Name: Cassandra Farrin
Twitter Handle: @CassaCassaCassa
YA or MG: YA
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Title: The Twelve Dancing Monks of Little Todai Temple
Twitter Pitch (140 characters max): Prankster sumo wrestler, exiled to temple in Japanese Alps, must take grief seriously to save 12 children cursed to dance from dusk to dawn.
1st 250 words of opening: After Mokurai arrived at the sumo stable, his headmaster learned to look sideways at him whenever anything embarrassing happened, even if it seemed there was no way Mokurai could be involved.
Now, at sixteen, Mokurai was fiercer in the sumo ring than he used to be, but he still liked to clown around outside it. His only disappointment was that other people couldn’t take a joke as well as he could. So on the last day of the Spring Tournament, Mokurai decided that if he won his final match he would congratulate himself with his most ambitious prank yet: he would catch half a dozen giant sparrow bees and hide them in the training arena.
The Spring Tournament had already raged for thirteen days in an open-air stadium at Ekōin Temple, east of the Sumida River on the outskirts of Tokyo. On the final morning, the skies were grey streaked with bronze. Cherry trees showered white petals on the rundown temple and its neighboring streets as Mokurai exited the sumo stable.
Hair oiled and pinned in the tight chonmage topknot of a junior wrestler, Mokurai balanced his massive body over unadorned wooden clogs. His right hand gripped a cloth bundle with his mawashi wrestling belt, ceremonial apron, and other necessary items for the day. Over white undergarments he wore a plain cotton yukata robe stamped with cranes. As he walked over a canal bridge to the temple, his size gave him an unavoidable swagger, but his face was cheerful.
Synopsis (200 word max): Junior sumo wrestler Mokurai loves pranks, especially pranks that punish bullies. When he wins his division in the Spring 1869 Tournament, he rewards himself by taking glorious revenge on a bullying older wrestler who has tortured him for four years. Unfortunately, it also leads to expulsion from the sumo stable. His embarrassed uncle banishes him to a temple in the Japanese Alps.
In another part of the Alps, overwhelmed by grief at the death of his little brother, a farmer’s son named Seiya steals his brother’s funerary tablet. This unleashes a curse on Seiya and his remaining siblings that forces them to dance from dusk to dawn. Seiya won’t return the tablet, though, because he feels betrayed by how his family handled his brother’s death. After every other intervention fails, the village exiles Seiya and his siblings to prevent the curse from spreading.
Thrown together in the isolated Little Todai Temple, Seiya and Mokurai clash at every turn. Seiya, still heartbroken over his brother, can’t tolerate Mokurai’s pranks and teasing. Mokurai wants to teach Seiya how to laugh again, but he’ll have to learn how to take grief seriously if he wants to break the curse.
Feedback tips (any areas where you specifically want people to focus?): Thank you for any feedback you have for me! I’d be grateful to hear broad feedback — Would you read this book if you saw it on the shelf? What do you find attractive, or not? — and also any nitpicky details about the wording itself.