Sunday, January 20, 2019

1st 5 pages January Workshop - Bates Rev 2

Name: Lisa Lynn Bates
Genre: Middle Grade: Contemporary
Title: Man of the House


After a tragic accident, Freddie Santiago is left caring for his ill mother in a new town. He finds comfort in texting his deceased father’s old cell number—until he receives a reply from a mysterious person.

**

When I moved to Georgia, I did not expect to bury a corpse. And certainly not make friends with a girl named Daisy with a last name most appropriate, Guerra. Which stood for the Spanish word “war.” 

The day I met Daisy, I hadn’t been in the new home for more than four hours when I heard a knock on the door.

When I opened the door wide, I found some girl, holding a lopsided flan on a plate. She looked around my age--eleven.

“Hola.”

“Hi,” I said, wondering what she wanted.

“Welcome,’ she said, and held out the plate. ‘I made this for you.’

I stared at it.

“Take it,” she said, smiling. “It’s not poison.”

I took the plate and said, “Thanks, I guess.”

“I’m Daisy Guerra. My parents want me to show your mom around the Home.”

She looked over my shoulders, into the dark kitchen. “She home?”

I blocked her view with his body. The last time I checked, my mother’s hair was matted in the back and her clothes were wrinkled. Not the image I wanted my mother’s new employer’s daughter to witness. 

Daisy stepped into the kitchen and walked around. Man, she’s nosy, I thought. “She’s busy unpacking.”

“Oh.” Daisy flipped her long brown hair over her tan shoulders. “What about you?”

I stared at the glittering crystal that hung from her tan earlobes. My mother never wore earrings.

“I’m busy too,” I said, slowly backing her out to the exit, maneuvering the flan as it slid over the plate like Jello. When Daisy reached the opening, I forced his body forward jerking her out to the landing. 

“Hey!” said Daisy, looking disappointed. 

I heard my mother mumble something. “Sorry, but I’ve got to go.” I shut the door, jabbed a corner of the flan with my finger and licked it. It tasted like vanilla caramel. Girl could cook. 

“I’m not leaving till one of you get the tour,” shouted Daisy through the closed door. 

I held my breath then let it out. My lips flapped. Could this girl get any more annoying?

“Fine,” I said, loud enough for her to hear me.

“Great. I’ll wait,” she replied. Sounding complacent.

I put the flan in the refrigerator and checked on my mother first. She had fallen back to sleep, sprawled over a pile of clothes on the bed. On the nightstand, she had left her medication bottle of pink pills open. I decided not to wake her. After the long drive from Rhode Island, carrying luggage in and out of the car, and unpacking her make-up kits, she needed the rest. Tomorrow she’d start her new job at the salon. I grabbed a sheet from a box and snapped a tent over her frail body, where, before the pills and before my father’s accident, there used to be curves and squishy skin.

**

The tour was short and uninteresting. Daisy showed me into a large room with rows of purple upholstered chairs. Wall to wall carpet the color of beets, my least favorite vegetable. A podium with white phony flowers. A kitchen with a long wooden table and ten chairs. And a dome shaped crystal chandelier that hovered over the main entrance like a giant beehive. It was not the usual salon my mother worked in.

“Now for the great finale,” she said, “Follow me.”

I followed Daisy to a locked door with an Employees Only sign on it. She grabbed a pair of gloves from a box next to the door and handed me a pair.

“Put these on,” she said. “No one’s allowed in here without gloves. You can take the small ones.”

“Whatever,” I said, taking them. The gloves were tight around my wrist and smelled like rubber balloons. 

Daisy flicked a light switch and walked in. “This is your mother’s workspace,” she said.

I didn’t follow Daisy all the way in to the sterile bright, white, room. I scanned it from the entrance. A large furnace hummed loudly in a corner. White tiling covered the walls, two long aluminum sinks, three white trays, white shelving, and a covered cot in the middle of the room.

“What’s under there?” I asked, pointing to the cot.

“Oh that?” Daisy said, “Don’t touch, or you’ll be sorry.” 

“Pff, why not?” She made it sound top-secret. “If my mother’s working here, I should inspect everything, first. Don’t you think?”

She raised her shoulders and stepped aside, “Suit yourself.”

I pulled back the plastic from the cot and jerked back. 

Daisy laughed. “Best part of my job,” she said.

I stared down at the freezer-dried, pale male corpse. I felt my breakfast, a bean burrito, liquify into acid and erupt in my esophagus like a volcano. I couldn’t move my feet. “Wh-what…?” 

“Meet your mom’s first client,” Daisy said, smirking. “Hope your mother is as good as she said on her resume.”

I shook my head, side to side. No-no-no. “Can’t be, can’t be,” I mumbled. I’m pretty sure my mother had no idea her clients were stiffs.

**

After that last scene, I wanted to run home and hide. But Daisy said my mother’s employer wanted to meet me. 

“I need to get home.”

“It’s only proper,” she said. “If you’re mother is not available, then you should come.”

Daisy had a way with words. Words that made me feel guilty. So I consented to meet the parents. My mother’s employers. Besides, as man of the house, it was my duty to ensure my mother’s safety. 

Daisy lived two houses away, also on Fayetteville Rd. Her house was painted a normal color, beige with black shutters. Unlike the pink cinder block house with lemon yellow shutters my mother rented, which looked like a giant guava.

Pink rose bushes lined up across the front of Daisy’s house. The glass panes trembled like hamsters as Salsa music blasted out the front door. 

I followed her to the back of the house. A large garden took up the backyard. There was a screened in porch where three men sat and played dominoes and drank beer. One of the men drummed his palms on the card table to the beat of the music. 

“Bendicion.” Daisy kissed the cheek of one of the men. 

“Que Dios te bendiga, hija,” 

The man she asked for a blessing wore a white embroidered guayabera. Dad used to wear them too during the hot summers, I thought. “You can tell a man from his shirt,” he’d say. I wondered what dad would have thought of the wrinkled, soiled, t-shirt I wore today.

“This is my dad,” said Daisy. “He’s your mom’s boss.”

I waved. 

Mr. Guerra nodded his head and kept playing.

Stepping into Daisy’s kitchen was like entering another dimension. The smell of fried onions and garlic saturated the air like oxygen. My eyes stung. 

Four women huddled over the stove and counter tops. Little kids ran in and out of the kitchen screaming.

“That’s my mom,” said Daisy.

Daisy pointed to a tan, thin woman with large—err—top, about my height, five inches, wearing an apron over white jeans and flowery tank top. My mother only dressed in black. 

“You arrived just in time,” shouted Mrs. Guerra over the music. “Sit here. Help peel these gandules.”

She placed a bowl of unpeeled pigeon peas between me and Daisy. I stared at the plate, wondering if I heard her right. 

“Go on,” said Mrs. Guerra. “Peel.”

I started peeling, staring at Daisy’s mother. Her eye lids were smeared in silver shadow and black liner. His mother never wore makeup. She just applied it to other ladies.

The other women were dressed in jeans and tight T-shirts, with their hair wrapped in a bun. 

“You’re mom going somewhere?” I asked Daisy.

“Nope. Why you ask?”

I shrugged, peeling a pea. 

Daisy raised an eyebrow. As if she read my mind, she said: “She always looks like that.”
Referring to her mom.

“Oh.”  

Mrs. Guerra’s long wavy blonde hair bounced as she stirred a pot of soup and danced to salsa. Mom would have made a comment about her dark roots showing. 

Mrs. Guerra looked over her shoulder at me. “Where’s your mom?” I asked, stirring.

“Resting.”

“At this time?” 

The top of my head burned. “She’s just tired from all the moving is all,” I replied.

“I hope she’s ready for a hard day at work tomorrow.” 

I worried about my mother’s new work environment. My father used to say that stress made her “condition” worse. I didn’t want my mother to stress. After dad’s funeral, my mother saw a doctor who prescribed medication to help her stress. They seemed to help. Most of the time. Her pills were probably not strong enough for dealing with dead bodies.

One of the T-shirt wearing ladies in a bun asked, “So why did you move to Georgia?”

“Mom needed a change,” I said, keeping my head down, peeling. I wanted to avoid eye contact with the women, maybe it would end the conversation. It didn’t.

“Change? From what,” the lady continued. 

I felt like a suspect under interrogation. 

Another lifted her head from chopping, “What does your mother do?

“Do?” I asked.

“You know. Work?” asked yet another.

“Umm.” I looked at Daisy. She looked more interested in the conversation than peeling peas. “She’s a beautician,” I said, realizing Daisy had no intention of saving me.

“She’ll be working for us,” said Daisy’s mom. “Prepping our clients.”

The women burst out laughing. 

Sweat dribbled down my temples and I realized the inquisition could go on for hours. I was about to get up and leave when Daisy said, “Hey, want to see my room?”

Daisy’s room was organized. Her clothes were neatly folded on her bed, shoes lined up in her closet, and her bed was made. The opposite of my own room. She even lined up her jewelry boxes along her white dresser. Daisy opened a box and pulled out a chain. 

“My dad brought this one from Guatemala. She replaced the chain in its box. During slow season, he buys gold from other countries to sell. She opened another box. 

I made a face. I had no interest in looking at girl’s jewelry.

“These earrings are from Colombia. Maybe your mom can borrow them sometime? My mom uses my jewelry all the time.”

“Nah, she doesn’t wear earrings.”

“Why not?” asked Daisy.

“She just doesn’t,” I said. I didn’t want to tell her that my mother feared an alien would try to inject a chip into her earlobe if it had the chance. Which reminded me…“I have to check in,” I said. “Thanks for the tour.” I rushed out the door after saying a quick good bye before a second round of interrogations. 

Daisy ran behind me, “Wait up.”

I kept walking.

“Hey, maybe we’ll end up in the same homeroom,” she said trying to keep up. “We have an end of the year field trip.”

“Yeah, maybe,” I said, picking up the pace. 

Daisy stopped and shouted behind me, “I’ll walk you to school tomorrow.” 

I waved over my head and rushed into my house. 

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Spizziri Rev 2

Name: Sammi Spizziri
Title: After I Bid You Adieu
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Nineteen-year-old EVIE hasn’t spoken to her best friend, KACE, since the night before college, after he told her he loved her. Determined to pursue podcasting at NYU, driven and adaptable Evie never plans to return to the town she blames for her deceased mother’s regrets, especially since Kace, ever loyal and thoughtful, tempts her to repeat her mom’s mistake of choosing a hometown boy over her dreams.

When family matters require her to return for the summer, she learns an online podcasting class is her only hope of keeping her scholarship, which is her way out of town for good. The podcast seems like a desirable distraction from Kace and reminders of her mom but soon requires Kace’s help as they unravel a mystery from their childhood. When he asks for answers in exchange for his assistance, Evie must do what she’s spent the last year avoiding: be honest with Kace, face her grief, and decide if career dreams are worth sacrificing her heart.

“I can't believe you never told me about Kace.” Liv crossed her arms in front of our locked dorm room.

Kace. My insides fluttered at the name I hadn’t heard out loud since the night I’d left. The boy from home, the one I used to call my best friend. I jammed my phone in my pocket and let my hair hide my face. Maybe that way she wouldn’t see the feelings I’d kept locked inside all year.

“I’ve lived with you almost a year and you’ve never mentioned him. Why haven’t you mentioned him?”

I pushed past her, balancing the take-out sushi bags and fumbling for my keys. I hadn’t mentioned him to anyone the last nine months, not even my family. Without knowing what happened the night I left, they probably thought we were still friends. “Thanks for opening the door.”

“Stop changing the subject, Evie—” She lifted the plastic bag from my hand then dropped it right back, eyes wide. “Oh my gosh. You like him.”

Heat flooded my face. The keys smashed to the floor, and I clenched the take-out bag to prevent it from the same fate.

Minutes earlier, we’d been waiting for our takeout from our usual Thursday night sushi spot down the street when my phone dinged with an out-of-the-blue text from Kace. Liv had glanced at it, and I’d flipped my phone without reading it, but as soon as we’d gotten our food her questions began. All I’d said so far is Kace and I used to be friends, but she’d somehow picked up I wasn’t telling her everything.

“No, I don’t.” I had to keep telling myself Kace and I would never work. I had to focus on making a difference in the world, not getting stuck in our too-small hometown. Kace, with his flower shop and a heart set on staying in Ridgeview, would only get in the way.

Liv scoffed and nudged me aside, scooping up my keys from the ground.

I’d been so good about not daydreaming of him lately, which had been easier here, hundreds of miles away from Ohio, especially once he stopped contacting me half a year ago. But here he was again, resurfacing, and making my heart race with memories of him.

Sticky popsicles on his front steps, scouring my family’s auctions for unusual items, slow dancing at prom. And the last time I saw him, his brown eyes sparkling in a heartfelt goodbye, his lips on mine like I’d dreamed about our whole lives, and hurt flooding his face when I pushed him away and left without an explanation.

The door banged open, and my focus shifted back to now, the city sirens loud, the traffic droning.

And Liv dragging me into the room. “Does he like you?”

I’d waited my whole life to learn he did, but now I had no idea what he thought of me. Maybe the text would give me a clue. I wanted to open it, but I couldn’t, or he’d know I read it. Responding would be re-opening that door. I broke away from her grip and dropped our food on top of the Us Weekly and Glamour magazines she’d left on the coffee table. “It doesn't matter.”

Wow, that’s a huge yes or you wouldn’t be avoiding talking about him.”

I flushed, then shook my head. As a psych major, Liv loved nothing more than to psychoanalyze everyone around her, especially me. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t use the same tactic on her. “Why are you so hung up on him? I have a boyfriend.”

She let out a little noise, drawing my attention to her, then raised her eyebrows. “That's the first time I've heard you call Alex that.”
“Alex and I have been together since the beginning of the year.”

The plastic bag crinkled as I rummaged for chopsticks. “Yeah, exactly. And how many times have you two talked about your relationship?”

My hand stilled on the chopsticks. “We don't need to.” Alex understood me like no one else. When I sat beside him in Weather and Climate at the beginning of the year, I found myself studying him, drawn in by more than his tan skin and styled hair. Something about his high-intensity habits mesmerized me. The bounce in his knee that never stayed, the repetitive picking at stray hangnails, and the constant movement of his hands. When I was with him, I didn't think about anything or anyone else.

“Did you and Kace ever talk about those things?”

Kace and I used to be really good at talking, up until the last time we saw each other. Then he said too much, too late, and ruined everything. “We were never together.”
“That's not what I asked.”

“Seriously, I’m with Alex now. Kace is in the past.” I grabbed my sushi roll and plopped at my desk.

But she was beside me in a second, leaning against my desk, like a collector spotting a priceless antique at an auction. “What happened? If you like each other, why aren't you together?”

I opened my saved essay on my laptop. Anything to prove this conversation wasn’t important to me. “I have homework.”

“It’s the first day of summer classes.”

“I have to do well this semester. Audio journalism requires a B average.” This was true, but something I hadn't really worried about. I'd always managed to get by in high school and so far, college seemed to be the same.

“So where was that drive two hours ago when you agreed to sushi and Club Azul?”

I sighed and angled toward her. As the oldest girl in a family of nine, Liv saw her meddling as a form of affection, but sharing was something I hadn’t been too good at lately. “He's there and I'm here. And I have things I want to do here.”

“Like make podcasts?”

“Yes.” Journalism was the best way I knew to change the world. Telling stories that mattered. Inspiring others.

“And you can't do that with a long-distance boyfriend?”

“No, I can't.”

She traced her finger along my desk, wiping away the dust that only seemed to land on my side of the room. When her eyes met mine, I knew I had to give her something more before she’d be satisfied.

I sighed. “What’s the point in dating someone who will never leave Ridgeview? Everyone is trapped there, working just to live, and I want more than that.” That was close enough to the truth. I didn’t need to add how hard it would be to return to the place that used to be so alive with my mom and never would be again. Or how I could never live with myself if I failed to do something that mattered before it was too late, like my mom did.

“So you think Kace is trapped?”

Kace had planned to leave with me until his dad left, his loyalty to helping his mom run the shop trumping any plans he had with me.

Before I figured out how to answer Liv, my phone rang. I turned around to silence it, expecting a telemarketer, but froze when I read the name: Dad. I scooped it up, my thumb hovering between the red and green buttons. It'd been weeks since his last call, but I already knew how our conversation would go. It was the same every time, making small talk as we struggled with what to say.

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Passerotti Rev 2

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Majo and Nessa Rev 2

Name: Majo and Nessa
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: WRECK-TANGLED

Pitch:

Gaming addict Asena has a secret crush on Milo, a boy she met through her virtual adventures. She’s fine with their online-only friendship—until he invites her to spend Spring Break with him in London.

Meeting Milo is a dream seven years in the making. To make it come true, she’ll have to keep her strict, dictatorial parents in the dark, or she can kiss both the trip and the boy goodbye. Dragging her best friend, best Misena-shipper, Daya with her for moral support, Asena is ready to conquer her fears and find happiness outside of her parents’ expectations. But when an adorable Milo picks them up at the airport, a surprising thought comes to Asena: Daya and Milo would be perfect for each other.

Through staged dates, bad decisions, and chasing their best friend’s dreams, the unexpected trip to London turns into a reverse love triangle where the two best friends play each other’s matchmaker, putting all three of their hearts on the line for a chance at love—at the risk of losing friendship altogether.


Revision:

One lick never killed anyone.

Unless it was poison.

And considering Mom’s glare, a strawberry tart might just as well be poison.

Further down the buffet table, Mom turned her back to me and leaned over the fizzy water fountain. My eyes roamed over the golden croissant on her plate, then lowered toward the poor slices of kiwi in mine.

Ugh.

The table was dotted with foodie crimes—caramel custards, white-chocolate cupcakes, decadent éclairs, creamy cheesecakes. All gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and Asena-free. It was unfair. A torture.

Come on, Ase. It’s just one lick.

The strawberry tart was waving at me from the dessert tray, a glazed gelée coating its crust in sweetened swirls of forbidden bliss.

One swipe. One lick.

A vicious voice rose inside me. She won’t see you.

“Asena?”

I jumped, my knuckles snapping against the side of the table. My kiwis nearly toppled off to the floor, but remained glued to the crystal sheen of the plate. Dammit.

I blinked back tears of pain as I looked up to Mom. She was gaping at my plate, her lashes fluttering in confusion. For a moment I thought she would offer me a treat (a multigrain bagel, perhaps?) but her hand closed around a jar of pear salad that she promptly added to my plate.

“You need fruits. They’re good for your skin.” Leaning over, she whispered, “Did you try the face masks I bought you?”

I nodded, pressing my painful hand to my mouth. “Hm-hm.”

Mom straightened, her signature glare piercing holes into my cheeks. “Do you know how to use them? You have terrible circles under your eyes. People will wonder what you stayed up doing a Saturday night.”

By people, she meant Miss Chen, her best-friend-worst-nemesis who we were having brunch with. These two had a habit of keeping scores and an accurate history of everything the other’s children had ever done wrong in their lives. It was a sort of competition. These brunches were outright interrogations, and skipping on one was pleading guilty. It was their way of maintaining the peace between two dictatorial queendoms. To me, it was another torture.

“I was finishing a report,” I replied, evasively, my attention back to the buffet table.

Not for that chemistry test, that was for sure.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. Balancing my plate with one hand, I fished it out with the other. A text notification brightened the screen.

Milo: Are you any close to being done yet?

A smile perked up on my lips. The last text was literally me telling him bye in the car five minutes ago. He knew I wasn’t. My face warmed as I replied.

Me: 5 mins less than the last time you asked?

I screenshot the conversation, ready to send it to Daya for gushing time. I paused when the three dots appeared at the bottom of the screen.

Milo: Can’t they speed this up? There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.

My stomach flipped. Oh. My—

“Asena!” Mom whisper-shouted. I caught a flash of black silk; the next second, Mom’s hand yanked my phone away. A scream nearly ripped out of me. “Daya can wait. Let’s go.”

My brain churned with unfinished thoughts as Mom walked away with my phone. I hoped—I prayed—she wouldn’t think of confirming her suspicions only to realize it wasn’t, in fact, Daya I was talking to. Not Daya who’d kept me up all night. Not Daya who’d got us late this morning.

I followed after Mom to our table—her favorite venue, next to the palatial bay windows, where the lighting of the morning sun gave her pale skin a brilliant glow.

I reached the table at the same time as Truby, Miss Chen’s son. He shot me the barest of lip twitch before taking the seat next to the one I was going for. I hesitated, considering rounding the table to sit beside Mom, when Miss Chen appeared in her turquoise dress, assaulting me with all the shiny glitters. Her sharp gaze made a sweep of me in my white peplum dress.

“You’ve gotten so tall, Asena.”

Miss Chen made sure I remembered my height every Sunday. Thank goodness she was here or I might forget how much I could never find long enough leggings to wear during classes. I solved the issue by wearing leg warmers over my pants any chance I got—until Mom decreed this was not a proper dress code for young, respectable, future-med-school students. It was as though she feared some college rep from the Ivy League was going to creep the student halls and add my name to the debauched list. (Because there obviously was such a thing as a debauched list.) And thanks to my leg warmers, my name might already be on it. Though just to be safe, Mom took the natural precautions and bought me a dress for every occasion. A bit much? Not to Mom. And clearly not to Miss Chen.

“I eat all my vegetables,” I replied with a tight smile.

Not picking up on my gruff tone, Miss Chen beamed. “Tall girls like you usually have trouble finding tall boys to mate.”

Despite myself, I coughed—a nervous tic I’d never been able to shake. Truby moved his mug of coffee to the other side of his plate, making a clear statement on where he stood in all of this. Out of spite, I wanted to cough in his face, but I couldn’t give Mom any more reasons to hate me, so I simply pulled out my own chair and plopped on it.

“Asena doesn’t have time to mate.”

My mother, the voice of wisdom, and eternal savior of my soul. Looking at her, she seemed to idolize me. Listening to her, I was some kind of otherworldly goddess who could do no wrong.

All an act, but I was thankful to have her by my side. Except, of course, for the phone stealing situation.

Mom rose her chin higher. “She has a big test coming up next week.”

Yes. The big test. The one I absolutely, unquestionably, non-negotiably had to pass. Without these extra credits, I couldn’t apply to med school. Without med school, I couldn’t ensure the succession of the cardiologist gene that ran in my family. I would be a sham. An unworthy child meant for exile. Phoneless, on top of everything.

Miss Chen let out a disinterested hum and picked up a warm cinnamon roll with two manicured fingers. She licked at her thumb, her eyes sparkling with delight, and eagerly reached for her dessert spoon.

The soft pastry gave way to the spoon, and a cloud of heat escaped, a scented joy that made my stomach grumble. Truby shot me a look. Being the same age, he was in most of my classes. Sometimes I had a feeling he was spying on me on behalf of his mother. Mom certainly suggested I did the same.

I shifted on my seat, and stabbed my fork into a piece of pear. Facing us, Mom and Miss Chen raved on about some Kamila girl who’d dared to send her children to Canada. Quite frankly, McGill University seemed like a good enough school. But I wasn’t sitting at the good enough table.


Something brushed against my leg. As I peeked under the table, my heart made a rattling jump. How did you get there, buddy?