WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #9


Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE, and remember, the bouts stay open for one week and some of the first weeks are still live.

Today is the 9th of 15 bouts with a pair of contestants ready to climb into the ring.  Here's a refresher of what's going on, in case you forgot how things work here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Wednesday, May 2nd (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have Catnipped representing the YA Paranormal Mystery genre.


I sipped. As potions go, it didn't taste half bad. The guy had called it a treatment. But I liked potion better, because potions were all about mysterious magical adventures and not just about a bought and paid for guinea pig. Easy money, my alley-mate had said. Not so much, I had since decided what with all these wires stuck to my shaved head. “What is this stuff?” I asked, something I probably should have found out before I signed the papers and took the money.

“A simple mixture,” Professor Baldy said. He’d told me his name. I’d promptly forgotten it because his name didn’t matter. All I cared about was the money. But that was before the wires and the head shaving and getting strapped into a chair at the front of a classroom with a gang of white-coated geeks gawking at me. Some looked bored. Several smirked. One was wide-eyed terrified. Another had a creepy hoping-for-a-cadaver grin.

“What does it do?” I asked.

“I can’t say,” the professor replied.

“You mean you don’t know.”

“I mean telling you would taint the results of this experiment.”

Uh. Huh.

“Go ahead. Drink up,” he urged like a bartender offering his latest feel-good concoction. 

I took a larger gulp and gagged. The sip had been not-so-horrible. A swallow was road-kill nasty.

“More,” he insisted.

The geeks stared. The professor glared. A row of machines impatiently beeped and blipped behind me. I’d signed the papers. I’d taken the money. I couldn’t back out now. I sighed, held my breath, and swigged down the rest.

A warm sensation started in my stomach and spread through me like a super-charged whiskey shot.

Baldy took the empty goblet. It was really a glass beaker, but I liked goblet better.

“It may take a few minutes,” he said more to the others than to me. “Try to relax.”

Relax. Right. Fat chance.

“While we wait…”

I half expected him to pull out a deck of cards.

“A little background information,” he continued instead in an announcer type voice. “The subject is…”

“My name is Arianna,” I interrupted.

“The subject is…” Baldy repeated. Apparently he cared about my name as much as I cared about his.

“A twenty-one-year-old female.”

Sixteen. Twenty-one. Not much difference, excepting they wouldn’t have paid a sixteen-year-old.

“Reasonably intelligent and relatively healthy.”

Relatives? Did he know about my brother? I squinted at him. He’d gone all blurry.

A monitor beeped faster.

“She also scored impressively high on our psychic aptitude tests.”

The monitor buzz-ga-leaped and then moaned. Or maybe it was me, because a killer headache suddenly stabbed me between the eyes. 

Baldy peered at the monitor. “Accelerated heart rate,” he announced. “Increased cortical activity. How do you feel?”

“Fine,” I lied. “Excepting I’m awfully hot.” Sweat drenched me. My flimsy gown clung to me like wet tissue.

A monitor suddenly went into a high pitched dit-dit-dit.

Baldy turned kind of pale.


“I’m fine,” I repeated just before everything wasn’t.
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And in the near corner, we have Canister McIntosh representing the Short Story genre.


Ross Barnett

     Twin Harbors doesn’t have a minimart. It doesn’t have a store, or a cash register, or anything like that. Just houses. They crust the edges of our little inlet on the Ross Barnett Reservoir, almost spilling into water, alive even, clamoring to get away from the driveways and the pine thicket that covers everything but the roads in this part of Mississippi. A-frame and two-stories and car ports all crawling down the bank to get away from the fact that nothing around here ever moves.

     Everybody in Twin Harbors, except for one, swims with the water moccasins and copperheads, and none of us are afraid. Once you see the older kids do it, you do it too, and everyone knows you never wade into the tall grass.

     Lois never swims with us. This is a known fact in Twin Harbors, that Lois Trudeau does not swim with us. Her aunt and uncle won’t let her go beyond the edge of their driveway. Most days you can find her standing at the edge of her property line, by the street, in short shorts and a tight t-shirt, watching for anyone who passes by. House arrest. Endless, and unexplained. In summertime, the days wheel by so slow, morning, afternoon and evening, all turning on that little patch of lawn, and that two-story house with the concrete slab out back, and I don’t know how she can stand it.

     At thirteen, Lois already looks like a woman. Round hips, C-cup boobs. She’s too pale to tan, but she tries anyway, lying next to me on a cheap TG & Y beach towel on the concrete slab porch, baking in the sun. In the summer, she smells like Coppertone and sweat, and when we go inside the cool, dark cave that is her aunt and uncle’s house, my skin as hot and tight as hers, she has this look, like she’s accomplished something her dead mother would be proud of.

     In the summer, most kids in Twin Harbors hang out at the dump. Lois stays home and plays her records. “Fat bottomed girls” and “We Are the Champions” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” When I come by after, she names the songs and glares at me when I don’t know what they are, in this way that says of course you don’t know.

     We stay up late, me and Lois, until the narrow strip of light under Aunt and Uncle’s bedroom door goes dark. The house smells cool, like a knife edge. Like the inside of her aunt’s clean refrigerator. And we listen to Queen records, and Lois tries to cornrow my hair even though it’s too fine. Then we dress up our faces with cheap TG&Y lipstick. How exciting it is, she says, all the changes. And how much more she will change, how her whole life will change, when she’s old enough to leave. No more house arrest. No more acne. No more aunt and uncle and Mississippi summer.

*********************************************************************************

Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.


We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


63 comments

  1. Two young ladies descend into the ring — is that even legal, Jim? In fact, I don’t think there’s anything legal about what’s been done to Catnipped’s shaved-headed, wild-eyed Adrianna, who stands crackling with hidden energy in the far corner. Canister McIntosh’s unnamed protagonist looks even younger, but she’s got friends behind her in her corner, and looks like she might be wiser than her years.

    With a *DING*, the match begins. McIntosh takes a defensive stance, spending a good while crafting a beautiful setting for her story, and starting to weave in the characters after a paragraph or two. Catnipped, on the other hand, goes in swinging from the get-go, and we get glimpses of Adrianna’s rough past, her fantasy-seeking naïveté, and her present situation in a succession of tight, narrative punches.

    McIntosh’s central fighting strategy is clearly and skilfully developed : the friendship between two girls (although, in both stories, it takes a long while before we know the main character is a girl, which should probably come a lot earlier since it’s relevant to the story, especially in McIntosh’s case where the dynamic is likely to be very different if the MC were a young boy) and the tension caused by one of them not being allowed out, either for safety reasons, or for some other hidden motive, we never really get to know.

    The tension in Catnipped’s story, however, starts strong and ramps up beautifully all throughout. Through natural-feeling character info and great secondary character descriptions, we get a real feel for how dodgy this experiment is, and the paranormal undertones, both in the looks and the references to psychic testing, clearly announce what is to come for Adrianna.

    In the finish, McIntosh has fought with skill, but Adrianna has landed the strongest blows by the time the bell rings, and this commentator would certainly read on, if only to see if we get more amazing new words like “buzz-ga-leaped”. One point for Catnipped!

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  2. Both of these pieces are lacking characters I care about.

    In the first one: Why does she need the money? Had she sent it off before drinking something that could possibly KILL her? I mean, the money's useless if she's dead. I have a hard time getting on board with someone who I think is too stupid to live. Doesn't mean the piece isn't written well. It is. I was able to visualize it all. I just had a hard time with Adrianna and I think she needs to be made a little more sympathetic if you want the reader to care about her.

    In the second one: I first thought it was about the town. Then it became about Lois. Why does the narrator care about Lois? Again, the writing was well enough that I could visualize it all. I just don't see where this story is going.

    Hard choice, but my vote goes to Catnipped.

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  3. So, here's the thing... I want to walk away from an entry feeling like the writer carefully considered every single word of their entry - exactly which words to use in exactly which order to convey meaning, build tension, and elicit emotion. That's somewhat ambiguous in terms of what my criteria are, especially since I'm sure each writer in this contest has labored, but if I get the sense that a piece has been immaculately polished, to the point that I want to reread to see how the writer did what they did to create such a concise piece, that's where my vote goes. Canister MacIntosh did that for me today. Well done.

    Catnipped has some good tension and voice, but I'm not entirely sure what sort of world/society we're in. Between backstory and narrative and dialogue and inner monologue, my mind was jumping around so much I couldn't fully immerse myself in the story. I think you're onto something, but for me, the writing wasn't quite tight enough.

    My vote goes to Canister MacIntosh.

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  4. Catnipped started out making me ask the right questions from the begining. What’s the so-called potion going to do to her body? Why do you need money so badly? Brother? Psychic aptitude test?
    And the voice was great too.

    McIntosh took their time settling us into the well-developed setting, but I didn’t feel like I went anywhere after my rear was good and cozy in that town. While there is something to be said for the ability to pull the reader in that deeply to a place, I wanted to be pulled that deeply into the characters mind. We know much more about Lois than we do the main character.

    My vote goes to Catnipped.

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  5. Catnipped get my vote today - I have so many unanswered questions that I actually want answered. Canister McIntosh's story leaves many questions unanswered as well, but with that story, I'm ok just not knowing.

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  6. I was pulled into Catnipped immediatley and would like to read more of it to find out what happened. The author did a wee bit too much hopping around from backstory to inner dialog, to dialog. I got a pretty good sense for both characters, although I didn't identify completely with the protagonist. Might need to read further.

    McIntosh set a great mood with the description of the city, but was never clear what or who the story was really about the city or the girl who wanted out. There was some wonderful description in this piece, but it didn't go anywhere.

    My vot goes to Catnipped.

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  7. My vote is for Catnipped. Some of Catnip’s dialogue and thoughts were forced, leading to something the reader is supposed to think about:
    (”Reasonably intelligent and relatively healthy.”

    Relatives? Did he know about my brother?)
    Things were repeated: not caring about people’s names.
    The story had me asking questions… Good questions. I wasn’t confused. I trust that the writer will explain the questions I have… If I continue reading. Which I would continue reading. In the end, it’s always about story.

    Mcintosh had some good lines and definitely set the scene well. I was hot and sweaty thinking about a Mississippi summer.... or a Texas summer. But that was really all I got. Someone is under house arrest, we don’t know why; and while that is a question, I needed more to want to continue reading. It wasn’t enough for me. I had no idea who the main character was, and knowing the main character is a must for me. Be careful with run-on sentences when they would be clearer if broken up. But bravo on the scene setting: 1970s hot Mississippi summer in a strange little water moccasin infested town without a grocery store. I see this little town.

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  8. As I read through Catnipped's entry, I kept thinking, Why isn't this published already? The MC is an unreliable narrator, which I love, leading us initially to believe that she is a he. And the person is familiar with bartenders and the heat of a whiskey shot, so we're thinking an older MC. Then we learn she's only sixteen. A tight balance of sense of place, secondary character descriptions, dialogue, inner thoughts, strong high stakes, pacing as the scene unfolded ... all add up to, What the heck is going on here? And I have to know more!

    McIntosh is an incredibly gifted descriptive writer. I could see, smell, and touch. I was there and the place was uncomfortable. But a couple of things didn't make sense. The narrator describes Lois as from a distance, how she stands at the edge of the property line, etc. Then we learn the narrator and Lois are best buds. A better transition into this relationship is needed. Secondly, since the first person POV narrator only talks about Lois, I'm disconnected and confused about the characters. Whose story is this? Why should I care about either of them?

    My vote this round: Catnipped.

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  9. I liked both and would continue reading both.
    Catnipped's scifi experiment reminded me of Flatliners. Not sure why. The idea of a 16 year old with so many secrets willing to be guinea pig for cash leaves me wanting more yet this felt like middle of the story and I wanted to start at the beginning.

    Mcintosh description of the town painted a vivid image. Relatable to me. Introduced to Lois, I wanted to read on. My vote goes to Mcintosh.

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  10. Another tough choice.

    Catnipped’s first two paragraphs are about the town, the next four about Lois. Since the story is mostly about the girl, skip the first two and give us more on Lois—e.g., explain the house arrest. Catnipped revealed very little about the narrator until the last paragraph—only then did I conclude the narrator was female, and possibly African American via the reference to corn rows. Until that point I conjectured the narrator was male and possibly a romantic interest. It helps the reader to understand the descriptions if he/she knows something about the perspective of the narrator. Lois is described as, “…standing at the edge of her property line…watching for anyone who passes by,” and also that she, “…stays home and plays her records.” Which is it? Also, does she interact with those who do pass by?—topics that Catnipped could flesh out if the first two paragraphs were omitted. Using “cheap TG& Y” twice seemed repetitive. “None” is singular, so the phrase should have been, “None of us is afraid…” I don’t get the title of ‘Ross Barnett’ at all. The reservoir is barely mentioned in the story, and plays no role in it, other than being where the kids swim. Well written for the most part, but all in all, I didn’t get the point.

    Canister McIntosh did a fine job of pulling me into the story and getting me into the head of the MC. The premise seemed a bit far-fetched, however—a roomful of medical voyeurs observing a drug-induced psychological experiment on a single individual. It all seemed too nineteenth century for me—I would think the researcher would conduct an experiment of that nature in a closed room, maybe with a glassed-in observation booth, but more likely under the gaze of a video camera, not a live audience. I didn’t get why a hospital gown was required if the focus was psychological (reference to “psychic tests). The audience description seemed suspect, varying from bored to terrified, more for the sake of variety than for realism. The initial dialogue between Baldy and Arianna concerning the nature of the potion could have been scrapped, as they added no information to the plot, and besides—wouldn’t these questions already have been asked and answered? I wasn’t sure how a sixteen-year-old street person would know what a “super-charged whiskey shot” felt like, but then again that experience is outside my ken. The rest of the dialogue and internal thought was spot-on, if a bit choppy. Economizing on the early part as noted above could yield more descriptive/explanatory words to use later on. I did like the one-foot-in-the-grave ending, not knowing exactly how it might turn out.

    My vote goes to Canister McIntosh

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    Replies
    1. Umm...I hesitate to point this out because I don't know if it's kosher or not, but you have your pen names reversed, giving the wrong names to the stories you describe. Made me wonder if you voted for the one you meant to vote for.

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    2. You are so right, Brenda. I messed up big time. Fortunately, the mistake did not affect the overall result. I'll be more careful in the future. Thanks for pointing it out.

      Delete
  11. Both of these offer me good mysteries to sink my teeth into. I want to what the heck is going on in Catnipped as well as in that Mississippi town. When it comes to decided which one will get my vote, I had to look long and hard.

    Catnipped gave me narrator that I instantly cared about. The use of repetition works great for the situation and I loved hearing her thought contrast with the voice of the baldy.

    McIntosh set an incredible scene. I feel I already know Lois, however, I don't know the narrator. That's bugging me. She's obviously close to Lois but also a bit standoffish with her. Intriguing, but also in need of more info.

    So, my vote is going to Catnipped.

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  12. Catnipped: I found this confusing, with the back-and-forth between the MC's inner dialogue and actual events (example: potion versus treatment, goblet versus beaker). The premise of the story is interesting, full of sweet little details.

    McIntosh: This was beautiful; the description of the town and where the other children play reveals so much about Lois and her relationship to this town. The writing brings the reader to the setting. This reminded me a bit of John Irving or Richard Russo, who have a gift for using settings to mirror character development.


    My vote goes to McIntosh.

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  13. McIntosh: This is evocative writing, very true to its southern gothic roots, where the setting often takes on a character of its own. Your very specific word choices worked it for you here. Great job plunking me down in a Mississippi summer, and beginning to draw the curtain back on these two friends. Well done; I would definitely read more.


    Catnipped: In spite of the interesting premise, the writing just didn't pull me in.

    Today's vote to McIntosh.

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  14. Vote: Catnipped

    I really wanted to be able to the pick the piece by McIntosh. Being a Mississippi girl, I wanted to vote for the Mississippi story, but I felt like it tried to do too much with too little. The story is named for the reservoir, but starts off describing the town, and then zeroes in on a particular girl. I think the title is unnecessary in this case, and we don't need as much information about the town in order to care about the girl. So it was a misuse of the word count. Not to say it doesn't have potential!

    Catnipped left me asking questions about Adrianna. Why is she so desperate for money? Alley-mate? What's her situation that this seemed best? But she has a strong voice and the tension of the scene would have pulled me to turn the page and find out what came next, so I this one gets the vote.

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  15. Catnipped’s story was a fun read. I loved Arianna’s voice and the strange situation she finds herself in; it left me wanting more.

    Canister McIntosh’s story was a nice slice of life, but I was left with more questions than answers by the end. I wish there were a few more clues as to what was going with Lois.

    I enjoyed Catnipped’s story just a little more and therefore it gets my vote. Thank you to the authors for sharing!

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  16. Congrats to both writers for making it into the bouts, and from your talents, it's easy to see why you did.

    Both stories have a lot going for them and both also have punctuation issues and could use a bit more focus.

    In the end, I'm voting for the one that grabbed my interest the most, which in this round is Catnipped.

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  17. Both stories left me with so many questions and wanting to know more. What does the potion in Catnipped's story do and what's going to happen to our narrator? Who are the geeks and what are they expecting? In Canister McIntosh's story, who is our narrator? Why is Lois on house arrest? If her aunt and uncle are as strict as they seem, and Lois can't leave, where do the Queen records come from? Did someone give them to her? And if so, who?

    Really great writing on both authors' parts.

    It's a really tough choice. But Canister McIntosh gets my vote.

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  18. Excellent writing from two solid entries. I can see the writing chops in each of them. You've done fantastic work there.

    Catnipped, a point to raise: technically (and you bring it up a couple times), the subject wouldn't get paid until after completing the trial/experiment. It sounds minor, but it takes the reader out of the story and you have to work doubly hard to immerse them again. Your reader wants to get immersed, and you do a great job getting them deep into the story, but (IMHO) you lose them a little by getting that minor piece wrong. I don't feel like they'd give the subject the money until AFTER they complete their assignment. If it's otherwise, which can be plausible, I think you need to address it in the story. Really enjoyed the give and take, and I think you can tighten it even a little further. The ending is a great cliffhanger that'll keep me around to read more.

    Canister--wow, what a superb job with setting. I'm right there with your narrator and Lois. I would make this change: early you mention everybody except for one swims... I think you should say every kid, except for one. You don't lose anything, and it describes the situation better. Unless, of course, subsequent storytelling reveals that the aunt and uncle are out swimming but not allowing Lois to go which would be a whole 'nother twist on things. I suspect there's more story to come, but instead of wishing for the future to show up when she can escape these restrictions, I was disappointed we didn't get to see the beginning of Lois and her narrator friend sneaking out after seeing the light disappear from the old folks' room. At least a hint of that would've been a better cliffhanger.

    Tough choice as I'd keep reading both, but I'm ever so slightly leaning to Catnipped.

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  19. My vote goes to Catnipped. There's more tension, and we're right in the main character's head. I like the description in Canister's piece, but where's it going? For a short story, it's spending a lot of time with setup, but the story, whatever it is, hasn't even begun.

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  20. In a pinch of a time pinch today, but want to cast a vote for Catnipped. Intrigued by the character. 16 passing for 21 a bit of a stretch, but this is fiction. Story left me wanting more. That's a win in my book.

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  21. Catnipped's story left me curious about what was going to happen. I loved "Ga-leaped" and "hoping for a cadaver grin." However, it could have been tightened. In some places it told rather than showed.

    Canister McIntosh pulls me into a different mystery, but the descriptions were wonderful and apt. I feel for Lois, and I'm wondering what happened to her parents and if that's connected to why she's on house arrest. My only issue with that story is that descriptions of kid's bodies creep me out so the part that said, "At thirteen, Lois already looks like a woman. Round hips, C-cup boobs" didn't sit well with me. Why that description rather than her hair cut, freckles, eyes, or anything else?

    That said, the rest of Canister McIntosh was great and it gets my vote.

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  22. This is a tough one. I know I say that a lot, but it really is true. These stories are quite different in tone, but they both have an element of mystery to them. They also both offer me a glimpse of a character that I feel a quick connection to, which is difficult to do in such a short amount of time. Both also exhibit exceptional writing. When it comes down to it, Catnipped would keep me reading on in anticipation, so that's where my vote will go.

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  23. Difficult to choose, both have some good points, but neither really wins me over.

    Catnipped
    Cool concept, a great 'what if?' and some nice hints about backstory make me wonder why she's had to do this. Dialogue tags feel a bit intrusive ("I interrupted"). Even though it's short and there's plenty of action, it also somehow felt too slow paced, and I think that's because information and ideas were repeated. You can make this a cleaner, sharper read. I didn't get as much of a sense of character as I'd have liked, and it feels like the writing needs some more polish.

    Canister McIntosh:
    The writing was more accomplished, I liked the voice and rhythm of the piece, and the descriptions gave me a really good feel for a hot sultry summer. I didn't feel I really got into the head of the pov character, but Lois was intriguing and I really wondered why she had these restrictions. Your 3rd paragraph was a bit too heavy with detail. If it's the full short story I'd expect something to happen, to give the piece an actual plot, but I'll assume it's just set up.

    The thing that made me cringe was the description of Lois's breasts and hips. She's thirteen! I think the problem is that the pov character feels older than I realised he must be (teens), he actually feels more like a 30+ year old. Unfortunately this makes the description of Lois feel voyeuristic at best, and certainly made me feel uncomfortable reading it.

    For the latter reason alone, I'll go with Catnipped, for the cool concept, though I think it needs some polish.

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  24. Catnipped has my vote this round. Well-paced and great characterization. There were a few odd-phrasings, but that may be subjective.

    Canister McIntosh is an excellent writer, but the first entry grabbed me more.

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  25. I enjoyed reading both. So hard to decide! I'll have to go with Canister McIntosh on this one.

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  27. Catnipped-What is an alley-mate? Does she live in an alley? Is she a runaway? If she's only 16 would she know how a shot of whiskey tasted or use a bartender analogy as her first thought? Used the word "excepting" twice. "Except" is the more common usage so seeing it twice was jarring and took me out of the story. Since he's a scientist I feel like he would provide more precise stats about the subject instead of "reasonably intelligent & relatively healthy" he would say tested IQ of ___, no known allergies, no family history of ____ (whatever disease might be important to your novel in some way), BP ___, vital signs stable and within expected levels for age range, etc.

    Canister McIntosh-the reference to cash register does not go with the rest of your list of *buildings* the town does and does not have. Change to something like "gas station." Song titles capitalized, so Fat Bottomed Girls should be too? I feel like Lois would know why she's not allowed to go swimming and as Lois's best friend, the MC would have asked and gotten an answer. So far nothing has really happened in the story. We don't really get a sense of anyone but Lois, and she isn't the POV character so I have no idea what I'm supposed to be focusing on for this story. If something happens to Lois (she goes missing/gets murdered) I already have a sense of her character so go ahead and get rid of her so we can move on to the meat of the story.

    Both were well written, but the pacing was better for Catnipped so my vote goes to Catnipped today.

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  28. Catnipped had better pacing and a better drawn out character. I choose Catnipped.

    -SP Hofrichter

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  29. Both stories are well-written and grabbed my attention. I worry that the Canister McIntosh story will be too much of teenage girl angst with anxious anticipation to get out of her small town and out from underneath adults' power. I hope it does have something more and different to offer. Catnipped offered great dialogue and I anticipate that it has more mystery coming. I vote for Catnipped.

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  30. Catnipped vs Canister McIntoss

    Catnapped has promise. Intrigued by what the promise of a good story.

    Canister wants to promise a story in a pretty defined setting. It’s sort of forgettable.

    Vote for Catnipped.

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  31. Catnipped's character of Arianna the pretender had a vague echo of Holden Caufield.

    Canister McIntosh parried with the inscrutable, self-absorbed Lois who wishes for nothing more than to escape an evocative backwater.

    I preferred the writing and intrigue of Catnipped's story...I was curious about the story's unusual premise.

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  32. Congrats to both as usual! I’m going to vote for Catnipped today for a unique premise. I have actually read articles advocating young people make extra money by participating in clinical research trials. Kinda scary stuff. I’d be interested to see where the story goes from here.

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  33. Canister McIntosh gets my vote. I don't know how often Write Club finds literary fiction talent.

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  34. Another difficult choice. Both of these were unique and the writing was strong.

    Catnipped - your MC came through loud and clear and I can see how she’ll appeal to the YA group. But sometimes her thoughts interrupted the flow and I was a little confused during the story. The ending was great though, and left me hungry for more.

    Canister - your writing is lyrical and I couldn’t find any fault in it...not that I was looking for stuff anyway since you immediately drew me into the story. My only quibble is nothing seemed to be happening but for your genre selection, nothing HAS to happen so that’s OK.

    In the end I had to go with personal preference so Catnipped gets my vote.

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  35. I'm torn on this one because both stories are intriguing and I want to read more. Despite the medical experimentation in Catnipped's story, the undercurrent of menace is (oddly enough) somehow even more sinister in Canister McIntosh's story.

    My vote goes to Canister McIntosh.

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  36. McIntosh is a great writer. I enjoyed the imagery, but did not feel connected to either the narrator or Lois. The story left me feeling "meh".

    Today my vote goes to Catnipped. The writing grabbed me by the throat and pulled me in. I loved how the writer drops hints in the dialogue and creates questions that make me want to turn the pages and get the answers.

    Well done both of you. It's easy to see how you made it into the bouts.

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  37. Two more good contenders. Both of these entries drew me in at the start. I liked the snarky, distinctive voice of Catnipped's narrator, though there was perhaps a touch too much jumping around with that. (The leap from "relatively intelligent" to "my brother" left me behind.) It set me up to really know what came next. I particularly loved its last line. Canister McIntosh built a sweltering Mississippi town that was so vivid I could hear the mosquitoes, but I couldn't find the story. Lois is trapped on behind her property lines ... and? Was the story about her, or about the narrator, or about the town itself? What is the narrator's relationship to Lois? Halfway through I figured out they are both girls and apparently friends. Do others spend time hanging out with Lois, or is it just the narrator? Is Lois the "weird kid" shunned by other kids? If so, how does the narrator feel about that, and deal with that? Too many unanswered questions that made a knot I couldn't find the thread of. I have to vote for Catnipped.

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  38. Catnipped, I'm curious as to what will come next! I like the slow reveal of information. Good job. You've got my vote.

    Canister, you did a good job with the setting and character description. Feels like literature. Very nice.

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  39. My vote today goes to Canister, for the more well-polished story.

    JoAnne Turner
    joanneturnerwrites@gmail.com

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  40. These are both as interesting as they are disparate. In this short excerpt, though, my vote goes to Canister, because the writing has such a beautiful flow, and the description makes me feel the stagnant heat and slow passage of time in a Mississippi small-town summer.
    That said, if I were buying one of these as a book, I'd buy Catnipped as it sounds more action-packed, with a promise of exciting things to come. Canister's is a slow-burn, and while slow-burn books do sometimes turn out to be very interesting with unexpected twists etc., an equal amount of the time they ramble on in 400 pages of literary description - exquisite writing, but not much happens to care about.

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  41. Catnipped and Canister McIntosh both presented strong pieces of writing.

    Catnipped does a great job of weaving a story and building tension and leaves off with a question that demands to be answered.

    Canister McIntosh has a slower pace to it but does a brilliant job of creating characters and leaves off with an intriguing turn.

    Hard to pick between the two but my vote this time is for Canister McIntosh

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  42. Catnipped - Awesome tension. I enjoy the made up words, this is my type of vocabulary. The comedy is on point. I also liked how the protagonist likes things their own way(but I liked potion better, but I liked goblet better.)

    FOR BOTH STORIES
    I don't need to know age or gender right off the bat because, in general, I can empathize with whatever human stuff is happening in a story for a while simply with them being a human(any even a non-human creature who is thinking and rationalizing).

    Canister McIntosh - this story immediately dropped me into a sleepy little town where everyone is up in your business, those who are different are immediately seen as the outsiders and the sense and wonder that a teen/child can have with another person. So great job on that!

    Catnipped wins it for me this round for its voice.

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  43. Loved the paranormal mystery that Catnipped created. Canister McIntosh - good writing - it just didn't pull me in like the other one. My vote goes to Catnipped.

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  44. Catnipped... An interesting opening. I liked your entry.

    Canister McIntosh... That's a really good short story. Reminds me of J.D. Salinger. You have my vote.

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  45. I agree with Stacy who had trouble caring about the characters. My vote goes to catnipped which set up a slightly more intriguing opening. I'm more curious about what the drug is going to do do the narrator than I am about finding out about Lois.

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  46. Catnipped's writing was excellent and the piece presented was clear and easy to follow. The premise is also very cool and I was totally pissed that I couldn't read more. WHAT HAPPENS!?

    Cannister's piece has some very, very good description giving a clear picture of what's around. But as I read I found more description than story. I also felt the piece jumped around a lot going from one point then doing a 180' to another.

    Catnipped gets my vote for clarity.

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  47. My vote goes to Canister Mcintosh.

    I was truly torn on who to vote for here.

    Catnipped, your scene is pretty compelling and the quirky conversation from your witty character really drew me in. I almost voted for you because of that last line alone.

    But Canister. I voted for you because of the way your tone and story blended so well together. I think I could do with a bit more of the story, or at least more of a hint where it's going before the end of this 500 words, but good job. There were some things I'd suggest you avoid: cliches like "smelled like Coppertone and sweat." While this might be true in the scene, it drew me out. Also the fact that you gave me the cup size of the friend kinda irked me. Overall, well done.

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  48. Kudos to both writers for making it in!

    Catnipped - your story is great, and I love the voice you've put into Arianna. That said, you're missing an awful lot of commas and punctuation edits, which cause your sentences to feel rushed and lack the kind of razor clarity they could hold.

    Cannister - You do a spectacular job with establishing setting and giving it a sense of character, which is essential in these kind of 'small town' stories. Really, the only nitpicking I could do is that 'Fat-Bottomed Girls' should be capitalised and hyphenated.

    But, since I have to cast my vote...
    ... my vote goes to Cannister.

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  49. Catnipped: The opening scene grabs me and that characterization comes through well.

    Cannister: Good job setting the scene of the town. I like your word choices.

    Vote for Catnipped.

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  50. Both stories were great!! Wish I could read more of both!!! This round my vote goes to Canister McIntosh for capturing my heart with such a distinct writing voice!!!!

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  51. My vote goes to Catnipped. I am hooked and want to know exactly what the potion does, and she gave her character a good voice. I assume Adrianna was homeless, correct? That's what I gleaned from when she said "alley-mate" and it makes her dive-in-head-first choices make all the more sense. Great job.

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  52. This was a tough choice, but it ultimately came down to which one was cleaner. So, I'm going to have to go with McIntosh. This little exert sounded edited, thought out and could carry on to a novel if it needed to.

    I did like the idea behind Catnipped, but it felt unpolished. If there another round of edits, it would've definitely made it for me.

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  53. My vote goes to Catnipped
    Catnipped: I enjoyed the narrator voice straight away. I like how she called things as she wanted, like the goblet. Maybe with a few more words allowed we could have gotten a hint at why she didn’t want baldy to find out about her brother.
    Canister McIntosh: I was really intrigued by Lois.Theres lots hinted at. While it sounds like a contradiction, there’s lots to ground the story, yet nothing to feel grounded too. I know about the town, but I don’t (yet) have a sense of the MC. Definitely a case of needing just a few more words.
    Congratulations to both!

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  54. Both of these writers had some strong points going for them. Catnipped did a great job of keeping me engaged by creating a fun character and a plot that progressed. Canister did a great job setting up the world and the characters with beautiful and descriptive language. Between the two, however, I would definitely be more willing to read Catnipped's story.

    Catnipped: The imaginary parts (goblet/beaker) seemed a bit forced and out of place, which I could forgive if they play an important part in the story (which, if they do, we obviously don't get to due to the word limit), otherwise I could do without them.

    Canister: The world is set up nicely, but nothing actually happens, just a bunch of backstory. I'm only vaguely interested in these characters because they don't actually do anything in the story so far. I'd love to see more action/dialogue.

    Both definitely had their strong points, though, so congratulations on getting into the ring!

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  55. This one is pretty close for me, but my vote goes to Catnipped.
    For Canister McIntosh, I like the stylistic approach to this, and the reserved way it's told. It fits within itself as a style. But, I don't feel like it's going somewhere. It's describing what is now, and that someday it could be different. But there's no change or growth within the story, or hinted about what might happen immediately next, and that falls flat for me.
    For Catnipped, I want to know more about the character themselves, and what the stakes are for that person. Why was it worth a mysterious serum to get the money? What happens if they don't come back? I really like the way it's told, the suspense, and possibilities that I keep thinking about at the end.

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  56. My vote goes to Canister. I'm a sucker for a sweeping dreamy memory.

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  57. I'm voting for Catnipped. This was a tough choice. I loved the scene-setting McIntosh gave us, while it took too long for me to figure out where I was in Catnipped's piece, which bothered me, especially with the mention of an alley. However, Catnipped's voice and character drew me in more. I would definitely keep reading both, since they left me with questions, but my investment in Catnipped's scene is higher.

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  58. Catnipped gets my vote today.

    I had a hard time choosing because I loved the picture that McIntosh painted, but in the end, I didn't feel connected to anything. I felt more like I was watching a scene unfold while driving through town. It felt distant, though beautiful.

    Catnipped story put me right in the scene. While not as beautifully written, in my opinion, it was much clearer and I had a full sense of what was going on.

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  59. This isn't as easy a decision for me as the others have been.

    Catnipped has great character-building, but I don't get a clear sense of the stakes or setting. Also I get a "cookie-cutter" feeling from the character, but I'm not really sure why.

    Canister McIntosh has great voice, but I know so little about the narrator that the voice ended up confusing me - are they around Lois' age? The language & storytelling feels like it's being told by someone much older, and while I very much like that voice, it doesn't match the implied information about the narrator.

    I'm going to have to vote for Catnipped.

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  60. Write Club is hard, putting all these awesome pieces against each other. Really enjoyed both. Vote goes to Canister McIntosh.

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