I did it.
I finally wrote my story for the assessment test for the Institute of Children's Literature.
The requirement was that I write anywhere from 250-500 words of a story that was of interest to young readers. I was fortunate to be able to end it at 496. Whew!
A friend read it and said it was depressing but impacting. He said that it's beneficial for people to have a good dose of reality every once in a while. Thanks to another friend the Editing Princess, I received guidance as far as hyphens, and made-up-words go. She said, "This is just the first chapter. There needs to be more!" That's the point, to make people want to know what happens next.
When I wrote it, I had no idea what I was going to write about. I didn't have a topic, a character or anything developed. It all sort of just evolved from one sentence to the next. I knew I wanted my character to be Josie. So, I established her character from the beginning and it just sort of grew from there. It even developed its own social statement and moral.
Brace yourself. This is called Findings.
Josie hardened her face to keep the tears from coming. What am I doing here anyway? she thought. I’m no one special, just a dumb kid with no where else to go.
The line was long, much too long for her liking. All Josie wanted was to get in, get her meal, and go back to the abandoned shack on the corner of Fifth and Park Street. She didn’t dare look anyone in the eye while she was out, especially these people. Sure, she needed food. Her two-year-old brother, Elias, had been waiting for nearly three hours and would soon be crying if she didn’t hurry. The last thing she needed was a cry-baby, letting everyone know where they were. Josie poked her head out of the line. It was moving slowly, but the smell of the gravy, meat and potatoes kept her feet solid. She wanted to run back to the shack as fast as her feet would carry her, but then, there was Elias. She had bigger problems than wishing she was invisible.
Josie wrapped her oversized coat around her, tighter now. The shuddering winds of late fall were kept outside by the thick concrete walls, but it didn’t feel warm inside. The cold gaze of the server and hollow “move along” of the kitchen staff sent shivers up Josie’s back. Every day she had to bear the strain of their politeness and every day she held back tears. Tears for what, she did not know; but coming here made her feel lonelier than if she would have stayed hidden in the dark shack, with Elias emptily staring at the ceiling.
“Next!” The gruff, monotone voice of the server jerked Josie out of her thoughts. “Whaddya want?” Josie pushed her tangled hair out of her face and forced her eyes up. The server looked impatient. Her plump hand tapped the spoon with irritated rhythm on the side of the potato pan.
“I…uh…I…”she managed to get out.
“You. Uh. WHAT?” asked the server. She squinted her eyes and her mouth narrowed with a scowl.
Josie couldn’t find the words she wanted. The woman behind the counter kept tapping the spoon. “Look, honey. Ya need to speak. There’s a line a’people behind ya waiting ta fill ther stomachs, too. Ya ain’t got no reason to keep ‘em with yer studderin’. I got better things ta do than this…” her voice trailed off with mumbles and grumbles as she strained her fat neck to address the person behind Josie.
Josie’s mind was blank. But her eyes filled suddenly with the very tears she was trying to restrain. She looked at the kitchen staff. They were staring hard at her as if they thought the same intolerant, impatient thoughts the woman behind the counter had expressed.
She turned quickly on her feet and brushed past the blur of hungry, homeless people in line. Elias would be hungry again tonight, and so would she.