PW #103: MG Fantasy/Adventure: THE TRINKET GUARDIAN
Nov02

PW #103: MG Fantasy/Adventure: THE TRINKET GUARDIAN

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Elly Blake Mentee Name: Hilary Harwell Title: THE TRINKET GUARDIAN Category: MG Genre: Fantasy/Adventure Word Count: 49,000 Pitch: When a mist sweeps into town and Grandfather vanishes, twelve-year-old Oliver Pennybottom must enter the land of Mim. There, he’ll have to unravel riddles and battle shape-shifting shadow-beasts in his quest for the powerful trinkets that can save both Grandfather and Mim from a merciless, magic-thirsty Crow Lord. Excerpt: Grandfather placed the cool metal into Oliver’s hand and folded it closed. “The importance of a key can never be fully understood until it finds its lock.” Locks went with keys like trinkets went with magic, nothing new there. But this wasn’t the beginning of one of Grandfather’s usual tales, so Oliver held his tongue. Grandfather was the only parent he’d ever had. The only one he could remember, anyway. Trusting him had always been easy. “Keep it close, no matter what.” Grandfather cleared his throat and shifted his seat. Oliver opened his hand, studying the key’s swirls and bends. “If it’s important, you should hide it somewhere safe. That’s what I always do with things I don’t want to lose.” Grandfather chuckled and leaned into the wooden bench—one of many dotting the park near their house. Everything was old and tired in this part of Harwinton. The weed-ridden lanes, the crumbling stone walls, broken-windowed factories. They made Oliver long for something nicer, something clean and sparkling new. Grandfather’s gaze drifted away from the key, over Oliver’s shoulder. His smile faded. “What is it?” Oliver glanced past rambling brambles, up to the cobblestone bridge. A mist lingered at the bridge’s edge, then it shifted. Grandfather’s body tensed, and his finger shot to his lips. Worry seized Oliver’s throat. He gripped the bench, straining to see. A shadow passed through the gloom. Grandfather jumped to his feet. “We must go.” Then, in a gravelly whisper, “I’d never forgive myself.”...

Read More
PW #104: MG Mystery: THE LOST TREASURE OF FULL MOON LAKE
Nov02

PW #104: MG Mystery: THE LOST TREASURE OF FULL MOON LAKE

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Jenna Lehne Mentee Name: Wendy Parris Title: THE LOST TREASURE OF FULL MOON LAKE Category: Middle Grade Genre: Mystery Word Count: 45,000 Pitch: Desperate to save her grandparents’ failing Wisconsin lake resort from demolition, twelve-year-old Mia begs a Ouija board for help. A ghost named Gus responds, claiming knowledge of long-lost cash hidden onsite. Thrilled, Mia follows his sketchy clues, until she discovers Gus was a Chicago bank robber who disappeared in 1932—and his ghost is after her big brother. Clock ticking, Mia must find the loot to bail out the resort before her brother sleeps with the fishes and her family’s legacy disappears forever. Excerpt:  For Mia Molloy, summer never officially began until she dove into Full Moon Lake. Luckily, her grandparents understood this. The second their beat-up Jeep stopped next to the Tamarack Landing lodge, Mia opened the passenger door and hit the ground running. She peeled down to her bathing suit, flinging her T-shirt and shorts on the grass as she raced toward the edge of the bluff, joy bubbling in her chest. Behind her a screen door creaked and a voice whooped, “Finally!” Mia grinned, picturing her best bud Connor McGee bursting out of the ranch house next door, but she couldn’t wait for him. She kept going, skittering down the stone steps to the beach, tearing across the warm sand, pounding along the aluminum dock. Reaching the end, she launched herself into the air, sailing free for one glorious split-second and then—whoosh!—plunged headfirst into the icy Wisconsin water. A muffled roar filled Mia’s ears as she shot downward, her thick black hair streaming away from her face. The second her fingertips struck the reeds she reversed course, legs scissoring, arms sweeping, until she broke through the lake’s surface and inhaled a gulp of fresh, piney air. Summer had started....

Read More
PW #105: MG Fantasy: ESSENCE
Nov02

PW #105: MG Fantasy: ESSENCE

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: J.C. Davis Mentee Name: K. Kazul Wolf Title: ESSENCE Category: Middle Grade Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 56,000 Pitch: Emma has amnesia, soul-zombies, and dragons to worry about. With no one to trust and a wall of monsters encroaching around her, remembering her past is the key to escape — even if truth is more dangerous than the lies. HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE meets ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Excerpt: I open my eyes to darkness staring at me. Sweaty blankets tangle around me as I scramble back, slamming against the headboard. Hair like fire surrounds an angled face and dark skin, all perched on a body that’s too long. But those eyes. No irises or whites — completely black. “Hey there,” his voice rumbles in a sharp accent. “It’s all right, I’m not —” He reaches out a hand. His fingers are tipped in claws. A scream tears from my lungs and my vision blurs. I fumble off the bed, my elbow cracking against the floor, pain blinding me. What is he? Where am I? White walls, white bed, hardwood floor my elbow’s already discovered — I don’t know any of it. “Shh, you’re going to hurt yourself.” He leaps over the bed, landing in front of me with predatory grace. He raises his hands, showing off the vicious talons. “I’m not going to harm you.” “D-don’t come any closer.” I can’t get loose from the blankets. “What a-are you?” He doesn’t move. “I… I’m Bob. And you?” That’s a name. Not a what. He’s hiding something, or he’s stupid. “Are you okay?” He reaches out. “I said don’t move!” My voice is a screech. I clutch the blankets tighter. “Okay.” He backs off. “What about my question? What are you?” “I… I’m…” My brain freezes, like it needs a reboot. I can’t remember my name. Or how old I am. Where I live, my friends, my parents. I don’t know who I...

Read More
PW #106: MG Fantasy: THE SPY OF LIRON
Nov02

PW #106: MG Fantasy: THE SPY OF LIRON

Manuscript Status: Finished  Mentor Name: Wade Albert White Mentee Name: Timanda J. Wertz Title: THE SPY OF LIRON Category: MG Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 64,000 Pitch: Twelve-year-old Leila is used to being underestimated. Nobody sees a kitchen slave who walks with a crutch as a threat. But when the Guardstone protecting her kingdom goes missing, she infiltrates the enemy commander’s camp as a serving girl. If she finds the stone she’ll claim a reward large enough to free her family. If she fails, her whole kingdom will be enslaved. Excerpt: Lord Jarib could beat me just for being in his house. If he discovers the real reason I snuck in, he’ll do a lot more than that. At the first glimpse of a shadow in the corridor I lunge through the nearest open door into a storage room filled with baskets and shelves. As I limp farther in to where the light disappears in a tangle of winter robes, it occurs to me trapping myself with no escape route might not be my best idea ever. I wiggle between the robes and shrink into the corner where the air is so still I hear nothing but my own heart pounding quick as a sunbird’s wings. Inhaling a breath choked with cedar and valerian, I try not to think about what will happen if I’m caught. A scuffling from the door alerts me I’m not alone in here. The way whoever it is moves, as if the act of lifting a foot fully off the ground would use too much energy, tells me it’s an older slave. Sandals shuffle along the stone floor until he’s so close I could poke him with my crutch. If he gets any nearer he’ll hear my heart thrashing like a crocodile caught in a net. When the robes around me quiver, I flatten myself tighter against the...

Read More
PW #107: MG Science Fiction/Time Travel: THE SHATTERED WATCH
Nov02

PW #107: MG Science Fiction/Time Travel: THE SHATTERED WATCH

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Wade Albert White Mentee Name: Lacee Little Title: THE SHATTERED WATCH Category: MG Genre: Science Fiction/Time Travel Word Count: 50,000 Pitch: The Kendricks and Dunmores are the only two families in the world with the technology to travel in time—unfortunately, they’re also archrivals. When a rare jade dragon statue is stolen from his family’s antique shop, Carson Kendrick must find a way to work with the Dunmores, or risk letting old family secrets destroy the world… both past and present. Excerpt: The Kendrick family had a hard time following the rules. Carson always thought this strange because as time travelers, they had a lot of them. Rules about how to Travel (always take someone with you), where to Travel (locations had to be carefully chosen to avoid attention) and even what to wear while Traveling (clothes that could blend into most time periods). But at one time or another, they had all been broken. So on his thirteenth birthday, when Carson wanted to bend the rules just a little bit, he was surprised to find no one would let him. “I’m sorry, but you have to watch the shop.” Aunt Harriet pulled him down the stairs to the first floor landing. “The rest of the family will be at the meeting.” “But I’m old enough to go now,” he said, pulling back. “It’s official.” She frowned. “Not until you get your watch. Then it’s official.” He was almost positive she had just made that up. “But who’s going to watch the shop next week, when I can come to the meeting?” Aunt Harriet shrugged. “We’ll close it, probably. Or have the meeting at night.” “So why can’t you do that today?” he asked triumphantly. “The meeting’s already been scheduled for this morning. It’s too late to change it now.” And to prove that her word was final, she shoved Carson into the shop and behind the counter.  ...

Read More
PW #108: MG Contemporary: THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC
Nov02

PW #108: MG Contemporary: THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Jessica Vitalis / Rebecca Wells Mentee Name: Amanda Hill Title: THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC Category: MG Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 35,000  Pitch: Every night, Kate writes a letter to her father and stores it in a shoebox. But hope doesn’t belong in a shoebox. So Kate concocts a plan using her grandma’s rules for Everyday Magic. If it works, she’ll shake her dad out of his depression and bring him home. If not, he’ll be gone forever. THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. meets LOVE, AUBREY. Excerpt: Dear Dad,  Tomorrow’s my birthday.  Mom says not to get my hopes up about you coming. That you need a break from her and me and everything. But I don’t think you meant a break from birthdays. You’ll come to mine, right?  Grammy will be here. Maybe when you see her you’ll remember how much you love her, your sadness will burn up like morning fog, and you’ll come home. That’s what I’m hoping. Love, Kate P.S. Please bring everything to make my ice cream cake. It’s not a real birthday without it. P.P.S. It’s not a real birthday without you, either. There’s something about birthday air that feels like ending and beginning, surprise and tradition, going away and coming home all at the same time. It blows through my screen and ruffles my hair with the smell of the almond orchard and the promise of a present, a visitor. Dad. I press my forehead against the cool window. There’s only one car sitting in the gravel driveway, but it’s still early, and he’s never liked mornings much. “Hey, birthday girl!” calls Mom. “Aren’t you ready yet?” I close the blinds with a crash so the sun and heat can’t sneak their way inside. “Coming!” When I run into the kitchen, Mom’s standing at the counter with pen and paper. She shoves a box of cereal my way. “Happy birthday. Load up on some...

Read More
PW #109: MG Fantasy: THE UNWILLING GODDESS
Nov02

PW #109: MG Fantasy: THE UNWILLING GODDESS

Manuscript Status: 2 weeks delivery Mentor Name: Sarah Cannon Mentee Name: Relly Annett-Baker Title: THE UNWILLING GODDESS Category: MG Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 79,000 Pitch: Thirteen-year-old orphan Clementine spends vacations in Mexico with her grandmother, who claims to speak to the dead. After a weirder-than-usual séance, Clementine finds herself in a modern Aztec underworld. No one will explain why the one person Clementine needs to find now, her mother, is conspicuously absent. To track her down, Clementine will have to take the fight to Lord Mictlan and his pantheon in the only place and time she can: Mexico City on Dia de los Muertos. Trouble is, that’s two realms over and only five days away. Excerpt: This time it wasn’t the sacrificial chickens that disturbed Clementine. It was the tone-deaf chanting. She lay on her stomach in the scratchy, scorched grass of her Abuelita’s yard, trying to read a passage from her Spanish textbook. She shouldn’t be surprised by now. She knew her grandmother was busy with this kind of stuff all through October. A breeze rippled through the garden, catching a sign hung on groaning hinges: “Señora Marguerite Sanchez, prophetess of Xochiquetzal. Communications with the dead held Thurs, Sun and by appt.” The chanting was travelling through the open windows from her grandmother’s dining room. Clementine wasn’t sure really why the dead were so keen on chanting, or bumping off poultry for that matter, but it always seemed a big part of the ritual. Abuelita had said that because of Dia de Los Muertos next week, she had additional séances “by appointment” for those wishing to speak to the dead and make arrangements for the festival. “Tonight, I have some people coming over for the rituals for Los Muertos.” Clementine rolled her eyes. “Chicken for dinner again, then?” Who seriously believes in this talking-to-the-dead stuff?...

Read More
PW #110: MG Sci-Fi: LEARNING SPACE
Nov02

PW #110: MG Sci-Fi: LEARNING SPACE

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Sarah Cannon Mentee Name: Vanessa Barger Title: LEARNING SPACE Category: MG Genre: Science Fiction Word Count: 53,000 Pitch: Twelve-year-old genius Rory has been pulled out of one boarding school after another by his brilliant, ambitious mom. Now, she’s finally found the ultimate learning environment: space. Students on the Intergalactic Space Alliance Center train to be diplomats in inter-species groups, but Rory’s includes his arch-nemesis, Mergatroid. Their conflicts are tanking their team. When space pirates attack the ISAC during detention, taking the other students hostage, Rory, Mergatroid, and their team must work together to save the school and the Intergalactic Alliance without killing each other. Excerpt: We had to be heading for Antarctica. It was the only continent we hadn’t tried yet. I crossed my arms and glared at Mom, who hadn’t said more than a few words to me on the drive to, well, wherever we were going. We’d loaded up the car, and she’d whispered the directions to Harry. He’d raised an eyebrow and nodded. He hadn’t even given me the customary wink and smile. Instead, he’d looked serious, and kind of sad. It made me nervous, and a little peeved. Sagging back against the seat, I sighed. Six boarding schools down, a million more to go. I wasn’t a bad kid. I didn’t even try to get kicked out—didn’t fight, always did my homework, and tried to be polite. I always assumed my mother pulled me because she’d heard about the bullying. She had ears everywhere. I’d asked her about it last time. She’d sniffed, tapped some numbers into her phone and told me the academics weren’t up to her standards. That was hard to believe. She did hours of research on each one and insisted on visiting and observing a day at each school. But in one case, my teacher had been replaced mid-year. In another she thought my Latin pronunciation was going...

Read More
PW #111: MG Contemporary: FOR SALE BY MINOR
Nov02

PW #111: MG Contemporary: FOR SALE BY MINOR

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Joy McCullough-Carranza Mentee Name: Shanna Rogers Title: FOR SALE BY MINOR Category: Middle Grade Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 40,000 Pitch: Twelve-year-old construction whiz Rory and her design-savvy brother Mag tackle a renovation to save their family property. But flipping a house is harder than it looks on TV, and in order to nail down their futures, they’ll also have to repair their fixer-upper family. Excerpt: My sixth-grade graduation diploma read “Aurora Ariel Rapunzel Perkins.” I Sharpie-d over it and printed “Rory” underneath. Much better. Last-day-of-school pandemonium raged at the school’s front gates. Shouts echoed in the breezeway and more elbows knocked me in the head than usual. I ducked and darted past the parking lot pileup and started for home. At the stoplight I pulled the straps of my backpack until it sat comfortably high on my shoulders. Kids who wore theirs low—or worse, over one shoulder—were toying with scoliosis. Then I rolled my sleeveless turtleneck down ever-so-slightly to try and catch a breeze. Ninety-seven degrees today and not nearly enough shade, so I jumped from one twiggy shadow to the next along the sidewalk. Hot asphalt and wood fumes swirled around the construction site I passed every day. Today they were installing upper decks. I squinted. Wait a second… I marched up to a bulgy man in a hard hat. “I’d like to speak to the supervisor.” “You’re looking at him. Can I help you?” This was not said in a genuine, helpful manner, but rather implied that I might be lost. Or intellectually challenged. “That deck is a hazard,” I said. “You realize you’re missing the proper flashing on your cantilevered joists?” He cocked his head. “Did Javier put you up to this?” “I don’t know a Javier. I do know that deck has inadequate...

Read More
PW #112: MG Contemporary: ALAN KIM IS NOT A COWARD (…RIGHT?)
Nov02

PW #112: MG Contemporary: ALAN KIM IS NOT A COWARD (…RIGHT?)

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Joy McCullough-Carranza Mentee Name: Eric Bell Title: ALAN KIM IS NOT A COWARD (…RIGHT?) Category: Middle Grade Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 51,000 Pitch: Twelve-year-old Alan can’t stop thinking about the boy across the cafeteria. When Alan’s brother Nathan discovers Alan’s crush, Nathan proposes they play another round of Kim vs. Kim, a game of nearly impossible tasks—and if Alan loses, Nathan will out him to the whole school. But hey, no pressure, right? Excerpt: A guy’s life can basically be summed up by two things: how much Silly Putty he’s eaten, and who made him eat it. There are charts and diagrams to calculate your Level of Wussdom based on whether you ate Silly Putty, say, because you were lazy and you didn’t feel like walking to the fridge to get an apple or something, or because your older brother tackled you to the floor and force-fed you leathery, glumpy globs. Let’s just say my older brother’s introduced my stomach to so many new varieties of random objects, my Wussdom Level is literally off the charts. In the end, isn’t that all you need to know about me? On my tombstone they’ll carve, Here Lies Alan Kim. Ate A Metric Ton Of Silly Putty. His Poop Was Spongy And Could Stick To Walls. What else is there to even say after that? “Hey, Alan,” Zack Kimble says at the Unstable Table, adjusting the stuffed snake tied around his neck. “Why do they call it a fork?” Well…maybe there’s a little more to say. That’s not exactly what I had in mind, but sure, why not. “It’s funny.” Zack holds his plastic fork to the light like he’s waiting for it to sprout wings and dance the cha-cha. “You know how some things have names that fit them, right? Like, an orange is called an orange because it’s orange. Why is it called a fork?”...

Read More
PW #113: MG Contemporary: SCARLET RUNNER BEAN
Nov02

PW #113: MG Contemporary: SCARLET RUNNER BEAN

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Stefanie Wass Mentee Name: Emily Ungar Title: SCARLET RUNNER BEAN Category: Middle grade Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 41,000 Pitch: Twelve-year-old Scarlet knows a few things about obsessive-compulsive disorder. After all, her dad’s been living with it for years. But when Scarlet begins to obsess that the scarlet runner beans in her backyard are her magical ticket to outrunning everyone on the cross-country team, her world spins out of control. Excerpt: All I have to do is tap. That’s what my mind whispers as I sit on the porch and slip on my running shoes. The sun hasn’t risen, and the sky is still the color of a bruise. I lace my Nikes and reach over to tap the cool cement steps. Twice, then four times. If I tap just right, my family will be safe. I’ll nail the Beavercreek Middle School cross-country tryouts this afternoon. I won’t get hit by a car during my run. All I have to do is tap, and the pact with the nervous whispers in my mind is sealed. Guaranteed safety in exchange for a few taps? It’s not a bad deal. Four times doesn’t feel quite right, so I knock my knuckles against the steps six times. I don’t like odd numbers. Let’s face it—they’re odd. Even is smooth. Even is balanced. Even is in control. My knuckles are dirty from tapping the porch, so I wipe them on my shorts as I stand up. My run will last exactly 46 minutes, leaving me enough time to scarf one of Dad’s cinnamon chip scones and wash my hair before the bus grunts around the corner. “Scarlet!” Dad opens the screen door. “Don’t forget the key.” His eyes are glued on the deadbolt. “You’ve got to be kidding.” I hold up my cell phone and show him the time. “It’s not even six o’clock. Don’t you think all the burglars are still asleep?”...

Read More
PW #114: MG Contemporary: THE NERD ARMY
Nov02

PW #114: MG Contemporary: THE NERD ARMY

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Kate Foster and J.C. Davis Mentee Name: Stacey Goldstein Title: THE NERD ARMY Category: Middle Grade Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 36000 Pitch: Shayna’s determined to join the in-crowd at her new school until the head bully makes her the latest victim. Rather than face another year of butt-quake and booger jokes, Shayna rallies a nerd army to fight back. But when their pranks go too far, Shayna risks losing her new friends and herself. Excerpt: I’ve traded in my microscope for a makeup bag. Not a full makeup bag, though. Mom only said “Yes” to the lip gloss. When I started using eyeshadow from one of her drawers last week, she either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Or didn’t think it was worth the fight. But today’s the day makeup matters most. After the final touches, I turn away from the mirror to consult my style board one last time. It’s a corkboard on my wall. I tack up pictures from magazines of everything I think would look super cute on me. I touch the pictures wistfully, wishing my back-to-school budget was bigger. But I did get a new belt, four new shirts, two skirts and a pair of jeans. I even got strappy sandals to show off the purple toenails I painted last night. I dance to my closet, looking for my absolute best outfit. I put on a white top, my flowery skirt and pick out a chunky brown belt. My new sandals finish the look. Perfect. I add earrings, a bracelet and necklace before checking the mirror again. I glance back at the latest issue of Text Trend Magazine and nod. “I know. I know,” I say. “Don’t over-accessorize.” I remove the bracelet. I grab my backpack. It’s full of the normal school stuff, but I need one more thing. Digging through the bottom drawer of my dresser, I grab the picture. It’s my reminder. This year will be different.  ...

Read More