70pit17 Middle Grade Winners

In the pg70pit contest, judges score entries based on the strength of their writing voice. These 69th/70th pages from unpublished manuscripts got the seven highest scores in the young adult category.

Agents may request queries, partials, or fulls in the comments.

The top seven scores are shared by ten entries.

  1. Historical—Kid, you’ll move mountains
  2. Speculative Fiction—Learn well your grammar, and never stammer
  3. Adventure—Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
  4. Adventure—Rage against the dying of the light
  5. Contemporary—I refuse to give up my obsession.
  6. Contemporary Fantasy—Your ugly token my mind hath broken
  7. Historical—The joy, the freedom, of the mind.
  8. Contemporary—There’s too many kids in this tub
  9. Literary Fantasy—“Come hither, Son,” I heard Death say
  10. Adventure—Do not catapult the carrots!

Kid, you’ll move mountains

Harvey’s Funeral Home had been burying our family for years, and they were burying Dennis Freeman. Mama guilted me into going to visitation. I hoped to get a bad cold right before it, but no such luck. And I had learned my lesson about letting air out of the tires. I told God if He flattened them Himself, I’d count it a personal favor. He declined.

The flag draped the casket in the chapel. A framed picture of Dennis in uniform stared somberly at us. Pamela, always the center of attention, was missing. When Mama spotted her by a large plant in the corner, she pushed me toward her.

I’d known Pamela since first grade. She prided herself on her clothes. Always new and expensive. Until now. She was dressed in clothes like those from Lost and Found, too small and mismatched. Grief looks so much different than you think.

“Sorry about your brother,” I said softly so as not to intrude.

After a while she spoke, her voice dull as if she’d explained too many times. “But he had a desk job.” And Keeper, my brother, was playing hide and seek with the Viet Cong. I sat silently watching dust swirl in the light until time to go.

Mama and I ran into Miller as we left. Hobbling in from the cold, he had a record album tucked under his arm. Johann Sebastian Bach. “What’s this?” I asked.

“I didn’t have flowers,” he said, “so I brought the sympathy orchestra.”

Word Count: 52K
Genre: Historical
7-Word Description of Main Character: 1960s, Problem-solver becomes Atlas. Doesn’t shrug.


Learn well your grammar, and never stammer

Pegou closed her eyes. This was probably how needles felt when they got tangled in haystacks, especially if the haystacks chattered nonstop.

“There are forests and there are forests, my dear,” Widow Terry’s eyes bulged, like two hardboiled eggs. “I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to get into the forest there, let alone a nice young thing like you who hasn’t done me any harm. Not that anyone has done me any harm, you mustn’t think that, but what I’m saying is, I don’t want you to go into the forest, not even if all the treasures of all the dragons are scattered there just for the taking. Not that there is any treasure, or if there is I have heard nothing about it…”

“Is there a dragon in the forest?” Pegou asked, the moment Widow Terry paused to fill her lungs with a gust of air. “Because if there is…”

“Oh no; a dragon mayn’t have been such a bad thing, even though they are nasty scaly creatures as large as this house and probably breathing fire all the time. I’ve heard all about them though naturally I haven’t seen any…”

“A giant?”

“A Witch, my dear,” whispered the widow. “You wouldn’t think so to look at her and it’s not as if she’s a stranger because she’s lived here all her life, in that same cottage with the wolves too. And everyone goes to her for cures, even those who are going to rid the village of this unnatural creature and those man-eating wolves.”

Word Count: 51K
Genre: Speculative Fiction
7-Word Description of Main Character: Must unravel curse or turn into stone.


Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

Madame Wu was waiting for her at a table in the back. She was dressed exactly the same as the night Daisy met her at the restaurant — a long silk dress to her ankles and elaborate jewels on her hands and neck. She greeted Daisy coolly, gesturing for her to sit down at her table.

“And so it begins — you and I,” Madame Wu said, looking warily at Daisy as if she were sizing up an opponent.

“Excuse me?” asked Daisy.

“We have a long history together, Miss Kincaid,” said Madam Wu, clutching a tea cup with her jeweled hands.

“Have we met before?”

“A time very long ago, when you were just a baby. I doubt you would remember.”

“I guess you’re not an ordinary restaurant hostess,” said Daisy.

Madame Wu gave a little laugh. “You’re correct. You see, time travel is my family’s invention — think of me as an ambassador of sorts.”

“Your family invented time travel? But how?”

“Ah,” said Madame Wu, putting a finger to her lips. “Trade secret, I cannot say.”

“What do you know of my parents?” Daisy asked eagerly. “Are they alive?”

“They’re alive in some time.”

“But what does that mean?” Daisy was getting frustrated with this woman.

“Anyone who is born on this earth is alive in some time,” said Madame Wu casually. “What do you know?”

“I know that they were in Paris from 1927 to 1940.”

“Ah, very good, said Madame Wu. “You’ve figured that out. You’re a very clever girl.”

Word Count: 37K
Genre: Adventure
7-Word Description of Main Character: Clever girl discovers secret society in Tribeca


Rage against the dying of the light

“What is that?” he asked, dried mud flaking off his gauntlet as he raised it to point.

“This?” Fiona snatched the medallion, stopping it from spinning. She swallowed a mouthful of bulrushes. “This belonged to my father.” She ran a thumb over the tarnished silver, over the crossed pewter sturgeons. “He was a fisherman. I never knew him, but apparently this was the sigil of his house.”

“How intriguing,” Si said excitedly. “According to the galactic almanac, that sigil belongs t—“

“Enough with the trivial anecdotes,” Odd interrupted. He reached up to his temple and deactivated Si with the flick of a finger.

“Why didn’t you know him?” Odd asked, returning his attention to Fiona. “Was he distant? Cruel? Always making time for war, but never for you?”

“What?” Fiona looked up from her medallion. “No. Nothing like that. He died when I was young.”

“Oh,” Odd said awkwardly. “In glorious battle?”

“No,” Fiona said. Her eyes returned to the fire. “In a mishap. Some dumb, careless, mishap.”

“And your mother?”

“Dead too,” Fiona said. She sniffed and rubbed what must have been wind-swept ash from of an eye. “She died giving birth to me.”

The fire snap, crackle, and popped, but the silence around it grew heavy.

“My parents are alive,” Odd said. “But often, I wonder if they remember I am.”

Fiona scoffed.

Word Count: 48K
Genre: Adventure
7-Word Description of Main Character: CStubborn girl snubs fate, pursues knighthood


I refuse to give up my obsession.

Amy bounces in front of us Green Teamers. I’m getting dizzy listening to all the *abso-amazing* athletic things we’re about to do.

“This next activity is intense,” she explains, clutching a clipboard. Another rule of camp: The size of a counselor’s clipboard reveals how important they are. Amy’s is respectably medium-sized, plastered with green construction paper.

We sit on the basketball court, big kids in the back, little kids cross-legged on the blacktop. The sun beats down, and the trees in the background are too far away to shade us. I wish for my rattle-y window fan from home. Never thought I’d miss stuff like that.

“This activity,” Amy goes on, “can only be accomplished by a few talented people who will represent us all.” She gets all the way to the right side of the basketball court, does a little turn-around like a soldier, then marches back.

“Can anyone here write a fight song for us?” she says, eyes wide like dinner plates. “It’s got to inspire us to achieve.”

I refuse to do any more long-jumping (you remember why). I’m barred from horseback riding (I don’t want to talk about it). And everybody knows better than to leave themselves exposed when I pitch a ball.

But I know I can write a song.

I look around to see if any other kid dares to stick a hand up and volunteer. Everyone looks around, like if they stare hard enough, someone else – *anyone* else – will be the sad person to get picked.

Word Count: 38K
Genre: Contemporary
7-Word Description of Main Character: Urban 11-year-old crashes Action Camp


Your ugly token my mind hath broken

The house hunched into the sky, stacks of chimneys dark against the sun. Crumbling steps led up to a portico supported by four slender columns.

“Check us out heading for Downton Abbey” Georgia laughed. She held her neck high and pursed her lips to comic posh effect. “What do you reckon I’d look like in a horse and carriage, hmm?”

Neither Priya not Lewis replied.

They went up the steps and Priya lifted the round brass door knocker. It made a satisfying clang when she dropped it. They waited a minute or so. Nothing.

Lewis shrugged and got his mobile out. “He’s probably out in the grounds at the back. I’ll give him a ring.”

As he dialled the number, Priya took a closer look at one of the columns. Stone flowers spurted extravagantly out of the top of it, along with clumps of berries. It was difficult to make any of the intricate details out, though, because the crevices were stuffed full of moss.

Then she saw it, nestled between delicately carved leaves: a face. Great shells of ears and a wide circle for a mouth. The nose was little more than a lump, the cheeks covered in fine lines. Its eyes were two dusty black gems set deep into the stone. A monkey, perhaps?

Priya was about to look away, when the stone around the eyes creased.

The monkey had blinked.

Word Count: 55K
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
7-Word Description of Main Character: Sardonic kickboxing misfit finds cursed bone


The joy, the freedom, of the mind.

Allie felt like a stone statue.

“You heard me, Allison. Get in the house and get ready.” Daddy’s voice made it clear that no argument would be accepted.

She turned helplessly and walked into the trailer.

Within the next hour, Allie and Daddy were pulling into a long circular driveway in front of a brick house—Effie’s house. Effie’s mother and father were very polite. She listened patiently as Allie explained that she was sorry she had been borrowing clothes.

Where was Effie?

Allie looked past Effie’s mom into their living room. Allie could just make out Effie’s gold curls over the couch. Effie hadn’t even come to the door. She was watching a TV show.

Soon the conversation was over, but it was to be followed by another one at Vicky’s plain white house beside the bucket factory.

One of Vicky’s brothers answered the door, and they soon learned Vicky’s daddy was at work. He supervised the assembly line at the factory, but Vicky’s momma was home. Mrs. Saenz knew Allie’s momma from working at Redbird Ice Cream.

“Don’t worry about a little thing like clothes and shoes,” Mrs. Saenz said. Mrs. Saenz was small woman with straight black hair and pecan colored eyes. Her kind words and encouraging glance meant a lot to Allie.

“We wanted you to know Allie won’t be borrowing these shoes anymore,” Daddy said.

Allie looked down at the ground. A soft brown hand slipped into her own and squeezed hard. It was Vicky.

Word Count: 40K
Genre: Historical
7-Word Description of Main Character: Migrant girl’s struggle to fit in crumbles.


There’s too many kids in this tub

Cathy pointed a finger at Dad. Her voice was shrill. “How did you lose your keys? Couldn’t you have found her a ride?”

Dad’s voice stayed calm. “I tried. I really did. Everyone was already gone.”

“Why didn’t you call me?”

Dad threw his hands in the air. “You were an hour away. You never would have made it home in time.”

“Well, now what are we supposed to do? All Sage cares about is playing soccer. She’s heartbroken.”

I pushed my back against the wall and bit the inside of my cheek. The soccer-ball sized lump that was in my throat this morning now felt like a bowling ball in my stomach. What had I done? Why did I hide Dad’s keys? One of the memories of Mom flashed through my mind.

**Mom was asleep. I swiped her glasses and pulled them on and off, giggling at the difference between clear and blurry. Then the earpiece snapped off. And Mom woke up.**

I was a bad kid then, and I was a bad kid now.

Dad and Cathy’s shouts rang in my ears. I shook my head to clear it.

Cathy’s nostrils flared, and her mouth pulled into a straight line. She turned, went back in Sage’s room, and slammed the door.

Dad’s shoulders slumped. His hands clenched in fists. He muttered something under his breath and walked toward the kitchen.

I slid down the steps.

This marriage was not going to last long.

That was what I wanted, right?

Word Count: 55K
Genre: Contemporary
7-Word Description of Main Character: Girl hates stepfamily, realizes she’s the problem.


“Come hither, Son,” I heard Death say

The water froze Iris and scalded her like her fever back at school. Her eyes must have been open because she could see the girl sinking further, the water distorting her long floating hair into broken black wings. This world was different, one of violent chaos and burning lungs. Iris didn’t know the rules, was victim to the thrashing current and inexorable pull into the darkening depths. For one moment she grasped the child’s ankle, but it must have been mud because it sloughed away under her grip. Her last thought was that she should have known never to touch the river.

*chapter break*

Iris opened her eyes to a queer blue bird looking at her with near motherly concern. A sudden caterwauling sent the bird into flight, long indigo tail feathers shimmering in the air as it arced above the trees. In the distance, she saw her three mice scampering towards her. Only as they grew closer did she realize they weren’t mice at all, but three little boys in oversized robes with odd vestments and long loose sleeves that hid the hands beneath. Her throat burned and her eyes stung and her back ached, but she struggled to sit up as the boys approached.

“Well,” said one, a little hoarse from shouting.

“You all right?”” asked another.

The third looked away from her, arms crossed. “”Stupid thing to do, crossing the river.””

“Well I didn’t want to,”” Iris snapped, blinking as she stood up. “”There was a girl. Is she okay?”

“No girl,”” the irritated one said.

Word Count: 53K
Genre: Literary Fantasy
7-Word Description of Main Character: battles spirits, colonialism, dangers of Death’s kingdom


Do not catapult the carrots!

The city parks in New York were not designed with muskox dining preferences in mind.

After everything that had happened, Mobius was really longing for comfort food, but he could not find a single sprig of Arctic willow anywhere. To make matters worse, the short-cropped grass made for irritatingly inefficient grazing.

Even so, Mobius was hesitant to move on. For one thing, it was taking him some time to recover his land legs. And for another, he was hoping the music would return.

He edged up closer to a hedge. (It was pleasantly crispy, with juicy bits.) Through it, he could hear a radio.

“Welcome back to HEARD IN HOLLYWOOD, Everyone’s Favorite Radio Show — with me, Winn Wildly! Today we’re talking to a celebrity who understands just how hard it is to make it big in a small town…”

The radio moved away, leaving only the buzzing of humans in the distance.

Mobius peeked between the branches and determined that Persimmon was right. She had, indeed, brought him to the heart of the human hive.

Mobius swallowed some twigs and turned around to find her.

Word Count: 53K
Genre: Adventure
7-Word Description of Main Character: A muskox writing poetry? Adventures most olfactory!


2 thoughts on “70pit17 Middle Grade Winners

  1. Whitley Abell says:

    I’d love to see more of the following entries. Please send query, synopsis, first 25 pages in the email body (no attachments) to whitley (at) inklingsliterary (dot) com. Thanks!

    2. Speculative Fiction—Learn well your grammar, and never stammer
    3. Adventure—Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
    7. Historical—The joy, the freedom, of the mind.
    9. Literary Fantasy—“Come hither, Son,” I heard Death say

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