PW #201: Middle Grade Magical Realism: DOPPELGÄNGER

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Jessica Vitalis/Amanda Hill/Cindy Baldwin Mentee: Kit Rosewater Title: DOPPELGÄNGER Category: Middle Grade Genre: Magical Realism Word Count: 48,000 Pitch: The vitiligo on Tami’s skin has always made her lonely. When her new classmates mistake her for their missing friend Renee, Tami’s strange connection to her doppelgänger grants instant popularity—along with access to Renee’s dark secret. If Tami sets things straight, she’ll lose her newfound friends. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose herself. Excerpt: The blots on my skin are moving. They inch down my arm, shimmy around my elbow, and creep up my shoulder. Danger, they say. Hush, I say back. We step into the sizzling afternoon. Book in hand, I duck away from the sun, hiding underneath the canopy of our cottonwood tree. Its roots surge from the ground and ripple through the grass like ocean waves cresting on shore. I settle into the spot where the gnarled wood bends into a perfect reading chair. Today’s book is The Princess Bride. I first heard it when I was little, when Dad read me all the classics. Together we slipped through the closet to Narnia and opened the brick wall behind the Leaky Cauldron. The best books are places, Dad says. Since I’m eleven now, I get to explore my favorite “places” whenever I want. Too bad Mom and Dad won’t count that as Geography. My thumbs pin down the pages as the words pull me inside. I race along a ravine with the Man in Black, a disguised pirate who’s stolen Princess Buttercup. The high wind screams in my ears. The prince’s horsemen gallop behind us. I hold my breath and grin. Tonight, when the sun sinks into the horizon and the sidewalks fill with trick-or-treaters, I’ll hide my blots behind a mask and become the Man in Black. A ray of tangerine sunlight peeks through the branches and pinches my skin. The blots shrink behind my sleeves. Danger....

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PW #202: Middle Grade Contemporary: THE WINDUP

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Stefanie Wass Mentee Name: Steven Carman Title: THE WINDUP Category: Middle Grade Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 43,000 Pitch: After losing his twin brother and his right hand in a car crash, thirteen-year-old Kyle struggles to return to baseball and fulfill the dream he and his brother once shared—winning the Brookhaven Invitational Baseball Tournament. Excerpt: I stood atop the pitcher’s mound, baseball in hand. My only hand. Perched over the stub where my right hand used to be was my baseball glove, pocket-down. “Last one, Kyle. Fire it in here,” my friend Hailey said, punching her catcher’s mitt. The two of us had been practicing on the weed-choked Little League field for about two hours. Summer rays warmed the back of my neck. My worn-out pitching arm sagged at my side like a wet noodle. While balancing my glove on my right forearm, I wound up and slung a fastball. On the heels of my follow-through, I slipped my hand into my glove, fumbling a bit, and assumed a fielding position. Mastering the transfer of my glove was the hardest part. It was a sure bet teams would test me by hitting comebackers. “Nice pitch,” Hailey said, hopping up. She jogged out to the mound, her blond ponytail swishing in rhythm with her long legs. “You’re ready for this.” I shook off my glove and let it fall to the ground. “I hope so.” It was one thing to practice without a batter standing at home plate. It was another story to pitch in a tournament, which was what I planned to do in just a few days. The last time I laced up for a game was three years ago. Back when I was in fifth grade and my dad was the coach. Back when I had a right hand. Back when I had a twin on my team to double high-five. Three years. A lifetime ago....

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PW #203: Middle Grade Contemporary Adventure/Humor: FRANKENUT

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Rebecca Petruck Mentee Name: Jennifer Bryson Title: FRANKENUT Category: Middle Grade Genre: Contemporary Adventure/Humor Word Count: 40,000 Pitch: When a downtrodden squirrel meets a talking GMO peanut, rumors of a bagel monster no longer seem far-fetched. Armed with a dollhouse fork and a lot of heart, the unlikely duo must work together to uncover the secrets of a biohacker’s lab before a friend-turned-foe destroys their only chance at solving the peanut’s mysterious origins. Excerpt: The squirrel two trees over claimed a talking bagel chased her out of the yard at the old Admiral Inn, but Jeremy didn’t believe it. Food couldn’t talk, much less run. The idea was ridiculous. If food was alive, what would it even eat? His oldest brother, Thump, suggested it ate squirrels. Jeremy squinted at the inn and wrinkled his nose. He smelled nuts, sweet fall leaves, and a hint of bacon. It did not smell like danger—or bagels. He grabbed several acorns near the iron fence, then spied a perfect pecan in the frost-kissed weeds on the other side. Sticking a foot between the bars, he tried to scrape the nut closer. A shadow fell across his leg, and he froze. A claw slid onto his shoulder. Jeremy yelped and bonked his head on the post. He whirled, clutching his pile of nuts. They wobbled but did not fall. “Got you,” Thump said, snickering. He twisted a nut from Jeremy’s stack and tossed it to the scruffy squirrel beside him. Digger popped it in his cheek and grinned. “Go ahead and eat them,” Jeremy said, holding out his breakfast. “What are you up to?” Thump backed away, checking over his shoulder. “Is Momma watching?’ “I’m not up to anything,” Jeremy said. “I just licked them first, that’s all.” Digger gagged and spit out the nut. Jeremy shoved the rest into his mouth and scampered off before his brothers could grab him....

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PW #204: Middle Grade Historical Fantasy: AN IMPOSSIBLE MAGIC

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Juliana Brandt Mentee Name: Lacee Little Title: AN IMPOSSIBLE MAGIC Category/Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fantasy Word Count: 62,000 Pitch: Already an expert at manipulating illusions, 13-year-old Verity Ravenwood helps her father’s blackmarket business by stealing a book of impossible spells for a notorious outlaw. But when the book gets stolen from her, she must track it down before the outlaw makes her entire family pay. Excerpt: When Verity Ravenwood pressed her palm against the oak door, it rippled like an aspen leaf in the wind. A harder push and the door disappeared completely, turning back into the white plaster of a wall. She smiled faintly. No one went to the trouble of creating an illusion unless it was a distraction. Verity leaned closer to the wall, but no magic remained on its surface. She crouched, nudging the woven rug out of the way, and ran her hand along the floorboards. At first all her fingers disturbed was dust, a constant companion thanks to the refining smelters dotting Denver’s skyline. However, when she pushed against the closest floorboard, it shimmered and turned into a five-foot square of metal with a brass ring in the middle. A trap door. “Good job, Ver,” a voice whispered behind her. She almost jumped, but caught herself before her feet left the ground. Her older brother, Garrett, stood a hairbreadth away. “Did you have to sneak up on me?” Verity demanded. He shrugged. Their father might joke Verity was the cat burglar of the family, but Garrett was the most cat-like. Although they shared the same green eyes, his were brighter, as if he could see in the dark. His black hair even lay against his head like a cat’s well-groomed fur, while Verity’s never lay anywhere. “You should go first.” Garrett leaned over the door, but didn’t touch it. “There might be traps.”...

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PW #205: Middle Grade Mystery: THE ORDER OF BLACK HOLLOW LANE

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Julie C. Dao Mentee Name: Julia Nobel Title: THE ORDER OF BLACK HOLLOW LANE Category/Genre: Middle Grade Mystery Word Count: 56,000 words Pitch: When her mom dumps her at boarding school, Ginny figures things can’t get much worse. Then a secret society tries to steal her only link to her missing father: a box of strange medallions. Finding out why might unveil painful secrets…and make her their next target. Excerpt: There were certain things Ginny’s mother didn’t need to know—like whether she’d clipped her toenails—but the box in Ginny’s nightstand was not one of them. That was why her fingers twitched when her mother came into her room. “Are you ready, dear? The press will be here in a few—” Her mother gasped. Ginny held her breath. She had put the box away, right? If her mom saw it, if she found out…. Suddenly her mother’s eyes filled with tears. “Oh, Ginny, that dress looks beautiful.” Ginny breathed out and picked at the crunchy taffeta. She had to put the box out of her mind. She needed to focus today. “It really seems to fit you like a glove. Don’t you just love these polka dots?” It looked like the dress had come down with the measles. The sleeves puffed out like pink toadstools, and apparently ‘like a glove’ meant barely being able to walk. “You’re the perfect image of my daughter. Well, almost.” Her eyes lingered on Ginny’s forehead. She picked up a monstrously large hat and wrenched it over the bandage covering Ginny’s three fresh stitches. “Good thing I bought this sweet chapeau. Why you insisted on playing that soccer game is beyond me. You knew we had a major event today.” “I can’t just skip a match, Mom.” Ginny looked down. What was she supposed to say? Sorry I’m a good soccer player, Mom. I’ll try to suck more, that way I won’t get onto the good...

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PW #206: Middle Grade Contemporary: OLD-FASHIONED NEWFANGLED GIRLS

Manuscript status: Finished Mentor Name: Joy McCullough Mentee Name: Faith Hough Title: OLD-FASHIONED NEWFANGLED GIRLS Category: Middle Grade Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 55,000 Pitch: When their best friend Clara moves to Argentina, sisters Georgie and Penny hope working together to buy the horse the three amigas always wanted will salvage their own friendship—and maybe bring Clara back. Unfortunately, Georgie’s obsession with old-fashioned living clashes with Penny’s taste for technology, turning their mission into all-out war. Excerpt: The one advantage to having five little sisters, Georgie Coleman thought, was that you never ran out of funny stories to tell your best friend, even when you wrote her a letter every other day. If Connie and Cherry hadn’t accidentally dyed the cat’s hair magenta that morning, for example, her current epistle would be a meager seven pages. As it was, she had just hit lucky page thirteen. A tap, tap, tap against her bedroom window jolted Georgie from her work. Ink splattered from the nib of her quill pen and speckled her paper with cerulean blue. “Blast!” said Georgie, sopping up ink with an already stained handkerchief. This was the third bottle Mama had ordered for her in a month. If she didn’t stop spilling, she’d be forced to go back to ballpoints for her correspondence. Or worse: e-mail. Georgie threw open the diamond-paned window to find a chicken standing on the sloped roof beneath the gable. Its sleek, golden head tilted inquiringly to the side, wattle swaying. “Daffodil dearest, I’m rather busy,” Georgie said. “I’m trying to write a letter to Clara before the mailman comes.” Daffodil scratched at the roof tile. “You’d better be quiet,” Georgie warned. “If Mama finds out I’ve been going on the roof, she might forbid me. There’d be no more midday cereal snacks for you.” The chicken pecked at the windowsill insistently. “I suppose I can’t refuse the world’s only tree-climbing Buff Orpington,” Georgie...

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PW #207: Middle Grade Fantasy: THE MIDNIGHT FLIGHT OF THE SALEM MAGI

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: G.K. Byrne Mentee: Elliot Smith Title: THE MIDNIGHT FLIGHT OF THE SALEM MAGI Category/Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy Word Count: 57,000 Pitch: Twins, Ark and Swanette, are descendants of the Salem witches. While they admit to causing their share of magical calamities, being chased by the king’s witch hunters seems like an overreaction. When dragons join the hunt, the twins must ally with Abigail Adams, Boston’s Witch-In-Chief, to save the patriots, and themselves. MAGYK meets the American Revolution in this secret history of Paul Revere’s ride. Excerpt: At dusk I’ll burn at the stake. I don’t like to brag, but I’m a prodigy at it. This will be my third time. It’s made me something of a celebrity around New England. While burning witches and wizards has always attracted large crowds, I think I’ve taken the spectacle to a new level. Lured by my reputation, the villagers have packed the town square despite the short notice. Every person nearby must have come to find out if I can truly survive being burned alive. Thank goodness. If everyone is watching me, no one is searching for my family. My relief shrivels with the arrival of the Committee for Public Safety. The members call themselves deacons, but my family has another name for them: witch hunters. Their procession snakes through the crowd, torches lifted high in the looming darkness. As they approach, I rattle my chains. “Wait. Wait.” “Too late, guttersnipe,” says a torchbearer. “Third time’s the charm.” I shiver. There’s no way to know how many lives I have left, but even if I’ve run out, I have to distract them until my sister signals. “Please, I only seek a small mercy.” The torchbearer checks his pocket watch. “If it will shut you up.” Choosing my words with care, I look to the expectant crowd. “Excuse me. Did any of you bring marshmallows? I’m afraid I might starve to...

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PW #208: Middle Grade Contemporary: SNOW DAY

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Lisa Lewis Tyre Mentee: David Swindler Title: SNOW DAY Category/Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Word Count: 40,000 Pitch: There are 38 kid-rumored ways to make it snow, and D.C. has two weeks to try them all.  If one works: the elusive snow day!  If not, an avalanche of a bully named Bosley wins a bet that neither can afford to lose. Excerpt: I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve wanted to slap a stamp on my little brother’s butt and ship him off to China.  The latest reason, his goofy crush on that batty new girl who wore mismatched shoes.  It’s pathetic.  She’s with me in fifth and he’s back in Miss Lisa’s first grade class for droolers and bed wetters. The twerp skipped his way to the bus stop while I willed him to slip on a patch of ice.  No luck.  He rounded the corner and vanished.  By the time I saw him again, he and his love interest were shrieking over her phone. “What?” I asked. She smiled.  “Oh, nothing.” “What do you mean ‘nothing’? What happened?” “Promise you won’t get mad or jelly?” “Just tell me,” I said. Her hand was on her hip.  “That wasn’t an answer.” I ground my teeth.  “OK, fine, I won’t get mad.” “Or?” My shoulders slumped.  “Or jelly.” “Ok,” she said, “that was from my BFF back home.  Guess what they have today!” “Don’t say it.” She squealed and jumped and made me sick all at once.  “A snow day!” The runt screamed.  “So awesome!” “I know, right?”  Then her tone changed as she turned and studied my face.  “See, you look mad and jelly.” “Mad?  Because they get to stay home and sled and play all day while we suffer through another excellent day of math and spelling and “Gassy” Ron dropping silent bombs around the hallway?  Totally fair.  Completely fine with it.”...

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PW #209: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy: THE CURIOUS CURSE OF THE LONELY LIBRARY

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Ashley Martin Mentee: Kaitlin Hundscheid Title: THE CURIOUS CURSE OF THE LONELY LIBRARY Category/Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy Word Count: 52,000 Pitch: When twelve-year-old Theodore visits a cursed library where book characters come alive, he thinks he’s stumbled into bookworm heaven. But when the curse lands a demolition notice on the door, Theodore must race to outsmart storybook villains before the library is destroyed. Excerpt: Theodore Plumford didn’t mind staying in a strange town with relatives he barely knew. He didn’t mind shuffling through the grocery store the minute his parents departed for their anniversary trip. But he did mind interruptions while he read, and his younger brother Hugo was the biggest interruption in the world. As his aunt pushed the cart and his siblings filled it with their favorite foods, Theodore wandered behind them with his nose stuck in a book. “Keep up, Theodore.” Aunt Mabel pushed her cart through the aisles like a battering ram. “Yeah, Theodore, keep up,” mimicked Hugo. “Just read it in the car,” whispered Lucy, the youngest Plumford. But Theodore only buried his face further into Ivanhoe. At this instant a knight, urging his horse to speed, appeared on the plain advancing towards the lists. A hundred voices exclaimed, “A champion! a champion!” The words jumped as Hugo bumped Theodore’s elbow. “Leave me alone,” said Theodore. He turned the page. “Whatever, you’re not really reading.” Hugo yanked the book from Theodore’s grasp. “Give it back.” “So you can find out who falls in loooove?” asked Hugo, his voice high and squeaky. He ruffled the pages and grinned. Theodore flinched. It was an ancient library copy he’d bought for a quarter, but did Hugo care about the book’s fragile pages, or that he’d lost Theodore’s spot? Nope. Theodore swiped the book from his brother and flipped back to the end. “Go find those bacon potato chips you were whining about—” “Theodore, look out!” cried...

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PW #210: Middle Grade Contemporary Mystery: THE SECRET OF SAGAMORE HILL

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: K.C. Held Mentee: Patty Lenz Bovie Title: THE SECRET OF SAGAMORE HILL Category/Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Mystery Word Count: 38,000 Pitch: Twelve-year-old history fanatic Rebecca Finley is haunted by her Roosevelt historian father’s tarnished reputation and recent death. When Rebecca visits Theodore Roosevelt’s summer home on a class trip, a strange gravestone in the pet cemetery entices her to not only dig into the famous family’s past, but into her own. She ultimately discovers a long-kept secret and must decide what she’s willing to risk to reveal the truth. Excerpt: I’ve been to Sagamore Hill a million times before, with Dad. But today I feel like a hermit crab without its protective shell. “Stay with the group, Rebecca!” my teacher hollers from up ahead. Her tidy gray bun bounces up and down as my social studies classmates follow in her wake. But my feet feel like they’re plastered to the parking lot. With her arms crossed, Miss Ricter tries again. “We don’t have all day, Rebecca! Let’s go. We’ve got a lot to learn about the Roosevelts.” I know plenty about the Roosevelts. But I can’t stand here forever, so I force myself to peel my feet off the pavement. As we head up the hill I see it—the huge house with its wraparound porch and green and white striped awning. It shelters a collection of weather-beaten rocking chairs that look out onto Oyster Bay, just like they did 100 years ago. When we get to the house, my fingers clutch the chipped wooden railing and I drag myself up the steps through the front door. The foyer is the same as it’s always been—the musty smell, the dust that floats in the streams of sunlight, and the creaky, worn floors that are now covered with our scuffling sixth grade feet. Surrounded by these familiar smells and sounds, I quietly exhale. I’m going to be okay....

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PW #211: Middle Grade Historical Fiction (Neuro-diverse, Own Voices): PLANET EARTH IS BLUE

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Ellie Terry Mentee Name: Nicole Elizabeth Panteleakos Title: PLANET EARTH IS BLUE Category: Middle Grade Genre: Historical Fiction (Neuro-diverse, Own Voices) Word Count: 37,000 Pitch: In ten days, Space Shuttle Challenger skyrockets into orbit. Which means non-verbal, autistic Nova has ten days to reach her missing sister, Bridget, so they can watch together as promised. Excerpt: Bridget was gone. And Nova was broken. Nova hadn’t wanted to run away from the last foster family. They were nice enough. Sure, it wasn’t easy sharing one bedroom with four other girls in three sets of bunk beds. There was no privacy for Bridget, who liked her space, and there was no room for hand-flapping or bouncing, which Nova liked to do while pretending she was in space. Plus there was a rule no shower could last more than eight minutes. And they weren’t allowed to watch TV, listen to records, or drink anything with caffeine. But there had been hot oatmeal in the mornings. Cold lemonade with lunch. Warm blankets at night. Nobody yelled bad words or spanked them with wooden spoons. Nobody made Bridget scrub the floors like Cinderella. Nobody called Nova “Dumbo” because she couldn’t speak. Most importantly, they were together. Bridget hated it anyway. “I’m out of here,” she kept saying. “I can’t stand another day. I’m losing my mind.” Nova wasn’t worried then. She knew they’d end up somewhere else eventually. When the time came, though, leaving was different. No social worker to transport them. No paperwork to sign. Bridget didn’t even glare at the failed foster parents and say goodbye. They just piled into a car and drove away. This was not their routine, which made Nova’s tummy hurt, because as much as she hated goodbyes, she hated deviating from the routine more. “Don’t worry!” Bridget had kissed Nova’s forehead. “I’ll take care of you like I’ve always taken care of you.” Now Bridget was gone. And Nova was...

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PW #212: Middle Grade Contemporary Horror: GHOST TRAIN

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Rebecca Petruck Mentee Name: Liz Edelbrock Title: GHOST TRAIN Category: Middle Grade Genre: Contemporary Horror Word Count: 42,000 Pitch: As the only living passengers on the Lost Souls Express, bickering siblings must work together to avoid evil haunts and a Conductor who can’t abide stowaways. It’s a race against time to escape the ghost train—or die trying—before they reach the End of the Line. Excerpt: Heat radiated off the pavement in waves, making the air around Beckett’s scuffed tennis shoes shimmer as he trudged down a street full of candy-colored houses. His little sister’s complaining was a steady whine in the background, like an annoying fly he couldn’t get to quit buzzing around his head. Beckett thought about the Zombie Smash guidebook in his pocket and wondered where a hungry, sister-eating zombie was when you needed one. Grandma’s neighborhood seemed like prime undead real estate. Grandma lived in a historic district on the outskirts of St. Louis called Meramec Highlands. “Historic” basically meant “old” because people weren’t allowed to tear down the buildings. Since Beckett and Lucy were spending the summer there, Grandma thought it would be a good introduction to wander the streets and teach them its history. If she was hoping to introduce the summer as the most boring ever, she was doing great. Lucy tossed her dark braid over her shoulder and fanned her face as she continued to grumble about their parents until Beckett couldn’t take it anymore. “Give it a rest! It’s not like Mom and Dad wanted to work overseas for two months. We’re here. Deal with it.” “I’m just saying, it’s super selfish they’d take off and make us miss the entire summer with our friends.” Beckett gasped in mock surprise. “You have friends? Why didn’t you say so? I’m sure Mom and Dad would have let you stay home for friends.” Grandma gave a piercing whistle and Beckett...

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