Entry Nickname: Caprice No. 13
Title: Strung Along
Word Count: 51,000
Genre: YA Contemporary
Seventeen-year-old Sarah Avery has always been a violinist, ever since her mother took her to a symphony performance when she was seven. But now her mother is dead, and Sarah’s violin is her only salvation. Her violin means Juilliard, it means an escape from her lecherous uncle and her aunt who pretends not to notice. That is, if Sarah can get in.
But the audition itself isn’t the only thing standing in Sarah’s way. Not when the guidance counselor with the overly-processed hair forces her to tutor another student for credit hours: Sawyer Cavallo, with her bright blue violin and her own share of secrets. Who, to Sarah’s surprise, ends up becoming a friend—even if she is one Sarah can’t afford. Friends get too close. Friends notice things that are off, things that Sarah would rather keep hidden. Things that she has to keep hidden.
Because if her uncle finds out she plans to leave him, he very well may kill her.
First 250 Words:
My eyes are closed.
Violin music resonates around me, Bach’s Sonata in G minor filling the air, the room, my body, notes wrapping like a cocoon around me. My bow is merely an extension of my arm, my fingers press down on the strings at the exact moment they need to make something exquisite, something perfect. This, this is what I live for, this music that makes me feel like I’m in Carnegie Hall, I’m a soloist for a great symphony, I’m—
I jump, open my eyes. I’m not in Carnegie Hall. I’m in a classroom, beige walls and fluorescent lights and a tile floor that hasn’t been mopped in ages. Mrs. Canady, the music teacher turned guidance counselor, stands in front of me.
“Are you okay?” she asks, the bangles on her wrist clinking with a dissonant harmony as she waves her arm.
“You scared me.”
She shrugs, a halfhearted almost-apology. “I didn’t mean to disrupt your practice. Quite the opposite. I wanted to ask a favor of you.”
I don’t do favors.
“What?” I ask, shifting my weight from side to side. I tower over Mrs. Canady, so much I can begin to see her scalp through her straw thin, too-bleached hair.
But the way she’s looking at me makes me feel small.
“You’re very talented,” she says. “I was wondering what your plans were after here.”
“I… I haven’t really…”
Entry Nickname: FirefliesLive
Title: AS THE FIREFLIES LIVE
Word count: 70K
Genre: YA Contemporary
Sixteen-year-old Callie Clover is done being the resident punching bag of Montside High. After a bully stuffs a dissected frog down Callie’s sweater to climb the social ladder, she’s staring down a handful of sleeping pills when she receives a text message:
>> [Unknown Number] You can always kill yourself later, so why don't you have some fun first?
It has to be a prank. No one would know her plans. No one even wants to know her.
The Unknown Texter keeps Callie alive long enough for her to discover an audition. It’s for a one-time orchestra conducted by her favorite musician at Carnegie Hall. But she only has six months to master the violin, which she hasn’t touched since her mom’s death. With nothing else to live for, Callie adopts the audition as her final hurrah, while the Unknown Texter and Eric, a college boy who’s never been laughed at a day in his life, fill her final days with the fun she thought was impossible with fake IDs and action movie-worthy escapes from her tormentors.
Callie can’t figure out why they’re helping her. But she needs allies as entering the competition means facing everything she’s run away from: her debilitating social anxiety, her still grieving family, and the bullies who want to knock her down for good. If Callie can't reclaim her life, she may end it after all.
First 250 Words:
So, as they say… goodbye, cruel world.
I can’t take it any longer.
What did I do to deserve this? How could people smile when they hurt me? Guess now I’ll never know.
I’m doing this so they can't hate me anymore, and I don't have to hurt anymore.
There was nothing you could do. Dad, Hailey, please forgive me.
Don’t blame yourselves. Blame them.
I’m coming, Mom. See you soon.
>> No New Messages.
The fragility of the human body meant there were thousands of ways to die. The difference between life-and-death could be measured in mere inches: a knife glancing off your ribcage instead of your heart, a fall from great height onto grass instead of concrete. A poorly timed left turn across incoming traffic or catastrophic blood clot in your veins didn’t even allow you the courtesy of a warning. Mistakes as innocent as forgetting to look left again after looking right earned you a ten second spot on the nightly news if your life was noteworthy enough.
I wonder if it was due to the dissection exercises in biology class that made me choose sleeping pills as my method for suicide. A razor drawn across the soft, springy flesh of the wrists was a more guaranteed way to go. I certainly wasn’t thinking about suicide in class that day, but add in a dose of Regina Goulding and anyone would consider offing oneself as a more pleasant alternative.