Thursday, July 31, 2014

Extra! Extra! Amercia's Next Great Author Volume Three! (Weeks 4 and 5)

There is a reason I am combining weeks four and five. Number one is because both weeks I submitted a nonfiction essay for the assignment. I think nonfiction is one of my best areas of writing and I love writing it; it was the only weeks last year that I actually did half-decent. I’m really used to writing essays for school, college and scholarship essays and other things like that, so nonfiction essays come easy to me.
Number two is because I don’t feel comfortable sharing my week four assignment. The prompt was titled The Struggle is Real and we were tasked to write about a personal struggle we faced in life. There weren’t a whole lot of things for me to pick from because I haven’t faced really any big struggles in my life yet. The content of my entry isn’t really something I want to share with everyone. I used a personal problem and I’m not sure if I’m proud of writing it or not.  The funny part is that I did however end up placing second (only one point away from tying with first) in this week’s prompt. I do think that my essay was written very well and I am proud of the technique behind it, but I’m not so sure about the essay itself. I ended up over-dramatizing a lot of things, to the point where I was talking about a problem that I really didn’t face so I think that if I shared it, it would give a false representation of myself. Overall, Lori won the week, myself placing in second, Avahline in third, and Mckinley was eliminated because he didn’t submit a piece.

I will however share my week 5 essay. In honor of the Fourth of July, we had to write either an essay or short story about/set in our home state. I ended up writing about my time as a Mackinac Island Governor’s Honor Guard. This week was the week my old troop was up in Mackinac serving and this year was my first year in a while I would not be going to Mackinac and I wrote the essay reflecting back on my experience and what I loved about the island.
Lori won the week (yet again xD), Adam placing in second, Avahline in third, and Destini was eliminated.

Below is my week 5 essay:
Being able to watch four different firework shows simultaneously on the Fourth of July while sitting atop the ramp leading up to Fort Mackinac is a sight that very few people ever get to see. Looking out over the edge of the fort as the lights on the Mackinac Bridge brightly twinkle in the distance while a display of colorful fireworks light up the night sky is a sight that’s truly hard to forget.
Sure, hundreds of people visit the fort during the day and take pictures of the beautiful view overlooking Lake Huron, but seeing that same view at night is something completely different. It’s almost magical. Main Street which was once bustling with tourists carrying bags full of fudge is now calm and empty, with only a few street cleaners roaming the street. The ferries are all docked back in Mackinaw City, and the lake is calm and quiet as it reflects the colors of the fireworks that light up the sky.
Only the few soldiers who work the fort during the summer, a select few people who pay enough money to receive access to the fort at night, and about forty teenage girls get to see that sight ever year. I was lucky enough to be one of those forty teenage girls, for four years in a row.
“Which ones are you going to watch this year?” I can almost hear my friend Sarah ask me. I imagine myself and my other friends sitting along the top of the ramp, doing our best to avoid the spider ridden flag poles. The night is cool with a gentle breeze blowing in from the lake as we try to find the best place to sit to see as many of the shows as we can.
“The Mackinaw City show is always the best,” I imagine myself responding.
“But they’re so far away you can barely see them.”
“I’ve never even actually seen the ones in St. Ignace.”
“And Round Island always blocks the Turtle Island ones.”
“I hope the island ones are better this year. They are the most convenient to watch in the first place.”
That’s how the conversation plays out every single year while we waited for the fireworks to start. This is my first time in four years I won’t be there on the island to witness them or be able to talk to my friends about them. It’s a strange feeling, knowing that for the first time in what seems like an eternity, I won’t be there to witness an event that has had a tremendous impact on my life. 
The Mackinac Island Governor’s Honor Guard is something most people – even those who live in Michigan – don’t even know exists. It’s consists of various troops of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts from Michigan who were handpicked to alternate weeks working service hours at the fort. The troop I became a part of, the Royal Oak troop, was lucky enough to get the opportunity serve during the week of the July Fourth each year. Of course, working the Fourth of July week comes with many more responsibilities, including working a shift two hours longer than usual, and having to learn a long and very tedious flag folding ceremony, but all the hard work pays off in the end.
I first joined the troop in the fall of eight grade after hearing about it from someone I knew at school. At the time I didn’t really see the point to it. It didn’t seem like fun at all and I didn’t understand why people would volunteer to stand still for three hours while getting burnt in the sun. Even while thinking all of that, I joined anyway, basically because it would look good college applications.
So, my mom went and bought the hideous green uniform with shorts that didn’t fit right, knee high socks that cut off my circulation, and a jacket they never let your wear when it was cold out. I spent the next school year driving forty minutes away – an hour in the winter – to attend three hour meetings every other week about how to march in step, raise and lower flags, and most importantly, how to stand still while on guard duty for three hours, something that to this day I am still no good at. We marched into the middle of the city on the days the weather was decent and got stared at by passing runners like we were some kind of strange green caterpillar.
When the time came around to actually go to the island, I did not want to go. The only things you could take with you were whatever you could fit in a three by three foot plastic box, and there were no electronic devices allowed. The day we left for the island, I got up at four in the morning and we set off on a five and a half hour bus ride, cramped, and noisy the entire way there.
I cried my first two nights there, and I had good reason to. The place was run like a military school. Wake up at six in the morning, get ready, eat breakfast, and then bunk inspection before setting off to raise flags at nine. All of your belongings need to be shoved back into your plastic box, nothing on the floor, and everything had to look presentable, even though no visitors were allowed in the barracks in the first place. I told myself I wasn’t going to come back ever again, but that changed soon enough. Well, four years later and I was still going to Mackinac and designated as a patrol leader with extra leadership responsibilities.
My friends were a big part of the reason why I came back every year. I only saw them at the meetings and that one week out of the year, and yet, they had become some of my best friends, but they weren’t the only reason.
It started at the end of my first year while I was watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July, and it continued to grow from each year on after that. I started to feel a personal connection to the island; it started to feel like a second home to me, even thought I was only there a week out of the year. There’s an aura to the island that’s hard to explain. It’s almost as if the entire island is frozen in history. The rest of the world keeps on changing and progressing, but Mackinac Island still stays the same as it was years ago. No cars allowed with horses and bikes as the main source of transportation. It’s laid back, but not to the point where everyone is too lazy to want to walk up “killer hill” to go visit the fort. It’s a strange sight to see Governor Rick Snyder wearing a Life is Good shirt while relaxing with his family on the porch of the governor’s residence, but at the same time it reminded me that he’s no different than the other tourists on the island. They went to visit to take day off to relax with their family, and that’s exactly how he was. The island was a place where people can take a step back from the world and appreciate simpler things in life.
            Every person I’ve met who’s had the chance to spend a week in the Honor Guard program has felt the same personal connection to the island. I remember the disappointment I felt when I realized the annual baseball game wasn’t going to be held the week I was on the island, the outrage when we noticed they had put a Starbucks on Main Street – taking away from the island’s historic antiquity – and how I was overjoyed when the state decided to spend money to refurbish the extremely underappreciated but just as important Fort Holmes. 
            It’s strange to think that an island only eight miles in circumference impacted my view on the State of Michigan more than the entire Lower Peninsula itself. It brings in tourists from not only all over the country, but from all over the world. I still don’t really understand why people come from miles and miles away to see a small island with nothing on it but one street full of cute stores, a large hotel without air-conditioning, a fort, and a couple golf courses.
            Maybe it’s because they see the same thing that I see in the island. A place so close to the ever changing world with its technology and brand names, but still secluded from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, stuck in a simpler time period where people didn’t have to check their Twitter every five minutes. Of course, it’s not so outdated that people see it as a floating ghost town, but it keeps enough of its history to seem authentic.
            When I close my eyes I can almost imagine the fireworks lighting up the sky. The Mackinaw City ones always extravagant, but tiny off in the distance, the Turtle island ones just peeking out over the top of Round Island, the boom of St. Ignace ones going off from the Upper Peninsula from the opposite side of the island, and the Mackinac Island ones, never as extravagant as the others, but always the biggest in the sky. It’s a sight I might never get the chance to see again in my life time, but one I will be sure to never forget.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Extra! Extra! America’s Next Great Author Volume 3! (Week 3)

It occurred to me that I should inform you of the other contestants in this competition. There started off with thirteen of us. Myself, Tierra, Victoria, Avahline, Lori, Adam, Isabel, Destini, Mckinley, Marvin, Fiona, Stephanie G, and Stephanie U. Both Stephanies, and Fiona never ended up submitting work for the first week and all got eliminated then. Marvin never submitted for the second week and then was eliminated at that time. So, during week three, there were nine of us left.

This week I found to be rather fun. The prompt for this week was to write a parable, fable, and fairy/tall tale set in modern time.

I already knew what I wanted to write for the fable because I had actually started the idea about a year ago when I was in Poetry and Short Story class. Fables always include animals and the most common modern animal I could think of was the squirrel, which I ended up using for the fable. The parable came to me after remembering a parable from the Bible (the one about a boy who could pick ears of corn from a field and the father he went down the line, the bigger they got, so he didn’t pick any hoping they would get bigger, and he eventually ended up with nothing in the end) and then thinking of way to make it modern. I ended up applying the stock market to it, a very modern concept. The fairy tale was a lot harder, but I thought of the idea after thinking about archetypical fairy tale characters. I also began to think about Disney Channel movies and the stupid things they do sometimes to try to add magic to everyday situations, and that’s how I eventually ended up with my fairy tale.

I don’t have much to say about this week. It wasn’t really hard and it wasn’t really easy either. I did end up getting third place over all for the week challenge though, which I consider and accomplishment. In last year’s season, I had never placed in the top three, so I found that to be a step up for me. Lori won the week’s challenge, Avahline placing in second, myself in third, and Isabel was eliminated.

Below are my three stories for the week.

A Nutty Situation (Fable)

In a small suburb on a street by the name of Westfield lived a small community of squirrels. They made their homes in the sycamore trees that grew on the front lawns of the many houses where humans resided. When the leaves had just started to change colors, the squirrels began to gather nuts for the upcoming winter.
            On this street there lived one particular squirrel by the name of Chester who was very smart and began to store food for the winter months ahead of the others. His home was already sufficiently stocked with the food his family needed, but he insisted to continue foraging in case they had a long winter, common in the region.
            One day, a squirrel with a lame leg and a family of his own to support approached Chester and his home.
            “My good friend,” he said to Chester as he scampered up to him. “You have a massive store of nuts for yourself and your family. Surely you can spare me a small portion of your supply. I am not as strong as I used to be and cannot gather enough nuts to support my family.”  
            Chester, considered his words for only a second. Thinking of himself first he responded to him harshly.
            “No, I cannot spare any of my supply. I must think of myself and my family before I help others.”
            Saddened by his response, but also understanding his reasoning, the other squirrel slowly scampered away back to his own tree, wondering how he would find enough food for his family.
            Many other squirrels approached Chester in the fall season, all asking for only a small portion of his supply. They would tell him things such as:
            “Surly you can spare only a few nuts!”
            “You must think of the community as well!”
            “You’ve hogged all of the nuts in the entire neighborhood!”
            But in the end, he gave all of them the exact same response. “I cannot spare any of my supply. I must think of myself and my family before I help others.”
            So the fall came to an end and the leaves turned brown and fell from their home in the trees.
As Chester approached his home from his last scavenging journey and attempted to place the last few nuts into his home, he realized that he had collected so many nuts they had had completely blocked the entrance to his house! He scratched at the entrance, squeaking to alert his wife and kids to clear the entrance for him, but they could not hear him through the immense wall of nuts blocking the way.
He traveled to each tree along the street asking for assistance, but everyone was already shut in their houses for the winter and would not answer him. He tried and he tried, but no one would answer his cries for help, realizing he would have to face the cold winter alone without the supply of nuts he had been too greedy to share.

Up and Up (Parable)
Bill Smith was a business man who his free time playing the stock market. At his job he envied saw his superiors with expensive watches and driving around in Lamborghinis, and he played the stocks hoping to one day earn himself enough money to buy the same things they could afford.
One day while browsing through the NASDAQ he came across the stock for a budding electronics company called of L-COMP. Its stock was only valued for four dollars and ninety-six cents currently, but it had slowly and steadily rose for the last two months. Smith saw potential in the company and therefore bought one hundred shares, hoping that his investment would one day pay off.
Over time the stock steadily rose, but at very small increments. At the end of that year, a share was only valued at six dollars and five cents, barely rising in price. Giving up hope in the company, he planned on selling it the next day, taking whatever small earnings he may have made.
However, Smith woke up the next morning and went about his usual routine checking the stocks only to find that the price of one share of L-COMP and drastically risen overnight to eleven dollars and thirty-nine cents, almost doubling in value. Surprised and elated by the sudden rise in price, Smith decided to hold onto the stock to see if it would rise in price in even more.
He observed the price almost constantly as it continued to rise up and up and up with each passing week, now being sold for over twenty-five dollars. Ecstatic by his decision to purchase the stock at such a low price, he put off selling his shares hoping for the day when L-COMP would rise to its peak. Speaking to himself, he made himself a promise, simply stating:
“I will sell my shares once it reaches fifty dollars.”
Unfortunately, greed soon consumed him to the point where he refused to sell his share in the company. The day came around when the stock reached fifty dollars, but he then changed the promise he made to himself.
“The stock is doing so well I might as well wait for when it reaches one hundred dollars to increase my profit further!”
One hundred dollars soon turned into one twenty five, and one twenty five into two hundred. Wanting to make as much money was possible, he refused to sell the stock. He became lazy and checked the stocks less frequently, only about once a week, thinking that his prized L-COMP stock could only rise in price.
The day came two years later when L-COMP went bankrupt and the price of its stock fell so fast, it was down below five dollars in only a week. By the time Smith took notice of the sudden downfall of the company, the stock had dropped to four dollars and forty eight cents, less money than what he had originally paid for it.
He immediately sold his stock, losing money in the process with a heavy head. He continued to think of the various times he could’ve sold the stock and made a great profit.

Five Dollar Wish (Fairy Tale)
The homeless almost constantly lined the streets of New York City, so for Courtney, it wasn’t an unusual site to see an old woman in tattered clothes begging for money on the corner of the street.
“Can you please spare me some money?” the woman pleaded as Courtney walked by. She stopped for a minute in front of the woman. She looked at plastic up in front of her which only held a few coins. She knew the people of New York were greedy, pushing the homeless aside often. Because of this she always liked to give a couple of dollars here and there to people she passed on the street.
While bending down to place a five dollar bill in the plastic cup in front of her, the woman reached out and grabbed hold of her hands.
“Thank you so much for you kindness,” the woman told her looking straight into her eyes. “I wish to return the favor. Tell me, what is your biggest desire?”
“Well,” Courtney began while still staring into the eyes of the woman, unsure of what to think. “I want to make it into Julliard. I auditioned last week, but I don’t have the minimum standard grades and turned in my paperwork late, so I’m afraid my audition was valid.”
The woman smiled back at her with a toothless grin. “What a wonderful wish.” The woman, still clasping onto Courtney’s hands, closed her eyes for a brief moment, almost as if casting a blessing over her. A few moments later, she released her hands and the five dollar bill fell down into the woman’s lap. The woman picked up the bill while still smiling at Courtney.
“You are a very talented girl; you shall have a successful future.” Courtney smiled back at her, unsure of what else to do as she continued her way down the street.
When she was a block away she heard her phone ring. She pulled it out of her purse while quickly answering the call.
“Is this Courtney Miller?” the voice asked.
“Yes it is,”
“My name is Emma Long from the Julliard School of Dance. I am pleased to inform you that we have accepted you into our program for the upcoming year.”
Courtney stopped in her tracks and brought a hand up to her mouth as she muffled a silent scream. People pushed her aside while glancing her way, but Courtney didn’t care.
“Thank you so much!” While still holding the phone to her ear, she ran down the street, wanting to tell the old woman about the good news. However, when she reached the spot where she had met her, she was no longer there, not a trace of her presence left behind.

~ K.M.D.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Unusual Isles Inspired Stories

So, on Figment I am an admin of a group called Capital Contests where we run fun contests and other writing related fun activities. The creator of the group Mimi allowed me to run a contest in the group in order to promote The Unusual Isles. The challenge basically to create a story based off the title The Unusual Isles. They could interpret it any way they wanted to.
            I only ended up getting two entries for the contest, which was disappointing, but it was a close call for me on who I ended up picking as the winner and I wanted to share their stories with you guys!
            I ended up picking Figment user Kindle as the winner of the challenge for her piece Mysterious “the Isles”. It was about a girl who went to a mysterious island against her uncle’s wishes and ultimately gets trapped there forever. When I read it for the first time it automatically intrigued me and the whole story kept me interested. It was written very well with basically no grammar errors I could immediately see. Just by her one piece I could tell that she was a very talented writer and has a lot of writing potential. It’s a very good and quick read and I highly recommend you check it out along with her other works!

Here is a link to Kindle’s story and Figment profile if you want to know more about her:
Kindle's Figment profile -

            The other entry in the contest was by Figment used Jennie F. Lee with her piece The Northern Trident. She took on a spin on the title I never expected to see, but loved at the same time. She wrote about a group of mermaids who had to retrieve a trident from the Shadow Boys who had stolen it from them. The only reason it didn’t win because it lacked the direction that Kindle’s story had and also the development of the main character. Overall I still really enjoyed the piece (I love mermaid stories) and it’s another enjoyable read.

Here’s the links to Jennie’s story and Figment profile to get to know more about her:
Jennie's Figment profile -

Thank you to Kindle and Jennie for their entries and I really did enjoy reading their pieces!