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: Ashley Jellison Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Title: The Dare
“Meg, I need to see you after class.”
Meg stared at Mr. Parker, her English teacher, with alarm. This had never happened before. “Why?”
He frowned. “I think that should remain private at this time.” A couple of girls snickered and Meg just sighed. The class was long enough and now she had to stay after for a bit.
The bell screamed through the school. Meg stayed in her seat while everyone else filed out. A few of her friends gave her sympathetic glances and one girl smirked over her shoulder. Meg produced her best glare and the girl scampered away.
Mr. Parker closed the door behind the last student and turned to look at Meg. He didn’t speak for a minute, just stared thoughtfully. Then he broke the silence. “Meg, I’m worried about your grades in here. You were doing well in the beginning and now you refuse to put in the work. I’ve allowed you into an advanced class and I expect you to do the work. Yet again, though, you’ve disappointed me.”
Meg, who had been lazily staring out the window, snapped her head around. “Disappointed you? What did I do?”
The professor rubbed his beard and cleaned his glasses before answering. “Your Harper Lee project was due today. Before school started. I told you that last month.”
No, no, no. This couldn’t be happening. Meg wrote down the due date as next Monday. She hadn’t even finished the book yet, and while she didn’t have a perfect grade in the class, she had figured out what she had to make on everything to pass without flying colors. Popular girls weren’t smart girls. “Mr. Parker, I know I don’t deserve this since I haven’t been doing really anything, but can I just turn it in Monday?”
The afternoon sunlight came through the window and made the teacher’s wrinkles more prominent. “Meg, I assigned it for today. Maybe next—“
“I’ll have it done. Better than everyone else’s. You can even take points off. Please, sir, I need this grade,” she pleaded. And she knew by his sigh she had won. “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! I won’t let you down!”
Meg grabbed her backpack and ran out of the classroom before slowing to a walk. She had to look calm. The world couldn’t know she had just begged to redeem her grade in an English class.
"Meg!" At her locker, Meg turned and saw Aria, her best friend, running towards her, waving her arms. "Are you still mad at me?"
"You know I can't stay mad at you." Aria was supposed to pick Meg up for school that morning; she’d blown it off to buy a new outfit.
"Good. Because I dare you to do something." Mischief danced in the girl's eyes.
"Uh oh. These never end well."
"What do you mean, they never end well? I've never dared you to do anything too extreme."
Meg scoffed. "Aria, you dared me to cover my naked body with nutella and run around the neighborhood, knocking on people's doors!"
"Yeah, but you did it, didn't you?"
"Oh, whatever! So what is it this time?"
Aria smiled. "Not yet. I'll tell you soon." With that, she grabbed Meg's hand and practically dragged her out of the school and towards the fountain. As soon as they got close, though, Aria pulled Meg next to the building and held a finger to her lips.
"When I say so, look around the corner. Ready?" Meg nodded. "Okay. Go!"
Meg's neck popped as she jerked her head out. She didn't see anything of importance, just a few kids trying to swim in the water.
"What are you talking about? There's nothing there."
"Oh but there is. There is a boy sitting in the corner, reading and jamming to music. Look again, and pay attention this time."
Meg peeked out once more. Indeed, she did see a boy that seemed familiar sitting alone. "Okay, so there's a guy over there. What gives?"
"Rumor has it that he's, like, obsessed with you. I mean, crazy in love. Macy heard some guys talking about it at lunch."
"Wait, really?" Meg could see in Aria's eyes that the girl wasn't lying. "Oh my gosh, ew! He's, like, a total dork. As if he'd even have a chance with me." Both girls laughed at that.
Once they quieted down as to avoid being spotted, Aria cleared her throat. "Exactly my point. He's a freak, and doesn't even deserve to look at you. So, I was going to have a couple of the basketball players challenge him to a fight, but I didn't want to get arrested if the guy got himself hurt. Instead, I was thinking you could help out with this."
Meg grinned wickedly at Aria. "What do you have in mind?"
"I was thinking that I dare you to ask him out."
"And this is why we are friends. I'll do it." Meg was already working out the best way to confront the guy, whom she did not even know the name of.
"He's Jason Michaels, junior," Aria supplied. "Go on. Get out there. I want this recorded."
Meg laughed and then strutted out from behind the building, making sure every curve of her body stood out as she walked to the corner.
The boy startled and pulled his headphones out, then did a double-take when he saw who was in front of him.
"Yeah? What are you doing here, Miss Popular?"
His response took Meg by surprise. Not many people had the nerve to answer her without stuttering.
"Well, I've seen you a couple times, and I think you're really cute. And...well...I was kinda hoping that--"
The boy stared at her, slightly blushing. "Yes?"
Meg shot him her sweetest smile and stuffed her hands into her pocket to make herself look more awkward. "I was wondering if you'd like to go out with me?"
"M-me? But you don't even know me."
"I know, but I really want to. And what better way than to date?" This has to work. Aria will never let me live it down if I fail at asking a loser out.
Jason looked dubious, but excited. "Wow. I mean, I'd love to. Really. I just thought that--well, I've heard the rumors. So I never thought that you would even notice me. But I've liked you for a while and this is great. Yes!"
A rude laugh made him pause. "Cut!" Aria stepped out from behind the fountain. "Good job, Meg! The freak thought that somebody actually liked him! Let's go, before you're late home."
Meg started laughing and turned to leave, but not before looking back to Jason. He didn't look angry, so that was good. But if he had been blushing before, he was a lobster now. Yet nothing compared to his eyes. Meg saw the rejection flash in his eyes before he looked down.
"Screw you." He turned his head and sprinted in the other direction. Meg and Aria choked their laughter down and watched their victim run away.