Mom, author, nurse, teacher . . . reading the world around me

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Valentiny Writing Contest

**Update: My entry received an honorable mention prize. Thanks for reading!

I’m entering the “Valentiny” contest sponsored by Susanna Leonard Hill. Check out all the details here.

This story was inspired by my sister, who had development delays related to extreme prematurity, back before there were neonatal ICUs and specialized care for preemies. My mom would let her stay home from school on Valentine’s Day because it was so heartbreaking for her to go to school and watch the other kids get valentine’s cards and she didn’t get them. 🙁

A VALENTINE FOR VINCENT

210 Words

Vincent usually kept to himself during school.

And the other kids kept themselves from Vincent.

Valentine’s Day was the worst!

His heart drowned in dread.

Vincent buried his nose in a book,

pretending not to care as his classmates filed in

with decorated shoeboxes—

for ALL the Valentines they’d receive.

He wasn’t expecting a single one.

Until something amazing happened…

Caroline held out a red heart

with VINCENT written in marker.

A Valentine! For him?

Heart racing, Vincent began excitedly cutting paper into squares.

Hands flying, he folded one into a crane.

“Wow!” said Caroline. “Can you make a cat?”

A tsunami of enthusiasm washed the dread from his heart.

He folded. Then turned and folded again.

He repeated the process, until… 

The paper square magically became a pointy cat.

Caroline beamed. “It’s beautiful!”

Soon, a crowd gathered with requests:

“A swan?”

“An owl?”

“How about a heart?”

“Can you make a star?”

“Where did you learn this?” Ms. Waltz asked.

Vincent explained that his neighbor, Mr. Nakamura,

taught him origami after school on days his mom had to work.

“It’s so cool!” Caroline said. “Thanks for my Valentine.”

Vincent’s heart burst into an excitement explosion.

It was the best school day ever.

And it all started with one Valentine.

Kid’s Choice Kidlit Writing Contest

This is my second year entering this contest. Last year, I was a finalist in the YA category, and this year I’m entering in MG. Thanks for stopping by to read my entry.

Carina of the Southern Sky (500 words)

I’m the one who called 911. Mama is gone because of me.

Something that awful should become etched in my brain forever. Every single detail. But it’s not. Big chunks of that night are missing.

I see bits and pieces: Flashing blue lights, the beam of bright yellow shining across the wet grass, Mama staring at me from the back of a police car.

What I remember most is showing up in the middle of the night at my foster parents’ house. Andy and Jodie waited on their porch for me. Before I’d gotten half-way up the steps, Jodie wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and said, “You’re safe here with us, Carina.”

It was still summer break the night I showed up here. But now, with tomorrow being the first day of school, Jodie starts talking about it before we even finish dinner.

We’re still sitting at the crowded kitchen table, but my mind drifts. The truth is, I don’t care about my schedule, the teachers, or the stupid team mascot. It isn’t my school, with my friends. Most important, Mama won’t be here for my first day of middle school like she always promised.

“Excuse me,” I blurt.

My chair scrapes the floor as I leap up.

“Carina,” Jodie calls.

As the screen door slams behind me, I hear Andy say, “Give her a minute.”

Without looking back, I sprint beyond the shrubs and concrete path. Dropping onto the lawn, I search the darkening sky. Millions of stars twinkle through drifting clouds. “Hey up there,” I say. “I’m drifting too.”

Tears spill down my cheeks remembering the nights Mama and I gazed up, trying to be the first to holler, “There she is! Carina of the Southern sky!”

The door creaks open on the porch behind me. “Carina, it’s getting late. Tomorrow’s a big day.”

I don’t move. I need something familiar to calm me—something from home.

“Did you hear me?”

I roll onto my belly to see Jodie squinting at me in the semi-darkness of the porch light, biting her lower lip.

“I’m looking for my star. The one I was named for.”

Jodie tilts her head to the side. “I guess it’s alright. But just for a few more minutes. There’s no need in you being all tuckered out for your first day tomorrow.”

Spanish Moss flutters like ghosts in the darkness. But I look beyond it, refusing to be afraid.

“My Carina” finally appears from behind a cloud. You can’t see the real Carina from North America, it’s only the North Star.

But none of that matters anymore. What matters is the little balloon of hope that inflates at the thought of us both looking at the same star like we used to.

I make a promise into the flickering night sky. “I’m going to find a way to bring you back home, Mama. I swear it.”

And I will. It’s my fault she’s gone, and it’s up to me to fix it.

Halloweensie 2023

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know I love kidlit writing contests.

This year’s Halloweensie contest has the following guidelines. Tell a kid-friendly Halloween story using some form of the words, werewolf, superstition and fright–in a hundred words or less.

Here’s my entry:

Luna, the Not so Scary Werewolf
by Melissa Miles
100 words

For the first time in Luna’s life,
Halloween hosts a full moon.
Tonight, her teeth and claws are sharp.
She’ll HOWL, GROWL, and PROWL—
her frightening werewolf self.
No more “how cute!” on Halloween.
Tonight, she’ll terrify.
Luna sets out trick-or-treating.
But everyone still thinks she’s CUTE!
Luna sobs.
“What’s wrong?” Katy Kitten asks, her black fur reflecting the moon.
“I’m not scary.”
“Follow me,” says Katy.
DING-DONG.
A door opens. CREEEAAAAAKKKK.
Then… AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
SLAM!
Luna is thrilled.
She’s terrifying!
Katy will never tell Luna they’d visited the most superstitious house in town.
Where they’re deathly afraid of black cats.

Kidlit Vibes 2023

I decided to enter the #KidLitVibes Twitter contest this year. Thanks to the great folks who organize this contest.

The rules state you have to spin the wheel and write a story about the feeling you land on using just 125 words. My arrow stopped on Powerful. Sigh. I almost spun again. Sadly, I couldn’t really think of a time in my childhood I felt powerful.

But this idea of a little girl helping her scared puppy instead of letting fear overwhelm her popped into my head. So, here goes…

Photo by Vlad Panov on Unsplash

THE STORM

125 words

Rain falls. Pitter-pat. Pitter-pat.

Puddles form. Splat! Splat!

Rumble. Crack!

Lucy jumps.

POP. Power’s out.

The room plunges into darkness.

The puppy shivers. Lucy’s lip quivers.

Mommy shines a flashlight. She makes shadow bunnies dance on the wall.

Lucy laughs.

Until…

Crack! The windows rattle.

Her laugh sticks in her throat.

Each BOOM from outside

vibrates in her chest.

Lucy hugs her puppy.

His shivers have become shakes.

The poor little guy is scared to death.

“We’ll build a fort,” she tells him.

It’s cozy inside.

The lightning flashes dim.

The thunder claps quieten.

“There,” she says.

“It will be okay.”

His body stills.

The storm moves past.

“See, that wasn’t so bad.”

He licks her hand.

Tail wagging.

Crawling out,

she stands tall.

Powerful.

Update: I received an honorable mention for this entry. Thanks to the organizers!

Spring Fling Kidlit Contest ’23

This is at least my third year entering this great writing contest. Some years I’ve won a prize, some not. But it’s always fun to participate! If you’re new to Spring Fling, it’s a fabulous writing contest where you find (or create) a springtime GIF and then write a 150 (max) word story inspired by the image.

For all the rules/details, click here. The community engagement for this contest is great. If you write a story, be sure to read other entries and comment on those as well. Meet new writing friends and make new social media connections. That’s the best part of the contest. Thanks to Kaitlyn Sanchez and Ciara O’Neil for putting this together!

Thanks for stopping by to read my entry this year!

The Magic of Shared Memories

(147 words)

“Why so blue on this beautiful spring day?” Grandma asks.

“Keisha is moving today.”

Grandma squeezes my hand. “Let’s go find some perfect crafting paper.”

Grandma and I love origami. Magic happens in folding paper to create something new.

Deep in the clearance bin something rustles.

Sweeping away the top layer reveals beautiful blue paper with springtime flowers. “Grandma, look. It’s perfect.”

Back home, my sadness seeps into each fold—sealing special memories into every crease. I only wish I’d made the butterfly in time to give it to Keisha.

Later when I walk Grandma out, something flutters against my hand. I open it, and my butterfly takes flight!

We gasp, watching until it disappears in the direction of Keisha’s house.

Grandma winks. Like she’s known all along.

I picture my butterfly settling into Keisha’s outstretched palm—all the words I hadn’t said soaring into her heart.

GIF from website GIFER.com

Children of the Bog

I’ve come to love holiday writing contests. This is my entry to Susanna Leonard Hill’s wonderful Halloweensie writing contest.

The rules require you to write a Halloween story with kid appeal with a max of 100 words–including some variation of the words treat, slither, and scare.

Children of the Bog

(100 words)

Halloween night,

adults of Reaper’s Bog

beseech their children

to stay close for trick-or-treating.

For every Hallows-Eve, a lone child

is swallowed up by the bog,

and the terrifying creatures within.

Do they slither, scamper, or snatch?

Growl, grimace, or gnaw?

No child’s ever returned to tell.

Betsy Braveheart isn’t scared.

Stuffing her princess costume

behind a tree, she pulls a slingshot

from her pocket,

creeps to swamp’s edge…

and waits.

At dawn, only her costume’s recovered.

She’s joined the bog children.

Sadly…

Betsy’s scribbled note,

roughly jammed into a gnarled tree’s hole,

goes unnoticed.

“They were human once too!”

2022 Spring Fling Kidlit Contest Entry

GIF from Giphy.com

I‘ve decided to join in and write a 150-word story for kids inspired by a GIF. To find out more about this contest and its generous creators and prize donors, click here. The above GIF inspired me to write about the Sakura, or cherry blossoms. When we visited Japan, we learned these blossoms are symbolic of beauty, mortality and renewal. Those themes inspired my story, which I hope embodies them all. Okay, without further ado, here is my 2022 entry which comes in at 147 words:

Sakura Snowfall

Last spring, our bench became a magic portal.

“Under this canopy of cherry blossoms, we could be anywhere in the world,” Grandma said. “Tokyo, Paris, Portland, or Washington, D.C.–“

“Can we visit Tokyo?” I blurted.

She laughed and plucked a pink blossom from my hair. “Squeeze my hand, and we’ll go together.”

I did.

“We’re in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. Straight ahead is Edo Castle, built over 500 years ago. Cherry blossoms, or Sakura, dot the water’s edge.”

As she’d painted pictures with her words, springtime Tokyo unfolded before my eyes.

From our bench, we visited ten cities before the last blossom had fallen.

Today, as I approach the empty bench, my heart explodes with memories of Grandma.

I snuggle my puppy Sakura who sneezes as a drifting blossom tickles her nose.

I laugh, and whisper in her tiny ear, “Where should we go first?”

The Show Must Go On

I decided to enter Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words contest this year. Read all the details here: https://viviankirkfield.com/2022/03/04/50preciouswords-2022-official-contest-post/#more-25735

Please find my story below, coming in at exactly 50 words! Hope you enjoy it.

The Show Must Go On

Two minutes till showtime.

I peek through the curtain. Again.

Still…

Her empty seat glares back at me.

Rows full of faces.

Moms, dads, aunts…so many others.

Just not my person.

Lights dim.

Mom hurries in. Dressed in her work scrubs.

The crescendo of the orchestra perfectly matches my heart.

Other Halloweensie Contenders

I’ve already posted my entry for Susanna Hill’s annual Halloweensie kid lit contest this year. But, I had so much fun writing stories of 100 words or less using the words goodiesglow-in-the-dark, and goosebumps that I thought I’d create a post for the runner ups that I wrote. I could have entered multiple times, but I decided to just pick my favorite–which you can read here.

Below are the 2 other stories I wrote using the contest guidelines. Both of these come in at exactly 100 words. I hope you enjoy them!

Truth or Scare

On Johnson’s Farm, Jack-O-Lanterns flickered, dimmed, and finally darkened.

Goody wrappers littered fields.

Dried leaves became tumbleweeds.

Inside the barn, Gary Goose, Sam Sheep and Penelope Pig huddled in an empty stall for their annual “Scaredown”—repeating gossip overheard from humans.

“Junior wants a glow-in-the-dark wool hoodie,” whispered Penelope.

Sam shuddered, imagining the buzzing sheers.

“Grandma wants a new down pillow,” she added.

Gary shivered, remembering those awful goosebumps after plucking.

“What’ve you two got?” asked Penelope.

Gary and Sam gulped, and exchanged glances.

“You win.”

They simply couldn’t tell her about the weekend’s breakfast menu…

Sausage biscuits with gravy.

The Best Costume Ever

“Is my costume ready?” Lilly called.

Her mom made the best costumes. Last year Lilly was a glow-in-the-dark robot from outer space. The year before she was a ghastly ghoul that gave everyone some serious goosebumps!

This year, Mom had a new baby—and a whole lot less time.

Lilly tried to understand. Mom was tired and busy. But sometimes Lilly missed having her to herself.

“Ready!” call Mom.

When they set out for trick-or-treating, Mom’s hands were free for taking pictures, and holding collected goodies.

Lilly’s costume was the best ever.

A kangaroo…with her baby brother in her pouch.

And that’s a wrap for Halloweensie 2021! Thanks for stopping by and reading.

Halloweensie 2021

I won a prize in the fabulous Fall Writing Frenzy Contest earlier this month, so I decided to enter the amazing annual kid lit contest Halloweensie again this year. It’s hosted by author and blogger Susanna Hill. The rules are to write a 100-word Halloween story, using the words goodiesglow-in-the-dark, and goosebumps.

Thanks for stopping by! Here is my entry:

Title: Home for Halloween

Author: Melissa Miles

Word Count: 99

Sis and I decide to decorate our home for Halloween.

We cover the door with some Spanish Moss littering the curb. Spooky.

Someone’s discarded glow-in-the-dark stickers beautify our windows. Creepy.

Our woven plastic bag welcome mat is colorful. Cozy.

“There,” we say. “Not bad.”

We know the costumes we’ve created from clothes in our shared suitcase won’t give anyone goosebumps, but hopefully they’ll score us some goodies.

“I’m proud of you girls,” Mom says. “I promise it’s not forever.”

We set off hand-in-hand, leaving behind the parking lot’s glaring lights.

Hoping next year, our home won’t be the car.

*****UPDATE! I received an honorable mention for this story. Thanks to Susanna, and all the others who helped make this contest possible.

The Badge I received along with a gift card. Very nice surprise!

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