Created by Peter Chiykowski, creator of The Story Engine
Create endless story prompts for writers, DMs, RPG players, teachers, and storytellers of all stripes.
Latest Updates from Our Project:
Most exciting update yet: card creator app + free writing contest + production sample unboxing
12 days ago
– Sun, May 24, 2020 at 08:55:19 PM
I can honestly say this is the most excited I have been to post an update! I have some incredible news to share, plus some smaller updates.
Here are the three big headlines that I explain in full detail below!
Solarpunk writer/open source developer Paweł Ngei developed a free-to-use card creator app for The Story Engine and it's now ready for you!
Our prompted microfiction writing contest is now open to writers worldwide! Free to enter! $500 CAD in prizes and $500 CAD in donations to charity! Full details below or on the contest webpage.
The print production samples arrived and they are gorgeous. Watch me unbox them in a video below!
And here are a few more minor updates that don't require more than a bullet to explain, but I am happy to answer any questions about them in the comments!
Production: I'll be replying to the printer tomorrow with my final production notes, but essentially, everything is looking ready to print as-is. We continue to move forward with an eye on delivery in July or August as per the last update.
Digital story wallpaper packs: If you backed the Kickstarter for a digital story wallpaper pack or added it to a preorder, you should have received access to a high-res download in your BackerKit downloads section. Also, I upgraded everyone from 12 wallpapers to 16 because I couldn't decide on just 12!
French deck: Benoit has continued to be available for advice and discussion of his high-quality translation. I will be using the new card creator app to provide an early print-and-play for the French deck to backers next week. Progress continues on the manually designed deck, on track for a June delivery.
Spanish deck: Cintain has completed the translation of the main deck and the fantasy expansion, and has been checking in regularly about word meanings and replacements. As with the French deck, we'll be upgrading Spanish deck backers to the full set of expansions and boosters as I find time to design them.
Narrated story audio for the anthology: The audio engineer has reviewed the audio files for the 18 recorded stories in The Story Engine anthology and confirmed that they are sounding good and should be easy to standardize, touch up, and export.
If you have any feedback on the interface or functions, or if you would like to say thank you to Paweł, you can leave a comment below or find him on Twitter.
I have also created free blank card templates in a variety of styles and distribute them via BackerKit downloads to every Kickstarter backer. If you are NOT a Kickstarter backer and would like a copy, you can get them for free from the new website for The Story Engine deck.
Curriculum Kendra is working on lesson plans for a card creation activity that will be homeschool friendly! Keep an eye out for these coming soon!
The free-to-enter microfiction writing contest is open!
I know that quarantine feels like a long slog, and I myself have been having a hard time finding the inspiration to write. No one should feel pressured to create during a pandemic, but if you or someone you know has been looking for that excuse to try writing something, maybe this will help. Plus, microfiction is an excellent way to approach creative writing in small, fun, low-pressure writing sessions.
It is 100% free to enter for anyone anywhere in the world. There are separate prizes for youth writer and adult writer categories. Teachers are welcome to encourage their students to enter, and should also enter themselves!
The prompt for your up-tp-100-word story is:"An archivist wants to regain an irreplaceable book but a terrible secret will come out..."
I have asked 6 incredible judges to join me in reading entries. I encourage you to check out their work!
Sonya Ballantyne is a filmmaker and writer originally from Misipawistik Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba. Her work focuses on Indigenous women and girls in non-traditional film genres such as horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. Her first film Crash Site has played in festivals internationally and she hopes to direct a Superman film adaptation in the future. (Twitter / Facebook)
Kari Maaren is a writer, cartoonist, musician, and academic whose first novel, the YA fantasy Weave a Circle Round, was published by Tor Books in 2017. It tied for the 2018 Copper Cylinder Award (YA category), was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, and was shortlisted for the Sunburst Award (YA category). Kari has a completed webcomic, West of Bathurst, and an active one, the double-Aurora-winning It Never Rains, and she has produced two independent albums, Beowulf Pulled My Arm Off and Everybody Hates Elves. She lives in Toronto with too many musical instruments and an astounding number of books. (Twitter / Facebook)
Oh wow, I am absolutely thrilled with the production sample!
I recorded an unboxing video in my basement office. It's one take and the lighting isn't the best, but I think you can get a good sense of the quality of the sample and my excitement.
I have been managing different forms of print production on my own projects for 9-or-so years, and this is easily the best I've seen a sample look on first try.
I will be checking in with the factory about the default order that the cards come in, as well as the circumference of the rounded card corners, and checking in on a couple of minor aspects of the files, but otherwise, I think we knocked it out of the park.
I will check in with you again soon and including reviews of some card sleeves I have been testing, for those of you who want to sleeve your cards.
Until then, stay safe and keep well!
Production timeline update + booster box upgrade + early eBook release day + writing contest
28 days ago
– Fri, May 08, 2020 at 02:42:04 AM
I want to update you on a number of developments, including the first confirmation that COVID-19 delays will be affecting this project, shifting our originally scheduled June delivery to July/August.
There's plenty of good news to share in this update as well (booster box upgrades, early ebook release, bonus stories, new voice guest, and a free-to-enter microfiction contest), but I want to address the delays head-on, first.
Deck production has been moving along smoothly, but slower than I had expected. Responses from the factory have been more sporadic than I'd like, and it has slowed down the revisions and approvals process. That said, I am grateful the factory is taking necessary precautions to protect their workers and accomodating work from home, and they continue to do a stellar job in each phase of production.
I checked in with the factory and they're forecasting that right now, the decks should arrive for distribution at the end of June or beginning of July. This would keep us more or less on our original schedule.
That said, given the increased likelihood of shipping/logistics delays during lockdown, and the tendency of factories to be optimistic with delivery dates, I expect we will be shipping closer to August. I will keep regular updates coming so you know what to expect going forward,
If you are moving or your delivery address has changed, don't worry!Backer addresses remain unlocked, and you can still return to your BackerKit profile to update your address in your reward survey.
You will receive a 48-hour email notification before I lock addresses in June or July, and you will have the chance to update your shipping address. I will also post an update when this happens. If you miss the update, you will still be able to message me to request your address be updated manually.
Here are the rest of the production update headlines, all of which is good news! I cover them in greater detail below.
If you have any questions or concerns at all, don't hesitate to comment or DM me and I will get back to you within 24 hours. My first priority is keeping you up-to-date.
All booster sets have been upgraded from foil packs to tuck boxes to make them more reusable and eco-friendly
The Story Engine postcard fiction anthology ebook is with the printer, and has been released early for backers whose rewards include a physical or digital copy
6 new narrated stories have been added to The Story Engine anthology, featuring the voice of Lydia Nicholas from The Magnus Archives and the Rusty Quill Gaming podcast
All audio portions of the book have been recorded and are currently with the audio engineer
The French translator is finished and I have started designing the French PDF deck assets
The Spanish translator has done an initial consultation call with me and is starting work in the next 2 weeks
To date, we have distributed 1,300 free digital decks to families and educators in quarantine!
I am planning a microfiction contest to be announced in the coming weeks, with free entry and $1,000 CAD in prizes for winners and runners-up in both a youth and adult category
Booster Set Upgrades
As someone who fell in love with Magic: The Gathering as a 10-year-old, I've always wanted to design a booster pack. This was a bucket list item for me on this project, but as I worked through production with the factory, it became increasingly clear to me that the foil packs would require more design revisions to get right, were an inefficient use of single-use plastics, and would make it harder for barcode scanners to read the packaging.
Rather than hold up the project and generate waste with my original vision, I decided to apologize to my childhood self, pivot, and embrace the more robust option of a booster-sized tuck box.
These tuck boxes that will not only be recyclable, but are reusable and double as deck spacers if you choose to transfer your deck to a long box.
I think these will offer a lot more value to users in the long run.
Early eBook Release, Surprise Voice Guest, Bonus Stories
The Story Engine postcard fiction anthology is finished, and an early digital release of the ebook has already been distributed to all backers whose rewards included a digital or physical version of the book. If you backed for the book, check your email for a download notification from BackerKit.
This early release version does not include the links to the stories that were audio-recorded, but those will be released soon. Speaking of which, I'm thrilled to announce a bonus voice guest and a pile of bonus content that was added to the anthology.
Lydia Nicholas, the voice of Melanie King on The Magnus Archives and Cel Sidebottom on the Rusty Quill Gaming podcast, has joined Cecil Baldwin (Welcome to Night Vale) and Jonathan Sims (The Magnus Archives) in the voice cast for the anthology.
Lydia narrated six stories, and I can't wait for you to be able to hear them! The narrated stories are currently with the audio engineer, and I expect to be sending them to book backers in 1-2 weeks. I will also update the ebooks at that time to include links to the narrated stories.
I have also added a bonus 6 stories to the anthology, none of which have ever been published on my website shorteststory.com. With quarantine looking to continue for some time to come, I thought we could all use the extra reading material.
If you would like to unlock your survey to add-on a digital or physical copy of this anthology of stories, which I wrote while developing The Story Engine deck, DM me and I can set that up.
Deck Translation Updates
Benoit Chartier, the translator of the French deck, has completed his translation! He was extremely thorough and checked in with me regularly to make sure his word choices reflected the most important facets of the original cards.
I've now begun the process of designing the French deck with the material he provided. The original font I used for the English design of the deck does not allow for accents on capital letters, so the digital version of the French deck is being designed in the font that I use for cover design and rulebooks. This will ensure it stays tonally consistent with the rest of the materials.
The original scope of the project was only to translate to the main deck for a digital version, but I'm pleased to announce that Benoit translated the expansions and booster sets as well. These will eventually be available as a French translation.
I've had a couple of conference calls with the translator of the Spanish deck to discuss the goals of the translation and some of the learnings from the French translation, and he will be beginning his translation soon. We will also be using the alternative font to ensure accents are expressed properly.
Free Quarantine Colouring Book
While this update isn't about The Story Engine, I thought it might bring you some joy.
In my other life, I'm the cartoonist behind the webcomic Rock Paper Cynic.
I decided to team up with some of my friends from the webcomic world to create a free all-ages colouring book for both kids and grown-ups. If you're looking for a relaxing activity or a fun distraction for the wee ones, you can download it for free here: http://rockpapercynic.com/coloringbook
I will share more about this in the next update, but I am planning a microfiction contest to help keep storytellers stimulated as lockdown continues for many of us.
Please note that these details may change as planning comes together, but for now the plan is:
Format: I will be drawing a prompt from The Story Engine deck that writers can use as inspiration for a story of 15-150 words. They are free to interpret the prompt as they like. Stories must be in English.
Submissions: Writers will each be able to submit one story for the contest. There is no entry fee. You do not have to be a Kickstarter backer to enter. The writers retain full rights to all their stories.
Judges: I will be inviting a small panel of authors to join me as judges in reviewing submissions. There will be no identifying information on submissions when we read them.
Winners: Judges will select a winner and two runners-up for each of two age categories: young writers (up to age 17) and adult writers (age 18 and up). That's a total of 2 winners and 4 runners-up.
I believe writers should be paid for their writing, so there will be payment!
The winner of each category will receive $150 CAD and have $150 CAD donated to the charity of their choice.
The four runners-up (two youth, two adult) will each receive $50 CAD and have $50 CAD donated to the charity of their choice.
Both winners and all four runners-up will be given the option to have their stories designed into postcard stories and published on shorteststory.com.
I will formalize rules, a submission platform, and a submission deadline within the coming weeks.
That's All For Now
Thanks for your ongoing support of this project, and my apologies again that we are looking at delays.
Please don't hesitate to reach out with questions about production, logistics, or delivery. I'm here to support and keep you informed!
All my very best,
Update on free educator decks + activity sheet/lesson plans + live Q&A today
2 months ago
– Tue, Mar 31, 2020 at 12:52:26 AM
Hello again backers and newcomers!
I wanted to follow up with a few exciting updates! The topics covered include:
An activity sheet and 2 lesson plans with notes for adapting to the home setting have been released for free for all backers
Reward surveys have been sent to all recipients of the 120 free educational decks/books and the waitlisted educators/volunteers
The French and Spanish deck translations are underway
Shipping addresses will remain editable until May
Update on free family quarantine PDF decks
Another postcard story for uncertain times
Let's get started!
An activity sheet and 2 lesson plans have been released
Kendra, the wonderful curriculum developer I have been working with, has assembled a helpful sheet of 9 activities for using The Story Engine deck. She also worked with me to develop two full-length lesson plans teaching storytelling using The Story Engine, along with notes for adapting the lessons for use at home in quarantine.
I want to thank Kendra for making time to accelerate the development of these materials for families in need of activities, especially while taking care of her own family in the growing health crisis.
You will likely receive a notification from BackerKit soon summarizing the updated download files available to you, but you can access this resource as of right now.
When I was 9ish, my school closed for a provincial teachers' strike. I have vague memories of my mum and friend's mum running a few home lessons for us. I forget the lessons, but I remember the feeling: a moment of normalcy in an uncertain time. It's a happy memory.
20 years later, having forgotten everything else, I still remember that feeling: how it felt to know someone cared that I was comfortable and learning something new every day.
And now I have the chance to give that feeling to other kids facing uncertainty, and it means a lot to me. If there's something I can do to help you and your family have the most fulfilling quarantine possible, let me know, and I'll do my best to help. If you have requests for areas you would like to see future lessons explore, let me know in the comments section!
Educator copy surveys sent
As you may recall from last year, your support for this project unlocked stretch goals donating 120 copies of The Story Engine deck or story anthology to schools, libraries, and community groups. I received over 180 registrations before closing the registration form, and all applicants have now received an invitation to a BackerKit reward survey. (Schools can still get a free digital copy of the deck from the quarantine PDF link.)
Educators that were among the first 120 applicants have been asked to supply their mailing address by April 21 to secure their copy before it gets passed to the next school down on the waiting list.
Waitlisted educators have been sent a survey to set them up with access to the free digital copy while they wait to see if another allocation opens up. The PDF deck is available immediately and the ebook will be available in your downloads as soon as it is released.
If you applied for an educator copy and have since lost your job due to Covid-19, or your job is at risk due to the general state of uncertainty in the world, please keep the free deck/book with my blessing and take it with you into the next stage of your career. I know you will find a good place for it and for yourself to continue the excellent work you do. You and your expertise are valuable to your community, and whatever I can do to make your journey smoother, I am pleased to do.
If you registered for an educator copy and did not receive a BackerKit notification in your inbox or spam, please DM me directly for support.
Live fireside Q&A chat with me today at 3pm EST / 5pm BST / noon PST
I've learned so many lessons from running this Kickstarter, and from the last 10+ years working as a writer and creative professional. (And I've been getting a bit of cabin fever after 3 weeks of self-isolation, so I thought I'd invite you to join me by the fire for a Q&A session!)
The plan is to livestream on my otherwise completely disused Twitch channel at 3pm EST / 5pm BST / noon PST. (That said, I have never done this sort of thing and am pretty nervous about it, so it's possible there will be slight delays as I get everything to work.)
I spent the winter cozying up my little Edinburgh rental flat and I've never had a fireplace before, so I wanted to share it with you!
I took some questions on my Twitter and Facebook, and will take some live questions as well. My areas of expertise include:
Making really good grilled cheese
Publishing (traditional and self-pub)
Making pretty good pancakes
I hope you'll join me!
Shipping addresses will remain editable until May
For people who are moving, have moved, or may move before shipping in June: you will be able to change your address up until a few weeks before items ship. Visit your original BackerKit survey and you should be able to change the address you provided.
You should receive a 48-hour notice from BackerKIt when shipping addresses are about to lock.
The French and Spanish deck translations are underway
The translated PDF decks are underway for their June delivery!
The French translation of the cards in the main deck is finished, and the translation of the guidebook is underway. The translator has been checking in with me regularly about the best range of meanings available for translated words, as well as the best way to handle gendered nouns and adjective agreements. It's been a very interesting process!
The deck spreadsheet and guidebook have been sent to the Spanish translator, who will be working on them for the June delivery timeline.
I've been going back and forth with the printer adjusting and updating the files as they check them. This process is going a little slower than it has on previous print projects, but seeing as we're printing the main deck, 3 expansions, and 6 boosters at the same time, this is to be expected.
At present, we are still on track for me to be shipping decks in June, but I am keeping an eye on the clock as we finish the pre-print review and will be in touch if I expect shipping delays.
The current plan is to distribute North American copies from a local distribution partner near the Canadian-US border, and for me to personally distribute copies from Edinburgh, Scotland, for the UK/EU/rest of world. I have personally fulfilled as many as 900 parcels in the span of a week for my previous Kickstarter, so while this will be my biggest shipping endeavour yet, I anticipate it will go relatively smoothly.
At present, it does not look like Covid-19 will affect shipping, but the world is changing every day, so I want us all to be prepared to roll with whatever changes come our way. I promise to keep you updated through it all.
I will have more news on production of the book for the next update, but for now, the graphic design is complete, all guest stories are finalized, and I am waiting on a few last items to be confirmed before sharing a fuller update.
Shipping addresses will remain editable until May
While your orders are locked in BackerKit, your address will remain unlocked until May. This means you can still update your address by revisiting your BackerKit survey.
At some point in May, I will be locking down shipping addresses. BackerKit will automatically send you a 48-hour notice to give you a chance to update your address.
Update on free family quarantine PDF decks
Since my last update, we have distributed free PDF decks and lessons plans to 942 families in quarantine. I was nervous while posting the last update announcing the free PDFs, knowing many of you paid for something that others are now able to request for free. It can sting knowing you had to pay for something that someone else didn't have to pay for, and I didn't want to ruffle any feathers.
Every comment I received was wholeheartedly positive about sharing the benefits of this campaign with people need of a way to stay creative during the long isolation periods we're all going through.
Thanks for your ongoing understanding, kindness, and generosity of spirit. It has been incredible to see this campaign positively touch so many people's lives. I know it has transformed mine.
In my usual way, I've been processing the news by writing. Here's a new postcard story I'd like to leave you with, entitled "The Day We Took Our Masks Off."
I think that's everything I needed to cover, but if you'd like an update about something not covered here, just let me know in the comments.
Stay safe, take care, and hopefully see you on today's livestream!
Digital deck PDFs delivered + free deck PDFs as quarantine activities for families
3 months ago
– Wed, Mar 18, 2020 at 12:56:24 AM
Hello Kickstarter backers! There's a lot to share with you today!
All deck PDF rewards have been distributed
In light of the coming quarantines, I decided to expedite finalizing all of the digital PDF decks so I could get those sent to backers. The Story Engine makes for an excellent home activity and the decks are easy to assemble.
If you filled out your BackerKit survey, you should have recently received an email notification from BackerKit with a link to your digital rewards. If not, check your spam. If you still can't find it, please DM me and I'll check in on your account.
Originally, the plan was to give PDFs of every stretch goal expansion and booster to every backer receiving the main deck in any format, but not to provide the main deck PDF unless it was specifically added on. Given how much time we're about to be spending indoors with our own thoughts, I've decided to add the main digital deck to the bundle as well. Some people were only set to receive the physical version in June, but I'd like people to have what they need to make the coming weeks as manageable as possible.
The ebook of the story anthology has been designed, but not yet proofread, and will hopefully be sent out in the coming weeks.
If you already downloaded your rewards
If you downloaded your digital rewards before 11am EST this morning, you may wish to go back and download them again.
There was one typo in the guidebook and the crop marks had vanished from the HQ versions of the main deck, mythology booster, and post-apocalyptic booster. These errors popped up as I was migrating from beta to final, and I've since fixed them.
Free PDF decks for families in need of quarantine activities
I've lost count of the number of provinces, states, and counties that have closed, and I know it's a hard time for parents and caregivers right now.
For at least the next 10 days, I've decided to make the printable PDF of The Story Engine deck free to any family in need of quarantine activities.
For all of you who put money into this Kickstarter to get your decks, let me say thank you the bottom of my heart for doing so. This wouldn't be possible without you. Thanks to your generosity last year, hundreds of kids will have a happier, healthier way to make it through this difficult isolation period.
If you know a parent/guardian/caregiver in need of engaging activities for their kids, please let them know. You can share the announcement on:
I would make it instantly available for free, but BackerKit does not allow $0 checkouts.
I received the templates from the printer and have almost finished adapting everything to the exact specification. We should be in physical production very, very soon.
As mentioned above, the design for the story anthology is also complete. I hope to have it proofread soon, and then sent off to the printer for pre-print review. I will try to make the ebooks available as early as possible without compromising quality.
A timely story
I don't usually write about current events, but I've been processing the state of the world through my weekly microfiction project, The Shortest Story, and I wanted to share a story that felt particularly timely.
I hope you are all keeping well and being kind to yourselves and others, and I'll be in touch with more updates as they happen!
Beta complete, factory back in action, final materials with proofreaders
3 months ago
– Tue, Mar 03, 2020 at 10:27:51 PM
Hello, lovely backers of The Story Engine!
I just wanted to give you a few very quick updates on progress, which has been zipping along nicely.
Here are the headlines!
The beta is complete (but you can still register and submit feedback)
The fully designed guidebook is complete
Digital rewards should be delivered in 2-3 weeks
Our factory is back up and running
The beta is complete
I got some extraordinarily helpful feedback from beta testers, which I was able to implement in waves over the past few weeks. I have been tracking all changes in a changelog available in the root of the beta folder.
Beta feedback is now semi-closed; I am not looking to make further changes to the current deck configuration, but I am still very open to feedback that can help inform future decks and expansions.
After implementing changes suggested through the beta, I sent the decks to the proofreaders, who have finished their review and are now doing a final round of checks to make sure no new errors were introduced during the editorial process.
I fell behind in emailing the file link to new registrants as I was working on updating files with beta feedback and will try to keep up with this going forward. If you signed up and have not received the beta link by the end of today, please try registering again or DMing me directly for the link.
The guidebook is complete
The final guidebook has been designed and the proofreaders will review that next. Here's a sneak peek!
Finally, the proofreaders will review the packaging and inserts, and then it's off to print.
Digital rewards being sent out in 2-3 weeks
I should be sending out digital rewards to backers in roughly 2-3 weeks. Exciting!
This will include both the high-quality version of the print-and-play PDF (show above), as well as an eco-efficient version that uses less paper and also prints better in back and white. Here's a set of sample pages from the eco-efficient edition of the main deck.
Here's an example of how beta tester/backer Roy printed the eco deck in black and white and then used markers to colour the edges--a great option for budget printing and classroom activities.
I am looking into exporting a higher-contrast version of the card fronts for users who would benefit from high-visibility cards.
Our factory is back up and running
After the closure for Lunar New Year and the COVID-19 coronavirus, the printer I’m working with on The Story Engine has reopened and has been very available in communications. They are providing me with final template files. We will get my designs fitted to the final specifications, produce a sample, and then it's off to the races.
I will let you know if the shutdown will affect the future shipping timeline in any way. So far, so good!