Entry Nickname: Fake Invisibility T-Shirt
Word count: 60K
Genre: MG Contemporary Fantasy
Eleven-year-old Casey Grimes is eternally the new kid, if he’s noticed at all. Despite his persistent friendliness, students at Vintage Woods Middle school look right through him. Bus doors slam in his face, no one remembers his name, and he feels more welcome in the woods than he does around kids. Then he scales a colossal oak and discovers an abandoned fortress. The forgotten sentry tree marks the border between his safe, suburban life and a wild frontier.
Eager for a change, Casey infiltrates Sylvan Woods, a secret forest society tasked with monster control. Shockingly, people here actually see him, but being seen is not enough. Posing as a Sylvan girl’s cousin, he enters Trickery School—a dangerous academy where classes are life-threatening, teachers are treacherous, and battles are as common as breakfast. For the first time in his life, he makes friends…but kids at Trickery have forgotten their ancient roots. Protection has become pretension, and civilians like Casey are despised. If anyone finds out he’s an imposter, he’ll be blacklisted and sent back across the border for life.
Keeping his identity hidden—while struggling to prove he fits—is hard enough, but the clock is ticking. A vicious breed of monster swarms Trickery, butcher beasts, who haven’t been seen for a hundred years. Casey and his new friends decipher a cryptic message and learn the truth: Sylvan Woods will be devoured and he’ll return to a life of being see-through…unless he can use his climbing knack to wake the magical Sentry Trees. But that will be difficult, since in Trickery, magic is so last century. And then there’s the dangerous question of where Casey actually belongs.
Casey Grimes was invisible—at least most of the time.
He stood on the corner under a stop sign, jogging in place as his school bus sped down the street. It slowed to roll through the intersection and Casey sprinted alongside, smacking the door as his backpack bumped his spine. Sound and movement gave him a fighting chance to be seen. For a few seconds, anyway.
“Open up!” he yelled.
The driver squinted through the smudged glass, and Casey banged harder, until the brakes squealed and the accordion doors whooshed open.
“Where’d you come from?” the driver asked.
“Same place I always come from.” Casey jumped into the bus.
The driver shrugged and floored the accelerator.
The other two kids on Casey’s route always sat together in the back. He waved, but they kept right on talking, so he took his usual seat by the window, pressing the vinyl with sweaty palms. Don’t give up on the day yet, he told himself. Things might still change.
But they reached Vintage Woods Middle School and nothing was different.
Nothing at all.
“You new here?” A girl asked as Casey opened his locker.
“Of course not,” Casey said. “You’re Lydia, we sit next to each other in—”
But she’d already started talking to someone else. Casey slumped in defeat, but then Manuel walked past—they’d had a five second conversation once—and Casey whirled.
“Hey Manuel,” he said.
The boy’s gaze paused for a millisecond and slid away as if pulled by a magnet.
Title: OLLIE BANCROFT AND THE UNDEAD PIRATE PROBLEMEntry Nickname: Shiver Me Timbers
Word Count: 48000 words
Genre: Middle Grade, Adventure/Fantasy
Twelve-year-old Ollie Bancroft is a kid genius and engineering prodigy, but in his sleepy coastal town of Deadmen, Newfoundland, people couldn’t care less. Ollie is a Bancroft after all, descendant of William Bancroft: the man who killed the infamous pirate Black Bart and ended his reign of terror. No matter what Ollie does he can’t escape the legendary pirate connection, and to make things worse, he’s the only one in Deadmen who doesn’t believe it. As far as Ollie’s concerned, the legend is nothing more than a fairy tale to attract tourists to a dying town.
When Ollie stumbles upon a supposedly cursed compass with the power to bring Black Bart back to life, he sees his opportunity to finally stop all the pirate nonsense once and for all. Like a serious scientist he conducts an experiment to prove the curse is bogus, but the curse is very real. Black Bart and his crew of rotten goons return from the dead — just in time to spoil the town’s annual pirate festival — hungry to wreak revenge upon Deadmen, especially, anyone unlucky enough to be named Bancroft.
With the help of his best friend Emma, his sea dog grandpa, and his reluctant mom, Ollie must use his wits and considerable knowledge of booby-traps to thwart Black Bart before he resurrects his entire pirate army and plunders the seven seas.
“You know how you’re always asking why kids think you’re weird?” Emma whispered in Ollie’s ear.
Ollie’s shoulders slumped. He scuffed his boot against the glossy, convention center floor. “Yeah,” he sighed.
“This, Ollie,” Emma said, patting him on the back. “Stuff just like this.”
A girl stood before them, crying so hard a snot bubble inflated unnoticed from her right nostril. Just behind her loomed her science project, a bright diorama covered with glitter, out-of-focus poodle photographs, and the title: ‘RUFFLES: EVERYDAY POODLE, OR MUSICAL PRODIGY?’
Moments earlier, the girl had enthusiastically given Ollie and Emma a sneak-peak at her presentation. She hadn’t even been a minute through before Ollie criticized it in a dozen ways, causing her freckled face to burst like a ruptured dam.
“I’m sorry,” Ollie pled with the girl. “I’m really sorry, okay?” He awkwardly put out his hand and patted the air above her shoulder. “I could be wrong. I’m probably wrong. Maybe it is a real science project? Maybe … your dog barking along to boy band songs is science, after all?”
With a whimper, the girl wiped her eyes and stopped crying. Her snot bubble burst.
“Of course,” Ollie said more to himself than to her, “a person’s musical taste doesn’t really factor in the scientific method, so I don’t see why Ruffles, would matter to any —“
“Ollie!” Emma said, smacking him on the arm.
“Ouch,” Ollie winced.Beneath the table, Ruffles — easily identifiable by the sparkly letters on his name tag — growled ferociously behind the bars of a pink kennel.