Query.Sign.Submit. with Sarah Marsh

Sarah Marsh

Sarah Glenn Marsh is a young adult and picture book author. Her YA debut, FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP, will be released by Sky Pony in September 2016. She is represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis Literary Agency.



Connect with Sarah . . .


literary agent and author  Now for Sarah’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!


What advice would you give to querying writers?

First, don’t query before the book is ready! I know it’s tempting to start querying before you know beyond a doubt that a book is agent-ready (I was guilty of this with my first novel, too), but please employ CPs and betas to ensure that you’re sending out the best work possible.

Second, be prepared to stay in the query trenches for the long haul. I was only there for a few nerve-wracking months, but I know many writer friends who were there for years, and their tenacity amazes me and shows just how dedicated a writer needs to be to see this process through all the way to publication.

Third, conduct yourself professionally! Never reply angrily to a query rejection. Do your research and be polite! Agents are business professionals who work long hours because they love books. Besides, publishing is a small field, and you’re likely to run into agents who’ve rejected you in the past if you continue to pursue a writing career. They may even become your good friends, so don’t burn bridges.

Last, don’t lose heart! Sometimes this process will make you feel low, or feel like a rejection on your book is a rejection of you as a person, when of course it isn’t. We’ve all had rough days while querying/on sub. It just happens, so find comfort in that you’re never truly alone in this rollercoaster of a business!

What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?

1) Consider personality: would you work well with this particular agent?

2) Their sales history (if you have the funds, Publisher’s Marketplace is one way to do this). If an agent recently signed or sold something very similar to your book, he or she may not have room for you on their current client list. On the other hand, if you see a pattern (ie: this agent really likes fantasy), you might feel they’d be a great match.

What resources and websites did you use when querying?

AgentQuery and its forum site, AgentQuery Connect, are so special to me. I met CPs there, plus received feedback on my query, and was able to read others’ queries to understand what worked and what didn’t. I also used QueryTracker (the free version, though I later found the paid upgrade well worth the cost). And I visited sites like Literary Rambles to look up agent interviews, Preditors and Editors to make sure I was querying reputable folks, and participated in events like the online WriteOnCon to meet more CPs and gather feedback!

How did you keep track of your queries?

I made myself a spreadsheet in Excel! I had one ‘sheet’ for the book I’d queried prior to the one I got signed on, and then a ‘sheet’ for the book I was currently querying. The spreadsheet had columns like: Agent, Agency, Date Queried, and a Notes section where I could jot down reminders or little messages like whether an agent had requested my future work. I color-coded the spreadsheet as well, so when someone passed, I’d turn their line red. Or if they’d had a partial and upgraded to a full, I’d turn it yellow, and so on.


Are there any specific questions you’d suggest writers ask an offering agent during “The Call”?

Here are a few questions I think are important:

1) What houses/imprints does the agent envision your book at?

2) What’s a typical submission round like with this agent? How many rounds will the agent do before shelving a project?

3) How many rounds of revision does the agent think may be needed?

4) Ask to speak with some of the agent’s clients for references.

5) Is the agent interested in representing all your future works (in other words, is he or she a career agent, or by-the-book?). On a similar note, does the agent like your other book ideas? I suggest having short pitches ready.

6) Is he or she very editorial, or more hands-off?

7) If the offering agent is new to the business, does he or she have the support of an established agency to guide him or her in selling your work?

What was the week surrounding your offer(s) of representation like for you?

An emotional rollercoaster! I received multiple offers, and I was so nervous about the calls that I spent a lot of time researching the right questions to ask. Also, I had to take the agent calls up in our home office, because all our greyhounds start barking/whining whenever they hear the phone—they think it’s my husband calling every time! When the first of my offering agents spoke with me about how much she loved my book and where she could see submitting it, I was so anxious that I asked, “Are you offering representation?” at the end of the call. Oops!

How did you know your agent was the right one for you?

For me, this decision came down to personality, because all the agents offering had excellent reputations and happy clients. I chose Christa because I felt we could grow our careers together, and because I felt so comfortable talking with her. I knew I’d be doing revisions no matter which agent I chose, and wanted to feel free to speak my mind with my agent/business partner; Christa put me at ease, and was enthusiastic about all my book ideas!

What is the revision process like between you and your agent?

My agent is definitely editorial. I like this, because it tells me she knows the market and wants to send out the best possible version of my work. We typically go through a couple rounds of revisions on a project, and my debut was no exception. Even once we were on sub, we revised with editor feedback after the first round.

For our revision process, my agent reads and then gives me all her thoughts via email. Usually, she also has her assistant read and give a reader’s report as well (I love this extra feedback!). Then I read their comments over several times, think on them a while, and write my thoughts/ideas for changes below each comment. Christa reads over my ideas, then writes her thoughts below mine, and we go back and forth like this until we’ve hashed out a revision plan with changes that work for us both! When I’m stuck on something, I call her so we can brainstorm over the phone as well.

At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

When I have a new idea, I typically write a pitch and research comp titles for it before beginning to outline and draft. Sometimes, I’ll share these pitches with Christa if I’m really excited about them. But usually, I prefer to wait until I’ve got a pitch, comp titles, and an outline written. That’s when I feel more committed to a project and therefore, more comfortable sharing it!

Once I know my agent is on-board with an idea, I’ll also send over a couple of sample chapters. With my last project, we did a brainstorming session for the novel via phone after Christa read over my initial pages, which was really fun! Not everyone works like that, of course, but since I write epic fantasy YA, I like sharing at this early stage and getting assistance with world-building! The more support, the better, I say.


Do you see the feedback from editors?

Yes, always. My agent thinks reading editor feedback is an important part of an author getting a thick skin and learning to take rejection and not be so bothered by it (this is a skill I’m still working on, admittedly!), so she shares them with a brief amount of support or interpretation. Personally, I still struggle with the near-miss passes more than the ones where my project clearly isn’t a good fit for someone.

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Don’t be like me and obsess over it. The often-repeated advice of “keep writing your next book” does hold true, but also, I’ll say this: Do other things you love! Hopefully, focusing your attention elsewhere will let you recharge creatively and get re-inspired to work on something new. Plus, doing whatever you love outside of writing should help to pass the time of anxious waiting on subs, and will be more fun and/or productive than googling editor interviews!

Is there anything you learned while being on submission that you didn’t know before?

Many things, actually! Like the sheer number of factors that influence whether a book will receive an offer. It isn’t enough for a book to be good or even great. An offer being made (or not) also comes down to the market. For example, if another author at an imprint where you’re on sub has already written something in your genre and succeeded with it, you probably won’t get an offer from that imprint—which is completely out of your control. Offers come from a mysterious combination of luck and timing (and amazing writing), so even when you’ve written the best book you can, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll sell—this is something that took a while to sink in when I first went on sub.

Another thing I’ve learned is not to get your hopes up until there’s an actual offer on the table. Manuscripts have to go through not just one passionate editor who loves them, but typically a team, and potentially second reads from someone’s boss, and then an acquisitions meeting. Books can get turned down at so many stages, even once an editor loves them, so it’s important to remain cautiously optimistic once you know there could be good news on the horizon.

How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?

When I first got the news, I was at a fantasy convention called FaerieCon, in a bathroom full of ladies in sparkly, winged costumes! While there, I bought a special brass pendant as a good luck charm because (book spoilers!), and after calling my husband, one of the first people I got to share the good news with was Tamora Pierce—an author I’ve looked up to for a long time. When she said I reminded her of herself as a young author, the fact that my debut had sold really started to register. My husband and I also went out for delicious Italian food at one of my favorite restaurants.

Thank you, Sarah!

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Query.Sign.Submit. with Michelle Richter

Michelle Richter Michelle represents adult fiction, and is specifically looking for book club reads, literary fiction, smart women’s commercial fiction, thrillers and mysteries. She responds to all queries.

To connect with and learn more about Michelle . . .



literary agent and author Now for Michelle’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!


What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?

Querying writers should think about whether they want a boutique agency or a marquee one, i.e. do they want to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond, do they want an agent/agency with lots of clients and a long history or a smaller/younger/hungry one? They should also consider whether they want an agent who edits (and has editorial background) and whether they like the vibe of the agency and agent on the agency website and/or social media.

What should writers NOT do in a query?

Writers should not tell me what I represent or enjoy, especially because those who do are often incorrect. They should not be overly familiar or flirtatious. And they should not denigrate themselves, other authors, agents, or publishers.

Do you always read a query all the way through? If not, what would make you stop reading?

No, I don’t always read the entire query. If there are lots of spelling/grammatical/syntax errors, I stop because I worry that the writer doesn’t have the knowledge or the work ethic to actually write a book. If the query is for a genre I don’t represent, I stop. I also stop at certain key words because if they’re part of the plot, it’s not something I want to represent. These include human trafficking, sex crimes, and child abuse. And if a writer compares their book to that of a writer whose work I hate, I likely won’t finish the query letter.

What is your process for reading a query and sample pages?

I start with the query. If a writer mentions something in my bio or something I said on Twitter or in an interview, I make a mental note but keep reading. I really want to have a plot summary that intrigues me pretty quickly. I skim the writer’s bio to see if they have a day job that informs their writing, a journalism background, or relevant writing awards or experience. If I’m enticed or on the fence, I’ll look at the sample pages, hoping to be hooked by page 5 but may keep reading until page 20. I stop reading when I’m put off or bored, or more rarely, exasperated.

How do you tackle your inbox? Do you go in order or jump around?

I try to go in order, oldest to newest, but jump around a bit if I see an intriguing title or subject line. Sometimes, a title is terrible and I look to see if the query will prove me wrong (but usually it doesn’t, I’m sad to say). If someone mentions a conference I or a colleague attended, I flag them and look a little faster at those queries. Twitter hashtags can sometimes pull my attention too, like #MSWL or #pitchwars, if that’s something I’ve been watching or tweeting about.


What is it like waiting to hear back from a writer you’ve offered representation?

It’s tough. Sometimes I’m competing with other agents for a writer whose work I loved and I hope they pick me. Waiting more than a week is really tough, but I know this is a big decision and expect writers to choose carefully. So I’d rather have them ask all the questions and take all the time they need to, so they can be confident in their decision and say yes without taking it back.

Do you sign a client as a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?

I want to sign clients for their career so I always ask them about their career vision, what book they want to write next (or have already written), and what other ideas are brewing. Ideally, they want to write genres I want to represent and can help them sell. If a writer has written a thriller, but then wants to write fantasy, I’m probably not the best fit for them.

How editorial are you?

I have editorial experience, so do give my clients editorial notes on their manuscripts. They review, revise if necessary, and discuss any concerns we have. I want to have their most polished manuscript possible to send to editors. And I’m always happy to bounce ideas around with clients.


Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

I do. I think they have a right to know, and it may be helpful.

At what point might you suggest making more revisions?

If I were getting rejections all with the same feedback (pacing is off, for example), I’d have a talk with my client at that point.

How much contact do you have with a client when he/she is out on submission? Do you send weekly updates or update as responses come in?

I update them as responses come in. Sometimes it takes a while for editors to read/get reads from colleagues/bring to editorial board, so I’ll say “nothing new yet” every other week or so if that’s the case.

Is it okay for a client to check in if there hasn’t been any news in a while?

Yes, absolutely.

Thanks so much, Michelle!

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Posted April 2015– Always check for current info and guidelines.


Query.Sign.Submit. with Uwe Stender

uwe stender

Uwe represents both fiction and nonfiction in a wide range of genres. His current focus in fiction is YA, middle grade, Women's Fiction, Literary Fiction, and Mysteries.

Uwe responds to all queries that follow agency guidelines, normally within one week. If he hasn't responded after two weeks, please resend.

To connect with and learn more about Uwe . . .

Triada US Website 

literary agent and author  Now for Uwe’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!


What advice would you give to querying writers?

Don’t get discouraged by rejections, you only need that one offer of representation. But if you don’t get any requests at all on your first ten queries, you may want to revisit the query and think about how you can improve it.

Do you always read a query all the way through? If not, what would make you stop reading?

No, I don’t. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors will cause me to stop reading. Or grandiosity (“If you want a best seller, you need to sign this amazing project” etc.). I also don’t like it when the query is written in the persona of the protagonist.

How do you tackle your inbox? Do you go in order or jump around?

I am German, so I do it in an orderly fashion (haha!) …one after the other after the other based on the timestamp.

Do you ever offer a Revise & Resubmit? When would you do so?

I do. If I really love a concept and the writing, but something relatively minor is “off.” If the author is willing to fix it, then that is a great predictor of how well they will do with editorial input.

Do you take pitches at conferences? How is it different from reading through queries?

I do. It is a lot harder when you have to reject a project face to face with a writer…but I do it all the time (sorry), as I don’t want to keep false hope alive.

What does it take for you to offer representation?

I have to really love, love, love the concept, the writing and be convinced that I can sell the project. The author also needs to be willing to accept and deal well with editorial feedback. Lastly, I have to believe that the author is capable of writing something even better the next time.


Are there any specific questions you’d recommend that a writer ask when talking with offering agents?

No. There seems to be a canon of specific questions out there and everyone should ask whatever question they want to ask. In my opinion, the most important question is: Does this agent LOVE my project as much as I do, if not even more? If they do, sign with that agent.

How long do you prefer an author take to get back to you once you’ve offered?

Prefer? Hmm… one (1) second. But I understand if they need more time. If they need more than two weeks, however, I am no longer interested and will withdraw my offer. Excitement about a project and representation goes both ways.

Do you sign a client as a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?

Career. If they don’t want that, they need to sign with someone else.

How editorial are you?


Do you want to see sample chapters as a client writes or do you prefer to wait until the manuscript is finished? Or is it up to the client?

It is entirely up to the client.


Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

Yes, I always do.

What kind of editor feedback is a good sign?

“Dear Uwe, I am happy to present you with the following offer…”

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Write another book!

Is it okay for a client to check in if there hasn’t been any news in a while?

Of course! A client can check in with me any time.

What is it like to tell a client there’s an offer on the book? :)

It is the most amazing thing in the world. I live for that moment.

Thank you, Uwe!

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Posted April, 2015– Always check for current info and guidelines.

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Query.Sign.Submit. with Brent Taylor


Brent represents Middle grade, Young Adult, Mystery/Crime, Women’s Fiction, and Literary Fiction that has a YA crossover appeal. 

He responds to all queries--usually within 24 hours, excluding the weekends.


To connect with and learn more about Brent . . .

Publishers Marketplace

literary agent and author Now for Brent’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!


Is there anything you see way too much of in the queries you receive?

Too much unnecessary detail. This is all I need: an introduction to your character, what they want, what or who is keeping them from getting it, and what’s going to happen if they don’t get it (aka the stakes). If your novel is too unique and you can’t answer those questions, you wrote a novel all wrong.

What is your process for reading a query and sample pages?

Most queries I read are very poorly written—and I’m not trying to be harsh, because most of the books I represent now even had bad queries. So I generally skim for word count, category, and genre, then jump immediately into the pages. If the pages impress me, then I’ll go back to the query and take a closer look.

What does it take for you to offer representation?

Story and writing that tugs on my heart.

What would you love to find in the slush pile?

Of course diverse narrative is on the top of everyone’s wishlists. Beyond that, I really want fresh writing and voice paired with familiar storylines and settings. Books that are unique enough to keep readers excited, but with big hooks that make them easily marketable.

I say this, but I’m also kind of notorious for falling in love with stories that straddle all sorts of lines.


What is it like waiting to hear back from a writer you’ve offered representation?

Have you ever been water-boarded? Me neither, but this is the agony I like to equate the waiting to.

Do you sign a client as a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?

I’m definitely career-oriented. This is one of the reasons I only offer on books with writing that I love, because I’d like to believe my clients’ future projects will align as well with my tastes as their firsts did.

How editorial are you?

It really depends on the project. I have one that took roughly ten rounds of revisions, and then another I sent out to editors as-is. Those are both extremes on the spectrum, and what most often happens is a sweet middle.


Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

I am all about assessing my clients’ needs and meeting them fully. I have clients that want no news until there’s good news, and then I have clients that want rejections as they come in. I’m fairly accommodating!

How much contact do you have with a client when he/she is out on submission? Do you send weekly updates or update as responses come in?

Again, this is one of those instances I have to tap into my intuition and see what the client needs. Are they feeling down? I might send them a really positive, hopeful email.

Is it okay for a client to check in if there hasn’t been any news in a while?

Of course. Someone very smart once told me that all writers should be scared of their agents to a certain degree, and this is definitely where “a certain degree” comes in. Something as small as this doesn’t really strike me as out-of-line.

Once a writer has sold his/her first book, how is the next submission process different?

It depends on the terms your agent got for you and how pleased you are with your publisher. If your agent put the beat-down on contract negotiations, maybe the option language is super specific and you can take your book two on a really big round of submissions. Or, maybe you’re crazy in love with your current publisher and there’s no need to do that!

In short, the process is much less grueling. Usually. (Hopefully!)

Thanks for joining us, Brent!

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Posted March, 2015– Always check for current info and guidelines.


About the Author:

Kristine Asselin lives in Massachusetts and writes Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction. In addition to ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT, she is the author of fifteen children's books for the elementary school library market. The most recent, DANGEROUS DISEASES, was published in 2014. Kris is a volunteer with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, and loves Harry Potter, Doctor Who, classic rock from the 70’s and 80’s, and anything with a time travel theme. She is a proud member of SCBWI-New England, the Fall Fourteeners (a group blog of YA debut authors), Sporty Girl Books blog, and #MGLitChat.

Kris presents writing workshops at schools and libraries all over New England and loves talking with kids and adults about their favorite books. ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT is her debut Young Adult novel.





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Penelope Spaulding just can't catch a break. Between long hours at the family restaurant, homework, and her parents' plans for her future, it's hard to find a spare moment to breathe. But when she laces up her skates and steps on the ice, everything slips away...

Racing around the rink allows her to blow off steam after yet another fight with her dad about going to culinary school. So when Jake Gomes, the bad boy who lives down the street, dares her to join the Rink Rats, the local misfit hockey team, she surprises herself and joins in silent defiance of her father and his expectations.

The more she plays, the easier it is to keep lying, and soon Pen finds it impossible to come clean. She’s sneaking out to practice—and loving every minute of it. It doesn’t take long for her to fall in love with hockey…and Jake’s not half bad either. But she knows it can’t last. As soon as her dad finds out, she’ll be benched. For good.

She’s absolutely not going to tell her parents until she’s sure it will be worth the inevitable fight. Not only is she skipping shifts at Slice Pizza while a foodie reality show is on the horizon, but her lies are starting to take their toll on her game. It’s only a matter of time before everything falls apart.

With the team counting on her and with her relationship with Jake on the line, will she have to sacrifice the thing she wants most for the people she loves? Or can she step up and take her best shot?

ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT will be available HERE from Bloomsbury Spark on April 7, 2015.

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Query.Sign.Submit. with Hélène Boudreau

Hélène is the author of the Real Mermaids series, as well as several other books, including the picture book I Dare You Not to Yawn. She is represented by Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency.

Connect with and learn more about Hélène . . .


**Read the query letter that landed her an agent (with notes from Lauren highlighting what hooked her) HERE.


literary agent and author Now for Hélène’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission.


What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?

Look for someone representing books in your genre and reading level. I wanted someone to represent my humorous contemporary tween series, but also future young adult novels, and picture books. Before I signed with my agent I made sure she was amenable to representing all those genres. Mostly, you want someone ENTHUSIASTIC about your writing because that will translate in the energy they give to the submission process.

What resources and websites did you use when querying?

I used a variety of online resources to research agents such as Query Tracker, Agent Query, Preditors & Editors, and Publishers Marketplace. I also got a lot of useful information from the Verla Kay Blueboards, which is now part of the SCBWI website.

How did you keep track of your queries?

I made myself a big spreadsheet with agent names, agency names, agency website and email info, dates of subs and any rejection or follow-up information. I’d sent over a hundred queries over a period of a year, with two different manuscripts so organization was very important.

Had you queried other books before the one that got you your agent?

I actually had eight published books sold on my own before signing with my current agent. When I queried my current agent, it took two rounds of queries with two different manuscripts before the ‘yes!’. Sure, I’d been successful on my own, placing my manuscripts with publishers, but having an agent has permitted my writing to reach larger markets and has greatly extended my reach as an author.


Did you sign as a client of a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?

My agent represents all my children’s books, fiction and non-fiction, from picture book to young adult.

Once a writer has signed with an agent, what’s the next step?

The next step is to discuss the manuscript and possibly do a round or two of revisions. Once we’re both satisfied with the state of the manuscript, she drafts a list of potential editors to pitch. I may suggest a few additions, but not usually, and then the project goes out on submission. There may be subsequent rounds of submissions depending on the feedback or the size of the first editorial pool but mostly, at this point, the waiting game begins.

How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?

My agent gives great editorial feedback but is not heavy-handed, which I like. She lets me figure out how to handle plot/character issues on my own and is excellent at encouraging me to dig a little deeper in a way that brings out my best self through my writing.

At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

My agent only has one chance to read my manuscript for the first time, with fresh eyes, so I always want to take my writing as far as possible on my own and make my manuscript the best I can make it before presenting it to her. I may share a short synopsis just to run the concept by her in the early stages but before my agent sees my actual manuscript it’s usually gone through several revisions, been critiqued by a fellow author, or even critiqued by a professional editor.


Do you see the feedback from editors?

Yes! It’s really important for me to see editors’ feedback because it gives me a sense of their initial impressions—similar to how readers might judge my book when picking it up at a bookstore or library. Sometimes the feedback is generic, like ‘wasn’t for me’ but if comments speak to me or I see a trend in their reactions, it may be an issue I’d like to revisit on subsequent revisions.

Can you check in with your agent if there hasn’t been any news in a while?

Of course! My agent is very accessible and will answer my questions whenever I have any and is always there to reassure me when I’m having submit-o-phobia. I try not to take advantage of her time, though, and only contact her when I feel it’s necessary (for actual submission information or for the preservation of my sanity). I have full trust that my agent is following up with editors and that she’s contacting me with any correspondence from the submission process (that’s what a great agent does!) but it’s nice to connect every once in a while to help manage my expectations.

Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?

There is normally pre-acquiring activity before an offer is presented. Sometimes an editor gets in touch to make sure the manuscript is still available. Sometimes they’d like to do a revision before making a decision. Sometimes they let us know the manuscript is going to be presented at an acquisitions meeting and they want more information from us. Of my nine book deals, there was always one of the above that happened before an actual offer was presented.

How does it work when you’re writing a series? Are both books sold together or does it depend on the success of the first?

I first sold REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS (book #1 of a 4 book series) as a stand-alone, and as a new author with a new publisher that isn’t unusual, but always had at least three books in mind. It was important for me to make sure the first book worked well on its own and had its own story arc with a satisfying conclusion. I always love book endings with ‘fill in the blanks’ hints of what’s to come and tend to write my endings like that whether or not there are sequels and in this case this worked well because my publisher, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, went on to buy two more REAL MERMAIDS books, then a fourth a few years later.

Thank you, Hélène!

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How We Fall by Kate Brauning – Launch Party!

How We FallHow We Fall
Kate Brauning
Merit Press, F&W Media
Releasing November 11, 2014
Hardcover: 304 pages
ISBN-10: 1440581797
ISBN-13: 978-144058179

Ever since Jackie moved to her uncle's sleepy farming town, she's been flirting way too much--and with her own cousin, Marcus. Her friendship with him has turned into something she can't control, and he's the reason Jackie lost track of her best friend, Ellie, who left for...no one knows where. Now Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt and the knowledge that acting on her love for Marcus would tear their families apart, Jackie pushes her cousin away. The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn't right about this stranger, and Jackie's suspicions about the new girl's secrets only drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus. Then Marcus is forced to pay the price for someone else's lies as the mystery around Ellie's disappearance starts to become horribly clear. Jackie has to face terrible choices. Can she leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?

Praise for How We Fall:
Kirkus Reviews: "Debut novelist Brauning tells a touching story of young, star-crossed lovers caught in a drama they have tried hard to avoid.... A sweetly written mix of mystery and romantic turmoil."

School Library Journal: "Heartbreaking and well-paced, this mystery novel challenges readers to look past preconceptions and get to the know characters, rather than focus on an uncomfortable taboo. Brauning's characters are well developed and their story engrossing. An intriguing thriller... this title will raise eyebrows and capture the interest of teens."

ALA Booklist: “…an unusual combination of romance and suspense…There is also something universal about Jackie’s struggles with her feelings and her desires, and readers will identify with her emotions, while going along for the plot’s ride. This quest for identity, wrapped up in an intriguing mystery, hooks from the beginning.”

How We Fall is available through:

All book lovers are invited to attend #YAlaunch, a giant book party for How We Fall and The Hit List on Monday, November 10th, from 6-9pm central time. Broadcast live over video, the party will allow you to see, hear, and interact with the authors. 10 YA and adult authors will be discussing everything from writing a series to how they write love interests. They’ll also be playing book games with the audience, taking questions, and giving away 100 books to guests attending online. Authors attending include NYT bestsellers Nicole Baart and Tosca Lee, Kate Brauning, Nikki Urang, Kiersi Burkhart, Bethany Robison, Alex Yuschik, Blair Thornburgh, Kelly Youngblood, and Delia Moran. It will be a fun and interactive evening for anyone who loves books and wants to spend some time with great authors. For more information and to sign up to attend, please click here. We'd love to see you there!


Author Bio: Kate Brauning grew up in rural Missouri and fell in love with young adult books in college. She now works in publishing and pursues her lifelong dream of telling stories she'd want to read. This is her first novel. Visit her online at www.katebrauning.com or on Twitter at @KateBrauning.

Pitch Wars Alternate Showcase!



Welcome to the Pitch Wars Alternate Showcase!

For those unfamiliar with Pitch Wars, it’s a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or interns chose one mentee each plus an alternate and offered critiques on how to make their work shine. Over 1,200 writers entered the Pitch Wars contest this year, and 75 were chosen for the agent round on Brenda Drake’s blog. There were tons of amazing entries!

As a special reward for waiting in the wings and working tirelessly to get their manuscripts and pitches in shape, we’ve put together this showcase and invited industry professionals to stop by and make requests. ALL INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS ARE WELCOME TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS EVENT.

**AGENTS  & EDITORS: To make requests, simply peruse the following entries and enter in the comments what you’d like sent to you. Please include submission guidelines and/or additional instructions. *Since there are several entries per post, be sure to list either the entry number or manuscript title when requesting.

**ALTERNATES: Please keep in mind, we don’t know what agents or publishers will make requests, so make sure you research each requesting agent or publisher. It is your choice whether or not you send to those requesting.  

PLEASE only agent & editor comments. All others please save your comments until they’ve had a few days to request. If you’d like to cheer on your friends, go to the Twitter hashtag #PitchWars and show your support there. Thank you!

Middle Grade
Young Adult (Contemporary, Literary)
Young Adult (Magical Realism, Sci-Fi, Contemporary Fantasy)
Young Adult (Historical Fiction, Steampunk, Mystery)
Young Adult (Fantasy)
Young Adult (Urban Fantasy, Horror, Thriller)
New Adult

Pitch Wars - Middle Grade Alternates

MG Entry #1

Mentor Name: Stefanie Wass
Alternate Name: Rachel Sarah
Category: MG
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 38,000


When a 12-year-old girl discovers her dead dad is alive, she runs away with the class klutz to find him.


No one calls me Ana.

But that’s what it says — Ana Berger, care of Ellen Berger — on the piece of envelope that sticks out of our kitchen recycling bin. My fingers shake as I reach for the letter. The return address is torn off.

As I dig for the address sticker, footsteps bump from the hallway, heavy and solid.

“Hey Big A, what’s up?”

Every time my stepdad Craig calls me “Big A,” something rises up inside me, the way a bottle of Coke hisses when you shake it too hard.

Burying the letter under a pile of soy yogurt containers, I take a big breath, fake a smile, and hold up a carton of lactose-free milk. “Just recycling. Gotta take care of Mother Earth.”

“Right on.” Craig pokes his head into the fridge, but his massive Afro rises over the top of the door, like it’s watching me.

I keep digging. Under a box of bran flakes, my fingers hit something goopy. I pull out a wad of balled-up papers, unfolding the mess until something flutters to the floor.

It’s the corner of an envelope, smeared with almond butter that must have leaked from its jar. But I can see it — an address, hand-written in purple ink. The numbers are smeary, but there’s no denying the name:

R.J. Blanco.


My father’s last name. One of the few things I know about him. Or, I should say, knew about him.

Because my dad is dead.


MG Entry #2

Mentor Name: Lisa Lewis Tyre
Alternate Name: Kristin Thorsness
Title: Never Found Again
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Ghost/Mystery
Word Count: 38,000


Aided by an antique diary, the mumblings of a senile woman, clues from a ghostly presence, and their own intellect, Violet and her new friend Claire must solve a mystery that’s over 150 years old before time runs out and Violet’s sister Molly is lost, forgotten, and never found again.


They were coming. Anticipating their arrival, she stirred once more. It was about time; Hillside needed another set of sisters.


Violet Woodridge shifted uncomfortably in the back seat of the family minivan. It was almost eleven pm. They’d been driving for hours and she was exhausted from packing all day.

“Violet, could you put this over your sister?” Her mother tossed a Michigan State basketball sweatshirt into the back seat. Violet caught it and laid the green hoodie carefully over Molly. The sleeping five-year-old looked deceptively angelic. If only she could always be this peaceful.

“There it is... we’re home. Are you excited?” Her mother smiled back at her.

“I’m excited to get out of this car... but Marshall isn’t home. Detroit is.”

“Violet, why do you have to be so negative? You’re going to love Marshall.” Her mother sighed and turned back around.

Violet ducked to peer at the large house that loomed from the hilltop in front of them. It was difficult to see through the rain, but a streetlamp revealed an imposing brick house with four chimneys erupting through the pointed roof. The front yard had a series of small hills, terraces, rolling down to the large grassy field.

“Look at that yard.” Violet’s father remarked. “You don’t have to wonder why they call the place Hillside.”

No, Violet thought as she gazed up at an empty swing suspended from chains on the darkened porch. But you do have to wonder who’d want to live here.


MG Entry #3

Mentor Name: Joy McCullough-Carranza
Alternate Name: Elliah Terry
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Contemporary Verse
Word Count: 17,000


When Calliope starts over at a new school—again—she’s desperate to hide her worsening Tourette syndrome. After all, life’s bad enough with a butchered haircut and boy’s hand-me-downs. Unfortunately, fellow outcast Beatriz Lopez is on a personal mission to draw attention to Calli’s super-embarrassing tics.



I open my dresser drawers,
find them


What the heck? Not again.
I check the closet, the hamper,
under the bed.

Did you already pack my clothes?”

She doesn’t answer me,
which means,
she most likely sold them.

Mom’s addicted
to those online yard sale sites,
the ones where people pay too much
for things that are already broken.

But she never buys anything,
just sells:

              my stuff
              her stuff
              kitchen stuff

Need it or not,
it doesn’t matter,
we need the money more.



I find her in the living room,
I repeat my question.

Mom dumps an armful of socks
into a brown moving box.

“You’ve grown,” she says.
“They’re too small,” she says.
“I got fifteen dollars for them,” she says.

I let out a long sigh.
Now all I have to wear
are these polka-dot pajamas?

I sneak into the bathroom,
close the door so she can’t see
me pulling out my hair.



is the only thing
I’ve ever liked about myself.
It’s long and wavy and golden.

Dad used to call it
“amber waves of grain”
like in that song,
America the Beautiful.

Which is why I wish
I didn’t wind
strands of it around my finger,

twirl them once
twirl them twice

Y   A   N   K   them out.


I flush the hair down the toilet.

Can’t let Mom see.
Can’t let Mom see.

Mom said
the next time she sees,
she’s going to

cut it.


MG Entry #4

Mentor Name: Michelle Hauck
Alternate Name: Shellie Braeuner
Title: The War of the Roses
Category: MG
Genre: Historical Fiction
Word Count: 47,000


Eleven-year-old Elizabeth Rose misses the day she did everything with her sister. With Helen a budding suffragette, Elizabeth lands at the center of Nashville in 1920 where the eyes of the nation watch to see if Tennessee will decide for the 19th amendment and giving women the vote. If a camera can’t bring them together, Elizabeth might lose her sister forever.


Chapter One

May 31, 1920

“Absolutely not!” Papa thundered from the floor below.

“But Papa,” Helen started, her voice wailing like a siren, cut through my bedroom floor. Helen and Papa’s arguments had started to blow up like the spring storms that floated over the hills around Nashville.

I had been looking for my gloves when their latest squall began and wasn’t about to let them distract me. Mama would NEVER let me go downtown without my gloves. I had already gone through every dresser drawer. Stockings, shirtwaists and petticoats hung around my room like bunting on a parade float.

My desk was covered with everything but my gloves. Wait. Didn’t I kick one under my dust ruffle after the church picnic? I dove to the cool, dark refuge under my bed.

“I will not have any daughter of mine seen in public with THOSE WOMEN!” The front door slammed shut.

Any other sound from downstairs was drown out by my sister’s footsteps as she ran upstairs.

I waited for the rest.

Sure enough, in less than a second, the door to Helen’s room banged shut, and her headboard beat against the wall our rooms shared. It was easy to imagine her throwing herself onto the mattress. Her muffled sobs blew through the walls and into my room.


MG Entry #5

Mentor Name: Gail Nall
Alternate Name: Laurie Bryant
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Historical
Word Count: 47,000


Twelve-year-old Elsie dreams of being a famous athlete. Inspired by two sportswomen she meets on a Depression-era cross-country rail journey, she tries out for a women's baseball team – against the wishes of her traditional aunt.



Elsie pretended not to hear, but she did. She always heard. In fact, she heard most everything. But she’d grown almost as good at ignoring as she was at hearing, and anyway, the word wasn’t aimed at her—this time.

She peered through the crowd at the woman drawing the shouts, just to see if the word had hit its target. If it had, it didn’t show, but Elsie knew firsthand that the mark it left didn’t ever show, at least not on the outside. But Elsie wondered who the woman was on the inside. She squeezed in beside one of the men in the crowd and stood on her tiptoes to get a better look at the red, white, and blue banner hanging from the Union Pacific Pullman car.


Olympians! And women Olympians at that! With a gasp, Elsie dropped to her knees and opened her little suitcase. Rummaging around, she shoved aside clothes until she found it. Carefully unfolding the clipping, her eyes darted to the train and back again. Sure enough, the grainy photograph of the runner taking a hurdle was indeed the same young woman who now attracted the attention of the crowd. Babe Didrikson!

And as easily as she had taken the hurdle in the photo, Babe had ducked that ugly word when it was chucked up from the railway platform. Elsie figured she’d had a lot of practice doing that. Tomboys usually did.


MG Entry #6

Mentor Name: Ben Brooks
Alternate Name: Sandra Held
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: about 55,000


When her forbidden powers are discovered, Ryelle must vanish without a trace, or her father will have to pay for her crime.


The sun already stood high in the sky when Ryelle lifted the sash from her worktable and studied her work once more. The seams had turned out well, even though the sturdy blue linen had proven less pliable than she had hoped. She wrapped the sash around her waist three times and tied it into a bow on her right side, a fashion she had been yearning to emulate ever since a young tradesman had come to Fordsbury with the newest dresses from the Heartlands.

The house was cool despite the summer heat and Ryelle listened for the noise that floated through the walls, carrying the sounds from the busy street into the brick stone home. She dashed into the kitchen and paused before the looking glass, eyes focused on her hair. Smoothing down her wayward red tresses, she attempted to tame them into a straight braid.

“What are you staring at yourself for?”

Her mother’s voice made Ryelle jump. She hadn’t heard the older woman approach, let alone enter the kitchen. Now mother towered over her, arms akimbo.

“I was getting ready for the market, mother.” Under the intense scrutiny, Ryelle felt the dreaded heat rising in her palms. She finished her braid hastily, clasped her hands behind her back and offered mother what she hoped would pass as a smile before starting toward the door, careful to keep her hands hidden. Mother was quicker though, her broad shoulders blocking the frame.


She lifted her gaze to her mother’s tall form, trying to figure out what the question had been. The tingling would pass in a moment, if she could only stay focused.


MG Entry #7

Mentor Name: Brooks Benjamin
Alternate Name: AJ Vanderhorst
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 62,000


When twelve-year-old Conley accidentally resurrects a killer dragon, he has to master dragon warfare before Kansas City burns. His quest drags him and his family into the guts of the world’s deadliest secret society: The Dragon Agency.


The brick house was the tallest building on the street and I swear the brick house knew it. On hot days, its windows smelled like burnt barbecue and firecrackers. Dark red stains spotted its chalky mortar. Air shafts whistled in the dark. It was three stories tall and I think it could tell a thousand.

A century of home inspectors said, “Completely safe and stable,” and each time, the house grinned quietly. (Don’t ask me what that looks like. I’m still trying to figure it out.) It was fireproof and smart and tough as nails, but the best word to describe it was dangerous.

The house had its eyes open, biding its time. Its jazz-blue front door and curling ivy vines said, “Hey kid, get a load of this.” The brick house was strong and good-looking—and the brick house was kind of a jerk. But that didn’t change the things it had seen and the lives it had helped begin and end. Or the questionable plans it had for my future.

Because long before I figured any of this out, the brick house had chosen me, Conley Hoss—which was crazy, because no one else ever did. But before we get to this house, and all its problems, you need to know about my old one.


My old home in richy Johnson County, Kansas, had a flat lawn and tan siding, like every other house in the Eagle Mountain subdivision. My dad joked that living in a cookie-cutter home was killing our souls.


MG Entry #8

Mentor: Naomi Hughes
Alternate: Chad Lucas
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Action/Adventure
Word Count: 69,000 words


Tyler’s laid-back orphanage life is upended when he accidentally stops a Hummer with his hands. A creepy European baron arrives to reveal Tyler belongs to a secret league of supervillains—and his South African-born roommate, Seth, is destined to be his mortal enemy. Both boys must choose a side in a war that’s been simmering for 300 years.


Clap-thump. Clap-thump.

Even with my eyes closed I knew that sound meant it was 6:27 a.m. and my roommate, Seth Mbulane, was doing push-ups.

Clap-thump. “Nice. Three more.” Clap-thump. “Come on. Feel it.”

I groaned. Regular push-ups weren’t good enough for Seth. He had to do the fancy kind where he lifted off the ground and clapped in the middle. And he gave himself motivational speeches while he worked out.

“Couldn’t you do that somewhere else?” I said. “Like the basement?”

Clap-thump. “I like to get the blood flowing right away.” Clap-thump. He pushed hard off the floor and rocketed to his feet. “It wouldn’t kill you to join me, Tyler. You’d feel better if you exercised more.”

I rolled over. “I feel fine. And I have gym today. I need to pace myself.”

Seth laughed. “Pace yourself. Sure.” He flexed. Did I mention he was only wearing his boxers? I put up with this every day.

Sharing a room with a super-intense human alarm clock was practically the only thing I didn’t like about the Mortimer Glass Home for Boys. Most people assume being an orphan must be terrible, but I figured out I had a sweet deal. It had been years since I daydreamed about some good-looking rich couple sweeping me away to a charmed life as their darling son. Life at the Glass House was good enough for me. Seth did not share my chill attitude, though.


MG Entry #9

Mentor Name: Ronni Arno Blaisdell
Alternate Name: Annie Cronin Romano
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 37,000


Twelve-year-old Gladys’ dad has been gone for five years, three months, and four days, but she still hopes he’ll return. So when her mom remarries, Gladys lands in the Whisper Room, her school's counseling group. With help from her fellow misfits, Gladys learns the real reason her father left… and then must decide what makes a true family.


“Good morning, Natalia. How are you today?” She smiles at her reflection, brings her face a little closer to the glass and says, “Now, you have a wonderful day!” She even winks at herself. Disgusting! She’s only in kindergarten, for crying out loud. My mom is always going on about how Natalia is already reading even though she’s only five. (Barf.) She’s super-pretty, with huge green eyes and curly, honey-brown hair that makes other girls crazy-jealous. (Double barf.) Plus she totally scored on her name. Natalia. Natalia Celeste Moreau. It’s fancy and probably French. Dripping with soft, sweet vowels. It flows out of your mouth like a lullaby. What a beautiful name, people always say.

“Are you done greeting yourself, Nat? I’d like to get in the bathroom before I pee my pants.”

“Yes, grouchy!” Natalia sticks her tongue out as she marches past me.

I slam the bathroom door. My name isn’t beautiful. My name is Gladys. I know. Gross, right? I don’t know what my mom was thinking. Maybe she was in so much pain from giving birth that she blurted out “Gladys” when she really meant to say Genevieve or Jacqueline or Celine. Oh, I would have loved Celine! I have no relatives named Gladys, either, so I can’t defend it by saying I’m named after my great, great grandmother on my father’s side. Who lived in Paris. And was an impressionist artist. And ate croissants for breakfast.


MG Entry #10

Mentor: Cat Scully
Alternate: Phil Hickes
Title: Mrs. Grainger’s Midnight Peculiarium
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Horror
Word Count: 48,000


Bored ten-year-old Molly Brown can't wait to see what's behind the door of the mysterious Midnight Peculiarium. She's not to be disappointed. Inside, she discovers a bewildering jumble of oddities and curiosities, not least of which is the owner, Mrs. Grainger. Yet what Molly’s drawn to most isn’t for sale – it’s the stories Mrs. Grainger tells her. Horrible stories. Nightmarish stories. When Molly's best friend disappears, all the clues lead to back to the shop and Mrs. Grainger’s tales - but what's waiting there is the most terrifying story of them all.


The hands on the large clock in the town square had only just inched past four o'clock, but the small town of Malreward was already swathed in shadows. The air was heavy with that peculiar November perfume: a blend of bonfires, frost and forgotten apples left to rot in the orchard. Low on the horizon, a lone star twinkled in greeting.

As the pavements sparkled, the townsfolk wrapped scarves tightly around their necks and hurried home, eager to be settled in front of a roaring fire with the door locked and their hands around a steaming mug of tea. While some towns and cities came alive in the evening: with bright lights, cheery restaurants and glittering theatres, Malreward put up the shutters and left the night to its own devices.

Given the town’s history, it was the sensible thing to do.

Strange and unsettling events happen after dark here. Unearthly cries echo through the streets. Dark figures flit past curtained windows. Twigs snap in the hedgerows without reason.

Sometimes, children disappear.

When the night stretches out its inky fingers in this little town, only the foolish linger.

Or those not quite yet old enough to know better.


MG Entry #11

Mentor Name: E.M. Caines
Alternate Name: Carey O’Connor
Title: The Maven
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Word Count: 41,000 words


MEAN GIRLS meets THE GODFATHER in junior high.

The Society defends the weakest students—if they can pay. Although her older sister Mina leads the Society, twelve-year-old Lux would rather study mold spores than punish bullies. But when a rival group has Mina ousted, Lux must use a book of secrets to avenge her family, protect her fellow students, and end a war of rumors and revenge.


Mirror, mirror on the locker… How should you smile on your twelfth birthday?

The silver square didn’t have an answer. My new braces suggested a closed-lip smile. I grabbed my lunch bag and straightened my shoulders.

In the cafeteria, the smell of pizza greeted me, followed by murmurs and stares.

A girl with frizzy hair pointed. “That’s the Maven’s little sis. Her name’s Lucky or something.”

Not quite. But thanks for making me feel like a panda at the zoo.

The choir kids—the ones who pretended life was a musical—broke into song. “Happy birthday, birthday to you!”

Heads turned. A few people muttered well wishes. Someone whistled.

This is worse than angry waiters singing and clapping over a free dessert. Smile. Smile!

I hustled to the table. The table occupied by girls who won the looks lottery. The table owned by girls who held more power than the principal.

Today, members of the Society of Girls for Justice sat amidst purple, silver, and black balloons. My sister, Mina, and her second-in-command, Tinsley, sat where they could see the whole cafeteria. Addison, Vivi, and Katie sat on the other side.

Mina scooted over, giving me the seat of honor. The charcoal pencils holding her inky hair in a bun explained the sudden trend in the halls. “Lux, relax. Enjoy this birthday.”

Katie sighed. “Seriously. After twelve, comes thirteen…and pre-algebra and painful shoes.”


MG Entry #12

Mentor Name: Stacey Trombley
Mentee Name: Megan Reyes
Title: Drew Horrible
Category: MG
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 72,000


Hoping to redeem himself as a worthy heir, Drew Horrible goes to Villain Academy where he faces his evil sister rival and the fate-altering Scoreboards—which could land him a lifetime shoveling dragon poop. When Drew learns a secret that could save his kingdom, he finally has a chance to prove himself—if he can embrace his own kind of Horrible.


There was nothing quite like having your socks magically ripped right from your feet.

Drew Horrible stopped to catch his breath. He’d spent the better part of the last ten minutes chasing after a sock gnome, who’d jumped right out of a honeyberry bush and bit him on the ankle. Socks weren’t normally worth the trouble of battling a gnome, but this pair had been a gift from his dear ol’ Granny Mavis. And you just don’t mess with socks from Granny.

The gong sounded eleven, echoing across the vast cavern ceiling.

Just one more hour until midnight, when everything would change.

“Fangs of Apollo,” Drew sighed, surveying his war-torn appearance. His father would not approve, and now Drew would have to sneak into the castle through the kitchens to avoid a vicious scolding—or something worse, depending on the Chancellor’s disposition.

He should’ve been to bed hours ago, but the thought of dragon poop kept Drew awake.

Well, dragon poop and the big Number nine inked to the inside of his left wrist. It wasn’t actually the nine bothering him, but what came next.

“If you keep staring at it like that you’re going to drive yourself nutty.”

Drew spotted a large fluff of orange fur lounging underneath the magically-grown rose bushes. Jasper the cat yawned loudly. He was, as always, just waking up from his nap.

“Though I suppose it’s already too late for that.”


MG Entry #13

Mentor Name: Thomas Torre
Alternate Name: Jennifer L. Hawes
Category: Upper Middle Grade
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 40k


Thirteen-year-old Kip uncovers his best friend’s secret: his family, in the middle of a financial crisis, is moving to Detroit in three weeks to live with an ex-con uncle. When Kip discovers a decade-old crime to solve with a sizeable reward, he is forced to recruit his arch nemesis, a green-eyed girl nicknamed Snake Eyes, who may have the answers, and help prevent his best friend from appearing on America’s Most Wanted.


The harvest moon washed a pale light over the cemetery, the perfect setting for a prank. My thoughts focused on my best friend Tommy as I sneaked past the rows of dead people and crawled through the crumbling headstones. It’s no wonder he chose this location to prank me. But I was going to find him first and make him pay for all the practical jokes he’d ever played on me.

I spotted him in the distance; the element of surprise was in my favor. The moonlight twisted through the branches and distorted my vision. I swiped a trail of cobwebs from my face. The fog whispered past and sealed me in a tomb of shadows. I must admit, forming an elaborate prank in the middle of the graveyard was a bit of a stretch for my best friend; he could barely pass gym class.

“Hey, Tommy, is that you?”

A train whistle shattered my words. I hid behind the cross headstone in the dead center of the cemetery, covered my ears and waited for the shrill sound to end. Up ahead a halo of sparks penetrated the night like fireworks.

A lantern? Tommy’s not allowed to play with fire. He almost burned down the county court house—twice.


MG Entry #14

Mentor Name: Juliana Brandt
Alternate Name: Dana Mongillo
Category: MG
Genre: Sci-Fi
Word Count: 55,000


Dillon discovers his parents aren't exactly human after alien invaders kidnap them. He must push beyond his spineless nature to save them--and the planet--all while an overambitious, pre-teen blogger documents every step.


Here’s the most important fact: I was not driving the car. My mother drove. My father sat next to her reading the world’s most boring newspaper—out loud, as usual. I rode in the backseat regretting that I’d left my iPod at home.

But now, the double-chinned nurse holding my chart doesn’t even ask “How are you?” before launching into the most inhospitable rant. “Only twelve years old and already a car-stealing delinquent,” she says.

My fingers curl into fists. “But I—”

She jabs a thermometer under my tongue and forces my lips shut around it. “You stole that minivan and then you crashed it. And, now look where you are!” She gestures at the IV tubes connected to my arm. Her eyes bore into mine until the thermometer beeps. She pops it out of my mouth.

“I didn’t steal the car,” I say.

“Oh, so your parents just gave you their car. They thought a twelve-year-old could drive himself to soccer practice, did they?” Her post-lunch onion breath comes at me like a tsunami and I duck my head away to cough. I miss the night nurse who held my hand when I woke up from the coma. That one smelled like cherry soda and said comforting things, not like this beast.

Tears sting my eyelids and I squeeze my face into a glare to keep them from escaping. “I wasn’t driving,” I say, a tremor in my voice.

She snorts and hands me two nickel-sized pills and a cup of water. “Here’s your meds, Felon.”

“My name’s Dillon, not ‘Felon’. And, I’m innocent.”


**AGENTS  & EDITORS: To make requests, enter in the comments what you’d like sent to you. Please include submission guidelines and/or additional instructions. *Since there are several entries per post, be sure to list either the entry number or manuscript title when requesting.