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Secrets in the Forest traveling on winter
Casping shivered as the cold winter wind blew open the curtains

Illustration by Anton Dymtchenko, 13 for "Secrets in the Forest" by Eleyna Rosenthal, 13, published in Stone Soup, November/December 2006.

A note from Jane Levi

I am writing this newsletter—the last of 2018—sitting by a roaring fire in the English countryside with my friend’s dog on one side and a large mug of tea on the other. Bliss! I love the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when almost everyone is still on holiday, I have a pile of new books to read—if I’ve been lucky with my presents—and I can alternate between long walks, cosy fires, and another delicious snack. I hope all of you have your own version of holiday happiness, whichever holidays you celebrate, and that you are experiencing it as another new year approaches.

As well as looking forward to 2019 and making plans for all the new projects we’ll be tackling and work we’ll be publishing next year, the holidays have been a time to reflect on what we accomplished in 2018. It’s quite extraordinary to be able to pile all the magazine issues and books up on the table and see just how many incredible pieces of art, poetry, stories, reviews, and blog posts you all made last year. Congratulations to all of our amazing contributors. Stone Soup would not exist without you, and we are constantly in awe of your creativity and hard work. Thank you!

Last February we published one of my favorite stories of the year: an alternative fairy tale, called “The Waterfall,” by 12-year-old Natalie Warnke. In that story, the fairy-tale princess makes it clear that being a princess isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. For this week’s newsletter, I’ve chosen another kind of fantasy story about a princess: a classic princess-in-trouble-and-in-need-of-rescue (albeit by a rescuer with a twist!). I enjoyed rereading both stories and thinking about the different ways each one approached the genre. It was a useful reminder that there is always a new way to tell an old kind of story.

I also love the illustration that goes with this week’s story, and the way it uses almost every trope of fairy-tale fantasy. It was a strong contender for the cover of our new edition of The Stone Soup Book of Fantasy Stories. Besides being a glorious snow scene, it has a perfectly turreted castle, a magical old-fashioned horse-drawn coach, and a princess with streaming golden hair. Even the feathered hat and moustache of the carriage driver give it a fantastical air!

Perhaps some of you will take inspiration from the drawing or the stories and remake an old story in a new guise. If you do, please send it to Emma via our Submittable link so we can consider it for publication. And, whatever you do to bring in the new year, we wish you all a happy and merry one—and we cannot wait to see what you create in 2019!

Happy new year!

This week on the blog

Don't miss Maya V's thoughtful piece on The Pittsburgh Synagogue, reflecting on how different people respond differently to terrible events.

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Published in Stone Soup,
November/December 2006,
and in the Stone Soup Book of Fantasy Stories

Secrets in the Forest

By Eleyna Rosenthal, 13
Illustrated by Anton Dymtchenko, 13

Casping peered out of the curtains hiding her in the carriage speeding down a gravel road. A guard on the seat beside her grunted and reached over to pull her back inside. With a sigh of grief and understanding, Casping sat back against the silk-covered seat. She hung her head and let the burning sensation behind her eyes ascend. She let her soft blond hair cover her pale, angelic face as she wept.

The carriage took a sharp turn, stopping her in the middle of a sob. She quickly reminded herself this was all for the best. She needed to stay hidden, and stay safe. Death was not an option; she needed to survive long enough to rule her parents’ kingdom. If she did not hide, then surely her family’s enemy, the powerful Rasha, would find and kill her. Casping knew she must accept her fate. Besides, her family must really love her to go to these measures of safety. Casping shivered as the cold winter wind blew open the curtains. She caught a glimpse of frost-covered trees and bushes and wondered what it would be like living in the middle of a deserted forest. At least she would have a cabin to live in and the two guards riding beside her to protect her.

Sighing, now out of boredom and impatience, Casping turned to ask the guard on her right how much longer it would be. Suddenly an arrow came flying through the curtains as they burst into flames. The arrow was on fire! It struck the guard in the chest and he immediately fell. Casping let out a terrified scream, jumping up in panic. She turned to find her left guard was already dead as well. She turned her wide silver eyes to the man who was leading the horses. He was slumped over in the seat, bleeding from a very recent wound.

Casping’s heart seemed to stop, but her mind didn’t. She jumped into the front seat and pushed the body out of the way with a muttered “sorry”. She urged the horses into a full gallop. Racing down a slope, she could hear more arrows being shot towards her, and the orange flames just missing her. As the carriage suddenly erupted into flames, Casping knew she was done for. She saw her only chance of escape to her left. It was a forest, dark and mysterious. Everything seemed to slow down as she jumped out of the carriage. She rapidly undid the leather straps connecting the horses to the carriage and jumped atop the one who was the fastest, Kundra. The other horse ran in the opposite direction, towards the enemy. Casping cringed as she heard it let out a last whinny, but she didn’t stop. She coaxed Kundra into a blinding run towards any ounce of safety the forest held and prayed they’d make it.

The moon was already up by the time Casping was sure she and Kundra were alone. The over-exercised horse’s sides were heaving as he wheezed. Casping staggered off the sweaty black horse.

Tying up Kundra by his bridle, she murmured soft words, “There, there, good boy. It’ll be all right.”  . . . / More

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