Last week I set out a Monday Morning Writing Challenge: I asked people to write me the beginning of a children's book set in Detroit. And some of you DID, which is awesome.
Today I am going to post the three wonderful stories I received in my inbox, and on Wednesday I will post the beginning of the story *I* wrote. Isn't this fun? I think I'm going to do writing challenges more often. I really love seeing all of your work. It's starting to be like a virtual writing workshop up in this blog! I love it.
From William White:. Check out how many questions William raises is just a few short paragraphs: what happened to Emma's dad? What about her mom? What's E's stepmom's deal? Piquing the reader's curiosity is a great technique for story intros...
A Garden in the Dark
Emma loved to grow daisies. She always had. At least for most of her seven years. Knees covered in dirt she pulled stray weeds from around her treasures. She gazed at the flowers. So beautiful. So pretty. She loved them. She loved them so much she didn’t hear the boys shouting at the other end of the vacant lot. She loved them so much she didn’t hear the police sirens in the distance. She loved them so much she didn’t hear the big city train as it roared past only two blocks away.
As Emma knelt in the dirt tending her daisies all she heard was her father’s voice. A voice from long ago.
“Daisies are the happiest of all the flowers sweet Emma. And I’m sure that your daisies are the happiest daisies in the whole wide world.”
Emma’s stepmother sat in the dirt nearby. She was tending the carrots. Sort of. She didn’t look very happy about doing it. She was dressed in fancy clothes. Not gardening clothes like Emma’s. When her stepmother looked over at her, Emma looked away.
“Can’t eat them flowers you know. Tend the beets. We can eat the beets.” her stepmother said.
Emma pulled a few more weeds from around her daisies then scooted on her knees over to the beets. The leaves on the beets felt dry. Emma stood up, brushed the dirt off her knees and walked over to the red brick wall of her apartment building. In the wall was a small faucet and Emma filled the rusty old coffee can full of water. She tried not to spill as she walked back to the beets.
Again she heard her father’s voice.
“Watch the water Emma. Every living thing needs the water.”
And this, from Sydnee Thompson: Given the content, this would be YA; but I love how well and how quickly Sydnee evokes this scene. And see the interesting attached note, below.
I've lived in the Detroit area all my life. The downtown area isn't really all that bad, but I've never been to the Detroit firework show because every year, without fail, someone gets shot or stabbed. - Sydnee
The pounding of fireworks above filled his ears. It seemed to seep into his blood and control the very beating of his heart. Bright splashes of blue and pink and red exploded in the night sky, the smell of barbecue wafting in the air.
Brian pulled the viewfinder of his camera up to his eye and captured a firework’s silver tendrils soaring towards the horizon. Someone jabbed him in the side. He yanked his camera close to his chest and checked for his wallet. A homeless man wandered by begging for cash. Passersby winced and glowered at his loud praises of generosity and God’s forgiveness.
Brian looked up. A girl with a purple sweatshirt hood hiding her face stormed over, hands shoved in her pockets.
“You could’ve waited for me, you know!” Katelyn sputtered, linking her arm with his. He ignored her in favor of taking a snapshot of the homeless guy. She groaned. “I hate crowds like this… I don’t know why I even ca-”
Brian snorted. “Me neither.” The annual July fireworks show was one of his favorite events of the year. Because he was only twelve, he didn’t have many chances to explore the city’s nightlife. Only when July 4th rolled around did his mother shove a twenty at him and throw him alone into the crowded, chaotic streets. “You invited yourself, remember?”
Katelyn looked offended. Brian sighed. “Okay, just give me a minute. Then I’ll buy dinner, okay?”
Katelyn tipped her chin up. Her narrowed eyes dared him to challenge her. “I want ribs. And French fries. I don’t care what they cost. You owe me.”
“Fine, fine.” Brian watched another small firework explode, then glanced wearily at the crowd of twenty-somethings smoking weed and cackling to their right. “On second thought… show’s almost over. Let’s get out of here before someone starts shooting again.”
Lastly (but not leastly!) from Lizzy Doutsis:. Check out all the detailed and beautifully alliterative description: "weal wisps of sprouting green grass specking"--amazing!!
To Make Her Smile
The sun shone so brightly it hurt his eyes as he stumbled down the narrow street. The sidewalk hard and brittle, and his feet kept catching on the little knobs of stones and dirt, stuck between the cracks. Despite the fact that this was a fairly new neighbourhood the houses already looked old and discoloured, cramped together with weak wisps of sprouting green grass specking the brown dirt of the lawns. Shiny new cars sat on some of the driveways, as if the owners were trying to prove their worth by the brand of vehicle they owned, as if that would somehow make their lives better, or more prosperous.
Protectively clutching the stack of newspapers in his hands, the boy roamed through the paper to the fourth page until he found what he was looking for, the hockey standings for the Detroit Redwings.
Even though his dad was in danger of being laid off and his mom was sick at home with chronic fatigue, Aaron’s family found comfort in watching the Redwing’s hockey games (They were all die hard fans, even Aaron’s little sister, Sierra) on their twenty-seven-inch TV. With a dab of pride, Aaron thought that their living room was the only one in the whole neighbourhood which displayed a Redwings flag. It was their symbol, their prize, like the shiny Volvo on Mr. Kowarsky’s driveway or the flowery garden in front of Mrs. Patigran’s porch.
Having a paper route was a time consuming and strenuous job, but one of the only employment opportunities for thirteen year old boys. Aaron’s mind wandered away from his task as he continued down the street, tossing newspaper at each door, thinking about how his family was never happy anymore. His mom’s birthday was coming up, and despite their tough situation right now Aaron wanted it to be a memorable occasion.
The neighbour’s grungy dog barked ferociously from behind the iron clad fence, but Aaron didn’t hear it; inspiration had stuck. His mother had never been to a Redwing’s game. He knew that if he could just get his family to a game, he could make his mother smile.
Thanks so much Sydnee, William, and Lizzy...and KEEP WRITING!
Wednesday I'll post my attempt. Don't be too hard on me. :)
Aren't writing challenges fun??