Those of us who were fortunate enough to know VCFA grad Frances Lee Hall adored her. Known for her infectious laugh, she was an always supportive friend and modest to a fault. Some knew she had an Emmy for her work in TV writing and production, but Frances never mentioned she had three.
In 2013, Frances was thrilled when her agent, Marietta Zacker, sold her middle grade novel, LILY LO AND THE WONTON MAKER, to Egmont USA. But Egmont closed US operations the next year, and LILY LO never made it into print.
Tragically, Frances died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm in November of 2016 without realizing her dream. But one of the amazing things about VCFA is that your writer friends who’ve worked alongside you and believe in your dream won’t easily let it die.
Frances’ writing group is determined to help her wonderful, diverse story reach young readers. Inkshares, a hybrid publisher located in Oakland, will publish her book once it attracts enough pre-orders to pay for design, editing, production and distribution.
Frances’ spouse has given permission for us to post the first two chapters of LILY LO AND THE WONTON MAKER below.
We hope you’ll consider pre-ordering a copy since there are only a few more weeks left to reach the number that Inkshares needs to publish. Perfect for young readers, ages 7-9 you can PRE-ORDER at https://www.inkshares.com/books/lily-lo-and-the-wonton-maker
Thank you so much for helping to honor an exceptional writer and woman, Frances Lee Hall.
LILY LO AND THE WONTON MAKER
Who’s Got Game?
WHO’S GOT GAME? SHARKS!
WHO’S GOT BITE? SHARKS!
WHO’S GOT FIGHT? OUR MIGHTY SHARKS!
Number 11, Lily Lo waved her arms in big circles, encouraging the crowd to yell with all their might. She put her hand to her ear, signaling she couldn’t hear them. The crowd responded with louder yells and super enthusiasm.
Lily squished her cleats deep into the damp grass, making a dotted footprint. That footprint made her heart race. It meant their soccer game was minutes away from starting. It meant a chance for her third grade Leopard Sharks to show their stuff. It meant fog-filled fun!
Over the field, it rolled in thick as bunched-up cotton balls. Most people shivered in the fog. Not Lily. The cool air filled her whole body with overflowing energy.
Over at the bleachers, parents and grandparents galore filled the seats. Signs that read “Go Leopard Sharks” and “We ❤ sharks” waved high above the crowd. Faces everywhere beamed encouragement to fill ten stadiums.
Hurried footsteps crunched up next to Lily. Rosana, Lily’s best pal since kindergarten, bumped her shoulder. “You ready, Lil?” she asked, her ponytail waving.
They slapped palms, held them close for a mili-second, and bumped bellies. Their red jerseys blended like one big camp fire.
“Ready and more!” Lily said.
“Lily and Rosana!” Coach stood tall, her arms spread open as if holding up the world. Her grey sweatshirt was emblazoned with one word in red letters: Sharks. “You two, get into position now!”
When Coach turned her back to gather the rest of the team, Deb the goal keeper, trotted up to Lily and Rosana. Her ponytail bounced high on her head, not a hair out of place. “Hey! You two.” She tossed a ball in the air, and juggled it quick between her hands. “The game’s starting in five minutes. Get with the team!”
Lily and Rosana looked at each other. “We heard,” Lily said.
“We are,” Rosana said.
Deb slapped the ball between her hands and ran off to be close to Coach’s side.
“She’s goal keeper, not time keeper,” Rosana said. “She thinks she can boss us because her mom’s our coach.”
“Forget her, Ro,” Lily said. “She’s always like that before a game. Maybe she’s nervous.”
“Because we might go to The Big Match?” Rosana asked.
“Because we are,” Lily said.
“Stellar!” Rosana said.
For good luck, they did their pre-game ritual. Using their feet, they volleyed the ball between them three times. When they finished, they joined their teammates, Anita, Julie, and Toni, onto the field.
With the game-starting whistle about to blow, Lily glanced at the stands.
Today was the day. She had circled it on her calendar in purple gel pen. Today Gung Gung was here to watch the game. His first time. At her game! He said he’d come, and Lily’s heart had fluttered. She couldn’t wait to show him her teammates, her new skills, and how practice was paying off.
At the same time, her heart had stung. Sure, he was here because Mama couldn’t be, because of her new work schedule. And sure, he was here because someone needed to drive her. Were those the only reasons?
That was okay, she told herself. He was here now, and that was all that mattered. Right?
The seat where she had left Gung Gung was… empty. And the game was about to start.
She scanned the bleachers, left and right. She scanned the field, up and down.
Okay. He needed to use the bathroom, that’s all. That must be it, she told herself. Or maybe he needed water. Sure, everyone needed to use the bathroom. And everyone needed water, right? Only natural. Especially for grandpas.
And from the pathway, emerging from the fog, came Gung Gung. His brand new, brighter-than-bright white tennis shoes acted like beacons in the fog, as he took one casual step in front of the other. His light jacket was zippered all the way up to his chin, and his cap was snug on his head. He walked to the bleachers, holding a newspaper under one arm, and a blanket under the other. When he got to his seat, he wiped it, placed the blanket down, oh so carefully, and sat.
Lily exhaled. He made it.
As the whistle blew, the mighty Leopard Sharks versus the un-mighty Sting Rays battle began.
The crowd stomped its feet and clapped their hands. Red and white pom-poms waved like wildflowers in the wind. The soccer field shook. It could’ve been from the cheers, or it could’ve been from the Leopard Sharks barreling for the ball. Either way, it was madness!
The Sharks got possession of the ball, a black and white blur, and passed between them. The ball whizzed along the ground, kicking up grass. The Sting Rays, in boring blue jerseys, scurried next to the Shark’s fiery red ones.
The scoreboard showed the Leopard Sharks losing by one point. One tiny, get-it-in-there point. From all the cheers, you’d never know they were losing.
Lily huffed as she ran up the field. Pure determination pulsed through her body and her toes buzzed. She got the ball and dribbled strong, as her knees flexed and her ankles stayed loose. The rolling ball obeyed her foot’s every command.
Lily tapped the ball with the inside of one foot, then crossed it to the other up and down the field.
Just as a Sting Ray was about to steal, she made an on-target pass to Anita, who dashed and kicked it straight to goal! The Sting Ray Keeper missed and fell to the ground, dazed.
Lily, Anita, and Rosana came together for a three-shark belly bump.
The crowd cheered like it was a Super Bowl touchdown!
Lily’s eyes darted to Gung Gung. Did he see? Did he see how she had assisted in that goal?
Gung Gung no longer sat on his blanket. It was wrapped around his shoulders. He looked like he was sitting in a blizzard, not a foggy day. His newspaper was opened before him, and whatever he was reading must be a really, really good story.
Lily’s heart flinched and her shin guards started to slip.
“Lily Lo!” Coach called. “Focus, Girl! Get ready for another pass!”
“Come on, Lil,” Rosana jogged next to Lily, her breath steaming. “Gotta get moving.”
“Right!” Lily said.
Rosana took off, leaving Lily behind. Down the field, Anita and Julie surrounded Sting Rays scurrying for the ball. They blocked them, and the crowd cheered.
Gung Gung, still reading.
Out of the ocean blue, one Sting Ray dashed in and out and kicked hard. The ball neared the Sting Ray goal. As gasps from the bleachers filled the air, keeper Deb dove for the ball with all her might. She hugged it close, as she hit the ground. Her elbows and forearms skidded along the grass.
Gasps turned into cheers from the Shark stands.
Coach whooped like a coyote.
Gung Gung licked his thumb and turned his newspaper.
Lily got the ball and passed it to Rosana. She overshot it.
“Lil!” Rosana ran to retrieve the wayward ball, her ponytail waving like mad.
“Sorry, Ro!” Lily’s hands flew to her head.
“Shrug it off, Lo!” Coach waved her hands. “Move your feet!”
Rosana got the ball and dribbled up the field to where Anita and Julie were poised and ready. Lily followed, but almost tripped.
“Focus, Sharks!” Coach yelled. “Up the field, Ladies!”
As Anita, Julie, and Toni ran up the field, Lily pursued them. Her shin guards slipped, and she tugged it as she ran. Close to the Shark goal line, she hovered. Her eyes darted back and forth between the cheering crowd and Gung Gung.
Rosana’s grandparents, Mr. And Mrs. Morales, although huddled close to keep warm, were up on their feet focused on the game. They watched Rosana’s every move, and hollered when she came close to the ball. Anita’s grandfather bundled himself in a jacket so cushiony, he looked like an overstuffed burrito. An overstuffed burrito that waved a wiggly “Number 1” foam finger. That thing looked alive!
Everyone cheered and watched the game.
Except for one.
Gung Gung turned another page, and Lily hoped, while the newspaper was shut for a split second, that he might stand up and look. Or cheer, even.
Newspaper turned to the next page, the tip of his cap peeking above it.
In disbelief, Lily opened her arms. “What??”
“Trap, Lil! Trap!” Rosana shouted from the other end of the soccer field.
In a split second, a black and white haze barreled toward Lily. With her arms still opened, a blinding force stung her chest. The haze had turned into a soccer ball and landed smack into her arms.
A perfect catch.
For a goalkeeper.
Problem was, Lily was playing mid-fielder.
The referee’s whistle blew like a teakettle. Foul, hand ball!
Groans rose from her teammates. Cheers bubbled up from the Sting Ray side. And there among all that noise and clatter, Gung Gung finally looked up.
When she had fouled!
Lily looked at where she was positioned on the field. That ball might’ve headed straight to Shark goal, if she wasn’t in the way. Or she could’ve kicked it in, if she hadn’t used her hands. That score could’ve won the game.
Mr. Morales’ big bear voice boomed across the field. “That’s okay, that’s alright, come on Sharks, fight, fight, fight!”
Rosana gave him the thumbs-up, ready to go again.
Gung Gung tilted his head to one side, as if to say, oh well.
Lily felt Coach’s eyes upon her, but she couldn’t look at her. Lily gave up the ball and stood there empty-handed.
Printed here with the permission of Lance Hall.