The Story • Madi Ashmead

There once was a little girl who didn’t know what to write. She racked her brain trying to come up with an idea. Nothing. She chewed the eraser of her pencil, and closed her eyes, longing for the graphite to touch the paper. Her mind went blank, with her hand clamped tight around the pencil, hoping just the tiniest spark of imagination would light a fire in her big, blank, brain.

This little girl had been in Gifted and Talented ever since 2nd grade. Her teacher’s name was Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith and the little girl were very close. The little girl had always been a talented writer, and when Mrs. Smith saw that, she signed the little girl up for writing contests and brought her to writing conferences.

At one writing conference, the little girl got to meet author Miranda Paul. The little girl was very excited. She looked up to Miranda like some kids would look up to Michael Jordan, Aaron Rodgers, or LeBron James. And just like that, the little girl decided that she was going to be an author. Not much later were her skills put to the test.

Mrs. Smith had found another writing contest. The little girl could write any piece of literature she wanted to that was under 20 pages. She would have to bring the piece to Mrs. Smith on Friday morning. It was Monday. She could do that, or so she thought.

The first step was to come up with an idea of what she was going to write about. This will be the easiest part, thought the little girl. She had set out her time line, and she had given herself two days to come up with what she was going to write about, two days to write her story, and then Friday morning she would give it to Mrs. Smith.

That day, when the little girl was eating dinner, she asked her mom, “What should I write about?”

The mother listened very carefully as the daughter explained the writing contest. Then the mother started throwing out ideas, “Animals, Feelings, Fears, Experiences, Umm… Dreams, Uh… Animals?”

“You said that already,” laughed the little girl. “What else?”

“Well, if you’re thinking about what type of writing then maybe you could write a poem, or a narrative, or maybe a play script?”

“Maybe I’ll just sleep on it,” said the little girl.

“Sounds good.”

The next morning on the bus the little girl kept thinking about what she was going to write about. Chickens, Loneliness, Heights, Costa Rica, Mrs. Gorf? She thought about it all throughout social studies, and she thought about it when they were taking a fraction test in math. She thought about monkeys, zip lining, and pizza during science, and happiness, and silliness during recess. The Rocky Mountains during lunch, and The Day The Crayons Came Home during reading. But the little girl still hadn’t thought of what to write about.

That afternoon she got home and her mom asked her if she knew what she was going to write about. The little girl didn’t answer, she didn’t know, so she looked down at her shoes and dropped her backpack on the rug.

“Honey?” The mother asked. The little girl didn’t answer.

“Oh honey, I love you.” The mother kissed the little girl on the top of her head. The little girl knew that her mom loved her with all her heart, but she didn’t feel like she deserved to be loved. What kind of author couldn’t even come up with an idea for a story? That night the little girl and her mom had spaghetti and meatballs, watched a movie, and went to bed early to get a good night’s sleep.

The next morning on the bus, the little girl got out her fresh, new notebook her mom had bought for her. She also took out her fresh new package of 10 different colored ballpoint pens. She wrote with her new black pen: If I cannot come up with an idea for a story, I cannot be a writer. If I cannot come up with an idea for a story under a deadline, I cannot be a writer.

The little girl threw the notebook and pens away the first chance she got. In social studies, she thought about what she could have written in that notebook. In math, she thought about what she could have written with those ballpoint pens. She thought about slugs, bench pressing, and broccoli during science, and darkness and death during recess. The polluted Yellow River during lunch, and The Hunger Games during reading.

On her way out of school that day Mrs. Smith pulled the little girl aside and told her, “I’m excited to see your story for the writing contest.” The little girl didn’t say anything and walked away.

That night she ate dinner slowly chewing one mouthful at a time. She put on her pajamas slowly, putting one leg in each pant leg hole at a time. Then, a light bulb went on. She rushed to put her shirt on, glided across the hardwood in her cabin socks, and told her idea to her mom. The mother smiled and agreed. Then they set to work. The little girl stayed up to 10:00 pm that night drafting, writing, editing, drinking her hot chocolate, and putting the finishing pieces on her story. Finally, that night, when tucking the little girl into bed, the mother said, “I love you, your brain, and all your stories.”

The little girl felt happiness that night when she went to bed. She felt joy when she went to bed. She felt proud when she went to bed. But most of all she felt loved when she went to bed. I am a writer. She thought, and she was.

The little girl wrote the winning contest story. It started like this: There once was a little girl who didn’t know what to write…