Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Free #1st5pages Writing Workshop Opens Saturday, June 2nd w/ mentors Lit Agent Danielle Burby and Author Kim Culbertson!

Our June workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, June 2nd at noon, EST. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Kim Culbertson as our author mentor and Danielle Burby of Nelson Literary as our agent mentor! (See below for Danielle'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, @charlotteclg ), 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.

June Guest Literary Agent Mentor: Danielle Burby

Based in New York City, Danielle became an agent at Nelson Literary Agency (NLA) in January 2017. Previously, she was an agent at a NYC-based firm where she managed foreign rights in addition to building her client roster. She also interned at several top agencies and publishers before graduating from Hamilton College with a dual degree in creative writing and women’s studies.

She particularly enjoys complex female characters, quirky adventures, narratives that ask readers to think deeply, girls with swords, and seaside novels.

How to Submit: Send queries to querydanielle@nelsonagency.com. Paste the first 10 pages of your manuscript in the body of the email.

June Guest Literary Author Mentor: Kim Culbertson

Kim Culbertson is the author of the teen novels THE WONDER OF US, THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW, CATCH A FALLING STAR (Scholastic 2014), INSTRUCTIONS FOR A BROKEN HEART (Sourcebooks 2011), and SONGS FOR A TEENAGE NOMAD (Sourcebooks 2010).

Much of her inspiration comes from her background teaching high school since 1997. In 2012, Kim wrote her eBook novella The Liberation of Max McTrue for her students, who, over the years, have taught her far more than she has taught them. Kim lives in Northern California with her husband and daughter.


Riya moved to Berlin, Germany, with her family for junior year, while Abby stayed behind in their
small California town. They thought it would be easy to keep up their friendship—it’s only a year and they’ve been best friends since preschool. But instead, they ended up fighting and not being there for the other. So Riya proposes an epic adventure to fix their friendship. Two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun. But two small catches:

They haven’t talked in weeks.

They’ve both been keeping secrets.

Can Riya and Abby find their way back to each other among lush countrysides and dazzling cities, or does growing up mean growing apart?

Where to Buy: 
Barnes & Noble  Amazon  Indie Bound 

Add it on GOODREADS! 

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

Thank you to all of the participants who trusted us with their pages, and worked so hard during our May 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop - and congratulations to Paige Wyatt, our workshop winner! And a big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, J.M. (Joe) Lee as our author mentor and Natascha Morris of BookEnds 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 June workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, June 2 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.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The May 2018 Workshop with Lit Agent Natascha Morris and Author/Editor J.M. Lee

Our May Workshop kicked off on Saturday, May 5th at noon EST. Our  Wednesday Twitter chat on took place on May 2nd for participants past, present, and future to chat with mentors and our agent. If you missed the chat, you can read the #1st5pages Q&A here.

The First Five Pages Workshop is here to help writers find their manuscript's best possible opening with the help of two of our permanent author mentors and a featured guest author. The Workshop runs over the course of three consecutive weeks. In the final week, a literary agent will review the pitch and final draft of the pages. Not only will the agent provide notes, they will also offer a partial request and critique for at least one selected winner.

And that's not all! The workshop isn't just for the writers who have submitted manuscripts. For any writer, seeing how each manuscript evolves with the help of our mentoring authors and literary agent can be an unparalleled learning experience in how publishing really works and how professionals and readers read. 

Follow along and see the transformation on each of the workshop manuscripts: what worked, what didn't work, and why. This page will always have the most recent workshop displayed with additional workshops linked below.  Follow along with the workshop! Additional workshops are also available in chronological order on the site sidebar.

Guest Mentors

J.M. Lee,

Literary Agent Natascha Morris
 of Bookends Literary

Workshop Entries

Shadows Rising by Rebecca Burton
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Mentors: J.M. Lee, Wendy Spinale, and Holly Bodger
       Agent's Comments

The Forest of Beating Hearts by Mary Johnson
Genre: Middle Grade Dark Fantasy
Mentors: J. M. Lee, Ron Smith, and Erin Cashman
      Agent's Comments

What We Do is Secret by James Prenatt
Genre: Young Adult Horror Fantasy
Mentors: J. M. Lee, Heather Cashman, and Brenda Drake
       Agent Comments

The Big Fairy Tale by Adam Veile
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Mentors: J. M. Lee, Rob Vlock, and Melanie Conklin
       Agent Comments

Never, Sometimes by Paige Wyatt
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Mentors: J. M. Lee, Christina June, and Stephanie Scott
      Agent's Comments

Friday, May 25, 2018

The May Workshop in Progress

Our five 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

Monday, May 21, 2018

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Burton Rev 2

Name: Rebecca Burton
Genre: Young Adult urban fantasy
Title: Shadows Rising

Alex Evans, pop-punk diva and video game warrior, relies on her best friend Sean Peters, a mischievous troublemaker and slacker, to keep her sane at school. So, when he disappears, she is determined to track him down.

Instead, she finds S’Zarak, Sean’s Geist – a symbiote made of shadows that can’t survive for long without its host. Alex had never suspected that Geist existed, but now she must decide what she is willing to risk to save S’Zarak and reunite it with Sean, who has been taken by the Geist’s sworn enemies.

S’Zarak leads her to Melissa, a Guardian of the Geist and carrier of her own symbiote, who reluctantly takes Alex under her wing. Alex is firmly in the closet, but she can’t help her reactions to Melissa, who moves and fights like a dancer. Can she admit to herself, and to Melissa, what she really wants?

Meanwhile, Sean wakes to find that he has been kidnapped by his own long-lost brother, who tells him the ‘truth’ about the Geist.  Sean must decide which is the ‘right’ side, but how can he choose between his brother’s story and everything he’s ever known to be true.

Sean ducked his head against the rain and walked faster. He was late for the gig and he didn't want to miss the warm-up band, with the sexy rock-chick on bass. 

The rain had driven the normal crowd inside. Even from a block away, Sean could see that the bouncer wasn't at his usual post outside the door. He grinned. If there was no bouncer, there’d be no embarrassing under-age hand stamps tonight. Only another two months and he’d be eighteen. Then there’d never be any ever again. He couldn’t wait.

As he passed the alley by the side of The Pit, he paused. The noise he’d heard must have been a piece of rubbish blowing in the wind. Only an idiot would be hanging out in an alley in this weather.

It didn't repeat. He had just started walking again when a scream rang out and was cut short. 'Hello? Who's there? Are you ok?', he shouted, spinning to face the dark mouth of the alley.

Sean inched forward into the darkness. It was stupid to leave the main road. This wasn’t exactly the safest neighbourhood, but someone could be hurt. He couldn’t just walk away.

Leaving the lights of the road behind, his eyes adjusted to the shadows. A shape – something, someone - seemed to slump against the wall at the alley's end. Creeping forward, he called out again, but there was no response.

Rough hands seized his wrists, pulling his arms behind his back. He twisted, trying to see who was there.  This had better not be another one of Alex’s stupid pranks.

Struggling, he got one arm free, his messenger-bag falling from his shoulder and lost under his feet. He shouted for help, but his voice was drowned out by the rock music now pouring out of the warehouse's open windows. 

His captors dragged him backwards, lifting him into some kind of vehicle. He could hear the engine running, a bass vibration below the music.  They threw him hard against the inside wall and Sean fell to the floor. Two masked men loomed over him in the semi-darkness. He shivered. Maybe this wasn’t a prank. But what could they possibly want with a kid like him?

He wanted to run, but his body was frozen. There was no point even trying to escape. He heard a quiet voice urging him to fight, but it was muffled by the fear that swamped him.

One of the men crouched down, clamping a cloth over his nose and mouth. It smelt sweet and medicinal, the chemicals replacing the ice in his veins with a warm, welcoming fog. 

The second man picked up some kind of machine. All tubes and wires, it looked like the twisted offspring of a trumpet and a blender. Sean struggled to focus on it, his vision blurring as the effects of the chemicals spread. He sagged against the wall as he lost control of his weakening limbs.

'I'm sorry, Sean, this is going to hurt,’ the man said, placing the open mouth of the device against Sean's stomach.

Sean screamed as invisible knives tore into his gut, ripping him apart from the inside. A thin trickle of smoke poured out of him through the machine. It hung in the air, looking almost human, as Sean stretched his hand out towards it. Then, it was blown out of the door, torn to shreds by the wind that whistled through the alley. 

Sean’s gaze returned to the man torturing him. The man’s black hair and his blue eyes that seemed to glow in the dim light were so familiar.

‘Marcus?’ Sean forced the word out past his drug-thickened tongue. ‘Brother? But… I thought you were dead?’

He wanted to beg his brother to stop, to save him, but the darkness claimed him before his lips could form the words.

Chapter 1

Alex pushed herself faster, her cheeks flushing in the sharp wind, as the bicycle swept down the hill towards Sean’s house.  Her heart ached with the thrill of speed, the joy of escape from school. 

Part of her wished she was driving, like her friends.  She was seventeen already. She had her provisional licence but they couldn’t afford lessons, let alone a car, on her dad’s wages. Still, on a day like this, this feeling of almost flying was enough.

She pulled up outside Sean’s house and chained her bike to the railings. The pleasure of moving faded leaving her sober.  Sean had stood her up before school even though he had promised faithfully that he would fill her in on the gig she had missed last night.  Stupid biology test! But getting a scholarship to university had to come first, even over her beloved music.  Otherwise, she’d be stuck in this town for the rest of her life.

Being late for school wasn’t that unusual for Sean, but he hadn’t turned up all day or answered any of the messages she’d sent him.  That was odd, but it didn’t mean she wasn’t going to yell at him when she saw him. She couldn’t believe he’d stood her up.

She glanced up at white pebble-dashed house, with its lush beds of lavender under each window, busy with bees now that the rain had stopped.  The blinds at Sean’s window were open.

Walking up the front path, Alex heard raised voices coming from inside the house. A man shouted, ‘We will find him! I promise we’ll get him back, Marie’, followed by a woman’s sobs. Maybe someone was watching the tv. It sounded too dramatic to be real, but no lights flickered in the Peters’ lounge window.

She slowed her pace, trying to hear more, but only the muffled sound of the voices reached her. When she knocked, the voices fell silent; maybe not the tv then.

Heavy footsteps moved towards the door and it opened to reveal Mrs Peters. She was a tall, handsome woman, the female image of her younger son. They both had the same blue eyes under a shock of jet black hair, the colour heightened by the contrast.

‘Hi, Mrs Peters,’ Alex said, pushing her short brown hair out of her eyes. ‘Is Sean ok? He didn’t turn up today and I haven’t heard from him.’

‘Oh, Alex.’ Her gaze skated over Alex, never settling on anything. Alex noticed her knuckles whiten where she gripped the half-open door. ‘Yes, Sean’s fine. A little under the weather. I’m sure he’ll be better soon. I’m afraid I can’t let you up to see him. He’s just fallen asleep and he needs to rest.’

‘Uh, sure thing, Mrs Peters. Just tell him I stopped by and to let me know when he’s feeling better.’

‘I’ll let him know. Goodbye, Alex.’

‘Bye, Mrs P…’ Alex’s voice faded as the door closed in her face. Something was definitely wrong. Normally, she’d be invited in and plied with cookies, but Mrs Peters had seemed tired and tense, her eyes red from crying. Sean should have been in touch by now, even if he was ill. He was wedded to his phone; even in his sleep it was in his hands. Her gut tensed; something was wrong.

As she moved away, the voices started up again.  She lingered, unlocking her bike, trying to hear more. The occasional word drifted to her; ‘missing’, ‘police’. They couldn’t be talking about Sean. It must be something else, anything else.

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Prenatt Rev 2

Name: James Prenatt
Genre: YA Horror Fantasy
Title What We Do Is Secret


On her seventeenth birthday, Scarlet inherits a mirror from her mother.

When she looks into it, it speaks to her, telling her everything she wants to hear, and giving her the confidence to stand up to her bullies. She decides to share the mirror with in order to make friends, leading to the discovery that they are all being haunted by a ghost that takes on the form of their deepest insecurities.

Scarlet finds out the mirror is one of seven unholy icons created by her mother and her friends when they were teenagers. What began as a fun game turned out to be much darker and dangerous than they expected, for each icon stems from a deadly sin and the most powerful of these is greed. It turns out that the wielder of greed was Peter Stump, the horror author she’s obsessed and by using Greed, he manipulated someone into murdering her parents. In order to prevent anyone else from falling under the icons’ corruption like he did, she will turn them into something more sustainable: the seven heavenly virtues.

But she can’t do it alone. First she must bring her newfound friends together by using the mirror as a tool of empowerment in order to form a coven that can lay the ghost to rest.

WHAT WE DO IS SECRET is the first work in a series best described as BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER meets FULL METAL ALCHEMIST. Complete at  97,000 words it is ready for your consideration.

First Five Pages:

It was the same early fall in Muddy Creek and a child had already died. They found his body tangled in the vines as though it had come alive and strangled him. Mud vine got’em, as they always said.
Scarlet thought about his face, purple and swollen, his eyes frozen, clinging to his last desperate thought. A look she was all too familiar with. Even worse than that, she imagined the look on his parents’ face when they saw the body.

She sat on the swing in her backyard, reading as her feet brushed the scuffed brown patch where grass never grew. The mud vine was shedding the last of its purple and white petals. Pretty soon, kids would collect them to decorate the bottoms of their Halloween baskets. She brushed the pesky, pretty little things off her book for the umpteenth time and mumbled to herself:

It. Tommy Lee Wallace. 1990.

A hot wave of heartburn hit the top of her throat as she wondered what his last words were, if he had any. At least her mother, before she had been stabbed for the last time had kept her dignity. You don’t have to do this.

Enough reading. 1,100 pages was far too long anyway. Gran would scold her for reading by flashlight. Don’t want to be a blind old lady like me, she’d say.

She went inside and put on her red penny coat, brushing aside several multicolored balloons with the number 17 on them. A flock of blackbirds swarmed out of the trees, revealing the path to the Fallout. She thought of her mother’s words: Everywhere else the birds fly south for the winter, but here in Lethe County the blackbirds stay year round, isn’t that cool, pumkin?
She stepped onto the path.
A cold sweat shivered its way from her armpits down to her ribs.

“The Cell. Tarsem Singh. 1990.”
With each step the vines seemed to get thicker, wrapped about the trees like hundreds of motionless snakes, waiting the chance to ensnare her legs and pull her into the ground. The light, leave-rustling sound of deer bounding through the forest made her stop in her tracks. They were far away and not coming after her.
She followed the path to a hill overlooking a valley. At the top of the hill stood a portico from which a rusty red and white cross hung, its right arm missing like some contorted hanging man.

Beside the portico stood the remains of a chapel. She went inside and found a crowd of teenagers gathered around several rocks sticking out from the ground, all bigger than the average person. Brown moss dried on the rocks as they jutted out, pointing diagonally to the night sky. Inside the circle of kids laid a rusty square hatch nearly sunken into the ground like an old tombstone. The mud vine appeared as though it had both eaten the chapel and repaired it, leaving a basket weave like shape in the roof.

Randall Webber, the senior leading the group shined a light directly into Scarlet’s eyes, blinding her, “Where’s your escort, Scarlet?”

Scarlet’s mouth was too dry to respond and she was still out of breath from walking up the hill. “I don’t have—”

“Right here,” said someone, putting an arm around her shoulder. It was Louise Loving, who Scarlet recognized from her English class.

“Liars,” said Randall. “There’s one every time.”

He opened the hatch to the Fallout. Wet dirt dripped from the sides of the door as the turf around it ripped off. “Let’s go, Sleepers. It’s already midnight and the cops will head up soon.”

One by one, they climbed down the shaky ladder.

As far as Scarlet could tell, most of them appeared unimpressed and above it all. She tried to keep up the same fa├žade by twiddling her jeans through her fingers, relieving some of the nerves. 

Randall occasionally shined his light into their eyes so that they’d have to dilate again in order to adjust to the dark. Henry Hatem, a particularly large kid got stuck in the middle, not being able to climb back up and too frightened to climb down.

“Liar! Liar! Liar!” the kids cried.

When Henry finally made it down, the kids cheered for him, more mockery than pride. That’s not funny, she thought, but did not say.

“Are you okay?” asked Scarlet.

He brushed dirt off himself. “I’m fine. Leave me alone.”

“You didn’t have to,” said Scarlet to Louise as they walked through the tunnel.

Louise barely heard her. Or ignored her, either one.

It reeked of worms and wet dirt, of old basements and raking leaves after rain. The line of kids crammed into the room the hallway lead to, covering their noses. Scarlet didn’t want to look soft, so she didn’t bother.

“Here is the spot where Katelyn Caster was left to die on prom night,” said Randall. “They say her ghost still haunts the pit. Who fucking knows. “Whadya say we find out if this song works?”

Each kid held hands with another, forming several groups of pairs. Scarlet wiped a wet hand on her coat before taking Louise’s. She looked closer at the hatch and saw that there was a blue “z” spray painted into it, resting within a circle, like the “z” on the buttons of her coat.

She tried her best to sing the song with everybody else, but barely knew the words and settled for an attempt at lip-syncing instead. The crowd recited the song like a prayer and following along was her only concern until she saw the hatch move like potful of lobsters banging on the top.

“Don’t leave me down here!” someone yelled.

“Wait, stop!” said Scarlet, letting go of Louise’s hand and rushing to the hatch. She tried to pull it up but was too weak. “There’s someone down there!”

“Sure there is,” said one of the kids.

“Think you’re hearing things, love,” said Louise, helping her open the hatch nonetheless.

“I’m going in,” said Scarlet.

“Not gonna lie, I wouldn’t mind seeing this,” said Randall. The crowd followed him.

“Seeing things again?” said another kid. “Not your parents, is it?”

“Must be the man in the wolf mask,” said another.

Scarlet looked down the hole. It was hard to tell just how far below the surface it went.

“Someone call the cops,” said Scarlet, climbing down the ladder.

“Oh yeah, we’ll call the cops,” said Randall’s voice right before he slammed the hatch shut.

She took out her phone and turned it on, illuminating the walls in blue light then chipped away at some dirt built up in the tunnel, hoping to find some kind of switch to open the hatch. Instead this revealed a series of thin pipes that reminded her of a diagram of arteries.

The light on Scarlet’s phone faded. All she had to do was press a button and she’d be—

“Don’t leave me down here.”

The phone fell from Scarlet’s hands. She heard someone up above say they couldn’t get the hatch open. I am going to die here, become another urban legend. The Girl Who Got Stuck In the Fallout. A sound like a snake sliding across a concrete floor echoed through the room. She could make out some small sliver of light at the bottom of the hole. But someone else needs help.

She took a blind step down the ladder, missed the rung entirely and fell down the hole.

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Johnson Rev 2

Name: Mary Johnson
Genre: MG Dark Fantasy
Title: The Forest of Beating Hearts


Years ago, Nairi fell through a crack between worlds. Now she’s thirteen, struggling alongside her best friend, Dana, in a forest filled with monsters and uncontrollable magic. When they discover the walled City of Iore, they think they’ve finally found somewhere safe. Except the people of Iore aren’t quite human. Strangers are far from welcome. And when Nairi and Dana hatch a plan to break in, they uncover more trouble than they bargained for.

Iore City has a magic of its own. Streets change position, mysterious children run through walls, and people wind up their hearts every night before going to sleep. Worst of all, there’s the sinister Clicking Man, who won’t rest until Nairi and Dana are located and destroyed. If Nairi can’t outwit him—and the city itself—they’ll lose any hope of safety . . . and, possibly, each other.



The market square is deserted, silent and asleep like the rest of Iore City. Snow swirls through beams of golden moonlight. It’s so peaceful that when a monster shrieks from beyond the Wall, my concentration cracks and I skid a little on the cobbles, causing Dana to bump into me. 

“Stealthy, Nairi,” she says. 

I wrinkle my nose. “Probably not a good idea to run when there’s so much ice anyways.” 

“Well,” she glances over her shoulder, “we ain’t being chased.” 

Yet. The word flickers unsaid. 

It seems a silly thing to worry about. If not for the snow, Iore City could be frozen in time. No windows glow. No chimneys exhale smoke. The people of Iore are unconscious in their beds and the city dreams with them. If I didn’t know that guards prowled the streets, I’d believe we were the only people in the world. 

We slink around the edge of the market square, past the closed-up haberdasher’s and sweet shops. Across the square sits the Crystal Pavilion, with its spires stretching upwards to pierce the sky and stain-glass windows casting rainbow shadows on the paths below. All the other buildings in Iore are made of filigreed stone, smooth as blackened bones. The glass walls of the Crystal Pavilion seem even stranger in comparison. 

Dana is focussed on the shopfronts. Blonde hair sticks out at funny angles underneath her hood. She cut it with a paring blade yesterday after it got too tangled, but she’s no hairdresser. Every strand is a different length. “We could steal some warmer clothes,” she says. “Nobody’d know. Some jackets, new scarves . . .” 

I tug her onwards. “No,” I say reluctantly. “We’re not that kind of thief.” 

She groans but follows me. She might be my best friend, but Dana can be a bad influence when it comes to acting sensible. 

As we leave the marketplace behind, the city seems to shrink around us. Cobbled streets become narrower and rooftops zip together overhead, blocking out the moonlight. I swear the streets switch places. No matter how hard I try to memorize their routes, they seem to change every night. Sometimes, it feels like the city is swallowing us, and I have to fight the urge to run back across the Wall and into the forest we call home. Being eaten is kind of a fear of mine. 

“Here?” I ask. The house I’ve picked is perfectly ordinary, three stories tall and carved with stone flowers. A window on the top floor is open, drapes fluttering.  

“Suits me.” 

I nudge open the front door and cringe when the hinges squeak. No lock, as usual. Dana shuts it behind me. The house is swathed in darkness, and I trip over a bit of bunched-up carpet as I head towards the staircase. Most houses have staircases in the middle of their main rooms, so it isn’t hard to find, though I wish we could have candles. The light would probably get us caught, but it’d stop me from stubbing my toes all the time. 

I try the first door I see upstairs. A bedroom. No wallpaper, just more black stone for walls and ceilings. I shiver and my breath puffs into a cloud. It’s colder here than outside. Dana opens a chest of drawers and pulls out a gilt hand-mirror. 

“Dany,” I say. “C’mon. I told you, no messing with people’s stuff.”

“You’re no fun,” she says, but she puts the mirror back. 

I grit my teeth. It’s not my fault Papa isn’t here and I have to pretend to be the adult. But we’re thirteen now. Almost grown-ups ourselves. Now’s not the time for playing around. Sleeping Iorans never wake up, no matter how loud we are, but the guards are a different story.

Sure enough, the boy in the bed doesn’t twitch as we search his room. I can’t remember the last time I slept so peacefully. Monsters are loudest at night. 

Of course, the people of Iore City aren’t human. Papa called them automatons, but that isn’t quite right either. On the outside they look just like us, fleshy and soft with hair that frizzes in the rain. The only thing giving them away is a keyhole the size of a penny in the centre of their chests—on the inside, they’re like wind-up toys. Without their keys, their insides stop working and they shut down. They can’t wake up until their keys are returned. 

Imagine the damage if someone decided to steal them.

“Found it,” Dana says. She swipes a silver key from his bedside table. “They ain’t even trying to hide ’em.” 

“Because they’re stupid,” I say. Although, I could be wrong. If there’s one thing living in the forest has taught me, it’s that anything might be a trap. Predators often pull stunts like that. They’ll make themselves seem weak and helpless, then they’ll rip the throats from anything cocky enough to get close.

But we’re hunters too, after all. And we’ve gotten away with this for two whole months now.

Steal the keys. Stop their hearts. And we won’t give any of them back until the Iorans promise to let us stay. It doesn’t matter if they like us or not—it’s a million times safer within the Wall than beyond it. 

Dana ties the key to a ribbon around her waist. Then we hurry downstairs to the street. 

“Onward?” Dana grins crookedly. 

“Onward,” I agree. 

We run across the cobbles, not bothering about which way. The more random we are, the harder it’ll be for guards to catch us. Papa always said there’s nothing more dangerous than being predictable. We climb up drainpipes, duck under arches, hurry past statues of angels and gryphons and hooded figures, collecting keys as we go. As the night wears on, the two golden moons rise like a giant pair of eyes. Combined with hundreds of glaring statures, it feels like the city itself is watching us.

Then, from somewhere close by, I hear the crunch, crunch of footsteps in the snow.

“Guards.” I grab Dana’s tattered cloak and yank her away from a gaslight into the shadows. 

She scrunches her eyes like that’ll make her invisible. I try to hold absolutely still. The stolen keys clink whenever I breathe in. 

Two Ioran guards stride around a corner, dressed in magnificent white-and-copper uniforms. Their expressions are very grim. I wonder if they’ve ever smiled in their lives. 

Luckily, our own monster-pelt outfits are perfect camouflage. The fur is inky black and melts seamlessly into the darkness. The guards pass right by. I’m about to relax when an icicle drips onto Dana’s nose and she gives a tiny squeak of surprise. 

They freeze. My hearts hums. 

“Did you hear that?” one mutters. His hand twitches towards a baton at his hip. 

Slowly, slowly, I reach for my knife. Dana’s breathing crackles beside me. The guard steps closer. 

“It’s nothing, Holiver,” says his companion. “Let’s go. I’m freezing.”

The guard shakes his head and retreats. They vanish around another corner. 

“Cripes,” Dana whispers. “It ain’t been that close in weeks.” 

I crane my neck after the guards, making sure they’re really gone. “You’re telling me. Time to go home, I think.”

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Wyatt Rev 2

Name: Paige Wyatt
Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: Never, Sometimes

Fiona Pennington is just trying to survive high school. Her pink hair, love for punk rock, and plus size figure make her a target, but when she sneaks out to watch her crush’s band play, she thinks she’s finally found a group of friends that understands her. 

Until the knock down, drag out fight at Denny’s that ends with her friends in handcuffs and the rich and powerful Easton siblings who started it getting off without a slap on the wrist. 

It gets worse when Fiona’s mother forces her to join student council to keep her out of trouble, which leads her directly to Landon Easton, the boy with whom she shared her first kiss on the basketball court then ditched her when he chose popularity instead. Their time together drudges up love, hate, and everything in between, completely disrupting their opposite worlds.

Fiona struggles to balance feelings for Landon and loyalty to her friends. When one of her friends is charged with assaulting one of Landon’s, every encounter with him is betrayal. As tension builds between their two groups, Fiona and Landon have to stop the fighting before it goes too far and destroys more than relationships and reputations.

Final Revision:

Today was supposed to be a good day. I planned to spend my afternoon basking in the glory that is Brendan White, but here I am, avoiding Principal McKay’s x-ray glare instead. 
“Fiona, did you give Brendan a weapon?” Mr. McKay asks as he neatly folds his hands on his desk and, I shit you not, hunches over like he’s Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.

I’m sweating and my thighs are stuck to his pleather couch that’s supposed to look classy but really screams Walmart chic. I don’t want to end up in detention with all the other burnout degenerates of Middleton North High School, but I don’t like lying, either.

“Weapon?” I echo. It’s double standard bullshit anyway. McKay is only out for blood because tomorrow is the first night of football regionals and Connor Easton is the star quarterback who now, thanks to Brendan, has three broken fingers on his throwing hand. He didn’t give a shit when Connor snapped a picture of my ass and put a “Wide Load” banner over it, and nothing happened when Connor got the entire football team to moo at me when I had to run the mile in gym class.

But I walked into school today determined to feel good about myself despite all that. My mom finally let me dye my hair pink last night, I’m wearing the only outfit that makes me look hot, and Lily did my makeup this morning. I just wanted to get Brendan’s attention, not to aid and abet in the beat down of Connor Easton, but I couldn’t say no when Brendan asked for my help. 
Mr. McKay tosses a plastic bag onto his desk in disgust. Sealed inside is my wristband. The safety pins that were once clasped closed are open and there are chunks of bloody flesh on their sharp tips. “Several teachers confirmed this is yours.”

My face is expressionless despite my increased heartbeat. “It’s not.”

He leans in like he’s about to tell me something no one else knows, but I see through this act. Every adult I know has tried this on me at least once in the past year, but I spot the disingenuity like a turd in a punch bowl. “Fiona, you’re a bright young lady. Taking all honors classes.” He sighs and it’s unnecessarily loud. “But since your father died--”
I brace myself. I’d rather break every bone in both my hands and never play piano again than think about my dad right now.

“You’ve taken a turn down the wrong path.” He presses his mouth into a line as his eyes brush past my nose ring.  “First you quit the basketball team, and now this. I just don’t think you’re hanging around with a good crowd.” 

I look at the clock, trying to ignore the knot in my stomach. “I appreciate the concern, Mr. McKay, but I should be in Geometry.” 

After a few minutes of questions, he writes me a pass and I’m out of the office as fast as my Chucks can go. 

Lily is hunched over her phone outside the office, her thumbs flying as she leans against a locker. She should be in Geometry too, but of course she’s waiting for me because that’s what best friends do. “What did McKay want?” she asks without looking up.

We fall into step as we walk. “He asked about the wristband. I said I didn’t know anything.”

“Good. You can’t get expelled, too.”

“Expelled?” I stop so fast she almost crashes into me.
She leans in, her rainbow braids falling over her shoulders. “They’re expelling Brendan this time.”

Expelled means I won’t see Brendan on my way to English class, or stare at him in Geometry, or sit next to him at lunch and pretend I don’t notice our legs touching under the table. “Seriously?”

“I heard he’s out ten days while they decide if he’s expelled or not,” she explains as I try to compose myself.

“Have you talked to him?”

She looks down at her phone. “He hasn’t replied.”

“Damn.” I kick a locker and a teacher pokes her head out of her classroom. I ignore her warning to be quiet and curse again, but it comes out as a whisper. 

Lily squeezes my shoulder and her brown eyes meet mine. “Nothing we can do about it now. Except maybe get revenge.”

My stomach lurches at the look in her eyes, so I change the subject. “We should go,” I suggest as I check the time on my phone. “We’re already late thanks to McKay’s inquisition. The one thing I can control today is my A in Geometry.”

When we arrive, Landon Easton stares at me like I’m some undiscovered species. I learned a long time ago not to back down when people do this, so I stare back. Landon looks away first, thank God. Today has been a shitshow and I don’t need him making it worse. I slide into a seat in the back and immediately start working on the packet, hoping I can go unnoticed for the rest of this awful day. 
After class I’m headed out the door and thinking about texting Brendan when someone taps me on the back. I stop short and almost knock Landon over. He looks like he’s straight out of a Hollister commercial with his Captain America haircut and basketball t-shirt. Most of us have to stumble through high school with zits and crooked teeth, but Landon has looked disgustingly perfect since we were little kids. “Hey,” he says.

I haven’t had a real conversation with him since the end of basketball season last year, and I’m definitely not in the mood to rehash any of that right now. “What?”
He holds up a pencil. “You dropped this.”

I snatch it out of his hand as his cousin Evan rounds the corner. Evan is shaped like a gorilla except I’m pretty sure any gorilla is smarter than he is. You’d think with all their money, the Eastons could buy him a brain. “What’d your boyfriend do to my brother, hambeast?”
I don’t dare show how much the insult stings. “How creative. A fat joke.”
Evan tugs my hair like we’re in third grade. “You look like a fat clown with this hair, frogbeast.”
I try to stay as calm as possible even though I want to run away. “I bet Brendan can break your hand too if you want to keep running your mouth.”

Evan’s jaw clenches and he steps closer. “You better watch your back, bitch. We’re coming for you and all your freak friends.”

Landon inserts himself between us, which stops Evan because Landon is tall. Last year he was the only freshman to make the varsity basketball team. “Let’s go.” Landon keeps his hands on his cousin’s shoulders as they walk away. 

As much as I hate to admit it, Evan’s threat rattles me. Ever since Brendan started fighting back when the Eastons would mess with one of us, the whole school has been on edge. I watch the back of Landon’s head as he continues down the hallway toward the cafeteria. 
Lily appears, taking the spot to my right and following my gaze. “What’d he want?”

I keep my eyes on Landon and think about how Lily would stop being my friend if she knew the truth about him and me. “I think Brendan started something we’re going to have to finish.”