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WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round 6

Yesterday we raised the hand of our 1st bout winner (check out the Scoreboard) and today we kick-off the second week of entertaining matches, but this isn't a time to relax. Bouts 2-5 are still open for voting and although we are breaking records with the number of votes coming in, past years of this contest has historically seen a decline in the voting as we go deeper into subsequent rounds. I want to see that not happen this year. To do that, I need help from you, the readers. Keep showing up to support our writers, but after you do, please help spread the word whenever you can. Every bout deserves the same amount of attention as the first one received. Thank you!

For anyone just discovering WRiTE CLUB, it is a tournament-style contest (sponsored by the DFW Conference) 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). 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 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. 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 Sunday, May 12th (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 –

For the 1st bout of our 2nd week, we have Book-keeper on one side of the ring representing the Fantasy/Adventure genre.

“All clear over here.”  The disembodied voice added to the eeriness of the abandoned village.  I suppressed a shiver as more voices echoed the call. 

I’d known when we set out we wouldn’t find any life, unless you counted the brown and shriveled leaves of ivy, determinedly clinging to the village well.  The thick coating of dust on abandoned buildings told the story of a place too long without water. 

The rest of the search party was already moving on, the dust cloud from parched pathways obscuring their progress as they hurried away from empty homes, driven by hope that the next village would be different, would have life. 

I knew better. 

Alone among tumbleweeds, I knelt and rummaged in my knapsack.  I’d have to work quickly before my absence was discovered.  I set my tin cup on the edge of the well and added tea leaves.  Next came a roll of cotton batting; I pulled off a small piece before tucking the rest away.  Lastly, a battered compass.  Notches in the bronze case counted the empty villages we had encountered.  The cover flipped open into a rudimentary map. 

With a deep breath and eyes pressed shut, I pushed my consciousness into the ground.  Running water bubbled in my thoughts as I searched for the joyful streams that ran beneath the land, if you looked hard enough. 

And long enough. 

What I found wasn’t a joyful spring, but a sluggish creek, parched as the land above. 

I immersed myself in it, momentarily overwhelmed by the anguish of the stagnant water.  Gasping with effort, I flooded the tired trickle of water with memories of rain, reigniting in it a long lost love of movement.

I pulled my thoughts back to the surface, to the cotton batting before me.  The water followed, filling the cotton with moisture, until it doubled and tripled in size, forming a small cloud. 

So small, it wasn’t nearly enough to end the drought, but it would have to do.  Already it held all the water to be found; even the browned ivy crumbled to dust as the cloud drained all the moisture it could find.

I carefully lifted it off the ground.  It had one more service to perform here.  A gentle squeeze filled the cup I had set aside, swirling into light brown tea.  It was a necessary luxury; the work left me drained, and I needed stamina to catch up with the search party. 

It was the work of moments to check the bearings on the compass, before giving the cloud a gentle breath in the right direction.  I didn’t know how long the makeshift cloud would hold before releasing its load.  For the hundredth time, I wished there was a better way.  For now, I’d have to collect it again, each time bringing it closer to civilization. 

I added a notch to the compass before tucking it away.  There’d be many more stops along the way to reverse the disaster I had created.  

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

The day I was sent home from middle school in blood soaked jeans is easily the worst day of my life. Well, there is the time that a bird pooped in my hair on a field trip in the third grade, but that was a different kind of bad. No, the day I am talking about is the one taught me what it felt like to be ashamed of my body. Something very different than being embarrassed that you tripped over your own feet or grossed out by the amount of wax in your ears. It’s a deep mark that resurfaces every time I put on a pair of shorts that come above my knees or start to worry if my bra strap is showing through my shirt.
Each classroom in the school had an emergency clothes box that stayed in the closet. Usually the teacher pulled it out when someone was in need of dry socks or had managed to spill paint on their shirt. Today however as we lined up at the door to make our way to lunch, a large grey sweatshirt was pulled from the box and wrapped around my waist. Not a word was said until my teacher pushed me into the front office and whispered, “Aleqs had an accident, call her mom.”
Sheepishly, I went to take one of the seats lined up against the wall of the office where I was usually asked to wait when my mom was picking me up early or bringing me something I forgot.
“Don’t you dare sit down on that chair. You are dirty,” the secretary hissed as I stared at her wide eyed. Into the faculty bathroom I was sent with the sweatshirt still wrapped around my waist and no further instructions. I dashed through the door grateful to get away from her piercing glare but still confused as to why I wasn’t eating my baloney sandwich with the rest of my peers. I sat down to use the bathroom and that is when I saw it. Terror like I had never before felt rose inside of me as I frantically pulled toilet paper off of the roll to try and contain the thick blood that was covering my thighs and underwear and… Uh oh, my jeans.
Outside the bathroom I could hear my mother’s voice. I wrapped the sweatshirt back around my waist and dashed out to meet her. Instead of anger I was met with sympathetic gaze.
“Guess we have some stuff to talk about huh?” Mom said, wrapping me in her calming embrace.

 We made one stop between the house and the school, the store for mom to go in to grab some pads and two pints of Ben and Jerry’s. The rest of the afternoon was spent with us sitting on the couch eating ice cream while my jeans soaked in the sink. I am still grateful to this day that she didn’t make me go back to school.  

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.
Set User Profile = Blogger (instead of Google +)

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 on tomorrow for another exciting 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!


  1. Great work to both!
    Timberjack, I'm going with your piece today. Just very, very relatable, and I'm a sucker for YA issues. Your writing allowed the event to shine through honestly.
    Book-keeper, your concept sounds fascinating. The description as a bit dense for me, kept me from feeling lost in the world of the passage. I think, though, that this would make a great start to a longer piece.

  2. Both great pieces! Book-keeper-- there are many great descriptions, and I can feel the doom and gloom. I did, however, feel a little lost. The flowery prose took over and left me trying to decipher to get at the true meaning. In the end, I had to make my own assumptions. I think sometimes getting out of the way of the words is better.

    Timerjack- hasn't every female been there? Anyone else read Carrie? Very relatable issue for sure! I do wonder, though, in today's society, how old is the girl who has zero idea what's going on? Set in an earlier time, this totally makes sense, but I think it could easily be updated to where she does feel shame, but still knows what's going on, too.

    In the end, my vote is for Timberjack.

    Congrats to both!

  3. Two worthy pieces to vote on. I felt a bit lost in the first one, but loved the twist at the end. Timberjack's piece is a universal story. I wondered if it might be a piece of a memoir? Loved it and loved her mother's care. Made me misty-eyed. My vote is for Timberjack.

  4. Congratulations to both writers!

    Bookkeeper: The writing was lovely, but could use a little tightening up for the sake of clarity. This sentence tripped me up a bit: "The rest of the search party was already moving on, the dust cloud from parched pathways obscuring their progress as they hurried away from empty homes, driven by hope that the next village would be different, would have life." There's a lot going on in there, and it might help to break it up. Sometimes simple is better. That said, the magic system intrigued me, and I want to know more about this world, what happened, how the narrator was responsible, who knows, and how it ends.

    Timberjack, I really love that you address something every middle school girl has experienced, but I have a few concerns. First, the whole piece is basically a flashback, starting with "The day I was sent home... was the worst day of my life," and ending with "I am still grateful.." Sandwiching the narrative between these phrases makes the piece read like an essay on "The Worst Day of My Life" and keeps me from feeling immersed in the action, in part because, being a flashback, I know the character has survived, which lowers the stakes. I'd love to see this same piece with a deeper point of view that takes the reader moment by moment through the horrors of the character's experience. On a practical level, I had a little trouble believing the secretary would speak so rudely to the student, but it's possible. I also had trouble believing that she didn't FEEL any of the "thick blood that was covering my thighs and underwear..." I would expect her to have some physical awareness of a leak that big--or even a vague feeling that something is off-- BEFORE she sat down on the toilet. I feel like I'm being harsh here, so let me reiterate that I love the concept, see a ton of potential in this piece, and hope you'll keep working on it because this really is so relatable!

    Today's vote goes to Bookkeeper.

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  6. Re-posting because of a typo.

    Two great entries today!

    My vote goes to Book-keeper. I love the description of the drought-stricken town, the stagnant creek, and how the MC calls to the water—it was beautiful. I also love the ending because now I want to know more. What happened and how is the MC responsible?

    Timberjack—I love your story because of how relatable is. However, I think the writing could be tightened a bit (mainly in the area of characters using contractions when they speak, which feels not-picky to say, but I think dialogue reads better that way since most people use contractions). Also, the beginning threw me. While the opening line is memorable, I was thinking something much darker had happened so the second line sounded a bit callous and out-of-place. Finally, as someone else pointed out, it seems odd that a middle school girl wouldn’t know what her period is. However, I do love the ending and the mom — ice cream is the perfect way to end it.

  7. I had some trouble with Timberjack's piece, as I don't understand how the girl didn't feel anything, and what era this is -- why is everyone treating it as something to be ashamed of, instead of helping her? Doesn't the school have dispensers of tampons and sanitary pads, for instance? Or maybe this is all part of the story, hmm... Intriguing!
    Voting for Book-keeper because I really want to know why the narrator created a disaster and is now trying to reverse it.

  8. Wow--two absolutely gorgeous entries to choose from!!! Book-keeper's isn't a genre I usually read, but the descriptions, the sense of desperation, and the end line all pulled me in. Timberjack's is equally wonderful--relatable, compassionate and beautifully written. In the end I'm voting for Book-keeper because I'm intrigued and want to know more!

  9. Wow, I’m actually commenting early enough that I feel like I’m supposed to give a critique. I found both pieces to be in need of a little more polish but enjoyable. Book set up excellent imagery but Timber, holy cow, I’ve been there - and all the terror of that day flooded me as I read. My vote goes to Timber this round.

    1. PS. That’s not a critique. I’m having phone issues. Maybe it will let me jump in with more next round. Sorry! 😜

  10. Hey, guys. Really great way to kick off this week!
    Book-Keeper I had a lot of trouble getting through your entry. It was very thick and wordy so I had to read it twice and a few lines I had to read three times at least. That being said the world buidling here is great. The tension was immediately set for me.

    Timberjack, bang up job on the opening line. It really pulled me in. I found the story very relatable. For all of the comments who are asking why a middle school aged girl wouldn't know this, I got my period when I was 11 and my mom didn't say a word to me yet because she didn't get hers until she was 16 so I can see this happening easily.

    My vote today is for Timberjack

  11. Two great pieces today. Unfortunately not a lot of time to critique today so just going to have to offer my vote for Book-Keeper.

    Both pieces had excellent moments but I felt more engaged in and interested by that piece.

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  13. Voting for Book-keeper. :) Would love to see a fleshed-out version which isn't constrained by the word count limit.

    I thought Timberjack's piece was all right, but it brought back too many uncomfortable memories for me to finish reading.

  14. Both entries are solid. Book-Keeper's feels like an excerpt from a larger piece, but that being said, I didn't have any trouble entering or understanding the story world. Good job setting scene with figurative language that stays in line with themes of water and drought. A couple strange word choices but overall very clear and direct.
    Timberjack's story is one everyone can relate to, and I'm sure will resonate with readers. A typo (missed word) right at the beginning, but clean besides.
    My vote has to go to Book-Keeper, although I liked both.

    1. As this vote in anonymous, the vote will not count.

  15. Two great entries pitted against one another again today!

    Book-keeper: I loved the language and the pictures you painted of this world. I was there. As the narrator "fell behind," I wondered what nefarious goings-on we could expect. Then you turned it around as I learned he/she only tried to help. You flipped it again with that ending. What happened? Why? I want more. Well done!

    Timberjack: You've written a piece so many can relate with, myself included. I'm glad you tackled this subject. Outstanding! That first line, though, sets up a different expectation, almost a false one, from what we then get. And I wish you had written it in the present. The emotion would have been immediate and really pulled me in. As is, it feels anecdotal and the emotion at arms' length, though I want to pummel the secretary for her remark. Your ending with mom and ice cream leaves the reader with a warm feeling. Good job there.

    My vote: Book-Keeper

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  17. Let's try this again. Technical difficulties. Both entries are solid. Book-Keeper's feels like an excerpt from a larger piece, but that being said, I didn't have any trouble entering or understanding the story world. Good job setting scene with figurative language that stays in line with themes of water and drought. A couple strange word choices but overall very clear and direct.
    Timberjack's story is one everyone can relate to, and I'm sure will resonate with readers. A typo (missed word) right at the beginning, but clean besides.
    My vote has to go to Book-Keeper, although I liked both.

  18. This was a hard one. I was somewhat confused at the beginning of Book-Keeper's story, but the ending pulled me in and made me want to know what happened. Timberjack's story ended up being predictable, but I liked the tension and the way the writer built up to the ending. I figured out what was going on about 3/4th of the way through the story, though. My vote goes to Book-Keeper, but both stories are very well done.

  19. My vote goes to Book-keeper today! I agree with others that the language tripped me up and confused me a little, but I wanted to read more. The other entry, while relatable, was predictable. Maybe a twist could be added to make it more interesting?

  20. Great job. My vote goes to Book-keeper in this round, although both stories were well written. I find myself wanting to read more of Book-keeper.

  21. Both had moments but Book-keeper's ended so powerfully. My vote to Book-keeper.

  22. I vote for Book-keeper. The piece was clear and engaging, while also carrying a constant sense of mystery that was nicely done. The writing was clean and flowed well. And the ending was a nice touch that made me want to know more. One thing I would have liked is a deeper sense of the narrator's emotions. With Timberjack's piece, I couldn't really get into the scene as I kept thinking it seemed too implausible. I struggled with believing the character wouldn't feel any physical sensation before anyone noticed the outward signs or that the teacher wouldn't speak to the girl directly instead of pushing her in the office with no explanation. It seemed like she didn't know what had happened even after going to the bathroom, but I can't imagine why. Maybe if there were unusual circumstances and these were explained? And lastly, I wasn't convinced that would rank as the worst day just because one receptionist made a nasty comment. It would have been worse if other students were laughing at or mocking her. That being said, after the last line I found myself wondering if it was actually a true story. You know the saying about truth being stranger than fiction. I know things have happened to me that people probably would not believe if I wrote about them. I think this piece could work if a few details were fleshed out to make it read more realistically.

  23. This was a difficult competition. And alas this is not meant as a compliment. Both submissions are clearly excerpts from larger works. While this is within the rules of the competition (and has been done previously), neither of these really work in this format.

    Book-Keeper’s entry is confusing from the get-go. It’s not really clear who the MC is or what s/he/it is doing. It’s not even clear what’s the purpose of searching the village. It’s established the area has been deserted for such a long time, dust & dirt has had time to accrete onto structures. That suggests it isn’t a search and rescue, but the MC implies that is the purpose of going through the area.

    The MC’s power is a little muddled as is the reasoning for creating a small cotton cloud with the remaining moisture of the area.

    The end of the submission is supposed to be the twist, but the payoff lands with a thud because nothing that came before gives the reader any investment in the MC and/or the MC’s plight.

    Timber-Jack’s submission appears to be part of a larger “coming-of-age” story. As I am well beyond that stage, this is not something that I would seek out and read. I would also say the name of the MC also has me confused. While the submission appears to concern a young girl experiencing her first period, the name Aleqs appears to be masculine (I believe there is a male French DJ of that name). As with the other submission, it’s not clear where the story is going making it difficult to invest in Aleqs.

    All that being said, my vote goes to Timber-Jack as the writing feels as if the submission is a little more polished.

  24. My vote goes to book-keeper this round. I'm really interested in finding out what happens. I liked timberjacks story, very relatable, but more drawn to book-keeper.

  25. Book-keeper hooked me right away. It gets my vote. It's the best thing I've read so far in this contest! I was sucked in like in the middle of a good book, which is amazing for a quick 500 words stuck on a web page.

    Timberjack is quite well written as well, but it can't compete story-wise at all. It's just a completely ordinary slice of human life, there's nothing to pull me in further and make me wonder.

  26. Congratulations, contestants! What a way to kick off week 2! I've gone back and forth for hours on which is my favorite. Out of all the rounds, this one is the toughest for me to call.

    What works:
    There is some beautiful imagery in this piece.
    I love that the cotton batting becomes a cloud.
    I feel like this must be part of a longer piece, and I'd definitely want to keep reading.

    What doesn't:
    While you paint a vivid picture, it's not immediately clear what's happening in that picture. Perhaps it's because I don't read much fantasy, but I had to re-read a couple of passages to understand what was going on.

    I wonder how large the search party is for them not to notice that the MC has stayed behind.

    What works:
    As the owner of a wall-shedding uterus, this piece is poignant and relateable. (Side note, a bird once pooped on my head in front of my whole elementary school while receiving a good citizenship award. It was the worst!)

    Because this is clearly something that happened in the narrator's childhood, I found it extremely believable that the secretary would scold her for being dirty. The world has never been kind to bleeding women.

    Similarly, I could easily believe the mother wouldn't have had the period talk with her yet.

    What didn't work:
    Sometimes, the language felt distanced from the action.

    I really wished for more emotional reaction from the narrator. How did she feel when the teacher wrapped her in a sweatshirt without a word? Was she confused when she was whisked to the office? Did she protest that she hadn't had an accident? How did she feel when the secretary called her dirty?

    Based on the opening sentence, which was strong, I was disappointed by the ending of the piece. Ending the day with your mom and some ice cream sounds like a lovely balm on a rough day, but it does not convey "worst day of my life."

    I'm going with Timberjack today.

  27. Bookkeeper: nice voice. This is a little confusing to read, without knowing any background, and though I’m slightly confused by the magic system, it seems imaginative and intriguing. This is heavy on descriptions, which gets in the way of allowing me to picture the scene for myself - leave some out and trust your reader to fill in the blanks. Love the last line.

    Timber: the voice is a bit inconsistent. The opening paragraph reads like a present day middle schooler, but by the end it seems this event was long ago. I hope the narrator wasn’t actually taught to be ashamed of her body!! Her confusion, and the meanness of the adult women, is excessive. But the fear is totally relatable! This ends very abruptly.

    I vote for Bookkeeper because the ending makes me want to keep reading. Great job to both!

  28. Book-keeper gets my vote in this bout.

  29. Book-keeper gets my vote. I loved this piece. The description is lovely and consistent with the story. The details described are those that are required to carry the story and are not extraneous. The concept of the water powers and the disaster both created and resolved by the same character is fascinating.

    Timberjack: This is, oddly, a fun and poignant piece to read. I enjoyed the fun YA way of story-telling. While I found the piece relatable, it wasn't particularly interesting to me and didn't do much in terms of developing a character or story line.

  30. My heart. Halp.
    Timerjack had so many emotions. I'm gonna have words with that secretary, and I'm so glad the mom was nice and good.
    I want to know more about Bookkeeper's world, the characters, and the journey they're on. I need the rest of this story. This piece feels like it has the potential to be awesome, intricate, and beautiful.
    I think my vote has to go to Book Keeper.
    Timberjack hit me in the feels, very well. And Book Keeper was the, noo, I wanna keep reading please!
    Congratulations to both of you!

  31. Today's vote goes to Bookkeeper. both pieces were well written, but i found Bookeeper's story compelling i want to know more.

  32. Bookkeeper, good imagery and prose. Beautiful use of language, which I enjoyed. A bit confusing, however. Not exactly sure of the situation.

    Timberjack, I was dissatisfied with the logic, specifically the line referring to being taught to feel ashamed of her body. The mother handled the situation compassionately, so it seems that she could have suffered embarrassment, but not a long term shame.

    My vote goes to Bookkeepr.

  33. My vote goes to BookKeeper. Really well done prose, and it pulled me in and made me want to read the rest of the story.
    Timberjack - I felt there was too much telling and not enough showing. We want to feel like we are there, experiencing what the MC is experiencing, instead of just listening to someone tell us what happened. Good start though and a lot of good lines!

  34. Congrats to both writers for making it into the Top 30! My vote goes to Book-keeper, although it didn’t really get interesting until the very end (imo). Plus I found it difficult to understand who the MC was, what they were doing, and why they were doing it. Still, I would’ve kept on reading.

    Timberjack – your writing style is easy to read. I like how the Mom handled the situation at the end, but it made me wonder why the MC was so confused and terrified – didn’t Mom talk to her about what to expect?

  35. Today, my vote goes to Timberjack. It is clear, relatable and I understand what is going on. I can't say I really 'enjoyed' reading it because as a female, it brought back a lot of my own awkwardness of that age. But, that is kinda what made it good.

    Bookkeeper's language is beautiful and, as an avid reader of fantasy in my youth, this got the nostalgia points from me. But, in the end, I was more confused than intrigued. I didn't understand what the cloud was supposed to do, why the MC needed the tea, and generally what was going on. I think it is an excerpt from a longer piece, and probably in that longer piece all of this is dealt with. In which case, I would probably really like the story. But with this short excerpt, I found the lack of explanation frustrating.

  36. I'm going with Timberjack this round.

  37. I enjoyed both passages today. Book-Keeper gets my vote because it was imaginative and evocative. I enjoyed Timberjack's piece and appreciate that you shared it...I think a lot of us can relate to this young lady's experience! I felt like saying she was ashamed of her body, but then ending up having a nice afternoon with her caring mother didn't jive. It's something I do a lot (kind of contradicting myself in writing)so I noticed it.

    Thank you both for sharing your work!

  38. Voting for Book keeper. There was a lot of showing and the story drew me along, although I would have liked more access to the character's POV. Timberjack's entry drew me in emotionally, but some issues like tense and telling things that could be shown were distracting.

  39. Wow... Just wow. Both pieces were excellent in their own way.
    Book-keeper I loved the concept and I was desperate to know more than can be told in 500 words.

    Timberjack... Oh goodness I could have written that story myself and every single emotion I felt back then came flying back. I struggled with tense a bit and emotional logic. A bit of tightening up would have allowed a better train of thought,strengthening the passage.

    My vote goes to Book-keeper ... I wanna know more!

  40. My vote goes to Book-Keeper. After only 500 words, I know how the narrator feels. I can feel his/her guilt, anguish, fear, and a little hope. The setting is clear in my head. I’m ready to read more.

    The narrator in Timberjack’s story is sympathetic, but I didn't’ find her believable. Something was missing that made me care about her. And I really wanted to like. Her story is repeated so often, it’s tragic. I wanted to hear her story, but when the 500 words were over, I felt she was too flat. This is a case where 500 words is just not enough for me to get to know the character.

  41. My vote is for Book-Keeper. The world building in a few short words is excellent. The attention to detail in the narrator's point of view is too. I really enjoyed reading this one. I need a drink of water now, though.
    The bloody jeans in Timberjack's story is a universal terror of young girls, so good job on the topic of the story. but the writer didn't maintain the intensity of the disaster. At the start, it was the worst day of narrator's life, but at the end, it seemed less so.

  42. Book-Keeper wanders for me. It's a style thing, I think. We explore the scene, but I'm interested in something with a bit more urgency. The main characters comes across as weary to me, and that feeling doesn't drive me through the narrative.

    Timberjack did a great job on a surprising topic. I identified with the girl at first and then imagined what it would be like as the mom... being in those shoes and being a mom myself. I rather like the "voice" Timberjack achieves.

    Vote for Timberjack.

  43. The second one needed a little more for impact. Book-Keeper delivers.

  44. Book-Keeper: Very interesting piece. I am intrigued as to who, what and why? I could "see" the cotton batting filling to form the small cloud. Was it only for tea? Is there a bigger plan for this water-whisperer? I want to know! I'd break up a few of your longer sentences into shorter ones. The sentence beginning "The rest of the search party..." could use a few periods to make for greater impact.

    Timberjack: Great coming of age scene. We've all had those awkward moments...totally relatable. The secretary was so mean to the poor girl. But the mom was as mom should be...comforting :)

    Both have great potential, but for curiosity's sake I have to go with Book-Keeper.

  45. My vote for this round goes to Book-Keeper, your story leaves me wanting to know more!

    Thank you both for sharing!

  46. Yay! Week 2 of voting!

    Book-keeper: I felt that the piece was paced quite well, with just enough detail without bogging down the reader. From the beginning I was hooked wondering when and where the fantasy aspect of the piece would present itself and was pleasantly surprised at how it unfolded. The last line was a twist, yet it was done in a beautifully subtle way.

    Timberjack: I have to admit, it takes a really good contemporary piece to reel me in and unfortunately, this one just didn't. I appreciate the premise of the story though, it's not an easy topic to write about plainly and this was done in a very realistic way.

    My vote this bout goes to Book-Keeper.

  47. Wow, this was tough! All the feels in Timberjack’s piece. So many of us can totally relate to this situation. Book-Keeper left me wondering what’s next, so my vote goes to Book-Keeper.

  48. Another difficult decision, but my vote goes to Book-keeper. I would have liked more description of the broader world or at least how far the search party has gone in it, just to give more of an idea of the extent of the disaster. But I liked the description and the interesting way the waters were called by the MC. The last line has me intrigued but the story also is self-contained.

    Timberjack's piece is very relatable, as most people here are saying. The MC doesn't have a lot emotional reaction and weight though, except when she sees the blood perhaps. I don't get enough from her, so while it's a relatable issue, it's hard to put myself in this MC's shoes.

  49. Another two strong entries for this round. Congratulations to you both and to the winner of round 1!

    Next, let me say that I write my thoughts after reading both pieces (at least twice each), but before reading anyone else's comments. So if I happen to provide feedback that others have already mentioned, please know I'm not trying to pile on or harp on anything. Just wanted to make that clear...

    I like Book-keeper's piece. It's inventive and interesting with a solid voice. The situation has emotional impact and the line at the end helps ratchet it up even more. I'm intrigued about the MC, although I'm still a little vague on some key, grounding elements of who he (she?) is. The story unfolds slowly but steadily, and the writing is clean and smooth.

    I also have to smile at the unattributed dialogue in the opening. I just mentioned my dislike of it in the last round, but in his case the author acknowledges the "eeriness" of hearing a disembodied voice, so it's used consciously as an artistic choice for a specific effect. So here it works. Just goes to show there are no absolute rules, but if you decide to do something, do it as a planned artistic decision, fully understanding the pros and cons of doing so, and make it work for you.

    I also appreciated Timberjack's piece -- here, there's also emotional impact and a relatable first-person MC. The author does a good job of capturing some of the self-consciousness and awkwardness of early teenage years, along with the indifferent cruelty of some adults.

    The writing is effective and the writer captures the teen voice well. But I feel there are some important inconsistencies that hamper the impact of the story -- the biggest being that the story begins describing "the worst day of her life," but the only real impact is embarrassment in front of the teacher and the secretary, softened by a loving mother and some ice cream. I think there are many, many ways this could have been much worse -- the shower scene from "Carrie" comes to mind, for example. So the piece loses much of emotional impact that it was going for.

    So wile I think both are good, Book-keeper wins this round for me.

  50. Both beautiful pieces, and great representations of their respective genres! Book-Keeper had a great worldbuilding happening there and create good plot tension; I was left wanting to know more about this world and what seems to be a unique concept. But Timberjack had such an authentic voice that I have to give them my vote.

  51. Book-keeper’s piece was creative and I loved the MC’s command of the water.

    Timberjack had a killer first line that immediately drew me in. This piece hit me in the feels: the MC’s confusion, the coldness of the secretary, and the contrasting warmth of the mother.


  52. Such a tough decision! I really enjoyed both pieces but my vote today goes to Book-Keeper.

    Timberjack really drew me in and gave us a great story and I probably would have voted for it if it had been placed up against a different story. But Book-Keeper's piece gave us such a unique story in so few words I couldn't not vote for it.

  53. Kudos to both writers today.

    My vote is for Book-keeper for the intriguing magic system and the deeper questions about what happened and why the narrator is responsible that make me want to keep reading. There are a few spots where I can't get a clear image of what's going on (how does the cotton expand into a literal cloud in the sky, but still be there with enough water to make tea?) but overall I found the scene very clear and present.

    Timberjack's story vividly reminds me of my own long-ago initiation by blood, and gave it a little more weight by tying it to a general sense of body shame many women feel. However, being a flashback robbed it of some of its emotional weight. Like others here I have a hard time believing that she wouldn't have had some awareness that something was going on before others noticed or that she had no idea at all about what was happening. Also, in the story itself we saw only one negative comment (from the loathsome secretary), no teasing or negatives from anyone else, and lots of solid warmth and support from her mom, so it doesn't seem to justify a lifetime of shame. So while it's something I could definitely justify voting for in a different bout, I'm going to have to give my vote this time to Book-keeper.

  54. Book-Keeper: The description of the setting is perhaps laid on just a bit thick. As this seems an excerpt, a word or two of what's actually going on -- why is there a search party if they know there's no-one there? -- would help. I also can't visualize the mc at all - age? gender? species? etc. Just what s/he's carrying. I struggled with the magic system of water and cotton turning into clouds. But the twist at the end set the hook. I'd want to read more.

    Timberjack - plausible scenario, very very voicey, and brought back some cringe-worthy personal memories. I would have liked to have delved more deeply into Aleq's emotions during this episode... she seems to "float" over it (as a flashback would) and thus I'm less immersed in the moment. Was her mom already at the school? She seemed to show up very quickly after a "call."

    Today's vote: Book-keeper.

  55. I vote for Book-Keeper - I enjoyed the prose and found myself wanting to read more.

  56. Book-keeper
    What worked:
    I very much want to read this book. Even in this short excerpt, I have a feel for the world and the struggle. Your more complex sentence structure and description completely work for me. I particularly liked the idea that the MC had to remind the water of better times. I was strongly reminded of N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth series, and I don't say that lightly.
    What didn't:
    I have read it over multiple times AND reviewed the previous critiques and still the only complaint I can come up with is that the sentence that starts "Already it held all the water..." is a touch repetitive in phrasing.

    What worked:
    Great first line!
    I also like the solid description of the environment and situation. It is clear that the character is confused and upset. And I am all for stories normalizing menstruation and the lives of girls.
    What didn't:
    The emotional thread of the narrative is inconsistent. "Worst day of my life" is very dramatic (which I suppose is appropriate for a middle schooler), but it releases the tension too abruptly at the end. The other adults in the story are excessively nasty for no apparent reason. It almost feels like we're in an alternative reality, but we haven't been given the rules of the reality.
    The passage contains more avoidable passive phrases - "sweater was pulled", "I was sent", "I was met", "afternoon was spent" - than I would like.

    My vote is for Book-keeper for this round.

  57. Both pieces are very good, however, Book-keeper made me want more of the story - hope it is on the road to being published.

    Timberjack's piece did not appeal to me, however, that could just be an age thing - as in I'm old and this is clearly written for the YA reader.

    My vote is for Book-keeper.

  58. Book-keeper's story really pulled me in. Though I was confused at points, I thought more of the story would clear it up and I wanted to read more. So my vote is for Book-keeper.

  59. I'm voting for Book-keeper's more imaginative world. I enjoyed the style and voice, even though the storyline got buried in the prose at a couple of points.

  60. Congratulations to both qualifiers.
    Book-keeper representing the Fantasy/Adventure genre.
    This sample had an intriguing opening - my thought 'what's going on?' kept me reading. Clever take on dowsing and rain-making. Some words could have been trimmed and some of the actions felt confused. The twist at end -'the disaster I had created' - was the topping on the pizza. And the promise of more to come.

    Timberjack representing the Contemporary genre.
    Blood always makes me sit up - as a crime writer. Then I wondered as I read the sample unfold in descriptive phrases - that pulled me nearer to 'I' - if this was not as terrible as the opening suggested it might be. And it was as predictede. I hesitate to use the word 'anti-climax' as it's probably traumatic. I've never been there. 'Panic' is the word my wife uses - so, okay.

    My vote goes to Book-keeper with the twist ending.

  61. I liked both of these pieces. Bookkeeper had a strong beginning but lost momentum after the search party pulled ahead. Didn't understand why the MC was doing what s/he/it was doing. If the MC knows they won't find anyone why are they searching or at least let the reader in on why. Overall though I really enjoyed the premise and would def keep reading. Just consider breaking up longer sentences for punch and readability.

    Timberjack. Definitely knew in the first sentence what this was going to be about. I think you did a great job. I got that the MC didn't know what had happened and therefore can't have an emotional reaction until later in the piece. I'd consider removing "worst day of my life" and let the story stand on it's own merit. My moment of "huh?" was that she didn't ask or think "why did the teacher put this shirt on me?" and "why do I have to go to the office?". The secretary's response is totally believable...people would be surprised how callous some older women are to younger girls (especially if the girl is pretty). I hate to think what their upbringing was like.

    My vote goes for Timberjack.

  62. My vote here is for Bookkeeper.

    Bookkeeper, love the prose and the buildup of intrigue.

    Timberjack, I think we all can feel for characters going through body challenges during that particular time of life! Still, I felt the phrasing here needed a good deal of finessing. There are several mixed tenses that took me out of this piece. Keeping it either in the present or fully in the past is where you want to be, whole understanding the tonal differences of each.

  63. Congrats on getting in to the Top 30.

    Like most of the entries so far, these feel very evenly matched, and on a par with most of the other submissions.

    Book-keeper's piece has a lovely, almost magical premise about the fabric cloud and creating rain, but other than that the piece is quite confusing as we have so little info on who/what/where, which is quite critical to any story. It suggests that this is pulled form a larger body of work, but without any kind of info it feels as if we've been dropped into a bit of a literal fog.

    There are also an awful lot of adverbs that add very little to the story and could have been removed. The saved words could have then been better utilized elsewhere in the narrative. 500 words is so few to be able to convey a concise story, so it is imperative to make every one really count. I felt as though there are a lot of wasted words in this piece.

    Timberjack's piece tackles an unusual subject that earns points I think just for the subject matter, however, like other readers here, there were parts of it that I found to be a stretch and somewhat unbelievable.
    I also had difficulty believing a school staff member would act they way they did towards a young girl obviously experiencing her first period. I would have preferred to have read she was treated with compassion and assured that this was normal etc.

    With neither entries really sparkling over the other, it is again a tough vote.

    Ultimately, I have to go with Book-keeper simply because within their submission I found a wonderful little nugget in the idea of someone (really do need to to know who it is though), creating rain using a piece of fabric as a make-shift cloud. This beautiful little idea, IMHO would be what I would grab and try and embellish on (and maybe that is what the rest of the piece outside of the 500 words does).

    So my vote goes to Book-keeper.

  64. I think in this case, my love of YA fantasy and sci-fi must take the lead. The voice is so strong and I really enjoyed the premise. It immediately captures me and makes me want to read more, and there's *just* enough information given so that the entire premise makes sense even though we're dealing with what's clearly NOT a normal every day situation that we, the reader, would be familiar with.

    Timberjack does a really good job of tackling a subject that's normally taboo and that women are often shamed and ostracized for, but something that's 100% a normal part of being human. I feel the piece could have used a little bit of a deeper voice and that it read slightly stiff to me. In all, I think it needs a bit of polish.

    Both pieces were well-done though, and I really enjoyed reading them! Book-keeper gets my vote.

  65. Timberjack has a sweet story, but Book-keeper is far more fascinating. I love the detail about the compass and the notches carved into it. The magic is refreshing and the description of coaxing the sluggish water to life is great...not to mention the fact that this disaster was the MC making. I would definitely read more of this. Great work to both authors, but Book-keeper gets my vote. Well done!

  66. My vote goes to Book-Keeper. Loved the premise, the engaging MC, the intriguing ending that promises more. Timberjack--nice writing, but the MC's lack of knowledge about why she was bleeding profusely threw me out. Might work with historical fiction or (like Carrie) weird religious manias, but none of that seemed to be happening.

  67. Another wonderful round! Book-keeper's piece sets up a fascinating world that has been thoroughly devastated. The descriptions pulled me in and left me wanting to know more. I could see a much longer work springing from this! Timberjack's piece was something I could relate to. I felt the humiliation she must have felt. Though what happened to her is part of life and completely natural, I can only imagine how cruel some of her classmates might be after something like that.

    In the end, my vote goes to Book-keeper.

  68. My vote goes to Timberjack!

    Both pieces were well written, but I related more to TJ’s sample.

  69. Book-keeper did a great job world building in such a short space, and leaving me with questions and dust in my teeth. Timberjack pulled on the heart strings that only a woman can understand. Putting these two up against each other almost seems unfair. The choice is difficult.

    I am going with:
    Timberjack. The writing stood up just a fraction higher.

  70. Book-Keeper - Wow? To establish a magic system and world-building in such a short space that still makes sense and engages the reader is a feat indeed. And the writing was beautiful to match!

    Timberjack - This is a universal feeling for anyone who experiences periods, and the stigma that surrounds it. The writing was solid and it was easy to connect to the protag.

    Vote goes to Timberjack!! (though god, this was a hard one...)

  71. Choosing between these two are tough for me. I was actively editing Book-keeper's story as I was reading, and I read through Timberjack no problem. For that alone, I feel like I should give my vote to Timberjack, but I was so much more interested in Book-keeper's story. This is a time when I'm giving my vote to the less-logical choice simply because there is so much potential in the story and I believe it can be something great. My vote goes to Book-keeper.

  72. Book-keeper - I thought it was just "pretty good" until that last line. That's when you really hooked me and made me want more. It could use a little polish to make it pop more. (Line repetition "the work, the work, cloud, cloud, way, away" gets distracting.) With the breath that pushes the cloud, I'm not sure where it goes. That's a bit unclear.

    Timberjack - I could relate to the opening. Then the reason for the shame, I could appreciate but not relate. (Obviously.) It's a moving story. The end felt rushed though, which happens with such a small word count. I'm curious about the age of the girl, if she knew what was happening, if she knew what pads were or if that knowledge is from a flashback?

    They're both good stories. I'm voting for Book-keeper because that's the one I'm inclined to read more of; though I believe Timberjack is worthy of representation and probably valuable to the target audience.

  73. Bookkeeper reminds me of my friend Brian, of things he has written. (I know he didn't enter though.) Anyway, that's what I like best about it. I don't know how better to compliment someone's work than to say it reminds me of another writer I like.

    Timberjack though, I've been there. I mean, it wasn't as bad in my school. But I can definitely see how it'd get there. I feel young girls need stories like this to feel less alone.

    I like both, honestly. But I'm voting for the second because I think it's more needed. Hopefully that makes sense.

  74. My vote goes to

    Book-keeper has a good concept, but the writing could be tighter in order to better use the limited word count and better immerse the reader. Being a fan of SFF, though, it's a little more my taste.

    Timberjack wrote a piece that was very easy to relate to, however, kept me at a distance with the narrative. By telling me the end at the beginning (she was sent home), it kept me from getting too invested.

    1. Ugh. My vote goes to Book-keeper. I apologize. I was interrupted and didn't finish my first sentence before moving on once I could return my attention to the task.

  75. my vote goes to Timberjack.

    I feel the story is much more relatable. I hope that it is just a snapshot of a much larger manuscript because I would want to read more of what happens in that girl's daily life.

  76. My vote is for Book-Keeper this bout! What an awesome concept; I love the nod to more ritualistic styles of magic, and I love the ending where the person finding the water was responsible for the disaster. Would love to read more of this one!

  77. I enjoyed both but Book keeper gets my vote. The concept of having to find water and continue to pay for mistakes was more interesting to me. I'd like to follow the story further.

  78. I had trouble following Book-Keeper, though this is no doubt part of a compelling story.

    Timberjack has my vote though I'm unclear on how she was in the bathroom before realizing what the others were reacting too. (Disclosure, I'm a man so forgive me and please do not shout me down. I like the story and my questions are sincere). She couldn't feel that her clothes were wet? Also, it seemed odd that the secretary would react that way. I'm guessing that she's probably young for this event and thus catching everyone off guard? Anyway, I was sympathetic and liked the piece.

  79. Congratulations to both!

    In defense of the believability of Timberjack’s story, I can understand the perception of the secretary’s behavior - as a school secretary myself, I know that we are human and our words do not always come out as they should, and a child who is already confused and embarrassed may remember the exact words differently than the person speaking them - as they say, you remember how the person makes you feel. I would also ask why this student wasn’t brought to the nurse, who would have been equipped to handle it, but again from experience I can say maybe the nurse was not available- maybe she was called away to cover in another building and so the teacher didn’t have any other choice but to bring her to the office.

    This story has a lot of potential to help point out better ways to handle these types of crisis, and so with a little bit of touch up would be a good resource not just for young adults but for the grown ups who are there to assist them in the learning process.

    My vote to Timberjack.

  80. These are both great stories. In the end my vote really turned on personal taste and the fact I thought Timberjack had a stronger hook. Timberjack's hook made me read it twice. I was immediately intrigued and it kept me engaged till the end. Book-Keeper had a great story but it didn't make my heart start racing like Timberjack's story. Most women have probably had a similar experience at some point in their life thus making it easy to relate. For these reasons my vote goes to Timberjack.

  81. My vote is going to timberjack. I feel that timbjacks story is very relatable to all women when they experience the shock and confusion when this happens for the very first time. The first time this happens to women,it is an emotional and new experience and timberjacks story describes this well. Its presents insight into this life changing moment.

  82. Not only did Timberjack win my vote, they won my heart. Their story not only made my heart break, it picked it back up and ran it a million miles an hour. I hope to see this writer one day put out a series of books. I see a bright future in writing for Timberjack.

    Timberjack for the win!

    1. Devon Arndt-
      Sorry did know it wasn't going to show my email.

  83. Ok interesting contrast of genre and story.

    My vote goes to Timberjack. The first line pulled you in and slowly explained the context. It evoked empathy, felt like something out of real life, and by the end was a satisfying read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

    For book-keeper I thought the setting and magic were interesting, and for the full book the cliffhanger ending would have kept me reading to learn more, but apart from the character claiming responsibility for the lifeless world around them, we don't know why they did it, how they did it, or why they are too weak to immediately reverse it. In this context it creates questions, and with no answers feels unsatisfying.




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