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Young writers use “first lines” to find their own voices

Winning entries in the 2o23 Smithers Public Library First Line Story Contest
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Smithers Public Library. (File photo)

Throughout spring break, Smithers Public Library sponsored a First Line Story Contest for local children and youth. The idea was to take an opening line from a well-known work of children’s literature (provided by the library) as a jumping-off point for a new story or scene no longer than 300 words.

Each young writer took their “first lines” in surprising new directions and created characters all their own. The entries were divided into two age categories: 9 and under and 10 and up. First place in the 9 and under category was awarded to Angus Farrell, while the winning entry in the 10+ category went to Connor Farrell. Honourable Mentions were also awarded to Ellie Cockriell and Judah Alkema.

Other contest finalists include Rosie Farrell, Emily Alkema, and Everett Pelzer. The winners and finalists are currently on display in the children’s section at the library and the two winning stories are included below. Thank you to all of the participants!

- Melissa Sawatsky

Winning Story (age 9 and under)

By Angus Farrell, Age 9

If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.

That is what I thought as I ran from the dragon with the magic sword I had stolen. Right in front of me was a turn in the cave, so I went to the right. I jumped over a rock just as a beam of fire shot over my head from the dragon.

I knew all this because I was watching it. As I turned around, I saw a large skeleton. The skeleton was 6 feet tall and had a big sword in his hand. I put the sword I had stolen in my right hand and swung it as hard as I could and I chopped its arm clean of its body. The skeleton crumpled to the floor and it did not move. I thought that maybe I should clean up the mess I made, but then I heard the dragon roaring behind me, so I started running again.

As I was running, I saw a crack in the wall, but then I stepped on a trap and fell down. As I fell down, I angled the sword so that I did not stab myself. Then I rolled into the crack in the wall so the dragon could not eat me. I slowly crawled through the crack and into a big cave full of treasure.

I looked to see if the dragon was here, but it was not. I went as fast as I could go with my hurt leg into the treasure to bury myself in the money and gems, but the dragon ran out from behind a wall and ate me.

Winning Story (age 10 and up)

By Connor Farrell, Age 12

On the morning I was scheduled to die, a large barefoot man with a bushy red beard waddled past my house.

The man was an eliminator, instructed to execute me. I’d hacked into the emperor’s computers, knew their secrets and now they were hunting me.

The eliminator shouted out from the street in a deep voice: “We know you’re in there! Come out Julius!”

My plan was to sneak out with some supplies and hide in the woods until it got safer. I stuck my head out the door to check if the coast was clear. The coast was definitely not clear. That fact was driven home by a gunshot. I desperately tried to think of a way to get out. I decided that I would startle the eliminator by running through the front door.

I crept up to the door, and then blasted it open while yelling “Boo!” The eliminator stumbled, and I trampled over it. On a normal day, I might have felt sorry for the poor eliminator, but seeing as it was trying to kill me, I decided that it didn’t deserve my pity.

As I was escaping, it grabbed me! I tried to pull away, but the eliminator just threw me into the trunk of a car.

In a few minutes, we got to the emperor’s fortress. Dozens of eliminators patrolled the building. Inside there was a laboratory with lots of beakers and petri dishes for foul experiments. I was forced to kneel before the emperor with an eliminator holding a gun barrel up against my head. The emperor sneered as he said, “any last words?”

“Yes. So long suckers.” I kicked the eliminator in the knee, knocking it over. Then I pulled a parachute out of my backpack, flourished it like a cape and jumped out of a window. By the time the emperor got over the surprise and raised the alarm, I was long gone.



Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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