Time to lace up those gloves and put up some dukes!
During the coming weeks this blog will host 15 bouts (M-F) between writing samples that are identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters. The writing can be from any genre, any age group, taken either from a larger piece of work or simply a stand alone flash fiction. The focus is on the writing...not the writer...or its categorization. The two writing samples for each bout will be randomly matched and step into the ring for a chance to find out what they're made of.
The winner of each contest is chosen by you...the reader. Simply read each entry and leave your vote in the comment section below. Anyone can vote, as long as you have a Google ID or belong to Google Friend Connect. Anonymous voting is not allowed. It is also customary to leave a brief critique of both pieces. You see, the comments are where the true value of this contest makes itself known. Not only do the contestants gain valuable insight about their work from those remarks, but everybody can benefit from how each piece is received and what works...and what doesn't. Please remember to remain respectful with your comments. If you see an opportunity for improvement, make it known in the most positive way possible.
How do you choose a winner? What criteria should be used? The method by which you determine who to vote for is entirely up to you. Which one resonates with you the most? Which one makes you want to read more? Which one demonstrates a total command of the English language and how it can be used to elicit emotion or paint a mental picture you can't stop staring at. There is no hard and fast way rules for determining a winner -- and that's exactly what the publishing world is like. But today you get to decide.
The voting for each bout will remain open for one week, so even though a new bout will be posted every day, you don't miss out on anything if you miss a few days. You can always catch up on several bouts at once if you so desire. Once the voting period ends and the votes have been tabulated, the results will be posted HERE, on the WRiTE CLUB scorecard. After we make it through the 15 preliminary bouts, then the winners will have to continue on through cage matches, then play-offs, until there are only two left with a chance to win free admission to the 2017 DFW Writers Conference.
The voting for this bout - Bout #4 - remains open until noon on Wednesday - March 16th.
That's the bell...and its trying to tell us something.
Let me introduce to you the contestants for this bout. In the near corner, representing the YA Historical Fantasy genre with 449 words, welcome to the ring Graham Marshall.
Jump. The word slips from between the stones in the wall, carries on the wind, and brushes my ear. I have no reason to argue.
I let go of the tree’s trunk with one hand, hike my skirts around my knees, dig in my heels and lean forward. If the desired result is to catch the wall with my hands, the goal is to get at least my head over it.
I coil. I exhale.
I propel forward.
For a few blessed, terrible moments I hang in the air with the wind whipping at my cheeks and rustling in my skirts. I don’t know if I’ll catch myself or not, so I lunge with every ounce of energy I have and pray for the abrasive burn of weather-exposed stone on my palms.
My fingernails break. It’s the skin at my wrists, far more delicate than that of my hands, that screams as the topmost layer of skin is scraped away. Strength musters from reserves I wasn’t aware of and I grasp the top of the wall as hard as I can, press my palms into its surface and lift myself upward. I heave one leg over and straddle the wall like a horse.
The entire borough is visible from my vantage point. The tavern is thumpin’ and when the wind turns just right the strain of stringed instruments reaches my ears. Women in red wimples welcome staggering men into a building with two floors and no windows, a repetitive clang! reverberates from deep inside the smithy’s shop, and in the center of town a beggar hangs shivering in the stocks.
All of the houses are boarded up with tendrils of smoke drifting up into the sky from the centers of their roofs. Neighborhoods radiate from the square like rays from the sun, set in odd angles and breaking off into the occasional cul de sac. There are no street lights lining the narrow roads, only the glow of a fire slipping from between the gaps in their shutters. In the far corner, candlelight flickers through stained glass set in the walls of a tiny chapel.
It reminds me of those little light up villages old ladies nestle into pillow stuffing on their book cases every Christmas. There is something vulnerable about the scene, cozy with the way the buildings are piled on top of one another like a litter of puppies. Maybe its the warmth in the windows or the scent of burning firewood, but there is something about the town that begs me inside and bids me welcome.I swing my other leg over, roll onto my stomach, and drop onto the sloppy, mud-slick street below.
And in the far corner, representing the YA Contemporary genre with 499 words, also welcome to the ring Ann Mcknight.
At 5:43 pm Emmaline Frazier's young life is cut short in a tragic car accident. Her mother, Justine, and younger sister, Birdy, survive her.
This is as far as I get in my imaginary obituary. I repeat it on a loop, changing the time as each minute ticks by. She dies at 5:44, at 5:45, at 5:46, at 5:47.
Each minute I survive is a victory against my stepfather. I consider opening the door and jumping, but Birdy clings to my hand and I can’t leave her alone. I don't tell her it will be okay, because I may be a crap sister, but I'm no liar. My silence is one of self-preservation. I’ve learned it does no good to sob loudly and beg for our lives. It only feeds his crazy. Our tears and fear: the anti lithium.
In lieu of screaming, I bite the inside of my cheek, pinch the skin along my thighs, and keep my mouth shut. He hugs the curves, swerving dangerously close to the sheer drop where only a flimsy, metal barrier stands between the Pacific Ocean and us.
Occasionally the back end of our Honda Civic smacks the metal with a dull thud and shudders, our car fishtailing into traffic, cars honking, people swearing. Hank occasionally strokes the thick chestnut waves of Mom’s hair, smiling with love at her, not seeing her fear.
“Love you so much babe.” He blows her a kiss.
“Love you too,” she whispers.
“Have you ever seen such a gorgeous day?” he shouts. He throws back his head and laughs.
I hate his laugh. It reminds me of a hyena ready to tear open its prey.
“Hey Em.” His eyes collide with mine. “You scared?”
“No sir,” I say. I hate him more than I’ve ever hated anything. My hatred scares me almost as much as dying in this hideous pea green, tin can of a car.
“You sure girl? You look kind of scared. Should I pull over?”
“No sir.” If he pulls over it will be worse. He will make me pay in another way.
“Well, okay then.” He laughs, enjoying my misery.
Birdy picks this time to whisper, “I have to potty.”
“What’s that little bird?” he yells, like she's ever going to tell him. Birdy never talks to him, her little birdy heart too delicate.
“She has to pee,” I say.
“Piss out the window.” He laughs like he’s told the funniest joke ever.
I wish his bladder would explode and he would die of sepsis.
“Okay little bird, let’s pull over here and you can go in the bushes.”
She looks at me, her sea glass eyes taking up most of her face. She is all chubby cheeks and eyes. If she were any cuter I might puke, but I love her anyway. “I don’t want to pee in bushes,” she mouths to me. Her distress turns her cheeks into blotchy red maps of misery.
“You don’t have a choice,” I whisper.
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. Read both pieces, choose the one you feel is superior, then say so in the comments below and provide a mini-critique for each.
Now go tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well. If you intend to Tweet about this, please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUB2016. Tell everybody about WRiTE CLUB, where it’s not about the last man/woman standing, but who knocks the audience out!