Title: Rules for Running Away
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Word Count: 38K words


One deep secret, two 12-year-olds on the run, and countless AMBER Alerts. In Rules for Running Away, Annie Berger finds a ripped up letter from her dad in the recycling bin and realizes her life until now has been one big fat lie. Now Annie is determined to meet her dad and find out why her mom kept him a secret.

Unfortunately, her dad has been writing from prison – where minors aren’t allowed without an adult – and there’s no way Annie can ask her mom or step-dad to take her. Her dad’s upcoming parole hearing in downtown Oakland, CA is her one shot at seeing him. All she has to do is ditch her school field trip from a ferryboat in the middle of the bay and catch a bus to the courthouse in time. Everything goes smoothly until Duncan Jimenez, ​a sixth grader​ who has both ADHD and a crush on her, runs after her, insisting she needs a partner-in-crime. When it looks like Annie’s mom and step-dad might ruin her dream, she’s forced to face the facts and find out what love really means.

I’m the author of Single Mom Seeking: Play Dates, Blind Dates, and Other Dispatches from the Dating World (Seal Press, 2007), a memoir about dating as a single mom. In 2012, 20th Century Fox optioned Single Mom Seeking for a TV series. I’m a member of SCBWI and my​ most recent publication is an essay in The New York Times “The Motherlode” (He Was Ready to Be a Stepdad. Was I Ready to Let Him?). I’m also a freelance developmental editor in the San Francisco Bay Area.


First 250 words:


It’s not stealing. More like borrowing. Alone in the hallway that runs from our front door to the living room, I slip $20 out of Mom’s purse. This shouldn’t be a big deal. I’ll pay her back. It’s not like I haven’t taken money from Mom before. Okay, always less than $10 for a floppy sandwich at the cafeteria, and I always asked first.

Footsteps thump from behind Mom’s door. My stomach knots up. It’s 7:39 a.m., which means she’ll open that door any second and ask if I’m ready for school. She doesn’t know I’ve been awake for more than an hour. When you’re planning to run away, sleep isn’t really a priority. Other details matter right now. Like making sure I have enough money to get there and back. If I miss the bus, I’ll miss my dad. A taxi from Jack London Square to downtown Oakland must be super-pricy. I flip Mom’s wallet back open. Between a credit card and a receipt, there’s a cigarette. Nasty. I roll it between my fingers. It would be so easy to snap in half. But Mom would know I did it.

I quickly grab her credit card, snap the wallet shut, and fly to my room. When I slam the door and lean on it, my heart pounds against my spine. The money heats up my fingertips, as hot as my hermit crabs’ heat lamp. I leap over my stack of National Geographic magazines, push the money under my pillow, and whisper, “Dad, I’m coming.”



Here’s to The Writer’s Voice. Thank you to the super-generous, hard-working Brenda Drake, Mónica Bustamante Wagner, Elizabeth Briggs, and Krista Van Dolzer! And, um, thank you to that thing called random luck.

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