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(2015) #pg70pit Adult Winners

Thanks for visiting our Adult winners! These seven picks are just half of the top-rated entries judged by voice. We looked for thoughtful word choice, appropriate rhythm, and evocative imagery. Don’t forget to see the next top 7 entries, featured on cohost Elizabeth’s blog!

Code Name: I’m the Best Mistake You’ll Ever Make

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words): The woman was waiting for him outside his tenement, hands folded primly over the handle of a lace parasol.

Anton stopped, shuffling his feet and glancing up beneath his eyelashes. “Sweet of you to check up on me.”

An indulgent smile tugged at her wine red lips. “You know you really oughtn’t walk around so late alone. Someone might get the wrong idea.”

Anton swallowed. He didn’t much mind other people’s ideas. It was his own that concerned him. “You said you had names. I want one.”

“I thought you might.” From the breast pocket of her greatcoat, she withdrew an envelope. “I’ll give you two, free of charge. They’re quite good at what they do.”

“I don’t want a sell-sword.”

“Smart boy. A poisoner would be more prudent.”

“No,” Anton said. “I want you to give me the name of the Phantom.”

“The Phantom,” she repeated, her face carefully blank.

“I know you know what I’m talking about.” The woman had eyes in every back alley from Copenhagen to Casablanca. Of course she knew of the Phantom.

“Perhaps I’ve heard the tales,” she said, twirling the parasol idly. “But what makes you think I have his name?”

“Her name,” Anton corrected. The deliberate error didn’t fool him. “You know it’s a she. And you know how to find her.”

The woman hesitated. “I can’t help you with this.”

“Can’t? Or won’t?”

Her dark-rimmed eyes narrowed. “Even if you do manage to track her down, what do you think you can offer her? She’s not for hire.”

Word Count: 135K

Genre: Fantasy

7-word description for your MC: Clever, secretive. Hiding unwanted magic, scrupulous streak.

Code Name: But Darling, Stay with Me

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

“You don’t look okay,” Rich said as he untied my wrists and ankles and pressed his dry hands against the friction burns. Thanks, Pastor Obvious. “What happened?”

I shrugged off his question and jerked away. I wasn’t in the mood to indulge him, and I really wasn’t in the mood to let him see me at my worst. I climbed off the bed and turned my back before pulling on my clothes.

“Where’s your mom?” he asked.

I whipped back ’round. I’d assumed she’d greeted Rich after he let himself in. It wasn’t like her to leave the house so early in the day, even if it was afternoon.

Somethin’ was off. I got this feeling, this deep ache in my gut that yelled worst-case scenarios at me. I zipped my pants and ran into the hall.

It didn’t take long to find her.

You can probably guess what we found. Mom was sprawled out on her bed with a kitchen knife near her right hand. The blood flowing out of her left arm had soaked into the sheets, creating a dark round stain underneath and around her. Her head was tilted to the side, her eyes closed. Strangely enough, she looked peaceful.

Rich didn’t seem all that surprised. I wasn’t, either.

I knew she wasn’t dead. I mean, I didn’t know for sure ’til I found her pulse. But I knew. If the pain had been rough enough to kill her, she would’ve looked angrier, more distraught.

Instead, her face proved she was pleased with herself.

Word Count: 58K

Genre: NA LGBT Contemporary

7-word description for your MC: Gay Appalachian undergrad escaping abuse, navigating love

Code Name: The Same Old Thing Since 1916

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words): Dana leaned out of the cockpit and shouted back, “Is that everyone?”

I should bloody well hope so. Aloud I said, “That’s it. Weigh anchor and get underway.”

She nodded and turned back to the helm.

“You can let go now,” I said to the diminutive woman clinging to my back.

Kaitlyn’s fingernails retracted from my neck as she lowered herself onto the slick metal deck. If the ringing in my ears were any indication, she had not enjoyed the ride. She slid past me and joined Matthew at the rear of the cockpit without another word.

“Another satisfied customer,” I muttered.

The boat juddered as the anchor finished retracting into the hull.

“How do you feel about a speedy exit?” Dana asked, already starting to accelerate. I could scarcely see the buildings on either side through the driving rain.

I glanced back toward the rear of the cockpit. Our Vietnamese passengers seemed fine; jovial, even. Matthew and Kaitlyn sat on the bunk behind them, eyes distant, towels draped around their shoulders. I should check in with them before we hit full throttle, make sure Kaitlyn was well enough for a bumpy ride.

Then I glanced down at the Doppler radar. Shite. That damned bridge had cost us too much time. Even at full power, we’d be lucky to escape before the full force of the typhoon returned. So much for trading speed for comfort.

“Patrick?” she asked again.

“Just get us back in one piece.”

Word Count: 85K

Genre: International Thriller

7-word description for your MC: Rescue specialist drawn into global antiquities trade

Code Name: And for one second, I understand

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

I know instantly something is wrong: my rooms are not empty.

“Show yourself!” I draw my sword.

A girl appears from the bedroom and curtsies timidly. There’s a blush on her dark cheeks.

I sheath my sword, not my expression. “Yes?”

“I…er…I…” She swallows, looking at the floor, hands tucked behind her back. “My name is Emily, my Lady. I am your maid.”

A maid? I have no need for one, especially a little mouse like her. I’m about to tell her so, but her expression stops me. It’s a perfect blend of hope and fear.

“Sorry, that wasn’t much of a welcome.” A job in the keep is probably something she can’t afford to lose. “It’s been a while since I had a maid.”

“I’ll be no trouble, my Lady.”

“Call me Lavie, or Miss Lavie if that’s too much,” I add, seeing the look her face. “You can start by making my bed; I shouldn’t sleep on the floor anymore.”

“Yes, my… I mean Miss.”

She disappears into the bedroom, then comes back. Her scuttling motions reinforce her mouse-like image.


“Yes, Squeak?”

The girl blinks, as if trying to determine if she is being addressed. “I heard men talking…They said you were a knight and that you’d chopped off a man’s…” She swallows again and the next word comes out a whisper. “…Unmentionables.”

My reputation precedes me. “Maybe I have. Will that be a problem?”

“No, Miss,” she says more firmly. “In my opinion, there are a few men who could do with losing their unmentionables.”

Word Count: 103k

Genre: Fantasy (lgbt)

7-word description for your MC: War damaged hero struggles with peacetime identity

Code Name from Song Lyrics: There’ll Be Just One Survivor

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

Lacey was right. The gray line in his hair had grown to a quarter inch thickness overnight. It was a stunning streak, parting his red hair like a curtain.

Another dream, another stripe.

The terror of the night before came back to him with the force of an anvil. His hands shook, and he dropped to his knees as he smelled the stink of the creature and felt its bony lips on his. Three, he heard it whisper again in his mind.

Three years. If Alex was telling the truth, if the creature was real, he’d lost three years of his life already. A wave of nausea gripped him.

He stayed crouched, breathing deeply for several minutes, letting the fear work its way through. Finally, he pulled himself upright and took the phone out of his pocket. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he rested it on his leg, trying to steady his hands. Then he thumbed through until he found one of the emails Alex had sent him, one of the emails he’d ignored. He hit reply.

“Can we talk?” He typed. “About what you told me at the coffee shop?” Roth hesitated. Then he added, “I’ve been having nightmares. Call me.” He hit send.

Roth clenched the phone in one hand and gripped his leg with the other. It sounded crazy. It was crazy. But so was gaining streaks of gray overnight. He needed to talk to Alex. To learn the truth.

Word Count: 90K

Genre: Thriller

7-word description for your MC: Self-centered entrepreneur must grow heart or die

Code Name: Where is my mind?

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

I lifted the back of my shirt. “See? This is where I should have been stabbed. But…nothing. Not even a scratch.”

He dragged his fingertip across the line of my ribs, and it sparked against my skin like a striking match. My nervous thoughts vanished, kindling to his incendiary touch, and for an instant all I wanted was more of his skin on my own.

“Someone here wished you dead,” he said.

I fought off a shiver and turned to him. In the dream of this past life, Emily had always been a passive participant, but now the man who’d once been Emily had intent. He’d wanted to kill me. “Maybe he still does.”

“You needn’t be scared.” Roberts protected me since the second I’d arrived here, but this time his concern didn’t come from chivalry or duty. It was genuine and gentle, and sitting so close to him, breathing his comforting scent of the afternoon ocean and sharp tea leaves, I wanted to believe him.

“You try to hide behind all your bravado. But deep down you’re a big sweetie, aren’t you?”

He chuckled, and the tense lines of his face eased. “No wonder you continue to tell me to shut up, throw pillows at my face, and generally fail to defer to my imposing authority. Who would be afraid of a man such as you think of me?”

I jabbed him with my elbow. “So…five minutes is all you could muster, huh?”

“Six months at sea, Fox. Six months.”

Word Count: 103,000

Genre: Historical Fantasy

7-word description for your MC: accidental time traveler, searching for her sister

Code Name: Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

I wet my lips. “How long have I been asleep?”

“Two nights and a day,” Heera said. “Jigar Khan brought you here that afternoon from khalajan’s rooms. He hasn’t left your bedside except to snatch a few hours’ sleep each night.”

“Oh?” I had a hard time matching the kind actions that she described to the eunuch.

“He regularly applied the salve the hakim gave him on your wounds. Thank Allah, your back won’t scar.”

God forbid my skin get puckered and ugly. Wouldn’t that disgust the Emperor! I shook my head. It wasn’t my friend’s fault that she thought this way. This was the only life she knew. “The khanum didn’t punish Aslam, did she?”

“He’s well,” she whispered and turned away.

I laid a hand on her shoulder. “What is it?”

She swallowed and wound her veil tightly around her shoulders. “It’s Chaman. The night she gave you a beating, khalajan had my pet goat added to the stew pot.”

Cold fingers clutched at my heart and squeezed until I couldn’t breathe. It was my fault. Rua Khanum had warned me that Heera was responsible for me. Poor Chaman, I’m so sorry!

“She had the stew served to the entire zenana. Then … then …” She trembled, tears coursing down her cheeks. “Khalajan made me eat each morsel she served me.”

My stomach heaved. I doubled over and vomited, the acrid aftertaste scorching my throat. “Forgive me, Heera, forgive me.”

I threw my arms around her, and the two of us huddled together, weeping.

Word Count: 95K

Genre: Historical Epic

7-word description for your MC: Hindu girl surviving in Muslim Emperor’s harem

>>Click here to see more Adult Entries

Click here to see MG Entries

Click here to see YA entries

Are you an agent who would like to request more from these writers? Comment below with the code names, how many pages you’d like to see, and your contact information. Alternatively, you may email veritylanelaraATgmailDOTcom with your requests.

Winning entrants, it’s your responsibility to vet agents and see if they would be a good fit for you.

Writers, go cheer each other on with the hashtag #pg70pit on Twitter!

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#pg70pit Surprises and Slushies!

I’m delighted to not only introduce you to the fine people judging the pg70pit contest, but also to announce some exciting developments in the contest!

But first, let’s get us out of the way—

The Band Managers

We’re just your friendly contest coordinators.

laraHost, Lara Willard
Lara is a fiction and visual storytelling editor who graduated summa cum laude from the University of Northwestern—St. Paul with a bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies (writing, literature, editing, art, and design) in 2010. Fluent in English grammar and geeky GIFs, she’s also studied Spanish, Italian, Koine Greek, Quenya, and body languages. Her short fiction and poetry have been published in literary mags InkstoneThe Cedarville Review, and Revolver. Lara lives in the Twin Cities with her husband, sons, and dog-show dropout Havanese, Neville Shortquarters.


Assistant, Meghan Barrett
Meghan, from the frozen world of northern Minnesota, is a senior at the University of Northwestern—St. Paul who is spending her summer as Lara Willard’s intern and enjoying it immensely. Meghan loves watching movies, going to the theater, being a savvy Old Navy shopper, and, of course, reading. She has been known to channel Lucille Ball, Monica Geller, and Scarlett O’Hara—sometimes all at once. If she could, she would eat tacos every single day.

The Disc Jockeys

Introducing the pg70pit co-hosts! In addition to the top 7 MG, YA, and Adult entries posted on Lara’s blog, each co-host will select up to seven entries to feature on their own blogs! These will also be available for agents to read. That’s a total of 42 winners!


Co-host for Adult Entries, Elizabeth Buege
Elizabeth graduated from Northwestern College (now the University of Northwestern—St. Paul) with a B.A. in English Writing and internship experience in nonprofit writing and book editing. She now provides critiquing and editing services to authors of fiction and memoir. In addition to editing, Elizabeth teaches secondary writing classes at a homeschool co-op. When she isn’t working, she’s probably reading or writing stories full of longing, struggles, and hope.


Co-host for YA Entries, Ethan Vaughn

Ethan Vaughan is a freelance editor and former literary agent. He began as an intern with Folio Literary Management  in 2011, then served from 2011–2015 as a reader and agent with Kimberley Cameron & Associates. He is now earning a master’s degree in history and takes on editing clients throughout the year.


Co-host for MG Entries, Carissa Anna Taylor
Carissa is an author of YA sci-fi/fantasy, graduate of Arizona State University with a PhD in Sustainability, drinker of Earl Gray tea, lover of Firefly, and player of nerdy board games. Originally from Washington State, she now lives with her husband and spazzy kidlet in Sydney, Australia. Her novels are represented by Jason Anthony of Lippincott Massie McQuilkin.

The Bouncers

Our slushies are an integral part of this contest. They not only vote on the entries, they also nominate their favorites to win giveaways! Make these ladies happy, and they can make your dreams come true. But hey—no cash bribes, K?


Slushie, Yolanda Ashton
Yolanda Ashton is the alter ego of a thirty-something mother of three. Her favorite things to do in the world (outside of family) are reading and writing—she fell in love with words at an early age. Yolanda loves creating worlds with them and entering new worlds designed by them. Throughout her life she’s always felt the epitome of a great “me” day is one spent reading a book or creating one.


Slushie, Jo Wu
Jo Wu is a student at UC Berkeley, where she studies Integrative Biology and Creative Writing. She has been published in a few anthologies, and one of her short stories, “Devoured by Envy,” was praised by Publishers Weekly. When she’s not writing, she’s modeling under the alias Carmilla Jo, drawing, painting, or sewing. She’s looking forward to reading your entries and seeking awesome fantasy and sci-fi stories for adults and middle grade!

The Simon Cowells


After the 21 42 top entries are published on the blogs, five editors will peruse the entries and dig back into the slush to pick recipients of free editing services! In addition to Lara, Meghan, and Elizabeth above, two MS Editors will give away the following:

Editor, Kaleigh Walter

  • Five one-page edits
  • Two five-page edits

Editor, Megan Ruesink

  • Three five-page edits

The giveaways will be announced one week from July 7th (7/14/15), right here on my blog, so stay tuned and be sure to subscribe!

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#pg70pit—how to submit

Are you here in 2017? Some rules have changed, but the content below has been updated for 2017.

If you have any additional questions, comment below or tweet me!

What you need to enter:

  • Your e-mail address (this is private and used only to verify entries or notify winners)
  • Your code name from poetry—THIS IS NEW FOR 2017; before it was from song lyrics. 5-7 words. (This contest is anonymous—choose something unique and difficult to trace back to you. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” is probably going to be too common—we want to avoid repeats!)
  • Your novel’s intended audience—Middle Grade, Teen, or Adult (Adult is 18+)
  • Your novel’s word count, rounded to the nearest thousand (71,469 becomes 71K)
  • Your novel’s genre (I have a guide to major genres here and the sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy here)
  • Seven words describing your MC—(DO NOT include character’s name. Can be a list of words or a phrase. See tips on your seven-word description below.)
  • Your 70th page with extra spaces between paragraphs (choose up to 257 consecutive words from your 69th or 70th page, or a section spanning both. It will appear single-spaced.)

When and where to enter:

On June 7, 7:00 am Eastern Standard Time, I’ll post the submission form on my blog for all age categories.—THIS IS NEW FOR 2017

I will remove the submission form on June 8th.

Tips for getting your entry ready

The seven words describing your MC should do one of the following:

  • help ground the reader,
  • show that your main character is interesting or sympathetic, or
  • show your ability as a writer who effectively and efficiently crafts words and punctuation.

You can structure it however you like. For example, you might give setting or genre details:

Baffles regency norms, her mother, gentlemen suitors.

You might make it like a pitch:

Witty girl overcomes first impressions, falls hard.

Or you could list adjectives and get creative with punctuation:

Clever, judgmental, poor. Loved anyway (by snob…)

THIS IS NEW FOR 2017: Participating in the Twitter contest is optional, but the seven-word phrase is still a required part of your entry.

Your 69th/70th page is going to be what matters most in the contest.

Choose up to 257 consecutive words from your novel’s 69th-70th page. You may complete cut-off sentences that fall on the 68th or 80th pages, but do not exceed 257 words. We may email finalists and request their full manuscript to verify that their excerpt falls on one of those pages.

For example, if saw that a chapter ended on my 70th page, I’d take from both the 69th and 70th pages.

Editing your Excerpt

You can ask friends to help you edit your excerpt or 7-word pitch, but please do so privately, not using public tweets or including the hashtag in a blog post asking for feedback. Because this is a blind contest, don’t risk a judge seeing your entry—or your code name—before the results are posted, or you’ll be disqualified.

You can edit an excerpt down to make it 257 words or fewer.

See examples of how I’d edit someone’s page in the 7th on 7th series.

In my Revision Checklist for Writing Contests, you’ll see my top-secret tips for hard-core revising.

You can also search winning entries from 2015 and 2016 by searching my blog 🙂

If you have any more questions, comment below. Now an excerpt from one of my trunked novels as an example on how you might edit your entry.

pg70pit-a new kind of writing contest

I had 193 words on page 70 and 221 words on the page before it. If I’d started with “Where did they go?” and stopped at the end of the chapter, I’d have 259 words. But I really like the context of some dialogue before, so to include that, I needed to make some cuts from the middle.

Here’s the original excerpt, showing what I cut to make room for that line of dialogue:

“Where did they go?” asked Gareth.

“To his quarters, I’d imagine. I’m sure she’ll be back tomorrow.”

Warmth radiated on the back of Gareth’s neck. “Where does this guy live?” He hadn’t meant to shout.

Faye put her hand on his arm and spoke to him gingerly. “In the keep. The castle keep.”

Someone waved Mary over, and she left.

“Why would he take her there?”

Faye’s silence, her look of pity, confirmed it.

“Get Robin. We’re gonna get in there, and I’m gonna smash some heads. If he so much as touches my sister I—” He was already out of town and back on the road by the time he’d finished talking. Faye caught up with him about a quarter mile later.

She was riding her pack horse. Gareth stopped, wondering what she did with the cart. What’d she do with the cart? She pushed off the horse, landing in the dirt, reached out to Gareth, but then dropped her hand at her side. “Gareth, if you even got past the front threshold, trying to remove your sister will get you—or the pair of you—killed. If you challenge the king’s man, you challenge the king.”

The sun was throwing threw yellow light on the lime-washed walls of the city on the coast. Gareth didn’t stir.


He clasped his hands over the top of his head, and behind his neck, his forehead creased in worry, in hopelessness. “Let’s get Robin. He’ll know what to do.”

They had just turned back, leading the horse behind, with the horse when the ground below them opened up, dropping them into darkness.

Here’s what the new excerpt looks like:

“She is in the company of the king’s steward. He’s harmless enough. If they’d stayed here, she would have only been gone a few minutes. But she left with him.”

“Where did they go?” asked Gareth.

“To his quarters, I’d imagine. I’m sure she’ll be back tomorrow.”

Warmth radiated on the back of Gareth’s neck. “Where does this guy live?” He hadn’t meant to shout.

Faye put her hand on his arm and spoke to him gingerly. “In the keep. The castle keep.”

“Why would he take her there?”

Faye’s silence, her look of pity, confirmed it.

“Get Robin. We’re gonna get in there, and I’m gonna smash some heads. If he so much as touches my sister I—” He was already out of town and back on the road by the time he’d finished talking. Faye caught up with him about a quarter mile later.

She was riding her pack horse. Gareth stopped. *What’d she do with the cart?* She pushed off the horse, landing in the dirt. “Gareth, if you even got past the front threshold, trying to remove your sister will get you—or the pair of you—killed. If you challenge the king’s man, you challenge the king.”

The sun threw yellow light on the lime-washed walls of the city. Gareth didn’t stir.


He clasped his hands behind his neck, his forehead creased in worry, in hopelessness. “Let’s get Robin. He’ll know what to do.”

They had just turned back with the horse when the ground below them opened up, dropping them into darkness.

I hope this was helpful!

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#pg70pit—The Agents!


More than 30 agents are excited about the pg70pit contest!

Some are “maybes” due to busy schedules—and they all have busy schedules!—so I have left them off the list, but we are still left with 22 agencies and 27 agents who have shown interest in participating on July 7th.

My summer intern Meghan (say “hi,” everyone!) has graciously linked to all of the agency websites and the agents’ Twitter accounts. Check the links to see what is on each agent’s wish list. Eventually we will include the age categories and genres for each agent, but I wanted to get you the list sooner rather than later!


Alphabetical by agency:

A+B Works

Amy Jameson

The Bent Agency

Heather Flaherty

Broadland Literary

Lisa Jane Weller

Chalberg & Sussman

Natasha Alexis

Deborah Harris Agency

Rena Bunder Rossner

Dee Mura Literary

Kaylee Davis

Diana Finch Literary Agency

Diana Finch

Donadio & Olson, Inc.

Carrie Howland

Folio Literary Management

Erin Harris

Inklings Literary Agency

Whitley Abell

Jabberwocky Literary

Sam Morgan

KT Literary

Sara Megibow

L. Perkins Agency

Leon Husock

Rachel Brooks

Maria Carvainis Agency

Elizabeth Copps

Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Kathleen Rushall

McIntosh & Otis

Christa Heschke

P.S. Literary Agency

Maria Vicente

Red Sofa Literary

Laura Zats

Bree Ogden

The Rights Factory

Lydia Moed

Sterling Lord Literistic

Caitlin McDonald

Stringer Literary Agency

Marlene Stringer

Talcott Notch Literary

Gina Panettieri

Waxman Leavell

Julie Stevenson

Fleetwood Robbins

Kirsten Carleton

Agents, if you’re not on this list and would like to be, please comment below and I will send you an email confirmation. If you ARE on this list and would like to be removed, send me a tweet (@larathelark) or comment below, and I will remove you.

Writers, am I missing someone you’d like me to ask to participate? Find me the agent’s Twitter handle or non-query email address, and I can invite them to join. Remember, we might have unlisted agents stop by to view the top entries to make requests!