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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For Readers

Have you had your eye on a new book for a while now? Did you just finish the best book you’ve ever read and NEED the sequel?

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Are you having trouble getting that query letter just right? Would you love for a professional to have a look the first page of your manuscript?

Click here for this month’s raffle to win a first page or query critique from literary agent Brent Taylor of TriadaUS!

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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.





And here’s the awesome cover!!


Head over to SPORTY GIRL BOOKS and enter to win a Dick's Sporting Goods card, Amazon card, autographed nonfiction book, query package critique, and Bloomsbury Spark titles!


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.

Mark it to read on Goodreads

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!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
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Learn about Tools for Writers- like Scrivener!

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.

Pitch Wars – Young Adult Alternates (Contemporary, Literary)

YA Entry #1

Mentor: Dannie Morin
Alternate: Sean Lamb
Category: YA
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 67,000


Sixteen-year-old Kyle will do anything to get out of St. Bonaparte Military Academy, where a sadistic headmaster’s questionable disciplinary methods drive cadets to the brink of suicide. If Kyle can’t pass his annual review for release, he’s ready to force his way out, beaten, bloodied or worse.


0100 Hours

Pity doesn’t belong here. Nobody feels sorry for us. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. How did we get here? Where did we go wrong? These aren’t the questions of the innocent and oppressed. They’re the thoughts of those in denial.

We know. I know. The real question—the only question—is ‘when do I get out?’

Sergeants Bates and Oden get drunk and shoot me with pellet guns as I unclog their private toilet. I retch as warm moisture seeps into my nostrils. Plastic pellets pierce my flesh, a welcome distraction from the nauseating mess around my wrists.

I’ve never been so deep in shit. This must be a week’s worth of it—the officers haven’t flushed, saving their worst for my exhausted arms and aching knees. How they put up with the stench, I’ll never know, but their diligence pays off in the end.

“I want to see my reflection at the bottom of that bowl when I piss, Grimstone, you got me?” Bates stands over me and jabs his gun into my neck. “And when you’re finished, hit the showers. I don’t want you polluting the whole campus with your filth.”

It’s too late for that. There isn’t enough soap in the world to clean my soiled skin. No steel wool can ever scrape away the filth under my fingernails. Getting clean is impossible here. All I can do is wait to escape.


YA Entry #2

Mentor Name: Marieke Nijkamp
Alternate Name: Evanthia Bromiley
Category: YA
Genre: Literary
Word Count: 70,000


A fifteen-year-old Rom thief picks the pocket of a mute Jewish girl in the Warsaw ghetto, entangling their fates and hurtling them into a life or death flight from the deadly Einsatzgruppen.


I put one hand to the wall. 

It is alive, this wall; it breathes German, bristles with tommy guns. Zigs and zags, guts the heart of Warsaw like a knife. It pens in Murowski square, divides Lezno, dead-ends Karolkowa. Ten feet high and ten miles long, capped with shards of glass that cleave moonlight, whorls of barbs that entangle stars, it is wall enough to silence us forever.

It’s not impenetrable. 

I feel her hand, on the other side.

I take a single, silent step. Then we move together, quickly, on our opposite sides, nothing but fingertips. A Rom boy. A Jew girl. A twist of wire, a mountain of brick, a thousand barbs. Night sifts through our hands. 

There. The moonlight catches at it, snags. A rent in the wire. I dip my hand into my pocket. Fingers crusted in salt, I reach up and knot them into nothing. Toes skittering on brick, I begin to climb. The hum of her is all around me. I climb through the bite and slosh of kerosene hung from my shoulder, the jingle of glass bottles, cloth and matches, the homespun fixings of bombs. Inside the darkness, a guard’s eyes snap open. A hand tightens on a steel trigger. I reach one hand up, pull myself into a nest of wire, and balance between her world and mine. 

She waits for me, inside the Forbidden City. 


YA Entry #3

Mentor: Jaye Robin Brown
Alternate: April Rose Carter
Title: Winter on Brimstone Hill
Category: YA
Genre: LGBT Contemporary
Word Count: 73,000


Sarah Koziol is a fortress, self-protected from the shame of poverty. New girl Bonnie never met a wall she couldn’t scale. Letting Bonnie in means a chance at love, but keeping her out ensures social services can’t threaten Sarah’s family.


I roll over to check if the milk is frozen. Neatly stacked in three crates of glass bottles, it’s solid. That probably means the apples and potatoes are frozen, too.

The omen of a bad day.

I could pray that the bottles won’t break as my bedroom warms with daylight. I could pray, but I won’t. If it’s going to get cold, it’s going to get cold, and all things—milk among them—freeze. There’s a life lesson for you.

My folded clothes lay on my nightstand, and I pull them into the warmth of the sleeping bag.

I am the salamander that once lived in the cellar. Joseph and I used to amuse ourselves by enticing it with earth—or mealworms. It would shoot from under the stone long enough to bite down before retreating. The salamander couldn’t guess we weren’t going to hurt it. It didn’t need to move fast, but I do. Otherwise, my body heat will escape. The chill will never leave me then.

In middle school, I slept in my clothes, the extra layer providing what the wood stove in the dining room couldn’t. But it took only one overheard conversation during that petrifying first week of high school before I stopped.

“Did you see Sarah’s shirt? It’s so wrinkly it looks like she slept in it.”

That was the last time I did.

By that point, most of my peers started to notice I was different. If I’m being honest here, it was the first time I noticed.


YA Entry #4

Mentor Name: Mónica Bustamante Wagner
Alternate Name: Prerna Pickett
Title: Fading
Category: YA
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 79,000


Extorted by his gang, Corey destroys the car of the cop who’d put him away. When he’s caught by the cop’s daughter, she gives him a second chance, and he stupidly falls for her. Now, the only way to keep her safe from his dangerous life is to leave her.



I used to like the smell of oil. The way it snagged onto my clothes and left my hands dark and grimy after a long day of work. Not anymore. Not when the scent filled the darkened garage while Vance stared at the Mustang sitting in front of us.

“Come on, Fowler, take the first shot.” Vance gestured to the car and held out the baseball bat. Anger gleamed in his eyes, making me squirm and want to punch him at the same time. The darkened etches were a part of him, hunting me down until I did exactly what he asked.

I took a breath, hoping the danger sign flashing in the back of my mind would shut itself off and leave me the hell alone.

“I don’t know. This isn’t a good idea.” I said, even though I wasn’t going anywhere without finishing the job. My hands were already around the base of the bat, the smooth surface grazing my skin.

“When have I ever been known to have a good idea? Besides, if you don’t do it, I’ll get the other guys to.” He signaled to Drew and Jaimie, who stood in the shadows of the detached garage in their matching black shirts and jeans so low they almost hung around their knees. “Of course after they’re done with the car you’d be next in line.” Vance chuckled.


YA Entry #5

Mentor Name: Jessie Devine
Alternate Name: Melody Marshall
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 62,000


When notes from a secret admirer lead Ben on a treasure hunt, he brings his friend Mitch along—and falls for him. Now he must decide if he should risk everything and tell his friend, or keep playing games with someone he’s never met.



“Seasons in the Abyss” – Slayer

When Gran asked me to go to the grocery store to pick up food for Mr. Mittens, I jumped at the chance to leave her house (even if it meant doing something for her evil cat). But when I realized she meant for me to go to the corner store, which all the townies called the grocery store, I was no longer thrilled. 

But Gran would have my head if I came back empty-handed.

After I paid for some Fancy Feast and orange Tic Tacs, I tore out of there. I would’ve kept going, but a piece of notebook paper, folded into a triangle, sat on my skateboard’s grip tape.

Weird. When I pulled the paper open, the letter was addressed to me. How was that possible? No one knew I was being sentenced to a summer at Gran’s.

I stared at the signature—a cursive “J.” This was really strange. 

July 6, 1992

Dear Ben,

You probably don’t know me, but I know you. Well, I know of you. It’s pretty obvious you don’t wanna be here this summer. And I can’t blame you. I live here, so I know it blows. As a Bay Haven local, I figured it was my duty to show you around. This is the THE TREASURE HUNT. If you accept, you won’t be disappointed! What else are you gonna do? Really?

Where the water beats against the old lobster traps, you’ll find your first treasure.

Your admirer and tour guide,



YA Entry #6

Mentor Name: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Alternate Name: Heather Ezell
Category: YA
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 77,000


The morning after Audrey loses her virginity, she wakes to a wildfire blazing toward her SoCal neighborhood—and she’s convinced she and her boyfriend are responsible. Over the next 24 hours, Audrey hunts through past and present chapters for the truth about the fire and her relationship, which may have turned to ash long before last night.


The morning after I lose my virginity, I wake to knocking. My mom and dad’s alarm clock reads 5:22 a.m. It’s Sunday. More pounding from downstairs—loud and rapid—and I wonder if it’s Brooks, come to apologize. No. He’s probably still at the party, passed out on a couch, or maybe even nursing his final beer.

This thought enables me to move.

I jump from the bed, Mom’s caramel afghan around my shoulders. The room tilts. My hips ache, and there’s a raw throbbing between my legs. I might still be drunk. I might only be hung over. I need to shower. Need to go back to bed.

I pull aside the curtains. It’s still dark, but porch lights and streetlights and brake lights and red and blue lights illuminate the dense smoke that hazes the street. Our pepper tree whips in the October wind, spraying leaves on the police car idling at my mailbox. A man shouts. The lashing gale takes his words. The doorbell rings—once, twice, three times.

Move. I need to move.

I drop the afghan, run downstairs, and yank the front door open to smoke and two cops. One is talking, his mouth moving. My dad’s old In-N-Out shirt sticks to my back. I’m not wearing a bra and rum laces the spit beneath my tongue.

“Mandatory evacuation,” the older cop says, his gray hair a crown of ash. “The fire is approaching the bank’s ridge.”


YA Entry #7

Mentor: Emily Martin
Alternate: Emily Marquart
Category: Young adult
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 60,000


When Gem’s boyfriend died a month ago, he was on his way to tell her something important—something her new friend Lex is desperate to hide. As Gem seeks answers, Lex must decide whether the closure they both crave is worth losing the only friend she has left.


I don’t know how I’ll explain this if I get caught.

Sweat trickles down my back as I crouch beneath Mark’s bedroom window. I picture what would happen if I’m found, their bewildered faces. Gem, why on earth did you break into your dead boyfriend’s bedroom?

If I answer truthfully, everyone will know I’m not “moving through grief” (Fiona’s words) at the pace I should. Dad will worry, I’ll be forced to have more counseling sessions and—no, the truth is definitely not an option.

I reach up and press a clammy palm to the glass. The night’s stinking hot, especially for spring. The heat feels like a betrayal. I’m not ready for my first summer without Mark.

A month ago, Mark would’ve nudged the window open, signaling his parents were asleep and he’d put a pillow against the gap between his door and the floor. We would lie on his bed and listen to music, sharing earphones, or he’d tickle me until a creak in the hallway convinced us we’d woken his parents. And some nights, my favorite nights, we’d just kiss.

I haven’t been back since the crash, so I don’t know what I’ll find in there tonight. What would be worse—everything boxed up or left the same? My stomach twists.

No, I can’t back out now. I’m so close to finding answers.

Headlights shine down the street and my hand snaps back to my side. Shit. I press myself against the house as a car hums in the driveway.


YA Entry #8

Mentor Name: Brianna Shrum
Alternate Name: Jamie Adams
Title: Phantom
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Retelling
Word Count: 71,000

Pitch: Violinist Killian Marsh is more concerned about making first chair than making friends. So when a strange boy with a tilted smile and a timpani-playing goth girl insert themselves into her life, it’s difficult enough. But then a reclusive tutor singles her out for instruction and begins terrorizing the orchestra, demanding Killian be named first chair. And she’s not totally sure she wants to stop him.

Excerpt: The Bach sonata thundering in my headphones reaches a crescendo that matches the rain as I dash from the taxi up the marble steps and into the pristine blue and gold lobby. The doorman stares down his nose at me and I smooth my hair, attempting to look marginally less bedraggled as I set my violin and bag on the ground and shake the water off my coat.

"Miss Marsh?" A tall, balding man in a crisp collar that's choking the life out of him rushes to me. "You're very, very late. The others have gone on to the concert hall already."

"I know. Plane troubles. Did they leave any instructions?" I try to look more sophisticated than I feel. It's not as though I've never been late to a rehearsal before. I've just never been late to a rehearsal of this magnitude before.

"You're to head to the hall at once. We'll see that your bags are delivered to your room." He's already rushing away, waving a bellhop over as he charges toward the front desk. "And enjoy your stay here at the Avaline Ward Hotel."

I grab my violin and step back out into the rain, stomach growling. I've been on the go since four this morning, and I'm starting to wonder if part of being a professional musician is developing the ability to exist on air and water alone.


YA Entry #9

Mentor Name: Stephanie Scott
Alternate Name: Adrianne Russell
Category: YA
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 60k


If Fallon's parents' relationship is a car wreck, she's the airbag. Her survival plan? Head down, grades up, stay off the grid. When she meets cool and complicated JP, he’s the ultimate emergency exit from her life. Trouble is, he's fine with their no-strings hookups, and she's falling in love. Fallon must decide whether to accept love with limits, or to live by her own rules.


The whale judges me from the end table with cold, black eyes. Its scuffed and scarred blue plastic body's ringed by a moat of ashes. The ceiling fan barely moves the stale air and JP's smoking doesn't improve its quality. I steal his cigarette. He smiles and lights another. After a few drags, I grind mine into Moby's blowhole.

I find most of my clothes on the floor. JP pulls my bra from under the covers. By the time I'm dressed, he wears his begging face. 

“Don't look at me like that. I have to go,” I say. 

“Stay.” More than anything, I want to. But ditching my afterschool job means asking my father for money and I don’t want that. Mom asks enough for the both of us. 

“Some of us have to work for a living.”

“You could try depending on the kindness of strangers,” he says. Semi-quoting my favorite movie, A Streetcar Named Desire, just ups his adorability.

“That only works for pretty people like you.” He takes my hand. His lips graze my palm. His confidence is unfair. How can he be so sure of everything? I kill myself trying to look together and for him, it’s as easy as breathing. 

“You're beautiful and you know it.” He pulls me close. His mouth brushes mine and my everything tingles. “So I'll see you later?”

I nod. The answer's always yes.


YA Entry #10

Mentor Name: Sharon Johnston
Alternate Name: Mikayla Rivera
Title: Who is Berkley Adams?
Category: YA
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 66,000


Elitist sixteen-year-olds Ben and Travis Northside make a humiliating game out of anyone who dares approach them. But when Berkley Adams challenges their school dominance, it’s their codependent twinship under fire. Cruel Intentions meets Paper Towns.


“Dude, they’re gone. Seriously, your go-to pair, your back-up pair, even your contact solution—poof.” Travis, his twin, checked their bathroom vanity. “Nothing but a random index card signed by some ‘Berkley Adams.’”

Ben hung his head. What was he going to do without his contacts? He’d have to show up for school at Northside Collegiate in half an hour, and he’d either be blind or wearing glasses. Glasses that would make him look different from his identical twin. In public. Where everyone could see.

“Hang on, there’s a message on the back.” Travis lifted a white rectangle. “‘To Ben Northside,” he started, “and also to Travis Northside, who is likely reading aloud for his brother. I apologize for the petty theft, but don’t be alarmed, you’ll thank me soon.’”

Ben squinted. Who would write them? Sometimes Mom left post-it notes for them, but they were restricted to the kitchen. Plus, she probably didn’t even remember he used contacts.

“‘As you can see—or rather, not see—your contacts have been removed from your possession. This is only to prep you both for our meeting today at Northside Collegiate, where upon you will be issued a challenge. No need to worry—I’ll find you. Additional apologies for this morning’s inconvenience, but you may find that blindness will deliver a sharper perspective. Sincerely,’” Travis hesitated, “Berkley Adams’?” 

Ben pulled his eyebrows together as a swarm of cold blood flooded down his back. Who was Berkley Adams?

“I think,” Travis said with a slow-growing grin, “we have a new game on our hands.”


**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.

Pitch Wars – Young Adult Alternates (Magical Realism, Sci-Fi, Contemporary Fantasy)

YA Entry#11

Mentor Name: Kelly Loy Gilbert
Alternate Name: Robin Lemke
Title: The Dance of the Palms
Category: YA
Genre: Magical Realism
Word Count: 98,000


Winning Miss Lehua, at just 17, could mean a future in dance for Lani and freedom from her abusive aunt. Long ago, Pele laid down her own freedom for the people of Hawaii, and now she wants it back. She reaches out, through fire and fear, begging Lani to tell the truth with her hula. But Pele’s truth is heresy and would cost Lani the title and her dreams.


In the old days, when the islands of Hawaii were young, the magic of creation still lay thick upon them. And it was wild. It hung in the rocky crevices and treetops like a fog. It rushed with the lava. It needed to be controlled. Already the mountains twisted themselves into volcanoes, ready to destroy. Already the people of the islands retreated farther in and higher up and looked with fear upon nature as it gave birth to itself, over, and over. They pleaded for help. They looked to their chiefs.

Kanehoalani was not the greatest chief, but he saw the magic that lingered in the world, and he felt his responsibility. He would tame the island. He would absorb the magic into his own soul. No, the Creator said. He could not hold back the volcano. Only his daughter Pele, who stirred the poi pot, who spoke to the sharks, who learned the movements of the palms could become The Lady of Fire. She would save her people.

Kane wept.


"Watch those shoulders!" Lani called over the ukulele music.

Lani's job was to get this roomful of little girls to swing their hips and keep their shoulders still -- basic beginning hula. But they weren't having much luck. They looked more like defective dashboard dolls than the spirit of aloha. Lani stopped the music on her ipod.


YA Entry #12

Mentor Name: Renée Ahdieh
Alternate Name: Kirsten Squires
Category: YA
Genre: Science Fiction
Word Count: 85,000


Under the control of the emperor, Jex inhabits victims and forces them to commit ritual suicide, just as his father did before being executed for treason. After rebels sabotage a kill, Jex must betray his childhood love and cripple the remainder of his father’s resistance—or die a traitor. Bushido-inspired space opera.


On my way to the kill, I recite the mantras that have been burned into my mind. There’s an art to choosing the perfect way to die. Precision is a must. I visualize myself carving an impeccable line across the victim’s stomach.

No. Not victim, I remind myself. Debased lowlife—a miscreant who defied the will of the Bi-Stars, the binary suns that our planet Dahabi orbits.

My fingers twitch, a mistake that would mar the flawless cut expected of me. Images of death flash through my mind, in rhythm with the nerves contracting my muscles. I tighten my hands into fists, forcing them to still. I have no reason to worry.

I am an expert in execution.

A lifetime of witnessing horror in the name of honor has made its mark. I’ve never made one move to stop them, not that I really could. Now it’s about to get worse. Now I will be the instrument of death.

“Upholding justice for the masses!” Elliot sings as we spiral down the tunnel to the basement of the Dome. He writhes to nonexistent music, hands slapped over nonexistent headphones. “Take them out and make them fall on their asses.”

“New addition to the Increpto motto?” I try for lightness, but my shaking voice betrays me.

“My personal addition. I’m adding truth to the equation.”

Ha. Truth. That will never be part of the Order of the Increpto, the official guardians of Dahabi. Or so they lead people to believe.


YA Entry #13

Mentor Name: Veronica Bartles

Alternate Name: Margo Berendsen
Title: Star Tripped
Category: YA
Genre: Science Fiction
Word Count: 89,000


Seventeen-year-old Cam is desperate to believe in the mysterious boy who says he can restore her sight. But when she discovers his ex’s memories implanted in her mind, she can’t tell if it’s her or the other girl inside her that’s in love with him.


My sister loved birthday parties. Six months ago she died in a freak explosion, but today is our seventeenth birthday, and I’m not about to stop our party tradition. Even if she is gone. Even if the explosion (classified explosion, as the National Security agents keep reminding me) stole my sight, too.

Our living room smells of sulfur and sweetness from a candle-lit cake, and my ears ring as a bunch of voices start singing the birthday song. “Happy birthday, dear Cam…” Everyone stumbles over the blank space that should have my twin’s name in it, and my throat tightens up.

As the singing ends, I catch a voice I don’t recognize. He isn’t one of my theater friends, and I know he’s not one of Liz’s groupies, here to pay homage to her memory. I’ve heard his voice before, but the specific memory plays dodge ball with me.

“Your cake’s right here,” my dad says. “Make a wish.”

I want my sister and my sight back.

My mom turns me slightly, and my senses pick up the heat of the candles. And then — for a moment — I see them.

The doctors said I’d never recover my sight, and this is the first thing I’ve seen in six months. But I’m not imagining it. I definitely see a flickering light.

“Go ahead,” Dad urges.

I blow the candles all out with one breath. Just before everything goes dark again, I catch a glimpse of the stranger, the one whose voice I couldn’t quite place.


YA Entry #14

Mentor Name: Erica Chapman
Alternate Name: Megan Cronin
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 100,000


When kidnapped by a group of eccentric warriors, Elle learns her missing sister is hunted in a world where artistic talent is a weapon and vows to find her—even if that means trusting her captors. But as she falls for their leader and shapeshifting ravens close in, Elle must decide how much—and who—she’s willing to sacrifice to reunite her family.


The birds are dangerous—that’s what my father once told me. But watching the crows scatter and cry as a few idiots chased them away, I couldn’t imagine how he’d gotten that impression. The boys charged, boots churning up a fog of dirt and dead grass as their laughter carried across the wide lawn.

I’d learned a long time ago not to put much faith in my father’s words. You were born singing instead of crying. There’s a family allergy to chocolate. I love you. Lies—all of it.

As the birds retreated to a nearby tree, the boys moved on to their cell phones. They’d forgotten about the crows, but the crows wouldn’t forget them. My fingernails dug into my palms as I passed them, over the crisp grass and into Los Charco High School.

Trudging into Advanced Art—what used to be my favorite class—I followed my fellow students to the back of the room. After collecting paint, brushes, water, and my work in progress, I spread my supplies on an empty table. The tension in my shoulders eased as I inhaled the sharp scent of paint and clay.

My painting depicted one of the local lakes. I hadn’t been there in ages, so I was going completely by memory. It was almost finished besides some final details. A cloudless sky gave way to vibrant orange rocks and ivory sand bordered…a blue blob.


YA Entry #15

Mentor Name: Rebecca Yarros
Mentee Name: Ashley Poston
Title: Heart of Iron
Category: YA
Genre: Sci-Fi
Word Count: 85K


Anastasia meets Firefly as a 17-year-old space pirate navigates the lies of a kingdom on the brink of a civil war to save her crew, and the android she loves.


The bar reeked of stale piss and beer.

Emma crinkled her nose as they entered, her shooter finger tapping nervously on her holstered pistol. Bars were one of her least favorite places. They smelled worse than the crewmen’s quarters on the Dossier—which usually gave off the aroma of heavy body spray and moldy cheese. She was also the youngest one in the bar by a good ten years. She hated being the youngest anywhere, since she probably had more experience in her left pinky than every one of the patrons combined.

Or so she told herself.

Beside her, Dion tugged down his hood to hide his face. “I still hold my argument that this is not a wise idea.”

“With an attitude like that it bloody ain’t.” Emma squinted in the low neon lights of the bar until her eyes adjusted. They made their way to a peeling leather booth, and scooted in. “Who’s to say they’ll even show?”

He shifted his metallic gaze to her, and lingered.

“Stop looking at me like that,” she muttered, elbowing his metal side. “You’ll give people ideas,” she joked.

“Oh no, not ideas,” he replied in his emotionless static-y voice. It sounded like a radio signal shifting in and out of white noise. “We should have informed the Captain of our whereabouts if this goes awry.”

“Your confidence in me is heartwarming, Di.”

“There is a seventy-three percent chance that—”

She put a hand up to him. “Don’t finish that. Don’t you bloody try.”


YA Entry #26 (Entry was moved, don’t mind the out of order number!)

Mentor Name: Ricki Schultz
Alternate: Tiana Smith
Title: Scratch That
Category: YA
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 60K


When Mia gets her hands on Cupid’s enchanted journal, she can’t help but do some high school matchmaking. The course of true love takes a detour in this modern adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Best friends weren’t supposed to keep secrets. But I could tell from the way Robyn tapped a staccato rhythm with her pencil, she was holding something back. Again.

I closed the French book I was supposed to be studying and fixed her with my best glare.

“You must be joking. Because there’s no way I heard you say that you’re going out of town. For two whole weeks in the middle of the school year.”

She dropped the pencil on the table and leaned forward. “Jealous much, Mia?” She lowered her voice so Mr. Phipps wouldn’t hear, but our study hall teacher was too engrossed in Better Homes and Gardens to notice anything going on in his classroom. “It’s a business trip. I have to go.”

“What kind of company sends a high school senior on a business trip?” Somehow, I knew it would come back to this. That she’d use her job as a buffer to keep me from asking more questions.

“You know I can’t answer that.” Robyn said. “Points for trying, though.” She leaned back in her chair and picked at her cuticles, signaling an end to the conversation.

Sometimes I liked to imagine she was a secret agent for the United States government. Because, yeah, that’d be pretty cool. Too bad Robyn was such an awful liar, making a career as a spy out of the question. Knowing her like I did, there was no way it was something sinister, so drugs or prostitution weren’t possibilities, and I really didn’t have any other theories.


**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.