My first novel was printed in a mix of purple and blue ink. It was forty pages long and bound with a three-hole-punch and a plastic school binder. I was ten years old, and I still remember the title, The Dreamers, and the dream-world I created. After that, I was hooked. I never stopped writing stories, and it became my fiercest passion.
These workshops were filled with young writers who share this passion, and it was an absolute honor to help on their paths as novelists. Writing a novel is truly a feat, involving loads of planning, time, revisions, perseverance, and imagination. We spent these workshops discussing the journey a book takes to get published, how to build complex characters, where to get ideas, creating in-depth story outlines, and writing compelling opening scenes. The results are some truly un-put-downable stories, found below, (not to mention an amazing poem sprouted from our free-writes). I applaud these writers for accepting this adventure, much in the way our protagonists must accept their calls to action. I hope that these writers all have smooth sailing along the way as they continue these works-in-progress (but that their characters have a difficult, stressful time full of high-stakes and unfortunate twists)!
Badgerdog Teaching Artist
Karina shifted uncomfortably on the chestnut wood chair, stood up, and perched on the window seat of their penthouse in Maine, watching her mother walk into the door. Minutes later she heard the sound of high heels clomping up the stairs.
“Hi,” Karina answered absentmindedly, the click of a doorknob interrupting the silence.
“Working on a test?” Chloe Chen nodded at her daughter’s papers.
“Well, remember. Never give up, that is the worst thing you can do. The fears you don’t face become limits,” her mother encouraged. Karina rolled her eyes. When did Chloe become such a poet?
Hours later, Karina had finished dinner and was ready to go to bed. She went through the nightly ritual with her two brothers of praying for their father, who had disappeared on a so-called job interview and never came back.
“Pleeeease,” Kevin whined. “Daddy gets us ice cream. Mommy never lets us have ice cream cones.”
Joshua scowled. “Whatever. Wish for something real.”
As she fell asleep, she felt something change. She wasn’t in her own bed anymore but somewhere else. A dark room with a dim light. And in the light was her father. She couldn’t see anything but the back of his head. “Father,” Karina called faintly, her voice echoing off the walls. When the figure didn’t move, she tried again. “Father!”
A bright light blinded Karina’s eyes. She blinked a few times, rubbed her eyes, and woke up in a cold sweat, her pulse quickening. “Hmm,” she murmured, looking around the room and finding herself still in the safe canopy of her own bed. The numbers on her alarm clock read 4:04 AM. The error number, she thought. Odd. She then turned to the window and saw a faint light glowing from the Chen Lighthouse as the numbers switched to 4:05.
“Huh…” Karina began when reality sunk into her.
Her father was trapped in the lighthouse.
The next morning, Karina woke to the sound of her mother talking quietly. She got up, still dazed from the night before and took her time going down the elaborate stairway and down to the kitchen.
“Hey, honey, sleep well?”
“Um…” Karina knew better than to bother her mother with nightmares. “I guess,” she finally answered. “And, Ma ma, can we please visit the lighthouse? Pleeease?” She gave her mother her best puppy eyes.
Her mom didn’t answer immediately. She exchanged glances with Aunt.
“Please can I?” Karina added.
Instead of answering, Chloe just muttered something about it being too dangerous. Karina narrowed her eyes and squinted at her mother, confused. Normally, being the older one between her and her younger brother, she was allowed to do as she pleased.
RING! RING! RING! The sound of her alarm clock pierced her ears. Karina snapped awake and snuck out of the warmth of her covers. She snuck downstairs and opened a window, avoiding the security system, and tiptoed out, hoping the light was still there. And there it was. At the very top of the lighthouse, that dim, purplish glow, after her family name. She should be allowed to go. Chloe just wasn’t being fair.
But still, Karina had made it. She ran over, opening the door to the lighthouse, which, to her surprise, was unlocked, stepped inside and climbed up the tower, following the glow. As she got closer, she felt a certain pulling as if telling her to come closer, almost as if the wall itself were whispering, come, come. Come closer, my little girl. Karina yelped, bounced back, and rushed down the stairs in terror, shoving the door of the lighthouse behind her and jumping into the window of the penthouse in record time.
“I was scared this time,” she whispered. “But I’m coming back no matter what Ma ma says.”
The next morning Karina woke up to the sound of someone coughing. She ignored it and felt for the first time an urge to go to school, to escape the horrors of home.
For the rest of the day, she couldn’t sit still, but she immediately perked up when she heard the front door creak open. Instead of coming upstairs to greet her, though, her mother stayed downstairs. All Karina could hear was the hushed whispers between the two women.
“We have to go,” she heard her aunt say. “There’s not enough money in the bank for this.”
“The children will worry. They shouldn’t,” her mother said firmly from downstairs. Even though Karina sensed the tension in the room and knew that they were trying to be quiet, the echoing was unavoidable. She glanced at her brother to see if he was listening.
“I know, I know,” her aunt prompted. Karina imagined her flapping her hand. “But the fortune isn’t going to keep up, even with both of us working. And with Carter gone, we have much less income.”
Karina sighed. It was true. Their aunt had fortune from decades ago, but it was running out and everybody knew it wouldn’t last. Closed-door conversations came up much more often than before. And even without a fortune teller, she knew that if she didn’t do something, they would be in trouble.
To be continued…
The Twists and Turns of Tala Reyes’ Life
I rode my bike home from a dull Friday at school with my best friend Amelia. We were riding on the Callaway nature trail. One time when we were riding, Amelia’s bike glided through a puddle, and she was caught off guard. She steered into the bushes. That is where we found the perfect place for a treehouse. My brother Asterio promised to help build it, but he hasn’t done it yet.
“Are you doing anything this weekend?” asked Amelia.
“I was thinking we could work on the treehouse,” I said.
“Maybe? Well, I’ll see you later.”
The trail split, and I went right, and Amelia went left.
Let me introduce myself. I’m Tala Reyes. Before I was born, my mother and father lived in the Philippines. That’s where they were from. And then my parents got married and moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming. My mom gave birth to Asterio, my older brother. Then six years later, right after I was born, my dad died of a heart attack. My mom moved back to the Philippines out of sadness, and our Uncle Buwan takes care of us. I’ve never even talked to my mother. I’m ten now. Asterio is eighteen.
I looked forward on the path. I quickly stopped my bike and looked in front of it again. There was a nice big toad. I picked it up. “Hey there buddy!” I said to the toad. I looked at his foot. I screamed. I recollected myself and picked up the toad. Yep. It was missing one of its feet. It looked gross, but the poor thing needed help. I put the toad in the basket attached to the front of my bike. I started to cycle home.
I walked inside and immediately put the toad in a terrarium, next to other animal rescues I have proudly done. I have toads, frogs, voles, and mice. I turn on my MP3 player. Taylor Davis. I was in the middle of playing along to “Starfire” on my violin when my brother walked into the room. I stopped my music quickly and put my violin in its fire/waterproof case. I am embarrassed by my violin. I know it sounds silly, but it’s like singing a solo.
“You know you shouldn’t hide talent, Star,” he called me Star because, in Filipino, Tala means “goddess of stars.” I tried to look innocent. I’m not that good at acting though.
“I couldn’t care less about the violin. Really!”
Asterio looked doubtful. “So, what’s up?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know. I feel like I don’t belong. Cheyenne is great. I’m not good enough.”
Asterio thought. “Maybe you’d change your mind if people noticed you more.” He held up a flyer for a music contest.
“A music contest and concert in front of the whole city? No one would pay a nickel to see me play! I don’t think so.”
“Please? For me? And for yourself? Pakiusap?”
“What does that even mean? You know I don’t speak Filipino.”
“It means please.”
I sighed. “I dunno… I’ll think about it.”
“Now out of my room!” I ordered. Asterio walked out.
“Kids! Come here!” yelled Buwan. Asterio and I came into the living room.
“What’s that?” asked Asterio pointing to something Buwan had in his hand. He answered.
“It’s a letter from your mom.”
“Wait, what?!” Asterio shouted. We were astonished. We hadn’t heard from her in ages. She was practically a stranger to me.
“What did it say?” I asked boldly.
Uncle Buwan read the letter. “Well, looks like you two have a new baby sister.”
Asterio and I looked at each other. “What does that mean?”
I wondered that too.
“It means we are going to the Philippines.”
To Be Continued…
The Incredible Adventures of George The Pigeon
“And Pigeon 520 takes the lead!” the announcer screamed as Pigeon 520 flapped his wings harder and harder until he pushed ahead of his opponents.
Captors could understand the excited announcer, (waving their money in the air in excitement, for they had all placed their bets on Pigeon 520; even the likes of nuns who never gambled) but not Pigeon 520. All he knew was two things:
- Pigeon 520 was not his name. He went by George, thank you very much. What a boring name his cruel captors had chosen for
Pigeon 520-Sorry, George. How horrible George’s captors were, which led to…
- If George didn’t win this race, his captors would take out the feared rod of terror. It would boom loudly, and one of the deadly pellet shaped items would penetrate his feathers and his life would be over. (In fairness, George didn’t care much about his feathers. He thought his plumage to be too scrawny and light to attract Sally, his crush -much less, any pigeon. But he did care about his life.)
All those thoughts passed through George’s head, and he winced. George didn’t believe he could actually flap his wings faster than he was doing currently, but he put every ounce of energy that he had left in his body.
“And Pigeon 520 takes the cake -or rather the seed!” the announcer boomed. Perhaps you are wondering how the announcer manages to repeatedly say “and” at the beginning of his sentences, for it seems all captors learn as children that this is not alright to say and, but, or any short word at the beginning of a sentence (though now it is perfectly acceptable). But the truth is, acceptable or not, that it was simply in this particular announcer’s nature to talk loudly even at home and start any sentence with a short word. Anyway, back to George.
George squealed indignantly as the crowds roared with either excitement, disappointment, or a mixture of both, practically falling over each other to pay off their bets, or receive their gambling money (most likely the second, especially in the excitement department). George shook off the squeal, attempting to hide it in a cough. Of course, neither of those behaviors would catch the empty void of Sally’s attention.
Sally was a fierce, female pigeon who he longed to have an alliance with, although in truth, George wanted far more than that. George had been in love with Sally ever since he set eyes on her at his first pigeon race, quite like every other pigeon in the world. But Sally could also give what no other pigeon could give George: freedom. Sally was the most gifted guide out there and lived a dual life: helping racing pigeons escape one day and coming second in races the next. She could help George escape the horrible life of stressful pigeon racing, though her help was controversial: more than a few times, she had dropped a pigeon in the middle of a mission to save her feathers (which, George noted for the billionth time, were quite beautiful).
George wanted to go see Sally, but she was standing by her usual spot at the snack stand, where the ground was sodden with a captor’s version of pellets. Except George knew from a snuck bite that they were far more delicious, oily but not too oily and salty but not too salty. However, Sally was nonchalantly eating a French fry while pigeons gawked at her beautiful plumage. These pigeons just happened to be the ones who teased George for constantly winning races. Luckily, Sally was not paying attention.
So, George let himself be swept up by his captors, put in the large mesh carrier, and taken into the back of a rumbler. Though George had been in rumblers countless times, they never seemed less menacing as the putrid smell from the back of the rumbler, which made bile rise in his throat. George had to wrap his wings around him in an attempt to block out the growing rumbling sound. In the mesh carrier, he had no room to allow his wings to spread. Instead, George plopped down, curled his wings around his body, and attempted to fall asleep.
“Get out of my space!” Henry snapped, jabbing George with his wing. George winced and scrambled as far away from Henry as he could get, which wasn’t far, given the smallness of their cage. It was a traditional iron palace bird cage, and while it was tall, allowing George and Henry to flap their wings for a split second, it lacked in ground space.
“Sorry, Henry,” George muttered and rubbed the spot where Henry had poked George.
Henry was George’s cage mate. As far as looks go, he was average with the trademark smooth grey feathers on his body and head, while green and pink feathers were on his neck. A purebred Armando pigeon. Which was exactly why their captors paid half a million dollars for Henry. However, what they didn’t realize was that Henry was horrible at pigeon racing. More important to George, Henry was also a horrible pigeon. He bossed George around, made him give most of his pellets to Henry, and teased Maggie. How George longed for Maggie to be here right now. Maggie could tell George that he was okay, that Henry was simply jealous of George’s many wins, that he didn’t need to be worried about getting shot by the rod of terror. Except that Maggie had been shot when she stopped winning. It was only a matter of time until George’s winning streak would run out, he’d stop placing medals, and he’d meet his sorry end. He had to convince Sally to help him run away.
“Well, leave me alone next time,” Henry’s voice broke into George’s thoughts. “And give me your pellets.
GLOSSARY OF PIGEON WORDS
Rod of terror– gun
To be continued…
The Intervals of Saira Mehra
“On your mark. Get set. BEEP!” The whistle blows, sending the swimmers off to compete in the 100 IM category. My kick is steady and swift. I’m working extremely hard to make sure my technique is on point. I hear faint cheers from my friends and teammates which immediately invigorates me to keep going. I’m almost there. Just a few more strokes and–
My phone buzzes.
Monday mornings can be so vexatious, notably when you are absorbed in such a captivating dream. I come downstairs to have my breakfast. Mama made samosas, my favorite Indian chaat. My family is in the living room drinking chai and having a conversation.
“Good morning Saira,” my mom greeted me. “Your samosa and chai are on the counter.”
“Thanks,” I replied and went over to my backpack to pack up for the day.
“Saira, have you completed studying for your science exam?” my dad asked.
“Yes, I did it last night. Plus, my friends and I are going to review it together on our way to school.”
“Good. Best of luck.”
I think I’ll do well on the test. Last night, I called my friends to discuss the test review with them, and we all felt prepared. My parents are always on their toes when it comes to my studies. My dad is a doctor, and he aspires for me to set myself in the medical field too. To be honest, I’m not passionate about medicine like my dad is. He has taught me some basic fundamentals about it, and based on that, I wasn’t intrigued by it. My dad told me to at least dip my toes in it before I make my final decision. I assured him I would, but I’ve already made up my mind. I aspire to be an athlete. My dream is to swim for the Olympics.
To be continued…
“We’re going to have to move to Los Angeles because I have a very big movie deal there that I can’t pass up. We should also get out of this small apartment and move into a bigger house,” said Dad.
“If that is what you think is best for this family,” said Mom.
“I think it is, what about you?”
“Well, Tate may not like it. Since this is like her favorite place to be, I guess it would be good for her to go to a new place. She could definitely use some more room to walk around and not be squished in her room all day. If you want to do it then I will do it”.
Tate woke up from her dream and was not happy that she was dreaming these bad things. “It can’t be true, I can’t,” said Tate. Tate went back to sleep, still hoping that it was just a dream and not real life.
The next morning was a very nice day. The sky had lots of puffy clouds and the trees were moving in a little bit of a breeze. Tate woke up with a big yawn. She got dressed and went to the kitchen for breakfast. Today, the breakfast was toast with butter, one of Tate’s favorites. She ate up, hoping that today would be a better day, and it would not be one of those burnt toast days. “Oh, hi Dad. We’re having toast for breakfast. It is really good!”
“I bet it is…”
“I wanted to ask you something.”
“Oh sorry but I have a work meeting soon, but you could ask me later. Thank you, Sidney for breakfast!” said Dad.
“You’re welcome,” said Mom, as I called her, or as Dad called her, Sidney.
“Yes, thank you so much for breakfast Mom,” said Tate.
“You’re welcome, and come here. Can I have a favor from you? Can you walk down to the trash can and come back up,” asked Mom.
“Just make sure you don’t talk to anyone and come back up quickly please! Or then I will be worried and think you got lost”
“I will be back quickly, don’t worry.” I opened the door and went out as I was closing the door, mom had one of those faces that moms have when they are worried about their kids. But I am twelve, so I feel like I am old enough for her to trust me.
I walk down to the trash cans and see someone else there too. But I remembered what my mom said about talking to people, but it was really hard because they looked like my age. My way of not talking to them was staring at the ground. Then, I opened the trash can and I saw like a thousand flies come out. They flew out really fast which surprised me a lot because normally none fly out or if some fly out it is normally like ten. I put the trash in the trash can. I started to walk back up the apartment stairs back to our apartment. But I can tell you that I definitely was not as fast as the flies flying out of the garbage. I was probably walking up to our apartment more like a sloth.
“Where have you been? I was starting to get worried about you. And what happened to your hair and clothes? They were all nice, but now they look really dirty. Did you have a fight with birds? Even if I did not tell you to not do it doesn’t mean that I wanted you to fight with them,” said Mom.
“No, I didn’t get into a fight with the birds. Flies started to fly out of the trash can like crazy when I tried to put the trash bag in the trash can,” I said.
“Okay, well, maybe you should shower up and change into new clothes before doing anything else. Then after you do that, we can work on your school work.”
I washed myself off and put on new clothes that my mom bought me. I went into the kitchen and found her reviewing my schoolwork. I was really nervous about doing school right now because I didn’t practice over the summer. My mom thought I did, so I am hoping school is not going to be too hard even though I didn’t practice through the summer.
To be continued…
In big bold gold
Not sounding like a scold
A letter addressed
Should I stress?
All that it says
Is “108 W Covington Street, Tuesday at 9 pm. Arrive on time”
It starts to form a rhyme
And I ponder until bedtime
All that is said is “108 W Covington Street, Tuesday at 9 pm. Arrive on time”
Arriving with the letter that contains the rhyme
A woman opens the door
And I see bookshelves galore
All I want to know is know who sent the letter
A bird comes in and starts to peck her
She motions over and walks away
Should I stay?
I walk into the house
And see a tiny mouse
And wonder who sent the letter, “108 W Covington Street, Tuesday at 9 pm. Arrive on time”
It’s Tuesday, and dark, so I can’t see the sign
I get bumped on the head
And realize I’m suddenly in a bed
The kind women questions
“Why are you in the wing for detention?”
And I realize why they sent the letter
It was for the one and only…Mr. Setter!
I realize it’s Mr. Setter’s birthday
Also New Year’s Day
After a final sprint for the staff room
All the students clap for you
You tell them it’s just you
And they make room
You see the birthday man
And he hogs up the fan
Watching the New Year’s Parade
After, you play charades
You eat the cake
Then line up to shake
And wish him a good birthday
He wishes that his birthdays would be like this day
And rings a bell
Soon enough the party is over
And it’s the boring old staff room all over
You arrive at home
And don’t want to roam
And fall asleep
A long way away, every human has a superpower. Some speak to animals while others shoot lasers out of their eyes. No matter what your power is, it is unique and special.
Let’s take the whole world and zoom in on a little town called Griffinsburg. Here, a girl named July lives and has a wonderful life as a normal kid without superpowers yet. Her tenth birthday is coming up soon, as you may have guessed, it is in July. It is currently June 28th, and her birthday is July 9th.
The thing is, when she turns ten, she goes to the magical judge and is given a brand new superpower that nobody has been given yet.
“Daddy?” said July.
“Yes?” said her daddy.
“What superpower do you think I am going to get? I hope I get—actually, I don’t know what I want to get. I just don’t want a bad power.”
“Well, your guess is as good as mine. But maybe you could break the previous record and get the same as your mother or me. So levitation or super strength?”
“Maybe, but I kinda want to get something new.”
“I get it, so did I when I was a kid.”
“July! It’s time for flying skateboard club!” yelled July’s six-and-a-half year old little brother, Henry, from downstairs.
“Coming!” yelled July.
She tossed on her backpack, gave her daddy a great big hug, waved goodbye to her pet axolotl, Nebula, and went downstairs to walk Henry to his flying skateboard club. Henry was already holding his flying skateboard when she got down.
They closed the door and turned onto Maple Street, then took a left on Railway Road where there was the skate park. July hugged her brother, and then set off to her friend Poppy’s house.
Poppy was the same age as July, and she was about to get powers as well. July got to Poppy’s house, and they greeted each other with a big hug.
“I missed you! I haven’t seen you in so long!” said Poppy.
“Are you sure? We just had a playdate three days ago,” said July.
“I know, it seemed like an eternity. Right?”
“Anyways come inside! My mama said we could make chocolate chip cooooookies!”
July came inside, they got out all the ingredients and Poppy’s mama’s magical cookbook out. Then they began to bake.
“Poppy?” July asked.
“Yes?” Poppy answered.
“What superpower do you hope you’re going to get?”
“Oooh I don’t know, maybe levitation?”
“Poppy, that’s not possible, remember that is my mama’s superpower.”
“Oh right! I remember now!”
“Poppy, the question?”
“Oh yeah, right. I don’t know then? What about you?”
“I don’t know but I want something to shoot out of my hands.”
“That’s cool! I still don’t know what I want.”
They put the cookies in the oven and waited.
“What do you want to do while we are waiting?” asked July.
“We could play ‘Super Power Guess Who?’” answered Poppy.
Once they got set up, they drew a card and began. July drew mind reading and Poppy drew super speed.
“You can go first,” said Poppy.
“Okay. Let’s see… Can yours help you see something you can’t normally see?” asked July.
“It cannot,” answered Poppy. July put down the no longer possible answers. “Can yours help you get to places quicker?” asked Poppy.
“Nope,” said July. Poppy put down the non-possible answers “Can yours help you get to places quicker?” July asked
“Yes,” answered Poppy. After July put down all the answers that couldn’t be possible anymore, she was left with two tiles: teleportation and super speed. “Can yours help you see somebody else’s thoughts?” asked Poppy.
“Yes,” answered July. There was only one1 that could do so she had one tile left. July had to guess the right answer this question or Poppy would win on her next turn. “Is yours… teleportation?” asked July.
“Nope! Yours is mind reading, right?” said Poppy.
“Yup. You won!” said July.
Just then, the timer for the cookies went off. Both girls ran downstairs as fast as their legs could carry them.
They enjoyed some cookies then July had to leave to go and pick up Henry.
“Bye Poppy!” July yelled.
“Bye July!” Poppy yelled.
After July had picked Henry up and brought him home, she started something she had been wanting to do for a long time: fill out the form the magical judge had given her. There were a few simple questions about her personality.
The first question said, “What is your favorite animal?” July put down a sea turtle.
The second question was, “If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would those words be?” July wrote animal lover, fun, and patient. She hoped they would accept animal lover as one of the describing words.
The third and final question was, “Do you keep secrets?” July put down that she didn’t.
It is a week later, and now the date is July 5th. Poppy gets her power today. July went to her horseback riding camp then came home. After ten minutes, she heard a “knock, knock, knock,” on her door. She ran downstairs as fast as she could and opened the door to a smiling Poppy.
“Poppy!” July yelled.
“July!” Poppy yelled.
“What did you get as your superpower?”
“Drumroll please!” Poppy said excitedly, “Flower power!”
July was confused. “Flower power?”
“Yeah,” said Poppy, “the ability to make plants grow!”
“I guess that kind of makes sense given your name is Poppy.”
“True. I never thought of it that way,”
“I can’t wait until I get my powers.”
Four days later, it was finally time for July to get her power.
Before July went to get her power, she said to Nebula, “Wish me luck!”
July walked into the room where the magical Judge was, with butterflies in her stomach.
The judge examined July’s form for a good few minutes, and then in the blank space at the bottom they wrote “water powers.”
Once they handed the form back to July, a dome of water covered July but didn’t get her wet. After a few seconds, the water turned into mist.
To be continued…