Michael Lunsford – MG Paranormal – DEREK HYDE KNOWS SPOOKY WHEN HE SEES IT

Dear Agent,

Twelve-year-old Derek Hyde isn’t tingling with undiluted joy that the spookiest old mansion in town is about to become the Hyde Funeral Home & Used Coffin Outlet. Especially since he has to live there with his mortician parents, Jack and Formalda.

Of course, being driven in the family hearse to his first day at middle school doesn’t exactly add whipped cream to his broccoli.

As if things couldn’t get more horrific, an evil classmate named Nussbaum attacks him in the cafeteria with a plate of beef stroganoff. Seems this kid used to love living in the old mansion himself, but got yanked out after accidentally blowing up his own mom and dad with his chemistry set. Now his dead parents are stuck as ghosts and Nussbaum is a foster kid stuck on revenge, vowing to get even with Derek’s family for taking over his haunted home.

Derek desperately craves a nice place to live, but a couple of minor details stand in his way—just some blood-curdling apparitions that scare the pants off him and a classmate bent on landing him in his parents’ embalming room. As a client.

DEREK HYDE KNOWS SPOOKY WHEN HE SEES IT is a 44,000-word, tongue-in-cheek ghost story (think THE ADDAMS FAMILY meets GHOSTBUSTERS) with strong series potential that will appeal to Middle Grade readers who enjoy the creepiness and humor of PARANORMAN and Lauren Magaziner’s THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES.

I’m a member of SCBWI and the South Bay Writers Club, a 2018 #SunVsSnow mentee, 2018 #WriteMentor mentee, 2018 SavvyAuthors Pitchfest selectee, graduate of University of Maryland with a BA in English Lit and author of 14 tech books published by Bantam, Simon & Schuster and other top publishers. I’m also a poet, playwright, musician, composer, inventor, entrepreneur and chief cook & bottle washer.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I would be happy to send the full manuscript upon request.

Best regards,


Chapter 1 – Home Creepy Home

Twelve-year-old Derek figured there might be far worse things in life than being raised in a funeral home. For example, you could… um…

Okay, here’s one. You could have your brains eaten alive and slurped down by cranky, overworked zombies who haven’t had their morning coffee.

Or how about this? You could be stuffed into a spin dryer at Leo’s Laundromat & Hideous Stain Removal Service and set to Extra Dry/Huge Load.

But Derek wasn’t eaten and he definitely wasn’t spin dried, either. Just driven to the sleepy town of Littleburp in the family car (actually, an old yellow school bus), and then to a really unfortunate and grossly undesirable address: 1313 Slimeytoes Lane.

As the bus splashed its way through a beautifully timed thunderstorm on the worst day of Derek’s life (so far), his mom and dad worked at keeping his spirits up by singing their favorite, most embarrassing song: Poopy Head, Poopy Head, Don’t You Be a Poopy Head.

It didn’t help.

It was bad enough his adoptive parents had dragged Derek out of his seventh grade class and away from all his friends to limp across the country in a broken-down school bus on this Journey to Nowhere. Much worse was the notion that they were about to move him into a spooky old mansion they planned to convert into a funeral home.

Because his parents were funeral directors. Morticians. Undertakers.

On this blustery autumn day, noisy brakes slowed them to a squealing stop in front of their new home. Derek watched through his rain-streaked window as a flash of lightning lit the sky behind the most frightening mansion he’d ever seen.

It had towers. With turrets.

It also had a widow’s walk on the roof. And a creaky old weathervane made in the shape of a French guillotine, but without a head-basket. (Either that, or it might have been a cheese grater with a thumb hole. Derek couldn’t tell for sure.)

Anyway, it was worse than eerie. This place was horrific.

As if that weren’t off-putting enough, someone had planted an ancient cemetery right next door, and beyond that a small, abandoned building with a peeling but elaborately rendered sign that read: Our Lady of Immaculate Kitchens.

Derek read it twice.

A damp gentleman with a clipboard in one hand and an umbrella in the other rushed down from the mansion’s front porch and scampered across the lawn to greet them. The glasses perched on his nose were fogged by the same rain that drenched his wrinkled pin-striped suit.

Standing outside the bus, he shouted, “Mr. and Mrs. …um…” He swiped his coat sleeve at his glasses and squinted at the clipboard. “Hyde, isn’t it? Welcome to your new abode.”

Derek’s skinny dad pulled a lever to open the bus door and bounded down the short rubber steps to pump the poor man’s umbrella hand. “Glad to meet you, Mr… uh…”

“Duckworthy. Horace Duckworthy, at your service. From the Unreal Real Estate Agency.”


Catherine Bowdler – Upper MG Mystery – MOTH

Dear Agent,

I am currently seeking representation for my upper MG novel, Moth.

Home-educated Rosy, mute since her mother’s death, slowly discovers her voice with the help of a mysterious boy, young specimen hunter Iren, set against the backdrop of Oxford’s Natural History Museum.

Using the museum’s resources and her wits, Rosy embarks on solving the long-forgotten disappearance of a rare moth from Papua New Guinea, the Imperial Emerald, over a century ago.

But Iren is on the hunt too, and what begins as a psychological game with each other, quickly turns into an unlikely friendship.

As Rosy unravels the clues, delving deeper into the expedition’s murky past, they find their experiences, over a century apart, unite them, and cause buried memories to resurface.

But is Iren truly all he seems? When she discovers he’s been withholding crucial evidence from her all along, their friendship, and Rosy’s resolve, is put to the test. Crushed by events, Rosy crumbles, and has to face something she has avoided for too long: she has to talk about the accident that killed her mum.

Moth is a story about friendship, being lost and found, and emergence to new life.

Moth is complete at 47,500 words. The manuscript is available, in part or full, upon request. I am a #WriteMentee and a SCBWI member. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours Sincerely,

Catherine Bowdler



The first time I saw him he was riding the ichthyosaur, like he was one hundred percent confident he wouldn’t fall.

I looked back towards the suspended skeletons, twenty feet up, hanging from the cast iron and glass ceiling. He was casually balancing on the reconstructed model and watching the people below, the visitors peering into glass fronted display cases and parents rounding up small children.

Dad was rushing to the lecture room, weaving between tourists and the neo-gothic columns that held up the old museum. I hurried to catch him up and tugged on the end of his jacket.

‘What is it?’ he asked. ‘Can we do this later? I can’t be late.’

Nobody else saw him. They can’t have done. Or if they did, they weren’t bothered. Just how he’d got up there I had no idea. And I was pretty sure Oxford’s Natural History Museum didn’t have a sign saying please climb aboard the exhibits and probably kill yourself and crash into the twenty thousand year old mammoth below.

I tried to keep up with Dad, at the same time looking back, watching the boy, as the ichthyosaur swayed a fraction. He was older than me by a year or two I guessed. He had that cocky teenager thing about him, like he owned the place, like he didn’t care what anyone thought. Then he caught me staring. For a second he saw straight through me. When I didn’t look away, he squinted, his expression turned from relaxed to curious then serious, and then he doffed an imaginary cap in my direction. I turned away and bumped into a lady who tutted at me when I didn’t apologise.

I caught up with Dad as he entered the lecture room. The clock nearly said two. I strained to see around a pillar and the tall display cases towards the ichthyosaur, but when I glanced back once more, the skeleton rider was gone.

Chapter 2

We were only five minutes into his lecture and already I’d slid down my seat and prayed it wouldn’t be like that for the whole half an hour. Dad kept forgetting what he wanted to say and checking his notes. I glanced around; people kept their gaze on the slides; I hoped they couldn’t detect the tremble in his hands as he aimed the PowerPoint clicker, the way he kept putting one hand in his pocket for no reason and pulling it out again. I decided not to come to the lecture hall again. From now on I’d stay behind the scenes in Dad’s office.

‘We have a few of these rare examples in the collection,’ he said, ‘on the second floor. Although of course, not all are on display, not the elusive Imperial Emer….’ He stopped himself.

My ears pricked up. Did he just almost say what I thought he almost said?


Anne Boyere – MG Humour – MILK MOON

Dear Agents,

MILK MOON, is a humorous, MG novel complete at 40,000 words, where Wallace and Gromit, Curse of the Were-rabbit meets The Granny Project by Anne Fine.

Thirteen-year-old Prunille hoped the Milk Moon would heal Clemen-Gran’s stroke-damaged brain, not change her into a werecow.

With the help of her younger sister, Prunille discovers the local island of Toussaint might hold a cure to the ‘curse’. But when the nursing home manager senior-naps Clemen-Gran and brings her to the very same island to pursue her science experiments, the two sisters uncover a truth more complex than any were-legend. Clemen-Gran may not get out of this alive.

In this humorous tale of mystery and adventure, the two sisters must sail tumultuous waters to find the cure and rescue their gran from the dinner plate. Inspired by own experience of my father’s severe stroke, this novel examines family, grief, and reinventing yourself.  

I am a SCWBI member and a sub-editor for Words and Pictures online magazine. I won the first prize of the Children’s Funny Fiction Competition, Winchester Writers’ Festival 2018 for Milk Moon. The competition was judged by Stripes Publishing, who have requested to see the manuscript again when I’ve finished editing.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Anne Boyere


Cases of inhabitants of the island turning into werecows were first witnessed in 1897 by a traveller, whose name was not recorded. It is said that the transformations struck like an epidemic, sometimes following advanced signs such as grazing or mooing. The first change would often happen by the light of the full moon of May, the Milk Moon.

Cowpeople of the Island of Toussaint by Erasmus Pilliver


Prunille was still holding onto Clemen-Gran’s rules for the sake of old times, even though she was now thirteen and none of the rules made much sense anymore.  

An awful lot had changed since her grandmother’s stroke. Their grandmother’s house rules – as familiar as her burnt batches of jam – had been replaced by nursing home rules when she’d moved in last year. At least Prunille could pretend that some things were still the same, couldn’t she?

Before the stroke, rules were:

  1. Bring sweets, preferably sugared almonds.
  2. Don’t wear nice, clean clothes.
  3. If you’re wearing nice, clean clothes because your mother made you, for goodness sake bring a change!
  1. Bring something that you like to read  – even if it’s the list of ingredients on the Galettes Pur Beurre. Especially if it’s the ingredients on a FULL packet of Galettes Pur Beurre.
  2. Come armed  – Authorized: slime, water balloons, dry leaves collected on the way, last night’s leftover mash, homemade confetti. Unauthorized: anything sharp, anything glittery, anything to do with poo, anything that’s been in the fridge for more than a week, anything that belongs to someone else. New additions might be considered – submit two days in advance.

After the stroke, Clemen-Gran had only a bedroom, bathroom and small sitting room to herself. She had to share a dining area with the fifty-three other residents of Au Soleil Care Home for the Elderly. The rules were all about visiting times, and wiping your feet, and being quiet. And not bringing any sweets!

That wouldn’t do. That wouldn’t do at all. So Prunille came up with a plan.

Once a week, on a Friday or a Saturday night, Prunille and her younger sister Florence would sneak into the home to take their grandmother out for the night.

Clemen-Gran’s mission was to observe the comings and goings of the night staff in charge of the gates and visitors. She recorded everything on her phone by video – although sometimes she pressed the button at the wrong time and would record herself having a cup of tea or watching tv. Prunille and Florence test-walked the fastest route from their flat to the home and, when visiting Clemen-Gran during normal visiting times, spotted that the back door of Au Soleil had a broken lock.

The plan took shape.

And that was how, on a chilly Friday night of May, the shadowy shapes of Prunille, Florence and Clemen-Gran advanced slowly along the walls of Au Soleil for one of their secret outings, with a slight hobble in the case of Clemen-Gran.



Dear Agents,

Chester and Lottie: Partners in Grime is a 42,000-word MG comedy set in – or rather under – contemporary London. It should appeal to anyone who enjoyed the whimsical humour of Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists and the grubbiness of Fungus the Bogeyman.

Chester Morris is a germaphobic 12 year-old who dreams of being a top chef. His overbearing father wants him to follow in his mucky footsteps as a London sewer flusher. So begins one of the most disastrous ‘bring your son to work’ days ever. Lost deep underground in a gloomy world of fatbergs and rat swarms, Chester meets up with a Belgian girl called Lottie. She idolises her father, even though he’s a failed scientist who’s never invented anything that’s worked. Well, until now. The potion he gave his daughter has accidentally created a 50-foot rampaging monster from the congealed contents of the sewers. As Chester and Lottie team up to defeat the sewage beast, she shows him how he can follow his dream and still make his father proud.

That’s the heart of the book, buried under layers of filth and jokes. Should you make your parents happy or find your own dream to chase? I briefly enrolled to study medicine and become a psychiatrist, like my father. The world is a saner place because I didn’t. Instead I worked as a journalist, mostly at the BBC, then as a film critic. I’m now a full-time screenwriter having sold my first two scripts. The first won the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writers Forum and was optioned by the producer Camille Gatin (The Girl with all the Gifts). The second was developed at Qwerty Films and is currently being cast by the director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn).

Lottie and Chester was ‘highly commended’ in the Winchester Writers’ Festival – Children’s Funny Fiction Contest; third in Peerpitch 2016 and longlisted for the Bath Novel Prize.

Many thanks for taking part in this scheme.

Yours faithfully,


Chester and Lottie – Chapter One

Chester edges through the sewer, the murky water lapping over the tops of his wellies and trickling down the back of his legs. Ugh – and it’s warm. He rummages in his pocket and brings out a small bottle of hand disinfectant. It slips from his grip and splashes at his knees. The bottle bobs away into the darkness along with the last of his willpower. ‘This,’ he whispers, ‘has to be the worst Bring Your Kid To Work Day… ever.’

Chester raises the lamp and wades after his father. He’s only just started high school but is already much taller than Dad – five feet eleven if he’s measuring to the top of his springy hair. He watches their shadows on the wall. It looks like a gnome is being stalked by a giant stem of broccoli. Any other day, that would make him laugh.

Chester catches up with Dad at a bend in the tunnel. ‘We’re lost. We should go back.’

But he’s not listening. As usual. He’s sticking his bald head into a rusty pipe and taking big sniffs. ‘Mmm… I reckon we’re right under Chinatown. I’m getting a strong whiff of soy sauce from this outflow pipe.’ He swings the lamp low over the water. Jabs a plump finger at the rancid stream. ‘Told you!’ A half-eaten dumpling swirls in an eddy between them. ‘The Morris nose never fails.’

Here we go again. Chester’s lost count of the times he’s been told about the ‘Morris nose.’ Dad reckons he can navigate the hundreds of miles of Victorian tunnels by smell alone. One of the many reasons why, according to him, he’s won the Golden Plunger Award for the last 20 years.

‘Come on son.’ Dad surges ahead, whistling. Chester gingerly wades after him. The sewage level is now up to his hips, and still rising. Time to think of some of his favourite things to cheer himself up. Like the mrrrruh noise his cat Chairman Meow makes when you rub behind his ears. A fresh pack of Eureeka! individual hand wipes. Or watching home-made bread rise through the glass oven door. Flipping cookies from the baking tray. Cracking an egg with one hand… they’re mostly cooking ones. Ever since he can remember, he’s wanted to be a chef. Right now, that dream has never seemed so far out of reach.

Dad stops again. Filling the entire tunnel, right up to the arched roof, is a huge, white shiny boulder. Chester brings his lamp closer. Recoils. The boulder glistens and shivers in the lamp light as if it’s alive. Stuck to it are a number of things that have been washed down the drains. A TV remote control, a headless Barbie doll and a traffic cone. An unhappy goldfish peers out from under its greasy surface.

‘What’s that?’ says Chester.         

‘It’s a goldfish.’  

‘No, the whole thing.’

‘It’s a fatberg. Magnificent, isn’t it?’

‘Not really.’


Dear WriteMentor Agents,

Please find attached the first page of my novel “The Far Side of the Galaxy”. This is a science fiction adventure story for readers aged 10 – 13.

When 13-year-old Daniel Armstrong plays around on his dad’s laptop, he discovers a strange new puzzle game. But when he solves the puzzle, his Dad explains that he works on a top-secret project for the United Nations, and that puzzle is a key part of the project. Invited to CERN to see the project for himself, Daniel discovers that the world’s largest science experiment is in fact a giant cage that has trapped a wormhole, deep underground, for nearly a decade. But now that cage is failing – and if the wormhole escapes it will tear the world apart.

Thinking that the puzzle he solved holds the key to fixing the cage, Daniel gets to work. But something goes wrong. The cage fails, and Daniel gets pulled into the wormhole. The good news is that he discovers how to fix the cage; the bad news is that he’s now stranded, across the stars, on the far side of the galaxy.

Together with a reluctant alien warrior, a neurotic high-tech robot and a scientist who died before Daniel was born, he must survive hostile environments, battle legendary creatures and defeat powerful enemies as he tries to find a way to get back home and save the world.

This is my first novel, complete at just over 67,000 words. While it is self-contained with a definite resolution, there are other stories to be told with these characters and I have sequel plans.

I would be happy to send on the full work should you like this sample.

Yours faithfully,

Glen Deakin


Chapter 1

Daniel stared through the cross-hairs of his rifles telescopic sight as he paused to catch his breath. Everything he had been through so far had led to this point. His eight-man squad was down to five, but Daniel had accounted for some loss when planning the mission. He knew he could rescue the prisoner with a team of five. Six would have been better; with eight it would have been a breeze. But, at a pinch, five would do it.

He cleared his throat and checked in with the squad. “Status report”, he growled.

“Rascal Two, clear.” That was Lucas, stationed at the cell-block entrance.

“Rascal Three, clear.” Jack, in the guard station, monitoring the cameras.

“Rascal Six, clear.” Mark, in a sniper’s position north of the compound.

“Rascal Seven, clear.” Andy, likewise, covering the south.

Daniel’s sights were also clear, the corridor ahead of him empty. He turned quickly on the spot making sure no one had crept up behind him, his eyes never leaving the cross-hairs. Nothing – his escape route was secure.

He switched his focus back to the prison cell in front of him. The cell contained two men, but Daniel was only here for one. A door of thick iron bars was now the only thing standing in his way. He signalled for the prisoners to take cover. The pair crouched down behind the mattresses that they had turned into a makeshift shield in the far corner of the cell.

Daniel pushed the ends of the detonator wires into the plastic explosive surrounding the door lock and retreated down the corridor, trailing the wires behind him. Pressing himself flat against the bars of the next-door cell, he clicked the button on the detonator now in his hand.

The C4 exploded with a loud crunch, firing the lock across the narrow passageway, where it clanged against the bars of the cell opposite. The sounds echoed around the corridor, ringing in Daniel’s ears as he scooted back to the cell and pushed open the mangled door.

“This is Rascal One”, he announced to his squad. “I have secured the package. We are Oscar Mike.” On the move. He signalled to the prisoners peering cautiously over the mattresses, telling his target to follow him, then raised his weapon and began a rapid advance towards the exit. As he moved, he mentally checked off each step in the escape plan.

East along the corridor. Turn left.

North to the guard station; pick up Rascal Three. Jack falls in covering the rear of the party and the trio turn right.

East toward the cell-block doors. There’s Rascal Two, Lucas, one hundred metres away, a shadow in the doorway.

Advance towards…


Something’s not right.

Daniel slowed his pace. He couldn’t put his finger on it but something was off.

An alarm suddenly blared out, a banshee howl that rose and fell like an air-raid siren.

The shadow raised its weapon. That’s when Daniel realised…

“Rascal Two?” he yelled.


“Rascal Two”, he repeated. “Report”.


Daniel toggled his HUD. The Heads-Up Display confirmed his fears:




Renee McAlpine – MG Humour – IVY ON THE OTHER SIDE

Dear Agent,

When the people of Bandicoot Ridge begin acting strangely, twelve-year-old Ivy Hithergreen is convinced her Aussie hometown is on the brink of an environmental disaster. Ivy, who is known for her passion for science doesn’t believe in magic or fairy tales–but that’s all about to change.

With only her conspiracy-theory loving BFF Murph for support, Ivy discovers that the brains of the townsfolk have been hijacked in their sleep by dream dwelling mind thieves, determined to wipe out humanity forever. Then, when her dad is taken, Ivy realises she must finally open her mind to the supernatural or lose him forever.

Ivy on the Otherside is a humorous MG novel with magical and STEM elements, which might appeal to readers who have enjoyed the Robyn Silver series by Paula Harrison or Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend. It’s a tale of friendship and determination and that having a little faith in both science and magic is no bad thing.

I have completed the Curtis Brown Creative Writing for Children Course with Catherine Johnson and am currently working my way through the Writers’ HQ collection of courses, including Plotstormers I & II and Making People. I have been long listed for The Scribblers #Peerpitch 2018 and #1st 50 competitions and am a member of several writing critique groups. I currently work as a freelance graphic designer and greatly enjoy using my poor young children as book creature test subjects.

Thanks very much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

Renee McAlpine


I stood outside my classroom door and drew a breath so deep I inhaled a passing fly. I was forty-two minutes late, with half a rosemary bush stuck in my hair, odd socks on my feet and a major hunch that trouble was brewing in Bandicoot Ridge. It was way too much for a Wednesday, especially one that hadn’t included breakfast yetand no, the fly didn’t count.

Seriously weird stuff was happening around town and I needed answers, but first I had to face my teacher Mrs. Snottygobbleeasily the angriest person on the planet. Just the thought of her wrinkly old head screaming at me for being late made my ears thump nervously.

I looked over my shoulder and considered legging it home, but Murph and I were due to present our science report and I wasn’t going to let him down. So, I tightened my ponytail, straightened my back and pushed open the door.

Snottygobble wasn’t there! I couldn’t believe my luck. Not wanting to waste a single second, I jumped over the recycling bin and zigzagged like a rugby player to my desk.

“What happened to you?” asked Murph, as I slumped into the chair next to him.


“So, why’ve you got a caterpillar in your hair?” He picked at my head like a gorilla mum. “You fall into a bush?”

I swatted his hand. “Sort of.”

“Seriously Ivy, you’re a mess.”

I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples. “I’ve seen things Murph. Really weird things.”

“Yeah?” he said, eyes as big as emu eggs. “What?”

He was mad for the freaky stuff. Anything magical or supernatural had him jumping out of his skin.

“Promise you won’t go all paranormal detective on me?”

Murph nodded, but his left eye squinted slightly, meaning his promise wasn’t totally rock solid. I decided not to tell him everything, not yet anyway. I’d stick to the hedge bit—at least it would explain the hair.

I glanced at the door to make sure Snottygobble wasn’t there and lowered my voice. “You know Margaret from the antique shop?”

Murph wriggled to the edge of his chair. “The posh one with purple hair?”

I nodded. “Found her on my way here. In the hedge between the park and the post office.”

Murph arched his eyebrows. “She was in the hedge?”

“Not all of her.” I scratched the end of my nose. “Just her head. The rest of her was sticking out on the pavement.”


I recoiled. “No!”

His shoulders dropped. I was losing him.

“She was in her nighty. Tryna stab beetles with a fork.” I added a few jabbing motions for effect.

He nudged his glasses. “She catch any?”

I shuddered. “Yeah, she ate it.”

Murph gasped and put his hand on his heart. “Poor thing. What a way to go.”

He loved insects, so it was difficult news for him.

“Forget the beetle, Murph! A bug eating woman with her head shoved in a hedge is the real worry!”


AJ Vanderhorst – MG Fantasy – THE MOSTLY INVISIBLE BOY

Dear #writementor agents,

Please find below a short introduction to my novel, THE MOSTLY INVISIBLE BOY, and the first page of the novel itself.

Eleven-year-old Casey Grimes is stubbornly friendly, but he’s eternally the new kid at Vintage Woods Middle School. Students look right through him—and they’re not faking. Casey doesn’t know why he’s mostly-invisible, but the nightmare eventually sends him deep into the forest. He scales a colossal oak and discovers a deserted fortress in its branches. The forgotten sentry tree marks the border between his safe, suburban life and a fierce frontier.

Casey and his little sister Gloria infiltrate Sylvan Woods, a secret forest society devoted to ancient, wild things. Sky-high footpaths. Survival sewing. Monster control. Shockingly, people here actually see Casey—but being seen isn’t enough. He wants to belong. Posing as a Sylvan girl’s cousins, he and Gloria enter Trickery School—an academy where classes have surprise endings, battles are as common as breakfast, and magic is so last century. For the first time in his life, Casey makes friends…but kids at Trickery have lost touch with the people they’re sworn to defend. If anyone finds out he’s an imposter, he’ll be blacklisted for life—or worse, thrown in the sewers with the tiger rats.

Keeping his identity hidden—while struggling to prove he fits—is hard enough, but butcher beasts have returned to Sylvan Woods after a hundred years. Trickery is under siege. As the monsters close in, and the fearsome Sylvan Watch hunts Casey down, he and his newfound friends must unearth abandoned magic, buried at the forest’s roots…or be devoured along with everyone else, Sylvans and civilians alike.

THE MOSTLY INVISIBLE BOY is a 70,000-word, adventurous MG fantasy where WILDWOOD meets NEVERWHERE. It’s a stand-alone book with series potential.

My short story, “Leviathan’s Hook,” was published in Midnight Times. I’m a SCBWI critique group member and Pitch Wars alum. I spend much of my time wrangling kids in our hundred-year-old house,


AJ Vanderhorst



Casey Grimes was invisible—at least most of the time.

He stood on the corner under a stop sign, jogging in place as his school bus sped down the street. It slowed to roll through the intersection and Casey sprinted alongside, smacking the door as his backpack bumped his spine. Sound and movement gave him a fighting chance to be seen. For a few seconds, anyway.

“Open up!” he yelled.

The driver squinted through the smudged glass, and Casey banged harder, until the brakes squealed and the accordion doors whooshed open.

“Where’d you come from?” The driver squinted at him.

“Same place I always come from.” Casey jumped into the bus.

The driver shrugged and floored the accelerator.

The other kids on Casey’s route always sat together in the back. He waved, but they kept right on talking, so he took his usual seat by the window, pressing the vinyl with sweaty palms. Don’t give up yet, he told himself. Last day of sixth grade, so make an effort. Things might still change.

But they reached Vintage Woods Middle School, and nothing was different.

Nothing at all.

“This can’t be your first day, right?” A girl asked as Casey opened his locker.

“Of course not,” Casey said. “You’re Lydia, we sit next to each other in—”

But she’d already started talking to someone else. Casey slumped in defeat, but then Manuel walked past—they’d had a five second conversation once, as long as Casey had ever talked to anyone at Vintage Woods—and he whirled.

“Hey Manuel!”

The boy’s gaze paused for a millisecond and slid away as if pulled by a magnet.


Kari Hagen – MG Sci-Fi – THE RESCUER

Dear Agent,

Fourteen-year-old Prok Zandin has one goal — become a Sea Warrior. As a member of this elite special ops force responsible for maintaining peace and justice on the underwater planet Krador, he’ll be able to single-handedly elevate his family’s social status and pay for his sister’s expensive medical care.

His photographic memory secured him a scholarship to the prestigious Archan Academy where he trains for his commission alongside his best friend Makky. All he has to do now is pass his classes and stay one step ahead of the bully dogging his steps. Then Makky gets transferred to another school. When he calls convinced he’s under surveillance, Prok goes looking for answers and uncovers a plot to get Makky killed.

Unsure who to trust, Prok abandons his training and his dreams for the future to find and rescue his friend. But he quickly discovers the threat against Makky is just one cog in an even bigger scheme to destroy their entire civilization. It’s up to Prok to prevent disaster. But can he rescue his dreams, his friend, and his people?

My debut novel The Rescuer is Science-Fiction targeted at upper middle-grade readers, ages 12-14, and is complete at 56,000 words. It explores deep social justice issues through fast-paced adventure, strong characters, and close relationship bonds.

I developed a passion for writing in the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea where my missionary parents raised me alongside a tribe of cannibals. To my knowledge, I’ve never eaten a human being. I have, however, been a ghost writer for blood-thirsty personal injury attorneys up and down the East Coast. I am also a member of SCBWI.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Kari Hagen

THE RESCUER – Chapter One

The Common Room was crowded, but Prok Zandin sat alone at his usual table, tinkering with a small engine. He liked this spot for its proximity to the massive floor-to-ceiling window. Outside, the ocean pressed up against the clear crystal pane, sending a slight chill into the Common Room. From here, he could observe both the room and the watery expanse with minimal effort. Conversation buzzed around him as students worked on various projects and assignments or chatted with friends.

A shadow blocked the light and Prok’s heart sank.

Mavrick Denly stood across from him, surrounded by his usual friends and admirers. He placed his hands on the table, leaning forward to crowd Prok’s workspace.

“What a waste. Playing around with mechanics when you could be practicing flying or fighting. You know, the stuff Sea Warriors actually do.”

The air grew thick with tension as nearby students stopped what they were doing and waited for the fight they probably expected to come. Prok didn’t blame them. After all, he had taken a swing at Mavrick on their first day of Year Two.

Looking up, Prok locked eyes with Mavrick’s blue ones, the exact shade of navy as the synthe-suit he wore to represent his Bureaucrat Class. In contrast, Prok’s eyes were brown. They didn’t match the lighter brown of his Worker Class synthe-suit, but they didn’t need to.

“I hear Sea Warriors try to rely on diplomacy as much as fighting,” he said coolly.

The flush that rose to Mavrick’s cheeks made Prok smile, but the satisfaction would be short-lived. It wouldn’t take long for Mavrick to come up with another insult — he was top of their class, tied with Prok.

Sure enough, the next attack came quickly, accompanied with even more venom.