PW #413: Adult Women’s Fiction: CALLBACK

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Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Laura Heffernan
Mentee Name: Elizabeth Leis Newman
Category: Adult
Genre: Women’s fiction
Word Count: 83,000


Claire dreamed a dream of Broadway stardom, but instead boomerangs home to teach high school drama. She promptly casts a real orphan as the lead of Annie, adopts a pit bull to co-star, and embarks on an ill-advised romance with another teacher. Unless she can make the show a smash, her life’s headed for another flop.


The difference between a high school thespian and a long-term substitute teacher was, instead of sitting with drama queens at lunch, I was about to sit with faculty queens who love drama.

The teacher’s lounge was where you find your allies, or so I was told. Someone was always declaring war on teachers: administrators, parents, students, their own children. Whether you were the aggressor or the victim, Russia or Poland, other soldiers were on your side.

“Remember,” I told myself, staring at the door. “You’re Stalin, but with jazz hands.”

Hands reminded me of my ring finger, and I wondered if anyone would notice the white outline where a gold band once sat. As I mused, I was tackled by Taylor Lopez, Spanish teacher extraordinaire.

“Claire! I’m so excited to see you!” Taylor squealed as she hugged me. “Simona and I were just saying it’s going to be the best. year. ever.”

She pulled out a compact to reapply her lipstick, a bold red complimenting the black curls framing her round face. In my mind, Maple High School was the setting for a new musical, one in which Taylor played an enthusiastic sidekick to resident diva and choral teacher Simona Martin. Unfortunately, when I examined my own role in my new life as a musical, the character I most related to was a vengeful Sweeney Todd upon his return home after years in prison.

Maybe I wouldn’t mention that to parents on Back-to-School night.


Author: Brenda Drake

New York Times bestselling author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1), Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2), Touching Fate (Fated Series #1), and Cursing Fate (Fated Series #2) available now, creator of #PitchWars, #PitchMadness, and #PitMad, fueled by coffee and Goldfish crackers (but not together), and represented by Peter Knapp with The Park Literary Group. @brendadrake

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  1. I’d love to see where this goes! Please send your official query (subject line containing “Pitch Wars”) and first 50 pages in an attached Word doc to laura (@) triadaus (dot) com. Thanks.

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  2. Hi Elizabeth

    I’m keen to read this – could you send me the full MS as a Word doc and if possible, an expanded synopsis (ideally 500-700 words)? claire at rhaliterary dot com.

    Looking forward to reading more!

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