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

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentors: Gail Nall and Abby Cooper
Mentee: Rebecca Bischoff
Category/Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Word Count: 58,000


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.


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 safe.

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. I’d love to see more of this! Please send me the full manuscript along with a one-sentence description of the premise at!

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  2. I love the conflict here! Please send the first 50 pages attached as a Word doc and the query in the body of the email to queryjennifer[at]lizadawson[dot]com. Thank you!

    – Jennifer Johnson-Blalock, Liza Dawson Associates

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  3. I would love to see more of this! Please send a query (in the body of the email) plus the first 50 pages as a Word doc attachment to, and make sure to put “Pitch Wars Request” and the title in the subject line.

    Looking forward to reading!

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