Entry Nickname: A Thousand Miles Astray
Title: PERMANENTLY UNDECLARED
Word Count: 60,000
Genre: NA Contemporary
Eighteen-year-old Lotus Adams has no interest in college. The classes are boring, the frat boys are slobbery, and the beer is downright nasty. She’d rather be on the open road in her dad’s vintage RV, Flora, but without some costly repairs, Flora is unlivable. Her mom doesn’t want her to go traipsing around the country like her long-gone dad, so she makes Lotus a deal. Finish her first year of college with a 3.5 GPA, and mom will pay for all Flora’s repairs.
For eighteen-year-old Aaron Kim, the anonymity of college is a relief. After finding his girlfriend in bed with a friend, he threw himself into homework, work, and working out. Aside from his family and his best friend, he’s cut himself off from everyone. But after meeting free-spirited Lotus, he wonders if he was wrong to drop out of life. Already committed to his education, he decides to give love another chance.
Only Lotus knows their time together is limited. When she finishes the year and gets Flora, she’s never going back to college, never going back to live with her workaholic, absent mom. Instead of school, she’ll tour the country, and Aaron will stay at college. With freshman year ticking to a close, Aaron has to stop Lotus from dropping out of school and their relationship. If he fails, they’ll lose each other forever.
The grassy quad stretched out in front of me, an endless sea of students adorned in Crandall State’s colors. I was too busy sweating my ass off to look for my new roommate, so I plopped down on the edge of the lawn.
“Like sheep,” I muttered. This was too much. I needed space and the open road. I needed to know where dad was, not waste another year at school.
“What’s that?” asked the guy next to me.
“We’re sheep. What’s the point of all this, anyway? Some form of torture?”
“I think they call it ‘freshman orientation,’ actually.” He sounded amused and I sneaked a peek at him, wondering why he was wasting his breath. He stared at me from under black Ray-Bans, his white hat turned backwards. Dumb. “I take it you aren’t a fan of higher learning?”
“It was my mom’s idea. You know, if that hat was on the right way, you wouldn’t need the sunglasses.”
He smiled broadly, his shiny perfect teeth flashing at me. “I always need the sunglasses. This way, the hat stays out of my way.”
Ridiculous. “Then why wear the hat at all?”
“Bad hair day.” Everything in me said turn away, kill this conversation now.
“What, out of mousse before the first day?”
“Maybe I misplaced my flat iron.” He yanked off the hat and pulled his hand through glossy black hair. It fell into place immediately.
Not a bad hair day.
Entry Nickname: If You Give a Girl a Redo
Title: The Art of Almost
Word count: 104,000
Genre: Upmarket Women’s Fiction
32-year-old Anna Marin already carries too many regrets. She’s still pining for the one who got away and can’t forgive herself for the fallout from her mother’s stroke. On a flight home to marry the wrong man, Anna realizes she must take control of her life and stop living in the past.
But when she wakes as her 20-year-old self en route to her semester abroad in Australia, it seems fate has a different idea: a second chance with Charlie Beckham, the older man she was drawn to but never pursued. This time Anna falls hard, and being with Charlie is even better than what she’s imagined.
Yet if Anna’s history plays out as it once did, in a few months her mother will suffer a debilitating stroke. And Anna’s baby sister will begin a downward spiral from which she never recovers. When Anna’s efforts to change the future from across the Pacific fail, she must make an impossible decision: walk away from the love of her life—again—or stay with Charlie and abandon her family.
Adding to Anna’s distress, her on-and-off college boyfriend (and future fiancé) flies to Australia to win her back. Seeing him as the boy she fell in love with, Anna finally realizes she also played a part in their relationship’s unraveling. As he shows a side Anna’s never seen, and it becomes clear Charlie cannot leave Australia, Anna wonders whether part of her mission is rewriting her first love story.
First 250 words:
I tried to steady my breathing as Nick lowered down on one knee. A cool spring breeze blew petal confetti toward us, so gently that bits of white and pink remained suspended in midair before fluttering to the ground. Shushing spread through the people surrounding us; suddenly it made sense why our family and friends all happened to show up at the same benefit. Even the river, humming low and deep like a bass line just beyond the hotel courtyard, slowed to a crawl.
And yet I couldn’t hit pause, take a second to reflect on how I’d let it get so far.
“Anna Jane, you are my past and my future. You’re all of my best memories and the center of every great moment to come. And so to you Ipresent—” here he paused to allow sufficient time to appreciate his pun—“this ring. It’s time we made it official!”
The choreography was perfect.
I tried to speak, to tell him it felt like I was disappearing. That putting a ring on my finger would sever the last threads tying me to the earth. But the words went sliding down some shadowy passage, piling on top of all the other things I never said.
Nick’s speech kept going, though not a word registered. I searched the gowns and tuxedoes for a flash of crimson and looked up. My eyes met my sister Claire’s and I immediately regretted it. Hers held a question; mine, a plea.
I had to look away or I’d cry. Or scream.