To See, Or Not To See

Ever since I rejoined Twitter this year and started following more children’s picture book authors, agents, and editors, I’ve been learning about more and more writing contests. I may have had some beginner’s luck with the last Valentine’s Day writing contest (my 214-word story placed in the finals!), so I’m tempering my expectations for Vivian Kirkfield’s contest: #50PreciousWords. Which is exactly what it sounds like! A story for kids 12 and under that is written in 50 words or less.

So what does the picture of baby groundhogs with eyes still closed have to do with this? You’ll have to wait…and see.

I brainstormed several ideas for the writing contest, but none seemed to squish into that small of a space. So when I went for a walk on the warmest day of the year so far (50 degrees…snow melting…sun shining), a word popped into my mind: Hibernate.

I kept picturing different young animals who hibernate for the winter wanting to postpone their “bedtime” (as I was known to do as a kid). The parents would be saying, “It’s time to hiber,”–“WAIT!” the kid would interject. And so this would go on and on for each critter finding some way to stall before going to sleep. The words kept piling up with that version of the story (this paragraph is already over 50 words). So I decided to pick just one animal to focus on. Bears seem to be overdone in children’s books, so my next thought was woodchucks/groundhogs.

I have a soft spot for them, because ten years ago my dad found a woodchuck pup in the grass next to one of our farm buildings. We weren’t sure what it was at the moment (it really did look like a newborn puppy), but Google helped. Now, you have to understand that woodchucks are fairly destructive animals when it comes to building their tunnels, even if that means eroding the foundation of…buildings (Exhibit A: the Backyard Visitor on 9/26/2020 who dug under our deck). Needless to say, my dad wanted to let nature take its course and just leave the critter alone, and he didn’t want me to get too “attached.” But then we heard more helpless pups yelping inside the pole shed next door, and the mom didn’t show up. Dad reluctantly agreed to let me take them to a wildlife rescue center instead.

Groundhog Day, February 2, has never been an occasion I’ve cared too much about, but I had recently rewatched the movie with Bill Murray when 2020 felt so much like living the same day over and over, and I decided to explore that angle for my 50-word story.

I didn’t research other children’s books about Groundhog Day before I wrote the piece below, but then I discovered “Punxsutawney Phyllis” by Susanna Leonard Hill (who ran the Valentiny contest) about a groundhog who wanted to replace her Uncle Phil in the spotlight. So I thought it was fitting that Geraldine wanted just the opposite in my tale.

To See, Or Not To See

Geraldine’s family was famous.

Her dad, Gerald, made the newspaper every February.

Grandpa Gerry was on the town’s postcard.

Geraldine was expected to appear on television.

When Geraldine emerged from her home, she didn’t see anyone. Or her shadow.

Because the camera-shy groundhog kept her eyes closed.

Who predicted that?

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