Telling Stories - Writing Competition
This exciting annual writing competition is now in its third year as Mooloolaba Rotary, USC and Voices on the Coast partner together to provide a writing competition for young people in Grade 4 to Grade 9. In 2018 the standards were again extremely high, and a presentation ceremony was held at USC Innovation Centre in October where the winning authors were presented with cash prizes and medals, plus the winning school was presented with the Gary Crew trophy. Further information about the competition can be found on the Telling Stories Facebook page.
This year the story title was 'I should have saved the tree'.
When I was young I’d visit the big, old gumtree every day. I’d watch the leaves dancing in the wind, the raindrops colliding through the air and exploding into puddles, the white fluffy clouds float through the sky…and doze off in midday naps under the shade of the big, old gumtree. But, after a while, things began to change. The white fluffy clouds turned into grey, thin clouds. As more trees disappeared…more houses were built with machines like monsters killing all wildlife in its path and when the machines gradually rolled closer to my tree…I became less aware. I had school to attend to and homework to be done, and before I knew it, my tree was gone…I should have saved the tree.
As I look out my little window today, I notice only houses and hotels, cars and buses. I notice sweet wrappers dancing in the wind. As I doze off in my old rocking chair I close my eyes. I remember the colliding raindrops and the clear blue puddles. I remember the white fluffy clouds floating through the sky... I should have saved the tree. There is not a single green thing for miles and miles. The sky is now turning into its pinkie-orange colour and the sun is almost fully hidden, as the moon is slowly appearing. I flop into bed, my eyes and mind asleep. My whole body then gets drifted away into dream but… it’s not really a dream, it’s just six words floating around in my head; I should have saved the tree.
I wake up early in the morning, my throat dry and my lips cracked. I stare out the window for a sec. There, out of the corner of my eye, I notice a spec of green getting pushed up against the wall of the grocery shop. This spec of green, strangely enough looked like a leaf. “What am I thinking? It couldn’t possibly be a leaf. Leaves come from trees, and there isn’t a tree for miles and miles,” I think shaking my head. My throat now felt as if it was on fire. I reached over for a cup to fill up with cool water, when I notice MORE green specs out of the kitchen window.” Right.” I think slamming the cup down. I march downstairs, out the door and begin to follow the trail of leaves. “No!” I gasp amazed. There, standing, proud on the top of a hill is a gumtree. I hobble up the hill telling myself, “Old men aren’t designed for this sort of stuff.” I plant myself down next to the tree. I am happy I’ve found another tree, really, I am. But at the same time too… I’m really sad. It brings back so many memories of my old tree. And every time I visit this tree, the same words pop up in my mind; I should have saved the tree. I could have saved the tree.
Olivia - St Andrew's Anglican College
Have you ever heard the story of the Jonson’s family tree? Well if you haven’t listen up. 20 years ago from today the Jonson’s family tree was found in the middle of a town called Crocell. For months the community has been trying to persuade the council to give them permission to cut down the Jonson’s family tree, to make room for a park. Eventually the council agreed with this idea. Ebony the daughter of Mr and Mrs Jonson was autistic and had trouble speaking in front of other people, she wished that she could change the community’s minds.
After the next few days the community started to try and cut down the closest branch, but they were too thick for the community’s axes so they resorted to plan B, use the town chainsaw instead. I sat silently under the stairs in front of the house watching as the community succeeded in cutting their first thick branch down. By 6:00pm no other branches had been cut down, as I walked down the hallway I noticed something different about the old family tree that hung on the wall. Grandad Bob had disappeared! I went to tell my parents about this alarming news but when I had finished telling them everything all they said was -“Dear, you don’t have a grandad Bob” I walked out of the room confused.
The next day I woke up to find two more branches cut down and two more family members missing. “Mum, dad it’s happened again!” I explained but all Mr and Mrs Jonson said was the same as last night. I left the room bewildered and sat down at my studying table and started to think of all the possibilities. By the end of the hour I had come up with three possibilities. One was that I was just imagining things, another was that this is just a bad dream, and the last was that because the family tree was being cut down one branch at a time one spirit is dying every time the tree loses a branch so one by one a family member is replacing the spirits taking all their history with them.
Then I knew what I needed to do, I marched outside thinking only of the tree not even about how nerves can stop what I was about to do. I marched onto the highest point I could find, took a deep breath and yelled at the top of my lungs “STOP!’ Every one turned around to face me I could feel the pressure boiling in my stomach like a kettle about to blow. “This isn’t right and you all know it, what has this poor tree done to anger us? Nothing and yet you are still convinced that this defenceless tree has to die to make way for a children’s playground! You should be ashamed of yourselves!’ As I looked around everybody had become embarrassed and one by one people agreed with me.
The next day I couldn’t hear the chainsaws roar as it battled against a thick branch but instead I could hear birds singing and the leaves rustling in the morning breeze. I looked out the window to see a red barrier around the healing tree and that all the branches had grown back. I rushed over the family tree hanging on the wall to find that everyone was back, and in their rightful place. Finally all was right in the world.
Olivia Chapman - Maleny State School
2nd June 1927
The German Army are following an imagined map. One that leads them town to town, country to country. Each place on their map goes down within months. They are living machines. My only hope is that we're not next. Our only source of food, our most precious thing in town, the Notre vie, a massive Date tree, wouldn't stand a chance, and without it, neither would we.
27th October 1927
The thick force of Army Officers bombarding the streets reminded me of my unwanted future. The Germans were coming to destroy our Mali. Every house, every adult and infant. The children who had potential wouldn't get a choice. The German soldiers would take us back to Germany, train us, and force us to fight. The penalty if we refused? Death.
The walk home was full of horrifying thoughts. When will they come? Will they choose me? With my natural gift with a sword, I had a good chance! I opened the back door, entering the damp house silently. There, standing in the hallway arguing fiercely with my mother was the most terrifying image I'd ever seen. A tall, pale figure stood next to my oldest sibling, Kadidia, her dark brown complexion standing out. I studied the man standing next to my mother, wearing a crisp white uniform. His icy glare met mine for a second before I looked away, focusing on my mother. Her eyes softened as we shared glances, her hidden words unfolded clearly in my mind. I had to go to the Notre vie. Protect it while I waited for reinforcements. This was not just another German soldier. He had a job and he was ready. This officer was looking for potential from my family. Potential from me.
Dry dirt and gravel crushed effortlessly under my urgent feet, sending me further forward with every bound. I had to save my town and put up a fight. Hallucinations of bombs and screams filled my head, pushing me further. It was only when I got to the Notre vie and was able to see my surroundings that I realised my hallucinations were actually reality.
The jagged bark of the Notre vie left fresh scars on my arms to remind me of this horrible time forever. Terrified screams and yells echoed from the heart of town, burning my ears, breaking my heart. All my friends were lying still, never to move again. Aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers and students. He came out of nowhere. Tall and proud, a malicious grin spread across his pale face. He was the officer from this morning. "Hello young one." He stepped towards me threateningly. "We meet again, although this time there's no mummy to save you."
. . . . .
My eyes tried to adjust to the new, brighter contrast. I could hear mumbling next to me, but I couldn't make out the words. A soft, icy hand grabbed my arm, cautiously moving it to each side like a dead body. Flames burst through my arm, heart accelerating and my mind buzzing. The Notre vie, my family, Mali. Where was I? My stiff eyelids refused to open, my throat dry and my arm burning. Every second, my pain was intensifying, dragging me under, into unconsciousness. Pain won't beat me. I will survive. Pain won't beat me. A soft whispering from beside me helped me to focus on staying conscious. "Are you okay sweetie?", an elderly voice asked eagerly. My eyes burst open as soon as I heard her words. My arm's pain didn't subdue, but I ignored it. Why would someone ask if I was okay? People in Mali didn't. "Calm down. You're one of the lucky ones. You, sweetie, were chosen for your gift, your potential. Potential.
8th March 1938
Wake up. Eat. Train. Sleep. Repeat.
10 years of hard, gruesome pain, physically and mentally. Training for the German Army nearly killed me every day, but it was the guilt that hurt most. Every feeling of guilt in the world, all added up, could never equal what I felt. My family, friends and neighbors. Were they alive? This question lay at the front of my mind every second of every day. The Notre vie, our only source of food, was it still standing as tall and proud as ever? Guilt washed over me like waves on a beach. Coming in and out, high and low, but never fully going away.
23rd July 1938
Nothing and nobody existed in Mali. I should have waited for reinforcements. The Notre vie was dead, just like everything else. I should have saved the tree.
Lilly Ryan - Stella Maris Primary School
I should have saved the tree. He loved bonsai trees.
I felt tap on my shoulder and spun around to see a dark-haired boy clutching a potted plant that had dripped down the hallway.
‘What do you want Cam?’ I sighed deeply, as if to say, ‘you’re annoying, go away’. I didn’t like being mean to people... but since Cam arrived, he had become the butt of all jokes. My social standing had risen in the social hierarchy and I did not want it to slip by association.
I knew Cam’s name because Principal Dippet asked me to ‘show him round, Dom-inator’.
Cam had weird eyes. One pale green and the other split colours - an orangey-brown on top and a deep black underneath. His obsession with bonsais and scarred face had me questioning his background. Maybe under other circumstances, Cam might have made a decent friend. He was intriguing - maybe because he never spoke – but I couldn’t risk my reputation.
‘I can show you where your class is, if you actually talk to me!’ I tried to say in a lighter tone, furtively praying no one was listening. Cam took a deep breath and nestled his face into the leaves of his plant, his hoodie collapsing over his forehead.
‘Ey Dominic, you hanging out with this nut job?’ a hulking boy named Connor shouted at me, his cronies sniggering behind him.
‘No,’ I lied.
‘Heard he is a bit of a special snowflake,’ Connor muttered, circling Cam.
‘Hey, just don’t do anything... cos I’ll get the blame,’ I hastily added. Cam squeaked and dropped to the ground, making himself as small as possible. Connor ripped the small plant out of his grasp and carelessly tossed it into the air. The pot hit the ground and shattered, revealing dark soil with thin roots entwined throughout. He grabbed a fist of dirt and lobbed it into Cam’s sobbing face. Cam jumped to his feet and shuffled as quickly as he could down the corridor. I shrunk against the wall and waited for the crowd to disperse.
I looked at the mound of soggy dirt and craggy pottery, the plant lying limply on top. I scooped as much as I could into a zip lock bag that previously contained a sandwich and protectively pushed it into my bag.
Cam didn’t return to school the next day, or the rest of the week. I hated myself for not having had the courage to support him. Mr. Dippet, who had always been quite fond of me, avoided me. Even my social life worsened. My few friends quickly dispersed and students I previously had little interaction with picked on me any chance they got. I was at rock bottom.
Rumours started that Cam had committed suicide and Mr. Dippet wouldn’t tell me what happened; only that he was disappointed.
The only thing I could do to make amends was to save Cam’s plant. I tried everything I could. I replaced the potting mix, got a fancy new bonsai pot and watered it every day, using weird ancient techniques that I found online. Nothing worked – the tree slowly withered and died. I had wanted so much to save the tree. I wanted so much to save Cam. Rescue him from the cruelness of society... and myself.
Slumped against the bus window I realised that although Cam’s plant was dead, I could maybe get him a new one. I had to do something, or the guilt would drive me insane. I waddled down the aisle of the bus ignoring the insults and crumpled pieces of paper being tossed my way. Mumbling thanks to the driver, I descended from the bus, pulling my bag over my shoulder. Then I saw it; an insignificant seedling lying limp in the gutter. It was holding onto life, roots struggling in the thin sludge. I dug around it and carefully carried it home. It was perfect. I planted it in the bonsai pot bought for Cam’s plant and did everything to nurse it into life.
Within days the plant was not just surviving, it was thriving. It transformed from the limp, struggling seedling to a plant bearing new speckled leaves, standing upright. ‘It is perfectly perfect!’ I thought to myself.
As the plant grew, I worked up the courage to approach Mr. Dippet. I wasn’t hopeful, but I had to try.
‘Sir, I was wondering if you knew where Cam lived?’ I asked, trying to sound upbeat.
‘I am sorry Dom, I cannot disclose information like that.’ He refused to make eye contact with me.
‘Mr. Dippet. I want to try and apologise... and give him a gift,’ I replied.
‘Well...’ he nervously smiled. He tapped on his ancient keyboard and then wrote something on a post-it note. With a grin on his face he handed it to me.
‘I knew you were different, Dom,’ he said with joy in his voice.
‘Hello... is Cam home?’ I nervously murmured as the door creaked open. The wrinkled face of an elderly woman wearing gloves and an apron – both smeared with mud – greeted me.
‘Hmmm? He is in his bedroom,’ she anxiously replied. ‘Are you a friend?’
‘Uhh, I am not sure... I hope to be,’ I said trying to sound as confident as possible. She waved me inside. The interior of the house was covered entirely in pot plants of all shapes and sizes. She guided me up a staircase before saying, ‘His bedroom is on the right.’ I slowly walked to the door, pot plant in hand, and knocked. The door opened a crack.
‘Hi Cam...’ I said uncertainly. ‘I just wanted to say sor..’ Before I could finish an arm reached out and pulled me into the room.
Plants. Everywhere. Cam’s room was covered, from top to bottom, in bonsai plants. It was a beautiful forest of trees.
I didn’t save the tree. But I was able to plant many more.
Tristan Mitchell Harrey - Nambour State College
Mum was 17 when she had me. She said no one was surprised when she announced her pregnancy. When Mum told her, Aunt Mary said, ‘the artistic people are the type to run around getting pregnant.’
The isolation started when I was 9, when she started to spend more and more of her days in the back shed, disappearing at the crack of dawn, creeping back inside late at night, reheating frozen pizza. The shed is off boundaries for me, so I cook and clean for Mum and I and talk to my budgie, Hip. And when Aunt Mary visits me, bringing over some last nights leftovers, she always shakes her head and tuts when she hears Mum singing Dolly Parton loudly from the shed.
“Your mother is not fit to look after to you,” Aunt Mary pauses for effect. “Oh, that’s right, she doesn’t do anything to look after you, all she has ever done is paint in that dilapidated shed.” Than she cackles.
I never see what Mum is working on, but when she comes in, she has paint on her face, arms and clothes. But when I ask what’s she doing while getting the kettle ready, Mum smiles and taps the side of her nose. “You’ll see when you’re wiser,” and skips back off to the shed after leaving me staring. I sigh after she goes, wishing we could just sit down and watch TV together like a normal family do, and then I go back to cooking.
When I was seven, I asked mum if I looked like my so-called Dad. She smiled at me and touched my cheek. “You’ve got his compassion and kindness, but its your eyes. They’re like his, a crisp crystal blue, a shade that shouldn't exist on the human body, but here you are, doing the impossible.”
“Today,” started Mr Jenkins, the senior art teacher shouted. “You have these whole two blocks to start on an art piece on someone who is significant in your life. You can take it home and finish it if you like. This will affect your overall mark on this subject,” Mr Jenkins opened his laptop. “And your time is ticking, get started.”
I grabbed my shading pencils from my bag and collected an easel and canvas. I sketched out a face, defining high cheekbones, a pointed jaw and the wide eyes. Keera, my art buddy, looked at my sketch and whistled. “That is awesome Jess, is that your Mum?” I nodded while collecting my paints.
With each stroke, I bought the painting to life. I painted Mums auburn hair, making sure it was wild and free like her, some wisps falling over her face. I painted some piercing green eyes that showed compassion.
When I was done I stared at the painting I created from scratch in awe. It looked so real.
It looked so like Mum. And I loved it.
Sophie glided over with her two friends and snorted at my portrait. “You call that art? I call that dog vomit. At least it looks like your Mum, I can give you that, it shows who she really is, dumb, crazy, and unsophisticated.” Sophie snorts evilly. “At least I’m going to pass school from my painting, unlike you, you untalented red head,” Spat Sophie. And with that, Sophie turns on her heel, and stalked back off to her canvas, which was covered in shades of tans and pinks. I felt like a gnarled old tree, and Sophie the axe man, with each word she hacks. Keera put her hand on my shoulder and I shrugged of it off. “Jess are you ok?” Keera asks.
I jump up from my seat, fumbled with my bag, leaving all my pencils and paints on the table scattered.
“I quit.” I finally say through my choked tears to Keera, and I ran out of the room.
I cry on the way home. When I get home, I drop my bag onto the floor and walk out into the back garden. I slide the shed door open and I start crying, dropping to the concrete. Mum falls down next to me and rocks me back and forth gently. “Jessie, what’s wrong?” She asks.
“I’m a failure. I can’t paint, draw or dream like you. I’m restricted. I don’t know why I enrolled in that class.” I finish saying, focusing onto the ground.
Mum sighed, tears welling up in her eyes. “Honey, think of it like this; your imagination is a tree, it sprouts, it grows and adapts to its habitat. So many knew branches come of it, new ideas, new leaves. But when you were little, me being so immature and free, and you having no Father, society and I - well - we all hacked down your tree, which left sadness, and self doubt sprouting within you.” Mum looks into my eyes and smiles sadly. “I should’ve saved that tree. Or at least I should’ve planted a new seed in you, let it grow into the biggest oak, or mahogany anyone’s seen.” She nudged me gently. “Honey, I think my tree grew 5 times bigger when you entered into the world.” Mums eyes glazed over at the memory. “Jess, I think it’s time for you to chop down the dead tree you grew yourself over the years. Let’s plant a new one together. With all those haters, let them only make your branches grow.
Maybe I can somehow mend the mistakes I made over the years.” Mum winked. “Maybe I can show you the painting I’ve been working on.” Mum helped me up and we walked into the house together for a cup of tea.
And that was the moment I felt my tree coming alive, it’s leaves bursting inside of me.
Erica O'Brien - St Teresa's Catholic College
The World of Tyrene had never been a safe place.
In fact, to the land's ill-fated residents, the rare days that constituted 'safe' were ones with less than five attacks-maybe even six-and that wasn't counting the battles.
Every part of it was chaos, and every part of it was gorgeous.
The land of 'elves' and 'fairies' wasn't like the lying childish shows, with their pixie dust and sickeningly giddy smiles. It wasn't masses of adorable, or a finesse of wonder, or anything eccentrically magical-
Oh, well not in the good sense, anyway.
There was plenty of magic in barbaric Tyrene! Woddlinks were spearing half the population with freaky sparkle-blades and elves materialised into existence arbitrarily just to make fights that much stranger so of course there was magic.
And sure, whatever; Tyrene was some sick-twisted land, but all it takes is an instruction book and a few potions to start you off and you'll be used to it.
(Kiren kind of lost the instruction book, though. So, I guess you're screwed.)
Goodness, and if I've learnt anything vital after adapting to the gruesome ways the Tyrenians lived and fought, then it'd be that there's one thing, one entity of supremacy, that is the most powerful item you could ever hold in your hand.
The Girent Tree.
And before you start, no, it is not the tree from Tinkerbell because as I've already stated, there is no pixie dust. The Tree wasn't some cliché form of power that fuelled the world with morals and whatnot. Just because it was a 'magical tree' did not mean it was a big, golden plant that powered stuff and created kindness.
The world is not nice, the world is not girly, and the world certainly doesn't use its magic to create things or give strength.
It's for destruction. And the Tree causes the ultimate disaster.
During an attack, its branches groped your enemies until they bled white. Finding one meant you'd gained the key to triumph because the weapon could face anything.
It was fierce, deathly, and malicious.
Nothing Disney-friendly, that's for sure.
And should you have the rare privilege of owning this war-clincher, you also owned a colossal responsibility; the timing of when to use it.
Because when entering this bloodthirsty land, you must carry intelligence, strategy, and most importantly, good timing. While travelling the Wheedly Streets to cross paths with strange creatures, you can't just pop out your magical plant halfway through a battle because that wasn't-
It wasn't -
It just wasn't cool, okay?! You have to lash it out with flair and dramatics so other adventurers would be like, " Whoa, they had that the whole time?" and you could look straight at them with that cocky, victorious look you' d been practising in the mirror. You don't just do it before the meaty bit of the battle! You play weak and manipulate your enemies into thinking they're going to win. Then BAM!
And I know what you're thinking: I, uber-'mazing combatant Hendrix Lister, have probably had this global force many-a-times throughout my many heroic battles helping commoners in Tyrene. Since I know so much about it, it's only right for you to presume it has been in my possession during my many escapades.
You would be wrong.
They're problematic to find, alright? And that doesn’t mean I don' t know how to use it ... per say. As a professional Tyrenian fighter who has masses of experience (understatement, just saying) in completing quests and using intelligence to win adventures then I can confidently say - which I most certainly do a lot - that I could use The Girent Tree easily.
I've found it three times in the past, so I guess you could say I'm equipped to use it at moment's notice or whatever. But last time I had it, I was on Caden's team and he got to use it because I used our Bussin beforehand. And Bussins are the second most powerful weapon.
Finding one was almost like a sign you deserved it, and thus I wasn't surprised when I picked one up during the Merigo-round.
"Are you gonna use it yet?" Jaxon - my (un)esteemed teammate - murmured, unnecessarily irritated as we defended Gallant's Bridge from flying projectiles.
He' d been waiting several battles for me to plant it, but I was scheming, privately so, as my sword took the hits of the Pennens' fierce warheads. By the expressions on the opposing team's faces, I could tell they all believed they were going to win.
Louis, our other teammate, had advised me to save it until our next battle - the last one of the game. But I wasn’t going to listen to him, either. The biggest original skill you must retain before the honour of having The Girent falls upon you was good timing, and I had it.
Caden and Kiren dropped a Bussin in front of me.
Dredging up years of loyal involvement in drama class, I slammed my electric blue card atop the pile in theatrical elegance to holler, "Girent Tree!"
And as our symbolic howls of victory filled the vacant library, I leapt up in personal triumph, giddy with my success, to perform the (extremely necessary) Tyrene winning dance.
See? All it took was experience, intelligence, strategy, and most importantly, good "Counter attack: Cancel previous card."
I blinked and turned on my heel to Kiren with a red card in-hand. "What?"
"We cancelled your card." Caden leant forward, amusement etched on his face. "The tree's useless, bro."
Wait wait wait wait wait... what?
"But - "
Louis' groan cut off my forthcoming whine. "You idiot," he seethed. "You should have saved The Tree!"
My face was too riddled with surprise to show my anger. "No! / should’ve saved The Tree!"
Emily Drinnan - Noosa Christian College