Monday, March 20, 2017

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Taylor Rev 2

Name: Kathi Morrison-Taylor
Title: UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
Genre: MG, Magical Realism

Pitch:

Eleven-year-old Kimberley Adams and her grandfather plan for him to contact her after death. Their logistics still unclear, he suddenly dies. Desperate, Kimberley steals his ashes, unlocking a parallel reality, and her inconsolable double.

1st Five Pages:

To be or not to be?

“To be.”  Kimberley Adams made her decision.

She snatched the compact, brick of ashes from the vanity table and ran.

She ran from her great aunt’s attic apartment through the old wedding cake house, jumping down the steep stairs two at a time. Sweat rose on her face to mix with her recent tears. 

“Hey?!”  Her cousin Gerson called out as Kimberley burst into the parlor and wove through a group of lingering guests. “What’s going on? Is it another bat?” 

Part of Kimberley wanted to stop and answer, but not her eleven-year old legs racing forward, dragging her out the front door. 

“This is what teleporting must feel like,” thought Kimberley, “when my cells start swirling over my head, or my soul takes flight out of my body, or I’m scrambling back into another shape like  a swarm of bees or a school of fish.” Hold on to the ashes! she told herself, pressing the hard plastic box against her heart, /Don’t let go of Abu.
She leaned downhill toward the silver glint of the river, the manicured yard whooshing past. No,not exactly teleporting, more like the Great Glass Elevator when it burst out of the top of Wonka’s factory, but no walls to protect Kimberley. More like a rabbit hole, only she wasn’t chasing a rabbit.  She had fled, fled from her great aunt, Tia Tatiana. She had stolen her grandfather’s ashes. 

* * * * *
Abu wouldn’t like this. 

“Use your words!” Abu had always said when she was little and the world felt impossible. “Use your words, Kimberley, don’t cry.” Abu loved words. That’s why he’d become a literature professor. Mama said that when Kimberley was a toddler, sometimes, when she couldn’t stop crying, they would call Abu and he’d used words, reading to her, soothing her with stories.

“What could I tell him?” Kimberley asked herself, “I tried to use words, but they didn’t work. And then what?”

It’s a bad idea to sit around and wait for things to happen. Yes, that was true.

Kimberley was sure of that. She’d learned from reading Hamlet: the last thing she and Abu had read together. Hamlet had waited around too long and at the end of his story almost everyone dies. 

Had it been only three weeks since they’d finished the play, two weeks since Abu flew back here to Connecticut for Gerson’s 8th grade graduation, one week since the text to Mama about the hospital, three days since…?

She’d tried to use her words.  

Tia Tati, I want Abu to stay close to us.

She’d closed her eyes and tried some words in the car on the way back from the funeral, fighting to ignore Gerson sitting next to her snapping his silly spearmint gum.

I want Abu to be in Los Angeles with me and Mama and Dad like always. Don’t take his ashes to Puerto Rico.

She’d also rehearsed in the receiving line on the front lawn, in front of the prickly rosebushes. But she had been too distracted.  Tia Tati, Abu’s big sister, stood at the end of the line, her black leather tote bag clutched under her left arm with the straps over her bony shoulder. The plastic urn of Abu’s ashes had to be inside. 

I need to be near Abu always. He promised me...He promised me …

Tia Tati’s right hand held her flowered cane, which she kept braced in the soft lawn as friends hugged her, condolences. She didn’t have free arms to hug them back. Instead she learned in and air-kissed both cheeks.

Soon the receiving line migrated to the porch, and Tia Tati went inside and started up the stairs. Tia Tati and Abu had lived in this very same house when they were kids, and Tia Tati still lived there, in the attic apartment waiting for space aliens.

Kimberley didn’t follow right away. Gerson had nicknamed Tia Tati la tortuga, for good reason, plus Kimberley couldn’t decide what Tia Tati would think if she told about Abu’s promise, his plan to make contact from the undiscovered county. 

No, that was her and Abu’s secret.

When she was ready with her words, she climbed the stairs. 

The first attic room, a narrow sitting room, held a mirrored vanity on one wall and shelves with a radio, knicknacks and music CDs on the other. 

In the center of the vanity, a picture frame was propped against the plastic urn. It looked exactly as Kimberley had imagined it. It did not fit in. Portable, but fake; no real effort had been made to allow it to pass as real stone or clay. Someone could carry it in a purse or a laptop case. It could pass as a block in a child’s bedroom. It could rest under a trellis in a community garden during a heavy spring rain. It could prop a door open or hold a stack of papers down. But clearly it was out of place propping up a photo of young Abu on Tia Tati’s doily-trimmed vanity.

She reached out her hand and grasped the brick. Was this really all that was left of her Abu? She studied the picture in its frame. He had been a handsome boy, kind of skinny, with dark eyebrows and a familiar face. In the photo he sits on a riverbank, wearing a black jacket and bow tie. He holds a book, front cover pressed against his chest. He could have been thirteen or even older. 

Kimberley started to lift the brick of ashes, but the photo jiggled, and she set it down again. Under her thumb was a white paper sticker marked “Human remains.”

She let go and stepped away.  

“Tia Tati?” 

Kimberley pulled back the curtain of beads that acted as a second front door in the attic rooms. Her old aunt perched on the edge of her flowery sofa filing her nails. She wore a green shiny robe styled like a kimono over her black funeral dress. Her hair was still pinned back tight, but the bun had unwound into a gray ponytail. 

“Please, Tia Tati!” Kimberley marched across the room. “Please don’t take my Abu back to Puerto Rico.”

Pobrecita” answered the old lady in a soft, sing-song voice, “my little brother loved you very much. Sin duda.”

“Then, please, don’t take him,” Kimberley begged.

“Some day she will understand,” said Titi, hand raised to the sky. “He is going home, cariƱa. Going back to our enchanted island.”

Kimberley wished she knew the words to say that would make Tia Tati understand her doubt, but something hard was caught in her throat and she knew the tears were coming next. 

Tia Tati was using words too, and she had years more experience using words.

“You are Puerto Rican, and I am Puerto Rican, and Abu was Puerto Rican. We, our family, the island is our home, nada mas importa. It is all that matters.”

Tia Tati’s words jumbled up and argued like angry cats in Kimberley’s head.

The room spun with Kimberley’s frustration. She still held the Denmark-mermaid spoon in her pocket from the night that Abu died. She pressed its tip into her thumb to feel its dull pinch.  That night. That terrible night with the bat in the guest room. She wished she could see the bat’s face again, like it had been at the guest room screen, winking.

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Park Rev 2

Name: Silvia Park
Genre: MG Sci-Fi
Title: YOYO and PHANTOM M


Pitch: It's the year 2112, and twelve-year-old Yoyo has never gone to school. One, it's illegal. Two, he's a superhero robot. Everyone knows him as the Golden Giant.

But no one knows him as Yoyo.

After Yoyo rescues the Mayor's daughter from a kidnapping attempt, he's given his most terrifying assignment yet: infiltrate an elite private school as a student and protect her from a mysterious criminal known as Phantom M.

Yoyo might have been (over)confident as a superhero. But lose the shiny gold armor and he's just an ordinary kid, a self-dubbed "worrier warrior," prone to mood glitches and anxiety fits. He’s never had any friends, except his human siblings—and they grew up. Worse, Phantom M is known as the Magician because he can “hijack” and control just about any robot. And everyone knows where all hijacked robots end up: the Junkyard.

As Yoyo navigates a new kind of battlefield, dodging bullies and befriending jocks, he has to stick close to the Mayor's daughter, who’s hiding a scary knack for robotics and an even scarier secret. Yoyo must bring down Phantom M before he blows his cover with the smartest kids in school, especially his assignment.


I’M YOYO


It’s 2112, the Year of the Monkey. Fun fact: I was created on a monkey year, which makes me twelve. Problem is, I’ve been twelve years old my whole life. It’s a lot suckier than it sounds.

Today was Grandpa’s big day. 342 humans were crammed on the white steps of the Xia Museum of Robotics for the Grand Opening. As the new Museum Director, Grandpa bounced anxiously on the stage behind the red ribbon. The Mayor was supposed to arrive at 10 for the ribbon-cutting.

It was 10:15.

I was in position, of course. Equipped in full armor, gold and handsome under Xia’s cheerfully frying sun. I stood on the roof where I could scan everyone with my optics system, in case of bad guys, the usual. The sky was cloud-free blue, but it’s like that all year in Xia, China’s southmost island.

Mo-B the sperm whale soared over the museum, like a giant white blimp, crooning hello. He’s part of the Whale Way, our flying train service and Xia’s #2 tourist attraction. I waved at the people in Mo-B’s belly, who waved back.

Today was going to be amazing.

“I’m frying,” Jun said, his voice crackling inside my helmet. That’s my brother down there, that big, buff guy in the police uniform, with the undercut and crow tattoo on his neck. Yeah, the guy who just started stripping in public. “How hot is it, Yoyo? Be straight with me.”

“Dude, it’s not that—oh wow, it’s 36°C. Okay.”

“Get your monkey butt down here.”

“Can’t. I’m in full armor.”

“Then de-armor yourself.”

I groaned. When I was first made, Jun was only ten, which automatically made me boss. But like all humans, Jun grew up. He’s almost twenty-three, so now he’s boss. And ever since he joined the Robot Control Squad (RCS, though Jun calls them the Ricks), he’s gone from Cool Bro to Crabby Bro to Perpetual Pebble in My Cogs.

I jumped off the roof like a majestic eagle, swooped into a palm tree, and dropped a coconut on a reporter.

“Ow!”

Whoops.

The reporter squinted around, rubbing his steel head. That was way too close. Everyone knows the Golden Giant, but no one knows about Yoyo. If anyone found out Yoyo = the Golden Giant, I wouldn’t just be dead.

I’d be recycled.

I slid down the bumpy trunk, straight into a thicket of large purple flowers. Ta-da. I may be big and gold, but I can be stealthy too. Like a big, gold ninja.

Once I was safely hidden, I removed my armor. Don’t worry, nothing PG-13. The helmet went first: visor lifted, antennas retracted, the helmet folded into the back of my skull. My golden plates flipped inside-out. Shoulder guards. Chest plate (Jun likes to say ‘breast’). Gauntlets. Propeller boots. Two meters of me, compressed into 1.56 meters of me. The real me. I’m compact.

I whistled as I skipped up the museum steps past the coconut reporter. He probably thought I was human. Most people make that mistake. Even robots.

Grandpa says it’s because I look so “realistic.” My creator modeled me after someone, so I inherited all the original’s scrawniness and freckliness, and staticky black hair, like I was hit by lightning.

A barricade of policeBots blocked the way to the top. I flashed the policeBots my RCS badge, hidden under my yellow shirt. They grunted in unison and opened a small path. The whole museum was under “M” alert, which stands for Phantom M, the world’s worst criminal, enemy of all robots. Man, I hope he didn't come.

I found Grandpa pacing behind the stage, probably calling someone about the Mayor. I waved at him, but I don’t think he saw me. He was punching his palm a lot. As one of China’s most famous roboticists, Grandpa was top choice for Museum Director. People call him the Father of Zoobotics because he likes to build giraffes, emperor penguins, and anything else that went extinct in the last hundred years. He’s not so great with humans.

To be honest, I was also pretty worried. I know Mayor Yu and he is never late.

I saluted Jun, who’d stripped down to a black shirt and rolled-up trousers, showing off the surgery scars on his neck and shoulders. “What seems to be the problem?”

Jun tossed me his Scopes. “Could you lend me your tail?”

“You called me all the way here to charge your battery?”

“I’m on Level 68 in Evil Cupcakes. Don’t leave me stranded in Mt. Marshmallows, soldier.”

I sighed, “Yessir.” I checked to see if the coast was clear, then pulled out my brass tail. Extractable, stored in my spine, with a socket at the tip. Most robots have standard black cords for connecting and charging and stuff, but mine is a prehensile tail, which is a fancy way of saying “my tail can open the fridge and zap bad guys.”

I plugged myself into Jun’s Scopes, which look like aviator sunglasses, very classy. Mine are embedded in my helmet’s visor. Grandpa upgraded my AR (Augmented Reality) screen last week, so I can watch a movie while I’m flying! Isn’t that cool?

Technology is the best.

Jun’s Scopes lit up. “Di says she’s coming,” I read aloud her message, “‘right after my boss drops dead.’” I frowned. “Why's her boss dying?”

Di’s our sister. She works for a company called Imaginary Friends Inc., known for making “devastatingly beautiful” robots, whatever that means. Her dream is to make the perfect boyfriend. She calls it Operation Mr. Darcy.

“Tell her to get bubble tea,” Jun said. “I want taro.”

I snickered as I texted Di to get Jun peppermint. My tail gave a twitch. I unplugged myself from Jun’s Scopes. “100% charged, free of charge.”

Jun ruffled my hair, which used to annoy me because it felt like he was rubbing it in, like, “Haha! Look how much I’ve grown!”

I’m okay with it now.

I watched Jun kill a couple more cupcakes on his Scopes’ AR screen, then checked the time. 10:28. Still no sign of the Mayor.

“So.” I cleared the static from my throat. “Is the Mayor coming?”

“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Jun said, tongue between his teeth, as he blasted a Red Velvet to crumbs.

“Did something happen?” I waited. Nothing. “Did his hovercar crash into the Razer Rail? Is it something I did? Is it,” I lowered my voice, “Phantom M?

“Ha, I wish.”

“Jun!”

“Dude, the Mayor’s a robot-hater. Total nutso. No idea how he got elected. Chief Wang said he wants to scrap the whole Superhero Initiative by June.”

“What?”

“Booyah! Level 69. Eat that, no, I’m eating you!”

I poked Jun repeatedly with my tail because I was kind of going Code Red here. “What do you mean he’s scrapping the Superhero Initiative?”

“Right, I forgot to tell you.” Jun put his hand on my shoulder. “Bad news, Yoyo. The Mayor’s getting rid of you.”


RIBBON CUTTING


“I’m fired?”

“Kind of,” Jun said. “The Mayor wants you canned. Literally. He wants you recycled into a tin can.”

“I’m made of prolixium!”

“You’ll be an indestructible tin can,” Jun said, trying really hard not to laugh.


I couldn’t believe it. I’d served Xia for three years. That’s 1,096 days, including the leap year! That’s 26,304 hours. 1,578,240 minutes. 95 million seconds. Okay, I exaggerate. Obviously, I didn’t protect Xia every second, but I protected it for 80% of it! 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

1st 5 Pages Workshop- Constantine Rev 2

Name: Cal Constantine
Genre: Young Adult Science Fantasy
Title: Keeper's Source

Pitch:

Nick Ramos knew what he saw, and he knew his sister wasn’t dead. She was lost, not gone. Even though everyone around him has accepted she was never coming home, Nick vowed to find her.

Reality broke apart the day he turned fourteen; a meteor shower dropped creatures that tracked his sister and knew their names. With a roar of wind and golden sparks, Chloe disappeared. She flung open a portal to another world, taking their attackers with her. Her last command to him: Hide.

Four years later, Chloe's hunters have returned and they're now hunting him.

Thrust into a reality hidden to him by his parents, Nick uncovers his sister had thwarted the plans of a celestial deity called a Keeper. Forced to flee with others like his family, Nick traverses through portals and travels across space itself to new worlds where similar refugees hide in fear.

Nick unravels the trail his sister has left behind while bringing him close to the very Keeper who hunts his own sister.

Nick must choose how far he will go to find Chloe and where he stands after years of being lied to by his family.

Revision:

“Chloe! Slow down!”

Nick couldn’t contain his laughter as his body pushed back into his seat. The growl of the engine and the wind through the cabin drowned his voice out as his sister floored it. She fixated on the road ahead, but Nick saw a smirk creep onto her face in response. Chloe’s long black hair tossed wildly in the draft, but she paid it no mind. Her dark eyes were locked on the road and she gripped the wheel with one hand, the other on the shifter.

“Hang on!” Chloe shouted.

He didn’t have time to react before the force pushed him back further into the seat. Cars and trucks blurred past them at dizzying speeds, Chloe weaving in and out of the lanes with narrow precision. He couldn’t control himself, letting out another peal of laughter as he held onto the door’s handle for dear life.

Nick didn’t care, he got what he wanted. He was fourteen today, and his sister made it home safely from her last active tour. He begged Chloe to let him drive her car when she got back; the car she restored with him.

“When is it my turn?” He shouted, wincing as they passed a truck a little too close.

“On the way back. I’m going to turn you loose on back roads; less likely to get caught. But first...”

Chloe turned sharp and pulled off at an exit and turned onto a winding mountain pass. Nick watched as the city below faded away into a haze of gold-yellow lights and a tint of blue hue as twilight settled upon the valley. Chloe carefully guided the car from pavement to gravel, and then finally dirt. The car slowed to a crawl up the mountain as the path narrowed. One wrong move and they would tumble over the steep edge.

Reaching the top of the mountain, Chloe pulled into a deserted observation park. Brother and sister climbed out of the car, their laughter and slamming of doors interrupted the shrill chorus of cicadas. Nick hauled himself onto the hood as Chloe leaned against the bumper.

“We’ll head back in a little bit,” Chloe said as she looked up to heavens. “Want ya to see something and give you your last gift.”

“So you did actually get me something?” Nick laughed.

Chloe let out a snort of disbelief, shaking her head. She turned and tossed her keys to him.

Nick bolted upright, fumbling to catch them. He looked them over but realized there were only two: a small round one and a larger key with a star emblem.

Nick grinned, "Letting me drive isn't really a gift, Chlo."

“Shut up, Nicky. When you turn sixteen, the car is yours,” Chloe said, a wide smile growing across her face. “I asked Pappa, and he was cool with it.”

Her car? She had spent the last summer with him fixing it up, modifying it, making it hers.

“Are you for real? It’s mine?” He paused, giving his sister a doubtful stare, “Why?”

Chloe laughed at his untrusting gaze, nodding, “Yep, all yours. I may have a longer mission coming up, and well, I want you to have it. Better someone uses it than it sitting in a garage. After all, you know more--” Chloe stopped, the smile on her face quickly fading as she focused on something behind him. Nick tried to turn and look, distracted for only a moment as he tried to see what caught her attention.

“What are you looking--”

Chloe lashed out an arm and wrapped it around his neck. Pulling him towards her, she attacked the top of his head with her knuckles; rubbing them roughly against his scalp and thoroughly making a mess of his dark hair. He struggled, swinging at her before ducking out of her grasp.

“Not fair using your training on a kid! What did Ma say!” Nick glared.

She grinned in return, “You’re getting to big to be called kid. You could learn a thing or two if you let me teach you.”

His frown remained. She used her training to knock him off guard at times. Even if she was twentyfour, she reverted around him. More his friend than an elder sister, though their roughhousing got them both in trouble from time to time. At the same time, a knot grew in his stomach, wondering how many times she had to use her training from the army for where ever they sent her on their secret missions.

Chloe laughed and finished her thought: “I was fourteen when this screamin’ little brat came into my life. Really ruined my gig as an only kid.”

Huffing under his breath as he tried to straighten his hair, Nick looked towards his sister and stuck his tongue out her. “Bull! You’re one to call me a brat, Cee-Cee.”

Chloe scrunched her nose at the nickname, but she reached out and gently ruffled his hair one more time.

Nick laughed, pulling his head away from her hand. His cheeks hurt from how wide of a smile he wore all day, but he didn’t care. A glint of silver caught his eye and he looked past his sister’s hand.

“Look!” He gasped, pointing towards the horizon.

The Sun had sunk into the ocean in the west, just beyond the twinkling lights of Los Angeles at their feet. The glow of the city obscured the stars, but silver streaks raced across the sky - from the sea to the mountains at their back. Chloe turned, watching as more streaks appeared, growing bigger as they cut the skies.

“We got here just in time,” she muttered, leaning back against the car, staring up. A grin crossed her face as the heavenly show began.

Soon, the entire sky was awash with shooting stars, glittering against the black depths of space. They stood in silence, watching, but Nick noticed that they were becoming darker, nearly invisible if not for the flicker of silver that followed them.

Chloe’s swearing caught his attention. She snagged the keys out of his hands.

“We’ve got to go.”

“What? Why? This is so cool!” Nick protested, looking up at the sky again.

“Nick, we need to go! NOW!”

There was an urgency in her voice that he didn’t recognize. Chloe grabbed him by the arm, pulling him off the hood and back around the car. Nick kept looking from her to the skies, not understanding why the meteor shower had suddenly spooked his sister.

Then he saw it. One of the streaks started as a tiny blur then grew exponentially before--

“Chloe!” He screamed, his voice cracking an octave higher. A meteor descended on them, illuminating the mountainside. Nick didn’t hear his sister as she pushed him to the ground, covering him with herself.

The sound deafened Nick. His ears rang as the meteor flew over them, crashing trees and cracking stone as it collided into the mountainside above. The ground shook and Nick clutched onto his sister’s arms, curling up under her. Stones and debris pelted them, the smell of smoke and hot metal burned his nostrils.

“You ok?” Chloe’s voice broke through the ringing. He looked up to see she was kneeling above him, alert, and looking off into the distance behind the car.

“W-what was that? Was that a meteo--” Nick tried to sit up, but Chloe’s hand pushed him down back into the gravel.

“Ramos!” A voice boomed around them; grating, deep and crackled like static over a radio. “Come out, traitor!”

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Bryan Rev 2

Name: PJ Bryan
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: Torchveil

Pitch

Torchveil is the story of a lonely outcast who escapes from her dreary life by sketching the world she imagines instead of the world she sees. Yet imagination can be a powerful thing when you’re a Torchveil. And on Opal’s 12th birthday she finds her small fishing and tourist village of Saint Agnes overrun by a horde of bizarre creatures, straight from the pages of her sketchpad.

The resulting disaster deals Opal a terrible loss when her best and only friend, Ellis, is taken by wicked creatures from somewhere beyond the bounds of her darkest dreams. She sets out alone on a journey to bring him back and along the way discovers the secrets of her tragic past and perils of her destined future.

Opal Torchveil is a blend of Matilda, Molly Moon, and Doctor Strange, wrapped into a new style of heroine, who is a clad of the earth, possessing features that question her ancient ancestry. A friend of hers once said “You look like you could fit in anywhere,” but the sad fact was that Opal fit in nowhere. Among the story themes of self doubt, friendship, family, and the power of imagination, Torchveil carries a subtle thread of racial identity in Opal’s quest to reveal her past.



CHAPTER 1

Each summer day had been blending into the next for Opal and the other children of Clattenrot Foster home. Yet from the moment she rolled off her bed of cardboard boxes and wandered through the dimly lit kitchen, Opal felt that today was somehow different. A stillness filled the air as she stood in line to receive her garden tools from Tommy Braskins, the eldest boy in the Clattenrot home, and the meanest. The shadow of something large passed above the children yet Opal was the only one to notice.

Perched on the peak of the equipment shed roof was a large black bird that Opal had never seen. At least twice as large as a crow, the bird’s eyes, nearly human in appearance, locked on her every move.  As the children began their march through the cobble streets of St Agnes, past shops still in darkness and homes with sleeping families, the bird followed.

When bored with her chores, which was quite often, Opal daydreamed. She imagined fantastic creatures hiding among the dust balls she swept from under old furniture or camouflaged among the weeds she pulled from yards and gardens. Yet this strange bird was different; it wasn’t imagined. But as she tried to get the attention of Ellis, the only kid at the Clattenrot Foster home who paid her any kindness, she ended up dropping her weeding trowel and earning a kick from Tommy for falling behind.

Opal now stood, as she often did, toward the back of the gaggle of children listening to Miss Clattenrot’s morning instructions in the garden behind the Teaberry Candleshop. She scanned the garden for the large bird but all she could see peeking above the curved garden wall was a black hat on the head of someone standing near the bakery: Sift and Whip. She pressed the toes of her right foot into the dusty soil and began to drag them in a graceful arc, leaving behind a curved trail, ignoring Clattenrot’s lecture.

“The grounds will be impeccable. The lawns measured to precisely seven centimeters tall. And, put down your hand Ellis,” shouted Ms Clattenrot as she waved off the the question from the shortest and roundest of the boys.

“Your rulers will be issued to verify the heights and I expect they will be returned clean and undamaged. Hand shears will be returned clean and oiled. If I fail to find your shears properly stored, you will be spending the next three nights in the basement.” Clattenrot’s coarse voice echoed off the brick walls of the shops surrounding the Teaberry garden, home of Miss Teaberry’s pride: a rosebush that had received more awards than than…..???.. Her eyes scanned the children for a sign of understanding when she caught Opal scratching at the soil.

“Is that clear?” she snarled to the children as she stepped toward Opal. “What do have today Miss van Gogh? Another masterpiece in the mud?”

Opal’s breath stopped and she kept her gaze to the ground; avoiding Clattenrot’s stare. “Torchveil,” she murmured under her breath.

“What’s that? Speak up child, it’s rude to mutter.”

Opal raised her eyes to meet Clattenrot’s, nearly wincing as they first looked into the bloodshot orbs, but something about the air today gave her a strength. She straightened her small body and pronounced, “My name is Torchveil. Not van Gogh and not any of the other stupid names you--,”  but Opal was cut off from speaking as her right ear blazed with the fire of a hard smack to the side of the head. The sound of Clattenrot’s open hand colliding with Opal’s face rung through the garden like a warning bell.

“Know your place,” growled Ms Clattenrot keeping her hard gaze on Opal’s wounded expression before she turned to scowl at the other children, who immediately raised shears and rulers to the their sides with military precision. They scattered from the assembly area behind Ms Teaberry’s candle shop to their assigned gardens and yards.

Opal was left alone in the Teaberry rose garden with Ms Clattenrot. She glanced toward the garden wall to see the owner of the black hat staring at her. This odd man now stood outside the iron gate and lazily leaned against an old Elm tree.  He seemed out of place and as Opal eyed his odd clothing and curious expression the sting faded from her face. The man wore his old black fedora at a rakish angle.  He was almost shabby-looking yet, not. His corduroy coat and grey wool suit with orange stripes, though wrinkled, were stylish in an eccentric sort of way. She could see the side of his face and a short pointed beard that sported patches of white which he stroked like someone deep in thought.

“Are you ready for crumpets Clattle?” shouted the sweet voice of round Mrs Teaberry from the back door of her candle shop. For some odd reason, the kind old woman enjoyed Ms Clattenrot’s company and stuffed her with crumpets and tea while the children tended to the landscaping business.

“Coming Teabee,” Ms Clattenrot shouted back in a sickening falsetto.  “I’ll be watching you, you little twit,” she huffed as she marched away to stuff her face and gossip.

“No you won’t,” Opal muttered under her breath, turning her back to Clattenrot and her attention to the smell of roses. She tried to imagine herself rising above the garden on the drafts of sweet perfume with wings covered in rose petals. Up to a place where the ugliness of her life faded away. For a moment she could almost feel her feet lift from the ground and wings extend from her back.

But instead of flying above St Agnes, Opal instead dropped to her knees in front of the centerpiece of the garden (a prize winning rosebush with flowers of orange and red that resembled living flames in the right light.) She began snipping the turf to the required height of seven centimeters and circled round the lawn in clockwise ?? of ???. Opal had no idea how much time had passed when she felt something small and hard strike her backside. She turned to see Tommy Braskins standing at the garden gate with a peach pit??.

“Oy you git. Wake up. Lunchtime.” Tommy surveyed the garden and curled his upper lip. “You’re not even half way though, Dopal.” He shook his head in disgust. “We’ll be pickin’ up your slack again,” shouted Tommy as he turned and headed back out the gate.

Opal slumped sideways in the grass and surveyed the garden. It seemed different somehow; the roses less colorful and their perfume had turned sour. As she??? fixated on the flaming rose bush, once referred to as the pride of Saint Agnes, a dark shadow darted through the far right edge of her view. She turned, but nothing was there. She stood. The man with the hat was gone. Again there was movement but beyond the far edge of her vision.  Opal spun herself around in a circle and back to the center of the garden to find the prize-winning rosebush; scorched and dead.

Miss Teaberry loved this rosebush more than her husband, or so it was said. People came from towns throughout the countryside to visit and admire and envy and these roses and now they had somehow turned black as coal.  The flower petals, the leaves, the stems, all dead and reeking of sulfur.

“No, no, no. This isn’t happening,” she shouted. “Not now. Not now.” She scooped up a black leaf from the ground to examine.

It must be a joke. Someone did this. “Tommy Braskins,” she hollered. “You’ve gone too far this time!” But as she squeezed the leaf between her fingers it crumbled to ash. The entire rosebush shimmered in the light for a second and blew away in the breeze like coals from a campfire. The massive crow circled over the garden and the man with hat had vanished.

Opal scanned the garden frantically looking for a place to run. She froze as her gaze caught on a smaller shrub with yellow and orange flowers. She looked at the shears in her hand and back to the orange flowers. “Sure. No one will notice. This one’s just as good as that ole prize winner.” She snipped off about half the shrub with the orange flowers and plunged it into the dark soil in the center of the garden.

1st 5 Pages Workshop- Murphy Rev 2

Name: Caroline Murphy

Genre: Middle Grade, contemporary, magic realism

Title: The Journey



Pitch:

Magical soccer shoes go on a global journey, changing the lives of the children they meet. Their episodic adventure is the thread that weaves together the diverse experiences of childhood.

From the careless hands of a lonely Chinese factory girl, via a young Somali pirate desperate to impress his father, the shoes end up as rejects in a discount warehouse in the US. From there, they give hope to a disabled boy, before being stolen by his jealous stepbrother and taken to Hong Kong.

Scuffed and worn-out, the shoes fear being thrown away. Reprieve is granted when they travel to the Philippines; a gift from an estranged mother to her daughter. But if they can’t find a child to love them unconditionally, they’ll end up buried forever in a garbage dump outside Manila.

This is a book about the journeys, physical and emotional, of a special pair of shoes and a chain of interconnected children. It explores themes of love and friendship, luck and destiny, and what happiness looks like in a multicultural context.

THE JOURNEY combines the heartstring tug of Kate DiCamillo’s MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE with the grittiness of Andy Mulligan’s TRASH.


Pages:

Mei Lin’s blistered fingers hesitated before passing her identity card to the young security guard at the entrance of the Lucky Foot Shoe Factory. This guy was new. She hoped he was no better at spotting fake IDs than the other couldn’t-care-less guards, who waved the stream of factory girls through with barely a glance at their faces and photos.

A flicker caused her to look past the guard. On the grey-painted concrete wall, the factory name glowed neon red. The lights blinked again, and with an embarrassed pop, extinguished. Only the two characters for “Lucky” continued to shine.

“Wu Li Juan?” the guard read aloud, causing her to re-focus and her stomach to lurch with fear. He peered more closely at the photo. Mei Lin’s head dipped in response and wings of black hair folded around her cheeks. She peeped up through her lashes.

The guard squinted behind his glasses, as though to x-ray through her shield of hair. He looked again at the face on the card, then laughed. Not unkindly.

“Go!” he gestured, as he swiped the ID. “Have a nice day, Miss Wu.”

Mei Lin scuttled past him, fumbling to put the card in her pocket as she pushed through the turnstile. She hurried towards the throng of nameless workers ahead of her. Among them, she would be anonymous. Just another young girl far from home. Alone.

Her feet slowed down with each step closer to entering the factory.

“Go on, Mei Lin. Hurry up!” hissed a voice, and Mei Lin spun to see her bunk-mate Qing Ling angling towards her from another turnstile. The older girl nudged Mei Lin towards the doors. Mei Lin risked a swift look over her shoulder at the guard, whose eyes were searching the crowd.

“Shhhh! He’ll hear you,” begged Mei Lin. “Don’t call me that!”

She wished Qing Ling would be more careful about using her real name; that loudmouth would get her fired sooner than the borrowed ID card which claimed she was sixteen – nearly three years older than her actual age.

She’d lose this job if the bosses knew she was underage. And she really couldn’t afford to. This was her chance to help her family. Her first month’s salary was due next week and Mei Lin was hungrily counting down the days. Yesterday, Qing Ling had laughed and said she’d be lucky if the boss gave her a quarter of the money. “He’ll keep it all till you’ve been here a year. In any case, the agent will take most of it to pay your debt.”

But whatever money she received, her parents would be thankful. Hundreds of miles away in Hebei Province, they laboured hard on their small plot of land, growing crops of peanuts. Qing Ling’s carelessness could put her on the next train home.

“Oh, come on!” said Qing Ling. “We grew up in the same village; you’ll always be Mei Lin to me. And you’re fooling no one with that stupid ID. Why did you go in his line? I keep telling you to go to the old guy who always forgets his specs. Now stop dawdling…”

Just as the pair reached the doors leading into the factory, a voice called out:

“Ms Wu! Wait!”

The guard! With panicked eyes, Mei Lin turned to Qing Ling. The older girl grabbed the younger girl’s clammy hand and squeezed, popping a blister. Mei Lin didn’t notice the pain.

In ten swift, tile-clicking steps, the guard reached the two girls, hidden amongst the swarm of workers. Curious eyes turned to them. At the far desk, the shift supervisor stood up, but a casual wave of the young guard’s hand assured him there was no problem. Loudly, “You dropped your ID, young lady!” The supervisor sat back down. Workers pushed past.

Mei Lin tentatively reached out her free hand and took the card. “Lucky I caught you in time, eh?” Again, in a voice that carried: “You don’t want to be losing that!”

Then, he leaned closer, breathing out the warm aroma of peanuts. It felt like a blessing on Mei Lin’s face. In a whisper that only the two girls could hear: “That card will get you kicked out if the Super sees it. Try to get one that looks more like you.”

He turned and marched back to his post. Mei Lin stood, slack-jawed; the smell of peanuts had stunned her as much as his advice. She sighed at the memory of her grandmother boiling the nuts in a salty braise. Oh, how she missed their aroma mingled with cloves and cinnamon and star anise – the comfort of home.

Her mouth watered with longing. Her stomach grumbled. She’d had her usual breakfast of congee in the dormitory canteen. The portions were miserly; the congee runny. Not like Grandma’s.

A yank on her hand broke her reverie. “Lucky escape!” said Qing Ling. She pulled her in the direction of the changing room, already buzzing with workers. Mei Lin was caught in the music: squeals and low humming and wild chatter.  Words and emotions were spilling out before hours of silence descended on the factory floor.

Like her, they donned pink overcoats and yellow aprons, and tugged yellow paper booties onto their feet, until the room resembled a vast cage of chirping lovebirds. She tumbled her long hair into a net, perched the yellow cap on her head, scrubbed her hands, checked her nails… Hmmm, a little longer than regulations allowed. And one was broken. She’d have to trim them tonight If she had the energy. After a twelve-hour shift, she had no stamina to gossip with the other girls in the dormitory before lights out at 9pm. Perhaps that was why she had yet to make any friends?

Five minutes later, she was seated, one of thousands of yellow-hatted, black-haired heads bowing to their workstations. For the first hour or two there would be banter and a little stifled laughter, as long as the floor supervisor was in a different section. After that, the voices dried up, and really, what was there to talk about?

From her stool, Mei Lin could see Qing Ling a few workers away. Occasionally, they would half-smile at each other, feeling a camaraderie that came from long hours, aching backs, sore fingers. They weren’t exactly friends. She wasn’t even sure they liked each other, though their shared village childhood counted for something in this foreign place.

Around her, Shu, Yueyue and Xiao Dan buckled down to their task of threading laces through eyelets. Like her, they were young and had small and nimble fingers.

“At least you still have all your fingers,” whispered Yueyue, as Mei Lin cried herself to sleep during the first two weeks in the dormitory of Lucky Foot Shoe Factory. “My friend in the cutting room isn’t so fortunate.” With a flair for drama, she mimed slicing off a digit. “Now she’s good for nothing. Got sent back home in disgrace. Be grateful for pain in ten fingers instead of nine,” she comforted.

Perhaps the memory made her fingers flinch, though Mei Lin swore it was an electric buzz that ran through the soccer shoe she was holding. She yelped and threw it upwards. Her fingers scrabbled to catch the shoe and, at that moment, her jagged, broken nail scraped across the polished leather. A scratch appeared on the design of silver stars. She froze in horror. This careless mistake could get her sent back home.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Constantine Rev 1

Name: Cal Constantine
Genre: Young Adult Science Fantasy
Title: Keeper's Source

“Chloe! Slow down!”

Nick couldn’t contain his laughter as his body pushed back into his seat. The growl of the engine and the wind through the cabin drowned his voice out as his sister floored it. She fixated on the road ahead, but Nick saw a smirk creep onto her face in response. Chloe’s long black hair tossed wildly in the draft, but she paid it no mind. Her dark eyes were locked on the road and she gripped the wheel with one hand, the other on the shifter.

“Hang on!” Chloe shouted.

He didn’t have time to react before the force pushed him back further into the seat. Cars and trucks blurred past them at dizzying speeds, Chloe weaving in and out of the lanes with narrow precision. He couldn’t control himself, letting out another peal of laughter as he held onto the door’s handle for dear life.

Nick didn’t care, he got what he wanted. He was fourteen today, and his sister made it home safely from her last active tour. He begged Chloe to let him drive her car when she got back; the car she restored with him.

She finally agreed, telling their parents they were going for a drive. Their permission, granted or not, fell on deaf ears as Nick dragged Chloe with him out the door, tearing off into the night, chasing the fast fading sun.

“When is it my turn?” He shouted, wincing as they passed a truck a little too close.

“On the way back! I’m going to turn you loose on back roads; less likely to get caught. But first!”

Chloe turned sharp and pulled off at an exit and turned onto a winding mountain pass. Nick watched as the city below faded away into a haze of gold-yellow lights and a tint of blue hue as twilight settled upon the valley. Chloe carefully guided the car from pavement to gravel, and then finally dirt. The car slowed to a crawl up the mountain as the path narrowed. One wrong move and they would tumble over the steep edge.

Reaching the top of the mountain, Chloe pulled into a deserted observation park. Brother and sister climbed out of the car, their laughter and slamming of doors interrupted the shrill chorus of cicadas. Nick hauled himself onto the hood as Chloe leaned against the bumper.

“We’ll head back in a little bit,” Chloe said as she looked up to heavens. “Want ya to see something and give you your last gift.”

“So you did actually get me something?” Nick laughed.

Chloe let out a snort of disbelief, shaking her head. She turned and tossed her keys to him.

Nick bolted upright, fumbling to catch them. He looked them over but realized there were only two: a small round one and a larger key with a star emblem.

Nick grinned, "Letting me drive isn't really a gift, Chlo."

“Shut up, Nicky. When you turn sixteen, the car is yours,” Chloe said, a wide smile growing across her face. “I asked Pappa, and he was cool with it.”

Her car? She had spent the last summer with him fixing it up, modifying it, making it hers.

“Are you for real? It’s mine?” He paused, giving his sister a doubtful stare, “Why?”

Chloe laughed at his untrusting gaze, nodding, “Yep, all yours. I may have a longer tour coming up, and well, I want you to have it. Better someone uses it than it sitting in a garage. After all, you know more--” Chloe stopped, the smile on her face quickly fading as she focused on something behind him. Nick tried to turn and look, distracted for only a moment as he tried to see what caught her attention.

“What are you looking--”

Chloe lashed out an arm and wrapped it around his neck. Pulling him towards her, she attacked the top of his head with her knuckles; rubbing them roughly against his scalp and thoroughly making a mess of his dark hair. He struggled for a minute before ducking out of her grasp. He wasn’t much shorter than Chloe, but she was faster. Transitioning from his round and childish features into a more stocky build from the sports he played made it much easier for her to get a grasp on him. What he did not have for speed, he certainly making up in strength against his sister. That didn’t faze Chloe or stop her from picking on him still.

She cackled, finishing her thought: “I was fourteen when this screamin’ little brat came into my life. Really ruined my gig as an only kid.”

Huffing under his breath as he tried to straighten his hair, Nick looked towards his sister and stuck his tongue out her. “Bull! You’re one to call me a brat, Cee-Cee.”

Chloe scrunched her nose at the nickname, but she reached out and gently ruffled his hair one more time.

Nick laughed, pulling his head away from her hand. His cheeks hurt from how wide of a smile he wore all day, but he didn’t care. A glint of silver caught his eye and he looked past his sister’s hand.

“Look!” He gasped, pointing towards the horizon.

The Sun had sunk into the ocean in the west, just beyond the twinkling lights of Los Angeles at their feet. The glow of the city obscured the stars, but silver streaks raced across the sky - from the sea to the mountains at their back. Chloe turned, watching as more streaks appeared, growing bigger as they cut the skies.

“We got here just in time,” she muttered, leaning back against the car, staring up. A grin crossed her face as the heavenly show began.

Soon, the entire sky was awash with shooting stars, glittering against the black depths of space. They stood in silence, watching, but Nick noticed that they were becoming darker, nearly invisible if not for the flicker of silver that followed them.

Chloe’s swearing caught his attention. She snagged the keys out of his hands.

“We’ve got to go.”

“What? Why? This is so cool!” Nick protested, looking up at the sky again.

“Nick, we need to go! NOW!”

There was an urgency in her voice that he didn’t recognize. Chloe grabbed him by the arm, pulling him off the hood and back around the car. Nick kept looking from her to the skies, not understanding why the meteor shower had suddenly spooked his sister.

Then he saw it. One of the streaks started as a tiny blur then grew exponentially before--

“Chloe!” He screamed, his voice cracking an octave higher. A meteor descended on them, illuminating the mountainside. Nick didn’t hear his sister as she pushed him to the ground, covering him with herself.

The sound deafened Nick. His ears rang as the meteor flew over them, crashing trees and cracking stone as it collided into the mountainside above. The ground shook and Nick clutched onto his sister’s arms, curling up under her. Stones and debris pelted them, the smell of smoke and hot metal burned his nostrils.

“You ok?” Chloe’s voice broke through the ringing. He looked up to see she was kneeling above him, alert, and looking off into the distance behind the car.

“W-what was that? Was that a meteo--” Nick tried to sit up, but Chloe’s hand pushed him down back into the gravel.

“Ramos!” A voice boomed around them; grating, deep and crackled like static over a radio. “Come out, traitor!”