Launch Pad’s First Winner

Same contest, new name – and a new winner!

Novel Rocket’s LAUNCH PAD Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile is happy to announce the winner of our Contemporary Fiction/Women’s Fiction category.

We had so many excellent entries this month, we had to call in the cavalry to help us decide. But once the gun smoke cleared, the dust settled, and the votes were tallied, Katherine Scott Jones of Renton, Washington, was the last one standing. As the winner of this category, she’s now entered into the shoot-out for the Grand Prize.

Based on the portion we’ve read, Katherine’s story, Still to a Whisper, gets off to a good start — and then it gets better. The synopsis sketches out a well-designed story, and the sample chapters demonstrate a true talent for writing. But don’t take our word for it. Read it for yourself:

Still to a Whisper
by Katherine Scott Jones

The screen door slapped shut behind Alli, placing an exclamation point at the end of her work day. She hastened down the Bistro’s rough steps as an autumn wind whisked up from Saratoga Passage, cooling her face. After six hours of hustling in and out of the steamy kitchen, filling orders, she’d have welcomed a few minutes to savor the breeze. But the jangling of a distant bell told her she couldn’t afford even a moment’s respite.

She hurried on foot from the parking lot. Shoot, shoot, shoot. She’d been doing so well too—keeping a close eye on the clock, closing her stations well before quitting time. It was her last customer that sabotaged her best efforts. She might have stood a chance had it been anyone but Wanda Pettigrew. But Wanda loved to chat, and now Alli was late. Her tote thumped against her hip as she broke into a jog.

She turned off Front Street away from the bay, where sailboats were scattered like dice across the water. A few blocks later she stepped aside to let two bicyclists pass through the narrow schoolyard gate before taking her turn. Once inside, boisterous kids surged past her like a river around a rock. Alli followed the gravel pathway around the brick building to the kindergarten classroom, passing the blue-and-yellow Big Toy, where two girls swung from the monkey bars.
Alli felt a lift of relief when she saw another mom in pink sweats and a baseball cap hurrying from the opposite direction toward the kindergarten wing. At least I’m not the only one. But then a qualm tightened her stomach as she rounded the corner. Even from here, Alli could see that her son was crying while his teacher, Mrs. Nichols, held his hand. Another little boy wearing a Seahawks windbreaker waited with them, but as soon as he caught sight of his mom in the pink sweats, he grinned and ran to join her.

As Alli drew near, Jack wiped his eyes with the back of a grimy hand. “Sorry I’m late, bubba.” She dropped to her knees and folded him in her arms, feeling a throb in her chest as if someone had bumped a bruise. “Were you worried?”
When he didn’t respond, Mrs. Nichols touched his shoulder. “Know what, Jack? I never got around to erasing the whiteboard this afternoon. Would you do that for me?” Mrs. Nichols gave her a look over Jack’s head.

Jack turned his face up to Alli.

“I’ll be right here,” she promised, and he headed back into the classroom, shoulders slumped beneath the straps of his Spiderman backpack. Alli turned to his teacher. “I’m so sorry, I got held up at work.”

The teacher offered a thin smile. “Jack had a rough day today.”

Alli frowned. “In what way?”

“He took a swipe at another little boy on the playground during afternoon recess.”

“He—he hit someone?” The news caused an uneasy jump somewhere between Alli’s heart and her stomach.
“Well, he tried to, and that’s not like him. Forgive me for asking, but is everything all right at home? No significant changes?”

“I—no, none.” What exactly was she suggesting? “Other than his starting kindergarten, of course.”

“No new boyfriend, or a grandparent dying…?”

“Nothing like that.” Alli crossed her arms, ignoring the apprehension that tightened her insides. “Would you mind telling me exactly what happened? Did someone provoke him?”

“A first grader was teasing Jack at recess, but instead of telling a teacher, Jack tried to hit him. The other boy swiped back, and then a teacher stepped in.”

So he was provoked. “Why wasn’t I called?”

“Since it was a first offense, we thought we could wait to tell you. We’ve spoken to both boys and trust the issue’s resolved.”

“What was the boy teasing Jack about?”

“Neither of them would say.”

Jack emerged from the classroom. “All done, Mrs. Nichols. Got everything erased.”

“Good boy,” Mrs. Nichols’ smile etched grooves around her pale blue eyes. Then she crouched so she was eye-to-eye with Jack. “What happened today on the playground isn’t going to happen again, is it, Jack?”

He shook his head, and Alli, looking down at her small son, ached to pull him close, to press her lips into the soft, sweaty skin of his neck.

“Didn’t think so.” Mrs. Nichols straightened with a smile. “We’ll see you tomorrow for a better day, all right?”

Click here to continue.