“Let’s enter a contest!” Ms. Liao said excitedly.
The class groaned.
“It’ll be easy,” she said. “We just write a story, maximum 450 words. Easy!” Ms. Liao handed out a double-sided entry form. One side was covered in rules. “Hmmmm. And then there are a whole bunch of rules. Okay, let’s see . . .” She scanned through the long list of regulations.
“This looks kinda hard,” Parker said. “What do all these words mean?”
“Those words work together to make sentences,” Alex told him.
“Okay, okay, don’t panic,” Ms. Liao soothed. She read from the list. “First: write your story in size 12 Arial.”
“Is that a type of bird?” asked Tony.
“Arial is a font, Tony,” said Ms. Liao. She could already feel both her patience and enthusiasm waning.
“What is a font?” asked Tony.
Ms. Liao pinched her toes together and felt herself age significantly. “A font is a set of type.” She silently marveled at her ability to sound gentle and kind.
“Should the title of my story be in size 12 too?” asked Richard.
“Yes,” Ms. Liao answered.
“What about my name?” he asked.
“Yes, that too.” Ms. Liao imagined herself playing ping pong, and the question as the ping pong ball. She wasn’t sure if she was winning or losing this match.
“Okay, I’ve finished my story,” Mariam announced proudly.
“What? I just handed this assignment out five minutes ago,” said Ms. Liao.
“I know.” She looked at Ms. Liao in the eye, unwavering in her stare. “Now what do I do?”
Computers magically appeared.
“Well,” began Ms. Liao hesitantly, “go online to www.polarexpressions.ca. On the right hand side, you’ll see a button: SUBMIT ENTRY ONLINE. Then scroll down and choose **STUDENT STORY CONTEST ENTRY**. A really lame entry form will appear. It’s actually the same as the paper copy I’ve just given you. You can copy and paste that into the body of the e-mail.”
“Soooo . . .did you say that Arial is not a type of bird?” asked Tony.
“Then, you can attach your story to the e-mail. Or you can copy and paste your story into the body of your e-mail, underneath your entry form. For some reason, they give you two e-mails you can send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com.”
Mariam clicked through the instructions. “Wow, this online entry form does look really lame.”
Ms. Liao nodded her head in agreement. “Well, you could also fill out the paper copy, and then scan it or take a picture of it, and attach it to your e-mail.”
Mariam clicked, clicked, and clicked.
“Done!” she said with a smile. “Now all we have to do is wait for the prize money to arrive.”