PW #225: Middle Grade Contemporary: RUBY IN THE SKY

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Laura Shovan and Tricia Clasen Mentee: Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo Title: RUBY IN THE SKY Category/Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade Word Count: 46,000 Pitch: Ruby Moon Hayes (12) is as silent and invisible as a new moon in the frozen Vermont sky. She doesn’t want kids at her new school to ask about her past or find out her outspoken mother has been arrested. Ruby’s only friend is the town’s reclusive Bird Lady. There is more to the Bird Lady’s story than people know — as there is to Mom’s and Ruby’s. As Mom’s trial draws near, Ruby must break her silence or risk losing everyone she loves. Excerpt: People disappear all the time. Sometimes you see their faces on the Internet or plastered across the backs of tractor trailers. Sometimes they stare from posters as you stand in line at Walmart. Sometimes, when they’ve been gone a long time, an artist can draw their face the way they probably look now, so you can recognize them when you see them again. Sometimes people are there, then poof, like a magic trick, they’re gone. On that first Saturday after we moved to Fortin, when I watched my mom handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser, that’s what I thought about. People disappearing. I’d just handed Mom the tape to seal the drafty windows of our latest “forever home” when Bob Van Doodle barked. We peered outside as the cruiser fishtailed up our unplowed driveway. Mom dropped the tape. “He must be here about my complaint,” she said. “He must have questions. Or paperwork. Remember how Dad hated paperwork?” She pressed her necklace’s moon charm against her lips. The officer raised his hand to knock, but Mom had already opened the door. A blast of frosted air propelled him inside. The door shut. The window rattled. I hugged myself. “Dahlia Hayes,” he said. “Yes?” Mom said. “Ma’am, you have the right to remain...

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PW #226: Middle Grade Science Fiction: THE ADVENTURES OF KIRBY DARING

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentors: Elly Blake & Ron Walters Mentee: David Kane Title: THE ADVENTURES OF KIRBY DARING Category/Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction Word Count: 35,000 Pitch: Kirby Daring is such a nerd. Action and adventure? So not his thing. But when evil aliens threaten the Space Station he calls home, Kirby must hero-up big time to save everything he cares about. Excerpt: Kirby Daring was full of great ideas. He also had good ideas and sometimes even OK ones. His dad, Dr. Donald Daring, Chief Scientist aboard Space Station Delta, said there was no such thing as a bad idea. Kirby glanced over at his best friend, Jake Merriweather, strapped into the pilot’s seat of a space cruiser. He was pretty sure this was a terrible idea. Jake grinned from ear to ear, practically vibrating with excitement. He clearly thought sneaking aboard an XJ-27 space cruiser and taking her for a little spin was a fantastic idea. If Jake likes it, thought Kirby, this must be a horrible idea. It all started last week when Jake, hotshot member of the Jr. Space Pilots, would not shut up about the new high score he set in the flight simulator. After listening to a few hours of non-stop bragging, Kirby stupidly said, “Who cares? Just because you can fly a simulator doesn’t mean you can fly a real space-craft.” And so here they were. Down in the lowest level of Space Station Delta. In the early morning hours while everyone else was sleeping. With Kirby suffering from a mild panic attack and Jake looking like a kid on Christmas. This was the worst idea ever. Kirby re-checked the safety harness pulled tight over his chubby belly. Still fastened. Jake had calmed himself enough to focus, and was now busy going over the pre-flight checklist. “Navigation systems?” Kirby looked at the display in front of him. All lights were green. “Navigation systems, check. Can we talk about this?”...

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PW #227: Middle Grade Contemporary Humorous Fantasy: SAMTO DIES AGAIN

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Sarah Cannon Mentee: Elle Evans Title: SAMTO DIES AGAIN Category/Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Humorous Fantasy Word Count: 55,000 Pitch: When Samto bounces back to life after a tragic hot dog incident, he and his best friend Max decide Samto’s the hero their Cursed swamp town needs. Braving gators, snakes, fires and floods, it’s all heroic training for a boy who’s gonna save his town and break an ancient Curse—even if he dies a hundred times trying. Gordon Korman’s UNGIFTED touched by SAVVY. First Page Excerpt:  Somebody mashed their lips against mine. My stomach boiled with butterflies, but my head told me something more fateful than a first kiss was going down. I pushed the lips away and wiped my mouth. “Samto?” said a squeaky voice. The kitchen light hurt, but I opened my eyes enough to see Max leaning over me, his face scrunched up. “Wh— ” I tried swallowing, but my throat was scraped raw and dry. “What happened?” “Samto! You’re alive!” I took a deep breath, which felt like a splash of cold water in my lungs, except without the drowning. I was flat on my back on the kitchen floor. “I was about to start mouth-to-mouth,” breathed Max. “But you don’t need it. It’s a miracle!” Here’s how I think of my best friend Max: like a miniature action-figure, rubbery and game for anything, surviving jumps off heights that would kill the rest of us. He believes in miracles, which is why jumping usually works out for him. “I don’t feel so good,” I said. “My stomach, ugh.” “It hurts?” said Max. “From the compressions?” “Compressions?” “On your stomach. CPR. I might’ve done it wrong.” “You did CPR on me?” Max blinked. “Well, you were dead.” I let my head fall back against the linoleum. My stomach was backing up and my brain felt fogged. Take it from me, being recently dead makes you slow on the uptake....

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PW #228: Middle Grade Contemporary: LIGHTS! CAMERA! BRAINS?

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Brooks Benjamin and Caroline Thompson Mentee Name: M. L. Brown Title: LIGHTS! CAMERA! BRAINS? Category: Middle Grade Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 49,000 Pitch: When Marty, a squeamish seventh-grader, takes a role in a zombie sitcom to earn money for space camp, his biggest headache is eating brains–until his parents face foreclosure. Now Marty must summon his inner corpse to save his home, even though being undead just may kill him. Excerpt: It wasn’t called the Twirl-N-Hurl for nothing. Marty Ruckers eyeballed the ride’s spinning squirrel cages and swallowed. “It’s now or never.” “Are you sure?” asked his best friend, Beau. “Yeah, I’m sure.” Every other year at the Start of Summer Carnival Marty had chickened out, but this year was different. This year his career as an astronaut was at stake. He swallowed again. “Let’s do this.” Beau elbowed Marty in the ribs as they headed toward the ride, nodding at a couple of make-up-caked girls standing in line. “What’s the Ruck-O-Chuck reading on those two babes?” Marty shrugged. “Seven point five . . . maybe eight.” Beau swaggered into line behind the girls, wiggling his bushy eyebrows and grinning like a fool. Marty didn’t watch their reactions; he was too busy studying the ride for the best direction to spin the cage. “Spinning forward is probably less likely to make me sick than spinning backward.” “Want to change your mind?” He shook his head. If he couldn’t handle a carnival cage ride, how would he survive space? Beau shoved a pink wad of cotton candy into his mouth and said, “You know, you should come to football camp with me. That’ll knock the squeamies out of you.” “Sorry, man, I can’t do both. This summer I finally have enough cash to pay the Camp Cosmos fee. Whew! Those girls are wearing way too much perfume.” Marty’s gut clenched from the smell and he turned downwind toward the crowded carnival midway....

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PW #229: Middle Grade Fantasy, illuminated MS w/excerpts from scientific field journal: IN THE NARROWS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: J.C. Davis, Addie Thorley Mentee Name: Laura Lashley Title: IN THE NARROWS Category: Middle Grade (upper) Genre: Fantasy, illuminated manuscript with excerpts from scientific field journal Word Count: 66,000 Pitch: Tween scientist Riley has been classified and labeled: she has autism spectrum disorder, and that’s all the world sees. But when a botched interview for science camp lands Riley and her family in Pangaea, an alternate Earth where science is magic, Riley discovers her quirks are strengths. Now, Riley must use her out-of-the-box reasoning to save her family from an evil Scientist and his dangerous experiments before he destroys Earth and the magical world that’s taught her to love her differences. Excerpt: Don’t panic—Rule #13 in Smart Things Other People Said. Short, to the point, and universally true. That’s why Riley added it to her list of non-original wisdom. Panic is never a useful emotion. It clouds your judgment and makes it at least 50% more likely you’ll pee your pants. Riley stopped pacing and consulted her Pre-Interview Readiness Agenda for the hundredth time since they’d descended into the dingy, deserted station. Strategically timed peeing made the list at five different points throughout the morning. If she followed the schedule and avoided unplanned beverages, her pants should be safe. That is, if the train ever arrived. Riley stared down the dark subway tunnel, willing it to appear. Being late to the most important interview of her pre-teen life was not on the Agenda. She pinched her fingers together and flicked them open. Now! The train did not magically appear, but a rat did. “It’s Saturday morning at seven a.m.” Riley’s right hand began to flap. “This train has officially violated the schedule! Where is it?” Quinn adjusted her book bag and side-eyed her. “Maybe it’s still asleep. You know, like normal people who weren’t wrenched from their beds for moral support by cruel older sisters.” She shot Riley a look that, somehow, didn’t feel like moral support.  ...

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PW #230: Middle Grade Contemporary: THE WILDCATS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Shanna Rogers Mentee: Katharine Manning Title: THE WILDCATS Category/Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Word Count: 30,000 Pitch: Ten-year-old Hailey dominates the Wildcats soccer team with her fierce footwork. But when a new player shows up who thinks she’s all that and a jelly doughnut, Hailey has to decide how much she’s willing to give up to preserve her all-star status. Excerpt: Hailey tore down the field, soccer ball bouncing in front of her. Her cleats made divots in the soft grass and threw mud behind her as she ran. One more defender. She came at Hailey fast. Grace called to Hailey. She was open, but there was no way Hailey was giving up this ball. Slow. Slow. There. The defender jumped at the ball. Hailey popped it past her. Now it was Hailey and a wide-open goal. She tapped it into the net, easy like Sunday morning, as her dad would say. “Yes!” Hailey whipped her head back and forth in a victory dance, her beaded braids clattering in her ponytail. She and Grace touched index fingers, their own special mini-high-five. Coach Katz blew his whistle and clapped, clipboard under his arm. “Nice practice, girls. I like that ball control, Hailey, but don’t forget to use your teammates. Grace was wide open.” “That’s okay,” Grace said quickly to Hailey as they headed to the sideline. “You had an awesome run.” The team gathered around Coach Katz. “Take a seat, everyone,” he said. “I’ve got some exciting news. We have a new player coming in and she is something. Her name is Nicola Dusek. She’s been the star of her league in Florida, and her dad just got a job up here.” “What’s her position?” Hailey asked. “She’s been at center forward, Hailey.” Hailey’s eyes narrowed. That was her position....

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PW #231: Middle Grade Contemporary (with a dash of magic): EIGHT TIMES CRAZY

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Jessica Vitalis Mentee: Yael Mermelstein Title: EIGHT TIMES CRAZY Category: Middle Grade Genre: Contemporary (with a dash of magic) Word Count: 59,000 Pitch: When twelve-year-old Orville receives a clue to his long-lost dad’s whereabouts, he’s determined to drive cross-country and bring him home. But after discovering Dad in a psychiatric-care facility, Orville’s convinced his own kernels of ‘crazy’ are destined to pop, dooming him to the same fate. Following the instructions of a magical new friend, Orville embarks on one last journey. If he’s successful, he’ll heal himself––and his broken family. Excerpt: Pinning my hopes on a trip to the post office makes about as much sense as blowing the snowy fluff off a dandelion and expecting that to make my wish come true. But I’ve got an entire field full of reasons to believe in magic––wish-granting flowers and post offices included. Back when— “Orville!” Mom shouts. “The white line in the middle of the road is an order, not a suggestion!” Oops. I steer the car back on course and tug the sun-visor down. “Good boy,” she says. “Keep a low profile.” There’s nothing low profile about having your twelve-year-old at the wheel. Even if I’m so tall I look sixteen, the legal driving age in Liberty, New York. They don’t call me Beanstalk Bayswater for nothing. I’ve been the family chauffeur since my eleventh birthday and if you want to know the big secret of why, you’ll have to ask Mom because she won’t tell me. Luckily, Dad taught me to drive when I was just a sprout. I can’t recall if his lap was bony or pillowy, if he curled his fingers around mine while I turned the key, or if he rested his chin against my head as we circled the pebbled lot behind an abandoned department store. That’s probably because I can fit all my dad-shaped memories into a single backpack––even one already stuffed with books....

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PW #232: Middle Grade Contemporary: HOLE IN THE ROCK

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentors: Gail Nall and Abby Cooper Mentee: Rebecca Bischoff Title: HOLE IN THE ROCK Category/Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Word Count: 58,000 Pitch: Eleven-year-old Lizza, a dedicated vegan, thinks nothing can be worse than her dad’s taxidermy business – until she sabotages it and Dad moves the family into a tourist trap cave. Now, she needs to get her family back home before they’re split apart for good. Excerpt: The dead deer on the billboard kept staring at me. His eyeball was the size of my head, so no matter where I moved, it followed. It made me want to hurl, which is what happened whenever I ventured into Dad’s garage and his glassy-eyed elk and bison heads tracked my every move. Trying to steady my nerves, I gulped air and grimaced. I could practically taste the exhaust from the highway a few measly feet away from the base of my ladder. Only 6:00 a.m. and already the trickle of SUVs, minivans and jeeps threatened to turn into the daily flood of tourists who swamped my miniature desert town each summer. A bead of sweat rolled down my face. I swiped my damp brow and steadied myself. If “Mission Destroy Crapo Taxidermy” was going to succeed, I needed to stay calm. “Hurry, Lizza!” Brooklyn called. She was holding the ladder, but she wasn’t doing a good job. The soles of my Toms were worn, so they slid around on the metal rungs every time I breathed. I was sure I’d fall any minute and turn into road kill. I loved to climb, but on rocks with decent hand and foot holds, while wearing a harness and tethered with rope. I’d climbed to places much higher than where I was now, but what I was doing today didn’t exactly feel secure. “Where did you get this ladder?” Brooklyn asked, still intent on not doing a spectacular job of keeping me...

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PW #233: Middle Grade Mystery: A TALE OF TWO ROLFS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Kevin Springer Mentee Name: Erin Fry Title: A TALE OF TWO ROLFS Category: Middle Grade Genre: Mystery Word Count: 53,000 Pitch: Two years ago, twelve-year-old Rolf Malus was imprisoned inside a book by his aunt. Since then, he’s been forced to relive her tale as an insufferably boring boy, whose only friends are three obnoxious kids next door. Now, Rolf has one chance to tell his real story. He needs your help to escape, or he’ll be trapped in her story forever. Excerpt: Chapter One The Wolf Rolf clearly remembered the night he first heard the wolf. On a cool evening, he huddled on the steps of the cluttered front porch, watching the pale outline of the rising moon. His grandmother hummed along with the radio as she sat in a rusted aluminum chair, guzzling root beer from a long-necked bottle. “Where’s my parents?” he asked softly. She’d glared at him with eyes the color of rust. “Are. Where are my parents.” Rolf hugged his knees tightly. “Where are they?” Grandmother’s eyes drifted toward the sentinel-like trees that lined their property. “Gone.” She’d stood abruptly, her chair groaning as it slid across the rough wooden boards. “Nowhere around here. And we’re all better off for that.” She slung her bottle toward the woods. Rolf flinched as the glass hit a tree and shattered. Behind him, the screen door creaked open and slammed closed, leaving Rolf alone with the moon, the woods, and his thoughts. Later, he lay on his thin, lumpy mattress, staring at the shadows on his ceiling and wrestling with Grandmother’s words. Nowhere around here, she’d said. He yawned and absently rubbed the pendant that hung around his neck. If his parents weren’t here, he thought, it might mean they were somewhere. As he closed his eyes, a wolf’s howl echoed from deep in the forest. Warmth washed over him like a soft blanket as he drifted off to sleep....

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PW #234: Middle Grade Science Fiction: SHIFTING GEARS

Manuscript status: Completed Mentors: Wade White & Timanda Wertz Mentee: Triona Murphy Title: SHIFTING GEARS Category: Middle Grade Genre: Science Fiction Word Count: 57,000 Pitch: When 12-year-old mechanical genius Edie accidentally hitches a ride to a parallel world, she discovers a secret organization that keeps thousands of Earths safe from dimensional cross-contamination. She’s determined to join up, but first she must prove herself on a mission to a world where people have tails, gravity doesn’t work right, and failure means never making it home. Excerpt: Graduation at Bradford Middle School is a big fat hairy deal. It’s almost as elaborate as high school graduations. Personally, I don’t get it. High school isn’t that different from middle school, so does moving up really require several thousand balloons, gown rentals for the graduating eighth graders, and a three-hour-long ceremony with speeches from nearly everyone in the school? But as a seventh grader moving up to eighth, my presence was required whether I liked it or not. The kids sat on folding chairs on the gym floor, facing the raised podium, and the parents perched uncomfortably on the bleachers. Our principal Mrs. Newell started off with a very long speech about promising futures and all these shining faces looking up at her. It didn’t seem to occur to her that maybe they were shining because it was, like, eighty-five degrees in the gym. I surreptitiously wiped the sweat off my forehead with the sleeve of my blouse and did my best to look attentive until Mrs. Newell got to the part about parental involvement being key to student success. A glance at the top row of the bleachers told me that my dad hadn’t gotten the memo. He had his phone out and was tapping it with this concerned look on his face, which meant there was a 99.9% chance he was bored out of his mind and playing a video game....

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PW #235: Middle Grade Fantasy: THE WITCH CATCHER

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Kate Foster Mentee Name: Melanie Dixon Title: THE WITCH CATCHER Category: Middle Grade Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 43000 Pitch: When thirteen-year-old Evie accidentally smashes a bottle from Mom’s secret cabinet, Mom’s demands for music practice become the least of her troubles. Ferocious storms, fires, falling trees—and now Mom’s sick. Called by a malevolent force she doesn’t understand, Evie must put Dad’s science aside and become a witch catcher to save her family. Excerpt: I know you’re here I can feel you getting closer I’ve been calling you and now At last You can hear me Evie lay on the landing halfway up the stairs, basking in the early evening sunshine. Music floated down from the studio. She stretched, pushing her maths homework away. At Dad’s place maths seemed so much easier. But he’d be home in a month, and she’d be back to staying with him every other week, watching movies, stargazing. But a whole month, without Dad… She closed her eyes, resting her head on the soft carpet. The music swirled through her mind. She knew the piece well. Her fingers twitched on invisible keys. Apparently she was a natural on the flute; she could be amazing if only she practiced more. That was all Mum seemed to care about. Find me Rolling onto her back, Evie walked her feet up the wall as high as she could and wriggled her toes behind the long, purple curtain, into the corner where the two walls met. Her big toe brushed against something cold and hard. She stood and peered behind the curtain. There it was. A metal catch fixed to the wall. Come in Come to me She paused. Another familiar piece of music. It stopped and started as Mum’s student struggled with the fast notes. Evie’s fingers hesitated on the catch, then, without thinking, she flipped it open. The wall shuddered to one side, opening, just a crack.  ...

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PW #236: Middle Grade Horror: DEVASURA

Manuscript Status: Two weeks delivery Mentor: Patrice Caldwell Mentee: Zareena Nazimudeen Title: DEVASURA Category/Genre: Middle Grade Horror Word Count: 49,000 Pitch: Stranger Things meets Singaporean mythology when twelve-year-old Zhen Yu, with the help of his best friend, his younger sister, and fickle and friendly spirits, must defeat an ancient creature before it possesses his soul and makes his loved ones’ worst fears come true. Perfect for fans of Mary Downing Hahn and Doll Bones by Holly Black. Excerpt: Zhen Yu wanted to slam the front door on his papa’s face. Instead, he closed it gently. The last thing he wanted was for his sister to wake up. To coax Su Ling to sleep he’d spent an hour singing “Let It Go”— an hour he didn’t want to endure ever again. He strode past the BMW parked in the driveway, resisting the urge to punch the huge hulk of metal. The gate creaked in protest as he yanked it open. Zhen Yu kicked an abandoned Coke can down the empty road. At 2 AM on a weekday, his neighborhood was a dead town. If only Harun wasn’t sick and could’ve snuck out as usual and joined him. If only his papa got help for his depression, if only his Nainai was still alive, if only his mama hadn’t left them… There were too many “if onlys” in his life. He turned a corner and stopped dead in his tracks. Piles of burnt hell notes, oranges with joss sticks protruding from them, and bowls of rice littered the field in front of him. Tall, thin red candles poked out of the ground, glowing like beacons for wandering spirits. How could he forget this was the Hungry Ghost month? The gates of the underworld were wide open....

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