PW #214: Middle Grade Historical: SUMMER OF ROCKS AND HARD PLACES

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentors Names: C.B. Catalano and Shauna Holyoak

Mentee Name: Peggy Sheridan


Category: Middle Grade

Genre: Historical

Word Count: 48,000 words


Aided by a homeless veteran and a hidden stash of letters, twelve-year-old Casey learns his war-hero brother didn’t really die in Vietnam. To uncover the truth, Casey challenges his parents’ secrets. But the past he reopens may tear his family apart.


The quarry where Brandon Fisher died in a rockslide was the last place Randi and I should’ve been headed on a summer afternoon. Especially since our parents threatened to ground us for life if we ever went there.

Randi’s dark ponytail bobbed with each step. She glanced over her shoulder. “What’s up with you, Case?”

“Me?” A blackberry vine along the trail grabbed at my leg. I leaned down to pull it away, glad to have an excuse not to look at her. “Why does something have to be wrong just ‘cause I’m not talking?”

So my parents had another fight, their millionth since Dad’s layoff. Plus he was drinking more than ever. Some things are too embarrassing to tell anyone, even your best friend.

“Listen.” I stood, cocking an ear in the air. Straight ahead, the faint humming and grating of bulldozers carried through the woods.

A grin crossed her face. “That’s it.”

I smirked because I knew what she was thinking. “You know we can’t go down in there, right? Not ‘til the workers leave.”

“No duh.” She rolled her eyes, and took off running. “C’mon.”

I chased her until we reached the end of the path. We slowed to a walk. The trees grew thicker. The ground rockier. We’d never been this far before. A flash off to the right caught my eye.

I squinted against the glare. Fallen brush muffled my steps as I snuck toward it.


Light reflected off a dingy window. I took another step…and another…until a tiny shack came into view.

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