WRiTE CLUB 2016 - SemiFinal Bout 2


If you read and voted on Mondays bout before 11:15 AM central time, BonsaiBabes piece was missing the last line and some formatting, so you might want to circle back around and make sure you still have the same opinion.

We are down to just four and we've come to your last chance to impact who will become this years WRiTE CLUB champ.  After this weeks bouts our two winners will stand before our celebrity judges with yet another 500 word sample, and then it will be on the judges shoulders to crown a new winner.

Several of you have asked or made mention of wanting to find out just who are these wonderful writers that you've been following over the course of several weeks. Apart from the two finalist...who are named when the competition concludes...revealing the identity of the writers is exclusively up to the contestants themselves. Shortly following the post where our champion is recognized, I will follow that up with a wrap-up in which I invite suggestions for improvements -- but also invite the contestants to remove their masks in the comment section if they choose to do so. I encourage everyone who is willing to step forward, but will not push. All 30 contestants deserve whatever recognition you can give them.  

This week, four writers will again enter the ring brandishing another new 500 word writing sample. The voting will remain open for both until noon central time on Sunday, April 17th.

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.



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 495 words. Please give a warm welcome to Chun-Li.


The stench of the restaurant’s specialty walloped my senses as soon as I entered. Even with seventeen years of practice, I didn’t have a fighting chance against a dish named stinky tofu. I gagged.

My mother sniffed and smiled. “Smells like home.”

Mmm. Who doesn’t love the scent of athlete’s foot with lunch? I held a fist to my face, desperately inhaling the pomegranate scent of my hand sanitizer.

My mother swatted my hand down. “Don’t touch your face, Mei. Give yourself pimples for no reason. There are no ugly women. Only lazy women.”

In my head, I counted to ten in English, then Mandarin. Two more hours, three tops.

Mrs. Pan, a family friend who used to drive me to Chinese School, came over to our table to say hello, which apparently required grabbing my chin to inspect my face. “Is this little Mei? You got pretty! And look how big your nose is! That’s promising.”

I pasted on a well-rehearsed smile but couldn’t keep said nose from scrunching. I like my nose just fine, thank you very much, but years of “compliments” about its large size had made me insecure.

Mrs. Pan misinterpreted my embarrassment for confusion and explained, “It’s a Chinese superstition—having a big nose means you will have lots of money.”

“Aiyah,” my mother said, using the Chinese word of exasperation that preceded every faux-brag. “I do hope Mei makes money in the future, not for her sake, but mine. She just started at MIT this week, pre-med of course, and her tuition is driving me to an early grave. Ah, if she hadn’t skipped a grade, I would have had one more year to save up money. Sometimes I feel her intelligence is a curse.”

I held back an eye roll, then braced myself for a round of my-child’s-brain-is-bigger-than-yours. But Mrs. Pan went in another direction.

“Is Mei single?” she asked my mother, as if I’d disappeared. “Do you remember my firstborn son, Hanwei? He’s the sweetest, smartest boy, and he just might be interested in Mei!”

This was a first for me, probably sparked by my entrance to college, which to Asian mothers meant releasing the hounds—husband-hunting season had begun. Never mind that I was only seventeen and had been forbidden to date until a week ago.

Mrs. Pan flashed a picture, always at the ready. The corners were dog-eared from the frequent trips in and out of her pocket. I smiled, but it wasn’t because I thought Hanwei was cute. I could never date the boy who once peed on my foot in the car. Sure, we were six at the time, but he would always be the boy who couldn’t control his nubbin bladder. And to him, I was the car-sick girl who had to carry a vomit bag, aka a recycled Ziploc my mother washed out by hand after each upchuck, too stingy to dip into the mountain of new Ziplocs in the garage.

____________________________________________________________________________________


Writer #2 represents the YA Dark Fantasy genre with 500 words. Please welcome back into the arena The Night Songstress.




I chase down the last bit of coffee with some toast, not ready to face another day at work knowing what I am.

“Bye, Ronan! I’m going to miss—”

I open the door to my mother and stepfather’s faces.

“What are you doing here?” I say.
 
“Oh, hun! It’s so good to see ya’ll are okay.” Mary greets me with arms forced to engulf me in a cold embrace.

I shuffle back a few steps, unable to look away from the two-inch scar on her neck. It has been four years since I’ve last seen her. My heart aches at the reminder of how she got it, how my father died… How I watched him take his last breath.

“Why are you here?”

Robert grunts and shakes his head. He looks the same as always—bald, fat, and tan with grease-stained fingers. I guess he still owns my dad’s car shop.

“We heard you’re havin’ problems. With the…” She glances around.

A smirk creeps across my lips at the thought of her fearing the unknown and I stifle it by hardening my stare.

She avoids my unblinking eyes and glances down at Ronan. He’s sneaking a peak at them through the crack in the door. “We need to get ya’ll away from here and make you better.”

“Who told you to come here to see me? I’m fine.”

“Your stubbornness hasn’t changed one bit,” she says, avoiding my question. Her steely eyes studying my face fuels the rage that’s rising in my chest.

Robert moves past her, towards me. I nudge Ronan back into the apartment. He barks in protest as he stands behind me.

“I’m not going to argue with you about my tenacity,” I say. “I need to go. I’m late for work.”

She takes a step closer to me too, snickering. “Should’ve fixed you when I could’ve.”

Ignoring her, I fumble around in my purse for the keys.

“Look at you, Elysia.” Robert chimes in. “Skin pale and blue. That rat nest hair. You’re skin and bones! Somethin’ wrong with you. You ain’t normal.”

Normal.

My hands are shaking so hard I can barely hold onto the keys.

Whatever you do, don’t cry. “I am not normal. Never was, never will be.”

“We know people that can cure you,” Mary says.

I snort at the irony. I can’t face her as I spit out the words. “What needs curing is you. Don’t you dare come back here again or—”

Robert’s arm swings around me.

A white cloth smothers my face.

I thrash around, but I can’t free myself. My senses slow down so much I can only process what I hear.

Keys landing on the ground.

Ronan yelping.

Robert grunting.

My numb lips might be moving. I’m not sure. I try to stay awake, but my mind’s fading fast. Only one thought is left.

Cittam sreyah kuruhum. Bodhisattvas, I’m sorry. I’m afraid I cannot be saved. The demon within will kill them when I wake.

______________________________________________________________________________________


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!


34 comments

  1. Congratulations on both for making it this far. Sure makes voting a lot harder, so I have to get really nit-picky.
    Setting. Chun-Li's piece has it (felt like I was in that restaurant), The Night Songstress's piece does not (it took me several reads to figure out where this scene was taking place and who was doing what). Therefore, my vote goes to Chun-Li.

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  2. Chun Li- I love your writing. Great piece!

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  3. Voting for Night Songstress.

    I am having the same issue with Chun Li's piece as the one I had with Helveticaw. Their writings are both really good... but it doesn't fit as well for a 500 word piec. When I go back to re-read both Chun Li and Helveticaw's pieces again, I feel like nothing is really happening. I could be that I enjoy action/thriller type of writing a lot more... Regardless, I don't feel like there is a true beginning-middle-end. Even if the end leaves me with questions, I need an ending of some sort. I need conflict and overcoming or surrendering to it. It's what keeps me coming back, wanting to read more and wanting to buy the novel.

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  4. Chun-Li for me hands down. I love the voice and I would read this book in a heartbeat.

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  5. Voting for the Night Songstress!

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  6. I wish both of these could go through just because they are a continuation of past entries. Bout 1s entries almost seem like cheating as it so much easier to come up with entirely new content rather than keep readers hooked with yet another 500 of same story imo.

    My vote is for Chun-Li.

    However, I would advice to add more action and a different setting. I was a bit disappointed that it was just more gossip back at the restaurant.It was still clever and funny so that's why it got my vote.

    I didn't have enough background in the new characters in The Night Songstress's piece so I felt disconnected and I had to reread to understand what was happening at times.

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  7. Chun-Li gets my vote today. Loved the beginning and could understand how Mei felt inhaling that odour and the other things she experienced in the restaurant. Her writing style has a natural feel to it that suggests Chun-Li could be describing things she has experienced in her life.

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  8. I'm surprised by this round! I really expected Night Songstress to blow me away, like her previous entries. But this time it's really just too choppy and hard to follow. I think this was an unfortunate choice of excerpt from what is probably a really good story, especially based on the other excerpts we've seen.

    Chun Li has a similar excerpt - both are almost entirely a dialogue exchange - but hers includes more descriptive language and flows smoothly.

    I vote for Chun Li's entry today.

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  9. My vote is for Chun-Li. It flowed smoothly and effortlessly. I had to work a lot harder with The Night Songstress to figure out what was happening. Having to re-read sections pulled me out of the story.

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  10. First--congratulations to both contestants for making it to the semi-finals.

    Today I vote for Chun-Li. I am so anxious to read more--and my saying that means something, because I almost never read YA contemporary.

    Like others, I had trouble following The Night Songstress.

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  11. My vote goes to Night Songstress. Chun-Li's piece just seems a little incomplete and there needs to be more of a closing.

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  12. I personally find Chun Li's piece competent with nothing special to absorb my interest. Voting Night Songstress for taking me deeper with interesting description and unusual circumstances. I suggest watching out for cliche in the narrative and repeated use of "I" as the starting word for sentences/paragraphs which can potentially make present-tense narrative sound monotonous.

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  13. Honestly, these are both good, and I imagine they would both do well in the market.
    But The Night Songstress is the book that I'd be unable to put down. That's where my vote goes, even though I like both of these stories. If I could vote as a tie, I would.

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  14. Ooh, this one's tought.
    Hmmm. Okay, voting for Chun-Li. Hope the narrator gets free of her family's clutches and comes to accept/understand them!

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  15. Chun-li was really funny. Making me laugh is big points.
    But Night Songstress has me on the edge of my seat, and I crave that just a fraction more... So you earned my vote.

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  16. Both clips are great, but Night Songstress gets my vote. Again- it was a little more descriptive and painted a better picture. Also, made me want to read more and more.

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  17. My vote is for night songstress. Every one of this writer's pieces have held me in and have kept me wanting more and this piece does not disappoint.

    Although Chun-Li's is well written, I don't understand how this can be viewed as better than the night songstress piece. It is simply a conversation between two people with no story line whatsoever. This round is not even close for me.

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  18. Chun-Li gets my vote. Grounded in a setting, evocative, and well-written

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  19. Congratulations to both the contestants!

    My vote goes to Chun-Li's piece, although as with the preliminary round, I wish we get to hear the MC speak her disdain/objections out loud than voicing them all in her head.

    Songstress's writing is very strong, but it wasn't clear who was speaking that first line of dialogue, and who Ronan is. That threw me off.

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  20. I've been trying to post not-anonymous in previous rounds, but am not sure if I've gotten it to work. Either way, wanted to say congrats to the finalists. An amazing accomplishment and really enjoyed reading these different excerpts and short stories!

    For this round, I wish Night Songstress dived deeper into the atmosphere. The premise intrigues me though and the tight, action-driven reading keeps me tuned in. Her world seems complex and I can feel the darkness emanating through every line. It doesn't let up!

    Chun Li's piece really dived deep into the dialogue and the internal thoughts going on and seems to capture the cultural nuances well, but like other voters who have mentioned this already... wish she can physically react more rather than think them, which is hard to do with 500 word limit.

    Ultimately, I'm picking what I want to read more and this round goes to Night Songstress!

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  21. This is the 3rd time I'm trying to post and if u see this, I've succeeded! Some bug and I ain't no tech wiz. If u don't see this vote,it's gone to cyber cemetery...

    The Night Songstress has my vote. The style is unique, storyline gripping.

    Chun-li writes well, no doubt. A tad predictable and seems typical a storyline.

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    Replies
    1. I, too, had trouble finding a way to comment.

      My vote is for Night Songstress, simply because there is a fuller story here. Chun-Li's writing is excellent, but the story is not new and seems to be a variation of the initial entry.

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  22. I enjoyed Chun-Li's humor and writing style. It was very easy to read and folllow. Night Songtress was a little harder to connect the dots...follow the characters, but that did not prevent the building of intrigue and suspense in the scene.

    Difficult choice for me this time, but I'm going with Night Songtress on the stength of the writing.

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  24. Voting for Chun Li. This time it just boiled down to what I'd keep reading in a bookstore. But props to Night Songstress for very solid writing.

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    1. Like the other first piece, this the first one was also a quick and easy read. It was funny! Never had stinky tofu before but feel like I gave from description!

      The second piece was harder to follow, but had more action. The scary comment by the character in the end has piqued my interest.

      Voting for Songstress but by a very very thin hair...

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  26. My vote goes to Night Songstress. I felt a sense of suspense from the beginning of the story.

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  27. Both are great, but I'm voting for Chun-Li. Love to hate those mothers!

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