Monday, June 26, 2017

Free 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop Opens July 1st w/ mentors Lit Agent Gabrielle Piraino and Author Laura Williams McCaffrey!

Our July workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, July 1st at noon, EST. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Laura Williams McCaffrey as our author mentor and Gabrielle Piraino  as our agent mentor! (See below for Gabrielle'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. We will post when the workshop opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman, @MelissWritesNow), 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.

July Guest Literary Agent Mentor : Gabrielle Piraino

Gabrielle Piraino has previously worked for both major commercial publishing houses and literary agencies alike. Gabbie joined the team at DeFiore and Company in the summer of 2016.

Gabbie is actively seeking projects that you can lose an entire afternoon reading: imaginative sci-fi/fantasy with strong world building, blood-curdling horror, whip-smart thrillers, and up-market chick lit that pairs well with sand and a margarita. She’d love to see any of the above for Young Adult readers (virgin daiquiri, though!), and wholeheartedly enjoys spunky, stubborn characters that never do exactly what you’d expect. For Children’s and Middle Grade, Gabbie is looking for books that introduce curious young readers to new concepts—be it historically leaning or learning your manners—with compelling characters and an engaging voice.

How to Submit:

Please query her at with “QUERY” in the subject line as well as:
  • A brief summary of your book 
  • A brief, relevant bio 
  • For fiction, please include the first 50 pages in the body of your email 
  • For illustrators, please include your website or online portfolio 
  • No attachments, please

July Guest Author Mentor: Laura Williams McCaffrey

Laura's currently on faculty at Solstice, Pine Manor College’s MFA in Writing Program and at Pacem School and Homeschool Center.

Laura's published short stories in Cicada, YA Review Network, Solstice Literary Magazine, and Soundings Review. In 2016, Clarion Books released her YA dystopian fantasy MARKED, which Kirkus Books called "an original, textured page-turner." Her other fantasy novels are WATER SHAPER and ALIA WAKING (both published by Clarion Books). For more information, it's best to visit her website.

About MARKED: 

Sixteen-year-old Lyla lives in a bleak, controlling society where only the brightest and most favored students succeed. When she is caught buying cheats in an underground shadow market, she is tattooed—marked—as a criminal. Then she is offered redemption and she jumps at the chance . . . but it comes at a cost. Doing what is right means betraying the boy she has come to love, and, perhaps, losing even more than she thought possible. Graphic novel–style vignettes revealing the history of this world provide Lyla with guidance and clues to a possible way out of the double bind she finds herself in.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

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

Congratulations to all of the participants who worked so hard during our June 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop! And a big thanks to Connor Eck, our fabulous agent mentor. 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! GIRL ON THE VERGE, by our lovely mentor, Pintip Dunn, cones out on June 27! I can't wait to get my hands on it!

Our July workshop opens on Saturday, July 1. 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. We will post when the workshop opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman, @MelissWritesNow), 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.

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

Happy Writing (and revising!)


About the Author

Erin Cashman is AYAP's  1st 5 Pages Workshop coordinator, and a permanent mentor. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three kids, and an energetic rescue dog.

Her YA fantasy debut, THE EXCEPTIONALS, was named a Bank Street College of Education best book of the year. For up to date information about the workshop, you can follow Erin on twitter here

Sunday, June 18, 2017

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Woods Rev 2

Kristina Woods
The Isle of Apples
Young Adult Fantasy

Rhiannon Vittoria’s enchanting beauty has always cost terrible price - her freedom. Trapped by her mother’s magic, she is forced into accepting a marriage proposal from a king more than twice her age. Only through the Goddess Rhiannon escapes and stumbles into the notorious Robin Hood, who vows to keep her safe. Soon she is falling in love with not only forest life, but the outlaw sworn to protect her.

A quest for a sacred relic cost Robin Hood his father, his wife, his home, and his faith. Now a single father and outlaw, he struggles to move on in life until a surprising love comes to him in the form of a princess fleeing the very crown he steals from.

Their budding romance quickly dissolves into a race for survival - unexpectedly landing them in a place believed to have disappeared forever - Avalon. It is here that Rhiannon and Robin discover Morgan le Fay has a plan to use Robin to get what she believes will restore magic to her. In the end Robin is left with a choice: a life in Avalon in exchange for Rhiannon’s freedom, but either choice will tear Rhiannon away from him forever.


A bitter chill clung in the air as winter began shifting into spring. Dark, heavy clouds continued their descent down from the high snow-capped mountains with no sign of relenting. The frost clung heavily to the late blossoming trees - refusing to melt - even as the sun rose overhead.

In this place, a castle sat high up on a hilltop, surrounded by a vast forest.

Looking out the large open balcony, Princess Rhiannon Vittoria attempted to commit as much of her land to memory she could as she would soon prepare to leave it all behind. After years of being paraded in front of suitor after suitor, she was now betrothed. Though she was a woman by the Goddess, just now seventeen, her soon-to-be husband was more than twice her age. Hopelessness and dread filled her with such fierceness, Rhiannon could scarcely breathe.

Admittedly, a small part of that could also be the corset the dressmaker forced her into.

“You’re pinning it too high,” Lady Caroline said, sweeping across the room to where the circle of seamstresses and King Hector’s personal couturier were fitting a dress to Rhiannon.  Her mother was a petite woman with dark hair and eyes, features of her northern Scottish heritage. She shook her head and pointed at the bodice of Rhiannon’s pearl white gown. “No, that won’t do. Lower still.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” came the obedient reply from the maids before bowing in expediency.

Rhiannon caught the eyes of one of the young seamstresses, and while her mother may not have seen it, the fear in them was poorly hidden. It seemed the rumors of her mother made it beyond the borders of their realm. In addition to Lady Caroline’s reputation for her cruelty, her mother was one of the few left in the land gifted with magic.

A land in which practicing such magic was now punishable by death.

“And her hair,” Caroline began, thinking out loud. Clicking her tongue, her eyes narrowed, and she hummed. Rhiannon could only imagine what her mother would suggest. “I think we should pin it back. Leaving it down over her shoulders covers her too much and gives her far too innocent a look.”

Rhiannon sighed.

Barden, the dressmaker, stepped up to Rhiannon. Taking her long, dark hair in his hands, he pulled it away from her shoulders into a knot at the base of her neck. His small, round eyes took her in, slipping from her hair further down making Rhiannon’s jaw clench. “Mm, yes, I do see what you mean. Pin it up and away. It will bring out those high cheek bones, olive skin, and her other remarkable assets…”

Rhiannon’s eyes locked onto Barden’s and for a moment, she was tempted… While she did not possess her mother’s talents for conjuring and casting, she did have what her nursemaid called her enchanting beauty. Her power gave her the ability to mesmerize not only the eyes, but the minds of men as well. She was able to use the features to draw them in and make their desires her own. Her parents used Rhiannon’s gift to persuade many lords and dukes alike to donate generously to her father’s kingdom. If only her magic could undo the protection spells her mother placed on her father, the king, and other imbeciles...

“Rhiannon,” her mother’s voice cut through her thoughts and Rhiannon pulled her gaze from the insipid man, raising her chin. Her mother’s eyes held warning and reproach, and remained locked on her while Barden shook his head as if coming out of a daze.

Barden snapped his fingers, startling Rhiannon. Without delay the seamstresses stepped forward, one continuing her adjustments while another began placing rings, bracelets, and a heavy jeweled necklace which at once felt heavy with burden and injustice.

“Must I wear so much?” Rhiannon asked, eyeing the adornments she never cared for.

She inhaled sharply as the strings of her corset tightened around her once again, yet there was no one behind her making such adjustments. Her eyes flew to her mother who gazed back at her with straight-faced satisfaction.

Be still and breathe, Rhiannon told her herself while letting out a steady breath between her lips.

Rhiannon shifted her focus back to the forest. Oh, how she wished she could leave this place. The crown, the title, the riches, all of it meant nothing to her. Not for the first time did she look out the window and wonder how different her life would be if she were born a commoner. Would her life be so different? How did they marry if not for love?

Not for riches or thrones, or in Rhiannon's case, a preservation offering. A bargain made in the dead of night between kings, one king on the verge of losing his country and the other wrought with grief and anger over losing his most beloved queen.

“No, no. Stop. You’re doing it wrong,” Lady Caroline scolded, gesturing with a wave of her hand for the seamstress to step aside. Walking up to Rhiannon, Caroline took her dress and pushed the bodice down and back, making her bust ever more prominent.

Rhiannon’s cheeks flooded with heat. “Mother!”

“Quiet, Rhiannon.” Her mother continued adjusting this way and that until finally satisfied. “There, you ignorant girl,” Caroline chastised the young seamstress. “The way you were covering her up made her look like a child. And she’s not. She’s a woman about to be married.”

Caroline’s dark painted red lips smiled widely around at everyone. Rhiannon could feel the looks of pity and sympathy from the ladies gathered around her, all no doubt thinking the same as she. Rhiannon was far too young to be marrying their king.

“Oh for the-” her mother’s voice snapped Rhiannon’s attention back to the here and now, and Rhiannon watched as Caroline paused, catching herself from uttering the name of the Goddess. “Rhiannon, hold up your chin and stop looking so sullen,” Caroline chided while taking Rhiannon by the shoulders and gripping her tightly. “Have you forgotten you’re going to be a mother soon? Will you teach the princess these behaviors?”

Rhiannon held her mother’s eyes for the briefest of moments before settling back on the view of her kingdom. Had she forgotten? If only she could forget. Raising her chin, Rhiannon’s hollow voice answered, “Of course not, Mother.”

Her stomach twisted violently just thinking about her coming union. What more could she say? She already begged, pleaded with her father until she could no longer speak. Her entreat only gained a bruise across her cheek from her mother. One she wore for days on end until this very morning with King Hector’s arrival, and only then did her mother cover the dark mark with a glamour spell.

“That’s my girl.” Caroline smiled at her and raised her hand to rub her thumb across Rhiannon’s still tender cheek, making Rhiannon’s eyes close. Her eyes watered and she held back a hiss of pain. To an outsider, one might believe this to be a gentle moment between mother and daughter, but for Rhiannon, it was a reminder. “Soon, my dear you will be queen, and we will never have to worry again.”

You will not cry, Rhiannon commanded herself silently.

For that, she would wait until later that night when she was alone. On the night before they left her home to journey to another. Only then would she let the tears she’d been holding back fall.

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Kondryuk Rev 2

Name: Lana Kondryuk
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy


Ian Hill is a dud. Despite being the first male in a long line of witches, his sixteenth birthday has come and gone without even a hint of power. Any power. He would’ve settled for levitating pencils.

Condemned to a dull suburban existence and working at his mom’s pagan supply store, Ian has given up hope—that is, until he meets Violet, a talented witch who awakens his power as well as his raging hormones. Welcome to the world of telepathic trees, killer shadows, and ghost pet cats.

As soon as Ian receives his unique —and practically extinct—tree-whispering Gift, the Dark Soul Stealers are after it. To make matters worse, Ian ruins his budding relationship with Violet by “borrowing” her treasured book of spells for a shortcut to master more magic. Violet disappears from his life, and without her training, Ian fails to prevent the Dark Soul Stealers from destroying his hometown and making his mom gravely ill. As he races to save his mom and to find Violet, his adversaries present him with an impossible deal: his mother’s and Violet’s lives in exchange for his soul.

Revision 2:

When your mom is a walking lie detector, you master the art of withholding the truth.

Sitting in a shade of a mighty oak, I grab the next sack full of herbs and tie it so tightly the twine stings my hands.

Since Mom keeps canceling my plans every time a high holiday rolls around, dooming my social life in the process, I feel zero guilt about sneaking out tonight. Midsummer—Litha, as witches call it—may be in a few days, but Rick’s end of school party is tonight. Mom knew I’d be missing it when she sent me on a three-day plant harvesting trip to Gram’s cabin in The-Middle-Of-Nowhere, Poconos.

I planned well; even Mom’s internal lie detector won’t pick up on this. And if she does find out, the worst she can do is make me work overtime at her store. I practically live there already—what’s a few more hours?

I bind the sacks together and hoist them onto my shoulder. My phone vibrates in my pocket. I fish it out and read the text from Denis Gorash, the self-proclaimed Mayor of Chornohora’s Senior Class: Ian, everyone but you has confirmed. You gonna make it to Rick’s tonight?

Everyone includes Samantha Lawrence—my reason for breaking the rules today. Day one of junior year’s French class, when Sam waltzed over and sat in the chair next to mine, I was a goner. She threw her long, honey-blond hair over her shoulder and said, “Bonjour.” I’m pretty sure time stopped for a while. 

Before I type my response, my phone buzzes with the second text. This one isn’t from Denis. So you aren’t coming. Can’t blame you. Gotta suck knowing Sam’s my date tonight.

My jaw tightens. “You bastard,” I mutter.

Paul Carter, that filthy-rich, self-absorbed, gym-dwelling, hair-gelling moron. He’s got muscles to make Schwarzenegger jealous and a wallet full of cards with six digit limits. Girls are lining up for him, but he’s chasing Sam. And only because I like her. Just when I finally work up the courage to ask Sam out, Paul ups his game. Coincidence much? I can’t believe we used to be friends. 

You bet, I reply to Denis. Determined to spoil Paul’s evening, I tuck my phone into my backpack and head out of the oak grove. Clear skies and warm summer wind hissing between the rocks promise a perfect night for a party.

In the first clearing, the wind snatches my baseball cap and hurls into the thorny brush. Crap. With a grunt, I drop my sacks on the ground and climb into the prickly bushes to get my stupid hat. Then I freeze. Scarlet flowers with fuzzy purple leaves shaped like the wings of a Phoenix sway beside my worn blue baseball cap.

I hold my breath and look closer. Then I close my eyes and open them up again—the legendary Phoenix Flame is still there. It looks exactly like the drawings in Gram’s old books. All those botany lessons Gram forced on me no longer seem like a waste. If only she were here to witness this. I can’t believe I’ve found the mythical plant that can unlock the body’s ability to heal itself even if one is an inch from death! This is every witch’s dream, and I’m the one who gets to live it. Me. The guy who was skipped by his family witch gene.

My pulse pounds in my head as I position my fingers an inch above the ground to snap the stem, but then I pause.

The curse.

The legend warns that only those chosen by the flower may harvest it; all others will die violent deaths. Uncertainty creeps into my mind. Do I dare? The worth of one flower can sponsor my college education. I’d be richer than Paul and never have to work at The Moon Goddess again. I’d finally get to make my own decisions. I can almost savor the sweet taste of independence, but a violent death would put a damper on my plans.

“Damnit,” I mumble and leer at the flower. I just can’t get a break. I’ve never been lucky; haven’t even won a dollar playing the scratch-off lottery. But this, hands down, is the worst snub of my life. To be so close yet so far.

The whole curse thing is probably bogus since no one’s seen this plant in centuries. How do we know there ever was one? Not all stories are true. If they were, all witches would sport warts, fly on their brooms, and cook disobedient children for dinner.

But let’s say the legend is true. It can’t be a coincidence that my hat blew right to the Phoenix Flame; the flower has to have chosen me. This is my chance to make something happen; to decide for myself.

I push my shoulders back.  I’ll only take one, just one from a dozen. Enough for my college tuition and a new ride. And I can always come back for more, now that I know where to find them.

Before my resolve fades, I snap the stem of one plant, roll it up in my baseball cap, and hide it inside my shirt. There’s no way I’m parting with it, not even for a second.

Hoisting the sacks over my shoulder, I hurry out of the woods, grinning. My steps and spirits are light until I reach the meadow.

A powerful gust of wind makes me take a few steps back and then lean forward to keep my balance. Dark clouds swarm the skies, blocking out the sun. Angry lightning bolts slice through them and echo with ear-splitting thunder. This can’t be good. I was so enthralled by the Phoenix Flame that I didn’t even notice the storm coming.

I scan the meadow for shelter and spot a protected area between the rocks. But then I remember the party. If I get stuck on this mountain for hours, I’ll miss it. Images of Paul Carter kissing Sam invade my mind, and all of a sudden getting to the party becomes more important than dodging lightning bolts.

Ignoring all self-preservation instincts, I press my treasure-filled baseball hat tighter to my chest and dash for the path that snakes down the mountain.

The heavens open, releasing a torrential downpour. I slip and slide in mud. When I pass a boulder that looks like a turtle, I know the ledge is dangerously close. Swearing loudly, I latch onto a young oak and come to a halt. But the ground under my feet breaks off, like a piece of soft chocolate cake, and slides down the mountain, taking me with it.

My heart drops into my stomach. Letting go of the sacks, I frantically grab at plants and roots to slow my fall. Sharp rocks cut into my skin, and dull waves of pain rush through my ribs and knees. The next bump knocks the wind out of me and sends me into the air. I hover for a second in a state of weightlessness, gasping, and then land on a large stone. My head smashes against something hard and then everything goes black.
I awake to pain tearing through my body. When I open my eyes, my surroundings swim in a gray haze. Slowly, the shapes come into focus. Dancing flames on wax-dripping candles cast shadows on mud walls. Plants hang suspended from the ceiling in bunches. My heart starts pounding. Where the hell am I?

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Franz Rev 2

Name: Jason Franz
Genre: Middle Grade; Adventure/Mystery
Title: Sixth Grade Secret Service


For most kids, when a relative says you remind them of great-grandpa, it’s a compliment.

Not for eleven-year-old Abraham Truman—the kid whose Grandpas are the biggest screw ups to ever wash out of the secret service. Abraham learned to live with being the family-flop, the class-klutz. It didn’t bother him. Not really.

Until his best friend (and crush), Tibby Roosevelt, became sixth grade class president. After agreeing to protect her from class bully, Chaz Nixon, Tibby is accused of taking a bribe and goes missing. Chaz is set to take over if she doesn’t return by the end of the week. But even if Abraham finds her, he fears the haters will force Tibby to change schools.

Now, Abraham must not only find Tibby, but prove her innocence as well. But locating one little girl in Washington D.C. is harder than finding an honest politician. Abe quickly realizes he needs help. Soon, his redemption, and the fate of the sixth grade, rests on his team of unlikely heroes: his German shepherd, the janitor's eccentric son, and the sixth grade newspaper writer. If they fail, their class faces rule under power-hungry Chaz, and all the wedgies that come with him.


The air in our crowded classroom was still. My attention was on the P.A. speaker. No way was I going to miss the announcement. Tibby sat in the desk across from mine. Her eyes were glued to the row of past-class presidents’ pictures above the whiteboard, specifically to the empty space at the end.

Her space.

Her dark, curly hair was held back with the beaded headband she’d gotten while visiting her grandmother in South Africa. She thought those tan, red, and purple beads went with everything and made her look good no matter what she wore.

I just thought she looked good no matter what.

It’d been a full minute since she’d blinked and I was starting to worry when a loud burp from the jock’s corner of the room made her jump. “Abraham, as my first act as class president, I’m going to make you head of my security.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Tibby, is your headband on too tight? You know what happens to presidents around us Trumans.”

“Why’d your grandpa leave Lincoln’s balcony in the first place?” She said.

“Oh I don’t know. I think he went to concessions for a box of DOTS, or something.”

See, although I’m only in the sixth grade, my problem started over a hundred fifty years ago. First day on the job, my great, great…gre—whatever, grandfather, Secret Service Agent Jessup Truman, was assigned to protect President Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre.

You would’ve had to flunk third grade history to not know how that turned out.

“Maybe it’ll be different for you.”

“Yeah. I’m sure that’s what Grandpa Clyde thought when he agreed to protect Kennedy in Dealy Plaza—right before he tripped over his shoe lace and history repeated itself.”



“Your shoe’s untied,” Tibby said, pointing at my sneakers.

“See. It’s a sign!” I snatched the laces angrily and stuffed them into my shoe. “Ya know, if Grandpa Clyde had just worn Velcro we could have avoided a national tragedy.

“Ya done?”

“I could go on—there was the time Grandpa Gus lost President Regan’s dog, Rex. Ticked The Great Communicator off so bad he almost started world war three with Russia! Let’s see—the White House burned down in 1814—”

“Abraham. Everyone knows British troops snuck in and did that!”

“Yes—but who do you think forgot to lock the White House gate? It don’t matter anyway. Sixth grade Class President doesn’t get their own secret service. I mean what’s the worst that could happen? Spitballs?”

Tibby looked at me like I looked at my alarm clock (annoyed and a little disgusted). “Excuse me? You’re not the one whose bike brakes mysteriously stopped working right after I announced my campaign against him.”

I located the kid to blame. It wasn’t difficult. Chaz Nixon had this bright red hair on top of this big ol’ forehead. I shook my (normal-sized) head as he kissed one of his biceps. He was North Washington’s best athlete, but that didn’t give him the right to trip kids who already had enough trouble getting across the cafeteria without spilling their food (namely me). The other jocks didn’t even like him—rumor had it he’d called dibs on his own special toilet in the locker room and made his teammates to scrub it down for him.

With a tooth brush.

Before (and after), he did his business.

“Chaz thinks he can win this election by threatening me. Well, I’ll show him it takes more than a cut brake line to stop the future president of this country.”

Geez. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do after I did my chores. But there Tibby was—already President of the United Sates. “You know you take middle school waaaay too seriously, right?”

“You think I’m over reacting?”

I did. “Of course not! It’s just—you really think I can protect you—from THAT?” I threw my hand in Chaz’s direction as he crushed an empty soda can with nothing but his desk and his giant forehead, leaving behind a bright red mark.

Yeah, like he needed to draw more attention to that billboard.

“I know what you’re trying to do, Tibby. You’re trying to make me feel better. But I can’t do it. I can’t even get through football tryouts without losing the ball, remember? I even had to buy the school a new one out of my allowance. I took the presidential fitness test and Coach O’ Hern said I owed points. Then there was the time I tried to help with the school play…”

“Translation please.” Tibby said, refusing to see my point.

“Everything I touch either costs me something or goes crashing through the stage wall into the science room. I won’t add your name to that list!”

Tibby got that look she gets when she thought I was being too hard on myself. She was thinking of just the right piece of what her mother called “Tswana wisdom” to change my mind. “You think you’re so different. But we all share the same ancestry.”

“Translation, please.”

“It means you’re no less than any other sixth grader, Abraham.”

“Hah!” Chaz bolstered.

Great. He’d overheard. A pit grew in my gut as Chaz puffed out his chest and strode over, his big stupid arms swinging like big stupid sausages. “That’s nice, Tibby, but as Chaz joins us, I’m reminded of some Truman family wisdom: watch out for cow pies.”

“Hey losers.”

“Don’t call your future president a loser,” I said.

“I didn’t, Truman. You’re just such a loser, you count for two.”

“Now, whatcha talking about—what a great class prez I’m gonna be—or the look on Tibby’s face when she realized she wouldn’t miss that dumpster without brakes?”

“For your information, Abraham was just agreeing to be my secret service after I win this election.”

Chaz took the wind out of me with a hard slap to my back. “That true, Abe?”

“I haven’t agreed to anything yet, Chaz,” I said, immediately regretting it. I knew what was coming. Aside from sports, Chaz was gifted in only one thing—finding new ways to torture me with my family’s failures.

“Aw c’mon Abe, don’t drop the family torch, who’s gonna peel toilet paper off the first lady’s shoe when she gets outta the crapper if not a Truman?”

Yup—Chaz was the reason everyone in school knew that after Kennedy, agent Trumans always got stuck with things like First-Baby diaper duty or following behind First-Fido with a little plastic baggy.

“Shut up you big butthole,” Tibby hissed. “You don’t know what you’re talking about—and neither do you, Abraham. Your family made mistakes but your dad and brother are like the Batman and Robin of the Secret Service now. That big action movie from last summer, FRANCE HAS FALLEN, could’ve been their biography!”

Chaz got that prickly grin then put his arm around me. “You hear that, Abe. Tibby’s right—guess it’s not your family—you’re just an apple that fell too far from the tree—then got chewed up and spit out by a lawnmower!” Before the words even left his fat mouth he was laughing.

And then it hit me. All of my humiliations—the football tryouts, the fitness test, the school play—had something in common. They all ended with Chaz standing over me.


Teeth clenched. Hands balled into fists. “Tibby…” I said, my eyes burning into Chaz’s.

“Yes, Abraham?”

“I’ll do it.”

1st 5 Pages June Workshop- Mainero Rev 2

Name: Maria Mainero
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Supernatural

Kelsey’s plans for a perfect senior year with her newly-landed boyfriend, Dave, go up in flames the night he crashes his car after drinking. With Dave banished to an aunt’s farm for the summer, Kelsey wishes she’d warned him of her eerie premonition.
Despite Dave’s strict terms of probation, Kelsey is determined to resume their relationship when they return to school. But she wishes Dave hadn’t appointed himself personal protector to Calvin, left brain-injured and an amputee by the accident. She can’t forget her dreams that predicted Calvin’s fate, or the feeling of danger she gets when she sees his secret artwork—a comic book series depicting himself as a bodyswapping Angel of Death, and Dave as his arch-nemesis.
Accusing Calvin of a supernatural revenge plot won’t win Dave back, so Kelsey joins his efforts to make amends, hoping to find proof of her fears. But when Calvin successfully takes over her body, his story become horrifyingly real.
Now, Kelsey’s stuck in Calvin’s body, struggling to convince Dave that the girl he’s falling for is a deadly threat. To stop Calvin’s ultimate revenge, Kelsey must learn her own power and the truth about what happened the night of the accident.

The first weekend of the summer before senior year, and my boyfriend of two weeks might break up with me. No biggie. In eight solid years of experience with Dave, as a friend, he’s never let me down.
As a boyfriend?
Maybe I let him down.
 “He’ll be here,” Darcie promised as I scanned the parking lot for Dave’s truck. In front of us, the long concrete breakwall stretched out into Caseville Harbor, where Lake Huron rippled with tiny waves, blue and glassy, under the rosy setting sun.
At the end of the walk, a pile of large boulders in the water, and voices. “It’s just Kelsey and Darcie.” I ducked through the railing and stepped over lapping water to the first rock. Just Kelsey. Not someone they wanted to see. Like Dave.
On the large center rock Queen Bree and her clone Cate perched like pink and blonde flamingos in a flock of jocks and other seagulls. “Hi all!” I forced confidence into my voice, and squeezed in on a rock with Darcie. One of the guys tilted a beer can in our direction. “Thanks,” I said, as Darcie held up her hand to decline. This was a mistake. What if Dave did let me down? The icy aluminum in my palm made me shiver.
 “Too early for shorts in Michigan,” Darcie commented.
“They’re not shorts, they’re capris,” I pointed out, scrunching up my self-pedicured toenails in Parlez-Bleu Francais.
“You’re explaining fashion to someone who wears black jeans and flannel to the beach,” Bree remarked, to laughs from her loyal subjects.
 “Oh, we were supposed to wear pink?” Darcie asked, looking Bree and Cate up and down. “The day I do, kill me. Slit my throat, drench me in my own blood and bury me in a garbage bag. A black one.”
The girls exchanged an eye-roll, but Darcie didn’t care. I sipped my beer slowly, the way Dave taught me at my first high school party. “Just drink a sip or two,” he told me. “Hold it for a while, then put it down somewhere. You can do that all night long, and never get wasted.”
No matter how many beers I abandoned, he always claimed I was buzzed when I tried to flirt with him. Always said he’d never take advantage of me. I always pretended to be grateful for that. Welcome to the friend zone. Our friendship was too important to screw up with a relationship. Yeah, he really said that. But for one wonderful week, I thought I proved him wrong. And then I proved him right.
 “Just talk to him,” Darcie kept telling me on the drive up to Caseville. That’s what I dreaded.  I knew what he’d say. This was a mistake, let’s just stay friends. I knew what would happen, the awkward conversations, the gradual distancing.
I knew what I’d feel.  I was feeling it already, waking up from unsettling dreams where Dave refused to listen to me or take my side. But Darcie was right about one thing. I couldn’t avoid him any longer.
 “Look who’s coming,” Jarrod said from the lookout rock, where he sat watching for the police or harbormaster. I knew from his voice it couldn’t have been Dave, but my heart still thumped in anticipation as I stood up.
The thumping rang in my ears and my breath stopped. Not Dave. Calvin. Calvin Baker. Slouching as he came towards us, in his denim jacket, with his scruffy dark hair obscuring his eyes. Just the way he’d looked in my dreams.
He wasn’t supposed to be here. He belonged with the stoners and the losers. Not with us. Not in my dreams.
Darnell hopped past me across the rocks, meeting Calvin before he was in earshot. The two of them walked towards the parking lot, talking. I took a breath, fighting off the panicky, adrenaline-charged feeling I’d been waking up to every day.
“What’s wrong?” Darcie’s voice came through all echo-y. I turned. Everyone was watching me stand and stare like a slack-jawed loser. I sat down abruptly. 
“Nothing,” I said. I wanted to tell Darcie about it, but not in front of everyone. It was awkward enough that I dreamed about the loser, I didn’t need Bree making snide comments about it when Dave showed up. Thankfully, Darnell came back alone, and settled in with the other football players. A lighter flickered and a smoky sweet smell drifted towards us. Darcie coughed.
“Walk with me?” I suggested.
We scrambled back to the breakwall away from the others, and leaned on the blue metal railing. The last sliver of sun sank into the water as I watched. 
“I had a dream about him,” I said.
“Dave?” she asked. “He’ll be here soon, I promise. Don’t worry.”
Don’t worry. How could she be so sure? “He was in it too. But I mean Calvin.”
“Calvin? What’s up? You seem freaked out.”
“I dreamed he died in a car accident.”
 “Ooh, that is freaky.”
“But then he showed up at school, and everyone was all excited he was still alive. Hugging him and everything.”
 “Let me guess.” She raised pinched fingers to her lips and inhaled.
I snort-laughed.
“It’s not that funny,” Darcie said, snickering.
“Oh my God.” I giggled and wiped my eyes. “I’ve been obsessing, thinking it’s some kind of premonition or warning, and now you tell me I psychically predicted a toke.”
“Kelsey Jones—Weed Psychic,” she proclaimed. “It’s a gift.”
“A stupid gift,” I said. “I was obsessing, because in the dream, when he came back, it wasn’t him. I knew it, but no one would believe me.” Dave wouldn’t believe me. That was the most frustrating part, and why I couldn’t seem to shake it off.  Why do you have to make everything a confrontation, Kelsey? Dave’s dream-voice accused me.
“Who was it?”
“That was weird too. . . . “
“Sa-weeeet!“ Jarrod called out, standing up. “Check out Dave’s ride.”
Under the lone parking lot light, Dave’s height and short blond curls were unmistakable as he got out of a gleaming red convertible. He set the car alarm with a beep-beep and blink of headlights, and headed out to us.
People swarmed past us and surrounded him, asking if he’d traded in his truck for the Camaro. “Just trying it out,” he said. His dad owned the car dealership, and I could tell everyone wanted to check out the car, or get a ride, but Dave didn’t offer.
He walked past me and Darcie with a friendly “Hey,” and headed out to the rocks. Somehow, Darcie made sure we ended up sitting across from him, where I tried to analyze his brief glances in my direction as he cracked open a beer.
 “I can’t wait to ride in that,” Bree cooed at Dave. “Is that one of the cars for the parade?”  She couldn’t let anyone forget for a second that she’d won the Miss Atwater crown. I didn’t know how I was going to stand being on the dance team with her all summer, listening to her fake laugh and her fake friendliness.  Darcie kicked me gently, like that was going to inspire me to speak up. I gulped another big swig from the beer.
“Look who’s back,” Jarrod muttered.
It was Calvin again. My spine tingled and Darcie and I exchanged glances.  “Hey,” he said, making his way through the railing. “My ride ditched. Need a ride back with one of you.”