Saturday, January 28, 2017

Free 1st 5 Pages Workshop Opens on Sat 2/4 w/ Mentors Lit Agent Kristy Hunter & Author Kelly Barson

Our February workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, February 4th at noon, EST. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Kelly Barson as our author mentor and Kristy Hunter as our agent mentor! (See below for Kristy's background and query preferences!)

The workshop is designed to help writers struggling to find the right opening for their novel or for those looking to perfect the all important first five pages before submitting for publication. Why the first five pages? Because if these aren't perfect, no agent, editor, or reader will continue reading to find out how great the rest of your story really is!

Why is the First Five Pages Workshop a GREAT Opportunity?

  • You are mentored by at least two traditionally-published published or agented authors for the duration of the workshop. These authors have been through the trenches and know what it takes to get a book deal, solid reviews, and sales.
  • In addition, you receive feedback from the four other workshop participants.
  • Feedback is given not just on your initial submission, but on two subsequent opportunities to revise your manuscript based on the previous feedback so that you know you've got it right!
  • The final revision will also be reviewed by a literary agent, who will also give you feedback on the pitch for your story--the one that may eventually become your query letter or cover copy.
  • The best entry from among the workshop participants will receive a critique of the full first chapter or first ten pages from the mentoring agent, which may, in some cases, lead to requests for additional material.

How It Works

Please see the complete rules before entering the workshop, but in a nutshell, we'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. (Double check the formatting - each month we have to disqualify entries because of formatting.) Click here to get the rules. I will post when the workshop opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman), with the hashtag #1st5pages. In addition to the rotating team of our wonderful permanent author mentors, the final entry for each workshop participant will be critiqued by our agent mentor.

February Guest Literary Agent Mentor

Kristy Hunter joined The Knight Agency in April 2014. With a degree in Women & Gender Studies and English Literature from Vanderbilt University, Kristy moved to New York City immediately after graduation to try her hand at publishing. She completed the Columbia Publishing Course and worked in the city for several years—first at Grove/Atlantic and then at Random House Children’s Books—before deciding it was time to make the move back down south. She now takes advantage of her new surroundings by being outside as much as possible with her French bulldog, Gummi.

Kristy is currently accepting submissions from a wide variety of genres, including women’s fiction, mystery, historical romance, romance, young adult, and middle grade. Having spent significant time in the south and New York City, she particularly likes books set in these regions. She also enjoys books that feature horses, boarding schools, sisters, and sororities—to name just a few. Her favorite books include THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett, RULES OF CIVILITY by Amor Towles, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger, THE HUSBAND’S SECRET by Liane Moriarty, I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson, ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins, and WONDER by R.J. Palacio.

February Guest Literary Author Mentor

K.A. (Kelly) Barson earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She and her husband live in Jackson, Michigan, surrounded by kids, grandkids, unruly dogs, a cat, and too many pairs of shoes. She feels most like herself when her hair is purple.

In addition to her own writing, she also teaches writing, spends every moment she can with her family, and procrastinates cleaning more than she should.

She is the author of 45 POUNDS MORE OR LESS, and CHARLOTTE CUTS IT OUT, both published by Viking Books for Young Readers.


Lydia and I were in eighth grade when we came up with our Grand Plan to go to cosmetology school and get jobs to build our clientele while we earned business degrees. Then we’d open our own salon . . .

Now Charlotte and Lydia are juniors, in a Cosmetology Arts program where they’ll get on-the-job training and college credits at the same time. The Grand Plan is right on schedule.

Which means it’s time for Step Two: Win the Winter Style Showcase, where Cos Arts and Fashion Design teams team up to dazzle the judges with their skills.

Charlotte is sure that she and Lydia have it locked up—so sure, in fact, that she makes a life-changing bet with her mother, who wants her to give up cos for college.

And that’s when things start going off the rails.

As the clock ticks down to the night of the Showcase, Charlotte has her hands full. Design divas. Models who refuse to be styled. Unexpectedly stiff competition. And then, worst of all, Lydia—her BFF and Partner in Cos—turns out to have a slightly different Grand Plan.

Like 45 Pounds (More or Less), K.A. Barson’s Charlotte Cuts it Out is a funny, relatable story set in the heart of the Midwest, just right for girls who have big dreams of their own.

Where to get a copy:

Add it on Goodreads!

So get those pages ready, we usually fill up in under a minute!

Happy writing (and revising!)


Friday, January 27, 2017

Congratulations to the 1st 5 Pages Participants - and the Workshop Winner!

Congratulations to all of the participants who worked so hard during our January 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop! You can check out their wonderful pages here - including the winning entry! Congratulations Samantha!

And a big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, Shea Berkley as our author mentor, and Lauren Spieller as our agent mentor. They both provided terrific critiques. And as always, thank you to our talented and fabulous permanent mentors, who read, comment, and cheer on our participants every month!

Speaking of our mentors, we have exciting mentor news! Our lovely mentor, the talented Brenda Drake, is now a New York Times Bestselling author! Congratulations, Brenda! I adored her YA fantasy, THIEF OF LIES, and I can’t wait for the sequel,GUARDIAN OF SECRETS, which comes out on February 7th! (But is available for pre-order!!) I really can't wait for February 7th because that's also when RETURNED, the final book in the fabulous FORBIDDEN series, comes out - written by our wonderful mentor, Kimberley Griffiths Little. (RETURNED is also available for pre-order!)

Our February workshop will open for entries on Saturday, February 4th at noon, EST. We'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. (Double check the formatting - each month we have to disqualify entries because of formatting.) 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 wonderful permanent mentors, we have Kelly Barson as our author mentor, and Kristy Hunter as our agent mentor! So get those pages ready - we usually fill up in under a minute!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thank You to the Participants and the Mentors of January 1st 5 Pages Workshop!

Congratulations to all of the participants who worked so hard during our January 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop! And a big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, Shea Berkley as our author mentor, and Lauren Spieller as our agent mentor. They both provided terrific critiques. And as always, thank you to our talented and fabulous permanent mentors, who read, comment, and cheer on our participants every month!

Speaking of our wonderful mentors, we have exciting mentor news! Our lovely mentor, the talented Brenda Drake, is now a New York Times Bestselling author! Congratulations, Brenda! I adored her YA fantasy, THIEF OF LIES, and I can’t wait for the sequel,GUARDIAN OF SECRETS, which comes out on February 7th! (But is available for pre-order!!)

Our February workshop will open for entries on Saturday, February 4th at noon, EST. We'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. (Double check the formatting - each month we have to disqualify entries because of formatting.) 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 wonderful permanent mentors, we have Kelly Barson as our author mentor, and Kristy Hunter as our agent mentor! So get those pages ready - we usually fill up in under a minute!


Monday, January 23, 2017

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - McCourt Rev 2

Name: Joe McCourt
Genre: Young Adult Horror


Seventeen-year-old Dolyn Pierce hears voices from the past, but swears she isn’t crazy. The day after being released from the psych ward, she visits a water main repair site, confident that the jackhammers will drown out the echoes. When the road crew opens the box they discovered beneath the pavement, Dolyn is shaken by the screams of a young woman who’d been buried alive a century before. The victim swears she’ll seek revenge on the perpetrators, their children, and their children's children. Dolyn is soon arrested for blackmail and sentenced to visit crime scenes where she’ll listen for clues with a police detective. Her first case involves the murders of several prominent citizens, all of whom bear the same last names as those shouted by the buried woman. Reporting this to the detective only gets Dolyn ridiculed; the woman couldn't have been buried alive. Her heart had been removed from her body and placed in the bottle sealed in her coffin. Dolyn will have to trace the remaining descendants on her own if she's to have any hope of saving them. One of the names may be the ancestor of the detective who has become her friend and guardian.


Dolyn Pierce’s entire body tensed when repair work on the second water main break of the season came to a clattering halt.

“Aw c’mon!” she moaned. She was seated in a graffiti-covered bus stop not ten paces from the job site’s perimeter, her trembling fingers clutching the paperback she had shoplifted the night before. “I’m trying to read here!”

The workmen ignored her. They seemed just as irked, if not downright confused, by the sudden shut-down.

Great, thought Dolyn, clapping her hands over her ears. She had come here specifically for the blissful, noise-cancelling din of jackhammers, hydraulics and earth-moving equipment. Without it, her auditory nerves were pounded by echoes from the past: backfiring motors, whining diesel trucks, squealing city bus brakes. She winced at every unexpected blast of a horn, every crash of a fender bender, every wail of a siren. And the voices. So, so many voices.

Get a grip, Dolyn.

She reminded herself that this street, Lombard, had been closed for over a month. Today, there was no traffic. No hurrying pedestrians. Not even a kid on a bicycle. The surroundings were, as far as the road crew was concerned, as quiet as a small-town library.

“Moooooove!” Dolyn pleaded.

Her ear plugs, the closest thing to jewelry that would ever accessorize her smooth, narrow face, blocked some of the sound only she could hear, but not enough to give her the peace she so desperately longed for.

God she missed her iPod. Nothing had been right ever since Lainie’s idiot boyfriend destroyed it.

“Listen to me!” he had demanded before he yanked it away from her and threw it to the pavement. Prior to this, there were times when Dolyn wondered if the only thing keeping her sane was the constant stream of Heavy Metal blasting into her ears at full volume. As it turned out, it was. The instant Trey McLatchy smashed her iPod, Dolyn had a meltdown so intense that future nuclear physicists would probably reference it in their research papers. She punched and kicked until Lainie’s frantic call to 911 brought out two police cruisers (for her) and a paramedic (for McLatchy).

I needed that iPod! she had screamed. It drowned out the noise!

Things might have gone differently if she had left out that last part.

Gritting her teeth, Dolyn scanned the neighboring buildings. The sun had risen a few hours ago, but the sky was cloudy enough that she thought she’d see at least one lit bulb or flickering TV screen shining through a window. There weren’t any. A power failure? Maybe, but what kind of outage affects electricity as well as combustion engines? She yanked the hood of her sweatshirt over her head and lowered her chin to her knees, simultaneously regretting her decision to venture out and wondering where to go next.

The local newspaper, if she could get her hands on one, would list the day’s construction detours. If this road crew didn’t get back up and running soon, she’d find another site. Hopefully the power outage didn’t extend to all the city’s jackhammers.

If it did, she’d abandon the paperback and take a dip in the nearest fountain. Hell, maybe she’d throw herself into the harbor. Submerging her ears would give her some relief. Until, that is, the police fished her out and took her for “evaluation.” Again.

It drowned out the noise!

No one understood. Not even her old paranoid schizophrenic psychmate, who had found it rather funny that Dolyn slept with two pillows over her head.

“Drown it out! Drown it out! Drown it out!”

Her time in the ward had been the most miserable of her life. All that wailing and screaming and nonsensical ramblings from patients who had inhabited the room before them; patients long since dead or released or moved to another facility. But their reverberating anguish had been so disturbing that Dolyn couldn’t properly explain to the doctors what was ailing her. Halfway through a sentence she’d flinch or gasp at the horrors that played in her head like a broken record.

She couldn’t give them reason to drag her back. Not on her first full day of freedom.

A gruff voice called out. The timbre was slightly different than the echoes that enveloped her, which meant that whoever was talking was doing so in the present. Still, decades’ worth of layered noise was a lot to compete with.

Dolyn squinted up from the bus shelter’s warped, plastic bench. A paunchy man wearing a hard hat and a yellow vest was leaning on the perimeter fence, staring at her. A big stupid grin formed a plank bridge between his ruddy, unshaven jowls. Behind him, utility workers trundled around a massive hole in the middle of the road.

“What?” shouted Dolyn irritably. She tilted her head and tugged her earlobes as though she were tuning an AM radio. “Speak louder!”

“I said, the bus ain’t coming today! And probably won’t be till the end o’ summer.” He laughed. “You got a long wait ahead o’ ya, girlie.”

Now that she had registered the man’s voice, other gems he had spouted during his tenure on Lombard Street rose to the surface.

“Watch where you’re steppin’ there, girlie. You don’t wanna fall on your sweet patoot!”

“Hey, girlie, you got nicer curves than a stretch of country road!”

“That girlie must be a parking ticket, ‘cause she’s got ‘FINE’ written all over her.”

Dolyn refrained from calling the man a sexist pig. A fight was the last thing she needed right now. What she said was, “I packed a sandwich, JAKE!” She flapped her hand as though swatting a pesky fly. “Now get back to work! That pipe’s not gonna fix itself!”

She wouldn’t divulge how she learned his name, how the off-color joke he once told his co-workers was met with laughter and exclamations of “Good one, Jake!”

Let the jerk wonder what else she knew.

And wonder he did. His perplexed scowl suggested that he wanted to tell Dolyn off, but when she raised her book like a shield in front of her face, he stomped back to the job site, every heavy, plodding footstep booming in her hyper-sensitive ears like a thunderclap.

Just get the equipment running, she thought. Please.

Busted water mains were not an uncommon occurrence in Baltimore, where the same pipes have channeled the city’s murky H2O since the early-1800s. Usually leaks of this magnitude happened in late winter/early spring, when rising temperatures caused centuries-old cast-iron to expand and rupture. Considering this was the tail-end of March, things were right on schedule.

“What’s goin’ on, Keith?” asked one of the workers. “Run outta gas?”

Keith, a lean, rat-faced malcontent who was sitting in the cab of a mini excavator, shrugged impatiently, jiggled some levers, then, with an exasperated shake of his head, grumbled, “I dunno. The piece o’ shit just up and died on me.”

He hopped down to the curb, shot a perfunctory glance at the rig’s boom, then the arm cylinder, then the mounted jackhammer. Finally, his perplexed gaze traveled into the cavernous pit. “Now what the hell do you suppose that is?”

Other members of the road crew, all wearing matching fluorescent vests over their jeans and flannel shirts, ambled over to have a look.

Even Dolyn was curious. She stood, craned her neck, then climbed up on the bench for a better angle.

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Farkas Rev 2

Samantha Farkas
YA Historical Fantasy


One year ago, Camille Delacroix lost her father to the guillotine. Now, the violence has subsided, but Camille has been reduced to a servant, her last lingering hopes pinned on revenge against Thibault Lefévre, the man who responsible for her father’s death.

Then, she receives a mysterious invitation to a bals des victimes, a grisly gala where guests go barefoot and wear red ribbons around their necks to honor those lost beneath the blade. Seeing her chance at vengeance, she goes, only to discover that Lefévre isn’t who she thought—and neither was her father.

Determined to unravel the mystery surrounding her father’s death, Camille follows a trail of clues that draws her into a dangerous world of illusionists and enchanters, revolutionaries and royals, where the only thing that’s certain is that nothing is what it seems. What is the strange energy simmering within her? And what—or who—is her father hiding?

A Cinderella story, with ghosts and a guillotine.

First Five Pages:

a gentleman’s daughter

I move as though I walk on glass.

My slippers grasp for purchase on the straw-covered cobblestones as we push forward through the crowd. Just a few minutes ago, Aurélie slipped and sprained her wrist while hurrying through the Champs-Élysées, but if we fell here, we might keep falling down, down, down to a place where we might never get up.

“Do you see him?” hisses Aurélie, gripping her gloved wrist. We are the same age, but my stepsister is a head shorter than me, and the crowd is so tightly packed that it smothers her.

I shake my head. I can just make out the wheel of the tumbril, but the scaffold blocks the rest.

On my other side, my stepmother stares straight ahead, her eyes vacant. A man with a flask jostles her, spilling a dark liquid on her satin gown, but she doesn’t even blink.

I reach into my pocket and pull out the timepiece my father gave me three days earlier. Just before the Garde Nationale led him from our house, he placed it in my palm. “All we have is time, Camille,” he said, folding my fingers around the silver. “Don’t waste it.”

The ticking calms me. One minute more is another minute in which my father could be pardoned. The Committee will realize there has been a mistake. God—somebody—will interfere. Please.

Then I see him, mounting the stairs to the scaffold.

They have stripped him of his coat, waistcoat, even his shoes, so that he wears only a white shirt and culottes, and his hair has been chopped to the nape of his neck. Beside me, my stepmother whimpers and presses her handkerchief to her lips.

A guard says something to him and he laughs. Laughs.

I tighten my grip on the timepiece. It is tick, tick, tick-ing stoically. He could be pardoned still. Lefévre will step forward. If anyone can help, it is my father’s best friend, whose influence extends beyond wealth and class and political party. He will stop it. He has to.

My father doesn’t resist as the executioner ties him to the board. Lowers it.

No. This isn’t real. It is an illusion, a nightmare. I will wake up to find that I have dozed off in front of the fireplace again. My father will be sitting in his favorite chair, his expression amused as he glances up from his notebook to tell me that I have soot on my face.

It isn’t real. It isn’t real. It isn’t—

Later, I find that the timepiece stopped at 11:58.

The precise moment the blade fell.

a housemaid

Somewhere a clock strikes midnight just as I reach the Place de la Revolution. Instinctively, I reach for my father’s timepiece. It stopped working over a year ago; still I take comfort in the familiar notches and grooves. When he died, Madame discarded most of his things—his clothes, his notebooks, his stacks of letters piled high in his study. Don’t, I begged her, but my stepmother wouldn’t hear it. The timepiece is all I have left.

I stop just in front of the entrance to les Tuileries. I don’t know why we have to meet here of all places, but Jean-Paul insisted, and I am not in a position to argue. Every few seconds, I glance back at the public square, where the guillotine winks in the moonlight. It seems to get closer each time I look. It has been weeks since the last public execution—months since Robespierre and Saint-Just’s demise—but this remains a heavy, haunted place. I don’t know if it is real or illusion, but I can taste blood in the air, and if I listen intently, I can hear the whistle of the blade, my stepmother’s stifled sob, my own desperate scream.

You’ll come back? I asked my father when they took him.

He smiled and patted my hand, as though I were seven instead of seventeen. I always do.

I catch a whiff of musk and turn to see Jean-Paul approaching with his walking stick, which he calls a constitution and I call a bludgeon. In the four months I’ve known him, I have never seen him without it. “You’re late.

He isn’t much older than me, and with his pronounced widow’s peak and clear eyes, he is striking in a way that leaves me unsettled, especially when he shows up like this—with his coat and culottes streaked with blood. He shrugs. “Something came up.”

I fight the urge to step back. “Who?”

He takes a moment to answer, which makes me wonder if even he knows. From what I’ve gathered, Jean-Paul Grenier doesn’t ask questions. His source, who he says is a journalist, gives him names and he listens. “Informant. Admitted to spying on the Comtesse du Moreau.”

Before or after you beat him? I nearly ask, but the truth is I don’t care. I’m not here to talk about Jean-Paul’s vengeance. I’m here to talk about mine. “Do you have it?”

“Eager, are we?” he says. His tone rattles me. Not too long ago, he wouldn’t have dared talk to me that way, but back then I was someone else. Camille Delacroix. Not nobility, but a name that meant something. Not even my own family calls me Camille anymore. But things change, and all burns to ashes, and gentlemen’s daughters transform into servants, and time goes on.

Jean-Paul retrieves a small vial from his pocket. It’s filled with a clear liquid—mort par rêves, a cousin to belladonna. A single drop will create a powerful sleeping tonic; more, and you have a poison that kills swiftly, silently, painlessly.

I pass him a few assignats. It’s not much—not half of what this is worth—but it’s all I can spare at the moment. I don’t know how Jean-Paul acquires the poison—whether he pays with the assignats he pilfers from his victims or just steals it outright. I’ve never asked.

He dangles the vial above my open palm. “Will you do it this time?”

Growing up, I learned that a lady doesn’t snatch, but I’m tempted. As far as Jean-Paul knows, I’m merely a housemaid. “I don’t know what you mean.”

I know exactly what he means. His lips twist into a vicious smirk. This is the third time he has brought me mort par rêves, something that—when used properly—need only be used once.

“I can’t do this forever, Salomé,” he says. “Where is the rest of it?”

Lights flash in my vision. Not now. The migraines always seem to come right before I lie, as if God is punishing me for even considering it. But they never stop me. “I spilled it.”

His lips twitch. He shakes his head. “I’m willing to help you, but you have to go through with it. Look.” He takes my shoulders and turns me around so that I’m facing the square, his touch making my skin crawl. I don’t want to look; I want to turn back to les Tuileries, where Aurélie and I used to take afternoon promenades in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the dauphin. Now the dauphin is dead, and in a way, so are my stepsister and I, and it all has to do with that thing in the middle of the square. “Look, Salomé. Look at how your father was murdered.”

Murdered. The word lingers in the air. My father was innocent. My stepmother had lived at court in her youth, but my father was just a lawyer. He didn’t belong on that scaffold.

I know now why Jean-Paul insisted we meet here.

He leans in, his breath hot on my neck. “If you want justice for your father, you need to take it yourself.”


“Perhaps,” he says, releasing me. I turn away from the scaffold. “You would prefer this.”

He pulls out a dagger.

I stare at it. I have thought long and hard about how I am going to do it; the truth is I never intended to use the poison.

Thibault Lefévre will die by blade. Just like my father.

Still, I don’t reach for the dagger. I have my own reasons for wanting the poison, but Jean-Paul is the type of man who feeds on bloodlust, and he won’t give it to me if he knows the truth. I don’t need the dagger; a kitchen knife will serve just as well.

Jean-Paul flips the dagger over so the blade catches the moonlight. Was he always this way? Or did the violence change him the way it changed me? “You ought to take it, Salomé. It will make your revenge so much sweeter.”

“I don’t need it.”

“You do.” He holds it out to me. Even in the shadows, the dagger shines so bright that I can see my reflection distorted in the steel. The migraine pushes harder, threatening to break through. “Can you guess what it’s made from?”

He cocks his head in the direction of the guillotine.

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Lee Rev 2

Name: Betty Lee
Genre: Young Adult Speculative Fiction


When two ex-best friends visit a grungy motel in Iowa one after another at the tail end of summer, a strange teen takes something from each of them promising they won’t miss it at all.

They won’t remember anything either. That’s how the teen in Room 212 hunts. But he’s not hunting what you expect. And lucky for him, Roxy and Thomas have what the teen feeds on in spades.

After Iowa, everything seems kosher—at first.

Roxy feels better than she has in years as if her body doesn’t need the life-saving meds that were keeping her HIV under control anymore. So she stops taking them.

And Thomas is happy too. He’s not even thinking about the thing that had him in knots for months: the abortion and the baby-not-baby he accidentally fathered the first or second time he had actual sex.

But when Roxy and Thomas spot a pattern of violent interruptions to their mostly idyllic first week of college, the two former best friends realize they must return to the motel in Iowa where they both had mysterious run-ins with a strange teen or the happiness they want will always be tainted by ugly things.



You always remember your first, those big talkers would say after they’d show up for a night at the motel and get caught by my scrawny self with some lady other than their wife.

You don’t say shit like that to a twelve-year-old kid who’s just microwaving the snack he eats most nights while watching bad TV in his room while he parents works.

These big talkers, they’d say it all sad. Like they were trying to tell me something. Or beg for something.

Week after week, year after year, they’d say this stuff like they believed it.

But that’s crap, eh, Cabron?

Me, I remember waking up with air in my mouth the taste of abuela in her coffin, all powdered and cobweb stale. Hunger like a rage inside me. I don’t brush my teeth, or clean the crust from my brown eyes. My boxers are sitting mostly on my hips before I push my way out of Room 212, through this cut of dusty light. It’s the kind you notice because it’s full of things we don’t normally see with our eyes until things shift just so.

That dusty light follows me. I move through it.

Outside, this old woman sits by the pool, smoking even though that sign I had to put up there two summers back tells her not to do it. Most days, I would brush past, head off motel property, to meet one of my boys in town.

But that hunger, Cabron, that hunger whispered to me. In my mother’s voice.

Duérmete mi niño

duérmete mi amor.

Duérmete pedazo de mi corazón.

And that’s why I did it. Why I crossed the line and why that woman, smoking and crying, why she turned that chlorine pool I used to have to clean all salt.

That’s all I remember. Not the taste. Not the comfort. Only my mother’s voice in song and salt water.

But yeah, of course, Cabron, you knew it would go down like this, didn’t you? You knew it was crap. But you fed it to me anyhow. And like one of those sad, desperate people, I listened to you.

What you told me about husks in Room 212, I’ll tell you, it made a lot more sense the morning after. That woman, she blew away like one of those old school cartoon desert tumbleweeds with a smile on her face—and when the hunger flashed back double strong, I started searching the motel for who’s next.

Roxy Noxy

I’m leaning against my hand-me-down Chevy Malibu station wagon’s back bumper, arms crossed, knees braced together. Not because I’m wearing a skirt, but because I feel safer. The smell of gasoline in my nose is screwed up comfort, but it’s still comfort. And I need it today.

Goodbyes are hard.

My dad clears his throat.

I try hard to remember all the reasons this moment should feel so good.




But first, one more pizza dinner from the place mom likes but dad hates, one more walk through the neighbourhood, one more night in my childhood bedroom where all I don’t have to worry about leaving behind memories of sleepovers, or boyfriends, or any of that high school nonsense. For me, it’s a room with painted walls. That’s it.

All my furniture is in the U-Haul. It weighs the thing down more than I thought.

Dad clears his throat again and I’m drawn out of my mind and back to the problem at hand. Getting my stuff to college all the way across the country. From Maine to Colorado.

“Looks pretty low, don’t you think?” I ask, shifting my weight from the wagon so I can throw a sneakered foot on top of the hitch.

He grabs hold of my arm and pushes me up so I’m balanced on it. He says, “Jump,” and I do.

But I’m not sure why.

I guess this is growing up.

Dad lets go of my arm, backs up onto our decidedly not-green lawn. “Looks okay to me.”

“You sure?”

He’s about to respond, his head tilted a little off to the left like he does when he’s thinking, when my mom, who is inside the house, lets out a scream.

My dad stops.

The world stops.

I choke mid-inhale, waiting, not sure what kind of scream this is. When the noise becomes clear, she’s screaming my name.

Dad is about to offer to go inside on my behalf. I know he’ll offer. But he knows I’ll shrug it off.

I jut my chin at my four-year old sister, who is playing on the lawn with an underinflated football. “Stay here, Ori,” I order.

And dad says, “If it’s bad…”

I know what he means so I don’t waste my breath on a response. I run up the three concrete steps, swing the screen open, and catch sight of my mom in the kitchen. She’s covered in blood.

Well, not covered. But there’s enough to turn my stomach.

Blood and me don’t get along. For good reasons.

But mom needs my help. Not dad’s. Certainly not Ori’s. My help.

Even now—bloody and upset—the kitchen is really where my mom’s at her best.

I step further inside. “What did you do this time?”

Sometimes she’ll say her vision blurs. Or her hand jerks. Her muscles get weak. Sometimes she’s just tired out. Mom’s an ex-junkie and she’s reminded of that every day of her life. And I am too.

“The knife… it slipped,” she says.

I pull her hand close. Her index finger is cut open along the secondary fold line. And it looks deep. Maybe to the bone.

I take her hand in mine, putting pressure on the wound without finding a pair of latex gloves first. Her blood is mine, after all.

“They sell pre-chopped pecans these days, you know that, mom?”

“They’re more expensive,” she says.

I laugh a bit. “That’s the truth.”

Mom relaxes. I do too. This is our life. Better than anyone, mom understands me.

I’m trying to force the Band-Aid to hold the wound closed, when Ori, who doesn’t listen, who doesn’t get any of this, not at all, runs into the kitchen. She has dirt smeared under her eyes like the Friday night Hamlin High footballers do.

Both mom and I yell at the same time: “Stop.”

Ori freezes on the spot, like it’s some kind of weird game.

I haven’t had the heart to tell her the footballers don’t use actual dirt.

But then Ori’s face slips. Tracks run from her eyes until she looks like we don’t bathe her.

I guess it sounds as if we’re mad at her. But we’re not.

Mom’s upset about all the loose blood. I’m only angry—and a bit nauseated—and taking it out on my kid sister like I might hate her for something that’s not her fault.

But isn’t not mine either.

I used to think this anger would, I don’t know, fade. Instead, something inside me simmers, even now. Last summer I convinced myself it was a little devil, or The Devil himself, brewing inside of me. And I can’t tell you how much I liked thinking the anger didn’t really belong to me.

Blaming it on someone—something—else felt damn good.

I’m holding my mom’s hand too tight, listening to Ori cry. Mom’s whole body tightens, as if anger transfers from body to body easy as all that.

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Allen Rev 2

Name: Rebecca J. Allen
Genre: YA Thriller
Title: In A Flash


Seventeen-year-old Avery has lived overseas since she was too young to realize most American kids prefer hot dogs to dumplings. When Mom loses the job that pays for their comfortable expatriate lifestyle, Avery finds herself starting her senior year at “home” in a country she knows mostly from Hollywood movies.

At her new school, a story about her life in Shanghai gets Avery pegged as a princess fallen from her throne. But Seth, a quiet geek, realizes her fluency in Mandarin and Japanese make her perfect for his start-up. Flash Delivery transports haute cuisine from anywhere on the planet with an Internet connection to anywhere using experimental technology developed by Seth
’s father. And while most people wouldn’t be psyched to try out tech that pulls their cells apart in one location and reassembles them elsewhere, Avery sees it as a way to get back a piece of the life she desperately misses.

But a rogue business partner decides Flash Tech is the perfect tool for heists. Holding Seth at gunpoint, he forces Avery to steal a Faberg
é Egg. Avery has no easy choice. She wants to help Seth grow this revolutionary technology into something that makes the world a smaller place. But if they don’t shut it down, it will turn her into an international art thief.

First pages:

Chalk clattered against the blackboard as Mrs. Hernandez wrote. “Your favorite place. I want a paragraph full of sensory details. This is Senior Honors English, people, so let us visualize this place and feel your emotional connection to it.”

Notebooks were flipped to a fresh pages and pen-tips scratched across paper. But I closed my eyes and let the image of a world map take shape in my mind. The traditional one, with Asia in the East, Europe and Africa smack in the middle and the Americas in the west. Australia and New Zealand, stretched out of proportion by their proximity to the Pole, carved a huge swath out of the Pacific Ocean.

Layered over the puzzle-piece shapes of several countries were memories. The monkey with cunning eyes that had stolen a chocolate bar right out of my hand in Malaysia. A dazzling golden temple in Thailand. For Australia – the picture-perfect view of the Sydney Opera House from the cliff that overlooked it.

There were so many unique and memorable places on this planet. Who could pick just one?

But then a light gleamed on one spot on the map in my mind. A gorgeous place, but not just that. A place where I’d been with my closest friends.

I was still scrawling my final thoughts when Mrs. Hernandez asked for volunteers. Then, as each classmate named the place with special meaning to them, I tagged it with a mental stickpin, dreaming of seeing it someday.

 “The town of Orleans on Cape Cod,” said a petite girl in the front row. She gushed about the sun and the sand. Proclaimed everlasting devotion to the “The Knack,” a shack not far from the beach that served lobster rolls. “Made with just a touch of mayonnaise, no butter.” She talked about the mayo/butter distinction in lobster roll recipes with the conviction someone might use to announce her religious affiliation or choice of political party.

The guy in the seat behind her read his paragraph next. “My favorite place is Chatham.” This elicited a laugh from everyone in the room.

My face twisted in confusion and I caught the eye of the guy in the next row over. The one with a gorgeous smile and dark, curly hair just long enough that he had to toss it out of his eyes occasionally. Not that I’d noticed.

“Chatham is the town next to Orleans on the Cape,” he said.

“Oh.” I thanked him for cluing me in with a quick smile. “Cape Cod sounds like a great spot.”

The Orleans chick rolled her eyes. “Obviously.”


I ran a hand across my own paper. Just thinking about my place and the friends I’d left behind made my heart squeeze tight.

But as more classmates read their papers, the mental stick-pins on my world map piled up, one on top of the other. Towns on the Cape were picks for half the class, and each student was ready to defend the superiority of his or her choice. The sand on their beach was softer. Bay waves were better than ocean waves, or vice versa. A couple rebels preferred the Rhode Island Coast or Cape May, a three-hour drive down I-95 in New Jersey.

I held a pleasant smile on my face, but an uneasy feeling grew in the pit of my stomach. Was my place “interesting and exotic” like I’d thought? Or too different?

Mrs. Hernandez nodded at the quiet guy in the seat behind mine.

“My favorite place is my computer desk because from there, I can go anywhere in the world.”

I grinned. At least he was original. And really, it was the perfect pick for him. He was in my Calculus class, too. Thin, blond and brilliant, apparently, though he only ever spoke when no one else could answer the teacher’s question. His porcelain skin made it clear his dream spot was not a beach.

The guy grinned back. But as he continued talking, the guy next to him turned to look at the clock above the classroom door. The girl behind him yawned. And the hot guy who’d clued me in on the Cape scanned something on his phone.

What? Did your favorite place have to include sand and surf or else your Stamford High Student I.D. was revoked?

“Thank you, Seth,” Mrs. Hernandez said when he’d finished. She turned her attention to me. “Avery?”

I drew in a breath. It was too late to change my essay now. “My favorite place in the world is the Great Wall at BaDaLing.”

The hot guy’s eyebrows shot up. “BaDaWhat?”

That drew snickers from all around the room, and my gut took a nose dive.

“Well…the Great Wall of China isn’t really one place.”

Blank stare.

“Because it’s ten thousand miles long, stretching across the north of the country.”


“So, I was thinking of a particular spot on the wall near Beijing where I went on a class trip last spring.”

The hot guy sat there with an odd expression on his face. My heart pounded, I silently pleaded with him to cut me some slack. Hadn’t he ever been the new guy?

But a snort sounded from the back of the room, and his face hardened. “You took a class trip to the Great Wall of China? Who does that? What planet are you from?”

“Enough, Dakis. Everyone’s favorite place is valid,” Mrs. Hernandez said, adding bold font to the word losernow scrawled across my back.

Dark hair hid one eye, but his other charcoal eye was locked on me and malicious. He knew he was destroying me, obliterating any chance I might have for a social life at this school.

I sucked in a breath, reaching for the words Sensei Wu’s deep voice had intoned every class at his dojo. He’s repeated them to me when my world came crashing down. “Never let your opponent see your pain.

I wouldn’t. My smile gleamed like it had that day on the Great Wall, surrounded by friends.

Determined to wipe that self-satisfied smirk off Daki’s face, I brightened my smile to the one from when I’d knocked out my last opponent in the Shanghai Martial Arts Tournament. Not the picture-perfect smile from when I stood on the dais holding the trophy high. The one from when I heard her breath huff out and saw her eyes go wide as she fell back to the mat.

The bell rang and Mrs. Hernandez said something about continuing the essays in tomorrow’s class. But no one was listening. I could feel every gaze in the room on our face-off.

He flinched first. His brow furrowed, three creases appearing just above his nose, as he sat there wondering why I wasn’t falling apart.

He had no idea who he was up against.

I stood, slung my bag over my shoulder, and with a toss of my hair, turned my back on him. A hiss from the girl in the front row followed me out the door.