Title: Listen to Me
Word Count: 40,000
Genre: MG contemporary
When her dad is arrested for a DUI, twelve-year-old Serena O’Hara—a solitary girl whose emotional outlet is singing to her rabbit—must overcome her fear of humiliation or stay locked in a shell of loneliness.
Twelve-year-old Serena’s beer-guzzling dad drowns her in shame, passing out most days. In his underwear. Friends? No way. Better to be a loner than risk mortification. Then smart, eccentric Katie breaks through her barriers—just before Serena’s drunken father nearly runs the girls over. Soon afterward he’s hauled off to a work release program.
Serena is devastated, but Katie keeps her dad’s problems a secret. The unthinkable is now possible: making friends, talking to a boy, or helping with a class project. She even risks joining chorus as her confidence grows. However nothing can replace her father, or fix her family’s problems and Serena is loaded with guilt. Guilt that makes her grades tank, and prevents her from tattling when she catches her underage brother with a beer. Her overworked mother is stressed enough.
When her dad comes home sober, he asks Serena to trust him. But gossip puts her shame about her dad in the spotlight while her dad teeters on the edge of a relapse. Her upcoming solo at the chorus concert could be the perfect place for him to complete her public humiliation. Haunted by that possibility, Serena must choose to overcome her fears about how his behavior reflects on her, or revert to the lonely, safe life of a hermit.
The red hand of the clock ticks off the last seconds of the school day. Almost time to avoid the ever friendly Katie Bell. My leg jiggles double time as though I’m speeding through the halls already. I wipe clammy hands on my shorts, clumsy in my fight to stuff my social studies book in my bag.
Not that I don’t like Katie. I do. She has peaceful blue eyes. Plus she’s very smart, something I should be grateful for in a partner for the dreaded oral history reports. But I’m sure she’ll want to spend hours making sure we are way over-prepared.
Katie moved into my neighborhood over the summer. What if she expects to meet outside of school? For a second my heart sputters, ready to bolt. We can’t. Not at my house.
I take a deep breath. Relax. There’s no need for her to meet Dad.
I race toward the door.
“Serena, wait up!”
I’m tempted to pretend I don’t hear her, but that would be rude. I look back.
Big mistake. I smack against the doorway and my backpack tips, showering old assignments like parade confetti. Why didn’t I zip the dumb zipper? I squat and start gathering papers into a pile.
“Need some help?” The question startles me, and topples my balance. I land with a grunt.
As if falling on my butt isn’t embarrassing enough, it is Sam Flores helping me. Cute, kind, popular Sam. I am. An. Idiot.
Entry Nickname: Grandma Guardians
Title: Wings, Wrinkles, and Wrappers
Word count: 41K
Genre: Middle Grade paranormal
It's been six months and twenty-three days since the sadness sunk down so deep in the eyes of Kate's Dad that he left and never came back. Seventeen days since she last spoke to her once-best friend Sophia. And an entire lifetime of eleven years without praying. But when Kate accidentally asks God for help she ends up stuck with two old ladies who happen to be her long-dead grandmothers. They provide more caustic or silly commentary than actual assistance and Kate wants them gone. But getting back to heaven isn't so simple. First they must fulfill their mission and help Kate.
From knitting to winning back a best friend with a chain of gum wrappers, Kate goes along with her grandmothers' "lessons" in hopes that they'll hurry up and leave, until she realizes their stories hold the key to finding her Dad and maybe even bringing him home. But when their rescue plan backfires and only drives him further away Kate has to learn the biggest lesson of all: when to love and when to let go.
Dear Dad, Here’s a hat. Love, Kate
Thanks for the hats.
You missed my birthday party last year. I know that’s probably not the best way to start off a letter but it’s true and it was the first thing I thought about when I saw this notebook laying on your doorstep with a note in it and everything.
July 21st, remember?
I was sure last year when I turned eleven that you would be at my party. You’d only been gone for ten days then and I guess I thought maybe you were just kind of taking a vacation. And if you were coming back soon, my birthday would have been the perfect day. It would have been like a surprise party, but not really a surprise because I knew all along that you wouldn't miss my birthday.
I woke up super early and cleaned up the whole house. Then I blew up the air mattress and checked all the cupboards for yummy treats and made a list for mom of what else we’d need. It was a sleepover party with Sophia, just like always.
That was our birthday tradition, remember? And I was sure that just like always on my birthday tradition you’d make my special ice cream cake. So I made sure to add vanilla ice cream and Kool Whip to the list in case you couldn't stop by the store on your way over.