WRiTE CLUB 2015 Semi-Final Bout #2


WRiTE CLUB is a writing community sensation sponsored by the DFWWriters Conference - loosely based on the popular movie Fight Club.  There are numerous versions of this concept floating around the internet, but nothing like we do it here.  This unique approach embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top.



The ring this year has seen numerous clashes of nothing but the highest quality writing...each with their own unique qualities and offerings...but unfortunately the ring is meant to hold only two.  In order to solve this problem I bring to you four awesome writers in a pair of semi-final bouts and ask the readership to vote one more time.  This is the last round where the readers have a say...so I hope that everyone takes advantage of the opportunity. And when your finished please let all your friends know as well.

There is no wildcard to fallback on any longer. The two semi-final winners we pick this week will be asked to offer one more 500 word submission, which will be  put before our celebrity judges and a winner will be announced at the DFW Conference on July 25th. This years journey is almost over and a crown beckons. Voting will remain open for both semi-final bouts until 6 PM (CST) Sunday, July 19th.

How about we finish choosing who those two writers are?

In the near corner, no stranger to the ring, representing the Women's Fiction genre with 500 words, here is Cloudwatcher.





“Hey, Bitch, how’s it going being dead? You don’t remember me. I’m Cara, the fifth of your six kids. I came along after you’d given up on everything…except drinking. But, I’m here to forgive you, not insult you, you old chain-smoking, friendless, unhappy Mother.”

I looked up from the plain, bronze marker flush to the ground bearing only her name and the years she lived. For the first time in twenty years, I was in Pecos, New Mexico, looking at a sky so blue and clouds so white they hurt my eyes.

“I stopped drinking six months ago—I’m in a program. I’m supposed to think of one thing to thank you for. I’m also working on my character defects: resentment and sarcasm. Uh, nice place you have here.”

The treeless acre of rocky dirt and scraggly weeds sat on a hill above the little Catholic church’s roof-line. Its barbed wire fence was ringed with tall pines and scrub oak. The constant breeze carried the sound of the swishing branches and the pinons’ distinctive fragrance. Stretched out to eternity before me were the blue Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I shaded my eyes as I noticed Mom’s neighbors. Some of the mismatched memorials were surrounded by picket fences, or guarded by life-sized angels, or simply outlined with piled rock. Many had faded, plastic flowers. The inscriptions remembered beloved fathers, veterans, or loving mothers.

Loving mothers…this was hard for me. We shared so many faults. Resentment was her mother’s milk—not that she ever breast-fed me.

“Sorry to call you a bitch. I know you had it rough…like me.”

Without really needing my presence, she would talk for hours about her tragic life, pausing only to strike the blue-topped match across the cardboard box as she jutted the cigarette into the flame. She was prematurely born to a beauty who died soon after. She rarely saw the artist father she idolized. From here her ramblings proceeded to place blame where it belonged—on everyone else. She wasn’t an artist because her relatives wouldn’t pay for art school. She wasn’t happily married because the handsome, athletic man changed into a drunken brute. Worst of all, she wasn’t free because her religion demanded she have six children when she only wanted four.

“Who tells her own kid she isn’t wanted, Mom? Who tells her, in the most matter-of-fact way, that she tried to kill herself when she found out she was pregnant? That they’d both be dead if her sixteen-year-old son hadn’t cut her down? Who tells her own child that she couldn’t stand to hold her? YOU. That’s who.”

I was shaking when I finished the tirade that only the wind heard.

“I’ve got to let MY resentments go, Mom! I’ve got to or I’m going right back to that alcoholic hell I just escaped.”

I bent over and touched her nameplate.

“You never knew…I’m an artist, Mom…thank you.”

I straightened, sighed, and then stepped in front of my father’s grave.

“Hello, Asshole.”
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In the far corner, also no stranger to the ring, representing the Post Apocalyptic genre with 496 words, here is MissWriteNow.





I always assumed painting “SOS” on a roof is something people only do in the movies. The pink splatter across my jeans proves otherwise. Unless I’m asleep, then eventually I’ll wake up from this hell. Unlikely.

Sitting cross-legged in the middle of my “O”, I nibble into sweetness. KitKat isn’t my favorite, but when shit hits the fan, any variety of chocolate will do.

“Seriously,” Parker yells from the roof’s access door. “Are you really eating the last candy bar?”

Busted.

I lick the evidence off my fingers. “Don’t act like you’re starving. There’s noodles in the cupboard.” And there is, plenty of them. Besides, I’m the girl and the youngest. So it makes perfect sense that I should get the chocolate.

“Whatever. Be a selfish brat.” He walks to the building’s ledge, shaking his head like I’ve just committed the ultimate sin.

“I’m not a brat! And I’m not selfish,” I argue, standing to follow him. “You’re the one who spends twenty minutes in the bathroom every evening doing God only knows what.”

He whips around to face me. “That’s the only time I have any privacy, if that even counts, considering you stand in the hall, banging on the door for fifteen of those twenty minutes!”

“Shut-up! You’re such a jer—”

I freeze, listening. Please, God, no. Not the boats again.

Parker yanks my arm. “Get down.”

On our knees, we peek over our building’s edge. Three boats, the kind used for skiing, wiz down our street, make a U-turn at the corner, and speed back toward us. My heart threatens to break a rib with its beating.

Glass shatters from one of the windows across the street. Laughs carry up our apartment complex, forcing me to duck low and control my uncontrollable breathing. In no way do I want those men to see me.

“What are they doing?” I whisper.

Parker rolls his eyes. “They’re taking the neighbor’s chocolate. But don’t worry, we’re safe.”

He thinks he’s funny. There’s nothing funny about gun-toting men in ski boats, robbing every apartment in the city. I’m just glad everyone evacuated when the storms started—everyone but us.

Parker turns and flops next to me, putting his elbows on his knees. “I think we should try to leave here. Find a safer place. I’ll go out tonight, see what the north side looks like.”

That row boat in the parking garage isn’t the safest thing, considering those motor boats will catch him easy enough. And he won’t let me go, even if I wanted to. Without me, Gran will wander off and we’ll never see her again, or she’ll forget to take her pills, and funerals stopped happening when the world flooded. But my arguments won’t keep him with me.

Gawking at my shoe laces, I blink tears away.

I reach over and fold my hand around Parker’s thumb, just like when we were kids. “If you find a Hershey’s bar, save me a square.”
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Choose which of these pieces resonates with you the most and cast your vote in the comments section below.

This is WRiTE CLUB...where the audience gets clobbered.
  

23 comments

  1. High quality writing. Congratulations to both semifinalists.
    I vote for Cloudwatcher. The story is compelling. I found the descriptions rich and the ending intriguing.
    Although I liked the story's main character in MissWriteNow's entry, I couldn't get past the verb tense problems.

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    1. I also voted for Cloudwatcher, but in MWN's defense, I want to say that I did not find one tense error in that piece. I suppose you could argue that the first sentence should say, "I've always thought . . ." given that the story overall is in the present tense. The piece is consistently in the present tense when describing what's going on now, and switches appropriately to the future tense when the narrator is imagining what will happen to Gran if . . .

      I have to say that, throughout this contest, I've seen several instances of various people (not just you) voting against some entry because of some grammatical flaw that simply is not in the entry. The most common one is "too much passive voice" when there is not one instance of passive voice in the whole 500 words.

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  2. My vote goes to MissWriteNow. It could use a bit of tightening - mainly cutting down unnecessary words - but it's an intriguing story with developed characters.

    I had to read Cloudwatcher's first two paragraphs twice before I got what was going on. It may be the previous piece in which a woman died, but when I started reading this, my initial thought was that the narrator was being greeted in the afterlife. A line to set the scene before dialogue would help.

    Congratulations and good luck to both writers!

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  3. Wow! Great entries from both of these writers!

    The bitterness of Cloudwatcher's narrator was well conveyed and her inner conflict was also intriguing. However, I do agree with Lisa that I was confused by the opening paragraphs. I initially thought someone else was speaking to the protagonist and was confused when it was actually the protagonist herself.

    I usually avoid post-apocalyptic fiction but I really enjoyed MissWriteNow's entry. The relationship between the siblings is intriguing and I would definitely read more of this story!

    My vote goes to MissWriteNow.

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  4. Voting for Cloudwatcher, though I, too, was confused by the very opening and thought someone was being greeted upon entering the afterlife.That's a simple fix, though. This is a marvelous portrayal of the struggle and mixed feelings in trying to forgive the wounds inflicted by a wounded parent and wrestling with one's own imperfections and temptations while trying to climb out of the mire of the past. I also like that the cemetery is described in a non-generic way and we are transported to a particular locale.

    MissWriteNow's piece is also well written with a convincing portrayal of "allies against a common enemy" having conflict with each other. I think an earlier hint of the special circumstances of their hiding would make the significance of eating the last candy bar apparent and hogging the bathroom more dramatically interesting. As it's written now, it reads like just two kids bantering over those things the way kids do. Private time away from other captives in hiding is a lot more precious than everyday hogging the bathroom. This comes through eventually, but I just think it would up the drama to realize earlier that they are in hiding and survival mode.

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  5. Oooh… Tough choice today! I'd read both of these. But I think I like the characters in Miss WriteNow's piece better, so that's my vote today.

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  6. Wow.
    These are both excellent entries.

    My choice: MissWriteNow.

    Heather

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  7. #2 - intriguing world!
    Good battle today! :)

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  8. Definitely MissWriteNow for smooth, easy to read writing. I stumbled over several phrases in Cloudwatcher's.

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  9. I vote for MissWriteNow.
    Both are well written, though.

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  10. Congratulations to both! Both are great but I have to go with Miss Write Now

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  11. I vote for Miss Write Now. I think this piece is the weakest of all that we've read, mainly because it drops into a scene we don't have context for. Also, the character dialogue and actions seem to flip for the situation. And, I don't follow some of the character motivation, like this, for instance: "Without me, Gran will wander off and we’ll never see her again, or she’ll forget to take her pills, and funerals stopped happening when the world flooded." So, it would be fine if she died if funerals were still happening?? Please, if you make it to the finals, go through your piece and clean up this type of stuff. I know you're capable of some compelling writing with great voice.

    For Cloudwatcher's piece, I certainly appreciate the bitter regret and emotion you brought to the MC. However, for the most part it's just a lot of telling and backstory. I missed the *story* part of this story. And I dislike so much how this opens with dialogue. I think you want to hook us with shock instead of something compelling. However, if you set the scene for us with the MC, then used that dialogue, it would pack way more punch (and make sense, as well).

    Congrats to both of you on the semi-finals!

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  12. My vote goes to MissWriteNow

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  13. These were both very good. The concept in MissWriteNow's piece really pulled me in but I keep coming back to Cloudwatcher's last line. It was perfect. My vote goes to Cluodwatcher.

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  14. Cloudwatcher - That's a lot of emotion. The first time I read it (I admit, I skimmed because there was a distraction going on around me), I thought the mom was in rehab and talking to the daughter. But that didn't make sense. When I went back and reread, I saw that it was the daughter addressing her mom's tombstone. Difficult to write a scene like this one.

    MissWriteNow- I'm curious who the SOS is written for, given they are trying to avoid people in boats. Is there a reason they aren't worried that the boat people will go up in the apartments they're raiding, see the SOS, and get curious? Obviously I won't be getting an answer. But the fact that I'm curious about this, and other aspects, has me wanting to read more.

    I vote MissWriteNow.

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  15. I liked them both but my vote goes to Cloudwatcher.

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  16. I vote for MissWriteNow.
    Congrats to both for making it so far!

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