Saturday, June 23, 2018

Thank You to the Participants and Mentors of the #1st5pages Writing Workshop!

Thank you to all of the participants who trusted us with their pages, and worked so hard during our June 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop - and congratulations to Christine Oh, our workshop winner! And a big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, Kim Culbertson as our author mentor and Danielle Burby of Nelson Literary as our agent mentor! As always, thank you to our talented and fabulous permanent mentors, who read, comment, and cheer on our participants every month!

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 pages aren't compelling, no agent, editor, or reader will continue reading to find out how great the rest of your story really is! Our July workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, June 7 at noon, EST. 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. She writes YA fantasy. UNCHARTED is coming fall of 2018, and THE EXCEPTIONALS, a Bank Street College of Education best book of the year, is available now. For up to date information about the workshop, you can follow Erin on twitter here.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The June 2018 Workshop

Our manuscripts have been selected, but that doesn't mean the learning opportunities for aspiring authors and editors are over this month! Everyone can follow along by reading the entries and mentors comments and watching the revisions transform the pages. See for yourself what worked, what didn't work, discover why, and how to make improvements. You're also welcome to make comments yourself about what you feel is working and what isn't. And you can ask questions of our mentors about their comments as well.

Want help from a literary agent and our published, award-winning, and best-selling authors to get your own first five pages and pitch ready for submission or jump start your novel? The February workshop will open at noon on February 3rd. We always accept manuscripts on a first come, first served basis so your chances are as good as anyone else's. All we ask is that your pitch is no more than 200 words, your submission (overall) is no more than 1200 words, and that both are formatted correctly, free of typos and grammar errors, and that you've worked through your story idea to make sure it can be written as presented into a full-length novel.

Need help getting your pitch and manuscript ready? Click here for writing help and submission tips

Sunday, June 17, 2018

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Oh Rev 2

Name: Christine Oh
Genre: Young Adult (Fantasy - Time Travel)
Title: The Handmaiden


Rebecca Lee is a Korean-American teenager who gets sent back 200 years in time to Korea due to a family curse.  Rebecca discovers that her one of her female ancestors, Hera, was an instrumental player in helping the queen escape from evil conspirators, but she makes an error and the queen is caught and killed.  A mysterious shaman intervenes and casts a spell that whenever a daughter is born into Hera’s bloodline, the girl is sent back on her 19th birthday to try and fix the mistake, but every daughter ultimately fails and dies.

When Rebecca goes back to the Joseon era, she finds her way into the royal court as a handmaiden and befriends her great ancestor, Hera.  As Rebecca adjusts to the court life, she realizes that the fairy tale her dad told her growing up is more than just a bedtime story; it’s filled with clues to help Rebecca when she goes back.  The closer she gets to the queen, Rebecca's questions whether Hera is at fault and learns more about the shaman's curse in bringing her back.

First Five Pages:
Rebecca tucked her chin into her scarf as she walked into the biting cold air.  It was almost winter in Seoul, and she could practically smell the unfallen snow as she left the hotel.  She thrust her hands in her thin windbreaker and cursed herself for not wearing her down jacket instead.  Her mom had been right about the weather, but Rebecca was too stubborn to go back in and change.  She’d rather freeze to death than go back to her hotel room and face her mom.  They’d been fighting all week and Rebecca didn’t want her to have another chance to say she was right.
Rebecca pulled her phone from her messenger bag and switched it to airplane mode.  There, she thought defiantly.  Now no one can tell me what to do or ask me anything else about him.
For a brief moment, Rebecca faltered in her resolve to not think of him, but she shook it off and started to walk. 
Despite the cold, the streets were bustling with people, heads bent over their phones as they made their way through the crowds.  Loud neon lights cluttered the building walls, listing everything from restaurant items to karaoke rooms.
Rebecca stopped in front of a small stall with an elderly woman crouching over an almost dead fire, picking over a mound of roasting chestnuts.  As she stared at the prices listed on the handwritten sign to her left, Rebecca knew the ajumma was looking her up and down, trying to figure out if she was Korean-American.  
The ajumma had guessed correctly and spoke to her in English.  Like most people from Seoul, she knew that despite looking full Korean, Rebecca was not raised in the motherland. 
“Hello.  Can I have a small bag, please?”  Rebecca responded back in perfect Korean and the ajumma’s eyes widened in shock.  She passed over the small bag of peeled chestnuts and collected three won from Rebecca, all the while peering even closer at her face. 
“But how do you speak Korean so well?” After a week of being asked the same question by relatives, taxi drivers, and random acquaintances, Rebecca replied back in Korean sassily, “Because I’m Korean.”
She walked away and popped a hot chestnut in her mouth, blowing through her teeth as she bit into it.  Pushing past standing crowds and stalls selling street food, Rebecca turned left onto a quieter street.  Rebecca didn’t get very far before a poster for the local exhibition stopped her in her tracks.
The poster was a black and white photo of a young woman wearing a simple Korean dress.  Her hanbok gave no indication of the woman’s social class; the dress lacked embroidery and the fabric was made from cotton not silk.  She was not someone the majority of Korean population would deem beautiful.  Her eyes were not almond shaped, her skin was pockmarked, and her forehead was too wide. And at first glance, Rebecca didn’t think much of the girl, let alone imagine her to be royalty until she noticed the ornate pins tucked in the mounds of hair that was braided and piled on top of her head.  
What struck Rebecca was the young queen’s expression.  She knew that expression well; she’d seen it written plainly across her dad’s face many times when he was on the cusp of getting angry.  The picture captured her defiant – her brow was furrowed and eyes narrow.  Her lips were pressed into a straight, firm line as though she were biting back her tongue.  In Rebecca’s attempt to alleviate her grief, she’d forgotten all about that face until she found her father’s expression staring back at her in black and white.  Her stomach turned as she saw her father’s eyes peer down at her.
She scanned the poster and saw that the exhibition was nearby but closing in a half hour.  Rebecca phished out her phone and switched the mode back from airplane.  As she opened her Google Maps app, her phone vibrated as her mom’s texts came flooding in.  Groaning, she swiped the texts away, resolving to respond once she got to the exhibition.  She typed in the address and followed the blue arrow on the app down the street.     
Thoughts raced through her mind as she speed-walked to her destination.  Is it just that I miss him?  Am I turning into one of those crazy people who start seeing dead people everywhere?  I might actually have to take up Aunt Jimin’s advice and go talk to someone.     
Rebecca reached the museum’s front entrance and pushed through the glass doors.  The exhibition was small and only a lonely security guard scrolling through his phone seemed to be in charge.  She walked towards him and the guard looked up at her with a bored expression.  Sensing her question, the security guard pointed toward a sign that simply read FREE and went back to his phone.   
Rebecca ducked into the next hallway and walked into the first room.  She made her way through the displays of silk robes and jade hair pins, but paused when she came to a painting of a young woman kneeling on the ground.  Despite the painting giving away no distinctive features of the woman, Rebecca knew instantly it was the queen. 
She began to read the description below the painting.    
A long time ago, there once lived a king who loved his queen very much.  The young queen was noble, wise, and above all else, loved her people.  The king often deferred to her judgment much to the dismay of his royal advisors and thus, a plan was hatched amongst the court to remove the queen by death.
The queen soon learned of the plot and trusting no one but her closest handmaiden, she devised a plan of escape that would expose the conspirators while keeping the king’s trust.    
On the eve of the attack, three riders were dispatched to alert the queen of the safest route of escape.  But upon receiving the three scrolls, the queen was betrayed by her most faithful--
Rebecca paused.  She had heard this story before.  Multiple times in fact.  It was the only story her father had told her growing up.  For a while when she was young, he told her the story of the doomed queen almost every night.  But there was something wrong.  In her father’s version of the story, there were four scrolls, not three.  

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Stryker Rev 2

Name: Elisa Stryker
Genre: Young Adult Science Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Hiromi is determined to find a vaccine for the Konadai virus before more people turn into tentacle-tongued mutants. Armed with knowledge as a virology intern, she convinces her childhood friend Kenji into going to their island city’s ruins with her, hoping that his fire-magic abilities will keep them safe while she collects infected tissue samples.

Discovering their mutual friend is bitten but showing no signs of infection, Hiromi considers he’s immune and could be the miracle they need. Then, she realizes extracting the cure could cost their friend his life. Hiromi and Kenji struggle with the decision of sacrificing their friend to save thousands or surrendering a chance for a cure.


Then again, I’m sure the gods said the same thing about us.

The intercom emits a loud beep, snapping me from my thoughts. A calm, almost robotic voice pages one of the many doctors. My lab is isolated on the sixth floor, away from the coughing patients and scurrying medical staff. I prefer it this way. Cultivating a cure for the virus ravaging our island requires me to tuck away the reality of the disease’s horror in my mind, rather than watching people die from it—especially those I know.

The door swings open and Dr. Anette Hanshaw strolls in, focused on the tablet she’s carrying, with a manila folder tucked under her arm.

As I straighten myself in my chair, she drops the file onto my desk; another unwelcome addition to the ever-growing mountain of assigned labor. My chest tightens as I glance down at the stack of pages.

“Here are some paper files since you refuse to use tablets.” Anette’s unbuttoned lab coat reveals a red silk blouse, its color in stark contrast to her dark skin.

Paper doesn’t require power to operate.

I didn’t sign up for the mentorship to be buried under mundane work. I’m here to be a virologist, not a secretary.

Blowing my bangs out of my face, I shove the papers aside and grab my notebook from the drawer. I tap a pen against my lips and let out a long breath, none of my stress exhaled with it.

“Five patients diagnosed with the Konadai Virus were pronounced dead by the time I left the cafeteria.” Anette slides into her chair and pulls on a pair of gloves before filing through a box of microscope slides. “The families didn’t bother to show up.”

Most families don’t.

The time from infection to death is an average of four hours. People would rather stay at home than watch their loved ones suffer.

Paramedics bring people here to die. Every vaccine we create becomes useless within weeks thanks to the virus’ genetic makeup constantly changing. I’ve been an intern for five months and seen three vaccines fail.

I glance at the next page in the notebook. As the infection rate increases, the overall life expectancy drops. When I was born, teens working in the medical field was rare. Now, it’s expected. It’s one of the reasons Monanie Academy first opened. Once I turned fifteen, I joined the virology program. The motto was Join the Future of Caara Island.

My father always wanted me to give back to the community, to help as much as possible. Here I am, two years latertrying to make him proud.

“Are you going over last week’s notes?” Anette asks, staring into the microscope.

I’m far past last week’s anything.

“Hiromi?” Her voice is stern.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“What have you learned so far?”

“Nothing I didn’t already know,” I mumble.

Anette glares at me, but it’s true. The project she assigned is old news. I learned most of it during the first year in the academy.

“Ma’am, we both know the disease makes little sense. It’s been sixty years since scientists accidentally created the virus—”

“I asked what you’ve learned.”

I sigh, flipping back a few pages. “The airborne strain is aggressive, affecting those with…um…weaker immune systems. Especially infants and the elderly.”

The words cling to my throat.

My father knew all this, and he still got sick.

Anette nods, turning back to the microscope. “Good. We need to keep all this in mind when experimenting with the infected tissue samples.”

It’s hard not to keep it in mind. Out of everything I’ve learned, one lesson stands out: tampering with our DNA and mahou leads to flesh-hungry mutants. Or as some call them, Konadai. The gods created us with the gifts of mental manipulation, fire, lightning, and energy but failed to give earlier scientists enough intelligence to not use mahou with experiments.

I scribble a few lines of data into my notebook, underlining we humans are idiots.

The analyzer beeps, flashing little sparks of light over the small screen. A cutesy melody plays to get our attention. Some of the other researchers think it’s a nice way to brighten the outcome. To me, it’s the tune of defeat.

A list of results riddled with red marks shoots out of the front of the machine.

Sitting in her desk chair, Anette glides over to the glass-topped table. One of the plastic wheels clicks as it spins. She groans through clenched teeth and looks over her shoulder at me, shaking her head.

Another failed test.

“Do we have any more virus samples?”

Before I can speak, Anette pushes away from the analyzer toward the three-foot-tall, sterilized freezer. She swings open the door and a cold fog swirls out, dissipating into the warm air as she leans down.

“No, that was the last batch we had. We should have some of the first and second stage samples left over.”

Anette closes the freezer door, tapping her fingers on the side. She removes the blue latex gloves and scratches at the hairnet covering her short corkscrew curled hair.

“No, Hiromi.” She says my name like I’m the one who burned through all the samples. “I need full-blown Konadai infection samples. We’ll work on the first stage next week.”

“Right, sorry.” I bite my lip to keep from saying anything more, but we should work on the first stage now. If we can slow down the virus’ progression, we might save lives—or at least allow people to live a bit longer than four hours.

But what do I know? My current assignment is to study the stack of cell cultures for abnormities, not question my mentor. Pay attention to the calendar, she’ll say if I utter a word against her schedule. I’m the professional. You’re my intern. She kindly reminds me of who I am so much, I can recite her little speech word for word. I’d rather gouge my eyes out with forceps.

“I need you to transfer the papers I handed you into digital format,” Anette says.

I nod, knowing she’s not looking at me.

Do this. Do that.

One thing I’ve learned is to stay in my place. According to Anette, that place is following her around with a notebook and a smile. She treats me as if I'm some uneducated volunteer. She knows I’m proficient in the common viruses, such as the flu, unlike the other teens in training who are only now learning the cure for the common cold.

Someone knocks.

Anette, without looking up, motions for me to answer it.

I move away from the desk and open the door. Another researcher stands in the sterile hallway with her frizzy orange hair pulled up into a messy bun. Dark circles under her bloodshot eyes make her appear much older.

“Two men and a child arrived moments ago. She…the little girl looked like my niece before she died.” The cup of coffee in her shaking hand almost spills.

My fingers dig into the doorframe. The Konadai Virus claimed three more victims and we’re years away from finding a cure.

Anette joins me at the door.

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Lacy Rev 2

Name: Ben Lacy
Genre: Young Adult fantasy
Title: The Tragedies


Fifteen year old Arthur Penwright is doing his best to avoid thinking about his father’s death two weeks earlier.   The depressing classic literature in his high school’s advanced English lit class isn’t helping. So when he finds a golden pen in his father’s desk that can physically transport him into any novel it touches, he tells Romeo that Juliet was only faking her death. When Art returns to the real world, the ending of Romeo and Juliet has changed from tragedy to comedy.  Only he remembers the original.

Soon, Art’s entering other tragic classics. He stops Ethan Frome’s final sled ride, he keeps Anna Karenina from jumping in front of that train, and he even brings the Little Match Girl a Happy Meal and a case of disposable lighters to sell. When he’s able to use the pen to enter a non-fiction book, he realizes he can change the past.  Art concocts a plan to use the pen to undo his father’s death.  And he doesn’t care if his rewriting of reality will bring us to the edge of the next World War.
1st five pages

Words in [] are Shakespeare’s.

I stood on a cobbled street in 16th century Verona, Italy. The sun had set and only the blaze from a few torches hanging off a nearby building allowed me to see. The golden fountain pen that had brought me here glittered in the weak light as I held it in front of me. I had no idea how to get it to take me back home to 21st century Ohio, where not a half hour ago, I’d been laying on the couch reading the worst thing ever written.

[JULIET Snatching ROMEO's dagger

JULIET - This is thy sheath;

Stabs herself

JULIET - there rust, and let me die.

Falls on ROMEO's body, and dies]

“They both died because of a misunderstanding!” I yelled as I tossed the paperback copy of Romeo and Juliet across the living room where it bounced off the far wall and fell behind the TV. Romeo killed himself because he thought Juliet was dead, but she’d just been faking. Until she found out Romeo had killed himself, then she did it for real. What a stupid story.   

I sighed, pushed myself off the sofa, walked across the room and fished the book out from behind the TV stand. The test was on Friday and I was already way behind.  A week ago, I’d been unwillingly bumped up to my school’s hardest and dullest sophomore English class.  

I stretched back out on the couch and pulled the cap off the highlighter. [This is thy sheath] – that had to have some stupid symbolic meaning. I drew the yellow felt tip across the phrase. It remained stubbornly black and white. I pressed harder, the tip squealed over the paper, still nothing.

I pitched the marker into the waste basket by the couch. The junk drawer in the kitchen next to the stove had a dozen pens and almost as many pencils, but no highlighters. Pinching the book’s front cover between thumb and forefinger, I held it in front of me like a dirty diaper as I walked back to the extra bedroom Dad used as an office. Inside, his teak desk with the slate top sat alone in the center of the room. I stood there staring at it. The room smelled musty; it had been days since anyone had been in here. I should leave.

Don’t be stupid. It’s just another room. I opened the top desk drawer then brushed a layer of dust off my hand. I found more Bics, a mechanical pencil, and a pen that looked like a small gold torpedo.  

I picked up the torpedo. Removing the cap revealed a triangular golden tip.  Holding it almost to my right eye, I could make out a hairsbreadth wide split running down the center of the point. I wondered if this was the kind of pen you had to dip in ink. I drew it across the remains of an old envelope, a fine golden line trailed the path. The gold ink glittered with a metallic sheen I’d have thought was real gold if I hadn’t known better.

It wasn’t a highlighter, but it would serve just as well. Besides, the pen was way cool.  Tiny, wavy lines running through the shaft made the gold shell throw off flashes of light as I spun it through my fingers. The clip was shaped into a miniature gold arrow, with feathers on the end attached to the cap, and an arrow head pointing from the free end. It was certainly gold plating, but it had been beautifully made.

Standing in front of the desk, I flipped the book open to the scene where Romeo buys poison and touched pen to paper. The book disappeared from my hand and the lights dimmed. I heard a voice.  

[“Put this in any liquid thing you will, and drink it off; and, if you had the strength of twenty men, it would dispatch you straight.”]

Disoriented, I flinched; my arm struck something hard and I heard glass rattle.  The voice paused.  I froze, afraid of giving myself away.  My eyes adjusted to the darkness. I stood between two rows of crudely cut wooden shelves. Large glass bottles and brown ceramic jars covered each one. Past them, I saw a heavy set man standing at a counter with his back to me.   

Facing him, a man wearing a feathered cap and a brocade shirt with large puffy sleeves argued with the first man. The weak light coming in from the room’s one window wasn’t strong enough to let me see his face.  

[“There is thy gold, worse poison to men's souls, doing more murders in this loathsome world, than these poor compounds that thou mayst not sell,”] he said in a teen’s voice. He dropped some coins onto the counter. One rolled toward the table’s edge until the other man slapped it flat.

I looked around, had I woken up in a low budget production of that stupid play? No, there was nothing but walls behind me. Was I dreaming? What that kid had just said about ‘poison to men’s souls,’ Romeo had said the same thing to the apothecary on the page I’d touched with the pen. I realized my fingers clenched something tightly in my right hand. I lifted the gold pen to eye level.

Romeo started to back away from the counter. [“I sell thee poison; thou hast sold me none. Farewell: buy food, and get thyself in flesh,”] he continued. I knew what was going to happen next, Romeo would go to Juliet’s tomb, kill Paris, and then poison himself. 

Now at the shop’s door, Romeo finished his speech, [“Come, cordial and not poison, go with me To Juliet's grave; for there must I use thee.”]

“No, wait,” I shouted making a spur of the moment decision. Romeo ignored me and walked out the door, but the apothecary turned as I ran between the rows of shelves, knocking over several bottles as I did. Before he could react, I ducked under the counter and dashed toward the door. I barely swerved in time to avoid running into an open barrel full of some foul smelling liquid. I moved carefully around it; I knew enough about olden times to have some nasty guesses as to what it might be.   

“Boy, thou dost not belong here,” the apothecary yelled. He grabbed a large stick and tried to follow me under the counter, but the stick got caught and he fell on his butt. I turned away sure I could outrun him.

“She’s alive,” I yelled, heading outside. I halted as the sights of 16th century Verona tumbled in on me. I stood on the edge of a narrow cobbled street. Two and three story wood and stone buildings ran along each side. The sun was almost down. I skipped to one side to avoid colliding with two horses drawing a cart. No sidewalks in olden times. The driver shouted something indecipherable at me and kept going.  

I spotted Romeo walking swiftly uphill.  “Romeo, she’s faking,” I shouted, running after him. Romeo turned towards me and put a hand on the hilt of his sword. “Whoa, whoa,” I said, lifting my arms in the air.  

Romeo might be a love sick teen, but he was also a dangerous killer.  He’d already stabbed Tybalt to death and would soon murder Paris.  If this was a dream, I’d wake up if I died, but if it wasn’t…

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Lukas Rev 2

Name: Ariadne Lukas
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: The Great Mouse Prophecy

A leaderless colony of mice roams the dump, their numbers dwindling from e-fever caused by electronic waste. Kenny and his family are the last of the mice who haven’t fled to the dump. That’s because his father is working on a plan to save and lead the colony. But he’s missing one thing: the lost leader staff.
Intent on impressing his father and saving his micestors, Kenny joins forces with a clever orphaned mouse. She’s hiding the staff and claims only the leader prophecy can reveal its owner. Risking life and limb (and tails), they burrow through a perilous maze of tunnels in search of the legendary leader prophecy. Just as they discover the cryptic image of their future leader scratched on cave walls, torrential rains flood them out. Before Kenny can figure out what the image means, he gets lost. If he can’t find his way home, he’ll never be able to reunite the colony according to The Great Mouse Prophecy.

THE GREAT MOUSE PROPHECY is a 53,000-word middle grade fantasy with a fast-paced, accessible style that will appeal to reluctant male readers.

Kenny crawled up the carpeted wall in the trunk of the Mustang. He pulled himself partway through the rusty hole in the trunk’s lid, his long tail dangling below. Stretching his neck into the cold air, he wiggled his nose.
Engine fumes prickled his throat. The human machine roared in the distance. Its tires crunched over the snow, creeping closer.
Just a whisker more, Kenny thought, stepping a paw out of the hole to see it better. After every snowfall, it snaked up and down the rows of broken cars, teeth scraping across the gravel, piling towers of snow along the roadsides.
Kenny flattened his ears as the rumble filled the air and a silver bumper slid into view, followed by a wide red front end.  
It’s not the snow scraper. Kenny gulped a breath of fumes. It filled his pounding chest as the red monster crawled to a stop in front of the neighboring car.
Oh no! Not the blue Beetle. The pads of his paws grew hot and sticky on the hole’s metal edge as the tow truck’s door flung open and a man clothed in black jumped out. His heavy boots tramped over snow to the back of the tow truck. He heaved a thick silver chain out and hooked it under the blue Beetle’s bumper.
I need to warn them, Kenny thought. The Squeaker family’s seven pups were only six moons old. What if they were still curled up asleep?  
Looking for a safe place to land, he crept out of the hole and—
YANK on his tail tumbled Kenny into the straw nest below.
“My turn to look,” Big Benny blurted, trampling over him to the hole.
“But it’s…” Kenny pushed to all fours and sprinted back up to where his brother’s big bottom clogged the hole. “It’s the tow!”
Big Benny kicked his hind leg into Kenny’s chest. “Even better.”
Ma had taught them to use their words not their teeth. But this was an emergency. Kenny opened wide, bit his brother’s bottom, and pulled. Big Benny tumbled into the trunk, his thick squeal rolling after him.
Already soaring out the hole, Kenny crash-landed in the snow and tore around to the back of the Beetle. Startled, he jumped, as Ma Squeaker dove off the Beetle’s back bumper.
“This way!” Kenny called. “Get in our trunk.”
Her wide eyes caught on his. She shook her head, swished her tail, and called, “Quick now!” to her pups who tumbled off the bumper. The littlest toppled out last. Her head darted in fear. She jerked left and ran toward the front of the Beetle!
Kenny hightailed after her and pounced on her short pink tail, flipping her onto her back. She squeaked and scrambled to all fours.
“Your mother went that way.” Kenny pointed as Pa Squeaker skidded to her rescue and nudged her with his nose.
“Where are you going?” Kenny called to Pa Squeaker, who ran with his littlest to catch up to his family.
“To join the rest,” he called, disappearing over a mound of snow.
The tow truck’s engine revved, scaring Kenny to sprint the long way around the Mustang. He scrambled up to the hole, where Big Benny’s head poked out, his eyes bright with amusement.
“Were you just gonna watch them get taken away?” Kenny asked.
Big Benny snorted. “I knew they’d get out safe.”
“Where do you think they went?”
“The forest. Maybe another car. Does it matter?”
Of course it mattered. Most of the mice had left the lot moons ago. Shouldn’t they all stick together?
Clunk. The chain began to crank the Beetle onto the flatbed.
“This is gonna be creepy good,” Big Benny said, his mouth gaping at the poor car.
The flatbed groaned upward and locked into place. Engine roaring, the truck pulled away.
Kenny stared at the empty gravel square surrounded by snow. Why didn’t Big Benny care that all the mice were leaving?
In the distance, the ear-piercing crunch of metal forced Kenny’s ears flat against his head. His whiskers trembled as the car crusher chewed and chomped on the poor Beetle, its final squeal signaling the end of their neighbor.
“Goodbye, blue Beetle,” Kenny whispered, sniffing the icy air.
Big Benny snickered. “That sounded pawsome!”
Kenny frowned at his brother’s chubby cheeks, his whiskers blowing carelessly in the March wind. Fisting his paws at his side, he blurted, “I can’t take this anymore.” Somebody in his family had to do something about what was happening to their micestors. Kenny was going to be eleven full moons soon. He was old enough to know what was going on. To be part of family decisions.
Deciding it was time to face Pa about it, Kenny squeezed past Big Benny and jumped down into the straw. He sprinted to the glove at the other end of the trunk, men’s size XXL, where Ma and Pa slept, and jerked on the cuff.
“Pa! Wake up.”
The glove stirred.
He tugged harder. “Pa!”
Pa’s snout finally poked out. “Can’t a fella get a wink of sleep around here?” He dragged himself out, stretching his hind paws. “What’s going on?”
Ma followed, and his sleepy siblings, Denny Jr. and twins Jenny and Penny, gathered around, muttering about the commotion.
“It’s the…the tow. It took the blue Beetle.”
With a blink, Pa’s eyes grew from sleepy to startled. He looked up to where Big Benny’s bottom hung from the hole. “Get down. It’s not safe right now.”
“But, Pa—” His brother bounced down into the straw and kicked his angry hind feet through Ma’s tidy straw carpet—on purpose.
“Don’t but-pa me.” Pa sprinted up to the hole as everyone gathered around to see what Pa would say about it.
In two swishes of his tail, Pa jumped down and eyed Ma with that knot of worry pulsing in his jaw.
“Oh dear,” Ma said. “The Squeaker family…did they—?”
I made sure they got out,” Kenny said, turning to stare Pa in the face. “And now we must be the only family left in the lot. When are we—?”
“I’ve told you.” Pa’s whiskers twitched. “I’m working on a plan.”
“Why can’t we all stick together?” Kenny asked.
“For now, your Ma and I feel safer here. Don’t worry, this car’s too fit for the crusher.”
“But where has everyone gone?” Penny jumped in.
Pa looked at Ma.
“Isn’t it time you…you told them?” Ma said.
Pa’s eyes softened. “I’m just trying to protect them.”
Ma brushed her whiskers across Pa’s and whispered, “Yes, I know. But…for their safety…it’s time they knew.”
Kenny and his siblings crawled closer around Pa, their attention sharp as pine needles.
Pa inhaled a thoughtful breath, then blew it out. “Okay, but you have to make me a promise first.”
“We promise.” Kenny looked at his siblings. “Right?”
They nodded up and down, all chiming yesses.
Pa’s eyes grew dark. “That place…it’s…it’s dangerous. And you must promise never to sneak there. Ever.”
“Sneak where?” asked Denny Jr., who’d been quiet until now. “What danger?”
“Behind the lot, there’s a garbage dump. Mice are…are…dropping from a fever. And there’s no leader…no chain of command. It’s a mess.”
“No leader?” Big Benny tilted his head. “So what?”
“So what?” Pa swished his tail. “I’ll tell you what. It takes a strong leader to move mice from a place with an endless supply of food and spaces to burrow.”

Sunday, June 10, 2018

1st 5 Pages June Workshop- Oh Rev 1

Name: Christine Oh
Genre: Young Adult (Fantasy - Time Travel)
Title: The Handmaiden

A long time ago, there once lived a king who loved his queen very much.  The young queen was noble, wise, and above all else, loved her people.  The king often deferred to her judgment much to the dismay of his royal advisors and thus, a plan was hatched amongst the court to remove the queen by death.

The queen soon learned of the plot and trusting no one but her closest handmaiden, she devised a plan of escape that would expose the conspirators while keeping the king’s trust.    

On the eve of the attack, three riders were dispatched to alert the queen of the safest route from the three coasts.  But upon receiving the scrolls, the queen was betrayed by her most faithful--

“Excuse me.”

An annoyed voice cut through Rebecca’s attention and her head snapped up in response.  She turned away from the inscription to see a group of anxious American tourists, all angling to take a picture of the display Rebecca was clearly blocking. 

“Oh, sorry!”

Rebecca sidestepped to the right and felt the wave of elderly women usher past her to the display.  The exhibition celebrating the ill-fated Korean queen was closing in ten minutes, and the exhibit’s usual reserved mood suddenly turned desperate with visitors’ last minute attempts for mementos. Amidst the posing and loud chatter, Rebecca continued to study the subjects beneath the glass display from the corner of the crowd.  Despite sustaining her attention for most of the exhibit, she couldn’t subside her apprehension over the three scrolls.

Rebecca had been in Korea barely over a week before she discovered the exhibition in her father’s hometown.  After her father’s funeral in Seattle, Rebecca and her mother had boarded a plane back to his hometown, her father’s ashes in tow. It was the first time she had visited Korea, but as soon as she set foot outside of Incheon Airport, she felt an overwhelming ease settle over her as if she were being welcomed back home.  Already, the chaos and noise of bustling Seoul made her grieving heart take a back seat, and as she steered her mother to their awaiting extended family at the arrivals gate, her duties as filial daughter overtook her.
Rebecca spent the next grueling week paying respects to relatives she hardly knew to dealing with funeral arrangements in a land with foreign traditions.  Once the last far-traveling relative said goodbye, she finally felt like she could catch her breath.  With her mother resting at their hotel, Rebecca decided to take a walk to clear her mind.  It was the first moment she had completely to herself, and she felt the need to get lost in the unfamiliar chaos of a new city.  Rebecca didn’t get very far before a poster for the local exhibition stopped her in her tracks.

The poster was a black and white photo of a young woman wearing a simple Korean dress.  Her hanbok gave no indication of the woman’s social class; the dress lacked embroidery and the fabric was made from cotton not silk.  The woman was not someone the majority of Korean population would deem beautiful.  Her eyes were not almond shaped, her skin was pockmarked, and her forehead was too wide.  And at first glance, Rebecca didn’t think much of the girl, let alone imagine her to be royalty until she noticed the ornate pins tucked in the mounds of hair that was braided and piled on top of her head.  

What had struck Rebecca was the young queen’s expression.  She knew that expression well; she’d seen it written plainly across her dad’s face many times when he was on the cusp of getting angry.  The picture captured the young queen defiant – her brow was furrowed and eyes narrow.  Her lips were pressed into a straight, firm line as though she were biting back her tongue.  In Rebecca’s attempt to alleviate her grief, she’d forgotten all about that face until her walk and found her father’s expression staring back at her in black and white.  Her stomach turned as she saw her father’s eyes peer down at her.

Rebecca always knew that her father was different.  Unlike most Korean men, Rebecca’s father was delighted to have a daughter, and her mother would often tell stories of his excitement over Rebecca even before she was born.  Her father often credited the absence of daughters in their family lineage as the reason why he was so tickled to have a girl.  Rebecca knew her mother always wanted a son but was unable to have any children after her.  

Ever since she was young, her father often spoke of tradition and how strict her grandfather was on specific Korean customs.  Although Rebecca’s father wasn’t as severe, he still made sure those traditions were passed down to her.  Speaking and reading Korean fluently was a must and how to respect your elders was naturally a given.

Both her dad and Rebecca had a sweet tooth, so it was their ritual to get ice cream when her mother would make dinner too spicy or salty.  

“It’s because your mother’s people are from Jeolangdo,” her dad would joke as they gulped down water after taking a few bites from her mother’s specialty Korean dishes.  “They always add too much to everything to overcompensate for the fact they are from the countryside.”  

Still fanning her mouth, Rebecca’s mom would often swat at her dad’s head with a dishcloth and glare at him while she went around refilling everyone’s water glasses for the third time.

After ordering their cones, Rebecca and her dad would sit on the bench outside Molly Moon’s and he would always start the story of the doomed queen.  He’d been telling her this story as long as she could remember, and always as if he were reading from a script.  When Rebecca was younger, she would ask for the tale but as she got older, she would groan whenever her father would start without her prompting.  

“It’s important that you listen, Ahgah.  This is our history and you can’t forget where you come from, even though you call yourself an American.”  Then Rebecca’s dad would lightly chuck her under her chin for giving him sass and continue anyways.

After Rebecca got her driver’s license and found more excuses to not be home, the trips to get ice cream became less frequent.  But when her father got sick, he told her tell the story one last time.  She held his hand in the hospital room as he told her the tale of the doomed queen and though it had been a few years, Rebecca found herself reciting the tale along with her father.

And it wasn’t until Rebecca discovered the exhibit, did she read the story again since her father’s death.  But the longer she ruminated over the display with the three scrolls, the more troubled she became.  For in her father’s version of the story, there were four.