PW-2 (MG): PROFESSOR PLUTONIUM

MENTOR: Shannon Duffy MENTEE: Jeff Chen TITLE: PROFESSOR PLUTONIUM CATEGORY/GENRE: MG Humorous Adventure WORD COUNT: 46,000   PITCH: Calvin and Hobbes meets The Da Vinci Code. Tony Pluto quests to become super-spy Professor Plutonium, but blocking his mission are a sixth-grade kingpin, a Princess Bride giantess, and a little brother who also wants to become Professor Plutonium (or maybe a dog). When Tony discovers an encrypted contest, a secret agent’s life can finally be his—if he cracks the code before his rivals.   EXCERPT: Tony Pluto’s head swirled with visions of spy gadgets and ultra-secret codes. Everything, yes everything, would be different once he became Professor Plutonium. No one would push him around, not even his archenemies at Franklin Elementary. After all, who would dare mess with a secret agent more awesome than James Bond? No one, that’s who! Never again would Tony have to dig spitballs out of his ears, because Professor Plutonium would rule the school. A squeaky voice snapped Tony from his trance. “Do I have to do this?” said his little brother, sniffing at a bowl of red-speckled corn flakes. Billy, a miniature version of Tony, tugged at the collar of his Boston Red Sox T-shirt, smaller but otherwise identical to Tony’s. Bright rubber wristbands covered his forearms, making it look like a rainbow had thrown up on him. “Hurry up and take a bite,” Tony said. “I have a lot of inventions to finish before I can become Professor Plutonium.” He leaned over his notebook, open to a page that read: SECRET AGENT NoTEBook ULTRA-MEGA TOP SECRET, LEVEL INFINITY+1 Do not read on penalty of TORTURE and then DEATH (and then EVEN MORE TORTURE AFTER THAT!)   Super-secret Plutonic Inventions (SPIs) SPI #14: Mouth-melting Cereal Test Subject: Billy Pluto   Billy dragged one hand across a dripping nostril. “Why do I gotta do it?” Tony sighed. Six-year-olds know so little about the ways of the...

Read More

PW-3 (MG): SUPER JAKE, NOT-SO-SUPER FREDDY, AND ME, THE KING OF CHAOS

MENTOR: Veronica Bartles MENTEE: Naomi Milliner TITLE: SUPER JAKE, NOT-SO-SUPER FREDDY, AND ME, THE KING OF CHAOS CATEGORY/GENRE: MG Contemporary WORD COUNT: 44,000   PITCH: Ethan relies on top hats and magic wands to get through endless ER visits with his special needs brother. But when Jake’s latest trip to the ICU threatens to cancel Ethan’s biggest performance, he must decide whether he wants to be a master magician or “Jake’s big brother.”   EXCERPT: Whether my audience is nine-year-old Superheroes with plastic hammers and shields, or ninety-year-old great-grandparents with white hair and walkers, everybody loves magic. Especially me. Today’s audience of three-year-old girls includes Princess Leia poking Pocahontas; Belle whacking a ballerina with a balloon; and Snow White screaming for mommy. Welcome to my world. I started doing magic shows a year ago, at the beginning of sixth grade, and I loved every second of it. Then school ended, summer started, and my seven-year-old brother was bored. “Ethan, why don’t you put Freddy in your act?” Mom suggested. “He could be your assistant.” Sometimes I think her favorite thing is finding new ways to ruin my life. Faster than you can say “Abracadabra,” I explained why her latest idea was even worse than usual. “What if I accidentally saw him in half?” No loving parent could argue with that. Next day, Freddy pranced into the living room wearing a top hat that practically covered his eyes, black shirt and pants, and a crooked red bowtie. It was like staring at myself in one of those funhouse mirrors, where everything is exaggerated. And scary-looking. “Doesn’t he look wonderful?” Mom gushed. “He certainly does.” Dad put his arm around her waist and pulled her close. I hate mushy stuff as much as anyone, but my parents used to be like that all the time. Until Jake was born and Mom got nervous and Dad got sad and everything...

Read More

PW-4 (MG): A LANGUAGE DARK AND LOVELY

Mentor: Brent Taylor Mentee: Rachel Moser-Hardy Title: A LANGUAGE DARK AND LOVELY Category/Genre: MG Fantasy Word Count: 88,000   Pitch: Some books have a peculiar habit of causing trouble. When Lily finds a book only she can read, she must use it to stop her villainous father’s rise to power. However, a blackbird steals the book. Excerpt: The forest untouched by daylight had many names. To some, it was the “Nightlands.” To others, it was the “Traveller’s Doom.” Some called it the “Tread-Not Woodlands,” and many, the “Dark Moon Forest.” But one child had the misfortune of calling it home. Twigs and branches snapped beneath her feet as she scurried among the tall, decaying trees. She pulled her black shawl tighter around her shoulders as the familiar coldness of the forest settled into her bones like snow collecting in an open chimney, extinguishing the fire within. She was late. She had spent the evening shopping for bread and fruit in the village, under orders of her Masters, and had been instructed by none other than her Great Master to return precisely at midnight. However, the merchant of the bread shop had accused her of being a thief (apparently, she looked the sort), and after a dismally long argument, she had been shooed out of the shop with a rather uncomfortable dustpan. Now she was returning seventeen minutes late without the desired bread. Double trouble. The child, a bit preoccupied by her current predicament and fears of what her punishments might entail, did not notice the little blackbird with snowdrop gray eyes following her every step.  The blackbird fluttered from branch to branch, never letting the child slip out of his gaze. She was easy to follow, her icy blonde hair contrasting drastically with the blackness surrounding her. She hurried on and on through the dense trees, unknowingly leading the blackbird exactly to the place for which he had been...

Read More

PW-5 (MG): THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY

MENTOR: Joy McCullough-Carranza MENTEE: Laura Shovan TITLE: THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY CATEGORY/GENRE: MG Contemporary Verse Novel WORD COUNT: 19,000 PITCH: Miss Hill’s class is determined to rescue Emerson Elementary from demolition, but popular Ashlie Hawk has a secret: Her father’s behind the plans to raze their school. For this class of student poets, it’s a revolutionary year in fifth grade.   EXCERPT: Notebook By Edgar Lee Jones Yo, Notebook. I am your poet. I will fill you with words. I don’t mind writing a poem for our teacher, some rhymes Miss Hill will feature in our class book. Notebook, hope you don’t mind waiting in my backpack. I know you’re hating the dark in there, smells murky as old turkey. But you got nothing to fear. After school, I’ll take you out in a sunny place, tell you what life’s all about for a fifth grade poet. Fresh air, blue sky, my notebook and I. History By George Furst My name is George Washington Furst. Don’t laugh. My parents are History teachers. They met at George Washington’s house, a museum called Mount Vernon. Vernon is the name of our cat, who lives with me and my mom. My dad doesn’t live with us. He moved out and took half the furniture, so probably we won’t visit Mount Vernon on my birthday like usual because nothing’s like usual. If Mount Vernon is standing after 250 years, why do people want to demolish Emerson Elementary? School is the only place I can count on to never change. If I’m elected Class President, I’ll explain to our principal that buildings can last 250 years. If I save our school, maybe Dad will get it: some things are worth...

Read More

PW-6 (MG): LANG SAWYER AND THE DEN OF NOSTROMO

MENTOR: Jen Swann Downey MENTEE: Glenn McCarty TITLE: LANG SAWYER AND THE DEN OF NOSTROMO CATEGORY/GENRE: Upper MG Fantasy WORD COUNT: 72,000   PITCH: Lang Sawyer’s quest for glory as a teenage monster hunter becomes a struggle for survival after he makes a monstrous discovery – characters from storybooks are disappearing, causing havoc in the worlds they’ve left behind. Now Lang must match wits with Alistair Frankenstein, a ruthless scientist whose hunger for new research specimens threatens to destroy the stories themselves.   EXCERPT: Here’s the thing about finding out your great-great grandfather Tom Sawyer was a big time monster hunter, that he killed Dracula, and that your Dad’s running the family business out of the former Indian cave behind your house. (You know, in case that ever happens.) The thing to remember? It’s not all fangs and glory. It’s a hit-or-miss proposition. Like literally, hit or miss. Sometimes you hit the crossbow target your Dad sets up for you in the backyard. And sometimes you miss. And hit your neighbor’s poodle. In the tail. Yeah, that was a thing. The upside? Missing school to jet to Peru and track a deadly creature called the Mapinguari. But even that’s got its drawbacks. Sweat being the biggest one. Hunger, too. That’s pretty much all I can think about on day two in the Amazon rainforest. Late afternoon. Heat still in the triple digits. Everywhere green on green, the sun strafing the leafy canopy. Dad skids to a stop and points at a spot on the ground inches from my right foot. I mop the sweat from my already-drenched St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap. “Freeze, Lang,” he says, with zero irony. I don’t know much about the jungle, but I’ve read about the snakes. Fire hose-sized ones. With a proclivity for squeezing people until their insides turn to Cheez Whiz. “Python?” I ask. Dad scowls and jabs his finger toward the ground. “No. Some sort of track. And it’s a big one. Step around it....

Read More

PW-7 (MG): STICKS AND STONES

MENTOR: Gail Nall MENTEE: Abby Cooper TITLE: STICKS AND STONES CATEGORY/GENRE: MG Contemporary WORD COUNT: 47,000   PITCH: Thirteen-year-old Elyse has a disease where the names people call her stick to her body like temporary tattoos, and not the cool kind. If she’s chosen as the leader for the big class trip, popularity and positive words will be hers. If not, she’ll be doomed to feel like a loser forever—and look like one, too.   EXCERPT: Holy high heels, was I in pain. And I mean pain. It was like getting my ears pierced all over again, except I basically had three million ears instead of two. And instead of getting cute little sparkly studs at the end of all the torture, I got words plastered all over my arms and legs. Stupid, stupid, stupid words. And they didn’t even sparkle. I took a giant deep breath and inspected my right arm. The word NERD, written in big, bold uppercase black letters, stung like a slew of angry bees. “Jeg!” I whined into the phone. “You know you can’t say that, even when you’re joking!” “Sorry!” she said, and I could tell she really meant it. As my best friend, it was her responsibility—no, her job—to make sure she didn’t hurt me on purpose. And to lend me adorable shoes. Mostly to lend me adorable shoes. Mom poked her head into my room. She was carrying a laundry basket, which meant two important things: one, it was laundry day again, and two, I was about to get in big trouble. “Elyse!” Mom said, looking around the room like she had never seen anything more disgusting in her entire life. “What did I tell you about leaving dirty socks all over your room?” Trouble. Called it. “Hang on,” I whispered to Jeg. Then, to Mom, I argued, “They’re only on the floor for easy access, so I don’t have to go all the way to the...

Read More

PW-8 (MG): HOWARD WALLACE, P.I.

MENTOR: Naomi Hughes MENTEE: Casey Lyall TITLE: HOWARD WALLACE, P.I. CATEGORY/GENRE: MG Mystery (Noir) WORD COUNT: 27,000   PITCH: Eleven year old P.I. Howard Wallace gets by with a semi-reliable bike, a lucky trench coat, and a corner office in the school yard. But when his smart-mouthed new partner ropes him into a hot case of blackmail, the perp targets the agency. If Howard wants to stay open for business, he may have to cross the line between investigator and delinquent. EXCERPT: She didn’t knock, just barged through the door like she owned the place. She did own it but that was beside the point. I knew my rights, and privacy was at the top of the list. She planted herself in the middle of the room and scowled as her eyes swept across the floor. Every dirty cup and rogue piece of laundry was noted and filed away on her mental list of my many transgressions. Her face twisted with disgust as the horde of foul aromas began to penetrate her frustration. She took a deep breath (I could have told her that was a bad idea) and let it out in a hiss. With a shake of her head, she turned to me. “Howard, how many times do I have to ask you to clean your room?” I told her to scram; I had things just how I liked them. Some mornings I should just keep my mouth shut. “Howard Jamieson Wallace.” The temperature in the room took a nose dive. “That’s the first and last time you ever tell your mother to scram. I want this place spotless when you get home. Hurry up and get dressed, you’re going to be late for school.” With one last grimace at the offending mess, she turned on her heel and left. Women. She had a point though. It was about time for me to check in at the...

Read More

PW-9 (MG): THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING

MENTOR: Stephanie Funk MENTEE: Ryan Dalton TITLE: THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING CATEGORY/GENRE: MG Mystery WORD COUNT: 78,000   PITCH: When twins Malcolm and Valentine Gilbert encounter a house with no doors, they discover it hides a machine that does far more than create deadly lightning storms. And if they can’t stop it, their entire town will disappear. Monster House meets Back To The Future.   EXCERPT: Malcolm never noticed the old house until it was struck by lightning. Now he couldn’t take his eyes off it. He stood transfixed at his bedroom window, staring through the thunderstorm that raged against the night sky. The towering house sat across the street. Faded whitewash covered its three wooden stories and tall brown grass curled around its worn wrought-iron fence. Despite enduring a barrage of lightning bolts, the house seemed strangely untouched by the storm. Thunder boomed and Malcolm’s window rattled. He rubbed his arms, feeling chilled. “Check,” Valentine said. Malcolm watched his twin sister’s reflection in the window as she moved her queen. “We’ve lived here for two months, and it’s right across from us. How come we never noticed it until tonight?” Valentine’s eyes stayed on the chess board. “Noticed what?” “That.” He tapped the glass. “Aren’t you listening?” “I’m playing the game.” Valentine smirked. “Which is why you’re in check.” With effort, Malcolm tore himself away from the window. He grimaced at his remaining pieces. “I thought we agreed to slow-play this one.” “I had a good move.” Malcolm blocked with his knight. “You always have a good move. Science geeks shouldn’t beat history geeks at chess. It’s not natural.” Valentine grinned. “Well, maybe we should trade hobbies. I know some history.” “Really. Which empire first settled the British Isles?” She fell silent and examined the board. “Can’t answer, can you?” “No, but I can do this.” She advanced a rook, removing his last bishop. “Check....

Read More

PW-10 (MG): LUCKY ME!

MENTOR: Jennifer Malone MENTEE: Erin Elisabeth Conley TITLE: LUCKY ME! CATEGORY/GENRE: MG Contemporary WORD COUNT: 32,000   PITCH: Twelve-year-old Francophile/YouTube chef Clementine Sterling has bigger dreams than her boring life, and she’s got some questions for the Universe about the delay. But life gets crazy fast when her mom marries a chump and a mysterious new girl ropes her into a shocking plot to humble the school snob.   EXCERPT:  Lucky me!: Mom agreed to let me stay home alone instead of joining some lame after-school program. Ah, sweet victory! C’est la vie: Ah, sweet victory for like five minutes. Mom, who’s been known to change her mind, changed her mind. *** Sometimes dumb people are funny. Other times they RUIN YOUR LIFE. This girl who lives on my block put a wet shoe in the microwave and practically burned down her house the other day. Of course she was home alone. Of course it was after school. And, of course, that made Mom do a complete one-eighty on the whole “babysitting” myself and my brother Jack thing. See, my mom actually goes to work, unlike most of the other moms around here who just play tennis or dress their dogs up in little designer tracksuits all day. That’s why I got stuck in this Write On! class, which keeps me busy every afternoon and doesn’t cost Mom a cent. C’est la vie, I suppose. In case you didn’t know, c’est la vie means “such is life.” It’s pronounced “say-la-vee” and is more or less the way French people say, “That bites, but oh well! Deal with it.” It’s also my Aunt Fab’s favorite phrase. It used to bug me. A lot. Maybe you can see why? ME: Omigod, I dropped my new phone in the fish tank! AUNT FAB: C’est la vie. ME: I have a giant pimple and tomorrow is picture day! AUNT FAB: C’est la vie.  ...

Read More

PW-11 (YA): THE SEA WOLVES

MENTOR: Stacey Lee MENTEE: Bethany Smith TITLE: The Sea Wolves CATEGORY/GENRE: YA Literary Thriller WORD COUNT: 75,000   PITCH:  17-year-old Anna stirs up trouble in an isolated Pacific Northwest community when she discovers a number of unexplained deaths, including her father’s, are connected to a mysterious pod of orca whales, and local folklore hides a dangerous truth.   EXCERPT:  If I were a mapmaker charting the waters off Washington State, I’d label Skana Island here be dragons and paint serpents in her seas. I figured out a long time ago the world was no longer a mysterious place and all creatures had been catalogued and named, but the thing they don’t teach you in biology is some places still have secrets and some people hide monsters under their skin. On a rainswept evening in early September, I dodged puddles and sidewalk cracks in search of sustenance. School started back tomorrow, and as was tradition, Mom and I were having takeout for dinner. I pushed my way into Murphy’s Bait Shop and Diner, flinging off the night in a thousand frigid drops, stomping my feet and blowing life back into my hands. The locals all looked away as if they were embarrassed for me, the outsider who couldn’t handle the gentle beginnings of a northwest fall. I didn’t care. I was already perking up from the diner smells: the sharp tang of coffee, the spice of the stews and soups on Murphy’s winter menu, and that oily scent of grill and griddle I bet the waitresses could never get out of their hair. “Hi,” I said brightly to Chelsea, the hostess. She blinked at me then reached to straighten her menus. Everyone shifted slightly at the sound of my voice. The men at the bar hunched over their drinks and families picked carefully at their food, or turned to stare at the big screens broadcasting sports hanging around the...

Read More

PW-12 (YA): HEART OF SPARKS

MENTOR: Elizabeth Briggs MENTEE: Audrey Coulthurst TITLE: HEART OF SPARKS CATEGORY/GENRE: YA Fantasy WORD COUNT: 90,000 PITCH: When Princess Denna falls in love with the defiant, horse-training sister of the prince she’s supposed to marry, she’ll have to sacrifice her crown and use her forbidden magical gift if she wants to stop a war and save the girl she loves.   EXCERPT: My life since the age of six had been a rehearsal for this moment. The door of my carriage clicked open, and a gust of hot summer air beckoned me to meet my future husband. I took as deep a breath as the bodice of my dress would allow and stepped down onto pale flagstones leading up to the gatehouse of a castle. My maid and entourage had split off back at the first entrance to unload my things, and now I faced my future alone. My heart beat in nervous double time against my ribs. The alliance between my kingdom and Mynaria rested on my ability to prove myself the perfect consort, and our two kingdoms needed one another for resources and protection. But close to my heart I held another hope beyond the alliance—I secretly wished to fall in love. Colorful banners hung from the battlements, alternating the plum of my homeland with the deep blue of Mynaria. The castle loomed behind the gatehouse, a massive structure crowned with square towers that jutted up into the sky. It looked naked without the twisting spires that had crowned the castle where I grew up. A line of horses in full barding awaited me at the entryway, their polished armor glinting in the afternoon sun. Embroidered silk fluttered from their reins. One horse tossed its head and swung its hindquarters over, sending a ripple of pinned ears and fidgeting hooves through the line. “Quit,” someone...

Read More

PW-13 (YA): ETERNAL

MENTOR: Erica M. Chapman MENTEES: Leah and Kate Rooper TITLE: ETERNAL CATEGORY/GENRE: YA Fantasy WORD COUNT: 90,000 PITCH:  After Jane drowns and wakes up in the Egyptian underworld without her heart – the only ticket to paradise – she’s offered a deal to steal the heart of King Tut. But falling in love with Anubis, the guard of the underworld, wasn’t part of the plan.   EXCERPT: Adventure is overrated. I can explore any world I want through my laptop or books, so there’s no point in even being outside. It’s much more beneficial to stay indoors, where I can actually learn something. Of course Duncan, my older brother doesn’t see it that way. I take a deep breath as the cold water bites my legs, threatening to throw me to the strong current. I just have to pretend I’m Charles Darwin, sailing off to the Galapagos. Creating a new theory for evolution seems much easier than plopping down on the black inner tube, which is currently spinning and shifting on the churning waters of Skutz Falls. “Come on, Jane, it’s not that hard,” Duncan snaps. “Just sit down.”   “But it’s moving!” I say. “Yes,” he says, “that’s what rivers do.” “Technically, they flow. A combination of gravity, wind, and geographic land folds causes the water to continuously run downward, unless disrupted by a dam or—” Duncan snatches me around the waist and pushes me onto the tube. The black rubber burns the back of my thighs. “I said no science stuff, remember? Mom said to have fun, not ramble on about gravity and land folds. Okay?” “Wouldn’t want to embarrass you in front of all your distinguished comrades.” I roll my eyes as I wiggle deeper into the hole of my tube. “You haven’t been outside at all this summer. See that, Dr. Jane?” He points to the sky. “That’s called the sun. It’s there for us to...

Read More