PW #214: Middle Grade Contemporary Realistic Fiction: THE SOUND OF BELONG

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Ellie Terry
Mentee Name: Marcia Hoehne
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Word Count: 41,000


Bitsy was three when her sister dropped her off at Jellicle House, a cross between a boarding home and cat sanctuary. Now, eight years later, Bitsy’s admission ticket—her own cat—goes missing. The search fails, and a fellow resident urges her to combine science and poetry to discover and call Mewy’s “true secret name.” If she can’t, she risks losing her pet, her home, and her chance to change what she fears is her own true name: Abandoned.


Today was Bitsy’s first-ever time as pallbearer.

Granny Annie had asked her.

And she’d do anything for Granny.

The burial ground lay at the end of the yard, backed against a wrought-iron fence. A fresh hole waited beside a mound of crumbled earth. Bitsy couldn’t tear her eyes away. Before she knew it, she’d taken one step forward, then two, as if the hole had the power to pull her to its edge, make her fall in. Tears brimmed.

“…too hard,” someone murmured. “Funerals are too hard on children.”

Bitsy lifted her chin, then dragged her gaze toward Ben, the bear of a man leaning on his shovel.

Cradling the blanket-wrapped body, she led Eugene, Claudia, Eliza, and Granny Annie across the grass to form a circle around the open grave. Brittle, brown leaves swirled in a cold wind.

She stooped and tucked the rounded bundle, snugly, into its final resting place. Not crooked. Not wedged. Sleeping easy.

Bitsy stood. She clasped her hands in front of her stomach.

“Scramble was a good cat. He was eighteen years old. Healthy almost till the end.” She paused for a slow breath. “Scramble loved tomatoes. He would steal one from the kitchen whenever he could and scramble under Granny Annie’s bed with it. Once he scrambled under mine instead. It was an honor.”


Author: Heather Cashman

With a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, the lab reports always lacked the fantastical element Heather's imagination demands. Hypotheses turned into taglines and novels, so she's going back to college for a Creative Writing degree. Her novels range from Epic Fantasy to Contemporary Speculative Fiction, she dabbles in picture books, and is currently seeking representation. ~Member SCBWI

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  1. Welp, this made me choke-laugh on my tea. Please send the full manuscript (as well as a synopsis if you have one) to with “Pitch Wars: [YOUR TITLE]” as the subject line. Please also include your query in the body of the email. I look forward to reading!

    -Lauren Spieller, TriadaUS

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  2. Love this voice and this start! Please send query & first 3 chapters my way to joan at – look forward to reading more 🙂

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  3. I love this concept! Please send the full manuscript as a Word doc or PDF to, and be sure to include “Pitch Wars” in the subject line. Please also include your query in the body of the email.

    Thank you!

    Melissa Nasson
    Rubin Pfeffer Content

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  4. I very much enjoyed the concept and the voice. Please send the complete (as a Word attachment) and the query (in the body of your email) to Please put Pitch Wars Request in the subject line. Thank you.

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