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: Lana Kondryuk Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy Title: MOLFAR
When your mom is a walking lie detector, you master the art of withholding the truth.
Sitting under a shady oak, I grab the closest sack full of herbs and tie it tightly with a twine. A little too tightly. Applying unnecessary force is cathartic. Mom’s got to stop canceling my plans every time a high holiday rolls around. There are eight of them! My social life is barely surviving. 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.
That’s why tonight I’ll drive back to Chornohora and go to Rick’s party against her wishes. If Mom finds out, the worst she can do is make me work overtime at her pagan supply store. I practically live there already—what’s a few more hours?
Binding the sacks together, I hoist them onto my right shoulder, two in the front and two in the back for a perfect balance. My phone vibrates in my pocket. I fish it out with my free hand and read the text message 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 means Samantha Lawrence—my reason for breaking the rules today— will be there. 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. Paul Carter, that filthy-rich, self-absorbed, gym-dwelling, hair-gelling moron. He’s got muscles to make Schwarzenegger jealous, a wallet full of cards with six digit limits, and zero brain cells. Naturally, girls fall at his feet. When Sam didn’t, he got interested. Just when I finally worked up the courage to ask Sam out, Paul upped his game. Bastard. I can’t believe we used to be friends.
Tucking my phone into my backpack, I head out of the oak grove. White clouds drift across clear skies, and warm summer wind hisses between the rocks. It’s a beautiful day that promises a perfect night for a party.
In the first clearing, the wind snatches my baseball cap and hurls it into the thorny brush. Crap. With a grunt, I drop the sacks on the ground and climb into the prickly bushes to get my stupid hat. Then I freeze. Swaying in the breeze beside my worn blue baseball cap are tiny scarlet flowers with fuzzy purple leaves shaped like the wings of a Phoenix.
No way! It’s the legendary Phoenix Flame. No one’s seen this flower for centuries. It looks exactly like on the drawings in Gram’s massive, old books. All those botany lessons Gram forced on me no longer seem like a waste. If only she were here to witness this.
My hands shake as I position my fingers an inch above the ground level and snap the precious stem. The worth of one little flower can sponsor my entire college education. And there are a few dozen more here.
I’m going to be rich. I won’t ever have to work at The Moon Goddess again. My college tuition won’t be a problem. Richy Rich Paul Carter will have nothing on me.
Giddy laughter erupts from my throat. I’ve never been lucky; haven’t even won a dollar playing the scratch-off lottery. I can’t believe I’m holding it—the mythical, powerful plant rumored to be extinct for centuries. 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.
I place the scarlet flowers in my baseball cap and roll it up. Then I hide it inside my shirt. There’s no way I’m parting with it, not even for a second. If Gram’s lore isn’t bogus, this plant can unlock the body’s ability to heal itself, even if one is an inch from death.
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. Where did this storm come from?
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 the 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. Frantically grabbing at plants and roots, I struggle 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. Gasping, I hover for a second in a state of weightlessness 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 dark mud walls. Plants hang suspended from the ceiling in bunches. I don’t know this place; nothing about it is familiar. My heart starts pounding. Where the hell am I?
I lift my dead-weight head, and a sharp pain shoots down my back. Moaning, I let my head fall back onto the rickety cot.
“Don’t make any sudden moves,” a soft voice says. A girl about my age locks her large eyes with mine. “You aren’t healed yet.”
I swallow my growing panic and croak, “What happened?”
The girl tilts her head, regarding me with curiosity. Her long hair spills over her shoulder like a waterfall. “You fell.” She presses a mug of bitter-smelling concoction to my lips and tilts it. “Drink.”
I jerk my head to avoid the contents and wince in pain. “What’s this?” I ask.
“Medicine.” Her lips spread into a smile that could disarm a SWAT team.
I don’t know this girl, but her presence is comforting. My gut feeling is to trust her, and if living in a family of witches has taught me anything, it’s to always trust my gut. I press my lips to the cup and take a few sips.