Entry Nickname: Southern Gothic Secrets
Word count: 68K
Genre: YA Historical/Southern Gothic
Sixteen-year-old Jimmer Stark passes for white in an intolerant southern town. She aspires to become a nurse and leave the Mississippi backwoods in the summer of 1920, but her father steals her school savings. Guided only by the spirits of her Choctaw ancestors, she must find a way to fund her education. An offer of a fake engagement with a judge’s son and payment for the ruse seems the simple solution until a racist schoolmate’s obsession with her threatens her family due to their black and Choctaw connections. Jimmer must sacrifice a chance at love and contemplate murder to save her sister from a KKK lynching.
Risking everything for her sister’s life will likely end Jimmer’s dream, but the process may free her from the oppression that has gripped her family for generations and help her forge a new life.
First 250 words:
Jimmer lifted her shotgun. Pinkish-white petals fluttered downward in the apple orchard like confetti tossed at a wedding.
A fox squirrel scampered along an apple branch. Carefully, she sighted it and squeezed the trigger. The blast of the shot was followed by a thump.
"Fetch, Little Bit."
Her coonhound raced through the tangled underbrush.
"A gal who can hunt like that will catch a fine husband." The thread of pride in Pa's voice was unmistakable. He spat a stream of tobacco juice into the dirt.
Jimmer ignored his praise. Pa'd spent her college money, her hard-earned ten dollars, without a word. He'd swiped it from the jar under her bed and gone to the harness races. Words piled up against her teeth, wanting to break out, but she clenched her jaw shut. Only careful words would keep Pa under control. He hadn't been himself for so long, and she wondered if he ever would be.
"Still mad about that money?" Pa gave her shoulder a rough shake. "Hell, college isn't for you, gal. Focus on your hope chest like your sister Eddie Lee. You ain't ugly. Who knows what beau you'll land?"
She fixed her eyes on the combed over bald spot on Pa's head. He was a little man. She'd passed him in height at twelve years old and now, at sixteen, towered over him.
"I'm not Eddie Lee."
"Not by half. Now, run that squirrel home for your grandmother to stew.”