And now for my next writing challenge, Susanna Leonard Hill’s 4th Annual Holiday Contest!
The Challenge: Write a children’s story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) in which wild weather impacts the holidays! Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words.
I started this challenge two weeks late because I was so busy with November stuff (like hosting Thanksgiving) that I missed the announcement. Because of Susanna’s boisterous encouragement (no pressure!), I promised I’d have… something. I couldn’t let her down.
So here it is with a very quickly sketched-out illustration and some backstory notes beneath.
Sometimes, a Pigeon
Nobody felt festive that December, not even the weather. Only days before Christmas, it was unusually warm in the city that should have already seen its first snowfall.
Danny sat on the stoop in front of his building sourly watching the crowds bustle past, narrowly but deliberately avoiding one another as they hurried through last-minute holiday errands.
A pigeon tumbled by, flapping frantically to free itself from a plastic milk-bottle ring stuck around it’s neck. Perhaps because he had nothing better to do—he certainly wasn’t feeling benevolent toward anyone let alone pigeons—Danny decided to rescue it.
The proprietor of the Christmas tree lot next door watched as Danny chased the pigeon around a lamp post for half an hour to no avail. Mr. Douglas, finally resolved to help.
After more unsuccessful laps around the lamp, Danny and Mr. Douglas were joined by a woman with accidental pink hair. Dulce was delighted to take a break from waiting on short-tempered diners.
The ridiculous ruckus inspired each passerby to set aside bags and bundles and join in the Great Pigeon Rescue, lunging, tripping, and colliding, until half of them were knocked to the sidewalk in gleeful piles of laughter.
The chaos was glorious. And, with each new laugh, the temperature dropped another degree.
Clumsily bumping a stately, loudly perfumed lady sideways, Dulce finally seized the pigeon. Danny slipped the ring off, and they let the bird go. Up it flew into the shivering clouds while the stately lady landed on Mr. Douglas in a shower of parcels.
Everyone held their breath as the stately lady’s eyes widened and her cheeks reddened.
“Are you all right?” Dulce asked.
Mrs. Latke’s surprise melted into a broad smile.
And then it began to snow. Boisterous peals of snow.
As people helped each other up, Mrs. Latke linked elbows with Dulce and whispered into her ear.
Dulce beamed and called, “Everyone! Come into the diner for hot chocolate. Mrs. Latke’s treat!”
Mr. Douglas was first inside. Everyone enthusiastically followed.
Danny paused at the door, shaking his head at the mirthful sky, and grinned.
Fresh from PiBoIdMo, I’d already been thinking about fleshing out a story idea I’d had about Thanksgiving (and I will absolutely still write that one). But I was already in the mood to write something about being too busy or preoccpied to be thankful. And I’ve been thinking about what the “Christmas Spirit” is all about. This translated quite easily to not feeling ready for the December holidays.
The story I started to write needed more like 700 words. Or a lot of pictures. I guess so far as I can tell, I write like an illustrator. In my mind, I’d managed to concoct a full city block of an apartment building, Christmas tree stand in a vacant parking lot, a diner, a Chinese restaurant, a grocery store, and a department store. Not necessarily in that order.
My cast of characters also included Mr. Douglas’s young daughter, a Salvation Army bell ringer, a young mother pushing a stroller, and a doorman (just to name a few). And of course everyone is in a foul mood. I described scenerios in my head where people were just rotten to each other. And of course, one by one, they each join in chasing the pigeon. I’m sure Alice Schertle might be able to write all this in 350 words (I counted and there are only 363 words in Little Blue Truck!) But I couldn’t. So I limited the story to just 6 main characters including the weather and the bird. Which is still kind of a lot.
I also wanted to make the characters inaccessible (except Danny) until they started to get into the spirit which is why I described them before naming them. With the length of the story, I’m not sure that actually translated. It probably is most noticable with Mrs. Latke.
Also, just for fun, the adult characters have full names. Mr. Fraser Douglas, Ms. Dulce Horner and Mrs. Penelope Latke
So I had a setting and characters but I kind of needed a plot that would make a good turnaround. I needed to make the weather laugh so hard that it changed and got in the mood too. I needed something ridiculous. And this very thing happened to me 22 years ago.
Yes I, myself, ridiculously chased a pigeon around the statue of Peter Pan in Hyde Park for a good long time trying to get a bottle ring off it’s neck. I was ultimately aided by an older gentleman and a woman in a house dress and what I truly still believe was accidentally pink hair. I wrote it down back then and that story also made it into this blog if you look for it. I’d started off pretty grumpy too, so I suppose that Danny is really me.
Lastly, thanks to Johnelle DeWitt and Sara Francis-Fujimura for taking time to review for me.
Maybe I’ll leave this story as it is. Maybe I’ll flesh it out or draw it up at a later date. Who knows?
12/10/2014 @ 5:04 pm
Pigeons usually cheer my family up, so I’m glad it cheered your town up. 🙂 So nice you got to use your PiBoIdMo idea for this!
12/10/2014 @ 10:46 pm
Thank you, Teresa. I’m curious about your pigeon stories now!
12/10/2014 @ 5:14 pm
Hi Mishka – great story. Love the atmosphere and mood you conjured. Great job!
12/10/2014 @ 10:45 pm
Alayne Kay Christian
12/10/2014 @ 6:27 pm
What a fun and meaningful way to bring people together in the spirit of Christmas. Nice job!
12/10/2014 @ 10:44 pm
12/10/2014 @ 7:28 pm
I love the story of everyone coming together to help a pidgeon and I really enjoyed reading the backstory & how it was inspired by your own memories. This works well as is but I can see it being fleshed out into something longer too 🙂
12/10/2014 @ 10:43 pm
Thank you! I may just write the longer version. Especially if the characters refuse to settle.
12/10/2014 @ 8:54 pm
I love the final version. Nicely done.
12/10/2014 @ 10:41 pm
Thank you! And thanks again for your help!
Lynn A. Davidson
12/11/2014 @ 4:07 pm
Mishka, this is such an enjoyable visual story. I especially like “the shivering clouds.” 🙂
12/11/2014 @ 6:29 pm
Thank you, Lynn!
Elaine Kiely Kearns
12/11/2014 @ 8:36 pm
Cute story! I can definitely picture the scenes in my mind as I read! Good luck!
12/11/2014 @ 11:31 pm
Thanks, Elaine! I think I’m turing out to be a “method” writer? 😉
12/11/2014 @ 11:52 pm
What a cute idea to use a pigeon to bring the community into the Christmas spirit.
12/12/2014 @ 12:11 am
Thank you, Patricia. And we’re birds of a feather in this one. I love your owl story.
12/12/2014 @ 12:18 am
Delighted that the pigeon got help, in this story and in real life!
12/12/2014 @ 11:23 am
Yes me too! Thanks for reading, Marlaina.
Carol Ann Martin
12/12/2014 @ 1:54 am
What fun! Conjures up lots of vivid pictures in my mind 🙂
12/12/2014 @ 11:24 am
Thank you very much, Carol!
12/12/2014 @ 12:39 pm
Lovely setting and showing the care for this pigeon!
12/12/2014 @ 1:41 pm
Thank you, Tina!
Donna L. Sadd
12/12/2014 @ 3:56 pm
The title intrigued me and your story didn’t disappoint. Loved it! :0)
12/13/2014 @ 12:35 am
Thank you very much, Donna!
12/13/2014 @ 1:02 am
This is gorgeously imagined and wonderfully worded! I can feel how hard it was for you to not keep adding words and characters (as I recognize the tendency in myself) – but you did the editing beautifully to leave just the right ones for this contest. Being a lover of longer, wackier PBs in general, this one could certainly be a lot of fun to (re) expand. It brought to mind Sweet Dream Pie by Audrey Wood. Good luck in the competition!
12/13/2014 @ 10:35 am
Katey thank you so much for your enthusiasm! Your comment has completely made my day! I looked up Sweet Dream Pie and I think I need to get my hands on a copy. Cheers, and best of luck to you as well!
12/13/2014 @ 4:02 pm
This is great! Love the pigeon idea! Good luck with the story!
12/13/2014 @ 4:05 pm
Susanna Leonard Hill
12/13/2014 @ 9:27 pm
Love the transformation from sour and glum to sweet and happy, Mishka! And all because of a pigeon (and a boy’s attempts to rescue it – for whatever reason, still a kind-hearted thing to do :)) You did a lovely job of showing the gradually changing atmosphere, and I love that they all ended up having hot chocolate together at the diner while the pigeon flew free into the “mirthful sky” 🙂 Nicely done! Thanks so much for joining in the Holiday Contest fun… I’m glad you didn’t feel any pressure 🙂
12/13/2014 @ 9:35 pm
Haha! Thanks again, Susanna. I’m very glad you liked my story. I can’t call you a muse exactly, but you’re certainly a brain instigator. And I need some of that kind of pursuasion right now. Thanks for providing the Holiday Contest fun. The more mirth the merrier. Have a great Christmas!
12/14/2014 @ 12:50 am
Nice build up! Great way to illustrate the spirit of the season.
12/14/2014 @ 11:51 am
Thank you, Margaret! Cheers!
Carrie Charley Brown
12/14/2014 @ 12:50 am
Sweet to have this Christmas rescue with teamwork from so many characters!
12/14/2014 @ 11:52 am
Thanks, Carrie! I wish I could have given them all names, too.
12/14/2014 @ 6:06 am
beautifully done. Thank you for the notes describing your process in developing the story.
12/14/2014 @ 11:55 am
Thank you, Cecilia! And thanks for reading all the notes which are longer than the actual story!
Tracey M. Cox
12/14/2014 @ 12:42 pm
What a wonderful story. I love how each one decided to try and help and the Christmas Spirit was renewed. YAY!
12/18/2014 @ 1:25 pm
Tracey, thank you very much!
12/15/2014 @ 12:21 am
Mishka…thank you so very much…not only did you give us a charming story (based on a true event…even better)…and a lovely illustration…you also gave us the back story and your process…wow…it’s always helpful to hear how another writer (in this case writer/illustrator) goes about writing a story. Great job…so glad you found enough time to join in the fun. 🙂
12/18/2014 @ 1:37 pm
Thank you for reading, Vivian!
12/15/2014 @ 1:32 am
“Boisterous peals of snow…” — What a lovely, cute and funny story. I really enjoyed reading your notes as well.
12/18/2014 @ 1:38 pm
Thanks, Andy! I’m glad you liked that line. It’s one of my favorites.
12/15/2014 @ 2:51 am
Ah, the great pidgeon rescue! This story has lovely—and hilarious—illustration potential. It must be awesome to have both writing and illustration skills. Good luck in the competition!
12/18/2014 @ 1:38 pm
12/15/2014 @ 2:29 pm
This is very pretty Mishka. I love those gray days where an accidental laugh becomes a belly shaking ruckus:)
12/18/2014 @ 1:39 pm
Thank you so much, Lauri! Have a great Christmas!