Entry Nickname: Canary Girl
Word Count: 90,000
Genre: YA Sci-Fi Thriller
While locusts ravage the Earth, seventeen-year-old science-prodigy Nila is plagued by her father's suicide. Art therapy is helping to heal her trauma, as well as inspiring a passion for graffiti, but she’s not the only one affected by his death. When he died, the formula for his revolutionary pesticide was lost with him, along with all hope of controlling the swarms devastating crops on every continent except North America, pushing life on Earth toward the brink of extinction.
Under pressure from her pushy workaholic mom, and compelled by a sense of obligation, Nila puts aside her artistic dreams to pursue a career in science, even though the thought of following in her father’s footsteps fills her with increasing dread. After she wins a prestigious science award, Nila is given a job at Columbus Innovations, working alongside her mom on her father’s pesticide.
Faced with the horrors of the animal-testing lab, Nila discovers proof that her father poisoned himself with his own pesticide. Convinced it never worked, Nila gives up and defies her mom to become a graffiti artist. As their relationship deteriorates, Nila spirals out of control, joining an animal rights group and setting the test-subject animals free.
But when the group unwittingly unleash a whole new breed of flesh-eating locusts in Boston, Nila must come clean, heal her relationship with her mom and combine her creative and scientific abilities to finally complete her father’s work and defeat the mutant swarm.
The last time I made my father’s chest swell with pride, I was almost four years old. He had gathered the greatest minds from across the world to resolve the locust problem spreading across Africa and Eurasia, and I was to be the evening’s entertainment.
As he lifted me onto the head table, the university’s Great Hall fell silent except for a growing chorus of tinkling glass. With my dark curls pinned tight to my scalp, I clutched the skirt of my canary-yellow dress and recited the periodic table. In Spanish and English. Pausing only to carefully form my mouth around the desconocidos, I made sure I didn’t trip over a single one.
When I had finished, strangers spun me in the air and called me my father’s daughter.
It made me feel something then—as though at any moment I would burst in an explosion of feathers and emerge a tiny yellow bird, fluttering high up in the rafters.
“Nila!” Mom hisses from offstage, jarring me from my thoughts.
I try to grasp hold of the memory again, but it’s gone. My chest is an empty cage. Only the echoes of that little bird’s song are left, no matter how hard I try. As I prepare for the curtains to go up and the International Young Scientist of the Year to be announced, the blazing heat of the stage lights scorches the air dry, so that every breath burns me up from the inside out.
Entry Nickname: Swimming with the Amoebas
Word Count: 63K
Genre: YA Horror
Sixteen-year-old Maxine Spielman has no boobs, a fact which may ultimately save her life.
On the first night of summer, wearing a borrowed sundress and bra stuffed with toilet paper, Maxine and her friends break into Splash, the new waterpark scheduled to open in just two days. Unable to get her manufactured cleavage wet, Maxine retreats to the locker room as the others enjoy the water. It’s here that Maxine discovers the lifeless body of a park employee. He’s sitting upright against the newly painted lockers in a puddle of his own blood. When she steps closer, he lunges at her, crying for help.
The next day her friends are dead, killed with the same lethal quickness as others in their small community. The doctors say it’s meningitis, but Maxine isn’t so sure. She knows all of those infected had one thing in common: contact with the water at Splash.
Maxine concocts an elaborate scheme, tricking the head of the water department to tell her the truth - Splash is using water from the contaminated Pearl River, and that the river is a breeding ground for Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba.
Ridiculed by the police, Maxine confides in her cute neighbor, Nathan, and tries to convince him not to take his kid sister to Splash on Opening Day. But Nathan, too, quickly dismisses her warnings as paranoia.
To save her town and the boy she’s fallen for, Maxine must shut down Splash. And she only has twenty-four hours to do it.
Complete at 63,000 words, SPLASH is a YA horror novel that will appeal to fans of Jonathan Maberry and Amy Lukavics. As a trained microbiologist, member of the Horror Writers Association, and SCBWI, I wrote this novel with plausible details and a diverse cast in a fictionalized version of Flint, Michigan, my hometown.
Whoever came up with the high school end of year survey should be shot. Buried. Dug up and shot again. I mean, you make it through the whole year without suffering any permanent damage to your social standing and WHAM, out comes this survey so you know exactly where you rank at the start of summer. To make matters worse, it has the exact same question about me as last year.
Will Maxine Spielman get boobs this summer?
I pretend to stretch so I can watch the ruffles puff out on my cami. It's the fancy one with the extra ruffles right where it counts. But they don't move much despite my best efforts. Defeated, I lean back on my stool to minimize any skin contact with the gross black surface of the lab bench and turn my attention to Mr. Johnson.
Who needs boobs anyway?
"Come on folks," Mr. Johnson says and raises his arms for quiet. Two large pit stains in the shape of crescent moons darken his shirt. "I know it's the end of the year, but we can't get through sophomore biology without at least one class on the higher vertebrates. Now Aiden, give me one of the defining characteristics of mammals. What produced the milk you had on your cereal this morning?"
"Yes, Aiden, very funny. But what specifically do cows have that, say, a salamander does not?"
"A mammary gland," he groans.
"That's right! Mammals have mammary glands."