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Nov 13, 2014 - Contests    No Comments

Halloween Short Story Contest: Read the Winning Story!

Artwork by Melanie Loperena

Artwork by Melanie Loperena

This year’s Halloween Short Story Contest winner was a tough decision for our judge, past winner and recent WVHS graduate Nyssa Shaw-Smith Gendelman. “All the contestants did a great job, but the winner really showed a strong narrative voice and thought outside the box” she says. Once again, WVHS junior Lauranne Wolfe has won our short story contest. This year’s theme, chosen by our judge, was “While you were sleeping….” Teens were encouraged to interpret the theme broadly, and they did! Many thanks to our other talented writers.

This year’s Halloween contest was generously co-sponsored by Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe. Our winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to spend on books! Special thanks to Tom Roberts, the shop’s proprietor, for his ongoing support of our teen writing events.

So now it’s time hand the blog over to Lauranne and her story, “Night Song.” Please enjoy!

 

“Night Song”

by Lauranne Wolfe

            It was a week ago that the man who came to town vanished on a rainy night while everyone was sleeping.

He was an unassuming figure, a stranger passing through. Not memorable, except for the mystery that surrounded his disappearance. The known facts were that he had rented a room for the night, and the next morning it was empty, although his possessions were still there. No one living in the area near the small inn had seen or heard anything. They had all been asleep.

The police found only one hint: his raincoat, washed up on the beach.

Despite the fact that no one knew the man, these events caused a lot of stir, as it was a small town of graying seaside houses, where nothing went on outside of tourist season. It was the beginning of November, which meant the town was devoid of anything interesting to do. Rumors and wild speculations, old town legends and ghost stories, and the odd new report all revolved around the disappearance of the man, as people are often apt to harp on a mystery, even when it won’t get them anywhere.

I was talking to you on the phone two days later, when you mentioned the man who had vanished.

“They say he was a traveling salesman,”

“Who?” I asked, though I already knew.

“The man. Who disappeared. On our beach,” you said. I could tell you were upset about that, Tom. We both loved the beach, and we nearly always met there.

“What do you think happened?” Not a shocking question coming from you. Your brain was always producing questions and thoughts, quotes and ramblings.

I wasn’t really that interested in the subject, so I said, “The owner of the gift shop is telling everyone that the man must have hit his head on something and gotten washed out to sea.”

You snorted, “Not possible. That’s almost more unlikely than the one that old fisherman is telling. He claims the man must have been a criminal trying to hide his tracks by faking his own death. Everyone is forgetting that the police found his raincoat. Which means that he took it off, and who takes off their raincoat in the rain before mysteriously disappearing?”

“Well, I don’t know then,” I said. “What do you want to do tonight?”

I changed the subject because I was afraid to talk about it. There it was, clawing its way to my mouth, and I couldn’t let that thing out. Not now, because it wasn’t safe, the thing I kept inside me.

You understand everyone Tom, or you work until you do. Except for one person: me. You don’t know me at all. You can’t. I think that’s part of why you initially found me so interesting. We met three months ago, on the beach we now consider our own, and the one the stranger disappeared on.

I was wading in the water, up to my knees, watching the ripples the careful steps I took made in the water, a disruption of the normal chopping of the water’s up-and-down, uneven rhythm. I was focusing on the ripples, trying to determine their pattern, but every time I thought I had finally figure them out, the ripples changed. Eventually, I came to the realization that I was not alone.

I raised my head, brushing my long, wet hair from my eyes, and turned to face the beach. I saw you, standing in the sand, watching me through clever green eyes, a tall, slightly stooped figure. Those green eyes caught me, and we both stared at each other.

I wasn’t embarrassed in the least. I simply don’t understand embarrassment. I was there, and I existed, and why should it bother me to be stared at?

However, I wondered why you were watching me, and I asked you.

You gave me that mysterious half-smile, the one you get when you’re deep in thought about something, curious about something new. “I was wondering why you were staring at the water so intently.”

Something about your eyes, so like the sea, made me answer. I explained the ripples and the impossible, ever-changing pattern.

“I wanted to understand it,” I told you, finishing.

“You were looking at the water for ages, just standing there.”

“Well, I was still trying to figure it out.”
A small laugh from you, “That might take awhile.”

“I have time,” I said simply. It was the truth, but then I added, “But I find, the more you look at something, the more complicated it gets. Especially people. I can never figure them out.”

“Well, isn’t that what makes life interesting? Say, what’s your name?”

I lied. I don’t have a name, not in the way you meant, but I gave one anyway, the closest to truth that I could get.

“Melody,”

“Oh… do you like to sing?”

“No. I never sing,”

I do sing, but not for people. Not for you, and you don’t want me to, Tom. Trust me.

“Well, Melody- Who-Doesn’t-Sing, would you like to join me in getting the best ice cream in town?”

We went to the ice cream shop and kept talking all the way, I already having decided that you would be my next boyfriend. And you were. We were always together over the next couple of months. People got used to seeing Tom, the high school boy who’d always lived there, with the reclusive girl who’d only recently come here. My one worry over the next couple of months was your mythology books. You were always in them, always telling me old stories that I already knew, about ancient gods and magical creatures and monsters. I was always worried that you’d tell the wrong story, and put the pieces together.

Besides that, it was like in one of those fairy tales; an endless happily ever after. We kissed for the first time on the starlit beach. You smelled of honey, Tom. It made me wonder if I could do this, pretend to be something I wasn’t, ignore the void in me. But the thing inside me was there. I couldn’t escape it because it was part of me. That man disappeared while you were all sleeping. And he wasn’t the only one.

Two days after the conversation we had on the phone, a woman vanished on the same stretch of beach, and you asked if we could stop meeting there. You were worried something would happen to me, to us, you said. You told me it wasn’t safe.

“These disappearances… they aren’t accidents,” you said it with such certainty that I began to wonder again, Tom. Had you noticed something?

I had always dismissed the idea that you might have figured me out, but now I thought that maybe you knew me for what I was after all.

I could feel the thing working its way up to my mouth again. I don’t have feelings, Tom, but I wondered.

My hair was wet and ripping, my eyes were blue, like a stormy sea you had said, I always wanted to be on the beach, and I was tall, and lean, built for swimming.

Did you put the pieces together? You might have.

There is one other thing that you can’t have known, though. Where mortals have feelings, I have a void, a dark and dangerous empty abyss. It has one occupant; the Song, constantly trying to worm its way up, to destroy, to kill. It is always hungry, always curious, like me, to understand these things you humans call emotions, especially the one called love.

Except that I don’t understand. And the Song destroys what it can’t understand. The one thing I do is wonder. So, that’s what I did. I wondered if you had known what I was all along.

I ignored it, “It’s still our beach, right?” I said. I needed the beach. I needed the sea.

“Yes and when everything’s settled, we’ll go back to it,” you said. We agreed on that.

But then the Song was rising, and I knew that it wouldn’t be ours for long, Tom. I knew the way sailors know they are in trouble when they see the gray of storm clouds. The Song was pushing its way to my mouth, to be sung. The voices wanted release. But something blocked them, and I nearly choked as I struggled to breathe. The Song was stuck, and nothing should have been able to do that. I gasped for air; feeling cold as it slunk back down into the void to bide its time.

Something in me had fought the Song.

“Are you alright, Melody?” you asked, concerned hands reaching out to brush my shoulder.

“Fine. Just a little…cold.”

“Is something bothering you?”

“Nothing,”

“I love you, Melody. You can tell me.”

“Nothing is wrong. There’s nothing.”

Then, Tom, you looked me directly in the eyes, and said, “I know whatever is wrong, whatever is bothering you, and you will do the right thing. You will fix it.”

You kissed me on the cheek, warm, honey-scented skin brushing my own.

Soon after we said our good-byes, and after I hurried down along the beach, ignoring your request because I knew I was in no danger, I paced back and forth on the sand. You did know. I knew it. I thought of you at home, mythology books at your feet, wondering at the world. You thought you had fallen in love with a human girl, but you realized that I was really a Siren. I don’t know what that felt like, Tom, but I was sure it was fairly unprecedented.

The Song was burning in my throat.

I paced back and forth for a while along the shore, into the night, trying to make sense of my mind.

I have lived an eternity, and all my relations with mortal boys ended the same way: under twenty feet of water and with the Song’s voices in the night.

The Song had gotten stuck on you though. Somehow, I found myself slipping in through your open window, into your bedroom. I stood over your sleeping, breathing, human form. Different memories washed over me, as I looked at you lying there, one hand dangling off your bed, the other clutching The Odyssey to your chest.

Your smile. Your endless questions. Your hands waving excitedly as you spoke of the last book you had finished reading.

I love you, Melody.

Melody, a truth and a lie in one. The Siren disguised as a mortal girl. You had given your heart to me, but there was no love returned to you, Tom. Unless… love was the thing that had blocked the Song? Was it possible? I didn’t know, and in any case, it didn’t matter.

I considered unleashing the Song, really contemplated it. But one more glance at your sleeping form made me shake my head. I owed you one, because I finally felt I understood something about mortals. Without feelings, they simply aren’t.

I left you then, Tom. I walked down to the beach under the pearly moon with its translucent light. I slipped beneath the water and swam far out. Only when I was miles away, safe miles away from where you slept did I pull myself out onto a rock. Because now that I was away from where you slept, I would let the Song’s voices out. I would just be myself: a Siren singing her night song to the cold, ancient stars.

Maybe you’ll hear the voices when you’ll awaken Tom. I know you’ll walk along the beach. You’ll try to find me. The only sign of me will be a whisper in the breeze, and you’ll smile. Because you love me, and you know it’s better this way. For both of us.

The voices will awaken you, Tom.

But they will not let you drown.

I will not let you drown. Not you.

 

 

 

 

Spark a Reaction Short Story Contest

Congratulations to Lauranne Wolfe for writing “Silent Fire,” winner of this summer’s teen short story contest. Special thanks to all of our teen writers who entered, and very special thanks to Sharon Linnea, our judge. Read “Silent Fire” below!

“Silent Fire”

            The air conditioner is at full blast, shades on every window pulled down. I count my blessings that I’m sitting in this cool house instead of my own steamy home. My house doesn’t have air conditioning, but Mrs. Wright’s does. I’m very happy to be watching her daughter on this sweltering Saturday in July in Southern California, where the thermometer reads ninety-eight degrees. Since it is set in the shade, it’s probably even more unbearable out than I think it is.

A small hand taps my shoulder. I crane my neck to see Ally Wright leaning over me. I spin around to see her better, at level with her since I’m sitting on the floor. She just went to get a board game she wanted to play with me. I see that the petite seven year-old is holding a box with colorful drawings on it. It’s Clue Jr, her favorite game. Ally loves mystery. Her favorite books are The Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew. She also likes to swim and run around in dress-up with a plastic sword and wooden shield. It’s impossible to keep her away from her cuddly pet kitten, which she named Tiger because of his orange striped fur. I love watching Ally. She’s this really cute, energetic, and spunky little girl.

Now she’s sitting, pulling off the top of the box and setting the game up. She smiles at me when I look up, and her little hands flutter, signing Let’s play!

Ally is deaf. I’ve known her since she was a toddler, and I know American Sign Language, which is why I watch her when her mom has to go somewhere.

I sign back to her, asking what piece she wants. She picks out a piece, then I do, and we start the game. Ally wins easily.

What do you want to do now? I sign.

Can we go outside? She asks.

It’s too hot! I answer. Ally, I think, is used to the weather. But I moved from Alaska five years ago, and still haven’t gotten used to the heat. My parents are scientists, and they had to come here to start a new research project. I still think we should have stayed in a climate zone that didn’t involve us frying in the summer. Here, I wear sleeveless shirts with shorts from May to October, and I still feel too hot sometimes.

Ally is frowning, so I suggest that she get her kitten.

She brightens immediately, running into the next room to come back with Tiger nestled comfortably in her arms. We pet the tiny cat a while, laughing as he tries to pounce on my fingers and licks Ally’s hand with his tiny sandpaper tongue.

The kitten falls asleep on Ally’s lap as she strokes him. Tiger must be the world’s most petted kitten, I think with a smile. Not wanting to disturb him, she decides to read some of a Boxcar Children book I brought with me to give her. I stand up and look at family pictures. Ally as a happy smiling baby, family photos of Mr. and Mrs. Wright with their daughter, and my favorite picture: Ally in my lap, giving me a hug.

I smile at it. It reminds me of all I have to thank the Wrights for. When I moved here, a timid eleven year-old, I had a lot of trouble making friends. I preferred reading to sports, quiet to chatter, and I missed my best friend, Katy. The daughter of another researcher, we’d been together longer than either of us remembered. She was the reason I could sign, because she too, like Ally, was deaf. I’d never thought anything of it. Here at school, during lunch, I’d hide behind a book, avoiding everyone.

I was doing this one day in study hall when a voice came from behind me.

“I didn’t know you knew ASL, Julie,” I jumped, and then saw it was my English teacher, Mrs. Wright. I’d been signing the book as I read without really noticing what I was doing, because I’d always done it with Katy. I was feeling particularly lonely that day.

I nodded at her and gave a tentative smile, because she was my favorite teacher.

“Where did you learn?” she asked.

I hesitated, but found myself telling her all about Katy. She listened intently, and said, “I’m working on my sign language. My daughter, Alicia, is deaf, and I’m trying to teach her to sign, except that I’m just learning myself. If you’d like to sign with me once in a while, it would be a big help.

Throughout middle school, I would slip into Mrs. Wright’s class during study hall to sign with her. We’d also stop a few minutes to talk in the halls. She was determined and was soon able to sign rapidly. In turn, she helped me to open up a little, suggesting a book club I would enjoy and pairing me with other students with similar tastes. I slowly began to have a couple of good friends. When I entered eighth grade, she asked me to watch Ally for the first time, and I was immediately captivated by the joyous little girl. Now, about to start my junior year in high school, I was always the first person she asked to baby-sit.

So, really, Mrs. Wright was the reason I had slowly begun to like living here. Without her, I wouldn’t have any friends, and I certainly would not have met a little girl as wonderful as Ally.

After another minute or two of looking at the pictures on the wall, I flipped on the TV to news, something that Ally found boring, as she did most TV programs. Therefore, I only turned it on if she was reading. The news was talking about some sort of bombing, so I hurriedly flipped to a local news channel. It seemed nothing had changed. The drought was still gripping the state, and if anything, the forest fires were getting worse. Luckily, although there was one not far from where we were, it didn’t seem as if the fire was expected to spread all the way to this area.

I turned the TV off, hearing the door open and close at the front of the house.

“I’m back, Julie!” called Mrs. Wright breathlessly. I stepped into the entryway to find her hauling grocery bags, several of them digging into her wrists.

I rushed to help her carry them into the kitchen, and she said, “Oh, thank you. Sorry I’m a bit late. I had to pull over to let some fire trucks through. I hope the fires stop soon.”

I agreed, putting things into the fridge. Despite her protests, I insisted on helping bring in the rest of the groceries. In turn, she insisted I stay for lunch. The three of us had just sat down when there was a knock on the door.

Mrs. Wright hurried to the door. I peered into the foyer to see a fireman talking to her. “…wind is blowing this way. We’re worried the fire might spread down here. This is just to say that you might want to pack your most important belongings…in case you do need to evacuate. We don’t know for sure at this point.”

Mrs. Wright was agreeing, sounding worried, and then the man was gone.

“Maybe you ought to go home, Julie,’ she said.

“Don’t worry,” I answered. “You might not have to leave at all, and I’ll help you pack, just in case.”

Luckily, she seemed to decide it wasn’t time to argue, sending me to help Ally get together her favorite items as well as some clothes. I then proceeded to load the car, while Ally and Mrs. Wright packed some more. I looked toward the dried forest, feeling the wind blow into my face. I saw a plume of acrid smoke rising from the trees. It was still distant, but not nearly as far away as I would have liked. I swallowed hard and continued setting bags in the trunk. I remembered hearing that this fire had started as a campfire that had not been set up properly and had then escalated out of control. How silly this was: a drought, a forest, and a small campfire. One spark caught, and the flames were now tearing through forests and houses, even threatening my former teacher’s home.

This one little spark should have just been insignificant if the vegetation wasn’t so dry.

I hurried back in and put the last bags in the cars, having in fact loaded my mom’s up as well, glad that I had gotten my driver’s license the week before. Only a minute had passed after I had returned into the kitchen when I heard another knock on the door. I knew who it was even before I saw the firefighter telling Mrs. Wright that they were evacuating the neighborhood immediately.

Ally ran down from her bedroom just as Mrs. Wright turned to go find her. We both saw the panicked look on her face.

She signed Where’s Tiger?

Mrs. Wright glanced at me, “Wasn’t he asleep on the couch?”

“He woke up,” I said. “I don’t know where he is.”

Mrs. Wright looked troubled, “If we can’t find him, we’ll have to go anyway.”

I looked at Ally’s stubborn face and calculated the chance of her leaving her beloved Tiger behind. Zero.

“Give me five minutes,” I told Mrs. Wright. “I don’t think she’ll come without her cat.

No. signed Ally, and I silently cursed. I’d forgotten that she’d recently begun to read lips.

I hurried out of the foyer, leaving Mrs. Wright to plead with Ally, as the little girl shook her head, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Tiger!” I called. “Tiger!”

I ran through each room, peering under and behind furniture for a telltale puff of orange fur. Nothing.

Painfully aware that time was passing, I was becoming frantic. Tiger wasn’t curled on Ally’s bed. He wasn’t stretched in the sun on the hallway’s window seat, from which I could see the fire, burning ever closer. He hadn’t leapt into the hamper and gotten tangled in a shirt, something the silly kitten had done before.

I couldn’t find him.

“Julie! We need to leave!”

I knew we did. I still took a little more time on the way down, glancing around and calling Tiger.

I passed the basement door, which was slightly ajar. Wait a minute. I called down the stairs, “Tiger!” A faint mew replied. Relief coursed through me.

“Julie!’

“I hear him! He’s in the basement!” I hurried down the steps two at a time and saw quickly what the problem was. The silly creature had managed to scale a pile of crates, to climb into one through a gap between two boards, but couldn’t find his way out. I pried the crate open to rescue him, plucking him out of it as he squirmed. I held him to my chest, and his tiny claws dug through my shirt. Wincing, I dashed upstairs. Ally stopped crying as soon as she saw me holding her pet.

Thank you. She signed.

We have to go, I signed back. I’ll give you Tiger once you’re in the car.

She nodded, and the three of us sped outside. I peeled Tiger’s claws off my shirt and dropped him into Ally’s lap as soon as she was securely seated in her mom’s car, then I ran to my own car. The smoke was being carried by the wind, making my eyes water as I jumped in and started the engine. I drove behind Mrs. Wright out of the valley that her little village was nestled in. When we were safe from the fire, she parked her car on a rise, where many of her neighbors already stood. I stopped too and got out of my car. Ally stayed in her seat, petting Tiger contentedly.

“She knows we might lose our house,” Mrs. Wright said without preamble. “But she’s happy as long as she has that cat and her family, including you.” She was standing in the grass, staring down at the canvas of forest that stretched beneath us, burning.

There was not a sound, and we watched the flames flicker below us, feeling the wind blow.

“I guess it shows that she’s got her priorities straight. Or that she’s just braver than we are,” I said.

“Or both,” said Mrs. Wright.

“Or both,’ I agreed. We both turned to look at the car. Ally’s face was pressed to the window. She smiled at us, pointing to herself, crossing her arms over her chest, and pointing to us.

It was her favorite sign. One I’d always signed to Katy every time we saw each other. The first sign Mrs. Wright had learned when she found out that Ally would never hear her say those words.

I love you.

We both signed it back.

“The funny thing is, even though we might…might lose our house,” stumbled Mrs. Wright ruefully, “one look at Ally makes me feel better. We have our family and friends, after all, no matter what. That’s really all that matters.”

“Definitely,” I said, swallowing hard. “I think everyone knows it. But it takes a bit of a spark to make people really see it.”

That got a shaky laugh from Mrs. Wright as, side by side, with Ally snug in the car with Tiger, we continued to watch the silent flames consume the woods, smoke climbing, then slowly dwindling in the wind.

AWPL Foundation 2014 College Scholarship Competition

college scholarshipThis just in! The Albert Wisner Public Library Foundation has announced this year’s essay topic for their annual college scholarship competition. Three $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to graduating seniors who reside in the Warwick Valley School District. Read on for the details or click this link for a downloadable version: AWPL Foundation Scholarship 2014

“For the eighth consecutive year, the Albert Wisner Public Library Foundation is offering college scholarships to be awarded in a writing competition. Applicants will submit an essay, not to exceed 2,000 words in length, on the following topic: “If I were a wealthy philanthropist, how I might give to benefit my community.”

Submissions will be judged on the basis of responsiveness to the topic, overall literacy and grammatical accuracy, relevance to current events and/or community concerns in the Warwick area, and other criteria as the judges think appropriate. Authors of the three essays judged to be the best of those submitted will each receive $1,000 toward the cost of college tuition, paid directly to their college.

Any high school senior who resides in the Warwick Valley Central School District is welcome to participate. The student need not be enrolled in Warwick Valley High School.

Essays are due to the Library by 5:00pm, April 19, 2014. Students should bring six (6) printed copies of the essay, together with a cover sheet showing his/her name, mailing address, phone number and email address to the Circulation Desk. The essay must not contain any information that identifies the writer; judges will not know who wrote each essay. To ensure fairness to all applicants, the April 19th deadline is firm and final.

The three scholarships will be awarded in early May by Foundation member Glenn P. Dickes and Susan D. Dickes, who have sponsored two scholarships since the competition’s inception in 2007, and by Carol Hope Arber, who added a third award in 2012. Both the Foundation and Library deeply appreciate their generosity.”

 

 

Oct 11, 2013 - Contests    No Comments

Win a Thing!

In honor of National Coming Out Day, I have one brand new copy to give away of David Levithan’s newest book, Two Boys Kissing.

I loved this book! It’s loosely based on the true story about two teens who broke the Guinness World Record for longest kiss. Over 32 hours!! RTWO BOYS KISSING cover.JPGead more about it here.

To win it, be the first teen to answer the following triva question correctly:

Which young adult novel by David Levithan features a character named “A” who wakes up in a different body every day?

Answer in person at the Help Desk and win a thing!

Oct 4, 2013 - Contests, Teen News    No Comments

Win a thing!

mug shot fangirl

 

Like the mug shots? Want a mug of your own? Win one by answering this week’s trivia question!

Today’s trivia question is:

In The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, what is the name of the poisonous berry that kills Foxface?

The first person to answer correctly, in person at the Help Desk wins a shiny new “Today I’m Reading…” mug. Stop in and win a thing!

UPDATE: The mug has been claimed! Thank you, Cristina R., for correctly guessing “nightlock.” Enjoy!