Entry Nickname: A Few Quick Hellos 
Title: Under the Fresh Turned Earth
Word Count: 56,000
Genre: YA Magical Realism


Nel has friends who are alive, but she spends most of her time with the dead in the Drutherton Cemetery. Her idea of a perfect afternoon is lying in the dirt of the fresh dug graves and absorbing the stories of those buried beneath. An odd habit for a fifteen-year-old girl.

To strengthen her connection with the deceased, Nel follows along with her friends to loot from the homes of the dead. The most recent, a seventy-two-year-old widow, Harriet Murphy, leaves behind a diary that changes Nel’s life.

Within the pages is a secret the whole town of Drutherton has waited to hear for more than fifty years. Harriet reveals she had possessed the Carte Dorare, a magical Book of Wishes.

Nel feels certain Harriet held onto the book and that its hiding place is spelled out somewhere in the diary. All she has to do is keep reading.

The Carte Dorare has the power to grant the holder one wish. Nel's wish would be the one thing she’s wanted since she was six, to have more memories of her parents while they were alive.

Once Nel makes her wish, she’ll have to pass the book on to a worthy stranger. In a town full of Optimists only looking out to gain power for themselves, this may prove to be Nel’s biggest challenge yet. 

First 250 Words: 

Peering between the branches of the pear tree in her back yard, Nel watched caretakers erect a tent over a grave in the Drutherton Cemetery. 

“It's a small one. Only two chairs,” she called down to her Grandma Dahlia, who sat at a card table on the back patio, working a jigsaw puzzle. She scrambled down the tree to join her.

“Poor thing,” Nel’s Grandma shook her head and forced a piece into the puzzle. 

“Not there, you can’t force them.” Nel took the piece out and placed it to the side. “Who do you think it is?” 

“Can’t say. No one I know has been sick.” 

“Could be anyone.” Nel held a puzzle piece up to her mouth and fought the urge to nibble it. She stared out at the headstones just past her fence. “Maybe I . . .”

“Go on then.” 

“Thanks. I won't be long. Just a few quick hellos.” Nel crossed the yard. Climbing back up and over the tree, she landed on the green grass of the cemetery. 

Walking along the first line of markers, she stopped near the headstone of Mr. and Mrs. Gruver. It read, 'Together in Life and Forever After'. They had died at the age of sixty-three on the same day. 

“Hey, Lovebirds. There’s a new grave a few rows over.” Nel spoke to the headstone as if the dead beneath were listening. “I’m going to the service. I’ll introduce you after I meet your new neighbor.”