Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Write Across Ontario: Grade 8 Winning Story by Sydney Kondreska

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Write Across Ontario

Open Book loves nothing more than discovering young talent, and we were honoured to partner with Planet IndigenUs and IFOA Ontario for the 2013 Write Across Ontario contest. This year's winners are Tamara Fuller (Grade 7) of Poplar Bank Public School in Newmarket and Sydney Kondreska (Grade 8) of Ecole Gron Morgan in Thunder Bay.

For the Write Across Ontario contest, Grade 7 and 8 students were asked to write a story of 500 words or less that began with a tantalizing and imaginatively challenging story starter by Aboriginal and Canadian author Brian Wright-Mcleod.

Geoffrey E. Taylor, Director of the IFOA, was once again thrilled by the output of our student writers. “The magnitude of the work and the originality of students throughout Ontario is phenomenal,” he observed. “To have the students take a story started by a well-known, published author and turn it into something that is their own is an experience unlike any other.”

As for Open Book, we found that every young writer who was inspired to continue where Brian Wright-McLeod left off took the plot in a different and surprising direction. Though the final decision wasn't easy, we found that the winning writers told their stories with verve and originality, while preserving the tone and the sense of mystery from the story-starter.

Congratulations to Tamara Fuller and Sydney Kondreska!

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GRADE 8 WINNING STORY BY SYDNEY KONDRESKA

After a few hours, the men emerged from the dome-shaped structure. The bite of the night air grabbed their very beings as the warmth of the fire greeted their bodies. Madison and Buck slowly swirled onto their backs down onto the cool pine-nettled ground. Exhausted, they looked up at the stars — they felt a new and different peace — something neither man had ever felt before in their lives and for the first time in many years, they felt relaxed and calm. Their damp bodies glistened against the firelight like the stones that surrounded the fire.

Later, Johnny Buck and his grandfather spoke candidly to the detectives about their case — from their own understanding after considering what Madison had explained to them.

“You say you met this spirit face to face and it also entered one of your dreams,” Buck recalled.

Madison confessed, almost hesitantly but with relief knowing that he was now speaking to someone who understood: “Sometimes I’ll see a shadow move ahead of me or like something’s behind me, then when I turn and there’s nothing there — I feel it — but nothing’s there.”

Buck became solemn, “It’s watching you.”

Madison nodded quietly. His head felt heavy with secrets and questions. He was holding it up with much difficulty. It felt like if he let it down, he, and his sanity, would go down along with it. “I know. I know it is.”

“Do you know why it is watching you?”

“Yes...” Madison brushed those blasted bangs that he’d grown out of his eyes again frantically. Before Buck could continue with his questions, he demanded hurriedly,

“Why are you even trying me for this anyway? This case happened years ago.”

“They hadn’t enough evidence until Jackson turned up dead. Seeing as you were always around him, you were the prime suspect.”

Jackson. Jackson. That name rang in Madison’s head like a drum. Oh, how he longed for the cool night air and not the stuffy, closed in room.

“Now please, do you know why it was following you?”

There was a silence, a silence so suffocating that Madison almost held his breath. Finally, he spoke.

“I killed it. I killed the last of the Soltumics. It’s not my fault! It was hurting my brother! It was a beast that didn’t deserve to live!” His low mumble had slowly risen until he was practically screaming. With his last word, he slammed his fist onto the cold metal table. The loud bang resounded in the room, sounding like that drum that sounded inside his head.

It was Buck’s turn to fall to silence. Soltumics? Did he mean the Soltumic cats, the shape-shifters that roamed among the humans, the cats who were apparently spawned from light and fire itself? They were a simple rumour, weren’t they? Even if they weren’t, they had to be almost a thousand years old! It was impossible for him to have met one, one of the cats that caused bad luck and paranoia among true humans. Suddenly, it dawned on him. The last Soltumic.

“It’s haunting me because I killed out their species!” Madison suddenly screeched, his voice  almost feral-like echoing in the room sharply. The memories in his mind that he had struggled to quash were returning with full force and beating like a drum in his mind

Bang. The sound of the animal, inhuman screams of Jackson’s last moments.
 Bang. The image of him writhing in pain. Tears streaking his cheeks.  
Bang. He was a murderer.

The guilt should have consumed him, but the desire to protect his family and the relief that he had done so overpowered it. Through all this, however, he could feel the pressure of Buck’s comforting hands on his shoulder, and a soft voice whispering in his ear. The Golden Whisper;  the god that the Soltumics worshipped.

“You are forgiven, Madison.”

They were simple words, but they lifted the weight of dread from his chest. He opened his eyes and looked destiny in the eye. Murderer or not, he was forgiven. That was all he needed.

Read the Grade 7 winning story by Tamara Fuller of Poplar Bank Public School in Newmarket .

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