Title: Nora, Queen of Cakes
Entry Nickname: The Memory Baker
Word Count: 47K
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Sixth grader Nora Stanvic isn't good at anything. So it comes as no surprise to her when she learns she’s likely headed for remedial math. But when Nora finds her ailing grandmother’s handwritten cookbook, not only does she discover she might have a real talent for baking, but she also learns that by re-creating her grandmother’s recipes, she might have the power to help Grandma reclaim some of the memories Alzheimer’s is trying to steal away.
My middle grade contemporary novel, NORA, QUEEN OF CAKES (47,000 words), explores one girl’s journey to gain confidence in herself. Nora is nothing like her straight-A sister Sarah or her sports star brother Ian. As she struggles with poor grades and low self-esteem, Nora gets another blow: her grandmother is moving in with them, which means Nora has to share a bedroom with Ian. Her grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. As Nora helps her unpack, she discovers a cookbook her grandmother began writing when she was Nora's age. On a challenge from her new math tutor, Oksana, Nora tries her hand at replicating the first recipe. It totally bombs. But after some much-needed encouragement from those around her, Nora keeps at it. As her baking skills begin to improve, not only does Nora discover that she might be really good at something after all, but she also learns that the recipes she’s re-creating could have the power to help her grandmother remember her past, at least for a little while.
This has to be the worst day of my life. Worse than the day Nick Martin bumped into my chair and spilled his entire lunch tray on my head. Worse than failing my geometry quiz and having my parents give me funny looks about it for weeks. Worse than finding out I wasn’t invited to Missy Albrecht’s birthday party last year--the party of the year in 5th grade. (My invitation and my best friend Jemma’s invitation “must have been lost in the mail,” Missy said. Of course they were.)
Those incidents were pretty horrible, but nothing compared to what I heard when I came home from school today: Grandma’s moving in with us. But I love Grandma, so that’s not the bad part, that’s not the ‘worst day of my life’ part.
What makes today so awful is finding out that when Grandma moves in, I’ll have to share a room with my brother Ian. Oh, and there’s going to be bunk beds.
“But bunk beds are for little kids,” I said. “We’re practically adult-sized.”
“They’ll give you more room,” Mom said. “Besides, your father’s already ordered them. It’s a done deal.”
“I call top bunk!” Ian shouted, because he always has to be first at everything.
I didn’t care if I got the top bunk or not. I didn’t care about bunk beds at all.
Title: Split Down the Middle
Entry Nickname: Mustache Head
Word Count: 54,000
Genre: MG Realistic Fiction
Before being faced with her D-Day debacle, Becca’s life wasn’t exactly perfect, but it was at least familiar. Predictable. Mostly manageable. Wake up at her mom’s house, relay the message from Dad, take the bus to middle school, go to Dad’s house, relay the message from Mom. Pray that the messages don’t blow up in her face and trigger an all-out Nuclear Disaster.
But when Becca’s mother announces she’s moving from Philadelphia to North Carolina, Becca must go to court and choose which parent she wants to live with - permanently, and who she must leave behind. Complicating her Decision Day dilemma is the minefield of truth bombs the universe drops on the battlefield of Becca’s life. Some, like the news that her soulmate (aka secret crush) Jake actually like likes her, are thrilling. Others, such as her dad’s unexpected pregnancy with his newish girlfriend, are just plain confusing. All of them convince Becca that her difficult decision may be an impossible one.
Becca’s life is about to get carved to pieces, and her parents are forcing her to wield the knife. Is a courtroom miracle her only hope, or can she find another way to put herself back together again?
You know those memories you try to bury in the underwear drawers of your brain, but that sneak up on you when you least expect it, when you’re brushing your teeth or looking for a lost library book?
I have a lot of those.
Like when Tim Vasquez sat next to me on the aquarium trip, stared at my face in a super creepy way, and then loudly proclaimed to the entire bus, “Becca, you totally have a mustache! You’re like…a Mustache Head!”
(For the record, my aunt Teresa says pretty much every woman secretly has a mustache but just pretends they don't. She makes good money as a waxer in the suburbs, so she’s kind of an authority. After Tim’s charming comment she does mine for free.)
Another of these panic-inducing flashbacks is from the first day of third grade. After a school north of us shut down due a combination of termites and teachers cheating on state tests, the city shipped all those kids to mine, which I (stupidly) assumed would be No Big Deal.
Oh how wrong I was.
I walked into my classroom that first day and made myself as flat against the wall as my mom had just tried (and failed) to make my curly red hair, staring into a sea of freshly-scrubbed September faces. I leaned there along the piles of backpacks and shiny new school supplies, watching first in confusion and then horror as each of my new classmates connected like magnets, hugging and high-fiving.