Entry Nickname: Forget You, Stalin, We're Outta Here
Title: Night Witch
Word Count: 115,000
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Nadya’s whole existence is engineered to deceive. Her Motherland itself, the Soviet Union of Stalin’s era, is misery disguised as a means to glory. Her marriage to Party functionary Peter was born of blackmail. Even her studies in aerial navigation, as seriously as she takes them, serve only to occupy her time with something interesting. No one would dare wage war on the mighty Soviets.
In June of 1941, the illusion is blown wide open. The Nazi war machine quickly swallows up vast areas of land and millions of men, including Nadya’s beloved brother. Nadya does not stand passively by, weeping and watching her entire world crumble. Instead, she puts her studies to use and joins the elite “Night Witches”, an air regiment made up almost entirely of women, as a navigator. For the next four years, coping with loss after devastating loss, two things keep her alive: her skills in the air, and her love for Nikolai, factory worker turned front-line soldier, whom she met before the war began.
But freedom, too, is an illusion. After Nadya discovers some heinous truths about her husband, she flees for her life, with Nikolai. In a nation so oppressed by paranoia, the Leader’s death is not enough to promise the freedom these hardened war veterans seek. Nadya is under no illusions about what it will take to earn it, and she prepares herself to turn her back on the Motherland that betrayed her, after she so bravely defended it.
First 250 Words:
Moscow, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. September 1940
The tall man with the shock of sandy hair apologized for stepping on my foot, when it really hadn’t been more than a bumping of toes. I smiled and assured him it was all right, and took a seat on the metro across from him. It had been a very good day. At Osoaviachim, the flight navigation training school, I’d done very well on an exam, earning an unsmiling but appreciative nod from the hard-faced instructor. These good days, full of accomplishment and progress, were typical since I was accepted to Osoaviachim.
So it happened that a little grin remained as I caught the eye of the sandy-haired man again. When he returned my smile, I noticed his eyes. Bright, gemlike blue, with corners that crinkled upward at me. My own smile broadened. Something in my chest tightened. My heart sped up. I held his gaze for a moment before looking away and trying not to fidget my fingers.
The train slowed; he stood. “I hope I didn’t injure your foot too badly.” His voice was deep, masculine, smooth as silk. A Don Juan, I thought, but not a contemptible one.
“Not at all, Comrade.” I was very much enjoying flirting ever so benignly with this man, looking at him askance and allowing the corners of my mouth to curve up.
His blue, blue eyes sparked. “Have a pleasant evening.”
I watched his back as the train moved off, until I couldn’t see him any more.
Entry Nickname: Fighting the South
Title: The First in the Sun
Word count: 72K
Genre: Realistic YA
Two teen girls, separated by more than forty years and decades of racism, learn how intoxicating first love can be—and how dangerous, especially when that new romance is an interracial relationship in Mississippi.
In 1995, Morgan’s father leaves her family, and she deals in the best way she knows how: binge drinking and cutting. But when Miss Eugenia, Morgan’s elderly neighbor and long-time family friend, takes her to the local theatre to keep her out of trouble, Morgan meets Sam, a popular guy from the richest school in Jackson. As their chemistry heats up, Morgan’s friends bully her for dating someone who is black, and she finds unexpected comfort in Miss Eugenia when she reveals her own teenage interracial romance. While Morgan is still trying to rebuild after her dad’s abandonment, the hostility towards her and Sam grows, culminating in a brutal attack.
In 1952, seventeen-year-old Genie, the young Miss Eugenia, has it all. With a mayor for a father, she’s part of Jackson’s elite, and nothing is off-limits. That is, nothing except the freedom to make decisions without her controlling mother. But when Genie falls in love with Terry, the son of her family’s help, their relationship shows her that not only do her parents control her choices, but so does a society that disapproves of black and white people being friends, much less dating. As the two secretly meet at night, they plot to escape Mississippi, and they are close to leaving when the unexpected happens—Genie is pregnant. When their actions are revealed, Genie must choose between her parents or Terry and their newborn child.
First 250 words:
When the back door hit its frame with the tenderness of a rifle shot, Morgan catapulted up from the floor. The room was spinning, and her mouth was dry. Her head felt like a guitar had been smashed over it. She regretted every sip, gulp, and chug of the cheap vodka and orange juice she drank last night to celebrate Sarah’s sixteenth birthday.
“Hon, you still here?” her mom yelled from the kitchen.
Morgan glanced at her watch. .
Her mom knocked on the door.
“Just a second,” Morgan said, lifting her hand over her mouth to see if she reeked of alcohol.
She launched over to the mirror, its frame still decorated with My Little Pony and Fraggle Rock stickers placed there a million years ago. She attacked the smears of mascara under her eyes with a tissue and sprayed herself with Calvin Klein’s “One” six or seven times.
Her mom couldn’t bust her for sneaking out. She’d lose her only chance to get enrolled in the acting classes at the swanky local theatre. After she’d begged to attend for months, her mom offered a deal: If Morgan would stop sneaking out to drink, especially with the hot older guys Jason and Billy, and would stop cutting her skin with a razor, then she could take the lessons.
After she took real acting classes, not just the ones at her high school, Morgan knew she’d be discovered somehow and land on Broadway.
When her mom knocked again, Morgan took a deep breath and opened the door.