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!
Anya Danes Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance Title: PopStars
First Five Pages:
The biggest, the
most extravagant talent show in the country. Thousands come out for
auditions, hungry for the five minutes of fame, hoping for the chance to move
onto the next round. Hearts are broken, dreams come true. But there is
only one winner of Quest for a PopStar…
My knees quiver. To
try to stop, I pin my hands between them. I hum my song over and over, hoping I
won't freeze and forget the words. All around me, people sing, growing louder
and louder to hear themselves over the top of one another. I don't want to add
to the chaos. I'm not even sure if I'll stay for my own audition.
A family of six kids
and their mother move into the seats beside me. The older three look around my
age, but the younger three seem to be early teens, the youngest girl probably
being about ten. Their mother appears Islander in background, but they look
mixed race with softer features and their skin not quite as brown. They're all
They huddle together
and their mother leads them in their song. Although they sing softly, their
song seems to drive all the rest of the clamor from my ears. They sound
incredible! I've never heard such beautiful harmonies and perfectly blended
When they stop, the
oldest son glances at me, catching me staring. He scowls and looks back at his
mother. The second brother and oldest daughter glance at me. I look away. I
must look like an idiot. I've never considered myself attractive with my mousy
brown hair and grey eyes, and next to them, I know I look drab and boring.
My phone buzzes.
Pulling it from my handbag, I see Tom, my boyfriend, sent me a text. I open it
and read, Hey babe, where are you today?
I hadn't told him I'd
come down for auditions, or anyone for that matter. People would think I'm
stupid and wasting my time. So I reply, Not feeling good.
Sorry, that sucks. Get
some rest and I'll cya soon.
I slip my phone back
into my bag and sigh. With people like the family beside me auditioning, I
seriously doubt I'll make the next round. Tom will never need to know.
fifty to six seventy-five," a stagehand calls out.
I stand, being number
six sixty-three, and the family stands too. I look at them again and see the
number six sixty-two. Just my luck to follow an amazing number like them.
They line us up in
order backstage. I lean against the wall, trying to release some of my tension
with a long breath. Butterflies swell and pulse in my belly, making me want to
throw up. I hadn't performed on a stage since high school, and never anything
this grand scale.
I look up.
The oldest daughter
from the family smiles at me. "I'm Clarissa. You nervous?"
I force a smile.
Her smile widens.
"I bet you've heard every trick in the book; imagine them naked or in
their underwear, just don't look at anyone specifically…" She winks.
A grin forces the
corners of my lips upward. "Oh yeah."
"I don't know how
you do it."
"Do what?" I
tilt my head, curious. What could I have done to draw her interest?
"Sing solo on
stage. I can only get through because I have my family around me. I'm not a
I turn to face her
directly, surprised by what she said. They sounded so incredible, surely she
could sing well on her own. "To be honest, I'm about to run off so I don't
have to go out there. I heard you guys before and I really don't want to follow
you. You're amazing."
Her whole face lights
up. "You think so?"
We shuffle forward,
and only two acts stand between me and utter humiliation. "I think I might
Her oldest brother
gives me another scowl, but she touches my arm. "Take deep breaths. You'll
I slowly draw in a
"There you go. So
what's your name?"
I raise an eyebrow.
"You're trying to distract me, aren't you?"
She smiles. "Is
take another deep breath. "I'm Hailey."
"It's nice to
meet you, Hailey. What do you do with yourself when you're not in this panic
"School. Studying for a BS in biology."
Her eyebrows shoot up.
I shrug. "I guess
I'm a bit of a nerd."
"No. Smart is different to nerd. Lucas is smart, but he's not a
nerd." She motions at her oldest brother. "But Isaiah is
The second brother
turns to us. "Are you calling me stupid?"
She shrugs with a
He grabs her in a
headlock. "Stop bad mouthing me, woman." He offers me his hand as his
gaze drags up and down my body. "Isaiah."
I take his hand.
He smiles at me.
their mother says. "Good luck, guys."
She gives them each a
kiss on the cheek as they head out to the stage.
I shuffle up beside
her to watch as they stand on the stage talking to the celebrity judges.
The celebrity host, a
rap artist from the late nineties, says to their mother, "A family of
talented kids. You must feel like the next Jackson family."
She laughs softly.
"I'm very proud of all of them."
They speak briefly,
but when the "kids" starts to perform, all focus turns to them. They
perform like they'd been born for the stage. I stand in awe, but feel sick
about my own performance after them. Their rich harmonies reverberate in my
body, making me shudder. When they finish, I clap eagerly, knowing they'll be
And they are.
The audience cheers as
they leave the stage. Isaiah waves and blows a kiss. A stagehand touches their
mother's arm and leads her around the back of the stage to meet them.
another stagehand motions for me to head out.
I take a deep breath,
dreading the response to me after that performance.
I approach the
microphone and the audience falls silent. I clear my throat, so nervous my head
spins. "I'm Hailey Becker, and I'll be singing―"
"Tell us a little
about yourself," one of the male judges, an ex-boy band member, Lance,
I just want to sing
and get it over with, but with the cameras pointed at me, I swallow hard and
answer. "I'm twenty, and in my third year of my degree."
The four judges
"I'll ah… I'll be
singing My Lagan Love." I clear my throat again, eager to be
done. I sing a cappella, my voice resonating around me through the speakers. I
hit every note perfectly, to my surprise, even the high notes I'd squeaked on
at each of my
practices. When I
finish, no one applauds. The judges stare at me, their jaws hanging.
out, I step back from the mike to leave.
Then the female judge,
80's sensation, Drusilla, stands, clapping with tears in her eyes. I freeze as
the other judges do the same, and soon the whole crowd is on their feet applauding
me. Drusilla leans over to speak into her mike. "Amazing. It's been a long
time since a voice moved me to tears. You're in."