Short stories

Winner: Young Writers Competition – The Dig by Daisy Whittington

This year, we put together our FIRST EVER competition dedicated to young writers. After many fantastic entries, it was a difficult decision trying to narrow it down to a final shortlist before a winner was chosen by YA fantasy author Caroline Logan. She picked Daisy Whittington, aged 14, as our winner, who wrote The Dig, a rolleroaster tale with unexpected twists and turns.

Read on below to read The Dig by Daisy Whittington.

Tina’s dad is an archaeologist and ever since Tina was able to walk, he would always make an effort to involve her with his work. He would bring home special artifacts for Tina that would intrigue her greatly. Tina was always most intrigued by the bones. It could be any sort of bone: a rabbit bone, a deer bone. And it could be a bone of any shape: a tooth or perhaps a femur. Tina didn’t care, she just loved bones.

It didn’t take long for her to start collecting them. Every evening, she would eagerly wait for her dad to get back from work and she would jump with joy when he’d unveil a new bone from behind his back to add to her collection. She couldn’t get enough! Her collection grew and grew, however she still had not reached the level of fulfilment she felt compelled to reach. Tina soon came to the conclusion that her dad was not the best source of bone income. She needed to get her own bones.

Tina crept out the house. She found herself in a graveyard. A bone jackpot! She waited until no one was around, and then she began to dig into a grave. Tina dug fast. Excitement overcame her. She knew the skeletal remains were close by, she knew they were waiting for her to take them home. Tina dug deeper and deeper until….

“TINA!! You stop that right now!” It was Tina’s dad. He’d caught her. ‘You are a DISGRACE. I am taking you straight home, you bad, bad dog.”

We hope you enjoyed reading The Dig just as much as we did! You can read all the shortlisted stories – and Caroline Logan’s feedback on each one – by clicking here and scroll down to read our Summer 2021 issue – completely FREE!

Interviews

Interview with author Damaris Young

We spoke to author Damaris Young about her new novel The Creature Keeper in our Winter 2020 issue. Read on to discover more, or head over to our issues page to read the interview inside PaperBound Magazine itself.

Tell us a little about your new book The Creature Keeper. What made you decide to write it?

When animal lover Cora learns that Direspire’s mysterious owner is looking for a new Creature Keeper, she realises this might just be the chance she’s looking for to save her parents’ farm. But Direspire Hall is a spooky place, and the strange creatures who live there are nothing like Cora is expecting. As Cora settles into her new life, it soon becomes clear that Direspire has its secrets, and that somebody will do whatever it takes to keep them…

Growing up, I was always more comfortable around animals, and sometimes I struggled to talk to people. I wanted to write a story about a young girl who, just like me, feels a connection to animals, and send her on a journey of self-discovery and adventure, where she learns to find her voice.

What does your typical writing day look like?

The first thing I do is take my two dogs for a long walk near the river, which helps wake my brain up. When I get home, I’ll make breakfast, toast and a cup of coffee, and take it up to my home office. I usually write for a few hours, before finishing off the day by catching up on admin. I send out author letters to schools, sign bookplates, write articles for blog posts, and prepare for virtual workshops. I love connecting with schools and readers, it is one of the best parts of the job.

Your book The Creature Keeper has been described as having a ‘creepy gothic setting’. How important is setting to your writing?

The setting is incredibly important to my writing and I will treat it as a character, with its own quirks, personality and different moods. In The Switching Hour, the setting of the drought-stricken land became the antagonist that thwarted Amaya on her mission to save her brother. In The Creature Keeper, Direspire Hall is found near the coast and ‘The sea, the one that bordered our part of the world, wasn’t like any other. It had a mind of its own. Ma said it had eyes and ears and even teeth, and that it would gobble you up if you weren’t careful.’ The setting is wild and unpredictable, not unlike the creatures Cora discovers in Direspire hall.

What other middle grade novels do you love? What is it about them that you enjoyed?

I’m currently reading When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten, set on a small Caribbean island. I love the strong sense of place, and the clever, and perceptive protagonist, Clara. I’m also a huge fan of the author Kirsty Applebaum, and her new story Troofriend is excellent! It follows a robot manufactured to be a child’s companion, and the curious and clever robot stole my heart from the very first page.

You’ve completed a writing course; how valuable was it to have people to share your writing with?

Being able to share your work with other writers and critique each other’s stories is invaluable. Writing a book is tough, and it is easy to lose motivation. Having other writers who support and encourage you is essential, as is being able to celebrate each other’s successes!

What other things do you enjoy when you’re not writing books?

I’ve recently started to learn cross-stitch, and it’s a great way to relax your mind! This year has been particularly challenging for lots of people’s mental health and being able to do something creative and relatively simple, like cross-stitch, has helped me.

If you could share one piece of writing advice with our readers, what would it be?

Don’t compare yourself and your writing to anyone else. When I started on my writing journey I often felt like a chameleon as I tried to emulate the writers I admired. I wasn’t allowing myself to find my voice as a writer, and I caused myself no end of frustration when I couldn’t get it ‘right’.

Once I stopped comparing myself to others (although full disclosure, I do still sometimes find myself slipping into those bad habits) I began to celebrate what made my writing unique.

Writing prompt:

In my new book The Creature Keeper, Cora looks after extraordinary creatures that are extremely rare. When writing your story, imagine your character comes across a rare or endangered creature. What is it? Write an adventure, helping the creature get back to its natural habitat.

We’d love to read what you come up with. Send your stories here: paperboundmagazine@outlook.com

We may even print it in a future issue!

Damaris studied on the Writing for Young People MA at Bath Spa University, where she wrote her debut novel, The Switching Hour. She is passionate about inspiring and empowering young readers with knowledge and action about climate change, as well as encouraging a love of the natural world with her stories. You can catch up with Damaris on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The Switching Hour and The Creature Keeper are published by Scholastic UK and both books are available now!