I've posted another winner on the WRiTE CLUB Scorecard and I'll continue to be update it as we move through the contest. Let me remind everyone that voting for each bout remains live for one week. That way there's always time to catch up on bouts you may have missed.
As we close out the second week of matches, the challenge becomes how do we keep interests high so people will continue coming back? For those of you who've been Tweeting (#WRiTECLUB2016) and/or updating Facebook - THANK YOU - but we need to continue stepping up our game. Why? Because VOTING IS HARD and choosing between two quality writers is not easy, so after readers do it a couple of times they stop coming back because its uncomfortable facing a difficult choice. So why should we do it? Because in the end, the struggle...and the competition, makes us all better at our craft. And because at the end of it all maybe some aspiring writers will get the exposure they need.
Here's a reminder of how things work. This is the 2nd of three weeks of daily bouts (M-F) between writing samples that are identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters. Once we get through the 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. At stake is a chance to win free admission to the 2017 DFW Writers Conference.
The voting for this bout - Bout #8 - remains open until noon on Thursday - March 24th.
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 Women's Fiction genre with 500 words, welcome to the ring Adallae.
This was her favorite spot. We would circle the aquarium until Braxton and I were more interested in eating fish than observing them, and she would request to come to this room one last time before we left. I couldn’t understand why she loved to put her hands in that cold water and touch those odd creatures. But her eyes lit up every single time, just like those kids with their grandparents and their gift shop symbols of affection as they skipped out the front doors, already looking forward to when they’d get to come back.
She loved that place. And if I left her there, I could rest knowing I’d made her as happy as possible.
Reaching beneath my grey hoodie, I opened my purse and wrapped my hand around the tiny ceramic urn that held the remains of that beautiful little girl. I pushed off the lid, letting it fall to the bottom of my bag, and slid it from beneath my top. After glancing over my shoulder to be sure I hadn’t drawn anyone’s attention, I leaned forward and let some of the ashes fall into the tank. They settled on the surface, saturated, then slowly drifted to the bottom. I did it again, this time letting cold, dusty pieces of her fall through my fingers before they hit the water.
I love you. And I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
I froze at the commanding voice. Without turning, I knew it was the security guard. I could feel his height rise above me.
“What are you doing?” he demanded.
“You can’t put anything in there. What is that?”
I tried to slip my hand back underneath my hoodie, but he grabbed my arm and pulled, causing the urn to catch on the rim of the tank and flip out of my hand. Every cell in my body ceased function as it hit the ground.
Sharp shards and pieces of my heart spread like parts of a puzzle that would never be solved. The explosion of the ceramic pot was lost beneath an ear-piercing shriek as I watched her remains shower across the cement.
“What – what is that?” the guard asked again, stepping back as bits of ash fluttered across his shoe. His wide eyes scanned the floor.
“That’s my daughter, you fucking son of a bitch!”
My closed fist was on his chin before I realized what I was doing. Surprise dropped him back, but the actual impact had little effect. Obviously trained, he quickly regained his composure, and was able to secure my hands at my back before I could take another swing. My knees slammed to the floor, amid the dust, and I was too crippled with shock to fight back. Short puffs of my ragged breath, the continuation of my life, sent remnants of her death swirling away from me. I tried not to exhale. I tried not to exist. Though I was docile, the guard radioed for help.___________________________________________________________________________________
And in the far corner, representing the Adult Historical Womens Fiction genre with 499 words, also welcome to the ring Pen-Book.
The day I was sold I crouched at the doorway of my two-room mud house, knees pulled to my chest. It was only three hours past sunrise but the sweltering heat made it feel like noon. I shaded my eyes against the sun and searched the rutted path that passed by our door.
Not another soul stirred in the settlement except for the few pariah dogs, their ribs sticking out, rooting in the ditches. This time of the day mothers should be squatting at their stoves rolling dough into bread. Children should be chasing after each other. Instead, a quick wind kicked up rattling leaves, and scorching dust bit into my skin. Famine, the same one that had reduced us from a land-owning family to paupers, had turned houses brimming with people into empty shells. In my fifteen summers on this earth, I’d never seen a dry season such as this.
I turned to my little brother, who squatted in my thin shadow. Once chubby, with cheeks bulging like ripe pomegranates, he was nothing but skin and bones now. I tried to swallow the knot in my throat but couldn’t muster up enough spit. “What is it, Hanuma?”
“I want bread.”
“Bapu will find us some.” I pressed a hand to my hollow stomach. “Do you want to hear how Lord Hanuman mistook the sun god for a fruit and gobbled him up?” I had told him this story many times before and it always made him smile. He shivered and made no reply.
Exposed as we were to heat, our bodies should’ve been dripping sweat. However, my brother’s bare back and my blouse were dry as wheat husk. I gathered him close and scooted back inside the doorway, pebbles scratching the backs of my thighs through my worn skirt.
I looked up at a commotion a few yards away. A wake of vultures rose over the top of the banyan tree as though something had disturbed their feeding frenzy. Probably starved mongrels, demanding their share of the dead flesh. I hugged my brother tighter as a shiver that began in my toes spread through my body. I shuddered at the memory of the news Bapu brought home each evening: women were selling themselves as slaves in the bazaar. Daughters were driven into brothels for a fistful of grains.
Hanuma’s body convulsed in my lap and went limp.
“Hold on, ladla. I’ll find food.” Laying him on the floor, I stepped inside the house. With each footstep the packed-mud surface of the floor flaked off. Just like my dry skin. I sighed. The name Sundari, which meant, “the beautiful one,” hovered over me now like a lie.
My mother sat in the kitchen, one hand at her back and the other on her bulging stomach. I waited a few beats, hoping Maa would notice me, but she continued to stare at the wall. She wasn’t going to waste what little energy she had on a mere girl child.___________________________________________________________________________________
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.
Enjoy your weekend, but not before you 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!