A New Short Story – but not by me

I was going to beg your indulgence, for some parental skiting.  But I changed my mind, because what I am sharing is so good that it needs no apology.

My girl recently completed an assignment for her English class at school.  They have been reading a book called Chinese Cinderella, by Adeline Yen Mah.  The assignment was to write a story inspired by something in or about the book.  This is what my girl came up with:


My Name Is Feng San-San; The Story of the Girl by the Roadside ©

My name is Feng San-San. I live in the streets of Hong Kong. Every day I scrounge for food, beg and look in garbage bins. It is very seldom that I get so much as a watermelon rind. People say I smell, but how can I wash when I live in the filth of the streets? They say I should not be idle, but who will let me work?

My name is Feng San-San. The winters are so cold, and all I have to wear are rags. I shiver so much, but I have no food to bring back my energy. Mother started coughing today.

My name is Feng San-San. I am so scared. Mother’s cough is getting worse, my nose is running and we have no medicine to get better. I am so scared that we are all going to die.

My name is Feng San-San. My mother died today; I will miss her forever, her loss is so painful. Now all I have is my dad, and he becomes more depressed every day.

My name is Feng San-San. We get less and less food, as there are so many beggars these days. My father is getting desperate, and blames me for everything. He beats me almost every day now. I am so scared, will we survive?

My name is Feng San-San. I really don’t think that we can survive. Our situation has never been more desperate, and I wonder what we will do. My dad mutters incessantly that he will get money, we will have food. I think he is too hopeful.

My name is Feng San-San. My father has gone mad. He says we will be rich. That I will make him rich. I am more frightened than ever.

My name is Feng San-San. I am for Sale.


This story is copyright 2013.  No reproduction without written permission.

For those who are interested, the last line of the story above appears in the book.  That was the inspiration she used to create this story.

I think it’s great.  If you do too, please tell her so in the comments.  I know she’d appreciate it.



49 thoughts on “A New Short Story – but not by me

    • That was my reaction too, Jenn. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ve just shown her the comments (which is why I didn’t reply straight away) and she is blushing and has gone to have a restorative hot chocolate… 🙂

  1. It gives me some hope to see a young girl write so thoughtfully about something which is beyond her experience, but is the everyday reality for so many kids in poorer countries. A success in terms of raising awareness, an act of compassion and beautifully written

    • They’re very good at her school on social justice and such things, it’s one of the things I like about it. Thank you for the kind comment, Mary – she’s most touched!

    • She actually covered her face at your comment, Lily. Thanks for the kind words and yes, you’re right. One can only hope she doesn’t seek publication too soon, as I would like a short time as the author of the family! 😉

  2. A beautifully written story that captures the essence of Chinese Cinderella perfectly. (The adult version – Falling Leaves – by the same author is worth reading too). The way your daughter uses repetition is highly evocative, no wonder you’re proud -I’d skite too!

    • Thanks, Lee-Anne! I haven’t read anything by the author, but I must do so. I hadn’t come across her until this book was assigned for school. I’d be very interested in the adult version of this story.

  3. Your daughter is herself a very wise woman. I will be showing that story to my Yr 12 H& HD class tomorrow.. I hope her principal has seen it? Wonderful words.

  4. Wow. I’m so impressed I’ll say it backwards! The author has always been mature beyond her years, but if I didn’t know the real age of ‘herself’ I would suggest it was written by someone at least preparing for the VCE. Really well done. I am so impressed. The nerdy scientist in me wonders how much is genes & how much is environment. Either way you get to take some of the credit, Mel.

    • It’s an interesting question, Chris. I’m sure there is an element of genetics, but from my experience of other storytellers’ children, I am absolutely convinced of the importance of early and extensive exposure to stories, words and books. Certainly, the facility with words has a lot to do with the fact that she reads ALL THE TIME, widely and enthusiastically. That’s where the sophistication of expression comes from. The feeling for story comes partly from the books and partly from the storytelling, rhymes and books from long before she could read. The difference I have seen between children who were read to and children who weren’t convinces me more than anything else has ever done that in this, at least, nuture is incredibly important!

  5. It made me feel ‘all unnecessary’. Brilliant writing. So evocative! I’m trembling with the realisation of the talent possessed by ‘herself’.

  6. Hi Imelda,
    Please tell Herself that I loved her story! It was beautifully and powerfully written, and the last lines gave me goosebumps. I do hope she’ll keep writing!

    • I’m sure she will, Camilla. As long as she can squeeze it in around the music and the social justice and so on! No, seriously, she is interested in writing and this sort of thing is very encouraging!

    • Thank you, Emma! It’s interesting – and a testament to the writer of Chinese Cinderella – that this piece grew from the power of the original line from the book. All of this, evoked in one reader, from one powerful line. Just goes to show that words can and do have power.

  7. The spare, economical, pared-back style catches the spirit of the situation – allowing the character and her tragic position to emerge fully. Most impressive – more power to her elbow!

  8. A very impressive piece of flash fiction. I imagine there was an ‘A’ stamped on that when it came home.

  9. I was really moved by your daughter’s heartrending, utterly sincere story. It shows the power of a sparse style that gets directly to the core of a horrific issue. It shows huge promise of further publishable brilliant work to come.

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