The Writers’ Voice Contest Query


Dear Agents:

Six thousand years ago, the Sumerian civilization arose as if all at once in the land now known as Iraq, with advanced architecture, complex political structures, music, poetry, and fine arts.  At the height of its flourishing, two dynasties vied for supremacy over the dozens of city states that comprised Sumer: the dynasty of Kish led by Aga, immortalized in hymns for his war conquest of the Elamite tribes of ancient Iran, and the dynasty of Uruk in the south, led by the politically and temperamentally unstable Gilgamesh, who rose to power thanks in part to his mother, the queen-priestess Ninusn, and in part to his duplicitous dealing with his rivals to the north.

The story of enmity and friendship between Gilgamesh and Aga was immortalized in a number of surviving hymns, so popular in the ancient world that they were translated in all the languages of the time. From this fascinating historical background I have crafted The Faithful Son, (adult, magical realism, 120,000 words) a novel that explores the events leading to the epic battle between Aga and Gilgamesh,re-imagining a past full of mystery and magic, and giving life to the motivations at the heart of the friendship that existed between these two powerful leaders before they clashed against each other in Uruk.

When Gilgamesh returns from a long exile to reclaim the throne of Uruk, his rivals, the prince and king of Kish will do anything to thwart Gilgamesh from gaining ultimate power in Sumer.  Though Gilgamesh will fight Aga’s army, and uncover, one by one, the many subterfuges and plots meant to destroy him, his biggest challenge is neither Aga, nor the gods he angered when he stole their secrets, but a seemingly powerless young nomad from the Zagros who has won the hearts of the women Gilgamesh loves, and who has the knowledge and power to render Gilgamesh helpless before his enemies and his gods.

I am the author of two award winning story collections, Safe in Your Head (SFA Press Literary Prize) and The Kind of Things Saints Do (University of Iowa Press, John Simmons Award). My word has appeared in over three dozen venues, including well respected journals like Glimmer Train, Conjunctions, and more recently, Temenos and Fiction Southeast. I have two MFAs, from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and from Florida International University, and I teach fiction and screenwriting at Georgia Southern. I’m also founding editor of the literary journal Wraparound South.

Herein enclosed are the first 250 words of the novel. Thank you for considering my novel for representation.

In The Skins of A Lion

The exile smelled something under the wind. Blood. He slid warily, down from his perch in the trees, listening for the thrashing.   It was early, still, dark, and very cold. He’d seen nomads nearby, picking echoes of words he recognized in the tangled warbles of their dialect. He’d braved ten winters alone in the wilderness, and though he’d barely turned a man when he’d been sent away, he was stronger than he’d ever been, and certainly meaner. Still, people, his own people, were more dangerous to him then even the lions – or they could be, if they recognized him.  But the hunger drove him, and the smell, the sweet, cloying smell.

He jumped to the ground with a thump and birds scattered overhead with a rushed flapping of wings.  The sky was a blanket of clouds.  Pressing against his thigh in its leather strap, was the blade he’d sharpened, but it was his axe he trusted, its hilt he clutched tightly with both hands.

A storm was coming. The wind had picked up, already, erasing the marks he had drawn last night in the dirt: kadingirra.  Every time he saw the marks, his heart beat back emotions so strong it made him light headed.  It tempted him to remember where those gates led, and what he’d seen beyond them, but no. There was no time for this.  If he wanted to eat, he’d have to move fast, before the tribesmen found him, before the storm began.

Writing and About

13 Comments Leave a comment

  1. This is fantastic, and your bio is incredibly strong. (I’ll have to check out your collections!) I would absolutely read this. Good luck!

    • Sorry it took me so long to reply. For some reason my site didn’t tell me I had comments until today. I really appreciate your kind words.

    • Ah, thanks for your reply. The nomad… it’s complicated. But there is an Enkidu. Actually, there are several Enkidus. The idea behind the story is that when Gilgamesh wrote his epic, he did like writers do: he took several people and turned them into one character….Thanks for your interest. Good luck in the competition.

    • Thank you. Yes, I’m on twitter. For some reason I didn’t see this comment (or any other comments) until today. Should have checked my setting. Who knew? Better luck next time, I guess.

    • Thanks Mia. I came by those credit the hard and honest way, so I won’t be shy about saying I really hope to top all that.

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