“Halloweensie” Contest Entry: “Creaky Cackle”

It’s time for another contest run by Susanna Leonard Hill. Her contests are always challenging but loads of fun.

Here are the rules:

The Contest:  write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words pumpkin, broomstick, and creak.   Your story can be poetry or prose, scary, funny or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂  (And yes, I know 100 words is short but that’s part of the fun and the challenge!  We got nearly 80 fantastic entries last year so I know you can do it!)  Also, you may use the words in any form – e.g. creak, creaky, creaks, creaking, creaked.  No illustration notes please!

Although it’s the fourth annual “Halloweensie” contest, it’s my first time entering. I wrote two stories and had trouble choosing which one to enter. My beta readers were no help either. They were split in half as to which one I should enter. (Can I enter both?)

I finally decided to enter “Creaky Cackle”. After reading it and letting me know what you think, swing on over to the list of other stories. It’s as much fun reading the other entries as it is writing one.

Happy Hallowe’en!

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Creaky Cackle

Ever since Winnie Witch crashed into a creek, her cackle was creaky.
Ah ha ha…hack…cough, cough…
Hallowe’en hijinks were hindered.
Broomstick in hand, she wobbled into the witch doctor’s office.
“Whoa,” said the doctor as she peered into Winnie’s mouth. “It looks like you’ve got a frog in your throat.”
“Chew this pumpkin lozenge,” the doctor decreed.
“Yuck,” Winnie gagged. Splutter, cough, cough…
Out bounded a bullfrog.
“Ba–ruump,” protested the frog and hopped off.
Ahhh ha ha ha ha…Winnie Witch whooped.
“Stay out of creeks,” the doctor yelled as Winnie Witch bounded off on her broomstick.

Update: I placed eighth in this contest! Hooray! For a list of all the winners, click here.

My First Writer’s Conference!

Well I did it. I finally attended my first writer’s conference! I attended CANSCAIP’s PYI conference a couple of weekends ago.
I have been on my children’s literature journey for two years now, but I had never been to a conference.
I’ve always been advised to go to one, because it is important for creatives to gather together. Writing is a lonely job, and putting yourself together with other writers and comparing notes helps make the journey easier.
So what was my conclusion? Is it worth your while? Yes! Go to a writer’s conference! You will learn so much!

Next year I'm sitting closer!

Next year I’m sitting closer!

One thing that I really enjoyed learning was that all those people who are wildly successful are human too. That was pointed out in the opening speech by a wickedly funny Teresa Toten, who talked about how she was once at the conference as a prepublished writer, not daring to say anything. Now look at her: recent recipient of the Governor General’s award with nine books to her name.

I attended three seminars:
1. Rob Laidlaw
Rob is an animal rights activist who talked about not shying away from writing difficult stories for children. Although Rob has had no training in children’s writing, a lot of what he said made sense.
Rob mentioned that children these days know way more than we give them credit for, and so we don’t need to “sugar coat” the issues. However, his way is to not show graphic images, which he says turns people off. Instead he makes people fall in love with the subject matter.
His latest book is Five Elephants, a copy of which I purchased and which he signed.
2. Ashley Spires
Ashley is most famous for her “Binky the Space Cat” series of graphic novels. She talked about creating her graphic novels, including why she prefers graphic novels over picture books. For example, you can have a bigger, more sophisticated story in a graphic novel.
Ashley left plenty of time for questions and answers. She is very funny and open, and talked honestly about her creative process, including what happens when she doubts herself.
3. Editors Panel
Susan Rich, editor-at-large for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Tara Walker, editorial director at Tundra Books
The editors answered several questions in the (too short) time they were allotted and were very refreshing, engaging, and down to earth. They are real people too!
For example, you should shop your story out to traditional publishers first before considering self publishing, because traditional publishers offer a wide range of services such as submitting to awards and book reviews.
Discouraging as it is, very few people are published from the slush pile. Yet there is still no need for an agent if you live in Canada.

Another great part was meeting other writers in all stages of their careers. For example, I met Kira Vermond, who has had three books published, one of which is again up for an award. I met Andrea Mack, who is also taking the 12X12 challenge and who also wrote about the conference. I met others who live in my region. And it was great to talk to them about all things writing. It’s my tribe.
It’s great getting to know the Canadian children’s literature scene. I can’t wait for next year’s conference!

Book Review: “A Book”

I got a children’s book called “A Book” for a birthday present this year. Thank you to my brother and his wife, who found a perfect book for me.

Written by Mordicai Gerstein, it’s an excellent book for all children’s book authors to read.

A father and a mother, a girl and a boy, and some pets live in a book. One morning the girl asks “What is our story?” One by one all the characters tell what their story is. But the girl has none, and so she sets out to find out what her story is. Her adventures take her through several landscapes including fairy tales, mysteries, and history. But none seem to fit. Will the girl find her story?

Children’s book authors will be able to relate to comments such as “I think this historical novel is too much work”. Children will have fun romping through the various landscapes.

Gerstein is also the author of the Caldecott medal winning “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers”.

“Let’s Read”: “Community Soup”

At last weekend’s international festival, my daughter won the book called “Community Soup” by Alma Fullerton.

It turns out the book is the “Let’s Read” choice for the next year. Every year the “Let’s Read” program in Waterloo Region selects a book for the children of the community to read. According to the website, “Children who are read to and who see their family reading demonstrate improved reading skills. Make literacy a family project, and let us help.”
The “Let’s Read” program hosts several local events, including a meet the author event, which I hope to attend. There are also a number of storytime events, including one where you get a chance to sit on the “big weave”, the community quilt that was put together at “A Day and a Night”.

Helping create our community quilt

Helping create our community quilt

The story centres on a group of children at a school in Kenya who are gathering vegetables in order to make soup. But while the other children are busy gathering the vegetables, Kioni is busy gathering her goats. What will happen when the goats arrive at school?

My daughter’s grandfather comes from Tanzania, and has been to Kenya, and so I do try to introduce her to that part of the family history. This book gives her a taste of life in Africa.

“Community Soup” includes a mouthwatering recipe at the back of the book, and some of the proceeds go to the Creation of Hope Project towards the building of community gardens such as the one depicted in the book.

Watch below to see how Alma Fullerton created the book.

What delicious books have you come across lately?