Entry Nickname: One-Handed Wonder
Word Count: 40K
Genre: Upper Middle Grade, Contemporary
Kyle Whalen, a southpaw Little League pitcher, had enjoyed a typical adolescent boyhood until a car crash took his right hand, his twin brother, and his passion for life. Now, three years later, Kyle is fourteen and determined to play ball again in memory of his brother and fulfill the dream they shared: win the Brookhaven Invitational Baseball Tournament, a feat his home team has never accomplished.
Kyle practices hard with his catcher Hailey—the girl he’s crushing on and best friends with—but he struggles to pitch and bat one-handed. Those challenges mount when he discovers she likes a rival ballplayer. Things get worse when his coach and several of his teammates bail, leaving his team ineligible to compete. It’s game on, though, when Kyle convinces his estranged dad to take over as coach and his troublemaker cousin joins the team.
As Kyle leads his ragtag club toward the championship, he grows closer to his father, the man he thought no longer cared—about anything, not since the crash. Kyle also begins competing for Hailey’s heart. When Kyle settles a score with a bully by whiffing him each at bat and bouncing his team from the tournament, he thinks the torment is over. He thought wrong. The bully pulls a nasty prank on Kyle a few hours before the big game, and Kyle must choose between keeping the dream alive and keeping his family together.
I stood atop the pitcher’s mound, baseball in hand. My only hand. Perched over the stub where my right hand used to be was my baseball glove, pocket-down.
“Last one, Kyle. Fire it in here,” Hailey said, punching her catcher’s mitt. She was my age, fourteen, and a cutie. Ponytailed blond hair. A freckled nose. Full lips. Yeah, I had a crush on her, but it was just a tiny one. Really. Okay, a big one.
The two of us had been practicing on the weed-choked Little League field for about two hours. Summer rays warmed the back of my neck. My tired pitching arm sagged at my side. I dug my cleat into the soft dirt in front of the pitching rubber, wound up, and slung a fastball. After my follow-through, I slipped my hand into my glove, fumbling a bit, and got into fielding position. Mastering the transfer of my glove was the hardest part. I had no doubt teams would test me by hitting comebackers.
“Nice pitch,” Hailey said, hopping up. “You’re ready for this.”
I shook off my glove. “I hope so.”
It was one thing to practice without a batter standing at home plate. It was another story to pitch in a tournament, which was what I planned to do in just a few days. The last time I laced up for a game was three years ago. Back when my dad was the coach. Back when I had a right hand. Back when I had a twin teammate to double high-five.
Title: The Order of Black Hollow Lane
Entry Nickname: The Order of Black
Word Count: 57K
Genre: MG Mystery
Ginny’s mom is a world-renowned parenting expert with no parenting skills of her own. She doesn’t even give Ginny warning before dumping her at a boarding school right before her thirteenth birthday. If only Ginny’s dad was around to look after her, but he disappeared when she was three. She figures she’s heard the last of him.
Then the box arrives. It’s crammed with ornate medallions. There’s no return address, just a note that says, ‘These belonged to your father.’ Ginny thinks the medallions are just heirlooms until she sees symbols from the box in an unexpected place: her new boarding school. She starts investigating and finds out her dad was a member of a mysterious student society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane.
At first it seems like nothing more than an old boys’ club, but then Ginny finds evidence that The Order had something to do with her dad’s disappearance. She’s desperate to learn more about what happened to him, but The Order won’t give up its secrets without a fight. When some of its members start threatening her, Ginny has to decide if finding out what happened to her dad is worth the risk…even if it means risking her life.
There were certain things Ginny’s mother didn’t really need to know. Trivial things, like whether Ginny had clipped her toenails that morning, or that she’d stepped in something sticky at the park. But the box in Ginny's nightstand was not a trivial thing. Ginny knew it wasn't. And that's why her fingers twitched every time her mother came into her room.
"Are you ready, dear?" Her mom opened the door. "The press will be here in a few—“ She put her hand to her chest and gasped.
Ginny held her breath. She had put the box away, right? If her mom saw it, if she found out....
Suddenly her mother's eyes filled with tears. "Oh, Ginny, that dress...you look just...just beautiful."
Ginny breathed out and picked at the crunchy taffeta on the front of her dress. She had to put the box out of her mind. She needed to focus today.
“Don’t you just love these little pink polka dots?” her mom asked as she brushed Ginny’s hands away from the dress. “They’re all hand-sewn, that’s why they pop out so much!”
It looked like the dress had come down with the measles. The sleeves puffed out like pink toadstools, which would come in handy if Ginny ever needed a place to hide a cat.