Free writing workshop for aspiring authors of young adult and middle grade fiction. The first five pages may be all that agents, editors, and readers read, so get them right with the help of three authors over the course of three weeks. During the third week, an agent will also critique your pages and your pitch and pick a workshop winner - the prize is a partial request!
Name: Melanie Meehan Genre: Middle Grade Fiction Title: Dancing in the Rain
“Hold still and don’t breathe,” the lady in the light blue cotton pants said.
From the cold table underneath the x-ray machine, I watched her enter the station that attached to the dim room where I was lying, concentrating on staying still. Holding my breath, my lungs tightened and demanded air. The lady looked down and pushed some buttons. The machine above my leg whirred and clicked.
“Okay, Kelly,” she called. “You can breathe.”
I took a couple of quick breaths until my lungs stopped complaining, studying my legs sticking out from the heavy sheath they had put over me. With the bump on my shin, they seemed even skinnier than usual.
“We need some additional angles,” the technician said. She touched my shoulder. “Let’s turn on to your right side.”
When I turned, she lifted my leg up to slide a plate underneath it. Pain surged up my shin and I bit my lip hard. How many pictures did they need to see the inside of my leg?
“I’m sorry, honey,” she said. “You okay?”
I nodded. I didn’t trust my voice.
“Hold your breath. No moving.” She disappeared and I waited for the whir and click, counting silently in my head. Sometimes, counting calmed me down.
My mom got to come back into the x-ray room when they were checking to make sure that the pictures were clear enough. She leafed through a People magazine, pointing out stories that she thought might interest me. “I tried to find a magazine that you would like,” she said, “but Highlights seemed a little young for a 10 year-old, and I didn’t think you’d like the Cooking Light magazines.”
“Thanks, Mom.” She was trying to be funny, but I was in no mood for laughing.
“Do they really think that my leg could be broken?” I asked. “When Alec Maccarone broke his leg at recess, it was because he fell in our soccer game and it twisted. Max’s bat didn’t even hit me that hard and it definitely didn’t twist my leg or anything.” My six year-old brother had thrown a plastic baseball bat because he was excited to hit the ball. As luck would have it, I was standing in the way of the twirling plastic bat and it hit my leg. Not hard, though. No one could figure out why it hurt so much and left such a bump, even after 24 hours of ice.
“I guess so.” She shrugged. “They don’t really know.”
“What did Dr. Sylvester say to you?” Earlier today, she and my regular doctor had whispered in the hallway, leaving me on the paper-covered cot in the examining room. I had wanted to ask her about their conversation when we were driving from Dr. Sylevester’s office to this different x-ray place, but Mom had been on the phone, and then had been concentrating hard on the navigation system telling her directions.
“What did he say to me?” She always repeated my questions when she didn’t want to answer them.
“Back at his office, the two of you talked in the hallway,” I said. “He never does that. He always talks in front of me. And your mouth was twitching when you came back into the room. You twitch your mouth when you worry. What did he say?”
“They made a wreck of your ponytail,” Mom said, moving behind me and pulling the elastic out. She combed her fingers through my thick red hair. “You really do have enough hair on your head for five people.”
“Mom.” I made my voice sound sharp. “what did Dr. Sylvester say?” The fact that she was trying to distract me by braiding my hair made me want to know about the conversation even more.
“He thought it was strange that the ice and Motrin didn’t make it feel better, especially after 24 hours, so he wanted to make sure that nothing more serious was going on besides a bump on your leg.” She finished the braid and wound the elastic around it, then returned to the People magazine.
“He mentioned some different possibilities.” She held up a picture of Taylor Swift on a paddleboard. “Cute bathing suit, isn’t it?”
I ignored the striped bathing suit. Did Mom really think that she could distract me with a bikini? “Like what, Mom?”
“Kelly, I don’t want to get into it with you, at this point.” Her mouth twitched. “You’re relentless.”
She and I stared at each other, my brown eyes locked into hers. I raised my eyebrows and tilted my head.
“Fine.” She took a deep breath. “There are some types of childhood diseases that they want to rule out.”
Just then, there was a knock on the door, and another woman with a long complicated last name on her badge entered. “I’m Dr. Surya Radpathi.” She extended her arm to first Mom and then to me. “I’ve had a chance to look at Kelly’s X-rays. Mrs. Reynolds, would you like to speak in the hallway for a moment.”
“No,” I blurted out. I had had enough of hallway whispering. “My mother was just telling me what could be wrong with my leg before you came in. I want to hear.”
Dr. Radpathi directed her gaze toward Mom.
“Kelly should be part of the conversation.” Mom nodded, but her voice was tight, her face pale.
“Not all parents feel the same way.” Dr. Radpathi smiled and nodded. “My own daughter would be as strong-minded as you, Kelly. I think that it’s better for children to hear the conversations, so that they are not scared by what they imagine.”
I liked the lilt of her voice, but my mouth was suddenly dry and my stomach flipped.
She flipped on a light behind the X-ray, and I could see the outlines of my bones.
“The good news is that there is no fracture,” she said, pointing to the area which matched where my leg was swollen. “But we do have a concern about the gray area here.” She pointed to a shaded area around the bone.
“This gray area concerns me,” she returned to pointing to the X-ray. “Osteosarcoma is a type of cancer that is consistent with what you are presenting, Kelly.”
She continued to talk, explaining tests and procedures that would need to happen sooner rather than later to figure out what was causing the gray area on my X-ray. Her words blurred, with only one that stayed crystal clear.