WRiTE CLUB 2012 – Round 13


Ta-dah!! A slap on the back and high five to our tenth winner, I Am Not Shakespeare! His/her opponent, Lilith Trueblood, will have her piece returned to the pool for a chance at re-selection in a future bout. Unsuccessful combatants need to remember that you are free to submit a different writing sample, if you desire to do so. Everyone can check my WRiTE CLUB 2012 results page for a breakdown of all the winners along with links to all of the writing samples.

I have to say I'm a bit jealous of my wife in all this.  She has been carrying on a running dialogue with a few of the submitters and has grown quite fond of some of you. 

"Did you receive my entry?"
"You didn't consider the title in the word count, did you?"
"If I came in second, can I re-submit?"
"I'm just going to close my eyes and hit the send button."
"I know I'm a pain-in-the-rear writer."
"I've been on pins and needles, hoping I get the call."
"Are you SURE you received my entry?"

Those are just a sampling of the comments she's received. She watches over my shoulder when the random number generator does its thing, secretly rooting for you.   Win or lose, she's always your biggest fan!

So, how about we put two more in the ring?



Here are this week's randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 408 words (we’ll let that extra word slip), please welcome to the ring……..Tangled Words.

I’m sitting in a pile of mud, surrounded by strangers laughing and pointing. Not that I blame them, I do look like an idiot.

Today started out normal as I jogged downstairs this morning to the lovely sound of my twin sisters fighting over who got more cereal. Grabbing a granola bar, I hopped on my bike and rode to work.
 
For the summer, my uncle hired me to help out at his nursery. Hard work, good pay.
 
When I got there, a man and his daughter were checking out a crape myrtle with my uncle.
 
“I really need it today.”
 
“I’m sorry, I’m booked. Can’t do it until next week.”
 
“But we’re going on vacation. It’s for my wife’s birthday. I’ll pay double!”
 
The girl was cute, long brown hair, thin with just the right amount of curves. She caught me staring and gave me smile.
 
I felt my cheeks burn and hustled inside.
 
“Hey Griffin! Come out here!”
 
Great. I went back out. The cute girl covered her mouth to keep from laughing, I’m sure.
 
“Yeah, Uncle Phil?”
 
“When Todd gets back, you will go with him to deliver and plant this Crape myrtle.”
 
When we got to the house, we heard a party going on. The cute girl came outside with her father.
 
After planting the tree, Todd went in to do the paperwork. The cute girl stayed outside while I watered the tree. I was smelling ripe, but since she was there, I attempted to talk to her.
 
“What’s the occasion?”
 
“My mom’s 40th birthday.” Mental head slap. I knew that.
 
“Oh, yeah.”
 
“You’re Griffin, right? My name’s Elly.”
 
“Yeah. Hi.” My mind went blank. As I looked up to think of something cool to say, I saw a balloon drift our way and get stuck in the tree.
 
A little girl ran after it. Her face scrunched up, lip quivering. I knew what was coming.
 
“I’ll get it for you.” I ran and got a ladder from the truck and untangled the balloon.
 
Now I looked like a hero. After she thanked me, I turned back to Elly with something to talk about and almost slammed into her. Taking a step back, I slipped on the hose and landed in the mud under the tree, right as her dad brought the guests out to present it to his wife.

That’s one way to make a lasting impression. At least I made Elly laugh.

**********************************************************************


And in the other corner, weighing in at 249 words, let me introduce to you ……..Dinah Annella.



Kat leaned her head against the bus window and watched the lights along the edge of the highway flash by like strobes: dark, then light, then dark again.

How was it possible that her father was dead? It didn’t feel real, even after all the scares and false alarms. The bus hit some rough pavement and her head bumped hard against the glass. She slipped her hand between her temple and the window and closed her eyes. She missed him so much, right here in her stomach and her throat.

She remembered going downstairs to talk to her father one night when she was around fourteen, after she’d finished her homework. Her brother had gone into the Army, and the evenings upstairs with her mother were so quiet. Her father was working in his rubber apron, softly humming to himself.

He looked up and smiled when he heard the door open. “Hey, honey.”

“Can I come in?”

“Sure.”

She sat on a high stool over by the desk where he did his state paperwork. She looked at the partially filled-out form in front of her. “Margaret Blackmun.”

“Yes. I was just wondering if she was a Maggie or a Peggy,” he said as he coiled up a long plastic tube and hung it on a hook on the wall.

“Peggy when she was little,” Kat decided. “Marge when she was grown up.”

“I hope she was the Peg o’ someone’s heart. I hope she was happy and loved.” He gazed for a moment at the woman’s still face. “I like to think that what I do is love, Kat. You know, this is the last kindness anyone will do for her. It’s an honor, really. I hope someone takes good care of me when it’s my turn.”

Kat left the stool and walked over to the table where her father was gently washing Margaret’s arms and hands. She looked at the face above the sheet, pinked up and a little puffy now with dad’s chemicals in her veins. “She looks so old.

“Yes, well, she was 87. But to me, she looks young, too. I can see the little girl she was, the teenager, the young mother. It’s all there.” He smoothed her thin white hair. “Peggy.”

“I can’t imagine ever being that old, dad,” Kat said.

“None of us can.” He washed Margaret’s face, then reached for the thread and curved needle to close up her mouth. Kat couldn’t stand to watch this part--she could almost feel the stitches in her own lips--so she went back upstairs, letting her father finish with the prepping and dressing.

The next morning the hairdresser and beautician came by to get Margaret ready for the open casket, and later that afternoon, Kat watched out her window as the few old friends still alive came by to look and touch one last time, to say goodbye and to tell her children and grandchildren what she meant to them.


******************************************************************



Anyone can vote, so leave yours for the WRiTER that swayed you the most in the comments below, along with any sort of critique you would like to offer.  Please remind your friends to make a selection as well.  The voting will remain open until noon next Tuesday. 

Here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!


53 comments

  1. Hmmmm. Tough, tough, tough.

    The line, 'I was smelling ripe, but since she was there, I attempted to talk to her,' from Tangled Words' piece made me smile. There was much that was artless and down-to-earth about that entry that was appealing.

    In Dinah's piece, I was surprised to actually wince a bit when I read, 'The bus hit some rough pavement and her head bumped hard against the glass.'

    I felt in the moment with both pieces. Both writers managed to draw me in to the worlds they spun for the space of a few minutes.

    For today's bout, I am going to cast my vote with Tangled Words.

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  2. My vote today goes to Dinah. The writing is smooth, easy to follow, and both Kat and her father are likable.

    I liked the situation in Tangled Words, but there were too many short sentences and not enough internal dialogue from the narrator. I wanted that selection to be filled out a little more with details, the narrator's thoughts, and some brief description of the setting.

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  3. I vote for Dinah. Both are good reads though.

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  4. My vote definitely goes to Dinah. I'm sorry, I can't even offer any constructive criticism. I would have loved to keep going.
    Tangled Words had another good entry, just didn't hook me quite as much, though I thought it was strong. I did wonder why we had to hear the bulk of the piece in flashback. It may have been a little more compelling to cut the first paragraph and tell the whole thing in present tense.

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  5. It doesn't get any easier does it? But after due deliberation my vote is going with Dinah, I really felt the emotion in that second paragraph. Best of luck to both writers.

    A big thanks to your wife DL, she is working very hard on this, it can't be an easy task.

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  6. Hey DL, I'm sure your wife's been doing a great job dealing with all those "pain-in-the-rear writers," whoever they may be... ;^)

    Thanks again to both her and you for all the hard work that goes into WRiTE Club!

    So... Today's bout:

    It's interesting to me how these pieces are two very different entries, but that they both begin with flashbacks. Personally, I tend to find that it tends to weakens the opening. It's almost like the writer is telling the reader, "What are you doing here now? You've already missed the interesting part! You shoulda been here way back when. Well, let me at least try to tell you about it..."

    With Tangled Words, the flashback is only just to earlier that day, and in this case I think it definitely weakens the story. I think opening with Griffin in the mud is like starting a joke with the punchline and then trying to back-fill the lead-in. The story itself is cute, and there's a strong awkward-adolescent appeal we can all identify with. The dialogue is a bit generic, but it does move the story along. The basic premise of the guy absolutely needs a tree planted right in the middle of his wife's 40th birthday is unlikely (I can sure tell you that for my wife's birthday, getting a tree in the backyard was NOT a priority). Unless there was some special significance established as to WHY it needs to happen ("Aww, it's locust tree, just like the one we were under when we had our first kiss..."), it only serves to strain plausibility. Still, the piece does have a certain charm, and I can't help but like the protagonist, so I would likely keep reading.

    Dinah Annella's flashback is back to years ago, and while it is still a little distracting to me, it does serve to establish much of the story. We learn why Kat is on the bus, what her father did for a living, get a sense of the loving father-daughter relationship, and set up the strong theme of 'loving and caring for the dead' which really resonates with Kat coming home to care for her now-deceased father. In general, I just find the backstory-through-flashback-infodump opening to be weak and distracting, but Dinah's piece pulls it off about as well as it can be done. I do like the very smooth reveal of the father's profession and the dialogue is downright excellent -- it's much more than just idle chatter because it firmly establishes relationships, creates emotional subtext, and does much of the work of the story-telling. So if this the opening of a larger story, I might suggest restructuring the opening (maybe begin with Kat getting home and have a current-action scene that trickles in the backstory in smaller snippets perhaps). But overall, I think there is clearly some strong story-telling, compelling emotions, and solid writing in this entry, and I would definitely keep reading.

    So my vote for this round goes to Dinah.

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    Replies
    1. Note -- see my reply to David's comment below.

      In the entry by Tangled Words, there is a line at the end that says the tree IS a present, so please ignore my comments above about the tree planting "straining plausibility". Clearly the only thing being strained is my brain at trying to read what is clearly right in front of me. My apologies to TW.

      That's it -- no more first-thing-in-the-morning comments. I obviously need to give the caffeine more time to kick in...

      Delete
  7. Hey DL, hugs to your wife for doing such a great job over here. By the way, did she get my entry? :P

    Another difficult round. Both entries were good but I'm going to vote for Dinah Annella by a hair. I enjoyed the exchange between the two characters in that entry.

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  8. Aww, thanks to your wife for all her efforts!
    Dinah's was so sad!
    But I've got to go with Tangled Words.

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  9. I think Tangled Words' entry is probably for MG or YA and so the writing is simpler. It left me with a lot of questions but it's not really my standard genre.

    Dinah's entry had an awesome first line but as it went on, got slower. It's more my genre though.

    Today, however, I'm going to give the MG a chance: I'm voting for #1 (Tangled Words)

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  10. This is one of the difficulties of only having 500 words to judge...

    The first entry I agree definitely felt MG in writing style, so it is very hard to judge it against a firm YA. It was said earlier, but even for simpler MG writing you've got to be original to stand out and I'm not sure the first entry was original enough. If I picked this up, I would keep reading because you've presented us with a compelling scene with tension but I don't know whether I would remember the book when it's done. It's possible the characters do get more original later but we can't judge that from this entry.

    The second entry from Dinah is not the kind of book I normally pick up and read. That said, it was well written and showed a level of confidence and density of emotion that you expect from a good YA. I'm not sure whether it would be revealed earlier in the book that Kat's father was a mortician...I'd hope so because the way it was revealed here was a little too distracting.

    I hate having to vote in this round because while I would personally rather read books with a humorous, romantic character, I felt the YA genre allowed Dinah to better show her skill as a writer. Ugggg!

    I can't vote this round... It's like comparing apples and Koalas...they don't taste the same at all. I'm sorry.


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  11. My vote's for Dinah, although I liked both entries. Dinah's piece was more complex, both in subject and in the writing style, and I would love to keep reading.

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  12. DL, I laughed when I read the commonly uttered comments. I’m guilty of 3 of those for sure... Maybe 4.
    This is possibly the first time I wasn't sure of a winner immediately after finishing the stories. I've been longing for some sort of independence in these entries and both of these seem to have it, whether they're actually snippets of a larger piece or not.
    The first story cuts large details which serves in getting straight to the point but it also leaves a lot to be determined by the reader. In other words, what kind of house were they behind? How did they get to the premises?
    I do have to argue with Chris on one point. I can identify with the father needing something that seems totally arbitrary at the last minute for his wife. I've been there... Trying to finish arrangements for our son's first birthday party at the last minute (after letting 3 helium balloons fly out the truck window and having to race back to Walgreens for more).
    For Dinah's entry, I didn't get any sense of purpose from the initial bus ride. In fact, when father washed Peggy's arms and hands, I slammed on the brakes and started over, sure I had missed something. I get that the profession is less important to the protagonist than it is to us so I excused that. The writing in the second piece is more mature which (ironically, considering I'm a man child) I generally lean toward.
    I'm not going to be useless and say it's a draw...
    My vote goes to Dinah.
    Mainly because I am very 'setting-oriented'. In the evenings Kat would rather be with father, humming in a rubber apron while arranging a corpse, than around her silent mother. I love this.

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    Replies
    1. David, I gotta agree with you, and revise my earlier comments. Especially after re-reading TW's entry. At the end, it says, "...landed in the mud under the tree, right as her dad brought the guests out to present it to his wife."

      So, yeah -- I can agree with you that last-minute preparations can get hectic and involve doing things that might seem unconnected without context ("but you promised me weeks ago you'd have all the trees planted in time for the party!").

      But I was also obviously wrong about the tree being unconnected at all. It's clearly intended to be a present.

      Sheesh, I have to stop commenting first thing in the morning. I evidently need to allow more time for the caffeine to kick in...

      Delete
    2. I hear ya Chris.
      Trust that my coffee was firmly in hand during my readings :)

      Delete
  13. Just so you know, my reader showed this one as garbled text again :( But as for my vote, I'll go with Tangled Words. Dinah's writing was smooth, but the situation din't grab me as much.

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  14. Very close. I vote for Dinah.

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  15. This was a tough decision for me. I'm more interested in what happens with entry one, but I'm drawn to the writing of entry two. My vote goes to Dinah.

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  16. I think the voice in Tangled Words entry was spot on. I thought there was just enough internal dialogue to understand his motivation for what he was doing - the description about why he had the job he had, the family situation, and, of course, the girl.

    Dinah's story had a great memory, but I never got to see how that tied into what she was feeling now - was she frustrated that the similar treatment was going to happen to her dad? Hoping to be there when it was? I guess, considering it could be under 500 words, I just wanted a little more because I was emotionally connected with her immediately and then that connection slipped.

    I keep waiting for you to have a subpar writing friend though DL. Seriously, these people can write!

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  17. This was a close one, but I vote for Dinah.

    Tangled - You've set up a funny situation, I just wanted more to make me understand the characters. I suggest you expand the first two sentences into more of a picture. Sitting in the mud is great, but the people pointing and laughing is a cliche and gives no particular mental picture. Also, a group of adults don't generally do this. One already tipsy person would find it really funny, a couple others would laugh in embarrassment, one or two would offer to help, then the rest would stare for a moment then pretend it wasn't happening. Can you be more specific? Maybe work in their fancy clothes, or that they are all holding champagne flutes for contrast. Sentence to fix: "thin and curves" are modifying "hair" not "girl" There's a few places where I'm not sure who is speaking - "Yeah, Uncle Phil" I thought was from the girl at first. The many instances of using "the cute girl" was distracting. You can drop the cute, or mix it up with, "the girl from the nursery, or better, work her name in earlier. For all Griffin thinks he's cute, he seems strangely reluctant to talk to her. Teen boys I know wouldn't let stinkiness worry them when a girl they finds attractive exhibits interest unless the boy is extremely shy. You zoom too fast (telling) over the balloon thing and falling. SHOW the sequence. Did Griffin get the balloon out of the goodness of his heart? Did he feel a wrench to leave the girl who might not stick around? What did the girl think of his act? Why so much mud to plant a dinky tree? And wouldn't the tree in the middle of the mud - did he crush it? Dot Dot Dot Doing all that would flesh out your mc. And, why would anyone who is having a huge party at his house that day take the time to go to a nursery and get a tree, then have the work done while the guests are there? Even if he does have a reason, Griffin and his uncle would think it strange.

    Dinah - I am really interested in where you are going with this. Your mc is active, which I like, and feels real. However...You need to make it REALLY clear the mc talks to her dad in a mortuary. There is NO reason to keep this vague - the rubber apron was not enough of a clue. I was confused as I initially thought he was in their kitchen, and thought it weird the mom wouldn't join him (just say she goes down to the mortuary cold room - and it is cold, so work that detail in). And then suddenly, they're talking about someone, I have no idea who, and then a body pops in. I reread it once I figured out the setting, and then it works. "strobe" is a verb. The missing her father in her stomach and throat sounds cannibalistic.

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  18. I'm going to vote Tangled Words today :)

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  19. I liked both pieces but didn't love. The first took me a bit to realize the narrator was male and I agree that it would've been more effective if it just started out with the day rather than as a flashback. That said I liked the two characters flirting, this little glimpse into the beginning of a relationship - maybe. The second piece also flashbacked, but it was more effective because it showed what happened after the death of the dad. I do wonder how the narrator was allowed to see the dad working on a dead body. Funeral home? Mortuary? Do they really sew the lips up? Ugh. Remind me to get cremated. Anyway, my vote goes to Tangled because that's the one I would've read more of.

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  20. brand new around here but since anyone can vote, thought i'd go with Tangled Words b/c of the pace of the piece.

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  21. Dinah get the vote. Wow, that was emotional.

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  22. I'm going with Dinah, but that was tough.

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  23. Tangled Words needs a little something more, but as I can relate (no, never fell in mud, but I know the feeling) I'm going with that one.

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  24. I love the voice in the first entry, and the writer does a terrific job depicting the "awkward years", but I think the piece could use some polishing. It's like an excellent first draft. I'm not real crazy about the use of flash-back, but the story definitely has a lot of potential. My vote, however, goes to Dinah. Her descriptions are dynamite, her piece evokes emotion, and overall, the writing is stronger.

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  25. Neither piece really dragged me in. Dinah gets my vote, although the writing is rather vague and the descriptions unclear.

    Tangled was clear, but I saw no reason to continue reading when I knew up front he ended up landing in the mud with people laughing at him. Stop with the flashbacks, just tell the story.

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  26. Another tough battle! I'm not a real fan of an immediate flashback, so that threw me off a little in both pieces.

    I like the voice in #1, but I think some rearranging & tightening would help. I think the last line (with some tweaking) might make a great opener.

    The tone & voice in #2 are lovely as well and while it's an intriguing memory and well written, the situation didn't pull me in as much.

    I'll vote for #1

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  27. What? We're ALLOWED to email your wife after we've sent in our submission? How did I not know that...

    A big thanks to her for all this work she's putting in.

    Another tough choice today. Both are strong pieces of writing. I'm not going to get picky here, but I would have liked more detail in Tangled's submission (which, strangely enough, had more words than Dinah's??). Surely, Dinah's piece must be more than 249 words. It speaks volumes. I found it more compelling, so my vote is for Dinah Annella.

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    Replies
    1. It's actually 495 according to MS Word and an online word counter I just used... I'm not sure where to post this information to best bring it to everyone's attention however...

      Delete
    2. Thanks, David. Not sure how to do that either.

      Delete
  28. Wow, tough call on this one. I enjoyed both pieces very much. Kudos to both writers for grabbing my attention and keeping it. Really, I have to decide. This seems almost arbitrary ... I think I'll go with Tangled Words. Only because it seemed more complete of a story. However, I'd love to keep reading what Dinah wrote. Seems there's more to the story.

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  29. Dinah gets my vote today. Enjoyed both the writing and the intriguing characters.

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  30. I also have issue with the instant backstory in both pieces, but Tangled Words gets my vote.

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  31. I read both of these this morning then came back and read them again. I'm having a really hard deciding because I like them both.
    I'm going to go with Tangled Words because there was more intention there but I liked Dinah's story too.

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  32. I'm going to go with Dinah today.

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  33. I'm voting for Dinah with this one. The writing with hers set me into the story more firmly. I was able to really feel what her MC felt. The disconnect of loss when you lose a parent. The Numbness. Whereas the first entry kept pulling me out of the story with the short bursts of dialog. And the constant referral to "Uncle". I also would have liked this story to be in the present.

    Again! Well done with submitting to both!

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  34. I vote for Dinah Annella! I had two uncles who were undertakers, and this poignant snippet reminded me of one uncle in particular. I also like Tangled Words' offering, but I felt the writing was a bit more cohesive in Dinah's piece.

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  35. Dinah gets my vote this round.

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  36. Tell your wife thanks for all she's done. This round was hard, but I think I say that everytime. Um, my vote goes for Dinah.

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  37. I'm voting for Dinah today.

    I have to catch up on the last few rounds all at once, due to other obligations and inability to visit every day, but it's great you leave the rounds open for that!

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  38. Tangled Words wins it for me this time around by the tiniest of margins.

    DL-Kudos to both you and your wife for this massive undertaking. The second time you disqualified someone for being over 500 words, I had to go check my sent emails to make sure my entry was less. :p

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  39. I vote for Tangled Words. The writing is ever so slightly better, and I found the story to be more entertaining. :D

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  40. Tangled Words was good. Gets my vote. Dinah Annella sort of went on tangents. Not in a story this short, Dinah.

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  41. I'm voting for Dinah because the piece was more fleshed out and had a lovely sentiment. My only critique is that the transition to the flashback was a bit awkward (I'm not a fan of flashbacking, but I know it sometimes can't be avoided).

    Tangled's piece was fun and cute, but a bit more description would help pull readers in.

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  42. Dinah Annella gets my vote. I enjoyed the fact that her father's line of work was slowly revealed, with grace and a touching sentiment. Overall, it had a better flow for me than the first entry. Plus the line, "Yes. I was just wondering if she was a Maggie or a Peggy,” he said as he coiled up a long plastic tube and hung it on a hook on the wall," was just fantastic and will certainly stick in my memory.

    Tangled Words was light-hearted and fun, but the adjectives and descriptions fell flat for me. As I read, I felt like pieces were missing, as if some of the descriptions and transitions had been edited down to meet the 500 word limit. Even if that's not true, I think this piece would be much better if it were beefed up with details. For example, the word "cute" was over-used to describe the girl, making it redundant.

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  43. The balloon stuck in the tree image swayed my vote, Tangled Words.

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  44. Both WRiTERS set their scenes well, and I quickly felt like I was right there with the characters in each piece. It was hard for me to choose. In the end, though, I connected more to Tangled Words' entry, so that's the one that gets my vote.

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