WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round #2


This year's contest is off to an exhilarating start and I'm happy to keep the ball rolling.

Here's a recap in case the contest has escaped your notice before now, WRiTE CLUB (sponsored by the DFW Conference) is tournament-style contest that runs during the eight weeks prior to the conference and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win free admission to next year’s conference (along with other prizes). Here’s the kicker—it’s all done anonymously. Writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names. The chosen (pre-decided by a group of twenty slush pile readers) are paired off to go head-to-head in daily “bouts”, with the winner of each match determined by you the reader—by voting for your favorites. Bout winners keep advancing until there are only two remaining and that’s when a panel of celebrity judges, who include well know authors, agents, editors, and other publishing folks, choose the ultimate champion.

Even though the contest is sponsored by DFW, anyone can vote (as long as you have a Google sign-in or verifiable email address), and when you do, we encourage you to leave a mini-critique for both writers. Oh, I forgot to mention that the voters can win a $60 Barnes and Noble prize. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed into a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize.

How this works—two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples are waiting in the ring below. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) should read both entries and then vote by leaving a comment for the one that resonates with you the most. We also 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 I post it to give as many people as possible to have a say. Voting for today’s bout will close on Monday, May 6th (noon central time). To help keep up with which bouts are open, you can follow along on the WRiTE CLUB Scoreboard updated right HERE.

It’s that simple. The writing piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. 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).

A few more 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 cause 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!
4) This is more of a suggestion than a rule - but cast your vote before you read other voter comments. Don't let yourself be swayed by the opinion of others.

That’s enough of the fine printlike the man says –





On one side of the ring stands Apollo Catspolis representing the Literary genre.


I let the phone ring on and on, buzzing nonstop. “Mom” glared up at me in big letters. Damn she always had the worst timing. I couldn’t answer the phone, not right then, in my car, still parked outside Olive Garden, my hands trembling. The post-fight adrenaline still rioted in my blood. My thumb hovered over the lock button. No, I wouldn’t send Mom to voicemail. That would be too heartless, even for me, the “fucking piece of shit asshole.” (Harper’s words, not Mom’s.)
Maybe those would be the last five words she’d ever say to me. Wouldn’t that be a poetic way to end things? Is that what she would tell our kid? Or would she lie? Build me up in their mind so they could be proud of the dad who wouldn’t be there for their first day of kindergarten. “Your dad? No, he was a nice guy. Just didn’t have the space in his heart for us.”
I leaned my forehead onto the steering wheel, sighing. Harper would lie about me, no matter how many times she’d screamed, “I hate you,” drawing the attention of the whole damn pop-song version of an Italian restaurant. Harper would lie because she was good like that. Not like me.
Had that been my fault, though? She’d sprung it on me without any warning at all. We’d been watching Steven Universe on the couch at my house, and I’d fallen asleep, head in her lap. I’d woken up to the soft trails of her fingers combing through my hair. She gave me this look, television lighting up her face, and said, “You want to get something to eat?” I’d been craving chicken alfredo, so I said, “sure.”
I wouldn’t have suggested Olive Garden if I’d known.
What had she been expecting? No, I knew. Harper who always secretly recorded me with her “vintage” camcorder or shoved the thing into my hands and asked me to “get the shot” of her doing something fairy-like. “Tell me a story,” she would always say when we lay in bed together at night, unable to sleep. I would tell her a fairytale full of romance because that’s what she wanted: a dream.
In Harper’s version of that dinner, I would have gasped in surprise. She would have wanted to watch a huge grin break out on my face, shiny and bright like the moon. Would have wanted me to take her hands, look in her eyes, and tell her, “You are amazing. You will be the best mother to your child, and I will be there to help you raise her.” Because Harper would have wanted a little girl to doll up.
Instead, she’d been spinning noodles around on her fork, looking dazed mostly. The screech of her fork had been grinding on my nerves with every little twirl. I had a noodle halfway in my mouth when she muttered, “I’m pregnant,” under her breath.
 #############################################################################


On the far side of the ring, we have Word Slinger who is representing the Contemporary genre.


I dreamt of a life that didn’t include my self-centered, narcissistic older sister.
“Asmah, you have exactly five minutes then I’m leaving without you.” Khadijah yelled from downstairs.  “I assumed nerds like you didn’t care about their appearance.”
I clenched my fist but ignored her taunt, for now. One last glance at my reflection then I’d be ready; my dark washed Levis matched with a light grey tissue tee that hung almost to my mid-thigh. I wore my favorite hijab: a large, rectangular cotton one, big enough to wrap around my head twice.
I grabbed my back pack and bolted from my bedroom, my lavender sanctuary.
“Are you finally ready?” Khadijah stood, six years older than me, with her hands planted on her hips.
My eyes bulged but I held back the curse words lodged in my throat. “If you hadn’t taken forever in the bathroom, I wouldn’t be late to my last day of classes.” After finals next week, I’d finally be a high school senior.
“Now it’s my fault?” she screeched.
 “Look, I didn’t ask you to take me to school, Ma did.” I grabbed my navy blue Vans from the mat by the door and slipped them on.
“Both you and Ma need to understand, if Khalif proposes, then my days of chauffeuring you around are numbered. Ma and I are invited to lunch today with him and his mom. So today could be the day. I don’t have time for this.”
Her life would be defined by marriage; one pushed by our mother. I rolled my eyes as I slammed her car door shut. She glared out the window as she drove with Vivaldi playing in the background; the classical music, her potential mother-in-law’s favorite.
Khalif, her wealthy suitor, had become her only topic of conversation. He hadn’t even popped the question yet she acted like the wedding was tomorrow. The price you paid for being beautiful. We had been close when I was younger but the moment she got to high school and understood the power her looks gave her, our relationship suffered a direct hit.
Mom rejoiced in her oldest daughter’s beauty. I’d kill for her blemish-free skin and slender figure. Mom bragged to all the women at the mosque that Khadijah had graduated culinary school and now could prepare lavish feasts for her future husband and his family. She was on cloud nine that her eldest daughter had caught the eye of a rich attorney from a prominent Muslim family.
But I yearned for a different life; a career in the law like my dad.
To Mom, it didn’t matter I was in the running for next year’s valedictorian. I resisted my mom’s suggestions to think about what qualities were important for me in a husband. And once my sister married, I became the next target.
I could never compete with Khadijah, the Perfect, so I gave up and focused on school to fulfill my dreams not my mother’s delusions. 
##############################################################################


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

We’ll be back tomorrow with bout #3. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

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


WRiTE CLUB 2019 – Preliminaries - Round #1



We’ve been building towards this moment for several weeks and now here we are - the inaugural WRiTE CLUB 2019 bout. The votes from our slush pile readers have been tallied and from the one hundred eighty-nine submissions received, we have selected thirty to step into the ring against one another over the course of the next eight weeks. To say it was a tight race would be a massive understatement! Out of the one hundred and eighty-nine submissions, one hundred and sixty-eight entries received votes! No submission received over thirteen votes from our Slush readers.

In case it escaped your notice before now, WRiTE CLUB (sponsored by the DFW Conference) is tournament-style contest that runs during the eight weeks prior to the conference and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win free admission to next year’s conference (along with other prizes). Here’s the kicker—it’s all done anonymously. Writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names. The chosen (pre-decided by a group of twenty slush pile readers) are paired off to go head-to-head in daily “bouts”, with the winner of each match determined by you the reader—by voting for your favorites. Bout winners keep advancing until there are only two remaining and that’s when a panel of celebrity judges, who include well know authors, agents, editors, and other publishing folks, choose the ultimate champion.

Even though the contest is sponsored by DFW, anyone can vote (as long as you have a Google sign-in or verifiable email address), and when you do, we encourage you to leave a mini-critique for both writers. Oh, I forgot to mention that the voters can win a $60 Barnes and Noble prize. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed into a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize.

How this works—two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples are waiting in the ring below. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) should read both entries and then vote by leaving a comment for the one that resonates with you the most. We also 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 I post it to give as many people as possible to have a say. Voting for today’s bout will close on Sunday, May 5th (noon central time). To help keep up with which bouts are open, you can follow along on the WRiTE CLUB Scoreboard updated right HERE.

It’s that simple. The writing piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. 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).

A few more 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 cause 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 of the fine printlike the man says –





On one side of the ring stands Blue Bonnet representing the Short Story genre.

After 33 years of a howler monkey living inside my head, I am used to it.

Some of the time, he’s sleeping. Curled up in a folded corner of membrane, occasionally sighing deeply, pulling a twist of brain over his furry belly like a blanket. Those are the times I start to think that maybe he’s not so bad, my friend the howler monkey. I still know he’s there, but if he’ll only stay asleep, maybe I don’t mind renting him a corner of my mind.

Then I do something crazy, like leave the house. At the first whiff of pollen and car exhaust, the monkey is alert. “What’s this?” his beady eyes ask, his head tilted slightly. “Have you forgotten our agreement?”

I haven’t forgotten, but nor do I want to remember. I ignore him and stride bravely on. I make it all the way to the grocery store down the block before the monkey knows what’s hit him.

He’s on his feet as the automatic doors whoosh in front of me, artificial air blowing my hair back and knocking me slightly off balance.

Aaooo,” he whispers slightly, gearing up, one foot stamping impatiently. “Aaooo.”

“I’m not listening,” I reply, and grab five of those handy wipes to clean the cart.

Aaooo,” he continues, more insistently, as I narrowly avoid colliding with a small child who has escaped his mother.

“I have to eat,” I plead, willing him to be quiet.

“I’m so sorry,” says the mother, grabbing the boy’s grubby hand and trying to pull him away. The boy won’t budge.

“What’s on your face?” he asks, pointing.

AAOOOO,” screams the monkey.

The mother pulls harder on the boy, jerking his arm and whispering stridently in his ear.

AAOOO! AAOOO!” The monkey is on all fours now, and his face holds no trace of friendliness. I hate it when he gets like this. He’s just one step away from full chaos. My stomach rumbles.

I urgently push the cart to the produce section, throwing fruit in my cart with abandon. I put my head down and speed walk down the next aisle. Peanut butter - 10 jars. Refried beans - 5 cans. Anything with a long shelf life.

The checkout line looms.

AAOOO! AAOOO! AAOOO!” The monkey is screaming so loud my ears ring. He begins to jump up and down on all fours, landing each time with a thud that rattles my teeth. I let my hair fall in front of my face, trying to spy the conveyor belt through the wispy strands.

“Good morning!” chirps the cashier.

AAOOO! AAOOO! AAOOO! AAOOO! AAOOO!”

“You must love peanut butter! What are you going to do with all this?”

I look up briefly. Fear flickers across the cashier’s face, quickly replaced with feigned nonchalance. He says something else, but I can’t hear him. All I can hear is the monkey. Always the monkey.

I run, abandoning my cart.


Once home, I try not to let the monkey see my tears.
 #############################################################################

On the far side of the ring we have ishYouNotishMe who is representing the Horror genre.

I died long before the woods behind my house even existed, but I’ll never forget the relief that washed over me when my assignment came in. To this day, I don’t know how I landed a poltergeist gig, but you don’t question good fortune.

For generations, geisting was my sole purpose. Throwing stuff, stomping about in middle of night, and shrieking through the halls delighted me like a field of butterflies delights a toddler. Nothing compared to scaring teenagers, though. After teens lose their ability to see the unreal, their creativity evaporates. Actually, frightening them is a service. Two even became novelists when they grew up. Without me, their imaginations would have atrophied like an unused limb. But I’m no monster. I never bother little kids. Sure, I’ll float blocks or books around, maybe make a teddy bear dance, but nothing bad. Besides, littles love me. I don’t know why, but they always have. Do you know how hard it is to terrify someone who adores you? Same with pets. Cats never hiss when I come into the room and dogs follow me around like--well, like puppies.

The Kings were nothing like my previous families. The mother was a scrap of old fabric in the breeze. I could tell she used to be a force of nature, but now, it took everything she had not to crumble to dust and blow away. The twins were unnaturally quiet and helpful. Instead of running through the old farmhouse, shouting and claiming bedrooms like every kid before them, they carried boxes and stacked them evenly in the appropriate rooms. Their silent diligence creeped me out; this was not typical seven-year-old behavior. Their grey eyes held the shadows of countless storms, and I wondered what made them this way. Then, the father came in.

“Hurry up! The truck needs to be back in an hour and it’s still half full,” the barrel-chested man shouted. A cigarette dangled from the left corner of his mouth, and the only thing he carried was a sweating beer can. “If either of you breaks anything, you’ll both pay for it with your asses.”

“Yes, sir,” the twins chimed in unison. Dark fear shimmered around them, like a mirage on a street. I know that shimmer, I pull it from the living all the time. But the living aren’t supposed to pull it from each other.

The mother, small and deflated, threw open the drapes and pretended she was alone. Her fear-shimmer was even darker than her children’s.

Long-forgotten energy bubbled around me and a lightbulb exploded in the hallway. There isn’t much to be angry about when you’re not living, but this brute, threatening his kids and terrifying his wife, reminded me that anger and I go way back.

I tore the cigarette from his mouth and pressed it into his arm. Geisting isn’t my only purpose anymore. I will protect these kids--even if I have to kill their father to do it.

 ##############################################################################

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

We’ll be back tomorrow with bout #2. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

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


WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Submission Period is Closed

The submission window for this year's WRiTE CLUB closed at midnight last night and we ended up with a record-breaking 189 entries from 137 writers!  We received writing samples from writers around the globe that represent 40+ different genres and sub-genres.

How about those marbles!

Now our slush pile readers have the unenviable (or maybe it is enviable) task of narrowing that list down to just 30  -  30 who will eventually make their way into our ring to battle for the opportunity to become the 2019 WRiTE CLUB champion and a free invitation to the 2020 DFW Writers Conference.

The first bout arrives on April 29th.  Mark your calendar!
 

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