Wednesday, May 30, 2012

6 WOW Wednesday: Gina Damico on Writing Credentials

Today's WOW guest, Gina Damico, grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York. She received a degree in theater and sociology from Boston College, and has since worked as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker and breadmonger. Croakis her first novel, and its sequel, Scorch, comes out in September. She lives in Boston with her husband, two cats, and a closet full of black hoodies. You can find her at, on her blog, or on Twitter.

Credentials Schmedentials
by Gina Damico

Credentials. The word loomed over me like a giant knife-wielding grizzly bear. At night. On the edge of a precipitous cliff.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a little, but the sentiment is the same: when I first began my attempt to break into the writing world, I had this idea in my head that I would never get published - no matter how good my stuff was - unless I had a giant scroll that would unfurl to list my many master's degrees, publications, awards, the Nobel Peace Prize, and an Official Subway Sandwich Artist certification.

Because back when I attended my first workshop, there were people there who had such things. (Okay, maybe not the Subway certificate.) They'd already been published. In respected literary magazines. You know what I had been published in? My local library's digest of children's writings, when I was five. It was a haunting tale of two rabbits who become friends, then one of them gets shot and dies. The only thing it earned me was a pat on the back, a couple of raised eyebrows, and some whispered exchanges between my parents about whether a child therapist was in order.

And by the time I got it in my head that I wanted to be a writer, it was still the only credential to my name. I'd never written anything else of substance besides my manuscript. I hadn't attended any workshops or conferences, or won any prizes. I hadn't even majored in English in college. Yet all the research I had done on how to write a good query letter included that same daunting instruction: be sure to note your credentials. Turns out you never quite realize how much white space a 8.5"x11" paper really has until you are desperately, desperately trying to fill it with something of importance.

I didn't have importance. Here's what I did have: I wrote two scripts for my student-run murder mystery theater group in college, and I was a freelance blogger for a bawdy-titled television website. Which are both perfectly acceptable things to include in a query letter, provided you want your potential agent to snort coffee out all over it, and then pin it up onto the office bulletin board so that all of the other agents can spit coffee onto it as well.

And back at that first workshop I attended, the credentials thing was mentioned once again. It was the sort of conference that offered the opportunity to pitch my book to potential editors, so I was doubly terrified. What was I supposed to say? "Hi. I wrote a book. It's a YA, and it's about Grim Reapers, which is pretty cool, I think. What's that? What have I written before? Well, I've polished off a couple of very impressive evites, and the thank-you cards I wrote for my wedding were touted by many as 'adequate'. Excuse me? Security has been called? Well, thank you for your time. I'll show myself out."

But here I am, writing a guest post as a published author. And do you know why that is? Credentials aren't necessary. Can they help? Absolutely. But can you also get published without them? Absolutely. Check out my bio down there. Those are the paltry ingredients I had to work with, and yet, somehow, it happened for me.

Agents and editors aren't looking for a laundry list of your accomplishments. If you have some, then by all means, sing them all the way to the top, just like that little yodeling guy on The Price is Right. But if you don't, I beg you, please do not let this discourage you. What agents and editors want is your talent, not your résumé. If it's not your thing, don't go to grad school for a degree in creative writing just because you think it'll catch an agent's eye. If it's not your thing, do not waste your time trying to write short stories just so you can get them published in a magazine. If it's not your thing, don't start a book blog just to make yourself more appealing to sales and marketing. Write what you want to write. Don't write what you're supposed to write.

Now, I will readily admit that I am only speaking from my own experience. And I don't want to make it seem like it's the simplest thing in the world to get published, credentials or no - it's not. At all. And if any of those things appeal to you and are roads that you truly want to take on the publication journey, by all means do them. I know writers who have gone to grad school, been published in journals, become bloggers - and they all think their respective experiences were better than pie. So if those things are your bag, go for it. Just don't do them for the wrong reasons.

Because the point is: even if your résumé is sparse, you still have a chance. Don't be scared off by those who seem more experienced. Don't give up because you don't have that killer byline. DO, however, make sure your manuscript is the best that it can be. Let others read it, get their feedback, and listen to that feedback. Revise until your eyes fall out and your fingers fall off. Make it good, and your tumbleweed-ridden bio will cease to matter. Because it was at that very workshop, amidst all the other participants, some of whom did have lofty credentials to their name, that I got my first manuscript request from my future agent. And it's because she liked my idea - not my degrees, awards, or sandwich artistry skills.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

6 Picture Book Tips from Abrams Books for Young Readers

I recently attended the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Picture Book Workshop in Sterling, Virginia. The conference was geared toward those writing for the youngest readers, but the writing tips transcended specific genres. The conference featured Tamar Brazis, Editorial Director of Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books, as well as Maria Middleton, the Associate Art Director at the same publishing house. Both presented useful information for all writers and illustrators to consider.
Tamar Brazis led a breakout session for writers that focused on the theme of friendship in children’s books. Her session included several writing exercises that were meant to evoke personal memories and connections to our own childhood friends. She moved writers into crafting dialogue that demonstrated familiarity and kinship between two characters. Handouts were provided so that writers could conduct a close analysis of a handful of published works that hone in on friendship as a central theme. Among those books were Arnold Lobel’s DAYS WITH FROG AND TOAD and CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG by Mo Willems. This breakout session focused on what Brazis finds important in any manuscript coming across her desk- memorable characters with strong voice, a genuine relationship between characters, and an obvious character arc.
A few submissions tips pertaining to Abrams Books for Young Readers were shared during the question-and-answer portions of the day.
  •  They do not accept unsolicited manuscripts in the fiction category.
  • It’s best to query one book at a time in the picture book category.
  • If querying for chapter books, Abrams prefers to know that you’ve thought through a few ideas for books in a series in addition to your initial book.
  • Non-fiction books are open for submissions without an agent.
  • Abrams is focused on art-related non-fiction, as well as historical biographies.
  • In any picture book submission, including more than two main characters is “ambitious.” Not in a good way.
  • A tip heard over and over again- do not submit illustrations with your manuscript or provide your vision on the appearance of artwork. This often becomes grounds for flat-out rejection because they don’t prefer to split someone’s work apart. Abrams reiterated that the art should be left to their discretion.
The most important takeaway came from Tamar Brazis in the form of hope. She encouraged all writers to keep submitting their manuscripts, casting a wide net whenever possible. Not long after she received her first lesson in surfing, a literary agent presented a manuscript to Brazis that would later become Surfer Chick by Kristy Dempsey. She made the point that this manuscript personally mattered to her at that moment based on a very specific set of circumstances. She was passionate about surfing as a newfound hobby and was motivated to support this book. She admitted she probably wouldn’t have felt that way just a few years earlier. It just goes to show that getting published can be a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck. 
Do you have a picture book or a chapter book lurking in your drawer? Or the idea for one lurking in your head somewhere? Have you had a similar experience to the one that Kristy Dempsey and Tamar Brazis had? We'd love to hear about it!
Happy writing,

Friday, May 25, 2012

8 Out sick. Will post when possible.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

8 Wow Wednesday: Publishing Success from Connecting at Writers' Conferences

Today's WOW guest is Kami Kinard, the author of The Boy Project: Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister (Scholastic, January 2012).  Kami's poetry, stories, articles, and essays have appeared in periodicals for children and adults, and she also works as a teaching artist for SC schools, and teaches writing courses for continuing education programs. She lives with her family in Beaufort, SC. Catch her on her blog,, on Twitter,!/kamikinard, or on her website,

Publishing Success from Connecting at Writers' Conferences

by Kami Kinard

I have spent most of my career as a writer living in coastal towns of the southern United States. I call it living on the edge of the universe, and for the purposes of writing and publishing in the children’s industry, it is. For the most part, writing is a solitary job, so I didn’t think my location mattered much. For several years I wrote mostly from my home, submitting to publishers, agents, and magazines without getting feedback from anyone else. I was having luck with the magazine market, and I sold several poems and stories right away. And I was getting the notorious “good” rejection letters from publishers… but I never got any farther.

Eventually, I had the most important realization I would have as a writer: you can’t do it alone. I joined SCBWI. With their resources, I found two other writers in my area and formed a small critique group. My writing began improving. I started getting revision requests… but I still couldn’t break into the world of book publication.

At this point I made a decision that would change the course of my career. I realized that I was limiting my ability to improve by staying at the edge of the universe. I needed to go out into the wider world of children’s writers. I started attending workshops and conferences. Not just in North and South Carolina, but in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York too. This was the best way I could think of to get access to editors and agents, and to learn what they are looking for, and to find where my work was falling short.

But here is what surprised me about attending workshops and conferences: meeting editors and agents wasn’t the most important aspect of them, meeting other writers was.

I thought it would be helpful to list a few of the conferences and workshops I’ve attended, in order to show how meeting other writers directly benefited my career.

  1. My first conference was an SCBWI-Carolinas conference. There I met another writer who encouraged me to attend a poetry writing workshop at the Highlights Foundation.   
  2. At the Highlights Foundation Founders workshop, I learned about The Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. 
  3. I attended the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua, where I met four of my closest writer friends. I also learned about the Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference from a writer I met there. 
  4. Rutgers One-on-One Plus is a conference that pairs attendees one to one with a faculty mentor. Mentors are editors, agents, or established authors. It is a great place to get feedback from a lot of editors and agents at once. At Rutgers, I learned that I was writing in the most difficult genre to get published. I switched genres and came back the next year.  
  5. The next year at Rutgers, my mentor was another writer. After reading my manuscript, she showed me how my characterization was shallow, and gave me tips on how to improve it. That manuscript later sold.
  6. Next I met my four writer friends from Chautauqua in NY for a mini conference. There I met editor Kristen Daly Rens, who showed my poetry to Lee Bennett Hopkins, who included it in Nasty Bugs, a poetry anthology released this year by Dial. I also made a new writer friend, who later suggested I submit my manuscript to agent Rosemary Stimola, even though she was not Rosemary’s client. I took her advice, and suddenly, I had an agent.  
  7. At an SCBWI Carolinas novel-writing workshop, another writer suggested that I read my old diaries from middle school and high school. I didn’t remember those being very interesting years, but curiosity got the best of me, and when I got home from the conference I read the diaries straight through. Reading them gave me the idea to write THE BOY PROJECT (Scholastic 2012). It also helped me find the right voice for my main character.
I have been to many more conferences and workshops than those listed above, and I can honestly say that I’ve taken away valuable information from each one. Just through the ones included here, I made friends who introduced me to editors, led me to my agent, and suggested I read diaries that resulted in my novel. Over the years, we’ve discussed publication stresses and frustrations, exchanged manuscripts, and asked each other for advice. I’ve made tons of other friends along the way too, many who blogged about my novel when it first came out, helping me launch it into the world.

And I haven’t even mentioned the other ways my writer friends have helped me, simply as friends. We call and email each other. We laugh at the absurdities of this crazy industry. We cry over family tragedies and we cheer for each other when there is cause to celebrate. We support each other.

I look back on those first years when I was sitting alone at the edge of the universe and think of them as the years that held me back. I regret that I didn’t get out there and meet other writers sooner, and I think my career would have moved more swiftly if I had. It is often expensive to attend conferences and workshops, but you have to look at it as an investment in your career. (Also, you should be aware that scholarships exist for most conferences.)

The best advice I can give writers aspiring to become authors is to attend workshops and conferences to help improve your craft and to make friends along the way. You can’t do it alone. Your journey will be more productive, and a lot more fun, if you travel with friends.

Links to the conferences I talked about:


And catch the book trailer for The Boy Project here:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

28 Don't Think Too Much, You'll Create a Problem That Wasn't Even There

A Guest Post by Julie Musil

Julie Musil is an YA author represented by Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary Agency. She's wife to her high school honey, and the mother of three amazing sons. When she's not shuttling her boys here, there, and everywhere, she's either tapping away on her keyboard, researching for nonfiction, or keeping up with writing tips and markets.

A few years ago, I took a writing course. I'd study the course material and turn in my assignments, but all along I had this nagging doubt about something. I read about noun/verb placement, misplaced modifiers, and comma usage, and began to over-analyze my work. I found myself worrying less about a good story, and worrying more about mechanics. And I have a confession to make: I honestly had a hard time breaking it all down, and couldn't tell if I was doing it right or not.

I finally summoned the courage to ask my instructor about my concerns, and her words will always stick with me. "You're doing all this naturally, so don't worry so much about it." Those words lightened my load, and allowed me to shed my fears and focus on the most important thing: entertaining the reader.

But how do we know if we're accomplishing the important points naturally? How do we apply proper mechanics without freaking out about details? Here are my thoughts:


Most writers are avid readers, and while we're doing something that brings us joy, we're also learning how to do things right. We recognize a long, flowing sentence during a slower part of the book, and a snappy sentence at the climax. We recognize how the author starts us on the journey right away, and doesn't bog us down with unnecessary information. We automatically know which verb is attached to which noun, simply by reading through a sentence that makes sense. We learn comma placement by pausing when the author wants us to.

Reading lots of books in our genre gives us a feel for what works. We can't compare our lumps of clay to the polished greatness that we read. If we do, we're not being fair to ourselves.

Critique Other Work

I don't know about you guys, but sometimes I finish a book and think, darn, how in the world will my skills ever be up to par? The pacing was perfect. I wept for the character. The scenery was gorgeous.

But one thing we need to remember is that the book we've just read has been through extensive revisions. The author's agent and a professional editor have put that manuscript through the meat grinder. The author's first draft might have been burdened with a saggy middle, or an unsatisfying ending. Maybe their grammar was off, and they used a crutch word too often.

When we critique our talented writer friends' work, we see a raw manuscript that will only get better.  If the author is brilliant with character details or creative scenery, we learn from this. We recognize what works and what doesn't, because we're experienced readers.

Have Our Work Critiqued

This part is terrifying! Sending our babies out to others is not easy, but for me, it's so important. By the time we've read our manuscripts five times or more, we've lost all perspective. We don't know if anyone would even care about our character. We're not sure if the plot is interesting. We're unclear if the pacing is right.

Our critique partners read our work with fresh eyes, and they're on the hunt for what works and what doesn't. As difficult as it is to stomach, reading through their thoughtful comments only helps us move forward. They might catch the same word twice in one sentence. They might question our character's motives. They might remind us that we said the character's hair was red in chapter 3, and in chapter 10 it's black. If they read a sentence and are unsure who we're talking about, we know we need to rewrite it.

I have a long way to go on my writing journey, but one thing I've learned is this: great books start with the writer, but they aren't finished alone. Yes, we need to continue learning and applying those lessons learned to our manuscripts. But we also need to relax and let the creative process have its way with us, and worry about the mechanics after the story is down on paper. Over-analyzing our work is one way to zap the joy right out of it.

Are you guilty of over-analyzing your work? Are you like me, and have trouble figuring out if you're doing it right or not? Please share!

photo credit

Monday, May 21, 2012

1 Interview with Kat Zhang and 1st 5 Pages May Workshop Final Revisions

The final revisions are posted for our May round of the First Five Pages workshop. Please read them below and share your thoughts and impressions. Are you hooked? Are you eager to buy a book that starts like this? What else needs some work? What are some of the things you loved?

We've been very lucky to have Kat Zhang with us as a guest mentor this month. Kat is an amazing young writer, with the first book of her mega-hot trilogy coming out in September: WHAT'S LEFT OF ME.

Here's a quickie interview with her to enjoy in the meantime.

Q.       How long have you been writing and what sort of writing training did you receive before writing WHAT’S LEFT OF ME?

I started my first (unfinished) novel when I was twelve, but I didn't actually complete a book until I was seventeen. I started WHAT'S LEFT OF ME that same year, so I didn't really receive any fiction training before then. I did read a ton of "How to Write" books for a while, though, and I've always been a voracious reader :)

Q.       What two mistakes do you see young or novice writers most commonly making?

1. Worrying too much about what comes after finishing a book before actually finishing the book. Finishing the book itself is a big step (at least it was for me, if you can't tell by the 5 years it took me, haha). It's okay to take things one step at a time. In fiction, at least, you need a finished manuscript before any of the rest of it matters.

2. Querying too soon. This is totally me superimposing my own mistakes on other people, but for the longest time, I did not understand what "revision" really meant. My idea of "revision" was basically what the publishing industry calls "line edits." The first project I ever queried (the MS before WHAT'S LEFT OF ME) was "revised" but not actually revised. Again, take your time! A first draft is made to be cut up and rearranged and stitched together again. Don't be afraid to make big changes. 

Q.       If you could give a young or novice writer one piece of wisdom, what would it be?

Write. Keep writing. It's your craft, and it's a skill, and the more you write, the better you get. Also, it'll distract you from all the things in the industry that you can't control. You can spend forever fretting about trends and things like that (and don't get me wrong--they are worth consideration), but in the end, don't waste *too* much energy on it. 

Q.       What is the most important thing  you have learned on your journey to publication?

Enjoy every step of it :) 


Thanks so much, Kat! 

WHAT'S LEFT OF ME releases Sept. 18, 2012 from HarperCollins Children's

Learn more at:

9 1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Amabel Rev 2

Di couldn’t decide whether to tiptoe away or start running. Being paralyzed with fear made it difficult to do either.

There’s someone in my house! The realization slammed into her again as she stared at the miniature, wooden hourglass on the bookshelf. She had to admit it didn’t look that scary, standing on a lace doily next to a bowl of potpourri, but those things had been there when she walked past a minute ago.

The hourglass hadn’t.

Coby? She grasped at a desperate hope as the silvery grains of sand tumbled through the rough, glass shell.  No. Her oblivious twin brother was upstairs, no doubt texting the girls he would see at school if he bothered to get ready in time, while Di was alone with a potential robber, axe murderer or raving lunatic for company.

Or even a living army of home-invading knock-knacks, she chided herself, searching for a better explanation. Her parents must have left the hourglass on their way to work and her passing footsteps probably shook out a blockage of sand, allowing it to pour freely and catch her eye. The fact that she’d panicked said more about her ability to overreact at the slightest provocation than about the dubious motives of a stalking time piece.

Anxious to get back on schedule Di checked her watch – and the sight woke her faster than being drenched in a bucket of ice water. How could it be that late already? Ironing Coby’s shirt had stuffed up her routine a bit, but by this much? The bus would be there any minute.

She rushed upstairs to the apocalyptic mess Coby called his room. His scruffy brown hair, stained uniform and grubby shoes were like camouflage amidst the chaos.

“Who lost my schoolbag?” he said through his sixth bit of toast, contributing to the search by kicking piles of dirty laundry and untouched textbooks around the floor.

“No-one. But can you hurry up? Please?”

Coby muttered something, probably rude, but at least he wasn’t playing living-room obstacle football or complaining about matching socks and packed lunches and anything else fifteen-year-old boys say are a waste of time. If he tried that again, Di might just disown him altogether.

Or not.  She sighed. Despite Coby’s unflinching belief that she was adopted, their identical brown eyes and jointly embarrassing full names – Diamond and Cobalt – said they were as close as family could get. So to their mutual annoyance, she felt compelled to fuss.

“Fine,” Di said. “I’ll find the bag. You get ready.”

“Right.” Coby finger-combed his hair as he dashed out, but he still looked like he’d been mugged. By a cyclone.

You’re welcome! Di grabbed her own bag from her room and hurried back downstairs, silently composing the lecture she’d never have the heart to deliver.  As she reached the landing she looked up at the bookshelf and froze.

The hourglass was gone.

Di stumbled sideways off the last step and pressed herself against the hallway wall to cover her back, throwing wild glances up the hall in both directions. If she went back upstairs to warn her brother, she’d cut off any means of escape. But if she tried searching for the intruder, she couldn’t move anywhere without leaving the rest of the house open for them to sneak around.

Di locked her eyes on the hallway phone. And something crashed to the floor above her.

Coby!  She dived back around the corner, without considering who she’d meet or how she might defend herself. Coby appeared on the top step, raising his hands in surrender.

“Before you go mental,” he said as a cricket ball rolled out behind him, “that vase was ugly anyway.”

“I’ll fix it later.” Di waved his words away. “Did you see an hourglass here? There was a little antique one, like, a second ago.”

“Oookay.” Coby raised his eyebrows. “Forget the vase, you’re mental already.”

Di went to protest but decided it was pointless. Coby would have been able to see the bookshelf from his room the whole time she was up there. No one moved the hourglass, because it never existed.

Coby twirled a finger at his ear, officially declaring her insane, then kicked the tennis ball back into his room and disappeared after it. Di ignored him. Sure he’d caught her creeping through the house with a butcher’s knife two weeks ago, looking for what turned out to be just a mouse in the pantry, but that didn’t make her crazy and neither did this.  No it was a trick of the light, made worse by tired eyes after last nights’ study cut into her scheduled seven and a quarter hours’ sleep.

Yeah, right,  Di thought, until an involuntary yawn set her eyes watering enough to blur out everything around her. She blinked it away and found herself staring at the grandfather clock beside the bookshelf.

From the glass case, two solemn figures were staring back.

Di spun around, searching for the source of the reflection, but the stairs were empty. Gripping the banister in case her legs gave way, she started to turn back again. Her neck creaked with every incremental movement but she didn’t have the courage to go any faster. Eventually her gaze reached the base of the clock. She raised her head.

“Found it!” Coby thundered downstairs, slinging his backpack over his shoulder while Di tried not to faint at the sight of him.

“It was under my bed. The ball rolled right next to it,” he said, pushing past Di to the front door. She looked back at the clock. The gaunt faced man and the woman with the imploring blue eyes had gone.

Tired. Plain, sane and tired, Di told herself, unable to believe it but refusing to consider anything else. She brushed the creases from her uniform, ran a hand over her ponytail to ensure there wasn’t a hair out of place, and followed Coby outside.

The bus passed their stop just as Di locked the front door. Coby couldn’t resist a race as the bus dragged itself up the hill and Di chased after him, dying of embarrassment; with her overstuffed schoolbag bouncing on her back, she felt like a giant, uncoordinated turtle.

At least it won’t make me any less cool,  she reasoned as she caught up and climbed on board. Coby headed straight for the back seat, leaving Di, with her rank on the social ladder of about five rungs underground, to that most fiercely coveted of spots: smack-bang behind the driver. Waiting for her as always was her slightly freckly, slightly lanky, best-friend-ever, Josh.

“Since when do you have to run to get here on time?” He gaped at her as she joined him. “What happened, did every watch in the world stop working?”

“Yeah… I mean no… Coby was taking forever.” Di shook her head.

“You okay though? You seem stressed.”

“I’m just tired.”

“Were you up all night reading again?”

“Maybe,” Di admitted. Josh feigned disappointment.

“You need a life,” he teased. He was joking, but the honesty in his hazel eyes hit a painful nerve.

Di turned away, fiddling with her neatly trimmed nails to avoid his gaze. Josh was right; her life was about as exciting as leftover Brussels sprouts.

“Maybe you… you could… come out sometime,” he said quietly. Di jerked her head up and saw, to her astonishment, a hint of colour creeping up from his cheeks to the roots of his dusty blonde hair.

6 1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Hawke Rev 2

I crouched under the covers so Dad couldn’t see the glow from my cell phone. He’d flip if he caught me awake after midnight. I texted, “Beat game. Blew everything up.”

My phone buzzed with a new message, but it wasn’t from one of my buddies. It read, “Justin. Do not skip this class: Essential Lessons for Frost Dragon Egg Maintenance. All Lab. No Lecture.”

Like I’d want an extra class when I had pre-algebra homework every day and yet another book report due for language studies. Some loser must’ve got my number and this was his idea of a hilarious joke.

Maybe the message was an ad for a new computer game. I checked again. The screen name of the person who sent it was “Sphinx.” The game was probably fantasy. I might buy it. Sounded sweet.

I yawned so the corners of my jaw cracked. Maybe I should go to sleep. My dad would peel the covers off me before the sun rose in the morning, even if it was a Saturday. He’d drag me on some hike, or bike ride, or kayak trip. Just once, I wished he’d let me do what I wanted.

I fluffed up the covers so I could see better and tapped in another message, “Can’t make gaming party.” No, instead of bringing my laptop to a friend’s house, I’d be discovering a whole new world of blisters.

A light flicked on in my room. By reflex, I stuffed my phone under the pillow. I was so busted. Trying to think of an excuse, I pushed aside my old plaid camping blanket. But Dad wasn't there.

From the window, electric bright light rippled across the wall. The light shaded into pink and then turned burning red.

A noise from outside roared like a freeway at rush hour and then an enormous thump shook the bed. Adrenaline surging through my legs, I ran to the window, threw it open and leaned outside. My mouth fell open. Frozen lightning hung in front of my house, stretching from the lawn up to the roof. Across the narrow street, red haze swirled around a hulking animal the size of a backhoe. It cast about, as if looking for something.

Smoke drifted into my room, making me cough. The animal snapped its head up. It gazed directly at me with golden eyes big as my fist. The pupils thinned to narrow vertical lines.

I jumped back from the window. “Ahhh…” Stumbling further away across the room, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Then my head hit the opposite wall with a thump that made my ears ring. The creature’s gaze pinned me there like a bug.

The door crashed open beside me and Dad charged through. “Justin! There’s a fire!”

I pointed to the monster outside and tried to say something, but my voice was no louder than a gasping goldfish.

Dad didn’t look towards the window, only grabbed the back of my pajamas and hustled me out onto the landing. Mom just stood there, her hands clasped in front of her heart. Dad took her arm and helped her downstairs while I clomped after them.

They headed straight for the front door. That huge animal was out there like a monster from a nightmare. My tongue stumbled over itself. I couldn’t get the words out fast enough. “Wait! Don’t go outside.”

My mom and dad rushed out the front door anyway. I hovered on my toes at the end of the hallway.

But as they stood on the shadowed step, they didn’t scream or recoil. I edged out next to Dad, glad I hadn’t just become an orphan. Beyond, there was no giant beast. The silver thread was gone too.

I craned my neck to look up and down the street. Perhaps it wasn’t as big as I’d thought. It was dark out and there were only a few streetlights in our neighborhood. “Did you see a huge animal run away?”

Dad’s voice was distracted. “You probably saw a dog. Scared by the fire.”

That was no dog.

Flames exploded from the roof of the small house across the street with a shower of sparks.

I clutched my dad’s sleeve. “Amber is in there!” She used to be my best friend, back when we were little kids. She and her mom lived in that house alone.

Dad took a step forward. “I’m going in after them. Justin, take care of your mother.”

She threw her arms around him. “No! I can hear sirens. The firefighters will be here soon.”

I could hear them too, but they sounded distant. What if they didn’t come in time to save Amber and her mom?

Just then, Amber ran from behind the burning house, hand-in-hand with her mom, Ruth. They must’ve escaped out their back door. I didn’t realize how hard my heart was pounding until it slowed.

Crossing to our side of the street, the two stopped and held onto each other. Amber’s bare feet stuck out the bottom of her sweatpants.

I squinted as far as I could see into the darkness for the monster. Maybe it really had been just an animal. It was pretty late and I’d been staring at a computer screen for hours. I’d probably killed a half-dozen virtual dragons. I jogged down the sidewalk to Amber. Her eyes looked almost black in the reflected firelight. “Are you okay?”

She glanced up at me, opened her mouth, then closed it with a little shake of her head.

Ruth drew her daughter in close under her arm. “It must have been an earthquake.” She chewed her lip as she watched fire engulf their home. “Maybe it broke a gas line.”

But there hadn’t been an earthquake. “Maybe the gas line was hit by….” I trailed off. I couldn’t tell them about a monster. Even a giant animal sounded crazy.

Sirens blared, getting closer.

Amber’s hair flew about her face. It was curly like her mother’s but inky black like her dad’s. She leaned into her mom, eyes wide and shocked. “All my things, my clothes, my….”

I remembered her room had been filled with stuffed animals. They even spilled from a hammock strung across the ceiling like fluffy guardian angels.

I tried to sound reassuring. “It’s okay. It’s just stuff.”

She stiffened and cast me a cold look. “Easy for you to say. You’d think differently if it were your precious computer.”

I muttered, “I’m only trying to help.”

“That’s funny. I haven’t noticed you around much, not like when, I needed you.”

Amber’s mom stroked her hair. “Honey, this isn’t his fault…”

Amber clenched her teeth hard and stared at the fire as if I’d just stopped existing.

A fire truck and an ambulance rounded the corner, lights strobing. I slunk back to my parents.

Firefighters attached a hose to a fire hydrant and water gushed through the looping coils. The water made clouds of smoke and steam erupt through the broken windows.

It felt like I’d opened an oven door as I squinted against the heat. Right under my feet, wisps of smoke curled up from our lawn. A wide blackened trail led across the street and to the burning house. It was almost like an arrow pointing from my house to Amber’s.

After a while, Amber’s dad showed up. She hugged him tight around the middle. He stood stiff, arms raised. I hadn’t seen him in years. My mom told me he’d gone home to Shanghai, but he was back now.

7 1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Hull Rev 2

Mary Hull
Young adult
Eyes from Heaven

Chapter 1: Neighbor

      The waves crashed against the shore relentlessly. The salt water burned against the tears glistening on my face as I stood in between mom and dad, their arms around my shoulders. The sun’s sizzling beams cast shadows over the figures swarmed on the beach, their faces etched with panic.

     “Hey, you guys swim out that way, we’ll go from here!”

    “Ok, stabilize the head and neck!”

    “Quick, grab the paddles!”

    “All right, we’re all clear, you guys, and you’re clear right?”

    “There’s no pulse! How many minutes have passed?”


     They turned off the machine and sat back on their heels, tiny beads of sweat dripping from the sides of their faces, the realization of failure etched across their faces, synonymous with the shock in their eyes, as they sat on the warm sand, rigid, unmoving as the body was being taken away.

     That was the last time I saw Ben.

    Then he was gone.

I must have been standing under the hot water for a while because my skin felt like rubber. After drying off, I wore khaki pants and a pink blouse. Mom always made it a point to remind me that I was too beautiful to ever choose to dress like a tomboy and growing up I had come to enjoy feeling comfortable in nice clothing.

   The small black box was perched on the dresser. I must have forgotten to put it back, I thought as my fingers traced the box. I opened it and stared at the mirror image of myself. The same fair skin, green eyes and honey colored hair. We were standing in front of our house, now my old house, in Viewbridge. It was the day of the beach trip. That was the last picture I’d take with Ben. I recalled the incessant arguing that started shortly after my parents and I came home from the hospital that night. I felt like an intruder in my own home as I watched my mom and dad go through the motions of work and home duties as if the other didn’t exist. Whenever my dad or I would bring up Ben’s name my mom would get mad and accuse us of not caring about her loss. Mom never talked about Ben after the funeral. She didn’t take down his pictures from the walls or anything like that. She woke up every day, cooked breakfast and went to work as if nothing had happened. She stopped wearing black, which I had heard was done out of respect, the day after the funeral.

    I went back to school the week after the funeral. I didn’t want to but my mom stressed the importance of trying to make life normal again. I couldn’t understand how anything could be normal again, ever. It was strange being in school without Ben. Those who had been at the beach that day made it a point to sit by me at lunchtime for the first few weeks but that didn’t last long. Maybe it was the fact that most of them were Ben’s friends. The few close friends I had somehow sensed that my usual quiet nature had turned into a loner state and completely shut me out.

    My mom didn’t allow anyone to go into Ben’s room but I made it a point to go in there once a night when I was sure my mom was asleep. Being careful to leave everything the way Ben had left it, I’d lie on the floor and close my eyes to remember the fun things we did. All I saw was that last vision of him struggling in the water.

   One month before I finished tenth grade my dad moved out. He rented a two-bedroom apartment near the office where he was president of a news firm. The reality of my dad living somewhere other than our home hit hard the day he left with a u-haul truck. But when my mom came into my room the night dad left with the announcement that she and I would be moving to the town of Meadowcreek, the life I’d come to know in Viewbridge seemed to suddenly vanish. When I told my mom that I wanted to live with dad I’d hope she would understand my reason to be closer to the memories of Ben. Mom, on the other hand, warned me that she would be all alone in a new town and we needed each other to move forward. My dad, always being the non-confrontational one, supported mom’s request for us to move, promising to call and visit.

     We moved to Meadowcreek in May and my mom transitioned rather smoothly to her new TV journalist office. I, on the other hand, only left our new house when mom had to run an errand and asked me to come along. Whenever I’d ask to go to Viewbridge to visit dad, mom would make up an excuse of having planned an outing for us. Dad hadn’t visited since the move and whenever I questioned him why, he’d simply say, ‘I will when your mom feels she is ready.’ Three months passed with no mention of Ben; no phone calls from my old friends.

     I jumped at the hard knock on my bedroom door.

    “Lily! Are you up yet?”

    My mom walked into the room, her eggplant color pantsuit complimenting her shoulder length brown hair and light makeup. I tried shoving the box back into the drawer and in my hurry my fingers got caught in the hinge. I pursed my lips, trying to conceal the throbbing sensation.

       She eyed me with her brows lifted. “Do I have to remind you that this is your first day at a new school?”

         Why did she feel the need to question everything?    

      “Nothing, I was just…”

             “My dear,” she said, her tone firm. “Surely you’re not trying to skip your first day of school are you?”

    I looked her straight in the eyes but I’d never been good at keeping things from her. “No, mom,” I said looking away, “I was just putting something away and my finger got caught.”

           Her voice softened. “Are you all right?”

          “Yeah, I’m fine.”

        She placed her hand on my shoulder. “We must carry ourselves with confidence so those around us will want to get to know who we are.”


She reached over and hugged me. “Don’t forget to wear some mascara. Our eyes are the windows to our soul.”

    I remained quiet, waiting for her to leave the room.

    Most of the girls my age I had come across in town were highly fashionable in their taste of clothing and surely I didn’t want to look like an outsider. Even though I totally feel like one, I thought staring at my appearance in the mirror.

       I went downstairs into the kitchen.

“There’s orange juice and bagels on the table,” mom said, rinsing her coffee muff. I watched her eyeing my outfit. The smile on her face meant she approved.      

     She kissed my forehead before heading out the door. “Oh, and for the sake of both of our reputation in town please try to be a bit outgoing and make new friends,” she added with a smile.

         I didn’t reply, relieved that this one-sided conversation had come to an end. For now.

My parents would call me their timid child. There was someone, though, who was uninhibited; eager to challenge everything. My brother, Ben.      

     I opened the front door. The sun’s bright rays welcomed me to my first day of eleventh grade at Meadowcreek High.

             I stepped off the porch and looked to my left at the house next door. It was almost twice the size as our house, although I’d never actually seen the inside. The house had been empty for about a month since the previous owner, Mr. Culling, a widower in his eighties, had passed away. I watched two men, wearing blue uniforms, carrying boxes from a large u-haul truck parked in the driveway up the front porch into the house. It seemed strange to have neighbors again even though no other car was parked in the driveway.

              “You can put the rest of the boxes in the garage!Yeah, right there, thanks!”

      It was a boy’s voice and it was coming from the upstairs window directly across from my bedroom.

The boy suddenly turned and looked at me. Embarrassed, I quickly started walking down the sidewalk.

       I crossed the intersection in front of the school. Meadowcreek High appeared ready to engulf me. I had no choice but to endure what the next two years held for me. 

      “May I help you?” a soft voice asked.        

     “I have a meeting with Mrs. Cash.”

        “This way please.” She smiled and began to walk down the hall. “I’m the librarian, Mrs. Sanders.”

          “Hello.” I felt like a stone wall that had been carved through, my past divulged to all. After all, I was the new girl and knew the other students would seize upon the interest of discovering the reason of my move to Meadowcreek.

    We walked down a long hallway. Mrs. Sanders stopped in front of a door labeled Counseling Office.

6 1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Soontornvat Rev 2

Author: Christina Soontornvat

The cashier leaned over the conveyor belt. Two of his bottom teeth were missing. “That neighbor of yours is a witch, or I’m a bull toad.”

Izzy leaned forward, too. She wanted to make certain she didn't miss a single word. 

Her mom put on a polite smile and zipped up her purse. “I beg your pardon?”

The cashier narrowed his eyes. “You wanna know what she came in here and bought last week?”

“I can’t ima – “

Beef tongue. Now I ask you, what kind of person buys that? Put it in a potion or something, I bet.

Izzy’s mom started lifting the sacks into the cart. “I’m afraid we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Malloy yet.”

“Oh it ain’t Mrs. You think anyone would marry her? Shoot, no. Marian Malloy would sooner put a curse on a man than say hello. Mind, I’m only tellin’ you this ‘cause you’re new to Everton.”

Izzy slid over to where her younger sister eyed the candy. “Hen, tell Mom you need to go to the bathroom,” she whispered.

“But I don’t,” Hen said.

“I know that! It’s just a stalling tactic.”

“So why don’t you do it?”

“Because I’m listening! I want to hear more about the witch.”

This was without a doubt the most interesting thing that had happened since they moved to Everton. The possibility of having a witch for a neighbor just might be enough to make up for living in a town with no movie theater, no swimming pools, and – worst of all – no library. 

But Izzy’s mom didn’t share her interest, and hurried them out of the store to the parking lot. “Can you believe that nonsense?” she said as they helped load the bags into the car. “I don’t know why this has to be the only grocery store in town!”

Izzy stood next to the open car door, and looked over her shoulder at the faded Piggly Wiggly sign. From the amount of groceries her mom bought, she could tell they wouldn’t be coming back for at least a week.

“Hey mom, I think I left something in there…” She started to jog back across the parking lot toward the store.

“What? Sweetie, what did you leave?”

“Um – my lucky bookmark! I’ll be right back!”

The sliding doors whooshed open, and Izzy trotted up to the cash register. The cashier’s face was hidden behind a cheap tabloid newspaper with a cover that read, Elvis spotted at Tullahoma Waffle House.

Izzy tapped on the counter. “Excuse me?”

“Whatcha need, sugar?” he replied, without putting his paper down.  

“Was everything you said really true? About our neighbor being a witch, I mean.”

The cashier crumpled the tabloid and leaned towards her. “Oh it’s the truth, all right. And you little girls need to watch yourselves out there.”

Izzy bristled. At twelve, she was hardly a little girl. She rose up on her tiptoes. “Why? What could happen to us?”

The cashier’s voice dropped to a whisper, and his eyes scanned side to side. “Anything goes near her house, it disappears. Dogs. Pigs. Anything. She says the fairies take ‘em, but I’ll bet you they all end up in a big, black kettle.”

The front doors of the store slid open. “Izzy, did you find it?” asked her mom, her hands on her hips. “We need to get going before the ice cream melts.”

Izzy shuffled her feet as she followed her mom back out to the car. She took one last look at the rundown store, and then they started the long, pot-hole-riddled drive out to their new, old house.


Three drizzly, cooped-up days passed that left Izzy and Hen with nothing to do but help unpack boxes. The worst part was that all but five of Izzy’s precious books were travelling by flat-rate post, and wouldn’t arrive for at least another week. She read and reread those five until she had memorized every sentence. Just when her boredom reached a level that made her think she’d rather go to school than spend another day with nothing happening – something happened.

 “It’s her, Izzy! It’s the witch!” Hen pressed her freckled nose against the window that looked down onto the driveway, and bounced on her toes.

Izzy squeezed in beside her so she could see out the window. She couldn’t believe their good luck.

But when the old woman climbed out of her pickup truck, Hen’s face fell in disappointment. “She doesn’t really look like a witch to me...”

 The woman walking up their porch steps looked more like a farmer than anything else. Her work clothes were stained with mud, and her short, white hair peeked out from under a crumpled men’s hat. The only thing remotely witchy about her was that even though her wrinkles meant she must be at least seventy, she walked fast and didn’t stoop the way most old people did.   

“You can’t tell anything about her just by looking,” said Izzy. She tried to sound hopeful, but so far things didn’t seem very promising.

The old woman didn’t have any of the standard witch traits. And Izzy should know. It was safe to say that she had read every fairy or folktale concerning witches. In fact, she was almost sure she had read every fairytale in existence, and the nine boxes of books in route to their house were proof. She knew that witches came in one of two varieties: hunchbacked hag, or cruelly beautiful sorceress. That’s just the way things were.

“Izzy! Hen!” their mother called from downstairs. “Girls, come down here, please. We have a visitor!”

The sisters exchanged quick looks, and then hurried out of their room and down the stairs. The old woman stood at the front door, dripping muddy water onto the rug.

“Marian, these are my girls, Isabella and Henrietta,” their mom said brightly.

Marian kept her hands in her pockets and nodded at them.

“Won’t you come sit down?” said their mom, leading the way toward the kitchen. “I’ve just made a pot of tea. My husband works late at his new job with the county, and I’m not used to living so far from any other neighbors. It will be nice to have another adult to talk to.”

 “Humph,” said Marian, sitting down at the table. “Far as I’m concerned, the best thing about living way out here is not having folks to talk to.” 

Izzy’s mom laughed as if Marian had made a joke. “And you are certainly welcome to join us for dinner, if you like.”

Hen’s eyes grew wide as ­­­pancakes.

One corner of Marian’s mouth turned up a little before returning to a scowl. “No, I’ve got to get home to my own supper. I only came over because I was driving past your house, which I normally don’t do. I think it’s best that neighbors meet face to face. Prevents problems later on.”

Izzy and Hen pulled out chairs for themselves on the opposite side of the table. Izzy looked at the old woman’s fingernails and wondered if they were stained green from pulling weeds or making potions.

Her mom came to the table carrying a teapot and two cups. “I didn’t realize it rained so much here. The girls start school next week, and I’m sure they’ll be glad to get out of the house.”

Marian drummed her fingers on the tabletop. “Everton Elementary is run by a bunch of incompetent gossips,” she grumbled.

“Really?” said their mom, sliding a teacup across the table. “I thought it seemed like a very good school.”  

“What’s ‘incontinent’ mean?” Hen asked loudly.

“Actually, I won’t be at the Elementary school,” said Izzy, sitting up a little straighter. “I’m in sixth grade.”

The old woman scanned Izzy up and down. “Sixth grade? You’re no bigger than a chipmunk.” 

Friday, May 18, 2012

19 YA Books in Stores Next Week and EMOTION THESAURUS Giveaway - 5/18/12


The Emotion Thesaurus eBook
by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

The Emotion Thesaurus is a tool to help writers show, not tell, emotion. Formatted similar to a thesaurus, the ET explores 75 different emotions, and lists out possible body language cues, visceral sensations (like shivering, a flush of heat or adrenaline, tightness in the throat, etc.) and thoughts a character might experience for each.

The result is a brainstorming guide to reference when a writer is struggling with a fresh way to show the reader what a character is feeling.


Faerie Winter by Janni Lee Simner

The long-awaited sequel to Janni Lee Simner's breathtaking YA fantasy debut, Bones of Faerie.

Liza is a summoner. She can draw life to herself, even from beyond the grave. And because magic works both ways, she can drive life away. Months ago, she used her powers to banish her dangerous father and to rescue her mother, lost in dreams, from the ruined land of Faerie.

Born in the wake of the war between humanity and Faerie, Liza lived in a world where green things never slept, where trees sought to root in living flesh and bone. But now the forests have fallen silent. Even the evergreens' branches are bare. Winter crops won't grow, and the threat of starvation looms. And deep in the forest a dark, malevolent will is at work. To face it, Liza will have to find within herself something more powerful than magic alone.

Here at last is the sequel to Bones of Faerie, for all those fans of dark fantasy and dystopian adventure who thrilled to Janni Lee Simner's unique vision of a postapocalyptic world infused with magic.
To enter, complete the form below. Sorry, U.S. and Canadian entries only, please!

Dead Time by Anne Cassidy(The Murder Notebooks)

When Rose was twelve, her mother and stepfather went out for dinner and never came back. Now seventeen, she lives with her grandmother and goes to school in London. She’s always wondered about her stepbrother, Joshua, whom she only lived with briefly and who was also relocated after their parents’ disappearance. When Rose and Joshua meet again, they find they have much in common, including a desire to uncover the mystery surrounding their parents’ disappearance . . . and a mutual attraction to each other. But when Rose witnesses the murders of not one but two of her classmates, she must uncover who is behind these violent crimes. And when she and Joshua discover that a much larger conspiracy is underway, both of their lives will be in danger. From international bestseller Anne Cassidy, this first in a fastpaced and romantic new mystery series will keep readers guessing.

Shift by Em Bailey

Olive Corbett is definitely NOT crazy.

Not anymore. These days she takes her meds like a good girl, hangs out with her best friend Ami, and stays the hell away from the toxic girls she used to be friends with.

She doesn’t need a boyfriend. Especially not a lifesaver-type with a nice smile. And she doesn’t need the drama of that creepy new girl Miranda, who has somehow latched on to Olive's ex-best friend.

Yet from a distance, Olive can see there's something sinister about the new friendship. Something almost... parasitic. Maybe the wild rumours ARE true. Maybe Miranda is a killer.

But who would believe Olive? She does have a habit of letting her imagination run away with her…

Alice on Board by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

In her last adventure before starting college, Alice takes to the open sea for the summer—and nothing can stop the tides of change.
Everything Alice has ever known is about to change—from where she sleeps at night to how close her closest friends will be. So Alice is meeting that seasick feeling head-on by setting sail as staff on a Chesapeake Bay cruise ship. And like any last great adventure before starting college, Alice knows she’ll need sunblock, an open mind, and…oh yeah, all her best girlfriends. It’s the perfect summer job.

Perfect, that is, when things are going perfectly. But when they’re not, Alice has to figure out how to weather unexpected storms of all sorts. Which could be perfect after all—perfect training for her next big adventure—college.

Taken by Storm Jennifer Lynn Barnes (A Raised by Wolves Novel)

Bryn knows first-hand that being the alpha of a werewolf pack means making hard decisions, and that being human makes things a thousand times worse. She's prepared to give up her humanity, but the wolf who promised to Change her is waiting - though for what, Bryn doesn't know. Still human, she must take her place in the werewolf Senate, the precarious democracy that rules the North American packs. Standing side by side with werewolves who were ancient long before she was ever born is enough of a challenge, but Bryn soon learns that the Senate has been called to deal with a problem: the kind of problem that involves human bodies, a Rabid werewolf, and memories that Bryn, Chase, and the rest of their pack would rather forget. With bodies stacking up and political pressure closing in from all sides, Bryn and her pack are going to have to turn to old enemies and even older friends for help - especially when it starts to look like this time, the monster might be one of their own.

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Galen, a Syrena prince, searches land for a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. It’s while Emma is on vacation at the beach that she meets Galen. Although their connection is immediate and powerful, Galen's not fully convinced that Emma's the one he's been looking for. That is, until a deadly encounter with a shark proves that Emma and her Gift may be the only thing that can save his kingdom. He needs her help--no matter what the risk.

The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson (The Atlanteans)

The ozone is ravaged, ocean levels have risen, and the sun is a daily enemy. But global climate change is not something new in the Earth’s history.

No one will know this better than less-than-ordinary Owen Parker, who is about to discover that he is the descendant of a highly advanced ancient race—a race that took their technology too far and almost destroyed the Earth in the process.

Now it is Owen’s turn to make right in his world what went wrong thousands of years ago. If Owen can unlock the lost code in his very genes, he may rediscover the forgotten knowledge of his ancestry…and that less-than-ordinary can evolve into extraordinary.

The Enchantress by Michael Scott (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel)

The two that are one must become the one that is all. One to save the world, one to destroy it.

San Francisco:
Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel have one day left to live, and one job left to do. They must defend San Francisco. The monsters gathered on Alcatraz Island have been released and are heading toward the city. If they are not stopped, they will destroy everyone and everything in their path.

But even with the help of two of the greatest warriors from history and myth, will the Sorceress and the legendary Alchemyst be able to defend the city? Or is it the beginning of the end of the human race?

Danu Talis:
Sophie and Josh Newman traveled ten thousand years into the past to Danu Talis when they followed Dr. John Dee and Virginia Dare. And it’s on this legendary island that the battle for the world begins and ends.

37 Things I Love by Kekla Magoon (in no particular order)

Ellis only has four days of her sophomore year left, and summer is so close that she can almost taste it. But even with vacation just within reach, Ellis isn’t exactly relaxed. Her father has been in a coma for years, the result of a construction accident, and her already-fragile relationship with her mother is strained over whether or not to remove him from life support. Her best friend fails even to notice that anything is wrong and Ellis feels like her world is falling apart. But when all seems bleak, Ellis finds comfort in the most unexpected places.

Life goes on, but in those four fleeting days friends are lost and found, promises are made, and Ellis realizes that nothing will ever quite be the same.