Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Exclusive! Read the Winning Stories from The Write Across Ontario Contest for Young Writers!

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IFOA Ontario and Open Book: Ontario are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Write Across Ontario creative writing competition!

Open to students in grades 5 to 12 across the province, entrants were asked to write a story in 500 words or less, using the story-starter provided for their age group by one of four acclaimed Canadian authors. This year, Martha Baillie provided the story-starter for grades 5–6, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer wrote one for grades 7–8, John McFetridge covered grades 9–10 and Elyse Friedman created the story-starter for grades 11–12. The story-starter was used as a place for students to begin their story, but where the story went from there was in the hands of each individual.

You can read the winning entries below. We congratulate all the fine young writers who entered and especially our winners. These promising young writers may just turn up on your bookshelves in the future.

Ella Hodgson-Pageau, Winner of the Grades 5–6 division for "Our Last Chance"

Writing prompt provided by Martha Baillie

Don’t you recognize yourself? That’s you, standing alone, facing in the wrong direction as if you’ve decided not to get on the school bus with the others. Can’t you tell your own windbreaker? Play the video again.You’re acting as if you don’t hear your teacher. “Hey Sandra K, where do you think you’re going?” Now, you’ve crouched down. You’re poking about in your book bag, looking for something or pretending to. “Hey Kubiak, get a move on.” You’re standing now, but still facing the wrong way, searching the street with your eyes, as if what you thought was in your book bag has maybe escaped. Where did you get your pale blue eyes? You’re legs are ridiculously long. I’ll bet you can run fast.This little video is just for you. And who am I? I don’t think I’d better say, not until I’m sure I can trust you. Are you brave enough to do this?

Sincerely,
?

What? Why was someone sending me a weird letter and CD? This was freaky, but I pushed the CD into my laptop and watched myself step towards the school bus, looking back towards my house. This was me, I remembered yesterday, not getting on the school bus because I was a little scared of Trisha, a girl who just loved to pick on me. I reread the letter and thought about it–was I brave? I mean, I was sometimes called a daredevil, but what about big, life risking things? I grabbed my bag and walked to my bus stop, deep in thought.

When I got to school, everything seemed normal. That is, up until second period science when everyone started to act really weird. Kids were staring out the windows, all googley eyed and a group of strict teachers were giggling uncontrollably. I was staring at Trisha and another popular girl skipping down the hallway with goofy smiles on their faces when someone grabbed me and pulled me in to the janitor’s closet.

“What do you want?” I shouted at whoever had grabbed me.

“I want you to save the world.” The voice responded, knocking over a mop.

“What are you talking about?”

“I can’t tell you yet but for now, please just come with me.”

The man pushed open a small door in the wall. Usually I wouldn’t follow a stranger, but I had a good feeling about this man and things were already pretty messed up today, so I followed him. When I stepped out in to the chilly autumn air, the man headed towards a small black car. I climbed in to the backseat and we drove to a large, gray building.

“Now I need you to go inside that building, go to the fifth floor, and everything will be explained.” Said the man who had grabbed me.

Nervously, I walked in and climbed the stairs until I reached the fifth floor. I pushed through the door and a young woman with curly brown hair stepped forward.

“Hello, you must be Sandra.” She said, in a friendly but serious tone.

“Hi, um… what’s going on?” I asked, going straight to the point.

“We need you to go on a dangerous mission. You’ve been selected because you’re fast, smart and brave. The other day, we sent you a letter and video to prepare you. We need you because only children can get past the security system and all the other kids are in a trance.It’s very dangerous because the trance will make ordinary people work together to destroy the world. Keep in mind, the people who are controlling this trance are very powerful and it will be life risking. You’re our last chance, but you don’t have to do this…it’s up to you.”

I hesitated for only a moment, then came to a decision.

“I’m in.”

Kate Robertson, winner of the Grades 7–8 division for "Untitled"

Writing prompt provided by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

When Jonathan put the monster slippers on, not only did he feel a sense of deep comfort (the internal warmth spread from his feet all the way up to and around his frontal lobe) but also, he felt himself to be monstrous. The slippers had snug cuffs to hold them at his ankles and were made of an extraordinary plush fabric that felt softer and more real that the fur on the ears of Jonathan’s basset hound, Harry. The slippers splayed out like great paddy-paws, each one tapered into three enormous felted claws that could seem menacing or comical depending. They were the most pleasant piece of clothing Jonathan owned and no one, not his mother, not his older brother, had any idea what evil lurked inside him when he wore them. He maintained the monster in a safe place for himself and fed it small delicacies — ideas, frustrations, angry thoughts — and as he fed it, he marvelled.

Jonathan came home one day, full of frustration. He raced inside, to his room, unable to wait another second to put on his monster slippers.

He pulled open his closet door and reached for the box where he kept them. He pulled off the lid and stared in disbelief.

There was nothing in the box.

His eyes widened. Where did they go? He dropped the box and ran into the kitchen where his mother sat reading a newspaper.

“Where are my slippers?” he demanded.
“What?” his mother asked, looking up.
“My slippers,” he repeated, “where did they go?”
“Oh. I sent them off this morning to the second hand store.”
“WHAT?!?” Jonathan cried. “What store?” his mother eyed her paper. “I’m not sure. I think it was the one on the corner…”
But Jonathan was already gone.

Once inside the second-hand store, he searched shelf after of books, clothes and toys. He hurried to the next shelf and stretched, trying to reach. His hand hit a box and it tumbled down. “Can I help you?” a voice asked. Jonathan turned and saw a girl about his age and height. She crossed her arms. “What are you looking for?” she asked. He glared at her. “None of your business.”
The girl handed him the box he had knocked over. He noticed the name tag on her shirt. It read: Hi! My name is Hayley!
“Fine. I’m looking for a pair of monster slippers that were accidently sent here this morning.” Hayley nodded, thinking hard. “We did just get a big delivery... come with me.”
Jonathan followed Hayley to the back of the store and through a door marked ‘EMPLOYEES ONLY’.

He stopped dead in his tracks. There was at least a hundred boxes stacked haphazardly around the room. Hayley gestured around the room. This is where you’ll find anything that’s not on the shelves. They opened boxes and began their search. “Why do you need these slippers so badly?” she asked. Jonathan wondered if he should tell her. It can’t hurt, he decided. He told Hayley all about his slippers, how he fed them, about the monster inside and how no one else knew.
When he finished, Hayley was silent. “You could tell me your thoughts instead.” She said finally.
Then she gasped. “Jonathan! I found them!” Hayley pulled his slippers out of a box and gave them to Jonathan. He felt that deep sense of comfort he always got but it just wasn’t the same. He handed the slippers back to Hayley. “What are you doing she asked?”
“I don’t need then anymore.” He said simply. “I’ve got a new friend I can tell everything to.” Hayley smiled and put the slippers back in the box, closing the lid on the monster once and for all.

Maëla Séguin, winner of the Grades 9–10 division for "Untitled"

Writing prompt provided by John McFetridge

It’s nearly impossible to get out of this city, so many people on the subway, it takes forever and then the bus inching through traffic, how can there be so many cars? I hope they know where they’re going, not like me. And the people on this bus, it’s like a movie making sure there’s someone from as many countries in the world as possible. Finally, must be hours, we’re away from the city. I’m away from the city. Nothing here but trees and rocks and sky — stars coming out as it’s getting dark and the bus pulls into one of those gas station/restaurant stops that all look exactly the same. Except this one looks abandoned.

The bus comes to a halt. The lights flicker on, and sleepy passengers awake. Everyone reaches for his or her belongings in the over-head compartments. I slowly reach for my backpack and wait until everyone files out before exiting.
“Excuse me,” I say to the bus driver on my way out. With a grunt, the big old man looks up at me.
“Hurry, son. It’s my coffee hour,” he grumbles, standing up.
“Could you tell me where we are, exactly?” I ask casually, adjusting my bag on my shoulder.
“Son, you’re on the bus to Dryden. But you know that, don’t you?” he asks, raising a bushy, caterpillar-like eyebrow.
“Yeah,” I swallow, looking out the window. “Of course.” I force a smile and climb down the bus. My feet hit cold, frozen ground. Frost has not yet hit Timmins, my former hometown, but here, apparently, it has. The late October wind feels like a whip against my cheeks and icy droplets of rain feel like needles. I stuff my bare hands into my pockets.

It’s a peculiar place. There’s a sign that says Arnie’s One-Stop: most letters do not light up; those that do, flicker eerily. There are no cars at the gas bar and we seem to be in the middle of nowhere. I enter the store and find myself wondering if I really should have left home. I have no idea what I am up against, in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people. My mother is no longer here to protect me. I shake the thought away; she is the reason I left home.

The mart is strangely empty. The passengers are nowhere to be seen. I see the bus driver at the coffee machine, choosing a K-cup. There’s a pimply-faced teenager, not much older than myself, counting money behind the counter, looking utterly bored. I head towards an aisle and grab a few goodies: chips, pastries, and Pepsi. All of them are foods Mom never would have approved of. I walk to the counter, but the clerk has disappeared. An odd shiver runs up my spine. As to confirm this, a deep scream suddenly erupts from behind the coffee machine. I drop my backpack and freeze. That’s when I see him − or should I say it? The bored clerk has turned into a horrid beast, with green sagging skin, grey hair, yellow eyes, long claws, and sharp fangs. The bus driver lies in a heap, on the floor. The creature looks at me hungrily. I take cautious steps backwards.

“Stay…” I stammer. Suddenly, it jumps on top of me, pulling at my clothes, at my hair. I ignore the blood sizzling out and fight back. The monster bites at my arm; a burning sensation courses through my veins. My body shakes uncontrollably, then stops. A new kind of strength rises inside me, one that comes not from muscles, but from an urge to destroy. My last distinct thought is I am no longer human.

Alexandra Sweny, winner of the Grades 11–12 division for "Untitled"

Writing prompt provided by Elyse Friedman

When Alice Hernandez, the brainiest math nerd at Tom Thomson High, signed up for shop, everyone was confused. That is, until Mr. Crease went around the room and asked us what we might like to build. There were a couple Muskoka chairs, a meat smoker, custom speaker cabinets, an entirely awe-inspiring motorized longboard (that was mine) and a few items too lame-o to recall. Then came Alice Hernandez’s turn: “Temporal helmet and controller device,” she announced. Mr. Crease smiled. “Temporal helmet and controller device,” he repeated, half snide, half amused. “Yes,” said Alice. “To pause, fast-forward and — assuming I solve the Reimann hypothesis — rewind time.”

Though the class erupted into snickers, Alice pulled herself up to her full five feet eleven inches and gazed earnestly at Mr. Crease, who chuckled and clapped her on the shoulder.
“Right,” he said dismissively, wiping a tear from his eye. “Why don’t you start with a birdhouse?”
With our own plans looming with possibility, we turned our focus away from Alice, who had disregarded Mr. Crease’s suggestion and ignored his stencils of canary castles and bluejay buildings, instead setting up on the back table. I never paid much attention to her — I was too focused on my longboard, which was beginning to look more like a one-way ticket to the morgue. In retrospect, I wish I had at least asked her about the pieces of metal that were blooming and evolving every day under her steady gaze. But I was too concerned with how I would seem talking to the Alice Hernandez. Alice, who wore jeans that definitely didn’t come from the mall. Alice, who towered over us physically but seemed to shrink behind her textbooks. She was obstinate in her identity, no matter how much she was belittled.

When midterms arrived, Alice — unable to prove to Mr. Crease that her project could roll, spin, or otherwise — received an F.
“You don’t understand!” she protested. “I can’t show you what it does! If I did, you’d —“
“I’d what?” Mr. Crease smirked. “Listen, Alice. If you start a birdhouse now, you might actually have something to show me by June.”
Alice’s tan skin flushed and, with a small cry, she gathered her helmet and the accompanying remote. Before fleeing into the halls, she turned and said, in a choked voice, “You’ll see! I’ll prove it!”

The next day, Alice was absent. And the next. And for the rest of the week. Jaime Campbell said Alice had grown wings and flown back to her home planet. Paul Gavins insisted that Alice had moved to a new school where they didn’t give marks, and instead just sat in beanbag chairs all afternoon to talk about their feelings (but this seemed so preposterous to us that he was laughed right out of the room). Mostly, we accepted that Alice had dropped shop class and was never coming back, to build a birdhouse or otherwise. Still, I couldn’t get Alice’s words out of my head. You’ll see. I’ll prove it.
It wasn’t until halfway through December that I realized what she meant.

I was in my first period history class, flipping through the textbook. As I was turning a page, a grainy, black and white image of a crowd of protesters caught my eye. It dated back to the early 1900s.
A girl in the front row stood out, wearing second-hand jeans and standing taller than the others. She had dark eyes, tan skin, and a playful smirk. Clutched in her left hand, barely visible, was a temporal helmet and controller device.
It was Alice.


Ella Hodgson-Pageau is an eleven-year-old Ontario resident who loves to write. She has a blog and has written articles on her travels for a local newspaper. Right now, she is traveling through Africa with her family but she usually attends First Avenue Public School, in Ottawa.

Kate Robertson is a 12 year old grade 7 student who lives in Caledon ON. She loves to read, read, read and of course, write the occasional story.

Maëla Séguin lives in a small town in eastern Ontario. Her passions include creative writing, and she often loses herself in yet another book. Strangely, her favourite school subjects include math and science. She is also a big fan of big, comfy sweaters and French Vanilla coffee!

Alexandra Sweny was born in Aurora, ON and is currently completing her last year of high school. In addition to reading and writing, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her dog. She hopes to one day become a journalist and earn a living by telling stories, both fictional and non-fictional.

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