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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Preliminary Bout #9


The contest marches on with preliminary bout #9. 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 Wed, Dec 22nd (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 Trelawney representing the Childrens Magical Adventure genre.

Come along. If you follow me, we might just catch him before he shuts the shop. Stay close to me. These streets are dark and narrow, and slither through the city like a snake. A child could easily get lost here. Hurry now. Down this alleyway – past the Captain’s Cavern pub and - yes, we’re just in time. Look, he’s closing the shutters. Quietly now. Don’t let him see us. Slip into this doorway and peep out carefully.

Ah, you’ve seen him, I can tell. Quite a sight, isn’t he? What’s his name? It’s Fraser. Fraser Crannog - of the Clan Crannog as he always reminds people. You won’t forget that, will you?

 F R A S E R   C R A N N O G. 

He doesn’t like it if you get his name wrong, and it’s always ‘Mr Crannog’ at first. He’s a wild looking man. If we were a little closer, you’d be able to see his thick, grey caterpillar eyebrows, his radish-red nose, his hair all wild and spiky. But, most of all, you’d see his eyes: sharp, shiny and icy blue. The sort of eyes that seek out your secrets. Your - very - deepest - secrets. Can you see the shop window? Look at those old lamps, antique toys, ancient books, pieces of furniture – all so thick with dust you could write your name in them. Finn does sometimes.Crannog’s Curios – ah, you spotted the sign and yes, you’re right, it is an antique shop – officially. But Fraser sells more than that. Much, much more. But we must go. He’s locked the door – he’s on his way home. Stay quiet. Quiet. He’s passing, so close we could reach out and touch him – can you smell the stale tobacco? That’s from his pipe. He smokes it all the time. He’s walking down the alley now to the main street, his footsteps echoing. He’ll disappear in a moment, into the swirling mist that chokes Edinburgh tonight. Now, let me take you to meet Finn.


Here we are, on the other side of the city. Look at those gloomy Victorian flats. Finn Silvers is up there in his bedroom. It’s the smallest room of all and smells musty and damp. He’s huddled under a blanket to keep warm. Can you see him, looking out from the top floor window? He’s wishing – wishing that he could fly, like the birds that are roosting in the tops of the trees. If he could, he’d fly back to London, back to the time when his Mum was alive. His old life, where his Dad hadn’t married Sylvia. It will be tea-time soon. His Mum used to make cakes and cook lovely meals with roast potatoes and gravy; Sylvia gives him spam and cabbage. Finn’s always hungry now. Come, I’ll take you up. Hold tight. 

“Finn! Come here this instant.” Ah, there’s Sylvia - that lemon-faced, bony woman in the frilly apron. Don’t be scared, she can’t see you.


On the far side of the ring, we have Durden Mayhem who represents the Flash Fiction genre.


Five minutes in the bank line, and I’m hoping I get the attractive woman as my teller.  Landing in front of the older fella would be odd for both of us.  I can see his wedding ring from here.

It works out.  I approach the smiling Jillian, who certainly didn’t wake up this morning expecting the kind of deposit I am going to make.

“Can I help you?” she says to me as I get to her plexiglass.

I make sure my phone is angled correctly, and while looking at her nametag, I get straight to it.  “I am in love with you, Jillian.”

Her lips curl into a scowl, and her brow bends into all sorts of confusing.  

“Excuse me?”  Her face defines dumbfounded.

I continue with all sorts of sincerity.  “Sorry. I know we have never met, but when you know, you know. I saw you when I came in, I watched you while I was in line, and yeah, I am definitely in love with you.”

Jillian looks side to side at her colleagues to see if any of them are responsible for me.  When she realizes nobody at her workplace put me up to this.  She looks back at me with a mix of sympathy and anger.  

“Sir, you are a weirdo. I’m going to get my manager.”  She makes a move like she is going to have a higher-up come over to bring me down.

“Wait.  Hold on, Jillian. I am a weirdo. That much is true. But you don’t need to get anyone or call the cops or whatever. I’m leaving. I just needed to say what was on my heart.”

I leave her there with a smile and a wink.

As I make my way out of the front door, I turn off the video on my phone and quick text it to Jeff. 

Jeff is the guy I lost the bet to, and he always insists on video proof of my payoff. 

“Express your love to a complete stranger in a public place” was my bookie’s demand since I couldn’t pay my debt with cash.

I bet a thousand bucks on the Cowboys. 
Never smart.  
Especially when you don’t have the money to pay.

Thankfully, Jeff is not a knuckle-breaking sort of bookie.  He’s got a YouTube channel with a million followers, where he features fools like me having to shame themselves in various ways to pay off their debts.  He makes more money from his advertisers than he would if I had paid him actual dollars.

Works out for both of us.  

As I step into the bank parking lot, I approach my car and hear a pounding coming from my trunk.

The sounds of my second payoff. 

“Put a drunk stranger into your trunk for an hour.” 

That was for the $2,000 bet I made on the Lakers a week ago. 

I’m sure glad he knocked.  I had forgotten about him. 

He’s been in there since last night.


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 one last bout before we take a break for the holidays. 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. My vote today goes to Trelawney.

    Durden Mayhem - you hooked me right at the beginning with curiosity; why would it be awkward for this man to have an older married gentleman as his teller? But I found that the proclamation of love seemed to come out of nowhere with no context as to why it was being given, and it felt unrealistic to me without that context. By the end I understood, but in the moment it just didn't do it for me.

    Trelawney - this piece felt very unique and fun to me; the voice was strong and it was well-written. I sort of wonder if it should have stayed on Fraser Crannog instead of shifting over to Finn, though. I didn't totally understand the relationship between the two, and the name drop of Finn in the first section felt random without context of their relationship.

  2. Trelawney - this piece drew me in with the invitation to the reader (as well as the child) to enter the setting and meet these characters. Great details to convey atmosphere, like "stale tobacco," "spam and cabbage," and "lemon-faced." I do want a bit more of a hint about what the story is about - perhaps a want Finn has that he can accomplish - or a want the reader may have (since this narrator addresses the reader directly).

    Durden Mayhem - I was also intrigued by the set-up here, and your description of the scene drew me right in. The ending fell a bit flat for me, though, perhaps because those last lines drained some of my liking for/sympathy for the MC.

    My vote today is for Trelawney.

  3. My vote goes to Durden Mayhem today. You managed to write a complete story in the 500 words, with character development and a twist. Not an easy feat! And you made me laugh to boot!

    Trelawney, this is lovely too. Feels very old fashioned, like a Victorian children's book rather than something contemporary.

  4. Way to go, writers!

    Second person is risky, but you pull this off absolutely beautifully. The voice is absolutely spot on for children's magical adventure, and the atmosphere is delightful. I adored some of your descriptions, such as "lemon-faced, bony woman in a frilly apron" and the entire description of Mr. Crannog. I really, really hope this is an excerpt from a novel. If it is, I can absolutely imagine picking it up at my local indie bookshop and bringing it home with me after it gets picked up and published.

    Durden Mayhem:
    You absolutely succeeded in creating a full story with a twist in just 500 words, which is no easy feat. However, as a woman who was threatened with kidnapping at gunpoint, had to call the police, change my number and move because of a stalker, I just couldn't get into this story. It's not that it's poorly written, it's just that I'm super not into the idea of a random man harassing and gaslighting a woman at her workplace--or anywhere else. I also didn't find the teller's dialogue to ring true. In a situation like this, I believe most women would ask "excuse me?" When the statement is repeated, she would probably feel all sorts of panic and would try like hell not to respond in a way that could get her or anyone else shot, so she'd say something like "Can you excuse me one moment, please? I need to grab a bundle of twenties." before stepping away to find her manager.

    The drunk in the trunk of the car also felt a bit unbelievable to me. How far back did the guy park in the parking lot? If the bank is so busy he'd been standing in line for five minutes, the parking lot is probably quite full and someone would have heard the guy screaming and bangning to be let out. If the kidnapping victim isn't screaming, he's probably gagged. If he's gagged, that's an important detail.

    Clearly the main character is unstable and gets off on performing these escalating dares, but I can easily envision him escalating to the point of seriously hurting someone to pay his debt, and that's just not my cuppa tea.

    My vote goes to Trelawney today. The entire 500-word piece felt like a fuzzy blanket on a snowy day and I'm absolutely here for it.

  5. My vote goes to Trelawney. I thought the descriptions you used were great and really brought the story to life.

    Durden-I thought you did a good job conveying the story, but it wasn't really my taste.

  6. My vote goes to Trelawney.

    Trelawney: I loved the voice here. It's fresh and unique and perfect for this piece. The constant use of the present tense can be hard; I felt at times that there were too many direct questions. These drew me in as a reader, but need to be spaced carefully so they don't feel like overdone reminders. I also sort of wished there was a way to slow down the pace a tad, to find a way to place a pause, such as when the narrator is telling us (?) to be quiet or responding to a question that has been asked but isn't on the page. Overall, the work conveys a sense of wonder and magic and is beautifully done, with words written in a way that makes one want to savour the moment.

    Durden Mayhem: This piece is readable and entertaining. The writing is tight and terse and fits the story (I'm overlooking the typo of a period for a comma, that caught me for a bit). I'd like a bit more character development/voice for the narrator, something more to make me connect to the narrator and invest emotionally in the story, rather than just being confused/surprised by the plot twists. The story has some fun elements; relying on the plot twists and surprising elements of the story to carry your piece will only get you so far. As a reader, I get annoyed if the author's primary way of engaging me is to confuse me with an odd scene that only makes sense with information provided later. This is a cheap (but effective and fun) trick that works in this competition and gives readers motivation to keep reading to figure out what's actually going on in the story, but doesn't create an enduring connection between the reader and the written work.


  7. Trelawny_ I loved the tone you set. It was deliciously creepy. The descriptions were very well written & I could see the street, the shop & Crannog perfectly. But then you had them follow him to his home. CIearly the narrator already knew where he lived as he can describe the room & the family. So why rush to the shop to follow him? It would have been fine in a longer piece but here the result was you didn't have enough words left to wrap up & give us a complete story. Ok, I just went to reread the ending. Its not Crannog. Its a whole other character. No wonder I was so confused. Same feedback, though. If you had used those last few words to wrap up why they were watching Crannog I probably would have voted for this piece. As it is, the ending is confusing, rushed & unsatisfying.
    Durden Mayhem- Very funny& great surprise ending.
    My vote goes to Durden Mayhem

  8. Ah, Durden… I love the premise of a bookie accepting viral videos as payment. This could be such a fun story. I’m picturing Fight Club meets The Hangover. Unfortunately, I’m not sure you pulled it off in this piece. First, having the narrator explain the arrangement instead of having the details leak out as the action unfolds took the fun out of figuring out what was going on. Then, the person in the trunk… That just didn’t fit with the prank of confessing your love to a stranger.

    Trelawney: Second person is hard to pull off, but I think it works here. The writing combined with your genre and pen name have me hoping for a Dickensian Harry Potter, and I want to see where this goes.

    I vote Trelawney.

  9. Durden Mayhem: The premise is good but you told the wrong story. I wanted to read about the guy in the trunk. There are more risks and consequences in locking someone in the trunk of a car then forgetting about them.

    Trelawney: Loved it. Great atmosphere. You get my vote.

  10. Durden Mayhem, you win it for me today. Ick ick, double ick. The whole thing goes south so far, so fast--love it. Love the breezy way we find out how low the narrator will go. Seems like an episode of "Black Mirror."

    Trelawney, I really enjoyed entering the world you created. Your piece hold real promise, and I hope you work on it more. I have a few issues:
    *very confusing if Finn is lying on bed under blanket or looking out window with blanket around shoulders
    **same paragraph--not sure our physical location--whether floating above, in the room, etc. at first i think we are in the room, but then the narrator offers to float up
    **Sylvie cannot serve spam--anachronism
    ***cannot use Victorian as an adjective in final para because I think we are in a Victorian setting + wouldn't work as an adj in a children's piece

    Trelawney, although I have these specific points, I really liked the world you created and the project you have set out for yourself. I hope it becomes something much bigger.

    Thanks to both!

  11. Trelawney (Professor 🔮?) This is good. There's urgency and excellent description. Except a big chunk of the description goes to a character we don't interact with anyway.
    Also, Spam, pretty sure, is a registered trademark of Hormel, and thus is capitalized (unless he's being given junk email). It could also be written as canned ham, canned meat, or canned pork product...

    😄 Durden Mayhem had the better story to me today. I can see watching this as a tv episode or something. My vote goes here.

  12. Tough choice but my vote goes to Durden Mayhem for a fun story with an interesting twist.

  13. Trelawney -- This piece is one of my favorites. I feel the author has a grasp on genre and knows exactly what to do with it. This story has whimsey and a level of writing I frankly would like to see more of in this competition. I was afraid reading this that choice of genre would hurt the author's chances of moving on, but this is a winner for me. Felt like 300 words it reads so fast.

    Durden Mayhem -- Feels like a familiar setup, which gets the reader into the story immediately. After that, it gets tough. Pulling off any heist or twist story is all a matter of timing and the timing here is off. First, the important twist comes with a third of the story left to go. That makes this feel like a much longer read. Then, the author tries to throw in a surprise twist at the end, but by then the damage is done.

    Vote goes to Trelawney

  14. Trelawney -- I feel like this would work more as an illistrated book. Or certainly a longer story. This is just an opening. A good opening, mind you.

    Durden Mayhem -- Very interesting character. Chev Chelios from Crank, but a bit more calm. And it made me laugh. So you get my vote.

  15. Durden Mayhem gets my vote. Very clever. I was not expecting the drunk in the trunk ending.

  16. This is the second time i've been faced with what, to me, feels like an impossible choice. I liked both pieces, A LOT, for different reason.

    Tralawney: The genre choice was very brave. Awesome voice and left me hungry for more. Not something I would normally say about a piece like this. Well done!

    Durden Mayhem: This is the sort of humor/satire/strange weird dark side that I read most of. While most people complained about the body in the trunk and how long he had been in there, I loved that part the best. It made me laugh out loud in an 'oh no, what the heck is wrong with you' sort of way, and I am a HUGE fan of the super duper gray characters, which, I firmly feel from this particular character. If this was a longer piece, I would be rooting for his foolishness, and yet still wanting him to get a real win.

    So hard to choose. I hate that I have to pick right now.

    Trelawney you get my vote because you got me to like something outside my norm.

  17. Trelawney, your words were beautiful, but my vote will go to Durden Mayhem because I'm a sucker for humor. Congrats to both of you for making it into the ring.

  18. Um. Hmm. I loved the tone of Trelawney, but it's not really a complete story, or even a part of one. I do, however, want to read more.

    Durden Mayhem was interesting. I had no idea where it was going, and the twist was unexpected. The language and story was not as tight as Trelawney. But the completeness of the tale decided me.

    I choose Durden Mayhem.

  19. Both solid pieces. Trelawney's is more of start of something larger, which is good, and she builds intrigue well.

    Durden Mayhem has a good premise, but the stakes don't seem right. It's going to be a fine line to hit. The confession of love is too little for $1000, and the kidnapping (a felony) seems too much for $2K. (If I kidnapped someone on a bet, I wouldn't send video evidence they'd put on youtube.)

    My vote goes to Trelawney.

  20. My vote goes to Trelawney.

    Trelawney: this feels quite experimental, and certainly new to me. Highly evocative, with a strong sense of place. It seems to be the first page or so of a longer story, so I'm not worried about it being tight within the 500 words. I think there's just about enough sense of where this story is going to make me confident in reading on. I do wonder if this intensity can be readable at length - some mental 'white space' may be needed. But, I love it. I am puzzled about when it's set: it sounds Victorian but 'spam' is relatively modern - and, if in Victorian times flats would be new.

    Durden Mayhem: unfortunately, stories about unpleasant people doing unpleasant things rarely appeal to me (unless it's about their comeuppance!). I do like a good twist in a short story, but I need more depth, more weave in it; this feels more like a simple reverse-engineered punchline.




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