Friday, July 31, 2015

1st 5 Pages Workshop Opens Tomorrow!

I was sad to see the 1st 5 Pages July Workshop come to an end – we had such a great group of talented and supportive writers! A big thanks to our guest mentors, Ava Jae, author of the forthcoming BEYOND THE RED, and Patricia Nelson of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. They both provided terrific comments and suggestions. And as always, thank you to all of our fabulous permanent mentors! We are thrilled to welcome authors Brenda Drake, Janet B. Taylor, Stephanie Scott and Wendy Spinale to our group!

Our August workshop will open for entries tomorrow, Saturday August 1, 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 Lori Goldstein  as our author mentor, and in addition to being a talented writer and a very nice person, Lori is an alum of the workshop! Our agent mentor is the fabulous Caitie Flum.

And remember, we have a new format! The workshop is now four weeks, so the participants have the opportunity to get feedback on a pitch, and Caitie 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!

August Guest Mentor – Lori Goldstein 

Lori was born into an Italian-Irish family and raised in a small town on the New Jersey shore. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Lehigh University and worked as a writer, editor, and graphic designer before becoming a full-time author. She currently lives and writes outside of Boston. Lori is the author of the young adult contemporary fantasy series Becoming Jinn (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, April 21, 2015, Spring 2016). You can visit her online at


Azra has just turned sixteen, and overnight her body lengthens, her olive skin deepens, and her eyes glisten gold thanks to the brand-new silver bangle that locks around her wrist. As she always knew it would, her Jinn ancestry brings not just magical powers but the reality of a life of servitude, as her wish granting is controlled by a remote ruling class of Jinn known as the Afrit. To the humans she lives among, she's just the girl working at the snack bar at the beach, navigating the fryer and her first crush. But behind closed doors, she's learning how to harness her powers and fulfill the obligations of her destiny. Mentored by her mother and her Zar "sisters," Azra discovers she may not be quite like the rest of her circle of female Jinn...and that her powers could endanger them all.

Purchase it at your local bookstore, or online at Indie BoundAmazonBarnes & Noble
Add it to your shelf on Goodreads!

August Guest Agent – Caitie Flum

Caitie joined Liza Dawson Associates in July 2014 as assistant and audio rights manager. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2009 with a BA in English with a concentration in publishing studies. Caitie interned at Hachette Book Group and Writers House. She was an Editorial Assistant then Coordinator for Bookspan, where she worked on several clubs including the Book-of-the-Month Club, The Good Cook, and the Children's Book-of-the-Month Club. Caitie is looking for commercial and upmarket fiction with great characters and superb writing, especially historical fiction, mysteries/thrillers of all kinds, magical realism, and book club fiction. Caitie is also looking for Young Adult and New Adult projects, particularly romance, historical fiction, mysteries and thrillers, and contemporary books with diverse characters. In nonfiction, she is looking for memoirs that make people look at the world differently, narrative nonfiction that's impossible to put down, books on pop culture, theater, current events, women's issues, and humor.

So what are you waiting for? Get those pages ready!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Wheeler Pitch

Name:  Eric Wheeler
Genre:  Middle Grade
Title:  Olivia Boogieman
With a mummy for a mother and a werewolf father, normal eleven-year-old Olivia Boogieman’s classmates think she eats PB&J (pancreas, brain, and jugular) sandwiches for lunch.  Olivia wishes for a normal life but ordinary families do not have a pet dragon in their back yards. 
Oliva gets a taste of what an ordinary family is like when a meddling social worker places her in a foster home citing, monsters should not raise a normal girl.  However, when horrible, vengeful things happen to girls that pick on her, Olivia discovers she is not as average as she thinks. She is a witch.  After Olivia’s parents admit they snatched her away from her witchy birth mother, Olivia flees to her birth land.  There, she finds ogres, trolls, and her birth mother, who wants to destroy any reminder of the child she never wanted.  Now Olivia must harness her new magical powers and fight for her life so she can reunite with the family that truly loves her.   

OLIVIA BOOGIEMAN is a middle grade urban fantasy novel complete at 36,000 words.

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Dyer Pitch

Name: Jennifer Dyer
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

For two hundred years, Princess Serenity’s people have hidden from their ruthless enemy, the telepaths. They think they’re safe, but they’re wrong.

Serenity has always felt like an outsider. All her life, she’s kept her telepathy a secret, but today, on her eighteenth birthday, she'll take an oath designed to uncover any knowledge of the enemy. If her secret is revealed, she and those who protect her will be declared traitors and executed.

But an explosion brings something new and terrifying to her world. Serenity is the only one with the power to defeat it, but she cannot do it alone. A handsome stranger offers to help, but trusting him could mean the end of her heart.

To do nothing is to let her people die. To act on their behalf risks exposure. Only Serenity and her secret can save them, if she can resist the allure of the enemy.

Some secrets are too dangerous to keep.

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Pendleton Pitch

Melanie Pendleton
Middle Grade Contemporary
Truth, Lies, and Strocketball (Revised name)

Eleven-year-old Jerome Morris may be the inventor of strocketball, the coolest game in the neighborhood, but he has an embarrassing secret: he struggles to read. When the most obnoxious kid in middle school overhears his stuttered attempts and spreads the news, Jerome’s world is turned upside down. Now the kid won’t stop tormenting him, his best friend shuns him, and the meanest teacher in sixth grade is on his case.

Jerome can’t let anyone else learn the truth, especially his demanding dad. So he lies to his parents about why his teacher wants him to stay after class. He hides from his elderly neighbor when she asks him to read to her. And in an attempt to defend his reputation, he sabotages his beloved strocketball to get back at his so-called friends.

But soon his lies spiral out of control. The torments gets worse, his friends continue to slip away, and his neighbor suffers an injury because he wasn’t there to help her. If Jerome can’t find a way to face his problems—and come clean once and for all— he can say goodbye to his best friend, strocketball, and any hopes of overcoming his status as a reading loser.

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Josephson Pitch

Name: Kalyn Josephson
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: The Underground

Seventeen-year-old Ross Delshero gave up on making friends a long time ago. As a human running from Haven, a city of supernatural creatures, she has to pack up and move to a new town—a lot.
When Ross’s mother is kidnapped for trying to end Haven’s slave trade, Ross returns to Haven to rescue her. There she meets the city’s prince, Darius, who is also fighting to end the slave trade. But Darius has been cursed by one of the trade’s strongest supporters, and will die if he stands against it. Despite telling herself she’ll just have to leave after finding her mother, Ross grows attached to the people she meets and the city that was supposed to be her home. But the longer she spends in Haven, the more the city whittles away at the good in her, and the more she discovers she’s been fighting against a plan that’s been in motion for hundreds of years—and her family is much more involved than she thinks. With her new friends, Ross fights to rescue her mother and cure Darius, before the city falls past the point of saving.

1st 5 pages July Workshop - Murphy Pitch

Julie Murphy
Young Adult
I Hate My Life (On the Edge)

Lexie makes good grades. She’s involved in church activities and school clubs. So why is she depressed and cutting her herself?  It could be because her mother is busy with the newly adopted baby brother and her best friend has a new boyfriend. Or maybe it goes a little deeper.

Lexie knows she in deep trouble when she thinks suicide or running away is her only option. As a last resort, she texts a random number hoping there is someone else out there like her. To her surprise, there is. Not only can Sandi relate to Lexie, she already has a plan.

But when Lexie agrees to meet with Sandi at a bus station, their plan goes awry. The events that follow puts Lexie’s life in real danger. She must draw on her own inner strength to fight her way back but will that be enough? It’s not easy but Lexie learns that there is a strong support system to help her if she can only be brave enough to trust.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Murphy Rev 2

Julie Murphy
Young Adult
I Hate My Life

Lexie squatted by the cabinet and pulled out the gift box that held her razor blades. Eyes closed, she told herself, don’t do this; the relief doesn’t last. Her fingers itched to reduce the pain.

Overwhelmed by the sadness inside her, Lexie looked at the bathroom door and wished for the millionth time that it locked. She held her breath and let it out in a big whoosh.The sadness was so deep she didn’t know how far down it went.

Lexie held the razor blade tightly in her left hand and looked at her soft inner thigh. She made a tentative scratch. No blood came. Her breath came in jagged gasps. The only way to make the sadness stop for a while was to make the cut hurt.  She stuck the point deeper into the flesh. The scratch began to bleed. Lexie focused her eyes and concentrated on the small drop of blood. A warmness started in her stomach like a swallow of mom’s hot chocolate. She half grimaced and half smiled. The pain from the cut felt exhilarating. She timed it. After five minutes, the feeling of warmth and exhilaration faded.

A noise came from the bedroom; Angel’s whiny voice intruded.

“Stay out of the bathroom, Angel. Don’t you dare open that door.”

“I just came to get my Princess Belle doll. Don’t be such a big grump.”

Lexie hurried to clean up. She looked at the bathroom door. Quickly she wadded up the bloody toilet paper, checked the cut once more and flushed the paper down the toilet. This was the deepest cut she had made in two months. Lexie didn’t like to cut that deep; she didn’t want scars, just scratch marks.

Angel’s footsteps faded away. Lexie groaned when shame and despair flashed through her in jagged bursts like the lightening from the winter storm outside.

Lexie walked to her dresser, opened the third drawer, and reached under her underwear to grasp a parquet box. She lifted its lid and picked up the old newspaper article on top. It was dated March 3, the day after her birthday. The front-page headline read: Baby Girl Abandoned at Local Hospital. Lexie unfolded the creased paper. She slid her fingers over the page, pausing over the crinkles to smooth them out. The words blurred. She fought back tears. Oh my God, the sadness rolled over her like a really big wave at high tide on Folly Beach. Lexie folded the paper, laid it on top of her baby cap in the box, and returned the box to its safe place.

Lexie sat on the green and yellow bedspread. She picked up her iPhone. She played this game with herself where she typed in random numbers, pressed Send, and waited for a response. She prayed some pervert would get the number and come kill her. She wished she had never been born. Lexie confided in Kelsey several times in the last few years that it bothered her that she didn’t look like she belonged in her  her family. Every time, Kelsey’s responded, “that’s silly.” Lexie kept her feelings to herself.

Lexie surveyed the mess of the room she shared with her sister, Angel. Angel moved into Lexie’s room after Damon came to live with them. Lexie uncurled her legs. Pacing the room, she glowered at the chaotic debris Angel left. Scattered crayons, random papers, and Angelina Ballerina books littered the desktop. Lexie shuddered when she looked into the open door of the closet: cluttered shoes and sweaters and dresses never hung up. She crinkled her nose and sniffed. It smelled like dirty sneakers and baby powder. How can a seven year old have smelly feet? She hated a messy room.

With increasing agitation, Lexie stuffed the crayons into the pencil box, gathered all the papers and threw them in the trashcan, stacked the books on the top of the book case jam packed with Lexie’s book, and slammed the closet door.

Lexie found her drawings from art class under all Angel’s books and mess. Mrs. Anderson really liked the picture of the blue heron flapping its wings and the the sunset over the marsh. She thought touching up the background trees might lighten her mood. Lexie held the drawing in her hand and made no move to bring out her art supplies safely tucked away in her back pack. It was too much trouble. The drawing rejoined the others that needed work.

Lexie stopped her frenzy of restoring order to her room, brief though the order would be. It seemed so unfair that Angel took over her bedroom. Mom didn’t make Angel do her part. She was too busy with Damon and work. Kelsey had a boy friend, and didn’t have time for her anymore. She wished the unfinished space over the garage would be finished. Mom and Dad promised her that construction would start in January. She fantasized about her new suite: bedroom, art studio, and bathroom with hot tub.

Overwhelmed her by pain and numbness, she thought about her life: adopted, didn’t look like her mom, dad, and Angel, their precious biological baby. She had no privacy. Kelsey, her best friend, was involved with Logan. Feelings of loneliness, anguish and self-pity swept her like a brief but powerful summer thunderstorm swept through the Lowcountry. She could not bear this pain anymore.

Mom’s voice intruded, “Alexis, supper is almost ready. Come set the table.”

“Why can’t Angel ever do any chores. She’s old enough to set the table.” She walked into the kitchen.

“What did you say?” asked her mother in a sharp voice.

“Nothing.” She grabbed four plates.

She stopped at the high chair to greet Damon, her adopted baby brother. “Hi, Bubba,” she cooed at the two-year-old who looked back at her with solemn eyes. She rubbed his thick wavy hair, and then patted down her own bushy dark hair.

Damon burst into a chorus of gibberish, gestured to Lexie while she placed the plates and silverware on the table. She handed him a spoon and he began to bang on the tray of his high chair. The puppy darted from under the table and ran into the other room. She grinned at the laughing baby. “Baby Bro, when will you learn to speak English so we can understand you?”

“The people at the orphanage spoke only Haitian Creole to him, so it may take him more than two months to learn English.” Mom laughed. “By the way, I have a doctor’s appointment for him on Wednesday. I need you to watch Angel for me when you get home from school. It’s so hard to take her with us.”

Mom added chopped up tomatoes to the growing bowl of salad. “Get the blue bowl for the corn, please.”

Lexie stood on tiptoes to reach the bowl. She dropped to her feet, slammed the cabinet door, and banged the bowl on the granite counter top. She winced at the loud noise and glanced toward her mother. She quickly dumped the corn and placed the bowl on the table.

Mom chopped the carrots with such force that ends flew off the cutting board. She grabbed them and threw them in the sink. Not

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Wheeler Rev 2

Name:  Eric Wheeler
Genre:  Middle Grade
Title: Olivia Boogieman

My stomach turns summersaults as the cursive letters on the white board taunt me.  As I read the words “Family Day,” my lips move. My family tends to be scatterbrained at times so I hope they forgot about today even though I saw it at home this morning on our calendar, written clearly in red ink, circled, underlined, and in hieroglyphics. 
Ms. Santiago sits at her desk, dangling from the ceiling above her are paper mache planets circling an orange Sun.  Our desks, with tiny chairs are in neat rows.  I sit in my desk just as the other kids file into the room laughing and pushing each other playfully.  They wander to their desks, chatting with each other and ignoring me.  Gordon slips into his seat, his long legs push against the top of his desk.  The desks are becoming too small for all us now that we are in the fifth grade but Gordon looks like a giant in the elementary school sized desk.  

Ms. Santiago directs Gordon with her hand, “Just sit at the art supply table.” 

Gordon squeezes out of the seat hitting his knee on the bar.  Wincing, he limps to the art supply table where he sits in an adult chair among the paintbrushes and crayons.     

“Quiet down, students,” Ms. Santiago says once everyone takes their seats.  She opens the door and the parents parade in. Most of the students brought their mothers but a few single dads shuffle into the room.  Gordon’s parents are the last to come through the door and I sigh with relief when my parents don’t come through the door.  Hopefully they forgot, maybe Dad is still sleeping. 
A woman pulls a chair next to me.  She has short brown hair that matches her eyes.  “Hello, I’m Tessa’s mother.  Who are you?” She pushes her chair so uncomfortably close I smell the coffee on her breath.  Her tongue stained white from the excessive cream.  Scooting back in my chair, I give myself room.  “I’m Olivia Boogieman,” 
Her eyes widen and she looks at her daughter with a question in her eyes.  Tessa nods and looks away from me.  Of course, Tattletale Tessa Thompson told her about me; she can’t keep her big mouth shut.  
“What a peculiar surname you have.” Mrs. Thompson lifts her nose in the air as if she’s sniffing out my pedigree.  If she wants to see peculiar, she should meet my family. 
She leans in closer with each word she speaks. “I’m a social worker. What do your parents do?”  
“Um,” I stammer. What do I say? Mom is a stay-at-home mummy and Dad works nights?
“Why don’t we get started?” Miss Santiago says as she leans against her desk. The words “Family Day,” appear to dance behind her on the whiteboard.  Mrs. Thompson scoots her chair back towards Tessa.    

“Olivia, are you with us,” Ms. Santiago snaps her fingers in front of my face.  My cheeks warm; I hate being the center of attention.  Ms. Santiago isn’t all-bad.  This is her first year at the school. She’s young, fun and best of all; she’s never had my brother in any of her classes.  

Tessa’s mom leans into her daughter, brushes back the hair away from her ear, and whispers loudly. “It’s a shame when a child’s parents don’t care enough to come to family day.”  Our eyes meet and she uncomfortably shifts in her chair.  I can tell she knows I heard her.    

As the door opens, Dad’s hairy frame takes up most of the doorway, which is not surprising considering most werewolves are huge. Hulking and hairy from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, he looks scarier than he really is. Mom pops her head in the little space between Dad and the doorframe.  She’s covered in dingy wrappings with eyeholes so she can see.  Her wrappings haven’t been changed since she was first mummified in ancient Egypt. Dad holds my skeletal little sister’s boney hand.  The only person not here is my shapeshifter brother, Vinnie.  Unless he’s posing as Ms. Santiago.  Or her red Apple.  It’s for the best that he is not here because he’s a troublemaker.  
Sometimes being part of the Boogieman family is too big of a burden for a normal girl like me.      
“It is very nice that you could join us.” Miss Santiago’s eyes dart from my parents to me probably wondering how a family of monsters is raising a normal girl like me. “If you’d like to stand next to your student we can begin again.”

A paper mache moon dangling from the ceiling and catches Dad’s eye.  He turns up his nose towards the moon, closes his eyes, and howls.  Daisy covers her lip glossed stained mouth and giggles while I cringe.  Mom quickly taps Dad lightly in the ribs with her elbow.  Mom stands behind me while my dad flops on the ground and scratches the fur on his neck with his rear leg. “Fleas.” He looks up at a frowning Mrs. Thompson.
“Dad, please stop.” I cover my face with my hands. 
He climbs back on two feet; his claws scrape across the floor causing goose bumps on my arm. 
“I’m pleased so many parents could be here today.” Ms. Santiago says.  “You will follow your student throughout the day so you can get a sense of what a typical day at Middlebury Middle School is like.”
My school has a panther for a mascot, and is home to a large population of feral cats.  As my father raises his nose and sniffs the air, a low growl escapes his throat.  I grasp at his collar as an orange, black, and white calico passes the doorway. Dad jerks against my hold, drops to all four paws, and gives chase.  Desks crash together, Tessa screams, and Gordon’s father covers his son as Dad bolts towards the door.  
“No bad boy,” Mom scolds Dad as he shoots out the door that leads to the blacktop.  I’m attached to his collar and jerk forward with his momentum causing pain in my arm.  I let go before he drags me across the playground. The cat jumps onto a picnic table and my dad runs under the bench chasing it across the playground. 

I sprint behind him, “Dad, you’re embarrassing me.”  

The cat stretches its claws and digs into the bark of a nearby tree, climbing with little effort. Dad stands at the trunk howling as I yank his collar.  He digs his feet into the bark as he tries to climb. The cat smiles down at Dad with a big, white toothy grin, like that cat from Alice in Wonderland. “Cats don’t smile,” I mutter. The cat turns into a blob and then into my brother, Vinnie, who is laughing. 
“Not funny, Vinnie,” I say.

After a tug on Dad’s collar, he slumps on all four paws and reluctantly follows me back to the classroom. 
“You’re not supposed to do that in public,” Mom scolds. She grabs a newspaper from our current events pile, rolls it up, and smacks Dad on the nose. 

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Dyer Rev 2

Name: Jennifer Dyer
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Tittle: Blue Serenity

2417 AD

At sunset, I’d take the coming-of-age oath, and by the time the five moons had risen, I’d have sentenced myself to death.

For the tenth time, I attempted to wind my hair into an elaborate knot, but the long black strands slipped and fell. I threw my brush on the floor and took a long breath. The scent of roses, sweet and strong, filled my nostrils, but did nothing to calm my thoughts. I shoved open my balcony doors. Above, two of our moons peeked over the western horizon of this planet so different from our homeworld, the place the humans once called Earth.

That was before the Raphient telepaths destroyed it.

Below my balcony, healers with dark robes and darker expressions moved between banquet tables smothered in a food and flower invasion. White floral ropes led to the raised platform where I’d take the oath. A small banner, left crooked across the platform, read, “Wellness and peace to Princess Serenity.”

On one of the patios, a healer elder named Jasen paced, hands crossed over his bony chest, black silk robes swishing. The setting sun slashed red across his face. He glared toward where I stood on my third-floor balcony, his face scrunched up like an old man’s gnarled fist. “What a waste, throwing a party for that half-breed mongrel.” His words rang out. He wanted me to hear.

I’d grown accustomed to Jasen’s hatred, but the word mongrel burned like hot metal down my throat.

“Shouldn’t you be dressed?”

Behind me, Master Eli, my protector, teacher, and sometimes warden, pushed open my door, his wide shoulders filling the door frame. Not waiting for my answer, he strode past the marble fountain in the center of my room toward my desk, footfalls silent on the stone floor, posture as stiff as his forest-green warrior uniform.

He looked over my bed, probably making sure I’d pulled the covers military straight. A band secured his platinum hair in a tight tail and a broadsword loomed over his shoulder. Unlike the healers who thought of carrying a sharp pencil as living dangerously, Nadiv warriors accessorized with weapons, the deadlier the better.

Master Eli didn’t need weapons to look imposing. His stern expression and muscular stature towering eight inches taller than my five-foot-six frame took care of that.

I said, “You know I don’t want this ceremony,” and glanced back at the palace grounds, so beautiful, so filled with hate.

Another healer stomped past Elder Jasen, yanking on tablecloths, slamming down silverware. She paused to pat around her perfect bun, as if the strain of decorating caused her black hairs to stray. A tray of sliced meat must have vexed her because she shoved it aside and knocked several pieces to the ground.

A voice bubbled into my mind like a fizzy drink. "Hungry. Smells good."

The voice wasn’t audible, so I couldn’t locate it by sound, but it only took a moment to find its source. One of Jasen’s tiny canines darted around the healer and gobbled the spilled morsels. It sat, eyes on me, and barked. "More, more, more."

The healer stilled, watching the canine watch me. My insides tightened. I scooted back into my room, but her high-pitched voice carried over the dog’s barking. “She’s unnatural, that one. Deviant and destructive. Not a true healer. Takes after her mother’s people. Mark me, she’ll do something to ruin—”

A mechanical hum sounded, and a shimmering haze dropped like a sheer curtain over my balcony doors. The outside noises went silent. Master Eli’s hand lingered over the audio shield switch on my wall. “Don’t listen to those healers’ poison, Serenity.” He glared outside. “I’m amazed a people gifted with the ability to heal by touch can be so intolerable.” He glanced my way. “Present company excluded.”

But the healers’ words rattled in my head: unnatural, deviant, mongrel. “They hate me because of my prophet blood. Imagine if they knew the truth.”

Eli's face hardened. “You’re worth more than a legion of them."

My stomach felt as though I’d tied it into a knot. “I think they suspect. You didn’t see her staring when the canine—”

“Ignore them. Jasen’s been ill tempered since the war exiled us to this planet, and celebrations make healers irritable.”


“Reminds them of everything the Raphients stole from us.” Typical Eli, he didn’t elaborate but nodded toward the gown hanging on my closet door. “You only have a few minutes.”

The gown’s sapphire hue matched my eyes and complimented my dark hair. The shiny blue fabric distracted from my too-dark-to-be-a-healer cinnamon skin. Father said I would look beautiful. It was the perfect dress for the perfect healer princess.

More like the perfect imposter.

Needing something to do with my hands that didn’t involve punching, I straightened my bookshelf filled with volumes about famous warriors. Lord Teomir’s handsome face stared back at me from one of the covers. “I can’t go through with this.”

“Your father told you to cease your worries about the oath.”

Eli had a talent for not only getting to the point but also stomping on it. The squeeze of discomfort in my chest ballooned into a tourniquet. “No, Father said, ‘Duty first, worry second.’”

“Then you should listen.”

“What am I supposed to do? If I tell the truth, they’ll kill me, and I can’t go out there and lie. Elder Jasen can sense a lie from across a crowded room.” I paced and wrung my hands. “When Jasen asks me to swear to protect our realms and the humans from the evils of the Raphient telepaths and to swear to report any telepathic persons, he’ll know if I lie. And then he’ll order the nearest warrior to chop my head off!” I leveled my gaze at him. “My head won't be the only one. You, my fath—”

“I know!" Eli’s words blasted out sharp as swords. I sensed rather than saw crimson waves crashing toward me from his mind—my deviant brain’s way of giving color to his emotions.

I blinked to clear away the intrusion. Sensing emotions in colors wasn’t a healer or prophet trait. Instead, this extra ability was one of my deadly talents I had to conceal. “I can’t do it.”

Eli took a long breath and smoothed the indigo silk banner hanging on the wall—one of the few relics I possessed from my prophet mother. Another wave of emotion, this one deep blue, billowed toward me. Was he sad?

“I wish your mother still lived.” His words came out rushed and hushed, as though he spoke to himself. “She’d give us an idea of what the future holds.” He released the banner, as though it burned his fingers, and cleared his throat. “Today, we trust your father.”

Movement outside drew his gaze. He opened the curtains and grunted. “Marvelous. That nature-tender’s been eating mushrooms again.”

Outside, a vine smacked the backside of a healer. A few patio levels down, a lanky male swished his finger around in the air. The same vine, weaving like a charmed snake, yanked on the healer’s hair. He snickered. She scowled. I couldn’t hear her retort, but by the way she stomped on the plant, it wasn’t nice. Two tall warriors headed toward the troublemaker.

Any other day, I might’ve laughed. “I rarely see the nature-tenders in action. They’re amazing.”

Eli pinched the bridge of his nose. “That one’s a tree-talking nightmare. I’d better get out there.”

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Pendleton Rev 2

Melanie Pendleton
Middle Grade Contemporary
Truth, Lies, and Backetball (New name)

There are two things I know for sure. First, reading is the hardest thing in the world. If I read in my head, I’m okay. But whenever I try to put letters together and say them out loud, my brain gets all jumbled up. I have to concentrate so hard on sounding out each word, I stutter and fumble and by the time I get to the end of a sentence I have no idea what the words are telling me. Talk about anxiety. Reading out loud is worse than choking during a backetball game. Which is another thing I know for sure.

Backetball is the best thing in the world. Nothing beats the sweet sound of the ball hitting the can as it goes in. Or the feeling I get when blocking the chucker from scoring on the last out of the game when my team is in the lead.

The most awesome thing about backetball is that I invented it. We play with a Nerf ball and a trash can but it’s like hockey, baseball, and basketball all rolled into one. That’s how it got the name.

I think about backetball so much I daydream about standing in the street while the crowd chants my name.

“Jerome! Jerome! Jerome!”

My heart races and my breathing echoes in my ears. Stay focused, I tell myself. I can’t get psyched out now.

I’m fighting alone so there’s no blocker. It’s just me and the can. I eye the target then I shoot. The ball soars through the air. It tips the edge and circles the rim. I suck in my breath. For a split-second, the world moves in slow motion. Then…score! The ball rolls into the can.

Everyone goes crazy. They gather around me. They’re about to lift me up. This is the proudest moment of my life. I am the backetball champion…

The sound of the bell jolts me back to reality. There I go again. I look around the classroom at everyone else packing up. Too bad. I was digging that daydream.

“Okay class,” Ms. Maguire says. “Get your continent reports on your way out.”

I stuff my geography book in my backpack.

“Some of you need to put forth more effort in your assignments…” My teacher raises one eyebrow at me as I take my paper. I guess that means she’s talking about me. I look at my paper and huff. C minus. Dad’ll flip. I can just hear the lecture I’ll get about how I didn’t do my best. Maybe he’ll believe me this time when I tell him I really did try.

I weave through the halls crammed full of students.

“Hey, Jerome.”

I see Cliff and smile. We’ve been best friends ever since first grade when he sat next to me in Mrs. Williamson’s class. My last name is Morris. Cliff’s is Murphy. Sometimes you gotta love the alphabetical order thing.

“Hey, Zane,” he calls to a group of eighth-graders we pass in the hall. “Backetball game after school today?”

The eighth-graders turn and look as we walk by. Suddenly they seem ten feet taller. Their fists are like rocks; their shoulders look like they have football pads underneath their t-shirts.

Marcus Zane is the meanest of all. He stares at us. I hear my own gulp. Then he nods one time and turns back to the other guys. I sigh in relief. In the neighborhood, we’re equal. But at school, the eighth-graders talk to eighth-graders and the sixth-graders talk to sixth-graders. I don’t know how Cliff can talk to the older kids without getting pounded. They never say anything but the all-important head nod is a surefire sign of approval.

“So where ya’ headed?” Cliff asks me. He winks at a group of girls standing at their lockers. They giggle.

“Language Arts with Higgins,” I grumble.

“Ugh! I’m lucky I didn’t get him this year. He’s tough.”

“He is.” I frown. “And he hates me.”

“He hates everyone.”

“The teachers are different this year.”

Cliff smiles. “Welcome to middle school. Good luck, buddy.” He gives me a slap on the back and runs off. I let out a huge sigh as I head to my class of doom.

I always like my teachers. I’m not the star student or the teacher’s pet but I never get in trouble. And my grades aren’t bad. Of course Dad thinks I can do better. But school has never scared me. Until now. Until Higgins. His class is going to kill me before the year is over, I just know it.

When I walk in, Higgins is writing on the board. I swear the man has been teaching longer than I’ve been alive. His hair is white, his belly is big, and he wears button-up shirts that look like they’ve been one too many times in the washing machine. And he always has a sour look. I figure if he’s that unhappy, maybe he should just retire. Nobody should have to put up with his bad mood.

Higgins pauses for a second. He pushes up his glasses, wrinkles his nose, and chuckles. Then he continues writing like his hand is on fire. I shake my head as I go to my seat.

“Hey, Jer.”

“Hey, Darcy,” I mutter.

“How’s Cliff?” She chews on the tip of her pen and grins. Her bangs cover her eyebrows so her hair shifts every time she moves them. She doesn’t seem to notice.

“You know, Cliff is Cliff.”

“Hmmmm,” she says in that sing-song voice she gets when she talks about Cliff. I roll my eyes. Sometimes girls can be weird.

“What do you see in him anyway?” I ask her.

“What are you talking about? What’s not to like? His curly hair, gorgeous green eyes, cute little dimples…”

I snort. “C’mon. You really like that mop on top of his head? Half the time it looks like he’s just been hit by lightning. And he’s so white he could glow in the dark.” I laugh at my own joke.

Darcy glares at me. “That’s not funny, Jerome. You wouldn’t think he’s your best friend by the way you talk about him. Maybe you’re jealous.” She turns away and pouts.

“That’s messed up.” I pretend to be offended but I don’t care. Cliff is the one who gets all the attention and it doesn’t bother me one bit.

“Good afternoon, class.” Higgins turns from the board at the sound of the tardy bell.

No answer.

“Today we will begin reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. You will each find a copy on your desk. I expect you all to pay attention and participate. This will be a significant part of your grade for the semester.”

Darcy raises her hand.

“Yes, Ms. Lake?”

“I’ve heard this book has bad words. Should we be reading it?”

Higgins looks pleased. “Thank you for asking. You all should be aware this book was written a long time ago when slavery was prevalent. It does contain what we consider derogatory language. But I want you to look past the language and think about what the book means. As we move forward, we’ll have many discussions about its themes as well as its historical and cultural implications.”

I groan to myself. It’s bad enough teachers make us read books. Why do we have to talk about them afterwards?

“Please turn to the first page and we’ll take turns reading out loud.”

Uh oh. I wasn’t expecting this.

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Josephson Rev 2

Name: Kalyn Josephson
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: The Underground

In situations like this, Ross stood absolutely still and tried to filter out every word her father said. She made it all of ten seconds before seizing an empty plastic bottle from the kitchen counter and chucking it at him. Ericen dodged with all the grace of a dancing hippo, which was more than Ross expected considering he struggled to stand upright. The bottle clattered against the wall before joining a growing collection of empties and fur balls that littered the scuffed wood floor.

“Stop it!” Ross clenched her hands. “I swear, if you say one more word against Mom, the next bottle won’t be plastic.” At the rate her father drank, there was plenty of ammunition.

            Ericen Delshero collapsed back against the wall, his normally golden skin pale and haggard. Ross turned away, unable to bear their resemblance. He’d been a handsome man once, before her mother had been kidnapped and he’d tripped and fallen into an unending pool of liquor. Now Ross loathed their similarity. Amber eyes. Athletic build. Brown hair alight with red.

            “I’m not saying it was her fault,” he said. Six hard drinks in and he barely slurred. Not surprising, since drunk was his natural state. “I’m just saying she shouldn’t have left that night. She knew the people looking for us were close.”

            “She left to meet with your contact!” Ross slammed her hands down and rose from her seat at the counter. “You should have been with her. Now she’s trapped in Haven, with who the hell knows what kind of creatures, and we’re out here doing nothing.”

            Her parents had always said Haven was a dangerous enough place when you weren’t human. It was meant to be a safe place for supernatural creatures, but it went downhill faster than her father before Ross was born. According to the contact they met every few weeks, it was only getting worse.

            Every muscle in Ericen’s face went rigid, his hands curling into fists. “Trapped?” he said, staggering off the wall. “You think she’s trapped, Ross? Your mother’s been gone for two months! She isn’t trapped. She’s dead.”

“No!” Ross swept her hand across the counter, sending a week’s worth of plastic dishes clattering across the floor. “You’re wrong. I know you’re wrong, and I’m going to prove it.” She turned for the hallway.

            Ericen stepped after her. “You can’t go to Haven, Ross! They’ll kill you.”

            “Like you give a shit,” she said without turning around.

            “Ross!” His hand closed around her upper arm, pulling her back. She fought his hold, but he spun her around, slamming her up against the wall. Her head struck the plaster with a dull thud.

They froze.

How had he moved that fast? Ross’s mind focused on the question, on the way her father stared wide-eyed and unmoving down at her, on anything other than the fact that he’d just laid a hand on her. How the hell had he moved like that?

Her throat burned—she wasn’t breathing. As Ericen stepped back, hands held out like he was backing away from a wild animal, she finally exhaled. Ross’s mind screamed at her to go, to run, to lock herself in her room. But her body refused to respond.

“I’m sorry.” Her father’s voice was barely a whisper. “Rossalyn, I’m sorry. Please, don’t go.”

Ross stiffened. Only her mother called her by her full name. Coming from him, it was a slap in the face. It took several more breaths before she regained her voice.

“Don’t ever call me that again.”

She sprinted up the stairs past an orange tabby sitting on the top step. It took off after her, slipping inside the second before she slammed her door. Collapsing back against the chipped wood, Ross slid to the ground, her heart drumming in her ears.

The cat rose onto his hind legs, balancing his front paws against her knees so he could see her face.

“I’m an idiot, Tom,” Ross said. “I kept thinking he’d snap out of it.”

You love him.” Tom’s smooth, even voice floated through her head.

“Not like this.” Ross shook her head. “This isn’t him. The man I know would have gone after her, no matter what.”

Tom leapt up over her knees, settling in her lap. “You know they promised each other that if one of them was taken, the other would stay to protect you.”

Ross snorted. “He might as well have gone after her. He’s not really here.”

They sat in silence for some time. Tom curled up in her lap, purring quietly, as Ross struggled to process what had just happened. Her father had always been a loud drunk, but never a violent one. He hadn’t meant to hurt her. She knew that. But she couldn’t sit here any longer. She’d wasted two months waiting for Ericen to snap out of it and go after her mother, but that wasn’t going to happen. He may have promised that he wouldn’t go after her mother, but Ross hadn’t.

She slid out from under Tom, who rolled sleepily to his feet. Ross grabbed her shoulder bag. Tom watched with a flat gaze, his tail flicking from side to side.

“Don’t look at me like that,” she said. “I can’t stay here another minute.”

            “I wouldn't ask you to.

            Ross stopped. Tom had been the only thing keeping her sane since her mother’s disappearance. If he thought leaving was a good idea, there was no way in hell she was sticking around.

            “Will you come with me?” she asked.

            Despite both being natives of Haven, neither Ross nor Tom remembered any of it. Her parents had been forced to run when she was just a baby, and he’d been taken when he was just a kitten. Or a whatever he was. No one actually knew. Just over a year ago, Ericen’s last contact from the city had showed up with Tom. Her father had bought him for her. He’d become the closest thing she’d had to a friend in a long time, and the idea of leaving him behind made her chest ache.

            “Already packed,” Tom said.

            Ross took a long breath and started packing. Not that she had much to take. Her room was so empty and plain it looked uninhabited, but she’d gotten tired of packing everything up long ago. It was easier to move on a moment’s notice when everything you owned fit into one bag.

The first thing she grabbed was her knives. Though they reminded her of her dad, they were the only set she had. Ericen had given her the thin crystal blades for her twelfth birthday, after another party alone with her family. By that time Ross had stopped trying to make friends. There was no point, not when she’d just have to move again. Her father had gotten the knives from a contact in Haven in hopes they’d cheer her up. They’d spent the rest of the day in the wood beside their rental, eating her mother’s oatmeal butterscotch muffins and practicing until the sunlight faded.

Ross’s throat tightened and she forced the emotion away. Thinking about who her father used to be just made who he’d become that much more difficult to accept. He might not see it, but he needed her to go as much as she did. Not only before he destroyed what remained of their relationship, but because if there was any chance her mother was still alive, she was the only thing that could bring him back from the edge.