PW #215: Middle Grade Contemporary Animal Story: CALL ME ALASTAIR

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Amanda Hill, Cindy Baldwin
Mentee Name: Cory Leonardo
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Contemporary Animal Story
Word Count: 53,000


THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN meets FLORA & ULYSSES, (mixed format, three POV):

All disgruntled, de-feathered parrot Alastair wants is to fly off with his beloved sister,

retire in a palm tree, and feast on Norton Anthologies. But when that sister goes home

with pre-pre-med student Fritz, and elderly dance-enthusiast Bertie adopts Alastair, the

future looks grim…and full of polkas. Alastair’s keen plotting reunites the two birds

at last, but when one final escape looms large on the horizon, he’ll be forced to

choose between the life he’s always dreamed of and the love that will cost him




“Call me Ishmael.”

I ate that sentence once

in a thick steak of a novel.

It wasn’t my usual diet of

Keats, Whitman, Frost,

but it tasted alright anyway,

a little salty maybe, a smidge

fishy, but good.

I prefer the poetry though.

Always have.

Since the first time I wrapped my

beak around the meat of a

Norton Anthology, I was a

fish on a line—hooked.

When all your tongue has known

has been the blandness of

phone books, the sour snack of

tax forms, the cardboard-y flavor of

cardboard, that first bite of Shakespeare

is nectar, I tell you. Almost makes

a fella forget there are other books

to chew, the way it satisfies long.

And the act of remembering,

regurgitating—it fills the taste buds once more…

“Call me Ishmael.”

I ate that sentence once and knew

it would come back to me to be savored again

if ever I set out to write my story.

And it has.

Just like the poems, it’s come back,

filled my beak, taken flavors

old and new, same and


I am a bird.

These are my poems.

This is my story.

Call me Alastair.


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. Hi Cory,
    You had me at “feast on Norton Anthologies”—I’d love to read more! Please send a query, synopsis, and full manuscript (Word documents will suffice) to — and don’t forget to mention #PitchWars in your subject line. Thanks—looking forward to my read!
    Good luck,

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  2. I’d love to take a look at this full manuscript! Please send the query pasted in the email and the manuscript attached in word to rena (at) thedeborahharrisagency (dot) com


    – Rena Rossner

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  3. I’d love to have a look! Please send the full along for my review. A Word attachment is most preferable if possible. Thanks!

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  4. Hi Cory!

    I love the verse – what a unique voice it provides. I’m so excited to read more from the loquatious parrot! Could you send the first 50 pages to Make sure to include Pitch Wars in the subject line!

    All the best,
    Brianne Johnson

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  5. I was intrigued by the premise alone, and I’m getting a kick out of the dry humor in this excerpt! I’d love to keep reading and see where this goes! Please email your full manuscript as a Word attachment to me at, along with your original query and a synopsis (if available) with “Pitch Wars: CALL ME ALASTAIR” in the subject of your email. Thanks!

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  6. I need to read this! I would love to see the full manuscript in Word format with the pitch pasted onto the first page. Please send materials to with PITCH WARS in the subject line.

    Thanks so much! I’m looking forward to it!

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  7. LOVED this! Smart and funny, my favorite combination. Please send the complete manuscript and query to me at:; include PITCH WARS in the subject. Can’t wait to read!

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