StoryWorldCon: Find Your Cabin!

It’s orientation at StoryWorldCon! Which cabin do you belong in?



I’m still working on curriculum for the StoryWorldCon courses, but in the meantime, check out the campsite, meet and mingle with other campers, and start asking your questions about the courses in the free forum!

If you’ve ever wanted to go to a writing conference but didn’t have it in your budget, this is for you. If you’re a conference junkie, this is for you. If you want to meet other writers and find critique partners, this is for you.

The campsite is only as good as its campers, so tell your friends to join! The forum is going to be year-round, but workshops will happen based on interest and enrollment.

Find out more about StoryWorldCon here. To receive updates on the conference and when the workshops will be available, make sure you subscribe to this blog!

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(2015) #pg70pit YA Winners

Thanks for visiting our Young 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 Ethan’s blog! We had more than 7 perfect scores for YA, so you definitely don’t want to miss the ones over there!

Code Name: ‘Cause I Think that I’m Dead

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

My head pulses with thoughts, whispers, fears, making me feel as though I am being followed or watched or hunted. The feeling is so real that I break into a sprint towards the cabin.

I pull away the canvas flap and search the room briefly and thoroughly, just to confirm that I really am alone. I crawl onto my bunk and crouch with my spine against the bedpost, pulling my knees to my chest and burying my head in them. My forehead is damp with sweat and I try to calm myself down. There is nothing hunting me. I am a fifteen-year-old girl at a summer camp.

There is nothing that would make me worthy of being the object of a hunt.

But that’s not true. I am a witness. I saw Felix’s dead body. I almost told Rachel.

I need to forget. I need to forget or I will be in constant danger.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath, trying to convince myself that nothing happened without acknowledging what it was that didn’t happen. The body—Felix’s body–was just one of those hallucinations that I have sometimes. Like when I used to see my father standing on the sidewalk drinking coffee, or when my eyes start to glow in the mirror when the numbers get too loud. Things like this are normal for teenagers. It’s just hormones; just like Mom said. I’ll grow out of it.

It’ll be over soon. It was just my imagination.

Word Count (e.g. 75K): 99,000

Genre: Sci-fi

7-word description for your MC: Five-foot-two and could probably kill you.

Code Name: Wrong Way on a One-Way Track

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

I work a few bites of this beef stuff into my mouth. I have yet to see an adult onboard, so that part about only teens riding these rails seems accurate. Weird. A kid wipes his eyes on his way past. Man, are these guys always this down?

That’s when I remember the funeral, and with nothing to do until the sun sets and I can get off this damn train, I ask a girl with unnaturally red hair what happened to the kid who died. She’s been staring at me since I sat down, anyway. She can’t stop smiling.

Even when I mention the kid, the smile only bobbles when she says, “Yeah, that was Andrew…so sad, what those Shaders did to him.”

“What did they do?”

She lifts her hand to her face and makes a claw with her fingers, running them down her nose and cheeks and lips. The smile’s gone now. It leaves a haunted look that makes me wonder how many others have died the same way.

I have got to get off this train.

The redhead moves like she’s going to touch my arm, then stops. “You didn’t know him, right? You’re new here.”

She just keeps looking at me like I’m the most interesting thing she’s ever seen. It’s almost funny, considering we’re stuck on a train that doesn’t stop.

“Did you meet Toby yet?” the girl asks.

“You mean the dick with the ego problem? Yeah, we’ve met.”

Word Count (e.g. 75K): 88K

Genre: Thriller, Magical Realism

7-word description for your MC: Battles creatures on train that never stops

Code Name: You’re the Lace in my Shoe

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

“Hey, look at this,” Frank said from behind me, and I jumped.

“What’d you find?” I stuffed down tears and dropped the photo on the vanity top, then joined Frank beside Marion’s bed. The tan suitcase was spread open on the bed. It was empty.

“See this here?” Frank ran his fingertips over the grooves of a monogram on the lock plate.

“R.F.?” I said. “Not M. L.”

“He ever tell you his real name?”

“Nope.” I figured Marion Leslie wasn’t his bonafide original name, but he never offered to explain it, so I never asked. It was one of our speakeasy commandments — a fellow’s secrets were his own.

“Me either,” Frank said, tracing the leather trim, the shiny brass buckles. “This is a ritzy suitcase. New-looking, too. Bet it set him back fifty clams.”

I whistled. “Too rich for my blood.”

“Mine, too. But not Marion’s, I guess?”

“Maybe he bought it secondhand.”

“Or stole it.”

But neither of us really believed Marion was a thief. I waved a hand back toward the vanity. “There’s photos, too. Looks like Marion used to be a well-to-do.”

“Yeah,” Frank said, like he’d already noticed. “Just been slumming with us, you think? Maybe went back to the stiff-collars?”

I shook my head. Neither of us believed that any more than the thief idea. Marion never mentioned home, never mentioned a life before this one. He didn’t act like a guy who was pining to go back. Especially not without saying goodbye.

Word Count (e.g. 75K): 78K

Genre: Upmarket Historical Mystery

7-word description for your MC: Jazz singer determined to find missing friend

Code Name: Baby’s Black Balloon

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

“Debate team? I mean, I like to argue as much as the next person, but seriously? I didn’t even know our school had a debate team.” Though even as I say it, I am struck with a memory of finding an empty debate team photo stuck in the package with my school pictures. Huh.

“They don’t. Not really,” said Peter, blandly. “You two are the only members. And neither of you are very good. Never won a single award—for obvious reasons—we couldn’t draw attention to the fact that no other schools have ever competed with you. Or even heard of you for that matter. It’s a good cover, since it’s so low on the extracurricular radar. You didn’t even qualify for a yearbook photo last year.”

I know it’s stupid, but I’m a little indignant at that. I mean, even super geeky clubs like the Online Gamers and LARPers get a picture in the yearbook. I’m not saying they don’t deserve a mention, just, let’s be fair, here.

“So, to be clear, over the past few years, we’ve gone to a bunch of tournaments for the debate team, left school—stayed away from home—come here to train or whatever it is with you guys, and then you wipe our memories, we go back to reality and no one has ever questioned anything?” Benton is skeptical. I am too. Maybe our parents have subconsciously looked the other way at our weak charade, but surely teachers and friends and Benton’s girlfriend (sigh) would have picked up on something.

Word Count: 95000

Genre: Science Fiction

7-word description for your MC: Snarky telepath with nineties pop culture obsession

Code Name: Make a Little Birdhouse in Your Soul

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

Think of that dark bit at the top of NASA’s map. The vast forests that cover Canada and Siberia, endless acres of pine trees dropping needles onto the frozen soil. There is your Undernet. Empty of cities and roads, ringing the top of the globe, quietly expiring a quarter of the oxygen needed by seven billion humans who, if they think about it at all, imagine it drifted up from the rainforests.

And so it is with the Undernet. Compilers for old programming languages no one needs anymore. CCTV images of empty sidewalks proving that no crime has been committed. Images of kittens doing things that only make you smile. And databases, databases, databases. Data, feeding the Internet frenzy—without being thought about at all.

You want to track evil in this forest? It takes a bit of effort. It’s not like you type “terrorist” in a search box and hit enter. No one lists explosives and chemical weaponry as skills on LinkedIn. No, it’s not easy. But I was getting good. Dad even said. And then, just when I’d discovered the biggest attack ever, I found myself unable to do anything about it.

I just had to hope the Chinese had a long lead time on the stuffed dolphins. As Carol Anne drove me from the hospital to the foster home, I knew I’d be too tired to make a break for it that night.

But then again, there was also Peter. Maybe I wouldn’t have to run from the foster home. Maybe he really could help me.

Word Count: 87,000

Genre: Thriller

7-word description for your MC: Not Daddy’s Good Little Hacker Girl anymore

Code Name: Living Life By The Drop

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

We sleep right through his alarm clock, God knows how many times, and it’s now almost nine a.m. according to the angry red numbers flashing a foot from my face. My eyes are dry, my mouth too, and my head pounds with a ferocity I didn’t know possible.

A crisp breeze blows fresh through the cracked window. I focus on the clock, then on Memphis’s face as he sleeps. I’d love to stay right here for awhile but I gotta get my butt to school. I’ve never been this late without a real excuse.

I nudge Memphis, my hands on his shoulders. He doesn’t stir. I touch my finger to his chin and start to drag it down his neck, towards his chest. His eyes snap open. His hand flies up and grabs my wrist, yanking me off of him.

I yelp from the strength of his grip. “What are you doing?” I finally manage to get out. My heart is racing.

“Oh, shit, Chloe,” he says, releasing me. “I-I…are you okay?”

I rub my wrist, eyeing him warily. “What was that all about?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. Just please, don’t ever touch my neck, okay?”

“Seriously? Why?”

He hesitates, and I see something cloud in his eyes. “It’s sensitive, that’s all.”

Sensitive? He almost threw me across the room just now. I’d say sensitive is an understatement, but I don’t press it. I can tell it’s making him uncomfortable. “Yeah,” I say. “Don’t ever do that to me again. Okay?”

Word Count: 47,000

Genre: Contemporary

7-word description for your MC: Smart girl seeks love, finds a monster-boy.

Code Name: Puff the Magic Dragon

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

“How you doing?” I try to make the words sound breathless, since Sara’s already having trouble catching her breath. She’s in good shape—for someone who doesn’t do anything even remotely like working out. Nancy always said Sara had a metabolism Richard Simmons would kill for. After googling Richard Simmons, I figured the guy would kill for anything. Or just for fun.

“I — am — fine.”

“Try breathing through your nose,” I suggest.

“Leave — me — alone,” she huffs, “Or — you’ll — breathe — through — your — ass.”

I turn away to hide my grin.  Before long, twenty minutes have passed, and even I’m starting to feel the familiar ache in my side. My left foot is numb — these aren’t my running shoes — but I keep silent, not about to reveal yet another weakness to Dimitri. Besides, Sara can’t last much longer and will probably demand a break. I hate to use her like that, but oh well.

The light on the dark horizon has grown brighter. The light probably belongs to Texico, New Mexico, which means we’ve only run about three miles. Doing some quick calculating in my head, I realize it’ll take us almost two hours to get to Clovis.

I’m not going to make it.

Maybe Dimitri will steal a car. I’m not usually one for condoning criminal activities, but right about now I’d do a Richard Simmons to get a set of wheels. The killing thing, not dancing around in tights and headbands.

“Okay,” Sara says, stopping and bending over, hands on her knees and body heaving.

Thank god.

Word Count: 100k

Genre: Urban Fantasy

7-word description for your MC: Lost Memories, Monster Calling, Fighting within.

Click here to see more YA entries

Click here to see MG Entries

Click here to see Adult 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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(2015) #pg70pit MG Winners

Thanks for visiting our Middle Grade winners! These are seven picks of the top-rated entries judged by voice. We looked for thoughtful word choice, appropriate rhythm, and evocative imagery. Don’t forget cohost Carissa’s top 7 entries, on her blog!

Code Name: I See Your True Colors Shining Through

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words): I turned my arms into chainsaws and sliced through the water, only taking one breath. As soon as my fingers hit the wall, I somersaulted and made for the other end of the lane like crazy. When I reached it, I leaned against the edge, sucking air.

“Rena?” She’d disappeared.

Suddenly she popped up right in front of me. I yelped and may have even peed a little. Did she feel that?

Taking my face in her hands à la Spinlow, she leaned over, kissing me right on the nose. Enough lighting surged through me to electrocute us both.

“What was that for?” I asked, voice cracking.

Rena squeezed my facial chub. “Jordan Ray Murphy,” she whispered with an insane, Zane-like gleam in her eyes, “that was the freakiest – and fastest – I’ve ever seen anybody your age swim. And you weren’t even kicking.”

“I was.”

“Well, not properly.” After that, Rena made me swim a billion more laps, then finally pulled herself out of the pool and motioned for me to follow. I did, crossing my arms over my moobs.

“That’s enough for tonight. Let’s get you home so you can go to bed.”

Thank God.

“I’ll pick you up tomorrow as soon as you’re done milking. Then we’ll start your training regime. And don’t eat breakfast.” She tossed me a towel. “I’ll have something ready for you that’s allowed on your diet.”
I stopped drying my hair. “Diet?”

Word Count: 35,000

Genre: Contemporary Humorous

7 words for your MC: Overweight eighth-grader swims toward his operatic aspirations

Code Name: It’s Close to Midnight

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words): “It’s time, Justin. Your doctor even believes if you accept she’s not coming back, your panic attacks might stop and—”

“First, I thought my conversations with my Doc were private. Second, I’m much better.” Sweat trickles down my cold back. She set me up with this dinner. Orange chicken and rice churn in my stomach.

“I’m trying to do what’s best for us.”

Guilt punches at me but I block the blow. How could she want to get rid of mom’s stuff, forget about her?

“Okay, just calm down. Justin, breathe.”

Didn’t realize I wasn’t. She’s a little fuzzy so I blink hard. Inhale, Exhale… “I vote no on the roommate. I’ll get a job. I can cut grass, pick up trash. I’ll find something. We don’t need to gut Mom’s room.”

“We’re not—It’s been over a year. She’s not coming back,” she says softly.

Don’t know how to respond to that. I grit my teeth so hard my jaw snaps.

“Think about it. We can talk later, okay?”

All kinds of thoughts and feelings bubble up inside of me, but I swallow them down. This isn’t how I wanted to spend my last moments with her.

“What? So, you hate me now? I suck at being a big sister, huh?”

My gaze drops to the table. The fire in my throat is only a little less intense than the blaze behind my eyes.

“Hey, you’re supposed to disagree.”

I shrug. “You do suck at it sometimes.”

Word Count: 34,000

Genre: Fantasy Adventure

7-word description for your MC: Sad, broken boy challenges monster, reclaims life.

Code Name: Father of mine… where have you been?

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

“The cure’s here?” Dad says. “Where? Which plant is it?”

My voice catches. The cure isn’t in the grove, but I know Dad won’t believe me if I say that. I point to a plant behind him. If Dad wants a closer look, he’ll have to move away from me.

Not that distance will save me from his arrows.

“This?” Dad says. “Are you sure?”

I can’t answer. I can’t even move my head.

“This is hellebore, Asclepius. It’s toxic.”

Dad pulls an arrow from his quiver.  He nocks it and aims at me.

I flatten myself behind the huge oak tree, but with Dad on the other side it might as well be a sapling.

“The offer stands, but this is your last opportunity to take it,” Dad says. “What did you use?”

I opt for the truth. The way Chiron talked, it’s doubtful the Pantheon can use the plant anyway.

“Vlita,” I say. “I used vlita.”

The grove is too quiet. I peek out from behind the tree. I can’t tell if Dad’s furrowed brow means he’s angry or confused, but I fear he’ll soon call me a liar and let loose the arrow.

“Vlita?” he says, “You mean the weed?”

My head bobbles a yes.

“And where do I find the kid?”

“I don’t know.”


The oak I’m hugging blasts in two, piercing my hands with splinters.  The thunder of cracking tree limbs echoes around me, and the earth rumbles. I keel over, hands on knees, trying to keep my balance.

Dad nocks another arrow.

Word Count: 89K

Genre: Mythic Fantasy

7 words for your MC: Curing patient reveals estranged father’s murderous plan

 Code Name: More Than Just a Dream

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

Connor tilted his head to one side. “Phillip, how’re you going to make all that money?”

“Real estate, like my dad.” Phillip tossed Antonio a chocolate bar. “Mia, how’s that Ouija board working out?”

“What?” Mia stiffened, the heat from the bonfire nothing compared to the heat now rushing into her face. She couldn’t relax for one second around this kid. “Well…I—”

“You know, dude,” Connor cut in. “It’s just for fun.”

“Is it?” Out of nowhere, Phillip whipped the box of graham crackers sideways at Connor, but Connor, all quick reflexes, caught it easily with his free hand.

“Nice catch,” Mia didn’t bother hiding her smile.

Phillip smirked. “Antonio says you think you talked to a ghost.” He lowered his skewer into the flames, lighting all four of his marshmallows on fire.

Mia’s smile faded. Seriously? Her own brother, spilling her secrets. She shot Antonio a furious glance, but he kept his head down, concentrating on breaking the chocolate into pieces.

“Really?” she asked Phillip, leaning back in her chair, all casual. “What else did he say?”

“Not much.” He pulled his skewer out of the flames and blew out the now blackened, shriveled marshmallows. “That’s why I’m asking you.”

Connor laughed. “None of it made sense. It just pointed out random letters.”

Mia wanted to hug him. Maybe she couldn’t count on her brother to be loyal, but she could count on her best friend. Even if her best friend wasn’t totally on board with her plan to search cabin three. Yet.

Word Count: 40,000

Genre: Mystery

7-words for your MC: Desperate to save grandparents’ failing lake resort

Code Name: Dream Weaver I Believe

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

My face presses against something scratchy, cold and hard. Every bone in my body feels bruised. Putting my hands under me, I push up, but the ground doesn’t look like the wooden planks of the ship. It’s more like cement.

I roll over and stare at a starry sky. It was daylight a second ago, and the temperature must have dropped below freezing. I rub my arms as I sit up, staring at a city skyline stretching across the water. The cement is part of a wharf lined with warehouses. So the ship didn’t catch me. Am I somehow back in New York? Did Jake wake up? He must have.

I scramble to my feet and jog down the pier, searching for any signs of life. Every few yards a lamppost emits a halo of light along the wharf, but the buildings remain in shadows. I run faster, trying to keep myself warm and wishing I could’ve got my coat and backpack from the ship. I’d at least be able to use my cellphone on this side of the Mirage.

After passing a few ocean liners, I finally find a work crew piling containers onto a conveyor belt and transferring them to a ship.

“Hello!” I shout, waving to them.

They stop working, and one of them walks over.

“This is a secure loading zone,” he says, his hot breath fogging in the cold air. “What are you doing out here?”

Word Count: 56K

Genre: Urban Fantasy

7 words for your MC: Human lie detector; seer of dream dimensions.

Code Name: The Dream that You Dare

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

Everyone was gawking. Unless I wanted my reputation here to be the same as it was in Cleveland, squared, this was my last chance.

I pulled off my hood and turned to Woody. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”

I fielded questions until the bell rang. It was easier than I thought it would be. Everyone was shouting at once, so I got to pick and choose.

“What was the audition like?” asked Ernesto.

“Well, when I got there, they handed me these SIDES. Sides are scenes with dialogue. I had a few minutes to look them over, then I read for the director.”

Not that I’d ever actually seen a side. At my audition, they were only looking for non-union extras. I’d stood in line for four hours in the hot sun before I was allowed inside the building for my thirty seconds with the casting people. They told me to say my name and age. Then they sent me to another line to have my measurements taken. I was the right size to fit one of the costumes, a parochial school uniform that was the sweatiest, itchiest thing on the planet, so I was in.

“How much money did you make?” This was from Woody, of course.

“I don’t know. I never saw my check.” The girl who sat next to me in the bleachers said they were paying us $27. Plus lunch. “My mom gave me $10 and put the rest in the bank for college.” Or maybe it went towards the electric bill.

Word Count: 51K

Genre: Realistic, historical

7-word description for your MC: Earned her artistic license at age six

Code Name: I Was Not Magnificent.

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

“Of course he’s not mine,” Rapscallion answered. “One look at him should tell you that. Where’s his dazzling good looks? His impeccable fashion sense? His luxurious hair?” He laughed, as though at the ridiculousness of the idea. “He’s just travelling with me for a while.”

“Ah, well, it’s a pleasure all the same,” said Ernest, shaking Zack’s hand. “Where are you from then, my boy?”

“London,” Zack answered.

Ernest frowned.

“You’ve gotta be a little more specific when you’re travellin’, mate,” Rapscallion explained. “What planet, what time, what galaxy?”

“Oh, right.” Zack scratched his head.  “Planet Earth then, I guess. From … 2014.”

“And what galaxy is that?”

“Erm … the big one?”

Ernest chuckled.

“He’s from the Milky Way,” said Rapscallion.

“Oh, how marvellous!” said Ernest, clapping his hands together. “Such an exciting place. What is it you’re doing travelling with Rapscallion exactly?”

“He’s taking me to an auction. Part of his charity work.”

Ernest looked at Rapscallion suspiciously. “Charity work?”

“Yeah, you know, helpin’ unhappy kids and all that.”

“I see.” Ernest paused. “I don’t mean to offend you, Rapscallion, but you’ve never struck me as the charity work kind of man before.”

“Just turnin’ over a new leaf, aren’t I? Trying to do something for the kids and all that.”

“I see.” Ernest nodded, though he didn’t seem entirely convinced. Then his face darkened suddenly, as if a thought had just occurred to him. “This auction, however … it wouldn’t be Wilhelmina’s auction, would it?”

Word Count: 65,000.

Genre: Science Fiction.

7 words for your MC: Troubled boy gets chance to time travel.

Click here to see more MG entries

Click here to see YA Entries

Click here to see Adult 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!

Friday Reads: SMILE by Raina Telgemeier

We bought a house! Posts will be pretty sporadic while we clean and pack and move, but this summer will be full of goodness. I’ll be participating in #PitchToPublication as one of the freelance editors, and I’ll be hosting #70pit the first week of July. So get those manuscripts ready for some full requests! For now, here’s a quick review of Smile, a middle-grade graphic novel memoir by Raina Telgemeier.


Everyone in my family adored this graphic memoir.

I was reading it in my hammock outside and kept laughing. Soon my husband came over (he’s the one with orthodontic experience) and began reading with me, laughing and reading his favorite quotes aloud. Then our son came and joined us, reading along.

The toddler wasn’t particularly interested, though. I’m thankful, because the hammock was already dragging on the ground at that point.

As for the actual content, Raina (the main character) goes through middle and high school, relaying her dental and social dramas. Telgemeier (the author/illustrator/adult) managed to fit a lot into a single volume graphic novel. Secondary characters were drawn in the 2D cartoony style but weren’t flat caricatures of people.


Click to view sample pages on Amazon.

Telgemeier can pack so much emotion into one facial expression—she’s insanely talented as an illustrator! But her storytelling is also finely crafted. We’ve got subplots, conflicts, friends and foes, self reflection. Life lessons aren’t a prerequisite for me in juvenile literature. Smile does have them, but Telgemeier never lectures her audience. Teen Raina is conversational, assuring and inspiring.

Recommended for 5th and 6th graders, and for anyone who’s survived middle school and/or orthodontia.