The dirt shimmers silver, dragons soar and one girl is tasked with stopping underworld beasts from stealing people’s shadows to nourish the hungry land.
This may sound like the beginning of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel, but it’s a world that has come directly from eight-year-old Maggie Wehrle’s imagination.
Maggie’s story, The Underground Festival, won first place in her age category as part of the recent Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s annual braille creative writing contest. “I was really happy. I was really glad,” said Maggie, a Fairfield resident who is blind, about winning the contest.
Maggie placed second the previous two years for stories about her father and his pet pug, and one about three bears and a shark. But this year she took home the top prize for the four-page story that took her two weeks to write.
CNIB’s Alexandra Korinowsky said Maggie’s imaginative story told with astounding maturity impressed the judges.
A self-professed book worm, Maggie’s love for reading and writing began early. Her parents, Trevor and Melissa, used to read her Dr. Seuss books and The Chronicles of Narnia before she could understand. Now, Maggie has flown through a number of books including The Lemony Snicket series, Alice in Wonderland, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Hobbit and is currently reading The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
After finishing the Harry Potter series, Maggie was inspired to pick up her Perkins brailler to create her own fantasy worlds on paper.
“I like just being able to put my ideas onto a piece of paper. It’s fun,” she said.
Her mother Melissa, who is also a fan of fantasy books, said she can hear the sound of Maggie’s brailler early in the morning.
“Just the way that she uses braille is quite amazing. The fact that she finds a passion in writing, I’m super proud of her,” Melissa said.
“I’m happy she’s found braille really useful in that way that it’s not just something she’s using with curricular activities. I wake up in the morning and she’s writing. It’s a creative outlet for her.”
Since winning the contest, Maggie’s love of writing hasn’t slowed down. She is currently working on a story about a college girl and her overweight cat.