Thursday, June 10, 2010

99 The YA/MG Line-by-line Contest with Agent Natalie Fischer

Submissions Are Now Closed!
Please see here for additional information. See below for scheduled events and information on the next round.



We all know the importance of the first page in selling your manuscript. To compete with the talent out there, we have to grab our readers fast. But how do we know we've done it?

We're excited to hold a line-by-line contest to help you evaluate your opening the same way a literary agent will read it. And we are fortunate to have agent Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency as the judge.

Here's how the contest works:

June 10th - Round One: 8:00 a.m. and Noon Eastern Time Submission Windows

  • Submit the first sentence of your completed YA or MG manuscript starting at 8:00 a.m. ET today in the comments of this post. We will take the first 50 entries and then close the comment window.
  • We will reopen the comment window at noon today to accept the next 50 entries. Comments will stay open until we have 100 entries total, or until 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time on June 16th, whichever comes first.
  • Please enter only once per manuscript. If you have multiple completed manuscripts, you may enter the second one after 1:00 pm if there is still room.
June 17th - 100 Entries Posted
  • We will post the first sentences for all 100 contestants and open them for kind, respectful feedback.
  • Natalie Fischer will begin judging.
June 24th - Round One Winners: Top 75 Entries Posted
  • If you made the top 75, you may submit the first and second sentences of your novel.
June 28th - Round Two: Submission Deadline for 75 2nd Sentences
  • Submission window CLOSES at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
July 1 - Round Two Winners: Top 50 Entries Posted
  • If you made the top 50, you may submit the first through third sentences of your novel.
July 5 - Round Three: Submission Deadline for 50 3rd Sentences
  • Submission window CLOSES at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
July 8 - Round Three Winners: Top 25 Entries Posted
  • If you made the top 25, you may submit the first through fourth sentences of your novel.
July 12 - Round Four: Submission Deadline for 25 4th Sentences
  • Submission window CLOSES at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
July 15 - Round Four Winners: Top 10 Entries Posted
  • If you made the top 10, you may submit the first through fifth sentences.
July 19 - Round Five: Submission Deadline for 10 5th Sentences
  • Submission window CLOSES at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
July 22 - Overall Winners Announced

And the winners get.... Drumroll, please!
  • 1st Place: A 25-page critique by Natalie Fischer plus books by a Sandra Dijkstra agency author
  • 2nd Place: A 10-page critique by Natalie Fischer plus books by a Sandra Dijkstra agency author
  • 3rd Place: A 5-page critique by P.J. Hoover, author of the MG Forgotten Realms Novels, plus books by a Sandra Dijkstra agency author
  • 4-10th Place: A 3-page critique from one of the debut authors who has recently battled through the submission process and won. These generous authors are: Tahereh Mafi, Kirsten Hubard, Cole Gibsen, Michelle Hodkin, Michele Corriel, Robin Mellom or Tracy Clark.
  • 11th-25th Place: A critique of your first four sentences by Riley Carney--who is aready published at 17-years-old--to give you both a young adult and a the view from someone who's been through the trenches, and a second critique of your first four sentences by Lisa Gail Green to give you a Paranormal Point of View!
Wow, right? And to top it off, Natalie is actively seeking new clients, so please see below for her bio to understand what an opportunity this really is.

Remember, the first submission of the contest will open at 8:00 a.m. Good luck!

Martina & Marissa



Natalie M. Fischer is a Literary Agent and office assistant at the Dijkstra Agency. An honors graduate of the University of San Diego, California, Natalie holds a B.A. in Literature/Writing. She started as an intern at the Agency in 2007, after which time she left to write author profiles and book reviews for the San Diego Union Tribune. Finding that journalism was just not for her, she returned to work full-time at the Dijkstra Agency in April 2009, and started building her own client list in September of that same year.

Natalie is actively seeking new clients, and is especially interested in talented, hard-working new authors with a fresh, unique voice and hook. Her specialty is commercial fiction, with an emphasis in children’s literature (from picture book-YA/Teen), romance (contemporary and historical), historical fiction, multi-cultural fiction, paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy in YA or romance only, fairy-tale/legend spin-offs, and “beautiful dark” novels. She will also consider select memoir (has to be really unique) and that amazing project she never even knew she was looking for! She is always drawn to an open and positive attitude in an author, good grammar, and fantastical, engaging and sexy plots.

The Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency is one of the most respected literary agencies in the United States. With over 150 authors based around the world, SDLA represents an impressive client roster, which is both selective and eclectic. The Agency has helped guide the illustrious careers of many best-selling authors in several genres, including: on the fiction side, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, Lisa See, Melinda Long, Janell Cannon and Diane Mott Davidson and on the non-fiction side, Peter Irons, David Landes, Mike Davis, Chalmers Johnson and Susan Faludi, among others. Read more about the agency at http://www.dijkstraagency.com/, and follow Natalie on Twitter @Natalie_Fischer!

Want additional info on Natalie?
Here's Natalie's cheat-sheet of tricky grammar (so you don't blow your contest submission!):


And here are the bios for our fantastic author critiquers:

  • P. J. Hoover grew up visiting museums and dreaming of finding Atlantis. She eventually married and had two children, shifted her dreams to reality, and began a writing career. PJ enjoys writing fantasy for middle grade and teen readers, boys and girls alike. Her middle grade fantasy novels, The Emerald Tablet and The Navel of the World, chronicle the adventures of a boy who discovers he's part of two feuding worlds hidden beneath the sea. Prior to writing full time, PJ worked as an electrical engineer designing chips in Austin, Texas. PJ is represented by Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
  • Riley Carney is seventeen years old and has written seven MG/YA novels. The first book of the five-book Reign of the Elements Series,The Fire Stone, was released January 2010, and the second book, The Water Stone, will be released August 2010. Riley is passionate about promoting global literacy through the nonprofit corporation that she founded because she believes that the way to help children break the cycle of poverty and exploitation is through literacy.
  • Tracy Clark has completed two YA novels and is currently working on her third. She is represented by Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. She’s a wife, mother, lover of words, private pilot and irredeemable dreamer. Tracy was mentored by bestselling author, Ellen Hopkins, in the NV SCBWI Mentor Program.
  • Award-winning journalist, freelance writer and book reviewer, Michele Corriel's debut middle grade novel, Fairview Felines: A Newspaper Mystery, comes out this summer and her debut picture book, Weird Rocks, will be out this fall. Michele is also the Regional Advisor for SCBWI's Montana Chapter and conducts writing workshops throughout the year.She is represented by The McVeigh Agency.
  • When Cole Gibsen isn't writing she can be found shaking her booty in a zumba class, picking off her nail polish, or drinking straight from the jug (when no one is looking). Cole's debut YA paranormal, Katana, is due out from Flux in spring, 2012.
  • Michelle Hodkin is a lawyer and YA author represented by Diana Fox of Fox Literary, LLC. Her debut novel, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, will be published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in Fall 2011.
  • Kirsten Hubbard is a San Diego-based travel writer and young adult author who is always running away to exotic places, or at least imagining them. Her debut YA novel, Like Mandarin, will be published by Delacorte Press in March 2011. She's represented by Michelle Andelman of Lynn C. Franklin Associates.
  • Tahereh a.k.a. T.H. Mafi works as a graphic designer. Her blog Grab a Pen consistently entertains the masses. She writes YA novels and is represented by the ever-fabulous Amy Tipton of Signature Literary Agency.
  • Robin Mellom has a Master's degree in education and has been a middle school teacher and social worker for children with autism. She is now a full-time writer and her debut novel, Ditched, will be published by Disney-Hyperion in spring 2012.
  • Lisa Green is not a demon, ghost, vampire, fairy or shape-shifter*. She has, however, enjoyed reading and writing about them since the age of seven. Her short stories and poems have been featured in several online magazines and her manuscripts are represented by the amazing Rubin Pfeffer of East-West Literary. *Please note that the exclusion of werewolves above is strictly coincidental.

99 comments:

  1. Adie and I were born into the same body, our souls’ ghostly fingers entwined before we gasped our very first breath.

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  2. ‘How do you punish someone who’s already dead?’

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  3. Cool contest! Here's mine:

    "It's not that I'm ugly or anything."

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  4. The shriek of my cell phone in the quiet classroom meant only one thing: the killer had found us again.

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  5. Here's the first line of my middle grade fantasy The Third Tower. “You don’t know what it’s like not knowing if you’re like your real mom or dad,” Jasmine said.

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  6. Mary Kate Stewart secretly hoped that her Calculus teacher would get hit by a taco truck.

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  7. I am told it is wonderful to be beautiful.

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  8. It was like leaping off a ten-meter platform when you’re terrified of heights.

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  9. “All cockroaches step forward,” a voice barked.

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  10. Great contest, thanks. Here's mine:

    Anna threw open the barn door and smiled at Fancy, who stamped her foot and stuck her head over the stall opening.

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  11. There’s a dead girl in the trunk and all I can think about is how white the trees are.

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  12. Here is my first sentence:

    I’m in hell.

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  13. Interesting contest! Thanks for the opportunity.

    Yeah, it was gross, but with only seconds to spare Aleksandra really had no choice.

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  14. My hope of living a normal life in Lindenville faded faster than my fifteen dollar jeans the moment I got to the school bus stop.

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  15. Ellen’s forehead cracked painfully against the window as her Aunt’s ancient pick-up hit a huge hole in the questionable country road, waking her from the most bizarre dream.

    From @overdunne!

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  16. Ann stood in the foyer, pulling off her gloves and then her coat, and considered how little the war had changed things at home.

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  17. Here's mine:

    "Screams ripped me from sleep."

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  18. Madame Bhut’s Finishing School in the town of Whut was known across Amalthea as a respectable place to send your daughter if you were hoping to marry her to a gentleman; not for producing evil queens with ideas of world domination.

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  19. My papers scattered everywhere, and my books fell with a loud thud.

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  20. Amidst the never-ending fires and screams of defiant terror, Abby collapsed to the ground, feet twisting inward, eyes unwilling to stay open, and desperately wishing to pass out.

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  21. This is such a great contest! Thanks for the opportunity. Here is my first line:

    "I always knew my name would get me into trouble one day."

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  22. It was a knock--the harmless rap of knuckles against wood--that broke open my wounds.

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  23. Here is mine. Fingers crossed!

    Water churned all around like a water sprout encasing me in a prison.

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  24. My hands went numb as the officer gently told me the news.

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  25. So sorry for the deleted comments. My internet was spotty this morning *grr...* and it only pasted selected words. I'm typing it this time. Here goes:

    The test began like all the rest, although the dead corpse look was different.

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  26. Whoever said cell phones made life easier was full of BS.

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  27. Here's mine: "The day my parents tricked Rachel into signing herself into the "Program," they tricked me, too, bringing me with them as a decoy."

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  28. Ellyssa, a.k.a. Subject 62, sprinted through the dark alley after escaping from her long-term captors who she’d thought of as family for eighteen years.

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  29. Very cool contest! Mine:

    Mandy Samkirk had no warning of the life-changing events about to unfold; only the lingering worry from a recurring dream that nagged at her thoughts.

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  30. I can’t believe I found you!

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  31. The last day of fifth grade should mark the beginning of a fun-filled summer for a girl.

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  32. Fun contest! Here's mine:

    Riding to school with Max Holden is only slightly less traumatizing than riding the big yellow bus.

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  33. I waited for her behind a large oak tree.

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  34. Awesome contest! Here's mine:

    Life is so much easier without underwear.

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  35. Great contest! Thanks for doing this. Here's mine:

    He just didn't get it.

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  36. Thanks guys! Here's mine:

    This day is going to suck.

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  37. Lucky had been living life just fine, until the universe threw him a curveball.

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  38. I died before I was even born.

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  39. What a great contest! Here's mine from a MG manuscript:

    Unfortunately for the Fredalia Tigers, Regina Brinkwell chose a crucial moment during the last soccer game of the season to lick her lips.

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  40. YAY! This is awesome!

    Mine (YA)

    When Mom and Dad started throwing around the D word, I never imagined an old folk’s home would become my Post Divorce Relocation.

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  41. What a fun contest. Here's my first line.

    Was he following her, or was she being paranoid?

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  42. My name is Rufus William Gunther Chase, but people who know me call me Spoon.

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  43. What an excellent idea and thanks for doing this! Here's the opening line from my tween fantasy novel:

    What kind of animal sounds like a woman singing?

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  44. Here's my first line for my middle grade sf/f:

    The bonfire in the middle of the grand plaza of New Tikal sent sparks up to greet the low-hanging stars; the stars Mau B'ah-Pakal hoped were still speaking to him, because no one else was.

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  45. I was in the kitchen flipping blueberry pancakes on the griddle when I saw her for the first time.

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  46. "Cut it out," shouted Rett Adams, regretting the ridiculous decision to open his mouth.

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  47. Thanks for the great contest!

    My hand hovered over the latch, my stomach churning.

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  48. He stretched as far as he could, if he extended his chin up any higher he would pull a muscle or bust a blood vessel in his neck, he had heard of that happening once from someone on Facebook, or maybe it was MySpace, he wasn’t sure.

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  49. If you're marked for trouble, it will trail you like a homeless dog, looking
    and acting like love but smelling like the shady bend of the river.

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  50. Without a word, the guards brought her in, hard hands shoving her forward as they closed the door behind them.

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  51. There was no mistaking the darkness on the eastern horizon; they were coming.

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  52. I picked up the scissors.

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  53. Jacob shook the bamboo bars of his cage, but they held fast against his skinny arms.

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  54. It wasn't the first time a good idea had come back to bite me in the ass, but i was afraid it might be the last.

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  55. The cries from a flight of ravens echoed through the forest as they struggled to escape from the trees behind me.

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  56. Okay~I'm probably too late since this'll be comment 58 or something, but in case you decide to up the number of eligible entries, here's mine from a YA ms:

    "Homo sapiens sluttiwhen drunkus--the subspecies to which I apparently belong."

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  57. Freedom is feeling free, and separate ain’t equal, no matter what the law says.

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  58. From upper MG:

    If this were a movie, you'd be hearing Elvis music right now, the soundtrack to my life.

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  59. All my crime books stated to never go inside and to call the police from a neighbor’s house, but I went in anyway.

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  60. Jynx first found out about her father’s secret life by accident.

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  61. Dragons are actually more curious than cats.

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  62. Here's mine--YA-
    "I'm never getting out of here."

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  63. Here's another--yes, finished-YA

    "Butch Burd's pros and cons for buying the pony car."

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  64. For Lucy, it began with a package; a small, unobtrusive, brown-paper wrapped package.

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  65. Okay, here's my second one (MG)

    Not many people look down at a dead goldfish and wonder if that’s how they looked the day they died.

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  66. First line of my MG novel:

    Artificial lights brightened beneath the protective red dome, giving the illusion of morning over the campus of Red Cloak School.

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  67. The first line of a YA novel---thanks!


    I looked down at my white knuckles that clutched the journal.

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  68. From my MG

    Crowded, loud, annoying.

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  69. There are concepts we believe in even though they can’t be seen because proof that they exist surrounds us every day.

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  70. I’d heard of signs of the apocalypse, but I didn’t know that one of them was a crazy guy wandering out of a forest and into my favorite hangout.

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  71. I am suffocating inside my plastic lined steel barred cage; dying with the thickening silence and quiet sobbing coming from the other room.

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  72. Second submission/after 1 p.m. per instructions.
    First line:

    The man shook violently.

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  73. As per post-1-pm instructions, this is my second (oink!) YA entry:
    Necessary explanation: this kid roleplays his life as though it's a video game


    Day #236: Status log…Dark Troy emerges from the rest station, yet finds himself still stranded in the High Desert with the zombie villagers.

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  74. Riley Razer has issues and they’re not minor.

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  75. Monday morning @ Dalton Middle School,
    kids dart on their way to class or
    bunch together with early gossip.

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  76. Cool contest. Here's my first line (dialog, so the quotes belong).

    “Damn sanctions shot my schedule to hell.”

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  77. 1st entry-YA

    Sassy Smit was seven years old the afternoon she found Leroy Jebber dead.

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  78. First off, I just want to say I did not invite the aliens to drop into my backyard.

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  79. 2nd Entry-MG

    Gloomy shadows crept across the tired oak floor, stealing what little light peered in through a set of stained glass windows.

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  80. Second YA entry:

    I stared at the smoke drifting up from Erika’s fingertips.

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  81. As we follow Jax in the dark up the wide stone steps to the library, I feel like the marble lions on either side are somehow watching and will keep us safe, no matter what.

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  82. Ghosts can be so rude sometimes

    (YA Urban Fantasy)

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  83. Don’t let them lock you in the closet, Nancy!

    (MG mystery)

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  84. "Shit, I may as well be dead," my mother said the day I killed her.

    (edgy/contemporary YA)

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  85. Once Upon A Time, (notice the capital letters) there lived a king and queen of a quaint little country that used to be vast and plentiful, although much of it was sold off to cover the king’s gambling debts as well as the queen’s fondness for golden rosebushes.

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  86. Angela Fortunata woke up with a thump and a whack.

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  87. The newspapers all said it was an accident.

    (YA Fantasy)

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  88. The warm rain spattered Eric’s face and dripped from his eyebrows and nose.

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  89. Kate Raddish lived on an island and could not swim, which made her an anomaly from the start.

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  90. After high school, we were going to move to Austin.

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  91. (a different manuscript than the first)

    In seventh grade math they taught us that a triangle is the sturdiest shape, stronger than rectangles or pentagons or anything else.

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  92. The old van in the woods had been rooted in middle school lore since ages past.

    (YA sci fi)

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  93. Dearest Mother;
    I know you’ve been wanting to know the latest gossip from this end of the underworld, but the truth is, that there hasn’t been much going on since his Evil Lordship succumbed to death by piano.

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  94. We stood side by side in the dark, me holding a pack of matches, my best friend holding the gas can.

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