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‘Contests’ Category

  1. An Inside Look – Part II

    March 16, 2014 by Suzi

    Last week, I had Julie S. Decker on my blog to talk about her experience as being a mentor for the Pitch Wars contest. See here for that post. This week, she’s talking about the problems and issues she saw with submissions, which would be helpful for someone querying since her advice is similar to what agents say.
    So what were the most common problems with the Pitch Wars Submissions?

    The most common problem in queries was lack of trajectory. Many queries failed to tell me about their story arc, and that’s very important in a query. I found a lot of vagueness, like “she must find herself” or “in a race against time, they must succeed before it’s too late” without giving me a clear understanding of what the characters want/need and what will happen if they don’t get it done. I also found that too much detail was a problem, and occasionally I would see explanations of themes or morals that didn’t need to be there. And some authors praised themselves in their queries, told me irrelevant details about their writing process, or included inappropriate personal details.

    In the writing samples, the most common problem was infodumping on page one. When I saw awkward recitations of background details or people having conversations that were clearly contrived to convey context to the reader, I froze up and disengaged. Readers should never feel that the characters are standing still while the author lectures. Books need to begin when something is beginning–something we want to watch. It’s a delicate balance to suggest the characters and world have history and depth without halting the story to tell us about it, but that’s why writing is an art! Other problems included failure to get us invested in the characters, “telling” me a character’s attributes instead of showing me, and spelling/grammar/punctuation errors.

    I did get a few weirdly categorized books–like projects that were pitched as YA to one mentor but NA to me for some reason–and a few people sent me things I specifically identified as NOT my style in my bio (horror, category romance, stories where women characters are objectified or killed for the sake of the male hero having “motivation”). I think most of the people who didn’t follow directions just didn’t realize that they weren’t allowed to send manuscripts to someone who wasn’t taking their category, but other than that people were good about following the directions.

    One thing I’ve always wondered about with these contests is whether the judges (or agents) feel that the submissions were ready for querying. Of course that’s subjective, and part of Pitch Wars was to work with a mentor to prepare the submission, but what did you see, Julie? Were a lot of them query-ready or did they need a lot of work?

    I thought most of what I received wasn’t polished enough to get an agent. Sometimes that was just a query issue but usually it was the pages. I’d say around 20% of what I got was definitely not close to ready, and 80% of it (including that 20%) probably needs quite a bit of work (though some might be close enough that an agent will give an R&R or offer representation and then give pointers). Then maybe around 20% of the submissions I received had both a decent query and decent pages which made me think they will do well with agents if they query. Some, I found out, haven’t started querying at all yet. Even the folks I picked for my top three need some help, though there were a couple in my top ten that I didn’t pick for personal reasons and still think they will do well with agents. In a couple cases I have even mentioned that I might be willing to set up a referral even though I didn’t pick them. I don’t do that often though.

    I’ve been in several contests over the years, and I can definitely say that I wasn’t ready for some of them. It’s hard not to jump into contests because you’re so excited about getting your story presented to agents, but it’s best to wait and make sure it’s polished and ready.

    Is there anything else you’d like to say about contests in general?

    I think any author entering a contest should do it more for the experience than the prize. The mentee I chose actually volunteered to me during our first conversation that he was primarily interested in forming relationships with other writers and trying to expand his team of willing beta readers and critique partners. Even if you’re not chosen, you can really enjoy the community and form relationships with others in it, and start following their blogs and learning about their lives s/o you begin to build a network of people with similar interests and similar aspirations.
    Thanks for stopping by, Julie. It was interesting to hear about your experiences. For prospective judges, I’d definitely recommend looking into the time commitments before you volunteer. And for contestants, don’t jump into contests until you know you’re ready.
    Anybody out there want to be a judge/mentor for a contest? Despite all the work, I think it would be fun, but obviously for me, I’m not quite qualified yet to be a judge or mentor.

  2. Pitch Wars Mentee Bio

    December 2, 2013 by Suzi

    I’m having technical difficulties w/my blog, so I apologize if the home page looks weird. Waiting for support to return my e-mail.
    I thought this Pitch Wars Mentee Bio Bloghop thing looked kinda fun, so I figured I’d better jump right in. Check out Dannie Morin’s site for the linky list of other participants.

    For Pitch Wars I submitted my young adult novel, VARYING DEGREES OF BLAME. And yes, it is complete, around 56,000 words. It’s a dual point of view, told by a boy and a girl. There’s some romance, but that’s not the story. There’s bad parents… and there’s good parents. There’s a girl who is motivated to avoid the mistakes of her mother. And there’s a boy who grows and learns how to forgive.
    So if any of the mentors I submitted to stop by, here is why you should pick me.
    1. I picked you, so obviously I have good taste.
    2. I wrote my story for NaNo. That’d be NaNo 2012, so don’t worry, it’s been critiqued and revised before you. And I so want to add my name to that NaNo page where it shows published NaNo books.
    3. I’ve written more than 1.4 million words (in novels) and I’m ready for that next step. (Agent. Publisher. Movie Rights. Becoming the next JK Rowling, except for contemporary young adult.)
    4. I am very open to hearing all your comments and suggestions. Even though I’ve written a bunch and have queried 2 other novels, I am quite aware that I do NOT know it ALL. And I’m always wanting to learn more.
    5. I hate querying, and I would be forever thankful to you if you help me find an agent via this contest so I don’t have to query.
    6. I think it’d be so cool to be a Pitch Wars Mentor. And being chosen by you, and then picked up by an agent and publisher would be the best way to assure an invite for me to be a mentor for Pitch Wars next year.
    7. And last but not least, I’ve got a terrific story with characters I love, and I want the world to love them too.
    So those are a few reasons why you should pick me.
    Now on to the more boring stuff which you can probably find on other pages of my site, but I’ll summarize right here.
    -I mostly write contemporary young adult. I’ve also done some new adult/adult, but have always stuck to contemporary.
    -I like writing about people with problems. But I like happy endings too.
    -I am also a mom.
    -I am also a civil engineer. (Hence the Literary Engineer title)
    -I have a husband, a dog, and 2 kids.
    -I love to write. (Yes, big surprise.)
    Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to check out some of the other mentees by clicking on the link above.

  3. The Writer’s Voice #48

    May 1, 2013 by Suzi

    This is my submission for The Writer’s Voice. Thank you to these wonderful ladies for their hard work: Krista, Cupid, Monica, Brenda, and Kimberly.

    Title: The Proper Way to Say Goodbye
    Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
    Word Count: 66,000 words
    Only one person knew Chloe was gay, and his love and support disappeared when he hung a noose around his neck. And jumped.
    Eighteen-year-old Chloe attends the college where her brother Brock spent his final days, hoping to uncover the reason behind his death. His whispers often invade her mind, and she can’t bear to tell anyone how he died. Or that she likes girls.
    She soon finds Murphy—a boy who totally gets the wrong idea about their friendship because Chloe refuses to tell him the truth, afraid of losing his support when she needs it the most. And Sasha, her gorgeous young teacher, who reveals Brock was sexually abused as a child. Even after Sasha gives her his journals, Chloe still can’t figure out what pushed him over the edge.
    Brock’s plan for revenge against his molester consumes Chloe, and her depression deepens. She pushes away the important people in her life and begins to stalk the one girl who might have the answer: Brock’s former girlfriend who is the daughter of his abuser. But Chloe’s obsession comes at a cost, and she might have to give up everything she’s ever wanted—her girlfriend, her best friend, and her sanity, in order to discover Brock’s final secret.
    First 250 words:
    The biggest thing I had in common with my older brother, Brock, was that we both liked girls. Two months after he killed himself, his whispers still invaded my mind. I didn’t need a therapist to tell me it wasn’t really Brock talking. I wasn’t mental.
    Usually his words comforted me, but other times they annoyed me.
    Like now.
    Each step I took up the stairwell, my nerves grew exponentially. It’s only book club, I repeated.
    Cricket’s got a crush, Brock’s voice teased.
    I rolled my eyes at his comment and the stupid nickname he used to call me, but he was right. In a few minutes, I’d see her for the first time outside of class.
    Beautiful long blonde hair, gorgeous full red lips, and a big chest to match. Perfection in every way. Unfortunately, she was also my Freshman Composition teacher. Teaching assistant technically, so she couldn’t be more than a few years older than me. Not that it mattered.
    I could imagine the horror on her face if she found out I liked her. She wouldn’t laugh it off like she did with the guys in class who lusted over her.
    A female student—yeah, that’d trip her out.
    Nobody knew I was gay. Not here at college. Not at home. Brock took that secret to the grave when the noose snapped his neck.

  4. Flash Fiction Contest

    July 1, 2012 by Suzi

    Today I wanted to mention a little flash fiction contest I’m participating in. Christa Desir has been collecting entries for her This One Time at Band Camp flash fiction contest.

    She is giving away an incredible prize, a gift card and a 10-page critique to the story with the most votes. Very cool.

    So since I submitted a piece, I thought it might be fun if the readers on my blog can guess which one is mine. Christa will be posting the band camp stories soon and will leave them up for the month. On July 31st she will announce the winner. So make sure you vote on your favorite.

    On July 29th, I’ll do a post on this blog inviting you to guess which was mine. Of the people that guess right, I’ll throw their names into a hat to pick a winner, and that person will receive a $10 gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

    Here is a little blurb from Christa’s site:

    Keep in mind that all stories must start with: “This one time at band camp…”

    They do NOT have to be true. Although if you want them to be because you have an awesome band camp story, then go for it. You do NOT have to be a writer. Just do it. It’ll be fun and get your creative juices flowing. Stories will be posted ANONYMOUSLY.

    So make sure you watch her site for postings. Or check back here, I’ll let you know when they go up.

    I’m excited because this is my first attempt at flash fiction. Have you written any or competed in ff contests?

  5. The Writer’s Voice

    May 19, 2012 by Suzi

    Go Team Cupid!

    May 17th was the start of the second round of The Writers Voice contest hosted by Krista, Cupid, Monica, and Brenda. TWV had 200 entries and I figured myself lucky just to get in. But then Cupid chose me to be on her team of ten + one alternate. What an honor.

    So this last week, we got a look at all our teammates queries and first pages. We got comments, then revised. Then comments. Then revised. (Some of us at least.) With any critique, you don’t agree with everything, but I made a lot of great changes from their comments and really appreciated the help.

    Now I’m sure that everyone believes they have the best team, but I just wanted to show you why we really are the best. And I apologize because I won’t be able to do these stories justice, so make sure to go to Cupid’s site to read their query and first page yourself. (Keep in mind I haven’t read any of these, I’m just pulling my description together from what I’ve read of their query.)

    Dahlia with Behind the Scenes, a contemporary young adult novel about a girl who works for her celebrity best friend. But when the publicists decide they want the celebrity friend to “date” her co-star, the guy the girl’s just begun seeing, she needs to decide what means more: her best friend, her future and her shot at love.

    Favorite line: She’d had an audition that morning for a teen dramedy show, and despite having been in plenty of movies, she was more desperate to land the role of Ditz #3 on Daylight Falls than she’d been to play Brad-freakin’-Pitt’s stepdaughter three years ago.

    Melanie with Dazed and Knights, a young adult romance novel where a girl goes back in time and has to deal with a spoiled princess, a handsy lord and no toilets! But of course there’s a knight in shining armour and she must decided if she wants to stay or try return home.

     Favorite lines: Staring at the back of his head, I imagined lightning bolts shooting from my eyes and frying that perfect blond hair. I could almost hear the sizzle.

    Ann with Supertastic ScienceGirls, a middle grade novel about a girl who discovers her parents are involved in this super secret experiment and she ends up in danger from the people who want to stop it. They attempt to kidnap her, but she and her Scientastic SuperGirls club won’t let that happen.

     Favorite line: We’ve found ourselves a sub loonier than the lady who walked on tiptoes and only talked about leprechauns.

    LeighAnn with One, a young adult sci-fi novel about a girl who doesn’t fit in. She has one power, whereas everybody else has either two powers OR none. But when she discovers a boy, a one, they realize together they have both powers. Except that somebody doesn’t want to see that happen and kidnaps the boy. But rescuing him might be the end to her chance to develop her two powers and she must decide what to do.

    Favorite lines: I’m a One – a half-superpowered freak. It’s the same sad story for all of us.

    Kelsey with But Not for Me, a contemporary young adult novel with a girl who is constantly bullied and teased. She’s tremendously overweight, is labeled as a special ed kid, and just got a new step-sister who’s making her life hell. When she gets a chance to shine, but is pushed back down by her fellow classmates, she must decide if she will take charge of her life or remain the girl everyone thinks she is.

    Favorite lines: I hate buttoning my jeans. I would rather skip straight to the inevitable muumuu phase of my life than try to encapsulate my size 20 ass into this denim prison ever again.

    Derek with Stealing the Sun, a sci fi novel about a notorious space pirate who is not only trying to escape from his past, but from the people who want him dead.

    Favorite line: Yep, Trig thought, he was pretty well nerfed.

    Amy Rose with Burnout, a contemporary young adult novel about a drag-racing girl, her deceitful ex-best friend, and the boy the girl is falling for. And it all takes place in the underground world of illegal street racing.

    Favorite lines: Hello, Universe. Callie White here, future professional drag racer extraordinaire. 10.5 seconds is what I need. 10.5 is what I’ll get. Just try and stop me. I dare you.

    MarcyKate with Monstrous, a fantasy young adult novel where the murdered girl is brought back to life by her father, except she looks like a monster. As she’s trying to save innocents from being murdered, she’s falling for a boy who hasn’t seen her hideous self, and she’s trying to figure out who the real monster is: her father, the wizard who murdered her, or herself.

    Favorite line: When I opened my eyes, the colors of the world swarmed me, filling up all space with hues and objects for which I had no name.

    Becky with Here Comes the Sun, a contemporary young adult novel about an often-teased girl who gets to go to England on a school trip. She meets a boy, a Beetles fanatic, and hopefully he will help her learn to break free from her shell and that life doesn’t always suck.

    Favorite line: So here I am, flying so damn high in the sky that Chicago looks like Lego City, crossing my legs so tight that they are literally tingling from the pressure.

    Cortney with Phobic, a young adult horror novel where the main character realizes that the house she is living in is alive and that she is physically connected to it. And if she doesn’t figure out the truth behind the house, she may just permanently become a part of it.

    Favorite lines: When I was six years old I found the man my mother murdered stuffed under a trap door in our kitchen. The smell gave him away.

    And here’s my Frosty.

    And thank you once again to our fearless leader, Cupid! Not only has she helped with our query and first page, but she critiqued some additional pages too. I can’t thank her enough!

    So go check out all the entries to see some great stories. Sunday is the last day to leave comments, then Monday the agents will stop by.

  6. Random stuff

    May 6, 2012 by Suzi

    So there are so many blog hops and contests going on, I’ve kinda gotten out of schedule. I’ve skipped Sloppy Writing two times, but will get back this week.

    I also have a WIP Coaching post, which I’ll get to next week, because I had my last Skype session with Gabriela. And now it’s up to me to do some more work.
    I’m going to use today just to say thanks to a few people. I’ve been pretty lucky the last few weeks and have won a few blog contests. I’m not sure why it hits all at once, but it did.

    Amy Sonnichsen was celebrating her almost 300th follower (I think she’s at 319 last time I checked) and her birthday. I was randomly picked to win a 10 page ms critique, which I will be sending her sometime soon. So thank you, Amy.

    Blog Hops are so much fun—I’m just learning this. I’ve only participated in a few, but have sighed up for more. The Dust It Off Blog hop is going on now, the Oh those High School Dances on May 9th, the First Loves Blogfest on May 14th and then the First Fight/First Kiss Blogfest on June 12th/14th. Whew-lots to prepare.

    But anyway, last week was the Oh! My Hero Blop Hop hosted by Jaycee and Victoria, who picked me as her winner. Yay! My prize was a book and I picked WITH OR WITHOUT YOU by Brian Farrey. So now I’ve got another book on my Kindle to read. So thank you to Victoria.

    Lastly but not least, Christa Desir had an interview with K.M. Walton author of CRACKED and she gave away a copy, which I won. (once again randomly chosen.) Make sure you check out Christa’s site too because her book TRAINWRECK is coming out in 2013 and it sounds fascinating. So thank you Christa too.

    As I said, I’ve been lucky these last few weeks, so thank you to everyone.

    The next big thing is The Writer’s Voice contest, which started last week. I was lucky to get in as the spots filled up fast, and it’ll be fun to see what happens. My entry for FROSTY is a few posts down. And check out any of these ladies sites to see how The Writer’s Voice Contest works: Krista, Cupid, Monica, and Brenda.

    Happy Sunday.

  7. The Writer’s Voice – #97 FROSTY

    May 3, 2012 by Suzi

    The Writer’s Voice Entry #97

    Thank you to Krista, Cupid, Monica, and Brenda.

    Title: FROSTY
    Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
    Word Count: 52,000 words


    Sometimes you have to freeze everyone out to avoid getting burned.

    Sydney’s had seven foster families in seven years. Almost everybody in her life has let her down, including her crack addicted mother. Sydney refuses to get close to anyone, pushing away those who attempt to befriend her. Now she is moving on to her next family, the Claytons. She knows immediately that she won’t fit in with their extravagant life and their spoiled daughter Brooke.

    Sydney resents the snobby kids at her new school, especially Brooke’s boyfriend Corbin. Sydney thinks Corbin is just like all the other overprivileged kids; but he’s hot and she can’t help being attracted to him, even as she hates him. When Sydney finds Brooke and another girl naked on the floor, she learns that Corbin is helping keep their secret in exchange for Brooke’s help. Sydney’s frozen exterior begins to thaw when Corbin admits he can hardly read or write—the reason why Brooke is helping him.

    Corbin likes Sydney, but Brooke refuses to let him go because she is terrified that everyone will discover she’s gay. But even if Brooke breaks up with Corbin, Sydney doubts it will ever work with him. And really… if her own mom had given up on life, had given up on Sydney, how could anyone else ever truly love her?

    First 250

    My ears tingled from the biting wind and swirling snow, but I stayed outside to smoke. The caseworker thought I was nuts, but I liked the cold. It numbed me… relaxed me. Besides, I couldn’t smoke inside—those were the rules.

    After finishing a second cigarette, my nerves were calm. Jim pulled up in a dark Mercedes. Cool—none of my former foster families were wealthy. I met him and Lana a week ago, but not their daughter Brooke. This time the caseworker suggested placing me in a foster family with a teenage girl. As if me and Brooke would be close friends, and my senior year would be the best ever. I was smart enough to know that would never happen. My goal was to get through these last six months with the Claytons, and I’d be on my own.

    The light spilled out of Jim’s car, and he opened his mouth to say something. Instead, he shook his head and laid his hand on my shoulder, guiding me inside.

    “Good evening, Sydney,” he said once we reached the door.

    Um, not really, Jim. Kind of crappy outside. Didn’t you notice the blizzard?

    We sat down to do some paperwork, and Jim wrinkled up his nose. He must not be a smoker. I checked out the bare gray room as the caseworker shuffled through a stack of papers. Why did these meetings always take place in dark and dreary rooms? Didn’t they have enough light bulbs around here?

  8. Cool contest news & Lucky 7

    March 25, 2012 by Suzi

    I have some really cool news about a contest I won. It made me whole week since I’d been dealing with the double computer virus problem. Gabriela Lessa, Brazilian editor, literary agent intern, and journalist, held a contest called The Best Future Manuscript Contest. The prize was $100 off any WIP coaching services—which are to help get/keep a writer on track. She wanted a pitch, a sample of the writing, and why you wanted help. Your ms could be at any stage, from just beginning to almost done.
    I had just started a new project, Chloe—a contemporary YA novel, and had written about 8,000 words. Go here to see a little description. I am full of ideas for the beginning and middle, but I’m not sure where to go with the end.

    My first idea is just to make it a life-changing story (where she grows and changes). My other idea was to tack on a little mystery that she had to solve.

    That was my problem I presented. I don’t know which way to go because I’ve never written anything with a mystery angle. And although I didn’t plan on this story being a mystery exactly, the idea kind of intrigues me.

    So anyways, I won the contest and am very excited. This is a great opportunity and I thought it would be something special to try. I’m not exactly sure how it’ll all go, but part of the coaching is Skype sessions to discuss the project. So next week she and I will be talking for the first time. I can’t wait.

    Anyone ever done this before?
    Now, back to my Lucky 7 MEME. I was tagged now several times for the Lucky 7 Meme—whatever that means (I haven’t found out yet), and was going to do this last week, but it was delayed due to computer problems. So here’s the rules.
    1. Go to page 77 of your current WIP
    2. Go to line 7
    3. Copy down the next seven lines or paragraphs and post them written (no cheating)
    4. Tag 7 authors and let them know


    FROSTY (Sydney is the 17-year-old narrator)

    “Hey, your haircut looks great—I never got a chance to tell you.”

    Huh? I turned my head as Corbin walked away. What the hell? Corbin kept his smile until he reached his desk. He was probably trying to suck up for getting me in trouble. Asshole. What did I care about him?

    “Hey, Corbin. Can you float me a twenty?” A short, stocky guy asked.

    “No problem, man.” Corbin dug in his wallet and handed him the bill. “Just remember to pay me back this time. I don’t remember getting my twenty back a month ago.”

    The other guy laughed, and Corbin slid his wallet in his pocket just as the bell rang. The teacher handed out the tests.

    With ten minutes left to spare, I finished my test and glanced at Corbin. No way—he was cheating. He kept looking over at the desk next to him. I could tell the other guy was helping Corbin by the way he positioned his paper, and how he held his hands. Mr. Canter wasn’t paying any attention—totally oblivious, but then again, so was everyone else. Nora sat on the other side of Corbin, and not once did she glance up and see him. Corbin a cheat? Why should this surprise me? What a loser.


    I’ve been going through trying to find people to tag, but most have done this already. Janet is the only one who hasn’t (I think), but everyone else has, so I’m just linking you back to theirs if you haven’t seen it.

    Jade Hart
    Cassie Mae

    By the way, if you’ve ever done WIP coaching with someone, I’d love to hear your experiences.

  9. Random Contest Stuff

    February 7, 2012 by Suzi

    I was so excited on Saturday about a contest I got into, but before I get to that, I want to mention a great query/agent opportunity.

    Melodie Wright at Forever Rewrighting is having a query contest with her new agent Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. This is a great opportunity because the EMLA is not open to unsolicited queries. That means someone like me can’t submit to them. So check out her site before February 15th and get your query and first page ready.

    My other cool news.

    There is a new anonymous blogger, Cupid’s Literary Connection, who has started putting on these unique query competitions with agents. The first contest had two agents. The rules mandated how many full or partial requests they could make. You sent your query and first 250 words and if they really liked it, they would request to see your full manuscript or a partial (a few chapters).

    The current contest is called the Blind Speed Dating Contest. It’s too hard to explain so check out their site to see how it works.

    Friday morning was the first window to submit and I learned a very important lesson. I waited about a minute, worried about a time discrepancy. BIG MISTAKE. I had Cupid on Twitter and a tweet popped up that said FULL. My mouth about dropped to the floor. I was so shocked, I didn’t know if I should try submit anymore but I did, just in case others were rejected. Within about 2 minutes, Cupid had about 150 submissions. I’m still shocked.

    So the next window was Saturday morning. Once more chance. And wouldn’t you know it, I woke up from a dream where I was trying to do my submission but my computer wasn’t working and by the time I got it, I was about 2 minutes too late. So I woke up frustrated. A great start to the day.

    But I had my plan. The window started at 10am. So at 10:00:02 (yes, two seconds, I watched the second hand tick on my computer), I hit send.

    And I got in. I am so excited because this just sounds really cool. Of course I’m not fully in yet. The first step is to get by the gatekeepers. There are four judges and they get to pick who goes on to the speed dating round with the agents.

    This week the first 50 entries went up. Next week, the next fifty entries go up (which includes me). Over those two weeks, the 4 judges will pick who moves on to the next round. Then the third week (Feb. 20th), the agents will do the speed dating rounds with the finalists the judges chose.

    This is so creative and fun. And the neat thing is I know (in the internet sort of way), several entrants. I’m looking forward to it.

    One last note. I’ve started a new story so check out my new WIP under Current Projects. This is the first time I am querying, editing one project and writing a 2nd. It’ll be interesting.

  10. Can You Hit a Perfect Pitch? Blogfest Contest

    January 15, 2012 by Suzi

    My entry for Brenda Drake’s Can You Hit a Perfect Pitch? Blogfest Contest.

    Contemporary young adult
    60,000 words

    Sydney, a troubled foster girl, resents her wealthy classmates. Learning that the privileged kids’ lives are not so perfect thaws her cold exterior, but it may not be enough to open her heart to love.

    Snow swirled and wet hair lashed at my face as the wind whipped through my worn coat. My ears tingled from the frigid air, but I stayed outside. The caseworker thought I was nuts, but I liked the cold. It numbed me… relaxed me. Besides, I couldn’t smoke inside—those were the rules.

    My nerves were calm now and as I finished my second cigarette, Jim pulled up in a dark Mercedes. Cool—none of my former foster families were wealthy.

    He must have left Lana at home, along with Brooke, the daughter I hadn’t met. This time the caseworker suggested placing me in a family with a teenage girl. As if me and Brooke would be close friends and my senior year would be the best ever. I was smart enough to know that would never happen. I just needed to get through these last six months with the Claytons, and then I’d be on my own.