Writing Gallery


Van Pelt The Color Changing Ghost

Once upon a time in a spooky cobweb filled house, there lived sixteen regular ghosts and one very special color changing ghost named Van Pelt. Van Pelt could change into any color in the rainbow. He would go black to green to red in just one second. You could always tell Van Pelt's mood by what color he was. Green was if he was embarrassed. Red was if he was angry. Yellow was if he was happy, and black was if he was in love. Van Pelt spent his days scaring people who tried to come into his haunted house. "Get out of my mansion!" he would growl and, starting with his toes, he would change color until he was bright red.

Midnight, on April 26th, Van Pelt ran into a very serious problem at his house. He was minding his own business, just playing a great game of Ghostland when, all of a sudden, he heard some loud footsteps trumping up his stairs.

Creeeeeak went the door to his bedroom. "Hello. May I please play your game with you?" someone asked. Van Pelt looked away from his game with a skeptical look and saw in his doorway the biggest, baddest bully in town. It was Jake the Master. He had a bright red mohawk that was seven feet high.

"What do you want?" asked Van Pelt, "And most of all, why aren't you afraid of me?"

"Well," said Jake the Master, "I'm not afraid of you because I just want to be your friend."

"No way!" screamed Van Pelt, and he turned all of his darkest colors at once.

What happens next?! Will Jake and Van Pelt ever be friends? Who would win if they played Ghostland? How can Jake stand up straight with that much hair? Finish the story yourself, and send it to [email protected].

The Las Vegas Adventure of Buddy and Juju

Buddy, the alien from Mars, lived in a haunted house. He liked to collect things, like rocks, and he liked to eat chicken fingers. One of his favorite things to do was to invite friends over for slumber parties. Juju, the Prince from Saturn, was one of his best friends. One weekend, they jumped in their spaceship and went to Las Vegas.

“Let’s go swimming, and then we can go to the movies,” said Juju.

“Sure,” said Buddy. “That sounds like a great idea.”

As the spaceship came closer to Las Vegas, they looked down and saw that everyone was being very serious, even though there was a huge carnival in town.

“Wow, this carnival looks like fun,” said Juju. “I wonder why everyone is so serious.”

Buddy said, “Let’s put on our disguises so we can go down and talk to the people without scaring them.”

The disguises had spikey yellow hair with gel, gigantic black coats that went all the way down to their feet, sunglasses, and moustaches. Since they each had four arms, it was hard for them to look human, but they tried anyway. As they walked downtown, they saw a scientist who was looking for aliens, but he didn’t notice them.

Juju walked up to a serious looking person who just got off the Coconut Coaster, which everyone knows is the most fun ride in the entire carnival.

“What’s up?” Juju asked the serious lady.

“They destroyed the Spider Coaster, which was way better than the Coconut Coaster,” said the lady.

What happens next?! Who destroyed the Spider Coaster? Will Juju and Buddy be able to fix the Spider Coaster? Why is everyone in Las Vegas so serious? Finish the story yourself, and send it to [email protected].

The Taco That Ate Everything

By the students of Animation Station, one of 826CHI's amazing workshops. The Taco That Ate Everything is a terrifying reminder to eat healthy.

Wind and Rain

This story was written by Sheila McIntosh in 826CHI's Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better workshop. She then took it home, polished it, and sent it along to the National Art and Writing Awards, and took home the Golden Key award in the Chicago Regional. Congratulations Sheila!

I hear the crashing rapids pounding in time with my heart. My sister’s hand is in mine, her eyes beseeching me. Suddenly, I feel her slip away. I close my eyes as she screams. Then all I can hear is the river.

I cannot remember a time when I was without Victoria. We were born but a year apart. My first memory is of her knocking into me as she played, sending my painstakingly crafted embroidery across the room to slam into the wall, ripping stitches. That was the first time I got angry, truly angry. It exploded out of me and I pushed her down, hard. As she lay there on the floor, holding her sprained wrist and sobbing, I calmly salvaged my sewing. Our nana found us there.

My temper stayed in a cold place inside myself most of the time. I was praised by my mother as being a perfect little lady, always composed and dignified, and that I was. It was Victoria who was flamboyant, energetic, and beautiful. If they had never heard us speak, many would say we were much alike: both with long black hair, though I kept mine pinned up and Victoria left hers down; blue eyes, though hers were big and sapphire while mine were light and icy. If she was warm, I was like a winter night -- bitter and freezing.

We quarreled because of our differences, but it never got bad enough for me to do something I would regret. As a child, I was moody and prone to fits of temper, but as I grew older I learned to hide my nature. It was expedient for me to be praised and trusted by the adults in my life, instead of treated as unstable and dangerous. I could get more places with false kindness than with screaming. My parents chose to forget my earlier misbehavior. It was their wish, to have the world see their daughters as perfect, and they got it. Victoria was more open and thus had many friends, but I had the respect and relative power that comes of being dignified and calm. My smooth veneer was without a crack, except for my history.

Only two people on the earth remembered my rages. Victoria knew but did not concern herself with it; she baited me carelessly and sometimes unknowingly. My nana, on the other hand, was always careful around me. I was a forest in a drought, and she was always watching for a spark. That was Victoria's one protection through my young years, as she did not grow wiser while she aged, and it made her reckless. Nana meant to help, but now I wonder whether Victoria would have been spared had she felt my anger more.

Nevertheless, our childhood passed smoothly, as we grew accomplished and knowledgeable in history, the arts, writing, and all the charms of society. Victoria blossomed into a beauty with an outgoing disposition, while I was striking and reserved. I grew immune to her small instigations, and she became merely irksome to me, and not rage-inducing, until I was fifteen and she fourteen.

That winter was brutal. It was cold and clear in the day, but in the night sleet and hail fell mercilessly, effectively blinding late-night travelers. On one such day, Victoria went out riding with her friends. As day turned to night and she had not returned, Nana became worried. She fretted in front of the window despite my assurances. Finally she wrapped herself in a shawl and went out into the deep night to find my sister, ordering me not to follow her, as I had a bad cold.

The clock struck nine, ten, eleven. At midnight I heard hoofbeats and stumbled out of bed. Victoria swept in, laughing, shaking snow out of her hair, on the arm of a baron's son, Frederick. Nana was not with her. I told Victoria what had happened and felt a rush of satisfaction as I saw the roses drain from her cheeks, leaving her white and shocked. Frederick offered to go and get her and rode off into the night again.

It was very silent in the manor as Victoria pulled off her riding habit and slipped into a nightgown. I stared out the window, boiling inside. Through the snow flurries, I saw my grandmother's face, lined with ice, and heard my sister laugh on the wind, oblivious. She had never cared like I had, never been considerate of anyone but herself. All her warmth and affection was as fake as my calmness. Her emotions were skin-deep, but mine were deeper.
“Sister?" I did not turn around. "I am so sorry. I never meant for this to happen. I just lost track of time. I wish I had never gone out tonight." So do I, I thought, but did not say it.
A moment later, tentatively, "I'm sure she will be alright. She isn't so old."

“How can you be sure of anything? You're not out there, are you? You're not looking for her!"

“But what if I got lost? If there was something I could do, I would do it. You know that!" I wanted to scream. Control your anger. Do not engage. I turned away.

At two in the morning we heard the sound of hooves in the yard. We ran to the door in time to see Frederick dismount and stagger to the house, Nana in his arms. Her face was bloodless and her breathing shallow. I had to look away. Next to me, Victoria was staring in horror, transfixed. “Go prepare a bed." I shoved her roughly into the next room, and then boiled some water for curing tea. "Call the doctor!"

Frederick jumped back on his horse. It seemed like centuries before he returned with the doctor, who fed the fire and ordered us out of the room.

Nana was deeply ill for a week, and the doctor came every day to bleed her. I didn't speak to Victoria for that length of time. Gradually, I hid my deep fury and tried to forget. Nana recovered some, but was sickly through that winter. She did not get out of bed most days, and I attended to her while Victoria hovered, although her guilt abated with the thaw and we saw her less and less.

That spring came late, and Nana never got to see it. In April she started coughing blood, and was soon delirious with pain no doctor could cure until the Lord took away her suffering. One morning, she did not wake up. Watching her death ripped me up from the inside out. I felt sick myself with fear and grief, but I was slightly consoled that Nana had gone to a place where she would feel no pain. In spite of this, I couldn't bear to attend her funeral. Instead I walked by the river while Victoria sobbed into our mother's shoulder. The river was low and lazy now, but I knew when the spring rains arrived it would be roaring, dashing any driftwood cruelly against the rocks. It calmed me.

Mother decided to take on our finishing herself, as she felt Victoria was too emotional and I heartless. She had none of the natural patience of the teacher though, so we were left alone most of the time. As Victoria was almost fifteen she spent most days in the company of giggling girls her age. I was left alone to wallow in my misery and anger.

In May, Mother decided to throw a ball. I spent my days cooped up inside with Victoria while we sewed our gowns. She was gossiping and insensitive, and didn't seem to notice how much her idle chatter bothered me. She bemoaned her lack of jewelry and talked endlessly about who would attend. I had no such worries. Nana had left me a beautiful pearl necklace, a family heirloom, and I did not care who came.

On the night of the ball, I searched in vain for the necklace. I left no surface untouched, but it was nowhere to be seen. Distraught, I descended to the ball unadorned, agonizing over losing Nana's prized pearls. I stood at the wall, dancing only when Mother demanded it. I caught only glimpses of Victoria.

When the music changed to a lethargic waltz, Victoria finally settled down next to me, catching her breath. The only this I registered about her appearance was the exquisite pearl necklace gracing her throat.

“Where did you get that?" I know my tone was accusing but, flushed with dancing, she didn't pick up on it.

“Oh, I found it in your jewelry box. It matches my dress perfectly, don't you think?" she said airily.

“I cannot believe you!" I was shouting now, drawing odd looks from the assembly. "Nana left that for me! I've been looking for it all day!"

She immediately looked abashed. "I'm sorry, I didn't know."

I ran away so I wouldn't hit her, down to the river. Its waters were swirling dangerously high, almost at the bank. I stared into its rolling depths, trying to control myself. The absolute rage I thought I controlled was back unbidden.

In minutes I heard footsteps. "I'm sorry!"

I ignored her, battling the beast that was my anger, so she slipped between me and the river.

She tried to take my hand, but I pulled out of her grasp. The monster in my chest was screaming to get out. My head pounded. I couldn't take it any more. My hands moved of their own accord as they connected with her chest, pushing her backwards. The last I saw of her was her face, still pleading.

"Sister!" Then the river swallowed her. I looked away, my heart already cooling. I saw something caught on a branch sticking into the river. I reached down to grab the necklace and walked away, to tell the story of a sister who had fallen and drowned.

In a small village with a river flowing past, there was a miller who longed to be a great violinist. He had not enough money to buy a fiddle, so he was constructing one out of driftwood that floated past on the river. One day he went down to the river and was watching it idle by when he spotted a piece of gold fabric. He pulled on it (it was surprisingly heavy) and discovered that it was a dead maiden, with long black hair and a beautiful face, though the river had battered her body. He cut off her hair and used her bones to make his violin. It was distasteful work, but he would be rewarded with the beautiful music he would make.

When the fiddle finally was ready, he polished it until it shone and put the bow to the strings and played a song.

Wind and Rain

Two lovely sisters were a-walking side by side
Oh, the wind and rain
One pushed the other in the water so deep
And she cried a dreadful wind and rain 
She floated on down to the miller’s pond
Oh, the wind and rain
She floated on down to the miller’s pond
And she cried a dreadful wind and rain 
He hooked her up by the tail of her gown
Oh, the wind and rain
He hooked her up by the tail of her gown
And she cried a dreadful wind and rain 
He made fiddle strings of her long black hair
Oh, the wind and rain
He made fiddle strings of her long black hair
And she cried a dreadful wind and rain 
He made fiddle screws of her long fingerbones
Oh, the wind and rain
He made fiddle screws of her long fingerbones
And she cried a dreadful wind and rain 
And the only tune that the fiddle would play
Oh, the wind and rain
The only tune that the fiddle would play
Was oh, the dreadful wind and rain

Lyrics of “Wind and Rain” from the Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook 50th anniversary edition.

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And the Rest Is Noise

Interviews & Reflections From The Students Of 826CHI’s 2017 Pitchfork Music Writing Intensive

by the 826CHI Teen Press Corps

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