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Here is our entry for “The Writer’s Voice” contest:



Dear Coaches,

At fourteen, Lailu is the youngest chef to graduate from Chef’s Academy in over three hundred years, and she’s not about to let anything get in the way of her dream: opening a high-class restaurant that specializes in cooking mystical beasts.

With the latest boom in steampunk technologies, she’s sure her new restaurant will be a huge success. Sure, she had to borrow a ton of money from Mr. Boss, the meanest loan shark around, but she knows her profits will make up for it. Unfortunately, her obnoxious school rival, Greg, decides to open a competing restaurant, and with his charm, good looks, and aristocratic background he soon has a full house– while Lailu’s place remains a dining graveyard.

When Mr. Boss pushes up the due date of Lailu’s loan, she realizes she’s bitten off more than she can chew. Lailu has battled dragons, krakens, griffons, and all sorts of delicious and dangerous beasts, but she’s never faced anyone as ruthless as Mr. Boss. With her deadline approaching, she’s forced to turn to the one person who can help her. Obnoxious or not, Greg is almost as good a chef as Lailu, and it will take all of their combined skills to get her out of the stew she’s in. After all, Mr. Boss always gets what’s owed to him, one way or another.

MYSTIC COOKING is an upper Middle Grade fantasy, complete at 79,000 words. We are a writing team of two sisters: Heidi Lang, who likes to fling food across her stove while attempting to cook new dishes, and Kati Bartkowski, who enjoys trying new cuisine at fancy restaurants. Because of our twenty years of experience in Judo, we both prefer our female protagonists to kick some butt. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Lailu flipped a large chef’s knife end over end, scowling at the row of onions pinned to her far wall. She could have taken on another kraken, or even a hydra right then, but this waiting–this waiting was killing her.

“Don’t worry,” she told her remaining batch of onions, “it will only hurt a second.” As she selected a sweet yellow one, the bell above her front door chimed.

Lailu whipped around eagerly, the onion toppling to the floor. “Welcome to Mystic Cooking.” She straightened her fluffy white chef’s hat. “Our special today is…” Her eyes flickered to the man looming in her doorway. “Oh.” Lailu’s heart plummeted back to her toes. “It’s you.”

For all she was barely over five feet tall, Mr. Boss (call me “Victor”) was not much taller, but his back was straight, and his cane seemed more like a threatening prop than a tool. He looked like he might be in his sixties or seventies, his long gray hair streaked through with white and oiled back into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. She’d heard the rumors, of course, that he was actually two hundred and six, and that he bathed in the blood of young dragons every month to slow his aging. Lailu wasn’t sure she bought that; she knew how hard it was to kill a dragon.