Name: E.G. Languzzi
Genre: YA Literary Fiction
Title: WHERE HAZARD MEETS NEWHOPE
Word Count: 55,000 words
Themes: Identity, Social Class Structures, Alcoholism, Gang Violence, Higher Education, STEM
35-Word Pitch: Thirteen-year-old Perla Vega’s fundraising for science camp is jeopardized by an identity crisis and circumstances outside her control, when her father’s business burns, her mother’s injured at work, and her family’s victimized by a drive-by-shooting.
First 500 Words:
Liquid candy. That’s what the sticky sweet smell of night jasmine made me think of–invisible tendrils of liquid sweetness floating through my bedroom window. The same window headlights flashed through, illuminating the kitten poster on the wall over my little sister’s headboard. Most nights I’d hide under the covers with my trusty flashlight to read ahead for science class. Not tonight.
Instead, I rehearsed the steps to making an avocado-with-alfalfa-sprouts-n’-bacon-bits-sandwich for the stupid “how-to” speech, I’d give in Mrs. Goodman’s class the next day.
Our teacher wanted to “expand our horizons.” She’d invited an award-winning Toastmaster to teach us how to speak, which I thought we already knew how to do, seeing as we were in the eighth-grade. Then she clarified. We’d be speaking “in front of people.”
The beady-eyed man with the hooked nose and flaky skin reminded me of the turtle illustration in the TV Guide ad promising to test my artistic abilities for free. “By the time I’m done with you,” he’d said, “you will all be able to address any group with poise and confidence.”
Right. Toast-Maker, Toastmaster…heck, it wouldn’t have mattered if she’d said he was a toaster-oven. The truth is I would have much rather written a ten-page paper on parasites, cell division, or even single-cell organisms than get up in front of twenty pairs of probing eyes. ¡Para nada!
“Mother of God, please don’t let me barf in front of everybody,” I whispered to the miniature statuette of the Virgin Mary that cast its soft glow on the nightstand next to my bed.
I closed my eyes and conjured images from the latest issue of National Geographic. Dew-sprinkled carnivorous flowers, red-eyed frogs, iridescent jellyfish…one day I hoped to travel, experience more than the concrete world comprised mostly of strip malls, chain-link fences and river beds I called home. I hated where I lived.
A fire truck’s siren wailed in the distance. By the second-grade, I’d learned to distinguish between an ambulance, fire truck, and police cruiser, which was the difference between a scream, wail, and a shriek.
The engine rattled our windows, as it went by. Then was followed by two more.
I jumped up on my knees to look out the window and caught the taillights of the last truck go by.
“Did you hear that?” Ofelia, my middle sister asked, scaring the crap out of me. “That’s a three-alarm fire.”
“Uh-huh.” Our little sister, Aimara, propped herself up on one elbow, her stuffed cat pinned under it. “They didn’t go far.” Her short hair stuck up like a halo of chicken feathers in the back.
“Go back to sleep, guys. It’s probably a dumpster fire,” I said, not wanting them to worry. I remembered what I’d read in one of the library books I’d checked out on brain development. Developing brains could only withstand so much stress before they became damaged.