Sunday, February 7, 2016

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Boyce

Amanda Boyce
YA Fantasy
Dragon Slayers

A forest was ablaze with dragon fire. People ran in every direction, trying to find cover from the dragon's destructive wrath as more people screamed in the unseen distance. Six Slayers shouted orders from below the trees, standing their ground as the red dragon came into view. Jayde was having one of those odd moments when she knew she was dreaming, and watched the scene play out beneath her as though she was flying above them. A pang of shock coursed through her when she recognized one of the Slayers, but her dream mind remained unfazed as the dream continued without interruption.

Each Slayer took aim with an arrow just as the dragon shot a torrential jet of flames in their direction, blocking all from Jayde's view. Screams of pain and horror resounded in her head as she woke with a start, lurching upright and gasping for breath. Her heart hammered painfully in her chest like she really had been in that forest, dragon flames blasting at her face. She shuddered.

Normally she relished her dreams of dragons, but this one, oh, Gods—it had to be a coincidence that had Micah appeared in the dream. He'd been on her mind almost daily after his letter, and she'd dreamed of him plenty of times before. She focused on slowing her heart, taking in the cool early morning air and digging her fingers into the damp earth.

Her eyes snapped open to find Gabriel and Matthias observing her curiously. They both stood frozen, tea mugs gripped in their hands, and Gabriel's brow furrowing with worry.

"Another nightmare?" he guessed as he knelt down beside her and gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. She nodded and explained about the red dragon and the Slayers. Matthias's eyebrows rose when she mentioned Micah. "Cathal's team."

"That fits if they were in a forest," Gabriel said. "It must be U'Aste."

Matthias and Gabriel exchanged a look that contained more worry than Jayde thought appropriate. It was, after all, only a dream. But then, Jayde didn't have normal dreams.

"You don't think it's real, do you?" she said. "I mean, a dragon attacking U'Aste; it's not possible, is it?" The idea of a dragon openly attacking and burning down a city anywhere in Celedonia seemed absurd. Such an event hadn't happened in a century. There were still occasional sightings, of course, but the last one had been over eleven years ago when it killed Jayde's father.

"What's going on?" Daemyn said groggily, sitting up next to her.

Gabriel explained her dream to Daemyn as they walked back to Gabriel’s house, Daemyn voicing questions the whole way.

It was a relief the previous year when Caius had explained her nightmares to Matthias, Gabriel, and Daemyn before she joined their hunting team. She would have been at a loss as to how to explain to three men she'd just met why she was yelling in her sleep.

"Even if it hasn't happened," Daemyn said, "it might still happen in the future, right?"

They reached Gabriel's front door and Jayde shrugged. "That was Caius's theory."

Gabriel's wife, Elisa, looked up from her work in the kitchen as they entered and asked quietly, "Eggs everyone?"

Jayde sat down at the table with the others, pulling out her notebook as she went, and put her latest dream to paper as Elisa served breakfast.

After he started training Jayde, Caius took some time before he voiced the suspicion that her dreams were prophetic. Over time they both realized that like Caius, Jayde had visions of the future. Though less intrusive than Caius's abrupt visions, Jayde's dreams were also less obvious and not as easy to remember, so Caius had instructed her to keep a record of her dreams. Each of her notebooks were a testament to the fact that most of her occasional prophetic dreams were personal in nature--how their cat died, Aiken getting caught for stealing at the market, Caius coming to visit when she and Aiken were eight. (At the time she thought he was there to begin training Aiken. No one was more surprised than she was to learn she was the first female dragon Slayer.) She was not accustomed to far-reaching dreams involving places in Celedonia she'd never seen and people she'd never met. She had to admit, however, that a prophetic dream of Micah was just as personal as one of her brother, and as she finished writing all she could remember her stomach twisted painfully at the thought that there was a possibility her dream might actually happen.

She hoped to the Gods it never would.

As was their custom when visiting Gabriel's family, the majority of Daemyn's and Jayde's morning was spent assisting Gabriel in the training of his son Darian. He wasn't yet eight years old, which was the customary age to begin training, but most Slayers were training their first born sons to wield a sword and shoot an arrow from the time they could walk. Today they were focusing on the bow and arrow and, like his father, this was where Darian excelled most. He was shooting at sixty yards hitting the bullseye with each arrow in a tight little grouping like they were magnetized to the spot, one arrow after another, thunk, thunk, thunk, until his quiver was empty.

Gabriel laughed out loud. "Come let's collect the arrows," he said to Darian, "and then we'll move the target out ten more yards."

Darian slung his bow over his shoulder and bounded ahead of his father in excitement. Gabriel winked at Jayde and followed after him. She stopped shooting as father and son crossed the grassy field to the targets, their blonde heads glistening in the sun. Darian was dressed so like Gabriel that with their matching blonde curls and bows slung over their shoulders, he looked like Gabriel's miniature.

Matthias suddenly appeared, a piece of folded parchment in his hand. Jayde saw the shama as it flew away, the messenger bird's wide silhouette shining in the morning sun, and then she focused on Matthias's face and her stomach turned over. He actually looked alarmed. He shook his head at Daemyn when he asked Matthias what was wrong, and they waited for Gabriel as he crossed the field. As though he could sense what was coming, Gabriel stopped halfway to them and bent low to say something to Darian who nodded and turned in the direction of the house.

"What? What is it?" Gabriel said once he'd reached them.

Matthias hesitated then looked stonily at Jayde before he said, "There was a dragon attack in U'Aste early this morning."

Jayde gaped at him, sure she'd heard him wrong.

"What?!" Daemyn said.

"Cathal, is he—?" Gabriel started to ask and Matthias handed him the parchment. "The note came from Cathal. A red dragon burnt down half of U'Aste and they're requesting assistance."

They all stared at Jayde in surprise but her eyes stayed glued to the parchment in Gabriel's hands, hardly able to focus with the buzzing in her ears. It had come true. Her dream was real.

"And the dragon?" Daemyn said hesitant. "Did they kill it?"

Matthias shook his head. "It got away."

"What about the rest of his team?" she asked, thinking only of Micah. Her heart began to race again.

"Oh, Jayde, I'm so sorry," Gabriel said his kind face stricken. "Only Cathal and Niall survived. The rest of his team—they’re gone."

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Clark

Name:  Mari Clark
Genre:  YA Mystery

When I’m on my board waiting to catch a wave, I don’t care how buoyancy counteracts gravity to keep me afloat. If I launch myself into the air for a jump shot, I’m not concerned with the mechanics of lift. And three weeks ago if I’d been a passenger on Flight #111, I wouldn’t have spent my last seconds wondering which one of Newton’s three laws of motion was responsible for plummeting my plane into the Atlantic. 

If I ever plunge to my death, I’m hoping my final wipeout is aboard my custom-made Firewire—because that’s how I want to go out. My father, on the other hand, will probably be calculating pitch angles and contemplating g-forces on his deathbed.

My dad’s a good guy. His ability to solve complex electromagnetic wave problems is the reason he’s here. The strange anomalies on this island are a career opportunity for him and good luck for me—he’s letting me tag along to surf.

“Come on, Travis. The ocean will still be there the other side of the airport.” My father drops a hand on my shoulder and turns me away from the water.

An orange-vested worker directs us inside the terminal and that’s when the emptiness hits me. The line at immigration? We breeze through. The shops and kiosks? Half of them are shuttered. The only movement is a lone baggage carousel snaking around, readying itself to spit out luggage. 

Despite the doomsday feeling, I’m not worried.  Lack of tourists is expected after a psycho billionaire builds a weird-ass machine that causes a plane to crash. 

Finally, an official-looking suit hurries up with two others trailing behind. The Minister of the Interior and his entourage has arrived. “Apologies, Dr. Hutchinson. Last minute political shenanigans,” he says, pumping my father’s hand. 

One of the two men shadowing comes over and picks up my duffle, and the other one grabs my father’s laptop case and carryon. The two men are much younger, maybe not even that much older than me. I offer up a fist-bump to the one closest. “Thanks, dude, but I can manage.”

The guy flashes a crooked-tooth grin. “No worries.” He mimes throwing a ball into a basket. 

Okay, I get it. For a sixteen-year-old, I’m tall. And unlike the rest of my family, sports are my thing. “Yep,” I say. “I play b-ball. You play? Who’s your favorite? Don’t say LeBron.”

The guy shakes his head no to my first question and answers “Jeremy Lin” to my second. Only, it sounds like “Jar-uh-me Lean.” 

I love this accent. Back home, girls would be all over this. More importantly, Jess would be on it. I wonder if I’ll pick it up while I’m here. “He’s great. Actually, I’m more into football and soccer. Which probably sounds funny to you guys since they’re the same thing to you, right? By the way, I’m Travis.” 

“Nigel,” he says, sticking out his hand. The other guy introduces himself as Alastair. 

Cool. British names to go with Caribbean accents. “Uh, excuse me a minute,” I say, spotting a sign for the men’s room.

As soon as I enter the empty bathroom, I take out my cellphone with a slight nagging of guilt. I’d been lectured ad nauseam by mom about international roaming rates and the importance of limiting my texting, streaming and downloading. 

I text Jess anyway:  This place as happening as Griffith Park Zoo. Or Dodger Stadium postseason.

Jess answers right away:  Wha? Where r u?

I shake my head, amused. Jess doesn’t always get my SoCal references. Good thing she’s so damn adorable.

I text: Ocean looks amazing. Epic waves. Can’t wait to surf. 

I don’t mention that a plane’s wreckage lies scattered among the waves like a museum installation piece or an abstract sculpture of carnage, even though the only reason I know about such artistic things is because of Jess. She talked me into going to an exhibit at Boston’s Institute of Contemptuous Art last month. Okay, Contemporary Art. In my head, it’s still contemptuous art. As payback, I dragged her to a Redsox game.

Jess:  Send me pic of beach so I can drool.

Me:  Only if u send me one of u so I can drool. 

Hesitating a moment before adding Lol, I hit send. 

I rub my fingers over the fake tattoo on my wrist. Jess drew that last night after she showed up at my house while I was packing. I’d spent the better part of our flight here trying to decipher its meaning, figuring if I stare at it long enough it’ll tell me whether we can take this relationship past the friend zone.

After our bags arrive, we breeze through customs and exit the terminal, heading for the deserted parking lot. Nigel piles our bags in the back of a black SUV while Alastair takes the driver’s seat. It’s weird seeing the steering wheel on the right side. 

Flying past green sugarcane fields, I spot a sign for Soup Bowl and my heart flip-flops. According to Surfline, my go-to guide, Soup Bowl is unpredictable. Sometimes you get decent sets. Sometimes you get close-out waves. But it’s a notorious spot I’d been wanting to surf forever. 

The Minister says something to Nigel, who turns and hands the local island newspaper with the headline “Devil’s Playground” splattered across the front. 

My father skims the newspaper article, while I subtly read over his shoulder. I catch a few key words and phrases—Satan’s sinkhole, baffling billionaire, mysterious magnetic machine—before my father folds the paper and passes it back to the Minister. 

We fly by half-built houses and colorful shacks. We pass a rum shack, a stone church, a cemetery, a chicken farm, and a Rastafarian sitting alongside the highway. The dude’s only a couple of feet back from the asphalt, leaning against a Coca-Cola sign and waving at cars—stoned out of his mind or friendly. Either way, I’m digging this. Occasionally, my nose is assaulted by the burned-toast smell of sugar cane fields on fire. I recognize the aroma from our Hawaiian vacation a few years back. 

A few minutes later, the Minister announces, “We’re here.” 

Awesome. We’ve arrived at the psycho billionaire’s home. I lean forward, anxious to see the mansion and former laboratory of Peter Knightsbridge, which unfortunately got sucked into a big hole in the ground along with him and the weird-ass machine he was building. 

My father notices my excitement. “I’ve never seen you so enthused about a reception,” he observes.

“Reception?” I repeat, like an idiot.

“Weren’t you listening?” He takes off his glasses and frowns.

No, not really “Uh, sure.” I’d been too distracted by the Soup Bowl sign, picturing myself riding some epic waves. “Is, uh, this reception going to be at Mr. Knightsbridge’s house?”

He shakes his head in exasperation. “No, this is the home of Ian Van Stiles.” My father finishes wiping the lenses and looks at me like I’m supposed to know who that is.

 “I’m not sure that name sounds familiar,” I slowly say the words, gauging my father’s reaction as to how pissed he is I wasn’t paying attention.

“He’s one of the wealthiest men on the island.” When I continue looking puzzled, he adds, “And he’s funding the investigation."

“Sorry. I’m drawing a blank.”

My father shakes his head again and finishes with an eye-roll. “The Minister mentioned he has an attractive daughter about your age.”

“Oh, yeah?” Things are looking up.

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Meyn

Name: Colleen Meyn
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: The Magical Assignment Ceremony

“Finally, I get to go through the ceremony!” Dave the leprechaun exclaims as he jumps out of bed. He quickly rips off his dark green pajamas and tugs on some blue jeans. Clumps of dried mud from yesterday’s adventure flake off the cuffs as he shoves his feet through the pant legs. He exclaims, “Tonight, I’ll find out what my work will be!”

He looks out the window at the rain clouds and smiles. “Brilliant!  It’s gonna rain soon,” he says. Like all leprechauns, Dave grew up in Ireland and he loves the rainy weather like humans love the sunshine. Dave exclaims, “Rain is the perfect weather for my ceremony.”

The magical assignment ceremony fascinated Dave! Ever since his brother Sean went through the ceremony and became a Gold Hunter, Dave had dreamed of going through it too. First, you meet Fairy Brighid at the mysterious Fairy Mound.  Then, she magically transports you into the hidden Fairy Glen. Once inside, she uses powerful magic to determine your job assignment, which is the only job you will ever have.

But, what actually happens there? The Fairy Glen is the best-kept secret in Ireland!  No leprechauns are allowed in, unless it’s his or her assignment ceremony day.  Dave had pleaded with his brothers and sisters to share the secret with him. But none of them had told him anything.

Dave loved to imagine what the ceremony would be like. He imagined Fairy Brighid smiling as she flew up to him her sparkling wings fluttering softly. The Fairy Glen would be humming with magic, wonderful creatures, and delicious treats like unicorns and an abundance of chocolate.

Dave imagined a gleaming white unicorn would gallop up to him and offer him a ride. Then, it would lower its horn to pick him up and toss him into the air. He’d land on its broad back on top of a green silk blanket.  The unicorn would be loaded with bags of chocolate and fresh gooey caramel for Dave. He would devour the treats while riding the unicorn to the floating gold throne.

Once Dave was on the throne, he imagined Fairy Brighid waving her magic wand and sizzling fireworks would explode in the sky while she announced his job assignment.  This next part changes from time to time… sometimes Dave imagined her announcing that he would be a Rainbow Hunter, or an Adventure Leader for young leprechauns around Ireland.  Once, he even imagined the impossible, that he would be a Gold Hunter like Sean!

Dave shakes his head to clear his daydreams from his mind, and inhales deeply preparing for the day. The familiar scent of oatmeal, brown sugar, and butter cause his stomach to growl loudly. He leaps and bounds down the hall towards the breakfast. The kitchen is small, but toasty from the peat fire burning in stove.

Dave’s green eyes twinkle with mischief as he grabs a bowl and a large scoop of oatmeal out of the nearly empty pot.  He sprinkles on some sugar.  He looks around at his big brothers as he pours a big splash of cream and plops butter on top. Then Dave sprinkles on extra sugar when no one is looking.

Brilliant! Liam looks sleepy this morning Dave thinks and plans a harmless prank. He grins then bumps into his brother Liam’s arm as he walks to his seat.  Liam clumsily spills his milk all over the table.

“Sorry Liam,” Dave says impishly.

Liam scrambles to avoid the milk, but he’s too slow. Milk drips off the table onto Liam’s pajama pants.

Surprised he shouts, “Creeping Clovers!”

Dave’s eyes dance merrily while he enjoys the show. Watching Liam’s quick temper flare up is like watching a shooting star streaking across the sky and then it disappears.

Liam leaps up and glares at the spilt milk on the table. Then he chuckles at the absurdity of it. He saunters to the sink, his wet pajamas sticking oddly to his leg.  He grabs a towel to clean up the milk and looks at Dave, “Didn’t see that one coming. Good one Dave!”

Dave eyes light with pride and he grins thinking, I got the first one in today. Like all leprechauns, his family loved to play pranks on each other.

The smell of butter wafts up to him and his stomach growls again. He looks down at his oatmeal, it’s ready, the butter is melted into a delicious puddle. He stirs it in and snatches a quick bite.

Liam tosses the wet towel on the floor and parks himself on the bench to finish breakfast. His eyes gleam mischievously with a payback plan.

Dave takes a huge bite of oatmeal and chomps noisily on it.  His leg is jiggling quickly, rocking the table and rattling the cups and bowls.

Sean reaches over and lightly punches Dave’s leg, “Stop it!”

Dave grins and stops jiggling his leg, “I keep thinking about the ceremony tonight.”

His big brothers laugh. They remember the nervous excitement of Assignment Ceremony Day, but for them it was years ago. Everyone that’s been through the ceremony knows that Fairy Brighid’s magic matches the leprechaun with the best job for him; but the unknown is scary on ceremony day.

Dave frowns and looks down at his half-empty bowl, unsure if they’re laughing with him or at him.

Sean smiles, his deep voice cutting through the laughter, “It’ll be fine Dave.  Ma always said you were a special one!  Didn’t she name you after the famous American Leprechaun?”

As usual, the mention of his special name perks up Dave. “Yes she did!  That legendary Leprechaun traveled to America to cheer up the Irish immigrants, right?”

Sean nods, his dark green eyes dancing with warm memories of his Ma. She was gifted with the Second Sight, the uncanny ability to predict things.

Dave says, “He made people happy! Maybe I’ll do that too!”

At this outrageous statement, the table bursts into friendly laughter once more, and this time Dave joins them.  It is a far-fetched dream since there has only been one leprechaun to leave Ireland. But it’s fun to imagine one of them famous!

Dave quickly gulps down his breakfast his arms moving fast as he repeatedly shovels in the oatmeal. Soon finished, he wipes his mouth on his sleeve and pushes back from the table. He rushes to the sink cluttered with bowls and tosses it on top.

He darts by his brothers crowding around the door, but Liam trips him as he goes by.  Dave falls and bangs his knees on the floor. He chuckles at Liam, “You got me.”

Liam smirks, “We’re even.”

Sean ruffles Dave’s messy hair, “Up to no good Rascal?”

Dave smiles, “You know it!”

Dave runs outside. A light mist cloaks the trail with mystery. The smell of sweet rain, wet soil, and fresh grass welcome him outdoors.

Dave’s favorite sister Brianna was waiting for him on a wooden bench by the back door. As Dave ran by her she hollered, “Wait for me, Dave!”

Dave slows to a walk to let her catch up. Their brothers and sisters are much older than he and Brianna and had been working for years. Dave loves hearing everyone’s work stories over dinner. Except for Dad’s brain-numbing cobbler stories. Who cares about making a perfect shoe?

Dave blurts out, “I hope my job will be full of adventure!”

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Lambert

Jeannie Lambert

Young Adult

Summer Shadows


I keep lists.  Don’t bleach my hair at home (spoiler alert it turns carrot).  Make new friends.  Turn in my History Day project.  Wear plaid for twin day, and don’t forget the moccasins.  Where did I leave my camera?  Every day I have great intentions, but something happens along the way that distracts me.  For example, my list has instructions like, “say no to ice cream” so my pants can fit better.  But then, it is inevitable that I’m sitting with a bowl of ice cream spilling over the edge.  I don’t remember eating it until I’m scraping the bottom with my metal spoon.  I no longer trust myself.  So, to help me stay organized and in control, I keep lists.  My list of personal stuff is in the drawer beside my bed, hidden under scraps of paper and doodles and coloring pencils.  The list of to-do stuff is on a yellow sticky note on my bathroom mirror.  The front pocket of my backpack is my essential school list, on purple (my favorite color) notebook paper.  They all keep me straight.  I can depend on them.  If I obey my lists, then I get to be the girl in my head.  You know the pretty one paparazzied by everyone at school wanting to be my friend.

Without my lists, I’m just Jesse.

I feel like a variable rather than a number in a math equation – too hard to solve.  I do and say the craziest things.  A classic is when I
accidently left my butane lighter from Chemistry next to my sanitary napkins in my locker.  The fire drill ended up being for real.  My locker spewed out flames.  An overzealous teacher tossed everything out of the locker.  All of the contents, I, was exposed for everyone to see, peeking out of the pile were my sanitary napkins, mechanical pencils, and acne cream.  Covered with spray from the fire extinguisher, the snap chat photo were viral around school.  Going from bad to worse, they called me to the office.  Now I’m known as the flaming-sanitary-napkin girl.  I’ve always wanted to stand out, but not like this.  When I turned 16, I didn’t get a car.  I didn’t even get a basement Sweet Sixteen party.  Without so much as a poof, I turned into random queen, one walking among many.  But I’m supposed to be special, right?  Be careful what you wish for because my rite of passage comes with an ugly secret. 

I’m a juvie, self-professed.  Not like a Disney star gone wild or a hardened criminal tattooed with love and hate across their knuckles, no one has to lock me up to convince me that I’m bad.  No official has caught on, yet.  I’m operating on stealth mode, so far.  I didn’t mean to go all juvie or anything.  I was with my friends.  They talked me into it.  I’ve been hit hard by the shock, leaking out from the hole in my soul.  Even holding on to my lists did not stop my life from spinning out of control. 

Today I’m pulling the biggest Jesse ever…I can hardly believe in myself.  I ran away from home.  I RAN AWAY FROM HOME.  It is more real than I can handle.  It’s one of those oopsies that starts out small and builds quickly gathering speed.  But it’s not my fault.  If only my list
mentioned that running away stinks, but it didn’t which explains why I’m standing here.  Devils Cellar – it is too real.  Only I would make the mistake of running away to such a dismal place.  This is going on my list. 

So this is Devil’s Cellar.  Why all the emotion?  Not even a sign to show I arrive.  It is just a hole, an imperfectly lined circle, rimmed with undulating boulders.  It is as if one bolder was picked up and thrown through corn-hole style.  Only the Devil himself could play in this super-sized game.  The edge needs a fence or caution tape to hold me back from peering in to see if it is indeed the physical path to infinity.  It is a fitting place to jump.  Non-forgiving and dark, just what I’m looking for.

Rain filters through the canopy above.  Booming follows the backlit lightning hovering with irregularly, irregular crashing.  “Go ahead and hit me, you know you want to God.”  I issue the challenge knowing that nothing could make my life worse than it already is.

So back to my list, new entry, one I never thought I’d have to write – don’t run away again.  I royally screwed up in the last 24 hours and I didn’t know what to do after the accident.  I’m not in trouble for what I did.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  I’m troubled by what I failed to do.  And then, I lied.  Now standing on the hollowed out crater called Devil’s Cellar I know with no uncertainty that I’m a walking disaster.  Getting away is my plan, but what’s next after that?  I have no idea.  Ditching anything remotely close to my routine, it is amazing how far away I can get in just a few hours by taking a left out of town with the family car and a Learner’s Permit.  In my former life, I’d be considering which frozen slab of Lean Cuisine to nuke for dinner.  But that is not what’s what.  A tap on the shoulder with that wand from random girl (me)
levitated me, temporarily suspended until the magic and momentum of running away reversed propulsion – auguring in.  And here I am squatting down to a big plate of nothing in the company of my racing thoughts next to the gloomiest place on earth.  My shoulders feel heavy.  Rolling them doesn’t remove the weight, sigh.  Glancing down I see my knuckles took the brunt of my punishing quest to get away.  Climbing vertical, at times hand over hand, I continued up despite falling and catching brambles.  If I had a mirror, I would see a shiner on my right eye from a well-aimed branch fling-back.  But I no longer care what happens to me.  Devil’s Cellar called out to me as a fitting destination to match my mood. 

I’ve never seen a bottomless hole for real.  I’m afraid of it, or more so what it signifies, an unknown in the category of quick sand and wild lobsters.  Despite the absence of light, I am certain that if there is a bottom, then I’ll see it.  I must get closer.  Crawling, I peer over the edge.  Surely there is an end.  I toss a pebble and turn my ear inward to listen for it to hit bottom.  Nothing, seriously?  Standing, darting around I find a hefty rock to toss in.  Heaving it lateral…

“Hey, I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”  Interrupting my toss, the momentum of the rock carries me.  Stumbling I catch myself just before going over the edge. 

“What the – “

“Don’t jump.”  I hear a voice.

“Why not, I ruin everything,” looking up I challenge God.

“Who are you talking to?”  Swiveling my head I spot a boy from a skip and a big jump away.

“You scared me, I almost fell in.”

“Isn’t that what you were trying to do?” A boy moves, draped in a
camouflaging poncho.

“I wasn’t going to …jump or anything,” faltering, not sounding very convincing.  “I was trying to hear my rock hit bottom.”

“You’re lying.”

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Billings

Name: Chelsea Billings
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Chapter 1
June- Summer after Freshman Year
Waiting for Bus to Camp Limbo

So here I am, sitting in a Safeway parking lot early in the morning, waiting for a bus to a leadership camp sponsored by a school that doesn’t feel like my own. I’m not sure what I’m doing here. I’m not sure of much of anything anymore. Up until about a week ago, I thought I had it figured out. Things didn’t work out at Green Valley, but at least I had Dean and Rusty. But then there was that horrible day with Dean… I still don’t want to think about it. It’s too humiliating.

People have told me that, considering everything that happened last year- the covered area before school, the lunch table, homecoming- god, homecoming- and especially that last day in the principal’s office- they can’t believe I haven’t cried a single tear. They’ve said things like “It’s okay to cry” and “It’s okay to feel it”. What they don’t understand is that I’m not going to cry, because there’s nothing to cry about, and there’s nothing to feel. I’m fine. It’s fine. Everything is fine. I have told so many people that over the course of the past year (even Rene- as if she has any idea what I went through last year), and I don’t know why no one believes me. It’s like everyone is waiting for me to crack or something. Which isn’t going to happen, because I’m fine. I transferred schools. So what? People change schools all the time. Sure, it’s usually because their family moves or something, not because they want to leave, but who cares? It’s the same outcome, and it doesn’t matter. None of it matters. I’ve moved on. I had moved on before I even left, and I’m not looking back, because I don’t need to. I’m fine.

Chapter 2
June- Summer after Freshman Year
Waiting for Bus to Camp Limbo

So here I sit, about to board a bus to a camp 4 ½ hours away in the middle of a forest, where I don’t know anyone and am the only student from my school. Why am I going on this trip, you may ask? Old Me would have thrived on this kind of adventure. Old Me was the class president, and loved to be in front of crowds and give speeches and plan dances and do random things without caring what anyone else thought. Old Me also seized any opportunity to make new friends, and came away from any summer camp situation with a list of phone numbers and screen names of people to keep in touch with throughout the school year. That’s who I used to be, and I want to be that person again. That’s why in the spring, I signed up to take leadership in the fall. And when I was selected as a candidate to go on this trip over the summer, I decided to go, despite the fact that every other camp I’ve ever gone to, I had at least one friend with me. Whatever, though. I don’t need anyone else. I’m fine on my own. Going on this trip also means missing swimming for a week, which, up until last week, would have been hard for me to wrap my mind around, but I can’t imagine facing Dean now. And to think that just last week, we had planned to talk on the phone while I was away at camp… yeah, that definitely won’t be happening now.

Even though, sitting here right now, I couldn’t possibly feel more different than Old Me, maybe if I do the things Old Me used to do, eventually I’ll start to feel more like her, and eventually I’ll start to feel whole again.

I just want to feel whole again.

Chapter 3
Flashback- Spring of 8th Grade
Johnson Elementary

One year ago, I graduated eighth grade. Most people might think “graduated” is a bit fancy of a word for being promoted from middle school to high school. But they didn’t go to Johnson.

Johnson Elementary is not your typical school. For one thing, it holds students grades kindergarten through eighth. That’s 70 percent of a person’s schooling. There are two teachers and approximately sixty students in each grade. In a school that small, by the time you get to eighth grade, you can’t help but feel like family.

Johnson Elementary is the main feature in the town of Johnson, population 114. There is one street that runs through the town, on which there is a café. This café is officially called the “Johnson Café”, but more commonly known as simply “The Café”, and it is the primary date destination for Johnson middle schoolers. Beginning in grade four, Johnson Elementary students have the privilege of walking across the school parking lot to order fries and pizza rolls through a window in the back of The Café. This is a rite of passage countdown-worthy to many.

Except for the handful of local businesses in its immediate vicinity, Johnson Elementary sits smack dab in the middle of miles and miles of beautiful farmland. On the 10-mile drive off the freeway, you know you’re getting close to Johnson when you pass the black and white striped cows grazing nonchalantly in the field, referred to by most Johnson kids as “Oreo cows”. For most months of the year, there is an ever-present sound of a distant lawn mower and/or farm equipment that can be heard through the windows of Johnson. Every March, the Johnson Parent Group puts on a carnival, Johnson’s biggest fundraising event. During the carnival, the whole school is filled with booths, including a dunk tank where you can dunk Mr. John Edison, the white-haired principal. No matter what the occasion, Mr. Edison always dresses in slacks and a button-up shirt and tie.

Time seems to be in abundance in Johnson, and it also seems to move more slowly than it does everywhere else in the world. Days are measured by big, round clocks that stop at precisely three minutes to every hour, stay frozen for exactly one minute, and then jump ahead two minutes to make up for the minute that was lost, with a loud “TIIIIICK”. I first noticed the clocks in fourth grade. In sixth grade, I attempted to take the clock in my classroom off the wall and hang it on the wall on the other side of the classroom as a good-hearted practical joke, just to see if anyone would notice. As the quiet, well-behaved student who would be the last one anyone would expect to do such a thing, I was nothing short of horrified to discover that the clock was wired into the wall and not hanging on a nail as I had expected. Then I had to explain to my teacher when she came back to the classroom why the clock was on the table and there was a hole in the wall where it had been with a bunch of wires coming out of it. And it was because of some boys in my class that the clock was disconnected and I wasn’t still standing on a chair holding it in my hands, with it hanging out of the wall. I was panicked about what her reaction might be, but she had just responded with a look of disbelief and said, “Vanessa did this?” and then doubled over in laughter.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Free1st 5 Pages Workshop Opens Saturday, February 6!

Our February workshop will open for entries on Saturday, February 6 at noon, EST. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. Click here to get the rules. I will post when it opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman), with the hashtag #1st5pages. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have author Brian Katcher and agent Christa Heschke!

February Guest Mentor – BRIAN KATCHER

Brian, a Stonewall Book Award-winning author, is the author of THE IMPROBABLE THEORY OF ANA AND ZAK, ALMOST PERFECT, EVERYONE DIES IN THE END, and PLAYING WITH MATCHES. Brian’s worked as a fry cook, a market researcher, a welding machine operator, a telemarketer (only lasted one day), and a furniture mover. He lived on an Israeli military base one summer, and once smuggled food into Cuba. When he’s not writing, he works as a school librarian. He lives in central Missouri with his wife and daughter.


The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak is Stonewall Book Award-winning author Brian Katcher’s hilarious he said/she said romance about two teens recovering from heartbreak and discovering themselves on an out-of-this-world accidental first date.

It all begins when Ana Watson's little brother, Clayton, secretly ditches the quiz bowl semifinals to go to the Washingcon sci-fi convention on what should have been a normal, résumé-building school trip.If slacker Zak Duquette hadn't talked up the geek fan fest so much, maybe Clayton wouldn't have broken nearly every school rule or jeopardized Ana’s last shot at freedom from her uptight parents.

Now, teaming up with Duquette is the only way for Ana to chase down Clayton in the sea of orcs, zombies, bikini-clad princesses, Trekkies, and Smurfs. After all, one does not simply walk into Washingcon.

But in spite of Zak's devil-may-care attitude, he has his own reasons for being as lost as Ana-and Ana may have more in common with him than she thinks. Ana and Zak certainly don’t expect the long crazy night, which begins as a nerdfighter manhunt, to transform into so much more…

Purchase it at your local bookstore, or online. And add it to your shelf on Goodreads!

February Guest Agent – CHRISTA HESCHKE

Christa started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children's Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively acquiring for all age groups in children’s. For YA, she is especially interested in contemporary fiction, thriller/mystery, and horror. She is always on the lookout for a compelling voice combined with a strong, specific hook that will set a YA novel apart in its genre and the flooded market. She is open to all types of middle grade and especially enjoys adventure, mystery, and magical realism, whether in a voice that is more light and humorous or one with more of a timeless, literary feel. For both YA and MG, she is particularly interested in unique settings and cultural influences, interesting storytelling structure, complicated romances, diverse characters, sister or friendship-centric stories, and stories that feature artists of any kind.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Goren Rev 2

Jessica L. Goren
Middle Grade; fantasy
Pollin Pals: The Power of Flowers

I hope you’ll be interested in my middle grade book, Pollen Pals and the Power of Flowers. It is about creatures born from flowers to help save the earth.

The story starts with Owl explaining to Erisa, a Pollin Pal (PP) that she was born to help save the troubled Earth. Erisa sees things a different way. Rather than follow Owl’s advice, Erisa forges out on her own working out her own inner struggles on the way.

Erisa has several adventures. She meets three other PP, Zeki, Pieter and Sammy.  They continue on to have several adventures but lurking in the background is the issue of the struggling Earth.

During their adventures the PPs use problem solving skills to help others. It doesn’t always go smoothly. Working through their personality-conflicts and adventures the PPs find they have become friends.

Meanwhile, during their travails, it unfolds why the Earth is suffering. The flowers are dying because the bees have gone away. The PPs identify the cause of the bees’ disappearance. An errant bee-eater bird has moved in to their neighborhood. They combine their skills to return the bee-eater to his home. The bees return and the garden flourishes.


Owl yawned blinking away the sleep from her large yellow eyes. It  was the night creatures’ turn to rule the world and Owl had to get about  her business. She popped her head out of the nest hole in the tree.  Then Owl launched into the sky. The world was bathed in soft silvery  moonlight.

Owl took a good look around to see what had happened during the  day. The leaves were heavy with rain. The pond was overflowing.  Everything was as it should be. Or, at least as close as things came to  “as it should be” lately.  The large sycamore tree was rooted in place.  No more could he wander the forest. The bee hive buzzed only half as  loudly as before. It had been weeks since Owl last saw a fisher cat. A  few more flowers had black rot creeping up their stalks. Yes, the very  meaning of “as it should be” had changed.

But wait, what was that in the garden below? Owl coasted down,  landing in the crook of the willow tree branch. Her eyes hadn’t been  playing tricks. The rain water pooled in an iris was bubbling. Not a big  rolling boil, but just tiny little blips of bubbles here and there. The  bubbles floated up and swirled around collecting the moon’s light.

Owl heard a distinct pop. Then in place of the bubbles was a tiny  creature.  The creature had all the beauty of the flower which it came.  Its body looked like a human’s. It had delicate high cheekbones, a tiny  nose and pointed ears. Its legs looked like long green stalks with woody  vines growing up from the feet and winding around its eggplant purple  legs and body. The long lean arms uncovered and a lighter shade of  purple. Protruding from its back were the wings of a dragon fly. Topping  it all off was a shock of bright yellow hair.

Owl was so surprised a little hoot escaped. The creature sprinted  back a few inches. It peeked out from behind the iris and hovered a  moment. Then, hands balled into fists, it took one deep breath and flew  straight to Owl.


“Hello,” Owl said back.

“Who might you be?”

“I am Owl. And you are?”

“Erisa. But wait how did I know that?”

Owl patted the branch across from her with her long wing. “Sit  child. You have been asleep for a very long time. I imagine you must  feel all muddled.”

As Erisa settled herself Owl wondered, is it a he or a she? Owl  guessed it was a she. It is always so hard to tell the shes from the hes  with creatures other than owls.

 “How do you know how long I’ve been sleeping? Have you been watching me? Do we know each other?”

“No, child we do not know each other but I have heard of you.”

Erisa straightened up at that. “Am I famous? Is that how you know me?”

Owl hooted and it sounded like small chuckle. “I know you because  when I was a tiny owlet, just out of the shell, my mother would tell me  stories about the Pollin Pals. To be honest I thought you were a myth.  But here you are, so you must be real.”

“What’s a Pollin Pal?”

“You, child, are a Pollin Pal.”

“How do you know that?”

“Well, I heard the crashing of thunder today didn’t I? And from the  soggy state the world is in, it is clear it was a very big storm. Then I  saw pop out of the iris below,” Owl huffed puffing out her feathers.   “Besides, you leave a trail of pollen behind you. You must be a Pollin  Pal.”

Erisa looked skeptically behind herself. There was a fading trail  of yellow pollen marking the way she came. She looked back to Owl. “Is  there anything else I should know?”

“There is always more to know.  I suppose you want to know,  specifically, about the Pollin Pals right now. Now where should I  start?”

“You start at the beginning, of course,” Erisa said looking down  her nose at Owl.  Owl was taller so it didn’t work. Erisa sniffed  instead.

“Which beginning? The world is full of beginnings. It is important  to start at the right one. Very well. The Pollin Pals are born from  flowers. They come only in times of great need.  ”

“What great need?”

“The Earth’s. You see, the Earth is our home but it is also a  living being. She has needs of her own. Sometimes, when we are careless,  we hurt our home without meaning to.”

As Owl continued Erisa hugged her knees into her chest. With her  arms flailing, she rolled off the branch in a backward flip. Red faced,  Erisa sprinted back to the branch and sat as if nothing had happened.

“Excuse me. I didn’t mean to interrupt. Please continue.”

“Very well, it was nothing,” Owl said loftily.

“So where was I? Oh yes, the Earth calls on the flowers to help  restore the magic of the land. It has been a very long time. My mother  only knew of Pollin Pals as stories. I suppose I am lucky to have met  one myself. Although, if you are here I can hardly consider myself  lucky,” Owl trailed off.

“Wow,” Erisa said, slightly deflating as her wings sagged down her  back. “That sounds like a really big job! How would I even start?”

Owl reached out her wing, scooping up Erisa, so she sat under the  dome of Owl’s wing. ”I cannot tell you what you must do. You must be of  the world to know the world. Only then will you know what needs to be  done.”

“Don’t I have to agree? I mean how will I figure anything out? I don’t even know where I am. ”

Owl watched Erisa stifle a yawn. “Ah, I had forgotten. Pollin Pals  are born knowing what they need to survive.  They must learn about the  world each time they return. You are in the garden and there is a great  big world out there to explore. But the world will still be there tomorrow and you need some rest.”

“It certainly doesn’t look like a very nice garden. I mean half the  flowers are covered in black slime. How can something as beautiful as  me come from there?”

Owl watched Erisa stifle a yawn. “That is a lesson for another day.”With that, Owl shooed Erisa from the branch.

“I don’t have to go just because you tell me to.” Erisa pointed  out. She stamped her foot on the branch. But Erisa, being a very small  creature, it made no noise and Owl didn’t notice.

Erisa gave a large fake yawn. She stretched her arms for emphasis. I am tired. I think I’ll go to sleep.”

With that,  Erisa lazily floated in circles down to the iris from  which she came. She climbed into the flower and pulled the petals around  herself just in time to fall asleep.

Erisa kicked off the petals and blinked into the sun. Now what to do? With that thought, the night before came flooding back. Erisa’s wings drooped a little at the thought. But then  straightened her shoulders and perked up her wings. Who did she think  she was, sending me off to bed? She was just some musty old bird.”
Erisa’s bangs rose up and she huffed out loudly. I’ll do as I please.