Inklings Book Finalist: Anjuli Turner



Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2016 finalist, Anjuli Turner! Anjuli was in 7th grade this year and submitted a short story about the life of a Medieval peasant girl. Enjoy!

A Day in the Life of a Medieval Peasant
by Anjuli Turner

Being at the bottom of the social pyramid isn’t all that bad. No, frankly, it is terrible, miserable shall I say. Working sunrise to sunset is simply exhausting!


I am twelve years old and the eldest child of my family. I have two little brothers. They are both six with not a lot of responsibility, which only adds to my never-ending list of challenging chores.


Yes, my brothers are young but why shan’t they each have at least one of my chores? If only I had a wee bit more time to write in my journal each day, especially with the summer months and longer days fast approaching.


16 June 1422
Nottingham, England

Summer is really such a perfect time of the year. All of the divine, beauteous flowers bud into fruits, the very ones we shall savor over the cold, winter months. And the smell of freshly baked bread from Mother’s oven makes my tummy growl with hunger! I also love …


“Lilli, come hither and help prepare for supper!” My mother shouts.

“Coming!” I holler back and stash my journal in a secret hiding place in the privy and push away my thoughts of summer until perchance the next free moment.


While setting the table, I hear my parents talking amongst each other in hushed voices. They sound pitchkettled and worried, something about past due taxes. Mother reluctantly hands my father her favorite brooch, the one that belonged to her great-grandmother.


“Don’t be such a quidnunc!” Mother barks at me. “Fetch your brothers and be sure they wash their hands.”


At once my family is settled at the table, for not a soul wishes to kiss the hare’s foot and mayhap starve waiting for morrow’s next meal. As Mother offers a prayer, we patiently bow our heads and fold our hands together.


Let us give thanks to the beneficent and merciful God, the Father of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, for He has covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto Him, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour. Let us also ask Him, the Lord our God, the Almighty, to guard us in all peace this holy day and all the days of our life.


“Grammarcy,” we say in unison.


We have hardly picked up our forks to start eating when Mother asks, “Boys, did you scythe the hay?”

“Yepperdoodle!” Both answer in a hufty-tufty tone with chests puffed out like roosters.
I giggle a bit. We all know my brothers dilly-dallied the day away and played hide-and-seek in the woods instead. Still my brothers are dear even if a tad lazy.

Mother raises her eyebrows at them, but the rest of her face is blooming smiles. My brothers are off the hook yet again. Where is the justice?

“And you, Lilli, did you plow the fields, trample the grapes, shear the sheep, herd the pigs, and gather up firewood?” Mother asks.

“With not a moment wasted,” I answer.

“Good girl, then you won’t have a problem scything the hay in the morrow,” she says.
My brothers hoot and keak like hens.

“BUT MOTHER!” I protest.

“No buts, Lilli! This is not a question, it’s an order!”

“Prithee, dear Father, surely you have something to say about this?” I plead.

He is wordless! Sometimes he has such a nose of wax!

“This is woodness!” I wolf down the last bite of bellytimber and excuse myself from the table. I don’t wait for Mother’s permission and storm off.


In my escape I let my parents know just how upset I am by slamming the door behind me. I make a mad dash to my favorite tree in the apple fields and flop to the ground. I lie there gazing up at the dusky sky through the branches and green leaves.


And thither under the tree I dream about another life.


Wind-sucker thoughts creep into my heart and imaginings of a new world emerge. I hardly recognize myself dressed in an elegant, velvet dress clutching a bubble-bow filled with gold coins in one hand and a small lap dog in the other. I am even wearing a matching hat with many feathers and lace-covered gloves. My face is washed and powdered. The dirt underneath my nails is a thing of the past along with my calloused, often bruised hands. I am no longer slouching, but standing especially tall in brand new boots made of leather instead of the usual felt. And the blisters that once lived on my feet are also long gone. Words like plow, grapes, sheep, pigs, firewood, and most certainly hay will one day be words from my past, for one day I dream of becoming a Lady and the fairest flower of the field.


Flowers, that’s it! I can make a tiara out of daisies. I gather up all of the prettiest daisies and start weaving my crown.


“Lilli Madison Rolfe,” my mother hollers, “come here this instant.”

“I’m a bit busy.”

“Well, stop being busy and come to me now!”


I hear nothing in response. I guess I have won this battle, or have I?


In the time that the sun has fallen and the moon has risen, I have finished making my crown out of grasses and daisies. I look in the mirror to see a Lady, and see a peasant girl staring back at me. I tiptoe into the kitchen where Mother is washing the dishes.


“Mother, I have something to show you.”

She turns around slowly and the scowl on her face blooms into a smile. “Lilli, you look beautiful.”

Wow, I was not expecting that.

“I’m sorry you have more chores than your brothers, and that they get off the hook sometimes.”

I chuckle a bit.

“You have a big imagination and I want all of your dreams to come true!”

My eyes start to water.

“I just want you to be…” Mother starts to say.

But I cut her off with a big hug. “I know, Mother.”

Inklings Book Finalist: Sanika Datar




Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2016 finalist, Sanika Datar! Sanika is wrapping up the third grade this year and submitted an ode to a recent beach vacation.  In honor of Summer vacation, Sanika is helping us kick off our blog series featuring this year’s IBC finalists with her poem, “My Beach Vacation.”  

P. S. – If you’re still looking for something to do this Summer, we’ve got Summer Camps

My Beach Vacation
by Sanika Datar

Ocean waves are my favorite,
The sandy beach, not a far reach.
The sun on the horizon, shiny and bright,
Oh! A perfect beach day. What a delight!
The place we’ll stay, not far away,
With beautiful palms, that swing and sway,
To the ocean breeze, what a nice feel!
And the colorful birds give such an appeal.
Perfect hotels with colorful beds,
And many couches with small pouches.
The kitchen smells so very well.
“Welcome everyone!” greeted the Maitre d’hotel.
I’ve sunscreen, towels, and toys, oh what a joy!
And my swimming suit packed in a little loop.
The tropical ocean breeze calling out, “Come join us please!”
It’s time to hit the beach, come on, and say cheese!
Warm beach sand and crisp sun rays
Reflecting and dancing to the blue ocean waves.
Kids run, kites fly, guitars play,
Oh how I wish I was here every day.

While dad is taking a warm dip,
Mom is relaxing with her favorite tea to sip.
Dad sees some bright fish along the shore
As mom picks some seashells that she adores.
I build my sand castle, tall and firm,
And make designs that twist and turn.
“Look what I made!” I exclaimed.
“A masterpiece indeed”, said Ma and Pa pleased.
I’m now hungry for lunch.
I can’t wait for grilled cheese and pineapple punch.
“Care for some watermelon or ice-cream?” mom said.
But I wish I could have both instead.
I want to go for a swim before the day gets dim.
With my snorkel gear and paddle feet.
Here I come for a visual treat.
So many colorful fish,
Swimming together in a swish.
Rainbow fish, clown fish, and manta ray,
All moving in an array.
It’s time to head back,
Toys, towels, and gears in a sack.
What a fun day we had!
I wish we could do this all over again, mom and dad.

May 2016: Lost and Found

The Ink Splat

The book and author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is Summer of Lost and Found by Rebecca Behrens. She provided an awesome writing challenge for us and answered some of our questions about her new book and how she became an author. Submit a response to the challenge and you may have a chance to be published online! What are you waiting for?


The Challenge: Making History

If you could travel to any time or place in history, where would you go—and what would you want to find?

Submit your response by emailing and you might be published on our website!


Spotlight On...Summer of Lost and Found by Rebecca Behrens 


Nell Dare expected to spend her summer vacation hanging out with her friends in New York City. That is, until her botanist mom dragged her all the way to Roanoke Island for a research trip. To make matters worse, her father suddenly and mysteriously leaves town, leaving no explanation or clues as to where he went—or why.

While Nell misses the city—and her dad—a ton, it doesn’t take long for her to become enthralled with the mysteries of Roanoke and its lost colony. And when Nell meets Ambrose—an equally curious historical reenactor—they start exploring for clues as to what really happened to the lost colonists. As Nell and Ambrose’s discoveries of tantalizing evidence mount, mysterious things begin to happen—like artifacts disappearing. And someone—or something—is keeping watch over their quest for answers.

It looks like Nell will get the adventurous summer she was hoping for, and she will discover secrets not only about Roanoke, but about herself.


An Interview with author Rebecca Behrens

What inspired Summer of Lost and Found? 

I first learned about the Lost Colony of Roanoke when I read about it in my fifth-grade history textbook. There was just a small picture and a little sidebar of text—not enough information about such a tantalizing history mystery! I never stopped wondering what happened to the missing colonists and also what life was like on Roanoke Island then, in 1587, and now. So eventually I had the idea to write about a contemporary girl who becomes just as fascinated by the story of Roanoke as I am, but who has a chance to start uncovering clues about what really happened.


In the book, Nell has to spend her Summer vacation in Roanoke Island, North Carolina instead of at home in New York City. What drew you to pick Roanoke as the primary setting in your book?

I love the ocean—one of my favorite places to go in the summer is Fire Island, a barrier island off the coast of Long Island in New York. There’s something magical about the salty air, lush plants, and wandering deer. So I was excited about getting to spend my writing time imagining a similar Atlantic island setting. And of course I used this as an excuse to take a trip to check out coastal North Carolina myself! Roanoke Island is probably my ideal spot, because it has both a lot of natural beauty and so much rich history.

I also wanted to give Nell a setting in which she’d be free to explore. During her summer on Roanoke, Nell has a bicycle and unlimited time to investigate her new surroundings. In a lot of ways, this book is about discovery: Nell finds out a lot about Roanoke and its history but also her family, her friends, and herself.


Your first novel, When Audrey Met Alice also weaves in history with a modern-set story. Where does your love of history come from?

I have always been a history fan. As a kid, my teachers and librarians gave me an endless supply of historical fiction that nurtured my interest. My whole family loves history, and my childhood road trips included stops at every plaque and historic site along the way. (Those were long car rides.) Travel and reading showed me that not only is the present world a beautiful, complicated, and fascinating place—the past is, too.


Tell us a little bit about how you came to be a professional writer.

I had wanted to be a writer since I was a reading-obsessed kid, but I first started working as an editor. I enjoy that part of the book-making process—helping others make their words shine—but eventually I wanted to work with words of my own, too! I started writing fiction with the goal of publishing a book in 2009, and it took five years for my first one to be on shelves. I first wrote a manuscript that will stay in my desk drawer forever, and next I wrote When Audrey Met Alice. I revised that book probably seven times—so I always want to remind young writers that it takes lots of revision, reading, and patience to become a professional writer! Don’t feel discouraged if your first—or second, or sixth—drafts aren’t quite the way you want them to be.


Is there anything else you would like us to know about Summer of Lost and Found? 

Pets are another thing I love to write about. In When Audrey Met Alice, the Roosevelts had lots of cool White House pets: horses, guinea pigs, a badger, and of course a green garter snake. But as much as I loved Alice’s Emily Spinach, I think the pet character in Summer of Lost and Found—a friendly and curious golden retriever named Sir Walter Raleigh—has been my favorite to write so far. He’s loosely based on my next-door neighbors’ dogs from when I was a kid: Freddy and Maude.



Thanks again to Rebecca Behrens!

You can pre-order her new book, Summer of Lost and Found at Amazon and other retailers.

You can also find out more about what Rebecca is up to at her website,

April 2016: Inklings Book Edition


The Ink Splat


This month, our writer elves have all been busy putting together our 2016 Inklings Book! Mentors have been workshopping with the contest winners and editorial letters are being written to all of our applicants. In this month’s Ink Splat we wanted to feature the judges that helped us make this year’s Inklings Book possible. These judges are authors that inspire us, and in turn, they were inspired by you, our young writers! 

The Challenge: A Peak Into the Future

It’s the year 2036 and you are a published children’s author, just like our friends spotlighted below. We want to read your official author biography! Your tone can be serious or funny, it can be long or short. Here are some questions to think about: What kinds of books have you written? How many? Have you won any awards? Where do you live? Do you have any children? Any other jobs? What are your favorite hobbies as an adult? Do you like to drink lots of coffee now that you’re grown up? If you need more ideas, you can click the authors’ website links below for more examples.

Submit your response HERE!


Spotlight On...


Our 2016 Inklings Book Judges




Mandy Davis

We cannot wait to read Mandy Davis’ upcoming book, Superstar about a science-loving 10-year-old boy who transitions from homeschool to public school for the first time. Before being bitten by the writing bug, Mandy was an elementary school teacher, a record store clerk, and once she even sold hamburgers on the sidewalk. She currently writes, games, sings (and lives) in Minneapolis, MN. You can visit her website and find out more at

Jennifer Fosberry

Jennifer Fosberry’s Isabella books inspire our imaginations to run away with us just like the title character’s. You can hear Isabella: Star of the Story read aloud at Jennifer’s website. Jennifer is a science geek turned children’ book writer. After working in the high tech industry in Silicon Valley and running away to Costa Rica for a few years, she returned to the San Francisco Bay area to read, write, and try to get out of housework. She lives with her husband and three children and her little dog, too.

Marilyn Hilton

Marilyn Hilton’s most recent YA book is Full Cicada Moon.  The story takes place in 1969 and follows a young girl of mixed heritage who wants to become an astronaut. Marilyn is the author of two novels and two nonfiction books. She has also published numerous articles, devotions, short stories, and poems in literary and consumer magazines, and has contributed to various compilations. Her work has won several awards including the Sue Alexander Award for 2011. You can learn more at her website,

Tim McCanna

Tim McCanna has two new books coming next year, Water Song and Jack B. Ninja. We know they won’t disappoint! His first children’s book, Teeny Tiny Trucks was called “a delightful story” and “a clever rhyming adventure” by Kirkus Reviews. Tim has been an actor, musician, musical theatre writer, graphic designer and dad. Now, he’s combining all those experiences into being a writer for children.  You can see more from Tim at

Laura Ruby

Laura Ruby has written for kids, teens, and adults.  Last year she released a teen thriller titled Bone Gap about a kidnapping in a small town. Born in the Midwest and raised in suburban Wayne, New Jersey, Laura Ruby is the daughter of a psychologist and a cop. This means that she is both nosy and deeply suspicious. She is currently on the faculty of Hamline University’s Masters in Writing for Children Program. You can visit her website here.  

David Shannon

David Shannon is a prolific children’s author and illustrator. We love is series of books about a little boy named David who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. David liked to draw as soon as he could hold a crayon. He went to Hutton Elementary school where his teachers soon realized that if they let David draw murals it would keep him from disrupting class and their classroom would have some pretty good art on the walls, too. David has written and/or illustrated over 35 books for children. He lives in Los Angeles with his Wife, Heidi and his daughter, Emma. You can learn more about David’s work at

Thanks again to our judges! We can’t wait to share the final product at the end of the Summer.

One final thing… The Inklings Book wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors, either! Thank you to San Benito Realty, True Leaf Farms, and Joe and Glenda Zanger.

Thank You to the Inklings Book Sponsors!

Inklings Book Contest 2016 Results!

This year we received 200 applications from young writers across 7 states from over 35 different cities. Thanks to our star judges we have 23 winners and 58 finalists.


David Shannon: Internationally acclaimed picture book author and winner of many awards including Book Sense Best Picture Book, Golden Kite Award, and New York Times Best Illustrated Book List. 

“Loved these stories – so imaginative and well-written. Usually it’s one or the other, even with grown-ups! It was really a pleasure to read them.”  –David Shannon

Jennifer Fosberry: New York Times best-seller and author of the Isabella books.

“Wow what a difficult yet enjoyable task to judge these stories. I found it interesting to see that different authors showed different strengths and also different places to improve and grow in their craft. They were all so good.  I am impressed at the level of story-telling and writing that I have seen with the Young Inklings competition.” –Jennifer Fosberry


  • Anabel Orozco “Kai’s First Kiss/El Primer Beso De Kai” (Grade 1)
  • Dillon Mareth – “Mike’s Beaver Tail” (Grade 3)
  • Natalie Sharp – “The Skating Goat” (Grade 4)
  • Sahana Srinivasan – “The Mystery of the Disappearing Pets” (Grade 2)
  • Samantha Vargas “Dusty” (Grade 2)
  • Sydney Goodwin – “Unspoken” (Grade 4)
  • Zoe Friedman  “My One-Inch Tall Life” (Grade 2)



Laura Ruby: Author of Bone Gap and winner of many awards, including the Printz Award.

“I was so impressed with the range of stories submitted, everything from historical fantasy, to folk tale, to humor.  But more than that, I was impressed with the sheer talent of these young writers.”   -Laura Ruby 

Mandy Davis: Author of forthcoming middle-grade novel, Superstar.

“What a treat it was to read the writing of these talented young writers! While the pieces were all very different from one another, they all had one important thing in common: the unique voice of each writer shined through on the page.” –Mandy Davis


  • Aidan Wen – “Earth and Sky” (Grade 8)
  • Benjamin Hayes – “Whalewatching Past Westerndon” (Grade 5)
  • Erin Gray – “Saving Billy” (Grade 6)
  • Judge Cantrell – “The Ghost of the Underworld” (Grade 6)
  • Manasi Garg  “The Girl with the Light-Up Shoes” (Grade 7)
  • Maya Lopez  “A Journey to a New Land” (Grade 7)
  • Samantha James  “Hocus Pocus” (Grade 8)
  • Xiomara Guevara – “Silver Lining” (Grade 6)



Tim McCanna: Author of 6 forthcoming picture books including Bitty Bot which comes out in October 2016. 

“What an incredible range of poetic work from these Young Inklings! Sometimes quiet, sometimes fierce, sometimes super funny. But always fresh, inventive, and engaging. Exceptional work from an exceptional group of young writers.”  —Tim McCanna


  • Colin Chu  “Ten” (Grade 2)
  • Kendra Mills “Leaves” (Grade 1)
  • Jasper Micheletti – “Beautiful Long Curly Hair” (Grade 2)
  • Juliana Baltz –“Whale Eating Contest” (Grade 3)



Marilyn Hilton: Author of Full Cicada Moon and Found Things, winner of the 2015-16 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

“Poetry expresses the breadth and depth of the human experience using an economy of words. As a reader and writer of poetry, it was a joy to see how these young poets chose to express their personal and unique perspectives of the world. All the writers deserve huge congratulations for their work, and I felt truly privileged to be able to read them.”  – Marilyn Hilton


  • Cianna Brown  “Races” (Grade 7) 
  • Karishma Miranda  “Broken Beyond Repair” (Grade 6)
  • Rafael Stankeiewicz  “Long Lost Love” (Grade 8)
  • Sophia Zalewski  “The Storm Inside Her” (Grade 8)

Congratulations, winners! Be sure to check your email. You’ll be meeting your mentor and start working on your revisions soon! To see the list of finalists click here.

These were tough decisions. We were highly impressed with all of the talented writers who submitted their stories and poems, and can’t wait to tell each of you exactly what we loved about your work. Soon, all applicants will receive a special letter from our team about your submission. Be sure to watch your email inbox–we’ll be sending those letters throughout the month of April.

A HUGE thank you to our Inklings Book Sponsors! 

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Going Up To Bat: March 2016

The Ink Splat


The book and author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is Out of Left Field by Liza Ketchum. We even have an author interview! Submit a response to the challenge and you may have a chance to be published online! What are you waiting for? 

The Challenge: Making Memories

Take a few minutes to describe a place you know well. Maybe it’s the closet in your bedroom, or the den at your grandmother’s house…or a fort you built in a vacant lot or back yard…or your basement where you tinker with a chemistry set…or the stairwell in your apartment building where you sit and talk with your friends…or the corner grocery where the Korean owner slips you a piece of candy when you do errands…or your top bunk at summer camp…or your kitchen table, where you do homework while your dad cooks dinner and music is playing…or the grassy bank near the train tracks…or the school gym where you saw someone being bullied…or the beach where a storm has churned up big waves as you’re about to try surfing for the first time…

This should be a place that brings up strong emotions: joy, excitement, sorrow, fear, comfort, loneliness, laughter, safety, feelings of being trapped—etc. Use all FIVE senses, including taste and texture. And BE SPECIFIC. Don’t say it’s a “tree,” but a ponderosa pine. Not just a “bird,” but a red tail hawk. Not “bedding,” but an antique wedding quilt. And don’t forget colors. If there are people or animals in this place, describe them, too.

Then—try changing this place in one way, so the atmosphere shifts. Does a sudden wind come up, whipping the curtains at your grandmother’s house? Do you hear a noise you’ve never heard in that spot? Does a stranger who scares you—or dares you to do something bold—suddenly appear? Do you come home to find that someone has painted your favorite place a strange color without your permission? When you hurry down the stairs in your apartment building, do you find a wild animal trapped there?

See what story might emerge from this exercise. And have fun!.

Submit your response HERE!

Spotlight On...


Out of Left Field by, Liza Ketchum



The summer of 2004 is full of promise for Brandon McGinnis. He has a job, a spot on the varsity swim team, loving parents, and loyal friends. Brandon and his dad, ardent Red Sox fans, wonder: could this be the year the Sox finally win the World Series? Then Brandon’s father dies suddenly. His will, signed just before his death, reveals a secret kept for thirty years. As shadows of the Vietnam War bleed into the escalating War in Iraq, Brandon sets out to solve the mystery his father left behind. His journey takes him to Canada’s Cape Breton Island, where he uncovers bittersweet truths about the past, and a family facing their own hidden demons. Brandon’s courageous search throws him into life’s game with its devastating losses, unexpected curve balls, and thrills as wondrous as a home run on an autumn night.




An Interview with author Liza Ketchum:

1.What inspired you to write Out of Left Field, and how did baseball play a part in that?

Out of Left Field had its beginnings in a short story, Sable Mouvants, which I wrote long ago for an anthology called On the Edge: Stories at the Brink.  (Simon and Schuster, 2000, Lois Duncan, Editor.)  Settings often inspire my stories, and Sable Mouvants (which means quicksand, in French) was no exception.  My husband and I had visited the D-Day cemeteries in Normandy, France, where thousands of young soldiers had died.  We also went out to Mount St. Michel, where strong tides create deadly quicksand.  In the short story, my character, Brandon, finds out that his father—who has just died—may have had a son in Canada, where he lived during the Vietnam War. After the story was published, the situation gnawed at me.  Was it true that Brandon had a brother in Canada?  Why did his father keep that a secret?  Would Brandon want to find this lost sibling?

The Vietnam War was also an inspiration for this novel. For years, I’d been haunted by events that took place during the Vietnam War, when my cousin and a close friend both died. I’d tried to write about the war many times, but hadn’t found the right path into the story. Then, in 2004, our country was embroiled in two wars far from home (Iraq and Afghanistan.) At the same time, my beloved Red Sox suddenly looked as if they could win a World Series for the first time in 86 years. I started asking myself the “What If” questions that are so important in fiction: What If Brandon and his father were Red Sox fans? What If his dad’s will exposed a family secret? What would Brandon do? I wrote the novel to answer those questions.

2. Your writing really captures each character’s voice. What advice do you have for young authors who are writing from the perspective of a character that they may or may not have a lot in common with?

Thank you. This is an important question. As a writer, you need to live inside your character’s skin, as if you were playing him or her in a play. In fact, one of the best ways to understand characters is to be involved in theatre productions. I went to theatre school for a summer after high school, and I learned a lot about character development from that experience.

It also helps to jot down a complete inventory of your character. You need to know everything about him or her: their appearance; what they wear; their families, pets and friend; their hopes and dreams; their strengths and weaknesses. (Look for some good prompts on creating characters on other Inkling posts. Also: check out Marion Dane Bauer’s excellent book for young writers called “What’s Your Story?”)

Some questions you can ask yourself: Does your character have a secret? What does he or she carry in her pockets? Purse? Backpack? But voice is the key element for me. I can’t write from a character’s point of view until I hear his or her voice in my head.

Brandon’s voice came to me right away. I listened for it and I knew, from the beginning, that the novel would be in first person, even though I’m female and no longer a teen! I could also hear Cat’s voice easily. She reminds me of a few feisty young girls I’ve met over the years. But Quinn’s voice was the toughest to capture. I had to imagine what it might be like to find out, when you’re an adult, that your family has been keeping dark secrets about your past. I finally remembered a conversation I had years ago, with a woman who discovered, when she was an adult, that one of her parents was not her biological parent. It turned her world upside down. That helped me to understand Quinn’s anger and confusion. 

3. How did the multiple settings affect the story when you were writing Out of Left Field?

My husband and I have visited Nova Scotia many times. We went on a whale watch from Freetown on Digby neck, and saw a right whale breech near the boat. We spent time in Baddeck, on Cape Breton Island, and explored the province. Settings are like characters, in my stories. I try to capture the sensory experience of a place: its sights, smells, sounds, and atmosphere. I pay attention to wildlife and the natural world. I keep journals when I travel, where I jot down the names of plants, trees, birds and other animals we see. I also take pictures and keep notes on interesting people, their jobs, the food they eat, their clothing—anything that might help to add significant details to the story. As I wrote Out of Left Field, I read over my Nova Scotia journals and pinned up photos of the area.

If it’s possible, I prefer to write about a place I know. That’s true of Fenway Park in Boston, where the Red Sox play. My husband and I are big baseball fans, and we’ve been to the ballpark in all kinds of weather, for big wins and sad losses. I love the electricity of the park, the enthusiasm of the fans, the smell of hot dogs, popcorn, and cotton candy, the beauty of the emerald grass in late afternoon, and the way the ballpark rocks when we sing “Sweet Caroline” in the 8th inning.

4.How did you so seamlessly weave such big themes such as the impact of war and dealing with grief into the story?

That’s a lovely compliment. Thank you. From the moment I started this novel, I knew that I needed to balance Brandon’s grief and confusion over his father’s secret, with something that would give him pleasure. Baseball was something he shared with his father and a game he loved himself. Emotional depth is very important to me in my stories and I drew on my own experiences for this novel. When my good friend and my cousin were killed in Vietnam, I was lucky that my grandmother, some older friends of my parents, and some friends I’d grown up with, helped me to deal with my sorrow. I decided that Brandon needed an adult who would understand and help him, which is why I created Tony, the guy in the ticket booth at the ballpark. Marty and Brandon’s aunt and cousin were also important supports to Brandon during this hard time.

I also remember the different ways that families responded to the Vietnam War. When my friend Mike died, his family marched and protested the war; my family did, too. But my cousin’s parents believed the war was a good thing, which caused a lot of tension in my family. I also remembered that we didn’t treat our veterans very well during that time, which is why Brandon meets a troubled veteran in a later chapter. Most of all, I have joyous memories of that fabulous Red Sox season, when our team nearly lost the playoffs but came back to win the whole thing. The Boston area was delirious with happiness.

5. Is there anything else you would like us to know about Out of Left Field?  

Although I wrote this novel for young adults, I have been delighted to hear from a number of adult readers who have written to me about the book. Many also experienced the Vietnam War and have strong memories of that period. One thing for young readers to know: I first had the idea for Brandon’s story in the late ‘90s. The novel was finally published in 2014. Sometimes it takes many years for a story to emerge. Don’t give up on your writing, even if it takes a long time to find an audience. I believe that everyone has important stories to share. If you have other questions, feel free to visit my website where you can send me a message.


Thank you Liza Ketchum!

Out of Left Field is available on Amazon

Look for more information about Liza Ketchum and her books here!

Only A Few Days Left To Submit Your Story!

IBC page 1We are getting so excited for the Inklings Book Contest 2016! 

March 15th is just around the corner, and we can’t wait to see which wonderful stories and poems will make up this year’s anthology. This year, we’ve brought on some superstars judges to help choose the winners! Submit your story or poem now to have it read by one of these illustrious authors… 


Tim McCanna (1st-2nd grade fiction judge) author of 6 forthcoming picture books including Bitty Bot which comes out in October 2016. 

Jennifer Fosberry (3rd-4th grade fiction judge) New York Times best-seller and author of the Isabella books.

David Shannon (5th-6th grade fiction judge) internationally acclaimed picture book author and winner of many awards including Booksense Best Picture Book, Golden Kite Award, and New York Times Best Illustrated Book List. 

Laura Ruby (7th-8th grade fiction judge) author of Bone Gap and winner of many awards, including the Printz Award.

Mandy Davis (1st-4th grade poetry judge) author of forthcoming middle-grade novel, Superstar.

Marilyn Hilton (4th-8th poetry judge) author of Full Cicada Moon and Found Things, winner of the 2015-16 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. 


Stories and poems must be submitted to the Inklings Book Contest by March 15! Find out more and submit your story or poem here.


Congratulations, Skye Brislawn!

Spotlight On...

Skye wrote an exciting story using the prompt found in this month’s Ink Splat! Check it out below.


Did you know that each month, you have an opportunity to get your writing published on our blog? Send us your response to the prompt in each month’s Ink Splat, and we just might share your writing here! 


Finding Kirin by Skye Brislawn

There the whole flock stood, far out in CharTree forest. “Hey I see an open spot where the new grass that has grown from the fire a few years ago!” Shouted the leader, Ian. The patrols ran over to the spot first in case there was danger or it was a trap from the other flocks of unicorns. The grass stood out from the empty forest around. A Monster Venus leaped from the grass with a terrifying screech. Just briefly after the Venus devoured the two patrols whole, unicorns from the Southern flock leaped out from behind the fallen debris from the fire. Their horns sharp and gleaming with anger. Diamond leaped forward to defend her flock. She cant let anyone touch her wonderful Western Flock. She hoofed the ground with anger. But before she could attack, a mysterious creature leaped from the high side of the mountain with a ghostly flying motion. Everybody watched in awe as the majestic creature flew above the two flocks. “Western and Eastern.” She hoofed slowly between the two flocks in battle formation, “You both are unicorns. you may look different, but you must get along. The world will possibly fall apart in fire and anger. It is true. Please understand me. Get along.” The two elders walked up to each other. They met at the center, calmly. “I’m sorry.” Said Buck, “But…’ He attempted to stab Ian with his horn as soon as he could. But Ian stepped back. “Come on. Let’s go.” He ordered as soon as the Southern Flock galloped away. The Western Flock trotted away back into the territory shields that were generated by unicorns. “Hey! Where’s Diamond?” Asked lieutenant Harrison. Then his eyes caught sight of the brown with white speckeled horse galloping away. “Ian! General Diamond is running away.” “WHAT!” Ian screeched. Diamond kept going. She had to find out who that mysterious creature was. Could it be another unicorn? Was it a llama? Was it a pronghorn that lost a horn in battle? She heard an odd voice in her head that sounded strangely a lot like the creature. “Follow the sun. You will find me. Oh and glad to meet you Diamond. My name is Kirin.” Diamond tried to shake it off but the voice kept speaking to her. But then she realized. Kirin was the creature. She’d heard of Kirin a lot when she was a young filly. Stars dotted the sky as Diamond sat down to rest. She stared at the stars with confidence. “I will find you Kirin.” She whispered hopefully.

She woke up late in the morning with the dew on the grass. She sensed something dangerous. She ran but she felt hoof steps behind her. She turned around and saw a unicorn oddly red in color. It’s horn was not any horn she’d seen before. A fierce teal dragon with the sunniest wings ever swooped down on the unicorn-menace but she bounced back. “I’m sorry Diamond. This evil unicorn won’t let me attack him. Also… ” The dragon grinned and evil grin. ” Surprise!’ Her scales turned to fur and she leaped to the ground she stabbed the unicorn that was chasing Diamond. “Sorry but I will be the one doing the evil deeds today.” She said to the red unicorn, bleeding on the ground. The evil grin on her face grew wider as she restrained Diamond’s hooves so she couldn’t run from whatever she was pulling out from behind her. Tears flooded her eyes to see the body of Kirin. After a while, she remembered that she was an oddball in her Flock. She recognized the face as of it was just like her own. Then she finally discovered she was a Kirin. She was so devastated and terrified. “D-Diamond. You must bring evil to an… end.” Urged Kirin. Diamond broke out of the restraint power, her horn swirled with a blue magic with an enchanted power. “WHY, WHY, WHY” was pounding in her head. She used the restraint attack on the unicorn. “I’ve seen you before! You were the one with the rest of your pack when I swallowed your patrol men. MWAHAHAHAHA!” She cackled. But as she threw her head up to finish her cackling, Diamond slit her throat and blood came spurting out. She dragged the monster’s body into a pit to get rid of it. The figure of the ghost of Kirin. She smiled and beckoned, “Now It’s your turn to be the legend.” Kirin nodded at the crystal palace that appeared in front of Diamond. “Only Kirin know their home. It’s invisible.” Her ghost disappeared over the plains. She stared at the mystical valley, wondering what her future would be like.


Thank you Skye for the action-packed story! Do you have a story that you would like to see published? Consider submitting it to the Inklings Book Contest, or check out our Ink Splats for a new prompt!


Friendly Super Powers: February 2016

The Ink Splat


The book and author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is Ellie Stands Up To The Bully by Julie Dart. We even have an author interview! Submit a response to the challenge and you may have a chance to be published online! What are you waiting for? 

The Challenge: Super Powers

If you could be a super hero what kind of power would you want to have and why?  Can you think of a situation in your life right now were you would be able to use this power to help someone?  If so, write about how you would help someone and who you would help.

Submit your response HERE!

Spotlight On...


Ellie Stands Up To The Bully by, Julie DartESUTB cover

Ellie is a little yellow elephant who will inspire you in a big way! Join Ellie as she embarks on an adventure to a new school. Parents, teachers, and children love reading about how Ellie learns to stand up for herself while facing the issue of being bullied. This story is a great way to show children how to empower themselves. The author was bullied when she was younger, and grew passionate about showing children how to overcome this obstacle. You’ll fall in love with Ellie as she learns about her own value, and inspires her friends to speak up too!  




An Interview with author Julie Dart:

1.What inspired you to write Ellie Stands Up to the Bully?JD

I first came up with the idea of Ellie Stands Up To The Bully when I was expecting my second child and riding the train up to the city. While riding on the train, I started to think about my children’s futures and how I hoped I could help them through life’s challenges. I started to think back to middle school when I was bullied. I wanted to create a story that would not only help my children if they encountered a bully but to also assist other children that might be in that situation.

2. How did you develop each characters’ emotions so smoothly along with the story?

When I had to think of characters for the book I started to think about the people in my life. I had my children and their friends to get ideas from, but I was also a preschool and kindergarten teacher for several years. I guess you can say I put the characters together from some of those situations. I was  always sensitive to the children’s emotions so I used some of those situations that I dealt with as a teacher and a mother for my story. 

3. What is the best part about writing for you?

I really love using my imagination to create a story that can help people. I have a list of stories stories that I want to write and they all have an inspirational message within them. The best part for me is when parents tell me that their child really likes Ellie and how they want Ellie to come visit their school. It makes me so happy.

4.Do you have a favorite moment from Ellie Stands Up to the Bully? Which part and why?

It’s hard to pick out one moment that is special to me with in this book. I would have to say my best part is at the end when Ellie stands up for herself. And then Ellie’s friend Roger pats her on the back and says, “Way to go Els, way to go.” I have always loved stories about an underdog where someone has been faced with a challenge and is able to rise above it. Every time I read this part in the book, I actually giggle out loud. I think it shows that Ellie not only found her inner strength but she was also able to show her friends how to be strong as well.

5. What advice would you give to young authors?  

When I speak to young authors I often tell them that I had a lot of doubts that kept me from writing my book for a long time. Number one I am dyslexic and have never received good grades in school and therefore never felt smart enough to write a book. All my life the only thing that I ever wanted to do was be a writer. I didn’t start believing I could do it until I was 48 years old, and even then I had some doubts and was scared that nobody would like my stories. What gave me the courage to write my books was having my children encouraging me. For years I had shared with them that anything’s possible and, in turn, I wanted to be a good example for them. So for young authors I would say pick a story that you’re passionate about, write it- just write it using your creativity. Write it for yourself. Then later you can think about sharing it with someone.  You’ve got a great story within yourself and it would be a shame if all of us weren’t able to hear it one day.  So do yourself a favor and just try to write your story and promise yourself that you won’t give up.  You will be so glad that you stayed determined. 


Thank you Julie Dart!

Ellie Stands Up To The Bully is available on Amazon

Look for more information about Julie Dart and her books here!

Your Stories Matter!


Submit your story or poem to the Inklings Book Contest 2016

The Inklings Book is a professionally published volume that features short stories and poems by twenty young writers whose submissions are chosen from the annual Inklings Book Contest.

Any 1st – 8th grader can submit a story or poem for the contest. We’re looking for exceptional submissions with a strong point of view and for writers who are committed to the revision process. All contestants will receive a personalized editorial letter from our team of authors to help you take your writing to the next level.

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Contest winners will receive two sessions with a mentor who will guide you through a focused revision process, and a copy of the Inklings Book 2016 with your story published in it!


Stories and poems must be submitted by March 15! Find out more and submit your story or poem here.


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