Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Free #1st5pages Writing Workshop Opens Saturday, February 2nd w/ Lit Agent Jordan Hamessley and Author Carrie Ann DiRisio!

Our February workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, February 2nd at noon, EST. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Jordan Hamessley of New Leaf Literary as our agent mentor and Carrie Ann DiRisio as our author mentor!

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 the guest author as well as least one and usually two traditionally-published published or agented authors from among our permanent mentors 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 is reviewed by our mentoring literary agent, who will also give you feedback on the pitch for your story--the pitch 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.

February Guest Literary Agent Mentor: Jordan Hamessley

Jordan is actively building a list of diverse children’s fiction from picture books through YA and select adult science fiction and horror authors. Jordan has a deep affection for contemporary middle grade and YA with heart and humor. She is always looking to find stories that bring the queer experience to the children’s space across all age ranges. In terms of genre, she is interested science fiction and horror. She is also looking for quirky, non-fiction picture books with a STEM focus.

Jordan lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family and sings show tunes and tap dances in her spare time.

For Query Guidelines and to submit, please visit: Submissions 

February Guest Literary Author Mentor: Carrie Ann DiRisio

Carrie Ann DiRisio is a YA Author and creator of @BroodingYAHero. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with one large fluffy cat, and is currently pursuing her masters in Digital Marketing, although her true dream is to become a Disney Villainess, complete with a really snazzy gown. Her novel, Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character as Awesome as Me is destined to open up more conversations about YA books and how they’re written, all while delighting audiences.

In addition to writing and plans for world domination, she also enjoys running, coffee, Krav Maga, and knitting.

Have you ever wished you could receive a little guidance from your favorite book boyfriend? Ever dreamed of being the Chosen One in a YA novel? Want to know all the secrets of surviving the dreaded plot twist?

Well, popular Twitter personality @broodingYAhero is here to help as he tackles the final frontier in his media dominance: writing a book. Join Broody McHottiepants as he attempts to pen Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me, a "self-help" guide (with activities--you always need activities) that lovingly pokes fun at the YA tropes that we roll our eyes at, but secretly love. 

Where to Buy:
Barnes & Noble Amazon Indie Bound

Add it on GOODREADS!

Monday, January 21, 2019

1st 5 Pages January Workshop- Lambert Rev 2

Jeannie Lambert
Young Adult
Hacking Health

Meet me at the field,” said Tony, using a bottomless- Red-Solo cup to magnify his voice, from his truck.

“Sure, whatever,” Lars waves him off, dismissing the invite.

Tony restates his demand, a little louder, “I said meet me at the field.” Threatening them, he angles his truck for impact and revs the engine. Laying down a black line marking his territory, he barks his tires and drives his Ford truck right at them. Jessie does what anybody would; she closes her eyes and cringes. Impatient for an impact that didn’t come; she peeks out to find Tony, a-not-so-confident-driver, inching closer. And closer still, towards Jessie.

“Tony, if you touch my truck, I’m goin’ kick your ass,” said Lars.

Over the roar of the engine Tony said, “I wasn’t going to hit you.”

“Sure, Crash,” said Lars. He didn’t flinch like Jessie. Casually Lars reaches across Jessie and brushes her arm on his way to the radio dial. She feels the contact and tries not to show that she felt something, more than intended. The truck vibrates with the chorus, “We go way out where there ain’t nobody,” because Lars bumped the dial up. He corrects his mistake, and rotates the dial off before Jessie can hear her favorite part. She can’t help but hum, “We turn this cornfield into a party.” She likes Luke Brian’s songs; it’s not the usual lonesome sound of country music. Jessie misses it when it fades. Those are the only lyrics she knows. She recently moved up to the Mason Dixon line, and she’s not acclimatized to listening to the only two options for music – country or western.

Jessie inhales a full breath, welcoming a surprisingly sweet aroma of burning diesel. There isn’t much room to move, let alone breathe, when 7 people pile in a 6-passenger space. She looks around to see if anyone noticed that she’s taking up too much space. Grateful for a ride home from the football game at school, she tries to fit in next to Lars, the driver. Straddling the saddle of this herd of horses powering his truck, she felt the raw power strain against brakes held down by his commanding size-11 boot.
Jessie looks at Tony from behind the protection of Lars’ shoulder. She notices that Tony’s mirror has been dinged before, maybe a couple of times – a red, blue and it looks like black truck left flecks of paint behind. He’s lost the game of chicken before, she’s glad he didn’t hit them this time. Jessie thought Tony and Lars were friends, but they sure don’t act like it.

“Did you say something Tony? I couldn’t hear you – your truck sounds sick. Did you forget and put gas in it instead of diesel, again?” asked Lars. Jessie hears twitters of the five girls crowded in the back seat of the extended cab. Someone says “Good one Lars.”

Tony, all by himself, realizes that he’s got an audience. He spits a bit tobacco chew towards Lars’ truck. Based on Lars reaction, it must have hit the truck, nasty old spit. That is gross. Tony looks up, and across at Lars. He slowly looses the curve of his smile. Rolling up his window, he grinds the gears of the manual transmission. He peels out and takes the road away from town. Jessie thinks, what’s the point? Lars is going to catch him, he should just give up.

“What a jerk. Trucks should be seen, not heard,” said Lars. “Change of plans y’all.” He pulls half-way into the intersection, and then pops a u-ee. He breaks the law, but in a one-stop light town it’s no big deal because there is no one around to notice.

Jessie isn’t a regular at mudding. She doesn’t really get it – all they do is drive their trucks through a mud pit. Is it a sport? Is it a party? Whatever it is, it has Boiling Springs stamped all over it.

She sees a glow across the corn field; it looks like a massive bonfire.

Lars drops the group off over at the crowd of kids watching directly across the widest and deepest vantage point – the most likely to get stuck spot. The crowd loves to cheer for their favorites. Jessie can hear screams and sees the crowd run along beside the most recent competitor. It looks like he’ll make it out.

Moving closer to the speakers, staged on top of a truck bed; Jessie feels the pull to dance – solo. Some kids are brave and dance from the bed of a truck. She’s not bold enough for that. It is not choreographed or planned, mostly a free form response to the music. Her teachers wouldn’t recognize her. She keeps to herself mostly in class. Patiently quiet, she’s gotten marked absent and served a Saturday detention rather than speak up about the mistake. Glancing down at her wrist, she sees her fluttering pulse keeping time with the Electronic Dance Music. The lyrics, “Dream, Dream, Dream bigger,” speak to her. One song mixes into the next. She notices that she is no longer by herself, but with others compelled to move along with the beat.

She walks over to the line of trucks are staged and ready to compete. Griffin is a family acquaintance. She goes over to join him. Leaning against his truck he lifts his chin to acknowledge Jessie. She watches him open up his Pepsi and slide in some peanuts. He takes a deep swig. She usually likes the salty combo, but she is without peanuts. She heads over his way to see if he’ll share.

“Sup,” said Griffin. He takes the hint and pours some salty peanuts into her glass bottle of Pepsi, causing the fizz to broach the aluminum rim. She slurps loudly. The efferent gulp offers her a welcome sensation of burning caffeine.

“Hey, thanks,” said Jessie.

Despite the razor sharp edges of the corn stalks, too soon the light from morning cuts through. Waking up from her trance, she feels an unrelenting pull to head back to the house.

“When,” asks Jessie.

“Soon,” said the junior firefighter. He hacks the Navy’s weather

“Not soon enough,” said Jessie. Careful, she cautions herself; she can’t act like a yappy dog. She doesn’t believe in making plans.

“In a day or two we can expect a lightning storm. It should bust a groove for us to play in.” Jessie nods her head in response and steps with a boost of emotional helium that immediately lifts her mood.

Walking away she notices that she is covered by a film of dirt with who knows what cling-on bugs, the nabs she ate hours ago makes her now crave a back side of a forward facing mule, her eyes feel hot-glued to her contacts; and she couldn’t be happier. Moving to Boiling Springs from Miami a year ago was scary, but good based on tonight.
Flinging mud and spinning tires fuel her with the same adrenaline rush that is typically bottled up in a Red Bull. Nobody likes going mudding more than Jessie.

"Hey, what's the story with that Jessie girl?"

Jessie hears the voices through her air buds. She left her phone in her purse in Lars' truck. She is hearing them somehow.

"Does she have cancer?"

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.


“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.


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.


“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.