The Writer’s Voice


Dear Coaches,

Twelve-year-old Chester Phillips is building a hot air balloon, and if it’s made out of filmy shower curtains, defunct office fans, and a corroded bike frame, so be it. He’s going to fly it around the world anyway. The town’s notorious dumpster diver isn’t above sacrificing dignity and cleanliness in search of parts, but Chester maintains one rule: he only takes things no one else wants.

When Chester receives an offer to fund his around the world trip in exchange for an errand, Chester has no idea he’ll be breaking his cardinal rule by accepting. With his best friend Peter in tow, he sets off to fetch a battered scuba tank and deliver it to San Francisco. No one bothered to tell him the tank housed a beautiful, if somewhat dry and aloof, genie.

And now the genie’s thuggish masters are coming after Chester.

Chester never wanted to be a thief, but as his friendship with the genie grows, he realizes he can never let her fall back into her masters’ cruel clutches.

There’s only one way to ensure she’ll be safe, and it involves a hot air balloon adventure.

BALLOONING is a 59,000-word fantasy adventure novel for middle grade readers. It was featured as a semi-finalist in the Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest hosted by Regina Brooks and Gotham Writers’ Workshop.

Thank you for your time.

Erin Ferguson

First 250 Words of BALLOONING:

“And what,” demanded Mrs. August, “are you planning on doing with that, young man?”

The tops of Mrs. August’s spectacles bore down over the row of hedges separating the two front yards. Chester had tried to tiptoe past the old troll and escape into his backyard, since prior experience taught him she’d have an opinion about his treasure.

In his arms, he bore the cumbersome drum of a Kenmore washing machine.

“What? This?” asked Chester. “Well, I was thinking . . . it would really go well with . . . um . . . you know, it’s really quite useful—”

He was saved from having to expound on the drum’s countless functions when his mother pulled into the driveway. His little sisters ran for the house while Mrs. Phillips, balancing paper grocery bags on each hip, slammed the trunk.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. August,” she said. “Your flowers are looking as lovely as ever.”

Mrs. August ignored her and jabbed her pruning shears at Chester. “I hope you’re not planning to stash it in that yard of yours,” she said. “It’s such an eyesore, and we’re the ones who have to look at it. Trash everywhere. Old refrigerators. Car parts. Railroad spikes. TVs.” She chopped at the hedges, punctuating each accusation. “It’s vile! And I don’t know how you put up with it, Mrs. Phillips.”

“Well, I’m sure he has a good use for it,” Chester’s mother said, rolling her eyes. “He always does.”



  1. This has really good voice and I love the whole adventuring on a hot air balloon idea and that you have a genie thrown in there. There aren’t enough genie stories in the world!


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