PW #241: Middle Grade Contemporary: THE NOT-SO-HOT POTATO

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Shari Schwarz

Mentee Name: Arianne Costner


Category: Middle Grade

Genre: Contemporary

Word Count: 49,000 words


After a hotdog-flinging mishap, thirteen-year-old Ben faces suspension at his new school in Idaho. Coach offers one way out: volunteer as the dorky potato mascot. Ben agrees—as long as it remains a secret. But if he can’t keep his story straight as he juggles two identities, he risks losing his friends and his chances of ever fitting in.


I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but the fact is clear: I, Ben Hardy, am cursed by potatoes. The demon vegetable is out to get me—has been for years.

Evidence #1: When I was three, I tripped over a bag of potatoes and broke my arm. I had to wear a tiny green cast for six weeks. Talk about itchy.

Evidence #2: My mom makes the world’s gluey-est mashed potatoes. I’ve choked on them countless times, yet she keeps whipping them up like she’s trying to kill me.

Evidence #3: There’s a faded scar above my left eyebrow. The story? Let’s just say I got on the bad side of a cat named Tater Tot.

And then, there’s the matter of my school’s game day shirt.

“You have to get one, Ben. Where’s your school spirit?” Ellie sets her lunch tray down and tosses her long braid over her shoulder. On her shirt, a cartoon potato flexes his bulky biceps and flashes the kind of smile that should be reserved for clowns in horror movies.

What was the student council thinking when they designed that thing? If I were in charge, I’d petition for a change of mascot. At my last school, we were the Wildcats: ferocious and intimidating. All a potato could scare is…well, me, I guess.

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