Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Announcing #pg70pit Middle Grade Winning Entries 8-14!

You guys, #pg70pit has been so much fun. A HUGE thank you to Lara Willard for hosting and for tagging me as co-host, and another great big thank you to all the other co-hosts, slushies, and editors as well!

As for everyone who entered: Thank you for submitting all your awesome entries, and for playing along with all our antics on Twitter, Spotify, etc! You've seriously made this week such a blast. I loved meeting each and every one of you, and reading your fabulous writing! Although this is the end of the official contest, I know that Lara has a few more things planned, so stay tuned!

Before we launch into my picks, a few more things. First off, here are the posts where you can find the rest of the entries:

Top 7 (MG, YA, and Adult) - Lara Willard (Host)
YA Runners-Up - Ethan Vaughn (co-host)
Adult Runners-Up - Elizabeth Buege (co-host)

If you didn't get picked, don't give up hope! There are more contests. There are more agents to query. Hopefully you picked up some tips for polishing your MS, made some new writing buddies, and maybe even a potential CP! But I know how it feels not to get picked. We all do. Two years ago, I was riding the contest roller coaster myself. This time last year, I was frantically polishing my second manuscript. But when I entered it in the Fall/Spring Contest circuit I got zippo. Zilch. Didn't even make the first cut. I was super bummed. So I queried, and had way more success. Now? Not six months after failing to get into those contests, I have an agent!

Because the thing is, the adage is true: Tastes are SO SUBJECTIVE. 

Also #pg70pitters? Your entries ... good grief, your entries were so. dang. good. This was the hardest decision ever. I had a longlist of about 50 (that's about two-thirds of the entries!!!) and a "short?!?"-list of 26, and then I had to whittle that down to SEVEN?? Say whaaa??

But I had to.

So I did.

And here they are.

MG Entry #8
Code Name: What's your game now? Can anybody play?

It doesn’t matter. I won’t give children to thieves.” The console lit Aaban’s puffy face. Red bruises and white welts lay beneath his dark skin and reassuring calm. He winced a smile. "They can’t fly this transport without me. Allah protects children and fools, so we’re covered."

Tolla’s nearly white hair had escaped the braids, an aurora gathering up the room’s spare light. “Aaban deserved to know. He’s drawing the hijackers away.”

“They’ll search the stern’s cargo bay next. I convinced them that you wouldn’t go back to the same place.” Aaban raised his hands. "You did good drawing them away, Iden. They didn’t even find the hidey-hole and gave up for dinner. Lucky you Don doesn’t have enough control anymore to keep them from their patches and pulls. They're bored, addicted. Let’s move you while they sleep it off."

"What about Gravel Voice?" I turned, not able to face Aaban's bruises anymore. "I thought he'd leave a guard."

"Even Don sleeps. His authority wore off after five or six months. Remember this isn’t their goal. We’re stuck on the getaway ship."

"They're picking up the main group here."  Tolla pointed to the transport’s destination on screen. "We’ll get off just before they land.”

I caught the thought. “We land and the thieves leave the asteroid for this ship. Then we’re safe.”

“Except Aaban,” Tolla said.

“They need me one more time.” Aaban radiated bravery. “There’s a small course adjustment before the auto-landing takes over. They have a pilot on Iseme."

Word Count: 50K
Genre: Sci-Fi
7 words to describe MC: gender neutral sporty and protective older sibling

MG Entry #9

Code Name: Today never happened before

Dean closed her eyes and took a shaky breath. She’d give anything to hear the whoop-whoop of an ambulance. Instead the quiet rustling of leaves echoed softly across the landing.

Dean kept telling Bear that everything was going to be okay, but what if it wasn’t? She wasn’t sure she believed that Mom would be all right. Sometimes things weren’t okay. Sometimes people didn’t get better.

There was a boy at school whose dad had died from cancer. She often thought about him and what it would be like. Was it like when Dad went away on a long business trip? Or maybe it felt like when Mom and Dad got in a fight and Mom didn’t come home for two days?

But when she watched the car disappear over the cliff, she realized it was worse. Much, much worse.

“Tee-Tee?” Bear asked quietly.

“I’m okay. Just thinking.” She wished she could go back and do things differently.

Mom’s face was sluggish, her mouth drawn. Wake up! Dean pleaded. The last thing she had said to Mom was, Leave me alone! It was mean. Dean sniffed, her eyes burned with tears. She had to do something. Anything. Crying, sitting in the car wasn’t solving any of their problems.

“I’m going to get help.” The words were so quiet, she was uncertain they were her own.

Bear looked at her blankly.

“Bear, I’m getting help,” she said more confidently. “I’m going down the mountain and when I come back, I’m getting you and Mom out of here.”

Word Count (e.g. 75K): 34,000
Genre: MG Aventure/Suspense
7-words for your MC: Timidly tenacious biker bent on saving family

MG Entry #10

Code Name: You can checkout any time you like

The Plumfords trudged down somber Main Street, but this time they passed the library and continued towards a strip of faded storefronts that lay beyond. There was a shabby antique store with rickety chairs perched outside, a drugstore window advertising ancient tonics in peeling letters, and a sleepy barbershop with a slowly revolving striped pole. Theodore led his siblings towards this last door.

“This must be the place.”

“If it’s open,” said Hugo, peering through the dusty window. “I think I see someone inside. Or maybe it’s a chair.”

“Maybe we should go across the street and see what he does. We can figure out what we’re going to say.”

Hugo rolled his eyes. “We’re not detectives.” He flung the door open and stepped in. A little bell tinkled overhead. “Come on.”

“No, wait-.” But Hugo had already entered, followed by Lucy skipping behind him. Slowly Theodore walked inside too.

The shop was empty. “I guess it was a chair,” shrugged Hugo.

On one side of the shop, swiveling seats of cracked leather stood before a cluttered counter and a wall of mirror. On the other side were special booths for shoe shining. A curtain hung across a doorway in the back wall, the surrounding space plastered with faded newspaper clippings. A sweet, sharp scent lingered in the air.

A rustle from the back startled the children. The curtain rippled as a weathered hand moved the fabric aside and a tall gentleman in an apron stepped through.

Word Count: 56K
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

7 words for your MC: bookworm learning to live outside of books

MG Entry #11

Code Name: My Heart Going Boom Boom Boom

I was a step away from the door when all of a sudden he pointed the gun toward the open window. Thank goodness I was used to his shenanigans and ducked the minute I heard the tap on the edge of the window. Ted pretended to take aim at someone.

"THEODORE O'DELL!" I yelled at the top of my lungs. "PUT THE GUN DOWN!"

While Ted pretended that he had been added to the list of Illinois most wanted, I reached out and grabbed the nozzle of the gun out of his hands. “Are you INSANE?” I shouted.

“Franko, FRANKO!” I motioned over the car to the oldest Baddicci brother. “Shut off that engine, will ya!”

I stood holding the gun near my side, the heat of the car making me sweat now more than my worries. The engine sputtered twice more and then popped off.

Ted pushed the back door open and stumbled out.

I knocked him hard in the shoulder and pinned him up against the front car door. “Are you nuts or something? What in God’s name do you think you were doing?”

He mumbled something and turned his head so I could get a good look at his crusty earlobe. This was his typical response with Pops. And most times, Pops followed up.

I dropped my grip from his coat. “I ain’t your keeper, Ted. You know that. I ain’t never laid a hand on you that you didn’t ask for first and I’m not about to start now.”

Word Count (e.g. 75K): 36K
Genre: Historical Fiction
7-words for your MC: Calm, collective preteen hides truths behind fiction

MG Entry #12

Code Name: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

The room was in total chaos. Willow strained to separate one voice from the rest. It was like tugging a single thread from the tangled mess in Mrs. Moon's purse.

A moment later she caught a few snippets of conversation from a man with a gruff voice.

He was talking about her, calling her a problem.

Her stomach formed a knot. If they thought she was a problem, they weren't about to help her.

She drew in a shaky breath. They were going to get rid of her, and House was giving her a warning.

The voices grew louder and the man yelled over the ruckus. "All right, that's enough. Let's call this meeting to order."

He yanked his navy blue pants up over his fat stomach, pierced the crowd with bulging eyes, and waddled toward the long table. The buttons on his crisp, white shirt strained, allowing a clear view of his pale, doughy skin.

Willow wrinkled her nose.

The man stopped at the head of the table, grabbed the back of a chair with his thick hands, and glanced around the room. "Ladies and gentlemen, please quiet down." He mopped his sweaty forehead with a blue hankie.

"Do as my husband says," the skinny woman in the burgundy dress hissed, sauntering toward the man. Her high heeled, silver sandals tapped a staccato against the floor.

"Claudia." The man gave her a strained smile.

Word Count: 69,000
7-word description for your MC: Not as crazy as everyone thinks.

MG Entry #13

Code Name: Caribbean Soul I Can Barely Control

I wish I could go back—back to last week, last month, or better yet, last year. I never would have met Higgins. Then nobody would know my secret. Cliff would still be my best bud. Marcus would leave me alone. I would be playing bucketball right now instead of feeling like a loser.

Suddenly, I don’t feel deflated anymore. I feel like the balloon inside is filling up with too much air and is ready to explode.

Everything that’s happened is too much. I can’t hold it in. Before I can stop myself, I stomp over to the can.

“Morris! Move out of the way!” someone yells.

“Hey! What are you doing, man?” someone else shouts.

I lift the can over my head. It seems lighter than usual. Maybe it’s the adrenaline.

I throw the can hard. It hangs in the air for a couple of seconds. It hits the street with a loud clang. It rolls a few feet. It comes to a stop against the curb two houses down.

It’s dead silent now. A neighbor from across the street is outside working in his yard. He looks over at us. He shakes his head and goes back to his plants.

I turn around and face everyone. Jesse and Billy have their mouths hanging open. Marcus is almost smiling. Cliff glares at me. Nobody moves. We stare at each other. I feel like I’m in one of those Wild West movies where there is about to be showdown.

Word Count: 48,000
Genre: Contemporary
7-words for your MC: clever bucketball inventor; mischievous keeper of secrets.

MG Entry #14

Code Name: The Flowers Sleeping in her Hands

Floralie looked down to her hands. The ink of the poems there had gone faint. Nino caught Floralie’s gaze and took her hand in his. He examined the poems, eyes narrowed, then took a pen from his pocket. He traced three words with his forefinger, and then underlined them: *Be a wildflower.* The words had been Floralie’s mother’s favorites. Mama had spun them into poems into lullabies into dances, and oh, had they danced like wildflowers to Mama’s out-of-tune humming…

Floralie took a breath. “Okay. Okay, let’s go.”

Miss Clairoux clasped together her hands. “Excellent.”

CHAPTER 7: From Here to There

       Gone to France for a few days. Don’t worry, be back soon.

P.S. I’m sorry.

Floralie quick-kissed the note, then slid it under the door before turning her back to the cottage.

Miss Clairoux stood under a streetlamp across the road. She was dressed in a long emerald coat and cloche hat, and she held her cane out in front of her. Nino stood beside her, Philomenos peeping out from his hole-speckled pocket.

*You’ve got the flower box?* Nino wrote as Floralie neared them.

Floralie nodded and patted her bag.

A smile spread over Miss Clairoux’s lips and wind swept through her silver hair. “Ah yes,” she whispered. “There are stories in the air tonight.”

Word Count: 53K
Genre: Historical
7-words for your MC: Tulip seller decodes flowers to save mother.


There they are! My seven #pg70pit Middle Grade picks. I love them so much!

Agents: If you'd like to see more, comment below with the code names, how many pages you'd like to see, and your contact info. Alternatively, you may email: veritylanelara AT gmail DOT com with your requests.

#Pg70Pit Entrants: I love you all, and after reading the quality of your entries, I'm quite confident I will see many of you on the shelves soon! Stay tuned on Lara's blog (and possibly this one too) for more after-the-contest fun!


  1. I would like to see a query and 50 pages for The Flowers Sleeping in Her Hands. Please send to kyra@aplusbworks.com. I look forward to reading more!

  2. I'd love to see more of Today Never Happened Before. Please send query and first 50 pages (pasted in the e-mail body) to whitley(at)inklingsliterary(.)com. Thanks!

  3. I love the sound of 'You can checkout any time you like'. If the author of this entry would be interested in querying me, I'd love to read more! Please feel free to send a query letter (including author bio) and the first 50 pages of your manuscript (attached as a Word/rtf file) to "submissions[at]broadlandliterary[dot]com", with the subject line "Pg70pit Submission – Your Novel's Title (Genre)". Many thanks!



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