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An author of several very popular young adult novels, Laurie Halse Anderson, put up a writing challenge on her blog at the beginning of August.  The challenge: write for 15 minutes a day, every day in August.  I decided to accept this challenge because even though I love to write I haven’t been making time to do it on a regular basis.  So I took up the challenge and so far, I’ve written every day in August.

Some days are easier than others.  Some nights I’m so exhausted that it’s all I can do to drag myself to the computer or to pen and paper.  But it’s been really fun, rewarding, creative, and I’ve learned a few things. 

Laurie puts up writing prompts every day on her blog to help us if we get stuck in knowing what to write about.  I’ve used quite a few of them and come up with some interesting and crazy stuff (and some of it was actually good).  Yesterday’s prompt was to choose a fairy tale and write your own modern or twisted version.  I started this assignment last night so tired that I could hardly keep my eyes open.  I just wanted to get the 15 minutes over with and go to bed (and this was at 8pm.  I was tired!).  But I started having so much fun that I ended up writing for an hour.

Due to popular request, I’m putting it up here.  Be warned, it’s long.  And it’s not the best or most exciting fairy tale you’ll ever read.  But I had fun coming up with a different twist.

Little Red

by Kiirsi Hellewell

Once upon a time, there was a girl who had a normal name but was always called little Red. She was an annoying child. She was always pestering, always whining, never satisfied with anything she had. When her mother spent hours brushing her long, curly golden hair and it lay in shining ringlets down her back she’d complain that it wasn’t a different color. When she got her wish and got a pony for her birthday, she complained that it wasn’t a dolphin. Her breakfast was too cold, her dinner too hot. The only thing she did like was a bright red hooded sweatshirt. She wore it everywhere.

As the years passed, the whining took its toll. Finally, one year her parents got sick of her and sent her to spend the summer with her grandmother. “Enough is enough,” they said. “We’re going to Hawaii on vacation.”

Her grandmother was quite a free spirit. She’d been very much the 60’s flower child. Her house was covered in crocheted things and beads and fringe. She had long bead curtains in every doorway and her daily clothing of choice vacillated between either long, fringed leather vests covering flowered button-ups or a crocheted poncho in mustard yellow. She wore bellbottom pants, of course, and platform shoes. Her neck was always covered in long strings of beads and her long, straight hair fell to her waist. It was more white now than blond but she still liked to wear crazy shades and a headband to complete her outfit.

When Red arrived, she expected life to be pretty nice. After all, she’d heard her parents complain enough about how easy-going and laid-back Grandma was.

But she got quite a surprise. Grandma was a drill sergeant! She wanted Red to clean, make the beds, sweep the floor, and carry in wood for the (ancient!) old black stove so they could cook. Any time she saw Red lying around she’d say “You look bored! I’ve got just the thing for you” and make up another horrid chore.

One day, Red had enough. “Anything’s better than this place,” she said, and took off—not before packing herself a very large backpack of goodies, though, of course. She stuffed it with all sorts of treats, sweets, and other good things—but didn’t think about taking anything to drink. Granny was always trying to get her to drink water but she never touched the stuff if she could help it.

She didn’t bother leaving a note, either. Granny was a slave-driver. She didn’t deserve a note, Red told herself. Red walked confidently into the forest bordering Granny’s property, following a wide trail. She felt sure if she walked for an hour or two the forest would give way to a city. And surely, anyone in the city would take one look at what a wonderful girl she was and want to adopt her, right away, and give her a mansion to live in full of candy and toys.

She was so wrapped up in these visions of her future life that she didn’t notice at first that the path was becoming smaller and smaller and darker and darker. Finally she realized she was terribly thirsty and sat down on a rock to have a snack. She opened her basket and looked inside, temporarily dismayed to find in the mess of crushed and crumbled cakes, candy, and cookies that she had forgotten to pack any cans of soda. “What’ll I do?” she said.

Just then she heard a trickling sound. After listening for a while, she realized it was the sound water outside makes…she’d seen it often in movies. She followed the sound, leaving the path, and blundered through dense bushes and branches until she crashed into a clearing. There, in front of her, was a sweet little cottage with a clear stream flowing past it. She forgot she disliked water in her thirst and ran to the stream. After drinking her fill, she wiped her face off with a corner of her hoodie. Looking in her basket once more, she wrinkled her lips with distaste at the crumbled mess. “Maybe this place has something to eat,” she said, and barged into the house without knocking.

In one corner sat a wolf, rocking and knitting. Wait…a wolf?!? She rubbed her eyes and looked again. “Hello, my dear,” said the old wolf in a quavery voice. “Would you like something to eat?”

Red decided to forget about the strangeness of this situation until she got what she wanted. “Yes, and it better be good,” she grumbled. The old wolf ignored her rudeness and set a plate of good things before her. Red tore into them, making a mess, and finally pushed her chair back, temporarily satisfied.

“That was actually okay, for once,” she announced, patting her stomach.

“I’m glad you liked it, dear,” the wolf said, smiling in a way that made Red feel…nervous, for the first time in her life. Her old lips turned up at the corners, exposing a row of rather gleaming sharp teeth.

Red stood and backed towards the door. “Well, I’d better be…going,” she said, feeling unsure of herself, another first. “My, um…granny…will be worried about me.”

“Oh, I don’t think she will, dear,” the wolf said, smiling even more widely. “She would never recognize you, anyway, even if she could find you.”

“Wha…what do you mean?” Red continued backing until she felt wood behind her. She reached for what she thought was the door.

“Turn around, dear.”

Red turned, though she hated having her back to the wolf. The wood she’d felt wasn’t the door. It was a frame around a large square mirror. When she met her frightened eyes in the mirror she let out a shriek. Staring back at her was a WOLF! A wolf wearing shreds of a red hoodie.

She jumped backward and whipped around. “What have you DONE TO ME?!” she yelled, completely beside herself. “My beautiful golden curls—GONE!”

“You never liked your hair, dear,” the wolf said complacently, rocking and knitting again in the corner.

“My lovely soft peaches-and-cream skin!”

“You always wished it was softer, dear,” said the wolf.

“I didn’t want FUR!” Red screamed, shaking her fists. The wolf just smiled, showing her teeth again.

Though Red raged and shouted, paced and shook, nothing fazed the wolf. She continued to rock and knit long into the night. Finally Red collapsed on the floor, exhausted, and fell into a sobbing sleep. The wolf smiled.

Morning finally arrived. Red awoke, stiff and sore from sleeping on the wooden floor, hoping the last few hours had been just a horrible nightmare. When she lifted her hand and saw a furry paw, everything came flooding back. She began to gear up her lungs for another scream-fest when she remembered all the hours she’d screamed last night. It hadn’t done her any good. And besides, her throat hurt.

She stood up and looked around. The old wolf was gone. Her finished knitting lay on the rocking chair. Red went over and picked it up.

It was a soft new hoodie, sky-blue, and just her size…at least, her old size. Now it wouldn’t even fit over her paw. She set it down and ran out the open door.

In the clearing outside there was a note printed in large block letters under a rock:

“Dear Red,

I had to go hunting for some food today. I’ll be back at dinnertime. In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you would clean the house, weed the garden, and catch some fish to go with dinner.

“Love,

Mama Wolf”

Red crumpled the list under a paw. “Who does she think I am? Her personal slave? First Granny and now her! Well, I don’t think so! I may be a wolf, but I’m going to do whatever I want.”

Red spent the day lazing around in a nearby meadow, picking flowers, and just lying on the soft grass, watching the puffy white clouds drift by. The rumbling of her stomach finally made her get up and mosey back to the cottage in the clearing. Delicious smells coming from the house made her hurry even faster.

She burst into the cottage and was met with a smiling, “Hello, dear. Your dinner is outside.” Before Red knew what was happening, she was outside on the stream bank.

“Of all the…”she spluttered, and ran back in the house. This time she was bounced right back out before she could even blink, and so hard that she landed in the stream. Mama Wolf stood in the doorway, arms folded, smiling, as always.

“You didn’t do what I asked, dear. Since I cleaned the house, caught the fish, weeded the garden, and prepared dinner, I get to enjoy the clean house, hot fish, and garden vegetables. You spent the day doing what you wanted to do, so now you get to spend the night where you spent the day—outside.

“Sleep well, dear.” The smile was the last thing Red saw as the door was firmly closed and bolted from the inside.

She sniffed and hiccupped. “Who wants her smelly old dinner, anyway!” There was something “smelly” on the river bank…a few old wilted carrot tops and some fish bones. Red ignored them as long as she could till hunger drove her to it. “I can’t believe I’m eating this slop!” she moaned.

Two more days of this behavior and reward left a very different Red. Going without food—let alone good food—helped her decide that maybe it was in her best interest to at least attempt the items on Mama Wolf’s list. After a day where she pulled up more vegetables than weeds and her paws were sore from scrubbing the floor and her fur so soaked with water from standing in the stream for hours trying fruitlessly to catch a fish, she hauled her sore, bedraggled self to the stream bank and curled up for the night, as usual. Much to her surprise, the cottage door opened and warm light streamed out. “Come in, dear,” the wolf said, smiling gently. “You’ve earned it tonight.”

The simple, rough bread, onion soup, and tasty trout tasted better than anything she’d ever had. That night as she lay on a blanket on the floor, she felt warm, contented, and for the first time in her life—truly happy.

After several weeks of work and play, one night the wolf kissed her goodnight tenderly. “Sleep well, dear,” she said, smiling still. Red yawned her goodnights and was asleep instantly. She’d worked hard that day.

When morning came and she opened her eyes, things looked different somehow. Then she realized that she wasn’t in the cottage. She was lying on the forest floor, at the starting point of a broad path. When she stretched and got up she shrieked once more in fear and excitement. The paw she’d stretched out wasn’t made of fur anymore—it was a hand! She was a girl again!

She skipped and danced and whirled. “Hurray! I’m me! Hurray!!!” Then suddenly she stopped, her head drooping. “But where is Mama Wolf?” She’d grown fond of the old gray wolf in the past weeks. She looked all around her in the dirt but saw no trace of any animal tracks, wolf or otherwise.

Her steps heavier with sadness, she followed the path. After many hours’ walk she came out of the woods and saw…

…Her granny’s house! “GRANNY!” she screamed, running out of the woods and into the house. Her granny sat in a chair in the corner, crocheting yet another fringed poncho. At the sound of Red’s voice she looked up and smiled, gathering the girl into her arms. “Red! How nice. You’re back.”

Red pulled back and looked at her granny, puzzlement in her eyes. “Granny! I’ve been gone for WEEKS! Weren’t you worried? Have the police been looking for me?”

Granny smiled, her eyes dancing. “Silly Red. Have you been playing another one of your games? You went into the forest just this morning. But look here! A few minutes ago there was a knock at the door and when I opened it, this was on the doorstep with your name on it.”

She handed Red a parcel of squashed brown paper, tied with blue yarn. “RED” was printed carefully on it in large block letters. Red turned it over in her hands, wondering, and then carefully took off the yarn and opened it. She smiled and her eyes grew wet.

Inside was a beautiful, soft, sky-blue hoodie.

 

Copyright 2009 by Kiirsi Hellewell; author retains all story rights.

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I just read on Twitter tonight that there’s a *yearly contest for the worst first sentence in a fake novel.  W-O-W, there are some howlers!  I gasped and choked and snorted until, breathless with laughter, I couldn’t stand it anymore and had to read one to my husband—it was the Spiderman entry that put me over the edge.  Here are my favorites:

 

Detective Pierson mentally reviewed the group of suspects milling around the recent crime scene-two young siblings eating gingerbread, a young girl in a red hoodie, a beautiful girl with narcolepsy, and seven little people with the profession of miners-then gave his statement of "It’s a grim tale" to the press.

Shannon Gray
Wichita, KS

 

No man is an island, so they say, although the small crustaceans and the bird which sat impassively on Dirk Manhope’s chest as he floated lazily in the pool would probably disagree.

Glen Robins
Brighton, East Sussex, U.K.

 

Towards the dragon’s lair the fellowship marched — a noble human prince, a fair elf, a surly dwarf, and a disheveled copyright attorney who was frantically trying to find a way to differentiate this story from "Lord of the Rings."

Andrew Manoske
Foster City, CA

 

On a fine summer morning during the days of the Puritans, the prison door in the small New England town of B—-n opened to release a convicted adulteress, the Scarlet Letter A embroidered on her dress, along with the Scarlet Letters B through J, a veritable McGuffey’s Reader of Scarlet Letters, one for each little tyke waiting for her at the gate.

Joseph Aspler
Kirkland, QC, Canada

 

Mortimer froze in his tracks; the rhythmic clicking on the stones of the path (well . . . not really a clicking sound so much as a kind of clinking sound, more like the noise made by shaking a charm bracelet filled with Disney characters to a salsa beat) made him suddenly realize he had forgotten to buckle one of his galoshes.

Rick Cheeseman
Waconia, MN

 

He slowly ran his fingers through her long black hair, which wasn’t really black because she used Preference by L’Oreal to color it (because "she was worth it"); her carrot-colored roots were starting to show, and it reminded him of the time he’d covered his car’s check engine light with black electrical tape, but a faint orange glow still shone around the edges.

Lisa Mileusnich
Willoughby, OH

 

Their relationship hit a bump in the road, not the low, graceful kind of bump, reminiscent of a child’s choo choo train-themed roller coaster, rather the kind of tall, narrow speed-bump that, if a school bus ran over it, would cause even a fat kid to fly up and bang his head on the ceiling.

Michael Reade
Durham, NC

 

It was a dark and stormy night, well, not pitch dark so much a plumby, you know, that time of night where it turns into that kind of eggplant color, which I hate– eggplant not the time of night–and it wasn’t stormy so much as drizzly, like a cold that’s not so bad but really annoying, where you sound a little plugged up and all your mucus just sort of hovers at the edge of your nostrils or drips down the back of your throat, it was like that.

Maisey Yates
Jacksonville, OR

 

As she slowly drove up the long, winding driveway, Lady Alicia peeked out the window of her shiny blue Mercedes and spied Rodrigo the new gardener standing on a grassy mound with his long black hair flowing in the wind, his brown eyes piercing into her very soul, and his white shirt open to the waist, revealing his beautifully rippling muscular chest, and she thought to herself, "I must tell that lazy idiot to trim the hedges by the gate."

Kathryn Minicozzi
Bronx, NY

 

George scratched his head in abject puzzlement as he tried to figure out where he’d parked the rocket this time in the 100-acre parking lot of Nallmart 75B, but then he remembered that a ship-boy had taken his DNA key-but which one, the kelly toned humanoid or the atmosphere-of-Rylak-hued android; scanning the horizon, he at last turned to Babs and asked "how green was my valet"?

Leigh A. Smith
New Douglas, IL

 

Using her flint knife to gut the two amphibians, Kreega the Neanderthal woman created the first pair of open-toad sandals.

Greg Homer
Placerville, CA

 

There were earthquakes in this land, terrible tsunamis that swirled flooding torrents of water throughout, and constant near-blizzard conditions, and not for the first time, Horatio Jones wished he did not live inside a snow globe.

Rich Buley-Neumar
Amityville, NY

 

The skydiver jumped out of the plane and felt his skin being pulled back like that of a dog sticking its head out of a car going 110 on the highway, owned by a driver rushing to be on time for work or else he would get fired by his boss with the curly mustache who owned a large speedboat.

John Faherty
Queensbury, NY

 

Grimly aware of the rapidly approaching disaster, Spiderman leaped from rooftop to flagpole, from flagpole to fire escape, hurling himself recklessly from building to building, darting glances through every window in his desperate search for one vital room, while silently cursing the fact that the last thing he had done before donning a one-piece skintight costume, was to eat a large bowl of hot chili.

David J Button
South Australia, Australia

 

How best to pluck the exquisite Toothpick of Ramses from between a pair of acrimonious vipers before the demonic Guards of Nicobar returned should have held Indy’s full attention, but in the back of his mind he still wondered why all the others who had agreed to take part in his wife’s holiday scavenger hunt had been assigned to find stuff like a Phillips screwdriver or blue masking tape.

Joe Wyatt
Amarillo, Texas

 

A dark and stormy night it was; in torrents fell the rain –except at occasional intervals, when, by a violent gust of wind was it checked, as up the streets it swept, (for in London it is that lies our scene), along the housetops rattling, and the scanty flame of the lamps fiercely agitating, that against the darkness, struggled.

(The story of Paul Clifford, is Yoda, to a padawan telling)

Jay Clifton
Berkeley, CA

 

*Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

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