Janelle Fila

The Gravedigger’s Assistant by Janelle Fila


Complete at 70,000 words, THE GRAVEDIGGER’S ASSISTANT is a YA, magical realism novel with an unreliable narrator in the vein of WE WERE LIARS.


It’s Halloween, and the Blood Moon calls Reese’s ancestors to a family graveyard. Reese doesn’t know anything about Gravedigger, the spirit in charge of digging graves for her dead relatives, and she doesn’t care. After a stint in rehab for drunk driving, she’s finally free to go back to senior year. Except now, everything’s changed. Her parents fight about who forgot to defrost the chicken. Her best friend finds a replacement and demotes Reese to tagalong. Her boyfriend scurries down the hall without a word, expecting Reese to give him space until he’s ready to talk. She doesn’t even get the courtesy of a breakup text.


Screw that. When Reese stumbles upon the graveyard, she befriends Gravedigger and replaces her fraying real-world relationships. She bonds with ghosts like Frances, a 1900’s suffragist, and Frances’s mother, who threw herself into a creek after her husband left to prospect gold and never came home. Reese promises to find her missing great-great-great-grandfather and return his ghost to the graveyard before the end of the Blood Moon’s cycle, a journey that will connect her worlds in ways she cannot imagine.


My stories and poems have appeared in YARN, WORD HOTEL, Golfwell.net, and the PROUD TO BE Anthology. In May, I will earn my MFA in Writing for Children and YA from Spalding University.

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