MG Entry #1
Mentor Name: Stefanie Wass
Alternate Name: Rachel Sarah
Title: RULES FOR RUNNING AWAY
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:
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
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
Title: POCKET FULL OF POPPIES
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,
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,
she most likely sold them.
to those online yard sale sites,
the ones where people pay too much
for things that are already broken.
But she never buys anything,
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.
the next time she sees,
she’s going to
MG Entry #4
Mentor Name: Michelle Hauck
Alternate Name: Shellie Braeuner
Title: The War of the Roses
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.
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
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.
1932 US WOMEN’S OLYMPIC TRACK & FIELD TEAM
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
Title: THE QUEEN’S DAUGHTER
Category: Middle Grade
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
Title: DARK SKY’S ASHES
Category: Middle Grade
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
Title: THE ORDER OF DASTARDLY DEEDS
Category: Middle Grade
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.
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
Title: BETTER THAN EVER
Category: Middle Grade
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
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
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
Title: THE MYSTERY OF THE 13TH YEAR
Category: Upper Middle Grade
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
Title: DILLON AND THE INVASION STATION
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.