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Read "Sunbird," our Novel Excerpt Contest Grand Prize Winner (age 14-18 group)!

In February, we challenged you to submit a 400-word excerpt from your NaNoWriMo novels. From over 650 fantastic entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and four Runners-Up. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did! (For more excerpts, check out this forum thread.)

Sunbird by Asenath W.

The room was still thick with the torturous heat of the day, and Zahra’s hands were damp as she drew the wrapper from her pocket. She lay curled on her side under the room’s single window—a slit, really, in the thick wall—with her back to the other girls. Zahra concealed the waxy paper in her hands as a rush of adrenaline made her tremble.

Girls clung to the comfort of sleep all around her, their eyes shut tight. They didn’t want to wake up—especially tonight, when it was their turn to face the beasts again. Zahra hadn’t wanted to wake up either, but she had to.

For Lila…

Zahra smoothed out the wrapper silently, focusing on the feeling of the slick wrapper against her sweat-soaked fingers. She remembered wrappers like this from her childhood—bright and colorful, just like the sticky squares of fruit they held. She remembered folding the wrappers, transforming them into birds and flowers, and placing them wherever they would catch the sun.

And yet she could still recall the roughness of too-old, too-dirty bandages scraping against her fingertips. And then the shock of wet blood, and Lila’s voice whimpering, “Zahra, they took my hand…”

Adrenaline surged within her, and Zahra gritted her teeth. She hated this feeling—the way anticipation built up, making her sick and tense and terrified… and then crashed down to nothing, leaving her weak and shaking. Like nothing was in her control.


Zahra gripped the wrapper, shifting to see it better in the dim light. She had this. This was in her control.

No one had seen her steal it from the floor of the transport truck. No one had seen her painstakingly crease her message in it.

No one saw her now.

She had control.

She could save her sister.

Zahra folded the wrapper with precision—despite her fears, she hadn’t forgotten how. She bent the wrapper around the message, forming a long, firm beak, a slender body, and two outstretched wings, itching to catch the wind.

Boots—combat boots, large and unmerciful—rang in the hall. The girls around Zahra finally stirred, getting to their feet and murmuring. It was time.

Zahra’s stomach lurched as she stood on her toes to bring the folded wrapper to the window. She hesitated.

She had to let go now. Relinquish control.


Save Lila.

Zahra let the sunbird fly.

Guest author judge Sarah Suk had this to say about Sunbird

"A riveting piece of writing that made me think, “Wow, I want to read more.” I was completely immersed in the tension, the vivid descriptions, and the raw emotion of this scene. This is a writer to watch out for!"

author photo

Asenath Wetzel is a current senior in high school and is excited to study English in college this fall. She loves eating toast, watching clouds, and dancing, and she also enjoys pottery, needle felting, and watercolor. Her favorite authors are Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie, and Brandon Sanderson. Asenath has recently found a love for writing short stories, and she hopes to write mystery and science fiction novels in the near future. 

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