved Easter, but he didn’t realise that it wasn’t coming till next Sunday. This happened every year.

‘’Bobby, we have to go inside!’’ Rona heaved on Bobby’s arm.

‘’Easter Egg.’’ Bobby repeated. The thunderous gale was growing stronger, and Rona’s jeans were streaked with dirt. The rain fell like arrows to pierce through her wet clothes plastering them to her skin.

‘’Bobby!’’ Suddenly Rona lost it. ‘’Think about others for once, you selfish thing! Who cares about stupid Easter or chocolate eggs or whatever. Why can’t you just be normal?’’ Rona exhaled, embarrassed by her violent outburst. But Bobby wasn’t even listening. In the soil Rona saw a flash of gold. Bobby had seen it too. He gasped and scrabbled madly in the ground. The egg emerged and even though there was hardly any light to see by it seemed to glisten like buried treasure. Bobby was ecstatic.

‘’Easter Egg!’’ he cried.

‘’That’s right.’’ Rona said, ‘’Easter egg!’’ Bobby unwrapped the foil reverently and slowly brought the chocolate to his lips. His eyes shone with happiness. Rona grinned. As the rain poured down, brother and sister huddled close and shared the chocolate between them. Easter eggs never tasted so good. Sweet, creamy and perfect.

‘’Happy Easter!’’ Bobby exclaimed. Rona smiled. Chaos had been adverted. She loved her brother just the way he was.

‘’Happy Easter indeed Bobby.’’

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

Elena’s FABO Story Judge’s Report

I’ve been super impressed with the quality of the entries that have come in over the last couple of weeks.

There were some wonderfully detailed descriptions which really created a picture in my mind of the worlds Anneke and Nikau found behind the double doors.

Georgia (Palmerston North Intermediate): A sea of stars spread over the ceiling, people walking around in the strangest outfits Anneke had seen! Shapes twinkling in the walls like diamonds in the sun … An old woman with wire-like hair that fell down to her bony knees, gnarled up fingers from work and a hunched back, muttering deliriously to herself in too small overalls and sandals tinkered about with a small wooden horse.

Sylvie (Rototuna Primary School): At first they were blinded by the blue and purple shimmers and silver stars on the walls and roof, but as they got used to it, they could see by the light of a few twilight bulbs and squares on the roof that there was a huge conference table in the middle, surrounded by ten violet and turquoise bean bags.

Sasha (Marina View School): There were signs in different spots saying “Don’t Touch.” Everyone was squished into a tiny room.

I also loved the imaginative and inventive products that popped up in the Comet store.

Portable spaceships in bulging bags and dark matter bubble gum, which was later used to encase the baddie in a bubble. Maddie (Te Huruhi School)

Dark matter Oh My Stars glitter eyeshadow palette, able to literally transport you to a different world. Daisy (Discovery School)

Neisha (Tauranga Intermediate) had my mouth watering with her space-themed candy descriptions: Star Sherbert (turned your mouth from pink to a silver star colour, Asteroid Lollipops (made your mouth swell up with candy flavoured ulsors) to Universal Chocolate (never ran out).

Some superb characters came to life on the page.

Bob the Blob:
At the exact time, a bizarre creature consisting mainly of a green slimy and liquidy blob with an eye smack bang in the middle came and said, “Hullo there, my name is Bob the Blob. It is quite the pleasure to meet you mod dom. How may I help you?” Reinhelda (Palmerston North Intermediate)

I also liked the way this idea was carried over into other areas of the story with a “blob jumping” competition, followed by Anneke and Nikau exiting Comet with hands full of “thingamabobs.”

Byron (Te Huruhi School) made excellent use of dialogue, in his funny and fast-paced story, to create a likeable alien character.
“Wait you’re just going to go without me?” asked a quiet voice. They turn to see a small alien man about the size of a small book case.

Other stories impressed me with the creative way they used language.

Madeleine (Marina View School) made Comet an acronym.
“Cooperation of meteorite engagement team … C.O.M.E.T. plans to destroy the earth with a big meteorite!” Anneke explained.

Mia (Te Huruhi School) created a new word for her story’s space creature pet – a flirkin.
“Flirkin Food! Why Flirkin Food?” spilled the shopkeeper.
“We have a flirkin … obviously,” Nikau said.

Daisy E. (Rototuna Primary) included some wonderful similes in her story.
It was like sprinkles being sucked up a vacuum cleaner! …The children landed on a moist, fuchsia-coloured field. The surface of it felt like a damp sponge.

Jerry’s (Greenhithe School) story began with a clever simile which linked in nicely to the story starter:
The swinging entryways opened essentially smoother than the female voice.

Best Endings:

Aiesha’s (Marina View School) story ended on a memorable and unusual last image.
They trotted down the road as the horizon lay upon them.

I also really liked Jacob’s (Glen Eden Intermediate School) understated ending which echoed the story starter:
They made it but they were 13 minutes late.

Isabella’s (Discovery School) story took an interesting twist when Comet turned out to be a computer game (Comet the Unicorn). Her story’s ending included some beautiful imagery:
The unicorn gestured them onto her back, so they climbed on. Comet lifted off into the sky with icy wind blowing past their faces.

Special mentions:

Aden (Te Huruhi School) wrote a great fast paced story, which skilfully built up the tension:
“This ship has a rusty engine, low fuel and you say this is my fault. I’m trying to fix it not make it worse.”

Olivia (Fenwick Primary) created an impressively eerie and evocative story.
Both children could immediately hear a well-oiled mechanism click, and they jumped back in surprise, while a low hiss was heard and slowly, the huge, heavy doors slid open.
Great writing Olivia!

Erin’s (Te Huruhi School) story included two of my favourite lines:
“Calm down, Nikau. We’re still in the Milky Way. There is nothing to panic about,” Anneke said …
“I know a device that can teleport a building anywhere in the Universe! We need the dust of a newly dead star and an old robot,” said a rather elderly lady.

The following stories made it into my shortlist:

Ava Lister’s (Tokomaru School) atmospheric and very spooky story stood out because it was almost entirely dialogue, which I thought was very clever and gave it a unique tone.

Isabella McGregor (Tokomaru School) wrote a wonderfully accomplished and surreal story that skilfully took the reader through a number of alternative scenarios.

Indigo Tomlinson’s (Whakatane Intermediate) story combined excellent world building, evocative description and great characterisation with a clever story arc.

And the winner is Kate Barber (Oroua Downs School). I loved your circular plot with its clever twist at the end and am impressed by the way you managed to draw me in with a mystery and then resolve it, all within the word count.

Elena’s Story Starter

Even though it was only just after 5pm, the misty mid-winter drizzle meant it was already getting dark by the time Anneke and her younger brother stood waiting for the pedestrian light at the bottom of Queen Street. They had plenty of time. She and Nikau had managed to catch the earlier express bus into town – it was at least an hour before their robotics workshop was due to begin at the library.

De-de-de-de-de-de-de … The pedestrian signal went. She and Nikau wove their way through the flow of people crossing the road in the opposite direction. Someone, she didn’t see who, pushed a flyer into Anneke’s hand.

“Hey, what’s that?” said Nikau, once they’d reached the other side. He pointed to the stylised image of a comet streaking across the outside of the leaflet.

Anneke shrugged. “I dunno. Probably a new electric scooter or something.”

“Can I see?” Nikau grabbed it. A handful of glitter stars fell out into his hand. “Wow! Listen to this.” He moved into the nearby entrance of a brightly lit food hall to read it.

COMET is here!

For a limited time only COMET, the most famous and fabuloso POP UP SHOP in the universe, is orbiting into your galaxy right now!

If you can imagine it – we have it! Gazillions of prizes and give-aways, the very latest inter-galactic games and absolutely astronomical opening specials on all – yes, all – of our signature range, dark matter make-up!!!

Entry by invitation and in the allotted time-slot only:

17:13 local time

Strictly no late entries. Present this ticket at the door. Valid for 2 customers.

Make sure you don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity! COMET will not be popping up in your galaxy again for another hundred light years.

Snooze and you lose! Be there or be E = mc2! Find us at Queens Rise (2nd floor) right now.

“Did you hear that? Free stuff,” said Nikau. He took a few steps back and looked up at the sign above the food hall entrance. “Woah! Queen’s Rise. The store’s right here. Can we go?” said Nikau. “Please, Anneke.” He stuck out his lower lip and made pleading puppy dog eyes.

Anneke sighed. It did sound fun. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to have a quick look. She checked her phone – 5:10pm, or 17:10 using a 24-hour clock. They had exactly three minutes before their time-slot.

She and Nikau bounded up the short escalator to the first floor two steps at time. Once at the top they hurried past a circle of busy restaurants to the next up escalator. This one was much longer and steeper. The noise of the first floor faded away. Anneke checked the time on her phone. 5:12pm. Nearly at the top now. She reached back for Nikau’s hand and they stepped off. In front of them was a large solid double door. Scrawled across it in purple neon was the word, COMET.

The digital clock above the door flicked from 17:12 to 17:13. A green slot lit up and blinked.

Welcome universal shoppers – said a smooth female voice – 17:13 time slot customers may now scan tickets for entry.

Kate’s Winning Story

“I’m so excited,” Nikau grinned his face spread in a wide smile. I squeezed his hand and exchanged a smile. Slowly the crowd started to move forward. Up ahead a curly brown-haired female staff member was at the front of the line taking the tickets. A phone in her hand, her eyes fixed on the screen. Her golden name tag flashed Jane.

When we got close to her she mumbled “Ticket please,” Reaching into my jacket pocket I produced the ticket. Quickly she glanced up and checked the ticket over before giving it back.

“Name,” she asked still looking at her phone.

I replied back “Anneke Thompson and thi-” Jane interrupted me.

“Wait your Anneke Eva Thompson,” she questioned, her blue eyes staring at me. I paused, how did she know my middle name. This was weird.

I waited for a moment until I spoke again.

“Yes I’m Anneke Eva Thompson,” I said uncertainty echoing in my voice. Immediately I regretted it. You don’t tell strangers your personal details.

“Oh my gosh.” she blurted. ” I am honoured to be in your presence. The work you do is incredible.” My heart leapt in my chest. I glanced at Nikau, his brown eyes filled with fright.

“What do you mean,” I asked trying not to let my nervousness show. Jane stared at me a puzzled expression plastered on her face.

“Are you Anneke Eva Thompson,”

“I am,” Silence. For a moment everything was quiet.

“Then why don’t you tell me about your great inventions.” Jane accused, her voice rising. Slowly I backed away pulling Nikau with me. Terror filling my body

“What about your Time Retract ball.” She takes a step towards us. My mind races, what to do, what to do.

“Answer me,” Jane shouts. Nikau cowers behind me. Heart leaping in my chest.

“Who is making all that ruckus,” An angry voice grumbles from behind me. Startled I turned around and saw a burly man with brown hair and a thick beard. His mouth twisted into an angry snarl.

“Jane what did you do,” he continued. Jane crouched down in fear. I stood still frozen in shock. What was happening?

“I’m sorry sir,” Jane apologised. “It’s just this is Anneke Thompson.” The burly man looked me over before speaking.

“You silly girl. There’s a time difference here in Earth. Anneke isn’t even over fifteen. And now I’ll have to sort this out” Still angry he reached into his pocket and pulled out a strange-looking device. It was circular with bright lights spinning around inside. On the base was a silver metal label that said A.T company.

“Bye, bye,” he said. I gripped Nikau’s hand even tighter. Then….De-de-de-de-de-de.

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

Wild, Wet, Willa: FABO Story Report by Michele Powles

Wow, you guys are amazing. Your stories are getting consistently better and there are more and more of you entering all the time. From all across the country, some wonderful stories wriggled their way out of more than 100 brains this week. There were SO many entries, and SO much great writing. Congratulations to everyone who entered, you really are all improving and writing some incredible work!

I’m super glad that David and Willa’s story inspired such a range of ideas for you all. A few themes popped up, with magic being the favourite. A lot of you used the fact that Willa was steaming and turning red to great advantage, having her change David and all manner of objects into other things.

Cats were popular, and Sarah Park from Te Uku School gets a special mention for her wonderful cat descriptions. Other transformations included turning Willa into dragons which Taylor Goddard from Lincoln Park did so well that there’s a highly commended award for her, and werewolves…wow. Chloe Morrison-Clarke from Casebrooke Intermediate, your werewolf was particularly terrifying and gets you a highly commended badge too! I also loved Sarah from Waikowhai Intermediate’s idea which took things even further, having Willa being taken away to a special magic school in handcuffs.

The other super popular theme used the real life setting of the story to talk about self-responsibility, stranger danger and emergency services. There were ambulances, Willa rushing about trying to get help, and some very smart kids looking out for each other. Maggie Thompson from Roseneath school was a standout with this theme along with Daisy from Rototuna Primary.

There were a few new schools to join the Fabo Family this week and an incredible effort from some schools in particular. Outstanding entries from Discovery school all round, especially Isabella F, a highly commended badge for you. Glen Eden Intermediate too had a big range of great entries, with particularly good work investigating description. Saint Clair School, you guys are just amazing. So many entries! It’s awesome to see how you’ve embraced Fabo and it captured so many of your imaginations so vividly, even sending the story back in time to World War II. A highly commended badge to Lucy Carrington too for your cloud castle puppet master story.

A final mention to some other stand-out stories. Gayathri Dinesh from Glen Eden Intermediate, I’m not sure what Willa ended up turning into but I’m terrified by your description in the best possible way. Highly commended. And Stella O’Brien from Roseneath school, I may have nightmares now, you created great suspense throughout your whole story, highly commended to you! Also, a highly commended badge to Maia O’Callaghan from Carmel college for your body swapping story and to Catherine Mcleod from Pillans point primary school for your incredible shrinking science project mishap, and to Frances Nawoo Gregory from Hukanui Primary School for your stormy sequence.

A quick reminder that stories should be less than 500 words, this took some of you out of the running for the top prize. It’s also totally fine to ask an adult to help with checking over spelling if you’re using words that are tricky. But do remind your helpers that this is your story not theirs, we love to hear from you all.

While many of you did an amazing job of creating a world for your story, some of you ended with “it was all a dream.” This can be useful, but if you can find a way to keep us in your story world it’s often even more exciting.

One quick technical tip because some of you are writing at such a high level: try if you can to keep your story in one character’s point of view or if you change it, be aware of the shift. So, if we’re reading about what is happening for David, hearing his thoughts, describing what he is seeing, then stay with him, rather than suddenly being inside Willa’s head. While it’s great fun to hear what all your characters are thinking and seeing, it can sometimes be hard to read if we thought we were with one character and we suddenly change.

Now, to those that did everything right! I had to invent a new award this week for best sentence because it was just so great. Best sentence award goes to eleven-year-old Indigo Tomlinson from Whakatane Intermediate. “The rain pelted harder, dark clouds bulging like an old man’s belly, restrained by a too-tight belt.” Amazing.

Runners up to the top prize are twelve-year-old Isabel Calvi-Freeman from Roseneath School and Julia Moffitt from Hauraki Primary School. Your stories were wonderful, with lots of care and attention to technical detail, as well as imaginative ideas. Great job.

But finally, the winner this week is from Pt Chev Primary. Ten-year-old Indi Taylor, your use of language is amazing. Keep up the great work. Thanks for letting me read all your stories everyone!

Michele’s Story Starter: Wild, Wet, Willa.

“You said you had it in your pocket!” Willa’s face was twisted into angry creases as she hissed at David.

“I didn’t,” David replied. “I said I thought I had it.”

Willa closed her eyes for just long enough to make David hope she’d forgotten she was yelling at him. Then she opened them again and wiped rainwater off her face. “You. Were. In. Charge. Of. The. Key.”

David shrank. It was true. Mum had put him in charge of the house key, and now that they were standing on the doorstep, in the pouring rain, he couldn’t remember what he’d done with it.

The school holidays had sucked, big time. One of David’s fish had floated to the top of its tank and gulped its last gulp. Someone had driven into Mum’s car and busted it up so they’d had to cancel their trip. All David’s friends were away and there was nothing to do. Oh, and it had rained. Every. Day.

Standing outside as his hoodie turned into a soggy, skin-sucking mess without any way of getting out of the cold, was the icing on the sucky-holiday-cake.

Willa folded her arms, her wet hair plastered to the sides of her face. “Let’s go next door for a while, you said. It’ll be fun, you said.”

David looked at the skin on his thumb and pulled at a loose bit near his nail. “It was fun. Sort of. And anyway, why didn’t you take the key? You’re the eldest.”

“Mum said I needed to stop doing things for you. You’re eleven.”

“Eleven and a half,” David muttered and knew, immediately that it was a mistake to mutter anything while Willa was in this sort of mood. The concrete thudded wetly as she stamped her foot. She pointed her finger at him and her face started going red.

“It’s okay. I’ll find the key, promise,” David said, frantically digging in his pockets.

Willa opened her mouth and looked down at her body, her eyes growing wider and her face getting steadily redder.

Uh oh. “Take a breath. You can do it,” David said desperately.

Willa gasped and managed to squeak out, “You said this wasn’t going to happen again.”

“I didn’t think it was. Quick, think about kittens. Puppies. Sunshine.”

Willa’s whole face was now the red of overripe tomatoes. Red, and starting to glow. Her eyes started changing colour and as she glared at David, a loud whooshing noise rushed into his ears and made him feel woozy….

Indi’s Winning Story

Abruptly, clouds of steam hissed from fissures that appeared in Willa’s sides. Her hair extended to the ground in scraggly streams, while rapidly turning a fiery red-orange hue. Bubbling on the circumference of her head were small pustules; some of which burst and spurted a boiling, molten liquid onto David. The air around her was suffused with a hot red light. There was no question about it. Willa was a human volcano.

David inched backwards, watching Willa’s face contort before she erupted with an angry shriek.

“AAAARRRGGGHHH! You told me everything was fixed. You told me I wouldn’t do this anymore. You told me I was fine!” she spat, aiming the words towards her sibling.

“Keep thinking about…” David looked around. “Rainbows, chocolate, theme parks.“

Rushing towards the door to the house, David lifted the corner of the polka-dotted doormat up for the umpteenth time. It still revealed an empty space where the spare key usually sat.

They were both startled by lightning that blanched the sky above, followed by an almighty clap of thunder. A heavier shower of rain pelted down, making Willa’s flowing lava simmer and sizzle in a furious hum. Where had David left the key? Willa was howling insults at her brother, but they had no effect. David knew the only way to stop her angry stampede was to find what she needed. A key that not only opened the door, but Willa’s peaceful side, aswell.

Pouring down in buckets, the rain seeped into fractures that had cracked in Willa’s outer layer. This temporarily plugged the sluice of lava that gushed from her top. David studied the way the water stuck to the oozing liquid; how it created a sort of cement. An idea formed in his head.

To create a deluge of water, David wrenched Mum’s pansies from the nearby pot. He grappled fistfuls of dirt and threw them onto the driveway. When it was free from soil, David held the container underneath the leaky drainpipe on the side of the house. He could hear the water collecting in it, and he knew his plan was working.

When the overflow of water started dripping onto him, David stumbled (carrying the heavy pot) over to where Willa was fuming, and tipped. The rivulet splashed into Willa’s open top. It hardened within moments. The torrent of lava that had been brewing inside of Willa was suddenly replaced by a stone-like substance. Her body twisted back to its normal shape, her face colour changing back to its original, pale tone, and her hair was stripped back to the brown bob that reached her ears. Willa was back.

“Ow.” Willa squeaked. “Something hit me.” Her fingers fumbled around in her matted locks, before bringing out a thing made of metal. The key!

“Must’ve been in the pot plant!” David cried, incredulous about the discovery.

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story Judge’s Report by Sue Copsey

Congratulations all you Fabo-sters on your fabo-ulous stories! I was impressed how you took the time to read through the starter properly, and picked up on the cattish, rattish, clues about what could happen next. I was hoping for lots of description of what it might feel like to be a rat, and you didn’t disappoint.

I particularly enjoyed the stories in which the rat’s hurt feelings came across. Not only did you imagine how it felt to have whiskers, be small, have claws and a twitchy nose, you also thought about how it would feel to be an unwanted pet dismissed as disease-carrying vermin.

Some special mentions:

There were some great descriptions of shape-shifting into a rat’s body. I loved this from Cole Wescombe: “A twitchy black button of a nose sat in place of my normally human nose. My ears expanded to twice their ‘normal’ size and constantly performed half revolutions in their sockets, listening. I was Rat.”

Lots of you came up with good names for the rat – Cole Wescombe (again), I loved yours, which was also one of the best last lines: “I have now named my rat. Jessica Isabell Lawrence, my own name.”

The best name given to the lady next door was dreamt up by Aksinya Bhagirath from Fairburn: “Miss Fickledoodle, or as I like to call her, the Horrifying Old Hag”.

Siobhan Tantrum from Bohally, I enjoyed your rat with its funky hip-hop moves.

Zoe Adams, also from Bohally, I loved your story, which was beautifully written with all the ends neatly tied up.

Shreya from Fairburn – great use of rich, beautiful language (as always ;)).

Also from Fairburn, this wonderful line from Sepuita Mohetau: “… its feet crawled gently, as silently as raindrops kissing the ground.”

And Lucas Makiha, yet another awesome writer from Fairburn, your story came very close to winning. Your use of language was original, you thought very carefully about your descriptions and they worked beautifully, especially: “this majestic creature was peering into my soul as if the Devil himself was tossing my life in front of my eyes.” And, “She was beautiful and calm like the Waikato River on a misty morning.” Wow!

Ophelia from Glen Eden Intermediate, I loved your use of humour, and how your story came a full circle.

Remy Groenendijk your ending was also very clever, and quite mysterious.

Indigo Tomlinson from Ohope Beach School. OH. MY. GOSH. You surely have a future as a writer of horror stories. This description chilled me to the bone: “Her face was paler than the moon itself. Her eyes were encircled with black shadows … The eyes themselves were soulless, devoid of any emotion. She had no teeth. No lips. No tongue. Just a hole …”

So with all these great yarns about shape-shifting rats and cats, and witches, it was very hard to pick a winner. But pick a winner I did, and from the moment I read this one I thought … wow, that’s going to be difficult to beat. Ella Stewart from WHS, your story really stood out. It was well written, imaginative, and it included all the story elements I wanted to see, but it took a different approach. The main character learned an important lesson about how to treat others – your story was heartwarming, funny and thought-provoking. Congratulations Ella, I’ll be in touch about your prize!

Ella’s Winning Story

The rat drew a circle with its finger, on the table where it was sitting. A mysterious swirling vortex opened up in the same place the circle had been drawn. The rat jumped in. I sighed and followed the rat. This was already more trouble than it was worth.

I was spat out in another dimension. I saw my Rat just ahead of me and tried to grab it. Its tail swished through my fingers. I just wanted this over and done with.

“It is not polite in this dimension to capture rats,” it said.

I did a double take. “What?”

“I said that you should not try to capture rats while in this reality.”

“But I want to go home, and I want you to come with me!”

“I thought you didn’t want me? I am simply taking myself away. You can be my pet.”

“But I want you to be my pet!”

“Should have thought about that before you started thinking about how you didn’t want me.”

“I’m sorry!”

“Do not apologise to me. After all, I’m just vermin.”

I felt terrible, I really did. I felt bad to everyone I’d ever thought of as ugly or mean, without knowing them. I even felt bad about how I’d reacted to dad bringing me this awesome, witty, snarky rat.

“Rat, please can we go home now? I have some apologies to make.”

“Finally seeing sense, eh?”

“Yes. Rat, I’m sorry about how I judged you straight off the bat.”

“Apology accepted,” beamed the rat. He drew a circle on the grass and leapt through. I followed.

I made many apologies in the following half hour.

“Done.” I sighed in relief.

Rat gave me a look. I’d learnt the hard way that he couldn’t talk in this dimension. He held up two claws. First he mimed a cat, hissing and arching its back. Then he pointed at me, and then mimed brushing his hair.

I sighed. Lottie and the Cat next door. I decided to start with The Cat Next Door. I warily wandered over, with the rat in my pocket. The cat was stretched out lazily on the fence.

“Hey, puss puss puss,” I said, kindly. “I’m sorry for thinking mean things about you,” I said, reaching out a tentative hand. I petted the cat, slowly. It purred. I felt happy that I’d made a new friend. When I got home, I was covered in a mix of brown and black fur.

“You look like a tiger,” Lottie said, wrinkling her nose.

“Lottie, I’m sorry for thinking mean things about you all the time. I love you, and you’re my only sister.”

Lottie stared. “All my lollies have run out.”

“Why does it matter?”

“What are you buttering me up for?”

“Nothing. I just saw some good.”

“Oh. Well, thanks, I guess. Love you, little bro.” Lottie awkwardly hugged me, and I hugged her back.

My rat squeaked.

“I’m going to call you Jackpot,” I whispered to him.

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

Judge’s Report: ‘The Final Call’ by Jane Bloomfield

First of all, I would like to mention the sixty young writers across New Zealand, who filed a story: Emir, Jackson, Erica, Archie, Renee, Angela, Zoe, Maebel, Alex, Tyla, Stella, Alex, Mikayla, Neihana, Beata, Casey, Jullian, Zach, Zoe, Bridget, Alyssa, Finn, Sera, Immy, Sophie, Mackenzie, Zara, Amelie, Joe, Xavier, Lachlan, Milanya, Zoe-Jade, James, Brooke, Caitlyn, Eva, Ella, Georgette, Harrison, Jayden, Axel, Georgina, Olivia, Ruby W, Aaron, Tony, Georgina, Honor, Anna, Troughton, Maia, Indigo, Hannah, Briah-Rose, Ella, Troughton, Lucia, Wayne, Eloise. Give yourselves a pat on the back. Writer’s write. You are all writers!

When I’m writing a story, I usually always know my starting point and my ending. This method is often used by screen writers (writers of movies) and is very useful in situations like Fabostory, when you have a limited word count. Knowing where your character will end up, can help alleviate getting bogged down at the start of your story. There were many writers who did not get their characters out of the airport toilets. Or off the tarmac.

However, I was really thrilled to see plenty of high-octane imaginations heading out on wild adventures. Many entries had great imagery, clever language and sassy similies. For example:

Ella – “The ground was too far away they were over the sea and all she could see was a long stretch of blue and green, and a tiny island shaped like a diamond.”

Wayne – “Ubiquitous face of Shockley Rogers … cackled cockily like a crazed lunatic.”

Stella – “As the wind is making a mountain out of a molehill underneath the plane.”

Aidan – “Her tangly long brown hair flapped in the wind like whips.”

Lucia – “Panic burst into Chessies stomach like someone had just chucked too many logs on an already very large fire.” “… her voice sounded as sweet and fairy-like as Thumbelina”

We had spies, doppelgangers, watery plane crashes, dragon kingdoms, catacombs high-speed getaways, “dun, dun, duns …”, a bathroom-vortex, an arctic fox, a dragon-vet, King and Queen Teapot, assassins, murder weapons, escapes by parachutes, gold bars, fingerprint scanners, demon potions, kidnappers, murder, plenty of mayhem, secret agents, villains, shark repellant, emergency landings (I’m happy to report everyone has been watching the safety videos). And mermaids, which leads me to my winner:

A very mermaid story by …

Indigo Ciara Tomlinson – 10 (who happens to live by the sea) Ohope Beach School

The aircraft rocked wildly from side to side. Chessie removed her headphones and gazed around in a panic. ‘’Attention,’’ came a voice, but no one was listening. ‘’This is your co-pilot speaking. We are experiencing some minor problems please remain cal…’’ Her voice was cut off, as the plane plummeted towards the ocean, which swirled until it became a sickening blue blur. Chessie hastily scrambled for her lifejacket. The plane dropped ever faster. People tried to reach the exit doors as, with a mighty crash, the plane smashed into the water.

Chessie’s mind was a blur of terror. She couldn’t focus. Everyone converged towards the exits. She was too numb to follow. Everything had a blue tint. Her lungs were starting to hurt. She pressed herself into her seat, feeling as though it could protect her from this nightmarish horror. The stewardesses swam past. No one saw her. Then she was all alone. ‘’Nooooooo!’’ Chessie cried, as water filled her lungs. She swam towards the floor. Trying to reach the surface. Dark shapes loomed out at her. Jeering and pointing. Everything was swirling. Her brain was shutting down. Nothing made sense anymore. As Chessie slipped into unconsciousness, she thought she saw a girl with long wild hair, reaching out to her. And then, she saw nothing at all.

Chessie felt strange. She cried to move her legs-but couldn’t. Her breathing felt regular, but different at the same time. ‘’Is she awake?’’a girl asked. ‘’Shh, Coral,’’ said another voice. ‘’We must give her time,’’ Chessie opened her eyes. And saw her legs. Or, more accurately, her tail. ‘’Arrrrgh!’’ she exclaimed, as a mermaid reached out for her. ‘’Stay calm. Your mother is here.’’ the mermaid said, as a beautiful woman swam into the chamber. Chessie recognized her face. It was the same face she saw every time she looked in the mirror. ‘’Mum!’’ she cried………

‘’So, you’re the queen of Merland and the girl that rescued me was my cousin, Coral and you think Dad was kidnapped by one of his modelling rivals and you are going to organise a rescue? You were also a human when you had me and then you had to come and rule here, and you are okay with Dad marrying Miranda?’’ Chessie summarised. Her mother nodded. ‘’I’ll tell your father that you are going to be a mermaid now, but that you can visit him in the school holidays. If that’s okay with you?’’ ‘’Of course, it’s okay!’’ Chessie exclaimed. ‘’I can’t wait!’’ she did a backflip and landed on her mother’s, sea moss bed. ‘’Woohoo!’’

Chessie was sitting on the clamshell throne, waiting for the Grand Ball to celebrate her new role as a princess to begin, when she suddenly found herself in her tangled sheets. The morning before the flight. She couldn’t believe it. Had it been a correct prediction of the future? Or just a dream? ‘’Dad!’’ Chessie called out. ‘’Was Mum a mermaid by any chance?’’

Congratulations, Indigo. I’d love to read more of your underwater mermaid stories in the future!

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

Judge’s Report: Survival 101 by Kathy White

They say that patience is a virtue, but I understand completely if you’ve been tearing your hair out waiting to hear the results of the Survival 101 writing challenge. I went to Melbourne and completely forgot to write my judge’s report. Aaaarrrrrgggggghhhhh. Unkind FaBo writers might correctly say I had a senior moment.

It’s tough when you’re asked to write to a word limit, but it’s a good skill to have. I used to write for magazines, and the stories were short. Knowing how many words and how much space you have helps you to pace your story. You need a good beginning, middle and a satisfying end.

You all used your imagination and created fabulous creatures – giant armadillos (Kate), hipsomgerflies (Ysabelle), megalodons, a mutated bumblebee (Marina) and a children apocalypse (Cate). Sera Raj even had Miss Peel as a disguised megalodon. Miss Peel brought out the best in your writing. You really built on her character in ways that made me laugh.

I especially liked some of the deeply thought-provoking things you said, such as “This issss real life. People can be idiots sometimes.” So true, Ysabelle.

And this from Holly – Suddenly, the monster came out of the trees. It was small, cute, and furry. “Don’t touch it, don’t sssssniff it, and whatever you do, DON’T LOVE IT. It feedss on love.

Miss Peel shrinks it with hatred and extinguishes it with some of her ‘defeat’ perfume.
I liked the way so many of you played around with words in descriptions.

Out came a leathery foot and an arm as furry as a yeti (Jasleen). The whole class gasped again but, this time, not because they just found out there is a colossal shark somewhere outside but because Miss Peel had just smiled showing off her razor sharp, pearly white teeth! (Sera Raj). The students were as silent as a grave and just as still (Holly). Miss Limone stood shivering in a caliginous cavern wearing a tatty oversized shirt (Honour). He was old and hunched, with soulless black eyes (Indigo). That night I lay awake in the darkness. It was punctured by the silvery light of the moon (Eleanor).

And Bethany, you write great dialogue. In fact, a lot of you were good at combining dialogue and description. I was particularly impressed by how natural it sounded.

Some of you had really good endings, with humour, a surprise or a twist. My favourites were these two – “Ummm well class is over I guess,” Jake said while cleaning the spit off him” (Carter), and this one by Amelie: “At least we got rid of the worlds scariest creature!”

“The Megalodon is still out there roaming the seas!” said Michael in confusion.

“I mean Miss Peel! She’s gone!” said Sandy.

You all wrote well, and there were a handful of you who were very close to winning this week … but the winner is Honour Richardson, aged 9, of St Patrick’s Bryndwr School, for a well-rounded story, good balance between description, action and dialogue, with a surprising twist at the end.

Honour’s Story

Then all the lights turned off and the blinds closed. Miss Limone stood shivering in a caliginous cavern wearing a tatty oversized shirt. She seemed to flinch at her surroundings. Monty hadn’t noticed before, but truckloads of rattlesnakes slithered hangrily behind her. She did one of those high pitch girly screams and fell to the ground. Trembling behind Monty was Sue, who had gone completely pale. The image changed. An overgrown forest with slippery, muddy grounds was empty, except for a single Kiwi tucked away in a corner. The image changed again. An ocean that looked as if there was previously a shark attack looked empty until giant sharks popped out of the water.

“Megalodons, aren’t they beautiful”? Miss Peel whispered under her breath.

The image changed one last time. It looked like a picture of town – in black and white.

Dinosaurs stomped over buildings chomping on flowers and other plants as they went.

“Yesss, all these animals extinct because of us people. Now the Kiwi isn’t fully extinct, but you people are so selfish, fools you might as well count them as dead.” Miss Peel looked at the clock like it had just killed her parents. “Noooo”! She screeched.

Everyone looked around clueless, Monty thought that nothing good could come from this day until, the lunch bell rang.

The lights flickered but turned on eventually, the blinds slipped up the window. Miss Limone came in still wearing her tatty, oversized clothes. Miss Peel ripped something off her hair and beautiful brown came flowing down. Miss Limone threw her a wipe, and she revealed a tanned face with shining brown eyes. She took off her slimy, polished, ugly green jumpsuit and showed off her charming sky blue dress. Everyone gasped at the sight of their Principal, Mrs Stevens. I hoped you enjoyed your lesson on creatures. I guess it’s time for lunch now. Monty looked at Michael. The class sped out the door. The wig was quite annoying, Mrs Stevens said. The two teachers were left in the class laughing.

Posted in The Winner

The Winners Of The FABO Story Competition: 11 – 22 June

Wow what a huge bunch of amazing entries! I’ve been writing and judging fabostory for six years now and I can honestly say that it’s getting harder and harder to pick a winner each year. There was an amazing array of imaginative interpretations for this story. There were pick-pockets with circus intrigue, jewel headed boys and a lot of razor sharp realizations that future and past David and Ella shouldn’t have been meeting in such odd circumstances.

I have to say Happy Birthday to Amelie Espagnet who described her orb headed boys with wonderful clarity and entered on her birthday.

A special mention goes to Marina Showers from Sunnynook Primary for her wonderful creative language and to Ruby from St Cuthberts for the whiplash fast change in your time frame from the future with clockwork boys, to being in a contemporary movie, to being thrown adrift in time by the bracket after All! Phew.

Ashleigh Bernacchi’s scales and dark shrivelled hands had me shuddering, and Hayley King’s world made of mars bars was a close call to taking out the top spot.

A quick note to remember that tense is so important to your writing. Quite a few amazing pieces slipped between tenses and it made an otherwise stand out story a little confusing, especially when were already dealing with time travel.

We have a broad range of ages who enter Fabo but one of our youngest entrants, Anna Walker from Hutt Central School’s feathered crocodile almost got my winner’s vote this week. Amazing work Anna. But the overall winner this week is Sienna Williams from St Kentigern College. You did a great job setting the scene straight away and keeping up the tension right till the very end. Congratulations!

Sienna’s Winning Story

David and Ella stared after them with a look of despair, searching frantically for Ratty in amongst the bustling crowd of bubble-headed children. More had started to congregate in a circle around them. David and Ella shivered with fear as they stared at the expressionless bubbles in front of them. Two of the bubble-heads stepped forward and simultaneously chorused in a robotic voice, “we will take them to the principal’s office.” One of them reached into its pocket and sprayed a foul-smelling gas into their faces.

When they awoke they were slumped in two uncomfortable chairs in the school office. Ratty was there snoring noisily. Ella stole the bracelet and slipped it into her pocket. Two scary bubble-headed office ladies sat at the desk typing away. When all of a sudden one stopped and in a harsh, cold voice rasped, “enter the principal’s office now.” They creeped towards the heavy ebony door barely daring to breathe.

The principal cloaked in shadow seemed to stare disapprovingly in their direction. “Execute them,” he growled. Two guards moved out of the darkness and pulled a leaver. Beneath their feet the floor opened up to reveal a gaping chasm. Then with no warning the sissy hologram blurted out, “15 minutes until detonation.”

The principal motioned for the guards to stop and said, “I will let you live if you give me this sissy hologram 7.3.” They accepted the offer enthusiastically and the principal ordered “take them to the dungeon.” The guard dragged them out the door and across the hallway.

David stared at the bland stone prison bars of his cell. Suddenly out of the corner of his eyes he saw movement. He stood up startled and asked his voice trembling, “whho’s there.” “Only me,” a sweet silky voice whispered. A person wearing an auburn cloak emerged from the darkness. “How did you end up here?” questioned David. “And why aren’t you a bubble-head?”

“My name is Princess Amaya. Previous ruler of planet earth. Many years ago, Earth was a peaceful place where every being lived in harmony. Then one dark day the evil king of the bubbles invaded our planet. He came with his army of bubbles and we were no match for him. He imprisoned all human beings. The bubbles are parasitic creatures and live off the people whose planets the invade. The latched onto all of the heads of my subjects. They controlled them by thought and there is only one thing in this universe that can bring an end to them. It is the ancient’s bracelet.” “I know where that bracelet is!” shouted David excitedly and he pulled the bracelet from his pocket. Ella was now awake and was startled to see the stranger in the cell opposite. David threw the bracelet to princess Amaya. She pushed a button on it that they had not noticed before, then suddenly the security guard snoring in the corner next to them turned human again. David and Ella had saved the human race!

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

Maureen Crisp’s Fabo Judges Report

It is always interesting to see what themes pop up in the stories. There were many horrible principals and scary teachers. Bullying and revenge also featured a lot. I loved the stories that broke outside this and attempted to be really creative. An out of control yoghurt truck was a good idea but I couldn’t think how this could have fitted with the story starter of a repeat incident.

The phrases that stayed with me had these little gems…
weird blobby splashy crunchy noises.
and aggressively put my clothes on
3 super berry deluxe mouse yoghurts
his bushy eyebrows were like two fat caterpillars
buncha munchy crunchy carrots,

Shout out to the fabulous Upper Moutere school who sent in the most entertaining entries of really high caliber. Max you could have made the story longer…. Max you could have made the story longer… Max… you…. Sorry Max, My keyboard got stuck in a time glitch.

Also a shout out to St Cuthbert’s who also had excellent stories… pages and pages and pages of them. There were descriptive words everywhere. Verily my brain was working like a dynamo with all the expansive words that populated the discourse in the correspondence I received.

The FABO writers are all great writers but remember you need the boring stuff to give the reader time to reflect on your brilliant ideas. Presentation always lifts a story. Go back over your work and put in capital letters, full stops and paragraphs. This immediately lifts your story into the second round of judging. As entertaining as the stories are… they cannot be saved if the sentences run on and on without a pause in a great big long description of action and adventures and lavish attention to detail.

You do not need to show off how many long words you know. If you read an action scene you will see that the writer uses short punchy words to make the reader read faster. This is a writing trick called pace. You cannot write an action scene with long words because readers get caught up in wondering how to pronounce the words and what the word means. This pulls the reader out of the story. You want to hold your readers to the last full stop.

Ava Alpe worked hard on all the details to get her story right and it showed. There weren’t any missing words or a plot that went somewhere else. It was a complete story too. There weren’t too many of those.

Congratulations Ava.
If you send us your address using the Contact Us page on the website, we can get your prize out to you.

Maureen’s Story Starter

“Hey, Yoghurt Brains, are you coming to play footy? Hurry up will ya!”

The rest of my team laughed at Frazer’s sad joke. When would he give it a rest?

I sat down on the classroom steps to lace up my shoes. Just once I’d like to be known for something really cool.

Inventing a new dance move… Saving the life of someone….

But no, everybody knows me because of that stupid time I got detention with the principal and ended up in the school garden with a yoghurt pot on my head.

It wasn’t even my fault!

My mum says that if I write the story down I might win a prize. It’s got everything… Action… humour… sad bits… and total fiction. Nobody believes me.

“Come on,” yelled Frazer. “Yoghurt is faster than you!”

I jogged down to the field with my team. We passed the Harris triplets who were all eating yoghurt. That stuff should be banned, I thought. I could see Frazer turning to say something more… and then the whole story happened again right in front of me….

Ava’s Winning Story

Except this time … I was the one watching it unfold!

The Harris triplets were all sitting on the bench eating their yoghurt pots.

I mean why wouldn’t you eat yoghurt before sports practice? My mum always gives it to me. She says “It’s the perfect snack before sport. It’s full of calcium, it’s healthy and it will give you energy”. I wish she wouldn’t give it to me because nobody has ever forgotten what happened to me at detention. Frazer only makes it worse by never letting me forget it.

Back to the Harris Triplets – I don’t know if anyone else has noticed but they have to be the biggest kids in the whole school – and they aren’t even the oldest! When I say big – I mean big – they looked like an ad for weetbix. They had kauri trees for legs and they actually had muscles in their arms, which is weird for twelve year old boys! I swear all three of them were at least twice the height I am …. and I’m not small … I am a hooker!

But today I heard Frazer say something to the Harris triplets. Something he never should have said …. “You’d better watch out boys, if you eat yoghurt, you will end up just like Yoghurt Brains and everybody will laugh at you!”

Suddenly Frazer was in the air and I mean literally! He had a Harris on either side of him holding his legs and he was upside down. “Laugh at us for eating yoghurt?” asked the Harris triplet that wasn’t holding him. “Are you kidding mate? Yoghurt made us this big – maybe you should try it some time?” and then he laughed and so did his brothers. But while he was laughing, I saw him pick up the not yet finished yoghurt containers and get ready to throw them at Frazer. Frazer was so petrified, he started to cry. Worst of all, it was in front of coach, the team, some parents and me! The weirdest part of it all was I actually felt sorry for Frazer – even though he had tormented me the last three months over the yoghurt incident.

“Boys hold him up higher.” The two Harris triplets holding his legs, lifted Frazer impossibly high. The other brothers raised the first pot up in the air and went to throw it at Frazer. I have no idea what came over me – but I jumped in front of Frazer – and SPLAT, yoghurt was on my face. It had happened again. How was I ever going to get over this? Amazingly, the Harris triplets let Frazer go. He was shocked.

The Harris triplets told me they couldn’t believe that I would do that for a mate…take a yoghurt pot to the face! “You are some kind of dude,” they said “how come you are not the Captain of our team with that personality?”

The rest is history. Frazer has never teased me again. I was made Captain of our team and I got a citizenship award at the end of year assembly.

Things weren’t so bad after all.

Posted in fabo story, The Winners!

Kathy’s FABO Judge’s Report!

I don’t think I’ve ever read so many great ideas and well-rounded stories. Talk about making it difficult for the judge to do her job!

There were some exceptional ideas – using sticky tape on small hands to climb the walls, using lego pieces to spell out messages to classmates, and gigantic rats and spiders lurking in the back room. Some cockroaches morphed into humans and merged with human society. I particularly liked the rebelling mutant cockroaches who turned out to be badly-behaved kids, and Mr Lewis’ wife who had been trapped in the cockroach jar for 17 years! (Sian)

Language

I liked the way you played with language and used it to create memorable pictures of characters and ominous places.

The kids slowly sunk to the dusty floor like ice melting in the sun (Daniel);

Before the trio could speak, they had shrunk to the size of a child’s pinky finger and formed the shape of a crunchy little cockroach (Daniel);

The three kids became “the bugskiteers” (Sarah).

Characters

Some of you thought carefully about the detail in who the characters were and how they behaved differently.

“Frankie landed neatly. Tyler sprawled and Brendan crashed into painful splits.” (Bessie);

Mr Lewis was beaming, and you could see all his cavities, silver teeth, and remnants of the burrito he had had for lunch earlier that day. (Indiana)

Dialogue

So many of you wrote great dialogue that I can’t mention you all. The best bits sounded really natural, with small pauses. For instance Kate wrote about how horrified the kids were when they found out that Mr Lewis didn’t know how to reverse what he had done.

“Scared that they won?” one of the boys shouted.

Mr Lewis shook his head.

“I don’t know how to reverse it,” he quietly sputtered.

The whole entire class gasped. You could hear a pin drop.

“Why, did you do this to US,” Frankie exploded.

In fact, Kate and Indiana had two of my favourite philosophical questions:

“Insects are a part of the circle of life. Do you like destroying the circle of life?”

“What is wrong with not making cockroaches’ legs twitch?!”

Endings

I like the way a lot of you played with words and used humour in your endings.

(After having been shrunk and re-sized)

3:30 at Tyler’s House.

“How was your day Tyler,” Tyler’s Mum asked.

“I have little to say about it,” Tyler replied. (Kate)

“Mr Lewis got fired, and now lives in his mother’s basement, trying to be a half-decent citizen.” (Jeremy)

Frankies eyes went blank. Her mouth was dry. “If this is a spider web, then where is its maker?” Eight eyes glowed red as Mr Lewis opened the cage behind them. (Indiana)

However I had the biggest chuckle with this from Daniel:

Mr Lewis came bursting in, Jason tackled him down like an ALL BLACK. Hurling him onto the red dot he commanded Brendan to press the button.

The evil teacher shrunk down to a cockroach. Wondering what the commotion was about, massive Mrs Watson quickly waddled in. Seeing the ugly insect on the ground she crushed it under her large shoe.

“Do you think Mr lewis is okay?” asked Frankie

“No guarantees” replied Jason.

You’ve made it particularly difficult to choose winners this time because

(1) you’re all talented;

(2) You’re getting better at delivering a well-balanced story (with surprises) in terms of a beginning, middle and end;

(3) You cleverly used details in the story starter and built on that story, making it something that was uniquely your own.

Prizes

I’m not joking when I say that so many of you were in my shortlist, so thank you to all of you for making me laugh and think. Congratulations to Indiana Taylor (age 8) and Daniel Morrison (age 11) who are my junior and senior prize-winners this week for being good at so many things, and because I loved the way you put your words together.

If I had highly commended prizes, I’d be giving them out to Bessie Martin and Kate Barber plus several others for doing particular things exceptionally well. Unfortunately, I’ve only got two prizes so I’m sending the rest of you a virtual high five. Indiana and Daniel, can you please email your addresses through the Fabo story website, so I can send you a prize.

P.S. My story starter was based on a real one. When I was 13, I stood up in my science class and told my teacher, Mr Lewis, that I wasn’t going to cut up the dead lamb on my workbench. Kids were firing body parts around the room and I found it upsetting. My friend Dinah joined my protest, and we both had to scrape chewing gum off school seats for a week as punishment. It was the first time I protested about something that mattered to me; I’ve done it many times since. ☺

– Kathy White

Prize-winner: Indiana Taylor, Pt Chev Primary

Something from above shot down at them, and cloaked all three in a sticky, tough, strong material. They were trapped. Goners. Doomed.

“Ughh… I read a book on spiders yesterday,” Frankie shivered. “And gathering all the facts together, this is a spiders w..w..web!” Frankie screamed as a small prod in the back occurred.

“It’s all right.” Tyler whispered. ‘We are going to be fine. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO US MR LEWIS! WHAT IS WRONG WITH NOT MAKING COCKROACHES LEGS TWITCH?!”

He continued. “Well, you’re not bugs, are you? Your sign only said no bug experiments. Or am I mistaken, are you a bug, and I should switch you for these cockroaches.” Mr Lewis smirked.

Tyler struggled to find his sign so he could change what it said. “Looking for this?” Mr Lewis was beaming, and you could see all his cavities, silver teeth, and remnants of the burrito he had had for lunch earlier that day.

Brendan thought back to all those missing children from room 5. Tyler probably was right with assuming Jenny didn’t go on holiday so suddenly, and for such a long time too. That was over 2 and a half years ago. And maybe Jack really didn’t switch schools without telling anybody. Maybe Mr Lewis had been up to his experimenting for some time.

Frankies eyes went blank. Her mouth was dry. “If this is a spider web, then where is its maker?” Eight eyes glowed red as Mr Lewis opened the cage behind them.

Prize-winner: Daniel Morrison, age 11, Te Mata Primary

It all happened within a second, lasers shot out illuminating the mysterious room with colours, the kids slowly sunk to the dusty floor like ice melting in the sun.

Before the trio could speak, they had shrunk to the size of a child’s pinky finger and formed the shape of a crunchy little cockroach.

Mr Lewis gathered them up, walking them into the classroom he locked the back-room. With a little giggle he informed the kids in the classroom that he had found a few new cockroaches in the backroom.

Mr Lewis poured them into the jar on his desk and Tyler tried to escape but it was no use, they were trapped.

And then…

“Psst.”

“Hey… You three, can you guys get me out.”

“who are you?” Asked Brendan sounding confused.

“I’m Jason.” he answered.

“Jason Greene?” asked Brendan.

“Yeah,” he told them.

“You kicked the football through the window last term, Mr Lewis told us you were expelled” exclaimed Brendan.

“He turned me into an ugly six legged pest and has kept me in here for weeks!” Yelled Jason frustratingly.

“So who are all these people with you?” asked Tyler.

“Oh no these are just normal cockroaches” he said with a short smirk.

Everyone muted, the same thought locked inside everyone’s head. How to get out? Finally the silence broke.

“We could play dead!” screamed Frankie.

“Yes, and we run on three!” “Agreed Jason.”

The four insects faced their shiny backs to the ground and just laid there waiting. Just as they had hoped, a large boy from their class walked by noticing the four seemingly lifeless cockroaches laying in the jar. Out of curiosity he slowly lifted the lid up and Jason signaled

“3,2,1 GO!”

The pocket sized pests all scattered out of the jar within a second which made the poor lad embarrassingly scream his head off.

Tyler directed the three roaches to head under the back room door, they quickly followed. Frankie then got an idea.

“We could use those Lego pieces on that shelf to make words to tell the other kids to press the red button and turn us back.” she insisted

“Great idea” said Brendan, and quickly the insects formed the words.

Immediately a kid ran into the room with bug-spray in hand. Surprised by the Lego message, he pressed the button reluctantly. Again the room filled with light. Instead of shrinking, they grew from the red spot on the cold flooring, transforming back to their human form.

Mr Lewis came bursting in, Jason tackled him down like an ALL BLACK. Hurling him onto the red dot he commanded Brendan to press the button.

The evil teacher shrunk down to a cockroach. Wondering what the commotion was about, massive Mrs Watson quickly waddled in. Seeing the ugly insect on the ground she crushed it under her large shoe.

“Do you think Mr lewis is okay?” asked Frankie

“No guarantees” replied Jason.