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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Playoff Bout #1

We are now down to just six contestants (or soon will be) and it's time to see how they match up with ALL NEW MATERIAL.

There will be three bouts this week (Wed-Thur-Fri) and pay special attention to when voting ends because a staggered timeline will be used again. Speaking of voting, it has a special significance during the playoffs. In addition to three winners advancing to the semi-finals, a fourth Wildcard winner will also be selected. How is the WC chosen? It will be the loser that garnered the most votes among all three losers. So every vote counts - win or lose.

We do ask that you leave a brief critique for all of our contestants because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

The voting for today’s bout will close on Wednesday, Jan 26th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the semi-final round where they’ll face a different opponent with yet another 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.

Please welcome back into the ring, with all new material - 

Fern Calloway

What’s Your Story?


You run a finger across the chiseled wood carved to resemble hand. You pretend it belonged to a calloused pirate and wonder at the truth behind this rustic prosthesis.

You gaze over your collection. A cigar box full of glass eyes. A few arms hanging on the wall. A leg leans into the corner next to your coveted pirate hand. You realize then what you’re missing. Their stories. You could collect a hundred different pieces, but without history, they’re worthless.

You type up an ad on Craigslist offering money to interview an amputee. You keep it short. You’ll pay for their story; the prosthetic you’ll take. It’s more fun that way. More of an adventure.

Ad submitted, you let your mind wander toward the future, picturing your interviewee coming to, a little groggy and missing a limb.

“Nothing new there,” you say aloud, chuckling to yourself.  You decide to leave them with extra cash, instead of just the agreed upon sum. You’re not a monster.

Barely an hour ticks by before the phone rings.

You snatch it from the cradle before the first ring ends. “Hello.”

“I saw your ad.”

You stand, pacing the room, almost giddy. “Fantastic. Arm? Leg?”

The caller hesitates. “Leg.”

You fill the lingering silence. “Can we do this in person?”

“Yes,” the caller says. “Wherever. I’m starving. How soon?”

The caller’s eagerness matches your own and trepidation tickles your nerves. Maybe this isn’t the best idea. You shake off the feeling and agree to meet near the cafĂ© in an hour.

When you arrive, something doesn’t sit right. You start to turn and leave, then stop. A door in the alley across from The Sammy Snack opens and a scruffy-looking man stands in the threshold like he belongs there. In the empty cement room behind him, you glimpse two metal chairs. How long has he been waiting before you arrived?

“You the guy?” you say, half hoping he isn’t. He nods, lifting a pant leg to expose the metallic rod that disappears into his shoe. You don’t need to see the neoprene foot to know it’s in there. He gestures you inside.   

As you squeeze past him to enter, he inhales audibly. “Delicious,” he says, his sour breath warm against your ear.

Regret and dread settle into your belly.

Something pinches your neck, followed by stinging. Light glints off the needle as he pulls it away. It’s then you know you messed up.  You try to speak, managing only panicked squeaking. Your limbs are already numb, uncooperative.

You stumble, falling to the floor.

The door latches shut.

He shimmies your pants off, and you’re helpless to stop him.

“Eating from a stranger isn’t ideal.” He runs his tongue over your calf making yummy sounds in his throat. “I’d eat my other one, but then I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.” He chuckles “Just think of the story you can tell when someone inevitably asks, what happened to your leg?” 


Our second contestant is Trelawney

Chapter Two

“Finn! What’s this on the carpet?” 

Oh, those shrieks! Poor Finn, always in trouble. Citric Sylvia. Acid tongue and acid heart. I see she makes you shiver. Hold my hand if you wish – and remember, she can’t see you.

“Er, I think it’s mud. Sorry.” Finn’s always polite to his stepmother. “Maybe I trod in some walking back from school?”

But Sylvia is on the warpath.  She wants this cockney cuckoo, as she calls Finn, out of her nest. “I’ve had enough! You’re always here, making a mess. I’m going to find you a job – in a shop, where you work after school and at weekends.” I know, she’s practically spitting as she stalks into the kitchen and slams the door.  Press your ear against it, she’s whispering to herself:

A job that’s very dangerous, so I can be rid of you.”

A very determined woman, Sylvia.  I confess I rather fear for Finn.

Let’s go into his room while he cleans up the mud and look at the city lights from the window. If you had binoculars, you’d be able to see Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and Jeanie McSweenie pedalling furiously over the cobbles on her old black bicycle, the wheels turning so fast they send sparks into the sky.  Who’s Jeanie, you say?  You haven’t heard of her?  I thought Jeanie and her potions had gone into the history books.  You do have a lot to learn. Come, let me take you closer. You’ll meet Finn again soon.



There she is, Jeanie McSweenie the celebrated apothecary, dismounting her bicycle and resting it against the railings by the churchyard.  Fingers of mist curl out from behind the gravestones, as if beckoning her to join them.  She takes no notice.  It takes more than a bit of fog to scare her. Can you see her long red plait, swinging beneath the battered black beret rammed onto her head?  I sometimes think she only wears that beret to hide her eyes - small, sharp, and dark as currants.  Currant eyes. Clever eyes.  There she goes, down that narrow passage, moving fast – so fast, it’s as if she doesn’t want to be seen.  Maybe she doesn’t.  

A small dog appears from the shadows; all white except for one smooth, shiny black ear.  Yes, it looks as if it’s been waiting for her. “Hey Lightfoot,” she says softly, as she bends to stroke him.  Lightfoot wags his tail, turns, and scratches at a door which is almost hidden in the passage wall. It opens, just enough to let the flickering light of a candle fall on Jeanie’s freckled face.   Listen hard, what’s that she’s saying?

“The potion … yes ... Fraser Crannog said it worked.  He …”  

She steps inside, along with Lightfoot. The door shuts. Time to leave - the alleyway is pitch dark again and the fog seems thicker. You want to follow? No, not yet. You aren’t ready. There are ... dangers. Come back though. I’ll be waiting.

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 tomorrow with our second playoff 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. What are the chances of two second person pieces together... fascinating :-)

    In this instance I have to vote for Fern Calloway, I found the piece engaging and also kinda discomforting and horrifying which I feel like was the intention so... points for succeeding

  2. Fern Calloway - 2nd person can be tricky, but this was engaging and fun, despite the dark subject matter. Showing off a new literary trick while staying true to voice and genre was a good move.
    Trelawney - The first piece by this author was one of my favorites, fun and magical and altogether brilliant. Unfortunately, the author committed the cardinal sin of Write Club, starting with chapter 2. In the critiques everyone says how they can't wait to see where the story goes, or they want to read more, but I think that's a trap. We've seen this side of you twice already. It was an opportunity to show something new in your bag of tricks. Use that 500 words to wow us, surprise us. There was no surprise here.
    Vote is for Fern Calloway.

  3. My vote is for Trelawney.

    Fern Calloway: I really enjoyed your first piece, but I'm not quite feeling this one. In the previous one, there was a distinct reveal provided by the punchline, so all kinds of things were now understood. In this one, however, it feels more like a random new direction. He was a carnivore, but could have simply been a rapist, or murderer, or trafficker, and it would have made little difference to the plot logic.

    Trelawney: I'm glad to see Chapter Two, and I am fascinated by the new character Jeanie McSweenie. I loved the 'plot-reveal-in-motion' as she walks through the door. I think the prose style is a little uneven in this chapter, needs some more editing, but I still adore your descriptiveness. I can see a complex plot emerging, which is always high on my list!

  4. Fern Calloway vs Trelawney-- no! My two favorites.

    Trelawney: I loved the atmosphere you created, in your first story and this one. But I wish you had written a new story for this round instead of continuing with the last. Fern Calloway: Good story, but it might have been better in first person.

    So much good work here is was hard to choose, but I must go with Trelawney.

  5. This is a tough one for me. You both deserve to be here, and I wouldn't consider it an injustice for either of you to win over the other. Fern Calloway was missing an "a" in the first sentence, and Trelawney could stand to add a handful of commas, but both are well written and atmospheric.

    Fern Calloway: Today's piece would be perfect for Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, Pychopath Edition. The problem is I have no interest in reading CYOA-PE, and your decision to employ second person point-of-view forced me into a role I don't identify with at all and didn't particularly want to play. Kudos to you for taking a risk, but I would have enjoyed this so much more had it been written in third person or even first. I loved the originality of your first piece, and this piece confirms that you're a clever writer who likes to play with menace--and does a good job of it. That said, this is the point in the contest where we start noticing a writer's versatility or lack thereof, so I found myself wishing you'd offered us something that showcased your ability to draw out a variety of emotions, and I hope you'll take that to heart if you make it to the next round. Make us feel sorrow or joy or wonder or... something you haven't made us feel already.

    Trelawney: This story is charming, pun totally intended. It's like J.K. Rowling cast a spell on Charles Dickens. My issue goes back to what I mentioned above: This is the point in the contest when writers need to show their versatility. As charming as today's piece is, it comes off as formulaic when placed beside your last entry, down to the shift in focus from one character to the other midway through the piece. Beyond that, I'd watch the breaking of the fourth wall. In your first submission, addressing the reader directly served to invite the reader into the story and infused the writing with personality, but in this piece, because I'd already connected with the narrator, it drew me out of the story each time you addressed the reader directly.

    Again, both of you deserve to be here. I don't think there's a clear winner, but because I have to choose one of you, my vote is going to Fern Calloway for showing slightly more versatility between first piece and second.

  6. Trelawney, like others have said, I wish you'd chosen to go with a new story for this round. I loved your first piece, but this is more of the same and I wanted to see something different from you.

    Fern Calloway, I generally despise second person writing, but this was so eerie and intriguing it really drew me in. And what an ending!

    My vote is for fern Calloway.

  7. I voted for both of you in previous rounds, congrats on making it this far! My vote today is going to Trelawny, I hope though if you do choose to continue this in future rounds, I hope that we start to see a larger plot emerging drawing together the seemingly unrelated characters you've been introducing us to and to show us something different than what has been seen so far. I do continue to enjoy your story teller like voice.

    Fern Calloway, thank you for sharing your piece, you have a knack for writing the unexpected plot twist.

  8. Fern Calloway -- I'm not sure I'd have gone with this POV here, but that's an interesting Cannibalism type story.

    Trelawney -- It's like a very dark children's book. I mean, it feels like it's written to be read aloud. But it feels like the children old enough for the story might also be too old to really enjoy being read to instead of reading themselves. Maybe if the kid was reading to the adult? I don't know.

    I'll give Fern my vote because it had a twist I don't often encounter.

  9. I sat on this one for a day because I didn't really know what to do with it.

    Fern Calloway - this piece was really eerie and you've got some really strong writing, but I think using second person for a piece of this nature was a mistake. As Lisa mentioned above, second person forces the reader into "being" a certain role or person. It works in something like Trelawney's, where the narrator is taking the reader on an adventure and just showing them events or people, but it really didn't work for me in a cannabalism story where I'm forced to "be" a psychopath.

    Trelawney - I found this continuation of your story much less engaging than the first part. It lost some of its charm, and I've been sitting with it trying to figure out why, and I think it comes down to what's already been mentioned in previous comments. Your first piece was fresh and engaging, but because we've seen this style from you already, this didn't have the same freshness, it didn't resonate as strongly.

    While I actually wasn't a huge fan of either of these, I think I'm going to vote for Fern Calloway today, because I feel that it still had the stronger writing.

  10. My vote is for Fern Calloway.

    Fern Calloway: The POV weakens this piece and makes it harder to follow. I don't relate to the "you" of the piece. Your writing is strong and you can evoke emotion well with words. I also applaud you for choosing to write a new piece rather than a continuation of the first entry--this allows you to show off your writing and creativity more.

    Trelawney: This piece is more of the same and doesn't really extend the story or highlight your writing skills. Some of the magical feeling is lost in this piece.

  11. My vote is for Trelawney today because of the quality of the characterizations and because I was able to follow this piece more easily.

  12. Today I'm voting for Fern Calloway. It's a creepy, dark piece with a twist--well-executed. I like that the amputee calls and says, "I'm hungry." Nice touch. Some others have critiqued the 2nd person voice, and I think the piece would not lose anything if it were changed.

    Trelawney, you have a gift for evoking a whole world with words. Just the name "Jeanie McSweeney" is genius. The piece includes many intriguing, well-drawn characters. I would prefer to see the plot start to develop in earnest rather than diving in and out of quick snippets. The reading audience is watching, along with the narrator, and moving quickly from scene to scene, which prevents us from developing too much investment in the characters and the developing conflicts.
    Congrats to both!

  13. Fern Calloway for me. I enjoyed the ending. Of these two, it's just the one I like more.

  14. I'm not a fan of second-person stories, but I liked Fern's story more, so that's where my vote will go.

  15. Vote for Trelawney!
    Glad to see the next instalment of the tale! and i still like your style, the different & imaginative prose. Intriguing characters - what will Jeanie Mcsweeney do next? the wicked stepmother is a bit of a hackneyed trope, but i’ll forgive you as its within the genre of your fairy like to know how that style will play out over the longer term. the questions are good at the opening of the tale, but will you need to modify it when you get into the meat of the story?
    fern, i really liked the touch of true horror in your tale, the surprise ending. but the writing is a bit identikit, just straight plain prose. a tiny bit of poetry to differentiate your writing might the tale more alive.

  16. Congratulations, writers, on making it this far!

    This so wrong. Having to choose one of these over the other.

    Fern Calloway
    Great writing. Oh, so creepy. Even crosses the edge to “icky.” Surprisingly, the second person POV worked okay for me, though I’m not usually a fan. It kind of added to the off-kilter tone of the story. I think you foreshadowed the ending a bit too soon. As soon as the “victim” said “I’m starving,” I knew where this was going. I wanted to be afraid for the victim a bit longer before I realized the tables were going to turn.

    The charming, whimsical voice is still strong in this new piece. I’m really glad I got to see more of this, but I think more needed to happen in this second installment, instead of just more character introduction. I wanted to step in from the window and be part of the story, see interaction between the characters, get to know Finn better, instead of skipping on to someone else. But the characters are strong and I love the image of the sharp-eyed apothecary riding her bike through Scotland.

    Because it’s more of a complete story, but with great reluctance, because Trelawny’s writing is so good, my vote goes to: Fern Calloway.

  17. Congratulations to both writers of n strong new pieces.

    Fern Calloway - I liked the idea of the stories behind the prosthetics but felt something was weird as soon as the ad went up. I didn’t catch the foreshadowing so was surprised by the ending. Possibly a little rushed at the end, but alas, a symptom of the word count.

    Trelawny - I like that we are getting to see more of your world, I feel like I am being guided by the narrator. I’m hoping to see a little more soon about how all these things connect - even if it’s just a hint, or why the narrator is showing “you” around. Nice addition that they are invisible to the other people, adds a good twist in curious to see where goes.

    My vote goes to Trelawny.




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