Friday, January 27, 2012

Award News: Figment, Flamingos, and Skeletons

Third time's the charm, right? I entered another Figment contest. There's a pattern here, I believe. I can't help but be drawn into the natural challenge of the prompts; for this contest, I simply couldn't ignore it. Why? Well, the theme was magical realism - it was a call to writing that I couldn't ignore. Like a hunting horn, or something, haha. 

Officially called "The Probability of Miracles" contest, the rules were simple:
Inspired by the magical realism in The Probability of Miracles, write a story in which something magical happens in an otherwise realistic world. (Bonus points for throwing in a plastic flamingo). Stories should be fewer than 1,200 words.
The idea for my contest entry didn't come so easily though. I spent some time racking my brain for ideas, trying to find some story that still managed to delicately handle the tricky rules of magical realism. It was a fun challenge, despite the headache, and eventually my fascination with skeletons (of the tap-dancing kind) bloomed into a story about a lonely, fireball of a girl and a science room skeleton. 

Wendy Wunder, the author of The Probability of Miracles, judged the contest. I'm happy that my story, "Skeleton Friend," met her rubric :)

The Story

"Skeleton Friend" is a short story about a girl named Cordelia who moved to a frigid, unfriendly town; her sunny demeanor doesn't attract the equally chilly student body at the local high school. She forms an odd friendship with a discarded skeleton... you can read the whole story here

A quick excerpt, of course, just because, haha:

On a cold, February day, Cordelia found a science room abandoned. She wiped her damp, citrus-stained hands on her sweater and snuck inside. The room smelled like sawdust and rainforest. Test tubes dried on the pegs, burners were unplugged, and the eyewash center looked thankfully unused. There was also a tank of muddy toads by the teacher’s desk, but Cordelia was drawn to a pile of cardboard boxes.
The top box was large enough to house a decent-sized television. When she peeked inside, she found an old, dusty skeleton. It caved in on itself, knees to chin, plastic hands twisted. She poked around, finding his flexible vertebral column, numbered bones, and muscle maps. On the back of his neck, the words “Mr. Thrifty” were printed.
“Mr. Thrifty,” she said, tasting the name. “What’s your first name?”
“Sam,” the skeleton said. 

While the voting was going on, two wonderful Figgies made covers for my story. I've never had anyone make me covers before, so I was honestly bashful and so happy to see them. So I'd like to show you all on here:

This lovely cover was made by Jasmine Everdeen. What's amazing about this is that the photo she found matches up with a scene from the story, as well as showing the skeleton's real size (unlike the photo I found, which is of the mini skeleton. That caused some confusion, haha). Thank you, Jasmine! *claps*

And Anna Browne made two different covers; I like the humor in the first one, this kind of dark fusion of some elements of the story, along with the friendship aspect. I also think the font on the second one is really cool - I liked the image so much that I didn't want to type onto it, but Anna really made it work. *Claps*

Thank you both so much!

The Prize

I anxiously awaited The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder, my prize for winning the contest. It was pretty exciting to open the package and see the hot pink cover screaming, "read me now!"

Isn't that cover something? And here's a good, quick summary from Amazon, explaining the basics of this book:
Dry, sarcastic, sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out hospitals. The last thing she wants to do in the short life she has left is move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine - a place known for the miraculous events that occur there. But it's undeniable that strange things happen in Promise: everlasting sunsets; purple dandelions; flamingoes in the frigid Atlantic; an elusive boy named Asher; and finally, a mysterious envelope containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As Cam checks each item off the list, she finally learns to believe - in love, in herself, and even in miracles.
When I cracked open the book and began to read, I grinned when I found out that Cam grew up in Disney World; her parents worked at the Polynesian Hotel. Cam is a very sarcastic character (which makes sense, considering her condition), but I had a tough time getting used to her pokes at Disney. It's kind of ironic that I happen to be a huge Disney fan and somehow found my way to this book - after all, the descriptions say nothing about Disney, haha. I enjoyed the elements of magical realism like Cam's car, Vapor, which took on some of its namesake's characteristics, and the path beyond Dunkin' Donuts had led to the hidden town of Promise, Maine.  

The quirky characters were endearing, though I mostly connected to Cam's mother and sister. Cam herself was a bit too sarcastic for me, even though I tried to like her throughout the book. I felt for Asher, though I wish I could have connected with him more, and, when I reached the end of the book, it was honestly him who I could have cried for. His gloomy, death-wracked past left me concerned for his future, even after I shut the book. I wasn't quite convinced that he would be fine with another loss. 

Also, as an avid Disney fan, I found some of the facts to be a bit... skewed, even for fiction. The one that stuck out to me the most what the part where Cam and her friends stay in Cinderella's Castle for the night, via the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Maybe I'm the only one who can say this... but I did, in fact, stay in that room (That's another story, for sure). We were informed by cast members that the room in the castle can't be booked in any way, but could only be won - so that the room technically remained a gift. I don't know if the rules have been changed since then, but I was there for the Year of a Million Dreams when my cousin happened to sit in the lucky seat on Soarin' - and I was lucky enough to go along for the ride. 

Yep, one of the beds. It was hard to get one shot of the room, haha.
I don't usually tend to pick up books that deal with such a sad topic as cancer, let alone anything that's labeled with the word "tragic" (synonyms count!); even though Cam's story played out in such an amazing way, the very natural, expected ending still left me feeling unsettled. However, I think this is a personal thing, you know? I don't do weepy endings. It's an Achilles heel of mine. Still, this book has a lot to offer and it's worth reading if you like a good journey where characters grow and hope is found.


  1. Eee! I loved your story, Kim! And congratulations on winning! Only you could write such an adorable, heartwarming story about a skeleton. :)
    The covers are all so great!

    OoOoOo. You stayed in Cinderella's castle?! So cool!

    Off topic, but... have you seen the film Hugo? I think you might like it. I think it's still in theaters... but it will probably be released to the general public soon-ish. Anyway, you should see it some time! It has quite a bit about silent films in it, which made me think of you. (Just a note: I don't suggest watching the trailer if you haven't already: it gives too much away.)

  2. Congratulations on winning the contest. Skeleton Friend was charming and right up your alley.

    I second the coolness of you staying in Cinderella's castle. But I wouldn't be too hard on the poor author... Things like that are difficult to research, yes?

    That much said... I'm not a huge fan of cancer stories either...

  3. @Melee YAY! Thank you for reading the story! I'm so glad to hear you liked it :) Ah, skeletons. They're so inspiring. I guess, haha.

    Yes, I totally did :D It' kind of surreal, even after so much time has passed. I feel like I should have posted about it by now... *wants to check archive* I dunno. If I didn't, I really should. Maybe I'll finally have the right words to explain the experience.

    HUGO! Oh man, that movie was SO GOOD. I didn't get to read the book beforehand, but it was stupendous on its own. And Buster Keaton showed up twice! I pretty much embarrassed myself in the theater, shouting his name. I didn't know about Hugo's connection to silent film.... so it was a delightful, unexpected surprise to a new Keaton fan :)

    Yeah, the trailer does give away a lot. Pretty surprising, haha.

  4. @Warren Thank you for the kind words :)

    Yeah, I understand what you're saying. I had to pace a bit before writing this post, deciding what I really wanted to say. Researching the suite would be hard to do, but not impossible. I'm sure a string of phone calls or a visit to Disney World would work - the suite is something that the cast members like to talk about.

    A friend of mine worked as a mechanic at Disney around that time; he told me that he got to take a look around the suite, but that, as an employee, he'd never be able to stay there. Another fact, haha.

    The scene in the book with the suite was so small, though, that it could have taken place in another hotel and still worked. So, perhaps that is also why I pointed out what I did :)

  5. Hooray! Congratulations, Kim! And I love love that you reviewed the book. That detail about Cinderella's castle—so, so cool that you got to stay in the room—would niggle at me, too. And the reality, that you can't buy that room, only be gifted, is so interesting, too, it could've been a neat thing to work in.

  6. You are so very talented at spinning words dearest! I adore all that you write and hope to be half as good one day. Congratulations, as well, on your much deserved win!