PW #223: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy: WEST OF THE SEA

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Hannah Karena Jones

Mentee Name: Stephanie Willing


Category: Middle Grade

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Word Count: 59,000


The local gossips say 12-year-old Haven West’s Mama ran away from their drought-ravaged, small Texas town. But Haven knows what she saw—Mama looked distinctly reptilian the night she left. When Haven falls into the Brazos River and transforms as well, she discovers the family secret: they’re kitskas, an evolution of selkies. With her new gills and visions of prehistoric creatures to guide her, Haven may be the only who can find Mama alive. HOUR OF THE BEES meets BREADCRUMBS.


My feet bit hard into the cracked dirt as I tried to outrun my tears and the SLAM of the screen door behind me. The brown grass crackled a warning hiss as I raced across our mostly-dead yard and snapped as I skidded to a stop.

Our peacock sat in the middle of the trampoline like a chicken dressed for Easter Sunday. The cottonwood tree above was shedding its fluffs, and the air was full of the soft seeds. An early summer snowfall.

“Harry, this is not your nest.” I brushed away angry tears.

The porch door whined open, and I turned around expecting Mama. But it was just Margie. She started across the yard, then paused and bent down to pick up something long and gauzy.

“What’s that?” I asked, but then I saw. Snakeskin. As she walked, it fluttered behind her like a kite’s tail. At least five feet.

“Rattlesnake,” she said. “Awfully close to the house.”

I turned back to the peacock. “Harry, you have one job,” I said. “Kill the snakes. And you can’t even do that.” Kicking off my sneakers, I pulled myself over the metal rungs. Harry wuffled and glided down to the patchy grass. He bobbed his head as he walked away. Ridiculous. Like a cross between a dinosaur and a perfume bottle.


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