Bram Allen is eight years old and he loves horror. “I think it’s because I was born in October, and that’s when all the scary stuff happens,” he explained.
When Bram learned recently that Mary Shelley only wrote Frankenstein because she and her friends were taking part in a challenge to write the scariest ghost story, he got an idea: He would invite everyone he knows to write a scary short story.
The second-grader is a big fan of Edgar Allen Poe — “I like ‘The Masque of the Red Death,’” he said — and he dressed up as Poe for Mary Hogan’s Book Character Dress Up Day last fall. He loves Katherine Arden’s spooky middle-grade books; he’s listened to the audio book of Small Spaces six times. And he devours Max Brallier’s Mister Shivers books.
Bram’s love of being scared might have been predetermined: He was born in Salem, Mass., which is known for embracing its witchy history with glee. And, as his mom Tricia pointed out, he was named in part for Dracula author Bram Stoker. (Bram’s dad, Chris, is a big horror fan, who wrote his college thesis on Edgar Allen Poe.)
Bram and his friend Saskia Gori-Montanelli like to get together to write stories (she’s older and can write faster, so she’s the scribe while Bram dictates.) His spooky story competition could have been just between them. But Bram wanted something bigger. “If it were just two people, I’d definitely win,” he explained, with a smile.
That’s where his mom came in. Tricia Allen is the children’s librarian at Ilsley Library, which used to co-sponsor the PBS Kids Writing Contest. Vermont stopped participating a few years ago and Allen had been thinking of running a smaller-scale competition to replace it.
“Bram’s enthusiasm for a spooky writing challenge gave me the push to formalize the event as a library-sponsored program,” she said.
So she did. It’s called “Spooky Spring: A Writing Challenge For Everyone.”
“I’ve roped fellow librarians into judging, when the time comes, and reached out to authors Katherine Arden and Max Brallier, who have committed to donating signed copies of Small Spaces and Mister Shivers titles for prizes. Katherine Arden will also be reading the top stories,” said Allen.
The contest is open to all ages, including group submissions. There is no minimum length for a story, but it cannot exceed 5 pages or 1500 words.
The deadline is April 30. Email submissions to email@example.com. And don’t forget to include your name, age and hometown in your submission — and have fun!