WRiTE CLUB 2014 – Bout #2




Welcome back!  If you’re like me, you’re ready for another highly competitive match between a pair of truly talented writers.  Since we’re still early in the competition, how about we bring any newbies in the audience up to speed and show them the ropes?

On May 3rd we began taking submissions from WRiTER’s far and wide, spanning the globe, representing all ages and multiple styles of WRiTING.  We received 167 entries in all!  A new WRiTE CLUB record! Those 500 word samples went under careful consideration by 11 judges and that panel narrowed the list down to 32…which are the ones that are pairing off in the ring over the course of the next eight weeks.

These illustrious WRiTER’s are not only from all walks of life, but they also occupy various levels of the publication world.  I’m told by my wife that within our ranks we have everything from newbie bloggers to the recently published. But none of that matters today, because inside this ring everybody stands as equals. You know why?  Because the kicker is no one uses their real name…the only name you’ll ever see is their pen name. This is not a popularity contest.  The focus here is on the writing, where it should be.

Today is the second of sixteen bouts, two bouts per week, with a new one posted every Monday and Thursday. The winners are decided by votes left in the comment section and anyone can vote. The voting for each fight will last for one full week, so you can vote for a Monday battle all the way until midnight on Sunday, and you can vote for a Thursday brawl up until midnight the following Wednesday.  And when you do vote, please let the contestants know what you liked and disliked.

Understand what’s going on now?  Good…then here we go!



Here are bout two's randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in this corner, representing the YA Romance genre and weighing in at 412 words, please welcome to the ring……..NotAnna.


It’s all desperation. When she tries to look at him the way she’s supposed to. When she laughs with her friends. When she gets a new haircut just to see if anyone notices. It’s so thick you can rub it between your fingers. I can taste it on my lips when she kisses me.

She doesn’t do that very often, kiss me, but when she does, she does it right. Just pushes me up against the lockers when the hallways are deserted, pulls me into an empty classroom, drags me into the girls’ bathroom, and sets her lips on mine. The desperation helps then, because she’s trying not to think about it. It makes her stronger, faster, harder. Her hand clutches at my hair, her breath speeds up, and her eyes close. Like she doesn’t know who I am. Like that makes what we’re doing any better.

When she’s through with me, she just pushes away with a gusty exhalation that mixes anger and regret in equal parts. If we’re in the bathroom, she glances in the mirror, fixes her lip-stick, combs her long dark hair with her fingers, avoids my eyes. I always want to help her fix her hair, want to get that one strand she’s missing and feel her under my hands again. Today the feeling is stronger than ever, and as she straightens her cardigan and sticks her chin up like nothing just happened between us, I can feel my resolve crumbling. She’s not going to do anything.

I reach out, slowly, cautiously, until my hand is resting a few shivering centimeters above her back. I close my eyes for a second and go in for the kill, stroking her hair in a brief, awkward pat. She whirls around and glares at me.

“What the actual fuck?”

I tripped and fell against her hair. Or I have a disease that makes me want to touch hair. It’s like kleptomania. Maybe I want to know what shampoo she uses. It’s definitely not because-

“I love you.”

She shakes her head, shakes it hard. “No, you don’t. You can’t.”

I take a step back. “Maria.” My hands are out in front of me in a gesture my English teacher says is defensive, supplicating, showing inferiority.

She grabs her purse. “I can’t, Jamie. Okay? I can’t.” Her hair whips my face as she turns and sprints out the bathroom, and this time it’s my desperation hanging thick in the air.



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And in the other corner, representing the YA Contemporary Re imagining genre with 495 words, let me introduce to you……….Swick



My favorite sound in the whole world is the swick of an arrow finding its target. It's like a powerful secret. And my arrows totally have secrets.

From a high branch in our neighbors’ oak, I close my left eye and aim at a groove between two roof tiles. The air is heady with Manzanita blossoms, but I block out the tickly scent, ignoring everything but that crevice. With a deep breath, I draw back my bowstring.

Swick!

A sturdy rope slices through the floodlights like star-smoke. When it buries itself in our roof, I press a button on my bow and the arrowhead splits into a claw-like anchor. I test the rope, and triple check the end wrapped around this tree. My lips curl as I hook my sling to the line.

Then I fly over the yard like a human arrow.

I hoist myself onto the third-story ledge and watch the rope zip back to the neighbors’ tree. Gritting my teeth, I raise my window, praying it doesn’t squeak. The last thing I need is to get busted. Again.

The frame whispers up. I exhale a long breath, slink inside, and collapse on my bed.

The light snaps on.                      

¡Mierda!

"Do you like being grounded?"

Mom folds her arms and leans into the doorframe. Her glare is more intimidating when she's in one of her power suits, staring down Congress. To me, she's not Florence Nottingham, anti-immigration lobbyist. She’s just Mom: no makeup on her fair skin, ratty old Stanford sweatshirt, ash-blonde hair in a messy it’s-the-middle-of-the-night-and-I'm-stalking-my-teenager ponytail. She's got nothing on the creepers who crossed my path tonight.

Too bad I can't explain that to her.

I groan into my pillow. "Dios, can we do this in the morning?"

"Where were you?"

Yeah, she will totally freak if I answer that.

"What's my sentence? Two weeks? A month?" I slap my phone into her open palm and flop back on my bed. Tomorrow’s the first day of school. That requires at least an hour of sleep.

Two. Two hours would be sweet.

Mom throws her hands up. “I just grounded you for your little stunt this summer.”

She has a point. Last spring, I maybe, sort of, took advantage of Mom’s tendency to sign permission slips without reading them. The “summer mission trip” she signed off on was actually two months in a rural village just south of Tijuana. I left out the Mexico part until I texted her as our bus passed border security.

As a general principle, my mother is not a fan of Mexico.

She taps her slippered foot on the hardwood. "Where were you, Robyn?"

Robyn. A tiny flame flickers in my gut whenever she calls me that. My first name is Dalia. I've only gone by my middle name since Papi died. Not my choice.

I skirt my eyes away from Mom’s determined stare. She's not usually this invested in lecturing me.

"Who's the boy? Will Scarlet?"

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

Enjoying two talented writers at work is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward to the playoffs.  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner of Bout #2.  Which one tickled your fancy?  After you vote please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  The voting for this round will remain open until noon Sunday.  Yes, it’s subjective, but so is the entire publishing world.  It’s as much about the readers as it is about the writers. 

Here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing -- it’s the audience that gets clobbered!
 

99 comments

  1. NotAnna wins this round for me.
    Well done to both entrants for making it to the final 32

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  2. NotAnna, I want to know more about the hair fetish...

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  3. Congratulations to NotAnna and Swick for making it to the battle rounds. My choice is Swick. I enjoyed the pacing, exchange and descriptives.

    NotAnna's piece was compelling and left me with a tough choice however, Swick's piece was more to my taste.

    Good luck to you both!

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  4. My vote this round goes to NotAnna. After I got past the first sentence (which didn't flow for me, but made more sense once I'd read the next couple) this whole excerpt held my attention. The emotion is clearly portrayed and I felt the desperate attraction. The part about "falling into her hair" was disjointed, but I reached the end of the entry and am still wondering is Jamie male or female? Was she dragging a boy into the girls toilets? All questions I would read on to find the answer to ...

    I had to concentrate and re-read parts of Swick to keep track of the story. Much of the description was overdone for my personal taste - the paragraph dedicated to Mum being an example of this. The thing that interested me - the creepers - got a casual mention and then we went into school and back story.

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  5. This is quite a hard choice, because I enjoyed both pieces very much and they are really different.
    The first one was powerful and intense, it almost made me feel all the sensations the protagonist felt. The second, I have to admit, is more to my usual taste, it immediately brought me into the scene and made me want to know more about the story.
    On the whole I think I'll give my vote to.... Swick!

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  6. NotAnna drips with tension. LOVE IT. Both pieces were intriguing, and I'm sure that both are part of wonderful larger pieces of work. But in this context, NotAnna is the one that made me want to read more.

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  7. Both are very good, with strong character voices. In the end, it's the genre that got me. I'm voting for Swick because I like it's style better than romance.

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  8. The first one wasn't my style, but I was a little confused by the second. But NotAnna's had more personality and gets my vote.

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  9. NotAnna - I really like this, a ton. If it were a whole book, I'd read the crap out of it.
    My single issue is that in the first paragraph, I had a tiny bit of confusion - I guess it's the desperation that's so think you can rub it between your fingers...or it's her hair?

    Swick - Florence Nottingham? I hate that name. I get that we're going for a Robin Hood thing, but ugh. Otherwise, yeah, Robin Hood! I'd read the heck out of this one too.

    I love YA, so this is hard for me, because I like all sorts of different YA genres.

    I pick NotAnna.

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    1. THICK, not think. Sorry, haven't finished my coffee yet.

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  10. NotAnna..

    Easy read, and grabbed my attention within the second line.. Swick is too descriptive and complicated for my taste.

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  11. Both were interesting, but I'd pick notanna because I could feel that desperation it instantly caught my attention. I did like swick though it was a tough choice.

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  12. I liked both entries. The descriptions in NotAnna's pulled me in, but the transition from the continuous past experience to the present was rough. There was a tad too much telling and not enough "scene" to keep me there.

    I vote for Swick because I really felt the scene and was right there. I loved the imagery of the arrows and the jump to the contemporary setting.

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  13. These were both interesting, well-written pieces.

    NotAnna was more tightly written, more emotional and suspenseful, but I worry that this is little more than an issue story. I don't see much more going on, at least in this 500 word sample, than what looks to be a struggle with sexuality. Which may be fine, but... Subjectivity.... I want more layers. (For the record, I'm not a big contemporary romance reader, so take what I say with a grain of salt!)

    Swick's prose could be tightened up, more punchy, but overall, there's so much that intrigues me. There's a big issue being addressed in this story, too, which is intensified by the conflict between the anti-immigration lobbyist and her Latina daughter. Excellent. And retelling Robin Hood in this context is wonderfully fun and smart. I would recommend, unless it's crucial to the story, considering a different first name for the mom. I immediately thought of Florence Nightengale, and I don't think she has any place in this story. :)

    Because Swick feels like a much fuller, more complex story than NotAnna, and because I am a sucker for retellings, my vote goes to SWICK.

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  14. I need to say I don't read much YA romance so my vote on this may be suspect, but the second one caught my interest more so I'm voting for Swick.

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  15. I loved the idea behind Swick, The description had me, and then lost me again when her mother showed up. Not because it was a mother daughter scene, but because it wasn't as tight. It was good, don't get me wrong. I enjoyed Swick, but NotAnna was compelling. I couldn't turn away from it. It was like a trainwreck, I wanted to look away, to not be involved in something so private and personal, but I just couldn't.

    That's amazing writing.

    I vote NotAnna

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  16. NotAnna for me!

    Both were great entries, though. The writing is strong. But for me it just came down to having seen YA Robin Hood retellings before.

    NotAnna is just more to my taste.

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  17. This is a tough one. I liked both entries. I thought NotAnna's writing was tighter and flowed better, but I was drawn into Swick's story more. I want to know more about the "creepers that crossed Robyn's path" and what she does when she sneaks out.

    My vote goes to Swick on this one.

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  18. Hard to say ... I love the writing in NotAnna and think think that it's probably stronger. But I love the plot developing in Swick and it's the one I'd be more tempted to keep reading (It doesn't seem as angsty). So, I'm going with Swick, but it was super close.

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  19. Hmmm. I think I will go with Swick because of the interaction between the characters.

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  20. This is a tough bout – I find things to like in both entries. I stumbled slightly over the sentence fragments at the start of NotAnna’s piece, but the voice and the immediacy of the scene pulled me in. The emotions are visceral, and I have empathy for the character by the end of the sample. I like how the theme of "desperation" is echoed and shifted from the MC using it to describe Maria to it being evident that it's the MC who feels it. The story may not be my preferred genre or style, but it is still very effective at forming a connection.

    Swick's piece is entertaining and easy to read. It does a very good job of establishing the character, revealing her SuperHero alter-life, and contrasting it with a familiar "teenager getting in touble with her mom" aspect that everyone can identify with at some level. The voice is breezy, without the teen angst of NotAnna's entry. Again, YA is not really my preferred genre, but this promises a fun story and I would keep reading.

    So this is kind of a tough choice for me – both accomplish what they set out to do. I'm pulled into the scenes and connect with the characters by the end of the pieces. But while I think I might be more likely to actually prefer the story of Swick's piece, I have to vote for NotAnna – writing that can overcome both my genre and style preferences to connect with me is the stronger writing.

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  21. I would echo the sentiment from another that NotAnna's piece started a bit disjointed, but picked up in the second paragraph. I'm also not entirely sure if this is just a person that has a hair fetish, which would be an interesting story in and of itself, or if it's a secretive, tension-filled relationship between two girls, with one not wanting to show that affection publicly. Or maybe it's both. Even though a bit of ambiguity is welcome, some tighter writing may have helped to convey the core of the story and its conflict more.

    I thought Swick actually did a commendable job of capturing the voice and tone of what I would expect out of a YA story, especially with the back-and-forth dialogue and thoughts with his mother. The beginning didn't have that same flow and pace, like when it bogged down in over-describing the mother. Streamlining that paragraph may have helped the overall cohesiveness of the piece.

    Rather tough choice. I'll go with Swick, though, since I thought the piece played to the YA Contemporary genre well.

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  22. Both really good. But Swick has a story that catches my attention, so my vote goes to him/her.

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  23. I enjoyed both pieces.
    But my vote goes to Swick. I loved the writing style and the way the scene unfolded.

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  24. NotAnna
    I enjoyed both entries but in the end it came down to emotion. NNotAnna delivered the goods.

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  25. Swick--there's more meat to the story.

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  26. I vote for NotAnna

    Though both entries were great, I was drawn to the story between Jamie and Maria. Swick's entry had some excess description and telling, but I did enjoy the premise, though as mentioned above, the mom's name and I would say the MC's name should change. Its a good story idea if done right, good luck. Congratulations to both on getting picked.

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  27. This one was tough! I loved both of them and read them multiple times trying to make a decision! I'm going with NotAnna, because that was the one I kept coming back to and thinking about. But it was SO close.

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  28. I vote for NotAnna. The author managed to convey the conflict and agony of the emotional roller coaster ride that most teens deal with.
    I can also understand the appeal that Swick’s story would have for the audience of this genre.
    Congratulations to both writers.

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  29. I pick Swick. It really boils down to personal taste for me. This is the book I would decide to buy at the book store.

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  30. I vote Swick. It makes me want to read more and discover the story, while I think NotAnna is a little more style over substance (at least in this excerpt).

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  31. Not a fan of YA, which I guess makes it a good thing they're against each other? Of the two, NotAnna gets my vote. It held my interest a bit longer than the second one did.

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  32. This is a tough one, but I think I'll go with NotAnna on this one. But it's a really close one.

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  33. Enjoyed both selections but it's Swick that I'd add to my purchase cart.

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  34. SWICK. NotAnna's was really confusing for me, especially the opening with all the "she" "he" "you" pronouns scattered in the opening. I prefer to be grounded right away rather than receiving ambiguous description and emotions.

    Swick painted a scene for me right away. I already see the tension of the father's absence and the multi-cultural implications. I was not confused at all--which is always a positive!

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  35. Strong writing in both. A little hard to compare because the subject matter is so different. Being in the midst of a sexual encounter is by its own nature a high-passion, dramatic event, at least for the one craving it. It's harder to write a boring sex scene than one with family dynamics, which can be typical teen-parent conflicts involving stagnant outbursts that don't change anything and go on for years.
    I vote for Swick.
    Swick has more promise of a complex story with more depth to the conflicts, both between the mother and daughter, and within the daughter, who looks as though she'll be facing some tough choices that will change the course of their lives. This story shows promise of more interesting development. I also thought the background brought in about the mother's job and the mother being fair-skinned and blonde, lobbying against immigration, and not being fond of Mexicans, helped me to understand the basis for the conflict. No "info dump" there. It also set up the odds against this duo coming to any easy, common understanding. Neither one will give up without a fight. I'm really interested in how things will turn out. I didn't like the mother's name, and some of the writing could be tighter, but overall, it's good.

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  36. I have to vote for Swick. I've always had an interest in Robin Hood and this has some nice twists on the old theme.

    Both good entries this round. Sorry to NotAnna but YA Romance just make me uncomfortable. Like I was prying into something private.

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  37. Both entries are great! This was a tough choice for me, but in the end, I have to vote for NotAnna. The emotion of it just captivated me.

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  38. It's Swick for me, because despite some over-description, the writer accomplishes a heck of a lot in those 495 words.

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  39. NotAnna: Beautifully written and quite sad at the end. I do have to wonder though, is Jamie a boy or a girl? While I'm perfectly fine either way, not having Jamie have a clear gender does bother me a bit.

    Swick: I enjoy the details and being able to picture things so clearly. You have a massive amount of talent and I applaud you for that. However, I feel like too much is left out. Why will Mom freak out about where she was? Why the name change? How did she get so good with arrows in a modern story? I do feel as though this was a snippet of a larger story, perhaps a female and modernized version of Robin Hood?

    My vote goes to NotAnna for this round, but I did enjoy both stories and would like to see both authors continue with their amazing talents.

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  40. Both pieces are very well written - congratulations to you both!

    This is a tough choice, but my vote goes to Swick. NotAnna's piece felt a little "all over the place" in the first paragraph, whereas Swick's story drew me right in.

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  41. I'm voting for Swick. The excerpt is more polished and shows more sophistication and skill in the writer's craft. But I agree that the mother's name is a bit much; perhaps it would be better to use a name that suggests something similar to Nottingham, rather than actually using that name . . .

    This was certainly a tough round though, as NotAnna's entry has a lot of strengths as well. The downside is that the transition to the sixth paragraph is awkward--for a moment I thought it was an incorrect change in tense--and I also caught a missing word. But the rather blunt style works well here, as the voice is effective and believable. Though I'm sure we're starting to see a lot more YA books about LGBT teens and it's no longer a rarity, it's always refreshing to see something different from the traditional high school romance, and the inherent conflict--which is conveyed so well in this scene--contributes to making the story poignant and compelling.

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  42. I guess I'm the only one, but I disliked both of them. If I had to vote for one over the others, I would say Swick, only because it was more descriptive. So I vote Swick.

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  43. Swick has all my votes. So clever and pulled me right in. :)

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  44. Swick's read like it would be a good book, but NotAnna was the better short piece, so I vote NotAnna.

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  45. My vote is for Swick, because it amused me more and made me want to read on more. But they were both good.

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  46. A very close match-up! I enjoyed both entries. NotAnna drew me close with the strong voice and raw emotion, though that entry stumbled occasionally into a different tense. The tension between the two characters, leading right up to the F-bomb, was well done.

    Swick caught my attention with the action scene, and a protagonist who's clearly not your typical teen. I felt the mom's intro was a bit cliche, and I'm still trying to figure out why, if Robyn is what the MC goes by, it bothers her to be called such.

    After a close bout, I throw my vote to Not Anna.

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  47. I really enjoyed both of these. NotAnna had more emotional grip. Swick has intrigue and a #colormyshelf that I adore. I have a feeling there's a teen girl superhero who doesn't look like Scarlett Johansson. I think it is different. And that is why Swick has my vote.

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  48. Really close. I'm voting for notanna because it is more relatable for me.

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  49. I feel NotAna needs some polishing. The POV is uncertain, there are several tense shifts, but it has flow - forward movement and I feel the male POV character is progressing towards an epiphany. I do like the uncertain voice, and the situation. Lots and lots of story potential here, for both characters.

    I like the voice and intrigue of Swick, and think it is the better polished writing. Yet, there is an inconsistency in the flow, a sort of back and forth dance to the argument and back story that just goes nowhere for me. I like the MC though. I like her sass and independence, and her feeling she has a mission to accomplish in life.

    I vote for Not Ana because I think there is more story potential with the male MC.

    For Swick; keep working on this opening.The action might be more intriguing if you focus on Roby's activities prior to returning home and confronting her mother.

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    1. None of the entries, if I understand the contest rules right, are necessarily openings to a story or a book. They could be stand-alone flash fiction, an opening, or an excerpt from something several chapters in, even the end of a book. Just wondering how you'd view these entries if you didn't think of them the opening scenes, though they might be.

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    2. I'd view them mostly the same for NotAna due to the polishing errors. For Swick, however,some of the story I'm looking for may be in a prior chapter/scene. Its the argument that kills this "scene" for me.

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  50. Swick gets my vote. The conflict between the mother and daughter is intriguing, and the premise for the story comes across right away.

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  51. Both intriguing pieces but if I'm honest, NotAnna was too intense for my liking. I also agree with the tense changes, and although powerfully written, they put me off.

    Swick on the other hand, I loved. Yes, the names were cliche (and I would ditch Florence as a name for the mother). Like a commenter above, I first thought of Florence Nightingale. I liked the narrative and dialogue though, its typical YA.

    So my vote has to go to Swick.

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  52. I'm going with Swick. It really opened up the imagination wondering what the character was up to. NotAnna's story, to me, was intriguing but seemed to be one in a million which would not hold my interest for very long.

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  53. My vote goes to NotAnna.

    Both entries were well-written, but NotAnna managed to drag me to a place I did not want to go, holding me to the end of the 412 words.

    Swick's entry is breezy in that "Buffy-the-vampire-slayerish" kind of way, but it felt a little expository to me—too much info about Mom which slowed down the flow and made me forget the power of the first paragraph (which would be better without the word "totally".) I've also never seen a teenager give up a phone with such a lack of conflict.

    But I have to say it again: both entries exhibit craftsmanship and wonderful writing.

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  54. My vote is for Swick. The potential for plot and original concept won me hands down.

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  55. Both of these were very good.

    I liked the intensity of NotAnna's writing. I also had to reread the paragraph that began with "I tripped and fell against her hair." That would have gone easier if it started with something like "Several explanations spring to mind. I could say I tripped and fell against her hair or..." Like others have mentioned, the beginning threw me and I had to read it twice. I found the use of f#ck very jarring in a YA piece. I would have gone with hell or shit because the F word should be used sparsely or not at all. Choosing a generic name (like Jamie) kept the gender of her partner a mystery. I would have preferred to know... it doesn't matter, but it leaves a cliffhanger where there shouldn't be one. This is a good piece and with some polishing could be great!

    I liked the pacing and flow of Swick's piece. I didn't get stuck until the bit about the mother. I really think it was the name Florence Nottingham that jolted me. I would change that first name. But that is the only thing about this piece that bothered me. Otherwise, I really enjoyed it and I hope that this is just a snippet of a novel because I would love to read it.

    My vote goes to Swick.

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  56. Congrats to both of you! The character in Swick seems like one I'd like to spend my time with / get to know.

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  57. This is a tougher one for me. I like that Swick's piece leaves me questioning what's going to happen next, but I also like the emotion that comes through in NotAnna's piece.

    After thinking more about it, I'm going to give my vote to NotAnna. The emotion that comes through is just too strong for me to ignore.

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  58. I liked Swick's voice, tone and ability to set, stage, character and plot. Lots of potential here.

    NotAnna's, for me, began confusing and never grounded me. My vote is for Swick.

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  59. My vote goes to NotAnna for the emotion in the piece and its clear focus. One critique is that the tripping confused me---what did she/he trip over? My recommendation for an edit would be to ax the tripping for a smoother flow.

    Swick's got a fun story going, but I felt like too much info was crammed into this short segment, and the lengthy description of the mother right in the middle knocked me off track.

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  60. These are both really good, and I love them both for different reasons. Closet teen lesbians, and a teen female arrow-yielding vigilante. Awesome - a win for the feminists today :)

    Minor crits on both: for NotAnna, I don't think I've heard anyone say "What the actual fuck", just "What the fuck" (and I have pre-teen/teen kids and nieces/nephews). So, unless you have heard lots of teens say this, just stick with the more basic WTF. Also, the paragraph after that about tripping confused me - you were present tense and then you switched - or were you saying she had just tripped a moment before? Needs tidying.

    For Swick, I was initially really thrown by her gliding on the rope across the yard - seems super high tech for a teen. As long as this is not the very beginning of the book, and you've had time in an earlier scene to set the stage for this, I think it's probably fine - otherwise I would need it smoothed out a bit so I'm not taken out of the story.

    My vote goes to Swick, by a hair. Probably because I like the rule-breaking MC more than the shy, awkward one, and because I'm intrigued why her mom is anti-immigration when there's clearly a multi-cultural history for the MC. Both are awesome, though, guys - nice job!

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  61. Swick—more likable protagonist, better voice and imagery. I appreciated the lack of information dump. I want to read more.

    NotAnna's protagonist was too passive, and being a closeted lesbian, by itself, does not a round character make.

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  62. Though I love a good unexpected kiss, I feel bad for Jamie. Maybe we needed a longer story to understand what was happening in this piece.

    Swick's arrow, however, found its mark! My vote is for Swick.
    The imagery and action packed into less than 500 words impressed me. I see my teenage boys getting into trouble and playing with arrows, so that part of the story was relatable. Also, as a mother to those boys, I have confiscated phones serveral times. The story was real, but at the same time promised more than what I experience in ordinary life. I am left wandering what else Robyn can get into and I want to read more.

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  63. I hemmed and hawed over the choices for a really long time (and avoided the comments so they wouldn't sway me!). I thought both pieces were strong, and both stories were ones I would continue reading. My final vote in the end is for NotAnna, since I was more pulled in by the taut emotion and the conflict there than I was in the second piece.

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  64. I really enjoyed both pieces, but ultimately my vote goes to Swick. I love the imagery and the pacing. And I especially love the retelling with a girl as the "Robin Hood" character. I would keep reading both, but the structure, flow, and voice of the second piece drew me in just a bit more.

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  65. I couldn't say until just this moment, which I preferred. Both pieces are well-written and intriguing and pose so many questions. The thing I LOVED about NotAna was the intensity; an intensity I haven't read in fiction much since D. H. Lawrence back in university, both in pace and feverish description and for that reason alone, I pick NotAna, although I thoroughly enjoyed Swick, I love the sound of the language in my ear as I read it, and Lawrence used language as an instrument of music. Bravo, or brava to you both!

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  66. These are both well done. Which one would I read more of? Swick - and that's strictly personal preference. I'm not a fan of romance.

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  67. I HATE present tense, especially first person present tense.

    So this was tough.

    But I give my vote to Swick.

    The first one was just too muddled and felt like running a marathon--I can keep going but I want to quit the whole time.

    Swick's, at least, was easy to follow and interesting.

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  68. “What the actual fuck?” Is a little harsh for the first 500 words of what is supposed to be a YA. The first sentence, and we all know how important the first sentence is, is just a little lets-try-to-hard-to catch the reader and as I know nothing about the character yet, eh. NotAnna definately had despiration but we didn't know who from. At first I thought it was going to be 3rd person and then we end up in first, it was off putting and I was off balance after that.
    Swick had spunk. Swick had that teenage YA Edge that is always fun in these stories, plus I love the mixed in Spanish words without explination of their meaning. I loved the voice. It's a character I could see myself in.
    My vote is for Swick.

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    Replies
    1. If I understand correctly, these may or may not be the first 500. I agree the sentence is not write. WTF is the acceptable form of that phrase.

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  69. I suspect this bout is going to be really close, well done to both writers I think either would be a worthy choice. But, as is the game, we have to choose. After consideration I will vote Swick, mainly because I could picture and hear that arrow. It also left me with a lot of questions that I would happily read on to find out more about. Good luck to both of you though.

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  70. Okay. This was such a hard choice! I loved both of them for very different reasons.

    NotAnna's emotions sucked me right in, even though I don't go for contemporary romance. I immediately connected with the MC, but I totally didn't question Jaime's male gender until someone in the earlier comments mentioned Jaime could be a girl, so now I really want to know!

    I love all things Robin Hood, so Swick definitely captured my attention. I think a contemporary twist is so amazing, especially the early conflict already present between the mother's anti-immigration stance and Robyn's prevalent use of Spanish.

    So. Tough choice for me. I would love to keep reading both of these, but for the first 500, I have to vote for NotAnna, simply based on the emotional pull. Congrats to both of you! Awesome job.

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  71. Hard choice. To be fair, neither of these is a story I would be reading, not because of the writing itself but because they're not a style I particularly enjoy. So I can't offer much constructive criticism or praise. I couldn't quite buy into the voice and emotion of NotAnna's; clearly I'm in the minority here, but it seemed somewhat forced. Swick's piece flowed well, but I love Robin Hood so much that my inner (and completely unreasonable, to be fair) "honoring-the-original meter" was sending off raging alarm bells to see one of my favorite characters depicted as a grumbling teenager.
    Still, I'll go with Swick because her character came across as authentic, even if it wasn't the Robin I know and love. :)

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  72. My vote goes to Swick! I loved that I was grounded in the story through action, and I love the multi-cultural aspect. I'm also really digging the bow and arrow.

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  73. Swick. It grabbed my interest within the first sentence.

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  74. Swick wins it for me on voice, details, and originality. NotAnna was intense and compelling, but the writing needs editing and tightening (e.g., to fix mixed metaphors). I also didn't find the characters sympathetic in NotAnna.

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  75. Swick wins my vote this round. Both stories captured my attention, but Swick's piqued my curiosity more.

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  76. I vote for Swick.

    NotAnna's entry seemed forced, almost like how much can I put in this piece for shock value. I don't read YA so maybe that's a factor, but NotAnna's entry is a bit over the top.

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  77. I actually went back to read the entries twice. I think both brought something different. NotAnna relied on intensity and to-the-point writing, where as Swick incorporated descriptions to bring in the senses and added cultural dialogue. My vote goes to Swick, I liked the combination of elements in the writing.

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  78. Going with Swick on this one. It's tightly written, sets out the character quickly and makes me ask questions that would keep me reading.

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  79. In each of these pieces I felt a little confused at times. they both seem to be starting somewhere mid-story and that may have caused the problem for me. Each had great story potential, but each also was a bit more about telling than showing.

    Strong potential on both counts with a little more work. That said; I'll cast my vote for 'Swick' as it held my interest more intently and I would like to read on.

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  80. NotAnna wins for me by a mile. The intensity of the writing and the completely horrible conflict Jamie is dealing with will make for a very powerful book. Swick was also well written, but didn't grab me nearly as well as NotAnna.

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  81. Swick. It was clearly written. I had to read NotAnna's several times and I'm still not sure what's going on.

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  82. My vote is for Swick.
    NotAnna's had some nice use of emotions, but with nothing to ground me in the scene, I didn't feel as strongly as I could have about the characters. Swick did a better job of pulling me into the story, specifically with good use of all the senses, and a very unique conflict between mother and daughter.

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  83. I vote for NotAnna, which I kept forgetting to do for days. The lyricism of the writing just really blew me away.

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  84. Although both are intriguing and well-written, I'll have to go with Swick. It drew me in more and made me want to keep reading. Also, you get points for the clever update on Robin Hood. Notanna's piece was intense but confused me at first.

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  85. My vote goes to Swick. I was immediately drawn in by the voice and the tone.

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  86. NotAnna on this one - more my style. But both great entries!

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