YA Entry #1
Mentor: Dannie Morin
Alternate: Sean Lamb
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.
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
Title: REQUIEM FOR A THIEF
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
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
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
Title: THE TREASURE HUNT
Category: Young Adult
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
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
Title: NOTHING LEFT TO BURN
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
Title: ANYONE’S GHOST
Category: Young adult
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
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
Title: HAPPENS FOR A REASON
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?
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.”
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