Saturday, October 26, 2019

The November #1st5pages Writing Workshop Is Now Closed for Submissions.

Our November workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, November 2 at noon, EDT. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have former 1st 5 Pages mentor, Kaitlyn Johnson from Corvisiero literary agency as our guest agent mentor!  We also are thrilled to have Caroline Leech join us 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!

So get those pages ready, we usually fill up fast!

Why is the First Five Pages Workshop a GREAT Opportunity?

  • You are mentored by 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 submitted after 12pm ET on the workshop start date. 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 (@eliza_daws), 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.

October Guest Literary Agent Mentor: Kaitlyn Johnson 

After receiving a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, Kaitlyn refused to leave the concept of nightly homework behind. As well as being a junior agent for Corvisiero Literary Agency, she is also a freelance editor at her own company, K. Johnson Editorial, and has worked as a copyeditor for academic publisher codeMantra, a YA editor for Accent Press, and a Conference Assistant for GrubStreet, Boston. She has written various articles for Writer's Digest and has had a flash fiction story published in the anthology A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed.

​- YA, NA, and A are her main interests. She mostly drools for fantasy, time travel, select dystopian, romance and historical fiction if it is anything other than Henry VIII.
- Contemporary can grab her attention only if the concept is unique enough and executed well. Overplayed tropes/characters make her cringe. Same goes for upper MG.
- LGBT (as well as characters questioning their sexuality) welcome in all genres accepted above.

When querying, please follow submission guidelines.

October Guest Literary Author Mentor: Caroline Leech

Caroline Leech is a Scottish writer who has lived in Houston TX since 2007.  She writes novels for teenagers, and her debut novel, WAIT FOR ME, was published in early 2017 in the USA by Harper Teen, and in the UK by Harper Collins Children's Books. Set in Scotland towards the end of World War Two, the book won the 2014 Joan Lowery Nixon Award at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in Houston, as well as the YA categories of both the Romance Writers of America Emily and Lone Star competitions. Harper Collins published Caroline's second novel, IN ANOTHER TIME, in August 2018.

In addition to writing YA fiction, she blogs a lot, reads a lot, and almost always has an audiobook playing through her headphones. She lives in Houston with her husband and three teenage children.

She can be found online at and @carolinesblurb.


Love is worth the fight.

It’s 1942, and Maisie McCall is in the Scottish Highlands doing her bit for the war effort as a lumberjill in the Women’s Timber Corps. Maisie relishes her newfound independence and her growing friendships—especially with the enigmatic John Lindsay. 

As Maisie and John work side-by-side felling trees, Maisie can’t help but feel like their friendship has the spark of something more to it. And yet every time she gets close to him, John pulls away. It’s not until Maisie rescues John from a terrible logging accident that he begins to open up to her about the truth of his past, and the pain he’s been hiding.

 Suddenly everything is more complicated than Maisie expected. And as she helps John untangle his shattered history, she must decide if she’s willing to risk her heart to help heal his. But in a world devastated by war, love might be the only thing left that can begin to heal what’s broken.
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Sunday, October 20, 2019

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Helt Rev 2

Name: Julianna Helt
Genre: MG Contemporary
Title: Slime Wars


Slime-obsessed ten-year-old Maycie and her two best friends, Shelby and Lexi spend the end of summer selling their homemade goo from the sidewalk. Maycie wants new lacrosse gear to fit in with the elite team she made in the spring. When the first attempt at selling slime ends in no sales and a giant mess, Maycie decides it’s a bad idea.  

But when her dad loses his job she starts to think a slime business might be the only way to help her parents, who might not be able to afford the elite lacrosse team’s tuition let alone new gear. To make matters worse, new girl, Aubrey, steals her best friend away after Maycie is too distracted starting the business.

When school starts, a slime war begins! Maycie’s business takes off, but Aubrey and Lexi have been selling their own slime and attempt to sabotage Maycie. Maycie has to decide to engage in revenge of her own and risk losing her friends or fight for her business to stay on the team.


I waved my sign at a passing car. “Get your slime,” I shouted. My BFFs Shelby and Lexi and I all stood in Shelby’s yard, behind an old fold-out table we lugged from her garage with plastic containers lined up on top, each filled with a different color of our awesome homemade goo.  

We spent all summer making slime and it was taking over all our houses. Lexi’s mom threatened to throw it all away if something wasn’t done. Lexi decided a good old-fashioned stand like a lemonade stand was the way to go.  But, no one stopped at our table all afternoon. Some cars slowed down but when they realized we weren’t selling lemonade on this hot day, they sped up and drove away.  

My sweaty hands slipped on the poster board with, “SLIME FOR SALE,” emblazoned in large red letters. I really wanted this plan to work. I had my eyes on some new lacrosse gear my parents said they wouldn’t buy me because my old stick was “just fine for now” even though all the girls on the elite team I made in the spring have brand new equipment.

Lexi held up her poster board with “SLIME $2” written on it. She messed up the dollar sign and scratched it out with a black marker. 

Shelby laid down on her sign, “It’s so hot,” she whined, “Can we go inside?” She decorated her poster board with hearts and stars instead of anything to do with selling slime.      

“We might as well! No one is going to want our slime!” I laid down next to Shelby, closing my eyes against the blaring sun. This was a bad plan! I’ll never get new lacrosse gear now.

Then a car door slammed.

“Hi,” Lexi said. I squinted my eyes at a boy standing on the sidewalk with a crisp five-dollar bill. His mom waited with the window down in a gray minivan.

“Maycie,” she whispered, kicking me. “Get up!”

I stood up off the grass to greet our first customer.  

“Hey, you made all this?” he asked waving at the containers on the table.  

“Um, yeah. did you want some?” I mumbled pulling the end of my ponytail into my mouth. This seemed like a good idea until someone actually wanted to buy slime. Talking to customers made my already hot body become drenched in sweat.

 “I don’t know.” The kid studied the merchandise. “Do you have blue?” He peered at the slime on our table.

“Of course.” Lexi picked up a container opening the lid.

“Ew.” She dropped it squishing her face up in disgust.

“Um, never mind.” The kid backed away his eyes wide.

“Wait!” I called, desperate to make our first sale, but he was already back in the car. It sped away as I looked in the container in Lexi’s hand. 

“Gross.” What was once a blue masterpiece was now a pool of glue and laundry detergent. It didn’t look anything like slime.

“They’re not all like that are they?” Lexi asked opening the other containers. They were. All the slime had melted in the sun.

Lexi let out a deep breath and threw herself down in the grass.

“This is terrible!” She buried her face in her hands in a dramatic pose of defeat. But I had an idea! We needed something to thicken the slime in this heat. Maybe flour?

“I’ll be right back!” I ran across the street to my house thinking about the first lacrosse practice coming up. I didn’t want to bring my old second-hand stick. The thought of running down the field with a new stick made me run across the street a little faster.

“Mom!” I screamed as the front door banged open. A blast of cold air hit my face, but I didn’t pause to enjoy it. Mom wasn’t in the living room or the kitchen. She must be in the backyard with the twins. Since she’s usually ok with me borrowing stuff and I was in a hurry, I grabbed the bag of flour and carried it back to slime headquarters. 

“What are you doing?” Lexi asked as I sprinkled some flour into the first container of blue slime stirring it with a plastic spoon. More and more flour went into the mixture, but the goo didn’t thicken like I thought it would. Flour covered the front of my #laxgirl shirt.

“Borax!” I yelled to no one in particular, picking up the bag of flour to run back home with it. As I made my way across the front yard, my sweaty hands lost their grip on the bag of flour. It slipped through my fingers exploding on to my front yard like a flour atomic bomb.

“Oh no!” I yelled. Lexi and Shelby came running.

“Look at you,” Lexi tried to brush the flour out of my hair and clothes. It only smeared it in more. Her sweaty hands now white with flour. She wiped them off on my shirt instead of her own.   

Shelby smiled. I knew she was trying not to laugh. She sniffed. Any second she was going to explode in fits of giggles.

“Don’t do it,” I warned her, putting my hand up to stop her. That just sent a whiff of flour dust in the air. I couldn’t help but crack a smile.

Shelby covered her mouth with both hands, but the sound burst from her lips under her fingers. Peels of laughter exploded across the lawn. I grabbed a handful from the bag and threw it in the air. It rained down on the three of us.

“No, don’t!” Lexi cried in horror while Shelby spun around in the flour rain

I threw another handful of flour in the air and danced in it with Shelby. Lexi laughed, streaking through the yard to escape the mess.  She’d be in so much trouble if she got flour all over her clothes. I knew this but I chased her anyway.

She stopped running, out of breath, facing me, “Please stop, Maycie!” She put her hands out in front of her.

A fistful of flour in my hand, I held it up threatening to throw it. She cowered.

“Don’t, Maycie,” A stern voice said behind me. Lexi relaxed, triumphant, looking passed me to the owner of the voice.

“Hi, Dad,” I turned, smiling my sweetest smile.

“What in the world are you doing?” he demanded. My sweetness having no effect on him whatsoever.

“I could ask you the same thing, you know. Did you skip out of work early?” I gave him a playful look, shaking my finger at him.

I expected him to have some witty comeback and we would exchange banter like we usually do. Instead, his face darkened, and he turned away.

“Just put the flour away, Maycie, and clean up. You’re a mess!” He opened up the backseat door, lifting out a box. “Can you close that door for me?” he said as he walked past.

I nodded, watching him walk toward the house, balancing the box on his hip as he opened the front door. I let go of the clump of flour in my hand, letting it fall to the ground, painting the grass with white specks. Using my hip to avoid touching Dad’s car and getting flour on it, I slammed it shut.

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Loftis Rev 2

Name: Taelor Loftis
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Veil of Sparks


After eight years of sorrow and pain, Cailan Murray is convinced that her past is what happened to her, not who she is. Secrets her dead mother bore swirl inside her own soul, and the name of the place these secrets dwell, Aspen Springs, rings through her. Here, magic reigns in the midst of mundane and Veils between worlds are visible—if one has the eyes to see them. With a promise to learn what her mother hid, Cailan enters Aspen Springs University, where things aren’t always how they appear. 

Atlas Collins, a blood-sworn Sentinel, lives by an oath: to protect the righteous and destroy the evil, so long as the light burns within. Though his path has long been destined to cross with Cailan, nothing can prepare him for the sacrifice he must make, all in the name of duty. 

The Great War between the Veils and the Underworld is ancient and Cailan’s dangerous secrets add fuel to the flames. Does she let her mortal weakness show, allowing the Night Army to claim her life and all of the Veils, or does she harness the power of her secrets and bravely rise above? Deadly decisions must be made.

Revision 2:
I am Cailan Murray and weak has never been my name—the affirmation rings through Cailan’s bones as her eyes scan the jagged peaks of the Sangre de Cristos in a last ditch effort to hold herself together. The chaos of students and parents scurrying around amidst a maze of boxes, furniture, and other various belongings becomes a distant reality as her eyes search the horizon for anything to focus on to settle her mixed emotions.
Aspen Springs, with its beautiful and haunting surroundings, has always been the kind of place that makes Cailan peer a little more closely at things. Often, she’s convinced she’s glimpsed the unfamiliar sky of some other world beyond her own or noticed a phantom sparkle swimming in the depths of a passerby’s eyes.
Across the parking lot, someone’s possessions tear through the bottom of cardboard box and scatter across Aspen Springs University’s cobblestone pavers. The sound echoes off the granite, moss-covered buildings, tethering her back to reality. College move-in day is in full force, but for Cailan it’s come to an end—her few belongings tucked away safely in her new dorm room, and her uncle readying himself to leave. Despite the buzz of anxious excitement, today serves as a gentle reminder of times spent with her mother hiking these very mountains, and as a whispered promise to believe that she is not sorrow, that she is not pain, and that her past is what has happened to her, not who she is, and not who she will become.  
“Are you all right?” her Uncle Oliver asks, searching her stormy eyes for the truth they both know her words won’t say. “You look just like Fiona when you get lost in your thoughts like that.”
“I’m…good,” Cailan murmurs half-heartedly while flashing an even less stellar smile. She supposes another half-truth tagged on to the endless stream of them she’s told throughout the years won’t really matter.
A sharp talon of a memory claws its way up from the dregs of her mind like a nightmare sprung to life—her mother’s funeral on an unseasonably cold spring day. She pushes back against that memory, willing it to fade into the darkness where it resides. But her relief is short-lived. Another memory replaces the first—this one a still-life image of Ollie’s two-bedroom house in Williams, the home they’d shared for the last eight years.
Cailan swallows hard against a sob rising in her throat, fixing her eyes on the ground and absentmindedly toeing at some loose gravel.
Ollie starts to speak but she waves him off and cuts in, wiping away a tear. “You’re the only family I have left. Mom was the last person I ever said goodbye to.” Her voice cracks on the last few words as her emotions threaten to consume her. “I’ve been saying goodbye to people and places my entire life. I don’t want to ever say goodbye again.”
Furious at herself for allowing tears to form, Cailan kicks the pile of loose gravel towards Ollie’s truck. He peels himself from his resting spot against the old, blue Ford, nervously adjusting and readjusting his faded ASU cap atop his sandy curls, before embracing her in a giant bear hug. His arms tighten around her to the point where she finds it difficult to breathe, and as her tears betray her, spilling over the seams of her eyes, the soft knit fabric of his t-shirt collects them.
“Cai, I think you’re worrying about too many things you shouldn’t be worrying about today. You’ve got this.” Ollie’s words resonate through his chest.
When Cailan’s trembling slows and the nightmarish memories grow dim, she releases Ollie and dares to meet his eyes. His lopsided grin stretches across his face, a trait he shares with his sister. Longing pangs through her as she thinks about how much he resembles her mom.
“Don’t be afraid to have fun, Cai. You have your whole life to be adulty and serious. Enjoy your time here. You only get to do college for the first time, once.”
“I promise I’ll try—will—I promise I will have fun.” The sound of these words tumbling from her mouth are strange and foreign to Cailan. She’s always been more of a work first and play never type of girl, though she supposes Ollie is right. Getting an education is important, but discovering the secrets she knows her mother harbored is a priority—and being in the center of the place where those secrets began is exactly where she needs to be. After all, her mother’s memory lives here, nestled amongst the grotesque gargoyles with their ever-watching eyes and whispering through the pale, silvery leaves of the towering aspens.
As Ollie makes his way around his truck, Cailan studies the Sangre de Cristos surrounding the sprawling, gothic campus. Her blue-grey eyes climb higher and higher until nearing the top of the tallest peak, lingering on that spot, anticipating something more—an answer, perhaps, that there’s more to life than what’s perceived. And maybe her mother understood this. Maybe she, too, felt and saw veils of worlds beyond our own, she thinks.
Her attention is drawn away from the mountains when someone rushes past her, brushing her shoulder. She spins, expecting to find another student or parent juggling too many things and racing towards the dorm. Instead, now a few paces away, strides a man—no, a boy—with his hands shoved in the pockets of his cuffed jeans. As if aware of Cailan’s gaze, the boy glances over his shoulder, wearing a wicked grin beneath his dark stubble. Flecks of silver dance in the midnight pools of his eyes. And when he winks at Cailan, a dark chill runs through her, driving home the truth that this place is, in fact, more than it seems.
The sound of Ollie’s rusted truck door slamming shut startles her.
He leans across the bench seat speaking to Cailan through the passenger window. “Cai,” he begins, “I won’t say goodbye. Goodbye is permanent.” Again, his lopsided grin spreads across his face. “So instead, I’m saying later.”
And in the words between his words Cailan finds grace against her fears. “Later,” she says, daring to let a smile slip across her lips.
Cailan listens to the old Ford’s engine echoing off the granite buildings as it winds its way out the main entrance of the university.
I will do what I must to learn the secrets of this place—to become a part of the world my mom lived in, she thinks, even if it means becoming a secret myself.

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Barrios Rev 2

Name: Anita McDivitt Barrios
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: Dragon's Leap


When the lung pipes sound, calling the valley's youth to the Leaping Cliff to dive and attract an immature dragon with their courage, 14-year-old Iric MacDraegan aches to answer the call and be like his father, a respected rider, trusted to care for a fledgling at the castle Mews. 

Then a nest of dragon eggs is slaughtered. The valley's protector senses Iric's nascent telepathy and plucks him from a field. In exchange for a place at the Leap, Iric agrees to flush the killer - a juvenile dragon - from the castle's perches. He must find the murderer before the eggs' grief-enraged mother rallies a cadre of vengeful dragons to destroy the castle and everyone inside.

When a second nest is slaughtered, Iric pieces together the clues and the circumstances of his father's death. He realizes they both point to another predator lurking in the castle and it won't stop killing until it eradicates all dragons from the valley, including the dragon he loves.

DRAGON'S LEAP is a complete YA fantasy at 93,000 words and will appeal to fans of the dark tone of Tui T. Sutherland's Darkstalker, but naturalistic depiction of dragons of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series.

Chapter 1 - The Call

Iric MacDraegan jammed his thumbs into his ears as the heavy drone of two clashing notes followed him into the farmhouse, scraping his disappointment raw.

They're calling another Leap. He balled his fists as if he could pummel the sound into a pleasant harmony. Everyone else in earshot was already responding to the lung pipes, packing a sack and getting ready to fling themselves over the Leaping Cliff, hoping and praying they'd be dragon-chosen.

But not Iric. He was trapped on the farm with stalls to muck, a cow to milk, chickens to feed and fences to mend.

The fire crackled. A three-footed black pot, full to the brim with porridge, simmered in the flames. He placed the egg basket and milk pail on the table and served himself a bowl.

His mother appeared, sweaty from stoking the fire, skirts gathered in one hand. She wiped her brow on a rolled-up sleeve and served him a ladle of last night's mutton and gravy from a smaller pot. Her red hair, a glorious crown of curls pulled off her neck and piled
on her head, was greying around the edges. Her hands, rough and cracked from washing and weaving and tending fires, were strong and steady.

The droning penetrated the room, swirling like wood smoke. Heavy. Stifling. Suffocating. He couldn't stand it.

"I'm 14. I want to fly."

Her eyes locked on him. She didn't even pause before answering. "I can't lose you."

"That's not fair. I could be dragon-chosen. Like Dad."

She flicked an imaginary crumb off the embroidered tablecloth. "Your Uncle and I were talking the other day. He thinks you could lead the next drive to the shearing house. Take the horse and drive our quota in. He could use the help."

He flinched like she had slapped him. She may as well have. "Why're you always trying to get me to care about sheep?"

She bunched her rough wool shawl higher around her neck and smoothed her hands on her skirts. "You don't understand. If the River Maw is running low, you could bust your head open on the Beach of Sorrows. Break your legs. One of those beasts could rip off
your arm."

"I'll be fine. I'm not a kid anymore. I've outgrown Dad's boots. I'm taller than he was, too. Uncle Luak says so. If you let me Leap, I could get you all the stuff you have to barter for now, dragon mutes and dragon-casted wool. I could really help you then." He stabbed a piece of mutton with a knife. It screeched and pushed a glob of gravy over the edge.

The sound of the pipes ricocheted off the walls, louder and shriller.

"No one knows what they want in a rider, not even them." She sniffed. "What if you're not chosen? You want to spend the rest of your life with a mangled leg? How about losing an eye?"

"I could be like my father."

"Dragons killed your father and nearly broke me. Don't you ever forget it!" She hit the table with a fist and half rose off the bench.

"I get it. You hate the Mews." He tried again. "But it can't be as bad as you say, or no one would ever Leap. I think it'd be amazing."

Her arm flashed across the table. She grabbed his wrist, pinning it between her thumb and fingers. He dropped the knife and pulled back. She held him fast.

"You think being dragon-chosen'll make you different? Special, somehow?" She sneered the word, special. "That a dragonling'll care about you? Make no mistake. They're beasts. They're not pets. They don't think like us. They don't love. They don't have friends. They're not nice. Ever. They're selfish to a scale. All they care about is getting what they want, what they need. Not what anyone else wants or needs. Not about you or anyone you love. They're the true Lords of the Mews, not the Council or the Masters or the Wing Leaders. Everyone serves them. It's twisted."

"Are you any different?" He yanked out of her grip and stood up. "Isn't that all you care about? Making me stay here so I can chop wood and round up the sheep and do chores for you? So you don't have to?"

Droning filled the silence.

"I only want what's best for you." Her shoulders slumped and she curled her empty hand into a fist. "I want to keep you safe. I want you to have a long life surrounded by people who love you. I want you to have what I never could."

He took a deep breath. He couldn't stop now. "I want the chance to Leap."

"You don't understand what you're saying." Her hands shook. She covered her face.

"What did Dad want for me?"

Her head shot up, face stony white and lips set in a grim line. "No," she whispered.

"See? It doesn't matter what I say. You'll never listen to me and you'll never let me go!" He stomped out the front door, slamming it shut. He ran to the barn, then out to the empty corral, sucking in the cold air, holding back tears. She'd never understand him, never see, never know how he felt stuck on the ground when he could be touching the sky.

The empty pasture mocked him in the dawning sun.

He had to round up the damn sheep.

The dragon lung pipes bellowed across the fields, calling.

Chapter 2 - Zoll

Iric plucked a snail from the trampled grass. There were so many of them, after the relatively warm winter, the sheep couldn't help munching them as they grazed. He absently traced the swirl of its shell with his index finger while searching the edge of the pasture. Two brown roe deer, a doe and fawn, peeked out of the high brush. They tested the air with their noses and froze.

Where were the sheep?

Two days ago he'd tracked most of his mother's spooked herd to old man MacSeaghan's place and drove them home, but a small group of about 20 split off. He'd only now followed their hoof prints to the pasture by the gentle stream on the westernmost edge of the
ranch, the call gnawing at him. Wool earmuffs dampened the sound, but it was like water, soaking him head to toe. He gritted his teeth, anticipating another sleepless night. He was a wolf caught in a trap. How long could he endure this before he gnawed off his own
leg to escape?

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It would be so easy. He knew the route, at least as far as the shearing house and barge crossing the River Maw. From there, he had to imagine it: the road around the castle Mews, through the Fields of Prey, ending at the
Leaping Cliff. Baltair and Ealar, his mates from lessons in the Widow Affrey's barn, would be stunned.

But he couldn't do any of that without changing his mother's mind. He wouldn't abandon her. That was too close to what his father did.

He'd been a baby when his father disappeared. Uncle Luak said weeks went by before the fouled waters of the Lake Maw led ranchers to his father's and the dragons' corpses. A dragon rider brought his mother a box containing all that remained: a few pieces of torn
dragon scale armor, a helmet and his bones.

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Franz Rev 2

Name: Jason Franz
Genre: Middle Grade Sci-Fi
Title: Attention Authors of Earth


Thirteen-year-old fan-girl, Paige Turner, loves sci-fi. She watches it, reads it, and writes her own stories about new worlds and civilizations in galaxies far, far away. Paige knows she’s got what it takes to break into publishing if she could only finish one of her stories. Every hero has a weakness. Superman had kryptonite. George Lucas had Jar Jar Binks. For Paige, it’s endings.

When Paige is invited to a young sci-fi writer’s conference on the shores of Lake Superior, she knows it’s her chance to master the art of the ending. After all, her favorite author will be mentoring. Finishing a book will be the start of Paige’s new life as a real author and will win the support of the feet-on-the-ground normies around her. She may even best her writing rival.

But the conference isn’t what Paige expects. Jellyfish from outer space set it up in hopes of finding a young sci-fi author who can imagine a solution to their real-life problem. Things only get worse when their enemies crash the conference. Now, Paige Turner, the girl who can’t end her own stories, must find a peaceful end to their war, or it’ll be the end of Earth.


The petrified people of the planet below watched the Deathlorian’s dreaded dreadnought shoot toward the atmosphere like a blazing, bedazzled missile. Lavender light sparkled off the commander’s mega-sharp metal scales like a devilish disco ball, but no one danced. He’d return in three rotations of their purple sun, either to rule their world, or—

The tires of the writers’ conference bus dip into, like, the nintey-thousandth pothole since leaving California. The jostling causes me to scribble a dark line up the middle of my page. Writing is hard enough with the roar of conversation and engine noise bouncing off the curved walls, but if this continues, this story will end up like all the others—unfinished. Mom, her stupid boyfriend, my teachers, and, worst of all, Kristy Kruz, will be right. I have to finish before the conference.

I tap the clicky top of my pen against my chin. Now, what does the dreadnought look like? I close my eyes like I’m in history class and deconstruct a bunch of different ships from my favorite movies in my head, and put them back together as something new. When I open my eyes, a ship with long tentacles, glowing with orange energy, follows outside the bus. The whips are attached to a metal disc that looks like an upside-down plate. Round, red windows wrap around it like glaring eyes. On top of that disc is a light-green dome I can’t see into. It looks like a flying jellyfish…and nothing like the ship I’d actually imagined. It won’t go away until it’s written down. I lean up against my porthole-style window, smoosh my brown, curly pigtails against the cold glass, put pen to paper, and...

Another pothole sends my notebook tumbling from my knees. It ricochets off my black boots, and slides behind me. Crap! This is the longest I’ve stuck with a story. I’ve gotta find it. The polished floor shakes beneath me as I crawl under my seat. My notebook’s only a few feet back. I reach past other passengers' shoes, and one pair of slippers. I avoid the tissue smeared with what I tell myself is a half-eaten Baby Ruth bar, but I can’t find it. Did I nudge it back farther? I move my arm and check. Nothing.

I freeze, I don’t know for how long. My heart beats faster than the U.S.S. Enterprise’s warp drive. What if whoever picked it up reads it and hates it? What’ll they think when they see all the stories I've started but failed to finish? What if they don’t return it? The worst keeps flying through my head until a sheepish voice cuts through my fear. “D-did someone named Paige Turner lose a…um…” there’s a quick clearing of the throat before the sentence concludes, “a notebook?”

Gah! I’d written my name on the inside cover of my notebook. Which means whoever found it, opened it. They’re gonna read it, they’re gonna hate it. I shoot out from under the seat, snagging my pigtails on a bolt. I pop up in my seat, my hair a tangled mess and my neon green glasses hanging on my ear by one arm.

“Th-this belong to you?” A boy in a blue plaid shirt I’m kinda jealous of, asks.

I blow the hair away from my eyes then nod. The boy scoots out of his seat and shuffles up the aisle. He keeps his head tilted to the floor like he’s afraid it’ll split and swallow him if he’s not looking. His dirty-blonde hair stays draped in front of his eyes as he drums his fingers against the brown, hardcover of my notebook without a word. Kinda creepy. “Thanks?” I say, when I can’t take the awkwardness anymore.

The boy chuckles, clears his throat, and chuckles again. “O-ok, well, it was nice talking to you. Y-you’re off to a good start. Bye.” He places my notebook on my backpack even though I’m reaching for it, then scuttles back to his seat. He moves the hair away from one of his green eyes then watches the other passengers.

I’m ‘off to a good start’? He did read it. My guts churn the way they used to in my counselor’s office. It’s weird, between reading and writing I love open books—feeling like one is a different story. Yet, in a way, this kid who’d read my words without permission knows me better than anyone because of it. I never let anyone read my stuff. I wonder what he thinks—but how can I can look him in the eyes after what he did. Why am I still looking at him? He catches me and sinks out of view.

Eye contact won’t be a problem. I tie my black and grey plaid top around my waist so as to display my Tribbles Ate My Homework T-shirt and head up the aisle, The boy is hunkered down in his seat like it’s WWII fox hole. “Hi, can I sit next to you?” He freezes with this Jurassic Park, don’t move, she can’t see me if I don’t move, expression. I don’t wait for him to answer before plopping down next to hime. “Since you already know my name, what’s yours?”

His lips are tight as he chews on the inside of his cheek. He FINALLY clears his throat, and all the words come out in a garbled mess, “Imwilburwellsbut…youcancallmescrap.”

“Wow, long name. Is it Klingon?”

A hint of a smile spreads across his face. The boy’s breaths become longer and slower, as opposed to the quick, bunny-like puffs from before. “I’m Wilbur,” he says. “Wells. B-but, since my, dad owns a, uh—a junk yard, most people call me Scrap.”

“People? You mean you friends?”

“Ha! N-No. Definitely not friends.”

Jerks. I give Scrap a sympathetic frown. I know what it’s like to be an outsider. When I first started writing about galaxies far, far away, I would act out my stories. Mom thought I was having trouble coping with Dad leaving so she took me to a counselor. When Kristy Kruz found out, she spread a rumor I was seeing a “crazy doctor” because I’d been abducted by aliens, or delivered to Earth by aliens, depending on the version you heard. “I’m sorry you get picked on.”

“D-don’t be,” Scrap says. “I build stuff outta scrap parts too, so I kinda like it.”

“What kinds of things do you build?”

He moves the hair away from his eyes. “All kinds of the things.”  

“If you want, I’ll be the first friend to call ya Scrap.”

“Okay!” Scrap’s smiling so big he makes me smile. “B-by the way, nice glasses. G-green is your color.” I must be blushing because he apologizes and quickly turns toward the window where something big and cold-blue stretches toward the horizon. “S-sweet! I think that’s Lake Superior, we must be close!”

I shake my head. “We only left California an hour ago, how can we be in Michigan?”

Scrap grins. “It…it’s a sci-fi, um…writer’s conference, maybe our shuttle’s got light-speed.”

I know he’s joking about the light-speed, but that is Lake Superior peeking out from behind the snow-crusted trees. The coast I’m used to is warm and inviting. Lake Superior is this dark, menacing thing. Brownish-red sediment seeps from the nearby clay cliffs and mixes with the churning water like blood. It makes me shiver. The bus swings around a bend and the Great Lake disappears behind rolling hills, and run-down cottages.

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Simon Rev 2

Name: Kelsey Simon
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Title: The Guilt of Healing


Sixteen-year-old Clay thinks it’s probably a good thing he’s not one of the rare people in the world blessed with the ability to heal. His best friend, Nicco, already pulls enough crazy stunts without a healer around.

Ever since Clay accidentally shot Nicco and almost took his life, his friend has chased after every adrenaline rush he can, often putting himself in danger―and Clay feels obligated to always be there to pick him up. Clay wants Nicco to be safe, but deep down, he also wants to be free from the guilt he feels. Maybe even free of Nicco. 

When a classmate healer fixes Nicco’s ankle after he jumps from a balcony, Clay is relieved. That’s one less trip he has to make to the ER. But the rush Nicco gets from being healed is his new obsession, and he starts throwing himself into more dangerous situations―situations that put Clay in danger too. Clay has to decide how far he’s willing to go, and just how much Nicco’s friendship―and his guilt―matter to him. Him and Nicco have been a duo for as long as he can remember, but if he sticks by Nicco’s side, he might just find himself arrested, or worse, hospitalized.  


Nicco leans out over the second-story balcony as far as he can. The gray of late evening spans out before us, the waters of the bay as dark as ink on the right. Below, a large pool rests in the center of a well maintained backyard, the whole area swarming with kids and booming with music.

“I could make it into the water,” Nicco says, eyeing the drop from the balcony to the pool. “It’s not a big jump.”

I clench my jaw and force back a sigh. When Nicco slammed my locker shut and told me we had plans tonight, I said what I always say―I’m in. Being with him is the best way to make sure he doesn’t do something crazy―like jumping from a second story balcony and into the shallow end of a pool. 

“Come on,” I say from my spot a few feet behind him. “You’ll get hurt.”

The kids below us have started to notice Nicco and turn to stare. Each set of eyes is one more reason he won’t back down.

“Why don’t you get down and have another drink,” I say, bargaining. That’s always the first step when Nicco gets a hunger like this one. Bargain first, argue second, get physical third, if the situation is desperate enough to warrant it. The two girls he’d been flirting with earlier whisper to each other behind me. One lifts her phone, obviously framing Nicco with her camera. He gives her a casual thumbs up, his grin wide.

I refrain from rolling my eyes.

“Oh, you come on, Clay. It’ll be easy.” His eyes widen as he turns to stare down at the pool and the challenge I know he’s contemplating. He’s probably imagining it―the drop down and all the eyes that would be on him as he fell.

“And if you get hurt?” I say, because that’s what I’m really worried about anyway. Nicco can drag me to a party two hours from home. He can leave me feeling awkward as I stumble through a conversation with a pretty girl I’ve never met before. He can even drink himself into a buzz while I stand sober, the designated driver. But him jumping from a second-story balcony for a few seconds of adrenaline and fame? That’s likely to leave him with a broken bone or worse? I can’t stand idly by.

“Well, at least there’s a healer here,” Nicco answers, pointing.

“What?” I step forward, joining him at the railing, following his finger to a girl standing at the front of the pool. “Is that Lacey Stephens?”

She’s tall, her hair the same rich brown as I remember it, just a few shades lighter than her skin. Not much has visibly changed about her, but she seems to stand taller. We had pre-calc together that year, but then she’d discovered she had the rare ability to heal, and left to attend Kisper High, the boroughs school just for healers.

“I’m sure if I hurt, she’ll heal me,” Nicco says, shrugging.

She pushes past a dancing couple, and just when she’s about to disappear beneath the balcony where we won’t be able to see her, her eyes flash up and lock onto us.

I jerk back. “That’s a stupid assumption,” I hiss. We don’t know Lacey, certainly not well enough to ask for a healing. Besides, who knew what she could heal, or how much or how fast. There were rules about those sorts of things, rules neither Nicco or I knew.

“I’m doing it,” Nicco whispers under his breath before he leans forward and shouts, “Do you dare me to jump?!”

“Don’t,” I say, stepping toward him but Nicco is already climbing the railing. He’s probably sees Lacey being here as a sign. “She’s not going to heal you if you get hurt. They’ll just call an ambulance,” I try to reason. I know he can’t afford an ambulance. His family doesn’t have health insurance like mine.

“It’ll be fine.” He glances at me over his shoulder, the muscle in his left cheek twitching and his eyes shifting side to side. He’s already feeling the adrenaline pump through his veins. He won’t back down. Not now.

Any whisper of the bay’s waves crashing into the nearby is completely drowned out in the chant of everyone below. Their words soar around us. “Do it! Do it!” It grows louder and louder as more and more kids pick up the chant. Everyone’s watching Nicco now, some even raising their drinks to the sky, cheering him on.

This is what he lives for. The attention, the rush. It’s probably not even worth me trying to stop him, but I’ll give it one more try. It’s why I’m here, after all.

“You’ll break a leg, just look,” I say, pointing over the railing to the pool. “That’s the shallow end, you idiot.” The deep end is the one farthest from us. He’s got three feet of water to stop his fall.

I’m judging the distance between us now, judging how hard it would be to grab his arm and yank him back. He’ll be mad. He’ll be roaring with the loss of the rush he didn’t get. He might even shove me down and do it anyway, his determination so solid not even I can break through it.

Let him jump and be there to pick him up and take him to the hospital? Or fight him only to get hurt myself and still see him jump?

He’s done worse than this and survived.

One of the girls behind me grabs my shoulder in excitement, and I turn my head. Just a breath, and I’m not looking at Nicco.

He disappears from the corner of my eye.

The crowd inhales like a single giant beast.

“Shit,” I shout as I scramble to the spot he just vacated, leaning over to see. He pulls up his legs, cannon-balling down, plummeting toward the water. He smashes into it, spraying everyone brave enough not to back away. I release the breath I’d been holding. He made it. Time to get down there and make sure he made it in one piece. I shove past the two girls and back into the house. I take the stairs down two at a time, pushing anyone in my way out of my path. I need to get to Nicco as fast as possible. I need to make sure he’s okay, and if he’s not, I need to get him help.

It’s hard not to see him in my mind, on the ground of his brother’s room, a pool of blood seeping from under his chest. I grit my teeth and wipe the memory away. That was three years ago. That was my fault. This isn’t the same. People shout and laugh as I squeeze past them―a good sign. Surely they’d be screaming if Nicco was injured. I jog down the stone path that winds around the house to the backyard, the salty, musty scent of the bay barely distinguishable over the smell of spilled beer, making my knotted stomach flip and bile rise up my throat.

Finally, through the crowd, I catch sight of him.  He’s in one piece, no blood, casually leaning against the edge of the pool like what he just did wasn’t dangerous and dumb. His black curls drip with water, and he even has the audacity to accept congratulations from the few people willing to offer it.