From the lovely Liz Douitsis:
Fairies & Mermaids
The boat rocks back and forth. Mummy says it’s called a ‘gondola’. She is talking to the man who owns the boat while I sit with my friend Tanya in the back. Tanya has purple wings and orange eyes. I tell her all of my secrets. Tanya says something that makes me laugh, and mummy looks at me with angry eyes like when I make too much noise in church.
Mummy was yelling at the man, but I don’t know what she was saying. Something is wrong with mummy today. I think she is scared. Maybe she is afraid that the boat will tip. I want to tell her that I won’t let us fall into the river, but Tanya tells me to be quiet. We float past people’s houses, with boats outside of their doors like cars. Tanya wants to go swimming.
Mummy still looks cross. She is not talking to the man anymore. She is staring at the river. Sometimes I think mummy has a make-believe friend too. Maybe it is a mermaid. I would like to meet mummy’s mermaid friend.
The man smiles at me. I smile too. Mummy is not happy. She yells at him again. Mummy never yells like that unless I have been bad. I wonder why is mummy so mad today? It is a pretty day. I would like to stay in this gondola for ever. I do not want to go back to our house. It is lonely with just mummy and me. We do not have rivers.
Mummy says it’s time to go. The man looks sad. He says something to mummy, and then he talks to me. His eyes are green, like mine. I don’t know what he says, but I like his voice. Mommy takes my hand and pulls me away. She doesn’t talk to the man.
Tanya tells me he was speaking in a different language, and ‘Papa’ means ‘daddy’.
The thing that most impressed me about this submission is that I think it really captured the voice of a young child. I find that so often, writers are NOT able to convincingly evoke a child's voice and POV. Well done, Liz!
The following piece comes from 14-year-old (!) Jessica Dailey, a first-time submitter:
My fingers dance through the reflections of Italy. I pull my hand over the edge of the boat and
rest it on my leg, feeling the warm river soaking through my jeans.
The setting orange orb in the sky is suddenly overcrowded by black, menacing clouds. Warm gusts of air blow loose strands of hair into my face. I turn to meet the wind but instead, I am greeted by a wave of rain. The small droplets race down my cheeks and fall to the river, sinking deep into the depths of the canal. My translation fails me as I try to convey to the gondolier that I wish to get off.
The man in stripes returns my poor Italian with a puzzled look and stumbles with the rocking of the gondola. With the waters now gaining speed and current, my fingers grasp the edge of the wooden boat. I turn to find the captain of our small shipsitting down in order to keep from falling into the clouded depths of the canal. His eyes widen slightly as he gazes past my head. I turn.
A dark, liquid blanket rises up out of the water. Flowing with swirls of rain, the river jumps at the férro. Snapping my eyes shut and my mouth closed, my body grips the gondola as we are tipped
and swallowed by the narrow Italian river.
I was really impressed by the first-line, which serves to both insert us directly into the action of the story and convincingly evoke the background--we're introduced to both narrator and setting in eight words alone. There is some lovely description here, and I was also very impressed that Jessica took the time to research the word "ferro!" Obviously, this is a writer dedicated to her craft. :)
From Natalie Ward:
This was the closest he’d been to her in the four days he had been watching. Today, it had to be today. He knew this, but for now he just wanted to watch. Rialto Bridge they called it. That was where he stood as she floated on a gondola in the water underneath.
He couldn’t see her face, hidden behind a black hat, but her legs…those he could see. Long, tanned legs stretched out, crossed at the ankles. Her right hand was trailing in the water as the boat moved slowly along. She was heading towards him, in another few minutes she would float right underneath him. His body tensed.
He had only had two instructions, it had to happen in Venice and it had to be discreet. She was leaving tonight, so today was his last chance, he knew that. He knew how to be discreet too. The problem lay in whether he could do it. Did he want to?
He was beginning to think no. She was mesmerising. Those long tanned legs didn’t hurt, but it was surely more than that. As she passed beneath him, he couldn’t help but glance down. She didn’t look up. As her gondola floated to the jetty, he moved off the bridge and towards her. Confident steps, ready with a hand as she stepped out of the boat. She glanced at him now and he saw it, a brief flicker of recognition, definitely. Smiling, he took her hand “buongiorno”.
This has the wonderful, fast-paced quality of a good pulp fiction mystery, and I love how Natalie convincingly assumes that voice. I also love how she layers in a lot of suspense in a short span of time and text. WHAT does he have to do? (Kill her?) WHO gave him these instructions? WHY? And of course, WILL he do it? This could be a great opening to a longer piece.