Sunday, July 20, 2014

August First Five Pages Workshop with Mentor Laurisa White Reyes

Laurisa White Reyes, our June mentor, is the Editor-in-Chief of Middle Shelf, a digital book review magazine for middle grade readers. She is also the author of three published novels: The Rock of Ivanore, The Last Enchanter and Contact, which comes out on June 23rd. A full-time mom of five children, Laurisa is currently pursuing her graduate degree in creative writing and also maintains the online blog directory Middle Grade Mania.

You can find Laurisa on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.



Along with Laurisa, workshop participants will be mentored by our usual cast:

Martina Boone, the workshop founder, loves reading and writing books about beautiful, vicious, magical worlds that intersect our own. She is the principal blogger at Adventures in YA Publishing, and the founding member of YA Series InsidersCOMPULSION, the first book of her Southern Gothic HEIRS OF WATSON ISLAND trilogy, will be available Fall 2014 from Simon and Schuster/Simon Pulse. You can reach her at AYAPLit [at] gmail dot com, on Twitter via@MartinaABoone or at http://www.martinaboone.com/.

Lisa Gail Green writes paranormal and fantasy. She is the author of THE BINDING STONE, the first novel in her DJINN series. She would most definitely have a werewolf for a pet if she weren't allergic. Find her at http://lisagailgreen.com or on Twitter as @LisaGailGreen.

Kimberly Sabatini is a former Special Education Teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom and a part-time dance instructor for three and four year olds. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and three boys. Kimberly writes Young Adult fiction and is represented by Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency. TOUCHING THE SURFACE was her debut novel. (Simon Pulse – Simon & Schuster, October 30, 2012) Stop by and see her on her website or on Twitter.

Julie Musil is represented by Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary. She writes Young Adult novels from her rural home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three sons. She’s an obsessive reader who loves stories that grab the heart and won’t let go. Stop by and say Hi on her blog or Twitter.

Susan Dennard is a reader, writer, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She used to be a marine biologist, but now she writes novels–and not novels about fish, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues. She lives in the Midwestern US with her French husband and Irish setter, and you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or Twitter. Her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, as well as the prequel, A DAWN MOST WICKED, and the sequel, A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY, are now available from HarperTeen!

Ron Smith writes television commercials for an ad agency in Chicago. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He’d rather be writing fiction full-time, and exploring worlds of wonder and imagination. He writes YA and MG fiction and is represented by Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services.  Say hello on his blog or on Twitter.

Miriam Forster is a recovering barista and former bookseller who's obsessed with anthropology, British television and stories of all kinds. Her debut fantasy CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS was published by HarperTeen in February 2013. She lives in Oregon with her husband and her cat. Find her on her blog or on Twitter.

Leslie S. Rose was an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre at UCLA for many years where several of her plays were produced. Her short stories appear in the ongoing Journeys of Wonder series and the anthology Paramourtal 2 by Cliffhanger Books. Currently she teaches in the 5th Grade trenches. YA fiction is her happy place for both reading and writing. Visitors welcome on Twitter and her blog: Yes, This Will Be on the Test

Erin Cashman's debut YA fantasy novel, THE EXCEPTIONALS, was named a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book. She primarily writes YA and middle grade fantasy while eating chocolate and drinking tea. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three children. Be sure to catch her blog and Twitter feeds.

Sheri Larsen is a lover of the otherworldly, and her sweet spot is writing for the average tween/teen who's not so average. But she write picture books and middle grade as well. She is represented by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary, and is also the creator of #WS4U!-a Facebook writer support group, and co-collaborator for Oasis for YA-my team YA site. Catch her on Twitter and on her blog.

Stasia Ward Kehoe is the author of YA novels THE SOUND OF LETTING GO and AUDITION, both published by Viking. She grew up performing at theaters along the eastern seaboard, then shifted from stage to page and has been writing fiction, marketing copy and educational materials for almost two decades! She holds a BA in English from Georgetown University and MA in Performance Studies from New York University, is represented by Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Managedment, and still enjoys choreographing the occasional musical. Stasia lives in western Washington state with her husband and four sons.Visit her online at on her website or Twitter

Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and all-around lover of words and those who create them. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, Counting Thyme, will be published by Putnam & Sons in 2016. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs. She's on the web at her website and on Twitter.

Kimberley Griffiths Little is an award-winning author of several Middle-Grade novels with Scholastic and her Young Adult trilogy FORBIDDEN will launch this Fall with Harpercollins after selling in a "significant" pre-empt. She grew up in San Francisco, but now lives in an adobe house on the banks of the Rio Grande with her chaotic, messy family. Please find her on on her website or on Twitter.




About the Book

Mira wants to die. She’s attempted suicide twice already and failed. Every time she comes in contact with another person, skin to skin, that person’s psyche uploads into hers. While her psychologist considers this a gift, for Mira it’s a curse from which she cannot escape.

To make matters worse, Mira’s father is being investigated for the deaths of several volunteer test subjects of the miracle drug Gaudium. Shortly after Mira’s mother starts asking questions, she ends up in a coma. Although her father claims it was an accident, thanks to her “condition” Mira knows the truth, but proving it just might get her killed.

"CONTACT is a page turner that will keep you guessing right along with Mira, right up until the last revelation. And it will make you reconsider the next time you wish you knew someone else’s secrets!" - Margaret Peterson Haddix, author of the Missing and The Shadow Children series

Goodreads

Monday, May 19, 2014

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Brown Rev 2

Name: Angela Brown
Genre: Middle Grade Fairy Tale Smash Up
Title: ONCE UPON A SUMMONS

Chapter One

The Replacement

While mom busied her fingers on the hem of my dress, I played a three on three, half-court basketball game in my mind. I had the ball, driving deep into the paint, ready to make the perfect layup when -

"Case, I need you to turn just a smidge, sweetie." Mom gently tugged the dress to the left so I'd know which way to move.

Now that I'd turned, I could see the dress better in Mom's full length mirror, or at least the parts of the mirror not draped in colorful silk and ribbons. A couple of sewing machines stood beside her drawing table where bundles of lace and fabric waited to be used. Tons of dresses filled her design studio. No surprise since the countdown was on for my sister's wedding, only four weeks to go.

I glanced to a corner where the wedding dress hung on a rack. Three other dresses hung next to it, all strappy, sparkly and identical, probably the bridesmaid's dresses. Exactly like my dress.

Wait, bridesmaid's dresses?

"Uh, Mom?" I lifted my hand up to my collarbone, feeling the straps and satin fabric against my palm, coming to what I hoped was the wrong conclusion.

"Yes, sweetie." Mom snagged a stickpin from the little stuffed red tomato beside her and slipped it into the dress hem.

"Is there a, uh, reason you're making my dress just like the bridesmaid dresses?" Mom hadn't said anything about designing a dress for me until this morning. I had tons of dresses in my closet to pick from. Actually, one dress was one too many as far as I was concerned. Give me a t-shirt and basketball shorts and I'm happy.

Mom took another pin from the tomato and worked it into the hem. Her hair swooped over part of her face, blocking her eyes from view. For the briefest moment, I thought I saw her hesitate.

When she sighed and dropped her hands into her lap, I knew something was wrong. "Case, there's something you need to know." She moved the stickpin holder to a nook in her sewing kit and patted the cushion beside her.

I stepped down from the stool, glancing from the dresses to Mom's face. She hooked her hair behind her ear so I got a better view of her eyes, brown like mine.

Dad often teased that I could fan people with my eyelashes. Mom said I was dad's little twin, from my high cheekbones and bright smile to my height. He called me his little banana pudding because my skin reminded him of the little vanilla wafer cookies. No one else called me that.

Just dad.

Like always, I couldn't tell what mom was thinking. But from the way her hands fidgeted in her lap, it wasn't good. "I don't mind," I said, hoping my question hadn't made her mad. "It's just, you know, people might think I'm a bridesmaid."

When I sat down beside her, Mom took my hands into hers. She looked me in the eyes then glanced away. "There's been a change of plans. You're going to be a bridesmaid."

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Not okay. I don't really want to do this. It would've been nice if someone would've asked me. Isn't there a law against twelve year olds being bridesmaids? There probably should be. If I said any of those thoughts out loud, my two days left on being grouded would probably turn into two weeks. I exhaled, letting the breath go. Leslie had always been there for me. When mom and dad were too busy with work, she never let me down. Ever. She even made it to all my basketball games. I opened my eyes.

"It's okay, Mom. If Leslie needs me, I - I can do it." Going to my sister's wedding was one thing. With as many people as she was inviting, I could blend in with the crowd. But being in it, having to stand up at the front of the church, still as a statue...no, I wasn't looking forward to that.

I wanted to hop out of all that fancy satin and lace and get into something made of cotton. My skin crawled from the girly-overload. Good thing I had time to get ready. Four whole weeks. I could do it, for Leslie.

Mom pulled me to her and held me close. "I'm glad you understand, sweetie. You see, Jesse has a situation. He, well, I don't want you to worry about the details. We might end up with half the guests attending, maybe less than that, since he and Leslie had to move the wedding up to this Saturday. One of the bridesmaids is out of town and won't be back in time. You were the perfect choice to take her place."

I don't know or care about what Mom said after that. It all sounded like blah, blah, blah once I realized that a) I had come to the right conclusion and didn't really like it and b) three months of training and practice were about to go down the drain.

"But Saturday - you know what I'm supposed to be doing Saturday." I yanked free from Mom's hug and bolted to my feet. "The bridesmaid thing I got. Okay, fine. But this Saturday? My Saturday? This isn't fair, Mom. Why can't they get married the next Saturday? What's so important that - " My voice cracked. I fought back a sob as I ran out of the studio. Mom called after me saying something I didn't understand. My heels click-clacked against the hardwood floor and stairs until I reached my bedroom, slamming the door behind me.

I glanced toward my Justin Timberlake poster. He sat forward on a couch, elbows on his knees, gazing down at me. Any other day, I’d stare at his cute-but-kinda-bad-boy look, catch myself before drool dripped to the floor, then move on. Not this time.

I paced the length of my room, back and forth, until I stopped in front of my calendar. Marked with a big red circle, Saturday stood out. For three months, me and my friends practiced for the Sports Jam. We'd saved up our allowances and paid the entry fees ourselves. That was a whole lot of candy and potato chips I sacrificed just to end up missing it now.

Tears stung the back of my eyes. "Jesse has a situation. Whatever."

I stumped over to my bed and flopped on it, tugging Dad's volume of fairy tales out from under my pillow. Lorealia, my favorite book in all the world. Not that he knew I had it. I wonder why dad hid it in the first place? None of that mattered. I just needed to read someone else's happily ever after since Jesse and his situation stole mine from me.

“This Saturday was supposed to be my day. Basketball at the Sports Jam, not playing replacement bridesmaid,” I grumbled. And yeah, grumbling wasn't going to change anything. No one cared if it was fair or not. This Saturday wasn't mines anymore. That's all there was to it.

Wiping a tear from my cheek, I curled up on the bed, snuggled close to the book. When I flipped the cover open, my bed rattled. The headboard knocked against the wall. I hopped off with a squeak just as it stopped. The book did a shimmer-glow-bounce and thunked to the floor.

I jumped back. My bedroom door clicked loudly when the lock slammed into place. I gasped, but that’s it. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything.

The book flipped open. Glitter, like tossed confetti, shot into the air and showered down. The pages fluttered back and forth.

My legs trembled, no longer stuck in place. Wobbling backwards, I turned around and wrapped my fingers around the knob, twisting and pulling. I chewed my bottom lip then remembered the jolt of the lock jamming home. I balled my hands into fists and banged against the door.

“Mom! Mom!” She had to hear me. She had to. Please!

I stopped when a soft female voice called out. “S.O.S. Fairy GIT to Fable Ranger. Fairy GIT to Fable Ranger. Please, we need your help.”


Chapter Two

A Rose I Suppose

I spun around, finding the book open to the first page. The spoken words faded on an echo and filled the usually blank page with chicken scratch, all straight lines and hard angles. I barely made out, “Touch here to confirm.” A red dot hovered over the page, winking in and out.

I crept forward. Not because I wanted to. Some invisible hook, rope, or both pulled me closer to the book. Honestly, I wanted to run the other way or pretend it was all a dream.

Or a nightmare.

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Becker Rev 2

Name: Jessica Becker
Genre: YA Paranormal
Title: The Body Thief

I never should have left the house. I debated this even as I sat shivering on one of the stone-cold benches planted along the perimeter of the fair. I ticked off the reasons in my head. Summer project for school. Babysitting my cousin Hazel. The bodies of dead girls that kept showing up on new moon nights.

Needless to say, this last fact changed the very atmosphere of the fair itself. There were less people here than normal, or at least less females. The truth though: no one knew why teenaged girls tended to die on this night. They weren’t murdered or anything. That would have been easier to understand. And according to the know-it-all neighbor next door, they didn’t die painfully either. The girls just dropped dead. Not violently at all. Just gone. It could happen at home or while waiting for coffee at The Shack. But whenever you heard a story about eleven girls dying in your town, you tended to think about it. And I did. A lot.

In the end, Hazel convinced me to take her to the fair. No amount of card playing or cookie bribes could deter her. She argued that her mom would be closer in case something did happen and that rides and fried ice cream were the perfect distraction. I guess I agreed with her. A little.

It was the last weekend of July and too cold to be considered summer. Peddler’s Fair weekend was a local tradition that wouldn’t be deterred by an untimely “coincidence.” It was erected within the large parking lot in front of Ojai Valley high school. Trees separated us from the main road, but I still had a clear view of the bell tower on the other side. Rows of white tents lined one side of the rectangle with food trucks parked opposite. Roller coasters creaked and whirred around bends and loops. I loved the fair. I loved the food on sticks and games no one ever really won, and the way people raced from one ride to the next. I loved the smell of barbecue and spun sugar intermingled with the sticky sweetness of everything fried. I even loved the awful music pouring from the house of mirrors.

My best friend, Jai Bennet, glanced in my direction with a lopsided grin. He wasn’t fazed by the new moon stories. Jai, who chased creepy stories to thrill some weird fascination. He liked to be scared.

“You okay, Callie?” He asked in his too-concerned voice as he sorted our ride tickets.

I nodded.

“Then stop looking like that,” he said.

I snagged a piece of funnel cake I held balanced on my knees. “Like what?”

“Like you’re going to puke. Like the whole world is about to explode.”

“I’m not.” I fiddled with the ring around my thumb, and watched the reflection of the strung lights flicker in the puddles on the street. Food wrappers littered the ground.

“You’re sitting there like a lump. I thought this was your favorite weekend?”

“Shut up. I’m fine.” I glanced at the clock. The minutes pressed forward. My aunt would close up her tent in the next hour and shepherd us all home. She’d tell us stories of all the people that sought her advice, making her work seem important. For the first time ever, I welcomed my curfew.

Hazel cozied into my shoulder, watching me closely. She probably sensed my restlessness. Hazel wasn’t like other ten year olds. She carried this seriousness within her and rarely spoke. She used big words and read books I could never finish. And she often stared at me like one of her books, like I was some story she was meant to discover.

“Think we’ll know the next one?” I asked Jai. I didn’t look at him. I didn’t want him to see the worry in my eyes.

“It’s not even going to happen.”

“Don’t tell me you’re like every other person that thinks it’s a coincidence.” I said coincidence like it tasted sour in my mouth.

His eyes lit up. “Just stop. Nothing’s going to happen.”

I smirked.

He nudged me in the side.

Maybe he was right. Maybe I worried for nothing. But it would happen somewhere. And how could it be stopped if no one ever saw it coming?

A girl with dark hair and ivory skin sidled up next to Jai. I turned away as she touched his shoulder in a familiar way. Jai laughed and said something into her ear. It could be her.

Hell, it could be me. Well, it could if my skin lightened a couple of shades. And my eyes would have to change color. Most of the girls had blue eyes and mine were decidedly mixed. One brown and one blue. Still.

The girl faced me and raised her eyebrows in recognition. “Oh, you were Raven’s sister, right?” Were. Past tense. As in no longer. Now I was just sister-less. The word pinged inside my head like an annoying reminder. The girl paid no attention. It was just a word after all. Raven’s sister. Even dead, she was my identifying feature.

Jai glanced in my direction, looking almost as if she struck him. The mention of Raven would forever haunt him no matter how much time passed. He didn’t need to hear her name to remember, he had his silver hooked scar on his cheek for that. It faded to almost nothing in the last year. Almost.

I bit my lip and tried not to think of her. I tried not to think of how she fell asleep while driving. I tried not to think of her crumpled car. And I especially tried not to think that she died exactly one month before all this weirdness started. Funny thing though: as soon as you tried not to think of something, then it stuck around for an uncomfortably long time. So, I did what I did best—I avoided eye contact and looked up. I swallowed the knot in my throat and counted to ten.

The girl prattled on and on, and it wasn’t until she said goodbye that I realized I hadn’t heard a word.

“Hey, Callie?” I could tell he had been saying my name for a while by the way his eyebrows pinched together. He pulled a handful of change from his pocket and shook it in his hand like dice. “Want to go on a ride or something? Or get some more food?” He turned towards the row of food trucks lining the street. Teriyaki beef sticks, corn dogs, brisket sandwiches, fried onion blossoms, chocolate covered bacon…

Hazel leaned forward. Her sandy hair fell over her shoulder, matching her hazel eyes completely. She was tanned like a bottle of honey and dotted with freckles across her nose. “I should take Hazel back to my aunt,” I said.

“Do you want me to come with?” He asked. “Winnie said she’d read my palm for five bucks.”

“I just saw someone go into her tent. You should eat or whatever.”

“Alright. I’ll be back then.” Jai smiled and in this light, the scar on his face bloomed silver. He spun on his heel, an almost graceful move considering his height. Jai was freakishly tall. Between that and his aquamarine t-shirt, he made it easy to spot him in the crowds.

Out of the silence, Hazel asked, “Do you see anything?” She pressed her chubby hand into mine and gave a gentle squeeze.

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Simpson Rev 2

Name: Melody Simpson
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Title: Break Along the Fault

Karsyn

A boy I’ve never seen before shot me. On purpose.

I don’t know anything about guns but I saw him raise his. Look me in my eyes and pull the trigger. The fall to the floor hurts. Bodies scurry around me, towels are thrown at my waist. My heart throbs so fast it might explode.

If I had seen him aim the gun sooner, I would have run for cover. There was no time for cover. There was no chance for me. Blood seeps from my chest. Cold dances around me as ice packs land on the kitchen tiles near my feet. My focus blurs as the outline of the letters in my name draw out before me on my grave.

My grave. Mom and Dad and Jedediah will have to bury me. I’m only sixteen. This can’t happen now. I haven’t married...graduated…run my first marathon. I was training. Hard. I put my body through the ringer. I’ll never be able to run again.

“Take her to...” a voice trails off even though it’s the only thing I want to focus on right now. The pulsing in my ears quiet. I can’t hear a sound besides my fading heartbeat. I want to hear my father’s hearty laugh, my boyfriend’s favorite swampy tunes, my best friend’s triumph when she scores the best stadium seats. Never again.

The blood bubbling under my hands, the alcohol being held in a stranger’s by my side, I can’t smell. Will I ever be able to smell my mother’s tangerine scent again? This party is draining every bit of me.

The weak, hairy arms pulling me up, I can’t see. I need to see my brother. Where is he? I need to see him one last time so I don’t forget his face. I need to call out his name one more time so I can hear the syllables form in my mouth but his nickname is all that comes to mind and even that’s too much to say. Diaho.

A girl’s long, auburn hair brushes against my skin, tangles in the red on my chest as she pulls me to the side or forward. I have no sense of direction. Is she moving me to the bathroom? Those few feet away feel like millions. In science or history or health, I don’t know, we learned you should never move an injured person. Call 911. Wait for the first responders. They’re not waiting.

They’re killing me. Two hands, three, four are on me now. Dragging me up, up, up and I’m falling. Out of my skin.

“Karsyn Dale Grant, please step forward.”

The beanstalk colored walls of Moira’s kitchen surrounded me less than twenty seconds ago. The sweat of a hundred people filled my nose a minute before. The Peach Smirnoff lingering on my tongue from a kiss is gone too. I can’t feel my chest, my toes, I can’t feel. Darkness stands before me. Where am I? What is this place? Am I…dead?

Somehow I manage to turn around and my surroundings come into focus. It wasn’t darkness but stars. They’re all around me. Oh my God, I’m dead? Really dead. Alone. From Mom and Dad, Diaho, Moira and my love. My first and only love. The stars stretch out for miles in every direction but there’s only me in between without a map.

No prom. No graduation. No reconciliations with old friends. No trip to Paris. No more family reunions in Italy. No kids. Who can live these memories with me? No one. Ever. I’ve reached the end.

Take me back. Please, take me back now.

Turning around with a destination but no direction, four yards ahead sits a desk larger than any I’ve ever seen, even in courtrooms on TV, with the finest maple finish and three worn men perched behind it. All three could have walked off the Mayflower but it’s the busy one in the middle who catches my attention. His voice thunders through me, holding me frozen in place. “Grant, move forward,” he says louder, still dry but with less patience.

I was being carried away and now I’m higher than the planes I traveled on for half marathons around the country. Mom wanted to take me to see the world. I told her to save her flight attendant perks for when I’m ready for the marathons.

What happened? The words won’t come out.

Taking documents from the man on the left and stamping the papers individually before passing them to the man on the right, the working middle man doesn’t wait for me. “As of this moment, 9:52pm on Friday, June 23, 2017, the council is thrilled to inform you that you are officially a guide for the living.”

Stamp.

“For every major and minor violation of the moral system which you have committed in your sixteen years of life on earth, you are now required to right each wrong by assisting the living as they face similar conflicts.”

Stamp.

“You may show yourself to the individual or push the idea into their mind. This assignment is expected to be completed in seven years time. It is essential this list be maintained. Revenge and, or other forms of closure you may have in mind are not encouraged. This is your closure.”

Who’s system? I push myself to speak. “What system?”

The middle man’s eyes cut deep. He motions for me to step closer. “You are not a guardian angel. You are not protecting anyone. The only being you are protecting is yourself. Here is your inventory of wrongs.”

Without giving myself permission, I reach for the scroll with both hands but find I only need one. The scroll isn’t heavy at all. This is it? I let my hand drop a little to confirm the weight.

Before I’ve opened the scroll, he begins again. “What you currently see on the scroll are your wrongdoings from the last month of your life. When you have completed month 198, month 197 will appear.”

I was shot and I’m the one holding all the regrets. I hope I’m still here, wherever here is, to see my killer right this wrong which brought me here. I begin to laugh, unable to sort out my emotions. I’m dead. “What happens if I don’t do this?”

He motions towards the scroll and I hand it back. He stretches the parchment all the way out as I lean forward to read the text at the bottom.

On Monday, June 23, 2024, upon completing her task as a guide, the soul of Karsyn Dale Grant will acquire peace for eternity. Upon failure, the soul of Ms. Grant will be bound to the Moneo plane to be consumed by her remaining faults until her soul breaks apart. Time Remaining: 61,360 hours.

“Breaks apart?” I whisper.

He blinks. “Your soul will exist forever but you will never be whole again.”

No. The Peace in RIP has to be earned? No one ever tells you that. No one ever can. How can anyone do what’s being asked in seven years time? Is seven years up here the same as down there? It can’t be. It can’t.

I wasn’t afraid of dying. I ran from everything. Now I’m not so sure I’m right about anything.

He hands me back the scroll. “Questions?”

“Yes,” I say with force, deciding what to ask first. Who are you? How did you get this gig? Who shot me? Why me?

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Griffin Rev 2

Kelly Griffin

Genre: Young Adult

Title: The Reckoner

Chapter 1

The white invitation was glaring in the warm sunlight, the edges starting to wear from the touch of skin. It was smooth underneath her fingertips, the imprinted design and words bringing life to the document.



Miss Evelyn Zarn, you have been accepted into our mentorship program for the mentally gifted. We are pleased to...



The edges flickered up and the paper fought to take flight. She gently regained control and folded up the document, tucking it away carefully in her bag, sliding it into a pocket to shelter it from the relentless wind. She was going to need it; it was her ticket after all.


“Evie!” a voice called out, though the sound seemed to slow as it reached Evie’s ears as though she was surrounded by a bubble, the outside world kept at bay as she thought. But a few more calls seemed to burst its skin, sending her senses back into reality.

“Yes!” Evie cried, standing up from the bench. She fumbled a moment to maintain her footing, though the boat was gliding serenely across the water. The young woman who was calling for her was hanging from the boom of the vessel, one arm stretched out so she was practically dangling over the water. She was dressed in colorful vestments, a patchwork dress and purple short coat. Her hair was a curly mess because of the wind, but Evie could still make out the mischievous golden eyes beneath it. Her worn boots clung to the ship in desperation, but the woman cared very little for their plight. “Adelaide, you’re going to get yourself killed!”

“I highly doubt that.” Adelaide turned around so she could jump back down onto the deck, her steps springy and light. She grinned wildly, the hoop earrings jangling around her face. “I’ve got you and luck on my side.”

“I’m not sure I should be your fall back plan.” Evie crossed her arms, frowning a little. She was a little taller in stature and her long blonde hair fell below her shoulders. Her white jacket and skirt had seen better days since she was given them in Revilian, but memories couldn’t tear her from them. It had been over a year to the day since she left that city behind, following her hopes and dreams into the great unknown. She shook her head, not wanting to get lost in a dream. She had plenty of time for that once she wasn’t preparing for one of the biggest moments of her life thus far.

The sails billowed and rustled in the moving wind, pushing the boat quickly over the rough surf. The water crashed against the sides, the white caps fighting for a taste of the deck. “Evelyn. You’re a maritara, one of the best. Of course they want you to come to Nevvara.” Adelaide shifted her weight to one side and looked as if she was sizing Evie up.

Evie smiled at her warmly, looking out at the horizon. Small dots of green had appeared, growing in size as the vessel approached the direction of the Southern Islands. “I think if they thought me to be a master of my craft they wouldn’t have invited me to be a guest student,” she shrugged.

“What did I say to you the day you saved my life?” Adelaide put a hand on Evie’s shoulder. Her fingers were clad in jeweled rings, all of different stones.

“You mean the day you tried to steal from me?” Evie shook her head. “You said that I was capable of great things.”

“I think this voyage to Nevvara is just the beginning. Adventure is beckoning to us, leading us into the fray,” Adelaide mused, dropping her hand to move back towards the front of the boat.

“And with a little luck I’ll be ready.” Evie let her voice drop a little into a quiet ending.

“You’ll be fine, you’re a natural.” Adelaide spun on her toes. Evie thought she was vibrant and vivacious and it seemed as if her entire life was moving. She was a Wanderer, one of the lost people. They didn’t consider themselves lost though, that was a colloquial term for them. Instead they were what the name suggested, a nomadic people that was always on the move, no place to call home.

“Tell that to my parents, I think there isn’t a single thing that isn’t broken in the Zarn household. My mind does funny things on anger,” She laughed, an infectious smile spreading from ear to ear. She returned to her bench, sitting down next to her pack. The wind blew her beautiful hair out of her face, her eyes squinting against its strong current. The islands were coming into view, growing from green specs to defined masses. She took in a deep breath, the air laced with promise. Her nervousness lay in wait in her stomach, hiding for the moment as the awe of it all took over. She was full of emotion, just waiting to burst.

The boat slid over the water with ease, the water parting as though it was sliced in half. The crisp sea air penetrated everything, leaving a salty smell behind. Evie dreamed of possibilities, of the things she would find in Nevvara , the capital city of the Southern elhuman Islands. Her thoughts ran back to the small dreams that she kept always. She wanted to be stronger, to reach the hopes her parents had for her, the ones she had for herself. But she needed help, and help was finally offered. She was determined to make her stay in Nevvara worth her time. There was no greater honor than to be a student of the famous Order, the scientific conclave known throughout the world. It was easily the ultimate nod of respect for a young mutation. If she was going to be able to use her mind differently, to manipulate the world with it, she was going to have to put in the work. Besides, the Order had asked for her, no one else. She wasn’t about to let anyone down, that was her resolve.

Only a few more hours passed before they reached the shore, the boat brought into harbor by a small dingy. They docked and made their preparations to leave, gathering their scanty belongings. They traveled light at all times, Evie and Adelaide had grown used to living without much to their name.

Adelaide was quick to jump off the deck onto the wooden platform, with Evie in careful tow. Evie couldn’t help but give a wistful look back at the sea, a look back at the mainland she had come to know. Resolving herself she breathed in deeply, checking to make sure the invitation still sat in her pocket.

The short walk up the creaky wooden dock led to a single individual, a man dressed in long white robes with a circular pendant hanging from his neck. He nodded as Evie and Adelaide approached, a sign of respect. The girls nodded in return, though an awkwardness was pervasive. They came to a halt after descending down the stairs, waiting for some kind of direction. A surge of sickness was welling up inside her, spurring on a faster heartbeat. This wasn’t a dream anymore.

The man bowed towards Evie, but the feeling in the pit of her stomach did not disappear. “Evelyn Zarn, you honor us with your presence. I am Ricard. Please, I have come to escort you to the temple where the High Priest awaits your arrival,” he said, doing little to dissuade her from the nausea.

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Chatur Rev 2

Name: Nurin Chatur
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Title: The Incoherency of Now

Hudson, Ruth Constance. Born July 4, 1916-(insert date). Mrs. Hudson of New York City passed away on Saturday (date) at the age of 97. Mrs. Hudson leaves behind five children (Delia Johnson, Jim Hudson, Matthew Hudson, Josephine Grant and James Hudson), 10 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren as well as many other relatives, friends and members of her community. She will be sorely missed. Donations to her family may be made to the American Heart Foundation.

Even though we’ve gone digital in every other way, I swear I can hear the hands turn on the old battery powered clock that hangs in the New York Post’s Offices, marking the painfully slow passing of the work day and the ever approaching deadline I have to meet. I read the obituary over again, jaw grinding in a yawn. I’ve been doing this for over a year now and even though I’m often bored to tears, it still sometimes strikes me that what I’m writing right now is the last time someone’s name will appear anywhere. For some, it may be the only time that they’ll have any sort of public recognition of their lives. That’s why, even though I hate my job, I try to take notice of the person’s whose obituary I’m editing and find a way to respect their passing.

It’s strange how the obituaries don’t seem to be about the person who died but really seem to be a proclamation about their family. Take Mrs. Hudson, for instance. Sure, she’s left behind this massive progeny who will hopefully continue to procreate until the end of time. That’s her mark on the world. Still, I’m uncomfortable with how we focus on the work of her reproductive organs instead of on her own personal thoughts, fears and dreams.

For instance, is it important to tell the world about her great-grandchildren in this short blurb? Why? Is this to console us by saying that there’s part of Mrs. Hudson still alive and traipsing around New York City in a stroller?I guess we’ll never know the intent since she’s dead and other people get to decide what will be written in her obituary, write the ending of her life narrative, if you will. Pondering these things makes work pass by, while simultaneously reinforcing my existential crisis.

I rub my eyes, trying to stave off a headache. If this is how the ideal obituary is supposed to look like, mine will be sorely lacking considering how I don’t have mini-me’s wandering about. I wonder what mine should include. If some bored soul waiting at the doctor’s office ended up skimming over it in the paper, I want them to get a sense of me, so I can live on for a few more minutes. I chew on a useless ink pen as I write.

Moore, Eleanor Ellie Scott. Born September 11, 1989. Ms. Scott, formerly of Therie, PA passed away (hopefully not today..) in New York City at the age of 24. Ms. Scott leaves behind those who are forced to love her which include, her parents- also known as those who participated in her making- as well as her Aunt Susannah Elis and the stray friends she has picked up during her rather stunted life. Ellie also leaves behind a pile of student loans, dreams of a successful journalism career and her life companion, her dog, Rufus. Memorial donations will be gratefully accepted at the Save Rufus from the Shelter fund.

I wasted fifteen minutes on that. The NYP just paid me to write my own obituary but whatever. Even though the journalism industry is in the shitter, it’s not like they’ll miss the cash. After all, it’ll save the lackey hired after me from having to write it.

A light blinks out from the corner of my eye. It’s my phone, nudging at me in the subtle way it does when it’s already been turned on silent. Zach. I pick up even though I should be working and my chest clenches and my toes are warm even though I’ve known him forever.

Even though I’m aflutter, he’s all business. “We’re still on for tonight?” is how he greets me, because his break-times are short. His voice is like a croissant, buttery and smooth and though fifteen year old me would squeal internally about his choice of the word “we,” 24 year old me understands “we” means “our friends” not “Zach+Ellie.”

“Definitely. I’ll let everyone know to meet at 9ish?” We chat for another minute and then I hang up the phone. It’s just like me to move to one of the most exciting cities in the world and be mooning over the boy next door. I smile sloppily at the ceiling, neglecting the gazillion pieces I have to churn out today.

Sierra pokes her head over my cubicle. She’s frowning again. I guess obituary writers aren’t supposed to be bright and chipper. Nor are they supposed to use their phones during work hours.

“Eleanor,” Sierra says as if she’s my superior instead of the other lackey they hired a mere 4 months before me, “are you finished with your pieces, they have to be run at four you know. We don’t want our department to submit them late!”

She’s huffy with importance, thin lips pursued. Not sure what got her panties in a wad. She’s at least on the Classifieds section instead of the Obituaries, so it’s not like she’s thinking about dead people all day. However, some of the ads that are submitted are for items that should be six feet under. You know, like at a dump.

“Don’t worry, Sierra” I grit my teeth into a superficial smile, “they’ll be done by 3:30.” Her lips almost de-purse, but they’re so sunken into her hollow cheeks that I can’t be sure.

“Well, since you’re almost done,” she pauses for a second, looking at me intently, “ Wait, do you have ink in your mouth?”

So that’s the bitter taste that’s been swirling on my tongue. I gulp down some more coffee. “Nope, it must be the lighting,” I say, hoping my voice doesn’t betray the lie. “So you were saying?”

“Right. The contest is open now. Oh wait, ” her laugh thrills through her lips, “You’re pretty new here, do you know what I’m talking about?”

My heart sinks. She’s only talking about the NYP’s famous Young Writer’s Contest, the one that all would-be-journalists dream of winning. I’d thought about entering this year, but I feel even more unprepared for it as I did during my undergrad. There at least I was writing essays, pieces for the school journal and other assignments. Now I spend all my time rewording the phrase, “It is with the greatest sorrow that we announce the passing of..”

“Um, it sounds familiar but I haven’t heard of any details,” I lie. I can’t imagine entering against her. Despite all of her uppity-ness, Sierra has a fancy Ivy League Journalism Degree while I’m from a random liberal college upstate. Just thinking about entering makes me nauseous. Competing against Sierra means that I’ll be perpetually upchucking my lunch.

“I’m going to enter,” she whispers like we’re co-conspirators, not co-workers who do our best to tolerate each other.

“That’s great!” My voice is falsely chipper; she smiles and starts to move back to her desk, head tall as if she’s already won. I watch her leave, gnawing on my inky pen.

“So am I,” I finally say. She doesn’t hear me.

Monday, May 12, 2014

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Griffin Rev 1

Kelly Griffin

Genre: Young Adult

Title: The Reckoner


Chapter 1

The white invitation was glaring in the warm sunlight, the edges starting to wear from the touch of skin. The paper felt smooth underneath her fingertips, the imprinted design and words bringing life to the document. The filigree inlay dressed up the words, but the invitation was plainly written. The edges flickered in the air they traveled, the paper almost fighting to take flight. She folded up the document again after studying it for a moment, the words pouring over in her mind. She tucked it away carefully in her bag, sliding it into a pocket to shelter it from the oppressive wind. She was going to need it; it was her ticket after all.

“Evie!” a voice called out, though the sound seemed to slow as it reached the reader’s ears. She was surrounded by a bubble, the outside world kept at bay as she thought. But a few more calls seemed to burst its skin, sending her senses back into reality.

“Yes!” Evie cried, standing up from the bench. She fumbled a moment to maintain her footing, though the boat was gliding serenely across the water. The young woman who was calling for her was hanging from the boom of the vessel, one arm stretched out so she was practically dangling over the water. She was dressed in colorful vestments, a patchwork dress and purple short coat. Her hair was a curly mess because of the wind, but Evie could still make out the mischievous golden eyes beneath it. Her worn boots clung to the ship in desperation, but the woman cared very little for their plight. “Adelaide, you’re going to get yourself killed!”

“I highly doubt that,” Adelaide responded, turning around so she could jump back down onto the deck, her steps springy and light. She grinned wildly, the hoop earrings jangling around her face. “I’ve got you and luck on my side.”

“I’m not sure I should be your fall back plan,” Evie said, crossing her arms. She was a little taller in stature and her long blonde hair fell below her shoulders. Her white jacket and skirt had seen better days since she was given them in Revilian, but memories couldn’t tear her from them. It had been over a year to the day since she left that city behind, following her hopes and dreams into the great unknown. She shook her head, not wanting to get lost in a dream. She had plenty of time for that once she wasn’t preparing for one of the biggest moments of her life thus far.

The sails billowed and rustled in the moving wind, pushing the boat quickly over the rough surf. The water crashed against the sides, the white caps fighting for a taste of the deck. “I think you’re a lot more powerful than you think you are. I mean, you’re a maritara, or really the very specifically powerful one. Why else would the Order ask for you to come to Nevvara?” Adelaide added, one hand on her hip. She had shifted her weight to one side and looked as if she was sizing Evie up.

Evie smiled at her warmly, looking out at the horizon. Small dots of green had appeared, growing in size as the vessel approached the direction of the Southern Islands. “I think if they thought me to be a master of my craft they wouldn’t have invited me to be a guest student,” she said simply.

“What did I say to you the day you saved my life?” Adelaide asked her, putting a hand on Evie’s shoulder. Her fingers were clad in jeweled rings, all of different stones.

“You mean the day you tried to steal from me?” Evie laughed, shaking her head. “You said that I was capable of great things.”

“I think this voyage to Nevvara is just the beginning. Adventure is beckoning to us, leading us into the fray,” Adelaide mused, dropping her hand to move back towards the front of the boat.

“And with a little luck I’ll be ready,” Evie told Adelaide.

“You’ll be fine, you’re a natural,” Adelaide responded, spinning on her toes. Evie thought she was vibrant and vivacious and it seemed as if her entire life was moving. She was a Wanderer, one of the lost people. They didn’t consider themselves lost though, that was a colloquial term for them. Instead they were what the name suggested, a nomadic people that was always on the move, no place to call home.

“Tell that to my parents, I think there isn’t a single thing that isn’t broken in the Zarn household. My mind does funny things on anger,” She laughed, an infectious smile spreading from ear to ear. She returned to her bench, sitting down next to her pack. The wind blew her beautiful hair out of her face, her eyes squinting against its strong current. The islands were coming into view, growing from green specs to defined masses. She took in a deep breath, the air laced with promise. Her nervousness lay in wait in her stomach, hiding for the moment as the awe of it all took over. She was full of emotion, just waiting to burst.

The boat slid over the water with ease, the water parting as though it was sliced in half. The crisp sea air penetrated everything, leaving a salty smell behind. Evie dreamed of possibilities, of the things she would find in Nevvara , the capital city of the Southern elhuman Islands. Her thoughts ran back to the small dreams that she kept always. She wanted to be stronger, to reach the hopes her parents had for her, the ones she had for herself. But she needed help, and help was finally offered. She was determined to make her stay in Nevvara worth her time. There was no greater honor than to be a student of the famous Order, the scientific conclave known throughout the world. It was easily the ultimate nod of respect for a young mutation. If she was going to be able to use her mind differently, to manipulate the world with it, she was going to have to put in the work. Besides, the Order had asked for her, no one else. She wasn’t about to let anyone down, that was her resolve.

Only a few more hours passed before they reached the shore, the boat brought into harbor by a small dingy. They docked and made their preparations to leave, gathering their scanty belongings. They traveled light at all times, Evie and Adelaide had grown used to living without much to their name.

Adelaide was quick to jump off the deck onto the wooden platform, with Evie in careful tow. Evie couldn’t help but give a wistful look back at the sea, a look back at the mainland she had come to know. Resolving herself she breathed in deeply, checking to make sure the invitation still sat in her pocket.

The short walk up the creaky wooden dock led to a single individual, a man dressed in long white robes with a circular pendant hanging from his neck. He nodded as Evie and Adelaide approached, a sign of respect. The girls nodded in return, though an awkwardness was pervasive. They came to a halt after descending down the stairs, waiting for some kind of direction. Evie felt a surge of sickness welling up inside her, spurring on a faster heartbeat. This wasn’t a dream anymore.

The man bowed towards Evie, but the feeling in the pit of her stomach did not disappear. “Evelyn Zarn, you honor us with your presence. I am Ricard. Please, I have come to escort you to the temple where the High Priest awaits your arrival,” he said, doing little to dissuade her from the nausea.

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Becker Rev 1

Name: Jessica Becker
Genre: YA Paranormal
Title: The Body Thief

I never should have left the house. I debated this even as I sat shivering on one of the stone-cold benches planted along the perimeter of the fair. I ticked off the reasons in my head. Summer project for school. Babysitting my cousin Hazel. The bodies of dead girls that kept showing up on new moon nights.



Needless to say, this last fact changed the very atmosphere of the fair itself. There were less people here than normal, or at least less females. The truth though: no one knew why teenaged girls tended to die on this night. They weren’t murdered or anything. That would have been easier to understand. The girls just dropped dead. Not violently. Not painfully. Just gone. It could happen at home or while waiting for coffee at The Shack. But whenever you heard a story about eleven girls dying in your town, you tended to think about it. And I did. A lot.



In the end, Hazel convinced me to take her to the fair. No amount of card playing or cookie bribes could deter her. She argued that her mom would be closer in case something did happen and that rides and fried ice cream were the perfect distraction. I guess I agreed with her. A little.



It was the last weekend of July and too cold to be considered summer. The fair emerged within the large parking lot in front of Ojai Valley high school. Trees separated us from the main road, but I still had a clear view of the bell tower on the other side. Rows of white tents lined one side of the rectangle with food trucks parked opposite. Roller coasters creaked and whirred around bends and loops. I loved the fair. I loved the food on sticks and games no one ever really won, and the way people raced from one ride to the next. I loved the smell of barbecue and spun sugar intermingled with the sticky sweetness of everything fried. I even loved the awful music pouring from the house of mirrors.



My best friend, Jai Bennet, glanced in my direction with a smirk. He wasn’t fazed by the new moon stories. Jai, who chased creepy stories to thrill some weird fascination. He liked to be scared.



“You okay, Callie?” He asked in his too-concerned voice as he sorted our ride tickets.



I nodded.



“Then stop looking like that,” he said.



I snagged a piece of funnel cake I held balanced on my knees. “Like what?”



“Like you’re going to puke. Like the whole world is about to explode.”



“I’m not.” I fiddled with the ring around my thumb, and watched the reflection of the strung lights flicker in the puddles on the street. Food wrappers littered the ground.



“You’re sitting there like a lump. I thought this was your favorite weekend?”



“Shut up. I’m fine.” I glanced at the clock. The minutes pressed forward. My aunt would close up her tent in the next hour and shepherd us all home. She’d tell us stories of all the people that sought her advice, making her work seem important. For the first time ever, I welcomed my curfew.



Hazel cozied into my shoulder, watching me closely. She probably sensed my restlessness. Hazel wasn’t like other ten year olds. She carried this seriousness within her and rarely spoke. She used big words and read books I could never finish. And she often stared at me like one of her books, like I was some story she was meant to discover.



“Think we’ll know her?” I asked Jai. I didn’t look at him. I didn’t want him to see the worry in my eyes.



“It’s not even going to happen.”



“Don’t tell me you’re like every other person that thinks it’s a coincidence.” I said coincidence like it tasted sour in my mouth.



His eyes lit up. “Just stop. Nothing’s going to happen.”



I smirked.



He nudged me in the side.



Maybe he was right. Maybe I worried for nothing. But it would happen somewhere. And how could it be stopped if no one ever saw it coming?



A girl with dark hair and skin the color of bleached parchment sidled up next to Jai. I turned away as she touched his shoulder in a familiar way. Jai laughed and said something into her ear. It could be her.



Hell, it could be me. Well, it could if my skin lightened a couple of shades. And my eyes would have to change color. Most of the girls had blue eyes and mine were decidedly mixed. One brown and one blue. Still.



The girl faced me and raised her eyebrows in recognition. “Oh, you were Raven’s sister, right?” Were. Past tense. As in no longer. Now I was just sister-less. The word pinged inside my head like an annoying reminder. The girl paid no attention. It was just a word after all. Raven’s sister. Even dead, she was my identifying feature.



Jai glanced in my direction with a worried frown. He looked almost as if she struck him. The mention of Raven would forever haunt him no matter how much time passed. He didn’t need to hear her name to remember, he had his silver hooked scar on his cheek for that. It faded to almost nothing in the last year. Almost.



I bit my lip and tried not to think of her. I tried not to think of how she fell asleep while driving. I tried not to think of her crumpled car. And I especially tried not to think that she died exactly one month before all this weirdness started. Funny thing though: as soon as you tried not to think of something, then it stuck around for an uncomfortably long time. Like the one time I tried to stop biting my nails. It didn’t work that time either. So, I did what I did best—I avoided eye contact and looked up. I swallowed the knot in my throat and counted to ten.



The girl prattled on and on, and it wasn’t until she said goodbye that I realized I hadn’t heard a word.



“Hey, Callie?” I could tell he had been saying my name for a while by the way his eyebrows pinched together. He pulled a handful of change from his pocket and shook it in his hand like dice. “Want to go on a ride or something? Or get some more food?” He turned towards the row of food trucks lining the street. Teriyaki beef sticks, corn dogs, brisket sandwiches, fried onion blossoms, chocolate covered bacon…



Hazel leaned forward. Her sandy hair fell over her shoulder, matching her hazel eyes completely. She was tanned like a bottle of honey and dotted with freckles across her nose. “I should take Hazel back to my aunt,” I said.



“Do you want me to come with?” He asked. “Winnie said she’d read my palm for five bucks.”



“I just saw someone go into her tent. You should eat or whatever.”



“Alright. I’ll be right back then.” Jai smiled and in this light, the scar on his face bloomed silver. He spun on his heel, an almost graceful move considering his height. Jai was freakishly tall. Between that and his aquamarine t-shirt, he made it easy to spot him in the crowds.



Out of the silence, Hazel asked, “Do you see anything?” She pressed her chubby hand into mine and gave a gentle squeeze.

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Brown Rev 1

Name: Angela Brown
Genre: Middle Grade Fairy Tale Smash Up
Title: ONCE UPON A SUMMONS

Chapter One

Dreading Dots

While mom busied her fingers on the hem of my dress, I played a three on three, half-court basketball game in my mind. I had the ball, driving deep into the paint, ready to make the perfect layup when -

"Case, I need you to turn just a smidge, sweetie." Mom gently tugged the dress to the left so I'd know which way to move.

Now that I'd turned, I could see the dress better in Mom's full length mirror, or at least the parts of the mirror not draped in colorful silk and ribbons. A couple of sewing machines stood beside her drawing table where bundles of lace and fabric waited to be used. Tons of dresses filled her design studio. No surprise since the countdown was on for my sister's wedding, only four weeks to go.

I glanced to a corner where the wedding dress hung on a rack. Three other dresses hung next to it, all strappy, sparkly and identical, probably the bridesmaid's dresses. Exactly like my dress.

Wait, bridesmaid's dresses?

"Uh, Mom?" I lifted my hand up to my collarbone, feeling the straps and silk fabrics against my palm, coming to what I hoped was the wrong conclusion.

"Yes, sweetie." Mom snagged a stickpin from the little stuffed red tomato beside her and slipped it into the dress hem.

"Is there a, uh, reason you're making my dress just like the bridesmaid dresses?" Mom hadn't said anything about designing a dress for me until this morning. I had tons of dresses in my closet to pick from. Actually, one dress was one too many as far as I was concerned. Give me a t-shirt and basketball shorts and I'm happy.

Mom took another pin from the tomato and worked it into the hem. Her hair swooped over part of her face, blocking her eyes from view. For the briefest moment, I thought I saw her hesitate.

When she sighed and dropped her hands into her lap, I knew something was wrong. "Case, there's something you need to know." She moved the stickpin holder to a nook in her sewing kit and patted the cushion beside her.

I stepped down from the stool, glancing from the dresses to Mom's face. She hooked her hair behind her ear so I got a better view of her eyes. Like always, I couldn't tell what she was thinking. But from the way her hands fidgeted in her lap, I could tell it wasn't good. "I don't mind," I said, hoping my question hadn't made her mad. "It's just, you know, people might think I'm a bridesmaid."

When I sat down beside her, Mom took my hands into hers. She looked me in the eyes then glanced away. "There's been a change of plans. You're going to be a bridesmaid."

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Okay. I could do this. I didn't really want to and it would've been nice if someone would've asked me. Is there a law against twelve year olds being bridesmaids? There probably should be. I exhaled, letting the breath go and opening my eyes.

"I guess that makes my question sound a little silly. It's okay. If Leslie needs me for her wedding, I can't let my sister down." Every part of me wanted to hop out of that dress and get into something made of cotton and made for playing outside, but I had time to get ready. Four whole weeks. I could do it.

Mom pulled me to her and held me close. "Not a silly question at all, sweetie. I'm glad you understand. And I'm sure you'll understand why the wedding had to be moved up to this Saturday. That's the reason for the change. One of Leslie's bridesmaids is out of town and won't be back in time."

I don't know what Mom said after that. It all sounded like blah, blah, blah once I realized that a) I had come to the right conclusion and didn't really like it and b) three months of training and practice were about to go down the drain.

"But Saturday - you know what I'm supposed to be doing Saturday. This, this, it isn't fair!" I yanked free from Mom's hug and ran out of the studio. My heels click-clacked against the hardwood floor and stairs until I reached my bedroom, slamming the door behind me.

I glanced toward my Justin Timberlake poster. He sat forward on a couch, elbows on his knees, gazing down at me. Any other day, I’d stare at his cute-but-kinda-bad-boy look, catch myself before drool dripped to the floor, then move on. Not this time.

I paced the length of my room, back and forth, until I stopped in front of my calendar. Marked with a big red circle, Saturday stood out. For three months, me and my friends practiced for the Sports Jam. We'd saved up our allowances and paid the fees ourselves. That was a whole lot of candy and potato chips I sacrificed just to end up missing it now.

Tears stung the back of my eyes. "Not fair."

I stumped over to my bed and flopped on it, tugging Dad's volume of fairy tales out from under my pillow. Lorealia, my favorite book in all the world. Not that he knew I had it. I wonder why he hid it in the first place? None of that mattered. I just needed to read someone else's happily ever after since my sister’s wedding stole mine from me.

“Saturday was supposed to be my day. Basketball at the Sports Jam, not playing replacement bridesmaid,” I grumbled. And yeah, grumbling wasn't going to change anything. No one cared if it was fair or not. This Saturday wasn't mines anymore. That's all there was to it.

Wiping a tear from my cheek, I curled up on the bed, snuggled close to the book. When I flipped the cover open, my bed rattled. The headboard knocked against the wall. I hopped off with a squeak just as it stopped. The book did a shimmer-glow-bounce and thunked to the floor.

I jumped back. My bedroom door clicked loudly when the lock slammed into place. I gasped, but that’s it. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything.

The book flipped open. Glitter, like tossed confetti, shot into the air and showered down. The pages fluttered back and forth.

My legs trembled, no longer stuck in place. Wobbling backwards, I turned around and wrapped my fingers around the knob, twisting and pulling. I chewed my bottom lip then remembered the jolt of the lock jamming home. I balled my hands into fists and banged against the door.

“Mom! Mom!” She had to hear me. She had to. Please!

I stopped when a soft female voice called out. “S.O.S. Fairy GIT to Fable Ranger. Fairy GIT to Fable Ranger. Please, we need your help.” Her words faded on an echo.

I spun around, finding the book open to the first page. The spoken words filled the usually blank page with chicken scratch, all straight lines and hard angles. I barely made out, “Touch here to confirm.” A red dot hovered over the page, winking in and out.


Chapter Two

A Rose I Suppose

I crept forward. Not because I wanted to. Some invisible hook, rope, or both pulled me closer to the book. Honestly, I wanted to run the other way or pretend it was all a dream.

Or a nightmare.

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Chatur Rev 1

Name: Nurin Chatur
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Title: The Incoherency of Now

Hudson, Ruth Constance. Born July 4, 1916-(insert date). Mrs. Hudson of New York City passed away on Saturday (date) at the age of 97. Mrs. Hudson leaves behind five children (Delia Johnson, Jim Hudson, Matthew Hudson, Josephine Grant and James Hudson), 10 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren as well as many other relatives, friends and members of her community. She will be sorely missed. Donations to her family may be made to the American Heart Foundation.

Tick tchick, tick, tchick goes the old battery powered clock that hangs in the New York Post’s Offices, marking the painfully slow passing of the work day. I read the obituary over again, jaw grinding in a yawn. I’ve been doing this for over a year now and even though I’m often bored to tears, it still sometimes strikes me that what I’m writing right now is the last time someone’s name will appear anywhere. For some, it may be the only time that they’ll have any sort of public recognition of their lives.

Sure, Google may be everywhere now and our names are plastered all over the internet but let’s be honest. Most people don’t amount to anything significant. Your name might be linked with that award you won in high school or maybe they still have that record of your university grad year when you were on the Dean’s List. No one except for maybe our mothers, cares about any of this. The world doesn’t care, doesn’t even notice as people fumble through graduations, marriages, divorces, children, promotions and even their ultimate achievement, of sorts, death. That’s why, even though I hate my job, I try to take notice of the person’s whose obituary I’m editing and find a way to respect their passing.

It’s strange how the obituaries don’t seem to be about the person who died but really seem to be a proclamation about their family. Take Mrs. Hudson, for instance. Sure, she’s left behind this massive progeny who will hopefully continue to procreate until the end of time. That’s her mark on the world. Still, I’m uncomfortable with how we focus on the work of her reproductive organs instead of on her own personal thoughts, fears and dreams.

For example, I’m confused about the intent of mentioning her great-grand children. Is it important to tell the world about her great-grandchildren in this short blurb? Why? Is this to console us by saying that there’s part of Mrs. Hudson still alive and traipsing around New York City in a stroller?I guess we’ll never know the intent since she’s dead and other people get to decide what will be written in her obituary, write the ending of her life narrative, if you will. Pondering these things makes work pass by, while simultaneously reinforcing my existential crisis.

I rub my eyes, trying to stave off a headache. If this is how the ideal obituary is supposed to look like (and I won’t lie, most of the old folks who kick the bucket get something that looks somewhat like this), then mine will be sorely lacking considering how I don’t have mini-me’s wandering about. I’ve had to work on some pieces about younger people who have died. Those ones always include a line about a loss of someone with a lot of potential due to their academic achievements or varsity success.

As much as I’m loath to admit it, I’m a tad over that potentiated age group now, so what will they say about me? Used to be kind of intelligent and did well in college? Can run for maybe 15 minutes without passing out, maybe? I wipe some sweat off my brow, even the thought of running is making my heart race.

Yeah, Ellie was a great girl. Supremely unremarkable. Oh god, I hope they won’t mention my thrilling job as an obituary editor in my death announcement. I think the cringe would kill me again and I think death is something that is best experienced once.

If the deceased could read their obituaries, would they be happy with what was left? I’d want an accurate representation of myself out there. That way if some bored soul waiting at the doctor’s office ended up skimming over it, they’d leave with some idea of me lingering in their minds, letting me live on for a few moments more. I chew my unnecessary pen—no one writes anymore, it’s all about the wireless keyboards!—what would I want left in the world when I’m gone?

Moore, Eleanor Ellie Scott. Born September 11, 1989. Ms. Scott, formerly of Therie, PA passed away (hopefully not today..) in New York City at the age of 24. Ms. Scott leaves behind those who are forced to love her which include, her parents- also known as those who participated in her making- as well as her Aunt Susannah Elis and the stray friends she has picked up during her rather stunted life. Ellie also leaves behind a pile of student loans, dreams of a successful journalism career and her life companion, her dog, Rufus. Memorial donations will be gratefully accepted at the Save Rufus from the Shelter fund.

Since you pay by word and because my current worth is like $0 (thank god for scholarships that kept me from being in the negative for too long), I think it would be unfair for me to take up space that someone with more accomplishments (and money) could have. Besides, I wasted fifteen minutes on that. The NYP just paid me to write my own obituary but whatever. Even though the journalism industry is in the shitter, it’s not like they’ll miss the cash. After all, it’ll save the lackey hired after me from having to write it.

Sierra pokes her head over my cubicle. She’s frowning again. I guess obituary writers aren’t supposed to be bright and chipper.

“Eleanor,” Sierra says as if she’s my superior instead of the other lackey they hired a mere 4 months before me, “are you finished with your pieces, they have to be run at four you know. We don’t want our department to submit them late!”

She’s huffy with importance, thin lips pursued. Not sure what got her panties in a wad. She’s at least on the Classifieds section instead of the Obituaries, so it’s not like she’s thinking about dead people all day. However, some of the ads that are submitted are for items that should be six feet under. You know, like at a dump.

“Don’t worry, Sierra” I grit my teeth into a superficial smile, “they’ll be done by 3:30.” Her lips almost de-purse, but they’re so sunken into her hollow cheeks that I can’t be sure.

“Well, since you’re almost done,” she pauses for a second, looking at me intently, “Do you have ink in your mouth?”

So that’s the bitter taste that’s been swirling. I gulp down some more coffee. “Nope, it must be the lighting,” I lie. “So you were saying?”

“Right. Have you, no you probably haven’t, heard about the contest? I mean, there’s no way you’re entering it”

My heart sinks. She’s only talking about the NYP’s famous Young Writer’s Contest, the one that all would-be-journalists dream of winning. I’d thought about entering this year, but I feel even more unprepared for it as I did during my undergrad. There at least I was writing essays, pieces for the school journal and other assignments. Now I spend all my time rewording the phrase, “It is with the greatest sorrow that we announce the passing of..”

“Um, it sounds familiar but I haven’t heard of any details,” I lie. I can’t imagine entering against her. Despite all of her uppity-ness, Sierra has a fancy Ivy League Journalism Degree while I’m from a random liberal college upstate.

“I’m going to enter,” she whispers like we’re co-conspirators, not co-workers who tolerate each other.
“That’s great!” My voice is falsely chipper, she smiles and starts to move back to her desk. ‘So am I,” I finally say. She doesn’t hear me.

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Simpson Rev 1

Name: Melody Simpson
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Title: Break Along the Fault

Karsyn

If he shot me from farther away or an inch or two lower, it wouldn’t hurt this much. At least that’s what I keep telling myself to ease the shock. I don’t know anything about guns but I saw him raise his. Look me in my eyes and pull the trigger. The blood is seeping from my chest. The charcoal burning on the grill outside can’t be hotter than I am. If I hadn’t seen him aim the gun, I would have thought I’d been punched. I would have run for cover. There was no time for cover. There was no chance for me.

A boy I’ve never seen before shot me. On purpose.

The fall to the floor hurts. Bodies scurry around me, towels are thrown at my chest. My heart is throbbing so fast it might explode. The ice fading in the punch beside me isn’t fading faster than my senses. Cold dances around me as ice packs land on the kitchen tiles near my feet. My focus is blurry as the outline of the letters in my name draw out before me on my grave.

My grave. Mom and Dad and Jedediah will have to bury me. I’m only sixteen. This can’t happen now. I haven’t married...graduated…run my first marathon. I was training. Hard. I put my body through the ringer. I’ll never be able to run again.

“Take her to...” a voice trails off even though it’s the only thing I want to focus on right now. The pulsing in my ears quiet. I can’t hear a sound besides my fading heartbeat. All I want to hear is my father’s hearty laugh, my boyfriend’s favorite swampy tunes, my best friend’s triumph when she scores the best stadium seats. Never again.

The blood bubbling under my hands, the alcohol being held in a stranger’s by my side, I can’t smell. Will I ever be able to smell my mother’s tangerine scent again? Never again.

The weak, hairy arms pulling me up, I can’t see. I need to see my brother. Where is he? I need to see him one last time so I don’t forget his face. I need to call out his name one more time so I can hear the syllables form in my mouth but all that comes to mind is his nickname and even that’s too much to say. Diaho.

A girl’s long, auburn hair brushes against my skin, tangles in the red on my chest as she pulls me to the side or forward. I have no sense of direction. Is she moving me to the bathroom? Those few feet away feel like a million. In science or history or health, I don’t know, we learned you should never move an injured person. Call 911. Wait for the first responders.

They’re not waiting.

They’re killing me. Two hands, three, four are on me now. Dragging me up, up, up and I’m falling. Out of my skin.

“Karsyn Dale Grant, please step forward.”

The beanstalk colored walls of Moira’s kitchen were surrounding me less than twenty seconds ago. The sweat of a hundred people filled my nose a minute before. The Peach Smirnoff lingering on my tongue from a kiss is gone too. I can’t feel my chest, my toes, I can’t feel. All that stands before me is black. Where am I? Don’t freak out. Am I dead? Don’t freak out.

Somehow I manage to turn around and my surroundings come into focus. It wasn’t black. It was stars. They’re all around me. Oh my God, I’m dead. Really dead. Alone. From Mom and Dad, Diaho, Moira and my love. My first and only love. The stars stretch out for miles in every direction but there’s only me in between without a map.

No Disney marathon. No prom. No graduation. No trip to Paris, France. No more family reunions in Italy. No wedding. Kids. Who can live these memories with me? No one. Ever.

I’ve reached the end.

Take me back. Please, take me back now.

Turning around with a destination but no direction, four yards ahead sits a desk larger than any I’ve ever seen, even in courtrooms on TV, with the finest maple finish and three worn men perched behind it. All three could have walked right off the Mayflower but it’s the busy one in the middle who catches my attention. His voice thunders through me, holding me frozen in place. “Grant, move forward,” he says louder, still as dry but this time with less patience.

I was being carried away and now I’m higher than the planes I traveled on for half marathons around the country. Mom wanted to take me to see the world. I told her to save her flight attendant perks for when I’m ready for the marathons.

What happened? The words won’t come out.

Taking documents from the man on the left and stamping the papers individually before passing them to the man on the right, the working middle man doesn’t wait for me to come. “As of this moment, 9:52pm on Friday, June 23, 2017, the council is thrilled to inform you that you are officially a guide for the living.”

Stamp.

“For every violation of the moral system which you have committed in your sixteen years of life on earth, you are now required to right each wrong by assisting the living as they face similar conflicts.”

Stamp.

“You may choose to show yourself to the individual or push the idea into their mind. This assignment is expected to be completed in seven years time. It is essential this list be maintained. Revenge and, or other forms of closure you may have in mind are not encouraged. This is your closure.”

Who’s system? I push myself to speak. “What is this place?”

The middle man’s eyes cut deep. He motions for me to step closer. “You are not a guardian angel. You are not protecting anyone. The only being you are protecting is yourself. Here is your inventory of wrongs.”

Without giving myself permission, I reach for the scroll with both hands but find I only need one. The scroll isn’t heavy at all. This is it? I let my hand drop a little to confirm the weight.

Before I’ve opened the scroll, he begins again. “What you currently see on the scroll are your wrongdoings from the last month of your life. When you have completed month 198, month 197 will appear.”

I was shot and somehow I’m the one holding all the regrets. I begin to laugh, unable to sort out my emotions. I’m dead. “What happens if I don’t do this?”

He motions towards the scroll and I hand it back. He stretches the parchment all the way out as I lean forward to see the bottom of the scroll.

On Monday, June 23, 2024, upon completing her task as a guide, the soul of Karsyn Dale Grant will acquire peace for eternity. Upon failure, the soul of Ms. Grant will be bound to the Moneo plane to be consumed by her remaining faults until her soul breaks down. Time Remaining: 61,360 hours.

So the Peace in RIP has to be earned? No one ever tells you that. No one ever can. He hands me back the scroll. He grunts. “Questions?”

“Yes,” I say with force, deciding what to ask first. Who are you? Who killed me? Why me? Will I see my family again?