P.H.oto Op – She Blinded Me with Science… Fiction
By Peter Huston
In the December 2020 Gazette there was a short article from Put-in-Bay School about a local student winning an award for her writing. I took a double take and read further about Ella Kostura, child of a multigenerational island family, prize-winning writer for her science fiction story called, “Percy and the Plague.”
Alana Magrum, librarian at Ida Rupp Library in Port Clinton had posted a notice “Teen Spooky Sagas Writing Contest, Teens in grades 6-12 looking to fright, scare, or terrify are encouraged to submit their entries!” Some might think that Science Fiction writing is a guy thing. Actually, Ella’s in very good company. She’s following in the footsteps of some great female sci-fi authors like Margaret Atwood, “Handmaids Tale,” Suzanne Collins, “Hunger Games,” and Mary Shelly, “Frankenstein.”
Ella is a 9th grader here at the Put-in-Bay School, and with no prompting from anyone set about to write a special story for this contest. Ella told me that she likes sci-fi, romance and action stories best. Her characters are based on her own life experiences. She loves to write. According to Put-in-School Language Arts teacher Katie Schneider, “She is truly creative and yearns to put her words on paper. Most of Ella’s writing pieces are quite lengthy and contain fairly complicated plots and characters. She has talent…”
For a budding writer, comments like this are real gold! But what about Ella’s story, “Percy and the Black Plague” captured the attention of the reviewer, Alana Magrum and her teacher both? Ms. Magrum promised “[ I ] will provide three lines of feedback: what I liked, what could be working better, techniques you could consider using to strengthen your story. Constructive criticism is a great way to learn how to become a stronger writer.”
Katie Schneider reiterated, “One thing that stands out to me about Ella is that she is candid about her writing and I believe [she] takes suggestions and implements them.” As I read her story, what stood out for me was that Ella spent time and researched the “Black Plague” and made the leap to connect it to issues related COVID and our current need for quarantining. Her story combines history and current events and she does it, with excellent dialog and palpable suspense. See for yourself from this short excerpt:
There is a large house at the end of my street. Everyone says it is haunted, and that if you even go near it you won’t ever come out of it. As I neared the house, I sped up my walking pace and tried to get away from it. I jolted to a stop when I heard small whispers coming from behind me.
“Percy, come with us.”
“You know you want to…” I turned around and saw nothing. Maybe I’m just hearing things. I turned back around and took a few more steps before I heard it again.
“W-who’s there?” I stuttered as I spun back around.
“Come closer and you’ll see.” I cautiously walked towards the noises which sounded like they were coming from the house. I walked up the broken sidewalk and opened the creaky, rusty, gate. I winced as it let out a loud screech. I started walking over the cracks and got to the front steps. A part of me was telling myself to turn back, but a part of me wanted more. As I opened the door, I saw something run across the floor, and I uttered a small shout. Phew, it was just a mouse. Letting out a shaky breath I continued on. I walked through the house, and down the steps.
When I reached the basement, I could hear the water dripping down the cement walls. I ran my fingers along the cracks in the walls until I stumbled upon a trapdoor. It was almost too good to be true. Should I open it? Might as well… I pulled on the door but it wouldn’t budge. I threw my empty candy bag onto the floor and wrapped my fingers around the handle. I placed my feet on either side of the door and pulled up. The trap door burst open, and I fell back onto my tailbone. I groaned as I sat up and looked into the mysterious hole. It was dark-so dark that I could not see anything inside of it. I stood back up and whispered,
“Well, here goes nothing.”
Living here on South Bass I have been amazed at the talent our children have displayed and are encouraged to pursue. We have had PHD’s, playwrights, historians, Hollywood actors and producers, rocket scientists, commercial jet pilots and writers for the NY Times just to name a few. I fully expect in the next few years to see Ella’s name attached to some amazing piece of literary work. Librarian Alana Magrum summed her work up, “Ella’s submission had maturity and writing skill that exceeded other submissions.” I can tell you from reading this short story Ella can certainly “blind us with science…fiction” !
The previous piece is published in this month’s Put-in-Bay Gazette. The Gazette has been producing incredible independent Put-in-Bay island news for over 40 years. If you have any interest at all in what is happening on South Bass Island, we urge you strongly to subscribe to the Put-in-Bay Gazette. One-year online subscriptions are only $15, and print subscriptions are available as well. To subscribe please click here.
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