I can’t remember which “Project Writeway” entry this was, but contest sponsors required that we write a 400-word snippet aimed for Middle Grade readers. The Middle Grade audience ranges from 10 to 13 years-old or thereabout. Brandon Mull’s FABLEHAVEN series, for instance, serve as examples of books that resonate with this age group.
The important factor for this phase of the contest was to sound like a kid – NOT an adult! That’s a huge key to success for appealing to “tweeners.” So, did I pull it off?
“What the crap?” I didn’t think I said that out loud, but I did, and my teacher sent me her worst crusty. That’s bad because her regular face would scare Darth Sidious.
“I said that you, Wilson Spaulding, will represent our class in the basketball sixth-grade shoot-out.”
“Are you kiddin’ me?” I almost screamed my piss-off. She walked – no, she charged at me like a rogue droid bent on destruction. I wanted to get the heck out of there. (I would say “hell,” but Mom might read this.) Instead, I crossed my arms, squinted my eyes, and stuck out my chin like looks could really kill – or at least stop – Mrs. Hutt, wife of Jabba.
The menace grabbed my T-shirt sleeve and dragged me to the hall. I thought of warning her about student abuse or becoming Bantha fodder, but the Force forced me to shut my mouth.
“Now listen here,” she said as she stood me against the lockers. “You will not act out in this class!”
“Your mind tricks will not work on me.”
Mrs. Hutt sighed, more ticked off than ever. Her breath – a coffee-cigarette combo – grossed me out, and I waved my hand like a fan to keep me from passing out.
She didn’t think it was funny. Instead she pushed me towards the gym where I saw London Beitia talking to the other sixth-grade teacher. (And I didn’t think things could get freakin’ worse.)
I was going to lose to a girl. No argument there. London was a really awesome basketball player.
I was going to lose to the cutest and tallest girl in the whole school. There she was looking better than Princess Leia ever could in a pink basket ball jersey, shorts, and sparkly basketball shoes!
I just stood there – all five-foot-two of me – wearing my favorite and holey Darth Maul t-shirt and Tough-skin jeans that stopped before they got to my ankles.
Obi-wan, where are you when I need you?
I barely heard the principal tell us that the game was HORSE before he flipped a coin to see who would go first. London called “heads,” but the quarter landed on “tails.”
This is good. Going for the impossible, I turned my back to the basket, threw up the ball … and heard a SWISH! Cheers erupted from the Ewoks who filled the gym, and London flashed a big smile.
I LOVE BASKETBALL!