One afternoon, right before school was about to let out, Ms. Beadle had an exciting announcement to make.
"Girls and boys," Mrs. Beadle announced. Everyone got quiet.
"There is going to be a contest."
"With prizes?" asked Willy Olson. Nellie quickly quieted him down.
"Yes, with prizes," Mrs. Beadle smiled, which was unusual for her when people spoke out of turn. "It's going to be a writing contest. Your story must have over 300 words and be somewhat short and powerful. The competition is with two different schools - the private school in the next town over is even participating. But we can win, and I expect us to win. Unfortunately, we came into the competition a bit late and the due date is in four days. I will not be assigning extensive homework and the tests we were supposed to take tomorrow will be put off until the competition is over."
The whole class was abuzz with excitement and everyone stopped off at Olson's Mercantile on the way home, since Nellie said her father was giving away free paper tablets to everyone who wished to enter.
"What do you suppose you're going to write about, Mary?" Nellie asked once they were in the store that was crowded with all the school kids.
"I don't know yet," Mary answered truthfully. She wasn't used to Nellie being nice, but she could certainly handle it as long as she made sure not to give any information to Nellie.
"I'm probably going to write about the time that we went to that lovely grand hotel in the city - the nice city. Not the kind that people around here are used to. I bet it'll be the only story of its kind!"
"I bet it will be, Nellie," Mary nodded, trying not to laugh before dashing off. Nellie and her bragging!
"Are you going to enter, Samantha?" Laura asked her.
Samantha nodded happily. "I went to the private school that Ms. Beadle was talking about. I only switched over to this school last year - like you did."
"I think I might enter," Laura smiled.
"Good, but be careful - Mary is going to be tough competition!" Samantha laughed and Laura knew that it was just a joke, but somehow, it made her feel like her best friend wasn't rooting for her to win. Laura supposed it was every man for themselves.
"Ma, there is going to be a writing contest," Laura told Ma when the two girls walked through the door.
"Wonderful," Ma smiled, "Mary, I expect that you are entering."
"Oh yes," Mary smiled, "I might already have an idea about what to write about, too! May I go up and work on my writing? I promise I'll do my chores later."
"Alright - I'll make one exception just this once. After the writing contest is over though, you're back to doing chores when you're supposed to. Do you understand?"
"Yes ma'am," Mary nodded before racing up the loft ladder to write.
"Laura, please get started on your chores or homework," Ma sighed, bending down to see if the iron was hot enough for ironing yet.
"Yes," Laura mumbled slightly before walking out of the house to do her chores. It wasn't fair! Ma didn't think that Laura was going to enter and she expected Mary to win already! Maybe Ma doesn't want me to enter. I couldn't outdo Mary's writing anyway; probably. Maybe I'll just forget about this whole contest," Laura kicked up dirt as she walked over to the barn to get started on her chores.
The next morning, bright and early, before anyone was even up, Laura raced outside to write. She wanted to write in secret now that no one expected her to win; much less enter. Even Pa had told Mary that his money was on her for winning. Laura also knew that in all fairness, no one in her family knew she was entering, so she tried not to take anything too personally.
Laura had come outside in hopes of finding some inspiration for her short but powerful story. Unfortunately, there was no inspiration to be found at first glance. Then, she got the idea to write about a runaway girl in the woods - climbing trees and surviving in any way she could. Wait, no! Laura would write about a girl like Kaya who had been separated from her tribe and survived in the woods on her own! That would be powerful, and she could try and make it somewhat short.
"Yay!" Laura whispered excitedly. It always felt good to finally conquer a writer's block. Laura had never really dreamed of writing a story, but now, she realized how fun it would be, and she decided to enter.
Suddenly, Laura's thoughts were interrupted when she saw a girl climbing the tree. Not just any girl though - it was Samantha!
"Hi," Laura smiled.
"Hi," Samantha smiled back, "Hey, what are you doing out here so early? I was just getting a really early start out for school and I heard someone up here in the trees say 'yay', so I came up to investigate!"
"Oh," Laura blushed. Had she really said "yay" that loud? She must've just been so excited. "I'm just....nothing."
"What's that pencil and paper tablet? You're going to enter the contest, aren't you!" Samantha cried out softly, as though she had just made a discovery that Laura was doing something illegal.
"Well, what's wrong with entering the contest?" Laura asked defiantly.
"Well, I don't know, Laura," Samantha sighed.
The girls climbed down from the tree. Laura wondered what was wrong with Samantha. Didn't she want to see her friend win the contest - or at least be an honorable mention - or even at the very least, enter?
"I'm going to write a good story - you'll see," Laura smiled at her friend, secretly hoping that Samantha wasn't upset for some reason.
"Laura, I don't want you to take offense, but there are a lot of good writers in the school - and the private school we are competing against has a whole writing team with a school newspaper and everything! Laura, you've only been writing for one year."
"I think I can do good, don't you?" Laura asked worriedly. She didn't know why Samantha was so upset.
"Laura, Mary is a great writer and so is everyone else - it's tough competition," Samantha shrugged.
"So it is tough for me but not for you?" Laura asked angrily.
"I never said that!" Samantha told her.
"But you're still entering, aren't you?" Laura challenged. "You know what, Samantha, I'll enter any contest I want on my own terms and I'll do anything that I want and I'll not have you voicing your opinion on my every move and decision! I don't want to talk write now."
Samantha opened her voice to talk, but instead walked off in a huff. Hmph, Laura huffed, I'll show her!
The only problem was, Laura didn't know where to start with writing her story.