WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round #13


I know I probably sound like a broken record (or a corrupted MP3 file for you Millennials), but we closed the book on bout #8 yesterday and although it generated 73 votes - that was almost 60 less than our opening bout. It pains me to watch the erosion of readers as the contest goes on, but the only way I can reverse the trend is through you...the reader. Help me, or rather, help our contestants by taking to social media. Thank you in advance!

Recap
WRiTE CLUB is a tournament-style competition that runs during the eight weeks prior to the DFW Conference (who is also a sponsor) and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win a host of prizes, topped off by a free admission to the following year’s conference. Our writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names and they'll be appearing in head-to-head in “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 have a chance to win a $60 Barnes and Noble gift card. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed in a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize. And as an added incentive to keep readers coming back for more, we're upping the ante. Readers who place a vote in EVERY bout will have their names placed in a second hat and the name selected from that pool will win a $40 Barnes and Noble gift card. Double the chances of winning!

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 Tuesday, May 21st (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) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

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




Our first contestant in the ring today is Cleo representing the Mystery genre.



Emma Sue was five years old that summer. She was small for her age, and kind of sickly, but that didn’t stop Mamm from expecting her to pull her own weight in the fields, just like the rest of us. There were six of us, all girls. I was the oldest at 12. Emma Sue was not the youngest, that was Polly Mae, she was three. We all worked in the fields, picking celery. It was hard work, cutting those tough stalks right at the base. Mamm would not let the younger ones have the sharpest knives because she feared they would cut themselves. It was hard to cut celery with dull knives.

Emma Sue especially hated it and was always sneaking off to play in the rows between the stalks. She had a great imagination and she was always talking about playing with angels in between the celery rows. We figured that was Emma Sue making stuff up so like she always did. Mamm loved angels and she did not fault Emma Sue for wanting to play with them.

“Emma Sue!” Mamm called quietly so the foreman would not hear her and know that Emma Sue was missing again. “Where have you gotten to? You’re way behind in cutting. You come out now, hear me?” Mamm looked around for Emma Sue’s faded blue bonnet poking up above the rows of celery. She could see everyone else bent over in the fields, busily hacking at the base of the plants, but not Emma Sue.

“Now where has that girl gotten herself to?” Mamm muttered as she tried to keep looking while she kept slicing at the celery plants. “She is going to get a whupping for certain when she comes back.”

We all kept working; the foreman was mean, and we didn’t want to feel his whip lashing our backs as we worked under the hot sun. We just wiped the stinging sweat out of our eyes and kept on cutting celery, listening for the lunch whistle.

Emma Sue was still missing when the whistle finally shrilled. Mamm kept calling her name. The only one who hadn’t been bent over in the celery rows was the foreman on top his big horse. Mamm finally got up the courage to ask him if he saw Emma Sue slip away.

“Nah, that girl is slick. She proll’y ran away. Don’t matter much, though, y’all still has to pick the same …Emma Sue or not.” The foreman trotted off toward the shade and a cool drink, leaving Mamm standing alone in the field.

“Mamm!” Polly Mae said, “Pretty!” We all looked out at the field to where she was pointing. A huge pair of white wings beat slowly just above the tops of the celery. Suddenly, they started glowing white gold, so bright we had to look away. When we looked back, they were gone.

Nobody ever saw Emma Sue again. #############################################################################


On the other side of the ring, we have MatchMaker who is representing the Romance genre.



Adulting:
Adulting consisted of paying bills on time, doing the laundry on a Friday night, drinking skinny lattes after work, and telling social media that you just killed it in your Yoga class when in reality you sat on your couch, drank a protein shake in your yoga pants, and winced as you watched Zen girls contort into positions you could only get into while shaving your legs.

Old flings? They had nothing to do with adulting.

That’s what I told myself anyway, as I walked into the the tax office and landed right behind the most dangerous old fling of them all.

He looked good. I mean really good. Better than before, and I never would’ve thought that was possible.

The difference? This old fling wasn’t a boy anymore. He was a man. A man with facial hair and work boots. A man with calloused hands and a deep voice. A man with shoulders and property taxes.

But when he flashed his smile at me, all I could see was that boy. The one with the wild hair. The one with the reputation. The one with that life-changing, standard-raising, panty-dropping kiss.

And I was that girl again--the one with the contagious laugh, the one with no experience, the one who’d drowned in that life-changing, standard-raising, panty-dropping kiss.

I needed to get out of this line, go to Office Max, and buy myself a Lisa Frank binder so I could practice signing my name with his.

I was being ridiculous. I was an adult, not a nineteen-year-old, boy-crazy girl. I had my skinny latte to prove it.

I took a sip from the sugar-free, fat-free, caffeine-free, happiness-free coffee and tried to pay attention to the words coming out of his pretty lips.

Crap, he’d asked me a question. What was it? I wondered if, “Sure, I’ll make out with you,” was an appropriate response.

He laughed and repeated the question.

Ah. How was everyone doing from back then? My favorite topic.

See, the people he was referring to were actually adulting. They had careers, wedding plans, babies, husbands.

Me? I had a dog and a roommate.

He shook his head and muttered something about not being ready for all that. I lied and said I totally agreed. Who wanted comfort, stability, and unconditional love anyways? Along with old flings, lies had nothing to do with adulting.

But when he asked me to grab a drink, I decided I’d start adulting tomorrow.

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


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.

Before we sign off I wanted to address the issue a few readers are having with not being able to post comments, or having those comments show up as UNKNOWN even though they have a Google Account.  There are several things at play here. First, if you are using the Safari or Chrome browsers they have a known problem with Blogger and you have two choices. Switch to Firefox as a browser (I've never had a problem using it), or change the setting on Safari as illustrated below.


The other problem is Blogger not recognizing you when adding a comment and therefore designating you as UNKNOWN. This could happen if the reader is a Blogger user themselves and they have not changed their settings since Google + went away.  To do this, follow these steps:

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


Hopefully, that will resolve everyone's issues and let the votes/comments reach our contestants. If you missed the first two bouts because of one of these issues, remember the bouts remain LIVE for a week so you can still go back and let your choice be known.

We’ll be back tomorrow for another preliminary bout. 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!


82 comments

  1. Hooray! You both made it to a bout.
    Cleo: ending very strong. a shock. A surprise to see something supernatural in the celery fields. I like that the crop is celery because it's more unusual. The description of the angel wings is vivid.
    MatchMaker: I like the snarky narrator. Descriptions are well done, especially that magic phrase describing the kiss and the "any-good-thing-free" coffee. The description of the old fling is also strong. I would read more even though romance, as a genre, is not my thing.
    Vote today goes to MatchMaker--well done!

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  2. Both intriguing entries! My vote goes to MatchMaker for the humor.

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  3. And yet another two fantastic entries!!! Cleo, I loved the imagery and sense of dread you created in the passage; I could feel the heat of the fields, the toughness of the celery stalks and the exhaustion coming off the workers. MatchMaker, your passage made me laugh out loud--great take on adulting and the disillusionment that often comes with it! My vote in this round goes to MatchMaker because I felt the chemistry between the MC and her "old fling" and I want to see where it goes! Great job by both writers!

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  4. Cleo: great voice and setting of scene. For such a short space, a lot of words are spent on how old everyone is. There’s a conflict between Mamm expecting Emma to pull her weight, but not minding when she runs off to play with angels. The POV is distant - how does the narrator feel about Emma? Though the ending is nice, it’s extremely sudden. I’m not at all sure how this is mystery.

    Matchmaker: this opening is not particularly unique, but it’s oh so relatable. The Lisa Frank reference, shortly after panting dropping, is jarring. She’s reminiscing about being 19, not 10. How can she tell at a glance that the old fling has property taxes? The conversation is a little limited. I guess she asks her old fling a question, since he says he’s not ready for all that, but I don’t feel like I’m in her head and part of the conversation.

    I vote for matchmaker, because this is a more complete, standalone story with a satisfying ending.

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    Replies
    1. “Panting dropping”.... meant panty dropping haha oh autocorrect

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  5. Thank you for sharing your work, guys!
    Cleo, your writing made me feel uneasy...working in the fields under the eye of a merciless foreman, blazing sun, missing sister.

    Matchmaker, nice setup, awesome voice, relatable heroine.

    My vote is for Matchmaker.

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  6. While not a romance reader, I enjoyed the voice from MatchMaker. Top notch humor even if I find the term panty-dropping kiss a little high-school cliche. After reading more, it did fit with the theme I was a little unclear, who, if either worked in the tax office. I assume the MC since the crush/fling wore work boots.

    Cleo offered vivid descriptions, but once the phrase about Emma playing with angles came early, I already knew what the end would be. I think the "entity" could be kept more mysterious. While the detail of the scene is ABSOLUTELY superb, I didn't find myself caring much for Emma (or any of the sisters) by the end, so her being carried away by an angel wasn't jarring.

    My vote is for Matchmaker

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  7. Oh good grief...today is the hardest... I loved Cleo's story.It was well written and the imagery was done well enough that I could see it all happen.

    Matchmaker put me back to 19, walking into a store only to see my high school crush behind the counter, working his way through college. My knees buckled and I heard nothing he said.

    Because of the instant identification with the character, my vote goes to the excellent Matchmaker

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  8. I really enjoyed .org pieces today.

    Matchmaker — your piece made me laugh (especially the line about the joyless skinny latte) and I quite enjoyed it although I didn’t connect with the voice as much as I hoped.

    Cleo — I loved your description and the character’s voice jumped off the page. I also love how you easily established the time period without having to tell us. I felt your last line could be stronger, and as another poster suggested, not make it obvious the entities are angels. But overall, great piece.

    My vote goes to Cleo.

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  9. Hahaha -.org pieces. Gotta love auto correct. I really enjoyed *both* pieces.

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  10. Both great entries, its hard to pick just one :/

    Cleo: I loved your setting and characters. I could imagine how hard it would be for a child to cut those celery stalks with a dull blade. The premise of Emma Sue running off to talk to her 'imaginary angels' could be very interesting. I am not sure I needed to see literal wings, maybe something hinting towards that but a little more mysterious? Also, when the foreman leaves Mamm for a cool drink in the shade, I wanted him to leave her in the 'searing' field...just to reinforce how hot and hard it is for her to be out there while he has the luxury of seeking comfort...making him even more unlikable.

    MatchMaker: I loved the self-deprecating humor of your narrator. I was definitely in her head and could imagine her squirming uncomfortably while her fling stood there with confident ease. Funny and cute and very relatable.

    In the end, my vote goes to Cleo...I think this story could be shaped into something quite interesting.

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  11. Cleo: I love how they're harvesting celery, something I've never seen in a story. You give a good sense of the heat and the hard work because I've worked fields under a hot sun. But I feel disconnected from the beginning. The first two paragraphs are all telling in the past. The final sentence is abrupt with no emotion. If the characters' emotions are not on the page, especially in the way of showing how they are affected by what's happening, we readers won't feel emotion and cannot connect.

    MatchMaker: You begin with telling, but the humor is so fresh, you immediately grab me. This piece is voice for days. You show with specifics I relate to. I connect, and you keep me reading to find out what's going to happen. I always admire someone who can write descriptively while bringing abundant snark. This piece delivers.

    My vote: MatchMaker

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  12. Voting for MatchMaker. Hilarious, and a complete arc.

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  13. My vote goes to MatchMaker. So relatable and funny.

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  14. Congratulations, Contestants!

    Cleo:I loved the overall scene you created. I could feel the heat and the rough celery stalks.The POV felt a little distant, but I suspect that's because the narrator is now an old lady and is recalling this story. My main problem was the discrepancy between Mamm insisting everyone pull their own weight, including sickly Emma, and indulging Emma's need to slip off and play.

    MatchMaker: This was a quick, lighthearted romp. The voice was entertaining and snappy. I stumbled a bit at the "a man with shoulders" bit because it seemed such a strange thing to say. Something like "biceps" would have kept the flow going, IMO. I tend to adore a good hyphenated word, but this was a bit hyphen-heavy, even for me.

    While both writers told complete stories that kept me interested, my vote today goes to Cleo. Not because it was more technically perfect or well-written, but because it's simply more up my alley. This was a hard choice today. Congratulations to both of you again.

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  15. Cleo
    What worked:
    You've established a great sense of environment and the life these characters live.
    The foreshadowing and build up toward angels being real and having something to do with little Emma's disappearance was working for me.
    What didn't:
    Lots of passive sentences. I'm not someone who demands the removal of all "to be" verbs, but passivity in the first sentence and in too many sentences back to back weakens the writing.
    The last sentence cuts off all curiosity and supposition about what might happen next like a pair of scissors. This feels like a longer piece that got slashed to make the 500-word limit, which leaves me disappointed after setting up the angel stuff so nicely.

    MatchMaker
    What worked:
    "I needed to get out of this line, go to Office Max, and buy myself a Lisa Frank binder so I could practice signing my name with his." Most relatable line ever!
    Excellent use of voice. I got a strong sense of who the MC was just from how she used her words.
    What didn't:
    The "Adulting:" heading was unnecessary.
    I love a little repetition for emphasis, but "the one with" pattern went on too long.

    My vote goes to MatchMaker for the strong voice.

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  16. My vote goes to MatchMaker - "The one with that life-changing, standard-raising, panty-dropping kiss." Laugh out loud funny!

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  17. My vote goes to MatchMaker -- brisk & witty. Cleo -- nice writing, but a lot of telling vs. showing that left with too many questions at what is apparently the opening of your story.

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  18. My vote goes to Cleo. I LOVED the twist! Matchmaker: I loved the voice, but none of the dialogue was spoken out loud and that kept me from really feeling immersed in the scene.

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  19. Both the pieces today are tops. Each has a clear, distinct voice. The narraotors are real people in real places, and I want to get to know them. If these authors keep these strong narrator voices, the complete stories will be well worth reading.

    This is one of the hardest days I’ve had in chosing only one. Both narrators are important and identifiable, but since I have to chose only one, I’m voting for MatchMaker because I laughed out loud, and it’s hard to get me to do that. Cleo, I want to read the rest of your piece, but I didn’t cry or wonder in amazement, and I wanted to.

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  20. Cleo has an interesting premise and it is the ending is a great as it can both the end of a short story or a cliff hanger for a longer piece. I was a little confused when and where the story was occurring and that made it difficult for me to fully buy into it. The ending did make want to read more of the story.

    I am not a fan of the romance genre, so Matchmaker had a bit of an uphill climb with me. But she succeeded. I found the submission amusing (which I presume was the intent). I can’t say I would read the full story, but it wouldn’t be because of the writing.

    My vote goes to Matchmaker, but Cleo is definitely up there in my choices for Save Week.

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  21. well both stories left me kind of flat. the first was a little muddled as to when and who. couldn't find empathy with any of the characters. the second used terms and idioms that is generation specific, and if your not from that generation you don't get a clear picture of what is happening. but my vote has to go with Matchmaker, at least it tried to be funny.

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  22. Today is tough. Two of the best entries pitted against each other.

    Cleo: I got a real sense of the scene and, although it took me a little bit to realize that the characters were slaves, once I did realize it, it felt very natural and real. And the premise is unique. The one thing I felt lacking was tension, the sense of urgency when they could not find Emma or do anything to look for her. And there were a few passages that were a little muddled.. I had to re-read them to figure out what was happening.

    Matchmaker: You really captured a fun, light mood in this entry. This is not a genre that I normally read a lot but the voice and the premise really pulled me in. There were a few sentences that could be tightened up to improve flow, but over all, this was really fun.

    If these two pieces weren't up against each other, I could see myself voting for both of them. But, since I have to pick, I'm casting my vote for Matchmaker.

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  23. Cleo - the premise is good but there is too much telling and not enough showing. Give us a snippet of Emma talking to the angels. Don't tell us Emma has a good imagination - show us her imagination. You tell us several times that no one gets exempt from the celery - but it doesn't set the scene so much as seem repetitive. Show us Mamm making everyone work, show us the littlest ones struggling. I am intrigued by what happens to Emma and where the story goes from here though! I think you have the beginning of a strong and interesting story.
    Matchmaker - I liked the bit about adulting although you use the same joke about the coffee one too many times. The humor is good though and I liked the overall scene.
    My vote is for Matchmaker.

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  24. My vote is going to Cleo this time. I loved the setting, could feel the heat, and connected with the story. Matchmaker is a great story as well, one that can be related to, but seemed a bit on the predictable side.

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  25. Both are well written and intriguing.
    My vote goes to Matchmaker - loved the voice in it

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  26. Two great entries! I love Cleo's premise, but I agree with other voters there was more telling than showing. My vote goes to MatchMaker for the humor and clever use of props to give the reader a timeline.

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  27. This is kind of an apples versus oranges competition; both good, but very, very different and hard to compare to one another. Cleo packs a lot of world-building into 500 words, but the story seems to be happening out of sight of the viewpoint characters. She establishes the narrator as a 12-year-old sister, then puts everything in the point of view of the mother as the magic happens to the child we don't see. It's an interesting approach, but it kept me at a distance from the payoff--I didn't know the little girl who talked to angels well enough to feel the wallop I think I was supposed to feel when the angel carried her away. I think the word limit was a real problem for this story; I think in longer form, I probably would have loved it. MatchMaker's story is fun, but I suspect in the final draft of the longer romance story this would introduce, most of this would end up being cut. The viewpoint character's voice is really strong, but I think she'd be even more interesting if she had more to do. My vote is going to Cleo.

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  28. These two entries are so vastly different from each other that it's difficult to pit them against one another. I'll try to be objective. Cleo's voice is very distant. As a result, it was difficult to get into the story. It gives the sense of someone reading a story aloud rather than the reader immersing him or herself into the story. I don't feel enough emotion to care what happened to the missing girl. The hook wasn't enough for me. I think the premise is good, but it needs to be written with a deeper voice and more showing vs. telling.

    MatchMaker's entry made me laugh. While the writing itself could use some polish, I liked the main character immediately and loved the way her inner dialogue takes us deep into her POV. She's witty and funny and totally realistic in so many ways. And hooray for a dog and a roommate. I always love it when a character has a dog. It adds another layer to their personality.

    All in all, my vote goes to MatchMaker. I hope these two characters end up together in the end! I'm rooting for them already. Nothing like running into an old flame in books!

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  29. Harder and harder to choose between them. I'll go with Matchmaker, though.

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  30. Cleo gets my vote this round.
    I really like the premise of Matchmaker and the character and the voice. I don't get a sense of stakes, what could go wrong, what could go right.
    Cleo's story felt more complete, there was a very distinctive world and it feels like it has a lot of potential. I still didn't get a sense of stakes, a question that needed answered, or urgency. They'll have to pick more celery, there's probably violence, but it wasn't attached to a deep rooted emotion for me, more like a casual observation.
    I enjoyed both pieces, thank you for sharing.

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  31. The humor in Matchmaker chose my vote. I think I need a longer version of Cleo to judge correctly.

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  32. Both pieces are a lot of telling and not much showing, but I did enjoy MatchMaker's voice the best, so I pick that one.

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  33. MatchMaker’s opening line immediately drew me in and the tension was interesting and evident throughout the whole piece. Last line was humorous and poetic for the character.

    Vote for MatchMaker

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  34. Cleo - This story had voice. I like the way the first person was handled. It felt natural, and the writing was solid, aside from a couple technical things. -- Emma Sue was not the youngest, that was Polly Mae, she was three. -- should have used a period to separate all three. They're all individual sentences. There was also a clunky construction -- We figured that was Emma Sue making stuff up so like she always did. -- reads funny aloud. Other than those, I liked the writing, but the end of the story falls flat. I was expecting a mystery and instead the white wings were a paranormal copout for me. Also didn't like the last line.

    MatchMaker - This also has clear voice, and a few good lines. -- But when he flashed his smile at me, all I could see was that boy. The one with the wild hair. The one with the reputation. The one with that life-changing, standard-raising, panty-dropping kiss. -- That was great. Good humor and a nice use of the word limit. Would have loved to see some figurative language, though. Don't just lean on the humor, give us some visual pop to go with the quick wit. Also, the words ACTUALLY and FINALLY should be left behind, even in the most lighthearted of fiction. They're useless and they weigh your prose down. Also, there are a lot of one and two-sentence paragraphs with wide spacing between them. Be sparing with the one-liners and they'll have more impact. Otherwise, a strong piece.
    My vote is for MatchMaker.

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  35. Cleo representing the Mystery genre.
    The words took me into that celery field, slaving away. The ending, although sneekily foreshadowed was a surprise. Not quite the mystery I expected as the writing fooled me. Would the foreman have stopped at just his comment?

    MatchMaker who is representing the Romance genre.
    Interesting and unusual style that made me feel I was in the character's head - jumbled around with her thoughts, attitudes, observations, and her lattes. It amused and distracted. Do I have time to criticise? Of course not. Is the dialogue missing as 'I' is distracted.

    I enjoyed both so - congratulations and thanks to both writers. Cleo's piece has a distinct ending with no need to carry on - even if there are questions to investigate. However, although I'm interested in what happens after MatchMaker's re-encounter, I'm voting for Cleo.

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  36. Cleo- The timeline of the story was hard to determine. The reference to feeling the whip suggested pre-civil war, but the crop itself, celery, didn't fit that timeline. Celery grows in the west, so there is some confusion. The genre is mystery, but the reference to angels and glowing wings seems like more fantasy.

    MatchMaker's story was humorous, and had some good lines, but the term Adulting was distracting and added nothing to the story. MatchMaker said it all: "Old Flings. They had nothing to do with adulting." Obviously she wanted to use the term, so she should have used it in a way that worked with the story. That aside, it made me laugh, that same little laugh when we think of old flames, and for that, MatchMaker is getting my vote.

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  37. I have to be honest, both stories didn't quite do it for me this bout. However, one story was slightly more intriguing than the other. So this bout, by the littlest of margins, my vote goes to Cleo.

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  38. Only three days of preliminaries left, but the contestants are still going strong -- the quality of the entrants continues to pleasantly surprise me. Well done!' Today's bout features two pieces with strong, unique voices.

    Cleo's entry is compelling and did a good job of immersing me in the POV of the unnamed narrator. I was pulled into the story and felt the plight of the mother as she suffered in the hot sun, unable to go and look for her missing daughter. The voice is strong and consistent, and does a good job of being authentic without being too forced. The ending is frightening and emotional, and makes me want to keep reading to find out what happened to Emma Sue.

    Some other thoughts:

    -- it's always a gamble to interject dialect into dialogue. Too much and it ends up being off-putting and difficult to read; too little and it doesn't sound authentic. I think Cleo does a good job here.

    -- The POV feels a little off, at least in this sample. It doesn't feel like the narrator's story -- Mamm seems to be the central character here. If the story is truly the narrator's and this is just a flashback at the start of a larger tale then it needs a little more of the narrator added: What does the "I" of the telling think, see, and feel, more so then just relating what Mamm is doing.

    -- The appearance of the angel is very interesting, but it doesn't provoke enough reaction from the narrator or anyone else. What happened after the being disappeared? How did the narrator react and feel? What did Mamm do? Simply saying "Nobody ever saw Emma Sue again" is a little too complacent and diminishes the impact.

    MatchMaker's piece also has a very strong voice. The MC has a good blend of clever, snarky humor and millennial perspective. There are a lot of nice descriptive details added in the telling of an encounter with an old fling. I enjoyed the read even though I'm not quite in the same demographic (or gender POV) as the MC.

    I definitely think the MC has an issue with "adulting" -- even her opening description of it sounds more like "extended-adolescenting," and her reactions to her ex-boyfriend are clearly less-than-mature. But that's part of the charm of the piece. She may call herself an adult, but it's amusingly obvious that she has no clue. Without getting political, she's only a product of her times -- previous generations had things like the Great Depression and World War II to "help" them into adulthood; she's had to endure bad coffee .

    But while I may not be able to totally relate to the MC, I did enjoy her voice and this piece. It flows well and does a good job of maintaining the humor throughout. I think the phrase of "Adulting" is a bit over-used, and the title isn't really needed. If this is the intro to a longer piece, then the ending is OK, but if it is intended as a stand-alone, then the ending falls a bit flat. There's no character development and little story arc as a self-contained tale.

    Overall, this is another tough decision for me. Both have justification for inning the bout, but I'm going to have to give the edge to MatchMaker in this round.

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  39. My vote goes to Matchmaker today.

    Cleo: The story arc is good. I liked the details and the way the story set up the surprise ending. There wasn't much emotion in this piece, though--more telling than showing.

    Matchmaker: This was a fun and vibrant piece. Good job with the voice and some novel and entertaining turns of phrase.

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  40. Cleo, okay. The piece is an interesting idea but it wasn't my cup of tea. The voice is strong and the ending is well done but if it was on the back of a book, I would put it back on the shelf if that makes sense? It wasn't poorly done just not for me for sure.
    Matchmaker, I would change the tense at the front of the piece to present tense. You almost lost me until we got to the sexy fling.

    Matchmaker has my vote today!

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  41. Cleo: There's an interesting story here, but I think I'd rather have heard Emma Sue's side of it--or at least have been more immersed in the sister's point of view. As it is, I didn't feel much of a connection to any of the characters, I think because there was more telling than showing. The writing needs a bit of tightening and polish. The first paragraph spends a lot of words on the fact that they're working in the fields. It also introduces an entire family of six girls, most of whom are entirely irrelevant to this sample.

    Matchmaker: This is a funny piece with some truly funny lines. I love the repetition of " life-changing, standard-raising, panty-dropping kiss" and "the skinny latte to prove it." My one suggestion is to consider bringing "him" into the scene a little more. You give a brief physical description (and YES! to "A man with shoulders and property taxes"), but everything he says and does is in her head. I don't actually see and hear him as a character acting on his own. And I want to.

    If you want to play around with it--and this will take more than 500 words--try giving him some dialogue and body language (something more unique than "he laughed"). You've put her thoughts down hilariously, but I want more of him. I want to see his expression when he recognizes her. I want to hear his voice when he says her name. Maybe intersperse her reactions with a little more of his action, and let the tension go back and forth as each of these characters rediscovers the other.

    My vote goes to Matchmaker.

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  42. The way Cleo’s piece was written, I felt like I was out on the celery farm, toiling in the sun alongside Mamm and Polly Mae. The imagery and dialogue was fantastic, and it made me feel immersed in the story. I also really liked the ending.

    MatchMakers’s piece had voice and an easy-to-read contemporary vibe, but it was a little repetitive.

    VOTE: CLEO

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  43. Ooh, both of these are good. Love the imagery at the end of the first one!

    Voting for MatchMaker. I want to know what happens!

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  44. I enjoyed both entries today but my vote goes to MatchMaker though I think Cleo did an excellent job building a scene in my mind.

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  45. Such great entries! And so different from each other.

    Cleo: Very vivid scene setting. I could feel the hot sun and the back-breaking, spirit-breaking labor. Kudos for choosing celery as the crop they're working on, instead of more stereotypical farm crops. I'm getting too jaded as a reader, though. As soon as I read that Emma Sue liked to play with pretend angels, I knew they weren't pretend, and when she wandered off I knew she had gone with an angel. This robbed the final reveal of some of its power.

    MatchMaker: Laugh-out-loud funny, and a view of "adulting" I think we can all understand. I admire someone who can cram so much back story, character voice, story action, and delightful turns of phrase into a mere 500 words without making it feel cramped. The line about the Lisa Frank binder really made me giggle.

    My vote goes to MatchMaker for humor and character voice.

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  46. Enjoyed both, but my vote goes to Cleo for engaging voice and sense of place.

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  47. I liked the piece by Cleo more therefore my vote is for Cleo.

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  49. I enjoyed both - my vote goes to MatchMaker.

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  50. My vote goes to Cleo. The story flowed easily and made me feel like I was in that celery field. Plus I like the last sentence – very mysterious. I would keep reading.

    MatchMaker – your story was funny! I definitely relate to the whole adulting thing. But the first sentence was too long (for me) and the repetition felt over-done.

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  51. Congrats for both for making the cut. I had a hard time with both stories however. In Cleo's the story felt too distant. The POV character had nothing to do with the action. She did nothing (and felt nothing) but watch her Mamm and cut celery. In MatchMaker, it felt too close. I don't mind the closeness if I like the MC, but in this case I didn't. There was alot of her response to him/his dialogue but none of his actual dialogue. For me, that came across as extremely self-centered. Not to mention all the 'adulting'. I couldn't read this MC for a whole book but for a flash or short, the humor is good and several great lines.

    Since neither MC captured me, my vote today is for Cleo simply because the story premise grabbed me more. Fleshed out and given a new POV I think this story could be great.

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  52. Cleo - this piece of writing felt almost delicate (sorry if that is confusing, but it is the best way I can describe it). It has a lovely gentle feel to it that is whimsical almost. I enjoyed reading it, but wondered about a few things... why use two words for the girls' names? This struck me as such a waste of precious words, especially given how often they were mentioned.
    I thought the setting was fairly unique, and it was easy to imagine the scene. Perhaps if you saved a few of the words from shortening the girls' names you could have added a little more in about how awful the work conditions were.
    The ending, while not a surprise, again felt gentle in its unfolding (much like angel wings!) and I enjoyed reading this.

    MatchMaker - not a huge fan of comedy as most of the time it never makes me laugh.
    The story didn't feel particularly original, but it did feel very relevant to how we live today. The entire narration feels very much as if it all takes place in the narrator's head, up until the question being asked. I think it could have benefited from less in head commentary and more actual action.
    This sentence reads a bit awkward: I never would’ve thought that was possible.
    Perhaps: "I never thought that would be possible" would be better as it sounds much less clunky.
    Describing a man's lips as pretty also made me cringe a bit , and I am wondering if the Lisa Frank reference would feel more authentic if the age was 13 rather than 19 (19 seems a bit old for Lisa Frank).
    I do love the fact that the narrator has a dog - definitely points earned there!

    Like most other rounds, these two submissions feel evenly matched.

    I am voting in this round for Cleo, as I loved the whimsical tale and I think with a some more work, it could be a magical mysterious story.

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  53. Well done both for getting through.
    Nice writing Cleo. The story was touching, but with a limited word count much could've been omitted to add details that were needed. I do think the idea was great though.
    The angel wings were a little weird even though you briefly introduced that thread. I felt that the suspense of the story was stronger than the fantasy element of the angel. The two aspects didn't gel for me. Some potential in the poetic style, I wish you had just focused more on less characters, maybe lose the angel stuff too.
    MatchMaker, I am sorry but it felt to me that the girl you went back to describing was way more immature than 19.
    We can all identify with the situation, but it didn't make me laugh. I just felt a little awkward.
    Also, you could've said more about who this guy was, all we got was Shoulders and taxes. We need to know more about why she is/was so besotted.
    On some points we relate to her sad life, just a roommate and a dog. More of this could've been done.
    Not my sense of humour, sorry.
    Vote goes to Cleo, without the angel stuff, I felt for the mother being torn from her daughter by the slavery of their lives

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  54. Congratulations to two lucky “13s”!

    Cleo’s piece grounded you in the harsh world of celery farming, with a beautiful twist at the end. I wouldn’t call it a Mystery story, but it was a beautiful story about the little girl getting to be with the angels she so regularly played with.

    MatchMaker’s piece had some laugh out loud lines about how we are expected to “adult” and have all of these responsibilities, including switching to drinks that are supposedly good for us instead of going with what we want.

    In the end, Cleo gets my vote for a heartwarming and touching piece.

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  55. Matchmaker - You had me at property taxes ;) Great voice and bright, current humor. (Though Lisa Frank strikes me as more middle school-style than 19 yo college freshman.) Make sure every paragraph break is necessary; as formatted here the prose is just a bit choppy and ... frantic, perhaps?

    Cleo - you have a first person narrator that's never on-screen, so to speak. Mamm's or Emma's POV would have been much more immediate and compelling, or else let us in on your MC's own first-hand experience of this extraordinary event. As is, it's literally all "telling" and no "showing," and thus I could not immerse myself in the scene.

    Today's vote to MatchMaker.

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  56. I found the description of the family working in the field in Cleo’s entry very atmospheric. I was amused and won over by the voice of our young adulting protagonist Quite hopeful about a budding romance. My vote goes to MatchMaker.

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  57. MatchMaker gets my mark. Now start adulting!

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  58. Voting for Cleo today. (Sorry for not giving much critique lately! I have a script to rewrite from scratch by the 3rd; all my creativity is going there this month.)

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  59. Two very different piece this time. Great job on both. Today my vote goes to Cleo.

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  60. My vote goes to Matchmaker primarily due to the very strong, quirky voice--so fun to read!

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  61. Difficult choice, but my vote goes to Matchmaker today. I loved the voice a lot, as well as the humor about transitioning between life stages. I was a little unclear as to how much going through her head was actually said aloud, but that's a minor nitpick.

    Cleo did a great job! I felt the voice was a little distant from the action. The eldest sister POV felt more like a disinterested bystander. I enjoyed the ending, especially within the confines of this word limit, because it left me curious but satisfied.

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  62. An entire peice of internal dialogue. Loved it. Voting for MatchMaker.

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  63. I vote for Cleo. I was really pulled in quickly and I loved the white wings at the end. This one got me right in the feels

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  64. My vote is for Matchmaker.

    In Cleo's, the mystery intrigued me. I liked to young POV and the wings were the clincher, but I had a hard time identifying with the main character. There was a distance between me as the reader and the experience of the POV character.

    Matchmaker needed a better opening hook. I didn't like the rambling opening but I liked the quirky wordings that came later. I also felt more in the story by the end.

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  65. Cleo was a really interesting story. I'm not sure if the genre is accurate. But perhaps there's more to it.

    MatchMaker awoke memories and made me laugh. It gets my vote.

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  66. Cleo....I liked this, but there's too much passive voice. I think that the reader would be able to connect a little better with more active voice.

    MatchMaker...I loved, loved, loved the voice. You have my vote.

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  67. Lisa Frank references have a special place in my heart. Matchmaker gets my vote.

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  68. The stories are so different that it is hard to say which is best. Each is the best in its' own way. I ultimately went with Matchmaker because I could relate to the story. I want to start adulting tomorrow ... I feel that way most days.

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  69. I really liked both entries--Cleo for the VOICE in the story and Matchmaker's humor and universal desire of not wanting to always be the adult. My vote is for Matchmaker.

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  70. Congrats to both of you!

    Elvira I loved the historical element without beating us over the head. Then the dash of spiritual magic at the end was excellent.

    My vote goes to Matchmaker though because I'm a sucker for romance. Even if its ill-advised.

    - tara.roquemore@gmail.com

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  71. I enjoyed these 2 pieces the first time around too.
    My vote goes to #2 for the humour and voice :)

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  72. I vote for MatchMaker. I don't think I would read the story, but I appreciated the tone of it, and enjoyed it more out of the two entries.

    This one was difficult for me. I enjoyed MatchMaker's entry better, but felt like Cleo's was good too.

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  73. My vote goes to MatchMaker. I loved the humor of the piece.

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  74. My vote goes to Matchmaker, I like how the right decisions are easy to say and hard to do. How what we want in the short term appeals so much vs the long term. These are realistic circumstances for flings and for adulting.

    For Cleo I like how it manages to tell a complete story. The premise is interesting, and feels at home with Twilight Zone type premises. That being said it also feels incomplete, because we don't know when, where, or how any of it happens. It just does, I feel like these questions can and should be answered and I hope I get to see them one day.

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  75. I enjoyed both of these. Cleo drew me into the setting with solid descriptions and a haunting ending. Matchmaker entertained me with a great humorous voice. My vote goes to Matchmaker.

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  76. Cleo: I like the uniqueness of the setting. Celery is an interesting choice of crop. One complaint, I felt that Emma Sue's name came up way too much, a few of the instances could have been replaced with "her" or "she." However, it was a well written piece. Nice twist at the end.

    Matchmaker: I love the voice you wrote in. The descriptions you used were well done, especially since they evoked a very specific feeling or picture. It was a fun read.

    My vote goes to Matchmaker.

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