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Read "The Whisper," a 2023 Novel Excerpt Contest Runner-Up!

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.)

The Whisper by Sierra E.

Astoria’s older brother Eryx squeezed her hand as the line grew shorter. She adjusted her skirt, fiddling with the small wrinkle her iron had not removed. Her rattan sandals squeaked as she edged closer to the thick rope separating the snake of commoners with the highest-ranked officials. She found a folded napkin in her pouch and wiped her sweaty palms. Today had to be perfect, and she had to receive an element that would please her elite family. Though she had been only five at the time, Astoria knew what had happened to her older sister.

Calliope had been a disappointment. A copper atom had floated in her jar, glowing a faint, sickly green. She was scared when she returned to the cottage that evening. It was written on her face, in her blinking blue eyes and reddened ears peeking out from her cocoa hair. That had been a shameful element to receive, unsuccessful after a chain of indiums and caesiums. Their parents had banished her. Astoria had not seen her sister since the night she was exiled.

Soon, no one was between Astoria and the rope. Her heart thudded. She looked up at her brother and tried to smile. Her usual confidence had faded to a dull nervousness. Muffled sounds echoed behind the carved doors, where she would soon be. Eryx knelt down on the marble floor in a gesture of hope for good fortune.

“I promise it will be okay,” Eryx said. “It’s likely that you’ll get an indium. Your appearance is more like mine than our sister’s.” It was true. Astoria had Eryx’s smooth inky hair, hazel eyes, and freckled nose. However, the crying boy rushing through the exit door nearby did not lift her spirits. “Hey. It’ll be fine. And if the worst does somehow occur…I’ll find you out there, Astoria.” There had been rough patches in their relationship of course, but happy moments too, and those were the ones floating in Astoria’s mind when she was beckoned forward by a uniformed official.

She ducked beneath the rope and pushed through the heavy set of doors.

author photo

Sierra E. is an aspiring author and poet who enjoys reading, playing the guitar, and hanging out with her friends. She loves crosswords, and plays the New York Times Spelling Bee obsessively. She loves rainy weather, walks on windswept beaches, and listening to music. Her six-year-old maltipoo mix, Puppy, often accompanies her when she is writing. Believe it or not, her excerpt from The Whisper originated as a chemistry project.

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