Submissions Notice – January 2020 Issue / Artwork: Red

Now open

About the January 2020 issue:

  • Submission period: 21 October 2019 to 20 December 2019
  • Theme: Red (Note: only applies to visual artwork submissions)
  • Artists/authors notified in December 2019 and January 2020

Guest editor: Margaret Li

Margaret Li is in her final year at Saint Kentigern College in Auckland, New Zealand, and is interested in pursuing a Language and Literature degree in the UK. She reads widely in her spare time and enjoys the creative writing process, particularly with short stories and script writing. She approached fingers comma toes’  August 2019 theme Space by describing the senses evoked by The Clinic, exploring the often overwhelming pressures faced by young adults.

Submission guidelines:

  • What to submit:
    • Submissions may be any form of creative art. That includes writing (essays, short stories, micro stories, poetry—any forms of writing), photography, visual art (digital art included), music, et cetera.
    • We welcome previously published work, and simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but we advise that the artist/author informs us if the submission is accepted or published elsewhere.
    • There are no limits as to the length of written submissions, but prose submissions under five thousand words are preferable (though exceptions may be made).
    • Artists/authors may submit up to five pieces each.
  • How to submit: Submit through email at fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com. In your email submission, please include the following:
    • Your age
    • Your geographical location
    • A brief bio (approximately 50 words, or three sentences)

Please send written submissions as downloadable .txt.rtf, or .docx documents. Please do not send documents via Google Documents or other online sharing platforms, as these are private and can be restricted for us.

  • Who can submit: There is no strict age limit for submitters. We are a youth journal, and our submitters currently range in age from four to twenty-six years old. We encourage international and diverse submissions. As a general guide to what we’re looking for, our previous issues can be found here.

Submission themes for the January 2020 issue apply only to visual artwork. All other work may be unthemed. Submission themes are not strict and may be interpreted freely. We are always excited to receive a variety of submissions and experience how different perspectives respond to an overarching idea: some pieces may relate to a theme in a concrete manner, using it to convey a message in a new way, while others may be more abstract, making the audience work a little harder to see the connection. There is never one way to respond to a theme. In every case, we encourage you to have fun with it and push your boundaries—be creative, and see what you can do.

Any inquiries may be emailed directly to us.


Contact: fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com

Fingers comma Toes Logo Final

Podcast: Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon – The kids are alright

fingers comma toes has been featured this month in a podcast with Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon / The Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals in their episode The kids are alright. The podcast includes music paired with stories and poems from international writers four to sixteen years old. Contributors from fingers comma toes‘ pages include E Wen Wong, Harry Waddington, Josephine Parker, Joshua Persico, Lauren Sanders, Lucy Jessep, and Tom Nalder.

The podcast can be listened to or downloaded at secretlives.podbean.com. Many thanks to our contributors featured here for sharing their work, and to Mr. Bear for including us in this project! We hope you enjoy!


August 2019 Issue Space

Contents:

Mx. Universe – Liberty Tidberg (age 16; Elkhorn, Wisconsin, United States) 
Morphogenesis – Josephine Parker (age 07; Christchurch, New Zealand)
A Wasteland of Beauty – Reuben Veenstra (age 11; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Space Between the Walls – Adaeze Chukwuka (age 16; Maryland, United States)
Safe Space – Adaeze Chukwuka (age 16; Maryland, United States)
Coming, Going – Chloe Henkel (age 16; Darlington, Maryland, United States)
The Museum – Matthew Marshall (age 22; Hartford, Connecticut, United States)
Vacancy – Jana Heise (age 14; Dunedin, New Zealand)
Shadows from space – Naomi Dana (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Space – Ida van Kan (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Space – Max Henkel (age 17; Darlington, Maryland, United States)
The Waiting – Sylvie King (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
[Mural 1 – Kaufering Bahnhof] – Montessorischule Kaufering students (ages 14 to 18; Kaufering, Germany)
[Mural 2 – Kaufering Bahnhof] – Montessorischule Kaufering students (ages 14 to 18; Kaufering, Germany)
The Clinic – Margaret Li (age 17; Auckland, New Zealand)
The Moon of Cheetahs – Tom Nalder (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Space – Rain Wang (age 11; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Reflect – Hillary Walker (age 13; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Music of Movement – Jasmine Ryan (age 16; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Lost Moon – Millie Sarjeant (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Space to dream – Emma Geddes (age 09; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Space – Sophie Yu (age 20; Auckland, New Zealand)
Meaning Is Attached – Lauren Sanders (age 16; Austin, Texas, United States)
Space is a blanket – Chloe Wu (age 07; Christchurch, New Zealand)

Mx. Universe – Liberty Tidberg

Liberty Tidberg is a rising senior at Elkhorn High School in South-Central Wisconsin. Along with having a passion for the visual arts, Libby is an active member of her local Parkour gym. She currently works as a camp counselor for the rec department and as the social media consultant for the United Way of Walworth County and Dementia Friendly of Walworth County.


Morphogenesis – Josephine Parker

In space
planets
form shapes.
One hundred
hot planets
make one sun.
Long ago
planets
tormented the sun.
Parts of the sun
flew away like tears
and got colder
turned white
and formed stars.

Josephine Parker is seven years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Josie lives with her mum, dad, two older brothers, five cats, three goldfish, a pony, a dog, and too many chickens. Her favourite cat is black, fluffy, and named Ziggy. She especially enjoys writing poetry, drawing, and playing with Ziggy.


A Wasteland of Beauty – Reuben Veenstra

shimmering stars
as far as the eye can see
raging sun invades the night
colossal craters scattered across  planets
darkness
engulfs me like a warm blanket
black holes stealing stars
sweltering mars like an infinite desert
determined rockets hurtle into the abyss
mysterious  creatures scuttle across earth
space
a wasteland of beauty

Reuben Veenstra is eleven years old. He grew up in Hamilton and now lives in Christchurch. He enjoys playing football and writing poems.


The Space Between the Walls – Adaeze Chukwuka

Adaeze Chukwuka (16) The Space Between the Walls

Adaeze Chukwuka is a digital artist based on the eastern coast of the United States. Her work is inspired by the bright and colourful children’s books that she was obsessed with as a child. She likes to experiment with contrasting colours and lighting, creating pieces that demand to be looked at.


Safe Space -Adaeze Chukwuka

Adaeze Chukwuka (16) - Safe Space


Coming, Going – Chloe Henkel

There are a million people
And gaps the size of the sun
Between us
Are you pushing through this cluttered space
Or is it only me?

Chloe Henkel is an American artist and poet. When not writing or painting, she can probably be found playing the ukulele, listening to music, picking flowers, or catching up with friends. For more of her work, check out @chloe.creating on Instagram!


The Museum – Matthew Marshall

——Museums are labyrinths, their blueprints architected like a crossword—drawing you along each piece of the puzzle until its collection of white squares builds a solved installation.
——There is a couple behind me whose bodies, so tightly intertwined, are a Möbius strip of interlocked hands and feet. Their microscopic separation holding an infinite past.
——Paintings are one-way mirrors to interrogation rooms. Depending on proximity, you’re detective or suspect. With one canvas, you’re behind the glass, investigating, hoping the case isn’t as clear as yesterday’s clue: six letters for “we’re done.” The next, you’re wanted for questioning and see yourself in the reflective frame.
——The couple is in my elevator. One wants to view the fifth floor, the other the sixth. The disunity separates the lace of their knotted fingers. One hand, cold from the other’s evaporating sweat, touches two buttons.
——Click.
——Click.
——This painting, the one whose strokes demand attention like a torturous memory, is my barometer—gauging the pressure behind my eyes, inside my heart. Today, it reads: don’t text her.
——The couple splits. One is next to me, trudging through the exhibit, clinging to any image capable of distraction. The other unknowingly copies every stride from the floor below.

Matthew Marshall is a recent graduate of Michigan State University with a B.A. in English. While unpublished in the world of fiction, he has been awarded numerous creative writing scholarships and nominations, including the Anderson Essay Award, Creative Writing Award, and ultimately winning the Ambrose D. Patullo Scholarship for literary analysis in poetry. He lives in Hartford, Connecticut.


Vacancy – Jana Heise

Jana Heise (14) - Vacancy

Jana Heise is fourteen years old. She’s grown up on a sailboat and is intimate with the colour blue.


Shadows from space – Naomi Dana

Naomi Dana (14) - Shadows from space

Naomi Dana has loved space ever since a young age—she has at least twenty books on the subject, and her walls are plastered with posters about the solar system. She is fascinated with the colours that come from beyond this world, and loves knowing that there is more to life than we know. She is fourteen years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Space – Ida van Kan

The forever travelling sky
Dancing so the world can see
Space, please tell me where you are
I can be seen but not heard
If you look around I’m everywhere
Who am I?
I will forever look for you
What do you dream when the sun takes your place?
I’m clueless without you
Tell me where you go
I move freely but no one knows
Where I go
What am I?
And when you do, teach me how to
Dance like you
And listen to me sing like an angel
Stars in the sky that I behold
My face is the planets and
The stars are my hands
Who am I?
Space, please tell me what to do
When the sun is at its peak
Where is your starry face
That warms my heart through the troubled nights?

Ida van Kan is ten years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Space – Max Henkel

Max Henkel is an aspiring composer. When he’s not writing music, he enjoys walks in the forest, stargazing, and playing the piano.


The Waiting – Sylvie King

No one hears us scream
The everlasting bash of supernovas
Tell stories expected in the past
Of the protoplanets
Predicted to hold life
The life that could sustain us
In an exoplanet far away
We wait and we watch
Through our telescopes
As we set them on planes in the air
And we search until someone
Calls to join us in our void

Sylvie King has been contributing to creative writing for around five years. She has been published in a selection of sources, including Otago Daily Times, Toitoi, fingers comma toes, and The NZ Poetry Box. Her passions are writing, space, astronomy, engineering, and hanging out with her friends.


[Mural 1 – Kaufering Bahnhof] – Montessorischule Kaufering students

The Montessorischule Kaufering students are between fourteen and eighteen years old, and live in Kaufering, Germany. These two murals were painted as part of a school project in 2018, and can be found in the underpass at the Kaufering train station, located near the school. Photographs: Jael Hecht. 


[Mural 2 – Kaufering Bahnhof] – Montessorischule Kaufering students


The Clinic – Margaret Li

The clinic is empty apart from the receptionist and a tired-looking older woman. Flickering lights bounce off her garish lipstick – the flaky kind you buy at the pharmacy. She picks at the plaster blistering off the walls; her belly swells under a tank. Guilty, my eyes swerve away to the posters above her. Their furled edges morph into sneers, murmuring lies like safe and quick.
Under their unforgiving glare, I sink deeper into my chair.
Somewhere down the hallway, a door creaks open and a teenage girl comes out. My heart flutters thinking it’s my sister. It’s not.
This girl is older, her apple-pie cheeks swollen with innocence. A doctor waves her toward the front desk. The receptionist – not much older than me – pushes a form and a pen in her direction.
From the back, her broad oak-shoulders shudder.
Reception girl slides a box of Kleenex at her.
A warm draught, strawberry-scented and baby-powdered, crawls into my mouth. The bitter-sweet combination lingers in my throat, choking me.
‘Th-th-thanks,’ she stutters, blowing noisily.
Reception girl smiles through sooty lashes while taking another drag of her Marlboro.
I catch myself recoiling as the new girl drops down into the seat next to me, a wad of snot-smeared tissues clutched in her fist. She is near enough that if I reached out, I could squeeze her hand. Instead, I sink deeper.
The older woman seems to feel differently. Across from me, she tugs at her tank top. Beads of cold fear glisten at her hairline before rolling down her left temple. Behind closed lids, she replays that night. That man. That moment.
The second-guessing game consumes her.
The woman moves closer to the edge of her seat as if ready to bolt, and at the same time, frozen – a deer caught in the headlights of nobody’s car. Her knee jiggles up and down.
Up, down.
Up, down.
The silent war unfolding in the scrunched-up space between her brows echoes through my head. I cover my ears. But it’s too late.
Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down.
I watch my seat rattle.
Get me out of here.
The burning gaze of the room devours me as I rise, the plastic edge of my chair digging into tartan-skirt flesh. Breathless from not-running, I slam my palms into the door and push hard.
Freedom. Finally.
The cold air rushes to hug my cheeks. It’s breath, raw and dry on my skin, knocks the feeling back into my bones. I swill it down, thirsty to purge myself of the clinic; the people in it, the taste.
But the relief is short.
And too soon, the air is nothing more than a splash of water to the face.

Margaret Li is in her final year at Saint Kentigern College in Auckland, New Zealand, and is interested in pursuing a Language and Literature degree in the UK. She reads widely in her spare time and enjoys the creative writing process, particularly with short stories and script writing. She approached the theme ‘space’ by describing the senses evoked by The Clinic, exploring the often overwhelming pressures faced by young adults.


The Moon of Cheetahs – Tom Nalder

The moon protects
a living planet of Cheetahs.
They run with the wind.
They sleep with the wind.
They chirp with the wind.
At night the moon
carries them up to a bed
of silky yellow fur.
From there they watch the moon
make shooting stars.
From there they watch the moon
light the African forests.
You can see them
through your telescopes,
sleeping between spaces on Saturn’s
mysterious rock.

Tom Nalder is 10 years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. His favourite colour is yellow, and he really likes cheetahs and would like to learn a lot about animals. He would also like to be a scientist.


Space – Rain Wang

Rain Wang (11) - Space

Rain Wang is eleven years old. She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She enjoys reading and drawing. Her artwork Space, published in fingers comma toes‘ August 2019 issue, is her first publication.


Reflect – Hillary Walker

Hillary Walker (13) - Reflect

Hillary Walker is thirteen years old. She likes swimming and photography in her spare time. She also plays netball and does extracurricular activities. She doesn’t have a lot of time for photography, but would like to start focusing on it more.


The Music of Movement – Jasmine Ryan

You pulled me back and with a sweeping motion my hand reached towards yours, circling the air as we took bounding steps backwards, astronauts in zero gravity. My body glided closer to yours. My controlled movements matched yours like symmetry as the song brought us nearer, our fingertips within reach, our arms extending towards each other.
You got so close, but you were pulled away before I could reach you. The next line was sung; it took our bodies into different steps and as the music changed, you turned your back on me, and I on you. With the great, lilting melody and dreamy, driven music, we were swept across the stage in motions and movements of grace, of a flow that matched the run of the ocean between two continents. The current brought us together and then it threw us apart. We were but helpless waves in a vast sea trying to make our way to each other, but every time we got close, the space between us was stolen in larger and larger proportions.
With a rise in the music like a tidal wave drawing into the bay, it rose only to crash down, one final, dramatic note ending the song. We stood with our backs to each other, reaching up at the air as if it held something for us, and as the music stopped we stayed like that. The choreography ended with a gap between us that seemed like the distance of the vacuum between two galaxies, and I could feel your warmth but I could not feel your touch. The audience stood to clap and cheer for our dance that had taken the stage like the poetry of movement, but I wondered why it had to end this way, why the song had to emphasise the space between the two of us when all I wanted was for us not to act like two opposing continents, planets, universes. When all I wanted was for space to be a distance that was possible to cross so I could see you up close and hold you in my arms.

Jasmine Ryan is a sixteen-year-old year 12 high school student from Selwyn, Canterbury. She has been long-listed for the National Flash Fiction Day competition, and writing is something that she uses to express her creative ideas that she hopes can inspire thoughtfulness in readers.


The Lost Moon – Millie Sarjeant

Rain tickles the misty, remote mountains.
The possums tug my hair.
The smell of ash still lingers from the flames.
Sodden leaves brush my shoulders.
Midnight shakes hands with dawn.
Moss hugs a bridge as it bends above a stream.
Leaves swirl and scatter in a distant paddock.
Turf still glints with dew from the evening frost.
Musty, degrading bark.
Fresh, bubbling water.
A forgotten waka sways.
Jubilant takahē cry to each other.
Emerald brown ferns reach out to grab me.
I should be there in the inky sky,
My arms reaching out to take you home, but I’m gone.
I’ve been swallowed by the forest.

Millie Sarjeant is very interested in space and NASA and loves writing fairy tales with a New Zealand twist. She has been doing creative writing for two years, and has been published in Toi Toi, Extra, and The Jillion.


Space to dream – Emma Geddes

Emma Geddes (9) - Space to dream

Emma Geddes is nine years old. She really loves animals and wants to be a vet when she is older. She also enjoys school, reading, and all her sports, which are netball, dance, and water sports. She loves hanging out with her friends. She has two cats, Charlie (six months old in Space to dream) and Smokey.


Space – Sophie Yu

Sophie Yu (20) - Space

Sophie Yu is a third-year medical student at University of Auckland. Although she’s had to choose between science and art upon entering university, painting is something very important to her, and she hopes to maintain this hobby throughout her whole life.


Meaning is Attached – Lauren Sanders

“Physical location does not distance memory,”
a man once told me in response to my “if only…”
A hundred miles and I won’t feel this way.
Two hundred and it’s my baptism,
though I’m not religious anyways.
The moment is the only true definition,
our hours bathed in ever-shifting haze.
To hold onto these former pains is futile…
They are but ashes from the flame that, as I smile,
I call The Past.
I laugh I laugh I laugh.
I stare into the face of the cruel irony of it all—
over thoughts that once claimed my consciousness,
over a disorder that stole my identity.
This is a day that is brighter than bombs,
the day I choose to live.
This is the day all things must pass.
Today I am reborn. Today nothing lasts.

Lauren Sanders is sixteen years old, and lives in Austin, Texas. She is a guitarist and bass guitarist, as well as an indie rock enthusiast, who enjoys psychology and writing. One of her poems recently won the Texas Night Sky Festival contest and another has been published in the anthology series Upon Arrival.


Space is a blanket – Chloe Wu

Space is a blanket as soft as a feather
Space is inspiration for a bird passing by
A little tree reaches up to the sky
And says good bye
As it gets chopped down
A goldfish jumps
Over the moon
And lands in a galaxy
Of water
And flies through space
With excitement

Chloe Wu was born in Christchurch in 2011, and is a year 3 student at Ilam School (Christchurch, New Zealand). Chloe has had her poems published in the Otago Daily Times, and the New Zealand Poetry Box. Chloe enjoys reading, writing, playing piano (ABRSM grade 3), and dancing ballet (BBO grade 1).


Submissions Notice – August 2019 Issue Space

Recently closed

About the August 2019 issue:

  • Submission period: 27 May 2019 to 31 July 2019
  • Theme: Space
  • Artists/authors notified in July and August 2019

Submission guidelines:

  • What to submit:
    • Submissions may be any form of creative art. That includes writing (essays, short stories, micro stories, poetry—any forms of writing), photography, visual art (digital art included), music, et cetera.
    • We welcome previously published work, and simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but we advise that the artist/author informs us if the submission is accepted or published elsewhere.
    • There are no limits as to the length of written submissions, but prose submissions under five thousand words are preferable (though exceptions may be made).
    • Artists/authors may submit up to five pieces each.
  • How to submit: Submit through email at fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com. In your email submission, please include the following:
    • Your age
    • Your geographical location
    • A brief bio (approximately 50 words, or three sentences)

Please send written submissions as downloadable .txt.rtf, or .docx documents. Please do not send documents via Google Documents or other online sharing platforms, as these are private and can be restricted for us.

  • Who can submit: There is no strict age limit for submitters. We are a youth journal, and our submitters currently range in age from four to twenty-six years old. We encourage international and diverse submissions. As a general guide to what we’re looking for, our previous issues can be found here.

Submission themes are not strict and may be interpreted freely. We are always excited to receive a variety of submissions and experience how different perspectives respond to an overarching idea: some pieces may relate to a theme in a concrete manner, using it to convey a message in a new way, while others may be more abstract, making the audience work a little harder to see the connection. There is never one way to respond to a theme. In every case, we encourage you to have fun with it and push your boundaries—be creative, and see what you can do.

Any inquiries may be emailed directly to us.


Contact: fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com

Fingers comma Toes Logo Final

Call for Submissions: Flash Frontier (NZ)

April 2019: Special Call for Submissions


For April 2019, the editors of Flash Frontier will collect words and art by New Zealand and international writers who choose to maintain art and beauty in the face of tragedy. We call this issue:

love | ἀγάπη | mehr | mettā | محبة  | aroha 

Note this is an international call, and word count is extended to 500 for this special issue. Along with flash fiction we will also include poetry, creative nonfiction and art.


Send submissions by April 10 to flashfrontier[at[gmail[dot]com.

The issue will be published in late April.

Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction is a international literary journal based in New Zealand. The journal is edited by Michelle Elvy, James Norcliffe, Gail Ingram, Sam Averis & Vaughan Rapatahana, and can be found at flash-frontier.com.

January 2019 Issue Forest

Guest Edited by Russell Boey

Contents:

Light – Sophie Yu (age 20; Auckland, New Zealand) 
Stars in the forest – Coco Brady (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Kiwi – Evelyn King (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Leaves – Tom Nalder (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
[Untitled] – Margaret O. Spainhour (age 17; Mount Airy, North Carolina, United States)
behind the apartment block – Harry Waddington (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Broken – Sophie Schneideman (age 11; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Warrior Wolf – Leela Kingsnorth (age 11; County Galway, Ireland)
the whispering forest – Johanna Holzenkampfer (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Forest Riddle – Tom Nalder (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
No Trees – Lachlan Foulds (age 11; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Forest Moths – Samantha Lascelles (age 11; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Forest – Sophie Yu (age 20; Auckland, New Zealand)
The Great Wall Of Leaves – Rebecca Howard (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
[Untitled] – Rosie Allen (age 09; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Lost – Sophie Baynes (age 08; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Red – Millie Sarjeant (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Forest Speaks – Sylvie King (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Lamia Cinus: novella excerpt – Max Deeley and Justine Lang (ages 14 and 18; Panama City, Panama and North Carolina, United States)
Dark – Sophie Yu (age 20; Christchurch, New Zealand) 
Postcards to the Rain Forest – Tom Nalder (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand) 
Belladonna – Harry Waddington (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)

Light – Sophie Yu

Sophie Yu is twenty years old, and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.


Stars in the forest – Coco Brady

Wind gushes through
the narrow trees as
the mist whispers to the
cold damp forest floor
the ferns hold down
the dying leaves as they
wish to be blown away by
the flowing wind
as the stars shine the
forest settles for night
the gushing wind stops
the mist settles down
and the ferns loosen their grip
but the stars don’t rest till
night time is dawn

Coco Brady is ten years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


The Kiwi – Evelyn King

The forest was broken by the chaffinch’s morning call
A dew filled morning predicting a sunny day
Like a tiger nestling in a prey filled nest
The forest was broken by the chaffinch’s morning call
Pine and honeysuckle embrace the forest culture
Nestling, hunting, awaiting
Behind me
A kiwi scuttles to its safe place
His beak weighing him down
And his foot
Dragging along a hunters trap
He pauses, sticking his beak into the ground
Then falls and lies still
Broken by the chaffinch’s morning call

Evelyn King is twelve years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Leaves – Tom Nalder

Yellow leaves
diamond leaves
have been found
by the woodcutter.
He takes them
off the trees
and puts them
on the top
of his Christmas tree.
He makes wishes
for them.
He wishes those leaves
would have the power
to fly again
all the way to the moon.
Sometimes at night
when the woodcutter
looks up at the stars
he sees a portal
of leaves.

Tom Nalder is ten years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


[Untitled]  Margaret O. Spainhour

Margaret O. Spainhour is seventeen years old, and lives in Mount Airy, North Carolina, United States.


behind the apartment block – Harry Waddington

the jungle lies hot and steamy
where washing lines become jungle vines
where hanging socks become poisonous fruits
the apes sprawl over the front stairs
hooting and causing trouble
their eyes bloodshot
from chemicals bred in a jungle
not too different from this
metal sheets rust
but when the wind floats by
topple like mighty brazil-nut trees
the city hums
like a giant beehive
full of insects monotonously floating
through life
a homeless man lifts the lid of a dumpster
an anteater flips mounds of earth
scrabbling through the roots
to find a morsel for the next day
an elephant rolls by
picking up today’s rubbish
with its mechanical metal trunk
mosquitoes hum past
sucking the blood from society
to earn their bright red gang colours
preying on innocent creatures
robbing their bank of blood
tall buildings coat the skyline
as a canopy to the creatures below
blocking the sun from scraping the ground
the thrum of the city is ceaseless
when the tired workers come home to rest
from a long day hunting
the humming still continues

Harry Waddington is fourteen years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Broken – Sophie Schneideman

Leaves crunch under my feet
The tears of Tane ripple the creek
Autumn spins into winter
Rocks as sharp as the whisking wind
Leaves crunch under my feet
The smell of the pine not so fresh
Whisking, whirling, crashing, falling, broken
Behind me stumps and a single trail
My footprint engraved the mud
Leaves crunch under my feet
One footfall into the creek
One sharp stab into a soft crease
A creek that is now a bloodstream
A cold abandoned daughter
An endangered heart takes a rest

Sophie Schneideman is eleven years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Warrior Wolf – Leela Kingsnorth

Ragnar pushed forwards with his back legs, his heart pounding from beneath his furry chest. He’d almost lost it when…there! Just a glimpse, but yes. He was the fastest runner in his pack, but this year the bracken had stayed up longer, and so had the meagre plants underfoot, so deer like this one had places to hide. ‘It will cause the downfall of us wolves,’ the leader of his pack had prophesied. And truly the wolves were weaker and more hungry by the second.
So he had to catch this one.
Yes…he was gaining on it…he could see it properly now…weaving in and out through the trees…closer…closer…now it was clearly in sight…its dappled back…muzzle flecked with sweat…tense, desperate legs… Now! He was right behind it…his only chance to spring now. He leapt, his strong back legs pushing off from the tightly packed leaf litter. Now he was soaring through the air… But! His teeth met on thin air, his outstretched claws fell back to earth!
He had missed. Missed. Never, not once, had a deer evaded him in such a time of need. The pack had relied on him, trusted him, fallen back to let him catch it for them. There was no chance of him catching anything now. He had truly and utterly let them down. How, how, could go back to them now, empty handed as he was, and tell them that he had failed? He couldn’t. He just couldn’t.
It would be too shameful to endure.
He had to leave, go further into the forest, become a loner, a hermit, a vagabond. It was, to him, the only option. So he ran on, thoughts of failure crashing in his head. Here, the trees were more deciduous than anything else, not with smatterings of conifers like where he had come from, but were spaced slightly more sparsely. He kept on going, to where the dappled sunlight shone through the boughs of the huge trees, to where the fallen leaves crackled pleasantly underfoot. He began to forget his worries, to enjoy the afternoon-evening.
Then…! There was a growl and a snap behind him, he felt his neck gripped by strong sharp teeth, and he was flung to the ground.
‘Trespasser!” snarled a throaty, anger -filled voice.
Ragnar painfully rolled over to his back and saw a huge, muscular wolf with squinting, pig-like eyes scowling down at him.
‘Now, now,’ said a smooth, untrustworthy-sounding voice behind him.
A sleek, dark wolf padded into Ragnar’s sight.
‘Let’s not be unnecessarily violent. I haven’t seen him before, so he’s not” – she spat the words – “a Gumachu. Even though…” She stared curiously at Ragnar’s left ear. “…he has the marking. However, this is our territory, and, especially since he has the marking, he should leave. Right now.’
She glared at Ragnar.
Surprised, he got up and limped away as fast as he could, still hurting from being thrown down, and puzzling over the strange conversation. What marking? Did he have a marking? Who were the Gumachus? Why did that wolf hate them?
Then, a little way off, he saw an amazing sight. Another pack of wolves, big and busy. Little pups frolicked in the dust, mothers licked their young clean, fathers chatted casually. But they all stopped when they saw Ragnar. The stared and whispered:
‘He’s not one of us!’
‘But he’s got the marking!’
‘Where?’
‘He can’t have!’
‘He does, look!’
‘He really does!’
‘What?!’
‘Yes!’
‘But how?!’
Then: ‘Quiet!’ An old, white wolf stepped out from the crowd. ‘Quiet, wolves!’ she barked. Then, more softly, ‘Let us see what this young stranger has to say for himself.’ She then addressed Ragnar. ‘ I am Adole, pack leader. What is your name, and for what reason do you come here?’
‘I,’ said Ragnar, ‘am Ragnar, of the pack of Elfesto.’
And he told his story.
‘Well, I can tell you that the pack that caught you were the Omachos, our deadly enemy,’ said Adole. ‘But what is strange is the mark you have. Our pack, the Gumachus, bite our young on the ear at birth to mark them, so we know that they belong to our pack, and so we can beware of the unmarked ones. We, you see, are a pack of warriors, fierce, fighting warriors. And you have definitely got the marking.’
That would explain my conversation with the Omachos, thought Ragnar.
‘And yet you are so clearly from a completely different pack. I cannot understand it.’
‘Often I feel the thrill of fighting and wish to fight all the more,’ offered Ragnar eagerly, ‘I truly believe that I am a warrior.’
‘Then…I suggest that you go back to your home pack,’ said Adole, ‘and ask them where you really came from.’
——-* * *
At last he came to the glade he knew so well. The wolves were surprised to see him. Some treated him with delight, some with contempt, but most were glad that he was back.
Panting and breathless, he poured out the tale of what had happened to him.
‘I think, wolves,’ said Edaer, his pack leader, ‘it is high time we tell this brave young wolf where he really came from.’
There were murmurs of heartfelt agreement.
‘Good. Well, then,’ said Edaer, relieved.
‘Tell him!’
‘Yes, tell him!’
‘Come on, tell him!’
‘Well,’ began Edaer, ‘less than a year ago, when I, too, was a feisty young wolf, there was a great battle. The Omachos, even though it was against the law of the gallant warrior wolf, invaded the Gumachus in their home glade, taking them unawares. What followed was a terrible massacre. Most of the Gumachu were killed, and the rest ran, as far and fast as they could. When both packs had left, I went to survey the battleground. It was a terrible sight. I thought to myself, there is not a living soul in this terrible place.
‘But I was wrong. A tiny wolf pup, shielded from the battle by a tree stump, lay there, abandoned and whimpering. I brought it home, gave it a name, had the pack care for it with me. It was you, of course. I was sure that you were one of us, that you always would be. But,’ he said rather sadly, ‘it seems that it was not to be.
‘As I’m sure we all agree, the path of Ragnar’s life that he has been faithfully following for so long has split into two, and it is up to him and no other to choose which one he takes.
‘So, you have a choice: stay with us and live in this part of the forest, or become a warrior wolf and a Gumachu. Ragnar, tell us, which do you choose?’
—-* * *
Ragnar pushed forwards with his back legs, his heart pounding from beneath his furry chest.
He kept on going, to where the dappled sunlight shone through the boughs of the huge trees, to where the fallen leaves crackled pleasantly underfoot.
—-He felt a new wolf.
—-——-A warrior wolf.

Leela Kingsnorth is eleven years old, and lives in County Galway, Ireland.


the whispering forest – Johanna Holzenkampfer

Johanna Holzenkampfer is ten years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Forest Riddle – Tom Nalder

I live in dreams.
I sing in tree tops.
I wear rings.
I dig deep to find food.
I write rain spells.
I never created fire.
I never built an axe.
I never invited the flood.
I never invited the earthquake.
I’ve forgotten who I am.

Tom Nalder is ten years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


No Trees – Lachlan Foulds

The sound of a rusty diesel engine starting up
A frosty crisp day
A disturbed feeling like a family member who passed away
The smell of too much insect repellent
Chopping, sleeping, working, eating, living
A dirty forest clearing with no trees for what seems like miles
The sound of a rusty diesel engine starting up
A low paid worker
Another colony of birds lost.

Lachlan Foulds is eleven years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand


Forest Moths – Samantha Lascelles

They rise from
rosy blossoms
their eyes glow like
fluro lamp lights.
At bath time
colours spread
through their bodies
red, blue, green.
At daylight, they disappear
like they weren’t there.

Samantha Lascelles is eleven years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Forest – Sophie Yu

Sophie Yu is twenty years old, and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.


The Great Wall Of Leaves – Rebecca Howard

Crunch I hear a stick snapping underneath me
Fallen autumn leaves block my path
Like a wall in the way of a galloping horse
Crunch I hear a stick snapping underneath me
The leaves give off a fragrance so breathtaking
Ducking crawling dodging weaving thrusting
Behind me the rushing rapids falling down the waterfall
Crunch I hear a stick snapping underneath me
A koala throwing leaves and sticks
A monkey in an all black disguise
Misbehaving like a dog without its lead
Ducking crawling dodging weaving thrusting
Pushing through the leaves
As if I were an owl flying in the dark
Maybe next time I go adventuring
I will be building Noah’s Ark

Rebecca Howard is ten years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


[Untitled] – Rosie Allen

I’d like a garden
dark as a forest
with trees bigger than the Eiffel Tower
swaying in the storm
oak as strong as steel
a forest in my garden
with kiwis from the forest
running around
like a wild ocean
swimming away
through the trees.

Rosie Allen is nine years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Lost – Sophie Baynes

The sound of trees clashing together
Frost on vibrant green grass on a cold day
Wind like a strong sand storm
Dirt flying around the grass
The smell of minty plants
Trees crying screaming cut down into paper dying bleeding
Behind me a shadow as big as a horse, a big gorilla standing and staring
I am a scared girl in an old room
The room is creepy, a broken light is hanging
Glass is shattered everywhere across the floor
Transparent dangerous broken pieces
Soon I will get out

Sophie Baynes is eight years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Red – Millie Sarjeant

Owls hoot in the distance, barely audible over the screaming of wetas.
A cold, sour wind seeps through the fog and lashes against my face.
The fog is mysterious like seeing a shadow in a dark alley, but no owner.
Owls hoot in the distance, barely audible over the screaming of wetas.
The smell of plant oils crawls along the ground and onto the trees.
Clawing, crying, heart beating, running, watching.
I look behind me: no one, just the silver, white moon.
I see a dark shadow run across the path ahead, the footsteps clawing the earth.
Owls hoot in the distance, barely audible over the screaming of wetas.
Crying birds flee from a tree and flock into the dark, starry sky.
Heart beating, my red cape sticks close to me.
Owls hoot in the distance, barely audible over the sound of a wolf howling.
Now running, a biscuit falls from my kete.
Beady and bloodshot eyes are watching from steady haunches.
I scramble forward up the gorse path and fall into the house of my sick grandma.

Millie Sarjeant is twelve years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


The Forest Speaks – Sylvie King

Cold metallic grass wraps around my feet
Frail sun casts ghostly shadows of trees
Strangely warm bark cuts deep into my hands
No pattern ever the same
Soft fur of a hibernating hare
Insects crunch in the lining of my boots
Rugged socks hold my heat
No wind can extinguish my fire
Flax whips and ties up my wrists
Sharp wind scratches my icy back
My bare head nods then turns
To face the axe

Sylvie King is twelve years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Lamia Cinus: novella excerpt – Max Deeley and Justine Lang

East of the kingdom of Aurora, west of the old realms, south of the northern wilds and north of the harsh desert lies the feudal land of Caligo. This region is dominated by the extensive forest of Umbra—a forest capable of hiding many things. Thieves and bandits are prevalent, but they are far from the worst things the people in this country fear. Creatures of myth and magic hide in the darkness, out of sight of those that hate and fear them. If a person does meet another being away from the main road, then he or she should pray that the being only strayed too far from the path, for those that intentionally walk in the shadows of the trees only do so if they have something to hide. 
——-* * *
The girl has a walking stick in her hand, a cloak on her back, and beautiful, sparkling emerald eyes framed by black locks. She’s leaning against the pines with a sense of ease that suggests she is more at home here than the well-frequented trail. Just before I ask her who she is, she fires the question at me. “Who are you?” she asks bluntly.
Something pulses in my brain. Danger. Something is wrong. This girl emanates power, but I can’t tell how. Shake it away, Lamia.
“I was about to ask the same thing of you,” I calmly respond. The girl stands up straighter, in a defensive stance. Furtive flickers of green behind her half-closed eyelids suggest she is trying not to be seen. That is something that can be said for anyone straying from the path, even me.
I decide to act kind rather than defensive. I pull the cowl back from my face and tip my head courteously. “Lamia, at your service.”
The girl looks taken aback, her eyes now focused on me. Even though she tries to hide it, she can’t stop staring at my violet eyes. My statement must have piqued her surprise—and curiosity as well.
“Cass—no, Cassandra. I’m Cassandra.”
I chuckle at her stumbling over her words. “Well, Cass, where are you off to? I’m making my way to my family myself. They live not far from the Shadewell Marketplace.”
The girl seems even more surprised by every comment I make. I suppose she’s not used to meeting many people in this area of the woods. Her mouth opens and closes slightly several times before she speaks, bewildered at my address to her.
“Cass? No, that’s not…never mind. I, uh…I guess I’m going the same way.”
She looks similar to Myra. Didn’t think I would find another person that looked like her. I wonder if she is the same as us? Surely not. I ask her, “Well, how would you, Cassandra, like to accompany me to this wonderful town? I may not know you, but it would be far worse not to have someone accompany me.”
She does not lower her walking stick, seemingly wary of me. If anything, her grip has shifted, as if she means to brandish it, and I wonder briefly what other weapons she has concealed.
I am broken from such musings by Cassandra saying, “The journey is dangerous. Not many people travel this way.” She pauses before continuing. “Another companion could make it…different.”
I smile at her declaration. She is so cautious; I can tell just by looking at her. What does she have to be so worried about? Again, she reminds me of Myra, always serious. I chuckle to myself and reply lightheartedly, “So serious. People don’t go the way I’m going, or we’re going, I guess. Thieves and bandits don’t hide in the woods; no one goes by to rob. Those that do go by—well, they’re not the kind to mess with. Besides, I happen to know a shortcut if you don’t mind getting wet.”
I then gently move Cassandra’s stick down, away from where the edge threatens to poke my eye, and pull her insistently by the hand as we march.
My new walking companion yanks her hand away, quickly. “I can walk myself. I will accompany you but I don’t like being touched.”
So now she is acting exactly like my dear little Wendy. She hated me hugging her without her knowing first.
A raven croaks from the sky, breaking my thoughts. Its sound penetrates the dark clouds, even while its form is hidden behind them. Hidden even from my vision. Wait, rain clouds? The blue sky has turned grey, almost instantly, it seems. Unless Cassandra and I have been standing for longer than I thought.
“We should look for shelter along the way. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really suited to walking in the darkness,” Cassandra pronounces.
I nod in agreement and then resume walking, keeping my hand away from hers. In the ensuing awkward silence, I respond to her statement. “Strange, I don’t remember it being gray before. We should hurry; I can feel droplets already.”
With that, I continue walking through the Umbra Forest, my tall steps keeping my boots from tripping on thick oak roots. “So, the adventure begins,” I declare, my eyes fixed on the uneven ground. “The path that never ends begins.”

Max Deeley is fourteen years old, and lives in Panama City, Panama. Justine Lang is eighteen years old, and lives in North Carolina, United States.


Dark – Sophie Yu

Sophie Yu is twenty years old, and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.


Postcards to the Rain Forest – Tom Nalder

Postcards to the Rain Forest
Dear Rain Forest,
The bamboo I eat is becoming
hard to find because I need more
to feed my babies. I also need space
to hide from the hunters.
Love Panda.
Dear Rain Forest,
My family is growing smaller.
I don’t want my babies to be scared
or hurt by the big trucks
that have begun to come into our
forest to steal our trees.
Love White Tiger.
Dear Rain Forest,
I am afraid, for many of my family
are chased by hunters for their
valuable ivory tusks.
We need many more trees
to build shelters to survive.
Love Elephant.
Dear Rain Forest,
We need trees and water so we
can live in peace.
When we hear the loud saws,
we know we are in danger.
Love Tree Frog.

Tom Nalder is ten years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Belladonna – Harry Waddington

extending from undergrowth
she lounges in a gap
nestled between the shadows
purple buds breathe frosty wind
that runs through icy woods
her black eyes move through fog-filled pines
broken light through the trees
casts a patch of light on her
she flicks her green leaves against undulating saplings
embedded near her in cool soil
her magenta flowers open into cold morning air
spiralling around towering pines
she pirouettes to echoing bird song
a wandering child exhales a warm wheeze
he plucks her with numb fingers
her roots dance in winter
for the last time
he replants her in his book
she breathes no more

Harry Waddington is fourteen years old, and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


About the guest editor:
Russell Boey is a student in his final year of studies at St. Andrew’s College, Christchurch, New Zealand. He has an avid love for science and math, but despite this maintains that he will fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a struggling author. He has been published in fingers comma toes in the 2016 Issue Rust, as well as New Zealand’s national newspaper The Sunday Star Times for winning their short story competition. He likes stars, quasars, black holes, and all the places in-between. Unlike Lola and Tristan, if he ever leaves dry land again, it will have been far too soon.

Submissions Notice – January 2019 Issue Forest

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Submissions may be, but are not limited to, writing (essays, short stories, micro stories, poetry—any forms of writing), photography, visual art (digital art included), and music. Submit through email at fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com. In your email, please include your age, geographical location, what kind of piece you are submitting (writing, photography, art, music, etc.), and, if you wish one to be published, a short biography of 50 words or so. If submitting multiple pieces, please condense them into a zipped (.zip) file with your name included in the file name.

We welcome previously published work. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable but we advise that the artist/author informs us if the submission is accepted or published elsewhere.

There is no strict age limit for submitters. We are a youth journal, and our submitters currently range in age from four to twenty-six years old. As a general guide to what we’re looking for, our previous issues can be found here.

There are no limits as to the length of written submissions; we enjoy flash fiction, short stories, long stories, and poetry, but prose submissions under five thousand words are preferable (though exceptions may be made). Artists/authors may submit up to five pieces each. We encourage variety and international submissions.

Submission themes are not strict and may be interpreted freely. Any inquiries may be emailed directly to us.

About the January 2019 issue:

– Submission period: 29 October 2018 to 07 December 2018

– Theme: Forest

– Artists/authors will be notified from December 2018 to January 2019.

Guest editor

For the first time, fingers comma toes is having a guest editor. Russell Boey, from Christchurch, New Zealand, will be guest editing the January 2019 issue.

About the guest editor:

Russell is a student in his final year of studies at St. Andrew’s College, Christchurch, New Zealand. He has an avid love for science and math, but despite this maintains that he will fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a struggling author. He has been published in fingers comma toes in the 2016 Issue Rust, as well as New Zealand’s national newspaper The Sunday Star Times for winning their short story competition. He likes stars, quasars, black holes, and all the places in-between. Unlike Lola and Tristan, if he ever leaves dry land again, it will have been far too soon.


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