Each girl in Story Shop’s Tuesday group—which has been together for over four years now—is working on a unique project of her own choosing and design. Some kids write a different story or vignette or build a new sculpture each week; some have been working on the same project over the course of the year, sometimes longer. The spirit of play and experimentation is present throughout. Here is a brief excerpt from what each girl is working on—a peek into their worlds.
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This is from the opening pages of my novel, Devil Incarnate, told by Julian, the 12-year-old son of the Devil. He’s lived all his life in Hell, never venturing to the surface. This is all about to change. He will end up spending 8th grade in a new school, living with a human family in New York City, as far from the familiar as imaginable. Under the false story that he’s from Chicago, he learns how different the Surface is from his fiery homeland.
It’s a gloomy day in Hell. It’s around 9:30 a.m. I’m in the Dining Hall, eating eggs off a dark, stone plate. Well, more like mushing eggs around on a dark, stone plate.
The Dining Hall is huge, just like the rest of Dad’s castle. Just like the rest of Hell. Huge, dark, and gloomy. The ceiling reaches up two stories. It’s black, and we’re sitting at a long obsidian table. I’m sitting all the way at one end, and Dad at the other. There’s a fire burning in the fireplace behind Dad. Several candelabras are placed evenly down the length of the table. There is nobody else sitting with us, and there are no other places set at the table. We always eat alone, except for when Mom comes home, which is rare. I don’t really know exactly what Mom does, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with making nightmares.
Meals are the only time I see Dad, and they’re the most awkward part of my day. Neither of us knows what to say, so we just kind of sit there, making fruitless attempts at conversation. Or we just ignore each other. Most of the time, it’s the latter. …
“Busy day.” he says, voice echoing around the room. I glance up, thinking maybe someone walked in without me noticing, and see him looking at me. I look down again. Damn. He’s talking to me.
“Yeah.” I agree, not sure what to say.
“So… what are you doing these days?”
“Nothing,” I say truthfully, if not bluntly.
“Oh. That’s… cool.”
“You should get out more. You’ve never been to the Surface, have you? You know, when I was your age, I was already building Hell!” I can hear the smugness in his voice. I glare at my plate, willing him to shut up. I can tell he’s going to start bragging about himself. But what happens is worse. “I feel like I’m not a good enough father.” You don’t say? “I should have some influence on your life!” I don’t like where this is going. I take a sip of my water and try to act casual, calm. “You know what? I’m going to send you to the Surface!” I do a huge spit take down the table. I stare at him, open mouthed, the water I didn’t spray across the table dripping out of my mouth and onto the things that were once eggs.
“WHAT?!” I try to process this information, but my brain seems to be paralyzed.
“The Surface. Are you dumb, boy?”
“I’m fine. But I am NOT going to the Surface!” The Surface… I don’t know much about it, but all the books I’ve read tell me that on the Surface, Evil, the Devil, villains, all of these are considered man’s enemy. Good always wins! I can’t survive in a place like that! Has that idiot finally gone insane?!
“Why not? I go there all the time,” I hear his idiot voice say, sounding far away.
“I’m not going.”
“Yes, you are. You can stay in New York City! It’s my favorite place on the Surface. Full of thieves and pretty girls. That’s where I met your mother!”
My mind wanders, imagining the Devil and a goddess of Hell walking around the Surface, or anywhere, like lovebirds. I fail, and I try to focus on the task at hand. “I am not going to the Surface!”
“As your father, I insist!”
In Story Shop, a lot of my stories are based on real experiences of mine. This piece is called “Yes.”
I sat there innocently doing my work, living in fear that my teacher, Mrs. Dorsey, would call me up to her desk.
“Andrea?” Her voice broke the silence of the room and my heart fell into my stomach. My classmates’ eyes burnt holes of fire into my back, making me sweat with nervousness. Mrs. Dorsey turned her computer toward me, displaying my essay.
I was so close to her I could see the faint wrinkles around her eyes, unsuccessfully covered up with wrinkle cream. Her eyes were a deep, rich brown, just like mine. I quickly glanced down to her desk. A water bottle covered in lipstick stains was placed near her keyboard.
“Did you get help on this?” she slowly demanded. I opened my mouth, but couldn’t speak.
“Did you get help on this?” Mrs. Dorsey’s voice sounded even more impatient.
“Uh, no.” And that was the truth. I wrote it all on my own, without help from any adult. The ironic thing is, Mrs. Dorsey always encourages us to ask for her help, yet she is going to punish me for receiving “help”?
“Andrea, I’m going to ask you one more time: Did anyone help you with this essay?”
“So you did receive help?”
“Yes, a little.” My voice was merely a whisper. I couldn’t bring myself to talk any louder.
“Alright, you’re dismissed.”
I quietly sat back down in my seat with a lump in my throat. I couldn’t cry, not here in front of Mrs. Dorsey and all my classmates. I was so frustrated and angry with myself. Why didn’t she believe me? Why does no one ever believe me? Why did I feel like I had to tell her I did got help when I know I didn’t? To this day, I still have no idea why I said “yes.”
While writing this poem I was trying to think about nightmares. As I continued writing, I came to this realization that maybe what scares me isn’t always the nightmare.
In The Dark
The lights are out
I’m in the dark.
Shadows are on my walls
Dancing around carelessly
Making me stay up sleepily.
My thoughts come out
No more hiding,
I’m alone, it’s time for them to play.
Then everything is gone
All at once taken away.
I am blinded,
I am awake.
And that’s when the real
When things are as bright
I had inspiration for this piece from a time I was in Georgia and thought I saw a ghost. There was this lady in a big hoop skirt singing gospel. She passed my family and me at the restaurant where we were eating. It was the dead of night and then she disappeared. I was really frightened, but my mom gave me wise words of advice that inspired me. “If you want to see them (ghosts), they will come. If you don’t, they won’t.”
I’m a witch. Most people think witches use broomsticks to get around. That stuff sickens me. No green skin. Or cauldrons. No fairytale evilness. The books lie, but we were the ones who wrote them. They are practical jokes among the witch community. As I was saying, we are normal people. Except for our powers, like controlling weather, zapping things, that kind of stuff.
Only some believe in mythical creatures like us. Other people without imagination sit in a bag of regret and sadness for the rest of their lives. The ones who truly believe, see us. A girl on West Maple Street has been going to a psychologist for years because of this. She was sure she saw a witch sitting in the back of the bus. She “just knew,” the girl said. It sounded like the girl knew her. A close friend. The girl didn’t think she, herself, was insane. She said it was the truth. No one believed her.
This is an excerpt from a piece that I’m writing from the perspective of a mushroom. As a writer, I enjoy thinking of how different objects or animals would see the world, and that thinking gave me inspiration for this story.
My favorite thing to do is watch the sky. There’s so much to see up there: sunsets, sunrises, night skies, and of course the big blue sky of the day. Aside from that, I like watching the sky because it doesn’t really involve doing anything, and I can’t exactly move.
Sunset is my favorite time of day. It’s so gorgeous, the fiery colors blazing in the sky. Well, usually. There are so many different types of sunsets, not just the flaming ones. Sometimes, there’s a cloudy sunset. The sky is fluffy, colored in light shades of pink, gray, and lavender. It comes gently, almost too sweet. There are wet sunsets, too. The sky is gray, covered in cracked clouds, spewing rain. It has texture; sometimes rough and grainy, sometimes like cotton balls. This sunset is subtle, the light gray growing darker, fading into black. And sometimes, the sunset is dramatic. Bright hues of red and gold overtake the sky. They slay the blue and usher in the black.
My best friend thinks I have a head full of feathers. She lives only a few inches away from me, with a stem rooted firmly in the ground. Let’s get one thing straight; we’re mushrooms.
My best friend’s name is Zara. She chose that name for herself, and she chose to be a girl. As mushrooms, we get to choose a lot of things, like our names, our genders, and who we talk to. Some of the choices are made for us, though. A lot depends on our location. Our friends are usually whoever’s closest to us. Zara and I are basically connected. Technically, she’s my sister, and I love her to bits. But I bet there’s a whole bunch of mushrooms I’d like even more that I’ll never meet, because I’m stuck here. It’s a pain in the butt never being able to move.
I’ve memorized the forest view. Directly above, a pine tree cuts across the sky. Clumps of mushrooms surround me. We all look pretty much the same: smooth, with light, creamy-colored stems, leading to a domed brown top. Some of us have spots. Zara has slight dark brown stripes on her top. According to her, I look just like the others, except for a dark splotch towards the bottom of my stem. The ground is covered in dead leaves, with patches of sticks or fresh grass. I know the shape of every jagged boulder surrounding our woodland home. I even know the spot of a nest where baby birds live. It’s high in the fork of a maple tree to my right. I hardly see them, but when I do, it’s a treat.
The sound of my name jolts me into focus. I shift my view to look at Zara.
“Daydreaming again?” she teases.
I’m embarrassed. “Yes,” I admit.
“Silly,” she replies, but I know she doesn’t mean it. “Anyways,” she continues, “do you want to do something fun today?”
I laugh. “Like what? We can’t even move.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m bored.” She’s silent for a moment. “Do you want to stay up all night and share secrets?”
“You know me. I’m always up all night. The stars are too pretty to miss; besides, I don’t get tired like you do.”
Dusk is falling on Zara and me. A small green bug climbs up the rough bark of our tree. In the distance, something screeches and then falls silent…
Mary Francis Weinstein
This is the beginning of a story from a cuckoo clock’s point of view. I am not really sure what inspired me to write this piece. One of the reasons was my friend has this cuckoo clock in her house. It is one of the only real, working cuckoo clocks that I have ever seen and it really intrigued me. Another inspiration was a tall grandfather clock that is in my grandma’s house. It always ticks back and forth really fast and always makes me feel like I am in a rush. It just sort of came to me so I wrote it down.
The clock struck 12 noon. It was time for Mrs. Coo to make her grand appearance. She turned around and took a quick look in the ripped piece of aluminum foil which was stuck to the inside wall of the house-shaped clock by a piece of orange gum. Her feathers were brushed back perfectly; her rosy cheeks looked slim just the way she liked. How embarrassing would it be to look bloated and chubby on stage! It was show time.
Through a small crack in the wall, Mrs. Coo could tell she liked today’s audience—an old wrinkly woman, her hair short, gray, and tucked behind her ears, her big nose sticking out at least an inch and a half. And a short man with wheat-colored skin, his eyes dark and narrow.
Mrs. Coo popped out of her small house and began to count to ten before she sang her song. The pendulum of the tall grandfather clock ticked back and forth, back and forth. “He’s always so impatient,” thought Mrs. Coo.
Her heart was beating a mile a minute. “No distractions, no distractions,” Mrs. Coo thought to herself as she peered out at the audience.
But then, there was her distraction—a tall, muscular man walking into the clock shop. It was love at first sight.
She lost count. Mrs. Coo couldn’t say a word. She could feel the audience’s eyes burning on her, waiting for her to sing her tune. She looked down at the ground. It felt like she was miles and miles high. If she weren’t stuck to this wooden platform, she would fly away, straight out the door. She would never stop. She would never come back.
Suddenly Mrs. Coo felt a shake and a rattle: the store owner was taking her down! She went straight back into her house. She hoped the owner hadn’t noticed her secret. No one could know. For even Mrs. Coo herself had no clue what was happening.
This is from a story about a girl who is going to sleep-away camp. Her mom died a year ago and she misses her. She feels connected through the stars. Her pony is Luna and she thinks of her as still growing, like she will be stronger. Luna is sick and Stella (the girl) is taking care of her. She describes the pond she lives on and her pony.
The water. A shattered mirror of the sky. A mosaic of tears. A stone was tossed in, letting the tree ring spread across the water. A piece of hope was unleashed into the sky’s tears. That one rock was the key to her life, if only she could find it.
A horse with the eyes of fallen life and a body, the lost pearl buried in dust, sipped a drop of the clear, glass-like water. She was a blank piece of paper waiting for writing. A child lost from home. The transition from nothing to something.
This is an excerpt from a story I have been working on. The story is about a regular girl who transforms into a Tiddle. The Tiddles are tiny figures who have the ability to speak with the animals. Sarah encounters many adventures as a Tiddle. This story is very dreamlike. Here is the moment of her transformation.
She bit her nails. Perspiration lined her brow. Her swimsuit clung to her sweaty body. Her brown hair was plastered to the back of her neck. It was almost time. Her big, glossy, brown eyes widened as she moved up the line. Down below, she could hear the jubilant shouts of children. “Sarah, be careful. Have fun!” Her mother had said this to her that morning. Here she stood, at the top of the flight of stairs, looking down into the pitch-black hole.
As the children flew down, their shrieks echoed throughout the park. She wrapped her finger around her wet hair. The scent of chlorine filled the indoor water park. Sarah’s stomach churned. She wished she were at home in Connecticut, cuddled up with her cat. Her peanut butter and jelly sandwich felt like it was starting to make its way back up. “Time to go down the 750-foot water slide.” Sarah jumped and looked up. The lifeguard was staring down at her phone while speaking to Sarah. “Lie on your back with your hands clasped together on your chest,” she said blandly. Sarah sat down in the shallow pool of water and grasped the top of the slide. Margaret has gone down. She said it was fun, she thought to herself. “Come on! Don’t hold up the line!” the lifeguard said, as she looked out the window overlooking the park. And just as she was about to back out, she flung herself down the slide.
It was pitch black. She couldn’t see a thing. She slid up the side of the slide as she made a sharp turn. Suddenly, lights started flashing: green, black, green, black. She bit her lip. As she tried to scream, no sound came out. She was jerked forwards. Her lungs felt as if they were being squeezed between two boards. Trying to sit up, her head was thrown backwards into the slide. Her head seemed to spin. Her toes tingled, and everything turned black.
“Now dear, I hope you’re alright! You did seem to have a large fall. Why, dear, I’ve never seen anything fall from the sky before!” Sarah’s eyelids fluttered. Sarah looked up, her head throbbing. She was in a hospital bed with white sheets and a table by her side. As she looked up, she gasped. Looking down on her was a small lady, her hair pinned up in a loose bun. She wore a hospital gown and smelled of baby powder. Her cheeks were flushed a rosy pink and her shriveled lips were pale. “I, I, I,” Sarah stumbled. “I didn’t fall from the sky. I was going down a slide and… That’s all I remember.” “Oh dear! Stop with the nonsense! You had a hard fall! Dear, your bones are strong! Oh! And just so you know, you can call me Mrs. Lucia. Loo-sh-uh.” Confusion was written across Sarah’s face.
“Where, where am I?” Sarah shut her eyes as if to hold back her tears. “Oh!” said Lucia casually. “You are in TiddleLand! We are the Tiddles. We speak with the animals, such as Nutty, the squirrel. You are in the Tiddle Hospital, and I am a nurse. We have organized for you to live with the Widdles. He retires in his home in the tree. The Widdles live in a cottage below the squirrel. It’s really quite a nice home. You are quite lucky. In Tiddle Town, you are all the Tiddles talk about. They have waited for you for 20 days. You just wouldn’t wake up! It must have been quite a shock, falling from the sky. And before I let you rest, remember; always fear the Long Noses. They are much taller than us. They squish and don’t believe. Goodbye, dear. Go to sleep.”
photo (top) by Thanthima Limsakul