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WRiTE CLUB 2015 - Bout #3

What is WRiTE CLUB?  It started off as a modest writing competition, inspiration loosely derived from the movie FIGHT CLUB, and it has since grown into a writing community sensation that is now sponsored by the DFWWriters Conference.  There are numerous versions of this concept floating around the internet, but nothing like we do it here.  Its essence embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top. 

Over the course of ten weeks I’ll be holding daily bouts (M-F) between Anonymous 500 word writing samples, submitted under a pen name.   The writing can be any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction. Today is Bout #3.  Read each sample carefully and then leave a vote in the comment section for the one that resonates with you the most.  Anyone can vote... but only once per bout. Don’t forget to leave with a brief critique of both submissions as well.

Voting for each bout will remain open for one week. The winner of each will be posted HERE, at the WRiTE CLUB scoreboard.  Are you ready?

Here are the first two randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in this corner, representing the mystery genre and weighing in at 497 words, please welcome to the ring……..Primrose

I think the peaches were the wrong thing I noticed.  They were in a bag in the refrigerator, a plain plastic produce bag, tied in a knot at the top just like all the others.  Peaches.  Not nectarines, smooth and shiny, but three definitely fuzzy peaches.
I don’t like peaches.
It seemed a small thing at first, but it niggled at my mind.  Why would I have peaches in my fridge?  I moved things around, looking for any other strange vegetable kingdom materialization, but that was it.  At first.
Gregory--that’s my husband--said not to worry.  The doctors told us it would be some time before my brain was working normally.  Closed head trauma, they call it--severe closed head trauma with concussion.  Very scientific words to explain why my thoughts and memories are scrambled like eggs.
I like eggs.
God, I’ve been obsessed with food.  I think it’s because it is such a simple, available clue to who and what I was.  Am.  What I am.
There is a method to my thinking.  I call it Jennifer’s Scale of Order.  Food is simpler than clothes.  Clothes are simpler than work.  Work is simpler than friends.  I am simpler than I used to be.
I figured the scale out last week, scribbled it in my notebook in big, unfamiliar letters that crawled off the lines and up the page.  Gregory frowned and said my penmanship would probably improve along with my memory.  He was right; it’s a lot more even now, yet still not much like my old handwriting.
I don’t show my notebook to Gregory any more.  I’m beginning to think I don’t like him any better than I like peaches.
Doctor Carey, my psychiatrist, says, “Episodes of disorientation and emotional detachment aren’t rare with injuries like yours.  It will take time for everything to resolve.”  She really does sound that way.  She says the fog will clear.  Probably.  “Ninety-five percent of head injuries like yours are back to normal within a year.”
All I have to do is figure out how to fake everything until I get back to normal. How will I know I’m back to normal if I can’t remember what normal feels like?
Is it normal to look at a man I’ve been married to for four years and wonder how the two of us managed to stay together for so long?  I may be more than a little dysfunctional, but I’m pretty sure Gregory will be as pompous and overbearing in a year as he is now.
Did I always cringe every time he so much as touched me in passing?  Lord, I hope not.  That would mean I’m either an idiot or a masochist.  On the other hand, it’s more frightening to imagine making love to him and actually enjoying it.  I think I’d rather be one of the walking wounded than get naked with that man.  Wanting to be normal again is one thing, but there are limits.

And in the other corner, representing the horror (light) genre with 500 words let me introduce to you……….Shimiqua

It was a regular Wednesday.

I was in math class, three rows back from the teacher, Ms. Fields, who was rocking feather earrings as she taught us about like polynomials or something. (Polyandry maybe?) I was doodling a unicorn on the corner of my notebook, and not taking notes.

I get distracted on occasion. And my life has a goal to make every day an occasion.

The unicorn needed earrings. I was deciding between giant hoops, and peacock feathers when David Hildelgo turned in his chair. I smiled. David was gorgeousness personified. He has these sparkly eyes, an oxy bright smile, and he always wears the wool hat that framed little tufts of light brown hair escaping from around his neck. He flashed his white white teeth, and I squinted as he spoke. “Do you have a pencil I could borrow?”

I said yes immediately, not because I had a pencil, but because when David Hildelgo asks you a question, you say yes. Immediately.

I pulled my battered messenger bag into my lap, unzipped it, and started searching through the empty folders and gum wrappers for a pen or a pencil or a writing utensil (that rhymes) so, by Gidgit, I would not let my disorganized life prove me a liar to THE David “Sparkly Eyes” Hildelgo, and I found something vaguely pen shaped and I held it up triumphantly, like LOOK AT ME WORLD! TODAY AVERY VANDERHOUSE WAS PREPARED!

It was a tampon.

David’s sparkly eyes went super wide, and then went super un-sparkly, like the angel holding the penlight to his eyes lowered his hands and said, “nope, shine elsewhere, Jerkwad.” And I know I should be embarrassed and all, but honestly I was kind of impressed by myself for actually having a tampon in my bag. Usually I’m begging one off my best living friend Zoe.

And that’s why I didn’t immediately put it back into my bag. David looked over at his friend and started laughing. My eyes narrowed. “Yeah, it’s a tampon. I have a tampon. I’m a girl, and sometimes girls need tampons, so grow up David Hildelgo and friend. At least I’m not prego.” I brandished the tampon for emphasis.

“You say that like you are doable, Freak,” David Hildelgo said.

My blood turned hot.

Every door, cupboard, and backpack swung open, and a thousand papers slammed into David Hildelgo’s wool hat. He covered his head with his arms, but it didn’t matter. He had paper cuts across his nose and above his eyebrows.

His thick perfect eyebrows.

“Gidgit, calm the heck down,” I whispered to my best dead friend.

The flow of papers stopped.

Everyone’s eyes were on me. I shrunk back in my seat, holding my messenger bag like it was a pillow, until prying eyes and giggling people went back to their math notes. Ms. Fields shook her head, her earrings dangling back and forth.

I drew feather earrings on the unicorn.

Like I said, it was a regular Wednesday.

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 to the playoffs.  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner.  Which one tickled your fancy?  After you vote please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well (but no coaching about who to vote for).  Yes, it’s subjective, but so is the entire publishing world.  It’s as much about the readers as it is about the writers. 

This is WRiTE CLUB – the contest where the audience gets clobbered!


  1. This is a toughy, but my vote is for Primrose. It had a stronger voice, and I felt more empathy for this character.

    I enjoyed Shimiqua's story, but it didn't draw me in to the same level.

  2. I vote for Primrose. At this point I don't feel Shimiqua gets the correct balance in using the first person POV.

  3. Oh man this is tough!! These are both great stories. I think I'm gonna vote for Shamiqua, there were a few "cool!" moments that I really appreciated but Primrose's was fantastic, too. That was a hard decision, both you guys/gals did great!

  4. This is almost a draw for me, as I liked both. But if I ask myself, "what am I more likely to keep reading?" the answer is Shimiqua, so Shimiqua gets my vote.

  5. My vote is for Shimiqua. The first sentence of Primrose's threw me, but then I liked it.

    And then I read Shimiqua's and snorted with laughter.

  6. Primrose - I really liked the scene set here and the exploration of those confused feelings. It's an interesting concept to be a part of. The present tense mixed with all the past references got confusing and I think the passage could use some shoring up. The thought train is jumbled, and while that makes sense for the confused narrator, it still leaves the whole unit less approachable. Maybe some re-arranging of material could produce an easier flow.

    Shimiqua - Very embarrassing scene, and it had a nice voice. The genre didn't specify YA, but I assume it is because of the voice and age of the narrator. The piece could use less self references, specifically "I" and more variation for sentence beginnings and sentence structure. These are nitpicky things, but once addressed, would bring much more polish to the scene.

  7. Argh! This is such a tough choice today, because I liked both entries and would continue reading both of these stories!

    Primrose - the story of a woman coming to terms with her new personality after an injury is really fascinating. I'm interested to see what happens and whether she and Gregory stay together. I'm invested in her character already!

    Shimiqua - I love the voice in this one. There's also a lot of great humor that made me chuckle out loud. I think this sounds like such a fun read and I'd be interested in learning more about Gidgit, the dead friend.

    This is SUCH a tough choice (they came out about even for me), but - because it's the genre I would more likely read/write in... my vote is for Shimiqua.

  8. I actually enjoyed BOTH of these! Great talent you two. I'm going to pick Shimiqua though. I would want to read a full fledged novel on this character. I'll be thinking about this for a few days...

    Primrose was good and interesting, but I feel like I've read or seen this story a few times. It's a bit explored already.

    A dead best friend? Not so much explored... yet!

  9. Wow. This is too difficult. I demand that both be counted. Seriously, it would be such a shame to lose one or the other! Do I really have to choose? Really? Okay, then I'm going with a very subjective choice. I'm voting for Shimiqua because Primrose's snip makes me feel all squirmy inside. I don't trust the husband or the psychiatrist and I'm really worried for the narrator!

  10. These were both great, but the humor in Shimiqua's sent me over the edge to get my vote. The inner monolouge in Primrose's seemed too complex for someone with that kind of injury, so that thought took me out of the read a bit.

  11. Gah. They are both great. I really am having a hard time choosing between the two. In an ideal world, I'd vote for both. I'd keep reading both of these entries. But because I have to choose one, I'll say Shimiqua, simply because it's more the genre I typically read. Seriously though, both of these are excellent.

  12. My vote is for Shimiqua. But I agree, it was a tough fight. I want to learn more about the best dead friend. However, I felt the first reference to Gidget detracted from the ending.

  13. I don't usually go for (what looks like) middle-aged women stories, but I loved the snarky honesty with which Primrose's narrator describes her life. The voice was perfect. The one thing I would change is the first line, which didn't grab me like the rest. A little switch up of what you already have, with a clearer opening line: "It took me a while to figure out what was wrong. The peaches. Peaches, not nectarines... They were in a bag...," would work much better for me than "I think the peaches were the wrong thing I noticed."

    Shimiqua has an interesting premise and goodness knows the accidental tampon has happened to every girl as some point or another! That said, I felt like the narrator's eccentricity and David's perfection, especially pertaining his white teeth, were a little overdone (and do they allow hats in school now?). Also, the "was ______ing" verb construction has become a pet peeve of mine, so I almost stopped reading after the second "was ____ing". My editor may laugh at me for passing on her advice, but try to take this deeper into the narrator's point of view, so we're experiencing everything WITH her, rather than her telling us about the characters and action.

    Congrats to both for making the cut! My vote goes to Primrose!

  14. This was brutal. To face these two off in the first round...

    Both authors should be immensely pleased with this work. Both of these can write, as in seriously write. Purely on personal preference, I'm going with Primrose, which should not be interpreted as a contention that it's better. That's as equal a contest as I can imagine.

  15. I have to go with Shimiqua. That piece just felt more polished. Also, brandishing a tampon - totally realistic high school girl behavior haha

    ..not sure if that was a function of Primrose's writing as someone with a head injury, or an actual thing, but it just didn't feel as well constructed to me, so I had a hard time staying in the story. The premise was good, I just couldn't get myself wrapped up in it.

    But well done both of you!

  16. While these are both good, I voite for Primrose because of the amount of passive voice used in Shimiqua's opening.

  17. Both entries are very good, but I vote for Shimiqua.

    On Primrose’s entry, I particularly liked the opening with peaches. However, the entire piece read like a diary entry rather than a story. I am definitely not the show v. tell police, I think telling is a useful technique at times. However, this piece was *all* tell. I would like to be pulled into a scene where I begin to understand the dynamics of the protag’s injury, her current state of mind, and her feelings toward her husband based on what is happening in the scene, not because she’s telling me all these things. It would be more engaging if it were a scene unfolding. I realize there are things you need to tell the reader, but using dialogue in place of exposition would be more interesting. I think Primrose is an excellent writer, and if the scene were rewritten with more action and dialogue, it would have probably gotten my vote.

    Shimiqua did a great job with her storytelling. I liked the motif of it being a regular day beginning and ending the piece. It had a Carrie-esque vibe to it, and left me wondering if it was actually a “friend” or an alter ego. My main suggestion would be to develop your protag a little more with how she reacts to the events. I didn’t have any clue she wasn’t a super cute popular girl until she’s mocked – you could give us a clue by how she feels when David turns around, whether she can meet his eyes, if his attention makes her feel awkward or surprised or what. I’d also like more of a reaction to the papers flying at David – she clutches her messenger bag, but I don’t get a sense of how she feels about it – scared, pleased? She just goes back to drawing again and it’s just a regular day. But, really? Does this stuff happen all the time, so much so that she barely reacts?

    Both great pieces, sorry to see either one go! Congrats to both of you.

  18. I vote for Primrose!

  19. Wow, this is a toughy. Yesterday I didn't care for either piece. Today I am totally pulled in by both. It's hard for me to really critique either one without getting really picky.

    I feel like the more remote (telling) voice is appropriate for Primrose's selection due to the fact that the MC is actually trying to "tell" herself who she is now. I was very hooked when she said she didn't know if she cared for her husband any more than peaches. That was priceless. The piece did a good job of making me feel the confusion of the MC. I felt very much in her shoes.

    Shimiqua's submission had me laughing out loud. As a person with ADHD I could totally relate to the sentence: "I get distracted on occasion. My life has a goal to make every day an occasion." I loved the MC at that point and everything that followed added to that endearment.

    Though both pieces have tremendous merit, I will cast my vote for Shimiqua on this round, simply because I found her piece more entertaining. The character seemed more original to me.

  20. Shimiqua's piece has humor, but the show-stopper for me was when everyone just continues on with the class as if a boy has not just had his eyebrows sliced to ribbons. We don't see his pain, and it's not clear whether he just sits there with his eyebrows bleeding or runs out. And why doesn't the MC get punished for something that is pretty clearly her fault? If everyone expects this weird behavior from her and is scared, maybe, but if she's known for violent telekinetic attacks, you'd sort of expect David to take the tampon and say, "Thank you, miss. I shall treasure it always."

    Primrose's piece opens with a lovely fridge/food analogy, but the notebook bit is less interesting, and the end is info-dump. I think weaving the fridge throughout the piece would make it much stronger (e.g.,how do the restaurant leftovers of that disastrous meal with her husband make her feel?). Because I feel Primrose's character is grounded more in reality and hence interesting, I vote for it, though it's a close call! There's much to like about both! :-)

  21. Congrats to both! Equally good and with enough substance. I have a love for mental health and trauma, so Primrose definitely hit the mark for me.

  22. Both pieces are interesting and have awesome endings, but I like Primrose's piece the best. The symbolism, tension, and mystery are excellent intertwined with the bewildered yet determined voice of the main character. I just loved the way she listed things out, how she made choices, and how her story just seems to be beginning. I imagine several scenarios branching off from this scene - she leaves the "husband," she discovers the "husband" and the "normal" life are a lie, or the husband tries to kill her . . . sorry, but I think that's what it's set up for at the moment. If I believe the MC's narration, the situation seems fishy, and the husband seems fishier (and I don't like fish.) :)

  23. Both pieces are well done, making this decision very difficult. I'm going to vote for Primrose, because there's so much potential for the story to continue, and so many different ways it can go.

  24. These two are well matched. I really loved both pieces.
    My vote goes to Primrose. There's so much more to this story, I want to know what happens to the narrator and how it plays out. I don't trust the husband, not one bit!

  25. Ah, the luck of the draw, or match-up, or whatever. In this case I don't think is was so lucky, because I loved both of these pieces from the moment I first read them. either might handily win put up against something else. Excellent job to each writer.

    In this unfortunate contest (Of course, if they were both the best of the best they would come up against each other somewhere along the line, eh?) I'm going to go with SMIMQUA, I love the sense of humor, especially in YA. I think it's much harder, but probably more appropriate, for this age group to laugh things like this off.

  26. I enjoyed both pieces. The tampon thing made me laugh out loud! Done that. I found Shimiqua's piece funny and entertaining, but the writing did need tightening (and, I wondered how everyone could just go back to normal after the dead friend nearly papercut pretty-boy to death). The first sentence of Primrose's piece is awkward, but I assume (this being a mystery and all) that the peaches are part of the greater puzzle the protag needs to solve. I did like the protag's development, though.

    So, all that said--my vote's for Primrose.

  27. Man, both of these have Voice out the wazoo! Makes it hard as I love witty snark. But ultimately, my vote goes to Primrose. Shimiqua was good, really, really good, but I'm not much on the paranormal/supernatural genre. But that was the only difference in them for me. Almost too close to call.

  28. Shimiqua for sure. Great voice and twist which is hard to do in flash fiction. I would read that novel.

    I thought the first two paragraphs of Primrose's peace were dull and they didn't hook me in. With flash fiction, every word counts. I also didn't care for the last paragraph, because I don't empathize with the main character.

  29. Primrose - Interesting. Packed full of emotion.

    Shimiqua- Great twist. Would make a cool YA/MG book. Needs a bit of grammatical polishing.

    I enjoyed them both. Today I'm voting for Primrose.

  30. I vote for the Primrose piece, but I think it would have been better to open with the fact of the head injury. Without that orientation to the story, the opening seems to go on and on about peaches for no particular reason and I almost didn't read on. I probably wouldn't have if this were in a bookstore instead of a contest. Plotwise, it sets up a clear quandary for the MC and makes me curious enough to want to find out what comes of it.

    I enjoyed some of the elements in the Shimiqua piece, especially the way she turned the tables on him instead of crumbling with embarrassment upon pulling out that tampon from her bag, brandishing it. I found it unbelievable, though, that she has no clue whatsoever, until the tampon scene, that he's as outrageously obnoxious as he is. Anybody that awful must have shown some sign of it before, however subtle. She starts out saying: "I said yes immediately, not because I had a pencil, but because when David Hildelgo asks you a question, you say yes. Immediately." Presumablly, he somebody that every girl goes gah-gah over without question. Suddenly they're all slicing him up.

  31. Oh man, I'm so upset these two are going against each other. I really want both to move forward. When I read Primrose's, I thought for sure I'd be voting for that one. But when I read Shimiqua's, I literally laughed out loud. And when that happens, you know you have to vote for it.

    So, my vote goes to Shimiqua. I'm sorry, Primrose. I wish I could vote for yours as well.

  32. Primrose gets my vote

  33. I vote for Primrose.

    Shimiqua wrote a funny story. It was fun to read with a lot of detail. I was embarrassed for Avery when she made her mistake. The story sounded like a teenage girl, and point of view was strong during the whole story. Great work.

    Primrose gave a glimpse inside a recovering mind, and also had a strong point of view. What I liked most is that life is seen as someone recovering from brain injury would see it, and emphasis is put where she would naturally put it, on things the rest of us seldom notice. Very captivating.

  34. I'm going with Primrose, although the first sentence really threw me off. It's a very awkward sentence. Try something simple but still intriguing like, "The peaches were wrong." The rest of the excerpt was quite good, thus my vote.

    Shimiqua is enjoyable as well, but the voice is not quite there IMHO. It's a bit off for YA and a bit awkward at times. This sentence for instance: "And my life has a goal to make every day an occasion." Her life doesn't have a goal, she has a goal. Read your writing aloud for rhythm and make sure you're using appropriate teen slang (ask a teen to read it if unsure). I think the voice is close, just needs a bit of polish. Also, I had a hard time connecting to a character that would mistake the texture of a tampon for a pen. Sorry, but no :) It's not believable. Perhaps she pulls something out of her bag and a tampon pops out along with it? That could happen.

    Good job and good luck both of you!

  35. I'm always looking for an interesting YA book that I can fall in love with. After ten years, could Shimiqua'a story be it..? I liked Primrose's piece, but the tampon won it for me.

    Shimiqua gets my vote!

  36. Oh wow, this one is a toughie. They're both excellent submissions. Excellent!
    For this bout I have to go with Primrose, only because I know all too well how those feelings are, and I couldn't have described them better.
    Shimiqua's story was funny and I loved the scene. Both were equal contenders in my book.

  37. this is a *hard* one! I'll have to vote for Primrose because it's more my cup of tea. Good job, both of you!

  38. I really enjoyed both. By a slim margin, Shimiqua.

  39. My vote goes to Primrose.
    I really love the story you told and the writing and honestly, I can think of no critique. I tried, really I did. I'm a very negative person like that, but I've got nothing. I like the slow lead in. I like the tie in with the food & I absolutely adore the story you're setting up.

    Shimiqua, I liked your piece too. I love your heroin. I love the "best living friend" v. "best dead friend." And I get that she's a baller and not embarrassed of her tampon (good on her; we don't all have to be shrinking violets), but I think she gets a little too militant and he gets a little to nasty too suddenly.

  40. My vote goes to Shimiqua, but both were very enjoyable.

  41. I'm going with Primrose. But it was a tough choice.

  42. Both were very good but Primrose was the one I'd want to keep reading if I had to choose, so I'm voting Primrose.

  43. My vote goes to Primrose. I liked the opening about the peaches. I also liked the way the character prioritized the order of simplicity.
    Shimiqua was well written. Primrose was a personal choice because of genre.

  44. Both of these are strong pieces with good, clean writing. I'm drawn right away to the MC from Primrose. Shimiqua gives us a taste of the supernatural, and shows us some great (arguably MG) voice.

    This is a close matchup, but my vote goes to Primrose.

  45. Voting for Primrose. I love stories about self-discovery, and while that's normally a YA thing I love the chance to see it in a literary story that's not super prosey.

  46. Wow! These are both very impressive! I am intrigued by both, and I think both writers did an excellent job. I am going to go with Shimiqua's piece, however, because I enjoyed the humor and the writing style. But really, kudos to the both of you! Great work!

  47. I like both of these a lot and would love to read more of both. Hate to have to choose between them. Write Club can be so cruel.

    My vote goes to Shimiqua. I liked the humor and the characterization. And I want to know Gidget's story. I think it would have been more interesting to see a hint of the reactions from the class at the end.

    I'm very curious about Jennifer's story too. I could see a hint of the creepiness and mystery, but it could have been a little stronger. I'd like to know what it is about Gregory that's creeping her out. The first sentence is rather clunky and could be stronger.

    Thanks for sharing your stories. Good luck to both of you.

  48. I might be too late to get my vote in (I was on vacay) but if I'm not, I'm putting in for Shimiqua, which was one of my favs from the pre-round judging




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