A March Madness Contest – The Three Little Easter Bunnies

Susanna Leonard Hill is again hosting another fabulous contest over on her blog. This time we have been challenged to write a 400 word story that is a twist on a fractured fairytale, with Spring somewhere in the mix.  Below is my entry. Happy Spring to all our readers!

THE THREE LITTLE EASTER BUNNIES

Three little bunnies were training to be Easter Bunnies. Their next task was to carry a basket full of colored eggs up a steep hill, and then hide the eggs in the bushes at the top. This might seem like an easy task for three little bunnies, but to get to the top of the hill they had to cross a bridge guarded by a mean troll.

The first bunny tiptoed across the bridge – tap, tip, tap. “Who is that tapping across my bridge?” the troll growled.

“Just me,” the first bunny said. “Please let me cross the bridge.”

“Only those who can answer a riddle can cross my bridge,” the troll said. “What is yellow in the middle, white all around, and colored all over?”

“An Easter egg!” the bunny replied, and hopped across the bridge.

The second bunny bounded across the bridge – boom, bam, boom. “Who is that booming across my bridge?” the troll growled.

“Another bunny,” the second bunny said.

“Only those who can answer a riddle can cross my bridge,” the troll said. “What looks like a bean, but tastes like sugar?”

“A jelly bean!” the bunny replied, and hopped across the bridge.

The third bunny bounced across the bridge – boing, bing, boing. “Who is that boinging across my bridge?” the troll growled.

“A little brown bunny,” said the third bunny.

“Only those who can answer a riddle can cross my bridge,” the troll said. “What is white, looks like a trumpet, and grows tall from the ground?”

The third bunny was stumped.

“Well?” shouted the troll.

“I don’t know,” the bunny said.

“Then I will have to eat you up!” the trolled yelled, using his gnarled hands to climb up the side of the bridge. When he got to the top, sitting in the middle of the bridge was a small brown bunny.

“I’ve got you now!” the troll shouted and he jumped on top of the bunny, knocking it to the ground. The brown bunny broke into pieces.

The troll picked up a piece and sniffed. It smelled sweet. He licked the piece, and it tasted sweet too.  “Bunnies are yummy!” he said as he ate up all of the bunny pieces.

High up on the hill, three bunnies giggled as they watched the troll eating the chocolate bunny. Then they hopped away through the Easter lilies to hide their eggs.

Easter Eggs

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Weakness and Opportunity

I’ve been absent from the blog while working toward my MFA at Lesley University, and it’s good to come back for a quick reflection. When Katie and I chat, which we do with semi-regularity, we often discuss the latest thing I’m learning in my program. There’s always a lot to talk about.

During my recent residency in Boston, one of the faculty asked us to be truthful about our writing weaknesses. A task such as this is always easier said than done. Of course, we all have weaknesses. (Mine is dark chocolate sea salt caramels. Isn’t yours?) Prior to this seminar, I would have said revision was my biggest weakness. But if our weaknesses should be our top priority when it comes to revision, as this faculty person said, then revision itself couldn’t be my weakness. Besides, revision isn’t a craft technique. It’s the process of reworking the mechanics (read: craft techniques) of a piece. So I couldn’t play it safe with “revision.” But what I discovered at first unnerved me.

In general, my characters are deemed likable or relatable. At the same time, they trend toward being one-dimensional, lacking backstory, or blurring with other characters. In the case of my current WIP, I’d been thinking about these characters for over three years—I was convinced I knew them well. But when my chapters were workshopped at residency, there were questions about my characters I couldn’t answer. Here are just a few:

What was Sage doing when she found out her father had died?

What did she think when her mother first told her they were moving out of the country?

What did AJ think when he met his adoptive parents for the first time?

Why did Leighanne resist going to Nepal all those years?

Did Tenzin ever resent having a nun for a mother?

What fascinating questions! And what I wouldn’t give to know the answers to them.

It’s incredible to grasp how much I can not know my characters. Right now, they live only in my head. At some point, I hope they will live in your head as well, but until that day, I’m all they’ve got. To tell their stories, I would have to get to know them better.  I’d discovered a weakness, and a pretty significant one at that. What to do?

My advisor for this semester, Sara Zarr, recommended daily writing prompts by Sarah Selecky. (You can access it here.) Using these prompts, I write scenes with various characters from my WIP. A recent favorite involved an unnamed baby. In writing this scene, I discovered more about the dynamic between my protagonist’s parents. And while their relationship is somewhat critical to the backstory, I honestly hadn’t given them much thought.

Now, uncovering the details about my characters is a top priority, and the daily prompts are a big part in this process. Since I don’t know the answer (and arguably there is no right answer) of who my characters are, I can simply experience the joy of discovering new things about them. And my characters are so much more interesting than I ever would have imagined. I don’t foresee being able to use these scenes directly in my WIP, but I’ve only been doing them a few weeks, and already I feel more in touch with my characters. I’m hooked.

At first I was scared to confront the idea that I didn’t know my characters. Now I see that even within weakness there is opportunity. This is true beyond writing as well. Whether your weakness is defining characters or asking for help or speaking in front of large groups, be brave and embrace it fully. Who knows what will come of it.

A Bonus Halloween Post!

Happy Halloween everyone! I’m not much into the gore of Halloween, but I am looking forward to taking my kids trick-or-treating tonight.

Susanna Leonard Hill is having another Halloween contest on her blog this year, and I had so much fun with last year’s contest, I wanted to do it again. It’s a Haloweensie contest, because it’s short and it’s for kids. We are challenged to write 100 words using the words spooky, black cat, and cackle. Here’s my contribution:

ARE YOU SCARED YET?

“I’m ready, ” said the little black cat.

“Let’s hear it,” said the big black cat.

“Booooooo,” said Little Cat.

Big Cat curled up. “Not spooky enough.”

“Ah ha ha ha,” she cackled, wrinkling her nose.

Big Cat yawned. “Not creepy enough.”

Little Cat bared her teeth. “Mwah ha ha,” she said.

“I’m still not scared,” said Big Cat, closing his eyes.

Little Cat took a deep breath and growled from her belly, getting louder until her body vibrated.

“Rawr!” she bellowed, and Big Cat jumped straight into the air.

“Not bad,” Big Cat said.

Little Cat smiled. I’m ready.

Halloween Sounds and a Contest

It’s only a few weeks until Halloween. Are you ready? Have you carved or painted your pumpkin? Have you bought candy for trick or treaters (only to have to buy more after you eat it)? Are you going to any fun costume parties?

No parties for us this year, which is a relief, after the so-called family party we went to last year. This year, we just have regular neighborhood trick or treating planned (if it doesn’t snow this year), and a school parade for each child. My daughter is dressing up as a fairy, which makes things easier since her Tinkerbelle costume is on regular rotation for dress-up. My son wants to be a bumblebee, so I have some sewing to do. I’ll share some pictures after the big day.

So in continuation of the last post, let’s have a little Halloween contest about sounds. Next week I will be reviewing Julia Donaldson’s book Room on the Broom. The winner of the contest wins their own copy of the book.

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Halloween is a season full of spooky, creepy, and scary sounds. Which one is your favorite?

Now write a short story of no more than 250 words, with your chosen sound as the first AND last word of the story. Use it as many times as you want (along with other sounds if you choose), but one sound must appear at both the beginning and end.

Here’s mine to get you started:

Creeeeek. I opened one eye. The room was pitch black, so I couldn’t see anything moving. I waited while my heart beat three times. Nothing. I closed my eyes again, and was dozing back to sleep when I heard it again. Creeeeek.

I sat straight up in my bed. I wasn’t imagining something in my room. Could I make it to the door before it got me? Maybe I could make it to the lightswitch instead. Creeeek. The sound was getting closer.

I felt inside my bedside table drawer for my flashlight. I squinted at the bright light as I switched it on, and then opened my eyes wide as I swung it back and forth across my room.

My desk covered in papers: check. My cars lined up on the block road I built: check. The pile of clothes mom keeps asking me to put away: check. Everything was where it should be.

I turned the light off and laid in bed looking out into the dark. Come on, whatever you are. I dare you. Make another noise. I counted to 20 and back. Nothing.

I grinned to myself. I must have scared it away! No sound is a match for me. I chuckled to myself. I bet my little brother would have cried.

I slowly drifted back to sleep, dreaming of lifting a car with my bare hands. Creeeeek.

Please submit your story:

1. In the comments

OR

2. Post it to your blog with a link back in the comments

by next Thursday, October 24th at 6 PM EST. Our panel of judges will choose the winner! Hint: We really like creativity, humor, and wit!

Good luck!

The Senses of Spring

BaseballSpring is a time of reawakening. New animal babies are born and buds pop out on the trees. I found that it is the time for my senses to reawaken, too.

At my son’s first baseball game of the season last night, I was acutely aware of the smell of the freshly cut grass while I watched the boys hold their caps over their hearts for the National Anthem. I could hear the boys laughing from the dugout, and the crack of the wooden bat successfully hitting the ball. My daughter was not watching the game, but was busily digging in the dirt next to the bleachers, bringing me handfuls of craggy, bumpy rocks. And we finished the evening off with a tasty celebratory frozen yogurt.

This inspired my idea for a writer’s exercise, or game to play with your kids (when you can’t possibly play another game of iSpy).

Family Version: At the park, on a car ride, at a sporting event, waiting for the doctor/dentist, taking a nature hike, or anywhere else you might be, challenge your family to describe where they are with all five senses. It may inspire some interesting conversations about WHY the doctor’s waiting room smells like bubble gum.

Writer’s Version: During similar situations as above, or sitting on the porch having a cup of coffee, or people watching at the mall (or wherever else you are), take out your journal and see if you can describe the environment with all five senses. Extra bonus points for the more descriptive and creative you are with your answers. This exercise also works as a “jump starter” for your writing day, or a break exercise when you are stuck while writing. Reflect back on a situation, and see what sensory descriptors you can conjure up. Don’t worry… even if “the smooth stickiness of peanut butter on the roof of my mouth” never makes it into any of your manuscripts, it WILL open your mind to the things that might pass by unnoticed.

Feel free to share your examples and what your senses revealed to you. Happy Spring!