Name: Martha Taylor McKiever

Twitter Handle: @marthamckiever

YA or MG: MG

Genre: contemporary

Title: HOPE RUNS FREE

Twitter Pitch (140 characters max): Deserted Tessa finds peace w/ a wild mare & foal. She must defy poachers’ death threats in life-risking plan to keep horses free. #peerpitch

1st 250 words of opening: At least for now, this piece of sea and sky is all ours. It’s like Mom and I are inside a gigantic bottle filled with golden sand, breaking waves, and salty sea spray, all under a blue dome. We hold hands and wade knee-high into the surf.

The ocean inhales and sucks sand and bits of shell back over our toes. It tickles, and we giggle. I hook my arm through hers as a wave builds, and call out, “One, two, three … jump!” We rise weightless over the crested swell and land on our toes. Our laughter mixes with sea gulls’ cries.

I step on something smooth and cool and bend over to check it out. An emerald stone glints at me. I swoop it up and turn it in my hand. “Look, Mom, sea glass—your favorite color, too.” I don’t see her deep green eyes much now. She always covers them with sunglasses. When I raise the jewel to her face, the sun beams through and it sparkles. Her mouth twitches and turns into a smile. My heart warms.

“A sea jewel. I love it!” she says.

Right when I place the sea jewel in her hand, a giant wave from out of nowhere body slams us, knocking me clear off my feet. Salt water burns my nose and stings my eyes. I stand up and wipe my face with my arm. Mom slumps down in the water. Her pale face and raised arm blur before me.

Synopsis (200 word max): Twelve-year-old Tessa faces her worst summer ever. Instead of taking riding lessons with her best friend, she’s deserted by her parents–stuck with a strict great aunt on the remote Outer Banks of NC while her mom is in therapy for depression back home. From the moment she discovers a mustang mare and foal on the hidden beach, they kindle warm memories of her mom, and she commits to protect them from creeps on dune buggies who chase the herd.

Annie, a girl almost as wild as the mustangs, claims they are hers, and Tessa must win her trust to be near the horses. When the poachers return, the girls herd the mustangs to safety in the woods and overhear the men plotting to capture and sell the herd in two weeks. Tessa confronts the poachers when they try to lasso a lame horse, and they threaten to run her over if she reveals their plans. Inspired by her mom’s brave battle with depression, she must decide whether to alert authorities about the poachers’ scheme or take matters into her own hands and defy them head-on. Either way she risks her life and the wild mustangs’ freedom is at stake.

Feedback tips (any areas where you specifically want people to focus?): I appreciate any feedback on my work. Whatever comes to your mind is welcome, as it will help me polish more. I find the pitch especially challenging and can only tell of Tessa’s main struggle.