WRiTE CLUB 2014 – Bout #4









A hearty congratulations to our second winner, Swick, for winning Bout #2 and securing a spot in the play-offs. Voting for Bout #3 remains open until 11:59 PM on Sunday, June 25th. 

For anyone who's dropping by for the first time, here's a summary of what's taking place. 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! 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 eight weeks.

Note: The submissions can be an excerpt from a larger work...or a standalone piece of flash fiction. The only rules are that they be 500 words or less, and never previously published or posted on a blog. Although I'll never instruct someone how they should choose a winner, I would recommend considering this when doing so. It shouldn't be about how much information is contained in those 500 words, but the way a contestant goes about communicating the information that is.

These illustrious WRiTER’s are not only from all walks of life, but they also occupy various levels of the publication world. But none of that matters here, because inside this ring everybody stands as equals. You know why? Because no one uses their real name…the only identification 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 fourth 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 this bouts two randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in this corner, representing the Literary Fiction genre and weighing in at 500 words, please welcome to the ring……..Anna MacKenzie.





It’s 4th of July.

Mr. Harrelson brought over live lobsters for the cookout. “You put ‘em in cold water,” he said, holding one in front of my face. Smelled like seaweed. Its pinching claws clacked against my sunburned shoulder.
           
Mr. Harrelson set the lobster in the pot with the others. “Cold water eases them into getting cooked, keeps the meat tender.”  I watched them sit there until the water bubbled. They never moved, never knew what hit them. Mr. Harrelson said the screaming was actually their shells contracting.

Me and my little brother, Jake, ate hot dogs.

After fireworks, Mom scooted us off to bed, even though I’m eleven and deserve to stay up later. Vowing to keep awake, I fell asleep.

A mosquito wakes me. Or maybe it’s the ocean. It takes some getting used to, sleeping in an unfamiliar place. Not entirely unfamiliar. We come to Capistrano Beach every summer, the same beach house every year, so I know a little about it.

To muffle the sound of the ocean, I pull the blanket over my head and hold it away from my face, in case there really is a mosquito. They bite you when you can’t hear them.

I got sucked in a wave today, my whole body tossing and churning and scraping sand. Then the ocean spit me out like water from a blow hole. Air. Sky. A seagull.

Downstairs, music plays: Brenda Lee singing I’m Sorry. A party. The adults are loud. Some voices I know already, some I don’t, like the cougher.

Wide awake now, I get out of bed and crack the door. The air is thick with cigarette smoke, loud with talk and music. They’ve moved the tables and chairs to one side. Mr. and Mrs. Harrelson are dancing. Daddy, who usually complains at having to dance with Mom, is dancing with Mrs. Rilke. Both of her arms are locked around his neck, mashing down his collar—the one he wanted ironed so bad. Now, he doesn’t even care.

Mrs. Rilke wears a beauty mark near the tip of her eyebrow tonight. I’ve seen her when it wasn’t there—in the daylight when she drinks coffee with Mom. Tomorrow, she’ll act like she never wrapped her arms tight around Daddy’s neck when she really did. She has a stupid laugh.

I shut the door and lay down on my bed, hope I don’t have to wait forever for sleep to take me. I look at Jake snoring with his mouth open; probably where the mosquito is.

In the morning, I hear them. Mom’s voice is... I don’t know the word.

My insides hurt.

“Don’t start again, Marjorie.” It’s Daddy. “You always do this.” (She does.)

“I saw you. I saw you.”

Breathing hurts.

I cover my ears.

In the afternoon, I scour the beach for shells. For ones that don’t scream. I only find a hermit crab carrying its house on her back.

If it was me, I’d leave it behind.
************************************************************************************************** 



And in the other corner, representing the Memoir genre with 500 words, let me introduce to you……….Nanato4.




My father, in the tradition of his Irish ancestors, was a great storyteller, slipping into a brogue as effortlessly as the wind blows across the fair green isle. His stories had a moral and a bit of humor, but as children we were transfixed by the waggle of his bushy eyebrows, the rising rosiness of his cheeks and the characters he brought to life,each with their own accent and gestures.
One of his favorite stories concerned an incident when he was about ten years old. It was the height of the depression, and his parents, like so many others, struggled to feed their family. My dad, the eldest of four children, did his part by working in the vegetable garden, feeding his baby sister and running errands.
“Bubsy, go next door to the Steinberg’s and get some eggs,” his mother said, handing him a precious dime.
“How many should I get?” he asked, knowing a dozen cost fifteen cents.
“We need a dozen for supper and breakfast tomorrow.”
“Yes, Mommy.” Confused, he hesitated, squeezing the dime in the palm of his hand.
“Ask for the cracked ones.”Handing him an empty wicker basket, she nudged him out the door.
The Steinbergs were an elderly couple, who made ends meet by keeping chickens in their basement. Dad both feared and admired his stern neighbors, having watched Mr. Steinberg whack the head off a chicken with a single swipe of a hatchet.
In a pitch perfect Yiddish accent dad quoted Mrs. Steinberg answering the door that day. “Robert Enerson, you are a sight. Have you brought back my cookie tin?”
“No ma’am.” He stared at his scuffed brown shoes.
“Then what is it boy, I haven’t all day.”
He opened his palm and held out the dime. “I’d like some eggs, please.”
“Come in, young man.” She took the basket and the dime. “You want eight eggs, then?”
“A dozen please.” He looked up at her raised eyebrows, quickly adding, “but only the cracked ones.”
“Sit yourself down,” she waved him toward a sofa as she headed to a door that led to the basement.
“Saul!” she shouted down the stairs. “Robert needs a dozen cracked eggs.”
“I haven’t any cracked ones.” Came the distant reply.
“I said I need a dozen cracked eggs,” she said, a bit more sternly.
Dad got off the sofa and crept closer to hear.
“I haven’t got any cracked eggs, I tell you.”
Sotto voce, she replied, “Then crack some.”

The story was about charity and dignity, for there isn’t one without the other. I wonder if, in our government efforts to ameliorate poverty, we haven’t lost two important things. One, a sense of satisfaction by personally giving to others in need, and two, the dignity of taking only the assistance necessary to live, for the shortest time possible, and graciously accepting cast-offs to that end.
Dad has passed away, but his stories are with me always. Stories meant for enlightenment as well as entertainment.
*********************************************************************************************



Enjoying the words of two talented writers 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 #4.  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!

75 comments

  1. Congratulations Anna MacKenzie and Nanato4!

    The winner is Nanato4!

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  2. My vote goes to Nanato4. The text pulled me in immediately, gave me a little story nugget, and then resumed with the memoir-style prose. I realize the first one is a different genre, but the short paragraphs, time jumps, and some showing language turned me off a bit.

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  3. I love Nanato4 until the end - The beginning pulled me in but the end jarred me a little, it didn't flow right. But I'm still voting for it.

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  4. Nanato4 by a landslide. The story her father tells is very clever and I felt like I was right there, picking up the cracked eggs with him.

    Anna McKenzie - this just left me confused. I had no sense of what was happening and there was no emotional reaction about anything from the narrator.

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  5. Nanato4 comes up trumps for me in this round. It engaged me from the first word to the last and gave me fantastic visuals.

    I found Anna MacKenzie disjointed, with each paragraph seeming to cover a new subject unrelated to the preceding one. It was confusing - I got to the end and I'm still not sure what the story is about.

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    1. After reading other comments I went back and re-read Anna MacKenzie. I must admit because of the short, sharp, disjointed sentences I faded out in the second half of the story and didn't absorb it. Having said that, after I re-read it (twice) I have more of an appreciation for the story telling. My vote still goes to Nanato4, but it is now a choice of personal taste in writing style.

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  6. Congratulations for making it to the battle rounds!

    Anna - I liked the scene and the subtext going behind all the observations, but the voice hardly felt like an eleven year old. The style was a bit too choppy for my taste, but I enjoyed some of it.

    Nanato4 - I found the entry a little confusing and awkward in places, but it flowed better than the other, so my vote is for Nanato4.

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  7. Guess I'm going against the grain. In Nanoto4 the story itself was well done but the framework felt forced, and awkward. It was all telling and a little confusing at the end.

    Anna had some tense shifts and was a little jumpy but I'm going to vote for Anna.


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  8. Kudos to both contestants - good work!

    I have to go with Nanato4 on this one. The flow is much better and the descriptions are vivid.

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  9. Nanato4. The first one felt too impersonal and distant.

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  10. My vote is Anna MacKenzie. A layered story written with an almost quiet desperation. Nanoto4 didn't work for me at all. Seemed like the author just wanted to impart his own views on society at the end.

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  11. Nanato4 for me the other I couldn't connect with.

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  12. My vote goes to Nanato4. I liked the description of the Irish story teller dad’s “waggle of his bushy eyebrows” and his easily slipped into brogue.
    I found Anna’s piece choppy and perhaps needed more fleshing out.
    Congratulations to both authors. I respect their efforts.

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  13. I found this bout very interesting. The writing styles are clearly different, but in terms of fundamental technical ability, they seemed pretty even. But I found they differed very much in how they used their writing.

    I started out disliking the staccato short sentences of Anna MacKenzie's piece, but then I was then pulled in, and by the party scene and the end I found it deep and moving.

    With Nanto4's piece, I connected with it it immediately, but then really disliked the end with its jarring switch from the charming re-enactment of the father's egg-buying scene to the author intrusively telling me "what it all meant" and speechifying about government and poverty.

    Anna MacKenzie entry's has some issues – shifting from past-tense to present-tense, a voice that tries to be eleven but seems much older (is this "live" as an eleven-year old, or is this a "memmoir" of it's own with an older MC looking back on her life?), and too many short, choppy sentences. But there is a deepness here too that appeals to me. The intertwining of fond memories and disfunctional family dynamics resonates, and I liked that last line.

    I'm not much of a memoir reader, so maybe there are conventions to it that I'm missing, but I ended up not connecting as much with Nanato4's piece as I thought I would when I began reading it. The opening has some great imagery, and the retelling of the father's egg-buying experience is very touching. But it totally lost me with the ending, and the final line feels like a forced, generic wrap-up.

    So I have to go with Anna MacKenzie – it connected with me in a much subtler and deeper way than Nanato4's did.

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  14. This is a hard one.

    Anna MacKenzie - In terms of voice and sentence structure, it seemed to vary too much between child and adult. Also, while I know writers, especially authors of children's books, have gotten away with using "me" as part of a subject, it makes me cringe. (Seriously, there are books I refuse to read aloud to my kids because they contain too many blatant grammar issues. Don't be one of them). The story seemed to jump around a bit, too. On the positive side, you have some wonderfully descriptive details that were lovely to read. I think there's potential for this story, but find your voice and don't be afraid to take your time transitioning between scenes.

    Nanato4 - You start by giving your readers a sense that they, too, are in the presence of a great storyteller. The story of buying eggs is wonderful, but would benefit from expansion and proofreading (mainly for punctuation and additional details of setting and characters). At times it came off as a little stilted, like you only had time and space for the bare essential. Given the 500 word limit, though, I understand. My biggest issue with this piece is that after giving us this beautiful, grace-filled story of charity and dignity, you... preach... to your readers. I don't wholly disagree with your assessment, but it seriously diminishes the strength of the message you so eloquently put forth through your story. Also, while you portrayed charity and dignity vividly, I don't think you effectively established that they cannot exist apart from each other.

    Ugh.

    Against my initial inclination, I'm going to vote for Anna MacKenzie in faith that she'll find her voice, clean up her grammar, and take the time to connect her plot points. I just can't get over the preachiness of Nanato4's last paragraph.

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  15. I was going to write a long comment here, but I literally agree with everything Chris Fries said above, so it would be pretty repetitive. I'll keep it simple: Nanto4 had a STORY that interested me much more, but the telling of it weakened more and more as it progressed. Try writing it like fiction and see what happens! Because it's got a great emotional punch without being sappy, and that's hard to get.
    I vote for Anna, by a hair.

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  16. I vote for Anna MacKenzie. There seemed to be some discrepancy with the tense of the writing at times, and a few times I wanted to be better grounded into the time frame of the story, but overall I enjoyed the tension and details.

    Nanto4's excerpt had too much exposition, in my opinion, even for a memoir.

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  17. Nanato4 gets my vote. It's a wonderfully retold story. The only problem for me, as others have already mentioned was the interpretation at the end, which was a little too moralistic. I'm not sure I needed quite so much interpretation, as the anecdote's meaning was already clear.

    Anna MacKenzie's piece was a nice little standalone flash fiction, but the writing just didn't pull me in quite as well.

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  18. Erm...I don't know what to say that hasn't been said already regarding both works. I vote for Nanato4 for the simple fact that he/she followed the norms for writing a piece correctly.

    Nanato4

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  19. Congratulations to both contestants!

    I'm giving round #4 to Anna MacKenzie. While I found Nanato4's memoir entry equally riveting, as others have mentioned, the moralizing paragraph with the political message at the end weakened the piece. If a story is well-told (as Nanato4's is) there is no need to end by telling the reader what the story was about. Plus, a memoir is a reminiscence—a tale remembered. That memory is disrupted when a political message is tacked on. Had Nanato4 left off the final paragraph, I would have to rethink my choice.

    VR Barkowski

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  20. Congratulations to the writers for making it into the top 32!

    My vote is for Anna.

    Nanato's story had depth and possibility. I could feel the insecurity and fear for survival from the little boy. Addressing the time of the depression is a topic of interest for me. We are so comfortable in our environment today. What would it be like to ask for only the cracked eggs? I really could not see it though, visually. I could feel the boy, but when I read a story, I like to have all of my senses engaged. That is just my preference. You did a wonderful job!

    Anna - My senses were engaged from the beginning. I could see and smell the lobster and ocean. I could hear the crack of the lobster shell, the smell of the party, the sound of the waves, the pain of a mosquito bite. I could feel her speculation. We don't give children credit for what they sense. This little girl knows more than the adults believe she does. That concept alone makes writing interesting for me. Great job!

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  21. No! I think my first comment got eaten. BOOO!! (I hope this doesn't get posted twice...)

    Anyway, i voted to put both these through, so yay!

    But today i'm voting for Anna McKenzie

    I loved the singsong quality to it, brought out by the pace and the structure. I loved the choppy sentences and understood that narrative choice and think it was the right one. Also, yes, the voice doesn't sound like an 11 year old, but this is Lit fic, NOT kidlit, so that's fine as far as i'm concerned. It's not like Lovely Bones sounds like it's written from a child's POV.

    Nanato - i also really loved this peice. The story was great (which is why i voted to put it through) but like everyone else said the last paragraph is where i'm lost.

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  22. I had trouble with Nanato4. What was the soapbox about at the end of the piece?

    I didn't understand Anna's sudden shift in tense and I couldn't hear the child's voice. She had some nice imagery, but it wasn't enough to carry me through the problems with structure and tone.
    So now what? Guess I'll have to go with Anna on this round.

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  23. Close one, but my vote goes to Nanato4. I enjoyed both for different reasons, but the second piece seemed more effortless and overall better written.

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  24. I enjoyed Nanato4 right up until the last paragraph. Sigh. This would have been easy, except that last paragraph. Anna was choppy and jumped around, but it had a tangibility.

    I'm going to vote AnnaMcKenzie for round 4

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  25. This is a tough one to decide! But I think in the end, I'll go with Nanto4 despite disliking the preachy end to the story. The writing was smoother.

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  26. Google made e sing in and then ate y comment.

    Both pieces are great stories told from the perspective of a child. I think that AnnaMacKenzie has a good story going there, but it needs something to draw me in a little more emotionally.

    In Nanto4's piece I'm right there with the characters. This piece shows so much about everyone involved. I really loved it. I do have to agree with some of the other comments, that the second to last paragraph seems unnecessary in this wonderful story. I think we all got the message through this superb piece of storytelling, without hitting us over the head.

    I'm going to excuse that 'preachy-sledge hammer' paragraph and give my vote to Nanto4.

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  27. My vote goes to Nanato4 for this round. I found that AnnaMacKenzie jumped between tenses, and that jarred me a bit. I also couldn't quite get a feel for what was going on. But, in Nanato4's piece, I found myself feeling a bit more involved -- I wanted to know if the boy would be able to get the eggs his mother needed

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  28. Both had some strong writing but also some things that bothered me. Nanato4's piece is a memoir, not fiction, so it's hard to compare to Anna MacKenzie's literary piece. But I think Nanato4's could be stronger. I actually had to remind myself who was talking. And then there's a totally unnecessary diatribe at the end. Anna MacKenzie's piece had that awkward jump from past tense to present, but also more sensory images which gave it more immediacy and drew me in more. I would have liked a bit more of the narrator's emotions as she listens to the adults. So I guess I'm going with Anna MacKenzie.

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  29. I vote for Nanto4 under protest against the preachy paragraph that follows the story.

    It's hard to fathom how the story part can be so richly original and the tack-on paragraph so predictable in its talking points: foolish government programs that get sucked up by people who take more for much longer than they need, beggars, by the way, who ought to know they can't be choosers (they should be "graciously accepting cast-offs).

    The story part was superb in its writing and in capturing attitudes and needs and hearts of several characters in a very short space.

    I liked the ending of Anna. A very effective metaphor of the hermit crab toting its house and the way the girl thinks about what she would do. Some good imagery in the rest of the piece as well. There was, though, less of a coherent build-up to the end.

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  30. I loved the voice in the first story. The second is really well written.
    I'm going to go with Nanato4.

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  31. These were both strong pieces. Some remarks:
    Anna MacKenzie's piece had a great narrative distance, and I liked the way the main conflict -- the dad dancing with some other lady -- was told from the MC's point of view. That said, the piece felt disjointed to me. The lobster comment was strange. The sucked-in-by-a-wave bit seemed very out of place. Maybe the author is trying to do too much and it's going right over my head.

    Nanato4's submission as a Memoir was interesting. By default, I'm less interested in memoirs on the whole than I am actual fiction. But the prose was clean, and the story-within-a-story was deftly handled. I knew the "then crack some" comment was coming, and I was glad for it.

    Congratulations to both WRiTERs for making the cut! My vote goes to Nanato4.

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  32. Kudos to both contestants!

    Hmmm...Neither Memoir or most Lit Fic is for me, so I focused on the writing itself.

    I found the sentence structure in Anna's a little repetitive. This happened. Then this happened. This happened. It slogged the pace for me. I love the intensity in the last few lines, about the next morning. I wish some of that tension and conflict had been more consistent throughout. The last scene made me curious, but what came before didn't do a lot for me.

    Nanato, on the other hand, opens with tension, voice and conflict. This isn't my type of book, but having read this excerpt I'd be curious to read more. For me, Nanato's writing, from sentence structure up is stronger.

    So, Nanato4 gets my vote!

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  33. Nanato for me due to the frequent tense changes in Anna's, plus an overall disjointed feeling. Anna, that said, really nice job setting the scene, mood and some deep emotion there. I don't read much lit fic so maybe you were going for a choppy feeling - if not, try reading out loud to help with flow. Nanato, nice job, though keep polishing to bring out that voice. I don't read much memoir either, but the ones I have read have amazing, pop-off-the-page voice. Also, 'scuffed brown shoes' sounded cliché to me, so perhaps try a different descriptor.

    Nice job both of you, and good luck!

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  34. Looking at the genres, I wondered at first about this match up. After reading, it's clear that they belong together. Great job, DL!

    Anna MacKenzie-

    I've never seen someone cook multiple lobsters without putting bands on the claws. I've also never seen them boiled in a pot without a lid on it.
    Perhaps lobsters in California are different than ones in New England?

    Excellent ending though.


    Nanato4

    That is a memoir worth reading. Thank you for sharing this story. I love it. Nanato4 has my vote.

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  35. I enjoyed both. I can relate more to the first.
    But the second really held me. I, being odd, enjoyed the final paragraph, which others seemed thrown by.
    Nanato4 gets my vote.

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  36. Anna I could clearly see the hardships of family but I felt it lacked a childlike voice to it. I more envisioned a depressed 16-17yr old. For Nanato I thought the storytelling part of it was fantastic and like I was there watching it happen. the other parts of it could have been just a tad more cohesive, and blended rather then instantly drawing you out. Vote goes to Nanato4

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  37. Congratulations to both for doing something the England football team couldn't, and making it to the knockout rounds.

    I think Anna missed the child's voice slightly, though it has the makings of a good piece.

    I wasn't convinced by the ending of Nanato4's piece, but it nevertheless gets my vote.

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  38. I thought they were both pretty good. Anna's a bit choppy but I read it as a kid laying in bed thinking of the day's events all while being distracted by sounds from the house, so it worked for me. Nanato4 I really liked. Except the end. A reader should have the oppurtunity to paint the words in their own mind and come up with their own conclusions. To have it explained at the end woud be like reading Cujo and then at the end having King put a picture of a Pomeranian in there.
    I felt robbed. My vote goes to Anna only because of this reason.

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  39. Two excellent entries.

    I really admired how Anna conveyed the emotion and the thoughts of her character but just what the character saw and did.

    Nanato4 has great voice and energy.

    I'm going with Anna for the raw emotion it conveyed with the last sentence.

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  40. Anna Mackenzie gets my vote today. I enjoyed both entries, but the summation at the end of Nanoto4's piece telling me what the story was about was the deciding factor against it.

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  41. I vote Nanato4.

    In the first sample, there is no music, no rhythm. It just felt...flat.

    I could tell from the first paragraph after reading Nanato4's where I'd be placing my vote.

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  42. Nanto4 gets my vote. I actually liked her summation. Though I agree that the piece spoke for itself, I think its a good thing that she shared her reflections on what she learned from what her father shared. It's a memoir after all and they ought to cause us to reflect. I am not threatened by someone else's thoughts on an issue because I think it gives me the opportunity to see into the mind of another and expand myself. Besides that, I loved the story and the way it was communicated brought you there.

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  43. The voice in Anna's piece was so authentically child-like and conveyed nice emotion - with some cute humor with that mosquito, hehe. But I'm giving my vote to Nanato4 -- memoir isn't usually my thing, but this was such a powerfully great message told in such a beautifully simple way.

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  44. Okay, this is a really hard one for me. Both stories convey so much. I loved the tone of Anna MacKenzie's piece, and the message of Nanato4's was wonderful. In the end I'm voting for Anna MacKenzie's, simply because it challenged me to read between the lines, and the voice felt authentic to me.

    Both writers did a great job. They should both be proud!

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  45. When I "signed" in, all my comments were lost, so I'll try again.

    Nana's piece was enchanting until the preachy ending which threw the loveliness of everything before it off and actually nullified the point of the story. It was jarring and left me with a sour taste.

    I loved Anna's story despite some flaws. It has the makings of a lovely longer piece and I thought the child's voice was true given that children know and see much more that adults give them credit. I also personally could relate to this story and it reminded me of similar childhood vacations in both color and events. Nice job!!

    Congrats to both for being selected!!

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  46. Oh, that's a vote for Anna in case I wasn't clear! :)

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  47. Congrats to both writers to making it into the top 32!

    While I wasn't a fan of Nanato4's second last paragraph, my vote has to go to Nanato4. The piece was better written than Anna's.

    Anna's piece has potential, but it didn't flow well for me. It felt like it was all over the place, choppy and disorganized.

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  48. I vote for Anna MacKenzie

    I felt like we were sitting around and she was telling me her story. The short sentences, the build up, to which I assumed is a family in crisis, particularly the mother. Though I was jarred from the flow of it with the last sentence. It seemed out of place, but without the remaining or previous parts of the story, it might be poignant. Overall the story drew me in, I liked the bit about the MC watching the lobsters and ending with her and her brother eating hot dogs. It made me laugh, which is always a good thing.

    Nanoto4's story was interesting, though I can see how the other voters were sidetracked by the last paragraph. It seemed a little preachy or unrelated. So i reread and see that it picks up where the beginning paragraph leaves off to include dialogue. I would change the way that paragraph reads, I think what the author is trying to do is show how innocence has been lost though the ages, it just isn't done in the best way possible. I like it though.
    Congratulations to both!

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  49. Both stories were good as far as language use. Nanato4 was superior in that the first one was jumbled up from one moment to the next. Had Anna told the story right from the beginning than give a list of what happened, I think I would have voted for her.

    My vote is Nanato4.

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  50. Voting for Anna!

    I like the anecdote in Nanato4 but the ending felt a bit heavy handed.

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  51. Hands down it's Nanto4 for me. Anna McKenzie doesn't quite have her voice down and the choppiness really made me stumble.

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  52. Anna McKenzie gets my vote. The bit at the end of Nanato4's was too heavy handed for me.

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  53. My vote goes to Anna MacKenzie.

    Although at times it seemed the efforts to convey the child's dialect were a bit forced (it might be better to tone that down a bit), this piece does a wonderful job of creating a sense of the place and the people. I don't think the italics are really necessary in those two lines at the end, however -- since it's such a close POV, there's no need to indicate that these are thoughts, and I don't see any other reason to italicize them. In fact, those sentences might be reworked to be more in line with the rest of the narrative, which does an excellent job of showing rather than telling the narrator's feelings. And while some felt the style was 'choppy', it seems appropriate for the character's age and situation. There are several lines where the subtle poetry makes for a very strong emotional impact. (And it's nice to see something literary!) :)

    Nanato4's entry also has a number of strengths. It's certainly a touching story, and since this is memoir, I see no problem with the closing paragraph, especially if this is an excerpt from a book in which the narrator often addresses the reader in this manner. There are some punctuation errors -- mostly incorrectly punctuated dialogue -- and a couple of spots where the transition to the father's story could have been smoother, but overall the writing is straightforward and pretty clean. But for me, it just couldn't quite compete with the emotional strength and the poetic moments in Anna's entry.

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  54. This is the first time in this particular competition that each story stands out. Liked both very much, but I have to go with Anna.

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  55. I have to say both writers did a great job this time. Engaging stories with good writing, but Nanato4 is the winner in my book. I just liked the voice better. I actually would read either one.

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  56. I have to go with Nanato4. It's a wonderful story within it's genre - both the memoir and the "told" story. I love the end.

    The first story, the scene and emotions are good, but the shifting of tense and time don't work very well, and the voice becomes very distancing because of it. (We get present, then a bit of past -- which might work if the "present" were all one scene, but then we shift into present again, with skips in time and reference.) Present tense is hard to handle well, but it takes practice to give it meaning. This was a good start but just needs work on the voice.

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  57. hard choice as both story concepts are intriguing. Nana is better written, so my vote goes to Nana.

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  58. I'm going to cast my vote for Nanato4. Anna's. I'm afraid, did not intrigue me at all. It was as if something was missing. Nothing to pull me forward to more of the story. I'm a fast voracious reader and probably would have continued reading for at least another 500 words before making a firm decision. I'm going to make a guess the short format probably did not suit the story at all.

    Nana's entry was warm and charming, whether it was memoir or not, evoking the feeling of an earlier place and time. Short as it was I can see it easily morphing into more of a story than the snippet presents. I will agree with other postings. Stopping right after "Then crack some" would not have harmed the story at all. Everything after that was a distraction and mood shaker.

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  59. First of all, congratulations to both writers for making it through to #4.

    I thought Anna MacKenzie's piece was beautifully written. The disjointed writing felt like a child putting its hands over their ears and saying "la-la-la" to block out events too intrusive to deal with. Or like throwing in the line "I got sucked in a wave today..." as an indication of annoyance. I liked this, if indeed this is what the writer was intending, but it's how I read it anyway. I also find it believable that a child has intellectual capabilities above their age, whether in reality or in fiction. The only bit that threw me, how could the child see everything occurring downstairs through a crack in the door?

    I admired the poetic writing of Nanato4. I haven't read any memoires, so I cannot say if the last paragraph is correct to use for the ending of this piece. I'll leave that to people better qualified on the subject.

    Overall, it was a hard decision. But for me, Anna MacKenzie gets the vote.

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  60. Neither of these are genres I would usually read so I find it particularly hard to comment on style with this bout. The first few lines of Anna's drew me in but after that I found it too choppy and the change of tense was distracting. Nanato again started well, the topic was interesting and easier to follow, although I couldn't connect with the child's voice all the way through.

    Well done to both of you for getting through to the bouts, my vote goes to Nanato4.

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  61. I loved the actual "memoir" portion of Nanato4's piece, but the commentary at the end pulled me out of the moment and soured it. Let the story stand without explanation.

    Anna MacKenzie's piece - I want more! What is the word - is it divorce, affair or something more sinister?

    For me, it is Anna MacKenzie in this round.

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  62. Wow, another tough decision, but I vote for Nanato4. I liked Anna MacKenzie's style and tone, but found Nanato4's tale of the boy and the cracked eggs to be more unique overall (though I didn't love the commentary at the end--the piece stands on its own without explanation).

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  63. I waffled back and forth for days. These are both really strong pieces. I think I like Anna MacKenzie a little more, so she gets my vote.

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  64. I vote for Nanato4. The first was harder for me to follow.

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  65. Gotta go with Anna! I felt like I was there with her when she saw her dad, when she heard her parents arguing, and when she went for a walk along the beach and saw the hermit crab. Nanato4 just didn't do it for me, and the little speech at the end surely killed the vote for the piece.

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  66. Congrats to both writers for making it to the bout!

    If I'm honest, neither piece really stuck with me. I read them both several times and each time, my vote remained the same.

    Anna's piece was extremely disjointed and choppy. The lack of flow killed it for me.

    I enjoyed Nanato4's story, but the last paragraph turned me off. That being said, Nanato4 gets my vote, mainly because the storytelling drew me in.

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  67. Congratulations to Anna MacKenzie and Nanato4 on being selected for this round! Anna MacKenzie wins for me with a captivating voice and delicious shellfish imagery and allegory. I really connected with Nanato4's Father's story within the story, but the piece is diluted by too much exposition (telling) and editorializing in the first and last paragraphs. The passage would be strengthened by deleting these. Try describing Father in the same vein as one of his anecdotes: show us his bushy eyebrows in action/waggling, etc., rather than passively listing his traits. As for the moral, the meaning is in the eye of each reader. Thank you for sharing your recollections of your father and his stories. Let him and his gift of gab speak for themselves and you will hook us, as he did you.

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  68. Anna MacKenzie. For me, this piece perfectly captures the dilemma of a child who cannot help but be enchanted by her surroundings yet finds herself in the care of adults who create chaos. As a reader, I could see the protagonist losing the capacity for wonder and take on the mantle of anxiety. I loved the writing.

    Nanato4's offering was very well written, but as a reader, I felt lectured by the last paragraphs. Even in a memoir, I think the writer must allow the reader to draw her own conclusions. (Ironically, those were the conclusions I was coming to based on the strong writing of the previous paragraphs.)

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  69. Nanato4 gets my vote. I agree that voting is often subjective and I believe this is the case between these two selections. With Nanato's writing it reminded me of listening to one of my father's stories, especially the part about cracking the eggs at the end.

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  70. Congrats to each for making it to the top 32; both were good stories. Anna MacKenzie was good, but was a little confusing at first. I had to read it twice to get it. Nanato4 was well written as well, and with the exception of the last paragraph, it has my vote by a hair.

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