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WRiTE CLUB 2015 Semi-Final Bout #1

WRiTE CLUB is a writing community sensation sponsored by the DFWWriters Conference - loosely based on the popular movie Fight Club.  There are numerous versions of this concept floating around the internet, but nothing like we do it here.  This unique approach embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top.

The ring this year has seen numerous clashes of nothing but the highest quality writing...each with their own unique qualities and offerings...but unfortunately the ring is meant to hold only two.  In order to solve this problem I bring to you four awesome writers in a pair of semi-final bouts and ask the readership to vote one more time.  This is the last round where the readers have a I hope that everyone takes advantage of the opportunity. And when your finished please let all your friends know as well.

There is no wildcard to fallback on any longer. The two semi-final winners we pick this week will be asked to offer one more 500 word submission, which will be  put before our celebrity judges and a winner will be announced at the DFW Conference on July 25th. This years journey is almost over and a crown beckons.  Voting will remain open for both semi-final bouts until 6 PM (CST) Sunday, July 19th.

How about we get started choosing who those two writers are?

In the near corner, no stranger to the ring, representing the Contemporary YA genre with 498 words, here is Commando Grace.

“Grace, right?” A blond girl with a voice as dainty as her body hugs a stack of books. “You probably don’t remember me. We’re in Chemistry and English together.”

“New girl. Molly from Raleigh.” She must have heard I’m Pete’s sister. I should tell her he’s on the rebound, save her from wasting her time buddying up. Faking a smile, I slide The Annotated Anne of Green Gables onto the shelf. I’ll come back for it when she’s gone. Cool girls dont last long in used bookstores.

“Wait!” Molly pulls Anne from the shelf. “It’s annotated? Oh, I have to have this!”

“Really? I mean, I was just… I wanted to buy it, but…” My hands are moving as fast as my mouth, but it’s not helping. I take a deep breath to calm my flustered brain. “It’s weird to go gaga over annotated classics, isn’t it?”

“No.” Molly’s fingers tighten around The Annotated Anne. I wish I hadn’t let the book go.

“Here.” She holds it out to me. “You had it first.”

I shake my head. “No, it’s yours. I forfeited. Fair’s fair.”

Molly frowns. “What would Anne and Diana do?”

Anne and Diana would solemnly swear to share the book so long as the sun and moon endure, but I don’t have time to say so. Taylor and her cronies are heading toward us. The way she struts, you’d think Taylor sat on the wrong end of a pom-pom.

“Tell me, Grace, how exactly did that hottie get your panties? Did you wet them while you were waiting to be let out of his locker?” Taylor glances at her friends. I don’t understand why she needs their approval, or why they give it so blindly.

I wait for Molly to join in their laughter, but she looks ready to slap the smug off Taylor’s face. “You’re just jealous because Trevor Langston wouldn’t touch you, let alone your underwear, with a ten foot pole and a hazmat suit.”

Taylor looks me up and down. “In fairness, I don’t think he’d touch her, either. Maybe he could get over her obsession with those Nike slides, but my senile grandmother takes better care of her toes.”

My brother Kevin says truth is the best defense against libel. Much as I’d like, I can’t snap back. With a grungy band-aid on one big toe, a half-peeled callus on the other, and toenails fit to star in their own horror movie, I’ve no defense against Taylor’s truth.

Molly sets her books down and tucks her arm in mine. “So she has runner’s feet. Better than diva’s empty skull. If you’ll excuse us, we have places to be.”

Her delicate jaw set, Molly drags me out of the bookstore and into the wide corridor of the shopping mall.

I glance over my shoulder. “What about your books?”

“I’ll get them later.” She nods toward the nail salon. “This one’s on me. Your toes are going to shine, Grace.”


In the far corner, also no stranger to the ring, representing the Historical genre with 499 words, here is Blythe.

My sister and I waited in the shadows, our toes freckled in the dust blanketing the icy floor. Our new slippers glittered before us like sumptuous pink confections, yet Emma was loath to venture even a step towards them. Rather, her fingers stiffened upon the curtain, her eyes on the man known as “The Human Pincushion.” Her mouth twitched as he pierced his gaunt arm yet again, rousing another wave of screams and applause.

“Poor Alonzo,” Emma murmured. “I daresay he will one day pierce that poor heart of his.”

I shifted so that our conjoined hips tautened, forcing her to look at me. “Your worries are for naught,” I said curtly. “Alonzo most certainly knows what he is doing.”

She lowered her eyes. “Yes, but I still cannot help but worry. One’s flesh is not meant to be riddled with sewing pins!”

A sigh lifted my shoulders as the theatre’s din heightened, the audience roaring as Alonzo hefted himself from his chair, showcasing the gruesome array of pins latticing his chest and arms. Emma’s gaze skittered back to the stage, her lips a tight crimson line. I studied her face, condemning myself yet again for speaking without thought. She truly was radiant, that sister of mine, with her gentle eyes and selfless heart. It was not her fault that she encumbered herself with the whole world’s calamities rather than her own. I would most certainly have collapsed to pieces long ago if it hadn’t been for her. She was truly an angel, a sunny flicker in our show’s hazy corruption.

“Forgive me,” I whispered. “I-”

“Don’t apologize, Phoebe,” she returned, her gaze straying from the darkening stage. She smiled. “You were merely defending his expertise.”

Dear Emma, I thought. Aloud, I said hastily, “We had best put these on.”

Light flooded the stage as we hefted our skirts from the floor, revealing our filthy toes. “And Marvello thought it tedious to have these delivered to our dressing room!” I scoffed, watching Emma’s toes slip inside. “Why, that bas-”

My sister’s scream shattered the stillness, causing us to sway precariously in place.

“Glass!” she howled, wrenching her foot free. “Someone’s gone and put glass in our slippers!”

Footfalls thundered towards us. I shivered as our showman, Aurelio T. Marvello, stormed past the curtain, his handsome face seething.

“What the blazes is going on?” he growled. “Get on stage this instant!”

I glowered at him. “I think not! Someone’s-”

His gloved fist pummeled my face, sending Emma and I crumpling to the floor. I gasped as our heads rang against dusty wood, my vision darkening as blood cascaded from my nose.

Marvello crouched so that his lips brushed my ear. “Last week it was ruined wigs and stolen gloves-”

I glared up at him. “Sabotage,” I hissed, “another freak-”

My voice crumbled as he cracked a boot across my chest. The last things I distinguished before the world went black were Emma’s screams and Marvello’s cane lashing our bound hips.


Choose which of these pieces resonates with you the most and cast your vote in the comments section below.

This is WRiTE CLUB...where the audience gets clobbered.


  1. Funny that Anne of Green Gables got mentioned in the first entry and the second entry's nom de plum is Blythe.

    As for who to pick... it's difficult. Both deserve to go through. The second dragged my emotions into the scene, which made its end all the more harrowing.

    1. Sigh. Trigger happy pinkie. Continuing where I left off:

      The first scene gave me the warm and fuzzies, though, and that's what I'm in need of for today. So that's the one that gets my vote.

  2. Blythe's writing was eloquent, but I had trouble believing the freak show master would beat them right before they are scheduled to go on stage, especially when Emma's scream has "shattered the stillness." I'm picturing the crowd anxiously waiting, attention fixed on the place from which the scream came. I'm sure he'd beat them, but I'm not sure he'd do it that close to the public eye. It's bad business. I don't know. That part didn't ring realistic for me.

    My vote goes to Commando Grace.

  3. Quality writing--congrats to both! CG comes through again with superb voice and interesting characterization. But Blythe's style and mood match. Neither surpasses the other as a writer. I'm going for story. My vote goes to Blythe.

  4. Oooh! This is such a tough one… But I think I have to go with Blythe today.

  5. Not an easy decision! I wish I could find something seriously wrong with one of them, but I can't. You both deserve to be here, which makes deciding even harder!
    Since I'd rather read a contemporary, I'm voting for Commando Grace. If Blythe's story was about conjoined twins in a contemporary setting, my vote would likely change.

  6. Grace's characters feel a shade too clever and self-assured for high-school, and I'm not sure a mall would be the place to look for a used bookstore (more's the pity.) I'm not usually a fan of present tense, but for this short piece, I like the sense of immediacy, and the scene overall rings true.
    Blythe's piece was dark, moody & very entertaining, but there were some curious verb choices that threw me (toes freckled, face seething, voice crumpled) and the pronoun error (s/b sending Emma and me...) clinched it.
    Both pieces were very strong - the toughest decision yet, so it comes down to nit-picky details.
    My vote today is for Commando Grace.

  7. Hmmm...while I'm not drawn into Comando Grace's emotionally, it is good, clear writing. Blythe's is the opposite. I'm a bit confused in the opening paragraphs, but where I do understand it, it draws me in emotionally. Typically, I would vote for the emotional tie because I wouldn't read a piece without it. But, if I can't understand what is being described, I'm unlikely to want to read it either. If I could, I'd call it a tie. But if I had to choose, I'd say Commando Grace <= gets my vote.

  8. Both are well done today, but my vote will go to #1

  9. Can't believe I have to choose between these two. But this time, Commando Grace gets my vote. Smart, sassy voice, sympathetic character, and Anne (with an e) of Green Gables.

  10. Commando Grace. One of the continued problems of Blythe's writing from entry to entry has been lack of clarity and some overwriting. Although I think this is the weakest of Commando Grace's entries to date, this is still my preference.

    Both are very talented writers and I feel fortunate to able to read their entries.

  11. Can I vote for both? Because I read so much YA, I found Commando Grace more engaging initially, but the lasting conflict of Blythe compelled me to ask for more. If I have to pick one, it would be Commando Grace, but again, I would read both. They both need to get published so I don't have to choose.

    1. "They both need to get published so I don't have to choose." -- I second that.

  12. I have enjoyed the work of both writers all along.

    Today I vote for Blythe.

    Despite an incorrect pronoun and my doubts that the showman would beat the girls at a time like this, I find the writing solid, the characters interesting, well-drawn, and distinct from one another in motivations and personality. The basic situation is also unusual and intriguing. I really, really want to know what becomes of Blythe's characters.

    Sorry to say, but the characters in Commando Grace, in this particular entry, sound like each other and like lots of other teen girl portrayals typical of many YA novels dealing with boyfriends, jealousy and popularity stuff. I thought that Molly was going to come up with some original, creative, and interesting response to the taunts. But she turned out to be just another sassy, snide girl topping the mean-spirited wit of the last girl's snide remark. Even the narrator's private thoughts are the the typical language of so many YA books: flip and somewhat cynical in their wit. I don't look forward to more pages of these kind of predictable exchanges between teenage girls. I liked the last CG entry a lot because there was more originality.

  13. In case I forgot to mention're doing a great job DL!

    Great job on the entries!
    My choice: Commando Grace.


  14. Voting for Commando Grace. Not 100% sure what's going on but love the reference to Anne and the fact that these two are both smart, about to become friends, and I want to know what happens next!

  15. I vote for Blythe. I I thought the interaction between the sisters was very well done. The writing did a great job of evoking mood and tone and I thought altogether it was very engaging. I've been a critic in the past of some overwriting with this author, and I thought this time it struck the right balance and really worked. Well done!

    I do really like graces piece as well. You have great voice and the dialogue is very well done. A couple times, though, I wasn't clear on who was speaking and to whom, about whom. You have 3 female characters speaking, so a few well placed dialogue tags won't hurt. Also, I didn't buy their bonding over an annotated book. As much as I love books and spent all my time at bookstores... Idk. In high school? Maybe if I knew these characters better. Finally, Molly starts out meek at the start and 500 words later she's dragging grace to a makeover. It feels like a convenient plot twist rather than the natural reaction this character might have. Again, maybe it works better in the larger context, but for me, it didn't in this snippet.

    Huge congrats to you both on the semi-finals!

  16. Blythe's story grabs me but only because we've read earlier excerpts and I believe we're supported to vote base on just this segment. Also, it seems illogical that their "showman" would strike Phoebe in the face where it would be obvious to the audience. That put me off just enough that I'm voting for Commando Grace.

  17. In all honesty, I love these two equally. I would buy the funny, heart-warming YA story of Commando Grace. I would also buy the historical fiction story of conjoined twins in a freak circus. I want both to win. I want a tie! I don't want to end up being the vote that casts one of these out of the ring. That being said, I just counted, and CG is far ahead. So I'm voting for Blythe-- but honestly, I'm still hoping they tie! I would happily follow an Amazon or Smashwords link right now and pluck down $12.99 for either of these.

  18. Entertained that both pieces talk about toes/feet. An odd coincidence.
    I've loved both of these writers throughout the competition so it makes me sad to have to pick one. Like someone said above, please both of you write these stories so we can read them all the way through!

    My vote this round goes to Commando Grace.




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