PW #322: Young Adult Contemporary: UPSTAGED

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Karen McManus Mentee Name: Olivia Hinebaugh Title: UPSTAGED Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 60,000 Pitch: A contemporary retelling of AMADEUS set in a cutthroat performing arts school. Ellie is the resident theater genius at Ibsen High, until acting prodigy Mo enters stage right. Mo is dynamic, magnetic, and genderfluid. They can quite literally play any role. With Mo stealing Ellie’s spotlight—along with the girl she secretly loves—Ellie has to find a way to get rid of them, even though she’s never admired anyone so much in her life. Excerpt: I really should have known things were wrong that first day. The energy, usually palpable with tension and back-to-school jitters, was different. The other students were too chatty, buzzing with more than their usual self-involvement and adrenaline. People were whispering. And they were all whispering the same word: Mo. But I was distracted, since I had an entrance to make. I’d spent half the summer choreographing Day One, Ellie’s Junior Year at Ibsen High School of the Performing Arts. My wardrobe was impeccable, makeup carefully applied. I knew exactly when to leave my townhouse in the posh Virginia suburbs. I arrived when the hallways were just full enough that I felt like I was really seen, but not so full that I’d get lost in the crowd. I had to be early to my first class, because I was a serious student and if the teachers forgot that over the summer, I needed to remind them. I expected smiles and admiration, but got nervous glances instead. Even from the hyper-focused dancers, and the musicians who aren’t known for their grasp on social dynamics. I didn’t get it then, but I do now. Everyone was thinking the same thing: I was about to be dethroned as the darling of the theater department, and it’d probably make me snap. Boy. They had no...

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PW #323: Young Adult Near-Historical: CHILDREN OF THE DUST

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Karen Fortunati Mentee: Shawn Barnes Title: CHILDREN OF THE DUST Category: Young Adult Genre: Near-Historical Word Count: 86,000 Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Matt Hayes is many things: student; fast food worker; caregiver to his disabled, adopted Vietnamese sisters; trapped. A college scholarship offers the escape he craves, but when his mother’s health deteriorates, Matt must choose between continuing as his sisters’ caregiver or repeating the sins of his father, a Vietnam vet who abandoned their family. Excerpt: The night before I learned of my mother’s diagnosis, when she’d gone to work and left me to parent the kids as usual, I confessed to Pete that I could control my dreams. Not perfectly, but with enough skill to inspire a Senior English essay, due in eight hours. “It’s called lucid dreaming,” I said. “Buddhist monks do it.” “Freaky,” Pete said. “Might wanna leave yourself out of the essay though. Your teacher will think you’re on drugs.” “Good point.” I fired up my bong and held the smoke deep in my lungs. It burned cool, mellow. I exhaled, watched the white swirling cloud bump against the stained ceiling tiles of my basement bedroom, and grinned. This is good shit. “So, what’s it like?” Pete asked. “What’s what like?” “Dream control.” Not as awesome as it sounded. That afternoon I’d dreamed I was driving to McDonald’s when another car’s horn blasted. Startled, I wondered how I’d pissed off the driver. Then I realized I was dreaming, that it wasn’t real. I chose to ignore the dream-honking and kept cruising. That was the cool part. I could choose a course of action. But I had zero control over the subject matter. Who wants to dream about driving to McDonald’s? Were I truly in control I’d dream of going to college in the fall on the scholarship I’d been busting my ass to earn, finally free to live my own life. And I’d dream of...

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PW #324: Young Adult Contemporary: GRIDIRON GIRL

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Molly E. Lee Mentee: Tamara Girardi Title: GRIDIRON GIRL Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 76,000 Pitch: Julia Medina knew competing against her boyfriend to be the starting quarterback of their high school football team would be tough, but while Owen’s in her heart, football’s in her blood. First Page: The moment was perfect. Soft off Ally’s fingertips, the ball floated toward me. No spin. Still, white panels and impeccable timing. I took my approach, digging my toes into the sand. When I exploded upward and swung my arm at the height of my jump, my palm crashed against the ball, forcing it down. Hard. Right to the sideline, where two shirtless beach boys scrambled to prevent it from hitting the sand. Their efforts were futile. Point and match. Ally hugged me, screaming and jumping at the same time. The guys groaned and rolled onto their backs, sand stuck to their torsos like granulated shirts. We’d spent weeks challenging the self-declared volleyball prodigies and the same amount of time losing to them. Classic poetic justice, we defeated them as the sun set on our last beach day. And on our own terms—a well-placed spike by us, not a mistake by them. But as my best friend celebrated with a high-pitched screech in my ear, I couldn’t muster an excitement to rival hers. “Good game,” the guys conceded, shaking our hands. “Thanks,” I said automatically. “You too.” Ally chatted with them about the highs and lows. I tried to join her—pleasantries and all. But I was distracted. Fifty yards away in the surf, Owen Malone stood tall above calm waves, a dark figure against the setting sun and sparkling sea. From this distance, I couldn’t smell the ruggedness of his cologne mixed with salt water and sand, but I’d nuzzled his skin enough in recent weeks to have the scent of his muscled body...

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PW #325: Young Adult Contemporary: LOVE, LIES, AND THE OTHER TEAM DIES

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Marty Mayberry Mentee: Amelia Creed Title: LOVE, LIES, AND THE OTHER TEAM DIES Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 85,000 Pitch: Masha Herrera meets the perfect geeky guy at Comic Con, only to discover he’s her sworn online enemy—and they’re both in the same gaming tournament. With an internship at stake, the event turns into a publicity nightmare, and the reportedly haunted hotel venue psyches everyone out. When battles turn nasty, Masha must decide how far she dares go in order to win. Excerpt: Becoming the next meme floating around the sketchy parts of the Internet was definitely not on my to-do list, thank you very much. At Comic Con, everyone and their Star Wars cosplaying cousin had a phone ready to snap a celebrity or a wardrobe mishap, so I was being extra careful. My costume had gone full diva, poised to expose its seams at the slightest hint of attention.  If I hadn’t spent so much time crafting the damn horned helmet, accidental dents and all, I would’ve flung it halfway across the Con by now. Instead, I tilted it up my forehead every five seconds so I could actually see where I was going—straight to the Age of Souls panel, the reason I’d driven more than a hundred miles on a scorching Saturday. Only two main halls separated me from the chance to talk about my favorite video game for at least an hour. I had big plans for today. Huge. I needed to block out all distractions in my path, like that booth promising to anime my face. Or that cute photographer—wait. Was he dressed like an Age of Souls character? I peered back, but the black blur wielding a camera was long gone. And he wasn’t the only one to vanish in the flurry of funky hats, claws, and one too many scantily-clad Pikachus. My two best friends were no longer behind me....

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PW #326: Young Adult Science Fiction Romance: PROJECT A.I.D.E.N

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Judi Lauren Mentee: Lindsey Frydman Title: PROJECT A.I.D.E.N Category: Young Adult Genre: Science Fiction Romance Word Count: 69,000 Pitch: Aiden is the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics lab’s greatest creation–until they demand his destruction. With nothing more than a stolen gun and titanium bones, he escapes and meets Eva, who’s willing to help. What he doesn’t know is her father’s the head of AIR—and she’s not spilling that secret to the sweet, haunted boy. Now on the run from the only home he’s ever known, Aiden must decide what’s worse: endangering Eva’s life, or losing his own. Excerpt: Aiden All I know is this: I’m meeting with someone named Carter. If I do what he asks, say the right things, and act like I’m supposed to, I’ll pass my final test. Easy. In my three hundred and eighty-four days of existence, my life has been chock-full of tests. If I fail today, they’ll deem me faulty, malfunctioned—broken—and nothing good happens to defective products. I splay my hands across the dark-blue bedspread. My fingers bend like flesh and bone, the heart inside my chest that’s made of steel and wires beats wildly, and a tingling sensation runs through my artificial veins. But I’m not human. I never will be. There’s a knock on the door before it glides open soundlessly. “Aiden, are you ready?” Looking up from the bedspread, I catch Dr. Niels’ reflection on the mirrored wall to my right. Tall and lanky, dressed per usual: black pants, shiny shoes, midnight-black jacket buttoned to the top. “Ready as ever.” I stand, sparing a moment to scan my room. It’s highly efficient: lights on command, voice activated TV, and the world’s most advanced computer. Well, aside from me. Sounds like any kid’s dream house, right? But it’s dark and cold. Metallic and empty. Like they want me to be. Though I can’t seem to meet that one...

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PW #327: Young Adult Contemporary: OLD TOWN

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Judi Lauren Mentee: Clay Harmon Title: OLD TOWN Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 76,000 Pitch: Sixteen-year-old Ben Nguyen skips town, headed for his sister’s in Denver to escape the bully back home and to confront his drinking problem. But the man he hitchhikes with crashes the car and leaves Ben for dead. Now Ben is stuck in a dusty Nevada town where alcohol isn’t the only drug available, and where calling home means facing the truth about the night that ruined his life. Go Ask Alice meets Twisted, OLD TOWN is about a kid escaping addiction and the tormentor who precipitated it. Excerpt: The Beach Boys never made songs about the desert. The Mojave only knows how to kill, yet people build places like Barstow or Vegas anyway. This says something about the human race. I’m not sure what. But if my plan went to hell, I’d probably end up stranded here. It was going to hell. My car coasted down the freeway off-ramp, the gas needle sunk past empty. All I needed was a thousand feet, tops. Cars crowded behind me as I whispered prayers to my steering wheel. The traffic at the light wasn’t leaving an opening, so I floored it and forced my way in. The driver taking up my rearview mirror laid into his horn. I moved slow and steady as people hooked around me, flipping me off.  At the closest gas station, I parked in front of the air compressor. I killed the engine and leaned my head against the window. I’d made it. But my problems had only just started. The battery symbol on my phone was at three percent. A red sliver, barely visible. I had a dead car, a dying phone, and a few minutes at most to decide if I wanted to stay stranded in a Mojave tourist town. Then the phone would make its own...

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PW #328: Young Adult Thriller: CALCULATED

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Pintip Dunn Mentee: Nova McBee Title: CALCULATED Category: Young Adult Genre: Thriller Word Count: 105,000 Pitch: Eighteen-year-old math prodigy, Phoenix, could predict all the possibilities around her—except the betrayal of her family. Now, exploited by the world’s most wanted smuggler, she discovers the numbers in her head can do more than make money. They’re also good for revenge.  Inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo. Excerpt: I had planned to start by telling you my name. But that won’t work. I’ve had too many. I don’t know who I am, much less which name suits a girl like me. So I’ll start by telling you what they call me. Double-Eight. Like the digits. 88. It’s been a thousand days since I’ve seen my ocean. Measured its waves. Calculated the tide. Smelled its salt. In other words, it’s been a thousand days since I’ve been home. I live in China—wait, living implies choice. I exist in China. Taken from my home in America. And my existence depends on my gift. I don’t believe in luck, but that’s what people say I have. Of course, all they see is my ability to make millions of dollars, not the constant bombarding of numbers that rules my inner world. Being born a math prodigy has only brought me grief—loved ones turned into traitors, peers into smugglers, dreams into nightmares. I’m not even a girl, just a slot machine for power and money. I’ve learned to live with my gift, even maneuver in it, but if I had known, I’d have opted to be a high school dropout. My mother would disagree. She said I have this rare gift for a reason. I remember her blue eyes, full of faith. “You’ll change the world, little seagull.” Good thing she’s dead. If she knew what my mathematical genius is being used for, she’d break the walls of her grave....

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PW #329: Young Adult Contemporary: STAGED

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Jennifer Blackwood Mentee: Susie Fisher Title: STAGED Category: Young Adult: Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 62,000 Pitch: Gossip Girl meets Nashville. After seventeen-year-old country music sensation Paxton Parker’s on-stage disaster, her record company cuts ties. With family funds in the red, and her assets frozen, she uses her fame to stage tabloid photos to earn a quick buck. But when her hustle and a vindictive blogger threaten her future, Paxton has to figure out how to salvage her singing career before it’s too late.  Excerpt: countrymusicsnitch@wordpress.com You’ve reached the Snitch, AKA the Bitch. My blog, my words. Take it or leave it. Hi, gossip lovers. Monday, June 16th Rise and shine, country music fans. The latest Paxton Parker scandal is depleting data plans everywhere. Country Barbie told her fans exactly what she thought about headliner, Chad Holloway, minutes before she collapsed on stage last night. I guess she snapped from the pressure of opening for her ex-boyfriend’s sold-out tour. Paramedics rushed her to a local hospital, where she was ushered into a private room. According to her camp, she suffered a bout of food poisoning. Come on, with a waist smaller than a bottle cap, was food the issue? Of course, several Twitter birdies think she lost a battle with a bottle of whiskey. So, Michiganders, watch the local hospitals in case she escapes in disguise. Through The Binoculars Spotted: Chad Holloway and Kayla McCarthy sipped coffee in the Auburn Hills Hilton lobby at six A.M. wearing last night’s stage outfits. Were they with Paxton at the hospital all night? Maybe they shared a hotel room? If only walls could talk. Their duet rocked, fueling rumors about Kayla being added to the tour. Does this mean Paxton and Chad are dunzo for good? Say it isn’t true, Country Barbie. Banjos and heartstrings...

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PW #330: Young Adult Contemporary: WE ARE EMBERS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Amy Trueblood Mentee: Ashley D. MacKenzie Title: WE ARE EMBERS Category: Young Adult: Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 62,000 Pitch: When fire destroys Zeida and Micah’s apartment, the sisters must choose between homelessness or an offer that means abandoning their mom. While the choice seems clear to pragmatic Zeida, she gives Micah one day to raise the funds to keep their family together. Excerpt: MICAH I tap the heart under the picture before I even look at it. I mean, I can’t not like it. My friends are at freaking Laila Winston, and they’ve been live-posting the concert all night – standing in line, making faces at the opening band, Laila holding her guitar. All of it. The mattress groans as I roll onto my back. It’s a special kind of torture to watch my girls have fun in real-time and know in another life, I could have gone with them. That, even now, I maybe, possibly, could have gone tonight. My phone beeps a warning and I shove my earbuds deeper into my ears, as if blaring the pop-rock princess while looking at what I’m missing could keep my battery from dying. But the app snaps to black and Laila’s voice cuts off. I pull my earbuds out and listen. No signs of life leak through my door – not even a cough. I drop my legs over the edge of the bed and my hand finds the soft hairs at the back of my neck. I twist them around my finger again and again until I can convince my legs to take me out of the safety of my bedroom. My sister looks up from her books on the kitchen table when I crack the door to our shared room. Her highlighter stalls mid-stroke. The doorknob digs into my hand. “Sorry, Zeida.” Zeida’s jaw ticks and her eyes send a practiced warning. “Mom’s...

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PW #331: Young Adult Contemporary Paranormal: THE WRECKAGE OF US

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Laurie Elizabeth Flynn Mentee: Mary C. Dunbar Title: THE WRECKAGE OF US Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary with paranormal elements Word Count: 85,000 Pitch: After an accident leaves him a quadriplegic and kills his best friend, Jordan must navigate the world without Taylor –until Taylor’s ghost starts haunting him. Doubting his sanity, he must choose between living with hallucinations or letting go of the boy he loves. CARRY ON meets WE WERE LIARS. Excerpt: Taylor’s empty parking place stands out among the vacant rows in the Westview High lot. It might as well have a neon sign glaring over it from the way my head pounds as my brother puts our car in park three rows down. In the midst of the deserted parking lot, someone’s drawn a huge purple and gold chalk cross and left flowers where Taylor’s Mustang is supposed to be. We should be sitting there together, waiting for the rest of our crew to arrive, but instead, I can make out his baseball and basketball numbers and a bunch of hearts sketched on the asphalt. The hair on the back of my neck prickles as a shadow crosses the parking lot, and I look away from the makeshift memorial and press my head back against the vinyl headrest, hoping to disappear. Maybe dropping out on the first day of senior year wouldn’t be such a bad move. With stiff, uncooperative hands, I take off my glasses and press my fists against my pounding temples. “Another migraine?” Jesse asks, idling the engine. He turns up the A/C and aims the vent in my direction. The day of the accident, I walked out of school a six-foot-three honors student, two-sport athlete, and student council member. Now I’ve lost my spot on the student council because I missed elections, my athletic career is over, and I’m repeating two basic junior honors classes. To top it off, I’m not even walking back...

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PW #332: Young Adult Contemporary Dark Fantasy: QUEEN OF PARTS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Stacey Trombley & Rebecca Sky Mentee: Rebecca Schaeffer Title: QUEEN OF PARTS Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Dark Fantasy Word count: 85,000 Pitch: Nita doesn’t murder monsters and sell them online. Her mother does that. Nita just dissects and packages their bodies. But when her mother brings a live one home, Nita decides to follow her conscience and help him escape — and ends up sold on the black market in his place. DEXTER meets THIS SAVAGE SONG. Excerpt: Nita stared at the dead body lying on the kitchen table. Middle-aged, and in the place between pudgy and overweight, he wore a casual business suit and a pair of wire-rimmed glasses with silver handles that blended into the gray at his temples. He was indistinguishable on the outside from any other human — the inside, of course, was a different matter. “Another zannie?” Nita scowled at her mother and crossed her arms as she examined the body. “That’s not even Peruvian. I thought we moved to Peru to hunt South American unnaturals? Chupacabras and pishtacos and whatever.” It wasn’t that zannies were common, but Nita had dissected an awful lot of them during the months she and her mother spent in Southeast Asia last year. She’d been looking forward to dissecting something new. If she wanted to cut up the same unnaturals as usual, she would have asked to stay with her dad in the States and work on unicorns. Her mother shrugged, draping her jacket over a chair. “I saw a zannie, so I killed it. I mean, it was right in front of me. How could I resist?” Her mother’s black and red striped bangs fell forward as she dipped her head and half-smiled. Nita shifted her feet, looking at the corpse again. She sighed. “I suppose you’ll want me to dissect and package it for sale?” “Good girl.” Her mother...

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PW #333: Young Adult Contemporary (in verse): LOVE AND OTHER SHARP POINTY THINGS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Helene Dunbar and Beth Hull           Mentee: Christy Goerzen Title: LOVE AND OTHER SHARP POINTY THINGS Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Novel in Verse Word Count: 33,000 Pitch: Sixteen-year-old Mercedes dreams of proving herself to her famous sculptor mother by gaining acceptance to a prestigious art school. Faced with artist’s block, a new romance, and a devastating illness in the family, she must get in touch with her artistic identity and her heart to determine what truly matters most. Excerpt: Art Class “Mercedes.” Ms. Keyes sings my name as she floats over to my desk. Mer-SAY-deeees, her voice dropping to a low alto at the s. She’ll give my hasty scribble of a Converse sneaker an A, she always does (likely out of obligation), barely looking at it. “I saw your mother in the paper,” she says. “Planning another exhibit, I see.” After class, she beckons me to her desk with a flick of her paint-covered hand. “Have you reconsidered?” she asks, opening her chaos of a top desk drawer, whisking papers around with yellow and blue-stained fingers. “The deadline is five months away. There’s still time.” “No,” I say, turning around and gathering my books before I can see the disappointment sketched on her face. It’s those looks, the sad eyes, the pity frowns, that I can’t handle. I’ve seen enough of those. Ms. Keyes sighs. I hear her drawer shut as I walk out the door. Click.  Talent Crush The other kids have photos of singers and actors taped to their lockers: guitars over shoulders, tattoos on arms, pouts on flawless faces. But in my locker, there are photos of seaweed and driftwood spirals, one hundred snowballs cradled between two trees, office chairs scattered like autumn leaves through a forest. Environmental art and large-scale sculpture. This is what floats my boat gets my knickers in a knot, turns me on, makes fireworks explode on the right side of my brain. Even...

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