Summer isn't quite so boring when there's competition in the air - it's a heady scent, but it brightens up the monotony of constant rainstorms and humidity. Hosted by the masterminds of Figment.com, there were a great many memorable contests over the course of summer vacation. But I had tried to convince myself not to enter anymore. I figured that winning one was enough - my serial novel piece, Flour House - so I decided that I would sit the new contests out.
Yep. Didn't last.
The contest that did me in was called the Let Them Eat Figs contest. Basically, all entrants had to write a 1500 word story about princes and/or princesses. It could be set in any world and have original or preexisting royalty in it (literary or otherwise). I haven't completely grown up, in a way, so I'm still often charmed by stories of princes and princesses. I don't think that will ever change. I felt like this contest was calling me to the challenge - so I sucked in a deep breath and opened up a new Word document. And then the pieces of my story started to come together...
The Princess & Her Shadow is the title of my entry, a little fairy tale about a princess who is determined to find out if her favorite story is really steeped in reality - or is it just a myth? She comes from an underground world where everyone is born with a talking shadow; her shadow, Prunella, is a bit of a troublemaker in crinoline. You can read the whole story here, but here's an excerpt:
Jane heard the story of the heartless prince countless times. Her nursemaids used to tell it to her while they rubbed tuberose lotion into her little pink toes and frail shoulders. She bathed in the lake, swimming in the licorice waters like a primordial fish, sending fallen stars and lost message-bottles bobbing on the surface in her wake.
“His older brothers were jealous,” she’d say, flipping onto her back. Her chest heaved and a pink star tickled her ear. The night sky hung above her, a cluster of tree roots and black soil. “They snuck into the prince’s room and cut out his heart with a sewing scissor. And then they hid the prince in a tiny room under a foxglove tree so the king and queen would never know.”
Jane paddled back to shore and gratefully took the silky-warm towel from her nursemaids. They combed her sable hair with delicate combs and plucked the lake-droplets off her eyelids. “How silly of those brothers,” Jane would say. “They didn’t get rid of the prince – they merely bottled him up and put him in a pantry.”
“Why do you say that?” the nursemaids asked, with smiles.
“Everyone knows that you need a heart to die. So the poor, dear prince is still alive. Just asleep under that tree.”
I think I forgot to mention that this contest had been inspired by Shannon Hale whose new book, Book of a Thousand Days, was featured on the site. I love Hale's writing and how she makes fairy tales her own, creating new twists and turns but still following the path we love so much in each particular story. I first read Goose Girl - having loved the original tale - and wasn't disappointed. So since then, I've been plopping her books onto my pile every time I've found her in the library - but with this contest, I finally own two of her book now!
So, on a perfectly average day, the mysterious box arrived:
The coolest part about the box is that it's a Random House one. Which, when it comes down to it, simply means that the cardboard box is decorated with little houses. I'm easy to please, I think, because I had to keep turning the box over for last least five minutes before actually opening it. Call it house-hunting, if you will.
Once I jabbed at the seals with my handy scissor, I discovered a plethora of prizes. I started to read a little of Book of a Thousand Days (alas, between grading and writing) and I think I'm going to enjoy it. It's written in a diary format, and I like the main character - Dashti - already. There's also the Princess Academy which is, by far, my favorite of all Hale's books. So excited to finally have a copy.
I know this is side-tracking a bit, but I love the fact that I got paperback copies. Paperbacks are the best, haha. I used to hate them as a kid because the covers usually got torn off or irrevocably bent and that wasn't fun. But now the covers are made of nice material. They allow me more space on my bursting bookshelf and are awfully cuddly. Yes, I cuddle books. Sometimes. They don't jab me like hardcovers. And the best part is that, because paperbacks are lightweight, I never have to say no to bringing a book along with me when I venture out of my hermit cave (or school office).
Super digression! Haha! Anywho, I grinned so hard my cheeks hurt when I saw the tote bag. I mean, it' pretty epic. I can't wait to start using it and see what happens.
If those gifts were awesome enough, I found another surprise from the Figment team. They drew this wonderful picture, inspired by a scene in The Princess & Her Shadow. There's the foxglove tree with its mysterious hole - only revealed when Jane can prove that she's worthy of entering. I love this drawing so much; I've hung it up over my little desk where, when I'm not tempted by a couch, I sit and work on my writing. It's a wonderful reminder to keep going - even if you're scared to see what's at the bottom of a dark hole, even if you fear your favorite story's unraveling.
So, as I promised, I went out to run some errands and took my Figment tote with me. Surrounded by crackly old hardbacks in the local library, I couldn't help but feel at home with the tote on my shoulder. It made the pile of books I gathered much easier to get back to the car, in any event, haha.
Thanks for the lovely gifts, Figment!