Naomi Skrzydlo is the self-proclaimed Queen of Emotion, Official Representative Character Creator, and Omnipotent Ruler of the Imagination. She also happens to be an aspiring author who enjoys creative writing, math, and planning for world domination. She lives in Ontario, Canada, and her middle name starts with an A. She has started a LOT of books, though few of them are actually finished, and only the two she did with Written Out Loud groups are published.
As a note from the editor, Naomi also reached out to the kids in her class to start a writing group, going above and beyond the curriculum–she’s the kind of storyteller you want to end up in your class.
Without further ado, Naomi’s excerpt:
“Don’t do it, Tai!” called Cedar from the ground.
“I’m going to! You can’t stop me!” I yelled back. I climbed higher in the tree. The closest was much taller, and only a meter away.
“You’re going to hurt yourself,” said Reiki.
He and Cedar both groaned. I leapt forward and barely reached the trunk.
“Yesss!” I cheered, pumping my fist in the air. I fumbled with the sudden unbalance, and flailed around before grabbing a small branch.
“Please be careful, Tai,” Reiki begged.
“I never thought I’d hear those words in the same sentence,” Cedar muttered.
“What, Tai and careful?”
“Well, I was going to say Tai and please, but I guess that works, too.”
“You know I can hear you, right?” I called down.
“So what?” asked Cedar, mimicking my tone.
I rolled my eyes, then started to climb higher up the tree, my heart still pounding with delight from the thrilling danger. I inched around until the next tree was in sight. It was farther away from where I was, but lower as well. I didn’t give another second of my time for thinking, and jumped.
I realized too late that the tree was much too far away for me to reach. I had underestimated the distance by a long shot and was suddenly shooting toward the ground at I-hate-math kilometers an hour. Beneath me, I saw Cedar waving a silver feather around. I was seconds away from breaking all of my bones when I suddenly began to slow down. I had come to a near-complete stop by the time I reached the ground. Cedar returned her talisman to her pocket and sat down on the grass.
“You’re welcome,” said Cedar, wincing at the magical drain.
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that my friend has magical powers? Well, actually, it’s her talisman, the feather, that has the magic, and she’s just channeling it, but that’s a bit too sciencey for me. Or maybe magicky? I don’t know.
“Uh, yeah, sure, thanks,” I replied.
“I feel like we’re all done with danger for now,” stated Reiki.
I snorted. “I’m never done with danger.”
The more I read this excerpt, the more I love it.
The first line, “Don’t do it, Tai!” draws us into the drama quickly and effectively, leaving us no time to adjust to our surroundings. Tai is doing something they (they/them) shouldn’t, and someone is worried about them. Awesome.
Soon we learn that Tai is climbing a tree, going higher and higher–so high that their friends are getting seriously worried. But this is nothing new–how do we know? From a clever bit of dialogue: “I never thought I’d hear those words in the same sentence,” Cedar muttered. / “What, Tai and careful? / “Well, I was going to say Tai and please, but I guess that works, too.” We know so much about Tai already: they’re an adrenaline junkie who probably ignores their friends’ warnings far more than they heed them.
Then the big moment arrives: a branch, way out of reach, presents itself to them. Tai jumps immediately, giving herself no time for doubt–they know that if they think at all about it, they’ll only be letting doubt creep in, and doubt is the thrill-seeker’s kryptonite.
But they miss. They’re falling and falling and we’re thinking, “Naomi, how could you? We cared about Tai! Why would you–”
They float above the ground, suspended by Cedar’s magic talisman. This accomplishes two things: we breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they’re safe, and also understand that we’re in the world of magic here. It’s a masterful way of introducing a magic system into a book: put a character in mortal danger and introduce the element as the crucial difference in the scene. Still, we hope Tai won’t try that again.
And yet they don’t learn any lesson whatsoever. They miss the tree, fall from a great height, and still, at the end of the passage, remark that they’re “never done with danger.” This tells us a lot about who they are, their obsession with living on the wild side, their total lack of care for their personal well-being.
We all know a Tai–someone who, for whatever reason, simply cannot resist the thrill of danger and the fleeting high it offers.
The only question is…what happens when there’s no Cedar to catch them?
Curated by Joe Skoff