Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Pitch Plus One Winners Are...

We are proud to announce the winners of the Pitch Plus One Contest!! We hope all of our entrants feel as though they've had a great experience and have received valuable feedback along the way. The scores were very close, but here are the five prize winning entries:

Third Place Prize

FIGHT FOR THIS

You've won a one chapter critique from Agent Melissa Nasson!

Third Place Prize: 

RIVETED

You've won a one chapter critique from Agent Jordy Albert!

Runner Up 

THE SINNER ROSE

You've won a two chapter critique from Agent Danielle Barthel!

Runner Up

IF ONE OF THEM IS DEAD

You've won a two chapter critique from Agent Victoria Lowes!

And the GRAND PRIZE goes to

XAVIER AND THE MYSTERIOUS BLACK SPACESHIP

You've won a three chapter critique from Agent Christa Heschke!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest and to all of our wonderful judges. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Entry #10: THE SINNER ROSE

Title: THE SINNER ROSE
Word Count: 93,000
Genre: YA Romantic Fantasy

Pitch:

Killing never comes easy, but for eighteen-year-old Martia, exterminating those who fall in love is an uncomfortable reality of being a Deathwalker. In the kingdom of Mithos, true love is the most dangerous form of black magic, giving the wielder the power to burn through skin and bone. Those who fall prey to it must be eliminated. When war breaks out on the border and the rival nation attempts to assassinate Prince Narin, Martia’s enlisted to guard him. Their eyes meet, and her world freezes at first sight—the initial symptom of true love. She tries to fight the magic’s intoxicating spell, but Narin insists they can overcome it. When the other Deathwalkers discover her secret, Martia must decide: plunge her sword into Narin’s heart, or choose Narin and become one of the hunted. Both choices will leave Mithos without an heir and bring ruin to the kingdom.

First 250:

The streets of Yuin are no place for love.
I creep through the night, wearing black in a city of pale stone. Even after dusk, Yuin is bright, the firelight blinding me. I slink further into the shadows cast by the alley's gleaming wall, tilting away from the flickering glow. Darkness shields better than any armor.
Something clinks to my left. I reach for the polished hilt of my scimitar.
A giggling couple stumbles into the alley after a rolling wine bottle. The woman's sharp snicker drowns out the distant music of stringed vihuelas and beating hand drums. She clutches her sides, bunching up the layers in her floor-length pleated dress. Her glazed eyes rise to meet mine and the laughter squelches.
Dammit. I hate it when people see me. My lips jerk up in a jagged smile.
She grabs the man's hand and pulls him close. "It's one of them."
The man twists in my direction and pales, a whine escaping his throat. They always look at me like that, seeing a monster in the place of a girl. I wish I could shrink back.
I step forward.
The woman whimpers. "Please, don't kill us."
Both man and woman are dark-haired, dark-eyed and dark-skinned like me, like all Mithoians. An ordinary person would only see two drunken lovers. But I see more. A thin maroon aura twists around the couple, reaching out with ebony tendrils.
The aura of black magic.

Entry #9: IF ONE OF THEM IS DEAD

IF ONE OF THEM IS DEAD
YA Contemporary
52,000 Words

Pitch:

Melissa is in a living hell over the whispers about her vomiting mid-hookup last week. She wants revenge, and to get out of Valley Pines.

When her closeted, pot-dealing bestie Jack suggests they create an app based on school scandals, she’s game. On “Chaos” students can anonymously post rumors for points; the more points they get, the more buzz they can access.

Chaos goes viral. Then Melissa discovers Jack wants to use it to spread an illicit video of a teacher who knows he deals.  If Melissa agrees, a student’s reputation will be ruined – just like hers.

Melissa gets a conscience and pushes Jack to reconsider, but he snaps: he releases the video, blames Chaos on Melissa, and starts stalking the teacher. Melissa has to stop Jack. Or she’ll end up with handcuffs as a graduation present, looking at Valley Pines from behind bars instead of through a rearview mirror.

First Page:

In high school there are girls who are gods. They command everyone’s attention with a swish of their skirt, a pout of their lips, and a wink. My little sister Stephanie and her friends are those girls. Pay atte­­­ntion, they say. Look at me.

You don’t want to cross these girls when they’re angry. These girls will key your car, spit gum in your hair, and pour diet Coke in your locker. Only diet, they’re not like you, fatass.

I’m going to get revenge, because I know all of their secrets. I know everything. When you know things in high school it rattles you. You can feel it in your bones when you look at someone. It’s this shuffling sound in your ears that never goes away.

My phone bleeps. ‘1 new message’ flashes on the screen.

Anything interesting on the tangled web last night Birdie? 

Jack Stewart always calls me Birdie even though my name is Melissa. He says it’s because it’s good to have a little birdie tell you secrets.

Wait ‘til I tell you what I saw on the confessional. I text back.

Last night I was reading trumbullconfessional.com, an anonymous gossip site made by a couple of seniors from back when the Internet was still dial-up. Mostly it’s bullshit posts about people looking to find the latest party, or spread lies. But sometimes you hit confessional gold.

Entry #8: RETTA VS. MUTANTS

RETTA VS. MUTANTS
105,000 words
YA Comedic Horror


PITCH:
It’s barely 9:00 am, and sixteen-year-old Retta has already dealt with a mutilated cat, complaints about her grandmother filling bathtubs around town, and one signature she maybe/probably forged. Just another Wednesday. But in seventy-two hours, Retta will be on her way to basketball camp and one step closer to a life-changing scholarship. All she has to do in the meantime is manage her family’s shenanigans. Oh, and ignore those creepy green eyes in the woods. Easy, right?

(Cue dead body.)

Easy ends when her ex-con brother gets accused of murder and disappears. She has to find him before the police do. But hungry, green-eyed mutants find her instead. When the mutants start eating her neighbors, Retta’s basketball dreams take a backseat to saving her bumbling family from a full-blown attack. And mutant-fighting would be a lot easier if they didn’t try to “help.” Veronica Mars meets Shaun of the Dead.


FIRST 250:
The Uiterwyks’ cat was clearly dead, but that didn’t make it Granna’s fault or Retta’s problem.

The corpse lay curled around the garden gnome and cooked in the sun reflecting off the Uiterwyks’ trailer. It was only 8:54 a.m. and already hot. Retta wrinkled her nose. This was not how she had planned to start her day, but as a member of a family like the Holkers, she had learned not to make plans.

Guts spilled in the grass like Spaghetti Os. The mangy animal was cut in half as if someone had dropped an axe on its stomach. Only, the bloody fur was ripped ragged in a way that suggested coyote or some other hungry thing.

Certainly not Retta’s 74-year-old grandmother.

But this was the accusation Brandi Uiterwyk had flung at her over the phone when she demanded Retta come two trailers down. Now.

Brandi huffed, just as impatient in person. “It’s not like we killed our own cat—”

Debatable.

“—and it is the second time your grandmother has broken in here and filled the bathtub,” she finished as if one crime implied the other.

That one was not an accusation. It was a fact. Granna had been filling bathtubs all over town. Last week she broke into Trudy Gunnarson’s and filled not only the bathtub but every pot in the house. Just left them around. On the counter. In the closet. Next to the TV. But she had yet to kill any pets.

“Unless the cat drowned before something ate its lower half,” Retta said, “Granna didn’t kill your cat.”

Entry #7: THE OTHER SIDE OF NORMAL

THE OTHER SIDE OF NORMAL
93,000 words
YA Dark Comedy

Pitch: 

Mashup: Tina Fey's MEAN GIRLS/Meg Cabot's MEDIATOR/Lauren Oliver's ROOMS. On the night she’s crowned queen of the junior homecoming dance, sixteen-year-old Bethany Sultry crashes into a car full of jellybeans. Now she’s not only dead, she’s a laughingstock living a nightmare. To make matters worse, her high school nemesis is claiming all the empty spots Bethany leaves behind when she dies. She takes over as co-captain of the dance team, becomes her boyfriend’s new girlfriend, and even becomes the new junior homecoming queen. Enough is enough. Bethany can’t rest in peace with that bitch wearing her bling! With the help of the boy who killed her, Bethany mounts a campaign to reclaim her former glory, and her crown. But how far will she go to defeat her rival when the price of victory is damning her own soul to hell?


FIRST PAGE:

When I die, I don’t so much go into the light as have the light suck me up like a dust bunny in a cosmic vacuum cleaner. I zoom skyward, headfirst through a translucent tunnel. A hum loud as a jet engine presses against my inner ear. Ozone pinches my nasal cavities. Veils of colored air blow through my scalp and exit cold through the soles of my bare feet. At last, I burst into a stark white room and land, muscles tensed, in crouched position. The floor is solid and warm. I am nervous as hell.

“Hi, Bethany.” My only dead friend waves at me. Her name is Moon. She’s sucking on a lollipop, the big kind with the swirls. Her hair’s done up in three ponytails. I’m pretty sure she has a glitter tattoo on her cheek but it’s hard to see against the pale blue tint of her skin.

I straighten up and ask, “Is this heaven?”

Moon shakes her head no. She pulls the lollipop from her mouth and points it at the only other living being in the room. “But Cal’s an angel.”

After the havoc I caused, being in the presence of an angel is awesome, especially when that angel smells like warm apple pie. His cheekbones are higher than mine. I want to lick one and see if it tastes like cinnamon crumb topping.

Cal narrows his eyes at me. “I’m your celestial probation officer.”

I resolve not to lick any part of him.

Entry #6: THE BATTLE OF WONDERLAND GARDENS

THE BATTLE OF WONDERLAND GARDENS
MG Fantasy
41,000 words

Pitch

Ellis has a big problem—a rivalry that drives him crazy. He wants to finally beat Alicia, the thorn in his side, and even a small victory in their youth theater ticket sales contest will do. He concocts a plan to sell a boatload of tickets to the old folks at the Wonderland Gardens Retirement Community. His hopes crumble after he finds Alicia beat him to the punch and sold her tickets to the residents.

Things go from bad to worse when an evil spirit possessing the community’s beloved owner kidnaps Alicia. It’s searching for a new, younger body and Alicia fits the bill. Ellis can’t just sit idly by, although a tiny part of him wants to, and he joins the fight. With the aid of a talking terrier guide, Ellis leads the oddball elderly residents against the fiend and its raven minions to rescue Alicia and reclaim their home.

First Page
The air seeped from Ellis Brown’s balloon of hope and instantly ruined his once-promising Saturday morning. He could not believe what just happened. “You mean a girl has already been here?”

Mr. and Mrs. McGregor, the Wonderland Gardens Retirement Center’s hosts, sat in the lobby’s red velvet armchairs smiling. Mr. McGregor held four orange colored tickets that matched the tickets in Ellis’ hand and said, “Yes, she came by about an hour ago. Still in the building, I believe.”

Mrs. McGregor beamed. “Such an angel, blonde hair, blue eyes, and full of joy.”

Yep, that’s Alicia. What a fake. Ellis forced a smile as the anxiety bubbled in the pit of his stomach. “And I suppose she sold you those tickets to our show?”

“As a matter of fact, she did," Mr. McGregor said. “Such a sweet young lady. She did mention that a friend of hers, a boy, might stop in later, and here you are.”

Sweet? Maybe, if rattlesnake’s venom’s sweet. “She does have a way,” Ellis said.

Alicia Swanson had been a thorn in his side all throughout middle school. She beat him at everything and, to make matters worse, she had a habit of broadcasting it to everyone.

He was counting on using the retirement home's residents to beat Alicia by selling more Alice in Wonderland show tickets to them. Not anymore. Ellis felt a familiar churning in his gut as, once again, a sure victory over Alicia slipped painfully through his fingers.

Entry #5: FIGHT FOR THIS

FIGHT FOR THIS
63,000 words
MG mystery/sci-fi

Pitch:
When Bones Malone pulls a half-delirious man from the Langille River, he stumbles onto a secret: his town is ground zero for a new technology that brings people's nightmares to life.

Langille was meant to be a fresh start, away from Bones’ father. Bones only wants to look after his mom and brothers and stick to throwing fastballs instead of right hooks. (He never starts fights. Honestly. He just ends them.)

But as he and his friends uncover a plot to turn Langille into a waking nightmare, Bones lands in his biggest fight yet. He's up against powerful people who use fear as a weapon on anyone in their way—including the town's nosy new reporter, Bones' mother.

Bones might be the bravest kid around, but he'll have to face the nightmare invention and confront his deepest fear if he wants to save his town—and his own struggling family.

First page:
Clouds hung low above the town of Langille, gray as wet cement. Bones hoped the rain would hold off. He was pitching that night, if he could still throw. He flexed his sore knuckles. Stupid. He should have punched Tony Spezio with his left hand.

As if she could hear his thoughts, his mother walked faster. She was three steps ahead, locked in Too Angry For Words mode, each stride radiating fury. Bones and his brothers struggled to keep pace.

“Mom, come on,” he said.

She marched on. She had not looked at him once since they left the Spezios’ house. “I said we’ll discuss it later.”

“I know I shouldn’t have punched Tony, but—”

She whirled. “Quentin Malone. The last thing I want to hear right now is an excuse.”

He winced. She only used his dreaded real name in formal situations, like the first time they met with a lawyer. Or when she was really mad.

“He was picking on Rory, Mom,” Bones said. “I was trying to stop him.”

“It’s true,” added Dylan, the youngest Malone. “Tony called Rory a little sissy. He was trying to make him wear a dress.”

Their mother froze. “He was what?”

Everyone looked at Rory, who stared at the sidewalk. Bones didn’t think his 10-year-old brother could bear to hear the story repeated.

He had tried to make peace. Honestly. He asked Tony politely to leave Rory alone. But Tony responded by calling the Malones a bunch of mama’s boys and said something crude about their mother.

Entry #4: TRACKER220

TRACKER220
74,000 words
YA Sci fi/Thriller


Pitch
Like everyone, sixteen-year-old Kaya Weiss has a brain-interfacing tracking chip, but she’s also the glitch that threatens the entire network.

With a series of thoughts and blinks, Kaya can contact anyone and search for anything on the tracker network. But the authorities monitor everyone and everything—including where Kaya goes, who she talks to, and what she searches. It’s never bothered her much, until her tracker malfunctions, and the authorities carve into her skull to reset it.

When Kaya’s tracker goes off the grid a second time, there’s no way she’ll become a lab rat again. Except a rogue operation called the Ghosts also hunts her—to exploit her faulty tracker and destroy the network. Evading the authorities requires serious tech skills the Ghosts can offer, but Kaya can’t trust them either. Accustomed to having infinite knowledge at her disposal, Kaya must rely on her intelligence to uncover the source of the glitches before either side lobotomizes her for the defective tracking chip.


First page

We were going to get caught. No question about it. Masking your tracker signal got you a date with the authorities at best, and at worst… I didn’t want to think about it. I wasn’t lucky enough to get away with this. I was never that lucky.

Troy grinned and held out the radio wave generator. “Come on, Kaya. You know you want to.”

I shook my head. A few minutes of freedom from the tracker network wasn’t worth the risk. If the authorities showed up, they’d brain probe us to check our chips for glitches.

Troy waved the box in my face. “You sure? It’s such a rush!”

I shivered despite the bonfire blazing in front of us. “No, I’m good, thanks.”

That little box was trouble. Worse than Pandora’s. My muscles tensed. At least if I refused to disrupt my tracker signal, I wouldn’t have to lie about breaking the law.

Trekking into the woods to watch everyone attempt to beat the record for longest signal disruption was insanity. Why couldn’t we hang out at the fly-in theater instead? Anything other than pursuing a one-way ticket to tracker juvie. 

But they loved the thrill of tempting fate—the ultimate game of chicken. At best, they had about five minutes of interrupted tracker signals before the network alerted the authorities.

I leaned into Harlow, and he put his arm around me. He’d never ditch me. But most of his friends wouldn’t hesitate to use me as authority bait if the agents showed up. Not if—when.

Troy glared at Harlow. “Looks like your girlfriend’s afraid of getting caught.”

Entry #3: RIVETED

RIVETED
68,000 words
YA Sci-Fi

Pitch:
As one of the mechanical race known as the boltedkindred, Johnny Rivet questions the reasons for the cold war separating him from his human friend and love, Rebecca.

Living steeped in an atmosphere of longstanding tension, Johnny is used to being feared for his inexplicable sentience. But hostilities are threatening to erupt, and he has his own fears: the unfinished men, people with eyes like dark ink pools and paper skin masquerading as humans. These creatures burn with an irrational hatred of the boltedkindred who share their city, a crumbling alternate-1950s metropolis, and are provoking tensions between humans and robots.

No one else notices the faces the unfinished men wear aren’t fully human. No one else sees the city is literally breaking down.

Johnny and Rebecca unite to stop the cold war before it erupts into a violent inferno—but to do so they’ll have to leave their city, their families, and old lives behind.

First 250 words:
The unfinished man unfolded himself from the elevator. There was no better word for his motion.

In the dying light, I finally saw the unfinished man, saw him like I somehow hadn’t before. His eyes were malevolent puddles of ink on milky pale paper flesh. His nostrils and mouth were ragged, yawning gashes—chasms of empty blackness.

He didn’t breathe, he rustled.

Rebecca’s breathing hitched beside me, a tiny gasp catching in her throat as he moved like broken origami twitchscuttling towards us slowly, twitch crinkle scrape twitch crinkle scrape. How had I ever mistaken him for human, or even living?

Before that moment I hadn’t really seen them for what they were, creatures only masquerading as humans.

I may not have been human, but those things weren’t, either.

Was Rebecca seeing the same creature I was? Or was she still lulled by his very superficial resemblance to a person, as I once had been? Perhaps we see what we want to see, or only see what we believe possible.

“I smell rust,” he wheezed through his torn mouth. “Hello, little tick-tock.”

And as he said it, I tasted rust—hot, burning, angry rust. Never before had I experienced the sensation that followed: everything stopped. I stopped. The frantic whirl of my thoughts, my mind, my body—all ground to a halt.

One moment all circuits and gears were churning towards logic and reason; the next, every fiber of me was routed towards a single sensation of paralytic fear.

Entry #2: THE MIDNIGHT FLIGHT OF THE SALEM MAGI

THE MIDNIGHT FLIGHT OF THE SALEM MAGI
58,000
MG Fantasy

Pitch:
THE MIDNIGHT FLIGHT OF THE SALEM MAGI is a secret history retelling of
Paul Revere's Ride.

Ark and Swanette are under a curse most parents would wish for— they
cannot tell lies. But when witch hunters start asking questions about
the Salem witches' descendants, the twins can't risk answering and
escape to Boston in hopes of finding safe haven.

Instead, they uncover an alliance between the witch hunters and
redcoats. In exchange for the military's aid capturing magi, the witch
hunters will unleash dragons against the rebelling patriots. Although
the twins were taught to stay hidden, they know the terror of being
chased and can't abandon anyone to such a fate.

Before Lexington is attacked, Ark and Swanette must form an alliance
with Abigail Adams, Boston's witch-in-chief, to save the patriots.
Because when dragons are coming, it's one if by land, two if by sea,
and three if by air.

First 250 Words:
At dusk I’m scheduled to burn at the stake. I don't like to brag, but
I'm really good at it. This will be my third time. It’s made me
something of a celebrity around New England. While burning magi has
always attracted large crowds, I like to think I’ve taken the
spectacle to a new level.

Thanks to my reputation, the villagers have packed the town square
despite the short notice. A local baker rambles through the crowd,
hefting a food tray overhead. "Get your gingerbread cookies! It's not
a bonfire without your favorite foods."

I’d wave the baker down, but I’m chained to a stake atop a log
pyramid. Unwilling to let mere captivity get in my stomach's way, I
hop in place to rattle the chains. "Do you have any oatmeal cookies?"

The baker raises his bushy eyebrows. "Kid, no one likes oatmeal cookies."

"Well, I do."

He shakes his head. "In that case, no one but you likes oatmeal cookies."

I let out a huff that turns to fog in the cold air. "I’m surrounded by
Philistines."

They form a crowd that stretches toward the horizon until their faces
begin to blur in the fading light. Latecomers scramble up ladders to
reach the nearby rooftops. A few have even taken the time to bring
telescopes.

From the audience size, every person in the region must have come to
find out if I can honestly survive being burned alive. Thank Goodness.
If everyone is watching me, no one is searching for my sister and
cousins.

Entry #1: XAVIER AND THE MYSTERIOUS BLACK SPACESHIP

XAVIER AND THE MYSTERIOUS BLACK SPACESHIP
42,000 words
MG Science Fiction Adventure

Pitch:
Twelve-year-old Xavier Howell has a knack for making things go awry on a colossal scale. Like when his beetle trap experiment turned into a minefield of dung bombs. Otherwise, he's just an ordinary kid on a normal outer-world colony . . . as far as he knows.
             
When a mysterious black spaceship shows up and almost fries the colony to a crisp; Xavier uncovers a holographic message left by his long dead mother. She confesses to hiding a microchip in his head containing her super-secret artificial intelligence research and warns him that "The Man" (evil head of the Cornucopia Conglomerate) will do anything to get his hands on it.

With a band of eclectic sidekicks that include a quirky professor and a robot with multiple personalities, Xavier must escape the mysterious black spaceship and solve his mother's riddles—all while using his non-dorky ninja moves to dodge giant, man-eating plants.

First Page:

I thought to myself: Self, that’s not supposed to happen—just as the second dung bomb exploded.

Watching the smelly, sticky, brownish-green substance fly through the air like shrapnel, I realized I'd made a slight miscalculation somewhere. Crouched in one of the wheat fields that surrounded the colony on Kevin 5, I took a moment to review the parameters of my little beetle catching science fair experiment.

Mr. Finch, the colony's bug guy, assured me the chemical I'd used in the traps would be poisonous to the black-bellied grain beetle. The heap of cow dung covering the trays of chemicals was meant to attract said beetles (again according to the illustrious Mr. Finch)—not blowup. Perhaps I should've consulted the colony chemist, too?

The third beetle-trap-turned-dung-bomb exploded.

That's when the smell first hit me. I tried very hard not to let any more air penetrate my nose or mouth. The endeavor was unsuccessful and so I gagged … repeatedly.

"Xavier Howell!"

I cringed. I didn't recognize the voice (the colony was not that small), but its tone was certainly familiar. My reputation had preceded me. Turning around slowly, I came face to knees with one of the grain farmers. I couldn't remember the man’s name, but I might've been distracted by the fact that he was covered—from head to toe—in dung.

It was difficult to talk without first inhaling the putrid air. "Yes, sir?"

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Top Ten Entries in Pitch Plus One & the Agents Judging Them

We've made it through to the final round! Congratulations to all of you for all of your hard work and accomplishments. Connections have been made, friendships forged, and feedback assimilated. But we aren't done yet!! We have SEVEN amazing agents (also listed below) who've donated their time to judge the final round.

If your title is below then please take 24 hours to revise and send me your final entry by 9 AM tomorrow (Friday) to be posted by Saturday on the contest blog. Please send all info, including name, email, current title, genre/subgenre, word count, 150 word pitch, and 250 word first page EVEN IF you are not changing anything.

Agent Judges:

Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency:


Jordy Albert is a Literary Agent and co-founder of The Booker Albert Literary Agency. She holds a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University, and a M.A. from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She has worked with Marisa Corvisiero during her time at the L. Perkins Agency and the Corvisiero Literary Agency. She enjoys studying languages (French/Japanese), spends time teaching herself how to knit, is a HUGE fan of Doctor WhoSherlock and Supernatural (#Superwholock)!!! And loves dogs.

She is looking for stories that sink their teeth in, leave the reader wanting more, and gives her all the feels. She loves books that make her laugh out loud or tear up (or in some cases wanting to throw the book). She is interested in Middle Grade contemporary or action/adventure (think Indiana Jones, Goonies, Labyrinth and other awesome 80s movies). In YA and New Adult, she is looking for sci-fi/fantasy (romance), contemporary romance. She’s also always looking for characters with strong, authentic voices. Jordy loves an awesome kick butt hero/heroine, especially when they have to work their way out of a tight spot. While it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, she tends to shy away from novels with trigger topics, such as suicide and any type of abuse. As for adult works, Jordy is looking for smart, sexy contemporary romances that leave her breathless, and where the chemistry between the characters sizzles right off the pages. She is also looking for Historical Romances (she definitely has a soft spot for Regency). Like Brittany, Jordy is a sucker for a HEA! Some favorite authors include Sabrina Jeffries, Teresa Medeiros, Karen Marie Moning, Kresley Cole, Lauren Layne, and Gena Showalter.

Danielle Barthel of New Leaf Literary:



Following her completion of the Denver Publishing Institute after graduation, Danielle began interning at Writers House. While there, she realized she wanted to put her English degree and love of the written word to work at a literary agency. She worked as a full-time assistant for three years, and continues to help keep the New Leaf offices running smoothly in her role of Coordinator of Team and Client Services.
In her downtime, she can be found with a cup of tea, a bar of chocolate, or really good book...sometimes all together.
Follow Danielle on twitter!






Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary:


Sarah Davies founded the Greenhouse and is head of the agency.  She created the business after moving to the USA from England in 2007, following a long career as a senior UK children’s publisher.
As a publisher, Sarah worked with many high-profile writers on both sides of the Atlantic. As an agent she has shepherded many debut authors to success. She has considerable experience in contract negotiation, marketing and rights, as well as a strong understanding of digital developments. Excellent publishing contacts in both the USA and Britain, and homes in both countries, have given her an unusually transatlantic view of the children’s books industry, from both sides of the desk.
A member of AAR and SCBWI, Sarah is an experienced speaker on children’s books and creative writing and attends many writers’ and book-trade events throughout the year. She says, ‘Everything you need to know about Greenhouse is embodied in its name.'
Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis:


Christa Heschke graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children's Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively looking for picture books, middle grade, and young adult projects.

She is a fan of young adult novels with a romantic angle, and strong, quirky protagonists. Within YA, Christa is especially interested in contemporary fiction, horror and thrillers/mysteries. As for middle grade, Christa enjoys contemporary, humor, adventure, mystery and magical realism for boys and girls. For picture books, she’s drawn to cute, funny, character driven stories within fiction and is open to non-fiction with a unique hook.





Victoria Lowes of The Bent Agency:


Victoria was born and raised in Queens, New York and graduated from the City University of New York, Queens College. Before joining the Bent Agency, she completed internships at Serendipity Literary and the Carol Mann Agency. In her spare time she can be found teaching dance classes for young students or watching re-runs of The Office. She loves books that teach her something, whether it be about a culture she doesn’t know, event in history or about the dynamics of a tumultuous young romance. She wants to root for your characters -- connect with them and the problems they face. She’s looking for characters as complex and interesting as those she meets in real life.



Melissa Nasson of RPC:


Melissa Nasson is an associate agent with Rubin Pfeffer Content. She is also an attorney and contracts director at Beacon Press, an independent publisher of non-fiction. Melissa is currently accepting submissions, and she is actively seeking MG, YA, and NA fiction in all genres (though she has a soft spot for fantasy and sci-fi). She will also consider fiction intended for the adult market, particularly edgy speculative fiction and gothic/horror novels. She is not considering non-fiction at this time.




Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown:


Kelly Sonnack is a Literary Agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, living in San Diego. She works with illustrators and writers of all areas within children’s literature (picture books, middle grade, young adult, and graphic novels). Some of the YA and middle grade novels she represents include Steve Watkins’ Golden Kite Winner DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN (Candlewick); Sharon Cameron’s debut novel THE DARK UNWINDING and her upcoming novel ROOK (both Scholastic); and Gordon McAlpine’s middle grade trilogy THE MISADVENTURES OF EDGAR AND ALLAN POE (Viking/Penguin), with illustrations by Sam Zuppardi. Picture books she represents include Bridget Heos and Joy Ang’s MUSTACHE BABY (Clarion/HMH); Diane Adams’ TWO HANDS TO LOVE YOU (Chronicle); Jessica Young’s MY BLUE IS HAPPY (Candlewick); Elizabeth Rusch’s ERUPTION! THE SCIENCE OF SAVING LIVES (Houghton Mifflin/HMH); and Sam Zuppardi’s THE NOWHERE BOX (Candlewick). She is a frequent speaker at conferences, including SCBWI’s national and regional conferences, is on the advisory board for University of California San Diego’s Writing and Illustrating for Children Certificate, and can be found talking about all things children’s books on Facebook (agentsonnack) and Twitter (@KSonnack). You can also learn more about her at www.kellysonnack.com or at her agency’s website, www.andreabrownlit.com.



Top Ten Entries:


FIGHT FOR THIS

IF ONE OF THEM IS DEAD

RETTA VS. MUTANTS

RIVETED

THE BATTLE OF WONDERLAND GARDENS

THE MIDNIGHT FLIGHT OF SALEM MAGI

THE OTHER SIDE OF NORMAL

THE SINNER ROSE

TRACKER 220

XAVIER AND THE MYSTERIOUS BLACK SPACESHIP

Friday, February 27, 2015

Entry #25: FIGHT FOR THIS

FIGHT FOR THIS
63,000 words
MG mystery/adventure

Pitch:

When Bones Malone pulls a half-delirious man from the Langille River, he stumbles onto a secret: his town is ground zero for a new technology that brings people's nightmares to life.
Langille was meant to be a fresh start for Bones, away from his father. All he wants is to take care of his mom and brothers, play baseball, and figure out how to stay out of trouble. But as he and his friends uncover a plot to turn Langille into a waking nightmare, Bones lands in his biggest fight yet. He's up against powerful people who use fear as a weapon on anyone in their way—including the town's nosy new reporter, Bones' mother.
Bones might be the bravest kid around, but he'll have to face the nightmare invention and confront his deepest fear if he wants to save his town—and his own struggling family.

First 250 words:

Clouds hung low above the town of Langille, gray as wet cement. Bones hoped the rain would hold off. He was pitching that night, if he could still throw. He flexed his sore knuckles. Stupid. He should have punched Tony Spezio with his left hand.

As if she could hear his thoughts, his mother walked faster. She was three steps ahead, locked in Too Angry For Words mode, each stride radiating fury. Bones and his brothers struggled to keep pace.

“Mom, come on,” he said.

Rachel marched on. She had not looked at him once since they left the Spezios’ house. “I said we’ll discuss it later.”

“I know I shouldn’t have punched Tony, but—”

She whirled. “Quentin Malone. The last thing I want to hear right now is an excuse.”

He hated his real name. She only used it in formal situations, like the first time they met with a lawyer. Or when she was really mad.

“He was picking on Rory, Mom,” Bones said. “I was trying to stop him.”

“It’s true,” added Bones’ seven-year-old brother, Dylan. “Tony called Rory a little sissy. He was trying to make him wear a dress.”

Rachel froze. “He was what?”

They looked at Rory, who stared at the sidewalk. Bones didn’t think his 10-year-old brother could bear to hear the story repeated.

He had tried to make peace. Honestly. He asked Tony politely to leave Rory alone. But Tony responded by calling the Malones a bunch of mama’s boys and said something crude about their mother.

Entry #24: The Hunt for the Heavenly Horse

The Hunt for the Heavenly Horse
69,700 words
YA/Historical fiction
A nomadic boy named Tagan refuses to give up his horse after she’s taken by the Chinese army. He sets out to rescue her in an epic journey across the Silk Road. Tagan allows himself to be taken hostage by the army so he can find his horse, but the army is divided in half and his horse is sent on a separate route back to China. Tagan endures sandstorms, brutal uprisings and near starvation along the two year trek. He also survive the brutal mistreatment by the soldiers who treat him like a barbarian. Tagan’s skill with horses and his knowledge of the desert wins the grudging respect of the soldiers he saves. As the army reunites, Tagan wonders if he will see his beloved horse again.
104 B.C.E
Central Asia
            Tagan had imagined himself and his horse winning the game of Kok boru many times, but he never knew how hard it would be to steady himself on the bare back of a galloping horse while desperately trying to hold onto a goat carcass by one leg. He and Kutcha had practiced on the open grassland with Kutcha galloping in wide ovals and cutting quick turns while Tagan carried a sack weighted with sand. He had never considered how heavy the goat would be even though it had been gutted before the game began. The goat had also been skinned, making the carcass slick and hard to grasp. Tagan had never dreamed that his horse, Kutcha, would be spooked by the goat’s other three legs that jangled against her side. Tagan had hoped to hoist the goat onto his lap the way the older experienced riders did, but instead he gripped a slippery leg above the hoof as the rest of the carcass thumped against his horse. Kutcha mistook the prodding against her ribs as Tagan spurring her to run faster. Kutcha would have galloped harder anyway to keep ahead of the pack of riders on horseback coming up behind her. Even though Kutcha needed to stay ahead of the avalanche of mounted horses closing in around her Tagan was tipping to one side and was about to slide off of Kutcha’s back.
            Give up the goat and stay on your horse, Tagan told himself.

Entry #23: ANYTHING BUT ALIVE

ANYTHING BUT ALIVE
79,000 words
NA Contemp​​ (no romantic elements)


Pitch: 

It takes a lot to break 24-year-old Mariella. Even the depression pseudo-coma that delayed her graduation last year and terrified her family only phased her for a few days. But when she’s slammed with a family suicide and a melodrama-plagued funeral during her last round of finals, she doesn’t just break—
She shatters.
Mari and her family have always battled bipolar disorder—what they call la strega—but her zia’s suicide is the first casualty of their decades-long war. To keep Mari from suffering the same fate, her husband encourages her to start seeing a shrink. But when she meets Oliver, a counseling intern with a mysteriously dead bipolar brother, she becomes obsessed not with her own brokenness, but with Oliver's. After all, it's much easier to fix someone—anyone—else.
But when Mari's misguided plan to give Oliver closure breaks him instead, la strega swoops in to destroy what's left of Mari's life.
1st page:
I tell myself a lot of things every day. That my aversion to people is just a product of hormones. That someday I won’t wake up in some kind of pain. And that, even if both of those are a stretch, I’ll definitely make it to every single class.

Today, like most days, I lied.

 “You skipped all of your classes again?” Jason’s tone is stern, but he’s definitely holding back a laugh. “Sweetie, come on. You’re not in frosh or soph classes anym—”

I’d counter that even junior classes are nauseatingly easy, but he hates it when I brag. “I’m sore! And I was tired.”

The excuse sounds lame even to me, but Jason’s laugh is worth it. “You’re always tired. All of us are. It’s called ‘being in college.’”

I groan and flop back on the bed, putting him on speakerphone. I’ve only been up for three hours, but it feels like it’s been three days. “I know, I know. But I played a little more SynthLife for you. You might want to tell Uproar their dialogue guy was probably stoned when he wrote the intro.”

“Hey, it wasn’t that bad.” I can hear the frown in his voice, definitely real this time. “Especially considering Griff pulled three all-nighters in a row to write and code that on deadline.”

“Psh.” My cheeks heat up as I bite my tongue. My life seriously needs “save” and “load” buttons for these kind of foot-in-mouth situations. “I’m just saying if Uproar’s putting out a game that bad this year, maybe Griff would be better off joining you at Spigot instead of the other way around.” 

Entry #22: RETTA VS. MUTANTS

RETTA VS. MUTANTS
105,000 words
YA Magical Realism/Horror-Comedy
PITCH:
It’s barely 9:00 am, and sixteen-year-old Retta has already dealt with a mutilated cat, complaints about her grandmother filling bathtubs around town, and one signature she maybe/probably forged. Just another Wednesday.

But in seventy-two hours, Retta will be on her way to basketball camp and one step closer to a life-changing scholarship. All she has to do in the meantime is manage her family’s shenanigans. Easy.

Easy, that is, until her recently paroled brother gets accused of murder and disappears from police custody. Then a mutant, mole-looking creature pops out of the ground and swallows a ferret whole.

When the mutants start eating her neighbors, Retta’s basketball dreams must take a backseat to saving her bumbling family from a full-blown attack, and mutant-fighting would be a lot easier if they didn’t try to “help”. Veronica Mars meets Shaun of the Dead in this homage to campy horror-comedies of the 80s.
  

FIRST 250:
The Uiterwyks’ cat was clearly dead, but that didn’t make it Granna’s fault or Retta’s problem.

The corpse lay curled around the garden gnome and cooked in the sun reflecting off the Uiterwyks’ trailer. It was only 8:54 a.m. and already hot. Retta wrinkled her nose. This was not how she had planned to start her day, but as a member of a family like the Holkers, she had learned not to make plans.

Guts spilled in the grass like Spaghetti Os. The mangy animal was cut in half as if someone had dropped an axe on its stomach. Only, the bloody fur was ripped ragged in a way that suggested coyote or some other hungry thing.

Certainly not Retta’s 74-year-old grandmother.

But this was the accusation Brandi Uiterwyk had flung at her over the phone when she demanded Retta come two trailers down. Now.

Brandi huffed, just as impatient in person. “It’s not like we killed our own cat—”

Debatable.

“—and it is the second time your grandmother has broken in here and filled the bathtub,” she finished as if one crime implied the other.

That one was not an accusation. It was a fact. Granna had been filling bathtubs all over town. Last week she broke into Trudy Gunnarson’s and filled not only the bathtub but every pot in the house. Just left them around. On the counter. In the closet. Next to the TV. But she had yet to kill any pets.

“Unless the cat drowned before something ate its lower half,” Retta said, “Granna didn’t kill your cat.”

Entry #21: NIKITA WHITFIELD AND THE BUTTERFLY EATER

NIKITA WHITFIELD AND THE BUTTERFLY EATER
79,000 words
YA Fantasy

Pitch:

Fourteen-year-old Nikita Whitfield thinks there are only two good things about going to Pemberton Academy. One: it’ll give her some space from her overbearing mother. Two: no one there will compare her to her superstar older sister.

When she arrives, she learns Pemberton is more than just uniforms and English essays. It’s also a training ground for budding Technicians: kids who can cast illusions, smash concrete, and control other people’s minds.

She’s determined to become one of them. Even if that means enlisting help from a dwarf whose temper’s shorter than he is, serving a king grizzly bear that can stop time, and fighting against kingslayers and classmates alike.

But serving the Bear King also means defending him against his traitors, who're lurking under Nikita's nose. They're hungry for war, and when they drag Nikita's family into battle, she’ll need to decide which role best suits her: damsel or avenger.



First 250:

My mother's voice pierces my ears like a sharp knife.

“Did you remember the extra batteries, Dean?”

The thumping in my head is so loud that I almost don't hear my father's answer. I focus on counting the balloons but I barely make it to six before I feel another painful throb. My sister's graduation should be a happy day, but all I want to do is curl into a ball.

For one thing, my mother's been doing what she always does when she's anxious: making everyone else anxious. I can barely stop myself from screaming at her nonstop questions.

But, when I close my eyes to calm myself, the strange images I see are even worse. My mother’s staring at me, but not like she should be—with a worried look in her eyes, agonizing about something else my father forgot. Instead, in my mind’s eye, tears stream down her face, a silent scream rips from her lips and she’s showered in blood.

My eyes snap open and I rub the image away. I immediately hunt for my mother and she’s back to her normal, nervous self. But what was that image about?

Thinking about it makes my headache even worse, so I bury my face in my program. The words swim in front of my eyes and sweat dribbles down my neck from the summertime heat.

“And graduating magna cum laude, Thomas Kim!” the provost shouts.

We’re only on ‘K’ so it’ll take us forever to get to my sister, Kaia Whitfield.

Entry #20: IF ONE OF THEM IS DEAD

IF ONE OF THEM IS DEAD
52,000 Words
YA Contemporary

Pitch:

Melissa is in a living hell over the whispers about her vomiting mid-hookup last week. She wants revenge, and to get out of Valley Pines.

When her closeted-pot-dealing bestie Jack suggests they create an app based on school scandals, she’s game. On “Chaos” students can anonymously post rumors for points; the more points they get, the more buzz they can access.

Chaos goes viral. Then Melissa discovers Jack wants to use it to spread an illicit video of a teacher who knows he deals.  If Melissa agrees, a student’s reputation will be ruined – just like hers.

Melissa gets a conscience and pushes Jack to reconsider, but he snaps: he releases the video and starts stalking the teacher. Melissa has to stop Jack from reaching his lethal goal, or she’ll end up with handcuffs as a graduation present, looking at Valley Pines from behind bars instead of through a rearview mirror.

First Page:

In high school there are girls who are gods. They command everyone’s attention with a swish of their skirt, a pout of their lips, and a wink. My little sister Stephanie, and her friends are those girls. Pay atte­­­ntion, they say. Look at me, they beg.

You don’t want to cross these girls when they’re angry. These girls will key your car, spit gum in your hair, and pour diet Coke in your locker. Only diet, they’re not like you, fatass.
I am above all of the girls. I am above them because I know all of their secrets. I know everything. When you know things in high school it rattles you. You can feel it in your bones when you look at someone. It’s this shuffling sound in your ears that never goes away.

My phone bleeps. ‘1 new message’ flashes on the screen.

Anything interesting on the tangled web last night Birdie? 

Jack Stewart always calls me Birdie even though my name is Melissa. He says it’s because it’s good to have a little birdie tell you secrets.

Just Gabbie Vanhout drama, and my Nathan Whettlesfield fiasco. I text back.

Last night, I was reading trumbullconfessional.com, an anonymous gossip site made by a couple of seniors from back when the Internet was still dial-up. Mostly it’s just bullshit posts about people looking to find the latest party, or just spread lies. But sometimes you hit confessional gold.

Entry #19: THE LEDGE

THE LEDGE
35,000
MG, Action and Adventure
Pitch:
HATCHET meets IF I STAY. When 13yo Bryce finds a hidden treasure map, he doesn't mean to steal it from his Grandpa and he doesn't mean to unearth a secret that will effect their entire family. While backpacking in the Rocky mountains with his big brother, Jack, and Grandpa, the brothers' sibling rivalry clouds their judgment and all Bryce's plans for an epic adventure go downriver. While the brothers must work together to survive the wilderness and each other, Bryce is determined to find what the map is hiding. But when a horrible climbing accident leaves Bryce unconscious, Jack must find a way to save him, and Bryce must choose life or their family secret will never see the light of day. Told in dual-POV.
First Page:
While treasure hunting through stacks of dusty boxes in Grandpa's barn loft, I found a plastic bin behind a china cabinet. Grandpa had said it was okay to explore up there when I told him I was bored, but still, I felt like I'd done something wrong when I found the map.
I popped the lid off the bin and walked my fingers over the hanging file folders, certain it was just a bunch of boring stuff, until I reached to replace the lid. A narrow wooden box was tucked away between the stacks of paper. I pulled the box out and unlatched the golden clasp with a click. My heart picked up speed with blazing excitement while I fumbled through baby pictures I'd never seen before. They were rubber-banded to a piece of paper; a hand-sketched map of a river, a house, and a lake. Beside the lake was a tree, and beside the tree was an X. My heart flashed. A real treasure map?
The spiral staircase to the loft creaked and groaned under someone's weight as I flipped through the photos again, unsure if they were baby pictures of me or my big brother, Jack.
“Bryce, you up there?” Grandpa yelled.
I jumped up and stuffed everything into my back pocket without thinking.
“Yeah,” I shouted, stepping over an old typewriter. “Coming!”
Grandpa's head appeared just as my toes reached the edge of the metal steps. I held my
breath to slow my breathing, hoping he wouldn't notice.

Entry #18: THE SECRETS WE KEEP

Title: THE SECRETS WE KEEP
Word Count: 84,560
Category/Genre: YA Contemporary/mystery

150 word Pitch:

During a late-night storm, Lyndsay Richards has an out of body experience while falling asleep – a defense mechanism for dealing with her mother and stepfather’s nightly fighting. During this OBE, Lyndsay sees Mr. Jenkins, her neighbor and janitor at her high school, moving a dead body. The next morning she gets proof what she witnessed wasn't a dream. However, without any credible evidence she can't go to the police. Jenkins is a decorated veteran, a sweet old man, and his son is a local cop, so who’s going to believe her? Only her BFF, of course, but definitely not her close-minded boyfriend. As clues mount, Lyndsay discovers she has less than two weeks to prove Jenkins is a serial killer before he kills again. It doesn’t help that she runs into him every day at school. And, the worst part…now the old man’s found out what she’s up to.

first page:

Apparently, marriage must suck.

That’s the only logical conclusion I can come to right now.

It’s going to be another long night. So far, he’s criticized her career, her cooking, and her hair. What’s next? The way she breathes? They’ve been at it since ten and it’s now way past midnight. Tonight’s fight between my mother and Neal is shaping up to be epic.

You would think I’d be used to it by now, since it happens almost every night. Well, except for the nights my stepfather doesn’t bother to come home until three or four in the morning.

His surly voice carries from their bedroom next door. I catch snippets here and there – his words sound more venomous than usual, even for him.

“–nothing but a cold, empty shrew,” he hisses.

“You never give me a chance,” my mother says, pitifully trying to appease him. “Please calm down…you’re going to wake Lyndsay.”

Too late for that.          

Neal’s answer comes a second later, in the form of a book or a shoe that smacks the other side of the wall above my head with a loud thwack.

I jolt as if struck, snarling through gritted teeth, “Great…now, he’s throwing things.”

My stomach twists. I clench my pillow until my hand cramps, wishing these walls weren’t so damned thin, wishing I could get some sleep, most of all, wishing he would stop torturing her. Why does he treat her this way? She doesn’t deserve it.

Wham!

Must’ve been a drawer this time.

Entry #17: THE GREAT WOODS

Title: THE GREAT WOODS
Word count: 37,000
Genre: Middle grade contemporary fantasy

Pitch:

Eleven-year-old Jenny is spending the summer with her grandparents in Maine while her parents settle the details of their divorce. To escape the family turmoil, Jenny runs to the forbidden woods behind the house. She discovers a world of magic and music, of elves and unicorns. In the woods, there is no fighting, and Jenny can solve every problem. She frees a trapped unicorn. She helps birth a foal. So Jenny returns to the woods despite warnings from her family and the elves to stay away.

But Jenny is wrong. She exposes the unicorns to a virus, and they begin dying. To get the medicine they need, she must pass a lion and steal a giant’s blood. Her grandfather gives her his beloved horse, and Jenny sets off. Along the way, she’ll face hunger, injury, and her greatest fear. Jenny’s hardest challenge, though, will be returning to her splintering family.

First 250:

It began with the fireflies, as magic often does. Jenny was in the field behind her grandparents’ house with her younger brother, chasing fireflies. She spied a good one, low-flying and lazy, and followed it past the shed and into the darkening woods.

“Jen-ny,” Billy’s voice echoed through the trees. Jenny smiled. He was worse than Gran. That night, though, Jenny wouldn’t be bothered about Billy and his fretting. Or about her grumpy grandparents and their boring old house, or her parents a million miles away in Evanston. She scanned the woods like a prowling jaguar. She wanted that flashing light, and she was going to get it.

The light flared to her left. Jenny crept up to it. She had her special blue jar, the one her dad gave her right before she left, tight in her hands. She lunged for the firefly, but it darted past a thin beech. Jenny pursed her lips and blew her bangs out of her eyes. You’re not getting away that easy, mister.

Little sticks and sharp pebbles replaced the soft July grass under her bare feet as she got deeper into the woods. That should have been a sign – the woods knew Jenny didn’t belong there, and tried to urge her away. Jenny didn’t notice the warning, though. She only had eyes for that small and magical glow.

The firefly lit beyond a low bush, and Jenny’s eyes lit with it. It was close. She could get it. She tiptoed toward it.

Entry 16: THE KIDNAPPER'S CONUNDRUM

THE KIDNAPPER'S CONUNDRUM
55,000
MG Fantasy

Just before 12-year-old Simon’s parents went missing, his father entrusted him with a necklace. Now the original owner of the necklace – a librarian from the mysterious town of Drumwick – has gone missing too, and Simon is suspect number one.

While a shady Drumwick lawyer builds her case against him, Simon works on a case of his own with best friend, Abby – a ten-year-old interested in anything that lets her skip school. With necklace in hand, the duo snake through the alleyways and secret passages of Drumwick, searching for clues. Instead, they encounter everything from crawling snickets to spotted honknuckles, but the mystery deepens when Simon discovers a hidden store-house belonging to the real kidnapper. The criminal is nearby and desperate to find the necklace. Turns out the pendant is much more than a piece of old, broken jewellery.
 
Between conspiratorial conversations, dodging cops, and destroying an entire library, Simon is thrown into some serious detective work. There's a culprit to catch, and if Simon can’t clear his name before someone else goes missing, he might never see his family again.

First page:

Thirty-seven minutes ago, a bush winked. Or blinked. Simon looked away too fast to be sure. If monsters lived in Galloway forest, despite insisting they surely and definitely did not exist, Simon thought it best not to make eye contact.

“Surprised to see you this far from the RV,” his father called.

“I was trying to find a good place to read.” Simon placed his unopened book on a crumbled stone wall. Granted, picnic tables and benches were sparse in Rubble City Campgrounds with the large boulders everywhere. “Hey dad, Emily’s just imagining her night monsters right?”

His father laughed. “Of course she is. You went through a similar period yourself.” A tall man, Jim Hardt had more hair on the sides of his head than on top, and a permanent watch tan decorated his wrist. In one hand he carried two fishing poles, both twice Simon’s height, and in the other, a rusty tackle box. “You thought something lived under your bed.”

“At least that’s normal,” Simon grumbled. Seeing creatures in the woods, especially during the day, was not normal.

“Fishing might get your mind off it.” His father held up the poles. They were quite loved – and bent. “The nice old couple let me borrow them.”

Simon’s uneasiness melted. Fishing happened in the water, and monsters couldn’t hide there. “Can I dig for the worms?”

Entry #15: RIVETED

RIVETED
68,000 words
YA Sci-Fi

Pitch:
As one of the mechanical race known as the boltedkindred, Johnny Rivet questions the reasons for the cold war separating him from his human friend and love, Rebecca.

Living steeped in an atmosphere of longstanding tension, Johnny is used to being feared for his inexplicable sentience. But hostilities are threatening to erupt, and he has his own fears: the unfinished men, people with eyes like dark ink pools and paper skin masquerading as humans. These creatures burn with an irrational hatred of the boltedkindred who share their city, a crumbling alternate-1950s metropolis.

No one else notices the faces the unfinished men wear aren’t fully human. No one else sees the city is literally breaking down.

Johnny and Rebecca unite to stop the cold war before it erupts into a violent inferno—but to do so they’ll have to leave their city, along with their families and old lives, behind.

First 250 words:
It unfolded itself from the elevator. There was no better word for its motion.

In the dying light, I saw the unfinished man, saw him like I somehow hadn’t before. His eyes were malevolent puddles of ink on milky pale paper flesh. His nostrils and mouth were ragged, yawning gashes—chasms of empty blackness.

He didn’t breathe, he rustled.

I heard Rebecca’s breathing hitch beside me, a tiny gasp catching in her throat as he moved like broken origami twitchscuttling towards us slowly, twitch crinkle scrape twitch crinkle scrape. How had I ever mistaken him for human, or even living?

Before that moment I hadn’t really seen them for what they were, creatures only masquerading as humans.

I may not have been human, but those things weren’t, either.

I wondered if Rebecca was seeing the same creature I was, or if she was still lulled by his very superficial resemblance to a person, as I once had been. Perhaps we see what we want to see, or only see what we believe possible.

“I smell rust,” he wheezed through his torn mouth. “Hello, little tick-tock.”

And as he said it, I tasted rust—hot, burning, angry rust. Never before had I experienced the sensation that followed: everything stopped. I stopped. The frantic whirl of my thoughts, my mind, my body—all ground to a halt.

One moment all circuits and gears were churning towards logic and reason; the next, every fiber of me was routed towards a single sensation of paralytic fear.

Entry #14: THE OTHER SIDE OF NORMAL

THE OTHER SIDE OF NORMAL
93,000 words
YA Dark Comedy
Mashup: Tina Fey’s MEAN GIRLS/Lauren Oliver’s ROOMS/Meg Cabot’s MEDIUM. When Bethany Sultry pictured her future, she never imagined her life would end in a car crash when she was sixteen, not as her popularity was rising, and certainly not one hour after she was crowned the junior class homecoming queen. When ownership of the crown transfers to her high school nemesis, Bethany refuses to rest in peace with that bitch wearing her bling. But how far will she go to defeat her rival if the price of victory is damning her own soul to hell?
FIRST PAGE:
When I die, I don’t so much go into the light as have the light suck me up like a dust bunny in a cosmic vacuum cleaner. I zoom headfirst through an immense translucent tunnel four times my width. A hum loud as a jet engine presses against my inner ear. The smell of ozone pinches my nasal cavities. Veils of colored air blow through my scalp, wind along my spinal column, and exit cold through the soles of my bare feet. My body curves into a tucked roll. The light dims. I burst into a stark white room and land on my feet in crouched position. The floor is solid and warm.
I see my boyfriend’s dead sister. She waves. Her name is Moon. She’s sucking on a lollipop, the big kind with the swirls. Her hair’s done up in three ponytails. I’m pretty sure she has a glitter tattoo on her cheek but it’s hard to see against the pale blue tint of her skin.
I straighten up and ask, “Is this heaven?”
Moon pulls the lollipop from her mouth and points it at the only other living being in the room. “Meet Cal. He’s an angel.”
Being in the presence of an angel is awesome, especially when that angel smells like warm apple pie with cinnamon crumb topping. His cheekbones are higher than mine. I want to lick one.
Cal narrows his eyes at me. “I’m your celestial probation officer.”
I resolve not to lick any part of him.

Entry #13: WHATEVER IT TAKES

WHATEVER IT TAKES
65,000 words
YA Contemporary Romance

After indirectly causing an accident that destroys his best friend’s aspiration of playing pro basketball, 17-year-old Sam Daniels vows to continue their dream for both of them. All he needs is a place to live when his parents move away. Luckily, his nerdy cousin, Brandon, offers his home. But his offer comes with strings. This anime-loving, roleplay-gamer wants Sam’s help to catch the eye of his crush. And this includes pretending to be gay to not be a ‘distraction’ to the girl.

Things hit a snag when the crush’s cousin, Kylie, seems to despise him—calling him Satan in basketball shorts. As he spends more time with them, the closer he gets to Kylie. And the harder he falls for her. Revealing his secret might piss off Brandon and ruin his basketball chances. But not saying anything would make any chance of being with Kylie impossible. Basketball or love.  

First 250 words       

No texts. No replies to my emails. Nothing.

Even though I was expecting it (Hell, I would have bet some money if I could), disappointment still ate away at me. Like someone shoved a glowing basketball in my gut, twisting and burning away at my insides.

I pressed Send on the private message to Charlie before I lost my nerve. He hasn’t talked to me since the accident, but if he wanted me to leave him alone he should say something. A simple ‘Screw yourself, Sam’.

I picked up an actual basketball and dribbled it on the ground a few times, hoping it would calm me down. But each time the ball slammed down, a new memory popped in my head. Thud. Giving Charlie the keys to my car so I could stay at the party to hook up with some random chick. Thud. The call about Charlie’s accident. Thud. His body crumpled and broken on the hospital bed. Thud.Charlie mom’s slap and telling me to stay the hell away from her son.

Crap. It’s been over a year and it felt like yesterday.

It wasn’t my fault, but I still felt like it was. I let Charlie take my car even though he was wasted. It was also my car that had the faulty brakes. I’d been planning to get it fixed for ages, but never got around to it. And now Charlie had to pay the price.

Entry #12: CHILDREN OF TOKUA

CHILDREN OF TOKUA

95,000 words

YA SCI-FI
Pitch:
It’s 2118, and sixteen-year-old Zackaria Kato scares anyone who gazes into her eyes. Although handy against bullies at school, the fear-inducing ability is a constant reminder of her freakish nature. In need of a break, Zackaria pounces on free tickets to a popular underground arena to watch humans fight androids. But instead of watching, she’s goaded by an enigmatic stranger into entering the ring. She’s pushed to the brink of death by the androids, triggering a second, malevolent personality called Arah to awaken inside Zackaria’s mind and bestow her with superior combat skills to crush her opponents.

Before Zackaria can discover the shocking secret about her connection to Arah, a mercenary kidnaps her sister. Zackaria seeks Arah’s assistance, but Arah will only help if Zackaria willfully surrenders up her body. With time running out, Zackaria must decide whether she’s desperate enough to lose her freewill forever by accepting Arah’s proposal.

First 250 words:
Zackaria hated trains. Buses too. And airplanes were the most unbearable. She would rather cross a cold Siberian wasteland barefoot than be stuck in a closed compartment with a bunch of people. Wasn’t the last time she boarded a train four years ago? And she was doing so well with avoiding public transportation. Until now.

With trembling hands buried in the pockets of her gray pea coat, Zackaria stepped into the Bentham Red Line’s railcar.

Her brother and sister, Ryker and Meliz, had not yet entered after her when everyone inside erupted into a hum of whispers and nervous chatter. Strangers stole glances at Zackaria’s face. She shut her eyes to spare the passengers from her gaze, but she was too late.

A toddler's cry broke through the cacophony, and his mother's blood red nails pressed his head close to her blouse. A young man soothed his yapping pug, a squished ball of brown and black. Another passenger hid his face behind a leather satchel. A couple that had caught Zackaria's eyes stared in the opposite direction. The woman whispered into her partner’s ear, and the couple, hands locked, abandoned their seats to sit further down the car. Way down. Most passengers close to Zackaria squirmed in their seats. The rest moved as far away as the length of the railcar would allow. No one dared look in her direction again.

Rage perched on Zackaria’s shoulder, digging its claws into it.

Entry #11: THE BATTLE OF WONDERLAND GARDENS

THE BATTLE OF WONDERLAND GARDENS
41,000 words
MG Fantasy

Pitch

Ellis has a big problem—a rivalry that drives him crazy. He wants to finally beat Alicia, the thorn in his side, at something. Even a small victory in their youth theater ticket sales contest will do. He concocts a plan to sell a boatload of tickets to the old folks at the Wonderland Gardens Retirement Community. His hopes crumble after he finds Alicia beat him to the punch and sold her tickets to the residents.

Alicia has problems, too. An evil spirit possessing the community’s beloved owner has taken over the facility. It is in search of a new, younger body and kidnaps Alicia. Ellis can’t sit idly by,even though a tiny part of him wants to, and joins the fight. With the aid of a talking terrier guide, Ellis leads the oddball elderly residents against the fiend and its raven minions to rescue Alicia and reclaim their home.


First Page

The air seeped from Ellis Brown’s balloon of hope and instantly ruined his once-promising Saturday morning. He could not believe what he just heard. “You mean a girl has already been here selling these tickets?”

Mr. and Mrs. McGregor, the Wonderland Gardens Retirement Center’s hosts, sat in the lobby’s red velvet armchairs smiling. Mr. McGregor returned the tickets that Ellis just tried to sell them and said, “Yes, she came about an hour ago. Still in the building, I believe.”

Mrs. McGregor beamed. “Such an angel, blonde hair, blue eyes, and beaming with joy.”

Yep, that’s Alicia. What a fake. Ellis forced a smile as the anxiety bubbled in the pit of his stomach. “And I suppose she sold you tickets to our show?”

“As a matter of fact, she did," Mr. McGregor said. “Such a sweet young lady. She did mention that a friend of hers, a boy, might stop by later, and here you are.”

Sweet? Maybe, if rattlesnake’s venom’s sweet. “She does have a way,” Ellis said.

Ellis was a good kid, but he had one big problem, Alicia Swanson. She had been a thorn in his side all throughout middle school. She beat him at everything and, to make matters worse, she had a habit of broadcasting it to everyone.

He was counting on the retirement home's residents to beat Alicia by selling more Alice in Wonderland show tickets. Not anymore. Ellis felt a familiar churning in his gut as, once again, a sure victory slipped painfully through his fingers.

Entry #10: THE LAND OF JOY AND SORROW

THE LAND OF JOY AND SORROW
92,000 words
YA Fantasy
Pitch:
Seventeen-year-old Smadar never imagined that a flea-market find would lead her back to a magical world sung into existence by the race of Elementals. Now, its once-glorious cities lie in ruins, overrun by Lord Jogganath's monstrous hordes.
When an ambush leaves Smadar dying, a young mage’s forbidden mantras kindle her life. But beautiful, lethal Halle guards a shameful secret – he’s not a mage or a warrior, but a slave without memories, bound to a vicious master. And Smadar is the coin to buy his freedom. Only she refuses to be bought or sold.
As Jogganath’s power grows, the pair gets caught in a brutal war, and the severed threads of their destinies entwine, weaving a tale of star-crossed love and ancient betrayal. To ensure a future for her people, Smadar must seek answers in her own past, embracing a destiny extraordinary even in a land of magic and curses.
First 250 words:
Smadar glared at the ornate bronze clock by the pier. So Tammy was running forty minutes late. Unusual, but not such a tragedy. She knew her best friend would never miss their monthly scavenger hunt in the overflowing rows of Trash or Treasure flea market. Some things were sacred.
She tried to ignore a group of girls who had been gawking at her from across the colorful stalls. If only people could be fined for staring – the longer the stare, the heavier the fine. She fought the urge to smooth down her black, wind-tangled hair, then shrugged and let it beat around her shoulders, long and thick as afternoon shadows.
She wouldn’t apologize for what she was, or in her case – what she wasn’t.
Tugging on the corner of her piled, lapis-blue scarf, Smadar pulled it off, the comfort of protective mantras her mother had woven into the yarn washing over her in tingly, electric spirals. Bright as a Morpho butterfly wing, warm and soft as a kitten curled up against her skin – the scarf was one of the few reminders of Eden she had brought into her exile, the only splash of color in her black-on-black-on-grey clothes.
“Is that a tattoo on her chest!”
“What a freak!”
Surreptitiously, Smadar touched her tamgha; the very essence of every mage’s craft.
Freak, she thought bitterly, if only they knew.
The girls giggled louder, and instead of covering up, she lifted her chin and flashed them her sharpest, brightest smile, the smile she always wore when facing especially vile things.