WRiTE CLUB 2016 - Bout #5


Time to once again lace up those gloves!

This caps off the first week of bouts (M-F) between writing samples that are identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters. There will be two more weeks of preliminary skirmishes, then the playoffs will immediately follow. 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 #5 - remains open until noon on Thursday - March 17th.

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 Adult Thriller genre with 500 words, welcome to the ring Duckster.




The trees snapped in an out of focus in a dizzying rhythm. No matter how much she tried to focus on the bird whistling in the leaves, she was unable to see it. Its song was a soft and jubilant melody; nothing at all like the dirge a day like this deserved. Chaos swept around Maggie in a flurry of sirens, lights, and disconsolate cries a few feet away from her. Even as the EMT prodded her and shone lights into her eyes, the six-year-old only tried to find the cheerful bird hiding in the trees above their driveway.

“Maggie?” Ten voices overlapped in a symphony of layers that was almost beautiful. “Maggie, can you look at me?”She didn’t. Her eyes were still trying to make sense of the disembodied whistling in the trees.“Maggie, sweetheart, I need you to look at me. Can you look right here? Right at my nose?”

A flutter in the treetops ensnared her attention. Any moment, the bird would show himself. Maybe it was a bluebird. She loved watching bluebirds fly around their house after school. Alexandra hated the birds. She was always throwing rocks at them, or smashing their nests. One time, Maggie even caught her putting something from daddy’s garage into the bird feeders. Luckily, she told their dad in time for him to change the feed before the birds ate it. That was the night her sister slammed her fingers in their bedroom door.

A wailing cry erupted down the driveway, finally pulling the attention of both the EMT and Maggie to the source of the noise. She almost missed the sound of fluttering wings up above over the loud sobs of her mother and, when she looked to the tree once more, she just barely caught the bird flying away— a distant dot in the sky.

Leaving Maggie on the edge of the ambulance, the EMT rushed to aid his partner in prying the distraught woman from the approaching gurney. Her mom fought wildly to reach it again, her arms stretching out for the bundle on top of it, draped in a white sheet. A blossom of red spread in the center of it. The EMTs managed to keep her back long enough to load the stretcher into the second ambulance. She watched her mother carefully. Watched as the woman who was usually so happy fell apart in their front lawn. She hadn’t been able to summon a single tear but her mother, her beautiful mother, had spilled enough for the both of them.

While her father collected her mom, and the second ambulance pulled away from their home and past the crowd of bystanders held off by the police, the man who had been trying to get her to talk had come back. She stared up at his kind face — kind, but stretched thin with empathy for the parents’ plight — and twisted idly at her tiny fingers.

“Is Lexi dead?” she asked.



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And in the far corner, representing the Adult Chick Lit genre with 498 words, also welcome to the ring Arcadia.




For my fiftieth birthday, I got divorce papers and a colonoscopy. Not in that order.  Phil reasoned that after a pleasant slumber, I’d be more agreeable to him shacking up with a Zumba instructor and clearing out the bank accounts.  The process server called me ma’am. A year later, given the choice between a refreshing nap and Phil, I’d still choose the former.

Speaking of, that looks like him coming around the corner in the deli aisle.

Shit. I fish out my phone and text my daughter, Casey.

Dad is in grocery store! WHAT DO I DO?

She replies,  Um, say hi to the turd maybe?

Fat chance. I take stock of the situation. I’m wearing coffee-stained sweat pants and a T-shirt that introduces me as the “Menopause Avenger.” Casey made me the shirt as a post divorce gag gift.  The sweat pants I purchased with Bealls Bucks, bequeathed by my aunt when she went back north for the summer.  My ensemble reeks of attitude and old lady. And I have in-between hair, not quite long enough to cut into the style that my hairdresser claims will make me look like Kaley Cuoco’s  hotter, older sister.   

The lady cooking at the Apron Meals station thrusts a plastic cup filled with creamy penne pasta in front of me.  Brightly colored recipe cards for mushroom penne alfredo festoon the faux kitchen set up.

“Sample? It’s delicious and only takes fifteen minutes to make.”

She is plump, with rosy cheeks and blond poodle hair. The crinkles around her eyes suggest she’s smiled a lot.

“No… I, look, I need to hide under your cooktop,” I say. The please hangs in the air, unsaid and, as it turns out, unnecessary. She puts the cup down.

“Who’s bothering you, honey? I’ll call the manager,” she says, grabbing a rolling pin. It looks to be there just for show, since the entire meal comes out of a box, but Granny clutches it like she’s clobbered a few creeps in her day.

“Look, here’s the deal. My ex-husband is here and he can’t see me like this. I’m seven pounds away from fitting into my aspirational wardrobe and I have in-between hair.”

She nods. “Duck under here, sweetie. I’ll let you know when he’s gone.”

I abandon my cart and dive behind the table skirt seconds before Phil rounds the corner with Trixie. That’s what I call her, at least. I think her name is Trina. Or Tricia. Or maybe Marge.

Granny dangles a cup of  creamy goodness in front of the curtain split, but I swat it away.  My aspirational wardrobe is waiting, although rolling around naked in a tub of fettuccine alfredo would hit the spot right about now.

“Some dummy left her purse in her cart,” Trixie says as they walk toward the deli, where she will probably purchase overpriced organic chicken.

Then my custom ringtone goes off, Casey yelling, “Hey Mom! Pick up!”

Granny whispers, “I think they’re on to you.”

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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.  Tweet about it, and if you do please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUB2016. Tell everyone about WRiTE CLUB, where it’s not about the last man/woman standing, but who knocks the audience out!





70 comments

  1. Oh, gosh, today is hard. I love them both.

    I've flipped back and forth for a while, but ultimately I have to go with Duckster.

    Arcadia's made me laugh. I want to know if Granny's going to clobber the Ex-Husband with that rolling pin. I hope the MC delivers a real zinger in her In Between wardrobe and hair. I'm excited to learn more!

    Duckster's is dark and sinister, but it pulled me in further, and makes me want more harder. Why did Lexi die? Did her sister cause it? Is she sad? Do her parents realize what a terror Lexi was? So many questions, and I need answers.

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  3. Once again some great choices :)

    Duckster, your entry was so dark and intriguing. In conveying the little girl's focus on the bird in the tree you were able to show us that she was kind and conscientious while her sister seemed downright evil and yet, I have to wonder if perhaps both sisters are unhinged and the MC finally snapped and attacked Lexi. This makes me want to read more about this family. There are some typos and I have to wonder at some of the phrasing you used. For instance would a six year old know what a dirge a day is?

    Arcadia, your entry was also very interesting and humorous. You got me to hate the ex and his girlfriend while feeling for the main character. Of course she would run into them when she looks like crap, that's always the way isn't it? I have a special place in my heart for snark and appreciate the little dashes sprinkled throughout this entry. It's because of this and the breath of fresh air I felt reading this after days of dark and tragic entries that Arcadia gets my vote.

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  4. The 2 stories stirred my curiosity and it would be nice to know the outcome of Arcadia, which was amusing.

    Duckster, however, gets my vote as there is a lot of intrigue and unanswered questions about the tragic event that had me hooked from reading it.

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  5. Arcadia gets my vote. I want to keep reading. Duckster's piece raised my interest too-- which sister was really the evil one? But as a matter purely subjective taste, I prefer more straightforward narratives in thrillers, so the description about the birds in the trees, etc. just didn't quite work for me.

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  6. Arcadia gets my vote.
    Arcadia’s story captured life and created a likeable character. The opening sentence was a terrific hook and the interaction with the Table Meals lady was clever.

    Duckster – I loved the story twist but I felt I was in Maggie’s head too long. I want to read more and understand why the mother never approached Maggie.

    Strong contenders in this bout!

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  7. Great. More physically-suffering children. If I'd realized how many suffering children I would find at Write Club I'd have headed the other way! Despite that, I love much of the thoughtful description and imagery in the first piece but trusting the narrator is huge for me and it seemed just a bit loose; a bit random. I felt that a tragedy was happening but a tragic tone was not sustained.

    Arcadia gets my vote. While I have no interest in chick lit, I confess this is very effective writing. It's tight and consistent. The tone is clear. I laughed at the humour. It feels like Arcadia knows what she wants to say and is right on plan. And I really appreciate the subtlety which you don't get in YA. I like putting my brain to work to hear what you're really saying.

    It's a tough call though, because I think Duckster took on a more challenging task.I sense that Arcadia is a seasoned writer and Duckster a very promising newer writer! Congrats to you both. Good stuff!

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  8. Apples and oranges today, and another tough choice.

    Duckster: This had a really strong paranormal / creepy vibe, (more so than straight-up thriller.) I thought focusing attention on the one "normal" detail was a good way to illustrate chaos by contrast. And I'm intrigued by these sisters, their history and situation. I tripped over "leaving Maggie on the edge of the ambulance..." and the omniscient narrator kept me from full emotional engagement.

    Arcadia: As to genre, not sure a 50 yo MC qualifies as 'Chick Lit.' This was so funny! I could really feel her (nameless progtag) panic. I think you could cut a lot. The panicked text to Casey weakened the character; we have the ringtone at the end to establish that relationship. Love the description of her appearance, but the line of dialogue (..I'm 7 lbs away...in-between hair) presents the picture wonderfully without the preceding narrative. That would free up a lot of words for more of your zingy humor.

    Tough choice, but Arcadia gets my vote today.

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  9. Arcadia gets my vote because it made me laugh and it flowed perfectly. While I do like the premise of Duckster's story, I was a little impatient with the all the bird in the tree stuff...I wanted to get to the action right away.

    Yes, I know patience is a virtue. I'm working on it.

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  10. Arcadia was funny, but I felt it was a little too easy. The writing was great, but its an exhausted premise.

    Duckster- while I'm exhausted of reading dark times for children- it's not your fault your story was displayed on day five of a weeklong journal of terrible things happening to children. My vote is Duckster. Others above have totally made my points already known.

    There must be at least one new judge on the slush panel this year that fought for all these dark stories. I truly hope the topics change, otherwise This will be my last year doing writeclub.

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  11. The entries are so different today, it's almost hard to compare them. I'm going to have to just go by my gut.

    Duckster: There were awkward phrases and grammar issues that distracted me. Although I like the attempt to contrast the chaos of the moment with the normalcy of the bird watching (I got the same feeling as when I watch The Omen!), it isn't quite right yet. Almost. That being said, you have completely hooked me with this story. I desperately want to know more about the conflict between these two sisters. There are many opportunities to keep the readers on their toes with perspective changes here and that is my kind of tale.

    Arcadia: The writing of this sample was very tight and woven with a snarky, self-deprecating humor that resonates with me. I, too, would love to roll around in a tub of alfredo instead of tracking every carb I eat. The conflict is a common one, making it relatable, but also making it feel as though I've already read this book. Or seen the Tina Fey movie. On the other hand, I can see this story, with your skilled writing, becoming a summer best seller. It's the perfect thing to read on the beach with a Mai Tai in hand.

    My vote is for Duckster.

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  12. I vote Duckster.

    Such different pieces and both accomplished their (opposite!) moods and tones so well that it was a tough call--probably the toughest of the week. Ultimately I loved the contrasting imagery of the birds and the calm woods surrounding the house to the chaos that's pouring out of the house. It's clear too that birds will be a reoccurring and important image in the larger work beyond this section as Lexi hated them and Maggie loved them and now in Lexi's probable death birds are present as a comfort to Maggie. Love it.

    For Arcadia--well done. Love the shirt and the in-between hair and the inspiration wardrobe, but the slapstick nature of the humor isn't really for me. I was determined to judge writing style and not just preference though and your writing is tight!

    I think I went with Duckster because it felt like it was laying more groundwork and already had more layering. Also, the plot of a divorcee who's starting over after hubby has left for the younger, tighter thang doesn't feel fresh. A thriller where our first suspect is a 6 yr old does.

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  13. Duckster gets my vote. Very atmospheric, and loved the bird imagery. For some pieces, I'd ding the quasi-omniscient POV, but it's acceptable for thrillers, especially with such a young (and apparently not compos-mentos) character.

    Although I loved Arcadia's humor and hip writing style, the situation feels a little too slight to grab me.

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  14. Arcadia gets my vote. Pretty tight and humorous. I truly felt for the lady.

    Duckster, although I feel the story should come first, I also believe the first sentence should be a little smoother (I, too, have this problem on occasion). I skinned my knee right off the bat, and it ruined the rest for me. Suggestion, get someone to read it aloud to you or use a T2S program (many free ones on the internet). You'll catch problems like this quickly.

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  15. Arcadia gets my vote today. Yes, it was a little bit cliche, but the first piece had me too confused for a while, since I wasn't sure if the narrator was the one on the gurney, or watching. It took me too long to get my bearings since (in my opinion) it focused too much on the birds. Obviously other voters like the birds, so this just goes to show how subjective writing is. Also for me, I'm getting tired of the suffering children entries and appreciated the humor of Arcadia's piece.

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  16. I loved both pieces. Well written and engaging. However, humor instead of dark tipped the scales for me. My vote goes to Arcadia.

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  17. Both amazing pieces of writing, but mu vote goes to Arcadia today. That voice was spot on and I would follow her through an entire book.

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  18. Man, how is it Bout 5 already?? Arcadia gets my vote. They are both very good. What threw me in Duckster's piece is that the POV character is a six year old, but the voice does not match that. Of course, you can't write that sort of scene in a six year old's voice, so you need to distance the narrator. For instance, you can't say "dirge of a day" and then have the reader realize this is a six year old's perspective. Otherwise enjoyable, though!

    Arcadia's is pretty much spot on, perfect voice for the genre and character, and I found myself cringing for her as her ringtone went off, with baited breath. Very nice.

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  19. Tough call...

    Arcadia - good tone and a funny scene. The writing is tight as well. Unfortunately, I did not get any sense of connection with the main character - so I could laugh at her foibles, but not feel for her in any way. I did enjoy some of the descriptive imagery and the "in-between" hair.

    Duckster - despite a bit of confusion, and an uncertain POV (is this an omniscient third, or the child?), the atmosphere and imagery in this sample really grabbed my attention. The build up was well done, and despite a few hiccups, made me want to read more. Take time to rework that first paragraph in particular, maybe read things aloud to check flow.

    Both pieces were well done, and interesting. My vote comes down to which story I'd be more likely to continue reading.

    Vote - Duckster

    And please tell me we are done with terrible things happening to kids, huh?

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  20. I vote for Arcadia

    Duckster

    In my first paragraph, I'm going to write what I feel as I'm reading. I'll summarize in the second paragraph.

    Two focuses in the first two sentences is too much. Use a different word for one of them. OK, I like the idea behind the first paragraph, but I think the writing was a little overdone. "Ten voices overlapped in a symphony of layers that was almost beautiful"? The words sound nice when you say them out loud, but I have no idea what that means. "Wailing cry" could be said with one word. Ran into another "flutter" in paragraph 4.

    I like what's going on here. I thought focusing on the bird was cool, though I'm not sure that I totally understood why. I felt like the piece would be stronger if you toned down the writing a bit. There were certain phrases that were a little too much, a little too much talking at times, but I think the bulk of it is good.

    Arcadia

    In my first paragraph, I'm going to write what I feel as I'm reading. I'll summarize in the second paragraph.

    Great first line. I like the second line too. I like the third line. I like Zumba instructors. Menopause Avenger, love it. "Attitude and old lady," love it. I like the rolling pin. Haha, like the ring tone.

    OK, I thought this was great. This was my favorite entry in write club so far. Good from beginning to end. It cracked me up. I'm not an adult chick, but I'd read it. Good job.

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  21. I vote for Arcadia.

    Duckster: The point of view is a lovely balancing act--between the bird and the emergency surrounding the child. For the most part, the writing is strong, but I got caught in a few places, such as the indefinite pronoun (whose fingers were slammed in the door--Lexi's or the narrator's?) The selection ends with a strong sense of mystery and detached horror.

    Arcadia: This made me laugh, again and again. The narrator has a funny way of looking at the world that is enjoyable to read--and this is maintained throughout the entire piece with good pacing, no extras. The characters are a bit type-cast, but perhaps that's the narrator's perspective. All in all, a fun and engaging read, with a matching writing style. The piece started with a bang and ended with a bang. Great job.

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  22. I would first like to say that I wish people would be more respectful to the writers writing the dark pieces. As good judges, we should foremost look at the quality of the writing and the crafting of the story. Sure, we can use what we like the most to help us decide in the end when we are struggling between two pieces that we like a lot, that is a perfectly human thing to do. However, in the spirit of what this competition is for, and that is to help writers succeed in writing saying things like 'Can we please stop with bad things happening to children' is like telling the writers 'I wish you would only write in the genre I like' or 'you shouldn't write in that genre or those topics' because that is their personal choice and, clearly, there is an audience for it.
    With that said, I had a really hard time choosing who to vote for this round.
    Arcadia's humor is simply great and put together very well. I really felt horrible for the woman hiding under the table. I felt her shame at that point. However, I do not get a sense of what else can possibly come after this.
    I absolutely love the way Duckster is showing us what the human brain does sometimes when under duress, focus on something else that can be so insignificant, or significant to the person. I get a hint of the meanness of the sister and I really want to know now if the event was caused by the sister or something else.
    My vote is for Duckster.

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    Replies
    1. Hear hear! wrt running commentary about people disliking the subject matter of these pieces. There is definitely a market for darker stuff, as there is for more lighthearted stories. I find those comments a bit distressing, and don't see how they are helpful for the writers.

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  23. 5 for 5 Write Club! These entries are topnotch. But as the rules clearly state, only one can advance.

    Both were strong and well written, taking full advantage of the 500 word limit. Once yet again I'd like to read more of each. So I don't want to get too deep into the why I'm choosing Arcadia other than the light humor was a breath of fresher air over the dark entries of late. I enjoyed them both, but was really getting into the 'Fried Green Tomatos' feel of Phil's ex and granny. It brought a big, lingering grin to my face.

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  24. Duckster for me. Arcadia is a very close second- ty for the laughs!

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  25. My vote goes to Arcadia for this round.

    Duckster, your piece was incredibly eerie, which I totally loved! While I realize that this is written for an adult audience, I found the voice of Maggie too sophisticated for a six-year-old. I know it isn't written in first person, but you are still inside her head and it just didn't really sit right with me. Maybe change the language a little to reflect that you're in a child's mind. I also had a hard time believing that a little girl that age would just be laying there looking at the trees and listening to the birds as she's being wheeled out of the woods on a stretcher. Maybe she is in shock, but where is the panic? The fear? The confusion?

    Arcadia, your entry is definitely the levity needed in this week's bouts! I love
    your MC's antics in the grocery store. I'm 100% sold on the notion that she would text her (probably early 20's) daughter with "Dad is in grocery store! WHAT DO I DO?", but I guess we don't get to know much about their relationship prior to this. She just seemed totally helpless. But the rest is totally priceless. Having been in a similar, uncomfortable grocery store situation, I wish I had had a nice pasta sample lady's counter to climb under!

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  26. Duckster: I get what you were trying to do with the bird, but to me it felt a little like those movies where they wiggle the camera on purpose to make it more "artsy" or whatever. And as previous posters, I am tired of dark blood and guts. I know. Not your fault.

    Arcadia: Nice satire, brought me to a chuckle. There are so many places you can take that after she crawls out from under the table.

    I vote for Arcadia.

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  27. Tough call, but my vote goes to Duckster. I'm choosing story over technical ability with this one. Congrats to you both for emerging from the slush pile!

    Arcadia: Excellent writing. Vivid imagery - I can picture it all in my mind. Just a personal thing, but I really didn't care to find out what happens when she comes out of hiding. A bit too cliche for me. Thank you for sharing.

    Duckster: In spite of some technical problems, I voted for your piece because it intrigued me enough to care about what comes next. I find it believable for the girl to be more interested in the birds than anything else. I can relate to that. Work on clarity and beef up the editing skills. Thank you for sharing.

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  28. Tough call, but my vote goes to Duckster. I'm choosing story over technical ability with this one. Congrats to you both for emerging from the slush pile!

    Arcadia: Excellent writing. Vivid imagery - I can picture it all in my mind. Just a personal thing, but I really didn't care to find out what happens when she comes out of hiding. A bit too cliche for me. Thank you for sharing.

    Duckster: In spite of some technical problems, I voted for your piece because it intrigued me enough to care about what comes next. I find it believable for the girl to be more interested in the birds than anything else. I can relate to that. Work on clarity and beef up the editing skills. Thank you for sharing.

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  29. These are both very strong entries! I enjoyed both of them, but the engaging voice and setup in Arcadia's won me over. To echo previous commenters, I too would love to know what happens after the protagonist crawls out from under the table.

    That being said, I vote for Arcadia today.

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  30. Again, a really strong bout! Wowow.

    Duckster, the sense of dread you've built in this scene is wonderful. I totally buy Maggie looking for the bird as a way to cope with the chaos of the moment. I do wish you'd stayed immersed in her pov a little more closely. There's a bit too much narrative distance here, which pulled me out of the story a bit.

    Arcadia, I lol'd. I also really appreciated the solidarity between the two women in this scene. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Technically your writing is really strong.

    I'm going with Arcadia today, by a hair.

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  31. It's refreshing to see these genres represented here! Duckster's piece fits the thriller genre well, but I thought the inconsistent POV and sheer character count were a distraction. The typo in the first line was unfortunate.

    Arcadia's opening line is my favorite from the contest so far, and I laughed out loud at "in between hair." She gets my vote.

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  32. Everything I could hope to say has been said on both pieces, and since it's late... Arcadia gmv.

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  33. Everything I could hope to say has been said on both pieces, and since it's late... Arcadia gmv.

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  34. I changed my mind so many times and had to read both entries twice. I'm ultimately going to vote for Arcadia. Your writing was tighter and flows really well. I think back off on too many stereotypes, it makes it harder to relate to the character. Duckster- I loved the bird imagery but I don't believe your voice belongs to a six year old. I would love to know what happened to the sister. Which one was evil? See...now I'm rethinking my vote again. Good job to both of you.

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  35. Ugh. I'm seeing a lot of double votes, but mine never posted. Today, Arcadia gets my vote.

    Duckster: I liked the setting, the bird, the childlike voice when describing the sister's dark antics. However, the voice wasn't consistent (sometimes childlike, sometimes much older) and some of the meaning was lost in the chaos of the scene.

    Arcadia - Menopausal divorcees grocery shopping isn't really my thing, so I struggled to read through the first time. After reading both pieces several times, however, yours began to shine. Writing that stands taller under closer scrutiny wins the vote, every time! You could flesh out your characters more, which should be easy without the 500 word limit, but the voice was consistent and spot on, and you had some great turns of phrase. I particularly liked "Kaley Cuoco's older, hotter sister," "aspirational wardrobe," and "overpriced organic chicken."

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  37. Duckster gets my vote. Arcadia is full of laughs, but Duckster grips me...seeing a tragedy through the eyes of a child sets a chill within my bones. I want to read more!

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  38. Dukster has too much going on for an intro.

    Arcadia seems over cute.

    I'll vote for Arcadia this time.

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  39. Arcadia gets my vote.

    Duckster has some beautiful writing, but I tripped over some odd phrasing. If the bird was the focus, who did it represent? The narrator or the sister? Are we listening to an unreliable narrator because she is a child or because she is a killer? I just couldn't get my bearings in this piece, but it has the potential to be great.

    Arcadia- perfect for the genre. I was right there with her under the samples cart asking myself why in the hell did my phone pic that moment to ring? I was drawn in with great characterization and tight writing. I would buy this.

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  40. Neither of these particularly intrigued me. That said, my vote goes to Duckster.

    Duckster: I like the use of an unreliable narrator, but I think that kind of fell away in the last few paragraphs, and she seemed older.

    Arcadia: The writing style was perfect, but I really had troubles identifying with your protagonist. I struggled with the fact that she seemed so vain that her reasons for hiding from her husband were entirely based on what she was wearing and her hair. I felt as if there might have been other issues there that could have been addressed as the reasons as well.

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  41. I really liked both of these, especially the voice of the second one. But have to choose duckster's as my favorite. I was more interested in that story.

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  42. Arcadia for this bout, for me. Love the smart-a$$ voice. Plus I'd love to see more books with female MCs of a certain age, whose stories won't require pastel cover art.

    Duckster's unrealiable narrator has potential, and I'd like to see where this story goes. But (in this draft, at any rate) the contrast and quick leaps between the EMS events and the blue bird musing confused me. (It's got to be hard to use first-person narration in a scene where the narrator seems to be succeeding at ignoring some extremely hectic surroundings--because she has to simultaneously ignore the ruckus, while observing it enough to describe it clearly to the reader.)

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    1. "Plus I'd love to see more books with female MCs of a certain age, whose stories won't require pastel cover art." I co-sign the hell out of this statement. Also, LOL!

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  43. Hmm...I like Duckster's idea: to focus on the bird in the midst of a chaotic and confusing situation. However, the way the descriptions were written didn't convey the sense of crisp focus I was envisioning for this moment. Instead, the narrator's mental confusion crept into the narrative a bit too much to be enjoyable. This is close, though, and with a little bit of tightening would be very suspenseful. The way info was trickled out was very good for tension.

    LOVE the first paragraph of Arcadia. It's funny as hell, though I didn't quite catch the connection between the nap and the colonoscopy. I also wasn't stoked about the transition from summary to present moment, but everything that came after that was so witty, I was hooked. The phrases "aspirational wardrobe" and "she will probably purchase overpriced organic chicken" just made it all the better.

    My vote goes to Arcadia!

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  44. Vote for Duckster. This piece was effective and there wasn't a part of it that stood out as not making sense. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Arcadia's piece.

    While funny, there are much easier ways for a woman to avoid her ex-husband in a grocery store than ducking under a table. She can change aisles and quickly leave. Or, if you're looking for an amusing way for her to get caught, she can get cornered on an aisle next to embarrassing products and then feels obligated to put those items in her cart right in front of the ex and his hottie girlfriend. Either of these options sounds more plausible than getting on her hands and knees in a grocery store and scooting under a table.

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  45. I could easily vote either way on this. I personally liked Duckster better than Arcadia because I'm not into chick lit. However I'm going to vote for Arcadia because the writing flowed well for the genre.

    Duckster - Great visualization! A few critiques: "A flutter....ensnared her attention" You're trying too hard with the word "ensnared" - it distracted me. I found myself wondering how she could hear that fluttering over all the chaos. Perhaps she could be fixated by something she sees rather than hears? "She stared up at his kind face — kind, but stretched thin with empathy for the parents’ plight." Let me figure out why it's stretched thin, don't tell me its for empathy. Overall the selection could be tightened. Example - "just barely". You don't need the "just".

    Arcadia: Custom ringtone while hiding behind the table skirt - funny touch! He's coming around the corner and she had time to whip out her phone and text all that? I think you're saying she's caught sight of him a few aisles over. Since you have him come around the corner a second time it's a bit confusing.

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  46. Duckster!
    I like both pieces for different reasons, but I'm voting for Duckster. I felt like I was in her head.

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  47. This was another awesome bout! Both were well written stories with strong characters. I want to know where both stories are going, and I had a hard time deciding. I'm voting for Arcadia because I really felt for the main character, and I literally laughed out loud. Loved it!

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  48. I'm going with Duckster.

    Arcadia's is funny, but too much description and backstory killed some of the suspense so I couldn't work out logically where they were in the store--how much time she had.

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  49. Duckster's story resonated more with me, and gets my vote. They're both good though. Arcadia made a nice use of Granny's voice.

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  50. Vote: Arcadia.

    The first sentence of the story had me. Maybe the word "colonoscopy" is all I needed. It's an over-the-top sitcom scenario, but rendered in a believable way (yet still humorous rather than truly reality).

    The other story, by Duckster, put me off from the beginning. I'm never comfortable reading things from a very young child's perspective, because it always entails some strained descriptions and cheesy parlor tricks to give you that child-like view of the world, which never feels real.

    Forgetting that she's a child, the fact that this complex and painful scene is being shown from the point of view of someone who really isn't interested in it at all is just frustrating to read! I mean, I suspect she really is very interested, and culpable, but she's leading the reader astray with birds and trees.

    What probably sealed it for me was this jarring part in the first story: "...prying the distraught woman from the approaching gurney. Her mom fought wildly..." - I had to re-read the first couple sentences of that paragraph before it was clear that 'the woman' and 'her mom' were the same person. It was clunky and hard to follow. And if this is truly written from the little girl's perspective, she would never refer to her mom as "the distraught woman", for a variety of reasons!

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  51. My vote is for Arcadia. Grabs the reader much more directly than the more laconic Duckster.

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  52. Duckster is (too?) chilling (for me!), and a bit disjointed.

    Arcadia tells so much in so few words. I want more!

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  53. Both writers have skill and I hate that I have to choose. That being said, the voice and snark made me give an edge--and my vote--to Arcadia.

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  54. My vote is for Arcadia. Although the divorced women humor I hate my ex has been overdone, there is talent here.
    My issue with Duckster begins at sentence one. It's hard to read. also the voice is too old for a child.

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  55. Really loved Duckster's piece! Sucked me right in and didn't let me go. I loved the tone, the style, the disjointed focus as the narrator follows Maggie's internal flow of thoughts. I would absolutely read more by this author.

    Arcadia's piece didn't do anything for me, unfortunately. I did like the line about the "in-between hair" but otherwise didn't care for the character or her plight. The writing itself was solid, just not the story for me.

    My vote goes to Duckster.

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  56. Excellent stories and wonderful writing times two! I would like to read more from these writers.

    Even though I thought Arcadia's writing was sometimes cluttered, that story gets my vote.

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  57. This round is SO difficult for me, because I love both of the pieces. The writing is amazing, and I'd love to read more from both authors. Well done, Duckster and Arcadia.

    But my vote for this round goes to Arcadia. I absolutely love the humour, tone and adore the fact the MC is slightly older. I feel if this piece is part of a novel, an agent or editor will snap it up FAST.

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  58. Could we get two pieces that are so different from each other? It's so hard to compare different writing styles (where Duckster is very lyrical and Arcadia is straight to the point). BOTH are great. My vote is really down to preference.

    Duckster- I'm a huge fan of lyrical writing. I'm not very good at it (but practice makes perfect, am I right?) but I appreciate writers that can do it. Your piece flowed nicely. At the end, I understood what was happening, but it took a while for me to get there. My biggest concern is the focus on Maggie. She is young, and while from a creative stand point, makes it SUPER interesting to get in the head of a child, it didn't FEEL like I was getting the perspective of a child. She seemed too old to me, and that threw me off. Also, I would have liked a bit more in details over what exactly happened. Just a one-liner. It doesn't need to be a big description. The reason is, while not knowing works in a larger project, for 500 word samples, you gotta tie in a bunch of details you normally wouldn't to get your reader satisfied at the end. And a random tidbit (that isn't writing related), being an EMT, and not knowing the situation, I don't think they would leave a little girl sitting on the edge of an ambulance when she's not responsive. If they can't determine her mental status, then she's definitely a priority!

    Arcadia- It's a good thing I wasn't eating/drinking anything, otherwise I would have had a really embarrassing moment myself while I was reading your piece. LOVED the quick wit, the visuals. I was pulled in immediately. I felt myself cringing when I read the last line, wondering how she was going to get herself out of that situation. It was quick, to the point, and a very light read.

    In the end, my vote goes to Duckster. While I had a bunch of worries for the piece, overall, I do love complex story lines with darker undertones. It seems fresh to me, and I'd like to see more of it.

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  59. I thought both pieces of writing were solid, but my vote is for Arcadia. It's not the style of story I would generally read, but I thought the voice was great and it was very clean. What tripped me up on Duckster's story was that the tone didn't match the age of the MC.

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  60. These were both great, and while neither of them were stories I would continue reading - my vote goes to Arcadia.

    Duckster was a little two distant to grab me. It was well written but I had to work too hard in the first instance to establish a scene and by then it had lost me and I didn't really get back into it.

    Arcadia made me laugh out loud, and while it was very cliche it was so well written I didn't mind.

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  61. Voting for Arcadia. I don't usually like helpless women (if you're going to be so embarrassed caught in that outfit, why are you wearing it in the first place?) but I like the flow of the scene and the character's endearing enough for me to keep reading. I want to meet the daughter too! Seems like they have a fun relationship :-)

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