Sunday, October 4, 2015

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Bryan

Name: Patrick Bryan
Genre: Middle Grade
Title: The Brothers Kincaid and the Quantum Crystal

“Do you see a ghost out there?” asked Hank, Nathan’s younger brother. Nathan didn’t turn to look at him, he continued to lock his gaze somewhere toward the middle of the field.

“There are people. At least I think they’re people,” Nathan replied.

“Nate?” Hank’s voice trailed off to a whisper. “When you look out there, do you ever see mom?” Nathan dropped his head before he spoke. He tried not to snap at Hank as he pictured tears welling up in his little brother’s eyes.

“I told you Hank, they're not ghosts.”

Nathan lifted his head, his body rigid and his stare fixed. He stood at the edge of the dirt lot that was the Kincaid family backyard. Weeds of varying heights spotted the landscape. But Nathan wasn’t here to look at the weeds, he was staring far out into the treeless landscape that was once farmland where there was nothing to see. No houses, no trees, no hills, no features at all save one. The land was so flat that five miles in the distance you could just see the outline of a decrepit barn on the horizon. There was nothing else to interrupt the barren view for five full miles. Yet here Nathan stood, spellbound, staring into empty space.

“So the people, what are they doing?  Do you think they can see you? Tell me everything, I’m ready to start sketching,” said Hank.

Nathan let out a deep breath and ran his fingers through his wild brown hair.  He remained transfixed on the specters in front of him. About twenty feet from where he stood was a sphere of blue light cutting through his field of vision. It hovered just above the ground; a hole about as large as a movie screen. The edges were so bright that he couldn’t look directly at them, but in the center of the hole in space were people.  They appeared human at first, or at least similar in form.  Their long robes obscured most of their features. Yet as they moved, flashes of a leg or arm became visible. Nathan recoiled at first, unprepared to see the bare scaly legs that bent in the wrong direction. And then a full arm became visible, an arm covered in short colorful feathers. They weren’t people at all, but some humanoid bird-like creatures. Oddly enough they wore straw hats as wide as umbrellas that screened their heads and faces.

“You better get out some colorful pens Hank. These guys are like human sized birds, wearing colorful cloaks. They’re gardening I think,” said Nathan.  “They have cutting tools and are shaping these tall bushes, like sculptures.  The shapes are amazing.”

“What kind of shapes? What are they for? Do any look like animals? I want them to make one that looks like a whale.” Hank screwed up his face for a moment in thought and continued. “But not the ones with teeth, they seem mean. The ones with those big filters for catching shrimp.”

“You mean the baleen whales?” asked Nathan.

“Yeah, baleen. What a weird word. Are they making baleen whale shapes?”

“No. The sculptures curve and spiral, they point in weird directions. You know what they remind me of? Bowers. Do you remember that nature show we watched with the birds building intricate little houses to attract mates? They decorated them with colored flower petals, shells and trash. That’s what these guys could be. But sort of strange human-like alien bird men instead of actual birds.”

“Cool,” said Hank as he scribbled feverishly in his vision journal. Whenever Nathan would let him in on what he saw during a vision, Hank would turn it into art and record every detail Nathan would narrate.

"You have to tell me more about the Bowerbird-men. All the particulars,” said Hank. He liked saying particulars and mimicked a British accent whenever he spoke the word.  Nathan fixated on the image that only he could see. His eyes darted around, tracking the activity. Hank watched Nathan and glanced to the empty field between scribbles, hoping for something interesting to appear.

“Whoa. There’s something new. Animals,” said Nathan.

“Animal sculptures?” asked Hank.

“No, these are actual animals. Their bodies are like tigers but they have pointed tails, pointed like spears. And they’re massive. Bigger than the bowerbird-men. I’m not sure if they’re pets or guards. They seem different than the Bowers, darker, threatening.”

“I wish I could see them too,” said Hank.  Nathan’s face contorted.  His expression soured and he shut his eyes.  He slouched forward and shook his head from side to side.

“No you don’t Hank. What I see isn’t always something good. And you know you’re the only one who believes me, or at least doesn’t make fun of me.”

“It’s ok Nate, I know you see the ghosts.”

“I keep telling you Hank, they’re not ghosts,” said Nathan with a rising voice.

“Then what are they?” asked Hank.

Nathan shrugged. “They seem like people. Though not from here, from somewhere far away, like these bird guys. I usually don’t tell you about the awful ones, but I see them too. Sometimes it’s not people, it’s just weird places, empty rooms, buildings, hallways. The worst part is I can’t control it. I can’t choose what I see, where I see it, or when it happens. It just starts happening, good or bad, it happens and I can’t do anything about it. I’m a freak. I start forgetting what’s real and what’s part of the vision.  Some people even think I’m faking just to get attention. Why would I want people to think I’m insane? Ingis fatuus is what I heard one doctor say.”

“Dr. Iggy said what?” asked Hank.

“No, Ignus fatuus. It’s Latin, for foolish fire. It’s a delusion like a will o’ the wisp or a ghost light. But it’s not swamp gas, and I don’t think I’m crazy. At least not most of the time.”

Nathan turned to Hank.  His expression was serious. While he appeared to be an average if slightly undernourished twelve-year-old boy, when you looked directly into his eyes there was a depth; a light in his eyes that cast a hypnotic effect.  Not an actual light mind you, but an intensity that was overwhelming to most and a bit sorrowful.  There was something much more complex in him than anyone would expect to see in a young boy and it tended to make most people in Townsvilleburg feel uneasy.

Nathan sat down in the dirt with his legs crossed. He put his head in his hands and sat there quietly.  Hank scooted next to him, placed his sketch pad on the ground and put a hand on Nathan’s knee.

“I’m sorry I don’t understand. You just tell me how to draw these weird creatures and spooky landscapes, but you never say what you think.” Hank stared at Nathan, who was still focusing his attention somewhere in front of them. “So if it’s all so horrible to you, why are you out here looking into the field?” asked Hank.  Nathan sat there quietly for a while before responding.  He turned to Hank and stared at his wide-eyed expression.

“It’s so boring here that I want to see somewhere else. I want to be somewhere else so bad that I don’t care what I see, as long as it’s not here, not Townsvilleburg.  Even the awful stuff is at least interesting.”

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Cushing

Name: Emily Cushing
Genre: Middle Grade Adventure

June 1st 

Whenever Mom and Dad point to the couch and say, “Sit down, we need to talk,” I’m like, Please, no. Because I know when I hear those six little words something terrible is coming.

Bad Things I’ve Learned at Sit Downs:

1. Grandma June died.

2. We weren’t going to Graceland over Christmas break to visit the house of Elvis Presley—the King of Swoon, Elvis the Pelvis, and one of only two rock stars on my list of “Top 50 Incredible Historical Figures I Would Have Loved to Meet.”

3. I wasn’t getting a metal detector for my birthday. How cool would that have been to explore the gully with Bandit (the stray dog we’ve adopted) searching for hidden treasures? Mom and Dad said it just wasn’t in the budget.

4. Aunt Lori and Uncle Rick were getting divorced. Super sad for my cousin Jake.

So tonight when my parents pointed to the couch and told me to sit down I was like, “I don’t think so.” I knew what they were up to and I refused to play that game. I figured if we weren’t sitting then we couldn’t have a Sit Down.

Guess what?

I was wrong.

You don’t have to actually be sitting to hear bad news. Even if you’re standing (and even if it’s in the kitchen—super far from the couch), they still tell you. And what they told me tonight was the worst news ever.

We are moving!

As in leaving Mrs. Thacker (the greatest art teacher ever), Bandit (our landlord in the city doesn’t allow pets), and all the new friends I’ve made this year.

This is hands-down the worst thing to ever happen to me (besides when Grandma June died, of course.) Let me illustrate with a best to worst list: 

BEST: Inheriting Grandma June’s Famous Americans book. Especially since I also inherited her obsession with historical figures. I completely flipped out when Grandpa Jim gave me the binder Grandma had made of facts, pictures, and stories of great Americans. 

GOOD: Yesterday, Mom and Dad gave me this new Snap Book journal for sixth grade graduation. On each page there’s room for me to create something amazing with stickers, journaling, and pictures from my brand new Snap Cam. 

Snap Cam:  a camera like those old fashioned-y ones that give you the picture right after you take it.  

PLEASANT: When I won the 5th grade drawing contest. It was fun to win, but not so fun to stand in front of the whole class and hold up my drawing for everyone to see.

BAD: Getting the measles and missing my own 5th birthday party.

TERRIBLE: Mrs. Anderson calling me Marge on the first day of 3rd grade and me not correcting her. I was Marge instead of Maggie that entire year.

HORRIFYING: The time I wet the bed at Taylor Nikolaus’s slumber party.  Except I was sleeping on a couch, not a bed. Wetting your friend’s couch=NOT COOL!


June 1st 

Grandpa Jim just hung a tire swing in our backyard, Jake and I have summer passes to Wild Waves Waterpark, and I have drama class with my two BFF’s in the fall. We can’t leave! Plus, I don’t want to return to my old school in the city with bullies like Harriet Nerdin. Every time I got on the bus in fifth grade she’d say, “Morning, moron.” 

One of the greatest days ever was last summer when we moved to Hollister—the best small town this side of the Mississippi—and Mom and Dad started the whole one-year experiment to see if they could get a commission for their sculpting. 

Commission: when an artist gets paid to sculpt. 
Super big deal for them. Super good move for me. But they still haven’t gotten a commission, which is cray-zy because their sculptures are cuh-razy good. So tonight during our Sit Down, they told me Dad had talked to his old boss at the accounting firm and they have a position opening up, but Dad would have to start on June 19th. Less than three weeks away. 


I needed to think, so I went to my room. That’s where I found Grandma’s Famous Americans binder sitting on my desk, opened to her famous quotes page. This quote by Maya Angelou caught my eye: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

I will never change my attitude about moving. So, instead of changing my attitude, I’m going to change the thing I don’t like—moving. 

I flipped through Grandma’s binder to see if I could find any more good ideas. That’s when I found him. The person who’s going to solve all of my problems:


The 411 on Butch:

Famous outlaw of the Wild West.

Went to prison for a year and a half for stealing a five-dollar horse. 

Held up banks and trains all over Utah, Idaho, and Colorado with his gang the Wild Bunch. 

Never killed a man.

Like Robin Hood—stole from the rich to give to the poor (better fact check this one).

Hid gold coins somewhere in Utah. 

Gave clues to his family leading them to where the coins might be, but they’ve never been found.

June 1st 

I’m going to find Butch Cassidy’s hidden gold coins! They’ve got to be worth millions, which means we’ll never have to leave Hollister. Ever.


Each summer my awesome, Hungarian, circus-performing Grandpa Jim takes my cousin Jake and me on a weeklong road trip in Blue Bessie, his beat-up old motorhome. We were supposed to leave in two days while Mom and Dad go to one final sculpting show in Cincinnati. 

This year Grandpa thought it would be fun to let fate decide where we go. He told me to write the names of all fifty states on slip of paper, we’ll put them in his hat, and pick one. 

Little does he know, fate isn’t going to decide where we go. 

I am. 

But first, I needed to enlist Jake to help me search for the gold and steer Grandpa in the right direction. I thought it might be a little tricky since Jake and I got in a little fight last Sunday when he freaked out over a stupid board game. He rolled the dice and one fell off the table. He said the number counted (which happened to be the exact number he needed to win.) Riiiight. That should totally count.

But before the game started, we had decided the number only counted if both dice landed on the table. We argued and he got super mad and tipped over the whole board. I feel bad he’s started having “anger bursts” (that’s what Mom calls them), but it’s not my fault his parents divorced and his dad moved to Florida.

So I was nervous about letting him in on my plan. I didn’t want him freaking out again for no reason. But I need him. 

With his photographic memory, he’ll be able to remember important details that I might miss or forget. Plus, he’s not afraid to ask a stranger a question or stand up for himself or somebody else. 

Me? I’ve never once stood up for someone else. Or myself, for that matter. 

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Jacobs

Name: Elisa Jacobs
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: A Better Shape

If I closed my eyes, I could still hear it, loud and clear. It was a popping sound, like the crack of a knuckle, or the snap of a rubber band. I would be eating lunch, or brushing my teeth, when all of a sudden: POP. In a way, the sound was worse than the pain that followed. I could deal with the pain, and if it became unbearable, there were pills I could take. But there was nothing I could do to drown out the popping sound that echoed in my head.

When I mentioned this to my psychologist, Dr. Levy, she said that I was still processing the memories related to my so-called traumatic experience.

“What is there even left to process at this point?” I asked as I sank into the taupe couch in her office. Everything in her office was beige except for the magenta orchid on her desk. I couldn't decide if the lack of color was calming or depressing. “We’ve already rehashed what happened, and the story never changes.” The score was tied. I was running down the field with the ball when a player from the opposing team slide tackled me. I heard my ACL pop, and my knee quickly gave out from under me. The next thing I knew, I was lying facedown on the cold, spiky grass. “My body failed me. End of story.”

Dr. Levy studied me as she adjusted her dark-rimmed glasses. “It’s not about changing the story, Hannah, it’s about changing your emotional response to it.”

Even though I had been seeing Dr. Levy for almost a month, I still didn’t understand how talking about my feelings was supposed to help my rehabilitation. Someone hadn’t bullied me, a 140-pound girl had tackled me.

Dr. Levy gazed down at her yellow notepad. “You mentioned that your body failed you. Do you feel like a failure, Hannah?”

I shrugged. It was kind of hard not to feel like a failure. Back in October, a school in San Diego had made me a verbal offer to join its Division I team, which I had readily accepted. A couple schools had shown interest in me, but I had wanted San Diego from the get-go and they had wanted me. It was perfect. Until it wasn’t. A week after I tore my ACL, San Diego reneged on its offer, citing “concern over my recovery.” When I found out, I couldn’t get out of bed for two days.

“You know, Hannah, it’s not uncommon for athletes to become depressed after experiencing a significant injury.”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “I am not depressed. Not being able to play soccer has just been...” I paused, struggling to find the right words, “an adjustment.” I started playing soccer when I was five. My mom had initially signed me up for ballet lessons, but when it became clear that I couldn’t stand still long enough to pliĆ©, she exchanged my ballet slippers for cleats, and signed me up for youth soccer. After I scored my first goal, I was hooked.

Dr. Levy nodded. “Do you still feel like your friends don’t understand what you’re going through?”

I glanced down at the floor. “I guess,” I muttered. I had met my two best friends playing soccer. Hayley Johnson and I were on the Killer Bees when we were in second grade, and a year later, Emily Garcia and I both played for the Shooting Stars. Granted, the three of us didn’t become best friends until a few years later, but I liked to think that soccer that had brought us together.

In the days following my surgery, Em and Hayley came over daily to play stupid board games and watch bad reality TV with me. But after a while, I started to resent their attempts to buoy me up. I didn’t want to hear Hayley drone on about the “drama” surrounding the school play, and I didn’t want to hear Em’s take on the latest student government scandal. So I began making up excuses when they asked if they could come over. I’d tell them that I was tired, or that I had a doctor’s appointment.

Dr. Levy looked out the window and thought for a moment. “You know, Hannah, I’ve been thinking that you might benefit from group therapy sessions.”

I sat up. “Like with other injured athletes?”

“Well, no, you’d be joining a group of other teens who are struggling with various issues, like depression or anxiety.”

I pictured myself sitting in a circle with the types of kids you see on the covers of those “Troubled Teen” pamphlets. I frowned. “I already told you that I’m not depressed, and now you want me to hang out with a bunch of cutters, drug addicts, and anorexics?”

She pursed her lips together and let out a sigh. “You’d be surprised, Hannah. Group therapy can be very helpful for people who feel isolated. It can be hard when you feel like your friends and family don’t fully understand what you’re struggling with.”

I gazed down at the robotic, hinged knee brace that hugged my leg. I already had my own sob story to contend with, I didn’t need to hear a bunch of strangers tell theirs. One was more than enough. “Thanks,” I said, “but I think I’ll pass.”  

That night at dinner, my mom asked me if I wanted ice cream for dessert. Whenever my mom suggested that we eat ice cream, it was a sign that she wanted to “talk.” I first noticed this when my parents split up. When my mom told me that she and my dad were going to couples therapy, she took out a pint of mint chocolate chip. When my parents told me that they had decided to separate, there was a half-gallon container of cherry vanilla on the table. And when they announced that they were getting a divorce, I was halfway through a bowl of butter pecan.  

I guess my mom thought that ice cream would soften the blow or something. At this point, I was surprised I could still eat the stuff.

As my mom took a carton of Rocky Road out of the freezer, I wondered what it would be this time. Hopefully she wasn’t planning on telling me that she’d “met someone.” My mom hadn’t dated since my parents’ divorce, and I was more than okay with it.

She took two bowls out of the cabinet and placed them on the kitchen table. “So, how are you doing?”'

I shrugged my shoulders. “I’m fine.”'

“Is there anything you want to talk about?” my mom asked as she passed me a bowl of ice cream and a spoon. Rocky Road had been my favorite when I was a kid, and I hadn’t had the heart to tell her that I now preferred coffee almond fudge.

I looked down at our kitchen table and traced the familiar knots and grains of the wood with my finger. “No, not really.”  

My mom knit her eyebrows. “Are you sure? Because you’ve been through a lot recently, and talking about it can help.”

I picked up my spoon and poked the marshmallows that dotted my ice cream and sighed. I was tired of talking. I looked up at my mom. “I talk all the time. I talk with Dr. Levy. I talk to Hayley and Em. I talk to you.”

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Caldwell

Name: Alicia Caldwell
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: Failed Innocence

Sex before marriage is the second worst sin, just after murder. That’s what my mom tells me regularly. And that’s what has been replaying in my head since I woke up in a stranger’s house. I don’t usually give my mother’s religious warnings much thought, but this morning, I can’t quiet her voice. The stranger is now sitting across from me. I’m sitting at her table, in her kitchen, drinking her coffee, but I don’t know her. Or at least, I don’t think I do. Taking another sip from the steaming mug, I choke back the two Tylenol she gave me to stop the persistent pounding in my head that’s sparking memory flashes.
I do my best to suppress each recollection and the sense of dread that accompanies them, while at the same time, wondering if I should ask if she knows what happened. If I knew her name I could thank her for letting me crash at her house.
“Some party last night, huh?” Starting off with the obvious seems safe.
The girl jerks her head to the right, then looks back at me and mouths, “Shhhh.”
The woman who enters the kitchen is tall and looks like an older version of the girl across from me.
“Good morning, Gwen. Who’s your friend?” she asks, only looking in my direction for a brief moment before getting a coffee mug out of the cupboard.
Gwen, Gwen, I repeat in my head, trying to conjure up anything containing her name or her face.
Gwen answers, “This is Bree Moore, Mom. I hope you don’t mind that we had a last minute sleep over.”
“Of course not, dear. Your friends are always welcome here.” Either she’s the coolest mom in the world, or she just wants me to think that. Then after I leave—which I’m not sure how I’m going to leave since I’m pretty sure my car isn’t here—Gwen will get reamed for opening her house up to yet another random friend. From the look on her mom’s face, though, she seems like she really doesn’t care that some strange girl slept in her house all night. Gwen must take in stray friends she hardly knows a lot.
Her mom walks over and offers her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Bree.” She clasps my hand so lightly, I’m afraid to squeeze back and give my usual firm greeting in fear I’ll crush her frail fingers. We release our pathetic handshake and she strolls back across the kitchen to the window where she opens the blinds.
My head stings at the harsh morning light that forces it’s way in and streaks the hard-wood floor. Immediately chunks of a memory spark. The full moon is glowing high in the sky above me. And pain. Everything else remains fuzzy, but that small recollection shoots shivers up my spine. There is one thing I’m positive of: I had been drunk last night . . . really, really drunk.
“How do you know Gwen?” her mom asks me while sliding into one of the adjacent chairs with a steaming cup of her own.
Looking back at Gwen, I’m not sure what to say. If I say the wrong thing, I might get her in trouble. No matter how hard I try, I’m just chasing vague memories around in my head, and none of them seem to contain meeting Gwen.
As soon as I’m about to give up trying to remember, I clasp on to an image of Gwen behind the wheel. I was in the passenger seat . . . crying.
Oh great. I was an obnoxious, emotional drunk. I don’t usually like to show my weaker side to strangers, or even my friends. But sometimes—usually with the help of alcohol—my pathetic, heartbroken side makes an appearance when I least expect it, venting about my non-committal boyfriend and my inability to leave him because every time I try to he turns around and becomes Mr. Wonderful again.
“Oh, we’ve been friends for a while.” Gwen quickly answers for me. “She doesn’t go to my school. That’s probably why you haven’t met her before.”
“What school do you go to?” her mom asks.
Finally, a question I can answer.
“Eldorado,” I say, not realizing until now how hoarse my voice is. The raspy, one word response makes me sound like a smoker. But I don’t smoke. Never have. I take another sip of my coffee to try and wash it away, wondering, and hoping, that I didn’t decide to take up the nasty habit last night. I’m pretty sure if I had I’d still be able to taste the nicotine.
Then, as soon as I think it, I do remember the taste of cigarettes. But it wasn’t my tongue coated in the nicotine flavor; it was someone else’s.
“That’s a great school. If we lived just two blocks North, Gwen would be going there, too. I worry so much about the gangs at Manzano.” She puts her mug down just long enough to press her hands together and gaze up at the ceiling. “Please God, let her make it through one more year. Just one more year.”
“Oh, come on, Mom. It’s not that bad.” Gwen rolls her eyes and gives me a “my mom’s a freak” look.
“Yes, it is that bad.” Gwen’s mom picks up her half-empty coffee mug again and shakes it at her daughter like it’s an extension of her scolding finger. “Don’t you watch the news?”
“No, Mom, I don’t. And for good reason. Look how crazy it’s making you.”
“I’m just so glad you’re dating Trey. It comforts me to know he’s around to protect you.”  As she places her hand over her heart, the sun glints off the diamond in her wedding ring, triggering another flash.
The silhouette of a head. Its face hidden in shadows.
Involuntary shakes start in my shoulders and quickly spread down my arms. I grip my biceps to get them to stop before anyone notices.
Gwen stands, gulping down the rest of her coffee and setting the cup on the table with a low thunk. “Well, I’m starving. Let’s go get something greasy for breakfast.” She opens her eyes wide at me as if saying, “Let’s get the hell outa here. 
Earlier, when I first awoke, I had swung my legs out of the unfamiliar bed and looked down to see I was wearing pink and white pajamas bottoms. Now I know they’re Gwen’s. I just don’t know if she had to change me, or if I was capable on my own. These little details I’m okay with not knowing. They don’t make my insides twist up in knots.
What does make me cringe is when Gwen hands me my clothes.
“I washed the puke out of your shirt,” she says.
That explains my smoker voice. I stare at the now clean shirt, a memory of throwing up in the backyard at the party floating to the surface. Someone had been with me, holding back my hair. It wasn’t Kendra, my best friend, who had been with me when I first puked in the gutter. And it wasn’t Tristan, my boyfriend, who had held my hair over the toilet after that.
Oh my gawd. How many times did I puke?
The silence is unsettling as Gwen drives us to breakfast. I know I have to ask her what happened last night.

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Tardiff

Name: Anthony Tardiff
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Willow and Eagle

“It looks like a haunted house, doesn’t it?”

Petunia had to crane her neck back to see the whole school. It did look a little like a haunted house; not the rickety, falling-down kind, but the rambling, gothic kind, the kind with ornate staircases and faded wallpaper and corners shadowy with history.

She looked at her memo book. Item number three on her list read, “It’s a school like any other.” She hoped that were true. But her uniform felt strange, the blouse starchy and stiff, the skirt brushing unfamiliarly against her legs. And the windows of the school reflected the gray sky.

“Did you know this building is over a hundred years old?” Laura said. “It's an old estate house that the school board was lucky enough to get at a real bargain twenty years ago. Mrs. Gilner told me all about it. You’ll do great here. It’s a chance for a new start. Just what you need.” Laura was new, and Petunia could tell she was a little nervous, unsure of what she was supposed to be doing, and so she talked to fill the space and reassure herself. Petunia’s old social worker had been disengaged for years by the time she retired a couple months ago. Petunia couldn’t blame her; she’d had a pretty difficult job, at least where Petunia was concerned. That had been Petunia’s fault, unfortunately. But Laura was young, enthusiastic, still trying to make a difference. When she had asked Petunia her life goals, and Petunia had told her, Laura had immediately set about trying to get Petunia on that path. She had moved heaven and earth to get her into Canfield Mountain School, the best college prep school in the county.

Now, as that school’s central tower loomed above, flanked by sharp gables and sprawling wings, Petunia told herself she was grateful. This was what she wanted.

The ornate double doors were unlocked, and Laura pushed them open, a little hesitantly. Petunia followed. The foyer was a marvel of brass and marble. Two staircases rose on either side of the room and joined on a balcony that stretched around the second floor. Petunia could look up past the second floor and see a tarnished, unlit chandelier hanging in the dim interior of the dome. She tried not to feel belittled by it all.

“Welcome!” said a voice, and a woman came out of a door to the right. Bustling noise and voices escaped behind her and were stilled when the door swung shut again. “Petunia, right?” She was a plump woman with a cheerful face, and her hand when she shook Petunia’s was warm. “I’m Mrs. Gilner, the Dean of Students. We’re so glad you can join us.”

Oh good, Petunia thought. She’s the motherly type, not the business-y type. 

“Pretty neat, isn’t it?” Mrs. Gilner said, seeing that Petunia’s eyes were still drawn to the opulence around her. “We’ve tried to keep the foyer as close to its original state as we can. Impresses the parents.” She winked. “The rest of the school’s not so fancy, I’m afraid.”

“Thanks again for this,” Laura told Mrs. Gilner.

“Oh, we’re glad, so glad to help. I’m sure Petunia will be a welcome member of the Canfield family.”

That would be a first, Petunia thought.

“Petunia, your first class starts in ten minutes,” Laura said. “You have your schedule?”

Petunia nodded.

“Then off you go,” Laura said.

“Right through that door, first classroom on your left,” said Mrs. Gilner.

Off I go so the adults can talk, Petunia thought, but she put her head down and walked to the door Mrs. Gilner had come out of. She pushed it open, and paused.

She was looking down a wide hallway. The floor was linoleum, and lockers lined the walls, but some of the mansion’s old opulence remained in the decorative wainscoting and large, rounded windows. The hall was filled with students, digging into lockers, talking and roughhousing. They all wore the Canfield Mountain School uniform — skirt and blouse for the girls, slacks and dress shirt for the boys, each with the Canfield crest embroidered on the breast pocket — but it seemed that everyone had augmented it in some way. Bright socks flashed in the sea of feet. Long keychains swung from hips, and miniature toys dangled from backpacks. Petunia, in her unadorned uniform, felt suddenly underdressed.

She looked at her list. Item number seven read simply, “Mingle.” She looked up again. How? She didn’t know which locker was hers. And the classroom was right there, steps away to her left. Without some purpose she would look foolish wandering down the hallway. So she ducked into the classroom instead, simultaneously glad to have an excuse to put off meeting people, and feeling like a cop-out for taking the excuse so fast.

There was only one other person in the classroom, a dark-haired girl, sitting by the window. Her uniform was neat and strictly to regulation, no bright socks or backpack tchotchkes. Her books were arranged tidily on the desk in front of her, a fresh page open for notes. She stared with unfocused eyes out the window, her face distant and a little haughty. Petunia recognized the expression. It was the one her face wore whenever it could be spotted in the background in class photographs from past schools. She hated that expression. It made her look cold and unapproachable. What it really was was hardly any better: it was the face of a girl who didn’t belong anywhere, and knew it.

Petunia looked at her list. Item number two was, “You are a new person here. So be a new person.” Item number six was, “Identify a quiet girl and be friendly towards her.” She tucked the list back into her skirt pocket and stepped forward. “Pretty bleak weather out there, huh?”

The girl’s head swiveled around and her eyes met Petunia’s, cool and remote. They flicked down her body and up again. After a moment she said in a flat voice, “It’s March.”

Petunia recognized this, too. The girl didn’t mean to be harsh; she had been taken off guard and that was the first reply she could think of. So Petunia kept the smile on her face. “Hi, I’m Petunia,” she said.

The girl’s expression didn’t change. She held Petunia’s eyes without even blinking. After too long of a moment, one of her eyebrows slowly rose and she said, “Good for you.”

Petunia began to suspect she had made a mistake.

“You’re the new girl,” the girl said. It wasn’t a question.

“Yes,” Petunia said, her smile fixed now. She wanted to say something more, something clever, but her mind had blanked.

“Pet,” said the girl.

“Petunia,” Petunia corrected. Not that it was much better.

“Pet,” said the girl, turning away and looking out the window again.

Petunia stood there for a long moment until she realized that the conversation was over. She turned, feeling foolish, and found a desk in the back of the room, just as a wave of student came in, talking and laughing. The room filled. Petunia hoped she wasn’t sitting at anyone’s chosen desk, but if she was, no one said anything. No one said anything to her at all.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Free 1st 5 Pages Workshop Opens in 1 Week!

Our October workshop will open for entries on Saturday October 3, 2015, 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 permanent mentors, we have author Lee Bross and agent Saba Sulaiman!

And we have a new format! The workshop is three weeks, but the third week will now include a pitch. And Saba will select one participant as the “workshop winner”- and the prize is that she will review and comment on the first chapter of the manuscript!

October Guest Mentor – Lee Bross

LEE BROSS is the author of Tangled WebsFates and Chaos (as Lanie Bross), and she writes NA (Right Where you Are releasing 11/15/2015, and Whatever it Takes, releasing 12/15/15) as L.E Bross. She was born in a small town in Maine, where she spent the next eighteen years dreaming of bigger places. After exploring city life, she and her husband and two young sons ended up going right back to the wilds of Maine. They now live just one house down from where she grew up. Fate, perhaps? Lee loves chasing her rambunctious kids, playing tug-of-war with her ninety-five-pound Lab, and writing for teens. Visit her online at and follow her on Twitter.

London, 1725. Everybody has a secret. Lady A will keep yours—for a price. This sumptuous, scandalous YA novel is wickedly addictive.

Lady A is the most notorious blackmailer in the city. With just a mask and a gown to disguise her, she sweeps into lavish balls and exclusive events collecting the most valuable currency in 1725 London—secrets.

But leading a double life isn't easy. By day Lady A is just a sixteen-year-old girl named Arista who lives in fear of her abusive master, Bones, and passes herself off as a boy to move safely through the squalor of London's slums. When Bones attempts to dispose of his pawn forever, Arista is rescued by the last person she expects: Jonathan Wild, the infamous Thief Taker General who moves seamlessly between the city's criminal underworld and its most elite upper circles. Arista partners with Wild on her own terms in the hopes of saving enough money to buy passage out of London.

Everything changes when she meets Graeden Sinclair, the son of a wealthy merchant. Grae has traveled the world, has seen the exotic lands Arista has longed to escape to her whole life, and he loves Arista for who she is—not for what she can do for him. Being with Grae gives something Arista something precious that she swore off long ago: hope. He has promised to help Arista escape the life of crime that has claimed her since she was a child. But can you ever truly escape the past?

Purchase it at your local bookstore, or online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and add to Goodreads!

October Guest Agent - Saba Sulaiman

After double majoring in Economics and Middle Eastern Studies at Wellesley, Saba studied modern Persian Literature at the University of Chicago, where she got involved with editing the department’s academic journal. And it finally hit her—working closely with writers to hone their craft; seeing a piece of writing from its inception through to its eventual publication; and advocating for what she believed was stellar prose worthy of recognition—this was her calling. So she interned at various newspaper and magazine publications, worked as an editorial intern at Sourcebooks, and then wound up at Talcott Notch, where she’s excited to begin her career as a literary agent. She is looking for strong voices and unconventional narratives that really make her sit up, pay attention, and move her. Introduce her to unforgettable characters with complex, deep relationships, and show her worlds where things aren’t necessarily as they seem. Intelligent, sharp writing with soul is her biggest weakness, and if you can offer a fresh perspective on top of that, she’ll probably be sold.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - French Revision 2 + Pitch

Christa French


Cate’s magic is the worst. She loves singing and dancing through the Free Cities with her traveling caravan show; magic threatens everything. Unlike normal, cookfire-and-candle magic, Cate’s manifests as wildfires. Or earthquakes. Or blood rain.

When her mother dies, Cate starts to lose control. She has to find a magic teacher, fast, and there’s only one place to look: the magician-priests of the Union – terrifying, self-mutilated, and morally opposed to such frivolities as singing, dancing, and freedom. But when Cate travels to the Union and meets her first priest, she finds the last thing she expected: love. And also that the Union is about to invade her homeland.

Cate must fight for control – not just of her magic, but of those who would use her for it. As the world erupts into war, she must make peace with her own destructive power in order to protect those she loves.

UNION is a young adult fantasy novel about making one’s place in the world, complete at 79,500 words. It will appeal to readers of Kristin Cashore, Rae Carson, and Sarah Maas.



I’m dreaming of my mother when fire wakes me.

My wagon is blazing, flames spread beyond saving anything but my own skin. My eyes burn; smoke strangles my screams. A crockery jar explodes, sending jagged shards to slit my cheek. The canvas cover is in tatters, burning to bright ash, revealing the night sky. And there, unmistakable even in the roaring chaos of the fire, singing through my veins as the last of it leaves my body, is the magic.

I wrap the blanket around myself and launch over the side of the wagon to the ground. Someone screams, and I hear running feet. I'm rolled over and over inside my cover. I struggle out, coughing and disoriented, a circle of indistinct faces staring down at me. Then I scramble up in panic and lurch back toward the wagon. Mama hasn’t been able to walk by herself for a year. I have to get to her.

“Cate! No!” Hands clutch at me, but I break free.

“I have to get Mama!”

“Cate!” The new voice stops me. It’s Nerissa. My best friend scrambles between me and the wagon and plants her feet, palms digging into my shoulders. Her dark hair rises behind her like flame, caught in the updraft. “Stop it! She’s not in there! Catey! Look at me!”

I blink. Try to wake up.

My mother is not in the wagon, I remember, because she is already dead.

I let Nerissa pull me back toward the others. The rest of my caravan stands a safe distance from the flames, contortionists, fortune tellers, animal trainers, and musicians all staring at the blaze that used to be my wagon. Behind them, just visible in the pre-dawn light, rise the great stone faces of what we on the island call the Gathering of the Gods: a host of well-worn statues, some lovingly preserved, some mysterious with age. Among them stands the Lady of Mist, goddess of the dead, at whose feet I personally vomited earlier tonight.

Nerissa says, "Calm down, Cate. You have to calm down.” She’s right. I squeeze my eyes shut, try to let the searing emotions of the dream fade into the night.

“Are you all right?”

I am not. I’m still wearing my green dress, slightly drunk on the wine of my mother’s funeral celebration. I have burns I can barely feel. And everything I had left of my mother is charring to cinder.

Because I can’t control the magic.

Someone tugs at my skirt. It's Boggle, the goblin who rides with our caravan. The top of his head only comes to my knees, but I see his knobby black body plainly in the firelight. He butts his head against my legs and winds around them, humming and hopping a cheerful dance.

At least someone likes my magic.


In the morning I sit a fair distance from the cook fire, wrapped in one of Nerissa’s blankets, and let her brew raspberry tea for both of us. Boggle sits close by, eyeing Nerissa’s proceedings and smacking his lips.

Nerissa would be with me anyway, but as of last night she’s officially also here as my babysitter. No one has decided yet what to do when I sleep, but in the daytime, they rest of the caravan will be taking shifts to stay near and keep me calm. To stave off magical catastrophe.

I pick at the dressing on my burns and wish the air would stop smelling of smoke and ash. At least, I tell myself, it only burned my wagon, and not anyone else’s. At least it wasn’t worse.

At least this time it wasn’t blood rain.

Minor fire magic is normal. I’ve met plenty of people who could heat a pot or kindle a cookfire, and our sword-swallower lines his blades with magic flame for his act. I’ve heard there are a few wild magicians in the Union – but to Unionists, Free Cities folk are all godless heretics, in need of salvation by punishment. The only wild magician I ever knew was my mother; and by the time my own wild magic showed up, she was too sick to train me.

My friend Carolaine stumbles up, still strapping on her knives, and heaves down next to us. She came all the way from Kern for the funeral, and she’s not used to the caravan's famous white liquor. Nerissa has been at the stuff since she was ten, and she's sipping more from a hip flask right now. I’d join her, but I can’t afford anything that might make me lose control.

“You look like you’ve been wadded up in a pocket,” Nerissa tells Carolaine, smoothing her own pretty blue dress. “Don’t traders learn how to drink?”

Carolaine doesn’t answer. Instead, she palms a knife and whips it into the dirt between Nerissa’s feet. It shocks me out of my self pity, and I let out a startled laugh. Nerissa sticks her tongue out at both of us.

“Kern girls learn other skills,” I snicker, picking up the knife, feeling its heft.

“You should let me teach you,” says Carolaine, her frown making it clear I’m not holding the blade right.

“I could use knife tricks in my act,” chirps Nerissa. Carolaine glowers at her.

“Weapons are not for tricks. They’re for self-defense.”

“Oh, no,” I laugh. “We don't defend ourselves with knives. Nerissa and I are caravan girls! We entertain! When that doesn’t work, we lie. And when that doesn’t work, we run away.”

“Is that your plan for the magic?” Carolaine says. "It's getting worse, Cate."

Carolaine doesn’t pull punches. That’s more fun sometimes than others, and this one lands hard. I hand the knife back. "It’s never happened in my sleep before."

"She was upset last night," Nerissa says, and scoots closer to me. She glares at Carolaine. This is like a starling glaring at a hawk. "It was her mother's funeral. That doesn't happen all the time."

"No," I say. "Carolaine's right. It's getting worse."

Nerissa bites her lip. After a moment, she offers Carolaine some tea, but the bigger girl waves it away. Nerissa gives me a cup, hands Boggle a smaller one, and drinks the rest herself, adding a generous splash from her flask.

Carolaine asks, "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know,” I say, and that is the truest sentiment I’ve uttered in weeks. I’ve been trying to be strong and sometimes succeeding, but right now I’m lost. I press my eyes closed, trying to clear them. They burn from the smoke. “Mama was so sure she could teach me to control it, but at the end . . . well, Nerissa knows. At the end she couldn't remember my name."

Carolaine half-rises, then shakes her head and sits again. It seems like she wants to comfort me but doesn't know how. I smile at her, putting my caravan-girl charm to good effect. Carolaine calls this “lying with your face,” but right now I don’t care. I can’t handle her sympathy on top of everything else.

"It's okay. I said goodbye to Mama before last night." At least that much is true. My mother was a shadow for the last year, a mumbling skeleton who had to be protected from herself. I’m glad, for her sake, that she’s gone to the Other Land. But for myself . . . I could use a little help.