Mentee NameTitle of ManuscriptMentor NameAge CategoryGenre(s)Total word count (approx.)
Deborah BaileyTeam GuiltyBrandy Woods SnowYAContemporary77000

Kyla Tanner’s mom dates serial killers—once they’re safely behind bars, at least. So when her mom marries the infamous Tim “Trojan Horse” McCutcheon, sixteen-year-old Kyla isn’t fazed given that he’s on death row with days to live. But when a TV documentary gets his conviction overturned on a technicality, he moves off death row and into her house, his sullen teenage son in tow. Her mom acts like they’re one happy family, but Kyla refuses to play along, even for the documentary crew now following them everywhere. After all, Tim was released due to police evidence tampering, not because he’s innocent of murder.

When Tim foils Kyla’s attempt to break up him and her mom, his increasing hostility makes one thing clear: Kyla must get rid of him before he gets rid of her. She finds an unlikely ally in her new stepbrother, who insists that Tim committed other murders. But their investigation flounders, and worse, revelations about the original crime emerge that seem to clear Tim’s name—or prove he’s more dangerous than Kyla ever imagined. Now alone in her determination to prove Tim’s guilt, Kyla must decide if inciting a killer is worth the chance of catching him.

TEAM GUILTY is a 77,000-word YA contemporary where Making a Murderer meets Veronica Mars. An earlier draft was longlisted for the Exeter Prize and Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize under its working title “Until Guilty.” 

My short fiction has appeared in Liquid Imagination, where it received the Silver Pen Association’s annual award, as well as in Mirror Dance and Luna Station Quarterly, including the Best of… anthology, among others. I am a graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. My debut novel, Remember Wednesday, is forthcoming in 2021 from Melange Books’ Fire and Ice YA imprint. 

Thank you for considering my work, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Deborah Bailey


Team Guilty

I first meet my stepfather two days after he’s supposed to die.

He’s why I’m stuck on the wooden bench outside South Carolina State Supreme Courtroom 3E, legs swinging above the tiled floor, hoodie pulled low in case of stray cameras. He’s in there, and so is Mom, waiting for the gavel to come down on whether Tim’s murder charges will be thrown out due to evidence tampering. “Fruit of the poisoned tree,” it’s called.

Funny how that sums up my entire life as well, ever since a TV documentary learned the cops moved a key piece of evidence. Even then, the governor refused to “wuss out” by offering clemency—until the case made national headlines and sparked protests, that is.

The bench is hard, and the corridor’s dark wood panels have to be older than Mom. They bounce sound around so the chatter never seems to end. At least no one tries to talk to me, especially none of the journalists doing mic checks and quick sound bites for their studios. Maybe it’s because over these last few years, I’ve perfected my stay-the-hell-away glare. Or maybe it comes naturally. How do you really know? Nature or nurture, just like being a killer. 

So I guess I should be glad my glare isn’t quite good enough, because one of the journalists wanders over. “Kyla Tanner?” 

He’s young, with dark hair stiff from hairspray. “Not in there supporting your stepfather?” His clipped accent marks him from out of state. 

I want to give him the finger, but I don’t. That’s probably the answer he wants even more than the honest one, that Mom wanted me in there too, but no way in hell. Our compromise was my waiting out here with the cameras and the poor schlubs dealing with other cases, like the boy my age a few benches down. He’s dressed in black, black, and black—ditto his hair and eyeliner—but what catches my eye is the anywhere but here aura he radiates so strongly I could get high from the fumes. 

The woman next to him tugs at the South Carolina Department of Social Services badge dangling from a blue lanyard around her neck. Her beige suit has a boxy cut and big shoulders straight out the 1980s. She shrinks from the media circus crowding her against the wall. Welcome to my life. Not really glamorous when people only care because your mom’s a freak.

The reporter presses too close while managing to not actually touch me. “You really have nothing to say?”

It takes everything I have to not leap to my feet, tell him—no, better, storm over to the whole gaggle of gawkers and shout to the rafters what I think. Fruit of the poisoned tree, my ass. Call it what it is: getting away with murder.