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WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Cage Bout #1

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

The contest started with 181 submissions from 132 writers and we've narrowed that down to 18 (fifteen 1st round winners and three that were SAVED). The DFW Conference is in less than four weeks and its time to get serious. That means - it's CAGE BOUT time!

Here's how this works. Instead of two writers competing against one another, now it's THREE. The contestants will be using the same writing sample that allowed them to get this far, except now they're up against different competition. The readers/voters will have to choose one of the three to move on.  There will be six bouts (M-S) this time.

If you voted in the preliminary round, then there is no need to leave a critique this time, however, if this is your first time seeing these writers we do ask that you leave a brief critique for the 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-S), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted (except for the last bout on Saturday) to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Sunday, May 20th (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 with a NEW WRITING SAMPLE

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 one corner, we return Charlie St. James.

The cake was surprisingly heavy. The first thought through my mind wasn't that I was launching a chocolate cake at my ex's car. It was that my mother would cringe I wasn't using the proper utensils. I had reached into the box, fingers wide, and grabbed a lump the size of my broken heart. 
"Just throw it!" Cyn yelled. 
The other girls giggled from the back of the car.
Confectionary sabotage hadn't started out as the goal for the evening. Instead it had been to bake a cake from scratch and eat it all with the girls from the Ex’s Bake Club. In one sitting. Because I was an adult and raging against the destruction of my perceived existence on this planet. As were all the other lovely ladies who were currently cheering me on like a demented pep squad.
But like with all other things Cyn got involved with, the night hadn't gone as first planned, and now, I was trespassing at my old apartment complex with an artillery of baked goods.
Fuck you, Greg Haddock.
For ruining the life I had planned since I was fourteen. For leaving me homeless and directionless. For setting me adrift in a sea of singleness, rage, and calorie guilt.
I threw the wad of chocolate cake as hard as I could against the back window of his Honda. The Honda I'd put the down payment on, but he insisted be in his name to build credit. The Honda I'd driven across the country from Stanford to Northwestern while he flew business class on his parent’s dime because he couldn’t be exhausted for orientation. The four-door we'd picked out thinking about our future children. 
I went back for a second helping and sunk my fingers into the still warm cake. The cake I'd baked to prove he was wrong. I could bake. I could have a job and keep a household running with freshly baked goods. And no tiny prick was going to tell me I couldn't. The round of chocolate fury skidded across the top of the car and rolled slowly down the front window like a muddy snowball, leaving fudge in its wake. 
Araceli jumped out of the car and dug her fingers in too. She launched the handful at the driver’s side window. "That's for dumping my friend, cabron."
I threw my head back and cackled.
Bridget walked up beside me and took a handful of cake. “This is for leaving her without a place to sleep.” She tossed it like a delicate snowball, and it made an amazing splat against the passenger window and slid down in gooey perfection.
And for the first time in a very long time, I took a deep calm breath.
Apparently, a little chocolate cake could ease a broken heart. That and friends. But mostly chocolate.

In the other corner, we have Peter Pen.

The lightning strike hurt almost as much as getting dumped five minutes earlier.

Of course this happens to you, Dave, I thought as the bolt violated my body on its way into the ground. Only, I didn’t so much think the words as get the vague sense that I was the butt of some cosmic joke. There’s not much to think about when electricity is scrambling every anxious thought in your brain.

Speaking of anxious thoughts, as soon as I hit the sod my head began filling with them. Would Laurel come out to help me? Would she even look out her window and see my body face down, smoking on her front lawn in the rain? Part of me hoped she wouldn’t, because I’d have to tell her I’d been on her front porch crying for five minutes. Which is more embarrassing than getting struck by lightning in your ex’s yard.

Maybe she’d take care of me, feel sorry for dumping me? Or maybe now I was just like any other crispy twenty-five year old guy dying in front of her house. I mean, we dated since our senior year of college. Three years, two months, and sixteen days. That’s at least worth an ambulance call, right?

When we had dinner with Laurel’s parents last week, I’d overheard her dad saying I didn’t have a future. Guess the lightning proved him right.

Then a new anxious thought arose. Partly because my hair was standing on end with that feeling of static like I’d rubbed a balloon all over my body. But mostly because I found myself hovering six inches above the rain-soaked grass.

“What the…” I croaked. I didn’t curse. Couldn’t. Laurel always called me a boy scout for it, but my parents hated foul language.

Then another strange thing happened. My skin started glowing with a pale light. Faint, the way blue flames lick the yule log at Christmas. Shoot. Christmas. I won’t get to give Laurel the earrings I got for her. Then I realized how ridiculous I was to worry about that, what with hovering above the ground, glowing blue and all. Do I worry too much? Is that why Laurel broke up with me?

I attempted to force away the thought. Laurel couldn’t come out and find me crying again before I died. I tried to stifle the tears, and, luckily, only two thin laser beams escaped my eyes. Uh... I blinked away the beams and stared at singed grass. I need to stop hovering. I pushed at the ground to stand, but instead shot straight up fifty feet into the air. I hung there for a moment, thunder peeling around me as I stared down at Laurel’s house. Then it dawned on me.

I could fly.

Maybe it was the shock of the lightning bolt—I realize that’s a pun—or maybe I thought this was just a dream, but in that moment all I could think was, Wait till Laurel sees me now.

And finally, we have BooksRgood4u

Cletus raised a hand in greeting as the P.T. Barnum cab rolled into the Poughkeepsie station, the end of the line for many commuter trains to New York City.  Here, the trains would spend the night while Cletus and his team of train cleaners worked to ready them for the morning’s commute.  Cletus waited for the train to come to a complete stop before driving his tug of cleaning supplies beside the tracks, murmuring greetings to the Mark Twain and the Connecticut Yankee as he passed. 
Sometimes it worked out just right- the Washington Irving alongside the Ichabod Crane, the Henry Hudson pulling the Halfmoon.  A particularly cohesive lineup was guaranteed to make all stops on schedule, require less maintenance, and ensure passengers a smoother ride.
Cletus boarded the first car behind the engine, smiling. Good old P.T. always did love being the ringleader.  He also loved causing mischief, and today's particular mischief seemed to involve a spilled strawberry smoothie, a few hundred footprints, and the sticky finger-paintings of one resourceful young artist on the windows.  Cletus got to work, keeping up a steady conversation with the cab. 
In his nearly 30 years working for the railroad, Cletus had seen countless members of his crew come and go – some couldn’t handle the hard work and late hours, others used the position as a steppingstone to a long and successful career with the railroad.  Cletus trained them all, wished them well when they moved up or moved on, and welcomed the newcomers, but he never accepted a promotion himself. 
After finishing with the Barnum, he said his goodbyes and moved efficiently through the 6125 and the 6142 before boarding the Connecticut Yankee with a cheerful, "Hello, Hank!'  It was good that the Connecticut Yankee was lined up in the middle of the train, Hank Morgan always had trouble keeping dates and times straight, and a train with Hank at the head was sure to arrive off-schedule.  This bit of irony was surely not lost on the cab behind Hank, the Mark Twain. 
Saying farewell to Hank and Mark, Cletus made his way through several more anonymous cabs and the Ichabod Crane, collecting the hats that always seemed to be left behind by Ichabod's riders. 
He stopped for his first break when he reached the Eleanor Roosevelt- it wasn’t every day you got to dine with the First Lady to the World.  Eleanor’s cab was always the cleanest, commuters instinctively responding to the presence of a great lady. Even so, Cletus had the feeling that she didn't mind sharing a meal with a lowly train cleaner.
            And so it went - Writers, musicians, politicians, financiers, philanthropists and inventors - on and on until the sun rose over the Hudson River behind the station.  In 30 years, Cletus had been offered many promotions, and turned down every one. Sure, many jobs could beat the hours, the pay, or the work, but there was no job in the world that could beat the company. 


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

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


  1. Charlie St. James--I think this story has a lot of potential. I love how you were able to weave in so many characters so easily. My one criticism is that you used "snowball" twice within probably thirty words to describe the cake. I'd like a little more variety.

    Peter Pen-- A couple weeks later, I still like this story. I know this is only 500 words and Dave is bound to change, but I worry that he's a little too self-deprecating.

    BooksRGood4U-- Your writing is beautiful. My issue is that I feel like nothing happens here. I'd like to see a little more meat to the story.

    My vote will go to Charlie St. James...but this was really close for me.

  2. Of course this is getting tougher as we go. All three of these received my vote in the first round of competition, so choosing one is painful. Nevertheless, for solid writing and a good sense of friendship, my vote goes to Charlie St. James.

    All great stories, though. These authors should be proud of their work.

  3. Tough decision. The subject matter of Peter Pan's story draws me to that one first. But Charlie St. James' felt the most real. I'll have to go with that one.

  4. On the strength of the writing, my vote goes to BooksRGood4U.

  5. I think I voted for all three once, but now I can only vote for one twice? Ugh.

    Great samples, all. Keep your heads high because this is such a subjective industry, and you all have displayed writing chops here.

    Since I'm pressed, I'm going with BooksRGood4U.

  6. My vote goes to Peter Pen. Although I liked the humor of Charlie St. James, I wondered where this piece could go from there.

  7. Wow, this gets tougher, doesn't it?! I loved all of these in the previous rounds, but I'm voting for Charlie St. James this time purely out of subjective preference. Kudos to all three writers for making this decision nearly impossible.

  8. Oh man. Between these three I'm going with Charlie St. James

  9. Argh! So many corners!

    *flails about in panic*

    These three know all the good we think of 'em, Jim, and what could maybe be improved. Just mark down the one point for Charlie St. James, I need to go put a wet towel on my forehead.

  10. I need to vote for Charlie St. James. I need an empowering women story today.

    JoAnne Turner

  11. My vote is for Charlie St. James
    -Jennifer Kinzler

  12. My vote is for Peter Pen !!
    -Taylor Watson

  13. Hands down, my vote goes to Peter Pan!! #1

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. My vote goes to Peter Pen. This story can go in many different directions while I'm not exactly sure where the other two stories can go. Peter Pen is able to convey a strong story without the "shock value" of dropping the F-bomb.

  16. BooksRGood4U gets my vote; love the writing and the creativity here.

  17. So tough, but I vote for Charlie St. James.

  18. These are all good pieces, but I vote for Charlie St. James. The voice is strongest in that piece, and it flows the most cohesively. Good luck and have fun, everyone!

  19. All the stories are good, of course, but Peter Pen gripped me from the start with the quirky humor. So my vote goes for Peter Pen. Good luck to all of you!

  20. Charlie St. James has my vote out of these three. Good luck to everyone.

  21. Going to go with Charlie St. James on this one.

  22. All three are good, but my vote goes with Charlie St James for pacing, characterisation and the desire to read more.

  23. I voted for two out of the three in the first round, and those two have me going back and forth. In the end, it's Peter Pen.

  24. Tough decision, but I'm voting for Charlie St. James. It drew me in to the characters more than Peter Pen's story, and while I adore the references in BooksRgood4u there's no actual story there (no conflict, no stakes).

  25. So glad to see one of my favorites made the next round! My vote goes to Peter Pen!

  26. First of all I want to say I almost literally cried when I realized 3 of my favorite stories from the entire competition were in the same bout! It just about killed me to pick just 1!

    Note to all these amazing writers- Know that each of you made me love your stories so you already accomplished your goal!

    To pick just one story, I looked to see which story I liked best assuming/knowing I would not ever get to read a single additional word about the story line. I plan to use this same criteria for the remainder of the competition.

    My vote is for Charlie St. James as I felt it was the most self contained story.

  27. I have to go with BooksRgood4u because I <3 Cletus. Such a sympathetic character.

  28. My vote is for Charlie St. James.

  29. For spot-on humor I go with Peter Pen

  30. Booksrgood4u for an imaginative take on everyday life.

  31. My vote goes to Peter Pen! Though I kind of want to imagine that PeterPen and Charlie St. James are telling the same story from two different perspectives.

  32. I vote for Peter Pen. I can clearly see a good character arc in that one.

  33. I'm going to have to stick to my original throw in for Peter Pen. I still want to see more from this author!

  34. My vote is for Charlie St. James.

  35. Booksrgood4u gets my vote. Such great writing!

  36. I vote for Peter Pen. I found myself feeling sorry for Dave, heck everyone's been dumped at some point! Then I found the quirky humor great and by the end I couldn't wait for Dave to show that girl up!

  37. I knew this would get more difficult as time went on... Charlie grabbed my full attention & I definitely want to know more about the story. Peter was my pick in the first round & I want to see how Dave develops.
    My vote goes to PETER PEN.

  38. Charlie St. James - This entry has a killer voice and starts off with a bang. I'd like to know the protagonist's name though; maybe have Cyn say it?

    Peter Pan - I love some of your descriptions here, like "The lightning violated my body on the way to the ground." Still, I felt the writing was a bit telly in places, which took me out of it.

    BooksRGood - I love how you immediately ground us in the setting. Still, the POV felt slightly distant, which I think could be improved by drawing out his actions a little more rather than summarizing them.


  39. Peter Pen gets my vote! I want to hear more about Dave and his new super powers!




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