WRiTE CLUB 2012 – Round 17



Technically the voting for round 14 is open until noon today, but one of the contestants has a comfortable lead over the other, so I'm going ahead and calling it now.  Congratulations to Not Loretta Lynn for winning the round and moving onto the play-off rounds. Her opponent, Mara Jade, will have her piece returned to the pool for a chance at re-selection for a future bout. Make sure you check my WRiTE CLUB 2012 results page for a breakdown of all the winners, along with links to all of the writing samples.  

Reminder: I'm posting a day early this week because I'm taking part in Justine Dell's book tour tomorrow.  I'm interviewing Justine about her upcoming book release, so make sure you stop on by and say hello.

As promised, today I spill a few of the details about how things will work in the play-off rounds, which is now only six weeks away.  With the expanded format, there will be 36 submissions vying for the WRiTE CLUB belt this year.  The first playoff round will pit original submissions against one another...again by random draw...in daily bouts. This will yield 18 winners. Those winners will then have the opportunity to edit their submissions, still remaining under the 500 word limit, possibly utilizing some of the suggestions made in the previous rounds. Then those 18 will be paired off, randomly, and nine more daily bouts will take place. This will yield 9 winners...and a 10th wildcard winner who will be the loser with the most amount of votes in their bout.

After that, it really gets interesting.  But more on that on another day. :)

Ding.....Ding....Ding



Here are this rounds randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 495 words, please welcome to the ring……..Camille Atwood.


The minute Janet waddled from the lunchroom, my boss and her lackey
admin whispered venomously about the carb heavy contents of her
non-recyclable lunch container.

“Oh.  My.  God.  Did you see what she was eating?” said my boss.

“She is poisoning that baby,” added the admin.

I watched as these two women assembled complex organic salads with
measured portions of heart healthy proteins and little or no salad
dressing.  I took a bite from my ham and cheese sandwich, feeling
anger bubbling inside of me like acid indigestion of the soul.

“No, she’s not,” I said with a mouthful of sodium infused deli meat
and processed cheese.

“Well, if she wants her baby to be as fat as she is, whatever,” said
the admin.

The two women huffed out of the room, clutching their salads to eat
in the safety of their offices—alone.

There was no enjoyment in their choices—food was merely fuel for
their hour-long daily workouts.  And because of the tiny confines of
our office space, their decisions unwittingly affected my own.  Food
was no longer enjoyable, it was political—what we ingested in front
of our coworkers defined our placement in the hierarchy of office
culture.

I don’t know how this happened.  At first it was who makes healthy
food choices? Healthy could mean an occasional salad or a sandwich on
9-grain bread.  Then, the ante was upped—who eats healthy, buys
organic produce, and eats free range chicken?  Ridiculously it
elevated to who makes their own yogurt or cultures their own
probiotic drinks at home?  Many of my fellow office mates entered
this unspoken competition to secure uneaten brownie points in our
boss’s eyes.  It sucked.  Food and companionship in the lunchroom
ended.  Lunch time socialization was now an eating competition that
was judged by not how fast we ate but by what we ingested.

When my boss had the snack machine removed because it “undermined
the health standards of our company,” I’d had enough.  With a
defiant middle finger raised at our boss, one of my coworkers
brought in a dozen donuts. The news traveled fast throughout the
office. When my boss entered the crowded room, she admonished her
admin who was eyeing the glazed and sprinkled treats.

“Don’t do it,” my boss warned.  I quickly grabbed the only chocolate
cake donut and wolfed it down in front of them.

“Om, nom, nom,” I purred between bites.

My boss looked at me like I’d just kicked a puppy and marched towards
her office.  The admin followed. I imagined them inside those closed
doors doing three sets of crunches to repent for our gustatory sins.
I felt sorry for them in that moment.  Eating had once been a joyful
act, but now it was intertwined with fear, guilt, and a superiority
complex that they had to uphold.  I didn’t want a second donut, but I
took one anyway—I decided it was time that somebody took back the
lunchroom.

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



And in the other corner, weighing in at 494 words, let me introduce to you ……..Sophia.



I don’t like you.

My head throbs whenever you’re around. You think I don’t see you, that I’m oblivious. Wrong. I know what you are. Your nails draw blood, your mouth breathes fire and now, as I hold my dad’s hand and stare into my mother’s eyes, I cringe at what I see inside them.

You. 

“Go to your room, Serena. Your father and I need to be alone.” Her voice has an edge. It teeters on the brink of madness. I know the moment I leave, my father will turn mad as well.

“No,” I whisper.

“What did you say?” she hisses.

“I said no.”

She freezes like a cobra, coiled and ready to strike.

I inhale. Where did this woman come from? Who did you leave when you took her body? This is not the woman who buys me cute clothes and gives me hugs when I’m distraught. This is not the cool mom who taught me how to put on lipstick and flirt with boys. You’ve stolen her.

“Please, Mom,” I say, glancing at the clock. “Leave Dad alone. So we’re five lousy minutes late. What’s the big deal?”

“Jon,” she hollers over hers shoulder.“Come here and help me!” Figures she’d use my sleazy stepdad like an armed guard. Why am I even surprised?

He walks from the kitchen to the living room, thick-soled boots thudding across the hardwood floor. Unlike my real Dad, everything about him screams phony, from his ultra-white car salesman smile to the thick gold chains that hang around his neck. The man is creepy, and not just because he’s ten years younger than my mom. When he looks at me, every hair on my body prickles. And when I tell him to stop ogling, he shrugs and says I should take it as a compliment.

Yep, those are his exact words. “You’re eye candy, Serena. Take it as a compliment. What do you think women were born for?”Creepy.

“Take her to her room,” Mom says.

His gaze crawls up my leg, and a shiver runs up my spine.

My real father squeezes my hand. “Go ahead, I’ll be fine,” he says.

If lying were an Olympic sport, my dad would win a medal. He may be good at pretending, but fine he is not. There’s a wobble in his voice as he releases my hand. His gaze is guarded, cautious. Silence before the storm. I stand on my tiptoes and kiss him on the cheek.

“I had a good time this summer,” I tell him.

He smiles and hands me my suitcase.

The creepy man takes two steps forward before grabbing my arm.

“Ow!” I say.

“Is that necessary?” my dad snaps. So much for pretending everything’s fine. A muscle in his jaw jumps. My father's fighting to keep you locked away. To push down the madness you put inside him. But anger always wins; you always win. No matter the cost. No matter the damage.

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

For you newcomers out there...if you wish to vote you first must sign up on the Linky List you’ll find at the end of the link provided on the badge below.  Please remind your friends to make a selection as well.  The voting will remain open until noon Thursday.

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



 

50 comments

  1. As much as I love food, I am voting for Sophia! :D

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  2. There's a lot of humor in the first selection, and I love the idea of taking back the lunchroom. I enjoyed the "nom, nom, nom" in front of the boss, although I wish the narrator had made a better comeback when defending Janet.

    But overall, the second choice has a more interesting subject matter. The careful use of "you" is very intriguing, especially since "you" seems to be affecting both her parents. My vote goes for Sophia.

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  3. While the writing in the second piece was tight and clean it was just too jumpy. The transition between first and second person and the fact that there didn't seem to be any one thing that You was applied to was just too confusing. I'm voting for Camille.

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  4. I'm voting for Sophia. The first piece was wonderfully written and enjoyable. The humor was great. With Sophia's piece, the subject matter drew me in more. I felt more connected with the characters and instantly hated the stepdad.

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  5. My vote goes to Camille. I like characters that take a stand and stick by them, even when herd mentality threatens that they shouldn't.

    I also enjoyed Sophia's piece. But I also was looking for more explanation or definitive hints about "you." At first, it seemed like the "You" was something in her mom. But then seemed like it was actually something inside her dad. But it wasn't quite clear what "you" was. And trying to figure that out kind of took me out of the scene.

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  6. Although I enjoyed both submissions, my vote goes to Camille. The writing was a bit tighter than Sophia's and the subject about food, was not only true, but humorous.

    Sophie's piece didn't pull me in. I didn't get enough time to hate the stepfather, or to like her biological father. Then again, this might be a difference in style. I'd like to see more exposition on each character and the girl's life. I know she only had 450 words to get the point across, but nonetheless, the story seemed rushed. Characterization is tricky.

    My vote goes to Camille.

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  7. I vote for Camille. I think that's a great example of exellent writing that isn't about something extreme.

    The second piece had me at the first paragraph and lost me at the second. I wasn't sure if the woman was possessed, was actually a creature of some sort, or what. Maybe to say straight up in the second paragraph that it was her mother and then add the details about her eyes.

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  8. Voting for Camille, I struggled to understand the second one, it was a little too confusing for me. :)

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  9. I wish I could have lunch with the writers of both pieces. They both made me so very sad but it's obvious there are feisty, clever minds behind each.

    Kudos (I think?) to you both for making me grieve the characters' situations. And best of luck in today's round.

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  10. I loved Camille Atwood's piece. The writing and storyline definitely grabbed me, so she gets my vote this round!

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  11. This round has two very good entries, I think. My compliments to both authors.

    Camile's piece has a wonderful voice, and it flows well. I liked the "acid indigestion of the soul" line. The opening sentence was not as much of a grabber as it could have been -- it was long and introduced four characters all at once: The MC, her boss, the boss's lackey, and Janet. Quite a bit much in one mouthful (and yes -- pun intended). Plus. the owner of the lunch container is vague since the antecedent of "her .. lunch container" is either the lackey or the boss since she's identified as female ("her lackey"), while the lackey could be male. The point is -- too many characters and too confusing for an opening sentence. There was a few hyphens needed for compound adjectives ("carb-heavy," "heart-healthy," "sodium-infused"), and the "who makes..." questions within the sentences were a bit awkward, but I have no real complaints about the technical aspects of the writing. Overall, I ended the piece interested and emotionally connected with the MC/narrator (who couldn't love that donut-eating protest?), and I would keep reading. However, there really wasn't a whole lot going on here, and I'd be hoping for a little more as I read on. We don't need zombies or aliens or vampires or huge epic battles, but I'm hoping there is eventually more drama in this story than just what lunches get eaten in the office, and so I'd ideally like more of a hint of those higher stakes or story questions in the opening.

    Sophia's entry also has a very engaging voice, and I was pulled in. There is a terrific rhythm to the sentences, and the reading flows almost effortlessly. However, one huge sticking point is the use of the "you" which initially feels like second-person, but eventually appears to actually be referring to the mother, or at least 'something' that's maybe taken possession of the mother? Because the mother is also referred to as 'her' and 'she,' it makes it intriguing, but also very confusing. That opening line is very catchy, but also a trifle challenging since it feels like the reader is being addressed directly in second-person and it leads to defensiveness ("oh yeah? Well, I don't like YOU either!"). The overall dynamics of this scene are established well, and the tension and drama are smoothly laid out. Overall, I would keep reading this story too -- I'm engaged and still curious to see if the "you" IS the mother or something within the mother. However, if this "you/her" dichotomy isn't clearly explained relatively soon, I'm afraid it will eventually become more distracting and annoying than compelling.

    For me, this is a very tough decision. I really like both pieces! Again -- well done to both writers.

    But since I have to choose, I'm going with Sophia since there is a little more tension in the scene, the writing rhythm worked well for me, and I'm a little more curious to know what happens next.

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  12. I'm voting for Camille. As a food lover, it was punchy and accurate and very funny. Great, clean, snappy writing that hooked me immediately. Like others, I found the second entry confusing and difficult to get into. And that line about lying as an Olympic sport sounds familiar. I think it came from a movie... I can't just think of it right now!

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  13. Ah ... Camille Atwood for me! This entry had me from fat Janet (who turns out to be pregnant, bless her heart) waddling into the lunchroom all the way to the Donut Rebellion. I was confused about using "admin." - is the abbreviated version a way to convey contempt for a toadie? I think I'd change that in a rewrite. The loss of companionship as a casualty of The Health Nut Wars is pretty ironic, since the very word "companion" comes from the Latin "with bread." I am also a big fan of essay-style first person POV narratives - it would make a wonderful blog post.

    Sophia is a very good writer, but my critique today is based totally on how each offering made me feel. Sophia's story, an indictment of selfish/cowardly/lecherous adults attempting to do the blended family thing, left me angry but not in a good way. I felt it was too raw and hopeless without some slight mitigation, some small ray of hope OR some whiff of the supernatural, some way for me, as a reader, to make an emotional investment in the main character. I think if those last two sentences were excised, I could have gotten on board. And if it turns out the mother is possessed or something, it's not "hinted at" clearly enough. "This is not the cool mom who taught me how to put on lipstick and flirt with boys." makes me dislike the mom the way she was before she became a nut-case.

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  14. Camille Atwood for me today I liked the humour and could picture the scene unfolding. Good luck to both of you.

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  15. My vote is for Camille. However, it would really be improved by hinting at where this story is going. Right now it's just a rant, an amusing one, but I need some idea of what problem the mc is going to face. Others already articulated my thoughts about the busy, busy first line.

    Sophia - I had much the same thoughts as others about the confusion (supernatural or metaphor?). For instance, is the father a horrifically neglectful noodle-spined man who would hand his daughter over to a physical and probable sexual abuser, or is he controlled by some outside force? My emotional investment is totally different depending on what is really happening with these characters. You write well, but I think you do the story a disservice by prolonging the mystery.

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  16. Once again, two pieces that are almost equal. And once again, I have to nitpick in order to choose.

    In the second piece, '“Jon,” she hollers over hers shoulder.' should be 'her shoulder.'

    Therefore, I am voting for Camille Atwood.

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  17. Tough one today, both pieces were well done. In the end, my vote goes to Sophia.

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  18. Wow. Although I did like the oddness of the first story, I really wanted to know what was going on in story #2. So, I will go with #2.

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  19. Camille! That's my vote. I enjoyed it the most although I found the idea strange that sweets would be admonished at work. I've only worked in opposite environments! I secretly wish I did work in that office! But I'm more intrigued to see what happens next in the first, and I sort of pull away at the second.

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  20. Sophia gets my vote tho it's a close call. I didn't feel the stakes were high enough in the first piece that I was quite as grabbed as the second. Good work to both authors though.

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  21. Camille. It made me happy, the details were perfect. Well done.

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  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  23. (re-write)
    This was a tough one.
    Both writers are talented and I don't say that lightly.
    Camille: Despite the somewhat mundane setting, there is much to like about your story: the writing was clever and unique ("competition to secure uneaten brownie points" is genius), protagonist standing for the underdog and going against the flow (as a nonconformist / rule-ignore-er this struck my heart) AND you made me google 'gustatory' and learn a new word. Thank you.
    Sophia: This content is also close to my heart; having a 12 year old son who lives with his mom. Despite that our relationship is way more amiable that the one in this story, I know full well how anger can transform a loved one in the blink of an eye.
    I like the line about mom's voice: "It teeters on the brink of madness." Part of me thinks you meant madness as in 'anger'. I prefer that you meant madness as in 'so angry she's temporarily unstable'.
    Some of the other voters have made guesses as to whom 'you' is in the story (mom? dad?) but it is anger. You spell it out in the last paragraph, "anger always wins; you always win." For those paying close attention, this makes sense and they already knew it at that point. That it is uncertain adds 're-read' value in my opinion... In a good way.
    In fact, something tells me that you used the word 'madness' because 'anger' would have given it away.

    Unless I'm mistaken, and I don't think I am, these pieces are both stand-alone, not excerpts. For that I love them both more. They convince people they are only excerpts so well because they don't say 'Once upon a time...The end' but instead jump into a pre-existing, believable situation. This in my opinion is what this contest should be all about.

    I'm sorry but I literally can't vote this round.
    I refuse to vote against either entry.

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  24. I found this round to be the toughest one yet. I could easily vote for either one of these entries. The writing is quite good in the first, and includes some clever phrases and humor that appeal to me. The writing is also quite good in the second selection, but I was totally confused after reading it the first time. Upon a second reading, I understood what the "you" was referring to, and had a better appreciation for it. Nonetheless, I have to pick just one, so I'll go with Camille. But by a very slim margin.

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  25. Wow - great writing by both authors! But, my vote goes to Sophia.

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  26. *sigh* This one is another incredibly tough one for me. I like the voice and attitude of the first one (although I think the first few lines need some work) and I like the writing and intensity of the 2nd. My vote goes to #1

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  27. Tough choice. I think, after several re-reads, that Camille Atwood gets my vote.

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  28. Ugh. There is no joy in voting when the entries are this close. Lately I've started reading the entries before I roll out of bed in the morning. Then I let them sit all day until I get home from work and read them again. I find myself hoping at some point during the day one of them disappeared from the site and leaving me with only a choice of one. But despite DL's ongoing battle with Google Reader, so far both entries still appear each evening.

    OK, time to make a choice. I'm going with Camille on this one because it's funny and fresh and well written. I almost didn't choose this one because we have a lot of angst at work right now, so in a way this entry was a natural turnoff for me. If I voted this morning I probably would have gone for Sophia, that's how close they are in my mind. But in re-reading it tonight, it really is funny and has many clever lines.

    The "you" in Sophia's piece threw me at first. But after a few reads I "get it" and realize the piece is really well done. I think as part of a larger work, the "you" will almost feel like another whole character and make much more sense to the reader. I think this piece has real potential and would read more and for the first time was tempted to not vote at all. Well done.

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  29. Wow! These are some of the best pieces so far. Maybe there were mistakes in spelling or grammar, if so, I didn't catch them, I was too caught up in the stories. How to choose? Beats me. Maybe I'll flip a coin. Thank you, Camille. Thank you, Sophia.
    Sophia.

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  30. My vote goes to Camille. Although both pieces were excellent I think I just felt the need for something light and clever and bitingly funny.

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  31. Really tough choice. I love the voice in Sophia's. But Camille's was fun.
    Argh...... okay, Sophia.

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  32. I don't usually have to go back and re-read the excerpts to find the one thing that could lean me one way or the other for a particular piece. But this time, I had to. And that didn't work. Camille Atwood touched on a hot-button issue and Sophia touched on a heart-heavy issue. Both well written so I fell in line and in love with them both. I fell about as wishy-washy as Sookie Stackhouse trying to choose between Bill and Erik.

    But I can only choose one.

    This time, I choose Camille due to the familiarity of the office politics - though I wish one of my co-workers would try to get haughty and get all organic, free-range chicken on me. Can you say verbal smackdown? Yeah, so I'm voting Camille.

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  33. Absolutely wonderful Camile! Take back the Lunchroom is my motto too now :) This was rebellious in a productive manner; making a statement more of behavior than people. I was completely drawn in, and the MC had my heart practically from the start. That, and the "waddled out" phrase. Awesome characterization and setting. The situation made the setting an entire world, a culture unto itself. And I nearly stood up and cheered for the MC defiance and triumph.

    Sophia; I was drawn to the emotion in this. You also made the MC vivid, from the first line to the last. I saw hate and anger and a bit of despair in her descriptions. The vignette in the entrance was realistic, and complete in its story plot. So much fodder for my imagination to fill in the gaps of the story - how it should continue, how it should end. This is the mark of an excellent story teller - to be able to capture a scene so completely that the reader wants to read on, yet is satisfied with the place it ends.

    I am sad to have to vote for one excerpt, b/c that means I voted against another. Both writers are awesome, and the submissions each deserving of a win. I hope to see both in the final rounds.

    But, if I MUST choose . . There was a slight clunkiness in the beginning of Sophia's submission, despite the excellent first line. I feel this is more a fault on my part as a reader, as I'm not overly a fan of 1st person POV, and sometimes elevated emotion in 1st reads a little off to me. I had to read a line or two twice. I will not mention the lines because I don't feel there is anything about them that needs editing; but, well, the excellent writing of both excerpts makes this type nit-piky judgment necessary.

    My vote goes to Camile.

    .......dhole

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  34. My vote goes to Camille.

    Both were strong but I had a bit of difficulty following exactly what was happening in Sophia's entry, especially at the beginning. A bit of setting or a few words to indicate that this is a custody hand-off would be helpful.

    Anyone who has worked in an office would understand the office politics, so that struck a chord. Camille's entry was funny, slightly rebellious and had a very good voice.

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  35. I've had to re-read both entries before deciding. Both were good.
    My vote is for Camille.

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  36. I choose both!!

    ARGGGHHHHH....

    *SIGH*

    Sophia

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  37. These are both amazing! My vote is for Sophia because there are so many tiers of hurt in one entry

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  38. I'm torn! AGGHH! Both are well-written. I love the humor in Camille's entry (uneaten brownie points! Yes!) and I agree with the rant itself (hey, I'm the one who buys chocolate candy for the whole office to share) but on the whole I wish more was going on there than just a lunchroom rant. Don't know where this could go next.

    Sophia's entry intrigues me more, despite some flaws. It was a little confusing at first, because I assumed the "you" was some kind of devil inside her mother (AND her father??), but the most devilish character is the stepdad and "you" isn't in the stepdad?? Or is the "you" simply anger personified? In that case, I'm utterly fascinated. And I would like to see where this is going.

    DL wants me to make a decision, so I'm going with Sophia. But I really wanted to give it to both of you!

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  39. I have to go with Camille's this time. It made me want to go stand guard over the snack machine at work. Though I must say that Sophia's certainly has my interest piqued.

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  40. I'm casting my vote for Camille.

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  41. Though I liked Camille's well enough. It was very well written. I have to vote for Sophia. Yeah, the 'you' stuff threw me at first, but then I got it and I STILL want to know what the 'you' infecting her mom and at the end, her dad. I REALLY hope this is an actual WIP for you, Sophia.

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  42. I'm voting for Camille. Love the sentiment, and the delivery is practically flawless. Sophia's is also excellent. I like the "you" and finding out at the end that it's anger. The only thing I didn't like was the creepy perverted step dad - mostly because I find the idea so disturbing but also because I've seen it done so much it's almost cliche.

    Great job both writers - the playoffs are going to be brutal!

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  43. While these were both very good I have to go with Camille.

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  44. Camille Atwood. I could relate to Camille's more. I fear the future food police.

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  45. I'm voting for Camille, even though I noticed some weakness in the writing. For instance telling us in the beginning how the admins criticize, then using the criticism in the dialogue. It would have worked to have the central character prepare herself. Something like, Watching Janet waddle from... I waited. I knew the admins would have something to say, and, no suprise, they did. Then the first line of dialogue.

    The second piece had more of a sense of drama and urgency, but it was confusing as to who "you" was. I think in a longer scene that could have worked better.

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  46. I vote for Sophia. That piece was so intense!

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  47. Great pieces, both of them. Camille's makes a great case, humor-bound and disguised as light, against herd mentality. This is what happens when anything is allowed to cross the threshold into fanaticism. Something as simple--and as healthy--as good food can become a competition, a measuring standard, and whoever is found lacking is shunned. Had this piece competed against any other it would surely have my vote.

    But--Sophia. Wow, what a powerful way to bring anger into presence. How brilliantly crafted, sufficiently oblique as to be intriguing, and once you know it's Anger, all the pieces fit in perfectly. This sort of story is hard to pull off without alienating the reader, without breaking that author-reader trust, and Sophia did it very well, in my opinion.

    So. Vote for Sophia. Sorry, Camille, and I do hope you make it into the next round!

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