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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Preliminary Bout #6

We kick off the second week of WRiTE CLUB bouts by congratulating our first bout winner - Fern Calloway. They will now move on to the next round. 

Remember, the voting for each bout remains open for an entire week, so if you missed one or two you can always go back and catch up.

Here's a reminder of what is happening. WRiTE CLUB (sponsored by Wild Lark Books) is a tournament-style contest that will run for nine weeks (which includes a week break for the holidays). It provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win a free publication package (along with other prizes). Here’s the kicker—it’s all done anonymously. Writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names. The chosen (decided by a group of twelve slush pile readers) are paired off to go head-to-head in daily “bouts”, with the winner of each match determined by you the reader—by voting for your favorites. Bout winners keep advancing until there are only two remaining and that’s when a panel of celebrity judges, who include well know authors, agents, editors, and other publishing folks, choose the ultimate champion.

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, the voters can win a $50 Wild Lark Books gift card. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed into a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize.

How this works—two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples are waiting in the ring below. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) should read both entries and then vote by leaving a comment for the one that resonates with you the most. We also ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest—FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date I post it to give as many people as possible to have a say. Voting for today’s bout will close on Sun Dec 18th (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. What is okay, in fact, encouraged, is to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough of the fine print…here we go!

On one side of the ring stands Blueface representing the Science Fiction genre.


“Stay away from Old Town,” called Kirsten’s mom after her.
“Yes, mom,” she said, heading for Old Town.

Out past the far corner of their ranch, up by the Blasted Oak, she walked Old Town’s perimeter for the first time this year. The tall steel bulwarks were all intact, to her usual disappointment, and the ‘Unexploded Bombs, Keep Out’ signs had been recently renewed.  She squinted through thin gaps between the panels: no change inside, either. 

“It’s all craters, how can there be anything left to explode?” she had often asked her mother, but her mother would only frown and threaten her with grounding.

Kirsten turned for home; there was nothing new here. She passed the Blasted Oak - admiring, as always, its determination to survive.  When the Military blew up the town, this ancient tree’s branches were ripped away; all but one twisty branch. Now it was only a small sprinkle of green in a dead landscape. She saluted it and continued on; but then felt a strong impulse to look back. The oak looked improbably lush from here, surrounded by a large green haze.  Puzzled, Kirsten walked back towards the tree, but the impression faded like mist as she approached. An optical illusion, no doubt: hurricane-season was imminent, and did curious things to the light.

For several days Kirsten revisited it, quite certain the haze was thickening into branching shapes; yet it always dissipated. On the fourth day the winds began, and the twisty branch rocked and whipped. As Kirsten watched with interest, she realised there was an identical second twisty branch behind the first, this one quite still and far more leafy. Disconcerted, and with the first vicious raindrops amongst the winds, she ran home, arriving just as the rain set in.

She told her mother about the haze and the twisty branch, hoping for answers.  Her mother’s expression was inscrutable.

“What did I say? There’s poison at Old Town and it’s making you hallucinate.  Stay away.” 

Kirsten was confused by this new information. “They blew up…poison? What?”

Her mother stared, then snapped “You’re grounded for a week. Go wash for lunch. Now.”  As Kirsten stomped up the stairs, her mother picked up the phone, frowning.

A week of heavy winds and rain kept them both close to the house, but eventually supplies were low.  

“Stay away from Old Town. And the tree,” said her mom as she drove off. 
“Yes, mom,” said Kirsten.

The tree was now a majestic beauty in sunlight, surrounded by meadow for 20 yards all around in a perfect circle. As Kirsten studied it, from the muddy path in the wind and rain, she thought her mother must be right. Hallucinations. She backed away, intending to return home, but then a linen-clad girl stepped from nowhere into the meadow and looked at Kirsten in surprise, coming close and peering at her. She looked oddly familiar.

“What’s your name?” asked Kirsten, in rising alarm.

“Kirsten,” said the girl. “What’s yours?”

On the far side of the ring, we have Almach Nightmare who represents the Satire genre.

A Tender Moment

Julia was sitting at the base of one of my favorite hiking trails. She loves hiking, and that day she’d worked up a light sweat that gave her skin a little shine. The setting sun cast her in amber; her lopsided smile and flowing hair glowed in that one perfect moment of light.    

When she was in Rome she tossed a coin into the Trevi Fountain wishing for love but told her family that she only did it because it was tradition. That vacation was the first and last time she ever left her hometown. She still calls herself a world traveler though, and dreams of visiting other countries.

Her eyes have a little green mixed in the light brown. When she wears mascara and a little eyeliner they seem to sparkle with an ethereal glow. It’s as if she could look into my eyes and see every thought laid out like pages from her favorite glamor magazines.

She like to dress casually—jeans and colorful blouses—but she’s not afraid to show off her knowledge of fashion when the occasion calls for it. Long flowing dresses, slit high to the hip, low slung necklines showing almost too much skin. The look says classy and sexy at once.

I imagine she’d be the talk of the night if we ever showed up at one of my work parties dressed like that. Her arm around mine as we made small talk with my colleagues. Steve and Carlos giving me the silent bro nod of approval. Dancing and sipping chardonnay ‘til the early hours before walking home hand in hand, her high heeled shoes slung over my shoulder.

When we get home she’d look into my eyes and without saying a word know how much I appreciated her in my life. We’d kiss and make love and when the first light of the sunrise comes through my bedroom window her eyes would still be on mine, those little green specks glittering in the sun like tiny emeralds.

Later that day she’d convince me to do a quick hike up Little Turtle trail to help exorcise the demon spirits we consumed the night before. While we hike, we’d talk over plans for our vacation next October. She’ll push for Spain and I’ll argue Thailand. By the time we get home we’ll have decided on Cyprus.

The thought of the sundown casting her in that same amber glow as we looked out over the Mediterranean is everything. Her hand in mine as we talked about how great the food is and how welcoming the locals are. I’d lean over and kiss that lopsided smile of hers and she would kiss me back. Before she notices, I’m on one knee, proposing with my grandmother’s ring.

Julia loves cats. She has three of them.

I’m allergic to cats. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. Swipe left.

Monique has the cutest little dimples when she smiles and damn her body is… 


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.

Finally, in order to keep this contest going AND GROWING, I'm asking folks to donate to the cause on my Ko-fi account. Let me assure you, 100% of the donations will go towards the contest prizes for this year and next!

We’ll be back tomorrow with bout #7. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encouraging them to come vote.

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


  1. Wow, today's was a bit of a tough choice! My vote goes to Almach Nightmare.

    Blueface - this was an intriguing piece, and left me with lots of questions, wanting to read further. I did feel, however, that there was a little too much telling and not enough showing, particularly with the interactions with Kirsten and her mother.

    Almach Nightmare - the twist at the end of this piece was really well done, and the voice was really strong. My only comment to you would be to pay close attention to tense; there were places where the tense didn't totally match up and it jarred me out of the piece for a moment.

  2. Blueface- I had a hard time getting into this story and I found my mind wandering. Could be the genre.

    Almach- I was thinking the description of Julia was running long and then you completely threw me out of the story with the cats, which was exactly what you meant to do. Clever surprise ending. I loved it!

    My vote goes to Almach Nightmare.

  3. Welcome to week two, writers! Great job, both of you!

    This piece is so original and has so much promise. I would love to see this reworked with less telling and more showing. One way to do that is to avoid passive voice. Look for places you can eliminate "was" "were" and "would". They put distance between the reader and the story and lead to telling instead of showing. There are also places where the words you chose didn't do much for the story.

    An example of this: Her mother stared, then snapped “You’re grounded for a week. Go wash for lunch. Now.” As Kirsten stomped up the stairs, her mother picked up the phone, frowning.

    In this example, there's no reason Mother needs to pick up the phone. It doesn't add anything except an action that isn't connected to the story we're given. 500 words isn't a lot to play with, but it's totally possible to make every word count. Here's a super rough rework of the same passage. Notice how this time we're seeing mother's frustration AND Kirsten's annoyance at her mom's stupid rule.

    Her mother massaged her temples before snapping, “You’re grounded for a week. Go wash for lunch. Now.” Kirsten stomped up the stairs and slammed her bedroom door hard enough to rattle her window.

    Almach Nighmare:
    The twist at the end truly took me by surprise, but unfortunately it didn't quite work for me. The voice is absolutely fantastic, but with no hint that all of this was just fantasy as the MC checks out a dating app, I couldn't tell where this story was going or what the point of any of it was. I kept waiting for a bit of dialogue or some sort of action, but nothing ever happened to make me care about Julia or the narrator.

    I'm a huge fan of twist endings, but for them to work, there needs to be a small clue or two along the way. Something that makes the reader slap their forehead when they finish and go "Oh crap! I totally missed that, but it was there all along!"

    My vote goes to Blueface today. Though there's room for growth, this story really captured my imagination and I'd love to find out what happens next--or even what happened before.

  4. Wow. This is a really difficult one... I love these both and wish I could vote for both of them, but in the end since I can't I have to give it to Blueface primarily for leaving me wanting more.

    My vote goes to Blueface

  5. This is a close match. Both are intriguing in different ways.
    Blueface, I liked how this one ended. I would love to read more about the 2 versions of the same teen--how they came about, how they interact, how the story unfolds generally. Toward the beginning of the piece, the description sounded somewhat familiar to me--a lot like other dystopian novels--so I wanted the ending to arrive more quickly.

    Almach, you get my vote. I thought maybe Julia was dead, but your choice was more surprising and original. I might find a way to make the info about her 3 cats stand out a bit to drop a small clue about the upcoming twist, as one reviewer above mentioned. That would actually heighten the impact of the end.

    Thanks to both!

  6. Blueface, I liked the ending. The rest didn't grip me much. I do wish more of the story had the same pace or tension or something as the end. That being said, the end does make me want to read more, so I'll give you my vote this round.

    Nightmare, that's interesting. So the main character is very romantic and looks at a picture and short description and imagines a whole life on a dating app? Interesting concept. Sounds like a creative person.

  7. Nightmare had quite a few tense issues for me, keeping me from getting absorbed into the story/idea.

    Blueface: I wasn't quite feeling the piece, but the twist at the end grabbed me by the hair and left me begging for more story, which is a good thing :) I know this is from a bigger story based on the "chapter 1",(which, on a side note, is wasting a few of those precious words, unless that's the title, then it could use a better one) YET, it stood on its own as complete and didn't feel chopped from a bigger piece. You get my vote.

    MY VOTE: Blueface

  8. This is a tough one.

    Blueface sets up an intriguing world, and I want to love this piece, but the writing--at least for this 500 word format--needs fewer mundane details and more beauty and mystery to achieve the right tone. The language should be dripping with a mixture beauty and dread... but the only line that came close to what I wanted in terms of voice and atmosphere was "hurricane-season was imminent, and did curious things to the light." This story has so much potential. I'd encourage the writer to go deep into the emotions they desire to create in the reader. Go slowly, pull in all the senses, sit with the magic and let it wash over the reader.

    Almach Nightmare: Bonus points for voice and originality. It was a nice trick, describing Julia so vividly, only to rip her away and leave us with a narrator who has revealed embarrassingly much about himself.

    While Blueface's story intrigues me more, Almach Nightmare's piece did a better job of accomplishing what the author set out to do (show us the narrator's character), and so my vote goes to Almach Nightmare.

  9. Blueface -- The story is solid, the premise interesting. The problem for me was the use of the 500 words. Each is so precious, and to waste two by starting with Chapter One is an error. We know it's the beginning, so begin. Then right away Kristen's "Yes, mom," when we've already just learned she's her mom. Every word should carry weight, and those don't. Also, tone and genre are a little hard to pin down for me. It reads like a fun YA piece in the beginning but by the end it feels like it's supposed to be a heavier suspense tale.

    Almach Nightmare -- This was a fun read for me. I had to go over it twice to soak in what the author did. I know the tense changes seem jarring, but they are actually a skillful, if risky, move by the author. The tense changes signal the fact that the narrator is getting information about the person, (Present tense) then lapsing into daydream about the imagined life (Future perfect?) I'm not sure what it was, but it worked for me, and the reveal that he's just a lonely guy staring down at his phone was a great moment.

    Vote goes to Almach Nightmare.

  10. Blueface - creepy premise, and interesting descriptive detail. I'd have liked to see more from the mom, and less expected dialogue.

    Almach Nightmare - interesting. Liked the ending. The tense changes made me go back to reread it. They were a little confusing. Tight description would work better.

    I vote for Blueface

  11. My vote is for Almach Nightmare.

    Blueface: I like the idea of the story, but the execution is awkward. I would like more poetry in the writing, less jumping around in time. It feels like I'm being told something rather than being drawn into the story. There could be more character development: why does Kirsten disobey her mom, why is she visiting that tree so often? The bare bones of a fascinating story and way of telling it are here, but the writing and story development could benefit from more attention.

    Almach Nightmare: Cute gimmick. I do think this piece could use some polishing to draw the reader in more. The writing doesn't fully sell the fake relationship--of course, perhaps that is part of the art here?

  12. My vote is for Almach Nightmare this time. I felt both pieces were flawed in this round, but Nightmare's twist at the end sold me.

  13. The first story was predictable. The mother says don't go, and the daughter goes. What I did not understand was why the mother did not warn her daughter about the poison. It would have been logical. The girl meeting herself, or doppelganger, was interesting. But then it ends, and that fell flat for me.

    The second piece was interesting. I suspected he was living in his imagination--can a ethereal glow be detected in a computer screen? But I was surprised to realize he was on a dating site. The story was clever, and it entertained me. My vote goes to Almach Nightmare.

  14. Blueface gets my vote! The girl's actions are first hilarious, then eerie. I felt the story had a place to go. Almach Nightmare's piece baffled me at the start -- who's POV? What's going on? Then, wham, the character is proposing. The dating site twist was clever, but not enough to redeem the piece for me.

  15. I vote for Almach Nightmare. I thought this was clever and I enjoyed reading it.

  16. This was a hard choice as there were things about each piece I liked and things I didn't.

    Almach Nightmare: I like the twist at the end but the rest of the story fell flat for me. I had a hard time connecting to it.

    Blueface: I really enjoyed this piece. there was however a lot of telling and at times it felt predictable, but the ending really got me and made me want to read more.

    So today, Blueface gets my vote.

  17. Blueface: I think you could probably start with the paragraph where she heads to Old Town and it will be a stronger piece. Overall, I liked this story and loved the ending.

    Almach Nightmare: I also had difficulty connecting to your story. I realize that you used verb tense as a writing device, but I found it to be distracting, which is probably why I had trouble connecting.

    I vote for Blueface.

  18. Congratulations

    Blueface: I like the imagery, repeated fixation on the mysterious, and the bits of worldbuilding. However reading this I wasn't certain if it was a colliding realities, VR, or something technological. I do like the uncertainty of which Kristen is real and which is the duplicate but without clearer signs of tech it was difficult for me to visualize and immerse into the world.

    Almach Nightmare: The character's imagination is very well written, and like many others the twist ending was very good. However given his fixation on fantasizing, adding and creating life to it with details from profiles, and then discarding them for the next fantasy it read more like the mind of an antagonist to me.

    When reading I enjoy the story that invests me emotionally and I can react to, for that reason my vote goes to Almach Nightmare.

  19. I vote for Almach Nightmare. I thought this was well written and the ending gave a humorous twist.

    Blueface-the story was difficult to follow and failed to grab my attention.

  20. Blueface -- This does interest me and fill my mind with questions, so you have my vote.
    Almach Nightmare -- An interesting bit of Satire, a commentary perhaps on what's it could be like to feel like seeing just one image of a person is enough to know how much potential they have as a lifemate. I like what you did.

  21. My vote goes for Blueface since I want to know what happens next ...

  22. Both are strongly written, and it's a tough choice.

    Almach Nightmare -- This is interesting and while I knew it was satire, I didn't see where it was going to come from ... until it did.

    Blueface -- I liked this piece as a launch pad for something larger. I liked the twinning of the branches and the twinning of the Kirstens.

    My vote is for Blueface.

  23. These writers made for a difficult decision, well done! Blueface, I love the worldbuilding in this piece and the startling twist at the end. I was expecting wit and humor based on your first line, so I had to recalibrate as I read on. It might be worth reconsidering that opening to set the right tone. I also felt that some of the interactions with the mother fell flat; I understood she was keeping a secret from her daughter, but the frowning and grounding did little to further the plot. Can Kirsten overhear her mother talking about something on the phone that gives us a little more insight into the secrets or dangers of the Blasted Oak?

    Almach, I like the commentary this piece makes on how complex and warped our perspective can be when 'meeting' someone through social media. And also how quickly we can disengage. I felt delightfully betrayed when I realized this sweeping romance was nothing more than a Tinder fail. This piece needs a proofread, but it felt a bit stronger in craft, so Almach gets my vote here.

  24. My Vote if you'll take it, goes to Blueface.

    1. Sorry - noon was the deadline, but at least the writers know how you felt.




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