Jun 7, 2018

QK Agent Round: You Octopi My Heart

Title: The One That Got Away: An Octopus Love Story
Entry Nickname: You Octopi My Heart
Word Count: 27K
Genre: MG Anthropomorphic


For a long time, Ceph, a giant Pacific octopus, has pined after Sylvia, the octopus next door at the bottom of the sea. She’s beautiful, bold, and clever, but before he can muster the courage to speak to her, he’s captured by a human diver and imprisoned in an aquarium. It’s an awful place, with kids tapping on the glass and two taunting eels in the neighboring tank. Even worse, he’s forced to rely on his kidnapper for every meal. But unlike the other captives in the aquarium, Ceph has the ability to escape. He learns that octopuses before him have done it, though none have ever made it back to the ocean alive.

Ceph has never been the brave one—he couldn’t even tell Sylvia he loved her. In order to escape the aquarium, he must face a room full of predators, get past the watchful security guard, and figure out just how long he can hold his breath out of water. Even if he manages to get back into the dangerous ocean, he’ll have to find his way back to his den. Ceph, who has always relied on his ability to camouflage, now must employ all his fight and flight skills to get home safely, all the while wondering whether Sylvia will even care if he returns. Octopuses are solitary creatures, after all.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY is a 27,000-word anthropomorphic middle grade and was inspired by the true story of Inky, an octopus who escaped from the New Zealand National Aquarium.

In 2011, I won first place in the Young Adult Book category of the Utah Original Writing Competition.

First 250:

Ceph stretched arm after arm after arm until all eight were awake and independently exploring his den. His dominant right eye opened. Then the left. He blinked. Pressing his arms against his favorite sleeping rock, he peeled his body off. He floated for a moment, shaking off the drowsy feeling.

Today’s the day, he thought. I’m going to talk to Sylvia.

His skin shifted from lumpy brown to smooth reddish-orange.

He glided, arms floating around his body, to the front of his home –a rock den, slightly bigger than himself. He hovered in the entrance and looked out in the sea. It was a clear, still night in the Pacific Ocean –the water barely moving and satisfyingly cold.

Nearsighted, Ceph could hardly see Sylvia outside of her own den. He stared until her skin’s deep blush color came into view. He admired the white, polka-dots decorating all eight of her arms. No matter what color she turned, her polka-dots remained.

She was the loveliest creature in the entire sea.

And she was smart. What could Ceph say to her that wouldn’t sound stupid? He breathed deeply, oxygen ballooning through his gills. Then he moved forward, arm over arm, scooching across the ocean floor, practicing what he would say: Hello? How are you? My name is Ceph . . .

Something moved under Ceph’s second arm on the left. He shot straight up into the sea, the rest of his arms flailing, scaring the ink right out him.

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