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: Linda Hall Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Realistic Fiction Title: Jess & Tess
I call us the Carnies. The oddities from places unknown. We roll into town, dazzle the locals for a while, and then vanish without a second thought. We never had a choice. Nobody said sign on the dotted line or asked us to pledge our allegiance. We were just born this way.
We’ve lived in big city basements and on country south forties but, no matter the space, we set up the same old life with the same old story. People used to ask us to come. Excited that Dad would be exactly what their company needed, the fresh face to solve their problems. But he always proved them wrong. Now we bounce from place to place chasing his elusive fresh start. This time is no different. His act is always the same. The last hundred miles of Interstate 6 is spent with him dreaming of collapsing corporate structures, CEOs begging him to help, and of award banquets and yearly bonuses. The thirty miles of Route 201 are spent with stories of how he was happiest and can do the most good in middle management, the heart of any organization really. Five miles of Main Street, he just wants something to believe in, and on the dirt road that leads to our new house, he just hopes the local mechanic shop is hiring. As he steps out of the van and stretches, he says “This time will be different, girls. I can feel it.”
It doesn’t take long to attract the attention of the locals. The first is always the neighbor who spends all afternoon retrieving his mail. This one’s a classic. It starts with him pretending nothing interesting is happening next door while he casually walks to the mailbox. He catches a brief glimpse of Tess carrying a box inside. He takes the mail out of the box and slowly turns to go back in. A tiny notice of me walking to the truck. He briefly flips through the envelopes. Sees Tess come back out…but wait. Didn’t she just go in? He pretends this envelope is particularly interesting and his stroll becomes a shuffle. Tess and I pass each other. He stops and his brief glance becomes a stare when we walk out, side by side. We turn to look at him and his stare becomes a full blown gawk. They all have the same look. Wondering if their eyes are playing tricks on them. Or do they suddenly have double vision? They’re searching for the simple explanation. When I yell, “Oh my god! We’re just twins,” it helps them to quickly solve the puzzle and they hurry back inside.
“Jess!” Dad barks but immediately follows up with “I’m sorry, Sir.” But the man has already gone inside. “You know you’re not helping yourselves when you do that.” And so our show begins. We’re the freaks with the matching sweaters and Dad, the king of the clowns.
“I don’t care,” I say when Dad corners me a few minutes later by the front door. There’s nothing he can say that I haven’t already heard. I am surprised, though, when he says “Follow me,” and takes the box from my hands and starts walking up the stairs. He pushes open one of the bedroom doors and walks to the middle of the room. “What do you think?” he asks as he sets the box down. “I thought I would sleep on the pull out couch so you girls can have your own rooms.” I don’t meet his eyes right away and decide to casually look around, this corner to that, closet open and closet closed, before I finally settle at the window. “You girls have always asked for your own rooms,” he reaffirms because I’m taking too long to answer. I know he wants me to be excited and grateful for his sacrifice but it’s too late. Out this window, down the dirt road, turn on Main Street, and take Route 201 to Interstate 6. I’m already gone.