MENTOR: Heather Webb
ALTERNATE: Stephanie Renée dos Santos
TITLE: CUT FROM THE EARTH
CATEGORY/GENRE: Historical Fiction w/ Magical Realism
WORD COUNT: 117,000
When an earthquake devastates Lisbon in 1755, a Portuguese tile maker flees the wreckage to the Amazon. In the jungle Piloto falls under a female shaman’s spell and together, they must fight missionaries for their right to live.
The sky was an ironed blue sheet without a crease of cloud. A solitary silhouette wheeled over the Atlantic, then cut inland to the outskirts of Lisbon. The shadow followed the Tagus River dotted with merchant ships. In the distance seven church-spired hills blessed the skyline. Over terracotta roofs, cork orchards, and tile factory smokestacks the carrion crow sailed. It swooped, coming to rest on the kinked branch of an olive tree, in the Fabrica Santa Anna’s red geranium-lined courtyard.
The bird gave a guttural caw, and took flight again.
Piloto Manuel Pires arose from his workbench and set an ear to the door.
A boy as black as squid’s ink burst into the shop, pleading, “Pai! Padre! Help!”
Piloto abandoned the pricking of holes into transfer paper. Ebony faces turned from their worktables pushed against whitewashed adobe. A worker slapped a ball of clay onto a gesso tabletop and halted. Dust floated in the air. Scents of loam permeated the space, room enough to house a king’s coach and steeds.
In the doorway of the draft room, Piloto’s wife Paulina, and their two daughters, Constanza and Isabella, froze and stared at the shop’s main entrance. He grimaced, fixing his gaze on the little boy and the shelf above him, where their ceramic statue of Saint Anthony was perched over the doorway. Light shone through the shop’s warbled panes, stacked crates of tiles called azulejos resting below.
Piloto stuffed his pouncing tool behind his ear, and swiped chalk glaze from olive-brown hands onto his smock, careful not to soil the Franciscan habit...