Entry Nickname: Zip
Title: Splinters and Clay
Word Count: 72,000
Genre: Adult Book Club Fiction
If there is one thing fourteen-year-old Zip thinks she can count on in Sweetgum, Alabama, it is that change comes slowly if it comes at all because time moves, in Sweetgum, to the speed of the sluggish brown river that steadily pushes past the outskirts of town. Zip grows to the tempo of that river and, until she’s fourteen, her family – her mother, grandfather, and older half-sister, Kam – all swirl easily and gradually along, as if trapped together in a slow, warm eddy. But then Kam leaves, and change all of sudden comes flooding in.
Neither Zip nor Kam know who their respective fathers are -- their mother won’t tell them. Their mother won’t tell anyone. Zip has never really minded not knowing the identity of her father, though, because she’s never felt like something was missing in her life. When Kam runs away to find her own father, however, questions suddenly bubble to the surface, and Zip begins to wonder if maybe she is something missing after all. As the heat of summer unfurls, Zip must navigate the void left by Kam's departure and the changes happening to her family, herself, and her town.
Although primarily narrated by Zip, SPLINTERS AND CLAY is just as much about her mother’s coming-of-age as her own. From constantly planning her funeral to hosting a surprise menstruation celebration for her daughter, Zip’s mother has all the crazy that a good Southern mother should have...and then some. Zip’s narrative is interwoven with chapters from her mother’s past, which give perspective to her mother’s silence concerning Kam and Zip’s mysterious fathers. After Kam leaves, Zip’s mother must decide whether holding on to past secrets is worth alienating one daughter and possibly losing the other. She must decide whether she’s not too old to still grow up.
First 250 Words:
“I pick here.”
My mother was lying face down in the field of wildflowers, her thick dark hair splayed like a shade over the brightness of the blooms.
“Here. Right here. This is where I want to be buried,” she said.
“Mom.” I stood near her head and looked down at her. “You can’t just pick any random spot to be buried. It has to be authorized or something. And anyways – get up. You’re not going to be buried for a while.”
“You never know.” She rolled over, spreading her arms wide, palms up. “You’d better be prepared. And you’d better take notes. Because this is it. This is the spot.”
She squinted up at the sun. “You don’t think it will get too hot here in the summer, do you? You might have to plant a tree over me. You know – just for a little shade every now and then. Oh,” she bit her bottom lip. “But what kind?”
She closed her eyes again to think.
“Mom.” I shook my head and picked dandelions with my toes, pulling them from their bases, right against the ground, and tossing them onto her one by one – sprinkling flowers, dirt, and grass across her stomach. “Mom – we don’t even know whose land this is. I seriously doubt they’ll plant a tree smack in the middle of their field with your dead body beneath it. Come on. I’m gonna be late for the doctor’s.”
“Huh.” My mother looked up at me, her sky-blue eyes narrowed against the sun, then closed them again.