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 Enter Now, fabo story

Enter the fifth FABO Story competition judged by Sue Copsey!

The fifth FABO Story competition has started. Author Sue Copsey has written a story starter. Finish the story your way to enter the competition!

Instructions

1. Read the story starter and continue the story.

2. We prefer your story to be 500 words or less (not including the story starter). Stories over 550 words will be disqualified.

3. You have two weeks to write your story, so there’s no need to rush! Take your time and send us the best story you can write.

4. Send your story to us by 7pm Friday July 9th (NZ time).

5. The winner of the competition will be announced on this website a few days after the competition closes.

6. Every fortnight there will be a new competition and a children’s author will post a new story starter for you.

7. The competition is open to kids aged 13 and under.

8. The winner will receive a mystery prize donated by Sue!

Sue Copsey’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.’

Now You Finish The Story…

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 6 judged by Sue Copsey

Hey everyone! Well you’ve made my life very difficult, having to choose between all these amazing stories! All 154 of them. One thing’s for sure – you may have been locked down, but your imaginations haven’t been! The standard of these stories has blown me away. This is my third or fourth time as FABO judge and usually I quickly whittle it down to a shortlist of about ten. Guys, this time I have FIFTY-ONE on my long list. (Help me! )

OK, just going to get myself a fortifying cup of tea then I’ll settle down to read my favourites again, and choose a winner.

[Later]

Right. So I asked you to finish the story about the mysterious yellow flash in the trees. What was it? It was (are you ready?): a wolf, a phoenix (3 of those), a tui, huia (x 4), dragon (many), a puppy, a mind-reading golden-feathered super-powerful kiwi, various reptiles both friendly and fierce, a silvereye, a fairy, a diplodocus, a portal to another dimension, a griffin, a kakapo, a yellow octopus, an orphaned boy, a tiger (x 2), a grosbeak, a Covid-19-infected wild beast; there were talking lemons and talking bananas; a butterfly, lightning, lemur, golden owl, troll, golden-dragon-owl, a little gold box, scorpion, deer, baby in a crashed plane, an android tomtit, a yellow cat in a spaceship, the rare yellow head (x2), a horse, a toad, a fairy tern, a moa, gecko and buttercup.

Some stories had me snorting with laughter (especially the talking lemons and bananas), while others gave me the shivers; some of your description was so beautiful it made me sigh.

I liked how many of you paid attention to the detail in the story starter and brought that through – the sandwiches, the kauri dieback, and the patupaiarehe. Thumbs up to those of you who knew, or looked up, the meaning of patupaiarehe. Monty Parr wrote: “A little pale-skinned, red-haired person stands there. It looks just as at home in the maze of branches as we humans are in a house. I give a little gasp as an old legend comes back to me. In Maori mythology there are little creatures like this one called Patupaiarehe that live in the deep forest and the mountains … I realise that Patupaiarehe Bush has been left alone for five months, so you could easily call it deep forest. Maybe the bush is living up to its name.”

And Denzel Grevers-Smith wrote: “… standing around me are human-like creatures in the shadows of the dark forest. They have pale white skin. Some have flaming red hair, some have blond. They have dark blue eyes and they are wearing red flax garments. Some men are playing slow enchanting music on flutes and some women are weaving kete.”

This from Zoe Bedford: “The music weaves around me, swirling and twisting. Every fibre of my body wants to follow the Patupaiarehe – for I am now sure that is what it is – as it hops away into the underbrush.”

Before I announce the winner, here are my honourable mentions. I have so many, but I’ll try not to break the internet …

I loved the stories that featured an extinct bird returning to the forest. Maytal Noy wrote: “Huias are a symbol of love because they can’t survive without each other … I want to protect these two beautiful birds with every last atom of my body.”

Frida Peltzer wrote about little yellow birds that helped to save the endangered fairy tern. This was the twist at the end of Frida’s story: “There are heaps of little yellow birds dancing in the trees … Perhaps they are the Patupaiarehe … ‘Thank you’ I whisper, saluting them.”

Caitlyn Young had the forest spirits helping to save the kauri: “‘We are the Forest Spirits,’ she says, ‘and we look after this bit of bush. When the kauri disease came, we protected the forest … I gawp at her. ‘So you’re the one getting rid of kauri dieback?’ I say, shocked.”

There was some superb scary writing that had me looking over my shoulder. Olive Evans wrote about signs appearing in the forest, with messages like: THEY’RE COMING TO GET YOU; NO-ONE IS SAFE ANY MORE; and how about this … THE BIRDS DON’T SING ANYMORE. THEY SCREAM.

Olivia Whale wrote a brilliant ghost story. It was beautifully set out (thank you to those of you who took the time to think about your paragraphs and punctuation). This from Olivia: “I crawl under a fern and behind a kauri tree, reaching for the golden wisp, but it dissolves into thin air. Whoosh! It’s further up the trail, I can hear its hummed lullaby, like an ancient chant.”

Mia Fraser also wrote a superb ghost story with great atmosphere.

Big thumbs up to eight-year-old William Kelly, who wrote about a boy and a baby velociraptor. Well done for picking up the reference to caramel in the story starter: “It stares back at me with big blue watery eyes with a sliver of green through them – the colour of those green fruit bursts (not the yellow ones they’re disgusting). When it blinks, I smell a waft, something sweet, like caramel.”

Plot twists – surprises at the end – are always clever; they give your story the ‘wow factor’. Well done to Ayla for: “Ma’am, we don’t have a Burmese python.”
Bethany Scott-Donelan told an intriguing story that made the reader think hard about what was going on. I loved this line: “My sandlike mouth drops open, eyes gaping, trying to chase fact from fiction.”

Originality is important – how can you make your story stand out from everyone else’s? Kiri Clendon wrote a fun, quirky and surprising story about the Great Pet Revolution: ‘… the cats said that humans shouldn’t take other animals as pets and that they would take humans as pets if they didn’t stop. So after a bit of fighting a treaty was signed.”

Many of you wrote beautiful, rich descriptions of the forest and its inhabitants. Words that had me smelling, seeing, sensing … this from Dawn Rattanong: “A bird emitting warmth from each and every feather … It’s radiance shines throughout the trees, out-snazzing every possible competitor.”

And from Connie Wiles, “The tiny ball of light waltzes past the trees, spinning around in circles, heading off the track, deeper into the bush. A beautiful, yet haunting melody following closely behind.”

Lucy Kennedy wrote, “a pair of neatly-folded glittering wings, tinted yellow like stained glass with condensation on a winter’s morning”, and Fiamma Pyne’s story began: “It’s a portal. The cheery yellow darkens and morphs into a deeper, more dangerous colour; a deep blood red one that sends your mind to treacherous places where danger occurs …”

There were some great similes, like this from Jessica Rankin: “… that possibility flies out of my mind faster than a peregrine falcon at top speed.”

William Phoon’s story was funny and action packed and told with lots of bounce, and I loved Archibald Button’s story featuring a brave ecowarrior who took on the men in yellow vests.
More honourable mentions: Sophie Norris (such a clever idea!), Arvin Bhuiyan (a nice mystical vibe), Amber Henry (clever and gruesome), Sam Smith (I love your powers of observation – “there’s a couple in matching fitness outfits”), Samantha Muirhead (nice plot twist), Aisha Gemala (future fantasy writer), Isobel Knowles (I liked how the Patupaiarehe were dismayed that people had come back to the forest); Grace Moodie (lovely description and a nice twist); Ivanka Singh – I absolutely loved your tale of trolls; Indigo Tomlinson ¬– superb writing (“Its feathers are the colour of sunshine on butter”).

Casey Mackintosh – what can I say? A giant talking banana called Jill. I salute your wonderful imagination, and thanks so much for putting a big smile on my face. More thumbs up, to: Pearl from Lincoln Heights School (lovely writing), Clara Stupples (great suspense), Neve Overend (future horror story writer), Leo Jordan (a flying yellow octopus in the forest – well, these are strange times so why not!), Emelie Wissel (“you have no idea what two months of lockdown does to a kid”); Juliet Young (sinister lemons – loved it!), Nelima (whose wonderful imagination took me all the way to Pennsylvania); Meghan Benefield (nice mention of Jacinda); Lois from Bucklands Beach Primary – loved how the trip to the forest made your narrator think about the good things to have come out of lockdown; Isaac Ketchmark – your story was very cool, I love your imagination and you have a unique voice; Cate Neal – lovely description.

Victoria Murdoch – your story was a close runner up, I love your imagination and your powers of description.

And now (drum roll) … my second place goes to Maddie McDowell for her story about a little gold box that turned out to be a time travel machine. Congratulations on lovely writing, and please enter again (and again!).

But my winner this week is Malia Denny from Mapua School. Malia’s story had everything I was looking for. It was original (it had that extra something that really made it stand out), good pace (no boring bits), great description, tension, humour, a plot twist, and it rounded off with a clever poem. Congratulations Malia on a wonderful story!

And here is what one of my favourite writers, the multi-award-winning Mandy Hager, has to say about Malia’s story. Mandy is the author of many fantastic books, including Singing Home the Whale, Dear Vincent, and The Nature of Ash, so praise from Mandy is a precious thing – Malia, you should print this off and frame it!

Mandy says:

“I love this story. It’s inventive and playful, while still managing to create a sense of dread, with a fascinating twist at the end. The language is rich and original, and the metaphors strong and unexpected, and the poem at the end is so unique it will stay with me for a long time. Congratulations to Malia – I hope this is the start of a long writing career!”

Sue Copsey’s Story Starter

This is the first time we’ve been to the forest since lockdown. In fact since way before that, because of the whole kauri dieback business. Only one walking track has been open in the whole regional park since forever. You have to disinfect your feet as you go in, just like you have to disinfect your hands when you go to the pharmacy or whatever now.

Seems to have been all about diseases, recently.

But now, lockdown is over (yay and double yay!) and they’ve reopened two more tracks where the trees are getting better too, and so we’ve driven over to Patupaiarehe Bush and brought a picnic. Just like old times! But of course, the parentals want to make us work for our sammys. So we’re yomping through the trees, but it’s tough going. Plants have grown across the path; there’s a mad tangle of rata vines on the forest floor trying to trip us up.

It feels different to before. Denser. Greener. It smells of rain and earth and something sweet, like caramel. It’s quieter – a deeper kind of silence – but there’s more birdsong. I hear rustling in the bushes.

“Nature’s really reclaimed this, eh?” says Mum.

A flash of something yellow to my left catches my eye, and I stop. Perhaps it’s a tomtit. Such a cute little bird. “I’ll catch you up,” I call. I peer into the shadows, and I see it again. But it isn’t a tomtit …

Here is Malia’s tale:

The golden scales glow in the pale light. My eyes slowly adjust as I realize what I see. A shiver runs down my spine, I cower in fear, an urge to call to Mum boils in my mouth. I’m tempted to run and never come back, but my feet are dug into the squidgy mud, cemented like concrete.

Something stops me though … I realize this is the only chance I might get to ever see something as beautiful yet deadly in my entire life.

It swaggers forward – almost gloating over my naiveness, my innocent eagerness to see more.

Beadily, its eyes swivel, examining me – I am reminded of a dartboard and a player; he is the thrower and I am the board, pinned to a wall, flinching in fear of what was to come.

It makes a sudden lunge at my shoulder, I jump to the left, feeling like a dancer imitating my partner’s moves. I imagine the pianist’s fingers weaving about the soft keys, music sputtering out the majestic instrument.

In my head, I hear the music rising, getting louder, as we follow the dance, I step back as it does a jeté reaching out to snatch me up. I glance behind me and the truth slowly dawns on me … I’m trapped! The dark forest lays behind me and a still clearing lies ahead. Mum has disappeared and I’m alone with this beast!

It smirks, laughing at my desperate efforts to fend it off. Slowly it comes around me, its breath gently blowing down my back just enough to know it’s there, I writhe and squirm, fighting with all my strength.

Just when I think I’m knocking on death’s door, I feel a sudden peck at the hair on my head. Startled, I squeeze my eyes tight anticipating the pain to come.

A sudden stillness spreads around the forest floor, my breathing calms almost automatically, my eyes are still shut but I muster the courage to peep through one eyelid. To my surprise and delight I see the silhouette of Mum glowering down. Shocked, I pinch myself, determined it’s all been a dream, but … my skin’s turning a pinkish colour – the mark from my self-imposed suffering.

Scrambling up, I mutter something about getting a tad distracted. She winks, and says with a sly smile, “Only a tad? I’ve been waiting for half an hour!”

Sheepishly, I suddenly take a deep interest in the old knotted shoe-lace on my sneaker, wanting to look at anything apart from Mum.

“A-are you sure there was nothing here when you came Mum?” I ask, trying to sound normal.

“Definite! I just saw you taking a wee nap when I arrived!” She chuckles.

I frown, and place my hands on my shoulder, a line wriggles across my brow as, to my utter surprise I feel a leaflet stuck to my clothing. Opening it quickly, I read:

All I ever wanted was the bug upon your shoulder,
However I was in vain, It only smirked and grew bolder.
I shall forever remember this day,
The day, I met a walking, talking meal and I say,
“Some time, some day, I shall be back,
To meet you again in the proper way.”

See you again for a nice handshake,
Master Blake, the yellow snake.

Posted in Enter Now, fabo story

Enter the sixth FABO Story Competition!

The sixth FABO Story competition will be judged by author Sue Copsey.  Enter now!

Instructions

1. Read the story starter and continue the story.

2. We prefer your story to be 500 words or less (not including the story starter). Stories over 550 words will be disqualified.

3. You have a week to write your story, so there’s no need to rush! Take your time and send us the best story you can write.

4. Send your story to us by 7pm Saturday May 9th (NZ time).

5. The winner of the competition will be announced on this website a few days after the competition closes.

6. Every week there will be a new competition and a children’s author will post a new story starter for you.

7. The competition is open to kids aged 13 and under.

8. The winner will receive a Puffin book of their choice* and their story published on the Penguin NZ website!

*book must be $25 or under, book must be in stock, book will be delivered post lockdown.

Sue Copsey’s Story Starter

This is the first time we’ve been to the forest since lockdown. In fact since way before that, because of the whole kauri dieback business. Only one walking track has been open in the whole regional park since forever. You have to disinfect your feet as you go in, just like you have to disinfect your hands when you go to the pharmacy or whatever now.

Seems to have been all about diseases, recently.

But now, lockdown is over (yay and double yay!) and they’ve reopened two more tracks where the trees are getting better too, and so we’ve driven over to Patupaiarehe Bush and brought a picnic. Just like old times! But of course, the parentals want to make us work for our sammys. So we’re yomping through the trees, but it’s tough going. Plants have grown across the path; there’s a mad tangle of rata vines on the forest floor trying to trip us up.

It feels different to before. Denser. Greener. It smells of rain and earth and something sweet, like caramel. It’s quieter – a deeper kind of silence – but there’s more birdsong. I hear rustling in the bushes.

“Nature’s really reclaimed this, eh?” says Mum.

A flash of something yellow to my left catches my eye, and I stop. Perhaps it’s a tomtit. Such a cute little bird. “I’ll catch you up,” I call. I peer into the shadows, and I see it again. But it isn’t a tomtit …
….

Now You Finish The Story…

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

Sue Copsey’s FABO Story Report

Excellent work, Fabsters! I have so enjoyed reading your stories and finding out what that “Russian satellite” really was: a dragon (popular choice), an asteroid/meteorite (often containing something sparkly like a crystal or diamonds), a stag (unexpected!), colourful worms (love it), zombies (quite a few of those), an alien spacecraft (top choice), zombie dogs, and … a man-eating sloth (terrifying).

There were more than 120 entries in total. Thank you ALL for using your imaginations to such great effect. As soon as I started reading the winning entry I knew this was the one, but before I share it with you, a few honourable mentions:

Alantis James of Westport South School imagined an ‘Everything Machine’ that produced the perfect breakfast buffet, while Olivia Edhouse of Remuera Primary imagined that the thing that crashed to Earth was the lost Mars Rover, Opportunity.

Hats off to Jep Donaldson of Moanataiari School for turning the story on its head by making the humans the troublemakers with their horrible polluting habits, and the dragon who crashed to Earth just a poor creature trying to protect his home.

Angi Li of Remuera Primary School – you have a great future as a writer of horror stories. I thought your ending was clever.

Jordan Hawkes of Marina View School, your use of descriptive language was great, and your story cracked along at a great pace. Your ending wrapped the story up beautifully. Top marks!

I also loved Matthew’s story (Discovery School) in which lots of versions of himself emerged from the spaceship. Beautifully written, and a great ending too.

Rose Curley of Churchill Park School wrote a bonkers story about a piglet with a unicorn horn and fairy wings. I’m a big fan of bonkers – well done!

Indigo Tomlinson of Whakatane Intermediate – I loved your story, the beginning hooked me in immediately and the ending was satisfying too.

Ava Howard of Beckenham Te Kura O Puroto also demonstrated a lovely use of language, and Isabella from Ellerslie – I loved the twist at the end of your story.

Maia O’Callaghan, the ending to your story made me laugh out loud.

Arwen Dove of Ellerslie School had Disney princesses emerging from the crashed spaceship. I love it when writers mash up themes like that.

A special mention for Treehula Turnull of Ellerslie School for the Star Wars-themed story, especially for the line ‘Although he looks more like a Noah than a Luke’. I was so impressed with this line I tweeted it!

Zara S from Remarkables Primary School wrote this awesome last line to her story: ‘The creature lived happily never after because he was dead.’ (I tweeted that one too!)

Erin from Tighes Hill Public School, some fabulous description in your story. Well done!

And Indi Taylor from Pt Chevalier Primary, your story was a close contender for the winning spot. I liked how you used your senses in your descriptive writing: ‘The aroma of feijoas hung around the substance like a low-hanging cloud.’

And so to the winner! Many congratulations to Niamh Murray from Churton Park School. Your story about astronomer zombies had it all. An intriguing start that hooked me in, well-written in short snappy paragraphs, well punctuated, spelling and grammar all excellent. And that ending! So very clever. Niamh I will email you for your address so that I can send you your prize, and once again well done, I knew your story was the winner as soon as I started reading.

Niamh Murray’s Winning Story

We sidled closer and gazed at a bedroom-sized building that looked like a white globe, with silver letters inscribed on it: ASTRONOMER GRAVEYARD. A shimmering golden door hung below the words, and without thinking twice we barged through.

Limp, lifeless bodies lay all around the room, with somehow familiar names embroidered on their flowing academic gowns. Then, to our horror, they slowly stirred and murmured monstrous language, their eyes rolling uncontrollably in their clammy heads. They stretched their arms toward us, and one – labelled: GALILEO – tossed a green bottle toward us. Shocked, I unscrewed the cork hesitantly and read the letters inscribed in black, spidery ink on the parchment inside, ‘I have cloned the dead astronomers! – Vera Rubin.’

We observed the swarm of astronomer zombies as they towered over us intimidatingly. They trotted outside, their eyes darting up many a time to the crescent moon, while we attempted frantically to herd them back.

We barely glanced at each other, too focused on the zombies, who advanced toward a log cottage, and we buried our faces in our sweating palms, pacing around and waiting for the zombies to enter. A moment later we heard a muffled scream, and a lady with round glasses burst through the door, but pulled to an abrupt halt when she saw us.

‘I’m Vera Rubin,’ she sobbed. ‘The one who cloned them. Sorry, I didn’t mean for them to come to Earth…’

We gripped her trembling hand, and she led us to a white hall, oodles of zombies following.

‘The Wellington Authorities… live here, with me, coz they… my friends,’ she panted, and tapped her knuckles against the polished door. A moment later there was a commotion and a troop of authorities bustled into the night, where they turned a deathly, ghastly white, and gaped at the oncoming assault of clones, some dropping into unconsciousness.

People were scattered in various places, hurling things toward the zombies, but the zombies only made deafening, satisfied chuckles.

Then one authority, Officer Matt, sighted a glimmer of hope.

‘Astronomers hate magic things,’ he muttered. ‘They like scientific theories. I have “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, which is a book to do with magic, and if I throw it at ‘em I bet they’ll go back.’

So he braced himself, and catapulted the faded book into the jet-black sky.

As hoped, the hideous beasts fled back to the mystical object they had come from, letting out high-pitched screams, and the authorities slammed the door firmly.

‘Connor,’ hissed Officer Matt to me, ‘Here are the keys to my police car, which is parked there on the driveway of the hall. Get the gun and shoot the… you know, the thing the zombies came out of.’

The resounding BANG boomed around the district while the vibrant moon and radiant stars hung in the sky.

The next day, many folks claimed that a gunshot had echoed through the suburbs at exactly 3:42 in the morning. But that is a secret.

Posted in Enter Now, fabo story

A New Fabo Story Competition Is Here!

A new FABO Story Competition is here!

Author Sue Copsey has written a story starter. Finishing the story is up to you!

Instructions

1. Read the story starter and continue the story.

2. Your story should be no more than 500 words.

3. You have two weeks to write your story, so there’s no need to rush! Take your time and send us the best story you can write.

4. Send your story to us by 8pm Friday May 24th.

5. The winner of the competition will be announced on this website a few days after the competition closes.

6. Every fortnight a children’s author will post a new story starter for you.

Sue’s Story Starter

Did you see that story in the news back in January, about the meteorite or broken Russian satellite or whatever it was that loads of people in New Zealand saw? What do you think it was? Most people seemed to swallow the Russian satellite story – they got scientists to say that was what it was. THEY being the people who wanted to keep the truth a secret. The Authorities. I bet they paid that Auckland University physics professor to say it was a Russian satellite.

Me and my friend Archie know what it REALLY was. Because we were there when it landed.

We were at a campsite on the East Coast, and we’d been playing football on the beach. It was about nine o’clock at night, and everyone else had gone back to their tents. Me and Archie were just leaving when it appeared in the sky – a really bright light with a long tail. It flew straight for a while, then it dipped towards the earth. It came pretty close to where we were. It disappeared behind some trees, and then we heard this dull thud, and the ground shook a little. We set off running for those trees, and soon saw a column of grey smoke, so we made our way over to that and … wow. You wouldn’t BELIEVE what we found!

Now You Finish The Story…

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 Enter Now, fabo story

A New FABO Story Starter By Sue Copsey!

Are you ready for a new FABO Story Competition? Author Sue Copsey has written a story starter. Now it’s up to you to write the rest of the story!

(Elena De Roo is judging the last competition and will announce her winners soon).

Instructions

1. Read the story starter and finish the story.

2. Your story should be no more than 500 words.

3. You have two weeks to write your story, so there’s no need to rush! Take your time and send us the best story you can write.

4. Send your story to us by 8pm Friday September 28. A winner will be announced a few days later.

Sue’s Story Starter

Do you think it’s true, that people look like their pets? The lady next door (who never throws our ball back) has got black hair and mean eyes, and she has this black cat with piercing green eyes. It sits on the fence and hisses at me. My dad reckons they’re actually the same person-animal, because we never see them both at the same time. He’s only joking, of course.

I think.

Normally, I love cats, and for my birthday this year I asked for a kitten. But my mum’s allergic to cats so they got me – brace yourselves – a rat.

It sat there in its cage, a browny colour with beady dark eyes, a twitchy nose and long droopy whiskers. Gross.

“Rat rhymes with cat, perhaps Mum and Dad didn’t hear you properly,” said my sister Lottie with a smirk.

“They make wonderful pets, they’re really intelligent,” said Dad in this enthusiastic-with-a-hint-of-apology voice.

There were no words to describe my disappointment. “They’re vermin,” I replied, in a voice that sounded dead. “They spread disease.”

The rat swivelled its head and looked at me, and I’d swear it looked hurt.

“You can tame it and then it can sit on your shoulder, have a run around in the garden,” said Mum.

“As long as next-door’s psycho-cat isn’t around,” said Lottie. “Dad, can we go now?”

He was taking her to her netball match. Lottie’s good at sport. Unlike me. She’s also tall and has swishy blonde hair and blue eyes and round rosy cheeks, while I’m small and have mousy brown hair and brown eyes, and my nose is a bit long and pointy. I’m also getting braces as my teeth stick out a bit.

Mum left the room too, and I was alone with … rat. I couldn’t be bothered to think of a name. I looked over at it, and it sat up on its back legs, its little pink hands held in front of it, its nose doing the twitchy thing. Then, the strangest thing happened …

Now You Finish The Story…

Posted in fabo story, The Winners!

Sue’s FABO Report!

Thank you, Fabsters, for revving up your imaginations to finish the story starter. I was intrigued to see what you thought might happen when a lady in a funny old toy shop in a weird town told you to spin a globe which was clearly not going to be a normal globe. Where would you end up? The jungles of Africa? A Himalayan mountaintop? In fact, many of you ended up on desert islands with soft sandy beaches and turquoise sea. Could that be because we’re in the middle of winter?!

BUT, we also had: a planet where everything was the same yet different (Ella Stewart), Antarctica in the future (Finn Wescombe), inside the globe (Fatima Lefale), Dunedin in 1948 (Emma Shepherd), olde-worlde England (Maddie Mitchell), back to childhood (Mackenzie Carkeek), and the Titanic (Keziah). Oh yes, and Cole Wescombe landed on an island with a herd of buffalo, and also named the ‘weird’ town as Napier ☺.

Well done to those of you who included elements from the story starter in your writing. The toy shop owner, the sea serpents, Easter eggs and even pies were featured. Lucy Eastwood’s sea serpent appeared as a turquoise snake with curly horns, called Clarissa-Genevieve-Margaret-Elizabeth-Mary-May, and Indie Cowan’s was Falkor, the Luckdragon of Fantastica. I also liked Maia Wenham’s creepy button-eye dolls. Charlotte Rodgers-Foran gets an special mention for her truly scary and revolting serpent.

There was plenty of great descriptive writing. Keira Auden’s story featured an old lady with hair in “an unnecessarily tight bun”. Keira – I think I might just have to steal that for my next book! And Jade from Tauraroa School had the awesome line “Fairy tales go wrong” – but Jade, your lovely story was 1,348 words long. Hint: read the instructions!

Beginnings And Endings

A word about beginnings and endings. Your beginning needs to hook the reader in, and most of you nailed this. Straight into the action! Two fabulous beginnings were from Chelsea Young, whose story began: “I don’t know why I did what this woman told me to, it was a stupid idea. Maybe 13 is the age where you begin to do stupid things.” And Tatiana Austin, whose story began: “OK, so at first it sounds like a really idiotic thing to do, to spin a weird looking orb because a weird woman in a weird store in a weird town told you to. Man, I wonder why the result was weird.”

Now to endings. One of my favourite last lines came from Mackenzie Carkeek: “Well everyone must be a child one last time.” But, there were some riproaring stories that just fizzled out. Fabsters, we’ve told you before, we really like to know what happens in the end! How can you do this to us! Take a look at the winning entries to see how they have rounded off their tales. And something else we’ve mentioned before. Try and avoid the “Oh, it was a dream!” ending. Aim to be original. And think – if you got to the end of Harry Potter and found it had all been a dream, wouldn’t you be disappointed? The FABO judges are the same.

The Winners

And so, to my two winners! Yes, although I do have an overall winner, it was so close that I’m giving a second prize too.

The second prize goes to Peter Browne, from Otumoetai Primary School in Tauranga, whose spinning globe releases the serpents into the town, and he has to use his wits to outsmart them. Excellent beginning, plenty of action, a great ending and dollops of humour. Love it!

And the overall winner is … wait for it, wait for it … Mika, from Thighes Hill Public school, whose story had it all – superb descriptive writing, really creepy, and a great twist at the end.

I will email you two to let you know about your prizes.

Here are the two stories:

Mika’s story

The light was inexplicable. It tore away everything, blocking out all sound and vision. My throat was raw, my limbs paralyzed. Terror took hold of me, gripping my heart with icy fingers. I screamed, willing my legs to move, but nothing would come.

Nothing.

Something solidified under my feet. Solid ground. The earth beneath me was hard like rock, and had a strange, foreign feeling underfoot, almost bouncy.

As the vision returns to my eyes, I hear a raspy, terrifying voice choke out a feeble sentence, “But… Where… no…” My hand flies to my throat as I realize the voice was my own.

The scene around me is both horrifying and stunning. The land is perfectly flat, covered in long, wavy grass that goes up to my waist. To my left the land slopes downwards and meets the waterline. The waves soar above my head, crashing just metres away from me. I catch the salty spray on my tongue and pull away, scrambling into the grass. Briefly I remember the strange creatures that roamed the water on the globe. The sun suddenly becomes unbearable. The heat pelts down on the land. Sweat breaks out on my brow and I cringe. I raised my head and stared upwards. My heart skips a beat.

Above me, the sky is curved upwards, forming a glassy dome above me.

And behind the dome is the face of the store owner. Her grey hair surrounds her laughing face like a hood, her eyes peeking out from under her fringe of curls.
I am trapped, gone.

Nothing.

Peter’s story

As it spun, the brownish land and sea turned green and blue suddenly the sea serpents grew bigger and bigger and BIGGER! Finally, the serpents came to life! The serpents slithered out of the toy shop.

“I have to save Easter from the serpents, otherwise they’re going to wreck it!” I thought.

I sprinted out of the toy shop and into the town that really wasn’t a town. The serpents were already heading into a café. If I didn’t stop them the people in there would die then I would die to. I ran down the street and into the café.

When I reached the café the serpents had almost eaten their first meals! I needed to distract them. I grabbed the door and started swinging it open and shut. Well that got their attention, it worked really good … a little too good – now the serpents were after me, not the café people! I ran for my life (and for Easter).

I wondered about the old lady back in the toy store. Did she want this to happen? If she did then she’s going to pay for it.

“Snap out of it” I said to myself “Stop thinking and start running!”

Finally, I had an idea. If the sea serpents came to life when I spun the globe right, if I spun it left the sea serpents would go back in. “I’m a genius,” I thought, but did I spin it left or right? I’d forgotten. Well, I did just randomly spin it.

Suddenly I remembered that it was Easter! I ran down the road and into another café. Sure enough there were Easter eggs everywhere! Lucky me, I thought, so I asked the counter person if I could have some eggs. She said no, but when the serpents came in she gave me them all. I was chocolate rich, but this wasn’t for me it was for the serpents.

I ran out of the café holding the Easter eggs in my hand and screaming at the top of my voice. “Come and get it, you slimy sea monsters!” They soon followed me at supersonic speeds. If I couldn’t outrun them I’d have to outsmart them. So I dodged, jumped, and swerved until I’d almost tired them out. Finally, I could run to the toy shop.

When I reached the toy shop I found the lady asleep on the counter so I walked over to the globe. “Here goes nothing” I thought, and spun it … Sure enough the serpents got sucked back into the globe.

As for the old lady, she got sent to jail for the rest of her life. And, I was interviewed for breaking news on Channel 3.

Posted in Enter Now, fabo story

Enter The New FABOstory Competition Now!

Children’s author Sue Copsey (author of The Ghosts of Young Nick’s Head, and The Ghosts Of Tarawera) is judging the next FABO competition. She’d like you to finish the story in 500 words or less and submit it using the online form. Entries close 8pm Friday August 4th. No late entries will be accepted.

Sue’s Story Starter

I wasn’t in the slightest bit happy when Mum said I was going to stay with Aunt Jules for the Easter holidays. Aunt Jules lives in a town Mum calls ‘quirky’ and I call weird. It’s not even a town, really. It’s just a place on the way to somewhere else. There’s a petrol station and a couple of cafes that Mum says are just like the ones she grew up with (which means only pies), and … nope. Can’t think of anything else.

So here I am, sitting on Aunt Jules’ sofa, coming to terms with dial-up internet. One good thing, though. Aunt Jules says there’s a toy shop, and she’ll give me money. She says the shop’s ‘curious’.

The bell dings as I open the toy shop door. It’s dark in here, so I get a bit of a fright when a little old lady pops up from behind the counter. She’s got frizzy grey hair and round glasses that twinkle.

“I bet you think this town is boring, eh?” she says. “You’d rather be somewhere else?”

I think this is a strange way to greet your customers. I told you this town’s weird. But before I can answer, she takes out something from under the counter. It’s a globe – an old-fashioned one with brownish land and sea, and scary looking sea serpents in the oceans.

“Spin it!” she says. So I do.

You can finish the story on the FABO website now!