Friday, May 29, 2009

Contest Winner Announced

The fourteen contest entries have been reviewed, and we have a winner!  Kendall Bowen from 5th grade was selected as the winner of the school-wide writing contest.  Congratulations!  Her final chapter will be attached to the story online as the official ending.  All other entrants will also have their chapters posted online in a later section of alternate endings. 

All of the students who submitted writing for the contest were honored in an assembly on Thursday, May 28.  They all received a writing journal, and a gift card to the movie theater. Brooke Springer of 4th grade was our Honorable Mention winner, and she received a signed copy of Elaine Alphin's Ghost Soldier.  As our winner, Kendall Bowen recieved a signed copy of Ghost Soldier and $50 cash!  Elaine Alphin read Kendall's winning chapter aloud to the school, and honored everyone for all their great work. 

Thanks to all who helped create this wonderful story!  

We have 14 Contest Entrants

Fourteen students turned in their writing for the final chapter writing contest.  Here they are:
Quincy Airhart - 2nd Grade
Kendall Bowen - 5th Grade
Tyler Cooper - 5th Grade
Tanner Dahlin - 2nd Grade
Emily Hull - 7th Grade
Garrett Johnson - 2nd Grade
McKenna Kirschten - 5th Grade
Maddie Powers - 5th Grade
Alyssa Quinn - 2nd Grade
Austin Roos - 8th Grade
Nathan Soto - 5th Grade
Brooke Springer - 4th Grade
Carli Springer - 2nd Grade
Kaydee Anne TeSelle - 2nd Grade

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

3 contest entrants so far

Three ambitious Monforton writers have submitted final chapters to our contest so far.  How is the story going to end?  Keep writing!  Keep submitting!  The contest ends May 15th.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Mystery Writing Contest Has Begun

Between now and May 15th, any student, or group of students, at Monforton School can write the final chapter of the Monforton Mystery and solve the mystery however they want!  The first seven chapters have brought us through many clues, unusual happenings, suspicions, and decisions.  Now it's time for Phil to solve the mystery once and for all, and keep his family name in good shape!  So students:  who do you think is guilty?  How is Phil going to prove it?  Write your chapter and tell the world!  
Every writer who submits a solution chapter will win a pair of movie tickets, and a writing journal, and their pages will be posted online.  One writer will be chosen as the grand prize winner - their chapter will be attached online as the official ending to the Monforton Mystery.  They will also win $50.00!  
Our Mystery Writing Bash will be held on Thursday, May 28th, where Elaine Marie Alphin will once again visit our school, pass out awards, and read the contest winning chapter! 
Good luck writing! We can't wait to have this mystery finally solved... 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What a terrific build to the mystery's solution!!

I'm so impressed with the great job 8th Grade and Donovan F. have done with Chapter 7! You've ratcheted up the tension and drawn the threads of the various clues together to set up the final chapter very effectively. I particularly like the way you've reminded readers of so many small details they might have lost track of during the mystery, like Mr. Nash's bug, the grating noise, the green notebook, the receipt, the keys. And you've kept Phil and Dexter perfectly in character - I loved it when Dexter blurted that out about Phil's seeing the money in the lockbox, and when he brought Phil the napkin full of slices of pork and green beans - he's a great friend even if he trips over his own feet (and puts his foot in his mouth way too often!)

And you've done a good job of further developing the puzzle of why the adults are so rotten to Phil - it's still unreasonable that Mr. Callantine immediately blames Phil and punishes him by leaving him on the bus and tells him he's going to be sent home the following morning - especially when he's so nice to Randy who unexpectedly offers to pay for the evening, without ever questioning how Randy got all that money! But it's completely consistent with his unreasonable treatment of Phil the whole way through. Here's the thing I found interesting, though - if Mr. Callantine was the villain of the piece, why would he leave Phil alone on the bus with the muddy boot and the flashlight in the compartment? Wouldn't he worry that Phil might find them? So that might be the clue that would prove him innocent (even if he's still unreasonably unfair to Phil) - or it might mean that he thinks Phil isn't smart enough to find the compartment, or to understand the significance of the boot and the flashlight.

Or it might mean that the boot and the flashlight are red herrings - false clues that don't mean anything in terms of solving the mystery.

By the way, I especially liked the way the compartment's latch felt cold to Phil's touch, and the way we heard the hinge squeak as the lid popped open. Sensory details like that really help the reader feel as spooked as Phil feels.

You've left so many possibilities for writers to explore in the final chapter! Who did Dexter overhear with the deep voice when he was in the bathroom (what a perfect place to eavesdrop!)? Is the one more item really one more Palm Pilot? And isn't it interesting that Mr. Nash conveniently disappears just when Dexter overhears the conversation? Mr. Nash tells Phil that he believes him - he believes that Phil didn't steal the Palm Pilots or the money. Could that be because Mr. Nash knows who did? Could he be involved? But why would he steal kids' Palm Pilots? And if he's involved, why did he tell Phil that he would figure it out sooner or later? That suggests that Mr. Nash is innocent - or that he's staying close to Phil so he'll be there when Phil does figure it out - to silence him!

I love your chapter ending with Phil's determination to set a trap. So we're all set for the final chapter to be played out at 11:00 that night. Time has run out for Phil - he has to solve the mystery before he's sent home in disgrace in the morning, and you've shown his determination to do just that. I'm really excited to see what's going to happen!

As you plan out your possible last chapters, remember that at the end of a book the main character should run up against the worst obstacle at all. It should look as if there's no way that he can overcome this worst obstacle, so the reader believes that there can't possibly be a happy ending. But then the main character should look deep within himself, and discover that he possesses inner strengths that help him see a way to triumph. This worst obstacle is more than solving the mystery - in fact, the worst obstacle in a mystery often comes after the main character has identified the real culprit, but before he can tell anyone.

Perhaps Phil sets his trap and springs it, and realizes who the thief is, but the thief sees him and locks Phil up somewhere and everyone thinks Phil just ran away to avoid being sent home. Phil must find a way to escape and identify the thief - and make the others believe him.

Perhaps Phil sets his trap and no thief shows up. With time desperately short, what will Phil do to prove his innocence?

Perhaps Phil sets his trap and identifies the thief, but when he tries to tell the others, the thief is someone no one wants to believe capable of doing this, and Mr. Callahan and Mr. Troth think Phil is lying again.

Whoever you pick to be the thief - be sure that he or she consistently fits the clues that have been laid so far. But be creative - sometimes the best friend can turn out to be the bad guy! While Phil is setting his trap, could he be walking into a trap that Dexter has set for him? Did Dexter really overhear a conversation, or did he make it up?

But whoever the thief is, remember that he or she must have a motive. All of you have done a great job of setting up motives so far, as with Missy. The motive doesn't have to be complicated, but it must be believable.

The last, all-important, thing to keep in mind as you plot out the mystery's solution is that Phil has to solve the mystery himself. You can't have his father, concerned about what's going on, call the sheriff and send him with a bunch of deputies to the camp to arrive just in the nick of time to rescue Phil from the thief's clutches. You can't have Mr. Callahan suddenly regret he accused Phil and blunder in just as the trap is sprung and the thief realizes that Phil has seen him and is prepared to silence this inconvenient witness, and save the day.

You can use the others to help Phil, of course - as long as he's the one who brings about the resolution. For instance, if the thief sees him and chases him, and Phil leads the thief straight for Mr. Troth's dog, shouting for the dog to attack the thief, and the whole camp wakes up and everybody rushes out of their tents with their flashlights illuminating the thief on the ground with the dog standing on his (or her!) chest, then Phil has saved himself.

It's up to you to figure out how Phil will set his trap and how he will find his inner strength to overcome the last, worst obstacle and prove his innocence. It's up to you to decide who the thief is, and why the thief stole the Palm Pilots and the money.

And it's also up to you whether or not Phil will forgive the people who assumed his was guilty. After going through an ordeal in a book, characters grow and change. Usually it's for the better, but it could be a change for the worse. Phil snapped at Mr. Nash (he had every reason to be angry at being punished for something he didn't do - but he wasn't the snapping type before). Does this mean that the events of this camping trip will turn him bitter? Or will he rise above it on the strength of his solving the mystery and identifying the thief when no one else could?

You have so many possible endings for this terrific mystery, Monforton Students - I hope many of you will try your hand at writing the last chapter. I'm excited to see how you choose to end Phil's story.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chapter 7 is Posted...

Chapter 7, written by the 8th Grade and Donovan F., is posted!  Our story is building quickly, ready for the final conclusion.  So all you writers, write us an ending!  Watch for news about the final chapter writing contest

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chapter 7 is Underway

The 8th grade class has plotted and planned, and Chapter 7 is underway.  This is the last chapter to be written by a class.  The next chapter, Chapter 8, will be a writing contest for anyone in the school to do.  How will the 8th grade leave us to write the final solution to our mystery?