Elephant story follows two paths

Holly O’Neil beat out 337 entrants from 58 countries to win writing award.

MRSS student Holly O’Neil won a short story contest for her tale of a family of elephants.

MRSS student Holly O’Neil won a short story contest for her tale of a family of elephants.

A touching short story about a family of elephants in Africa is the winner of an international writing award by Maple Ridge secondary student Holly O’Neil.

The 14-year-old Grade 9 student beat out 337 entrants from 58 countries in the ages 12-14 category of the Laura Thomas Communications International Junior Author short story contest.

Stories had to be 1,000 words or less.

O’Neil’s story starts off following a mother elephant and her baby calf as they rest alongside a river in the African savannah.

The second part follows the path of a little boy from a poor village who goes to work with his father, only to find out what he does for a living.

“It’s from two points of view, the elephants point of view and the humans who are poaching them,” explained O’Neil.

“I watched a documentary a while ago and it had an elephant whose mother was poached and all the elephants gathered around and they mourned for her. And they actually cried,” she said about what inspired her story.

O’Neil enjoys reading and writing historical fiction.

“I like to write things that could’ve actually happened like that’s why I like historical fiction. It’s a made up story, but it’s still kind of true,” she said.

Although O’Neil has written many short stories for school assignments, this was the first contest she entered for her writing and the first prize she has won.

The story, An Elephant Never Forgets, was written as part of a school project that she set up for herself. The project included researching the writing contest, as well.

O’Neil picked this one because it was an international competition, it was free to enter and based out of Richmond.

O’Neil wrote the story last spring with the encouragement of support teacher Kirsten Urdahl-Serr and Grade 8 honours English teacher, Ken Elphick.

It took her over a month to write.

She entered the contest in June and found out she won a the Junior Authors Writers Conference on Oct. 18.

At the conference, O’Neil had the opportunity to attend workshops and learn from guest speakers including children’s authors Jacqueline Pearce and Linda DeMeulemeester, publisher Michelle Halket, author and poet Michelle Barker and book editor Tracy Sherlock.

“I learned some writing tips like on presenting characters and naming characters and things like that. I also learned the ways to get published and what they are looking for in a book, like if you get your book reviewed,” said O’Neil.

• Read O’Neil’s story go to http://laurathomascommunications.com/juniorauthorscontest/2014-winners/holly-oneil-an-elephant-never-fogets/.