Entry Nickname: Play Chess Not Checkers
Word Count: 66K
Genre: MG Historical Fiction
To win her family’s freedom, Ruchel must play the greatest chess match ever.
As World War 1 begins, Ruchel’s father is forced into the Austrian Army just as the Russian Army invades. To survive, her mother opens a tiny cafe. Business is terrible until Ruchel challenges and defeats a customer in a chess match. Soon, everyone is coming to watch her play.
Ruchel hopes to use her newfound celebrity to discover what’s happened to her father, unheard of since the Austrians took him. Unfortunately, as different armies take turns occupying her hometown, it’s all she can do to help keep her family from starving.
When civil war breaks out and both sides start hunting Jews, Ruchel must bet everything against immigration papers on beating a Polish chess champion.
Ruchel’s opponent carefully pushed his knight two spaces forward and one space left using the two fingers remaining on his right hand. He nodded to Ruchel as he pulled the hand back. The burned side of his face remained frozen, as did the milky white eye contained within, but the other side of his mouth tried to turn upward.
Once Ruchel would have felt both pity and horror at his appearance, but she’d seen so many ruined men in the last couple of years. Besides, the stakes were too high. The fat constable by the window kept playing with the holster around his waist, grunting every so often just in case she hadn’t noticed him. “Pig,” she mumbled in Yiddish. She quickly looked away. If he realized what she’d said, it wouldn’t matter who won this game. Fortunately, he was focused on the shopkeeper across the street struggling to remount his store’s smashed in window frame. The smile on his face made her say pig again, but this time, only to herself.
The Assistant Secretary to the Deputy Administrator of the Lwow Voivodship stood impolitely close to the playing table just behind her opponent. Occasionally he leaned in close, pretending to peer at the board but really just trying to intimidate her. Even if she did win, would it matter, or would they just be cheated again? She heard a ‘hmm’ further behind her, the priest from the local Eastern Orthodox Church. The Rabbi had wisely invited him. The secretary stepped ever so slightly back.
Title: Two of Us
Entry Nickname: THE BRITISH ARE COMING
Word Count: 31,000
Genre: MG HISTORICAL (1964)
Victoria’s thirteen-year-old twin Violet is always dragging her into her schemes. Her latest one? To groove to the new British musical group, The Figworts at a live concert. Only one problem: in Scottsbank, Indiana—a town in the middle of nowhere—she’ll never get the chance to see them in person unless she travels to a big city like Chicago or New York. Like that could happen. Their mom can barely afford Spam.
With no get-rich scheme in sight like selling a million Girl Scout cookies---and neither one are in Girl Scouts---or selling candy bars door-to-door, Violet writes to their manager to beg for a chance to see them. Instead of tickets their manager says that if she can get 25.000 signatures in the next two weeks, the band will play in her town. Now all she has to do is get her friends, and her friend’s friends, and golly, everyone in the whole town to sign a petition, and the band will perform. A task like this is too big for one person so Violet enlists the help of the person she knows will come through. Victoria. Violet’s enthusiasm infects Victoria until she is as excited as Violet to see the British band in person.
After they get the signatures they need, Violet assures Victoria the band is set to show up. The entire town is on board with the idea, even the mayor promises a key to the city on the day of the concert. But when Victoria finds the petitions hidden under Violet’s mattress, she knows something is up. Violet confesses she missed the deadline and The Figworts aren’t coming to play after all. Victoria can’t let her sister down so she comes up with a plan. The two of them will go to New York City and convince the band to come to Scottsbank. Now if only they could convince their mom to drive them.
Violet dragged me down the street by the hand. “It’s Saturday, Vic. The new teen magazines came in. Mom gave me two dollars.” She grinned.
I hesitated at the entrance of the soda fountain. A big picture window showed two boys sitting on stools. One of them smiled.
Violet peered in. “Let’s go inside. We’ll pretend we’re British.”
“We’re not British, we’re Americans,” I said.
“Those two cute boys by the counter don’t know that. Come on.”
“No, I can’t do a British accent. They’ll know it’s fake,” I said.
“I can. Come on. You just nod and smile British,” Violet said shoving open the door.
How do you smile British?
The two boys were cute though. She pulled me to the counter by my sleeve.
“Pardon me,” she said with a perfect British accent. “Can you two blokes help us birds out? We don’t know American currency.” She shoved two dollars at the blond boy.
He grinned. “Sure, this is two dollars. What do you want to buy?”
“Oh, something very American.” Only it came out “veddy.” I winced. “Linda?” she asked me. I stared at her. “Linda?” Oh, was that supposed to be my name?
“What about a hamburger, French fries and Coke?” asked his friend.
“Oh, we call them chips,” Violet said. “Burger and chips.”
“Chips are potato chips,” the older boy said. “Not French fries.”
“Smashing,” she said. “Isn’t it smashing, Linda dear?”
“Smashing,” I said, trying to sound British. Only it came out all slurred. I winced again.