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new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Children’s story contest winner, an Alcott novel, and slam poetry fund-raiser

Anusha Senapati of Acton received a golden ticket from Roald Dahl’s granddaughter, Chloe Dahl.

That’s the ticket

Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Challenge invited children aged 5-12 across the country to submit their most imaginative story ideas in 100 words or less for the chance to win, like Charlie Bucket in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’’ one of five golden tickets. Out of over 20,000 entrees, 11-year-old Anusha Senapati of Acton was awarded one for her tale of a paralyzed girl who longs to dance.

The inspiration for her tale came from seeing a girl struggling to board a bus when Senapati was visiting Niagara Falls with her family. “When I write, I think about things I’ve seen or done in life,” she says. “And for this contest, I thought of her, and I thought of my love of dance.”


The inspiration for the competition came from the fact that Dahl used to scribble ideas in a notebook. Playing on the notion that big ideas can come from scribblings, the Dahl literary estate joined with Penguin Young Readers and the Broadway musical “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’’ to launch the contest, with golden ticket holders winning (besides various trips and prizes) the chance to see their idea “Wonka-fied.’’

In Senapati’s case, her story was adapted for the stage by the cast and crew of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.’’ Senapati, whose favorite authors are J.K. Rowling and Dahl, says winning made her feel “like the luckiest person in the world.” A golden feeling, indeed.

‘The Other Alcott’

Next year marks the 150th anniversary of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel “Little Women,’’ which chronicles the lives of a quartet of sisters who come of age in Civil War-era Massachusetts. “The Other Alcott’’ (William Morrow), a new novel by Elise Hooper, reimagines the story of Amy March, the spoiled and selfish youngest sister. The character of Amy was based on Alcott’s youngest sister, May, and Hooper, who grew up near Alcott’s home in Concord and now lives in the Pacific Northwest, found herself wondering what it would be like to be portrayed so negatively by your older sis. Hooper’s novel explores Amy’s artistic pursuits, as she studies in Boston, Paris, Rome, and London, as well as the complicated tangle of love and tension involved in sibling dynamics.


MassLEAP celebrates book launch

The Massachusetts Literary Education and Performance Collective is hosting a book launch and fund-raiser celebrating the publication of a new collection of poetry, “Electric Arches’’ (Haymarket), by Eve Ewing, a poet, academic, and chairwoman of MassLEAP’s board. The book, which combines art, poems, and prose, both real and surreal, explores gender, race, and what it means to be a girl and a woman. An arts and social-justice nonprofit, MassLEAP works to broaden and support spoken-word and slam poetry for young people. The event will take place on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. at Make Shift Boston, 549 Columbus Ave.; tickets are $20.

Coming out

“From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death’’ by Caitlin Doughty (Norton)

“The Annotated African American Folktales’’ edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar (Liveright)

“The Glass Eye’’ by Jeannie Vanasco (Tin House)

Pick of the week

Bob Ryan at Wakefield Books in Wakefield, R.I., recommends “The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road’’ by Finn Murphy (Norton): “What appears on the surface like an insider look at the life of a ‘mover’ turns out to be not only that, but a very entertaining look at America on the move. Where it’s been and where it’s going. Finn Murphy has been a long-haul trucker for 30 years, and he’s got some great stories to tell. Like a Mark Twain behind the wheel he takes us on the road coast to coast and city to city with a voice that’s honest and direct and sometimes even poetic.”


Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at