Monday, June 8, 2015

QK Agent Round: Elephants Never Forget, YA Contemporary Fantasy

Entry Nickname: Elephants Never Forget
Word Count: 72K
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy


Coming from such different worlds, Chessie Charlton and Daniel Jomo Olanga should never have crossed paths.

Which would have been just fine with Denver teen Chessie. Bad enough Mom’s shipped her off to spend a summer with her ancient grandmother in middle-of-nowhere, Kenya. No phone. No friends. No fair. But when Chessie’s contacted by the spirit of Jhelani, an eons-dead elephant matriarch, things take a total left turn toward weird. Filling Chessie’s head with cryptic songs—and totally flipping her out—Jhelani’s message slowly emerges: save the last of her once-immortal tribe before their species vanishes forever and the Earth pays a deadly price.

Meanwhile, Kenyan teen Daniel can’t feed his family when his crops fail. Desperate for work, he’s coerced into a gang of poachers with their sights set on a huge payday: the remaining elephants of Jhelani’s tribe. Just this one job, he swears. Then he’ll find honest work. Hold his head up again.

By the time Chessie gets over herself and agrees to help Jhelani’s tribe, the poachers are closing in. With elephants charging and bullets flying, Chessie’s taken prisoner and her world and Daniel’s collide. To survive, Chessie must conquer her fears and seize any opportunity (and any rifle) to escape. And Daniel must decide where he’ll draw the line: thief, poacher, or accessory to murder.

The IVORY NEEDLE is told from the alternating viewpoints of the two protagonists.

​First 250

When your family falls apart, I suppose you shouldn’t expect anything to be the same again. Not even your mother’s smile.

Mom’s goofy I-love-my-life smile hadn’t been seen in months, and I’d become all too familiar with the distant impostor that had replaced it. But the smile she wore right now? Pretty sure I’d never seen that one before. Like something you’d grab at the mall without stopping to try it on, it was too tight and way too bright.

I winced and eyed the kitchen table, covered in our favorite foods. Mom’s cooking and smiling? My mouth watered, my stomach rumbled, and my heart clenched. Something wasn’t right.

“Roast chicken? Dibs on the drumstick,” Bent shouted, slamming his scrawny ten-year-old frame into the chair nearest the chicken. He leaned in, freckled nose practically up the bird’s butt, and took a deep melodramatic sniff. “Look, Chessie, your favorite mac-n-cheese, too.”

“Are you sure this isn’t a mirage?” I teased. I dropped into the chair across from him and watched Mom pull something else from the oven, her hair frizzed out in all directions from cooking in the early summer heat. “Mom? What’s going on?”

She set a tray of steaming cornbread on the table and sat down. “How would you kids like to meet your great-grandmother Esther?”

Bent whooped. “Does she still live in Africa? I want to meet her!”

I paused, forkful of mac-n-cheese halfway to my mouth. My stomach felt hollow.


  1. I'd love to see more! Please send your pages and synopsis to

  2. Interesting! Please send query and pages to, indicating Query Kombat submission.

  3. Sounds fascinating! Please send query and pages to Put Query Kombat in the subject line.

  4. WILD CARD! Please send your query letter and the full manuscript, including synopsis, as an attachment to querysara (at) fuseliterary (dot) com

  5. I'd love to see more! Please send the pages and synopsis to caitlin (at) sll (dot) com with "Query Kombat" in the subject line.