Our May Flash Contest was based on Creativity Prompt #151, provided by the brilliant Molly Torinus, challenging participants to come up with five "terrible" book titles and write a story based on one of them. What followed was an avalanche of submissions boasting the most creative, eye-catching titles many of us had ever seen. Of course, the exemplary work that followed the titles broke the moniker of "terrible," and provided us with a lifetime supply of imagination as no one story followed a similar arc. We found ourselves immersed in dramas set in the far reaches of outer space, character driven vignettes set in a classroom, rich narratives told from the perspective of a dog, and much, much more. A big thank you to all who submitted this month; it was a pleasure to read all of your work.
In particular, we congratulate our Winners and our Honorable Mentions, whose work you can appreciate below.
"The BWBM Students" by Ritobroto Roy Chowdhury, 10, (Riverside, CA)
"T.L.G.E.Y.5.T." by Darren Fisher, 9, (Portland, OR)
"Connecticutians, I Ate the Grape" by Rex Huang, 11, (Lake Oswego, OR)
"The Book Without a Name" by Serena Lin, 10, (Scarsdale, NY)
"The Pheasant Was Delicious" by Juliet D. Simon, 11, (Santa Monica, CA)
"Once Upon a Time a Friendship" by Sophia Wong, 9, (Short Hills, NJ)
"Chocotalia and Hideous Dragon Monster" by Sophie Liu, 9, (Surrey, BC)
"When a Chicken Says 'SQUAWK!'" by Olivia Luan, 11, (Great Falls, VA)
"Cats, Dogs, Dragons, and Other Household Pets" by Atalie Lyda, 12, (Portland, OR)
"You Are NOT Reading This Book Cover" by Joycelyn Zhang, 11, (San Diego, CA)
The BWBM Students
Ritobroto Roy Chowdhury, 10
Hello, I am Mr. Wats. I have a class of very, very, very, very, very, very different 3rd graders. This is a review of school and their life from their perspective.
School? What school. I’m John. Do not like school. No read. Bad write. Annoying math. That school. I tough. I known as bully. John big. Known as bully. First bad write. Second annoying math. Third horrible grammar. Only lunch recess. School BAD. BAD stand for Boring, Annoying, Dumb. I bully. Recess I say to Johnny. You dumb because you love school. Get it? BAD. Last letter stand for Dumb and Johnny like school. Move on to Johnny Mr. Wats.
I love school. School’s the best. I read John’s section. I can hear you. You’re saying that John’s section has horrible grammar. I agree. My section is going to have way better grammar than John’s. Here are some things you should know about me.
1. I’m Johnny
2. I love school
3. I love math
4. I love grammar 5. I love school
Hopefully now you know a little more about me. There’s just 1 thing I didn’t include on the list. You may be wondering what it is. I love reading. Yep. That’s it. You know almost everything about me now. Since I have to make this a little more interesting and longer I’ll talk about other things. Did you know that the cafeteria food is the best food in the world in my opinion? The pepperoni pizza is delicious and anyone who says it’s not, they’re wrong. Well, Mr. Wats says that I can go to recess now. BYE!
Since I don’t want to make this long, I made a list of everything you should know about me.
1. I’m Rick Dodder
2. I’m always late to school
3. Recess is my favorite thing about school 4. I’m lazy
5. I don’t do my chores
6. I have glasses
7. I play video games
8. I watch TV
9. I don’t like Johnny or John
Those are the things you should know about me. Any questions? Send me an email at...
“Rick your time is up!”
Oh that’s Mr. Wats. Well, I guess you’ll never get to know my email.
You’ll never guess my name. What do you thing it is? Sure, it’s spelled J O R G E but how do you think you’re supposed to pronounce it? If you guessed George you’re wrong. If you guessed Hor-hay you’re right! If you took Spanish lessons or know Spanish or Portuguese then you should have had no problem. If you pronounced it wrong I suggest you take Spanish lessons. I have lots of siblings. 2 older twin brothers, 1 sister in college, a younger sister, and baby brother. My sister goes to college in Northern California. My twin older brothers both go to Martin Luther King Jr. High School. As you know, I go to 3rd grade and my younger sister is in kindergarten. My baby brother goes to daycare if you call daycare a school. Now that you know about me I better get to recess.
My name is Ronald. Ron for short. I have ADHD. That is what makes me unique. I have special conditions and it makes me unique. John bullies me about having ADHD but I like to think of my ADHD as a unique piece of me. By the way, if you didn’t know what ADHD is, it stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Honestly, ADHD isn’t too bad. It can help you sometimes. I don’t know if this was a symptom of ADHD, but when I was five and my parents were teaching my brothers how to cut with a knife I was standing nearby on a stool to watch. One of my brothers started cutting wildly and the knife nearly gave me a haircut. If I hadn’t been full of energy I would have probably gotten a haircut. At the last second, I ran crazy. I don’t know if that’s a normal reaction to getting a haircut with a knife or if it was a problem because I had ADHD, but I like to think it was because of my ADHD because it gives me a reason to like my uniqueness even more. And now 3, 2, 1.
“TIMES UP RON!”
I wrote down what he said since Rick wrote down what he said. Sometimes it’s nice not doing something unique.
FINALLY, Mr. Wats didn’t want to put up any girls till later since he was scared we would bore the audience to death by talking about dolls and stuff but if you ask me the girls’ sections will be way, way, way better than the boys’ sections. I read a few of the boy’s sections and they are so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so BORING. Literally, I could take up my entire section on reasons why the boy’s paragraphs are completely BORING. If you’re wondering why BORING is in capitals all the time, it’s because I like the word BORING and I want to emphasize my point. See, my section is already more interesting than all the boys’ sections combined. Anyway, I’ll finish up my section in a few seconds. After all Mr. Wats says it only has to go till the end of this page. What else can I write? After all, the page, sadly, still isn’t over. I want to get back to recess, which is why I’m trying to end my section. Still not finished!? DONE!!!!
Hello again. I feel like ending the book now but one more student wants to write about his life.
Hello, I’m Tartan. I’m CLASS PRESIDENT!!!! Sadly, this school just thinks of Class President as a TITLE. Only a title. Can you believe it!!! The Class President should have the power of the TEACHER. I should be able to give everyone extra homework and give myself no homework. I should be able to fire the teacher!! I don’t get any of these RIGHTS. I should be able to end this class. What’s the point of a title if you can’t do anything with it!!! Anyway, if you have any ideas on how to get power as Class President then I’ll be happy to take them. Either way, recess is over and now I have to make everyone get in line. That’s the only “power” I get as Class President. I don’t even call it a power. I call it a chore.
That’s the official end so until someone gives me another idea for a book that I can get my class involved in, I need to actually do some TEACHING.
Darren Fisher, 9
Once upon a time, there was an alien named T.L.G.E.Y.5.T., which stood for Terrorist Little Gun Extinguishes You Five Times. He was an alien from the planet Tonco and when he woke up, he ate romberries for breakfast. It took so long that when he was done, it was lunch time. He ate chocolate noodles for lunch. When he was done with lunch, it was dinner time so he ate bork chops and after that, he went to bed.
He was an alien with big dreams. He wanted to be the ruler of planet Earth. He didn’t think it would be too hard because planet Tonco is 200,000 times bigger than planet Earth. But he was the only one on planet Tonco and there were about 7.6 billion people on Earth. His solution was to grab all the spare metal and build a rocket to fly to planet Ufendus and steal the extinguisher five times gun. People on Earth had six lives so if he extinguished them five times, he could threaten them to do whatever he wanted because people would only have one life left.
After he built his rocket, he realized that he didn’t have any gas to fuel the rocket to planet Ufendus and Earth. He called his friend from planet Lanong to ask if he could borrow some chimpanzee beans. Once he received the chimpanzee beans, you know how it goes: “beans, beans, what a magical food, the more you eat, the more you toot.” He ate it for four days non-stop and he got enough toot power to fuel the rocket to planet Ufendus. Once he landed, he painted himself blue to look like the other aliens on planet Ufendus. He passed the guards to steal the extinguisher five times gun and got away with it. He had 0.5 miles of fuel left when he landed on planet Earth. He said to himself: it’s okay because I never plan to go back to planet Tonco.
“Wait,” he said. “How am I going to extinguish 7.6 billion people? That’s like defeating twenty Znillas." (Znillas are the most powerful alien of all. They weigh 20 million pounds and can smash you with their pinky finger.) He had an idea to kidnap the smartest person in the world, Bill Gates. He traveled with the last 0.5 miles of toot fuel to Seattle, where Bill Gates lived. He made it there with exactly 0.01 miles left. He kidnapped Bill Gates with his extinguisher gun. T.L.G.E.Y.5.T. asked Bill Gates to make more extinguisher guns. Bill made 1 billion more extinguisher guns. T.L.G.E.Y.5.T. extinguished the whole town of Seattle and made all of its people his slaves. He moved on to Portland, Oregon and did the same. All the slaves he made helped him kidnap people from other continents: North America, South America, then Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the few people in Antarctica. He pushed the Queen of England off her chair and sat on it.
After he conquered Earth, he felt as marvelous as a king getting served with chocolates. The plan worked out so well. He jumped up with joy and hit the ceiling. An absolutely brilliant thought came to his brain: “I can conquer every planet in the universe!” To be continued......
Connecticutians, I Ate the Grape
Rex Huang, 11
Remember the first time you brought home a bag of grapes? And how you didn't dare to leave one on the floor for your dog? Yeah, that's how it goes in the Marlin family. They don’t just love grapes, they worship them! But no grapes on the floor, or the dog will die from a sudden and comedic heart attack! So, it would be super hard for me to get one. I’m Howard by the way. I’m the Marlins cute fuzzy wuzzy golden retriever! And give me a million years, I could not imagine a finer food to eat than a juicy, sweet, crunchy green grape. Well, besides ol' Al the Cat. The last one I found had rolled under the couch while they were watching Jimmy Neutron for the 5th time, while eating, conceivably, grapes! They didn't even take me outside to sniff the other dogs urine! How rude! Anyway, the point is that when Jimmy said a joke, Maria laughed and turned a blind eye toward her grape which she dropped! A grape! Can you believe it? What luck! Anyway, I didn’t dare take it now as they would absolutely scold me for the rest of the night. While they were leisure loving, they were stern. So very stern. So, I spent the night staring at their hot red wallpaper, trying to keep in what I just saw. After they had turned off the lights and sniffed the last scent of Sam’s toothbrush and turned the lights off, it was my turn to start. To me, a green round grape is impossible to miss. Not only because of my renowned smell, but because the house is so neat. Molly the mom of the whole house, insists that everything be neat. I can still remember one day when I went upstairs and took a nap on their bed, and then when I woke up my t-shirt pillow was gone! So was every piece of loose clothing, stashed away into the closet. One time I saw Maria drop a lego when she was young, didn't pick it up, and got a spanking! It was one of the small red studs that matched perfectly with the fake carpet that I always chew on! But the grape went unnoticed. Anyway, it was a short trek to the grape, past Sam’s awful paintings (Sure I’m colorblind but even I can see that he put way too much navy blue into the jackets; there’s this big glob coming out of the painting), and past Melody’s desk where she sits all day solving math problems or whatever. Under the old mahogany couch unobstructed was, behold, a thoroughly shielded with dust green grape. Not the mushy type Sam complains about, too. Crunchy and so very sweet, it was a fruity flavor bomb as the saliva dissolved the grape. But with the crunch of the grape sinking into my teeth folding the skin on either side, there was another crunch. Of Molly coming downstairs to check on the commotion. And a shriek. I looked up to find her mouth hung wide open, as if she wanted to say a million things but couldn’t bring out a single one to bear. And then she exploded. “Get that grape right out of your mouth this instant,” she yodeled for the whole world awake at 11:47 to hear and soon I heard her feet sliding their way into those magenta slippers. I did the only thing I could and walked over to her and stared at her with black beady puppy dog eyes. Her face was pale blue with the tiniest tint of red. She didn't look very angry, but she looked like she was going to faint from perturbation. From the look of her ashen face, it was clear that she recognized that the vet was not open for business at these hours. She would just have to wait it out. Instead of a scolding, I just got a lot of hugging, and worried looks from the warm amber stare of her eyes and her beating heart against my chest. But I made it out okay. After all it was just one grape, not a whole box. 10/10 I would do this again any day, beam me up scotty delicious. Oh, yeah, and don’t even get me started on the looks I got when the next morning I spoke, “Connecticutians, I ate the grape”.
The Book Without a Name
Serena Lin, 10
The girl scoured the shelf for something to read. Something, anything, that could take her mind off her brother, sent to the hospital for breaking his leg. Suddenly, a book caught her eye. The cover was plain and ordinary, a hard texture and the color of royal blue, unlike all others. Strangely, there wasn’t a title nor an author written on it.
The story carried the tale of another world in another universe, one she would do good to know about. But before the girl even got to scan the first page, there was a flash of lightning. Nearly a second later, she heard a deafening roar of thunder.
The girl, hyperventilating, fell to her knees. Seeing the roof caving in in slow motion, she clutched the book, not speaking to anyone, and whimpered, “Take me away.” And so the book did, whisking her inside the story entirely.
The girl opened her eyes to a dull gray sky. Strangely, she had no idea what her name was, where she had come from, and how she had gotten there. She had no memory of anything whatsoever.
There were people in the distance, so the girl walked over to a young mother with her toddler-aged child. “Hello, miss, where are we?” the girl asked, staring. She couldn’t help but notice that the mother, at around 30, had gray hair.
It probably wasn’t genetic, because the son had black hair... but why was her hair gray at such a young age? She had gray eyes, as well as a white tee-shirt with long black slacks. And when the girl’s eyes traveled to the faces of the people, she was surprised to see frowns and moody looks.
The mother looked at the girl quizzically. “You haven’t been here your whole life? Most of us have. Well, this is the World Without Color.” Well, that explains the dull colors, the girl thought.
The mother continued, asking, “How’d you get here? You surely need a name. I’m in charge of naming everyone in the World Without Color. I’m the Mother Without Confidence. Some of us are Without Happiness or Without Friends.”
The girl scratched her head a little. She asked herself, How did I get here, again? But no matter how much she thought about it, she couldn’t come up with an answer. “I honestly don’t remember. I don’t remember my name, either. I don’t remember anything, not really.”
The Mother Without Confidence gasped. “How perfect! The Girl Without Memories! Well, I should be getting along. I must change the number in our census and write your name.”
And so the Girl Without Memories was introduced into the World Without Color. She wandered back to where she was before, totally lost in this new place. And that’s when she noticed a book. It was a royal blue hardcover, but it didn’t have a title nor an author written on it.
That’s familiar... but where do I remember it from? The Girl Without Memories thought. Of course, with no memories, she couldn’t remember. But when she picked it up, she found some text on the lower left corner that clearly wasn’t there before.
The Girl Without Memories read, To restore more than just colors of the world, there is something you must acquire. Find that object and bring it here, then you shall get what you desire. It was a rhyme, but it evidently had meaning. The Girl Without Memories didn’t know why she somehow trusted the book, but she did, and decided to do what it said.
The Girl Without Memories thought, but what am I supposed to find that will fulfill my dreams? Right at that moment, the previous words dissolved into nothing and the book now was writing new text. The words now said, An silver feather of a bird, wholly taken. Put it here before ten days, and a new world will awaken.
A silver feather... where could she find those? The Girl Without Memories scurried up to another pedestrian, one with an even deeper frown than the Mother Without Confidence. “Excuse me, where can I find a bird with silver feathers?”
The man looked down at the Girl Without Memories. “A bird? Well, you must look in the Forest Without Humans, of course. All the animals live there. But silver feathers, you should look in the section of Forest Without Ground Animals.”
“Could you point me in the direction of the Forest Without Ground Animals? I’m new here, not very used to this area,” the Girl Without Memories’s hopes soared, knowing she was already a step closer to finding the bird feather.
The man looked surprised, his frown slowly evaporating. “New? Well, then, the Forest Without Humans is just a few blocks from here. You’re sure to see it. A bunch of fog, huge gates... and the Without Ground Animals section will be the first one.”
The Girl Without Memories thanked him, and the man’s mouth turned up a little. “If you’re going to try to find those types of birds, though, tough luck. You won’t be able to get close.”
The Girl Without Memories arrived at the Forest Without Ground Animals without a hitch, but soon she got what the man was saying. The specific type of birds were easy to spot, but they never dropped. They didn’t even get to her head level before they swooped up again.
But there was one peculiar bird that did like to fly low, and the birds with silver feathers liked to be around him. It was a huge bird, with strong wings and sturdy legs. Suddenly, he made a gesture toward her, then to himself. The Girl Without Memories’ eyes widened, and so she climbed aboard, holding on tight.
The birds flocked this one bird, so the Girl Without Memories reached one hand out and took a small, whole, feather from one bird, and got off. The Girl Without Memories went outside the Forest Without Humans, took out her book, and placed the feather on the book. She thought triumphantly, item acquired. Immediately, the feather disappeared and a new line of text appeared.
The Girl Without Memories read, Fifty things you must name and bring to me, before dawn of tomorrow. A new world will emerge right then, without grief and sorrow. The sky was already getting darker by the minute, and the white sun was starting to lower, so she quickly plucked a blade of gray grass and put it on the book, and with confidence, spoke, “Terra.” The grass was swallowed up.
The Girl Without Memories then walked over to a few black-and-white flowers and named them, “Charlie, Flora, and Iris”. She continued naming things and placing them on the book. With a few hours to spare, she placed her last item (a basket named Carrie) and let it be swallowed up.
Right at the moment, a bag that wasn’t there a few seconds ago appeared in her hand, and inside were a handful of seeds. Silver seeds, with the same woven pattern of Carrie, shade of Terra, and texture of Charlie, Flora, and Iris. Curiously, the Girl Without Memories opened the bag. In her haste, she dropped a seed on the ground. And the most miraculous thing happened.
The gray grass seemed to pulse with excitement and green, lush green, came seeping through the gray from the root of the blade of grass to the tip. In the distance, all grass started turning green. Excited, The Girl Without Memories threw a seed at a nearby tree. Sepia brown took over the black of the trunk, and the leaves started turning all sorts of colors. All of the trees now had color.
Transfixed by such color, The Girl Without Memories started handing the seeds to everyone she saw, explaining what it could do. It turned hair blonde and brunette, not just black. But the most amazing thing was that whenever she finished handing out all of her seeds, more appeared in her hands. And finally, such vivid colors erupted from the world, until everything was full of color.
Finally, The Girl Without Memories turned back to the book. She was the last one still in black- and-white. So one last seed appeared in her hand, and she placed it on her head. Blonde hair flowed from her scalp, her skin turned tan, and something strange happened. Suddenly, The Girl Without Memories remembered something. There was a sudden thunderstorm... the book I was holding took me away... and her memories returned, fresh, as if they had never gone.
So a new line of words appeared. You have your memories back, so you do not have a valid name. Name yourself, the world, and for me, please do the same. So The Girl Without Memories took on a final task of naming the world, herself, and the book. She named the world after her home state. “Color-ado.” Then, she reached into her memories and remembered. “My name is Evangeline.”
And then, at last, Evangeline announced to the book. “As for you, I shall name you...”
Evangeline opened her eyes to the library, looking around at the tattered roof and the knocked-over bookshelves. Was it all a daydream, or was it real? But when she looked down, in her hands laid a royal blue hardcover with no name and no author.
The Pheasant Was Delicious
Juliet D. Simon, 11
“The pheasant was delicious.” That was the last sentence I uttered before I died. Do not ask me to recount my death for you; I have no need to look back upon it. “It could be worse, you’re only dead,” was the first thing that came through my lips when the ordeal was over. I had never been afraid of death. No, no, death was nothing. It was natural. But as for how I left the Earth... that was a different matter. I could only hope to die gloriously in a battle I had no intention of fighting in. Or, second to that, wittily stabbed in the back or something other than natural causes, which seemed far too ordinary for such a person as me. But no. I died because of Lola. And I would come back to haunt her.
My nonbeing crept down the docks, looking for Lola’s ship. Lola. A sore subject, and not just because she killed me. She was daft, thinking she knew the ways of the world, and greeting foreign ambassadors in the wrong tongues. She was so utterly foolish, I overlooked her, and that was my downfall.
Lola’s ship... It failed to surprise me that her watercraft soared above the others. I strode up the gangplank, for why should I try to be invisible when no one could see me anyway? I had no need for the deck, and marched down to her quarters in the hull. I could hear her voice. Good, she was here. Inside, the room was dark and smelled strongly of the smoky, cloying scent of blackberry candles. Lola was taking her tea. Even better. She would die as I had, by the hands of poison. I drew the vial from my pocket, a bit of the wine she had given me, and waited.
A noise came from the side of the room and she rose to inspect it, revealing a ludicrous pink dressing gown with low-flung ruffles, as though the seamstress had tossed them on with a careless hand. I brought the vial to the rim of the cup. A drop would do. She came back, tossing her auburn hair over her shoulder and took a sip of the tea. I laughed.