Below are the top 5 entries in our Red Light/Green Light contest, where writers are vying for the prize of a phone call with fabulous agent Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary.
First, our agent judged entries based on their first sentence. Then she judged entries based on their first two sentences. Now, she's selected the top 5 entries based on their opening pages!
Be sure to check back next Thursday, when we'll post our agent judge's selected WINNER!
CONGRATS to all who made it in, and good luck going forward! And for those who didn't make it in, remember that this is all subjective. If you're unsure about your opening, consider entering AYAP's First Five Pages Workshop, which runs monthly, for some extra guidance!
And now, presenting:
THE TOP 5 ENTRIES
Author: D Lollis
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
“Mom! Brandon is smelling his dirty underwear—again,” my older sister Bethany yelled as I crawled on the cold marble tile of the third floor laundry room. She grabbed her black jacket from a hanger, rolled her eyes, and left me to search for kind-of-clean boxers.
“Brandon Charles Piccoli!” Mom yelled from downstairs. “Stop being vile. You will NOT make us late! Today is your dad’s big day, so get dressed and get down here!”
Technically, my sister was right. I was smelling my dirty underwear. There weren’t any clean pairs in my dresser. Our housekeeper Mrs. Philberta was on vacation, and I’m not sure Mom would even be able to find the laundry room much less work the washing machine and dryer, so my only option was to grab the least smelly pair in the pile of dirty clothes. I pulled out a pair of neon green boxers, held it up to my nose, and took a deep whiff.
“We have a winner,” I mumbled as I grabbed the underwear and rushed back to my room to get dressed. I blasted on half a can of body spray (there’s no such thing as too much—especially when you’re wearing boxers that smell like cheese), threw on my black suit and tie, grabbed my Italian leather shoes, and flew down two flights of our grand staircase. Mom waited at the bottom, tapped her foot on the marble floor, and stared at her diamond-studded, gold watch.
“Your dad and sister are waiting in the car,” Mom said. She stopped and put both hands on my shoulder and held me at arm's length. “Look at you!” she said. “You look more and more like your dad every day. So handsome in your suit—a definite Piccoli!” She tilted her head a little to the left and her smile turned into a slight frown. “Is that toothpaste on your—” she said as she licked her thumb and rubbed my cheek like she was trying to erase my face.
“Mom!” I complained as I pulled away. “Stop! I’m not five years old anymore. I can get it off myself.”
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Four years ago no one knew my name. Now they chant it as I scale the stairs leading to the Rumeena. When I reach the final step, I turn. Hundreds of people have gathered to watch me receive the last task. Faces of the young and old blend together, making my stomach churn and an unsettled feeling rises up in my throat.
Father’s words rattle in my head. Do not disappoint me. I clench my fists to steady myself and take a deep breath. My right hand finds my forehead, and I salute the crowd like my brother Lind taught me. A roar of approval rushes toward me like a wave and before it can knock me over I dash inside the brick building of the Rumeena. Once the door closes, I press my back against it and slide to the ground. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be a Defender, let alone perform one final task that will most likely kill me.
My shoulders tremble as the cold floor seeps through my clothes. Down the hall comes the clipped sound of footsteps. One of the Elders is approaching. He can’t see me like this, crouched on the floor, drenched in fear. It would tarnish the Sherwood name. I force myself to my feet and shove my fists against my thighs to stop the shaking. The footsteps grow louder and I exhale, hoping to erase the lines of dread from my face.
The Elder, Faraday, appears around the corner. His lanky frame fills the narrow passageway and his wiry grey hair scratches at his shoulder blades. “Oliver, you’re late.”
“Sorry. I . . .” I try to think of an excuse, but I’ve never been good at lying. My left eye always twitches, so I clamp my mouth shut and tighten my face. The truth is I had lingered on the edge of town, staring at the forests south of Archgilly, trying to convince myself to flee into them. To escape everything. But in the end, I feared the unknown of what lay beyond the trees more than I feared the final task.
Author: Ellie Luken
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Only fools or the desperate wandered beyond the city walls by themselves. Zarailla had yet to determine which one of those categories the man on the horizon belonged to. Leaning against a wall of splintering wood, she peered around to watch him.
His bulky coat buried his body, fur-rimmed hood hiding his face and giving her too little information to make a good guess. He strode swiftly up the crest of a small hill, no weapon visible. Point for fool, perhaps.
"Captain? Orders?" Janessa, one of her soldiers, peeked out from what had once been a farmhouse. Paint faded, wood worn and chipped and missing an entire chunk of wall, it was nothing but a ruin now. It was joined by a collapsing stone structure that had been—something—and shards of glass glittering in the dying grass. A few metal poles arched high above their heads.
A fool she should leave to die. Someone desperate—she should find out what he ran from. Or towards. "Approach him," Zarailla said.
"As friend or foe?" Janessa asked.
"Friend." Zarailla grasped the hilt of her sword with a gloved hand. "But be ready in case he’s not."
Janessa nodded, slunk out from behind the slouching farmhouse and strode down the hill, dead grass clawing at her legs and crunching under her feet loud enough that it was good Zarailla hadn't ordered her to sneak up.
The man stopped walking, turned towards them. His hood still shadowed his face, revealing only yellow teeth in a too-broad smile.
Author: Lana Pattinson
Genre: Young Adult Historical
Ominous clouds hovered over the loch, and Rowan Sinclair was about to lose his chance at freedom.
The dense, yeasty aroma of alcohol settled on the sleeping casks like a thick blanket as Rowan crept into the whisky warehouse. Through the thatched roof, slivers of moonlight illuminated ceiling-high stacks of barrels. He thumped his knuckles against the oak staves until a hollow sound responded, and then he rolled a large, empty barrel out of the building.
Alistair leaned against the stone walls outside the warehouse, flask in hand. "Just what do you think you're doing, lad?"
Rowan grabbed an end with each hand and halted the cask. He straightened to his full height and looked down on the portly man. “Testing the device for the Laird." His voice strengthened. "It's empty, by the by." As if he needed to steal whisky. His own peat reek tasted better than this dross.
"But you said it wasn't finished." Alistair slugged a drink and wiped his ruddy face with his hand, nearly dropping the flask. The irony of Alistair's employment as the Distillery Manager was not lost on Rowan.
True, The Angel’s Wings wasnae finished to his satisfaction. It had taken nearly a year to create a machine that would help casks swim through the water, away from the greedy eyes of tax men. But the Laird was demanding the device now. Rowan had run out of time.
Author: Cassidy Taylor
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Sounds of revelry drift up to Ruby’s sitting room, but she wants no part of it. It is a distant cacophony, sounds of another world, another life. Instead, her door is shut firmly, and her head is in a stone basin. Her stomach contracts and she heaves again, her red curls held back at the nape of her neck by her maid, a girl of fifteen named Dina who has the light Mondragon complexion, but plain brown hair and eyes. Her stomach evacuates a yellow-green bile into the basin. She heaves again, but nothing comes up. She leans back on her stool. She can hear her Uncle Larimar loudly ascending the stairs to her chambers, each footstep like a thunderclap under his substantial weight. He’s loud, yelling something unintelligible to someone below him in the halls. She wipes her mouth with a handkerchief produced by Dina, and looks across the room to her dresser, where her elaborate white wedding dress hangs limp and lifeless. She looks back down at the handkerchief, a ridiculous white square of fabric with her initials - RMCM - embroidered in red thread on the corner, Dina’s delicate handwork. She runs a finger over the letters.
“Lady,” Dina starts to say, reaching for a hairbrush on the side table, but then there is a heavy knock on the door, three bangs in quick succession. Without waiting for a response, the person on the other side twists the doorknob violently. Drunk, she thinks. The door won’t open; Ruby had made sure that Dina locked it when they retreated to her rooms after dinner.
“Niece, are you well?” Larimar’s voice booms through the wooden door, and though his words express concern, she senses amusement in his tone. It makes her stomach contract again but she swallows it back.
“Well enough, uncle,” she replies. She feels Dina’s eyes on her, those plain brown eyes like mud, not missing anything. Not missing the way Ruby sags at the sound of Larimar’s voice, or the way her lips curl into a snarl when he answers.
“Not getting cold feet, are you?” he shouts even louder, and she hears laughter from downstairs.
“No uncle, my feet are quite warm,” she says. “Just resting.”