We started with 95, narrowed it down to 30, cut it in half to 15, and now there is only 6 writers left. It's play-off time in WRiTE CLUB!
Our six writers will again enter the ring, this time against a different (randomly selected) opponent, and brandishing a new 500 word writing sample. The bouts will be posted once a day...ending Wednesday...with the voting remaining open until noon central time on Sunday, April 10th.
Here's a reminder of how everything works. Writing samples from two different writers, identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters, are competing against one another today. 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 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 customary to leave a brief critique for all the 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.
What's at stake here? Other than bragging rights, there's also a chance to win free admission to the 2017 DFW Writers Conference.
Your voting has an added significance because not only will the three winners move onto to the next round, the submission that does not win their bout but tally's the most votes among the losers will move forward as a wildcard selection as well.
Ready to help an aspiring writer make their mark? It's time to introduce our contestants and get this party started.
Writer #1 is representing the YA Contemporary genre with 489 words. Please give a warm welcome to Chun-Li.
Dr. Wilson shifted to Ruth’s head, then picked up an electric saw. Its half-moon blade was lined with jagged teeth and the bloated, boxy handle looked impossible to hold, let alone control. “Alright, enough review. We’re going to get into the brain today. Which one of you wants to do the honors with the Stryker?”
Six hands shot in the air so fast I wondered if I had misheard. Did he just ask, Who’s scared to use the tool specifically designed to cut through bone? Shouldn’t everyone’s instinct have been to run the other way, not fight for a chance to use it?
Dr. Wilson pointed to the burly boy with gargantuan hands. Everyone crowded around Ruth’s skull and I fought the tide to plant myself by Ruth’s lower half.
The saw came to life with a high-pitched whir. If my eyes had been closed, I might have thought an airplane was somehow landing in the basement. But I didn’t dare close them for even a second, not with an active bone saw in the hands of an inexperienced operator.
There was a gleam in the boy’s eyes as the blade arced through the air, meeting Ruth’s cranium with an intensified screech. Flecks of skin and bone splattered onto the surrounding students, but they didn’t notice—all except one boy, who flinched and rubbed his mask with his double-gloved hand. Unbeknownst to him, the movement smeared the debris instead of removing it.
I was pulled to him like Lu Pang to a scallion pancake. Clearly, he was the only other sane person here. Sidling up, I called over the noise, “How long did it take you to get used to this?”
His head whipped toward me as if he were surprised by my sudden appearance. “Maybe two class sessions? I shower afterward and have the hospital clean my scrubs. It’s fine.” He pointed to my vinyl gloves, which matched his own. An extra layer to keep the stench of death (aka Fritos and cleaning chemicals) off. “You must have inside knowledge.”
I nodded, then inclined my head toward Ruth. “What was it like the first time you saw her?”
“Surreal. And I noticed the smell of course.” He tapped his nose. “Vapo-rub.”
I tapped my own. “Tiger Balm.”
“You know all the tricks already. Once you get in there, it’ll be better.” He pushed me closer to Ruth. “Why don’t you pick up the forceps and take a look through the leg muscles?”
“No fucking way!” I yelled just as the saw fell silent.
Dr. Wilson glared at me, then returned to his cool-professor persona with a fake smile. “Everything okay?” he asked a little too sweetly.
“Yes, I apologize. I’m, uh, a visitor, and I was just… a little thrown off by how calm everyone is around the cadavers. It’s still pretty new to me.”
Dr. Wilson chuckled even though my lie was as exposed as Ruth’s neck.
Writer #2 represents the YA Dark Fantasy genre with 500 words. Please welcome back into the arena The Night Songstress.
I took a few steps up to my apartment when the stack of books I held onto tumbled out of my arms, hard and soft covers flying in every direction. I chase them down as the thunder continues to spur on the rain. On the next landing, an old Asian woman picks up one of my childhood books, her eyes wide as she flips through the pages of faded ink.
“Hi,” I say.
Startled, she glances over at me with eyes covered in the slightest haze from cataracts.
“Dis,” she taps the cover with her index finger, “I want.”
“Um, are you Grace? Maid service?”
She nods. “I clean free... for dis?”
“Um, sure!” I try to contain my excitement. Her penchant for this book seems strange, but I’d trade it for a hundred-dollar cleaning service any day.
She flips through the book again as I usher her upstairs. I peek from behind and see her running her fingertips over my name that’s written on the inside cover.
“Belongs to Elysia Daghan” was scrawled in cursive with a marker. I was nine when I did that. During one of my mother’s rage-filled attacks, she threatened to take away what I cherished—books, clothes, art supplies. I thought scribbling my name on this would shelter it from her threats. Looking back, it was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, but I guess that’s just what a nine-year-old would do. It was the only thing I could do.
I’m busy unpacking when, after twenty minutes of silence, Grace begins muttering to herself as she moves on to disinfecting the microwave. I should’ve known better that the guy who was in a rush to sublease this place wouldn’t bother wiping down remnants of exploded meals.
“Cittam sreyah kuruhum. Cittam sreyah...”
No, she’s not muttering. She’s chanting.
Trying to ignore the slow-fading scent of bleach, I swallow the lump in my throat.
“I can finish cleaning up the rest,” I say. “You can go home now.”
She turns and stares at me, still moving her dry, cracked lips.
My scalp tingles as if every strand of hair is charged by the lightning outside. I let out a breath and hand over the book. She snatches it from my fingers and grabs my arm with the other hand.
A searing pain rips through my bones, stealing my strength. I feel the burning, hear the sizzling of my flesh cooking under her grip.
My eyes tell me nothing’s wrong.
Please! I beg, but it doesn’t escape my lips. I ignore the scent of my arms smoldering sweetly, clogging my lungs like honey being poured down my throat. I yank again, but it’s not my effort that sets me free.
She lets go and I lose my balance.
Tripping over unpacked boxes, my head breaks my fall.
Warm liquid pools through my hair as Grace bends over me. Her face comes close to mine, watching as my eyelids begin to shut.
“He has found you,” she says.
Enjoying a pair of 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 if you haven't already done so.
Please 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.
Remember, this is WRiTE CLUB, where it’s not about the last man/woman standing, but who knocks the audience out!