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WRiTE CLUB 2016 - The Finals

This is where it all ends...with two ring...and a solitary crown. Who do you think will make an impression on the judges and be the one left standing? This years contest has been extremely close all the way through, with no-less than three tie-breakers being necessary. If you want to check out the early round submissions from our finalist, you can do that HERE.
Let me start off by congratulating BonsaiBabe and The Night Songstress for surviving weeks of grueling competition and landing here in the final round. But additionally, every single writer who was brave enough to submit an entry to this contest also deserves a tip of the hat as well.  

I've already emailed the new 500 word writing sample from our finalist to our panel of celebrity judges (forgot who they were...check out the list below) and their decision will be made known during the DFW Conference in Dallas on Saturday.  I'll also post the final results, along with any critiques the judges provides, next Monday (April 25th).  But that doesn't mean you don't get a say.  I've also posted their pieces here so you can have one final chance to vote.  If by some remarkable chance our judges come up with a split decision, your votes in the comments below will decide the tie-breaker.

I will be back after announcing the winner to post some takeaways from this season's WRiTE CLUB, and I'll also be asking for recommendations for what you'd like to see be different for next year. Make sure you stop by for that.

And now...for one last time this year....

First into the ring, representing the Dark Fantasy genre with 500 words, The Night Songstress.

A typical encounter with a mother involves hugs and homemade food. An encounter with my mother involves kidnapping.

“Right here.” A man with a strained voice commands. I lie still, not letting him on to the fact that I’m awake. I don’t have to peel back the blindfold to recognize the musty scent of the home I grew up in.

“Be careful. She’s dangerous,” Mary warns, yet she’s the one who has hurt me more than the demon that’s swirling around inside my head.

Two hands reeking of incense pick me up by the shoulders, another two by my legs. They lay me down on a table that, judging by how close they are standing next to me, must not be too wide.

“If we can’t heal her…” The man pauses. “We end them both.”

End them? They think they can end Taṇhā, the greatest demon daughter of Mara? They think they can kill me?

The blindfold slips off as I sit up to see a dozen men dressed in robes, surrounding me. Mary’s standing with her back against the living room wall, behind the only man with a maroon scarf draped around his neck. As he commands them to tie me down, I catch a flash of a swastika near the hem.

“Let me go!” I fight off one of the men trying to pin me by my arms.

I search Mary’s face for mercy. There is none. She’s smiling with eyes so empty her soul might be more dead than mine.

“Please, Mary... M-Mom! Don’t do this.”

The man with the scarf takes a step closer, now an inch away from my bound feet. Two other men strap me down with duct tape.

Without a cue, they all lay a hand on the table and, suddenly, a fever takes over me.

I fight through the feelings of my bones crumbling and muscles throbbing. I try with all my strength to loosen the tape.

They barely react to my desperate attempt at escape. Instead, they lift their other hand in the air and begin to chant.

The man with the scarf pulls out a knife from his robe and walks around the room, slashing their wrists.

I try to watch, to find a way to escape before he comes closer, but the feeling of being gutted like a wild animal robs my focus.

He makes his way over, not rushing the process, not worried that I’ll escape.

Hovering over my head, he sticks out his wrist and drags the scarlet-stained blade across it. Blood pours down my face, smothering my eyes and mouth, dripping into my sinuses.

The table begins to tremble as I struggle to breathe. I can barely move a finger without crying in agony.

The chanting, the blood, the musty air—they slowly fade away.

And then I finally hear Taṇhā’s voice.

Silly girl, don’t worry. Exorcisms are like magic shows, she says. Perfectly harmless.

Off into the distance, Mary asks, “Why is my daughter smiling?”

And her formidable opponent, representing the Short Story genre with 494 words, welcome to the ring BonsaiBabe.

The butler waved Frank into the dimly lit room and disappeared. Frank shifted uncomfortably on a rug worth more than his monthly mortgage payment, waiting.

Finally, Mr. Pickford broke the silence. "Please, tell me about this favor you have come to ask."

"It's about Helen," Frank started.

"Obviously," interrupted Mr. Pickford. "You wouldn't dare come in here asking a favor for yourself."

Frank rushed through the next sentence. "Helen is dying."

"You don't say."

"The doctors give her barely a month to live." Frank cleared the emotion from his throat. "There's a doctor in the city willing to try an experimental therapy, but the bank won't extend me any more credit, and the hospital refuses to admit her unless I can show how I'm going to pay."

"And you came to me because … ?" Mr. Pickford tilted his head precariously on his thin neck, twisted hands folded primly in his lap. Satisfaction danced across his lips like canary feathers on a cat's tongue.

"You have resources I don't," Frank admitted. "You know how special she is, how painful losing her will be."

"You're right about one thing, my dear Frankie," Mr. Pickford replied. "I know exactly what it feels like to lose Helen. You … you are the cancer that stole Helen away from me. I have already mourned for Helen."


"What do I get out of this deal?"

Relief flooded Frank's face. "Name your price. If it's within my power, it's yours."

"Oh, that is just precious!" Mr. Pickford cackled. "You actually believe you could have something I would want." He coughed harshly. "It's too late, Frankie, my boy. The only thing of yours I ever wanted is no longer worth having."

The anger welling up inside Frank's chest was icy cold; it froze him in place.

"Now, will you be a good little boy and leave quietly, Frankie, or shall I have Emerson throw you out?" Mr. Pickford reached for the silver bell.

Frank's anger shattered into a thousand icy splinters. He placed his hand over Mr. Pickford's, muffling the sound of the bell in the folds of the thick down comforter.

Alarm flared in the pale blue depths of Mr. Pickford's eyes. "What are you doing?" His frail hand struggled under Frank's work-worn one, as fragile and flailing as a baby bird, the boom in his voice becoming a thin whine. "You let go of me right now."

As if in a trance, Frank grabbed a pillow from behind Mr. Pickford's head with his other hand. Mr. Pickford's upper body fell backward, mewling unhappily. Taking no notice of the thrashing, Frank pressed the pillow over Mr. Pickford's mouth and nose. He held it there as the movements weakened to nothing.

Carefully, Frank returned the pillow to its original position. He smoothed the comforter, and tucked the handkerchief into one clawed hand. He picked up the bell slowly, dampening the clapper with one finger, and laid it on the floor.


Here again is the line up of celebrity judges who will be deciding the fate of these two dynamo writers.

Barry Lyga has been called a “YA rebel-author” by Kirkus Reviews. He’s published fourteen novels in various genres in his nine-year career, including the New York Times bestselling I Hunt Killers. His books have been or are slated to be published in a dozen different languages in North America, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

After graduating from Yale with a degree in English, Lyga worked in the comic book industry before quitting to pursue his lifelong love of writing. In 2006, his first young adult novel, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, was published to rave reviews, including starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal. Publishers Weekly named Lyga a “Flying Start” in December 2006 on the strength of the debut.

His second young adult novel, Boy Toy, received starred reviews in SLJ, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus. VOYA gave it its highest critical rating, and the Chicago Tribune called it “…an astounding portrayal of what it is like to be the young male victim.” His third novel, Hero-Type, according to VOYA “proves that there are still fresh ideas and new, interesting story lines to be explored in young adult literature.” Since then, he has also written Goth Girl Rising (the sequel to his first novel), as well as the Archvillain series for middle-grade readers and the graphic novel Mangaman (with art by Colleen Doran). His latest series is I Hunt Killers, called by the LA Times “one of the more daring concepts in recent years by a young-adult author” and an “extreme and utterly alluring narrative about nature versus nurture.” The first book landed on both the New York Times and USAToday bestsellers lists.

Barry lives and podcasts in New York City with his wife, Morgan Baden, and their nigh-omnipotent daughter. His comic book collection is a lot smaller than it used to be, but is still way too big.

Russell C. Connor – Russell C. Connor has been writing horror since the age of 5, and has been in the self-publishing industry for a decade. He has published 8 novels and 4 novellas in both paperback and eBook, including the Box Office of Terror Trilogy and "Whitney," an epic horror novel about hurricane survivors fighting a washed-ashore sea monster. He also designs books for clients and assists them with self-publishing endeavors through his company, Dark Filament Publishing Startup. Contact him through, or on twitter @russellcconnor.

Monica Odom joined Bradford Literary Agency in 2015. Prior to joining Team Bradford, she worked for five years managing finance, subrights and social media at Liza Dawson Associates, and became an associate agent there in 2013. Monica earned her Masters in Publishing: Digital & Print Media from New York University in 2014, and has a B.A. in English from Montclair State University.

Laura Maisano  - Laura has an MA in Technical writing and is a Senior Editor at Anaiah Press for their YA/NA Christian Fiction. She’s excited to release her debut YA Urban Fantasy SCHISM, and she’s finishing up the sequel UNITY.

Her gamer husband and amazing daughter give support and inspiration every day. Their cats, Talyn and Moya, provide entertainment through living room battles and phantom-dust-mote hunting. Somehow, they all manage to survive living in Texas where it is hotter than any human being should have to endure. Check out her blog at 

Gordon Warnock is a founding partner at Fuse Literary, serving as a literary agent and Editorial Director of Short Fuse Publishing. He brings years of experience as a senior agent, marketing director, editor for independent publishers, publishing consultant, and author coach. He frequently teaches workshops and gives keynote speeches at conferences and MFA programs nationwide. He is an honors graduate of CSUS with a B.A. in Creative and Professional Writing.

Joanna MacKenzie joined Browne & Miller Literary Associates in 2003. She began her career in publishing as an assistant under Jane Jordan Browne and Danielle Egan-Miller. Now an agent, Joanna has prepared, submitted, and successfully placed all types of projects, but her true passion lies in commercial fiction. She’s looking for exciting new voices in women’s fiction, thriller, new adult, and young adult genres.  She enjoys working with writers who embrace the full creative process (read: don’t mind revisions) and has helped to shape many client manuscripts into books that receive stellar reviews, award nominations, and which have gone on to become national and international bestsellers. Joanna holds a Master of Arts in Film Theory and Criticism from the University of Chicago as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama from the University of Calgary, Canada. Follow her @joannamackenzie.

Jodell Sadler earned her MFA in Children’s Writing from Hamline University. She is the author of Picture Book Lunch: 20 Tools for Pacing and Writing Picture Books to Wow, and has produced five Writer’s Digest University Tutorials on Children’s Writing. Her published articles include “Picture Book Pacing: Verbal and Visual Tools for Writers, and Picture Book Pacing: The ultimate 20 editing tools for your work,” in the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, 2011 and 2013, respectively. Visit her Picture Book Lunch website and find her on Facebook.

Eric Smith is an associate literary agent at P.S. Literary, with a love for young adult books, sci-fi, fantasy, and literary fiction. He began his publishing career at Quirk Books in Philadelphia, working social media and marketing on numerous books he absolutely adored. Eric completed his BA in English at Kean University, and his MA in English at Arcadia University. A frequent blogger, his ramblings about books appear on BookRiot, The Huffington Post, and more. A published author with Quirk Books and Bloomsbury, he seeks to give his authors the same amount of love his writing has received. Which is a lot.

Mark Falkin. Licensed in Texas, Mark has practiced entertainment and intellectual property law for 17 years, representing hundreds of artists (a platinum seller and Grammy® winner among them), entrepreneurs and businesses, shopping artistic projects, drafting and negotiating entertainment contracts, securing trademarks and copyrights, licensing and selling intellectual properties, establishing businesses, litigating disputes. He’s completed 3 novels (and a chapbook of poems), with two more in rough draft stages. One, literary, is long, self-published and well-reviewed (Days of Grace). Another, an upmarket supernatural thriller, garnered an agent at a venerable NYC agency (Howard Morhaim). The most recent is a near-future suspense tale called Contract City published in hardcover by longstanding Baltimore indie publisher Bancroft Press which is currently in screen development with a studio in Los Angeles (Booklist: "it's hard to put this down."). And then there’s the ongoing and continual What I’m Working On Now.

Jason Yarn is a member of the Association of Authors' Representatives and an attorney registered in the state of New York. He graduated from Georgetown University with a BA in English and from Brooklyn Law School with a JD. He started his career in publishing with Writers & Artists Agency and then continued with Paradigm Talent Agency for ten years, acting as both a literary agent and a business affairs executive. 

Tiana Smith – Tiana was the first WRiTE CLUB champion back in 2011. She is represented by Rachel Marks of Rebecca Friedman Literary and writes YA contemporary -- the more kissing the better. When she's not knee-deep in edits, she dabbles in design ( and watches Disney movies while eating as much mint chocolate chip ice cream as possible. She's a mom, accomplished violist and insomniac, though not necessarily in that order. She graduated with double bachelor degrees in Honors and English from Westminster College. 

Mark Hough – Mark was the 2012 WRiTE CLUB champion. Mark and his wife Faith live and work in Southern Connecticut, a short drive away from the music centers of New York City and Yale School of Music in New Haven. Mark is not only a talented writer, but he has been making violins, violas and cellos for 13 years, since he completing his 3-year apprenticeship with Lawrence Wilke in 1998. He is a member of the Violin Society of America, which has awarded Mark's violins two Certificates of Merit for workmanship

Tex Thompson – Arianne "Tex" Thompson is home-grown Texas success story. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in literature, she channeled her passion for exciting, innovative, and inclusive fiction into the Children of the Drought – an internationally-published epic fantasy Western series from Solaris. Now a professional writing instructor and editor for the DFW Writers Conference, Tex is blazing a trail through writers conferences, workshops, and fan conventions around the country – as an endlessly energetic, relentlessly enthusiastic one-woman stampede. Find her online at
and on Twitter as @tex_maam!

Dan KoboldtDan was our 2014 Champion and a genetics researcher slash fantasy/science fiction author. He has co-authored more than 60 publications in Nature, Human Mutation, The New England Journal of Medicine, and other scientific journals. His debut novel The Rogue Retrieval, about a Vegas magician who infiltrates a medieval world, was published by Harper Voyager in January 2016. Dan is also an avid hunter and outdoorsman. He lives with his wife and children in St. Louis, where the deer take their revenge by eating the flowers in his backyard.

Lisa DunnLisa won WRiTE CLUB 2015 with samples of her current work-in-progress, a contemporary YA titled Commando Grace. She believes in heartfelt characters, intriguing plots, and wondrous worlds. Her first two books, Grit of Berth and Stone and Heir of Koradin were published by Anaiah Press in 2015. The final book in the Chasmaria series, Child of Thresh, will release August 2016. Lisa is on Facebook and Twitter, and occasionally blogs at 

And always remember -- this is WRiTE CLUB, the contest where the audience gets clobbered!


  1. Hmmm. Tough one.
    Bonsaibabe is helluva fab in describing that one can almost see whatever is being described.
    However, for this particular story, it fails to climax and seems flatlined without a trace of heartbeat.

    For someone who is not into horror, but a Tom Clancy fan, the nightsongstress has made me wanna find her other stories.

    As such, this round belongs to the night songstress.

  2. Based off writing style alone, I think Bonsai will win. It's flawless, but the concept is something you see often and it seems a bit convenient and overly perfect.

    Based off of plot, I like Songstress. The demon voice in the end was delightfully funny and creepy. I don't think I've heard anyone reference exorcisms as "magic shows" before as they are being drowned in someone else's ritual blood! It's unique.

    Ugh, this is a toughy, but I am going with BonsaiBabe this time...

  3. Hmmm… A tough choice, but I guess it should be for the final round. I think I have to give it to BonsaiBabe for the economy of the writing.

  4. Vote: Songstress

    Bonsai's writing style is great but I'm not drawn in by the story, though I like the malice in it. I just don't understand Franks cold blooded decision to murder the guy that could help Helen. I mean, he's refusing too but I didn't see that as a way out of the situation or how that helped Helen.

    Songstress has an really interesting idea. I think the prose needs work, there are some details in there what clutters things up that could probably be dropped and the story wouldn't be less for it; the table details for example. I also questioned the cult people using duct tape? I mean, they know how dangerous she, so why isn't there a room prepared for her? It kind of undermines how dangerous they believe her to be.

  5. Congrats to the finalists! You're both fantastic. Bonsai gets my vote for the final.

  6. Night Songtress gets my vote. Part 1 did not hold my interest but this part is written much better and easily understand. I can now see where it is leading. Liked the part of identifying the mother's home by its odour.

    BonsaiBabe, well done for reaching the finals.

  7. The Night Songstress has a story that is definitely like an episode of Supernatural, which is what I love about it. BonsaiBabe has relatable and strong emotions in this one. Both deserve this spot. The Night Songstress has my final vote in 2016. Best of luck to every brave writer out there.

  8. Both were good stories; would be hard to judge the overall winner; the judges have a tough task ahead!

    Thanks for blitzing me! I never thought it would happen; what a delightful surprise!


  9. Hi Don - I'd have to go with Bonsai Babe ... definitely preferred the story line - but good luck to both .. cheers Hilary

  10. This writer had me at "Mary... M-mom!' And then the writer really, really had me at the inner demon voice. So, so creepy. There was opprotunity to replaced certain descriptive areas with more from the demon.

    I'm voting for the Night Songstress, simply because of the emotional impression it made on me. Both pieces are good though. I'll be interested to see which one the judges go with.

  11. This really is the finals! These two are worthy of being the final two as far as I'm concerned. Both entries are great overall, but I go for BonsaiBabe again here. I'm glad it's up to judges because I don't like making this choice in a way that counts!

  12. Night Songstress is my kind of twisted story, and gets my vote. Bonsi was good too, worthy of the spot.

  13. Difficult choice, as it should be since these are the Finals. Enjoyed both stories but was more drawn to the exorcism-about-to-go-wrong tale. Night Songstress gets my vote.

    Bonsai Babe - all of your pieces were excellent and I loved them. Keep writing and hope to see more of your work soon.

  14. My vote is for Night Songstress. the story line kept me wanting to read more. There is something in the writing that seemed off, something small, but I can't put my finger on what it is.
    Bonsi Babe would have done better with a simple "Said" tag line. The admitted, started, replied, interrupted the flow of the sentences where "said" is barely noticed by the average reader.

  15. My vote goes to Night Songstress. The piece is much more entertaining to me vs. Bonsai Babe's more traditional story line. Congrats to both for making the finals!

  16. I'm voting for night songstress! Loved this one, and I want to read more.

  17. Great job you two! I hope the best for you.
    The Night Songstress gets my vote. Thank you for continuing with a great story and sharing it with us.

  18. Congratulations to both of you for making it to the finals! I enjoyed both entries. Based on this round alone, my vote goes to The Night Songstress. There was so much tension and vivid imagery in the scene, and at the end of the excerpt, I wanted to know more.

    Thank you to all of WRiTE Club for sharing your work and commenting! And thank you to the DL, his wife Kim, the slush readers, and the judges! It's been lovely!




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