WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Cage Bout #6



Reminder - The previous bouts are still taking your votes, but bouts 1 and 2 will close their doors at noon Sunday (Jun 2). You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

Behold the sixth and final WRiTE CLUB Cage Bout. This bout features our three SAVE WEEK survivors and unfortunately, this will be the end of the road for two of them as only one will get to continue on. 

Beginning tomorrow we'll start tabulating the votes and determining which writers will move forward to the next elimination round where they'll be matched one on one with a new competitor - both of which will be brandishing brand new writing samples. More fun times ahead!

Here's how this works. Instead of two writers competing against one another as was the case is previous bouts, now it's THREE AT ONCE. The contestants will be using the same writing sample that allowed them to get this far, the only difference being that now they're up against new competitors. The readers/voters will have to choose one of the three to move on.  There will be six daily bouts (Mon-Sat), and no saves this time.



If you voted in the preliminary rounds, then there is no need to leave a critique with your vote this time, however, if this is your first time seeing these writers we do ask that you leave a brief critique because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-S), because of time restrictions the voting period will be staggered somewhat, so please pay attention to the dates posted. The voting for today’s bout will close on Thursday, June 6th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent with a NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but 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.

Like the man say's


Our contestants for this final cage bout (in random order) are -

Blue Bonnet


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AAOOOO,” screams the monkey.

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

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

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

The checkout line looms.

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

“Good morning!” chirps the cashier.

AAOOO! AAOOO! AAOOO! AAOOO! AAOOO!”

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

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

I run, abandoning my cart.


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



Contestant number two is PBSSpecial


The smell assaulted me first. I rubbed at my nose. Wet animal and kibble.

My sister assaulted me next. “Okay pick one.”

I froze in the entrance. Two glassed enclosures took up the back of the building. Dogs on one side, cats in the other. I turned and stared at my sister.

My face must have communicated my ire, because she rolled her eyes.

“The therapist said a pet would do you some good,” she reminded me.

As if I needed reminding.

“I don’t need a pet to get over Charles ditching me. He never paid attention to me. Or appreciated my keeping his house clean. Or any of the thousand little things I did for him over the last twenty-five years.”

My chest heaved having run an emotional mile. Her exaggerated nod chided me.  My older sister had spent over forty years dictating what was best. She wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. Why should she? She’d always been right.

The dogs in the left enclosure chased each other and played with the volunteers. Too much energy. As I walked towards the cats, a medium sandy-colored dog snared me with her soulful gaze. Her pink collar read Minnie. Her calm abandoned her the moment she realized I watched her, too.

Just the sight of that need, that expectation, made my neck itch and stomach clench. “I’m not the one for you.”

She tilted her head as if trying to make sense of me.

My sister read the placard labeled ‘Minnie’. “Four month old Bullmastiff mix. She’s a beauty. She’ll be big but a great companion.”

She was beautiful. The most beautiful dog I’d ever seen.

“I need a pet that can take care of itself. A cat,” I told her.

“A dog would be better.”

The dog crept closer. Her nose wedged into the corner of the glass enclosure, as close as she could get to me. “No. They’re too needy.”

Inside the cat-quarium, an all-white cat lounged in a bed, licking its paws. The regal bearing and calm demeanor convinced me of my choice.

The worker pointed me to a solitary room and the cat was brought in.

Rex was his name. King.

The cat explored the room without thought of me. Only with the offer of treats did it let me pet him. Once he’d gotten all the treats he wanted, he walked away.

Just like Charles.

My jaw dropped along with my stomach. I’d just chosen my husband again. I backed into the door before I realized I’d stood from the chair. Turning, I fumbled with the door in my haste to leave. The cat hissed at me.

Probably for bothering him.

I stumbled out the door, my eyes immediately going for the sandy dog on the other side of the room. She was right where I left her. Her tail wagged wildly when my eyes landed on her.

I placed both hands on the glass.


“I'll take this one!”
#################################################################



And finally, number three is Sydney Slayer


I was born on a mountaintop in ancient Koyu, a place where dragons wind around the stony spires and winter red trees and breathe out the misty smoke that drifts through our sky like clouds.

This is what my grandmother taught me, her hands weaving spells in the air and pulling on the dragon mist to paint pictures in my mind.

She taught me other things too, how to eat the petals of the blossoms that drop from the twisting shoyu tree; the flowers that show us the future. The petals are soft and fat, the size of a baby’s palm, pearlescent white with a blush of pink and, at its heart, the reddest of reds.

They look juicy and full of water and the first time I eat it I am afraid, afraid all that water will rush like a dark river down my throat and I will drown, drown while dreaming of the future.

But as succulent as the petal looks, it is not. It’s as light as air; it tastes like the memory of candy, sweetened with icy melon and fiery hawkfruit, or like nothing at all. It tastes like everything and emptiness all at once, for Grandmother says that is the future - not my future, of course, I am nothing in the vastness of the universe. What we taste is the future of all things.

What did I see, that first time I ate a shoyu petal, you ask? Why, I saw you. Sitting in a tea shop, eating a cookie shaped like a shoyu petal, laughing and pulling the pictogram off your tongue, the pictogram that comes when the cookie is gone, and your lovely eyes try to see me as you puzzle out the dragon-wrapped mountain on the candy disc and then with one bite it is gone. You eat it and nothing is left.

I ask my grandmother about this vision; she paints the air and tells me, in the future there are not so many shoyu trees, so people do what they can.

And then she teaches me to weave the long soft gortse hairs, and the coarse ones too, into braided yarn, and then the yarn becomes a blanket and the blanket stays with me at night when I try to find her in my sleep, the dragon-mist softening my dreams.

I search for her, the girl of the shoyu vision; the future girl who drinks tea and laughs so freely. I cannot find her in the dragon mist again.

She is not there.

The other girls rustle and wake, disturbed by my tossing and turning.

Settle down, Ryu, they say. Their jewel-like eyes light the darkness in our small stone room.
Go to sleep, Ryu, they whisper as one.
We are as one in all things, but not in this.
They want to sleep; they want to follow, but I do not.
I want to break things; I want to dance in the sky.


I want to lead.
#################################################################


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

We’ll be back next week with our Quarter-Finals. 

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!



65 comments

  1. Blue Bonnet gets my vote today.

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  2. Sydney Slayer gets my vote for the prose alone. It was so fluid and beautiful. While PBSSpecial was a very close second for content and story, it didn't quite have enough conflict, and it didn't have any stakes. I wasn't sure what exactly the character wanted. Blue Bonnet's story is just downright problematic. As someone who suffers from MI, severe anxiety in particular, as I read this I felt like this was coming from someone who didn't understand what anxiety actually is and the complex thought processes involved in every day life. It's more than just an over-the-top alarm in our head. There are more complex feelings that anxiety sufferers go through than what is conveyed in this piece and I feel like it is very single-dimensional and exploitative to use such a simplistic metaphor to try to explain what goes on in someone's head who, clearly, the writer has no complex, and likely first-hand understanding of.

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  3. PBSSpecial is the one for me today. Nice work, all of you! A hard choice.

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  4. Vote to Sydney Slayer - this one had elements that made me sit up and notice to become more engaged.

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  5. These are all amazing!!! My vote goes to Sydney Slayer!

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  6. My vote this round goes to Sydney Slayer. The flowing words and beautiful imagery really strike me.

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  7. Vote unequivocally goes to Sydney Slayer

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  8. Sydney Slayer for the gorgeous and intimate prose, but PBSSpecial was also wonderful and made this a hard choice.

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  9. My vote goes to Sydney Slayer. The writing is simply too beautiful!

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  10. PBSSpecial
    Sorry, you other guys.

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  11. My vote goes to Sydney Slayer. And massive congratulations to these writers - and to all voters, writers and the organising team.

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  12. Sydney Slayer, most definitely!

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  13. I vote for Sydney Slayer this time. Love that prose.

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  14. Congratulations, Contestants!

    PBSSpecial gets my vote today.

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  15. All strong entries here (obv)! My vote is for Sydney Slayer because I picked up on things in this read-through that I didn't really appreciate before. There's that beautiful element of ancient mystical lore, spoken by someone not of this world or time. When I read it in that voice, it transformed for me. The story line is obscure, sure, but I think that makes for an enticing prologue. Would definitely read on!

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  16. Something weird with Google this morning, I hope my votes don't show up twice.

    Voting for PBSSpecial.

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  17. The prose by Sydney Slayer is absolutely magical and I can see the vision clearly, but I had the same question reading this time that I had the last time and it pulled me out of the story again...who is 'you'? Is it the narrator? The narrator's future daughter?

    My vote goes to PBSSpecial...it is very clever and I see and appreciate the deeper meaning under the straight-forward voice. I love how the character chooses healing herself over 'fixing' the ex. The animal analogy is perfect.

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  18. Blue bonnet
    Mariaf@htccd.org, Maria

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  19. Blue Bonnet gets my vote today. :)

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  20. Sydney Slayer gets my vote for this bout. Congratulations to all these authors!

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  21. This is an easy vote for Sydney Slayer because I really wanted that story to win in its original bout! It's a great piece full of flavor and character.

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  22. My Vote goes to PBSSpecial because who can resist the smell of wet animal and kibble?

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  23. Congratulations to all three writers. My vote goes to Sydney Slayer.

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  24. As I missed initial voting, here is my feedback (broken into 3 comments, one for each entry):

    Blue Bonnet
    I was super happy to see this one make it back! I thought this was a great concept and metaphor for anxiety (though it's unclear if that's socially driven or has to do with some deformity/injury on the narrator's face). I could relate to it as I've struggled with trying to go out and do things that most people find simple (like going to a party where I won't know a majority of people), and I used to have to constantly tell myself, "You got this," but still felt a mental roadblock and worry that made it a big deal. So I find this clever.

    Some super striking descriptions, like, "Curled up in a folded corner of membrane, occasionally sighing deeply, pulling a twist of brain over his furry belly like a blanket." And, "He begins to jump up and down on all fours, landing each time with a thud that rattles my teeth." Wonderfully evocative!

    With the references to the face throughout, I am a bit confused if this is linked to a condition of birth, or something like a burn (possibly a veteran who suffered in combat?). The 33 years opener makes me assume birth defect, which I initially just thought was "I was born with anxiety," but the face stuff makes me think that's a result of something on the narrator's face, so maybe a cleft pallet, or super big birth mark? The five handy wipes, which seem excessive, also makes me wonder if it's not actually a bit of OCD? Personally, I'm okay with it being a bit open-ended. But if there is a specific intent behind this, a specific malady at play, may need to drop some stronger hints to drive to that conclusion .

    "He’s just one step away from full chaos." This line doesn't work for me. I guess because it's not so much chaos. After all, the monkey's actions are consistent, predictable, and building to this outburst. Maybe "He's just one step away from full tantrum"? That could emphasize the narrator's helplessness in face of the monkey's anger/demands, which fits better given this is something that routinely happens. I also personally don't envision the antics of an individual, crazy and violent though they may be, to equal chaos (an individual can lead to a chaotic situation, but in my mind, that requires other people to react to the instigator's actions. Scale with no coordination = chaos to me).

    “You must love peanut butter! What are you going to do with all this?” The phrasing of the first sentence feels a bit stiff. Maybe, "Wow! That's a lot of peanut butter. What are..." feels a bit less intentionally composed.

    "I run, abandoning my cart." So how does the narrator get food? The purpose for this outing implied that she or he has to do this ("'I have to eat,' I plead"), so won't that mean the narrator starves? Or, if there is another way she/he typically gets food, why make that comment and not do that? Like order food off Amazon? If that pleading line is just a hollow excuse to try and quiet the monkey, make a nod to that. If it's not, then might need a line indicating the narrator will try again tomorrow.

    Such a heart-breaking last line! Powerful and definitely captures the emotion when you try to do something everyone else finds simple and feel like you failed at it. Bravo!

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  25. PBSSpecial
    "Wet animal and kibble." Love this description! Extra points for appealing to sense of smell off the bat. Smell often gets overlooked in favor of visuals, so that's a wonderful way to enrich the scene and help it stand out.

    “Okay[,] pick one.” Missing a comma.

    "He never paid attention to me. Or appreciated my keeping his house clean. Or any of the thousand little things I did for him over the last twenty-five years.” The segue into this rant feels forced. Connecting it more to the previous thought might help; e.g., "How's a pet going to erase all the years I slaved keeping his house clean? Is it going to somehow make him realize he should have paid attention to me? Or, here's a thought, thanked me for once?" Something more along those lines will keep it tighter to the pet remark and help the reader follow the build into the emotional outpouring. It will also make the next line feel more deserved. As it's written now, I"m not really getting the sense that she's escalating and yelling by the end. So the heaving chest seems out of place.

    "My sister read the placard labeled ‘Minnie’." Don't need to be told the dog's name again so shortly after making a point about it. Just say, "My sister read her placard," or "My sister read the dog's placard."

    "She’ll be big[,] but a great companion.” Missing a comma (contrasted coordinate elements).

    "Cat-quarium" is absolutely brilliant! Ha!

    Rex. How appropriate. :)

    Turning, I fumbled with the door in my haste to leave." Replace "knob" with door to avoid the repetition with the previous line.

    Love that the cat hisses at her for "bothering" him. Great way to further underscore how awful her husband was.

    "I stumbled out the door." Change to "I stumbled back into the hallway, " or "I stumbled away from the cats." Currently have three "doors" in rapid succession, otherwise.

    "Her tail wagged wildly when my eyes landed on her." Great description to capture the emotional contrast.

    Fantastic ending line! Very amusing! This is such a fun, clever approach to realizing we tend to choose the same bad situations we just got out of. I do wish more time was spent on the actual realization/visit with Rex. Could probably cut some in the beginning to fill in there. The sister also seems to vanish by the end. But it wasn't super jarring. Very enjoyable overall.

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  26. Sydney Slayer
    Gorgeous lyricism in the writing here! This is genuinely delightful to read.

    Do watch out for some places where the imagery gets bogged down with over description. For example, "...a place where dragons wind around the stony spires and winter red trees and breathe out the misty smoke that drifts through our sky like clouds." Each image is evocative and fresh, but altogether, this is a very unwieldy sentence. Do we really need to know about both the stony spire and winter red trees immediately? Choose one to get the full sentence back under command and allow the reader to enjoy each image without being distracted by cramming in too many. The red trees are more unique and striking, so I'd ax the stony spires. Those can be mentioned later.

    "...pulling on the dragon mist to paint pictures in my mind." Lovely and fresh! I'm a sucker for dragons and the idea of dragon mist as a source of mysticism (or even just the concept of dragon mist at all) is fantastic!

    "...ill rush like a dark river down my throat and I will drown, drown while dreaming of the future." So good! The prose is comfortingly poetic.

    "...the future - not my future..." Should be an em-dash, not a hyphen.

    Bit confused on the "What we taste is the future of all things" line when the future the narrator sees is a specific person with an intimate undertone. Doesn't jive with this line at all.

    I'm not sure I get the pictogram piece. The way that segment is written, it's almost as though the reader is expected to be familiar with this type of cookie. But I have no idea what cookie is shaped like a shoyu petal and has a dragon on a spire on it. This segment in particular, "... the pictogram that comes when the cookie is gone..." makes this sound like we should know what this is. Consider some rephrasing here. Maybe the cookie is more coincidentally shaped like a petal and happens to have a dragon on it? Could be a quirk of the tea shop? Or may make more sense at a Renn faire. It just reads very oddly right now.

    "...in the future there are not so many shoyu trees, so people do what they can." Sooo, is the "you" in the vision likewise observing some future? Or looking back to the past with the shoyu-like cookie? I'm not sure I follow what the people are doing because it doesn't appear like the tea-shop person sees or senses anything out of the ordinary. It seems the narrator is the only one looking and seeing anything. So I don't get how this loop is closed in the grandmother's logic.

    "Their jewel-like eyes light the darkness in our small stone room." Enchanting imagery here!

    Personally, I'm really not super bothered by the tense shifts and the story shifts. The structure mimics the mist motif seamlessly, which I think is both intentional and works well. However, I don't think the end feels like it fits. It's wonderful as a segment, but the "I want to lead" comes out of nowhere. Nothing prior to this has indicated the narrator has a desire to lead anything, is stuck in a role/place where she (I'm assuming a 'she') can't lead, or implied any emotions concerning that. There is a yearning for discovery, so something more like, "I want to explore," would fit. If you want to keep lead, then there needs to be more threads tying into that theme throughout, not just put in at the very end.

    Man! I am TORN! This I think is the most challenging set of three to pick a winner. PBSSpecial gets it by the slimmest of margins for a very clear, well executed idea and fun, insightful commentary on relationships. I would absolutely read more from any of these three authors. BRAVO!

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