Title: The Windup
Entry Nickname: One-Handed Wonder
Word Count: 40,000
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.
First 250 Words:
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.
~ VERSUS ~
Title: The Henchmen Company
Entry Nickname: Jello Poems
Word Count: 37,500
Genre: MG Humor
Nobody would dare call Gordo Vanderhough a baboon-faced dorkisaur.
Towering over even the adults at Taft Elementary and the only 6th grader with a 5 o’clock shadow, Gordo is known for toppling kids in the lunch line like dominoes (Ga-pow!) and stealing entire trays of Jello (because he only loves two things in life: Jello and poetry). But nobody ever calls him a dorkisaur because nobody really talks to him at all.
One day a man not only talks to Gordo, but actually compliments him and invites him to join the Henchman Company. Gordo, though the youngest henchman, is a natural at all of it: giving evil glares, maniacal laughter, trash talking, throwing large kitchen appliances, and not thinking too much. He’s thrilled about his first job until he figures out that his boss is an evil mastermind trying to hook the internet up to his own brain. If successful he will be able to control a secret government robot army and a flying spaceship the size of a city. This creepoid is going to bully his way to world domination. Suddenly, Gordo questions his career path.
When the other henchmen get wind of his change of heart, Gordo finds out what it feels like to be the one being bullied. With total human annihilation on the line (and the fate of all gelatin desserts), Gordo decides to use his size and skills for good. This villain is about to get Gordoed.
Gordo Vanderhough lumbered into the cafeteria past dozens of other hungry kids. He headed straight for the front of the line but no one called out, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” No one chided, “You can’t do that.” And nobody even thought of saying, “Get to the back of line, you baboon-faced dorkisaur or I’ll kick you in the teeth.”
They didn’t say the last line for several reasons. One reason was that no one at Taft Elementary could kick high enough to reach Gordo’s teeth. It would require an amazing jump, a ladder, or a trampoline. Maybe even all three. But the most important reason was that no one dared say anything remotely threatening to Gordo Vanderhough.
Gordo was officially the hugest kid at Taft Elementary. In fact, he was the largest person—period. Though he was a sixth grader, he towered over the teachers. He was also as wide as a buffalo—the big kind with burly shoulders and a mop of dirty fur on its head. Plus, if you looked really close, Gordo’s chin had the stubbly beginnings of a beard. His nanny told him to shave every other day, but she only spoke Polish so he couldn’t understand a word she said. To him, it sounded like she was telling him to sing songs about shampooing zebras. And that didn’t make any sense. Needless to say, Gordo didn’t shave, or sing songs, or shampoo zebras.