Title: THE LAST PAPER DAHL
Word count: 63K
Genre: MG Fantasy
Not long ago, eleven-year-old Cecelia Dahl had a little brother who was alive, a mother and father who didn't blame her for his death, and a pleasant house in Hungrig, Norway. She had a soul that lived inside her body, not a miserable blue one that ran out through a door in her chest. Before Tuesdays turned evil, Cecelia was made of skin and bones and happiness, not the crackling paper and sorrow now ripping her life to shreds.
Cecelia’s mother has left for The Land of Yesterday to find her ghost brother. Her house, a dark and crooked thing called Widdendream, absorbs her father into its walls as punishment for making her mother leave. Just before it eats her as well, two mischievous gnomes whisk her away in their hot-air balloon. The gnomes, soul-catchers by trade, claim they know the way to Yesterday, and also how to capture her runaway soul. They say its absence is why she’s turning into a paper girl, but that finding it won’t be easy. Now Cecelia must survive the harrowing voyage in order to find Yesterday and bring her mother and ghost-brother home. If she doesn’t, Widdendream will never give her father back, and Cecelia’s transformation to a full paper Dahl will be irreversibly complete.
First 250 words:
On Monday of last week, Cecelia Dahl understood the world. She resided in Hungrig, Norway, in a crooked house called Widdendream. Daisies that bloomed in both grass and snow circled the shimmering lake outside her window. Sharp mountains loomed over her town. Dogs barked. Cats meowed. Cecelia’s midnight blue hair grew long and fast and cantankerous. Her skin was dark and bronze and oddly freckled, just like her mother’s. Widdendream loved its residents, as all good houses should, and Cecelia’s family loved her unconditionally. Indeed, on Monday of last week, these were all hardboiled facts.
Then on Tuesday of last week, Cecelia did the bad thing, and the world narrowed down to this: Tuesday hated Cecelia and Cecelia hated it back.
Now that Tuesday had arrived once more, Cecelia couldn’t help but look over both shoulders as she sank into her desk. It felt like something terrible had its eyes focused on her.
“Cecilia?” Miss Podsnappery pushed up her horn-rimmed glasses. “Whatever do you call that instrument in your hand?”
Every eye in class turned on Cecelia. Expressionless gazes traced her charcoal sweater and the black-and-gray-striped dress beneath it, judging her frayed tights and scuffed boots too, no doubt. Her teacher, bewildered as always, cast looming shadows. Cecelia forced a smile. She must keep her answer as succinct as possible, forgoing any miscommunications. Teachers were simple creatures, after all, and easily confused.
“Miss Podsnappery,” Cecilia answered, speaking extra slowly so as not to burst into tears, which were all too common these days.
Entry Nickname: Librarians, Curses, and Mysteries – Oh My!
Title: The Curious Curse of the Lonely Library
Word Count: 56k
Genre: Upper Middle Grade Low Fantasy
The Pickettsville library has moldered in silence for two hundred years, but Theodore Plumford can sense that it’s special. Not just any library was founded by a madman.
Left with relatives one summer, twelve-year-old Theodore coaxes his reluctant siblings to explore the unusually grand town library with him. Though the rest of Pickettsville refuses to darken its doors, the majestic building and its lively librarians soon enthrall the children. But when they discover that characters from the books are haunting the halls, an investigation into the founder’s mysterious life reveals a curse causing the library’s present predicament.
As the Plumfords and librarians unravel the past, the library’s future seems brighter. But Theodore’s impetuous brother Hugo would rather have an adventure than help the others, even if it throws the library into chaos. With the town clamoring to demolish the building and the characters fighting for their freedom, Theodore’s mettle will be tested when their lives and the library are endangered because of Hugo’s foolish choices. The bookworm who has always lived through others’ stories must learn how to be his own hero if he’s going to save the day.
Theodore’s neck prickled when they drove past the building on their way into town. The rest of Main Street was a collection of shabby stores, but this place stood apart like a wild beast among tabby cats.
Six white columns guarded a wide double door, and cold, silent windows rose between the pillars. On top of the building, rosy light streamed through the panes of a glass dome. It looked like a ball of fire upon a mammoth block of ice.
“Mom, what’s that?”
Mrs. Plumford twisted in her seat to follow Theodore’s pointing finger. She squinted into the sun. “I’m not sure. You’ll have to ask your aunt.”
Theodore’s younger sister Lucy squirmed around to look at the building before it disappeared from view. “It looks scary,” she whispered.
“It looks boring,” said Hugo Plumford, elbowing Lucy in the center seat to make more room for himself. “Are we there yet?”
“Almost,” said Mr. Plumford. He turned the car into a neighborhood of prim houses in tidy rows, each so alike they might have been pressed from the same mold.
Hugo squashed his nose against the glass and groaned. “Can’t I go with you? I don’t wanna stay here.”
“No,” said Mr. Plumford. “I’d prefer you weren’t eaten by a crocodile.”
“But I wouldn’t!”
“Hugo, you’d be trying to measure its teeth the minute I turned my back.”
Theodore stifled a sigh and hunkered over his book, determined to ignore the hundredth round of this debate.