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Name: Heather Harris-Brady
Genre: (Upper) Middle Grade Speculative Fiction
Title: The Time Between
When you're a girl who's almost thirteen you get used to a whole
lot of freaky random "stuff". Stuff that, even if you're not a foster
kid, you keep to yourself. This dead deer in my lap is one of those things.
I was about halfway home from school, ready to cross the road by
the church, when I heard horns, skidding tires, and a sickening thud. The
driver got out and checked the damage, as impatient moms in SUVs waited to turn
into the church parking lot. I could see them through their tinted windows
tapping their phones with glossy pointed fingernails as the deer jerked in spasms
in the ditch.
I ducked my head when I saw a large white Escalade with the face
of Peyton Boyce’s dad wrapped around both sides. Watch The Boyce of
Reason, every day at 4 pm! Under his picture was his famous signoff, the
one he said at the end of every show, every speech, practically every
conversation: They’re coming for you, let’s stand together.
She was just another carcass to all of them, an inconvenience if
they noticed her at all. Someone needed to care and something about it stabbed
the dark untouched area of my heart, the spot I only know is there by the way
it changes the parts around it.
Her eyes, a glossy brown like mine, reflected my face back at me.
We'd both been going somewhere, alone. I didn't know what to do so I sat down
here with her, holding her head in my lap and stroking her long tan face with
its delicate black nose and curling eyelashes.
Every now and then I got a whiff of the apples on the tree across
the road, rich sweet and thick. It was an old twisted tree with branches every
which way. A bit of stone fence ran along underneath it, as ancient as the tree
and well on its way to becoming sand once again. It wandered off back toward
the busy part of Sudham, with its tall brick storefronts slicing off toward the
I've never had a pet, not even a belly-up goldfish to flush down
the toilet, and I wasn't sure what to do but she seemed glad I was there. Maybe
I imagined that part, but it might be true, who knows. Finally, with a sigh and
a shudder, her head dropped to the side and she went limp across my legs.
As I stood up, stiff and cold from the ground, a tingle ran from
the roots of my hair all down to the ends of my toes. I saw two fawns, twins,
watching me from deeper in the woods. Since it was late in October they were
plenty big enough to take care of themselves. They needed to stay away from the
road, so I picked the last of the apples and threw them into the trees. Then I
walked toward them to scare them away.
But they didn't run. They stood there, waiting. I took some baby
carrots out of my lunch sack and went past them. When I turned around they were
there at my elbows, nudging my hand.
“Listen you two,” I said, holding out a couple carrots for each of
them. “You're going to have to take care of each other now. Stay back in here
and away from the road.”
They twitched their ears and their long white tails, checking for
more carrots. Somehow the whole thing made me feel guilty and ashamed even
though I hadn't done anything.
When I got back to the road a green truck pulled with Save Our
Wildlife on the doors. A man in a matching green uniform climbed down and
seemed to be checking the deer for signs of life. He scowled as he looked up
and down the road, then he put the deer's body in the back.
For some reason I can't explain I stayed in the shrubs, even
though I was so close I could smell his thick cologne as it tickled my nose. He
got back in the truck, slamming the door behind him and took off.
At home I found a wrapped box propped against the front door, with
fancy ribbons on both the top and the bottom. A nice touch because I could peek
without being obvious, you know? The conservation guy's cologne must have still
been sticking in my nose because I got another whiff of it as I picked up the
Just as I was about to open it I heard the voices of Sudham High's
most perfect couple, my star quarterback brother Lin and his cheerleading
captain girlfriend Kallie, through the open window. I could hear Kallie really
well, but Lin mumbles.
"...sometimes I wonder if you care about me at all,"
Kallie said. "You know how much I love you, right?"
I had to fight the urge to gag right there under the window. If
you ask me, Lin deserves better. Like, WAY better.
"C'mon Linny," she said with a coo. "Just say it
for me once."
Time to come to the rescue.
I burst through the door, dropped my stuff in the hall, and
grabbed a few cookies on my way to the living room. I found Kallie and Lin
curled up on the couch, so I plopped down in front of them and turned on a
Lin patted me on the head.
"How was school today short stuff?"
I handed him one of my sugar cookies and watched him take a big
"Well, I learned one of the ingredients in vanilla can come
from a beaver's butt," I said. "They call it 'natural
He laughed, spewing crumbs all over me and the couch both. Kallie
gave us a disgusted look and slid over to the other side.
"Can you give me a ride home now?" she said. "I've
got a ton of homework tonight."
"Later," Lin said, finishing off the cookie on his way out
I went to get my package from the hallway. On top of the tissue
was a card: Have a magical birthday - Dad. Underneath was an honest-to-God
magic wand. JUST like Harry Potter's. For real. Well, it was a wand anyway and
duh, who would buy a regular wand? That would be the worst gift of all time.
Now my dad's been gone forever, since the day I was born really. I
know, without anyone telling me, that if he showed up he wouldn't be welcome.
No big teary love-fests here. So I stuck the wand in my backpack and stashed
the box behind the summer clothes in my closet. When I looked for the box after
dinner it was gone.
Like it never was.
The wand was still in my backpack though - the backpack of a girl
who hasn't had a good yearbook photo since second grade, on the eve of picture
I snuck into the bathroom and waved it around my general face
area. I had no idea what words might turn bushy black hair and braces into
something magically beautiful.
Whatever I said obviously wasn't the right choice, because nothing
happened. At least not right away.
Overnight my hair twisted itself into dreads so tight I couldn't
get a comb through it. And, yes, there were several new zits on my nose.