Entry Nickname: Be Grateful For Cookies
Word Count: 45,000
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Thirteen-year-old Lizzie will do almost anything for a cookie. Sadly, her mother banned them from her life months ago, replacing sweets with tasteless foods and a gym membership. Her mom claims it’s for her own good, even though her skinny sister can still eat whatever she wants.
Doomed to a life of flaxseed and broccoli, Lizzie joins what she believes is an after school cooking club, hoping to make chocolate-anything on the sly. When the teacher announces they’ll also be sewing, Lizzie discovers a knack for designing stylish plus-size clothes, something she desperately needs. After the owner of a local boutique sees one of Lizzie’s shirts with the message BE STRONG sewn across the back, she asks Lizzie to reveal her inspirational clothing to the public with a fashion show. Lizzie hesitantly agrees —she’s never been comfortable being the center of attention, and her mother’s lecture about her hopeless future as a larger girl is on a constant auto-play in her head.
Faced with an overpowering mom, a group of relentless school bullies, and some embarrassing mishaps at the gym, Lizzie realizes how important it is to BE YOU — a phrase on one of her shirts. Armed with her collection and a chance to show her mother that success comes in all sizes, Lizzie sets out to prove there’s more to a person than the size of their waist.
From the moment I stepped onto Aunt Teri and Uncle Joe’s patio, they taunted me. My eyes darted away, trying my best to ignore them, but I knew they were there. Every summer, my aunt and uncle hosted a huge neighborhood cookout. Mom had warned me on the car ride over to be good. “A little self-control goes a long way.” The words still echoed in my head.
Hearing Aunt Teri behind me, my heart began to race. No doubt she had them with her.
You can do this, I reminded myself. You’re better than they are.
“Lizzie,” Aunt Teri called.
Her hand clasped my shoulder. She twirled me around.
“It’s so lovely to see you. And my, look how big you’ve gotten. Chip?”
She thrust the dreaded bowl in my face. They were the kind with ridges. The kind covered with that powdered sour cream and onion stuff I loved. I forced a smile.
“No thanks. I’m good.”
She shrugged and began to walk away.
“Wait!” I yelled. “I mean …” Rushing over to her, I dug my chubby fingers into the bowl, emerging with a fistful of my forbidden fare. “Maybe just a couple. Thanks.”
My eyes darted up, meeting my mother’s glare through Aunt Teri’s kitchen window. I threw the chips in the trash and grabbed a piece of celery off of the veggie tray instead. My hand lingered over the dip, but knew mom could see and quickly moved it away. I was in for a long afternoon.
Entry Nickname: Alabama Witch Hunters
Word Count: 45,000
Genre: MG Horror
Twelve-year-old José Villa wants to be brave like his best friend, Bubba, but he’s more terrified than a fresh bass at a fish fry. So he accepts his role as sidekick in Bubba’s daring, and mostly harebrained, schemes and adventures.
But when José sneaks into a pasture with Bubba in the middle of the night, he encounters a horror he couldn’t have imagined: zombie freaking cows. Oh, and the evil witch Agatha Winters, back from the dead and ready to get revenge on the town that killed her. Not knowing what to do, José and Bubba team up with a young witch expert. Together, the trio works to stop Agatha, encountering a creepy undertaker, an incompetent sheriff, and a horde of demonic squirrels along the way.
When his friends get locked up, it’s up to José to become the hero of the story. He must overcome his fears and stop Agatha before she hoodwinks the whole town into jumping from the same cliff they pushed her off of years ago.
An angry wind echoed through the night as I read the cracked wooden sign nailed to the fence. “Warning: Trespassers will be skinned alive and deep fried.”
A chill rattled my shoulders. It’d be a miracle if I lived to see the seventh grade.
Bubba sniffed the fresh manure in the air and grinned. “It’s tipping time.”
In Trout Bend, Alabama, cow tipping wasn’t just a hobby. It was an art form. All the best tippers came from our town, but the greatest of them all happened to be my best friend, Bubba, better known around these parts as the da Vinci of the Dairy.
Unfortunately, like most great artists, Bubba had started to go a little bit loco. Actually, scratch that. There was nothing little about it. That boy was nuttier than a pack of rabid squirrels on a cashew binge. I mean, why else would he have dragged me out to Buck Miller’s pasture in the middle of the night?
I gulped. “Bubba, are you sure this is a smart idea?”
He laughed as he squeezed his round body between a couple strands of barbed wire. “Course it ain’t no smart idea, José. But it’s like my daddy always says, ‘Ain’t nobody ever have any fun being smart.’”
I wanted to point out that nobody had ever been arrested for being smart either, but Bubba didn’t like talking about that. I took a deep breath and slid my way through the fence.