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!


178 comments

  1. Both great starts to the bouts!
    Hats off to BlueBonnet, who gets my vote. Nice representation of anxiety. I’d love to know what others see on this guy’s face that freaks them out. I’d read more.
    IshYou—the piece could be tightened up a bit, a little less wordy. I like the POV character/ghost.
    Congrats to both of you for making a bout!

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  2. I vote for ishYouNotishMe.
    Both of these starts are fantastic, but the poltergeist story spoke to me with lines like "anger and I go way back." I'd love to read more about the poltergeist and what it's going to do to help the family.

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  3. I really enjoyed both stories a lot—congratulations to both of you for making it. My vote goes to BlueBonnet, whose story immediately pulled me in. The voice was strong and I was curious throughout the piece about what was happening.

    IshYou—I love the idea that this ghost got to be a poltergeist and wanted to protect the wife and kids, I just didn’t get pulled in as much as I would have liked and felt more like an observer in the story.

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  4. These were both great! It's hard to choose. I really wanted to find out what was on the first character's face. In the end, my vote goes to ishYouNotishMe. I had a visceral reaction to the fear in the family, and got a little fist pump moment when the cigarette went into the arm.
    Thanks for putting your work out there for us, and congratulations for making it to the bout!

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  5. My vote goes to IshYou simply because the idea is one I've never seen before. Both stories weren't really my "taste" but the idea of a ghost intervening in a abuse case is very interesting. It's really hard to flesh out an idea in 500 words. I agree that IshYou could tighten up the piece a little more in order to get just a little further into the story.
    Blue Bonnet your story is slightly confusing. It sounds like someone who has developed Agoraphobia from something to do with their face... but maybe also Mysophobia? What about online food delivery for someone with significant phobias? These are the thoughts that run through my head and distract me from the story.
    Congratulations for making it into the contest you guys!

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  6. This UNKNOWN vote will not be counted as it is anonymous. If you do not have a Google account, then you must leave your name and email address in order for it to be counted.

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    1. I don't understand why it shows me as unknown. It said I was logged into my honeybunnysweets08 gmail and would reply as that.
      -Heidi

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  7. My vote goes to BlueBonnet, the extended metaphor of anxiety as howler monkey is well done and really captures the essence of a building panic attack.

    ishYouNotishMe's piece is also very good but I would agree with cjdblanco that it feels like the prose could be tightened up a bit. The bits of worldbuilding sprinkled through are interesting and well placed (you're assigned an afterlife job? By who? What are the qualifications? If being a poltergeist is a plum assignment, what's the ghosting equivalent of a latrine scrubber? Not questions I expect to be answered in 500 words, but hinted at enough that it piques my curiosity).

    Over all two very strong entries that were hard to choose between.

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  8. Both are interesting beginnings, both are written well, but I only see the start of a story in the second one, so IshYouNotishMe gets my vote.

    I did enjoy the action in Blue Bonnet’s piece, it kept me reading, but I just didn’t get why it needed to happen. Even a simple wish from the narrator stating a Click It type store didn’t exist or something, might have helped get me into the character’s head (along with that howler monkey).

    That second paragraph is full of telling in ishYouNotishMe’s piece, (I’d rather be shown that the kids and pets like him/her, and who’s assigning poltergeist gigs?), but that can easily be fixed. The story, to me, is the important part and I see one here. I’d keep reading.

    Good luck to both of you in your writing endeavors!

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  9. BLUE BONNET Definitely gets my vote!

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  10. Both stories captured me with fine storytelling.
    Blue Bonnet... excellent writing, painting wonderful pictures I could clearly see. But by the end, I was confused. I had to have a third look-see to realize (from the child's comment about the MC's face, later reinforced by the cashier's reaction) what might actually be going on. There's so much detail with the monkey that I took it literally. Then again, that could be me (Aspie). But the last line further confused me and didn't give me the closure I wanted.
    IshYou... I always love a good ghost story. IMHO, you could have jumped right into the story with the family moving into the house, then sprinkled the backstory throughout. But your description of the wife and kids and their situation... geez, so spot on. That's where you grabbed me for good. But it's the last line that makes me want to turn the page and read on.

    IshYou gets my vote.

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  11. Both stories are great! Congrats to both. My vote is for IshYou.. it spoke more to me, but I do think it can be tightened up a bit...give me some more action! Bluebonnet..very intense and great use if the howler monkey. I think it would have had much more impact on me if I knew what I was supposed to be scared of. I just felt a little let down.

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  12. IshYouNotishMe gets my vote. Good story structure. Liked the characterizations. A bit too many similes for such a short piece but well done overall. Never quite got what Blue Bonnet was alluding to in her(?) story. What was the MC’s problem? Hypersensitivity to odors? And what did the boy see on her face? Too many questions and not enough answers.

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  13. Blue Bonnet gets my vote. If you've ever heard a mad howler monkey in the wild you know what anxiety the protagonist is going through. Nicely done. IshYouNotishMe has potential and the idea is great. I think it needs a little trimming.

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  14. Ishyou — I really appreciated your voice, and you told a very nice story. Your MC is quirky while at the same time I can imagine them being wildly scary.

    But my vote goes to Blue Bonnet

    I forget sometimes that the antagonist can also be your protagonist and I really enjoyed the building tension in this scenario. Your piece told a well-rounded story. I’m happy if that was the end of me reading about your MC, or if you continue with their internal journey.

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  16. IshYouNotishMe is my choice. It had a smoother flow for me. I appreciate the anxiety in Blue Bonnet but it felt to chopped up.

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  17. My vote is for Blue Bonnet. Both stories were intriguing. IshYouNotishMe has set up a nice introduction and I really would like to read more about the story. It has a Twilight Zone feel to it.

    But Blue Bonnet's opening sentence "After 33 years of a howler monkey living inside my head, I am used to it" is the type that really makes you sit up and take notice.

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  18. Tough choice. I like the anxiety in #1 - felt very real and stressful, good tension. I like the concept in #2. I think the ending would be better without the final sentence.
    I think I'll vote for #2

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  19. Voting for Blue Bonnet. The first line was a great hook, the writing tight, and the metaphor held up all the way through. I really feel the anxiety of the narrator here.

    I love the concept of the IshYou's poltergeist protector, and some of the writing was very poignant, ("The mother was a scrap of old fabric in the breeze" is my favourite), but overall I didn't feel as deeply drawn in or connected to the narrator.

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  20. Both of these stories are so unique and interesting!
    Blue Bonnet: Your story is so well done! It’s anxiety inducing, the reader can actually feel what the narrator is going through.
    IshYou: I love how you turned the poltergeist genre on its head and made him the hero. It’s chilling and I enjoyed reading it. Unfortunately, you were up against some tough competition.

    Blue Bonnet gets my vote

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  21. Wow! I love both of these. But my vote goes to BlueBonnet. I found this piece the most engaging and vivid moment by moment. Loved the gradual progression of the monkey as he woke and became increasingly riled and sensory details such as the whooshing air and car exhaust. Would have also liked a glimpse of the monkey at the end to see if it's apologetic, exhausted or gloating. I adored the concept of ishYouNotishMe, but would have liked to get right into the scene and have some of the set-up from the first paragraphs slipped in throughout. I also think there may be a few too many similes used. I love similes and tend to overuse them myself, but they tend to be more powerful when used sparingly.

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  22. This first bout is already difficult - both these stories are really good! I love horror, and the idea of a vengeful poltergeist who sometimes plays fair had me wanting more. But Blue Bonnet's story was superbly written and drew me in completely - that howler monkey needs to go!

    My vote goes to Blue Bonnet.

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  23. God, we're off to a hard start. My vote is going to go to Blue Bonnet--the writing is tight, and it's a really great way to translate anxiety.

    ishYouNotishMe--I adore this concept, and I would LOVE to read more. It comes down to tightening up the language and taking out filler words like "that." This was REALLY REALLY hard!! Congrats to you both for getting through and may the best passage win!

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  24. Blue Bonnet for my vote because of more being shown than told. I would still encourage less use of adverbs, especially within such a short excerpt and to watch out for word echoes such as "slightly" used in short succession.

    IshYouNotishMe - I thought the writing was excellent, loved the voice and the concept. The idea went too far through narration and not enough in the present moment to make me feel tension for a Horror excerpt.

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  25. Wow. This is tough. Blue Bonnet's story is really clean with a great voice and vivid imagery. IshYouNotishMe gave us some high stakes and a nice twist, along with a character arc in such a short space. For me, I think it's ishYouNotishMe. I felt more invested in the MC and more connected to the story. Both great entries though! I hope these writers are proud because they should be.

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    1. Again - this vote will not count in the final tally because it is anonymous. PLEASE - for these writers sake - leave your name and email address if you do not have a Google account.

      Delete
    2. DL, I'm so sorry. I'm terrible at technology today. I'm killing time until my migraine medicine kicks in. Thank you so much for your patience and for the reminder.

      ~ Lesley Handel

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    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  26. Huh. My vote is showing me as "Unknown" so I'm posting it again. I'm Lesley Handel (lesleyhandel@gmail.com)

    Wow. This is tough. Blue Bonnet's story is really clean with a great voice and vivid imagery. IshYouNotishMe gave us some high stakes and a nice twist, along with a character arc in such a short space. For me, I think it's ishYouNotishMe. I felt more invested in the MC and more connected to the story. Both great entries though! I hope these writers are proud because they should be.

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  27. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  28. Blue Bonnet definitely gets my vote! The anxiety was palpable! I couldn't breathe as read about the trip to the store and the encounters with the people there. The metaphor of howler monkey to anxiety was genius.
    I enjoyed the ghost story as well, but I found myself having to reread several lines. I think the words got in the way.

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    1. Wait! I am not unknown! Maria Farrell (mariaf@htccd.org)

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  29. Oh, wow. The competition is fierce this year. I've had to read each piece several times.

    Blue Bonnet, your piece is definitely relatable content, though I did find myself asking questions, which pulled me out of the story a bit. Questions like:

    The monkey knows what's hit it as soon as they go outside, so what happened when they went through the doors?
    Is the fruit for the monkey?
    Fruit spoils quickly, why so much?
    What's on the MC's face?
    Hang on, I thought, because of the chirp and fear, the cashier was a woman.

    It was such a great story, I wished I could immerse myself fully in it without distracting questions.

    IshYouNotIshMe, I love the concept of a poltergeist protector. The writing could have been tightened, but I was pulled into the story quickly and wasn't distracted by questions as I read. In the end, it read much more quickly than a 500 word story, and I wanted more.

    My vote goes to IshYouNotIshMe!

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  30. Blue Bonnet gets my vote.

    The portrayal of anxiety as its own being was very powerful. I can relate!

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  31. Another example of not reading the instructions. This vote will not count because it is anonymous. Without a Google account, a name and email address must accompany the vote in order to count.

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  32. Wow, what a way to start off the rounds!
    Blue Bonnet did a great job of putting me into the MC's head. The voice was unique and it was a great example of adding suspense with drama not trauma. I could have used some more details to help clear some of the questions I had but 500 words is a hell of a ceiling.

    IshYou had me immeidately interested in the POV. The angle of the poltergiest being the protagonist instead of the antagonist hooked me immediately. I read through it more quickly and would be more likely to want to read more of this story.

    In the end I have to give my vote to the second entry IshYouNotIshMe

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  33. Congrats to two strong entries for kicking off the competition!

    Those of you who followed my tweets during the slush period know it's no secret that I'm not a fan of anonymous first person narrators. Here we have two of them. A ghost, and a person with anxiety. That's not a lot for me to invest in... yet.

    BlueBonnet's take on anxiety personified (er--- simianified?) is unique, and there are some clever lines, but the abundance of adverbs in the prose was a distraction, as was the mention of the "face" issue. Without exploring this idea farther, it felt a bit random. And there are lots of unanswered questions, which other voters have mentioned.

    Righteous anger and justice served are two themes that resonate, so IshNotYou's geist struck a chord. The human characters are a bit cliched and I hope that the kowtowed kids, the waif of a wife and the brute father will be made more three-dimensional as the story progresses. The promise of a comeuppance makes me want to read on.

    My vote goes to IshNotYou today.

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  34. My vote goes to Blue Bonnet - the suspense and anxiety really pulled me in and had me reading as fast as I possibly could to see what happened next. I'm ready to read more!
    A great story by IshYouNotIshMe! Very interesting, but didn't pull me in as quickly as the other story.
    Congrats to both contestants for making it so far! What an accomplishment!

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    1. You were okay Christine. It's just the UNKNOWN post that need further identification. :)

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  35. Fantastic storytelling in both of these samples. I hope every day of this contest is not as difficult to pick a winner. Blue Bonnet's first line hooked me--as we all know, it should. But then the build up of a monkey using a flap of the brain to cover her furry belly to an all out screaming, raging fury won me over. I'm thinking because the MC's face was something frightening, she had an allergic reaction or twisted in pain from a migraine? I like not knowing for sure.
    The poltergeist story is cleverly done with it protecting the children instead of frightening them. But the story didn't hit me as hard as Blue Bonnet's. My vote is for Blue Bonnet.

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  36. Blue Bonnet is my vote. Both examples are really high quality.

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    1. I guess I do not know how to do this. It replied as Johnthecolonel@gmail.com. I am John not Unknown.

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    2. Maybe you should try logging into Google before you post a comment. In any case, I have your vote counting.

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    3. Well I actually was logged into my gmail account when I responded. Is there something else I should have been logged on to? Thanks, sorry to be a bother.

      Delete
  37. Both had a creepy element. Like others said, I was more watching than involved with the second one. If there had been more interaction in the beginning, that might've been the winner. But I'll give it to Blue Bonnet.

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  38. 🤔 You've got to be kidding me. I'm supposed to pick between these? Blue Bonnet with a perfect description of anxiety, and ishYouNotishMe making me fall in love with a non-corporeal entity?

    Okay, I think I know how ishYouNotishMe's story will go. I'd enjoy every minute of it, but I guess it isn't super new or unusual. Which doesn't make me like it any less!

    But Blue Bonnet has a story I want to know more about. And I don't know what might happen next. So I'm voting for that one.

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  39. IshYouNotishMe gets my vote.

    Blue Bonnet – It’s a good description of anxiety or an agoraphobic facing his fears, but there were too many questions left unanswered. What was on the character’s face? This could have been answered, seeing his reflection in the automatic sliding doors or something. It felt one-dimensional and too faced paced, if that’s possible.

    IshYouNotishMe – great storytelling! I really like your characterizations. Wonderful descriptions. I like the Casper-like quality of your ghost and that he is liked by pets and small kids. I was drawn in from the opening and could really picture the scene. I want to know more. What others call “tightening up” I call losing what makes your ghost and family characters interesting and relatable. Well done!

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  40. Wow! Both great stories. Very hard to choose.

    I’ve got a howler monkey in my head too. So relatable. I felt the story Blue Bonnet wrote.

    The concept of a poltergeist is cool and the idea of protecting the family from the father is the kind of hero story I gravitate toward.

    My vote goes to ishYouNotish me.

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  41. Both stories were really good! Loved that Blue Bonnets one was about anxiety but was also a bit confused in the beginning and what was on his face.... Don't know if this was the complete short story or just a part though.

    I found the ghost story easier to read and although it could use some polishing I love the idea of a ghost protecting a family from abuse

    So ishYouNotishMe gets my vote

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    1. Wait why does it say unknown? I answered as booksandletters92@gmail.com

      Does anyone know how to fix this?

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    2. I would make sure you are logged into your Gmail account BEFORE you post a vote.

      Delete
  42. Both are great stories to start off WRiTE CLUB, both have their merits:

    Blue Bonnet: The anxiety grows and drips off almost every sentence. The mix of dialogue, description, action, and the variation in sentence length brings the short alive. The POV of someone struggling with a 'demon/monkey' in his head works. Whatever the medical/psychological issue - possibly involving a breathing mask - the conflict it causes is very real in the conversation in his head, in his actions and in the final moment of panicked reaction. A well-crafted left-field piece.

    IshYouNotishMe: clever take on a 'haunting' with a neat twist at the end. I began to relate to the spirit so understood why he reacted to the cruel dad as he did. However, I struggled with the blocks of text as they impeded my reading. Plus, despite the attempt to create a different haunting, I felt it wasn't a twist to the genre.

    My vote goes to: Blue Bonnet.

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  43. A great read on both sides, congratulations to you both. My vote is for Blue Bonnet as social anxiety generates more thought and emotion for me than ghosts. Blue Bonnet sent me on a more personal journey and I could envision myself at the store watching this unfold with the great descriptions they wrote.

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  44. Bluebonnet's representation of an anxiety attack as a howler monkey lurking in the brain was descriptive. The story left a lot of questions, e.g. I'm left wondering what's on the narrator's face that causes fear in others.

    IshYouNotishMe's story was like the beginning of something bigger and better. There's a history and a future beyond the story that I wanted to read more about. Although, the ending didn't need that last sentence.
    I vote for IshYouNotishMe

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  45. IshYou gets my vote. Excellent POV!

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  46. I vote for Blue Bonnet.

    Blue Bonnet connected me with the emotions of their protagonist right away. It's not about knowing what they're feeling, it's about feeling what they're feeling. That's hard to do this quickly.

    IshYouNotishMe still did great. I like the idea of the poltergeist as a protagonist, especially one who is avenging the hurts of a family. I just connected with the other piece quicker.

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  47. Vote for IshYouNotishMe, nicely written piece with thought out ideas.

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  48. Wow. This is a tough one. These are both great. I enjoyed them even though they weren't my "cup of tea." The voice in IshYouNotishMe drew me, kept me laughing and making notes on effective use of voice in fiction.
    In Blue Bonnet's submission the story grabbed me and the MC was compelling from the start. I enjoyed the description of the monkey and the brain as a blanket.
    Blue Bonnet broke down for me because I didn't know what others saw in the MC's face. It left me confused.
    IshYouNotMe broke down because the kitsch voice was a bit too clever.
    My vote is for IshYouNotMe because the story was complete.
    Still excellent. Thanks for the reads.

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  49. Blue Bonnet gets my vote. This piece felt sharpened to a point, and I connected with the narrator and his struggle immediately.
    IshYouNotishMe has a great concept, but the delivery felt roundabout and overwritten.

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  50. What I’m mainly looking for in flash fiction is 4 things: Character, Plot, Conflict, and Stakes. They are the basic building blocks of even the longest novels, but without them, ANY story falls apart.

    In Blue Bonnet’s animorphization (is that a word? I guess it is now! LOL!) of anxiety, despite being in first person, I’m not sure what Character I’m following. Am I following the animorphic anxiety or the person suffering from it? It confuses the narrative from the beginning since I am not sure who the MC is and who I should care about. I don’t connect even though I, myself have severe anxiety disorder and should very much relate to this experience. The Plot is simple. Go to the grocery store and get food. The Conflict too. Survive anxiety while getting things to survive life. But the Stakes aren’t there. There is no urgency. Part of me wonders if this is a function of the over-the-top onomatopoeia of the animorphic anxiety taking away precious word count that could have been used to develop the “if/then” of the character’s conflict. If the character doesn’t get food to survive, what does he/she/they then lose?

    Also, a quick note, I was already “on guard” so-to-speak because “Short Story” isn’t a GENRE. It’s a FORMAT. I critique queries and pitches quite often and this is advice I give frequently, but know the difference between FORMAT (novel, novella, poem, short story), MARKET (adult, young adult), and GENRE (romance, science fiction, fantasy, contemporary, horror, etc.).

    In ishYouNotishMe’s spec fic/horror piece about a poltergeist, which starts out vaguely humorous and progresses to a dark place, puts us in the head of a ghost with a mission. I follow the Character from the beginning. The Plot isn’t immediately clear, but it seems this may be a part of a longer piece and by the end of 500 words, it is starting to form. The Poltergeist has a mission to protect the children and mother from the father. While the Conflict is not on the page yet, the last line spells out the anger and tension the Poltergeist has with the father. From the burgeoning plot, it seems to be pointing to a close upcoming inciting incident: a run-in between the father and the Poltergeist. I am lacking Stakes, however. I’m not sure what the Poltergeist loses should he/she/they confront the father, or should he/she/they NOT confront the father. I just know that the Poltergeist is angry and wants some kind of retribution.

    Since ishYouNotishMe seems to have met more of the Character, Plot, Conflict, and Stakes criteria I set forth in my reading, my vote goes to the spec fic/horror piece.

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  51. I like the deliberate and pointed style of Blue. My vote goes to Ish simply because the story pulls me in, even if the prose could use some tightening.

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  52. Both of these stories were fantastic, well versed and thought out. I love the poltergeist story, as it's a type of story I would usually read....however, BlueBonnet gets my vote this round. The representation of anxiety was astounding. Well done!

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  53. Congratulations to both on being the first out of the gate!

    BlueBonnet’s story pulled me in at the beginning for its imagery, and I really liked the idea of the monkey being tucked into the brain. I felt the ending was a little disjointed - there was more that we as the reader weren’t seeing, and it pulled me out of the story as I backtracked to see if I missed a line.

    ishYouNotishMe’s piece didn’t feel like horror (at least yet). It was in a way heartwarming in the way the poltergeist wanted to protect the wife and children. I really liked the imagery of the fear shimmer that the poltergeist could see. I thought the setup took a little too long for the length of the work, but I did appreciate the way the narrator had to solve the mystery of the children’s behavior.

    My vote goes to ishMeNotishYou

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  54. Blue Bonnet takes this round for me. Writing style was sophisticated and the story interesting. I disagree with AllBrevityWit pretty wholeheartedly. It is clear that you are following the person with the anxiety disorder as they deal with the terror of leaving the home to go to the grocery store (the plot). The monkey is the enemy, not the character you are following. The conflict could not be more well defined and the stakes are obvious, i.e., leave the house or live as a shut-in, missing the outside world. Also, clearly, IF the character does not get food to survive, THEN the character dies (although I think the greater stakes are as I mentioned previously).

    ishYouNotishMe has a good idea, but I just preferred the writing style in Blue Bonnet's piece. Nothing necessarily negative to say about the piece, just that since we have to rank, I rank it second.

    Great job to you both!

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    1. i am signed into my Google account and picked my profile...it just didn't work. My name is John and Google account is doublebarrell.

      Delete
  55. Ish gets my vote. Had my attention from the start. Fast development of the plot and characters. I also feel like this could be a longer story/book that I would definitely read.

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  56. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  57. Both stories peaked my interest.

    BlueBonnet’s story intrigued me with the opening line. Love the idea, and while I know this is only five hundred words of a story, I wanted more about the narrator. There was nothing about him/her that made him/her likable.

    ishYouNotishMe hooked me with “geisting was my sole purpose.” Like the idea of a ‘friendly’ ghost. That the ghost is also going to be a protector also makes him/her likable. I know, it’s only an excerpt, But I found the brutish dad might be too predictable

    My vote goes to ishYouNotishMe. I have a cast of characters, including the narrator, that I’m interested in. I want to know what happens to this family and the ghost.

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  58. Both great stories and congratulations to both authors on making it here.

    I liked ishYouNotishMe more because that's the story I'd rather spend time reading. Blue Bonnet had a great piece of writing, no doubt about it. But if I could only buy one, it'd be ishYouNotishMe. Speculative Fiction is my jam.


    ~~~
    DL-
    You know (or might not know, whatever) how I use wordpress.org for my blog, but also have a Blogger account because of A to Z and Operation Awesome? Well, earlier this year, Google+ died. John made a brief post about it on the A to Z blog. What we didn't know at the time, but has become more and more clear, is that the death of Google+ has created a crack for people who use Blogger.

    I bring it up because it might be what's causing the "Unknown" issue you're now encountering. (As you might imagine, I've been swatting this fly for weeks now.) It might not be that people aren't signed into Google. It might be that they use Blogger, and never did the "fix" that exists because of the death of Google+, and thus have fallen into the crack.

    Here's how they can try to fix it:
    Go to Blogger dashboard.
    SETTINGS
    USER SETTINGS
    User Profile - Blogger
    save
    Then edit your user profile.


    If you know any of these "unknown" people, see if they've done that. I'm not saying that's it 100% of the time... but I've seen this clear up a LOT of issues when commenting on other people's blogs.

    Anyway, happy WriteClubing!

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    1. PS- check out Z post on A to Z blog later.

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    2. Good idea! I just double checked mine, to be safe :-)

      Delete
  59. I found Blue Bonnet's description of anxiety to be really evocative. Blue Bonnet gets my vote.

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  60. IshYou gets my vote! The POV kept me hooked from the start!

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  61. IshYou gets my vote. A strong pull into the poltergeist universe, then a twist the at the end.
    With only 500 words, I found Blue Bonnet using too many on adverbs and AAOOOO. That being said, it was an innovative and unique take on anxiety and fear.

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  62. My vote is for Blue Bonnet.
    Great opening line. The story held my attention, and I was engaged all the way to the end. I wish I knew something about the character other than their howler monkey though.

    IshYou, the concept is fun, and I was excited right away, but I think it took too long for me to be placed in the scene.

    Congrats to both of you for making it to the bouts!

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  63. ishYouNotishMe captured me from the start, delivered all the way through, and left me wanting more. One vote for ishYouNotishMe.

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  64. Oh boy, this is a tough one, both of these are great! Congrats to both authors for making it this far, first off. You did amazing jobs.

    For this bout, I'm going to have to say ishYouNotishMe. I felt like more of a story was told with the words allotted and the scene was more solid in my mind.

    ((Although I do have to admit, this was a very close one. If Blue Bonnet's work was longer I might've jumped on that one instead. I think it would make for an excellent novella!))

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  65. The first one is more interesting. And nutty! But that is its charm.

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  66. I am voting for Blue Bonnet for the interesting concept. IshYou's poltergeist character is fascinating, but I would personally feel more drawn in starting in the action.

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  67. Wow, no one is making this easy!

    Bluebonnet’s piece about anxiety has a great voice, and I’m immediately sympathetic. The story ends in the same place it began, which is understandable/relatable. However, I personally wanted it to move forward in some way, whether the change was good or bad.

    IshYou crams a lot of story into a few short paragraphs. It would be nice to see less backstory, more current action, but there’s a world and a personality here that I could really get into.

    My vote goes to IshYou. Great job and congratulations to both!

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  68. My vote goes to Blue Bonnet - the story was well written and relateable. I loved how the anxiety kept building to the very end - it kept me hooked throughout.

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  69. These are both really strong but I have to cast my vote for IshYou. I agree with several other commenters that it needs to be tightened, trimming down and potentially redispersing the backstory into the action. However, by the end, I was connecting to the MC and I could see where the story was headed and I liked it. BlueBonnet's submission was very well written and it left the reader with a lot of questions, but maybe too many. It was a well-written scene but did not give me a real sense of story.

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  70. Both stories are so different from one another yet both drew me in.

    I like the perspective presented in Bluebonnet's little story but there wasn't enough development in the little piece for me. It could possibly be an excerpt of a larger piece which explains why it's not moving at a faster pace than I'd prefer.

    IshYouNotishMe's first line reeled me in! The piece had a sense of humour, and I chuckled a little. I didn't mind the backstory so much as it gave me insight into the main character.

    My vote is for IshYouNotishMe

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  71. Blue Bonnet! Is it just a metaphor for anxiety or is this monkey real? Are both true? What is on her face?? I was in so fast.

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  72. My vote goes to Blue Bonnet this round. All too relatable while being something unique.

    Both pieces were very well done and I love the idea of a protective poltergeist very much. The Anxiety monkey just had a stronger pull for me.

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    1. Hmmm. I'm Tara and the comment box says reply as tara.roquemore@gmail.com but didn't post it.

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  73. Loved both of these entries for their unique POV. Blue provided such a visceral metaphor and IshYou has a real gem of a concept! Strong writing in both. I tried to assess these both within their genre; IshYou has a lot of loose ends (Why the mention of the woods? Who is dictating 'role'? What's at stake for the protag if they go after the father?) but I can appreciate that we'll likely get this insight as the story unfolds. Even within Blue's short story structure, I wanted more development, especially concerning the relationship between the protag and the monkey. I didn't get the sense that the monkey was necessarily malicious (though the impact of anxiety can be destructive), so the ending hit me as a bit out of character.

    All considered, I'm voting IshYouNotishMe for this one!

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  74. I vote for Blue Bonnet!
    Congrats to both authors, these were great pieces!

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  75. Blue Bonnet
    What worked:
    Great story idea. I love this literal representation of the "monkey mind" that speaks to so many people. I could feel the MC's tension increasing.
    What didn't:
    There were a couple of awkwardly phrases sentences that pulled me out of the story (most notably, the first sentence and the one with "but nor"). The whole thing feels a little too direct. I feel like it could be improved with a little subtlety.

    IshYouNotishMe
    What worked:
    The twist of a poltergeist who is dedicated to saving people from earthly evil is one I can get behind. Overall, well-written.
    What didn't:
    Having to get so much backstory into it made the first half feel a little info-dumpy. Lots of telling me things are a certain way instead of letting me see it for myself.

    Two really good pieces to start, but since I have to pick one, my vote goes to Blue Bonnet.

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  76. My vote is to IshYouNotishMe
    I loved the metaphor in BlueBonnet, and the images. The story resonated well. I was a little confused why the cashier was suddenly afraid for a moment.
    I enjoyed the character and phrasing in Ishyounotishme's, there was a sort of timeless tale nature to it. The last line or two felt a bit too straightforward and abrupt for the rest of the voice in the piece.
    In the end for me both pieces were very strong, but the complexity of ishyounotishme's held my focus better. Great job both of you!

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  77. Oh no! Two really good ones right off the bat. So difficult to choose. I really want to know what happens in each story. Argh, closing my eyes and voting for... Blue Bonnet.

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  78. This was a close call. I'm really struggling to vote here because they are both outstanding in their own right and so different from each other.
    I'm going IshYouNotishMe for my vote because while I didn't feel like the beginning was as strong as BlueBonnet's, it ultimately made me want to read more. BlueBonnet's story was successfully encapsulated within that one short piece and it spoke to me deeply in terms of mental health. However, IshYouNotishMe could easily be extended in so many directions, I didn't only connect with the ghost character but with the wife and the children.

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  79. I vote Blue Bonnet.

    Loved the mystery presented by the child's comment. Loved the detail in the food - anxiety forcing them to get long shelf life foods so they don't have to come out for a long time. The AOOOO's got a little repetitive. Made you feel the stress of the protagonist's anxiety quite clearly. Seemed to be a more 'compacted' and focused piece. The pace was brilliant.

    IshYouNotishMe
    Loved the concept and the twist. Lot of backstory - too much - and would preferred to know more about the new family or about the poltergeist's vow. The vow came almost as an add-on at the end. Some great descriptions, "The mother was a scrap of old fabric in the breeze" and "Their grey eyes held the shadows of countless storms..." Didn't make me 'feel' as deeply for any of the charactrs, so giving my vote to Blue Bonnet.

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  80. I'm going to vote for ishYouNotishMe. I enjoyed both stories. I'd have liked to have known why the cashier was afraid. I'd like to know the family's backstory as well.

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  81. This vote will not count as it is anonymous. If you do not use Google you must leave a name and email address to be counted. If you do have a Google account but it did not come through as such, you may be a blogger user that needs to fix an issue that occurred when Google+ went away. Try this -

    Here's how they can try to fix it:
    Go to Blogger dashboard.
    SETTINGS
    USER SETTINGS
    User Profile - Blogger
    save
    Then edit your user profile.

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  82. Both very strong contenders! I vote for ishYou in this bout--the fluid writing, strong voice and hints of humor and menace made me want to read more. Blue Bonnet's writing is lovely and evocative, but I found the monkey theme a bit repetitive.

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  83. I vote for ishYouNoticeMe. It did seem like the ending was crammed in to fit the word count (edited down probably), as it was rushed and blunt, but the rest of it was a fun story.

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  84. This is my fifth attempt to vote—I’m trying again because wow, these writing samples are terrific and they deserve the effort to vote.

    Here goes...

    Blue Bonnet--strong visuals and great voice. I resonated with your MC immediately. There were some unanswered questions, but I liked that it gave room for the reader to make up their minds about certain things.

    Ishyou-- I loved the protective poltergeist premise and the ending, darn, what a hook! However, I felt there was too much telling rather than showing in the beginning. I think you could rejig this scene to have that info’ more organically sprinkled into the narrative. Because of this Blue Bonnet gets my vote!

    Congratulations to both for getting this far!!!

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  85. Both of these are solid pieces. Congrats to both of you for making it into the arena!

    Blue Bonnet, I loved your imagery, but I was pulled out by "his beady eyes ask, his head tilted slightly" and "Have you forgotten our agreement?" right after it. Eyes can definitely express the "What's this," but I'm having trouble with the rest of that part. It's possible no one else will pinpoint it. Still, good work.

    IshYouNotishMe, I agree there's a lot of info-dumping going on, especially in those first two paragraphs. I think they could almost be deleted, and then you'd have more room for the current story. Or you could show us how the poltergeist loves tormenting the teens or how the littles love him/her.

    My vote will go to IshYouNotishMe. I connected with this a little bit better and it left me wanting more.

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  86. Both of these are incredible. However, my vote is going to IshYouNotishMe. The writing in both is great, but, at the end of the day, the story of a protective poltergeist draws me in more. I felt more invested in his motivations than with the character in the other.

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  87. I enjoyed both of these very much. I have been debating on which to vote for. I like both for different reasons. BlueBonnet's tension crashes out the gate and ishyounot's unfolds like a sheet as it settles on a bed. BB's is almost too choppy whereas IYN's is slightly slow. So, I'm going with my initial knee jerk reaction - ishyounot gets my vote. It pulled me in more. I was a little confused with BB's. I didn't quite "get" it.

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  88. Blue gets my vote. The anxiety metaphor drives it.

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  89. I like IshYouNotishMe because I want to know what's going to happen. Will the ghost protect the kiddos? The mom? Because of the history I bring with me, I want to read the rest of the story.

    That said, I really, really liked the unique way Blue expressed (social?) anxiety. Going out. The "noise" that comes with it... It made me think about it differently. This bout was so close.

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  90. IshYouNotishMe's hook has me; that's my vote. Blue's excerpt is beautifully written, but as a reader, I don't want to spend any more time with this character. I want to read the rest of IshYouNotishMe's story; there's both menace and hope there.

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  91. Both were great! I love the concept in Ish's story, and some of those descriptions were great, while Blue Bonnet chose the perfect metaphor for anxiety.

    Overall, I think I'm going to go with IshYou, just because I feel more of a story in there. Something is going on, and it's something I'd like to see more of. Blue has a great grasp of making emotion understandable, but I felt it was on tenuous ground; what, exactly, is going on? Who is this narrator? I felt like the anxiety howler was a little more developed as a character than the narrator, which is a little weird.

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  92. I really liked both. Bluebonnet's was whimsical, a bit frightening, and yet oh-so relatable. I definitely want to read more from ishYouNotishMe.

    Bluebonnet gets my vote!

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  93. Bluebonnet gets my vote for use of detail that pulled me into the scene. I'm interested in the world of ish's story, but was skeptical that after generations, this was the first family where a shimmer of fear was created by a human and that pulled me out of the story.

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  94. Both of these pieces were very intriguing. ishYouNotishMe receives my vote. It is a good voice with an unexpected twist. The building of the story is well done with only 500 words available.

    Would love to see Blue Bonnet’s piece a bit tighter!

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  95. Ishyounotishme gets my vote. I love the ghost already and would like to see where it goes from here. The monkey was just a little weird although I get the symbolism.

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  96. My vote is for ishYouNotishMe. Even though Blue Bonnet had a complete and intriguing look into mental health, I liked the more rounded story of a ghost exacting vengeance better.

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  97. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I've chewed on this for a good long while, trying to decide what I liked most and least about each story, which I'd be most compelled to keep reading if there was more. Blue Bonnet has me engaged in a very well described scene that is very relatable to me, and I want to know what happens next with the main character, I want to know the story arc and the direction things are going. It feels like being present in that moment with that character. But ultimately, I was left with too many questions to know if the story was one I would really be invested in continuing. The depiction of anxiety (or similar?) is really compelling, really well done, and it nearly won my vote.

      Ultimately, while IshYouNotishMe's story went almost too far the other direction and tells you exactly where the story is going, there is a degree of creativity and world-building here that I am drawn in by, and I am really gripped by the description of the mother as "a scrap of old fabric in the breeze." It's a really evocative way to describe the impact of abuse, fear, hopelessness, and living in survival mode.

      In the end, if both stories had a "read more" hyperlink to the full story but I could only read one, I would choose the second. So if it's not too late, I'd like to vote for IshYouNotishMe. I wish I could vote for both, but that defeats the purpose of the voting.

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  98. Both authors did a fantastic job. Bluebonnet pulled me in at the start. IshYouNotishMe kept me hanging in at the end. Overall blue bonnet left me scratching my head with too many questions the biggest one being why not have groceries delivered or make an arrangement with the grocery store (if delivery not available)? This could be addressed with the MC expressing his/her desire to face her anxiety every now and then in the hopes of overcoming. This would make me feel like the MC was fighting for something or had a real goal which would've made me root for them.

    IshYou definitely rambled in the beginning and I felt it too early to reveal the desire to kill the father. Maybe teach him humility, stop him from hurting them etc and let that escalate to murder over the course of the story.

    Both left me wanting to read more and in story that is what matters. Great job.

    My vote is for ishYouNotishMe.

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  99. Hooray, I think I can finally vote. I was having so many issues! So, without further ado...

    I just loved both of these entries when I was reading them in the slush and I'm almost crushed that they are pitted against each other. They're both so well done!!

    Blue Bonnet's entry was very disturbing for sure. I read it and then had to go back and reread it. I just wasn't sure how it made me feel. Uncomfortable. Anxious. Hey, bingo! That's what it's supposed to make me feel. And that anxiety and fear really becomes palpable due to the deep POV and strength of the voice. This was an excellent sample.

    IshYouNotIsh me had a fabulous premise. I loved the idea of a poltergeist who is totally and completely human in his emotions. (And I adore the cat and dog touch - any story that remembers to include animals will always have my heart!) I really wanted to read more of this story and if I had it in front of me, I'd likely just keep on reading until I was through. So well done.

    Ultimately, though, I think it's Blue Bonnet who gets my vote. It was SUCH a difficult decision, but it's the deep POV and the voice that ultimately carried the decision.

    That said, both writers are amazing and should be extremely proud of their work.

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  100. matt Reardon (matthewreardon@hotmail.com) here, and apologies up front, but I won't be doing the full play-by-play bout write-ups I did last year. Two really interesting stories to start out with. My vote is going to ishYouNotishMe, since he manages to deliver both a great, tense self-contained story, and the set-up for much more to come. But well done to both authors!

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    1. That's too bad because that was some dynamite critiquing last year! :(

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  101. My vote goes to Ishyounotishme. The story pulled me in and made me want more. BlueBonnet's story was good too, so it was a tough decision.

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  102. My vote goes to IshYouNotishMe. While I enjoyed both stories, the second pulled me in more quickly and made me hunger for more at the end. Bravo to both Blue Bonnet and IshYouNotishMe! Great job!!

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  103. Both stories are great, but I have to give my vote to ishYouNotishMe.

    The writing is crisp, amusing and who wouldn't want to read about an avenging poltergeist?

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  104. BlueBonnet: Great use of the monkey for anxiety; this analogy works. I wished the story had more than this analogy to support it, though, more of a story line than a loud monkey. I admit that I was a bit confused at first. I thought maybe the narrator had a bad allergy to pollen or something and was sneezing and had mucus all over his face and the cart handle. The story overall didn't grab me.

    IshYouNotishMe: This gets my vote. The writing is solid, though it could be tightened a bit. I wasn't sure what the woods in the first sentence had to do with anything. If this was the poltergeist's home in life, perhaps that detail would be relevant in a longer work, but it seemed extraneous for this word limit. I think the first sentence could be skipped entirely. I appreciated the details that show the why this new family is different--the children's behavior, the description of the wife, and the implied link to the poltergeist's personal history. I liked the concept of a poltergeist changing focus from just being a nuisance to having a particular goal; the writing could be crafted to support this more clearly.

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  105. Hi...hopefully this vote only shows up once...I had to download FireFox because my other vote disappeared using Safari on Mac.

    Congrats to both writers on making the bouts!

    Blue Bonnet: Loved the imagery in the first three sentences and also the analogy of anxiety/waking the monkey. I would love to feel more of what the MC feels when his monkey is raging...I want to feel anxious as well. I am curious about the face and would keep reading to find out, I almost wonder if his deformity is real or a figment.

    IshYou: I love the concept of the ghost, who usually takes pride in terrorizing people, is now protecting the children from an abusive parent. It would be very interesting if the father was the defeated, shred of fabric and the mother was the abuser.

    My vote goes to: IshYou because I'd like to read this story/see this movie :)

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  106. Ah, Write Club! I'm so glad you're still doing this, DL! Lots of fond memories here... Seeing that you were kicking off a new year of it made me want to come over and check it out -- I'm going to try and stay with the ride all the way to the finish.

    Round 1 starts out with two solid pieces -- both give intriguing glimpses of protagonists and situations that arouse interest and story questions in the reader, and that's the whole point of a 600-word snippet. So, well done to both writers.

    But I have to give the edge to Blue Bonnet in this round. The piece has more flow and immediacy to me. The concept of anxiety and agoraphobia as a howler monkey is clever and effective, and is revealed through a scene that develops quickly without too much telling. The increasing and too-frequent "AOOOOO's" of the monkey grow a bit tiresome and irritating, but it actually kind of works, too because that's the whole point -- they are to the main character, also. So much so that it makes it impossible to buy a few simple groceries.

    IshYou also has a main character that I can connect with, and there are a few key elements of a captivating scene, but it's also a little too bogged down in extraneous telling. I think the backstory of the 'geist' could be better introduced in smaller bite-sized pieces interspersed with elements of action within the scene, rather than taking up almost the whole first half of those precious 500 words. While the 'geist' sounds interesting, the other characters seem a little too stereotypical. I think there's a very clever concept here -- a poltergeist as protector -- but it needs a little more polish and pacing, I think.

    So while I enjoyed both, I give this round to Blue Bonnet.

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  107. My vote is for ishYouNotishMe. I feel the author made better use of the 500 word limit, and I enjoyed the tone and the ending. The only critique I have would be to introduce the dad sooner, or maybe foreshadow the ending. Not easy in such a short time, I know.
    Blue Bonnet, I enjoyed the story and thought it was a clever idea, but I feel the author could have budgeted the 500 words better for more impact. There were 14 AOOOH's, and as many -ly adverbs, and those could have been trimmed down to allow more room for story. Good first bout.

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    1. By the way, my name is Daniel Link, and my email is daniellink1240@gmail.com. It says I'm logged in, but I'm still posting as unknown.

      Delete
  108. Bluebonnet gets my vote.

    Although horror is my genre, Blue's actually feels more horrific than Ish's. That high tension throughout that just keeps escalating, those little glimpses of fright and anxiety... Yes. That entry worked for mm in many ways, especially in its strength of voice.

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  109. IshYouNotishMe gets my vote. His entry felt more like a story with potential to go further. I enjoyed the voice, despite some telly moments and wordiness.

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  110. Wow, what a great start. I know it's supposed to be mysterious, but I could have used just a touch more context in Bluebonnet's selection. Ish gets my vote for suggesting that haunted teens become novelists. (Ha!) But great all around.

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  111. I liked BlueBonnet's story better, but maybe it was even just the presentation of it that drew me in more. Realizing the impact of font on a mind as graphics-oriented as mine, I guess! The story itself was pretty fascinating though.

    With the poltergeist story, the writing was really beautiful in a few parts (like the dark shimmer of fear) but there were other parts that were a bit cliché (force of nature, crumble away). Maybe I was just feeling especially sensitive to cliché because I've seen/read a lot about poltergeists lately and that's a personal issue. Also I'm not getting the motivation behind the poltergeist wanting to protect the kids to the point of killing the father. Maybe if the phrasing about killing the father wasn't as dramatic, I could believe that killing was something casual enough for the poltergeist that protecting some kids it just met would drive it to kill. It's hard to just believe the 'vengeful ghost loves to kill' line because the subject matter and the voice both humanize the poltergeist so strongly. Or if the poltergeist had some kind of personal history with domestic violence.

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  112. I can't tell you how good it makes me feel to see you back voting and critiquing for our contestants - because you are simply one of the best critiquer's I've come across. Our writers are in for a treat this year!

    Welcome back!

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    1. DL, I hope it's not arrogant egotism on my part to assume you were replying to me, but if you were, let me say thank you for your very kind words! I'm already very impressed with the quality of the writers and I'm enjoying the reads very much!

      And if you weren't replying to me, then I apologize for awkwardly inserting myself into your conversation, and I'm still glad to be back revisiting one of my favorite sites in the blogosphere, taking part in your awesome WriteClub once again!

      Delete
    2. Yes, it indeed was you I was replying to, although my comment somehow got added at the bottom instead of your post. Once again, so glad to see you commenting again. :)

      Delete
  113. I'm going with IshYouNotishMe. I liked both stories, but the poltergiest story was fun to read. The first story left me with too many questions. I do like questions at the end of the story, but not too many. I like the descriptions in the poltergeist story, especially the description of the wife - "...a scrap of old fabrick in a breeze...." That was great!

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  114. Congrats to both writers!

    Blue Bonnet: A clever metaphor, but the line between metaphor and reality was too fuzzy at times, like when the protagonist is selecting groceries that are part of a monkey's natural diet. I felt like I got to know the monkey better than the protagonist, which might have been the point, but left me feeling less than invested.

    IshYou: Could use some tightening, but I enjoyed the progression from casual, informative, and funny to something sad and serious.

    My vote is for IshYou.

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  115. I can't figure out how to show up on here with a name... I'm Danielle Resh. My email is danielleresh@utexas.edu.

    I love the figurative language in IshYouNotishMe's piece ("their mother was a scrap of old fabric in the breeze"... "Dark fear shimmered around them, like a mirage on a street"...WOW!). I also loved how IshYouNotishMe wrote from the perspective of the poltergeist-- what an interesting perspective, especially since the poltergeist actually had a strong moral compass (I thought that was a clever twist).

    However, my vote goes to BlueBonnet, mainly because the first line immediately drew me in. The concept of the howler monkey living in the character's head is so unique, so...weird. The piece just struck me as so original of a way to speak about a serious topic (because of lines like "then I do something crazy, like leave the house," I read the monkey almost as a metaphor for mental illness) with quirk and humor.

    Great job to both of these writers!

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    Replies
    1. Danielle - are you a Blogger user? If so, try adjusting these settings:

      Go to Blogger dashboard.
      SETTINGS
      USER SETTINGS
      Set User Profile = Blogger (instead of Google +)
      Save

      Delete
    2. I'm not a Blogger user...

      I'm not sure why I can't get my name to show up

      Delete
  116. i loved ishYouNotishMe well done. the first was well written but the end unsatisfying. just needed more words, maybe less aroooo and more plot.

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  117. This vote will not count as it is anonymous.

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  118. Wow, these were both great entries! Each held its own kind of horror. I think they both deserve a chance to move on, but alas, I must make a choice and cast a vote. I think I'll give it to Blue Bonnet for evoking a real feeling of both horror and empathy in me.

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  119. Both grabbed me, but I *felt* the anxiety in Blue Bonnet with all my senses.

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  120. I vote for BlueBonnet. I love your style, flow, and metaphor. Creative and well written.

    I do love the story line of ishYou’s piece. I’d love to read more on that.

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  121. Wow, the contest started right off with a tough choice. Both entries were terrific, and I'm almost flipping a coin here, but I'm going to give my vote to Blue Bonnet. I was immediately drawn in by the image of anxiety as a howler monkey. Spot on. I agree with others here that there were some logistical questions about why the narrator couldn't order groceries delivered, but that was irrelevant to me; simply wanting to go outside the house for any reason would be overwhelming for this person. I loved the last line.

    I also really liked ishYou's entry. It was unusual in its POV and the world it created. Ghosts are assigned jobs? How does that work? What makes poltergeist a plum job? These are intriguing questions! I want to know more about how this story plays out, and want to see the abuser taken down, but I there were a few structural issues. It began with too much narrative back story, instead of with current events. Still, it was a great beginning to a story I'd love to know more about. Just not quite, in my opinion, as good as Blue Bonnet.

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  122. My vote goes to ishYouNotishMe! Definitely the better of the two stories. I wish there was more but at the same time, it's all you really need! I love getting to see the poltergeist's point of view of the whole situation and how it instantly takes up the job of protecting the living. Well done!

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  123. Two very intriguing entries, and I would love to read more of either one. It might be only be a slight preference based on my mood this morning, but my vote goes to ishYouNotishMe. I love the escapism of horror, and the satisfying grit of this one. BlueBonnet's entry is solid and alluring, but deeply sad and that no longer suits me. It's a really nice snippet, but the pain so evident in many short stories is one reason I don't prefer the genre.

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  124. My vote is for IshYouNotishMe. I found the POV from the poltergeist intriguing and the story structure was good. Both stories were good. It was a tough choice.

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  125. BlueBonnet, hands down! I am an English teacher and the onomatopoeia was very effective and reminiscent of 'Rikki Tikki Tavi', at least for me!

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    1. I am logged in but for some reason, it is recording my response as "Unknown". My account is larmet@g.risd.org.

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  126. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. It says I am logged in as larmet@g.risd.org! But that's my email account and what I am attempting to vote under.

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    2. If you do not have a Google account, you'll need to leave your name and email address everytime you vote.

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    3. Ok! Name is Lindsey! larmet@g.risd.org!

      Delete
  127. A great couple of entries! BlueBonnet, your story is intriguing and I'd like to read more but it did have me asking a lot of questions through it so I wasn't able to really immerse myself as I usually like. If they're going for less perishable items then why all the fruit? Is the monkey real and they need to feed it yet it's also the metaphorical monkey? What's on the MC's face that people keep reacting to? Was there an accident and they're disfigured in some way? Is it a genetic thing? Is it just a look of confusion/horror/anxiety that is so strong that people are having a visceral reaction to it? It happened multiple times in a short story so there must be something big about this thing. If it was longer and more things answered I may be able to stop asking so many questions that I keep getting pulled out and having to try again.
    IshYou, the story pulled me in and intrigued me from the get go. Ghosts get assignments? Cool idea! I liked that the MC was a conscientious ghost and chose how they would haunt people and didn't just go all out terrifying. I liked the imagery of when they realised why the wife and kids were so quiet and docile and their resolve to do something about it. This one left me with questions but not ones that consistently made me stop reading and ponder. I'd love to read this one when completed so my vote goes to IshYouNotIshMe!

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  129. Of these two entries I prefer BlueBonnet, so they get my vote

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  130. Going with ishYou. Felt like a more well-rounded piece.
    BlueBonnet has something working but the disjoint between the inner monologue and the external viewpoint lost me a few times.

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  131. My vote to ishYouNotishMe because, while I wanted to know more about the howler monkey, Ish made me want to know the END of their story.

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  132. I felt the anxiety building in every word of Blue Bonnet's piece. The imagery - and sound - of the howler monkey resonates because I don't like monkeys and the screeching, even though it was merely written, set my teeth on edge.

    ishYouNotishMe wrote a good story, but the one that's still making my heart pound is Blue Bonnet's, so that's the one that gets my vote.

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  133. Blue bonnet was more creative. Blue bonnet gets my vote.

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  134. Encouraging first round. Good stories. Blue Bonnet wrote a good story. I understood right away that the monkey symbolized a phobia. Too many words used on the sound effects, and the last line was unnecessary.

    ish-you

    Great line about the poltergeist gig. Good imagery and overall entertaining. My vote goes to ishYouNotishMe.

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  135. I want Blue and Ish to know that it’s extremely hard for me to choose between their stories. Both pieces are original, and I enjoyed reading them.

    Blue’s piece was relatable, well-paced, and I LOVE that the MC took 5 wipes to clean the cart, LOL!

    Ish had tremendous voice and a hard edge that I’m drawn to.

    VOTE: ISHYOUNOTISHME

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  136. My vote is for Blue Bonnet, great job!

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  137. My vote is for Blue Bonnet. I like the imagery and the prose was very evocative. I felt very much in the place of the character. I will say that it took me a long time to realize that the howler was anxiety, but I seem to be in the minority there.

    IshYou did a great job, but the POV character felt rather removed from the situation and the story. The beginning could have used some tightening up so that we could delve deeper into the interaction between the ghost and the family and be more connected.

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  138. Both are strong contenders... and after much thought, my vote goes to ishYouNotishMe.
    I loved the opening line from Blue Bonnet but I wasn't totally immersed in the piece. I like where ishYouNotishMe took the story and it felt more rounded with a twisty ending.
    It was a tough choice.

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  139. I enjoyed both pieces. Blue Bonnet left me wanting a bit more because I wanted to know what was up with Blue Bonnet face. On thing I didn't like was the image of the howler monkey using the brain as a blanket (sorry). Still, a very solid start to a story.

    ishYouNotishMe has an original take: a poltergeist as a protector. I also liked the homage to King and to the twins from The Shining. Was it intentional? I am intrigued at what lengths the geist will go to in this story to protect the kids.

    My vote is for ishYouNotishMe.

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  140. My vote goes to ishYouNotishMe! An endearing poltergeist who wants to protect the wife and kids is a great story.

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  141. Congrats to both of you for making it into the ring! I hope you both will take great pride in getting this far regardless of the outcome!

    Both stories had a strong hook that pulled me in immediately. I loved BOTH stories. Unfortunately I can only choose one.

    My VOTE goes to ishYouNotishMe for the following reasons:
    -I had a complete story in 500 words. I knew the who, what, when and where of the premise thus giving me enough to know that I would definitely want to plunk my money down to read the full book.

    -The story is unique. This is not just another ghost story. It brings a new angle to ghost genre.
    -While I agree there might have been a tad bit of backstory slowing the opening it fell just inside the line of still being effective and engaging.

    Blue Bonnet had a great hook. The howler monkey did grab me and make me read until the end. The problem was I didn't have enough story to know if the howler monkey bit would fade into the background as the story progressed or if I could expect more of what appeared in the opening. There were too many essential questions still unanswered. As such I could not be certain that I would want to buy the book without having more info.
    MKorman

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  142. I vote for Blue Bonnet

    Blue Bonnet
    -Funny at first, then heartbreaking. Love that you never told us what the howler monkey was meant to represent (though I guess it's some kind of mental illness), but I would have liked a few more clues.

    IshYouNotishMe
    -I've never read a ghost story like that and I loved it! The twist at the end was brilliant and I love the use of ghost terms like "Geisting." However, I felt like it could have been a little tighter

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  143. My vote goes to ish you notish me. The story pulled me in right away and I want to read more.

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