Saturday, January 7, 2023

Write the Hook Contest

Thirty stories were submitted to our 2022 Write the Hook contest. Twenty-four were from writers in grades 6-8, and six were from writers in grades 9-12. The middle school age writers all listed their school as Miles River Middle School. The high school age writers listed their schools as: Beverly High School (2), Glen Urqhart, Homeschooled (2),  and Pingree School. (No representation from Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School.😿) 

The results are in! Our Write the Hook contest judges this year were: Dede Johnson, Sarah Lauderdale, and Viktoria Page. Each judge carefully read all of the stories. The rubric scores were finished and tallied yesterday. Here are the first and second place winning entries. Enjoy!

2022 Write the Hook Winning Stories
First Place Story Entry Grades 6-8  
Molly Degnan, (Miles River Middle School student) 
for "The Darkest Night of Evermore" 
There is one thing I know. My father's death was not a tragic accident like the police reported. Evermore had one rule that everybody followed which allowed them to live a normal life…never go near the willow tree. We all followed this rule. No children played by this tree as they did around all the others. There was always a single rope tied around the tree's largest branch. It swung back and forth on windless days like someone was pushing it for eternity. It beckons you and draws you closer until it’s too late. All I wanted to know was what my father saw that fateful night that made him go to the willow tree.  
In his old corner office, down at the police station, I sat in his huge leather chair which once was so welcoming and was now stiff and cold in his absence. He would have yelled at me for being so contemptuous of others’ property. Through my tears, I stared at the picture of the two of us fishing that had always sat on his desk. He looked so alive and happy in that photo and it was so hard to accept that I would never be able to see his smiling face again. I had been looking through his neatly organized papers and listening to the microphone recording that had captured the sounds of his last moments. I prayed that if I kept playing it, it would give me the answers I longed for. I was happy to be out of the house which still smelled like my dad’s cologne. My stepmother needed her space too. She wanted to be alone with her feelings and so did I. I have to remember that she loved him just as much as I did. My stepmom is not like the evil stepmoms in fairy tales. She is the kindest person I have ever met, but our personalities just never meshed completely. I started to zone out when I heard a knock on the door. My dad’s kind receptionist, Mrs. Litsky, walked in and gave me a soft smile. I took my earbuds out and she gave me a pitying look. I knew what she had come here for; to try and get me to see my father one last time before the funeral. I sighed and stood up, giving in to her, and started walking to the place where his body was being kept. 
His eyes were peaceful. That is what mattered. I told myself over and over again that he was in a better place now, but that was the hardest thing to do. How could he be in a better place without me? I looked at him one more time and stood up. But then I noticed something that I hadn’t before. Red marks along his neck. The police said that they found him lying under the tree but that must not have been the whole truth. Why would they not disclose all the evidence of their own chief’s murder investigation? The faint marks around his pale neck were in a braided swirl of a pattern that could have only come from one thing… the rope hanging from that darn willow tree.
As I bent down closer, my eyes fell to his chest. It was then that I realized that his badge was still clipped onto his navy blue jacket. Immediately, I flashed back to the previous week, when he had come into my room with great excitement. He told me he was testing out a new and virtually undetectable camera that could be hidden in plain sight. I didn’t even see it the first time he pointed it out to me. But now, as he lay before me, I could see that the camera was still firmly attached to his badge. I unclipped it and shoved it deep into my pocket. This was it, this little camera could tell me everything I needed to know about my father's sudden death and I was ready to play it and even more ready to find out how my father died. 
I walked back into my father's office and connected the camera to his computer. I pulled up the image and choose and time stamp, 9:30 pm, about an hour before they found him. Before I could play the video, Mrs. Litsky walked back into the office. She stood right next to me and didn’t say a single word. We exchanged glances of fear and hope as I clicked play on the video. 
My heart skipped a beat as I saw the rope swinging back and forth from the branch of the willow tree. And yet not a single leaf rustled. Only the rope hypnotically swung on the windless calm night. Suddenly, a hand flashed before the camera and then it all went fuzzy. I replayed and paused the clip of the hand and saw dark purple nail polish. A woman. I looked to my right and Mrs. Litksy and I both exchanged looks of realization.
Second Place Story Entry Grades 6-8  
Shane Kiernan, (Miles River Middle School student) 
for "Crash"
The capsule's lights flashed black and white. Beams of fire engulfed the tinted windows. Control panels left and right were shouting out meaningless words in my direction. I tried to decipher the multiple alerts, but for some reason I couldn’t even understand English. One thing was clear, I was going to die. I quickly scanned the other side of the cockpit. The Captain in the chair next to me seemed to be alive, but he was out cold.

A white light flickered in front of me through the fire. We were at full throttle hyper speed, the only problem was that the quantum fuel was running out. A quick calculation told me we would be entering the planet's atmosphere at 200 neutrons per second, the maximum speed for a safe landing. I glanced at the Exo-Planet Scanner. The planet was a sector green which meant it could support human life. This planet was in its forming phase which means that we were probably on the rim of space, known as the “Edge”.

The only people who went to the Edge were criminals trying to flee the ROFA Empire, or just crazy. Politics were never really my thing. My job was to find, recover, and research. ROFA calls it FRR. FRR Agents are usually the best in the galaxy. The Captain, yes the unconscious one, is the greatest to ever live; he has found over 100 different precious elements throughout the Edge. Recently, our Supreme Leader was found dead. He was killed by an unknown toxic element. That’s why we were here on the edge, 100 light years away from Cloxar, the ROFA capitol, trying to find the origin of that element.

Unfortunately, our ship was hit by a space crystal as we approached this solar system. Space crystals are thin strips of void or as we called them “no time.” My Captain was struck by it, knocking him unconscious. The thrusters were also hit causing them to go haywire and catapulting us uncontrollably into the gravitational pull of this planet.

As we screeched through the planet's atmosphere I felt death was near. My eyes strained as the fire grew stronger. My face burned in pain. The alarms shrieked and deafened my ears. My face rippled as the G-Force pulled back on it. We entered through the clouds, shooting down from the sky like a wayward meteor. My rocket roared and rumbled, shaking harder and harder every inch closer. Every inch closer to death. Phewfffff. The rocket fired out strains of white gas. My doom approached as the rocks suddenly looked real. The rough and jagged landscape darkened before my eyes. Purple trees showered the planet and blossomed gracefully. In contrast, an enormous mountain erupted with magma and ash, scorching the remaining landscape.The tree in front of me grew bigger and bigger. Its neon purple leaves disintegrated into ash as we grew closer. Crash!

Time suddenly stopped. I looked around the scene of my death. Fire engulfed my body. Rocks and shrapnel in my chest and my Captain, now awake, standing menacingly above me. He was alive and looked happy? That smile, that evil smile. This wasn't an accident. My Captain wanted to be here, which means maybe we were never hit by a no time, but why were we here?

First Place Story Entry Grades 9-12 
Gabe Cole, (Homeschooled, Topsfield) 
for "The Accursed Blight of the Interdimensional Funk Ninjas"
To start off, I would like to say that not a word of this note is exaggerated. Every single syllable is the truth, the irrefutable truth. Not a single moment is fictitious. All of my seemingly far-fetched exploits actually happened. Thank you very much, and if you think I am lying, you are a fool. Please do not reduce my grade for saying that. It is already low enough as is. Anyway, thank you for reading this brief preface, and let’s get into the incredible tale of how I lost the greatest science project I had ever created. 

My science project was stolen by inter-dimensional funk ninjas. There is no other way to state it. I had just finished it, and it was perfect, and I knew, without a doubt, that I would get a perfect grade on it, but it was stolen right off the kitchen table. How did they steal it, you ask? They opened a portal. 

The portal opened suddenly, in the blink of an eye, above the kitchen table. There was a massive flash of blue light, an unbearably loud staticy noise, and then the very air above the table seemed to unzip into a vaguely oval-shaped portal. I jumped back in surprise. “Dang,” I said. “That’s pretty crazy right there.” I never expected a portal to open in the kitchen. Suddenly, incredibly-groovy funk blasted out of the portal, pounding my eardrums. This, obviously, was an insane situation, but I had to admit that the music did indeed have some stank on it. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and no, despite the circumstances, I was not terrified. I know it’s very unusual for a portal to open above your kitchen table, but I was too busy grooving to pay much attention to it. Indeed, I was vibing too hard to notice the hand slowly, sneakily reaching through the portal, vibing too hard to notice the hand grabbing my science project. 

I was about to start doing The Worm when a voice came out of the portal, muffled by the funk, but still audible. “I’ll take that, Dude!” said the voice. That immediately snapped me out of my groove-induced trance. “What?!” I said. “Who is that?!?” I got up off the floor in a panic, just in time to see the hand grab my science project and deftly yoink it through the portal. It was as if it happened in slow motion, all of my hard work, my hours of toil and my struggle, all disappeared into the portal in just a few seconds, a maliciously minuscule moment of massively momentous melancholy. 

It had been a few hours since then, the horrible moment, and by this point I knew it was inter-dimensional funk ninjas that had taken my project. I was also in a UFO full of aliens, cyborg goose warriors, and mildly disgruntled heath-food store employees, but more about that in a second. While still on Earth, I had turned on the TV to distract me from my powerful sorrow, only to hear something that piqued my interest..... It was a news channel, and they were talking about something incredibly relevant to me, although I did not know it at the time. 

“-Yes indeed, Monica. Speaking of inter-dimensional funk ninjas, they were recently ranked as the third-most dangerous threat to America after tornadoes and terrorism,” a man remarked. Another person replied, “That’s right, Bill. The infamous three T’s: Tornadoes, Terrorism, and Inter-dimensional funk ninjas.” That had me interested. Inter-dimensional funk ninjas rang a bell. “Victims of the ninjas reported hearing some rather groovin’ music before a portal opened up in the middle of the air and a ninja stole a possession of theirs. As a victim famously stated, “The music slapped. Yeah, it was bangin’. However, the ninjas stole my kidneys, which was not bangin’.” Oh. My. GOSH. I jumped up in shock, my mouth gaping open, and my eyebrows probably somewhere on the top of my head. 

This was insane. I could not believe it. I fell to my knees, my clenched fists shaking in apoplectic rage, and thunderously yelled, “DARN YOU FUNK NINJAS!!!!!!!!!!” That was the final thing I said before I was beamed up to the UFO. As all the individual molecules in my body separated and were teleported into the spaceship, all I could feel was a vague tickling sensation across my body, and all I could hear was some dude on the TV peddling his autobiography, Inter-Dimensional Funk Ninjas Stole My Kidneys: The Guy Holt Story. My last thought was: I think I am currently being abducted by aliens. 

Then, I woke up in the UFO, as I previously mentioned. “Whoa! What the heck?!” I exclaimed, completely shocked to suddenly find myself inside a large metal chamber adorned with many paintings of both humans and cows being abducted. There were several large, plush armchairs scattered throughout the room containing several inhabitants. “Yoooooo! What’s up, Dude? How’s it goin’?” said a cyborg-looking guy with the head of a goose, while standing up very slowly out of his chair. As he stood, you could distinctly hear the whirr of microprocessors in his metallic, industrial-looking limbs. He had an incredible mess of varicolored tubes and wires weaving in and around his body, and also, as I may have already mentioned, he had the head of a goose. He lopsidedly waddled toward me, metal hand outstretched in, assumedly, an attempt at a handshake. My mind could not keep up with what the heck was going on.
Second Place Story Entry Grades 9-12 
Gabrielle Chirco, (Beverly High School student) 
for "Down by the Dock"
The wind whistles and snakes through the trees, coercing the branches to do their own slow dance. It plucks the leaves off of their branches and Ella watches as they elegantly drift and twirl to the ground. She continues to stroll down in the direction of a small wooden dock. It’s a private dock in a suburban town on a small, quiet lake. The dock is somewhat dilapidated with exposed, rusted nails and splintered boards from years of neglect but Ella doesn’t mind. As she reaches the edge of the dock, Ella sits, careful to avoid the broken planks, takes off her flip flops and dips her feet into the cool autumn water. She watches as the setting sun turns the lake a vibrant red-orange. 

The dock was Ella’s favorite place to be. It was her own quiet sanctuary where she could simply relax with a good book or admire the beauty of the perfectly still lake. The only disturbance of the flat water was from the occasional fish jumping and sending small ripples over the previously flat surface. 

As the sun falls below the horizon, the sky is replaced by a glowing full moon and a sea of stars. She sees a vaguely blue light begin to shine behind her. Thinking it was Bob, a resident on the lake who didn’t like non-residents being on the dock, she quickly jumped to her feet bracing herself for Bob’s booming voice to scold her. When the scolding never came and she mustered up the courage to open her eyes, she found that no one was there. She looked around in every direction looking for movement or light of any kind, but saw nothing. After another moment of searching, she sat back down. Seconds later, the light shines again. This time, it was brighter and the breath of someone on Ella’s neck sent goosebumps flying down her arms.