Our New Voices Award was created to showcase young writers in our community who are just beginning their writing careers. We’re very proud to announce this issue’s winner, Leo Miller, a junior at Palisades Charter High School.
Q&A WITH LEO
Q: What’s your career goal?
I’ve always wanted to be a paleontologist; marine biologist would be my second choice. Working with strange animals in strange places has always felt like something I would love immensely.
Q: For your writing, what’s your goal? What kinds of things do you ultimately want to write?
I think what I’d like to do most is transport people. Whether to haunted houses, enchanted woods, the bottom of the sea; interesting places that haven’t been explored yet, except maybe in dreams.
Q: What is it about writing that draws you to it?
The ability to shape worlds and characters, and the amount of freedom writing allows.
Q: Favorite writers? Influences?
Definitely Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allen Poe, and JK Rowling, as well as dark Romanticism in general. My influences would have to be the places I’ve been (specifically Lake Tahoe and Topanga) and the people I’ve met. Earth is chock-full of scenery and personality, and that’s what makes it such a wonderful planet to live on.
Q: What kinds of things do you do to develop your craft?
I live life! Reading definitely helps; you pick up new ways to use language and express your ideas. Besides that, nature itself can be an inspiration, as well as simply daydreaming, or any number of other things that speak to my soul. I think doing that makes me a better writer and a wiser person.
And now with no further ado, we present the writing of Leo Miller.
In the center of the rowan grove, surrounded by red-spotted mushrooms and piles of stale cakes, stood a lonely cabin built of sweet-smelling pine with oozing sap. I, caught in the fairy circle,
gingerbread in one hand and rabbit’s head in the other, watched the Witch watching me through her window. Fire danced in the gloom behind her.
She invited me in.
I sat at her table in a rickety chair of oak and plum velvet and watched as she stirred the pot with a long wooden spoon. She stood on a stool (she was short) with her back to me. I turned my gaze out of her window towards the moon, which cast its dazzling silver light onto the forest of ancient trees. Eventually it was swallowed forever by the jealous shadows that let nothing escape.
I turned back and watched as she dropped a child’s slipper into the cauldron.
The stew sparked violently, bathing the cabin in a deep red light, and shook the hanging herbs on their hooks. They fell from the ceiling. When the dust settled, I smelled licorice and dying lilies.
And suddenly the Witch was in front of me.
I handed her the head and gingerbread, watched as she swallowed them together, snakelike, without chewing. She paused, musing for a moment, and spoke to me in a voice as ancient as the pines creaking softly in the forest outside.
“Yes,” I said.
She nodded sagely. “I could tell. I can always tell. You saw the piles outside?”
“Those children didn’t pass.” She held up another shoe. “I can’t work my magic if the cake is not baked by the Object of my curse. So I take their sweetbreads instead, as payment.”
She turned away from me again, back to the pot, which was bubbling gently. “I need something else,” she whispered. “Something to make it binding. If I’m to rescue you, I need to cut the ties.”
She handed me a cleaver, so I chopped off my pinkie finger and watched her drop it in the cauldron.
The pot flashed red again, blindingly this time, and I heard anguished wails in the distance. I knew they came from a small dirty house in a small dirty village in the shadow of a huge, forbidding castle. “It is done,” she said, and the bruises from the feet and fists of a drunken father and the soul-wrenching sadness of a mother’s neglect left me at last and I felt whole again for the first time in years. She smiled at me.
She handed me a shawl and another ladle, and together we turned back to the pot.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Leo Miller has lived in Topanga for seven years. He enjoys reading, writing, hiking, painting, and most other forms of art. He’s a junior at Palisades Charter High School, and this is his publication debut.
Photo © 2016 Dianne Lacourciere