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WRiTE CLUB 2013 - Bout 5

It’s always a pleasure to start off a new round by congratulating the winner of a previous one. Today I’d like to welcome Camille Atwood into the play-off circle for her victory in Round 3.  It was the tightest battle yet, with every vote really counting, so please make sure you sign up on the Linky List before you choose.  The voting for bout #4 remains open until Wednesday.

Last year during the first four rounds we received 350+ votes combined, and this year we've seen barely have half that.  I must say that it's a little disappointing to think that we made all these changes and the outcome has been a severe drop-off in participation.  I guess I can be disappointed, but I shouldn't be surprised.  The changes to WRiTE CLUB, at least on some level, were to make the contest more manageable and save my sanity, but the overall goal was to keep interest levels high throughout the entire run by making it more compact and streamlined.  Little did I realize that overall input would fall off so dramatically.    As they say...the proof is in the pudding and the final report card won't be tallied until the last round...and if votes continue at the same level all the way to the final, then maybe these changes will have been a success.

What can you do to help?  As always...spread the word.  I believe we have a good thing here but so far this year WRiTE CLUB seems like the best kept secret in the blogosphere.

That's enough whining...what do you say we get to it?

Here are today's randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 476 words and representing the Short Story genre, please welcome to the ring……..Imalie Teller.

“You see anybody pokin’ around, lookin’ for her?”

The little man shook his head and waddled across the floor. He was out of breath. The three steps up to the wagon from the ground were a climb, for him.

“Well? Was there anybody?”

He realized she hadn’t looked at him since he’d come into the wagon. She hadn’t seen him shake his head. “No. Nobody looking.” Rascal put his short, stubby fingers beside Maizie’s bottom on the bunk mattress. He pulled himself up onto his tiptoes and craned his neck to see around her back. “Too young to be a runaway. Hell, too young to go places alone.” He settled back onto the soles of his shoes and waddled to the head of the bunk to face Maizie. “We need to tell somebody. We can’t leave town with her in this wagon. They’ll send us to Sing Sing.”

“We ain’t doin’ a thing but takin’ care of this child nobody wants. We ain’t done nothin’ wrong.” Maize hadn’t looked away from the bunk, not once. She leaned forward and put the back of her hand on the little girl’s forehead. Satisfied with what she felt, she gently smoothed the child’s bangs back down.

The wagon lurched into motion. Rascal was sent staggering. He grabbed Maizie’s arm with his thick, short hands. It was the first time he’d touched her. He didn’t let go, even after his feet were steady on the plank floor. The bare skin below her sleeve was soft, but he could feel muscles and bone, too. She had to be strong, a woman on her own with the carnival. She didn’t have a man, wasn’t part of a performing family.

“Too late to tell anybody, now. We’re on our way to Albany,” Maize said.

She still wasn’t looking at him, but she didn’t pull her arm away, either. Rascal moved his fingers a little, stroking her. He knew it was bold and too familiar, but it was obviously a night to take chances.

“Rascal,” Maize said, her voice suddenly worried, “do you think she’s too pale? I think she might be too pale.” She did pull away, then. She put both her hands on the child’s cheeks. She ran her thumbs over the delicate, closed eyelids.

Rascal swallowed his disappointment and stretched up again to look at the girl. The child surely was pale. The vibration of the moving wagon blurred Rascal’s vision. The girl’s drawn face and her corn silk hair nearly disappeared against the background of the white pillow.

“She surely is pale,” Rascal admitted.

“Like an angel,” Maize breathed. “She’s pale the way angels are pale.” “Just like an angel,” Rascal agreed. He wondered if he could steal some formaldehyde from Wesley’s pickled punk jars. If he could keep the girl from rotting, maybe Maizie could keep her.

And in the other corner, weighing in with a 457 word sample in the YA Contemporary genre, let me introduce to you ……..Vampyr14

Afterward, still exhausted, we fall asleep in a tangle of limbs. I don’t think either of us moves all night. I wake, stiff and sore, my arm tingling with pins and needles as the first traces of daylight inch their way into the room. I wriggle out from under Dylan, watching him roll over and refold himself into a more comfortable position. He tugs the sheet up to his chin, cuddling it there the way a baby does a teddy. In this gray-blue light, he’s beautiful. He’s peaceful. The tense shoulders and dark worry lines that have started appearing on his face are gone, smoothed out by sleep. Real sleep. Not narcotic sleep.

I’ve been awake how long? Maybe five minutes? And already I’m thinking about drugs. It’s been a couple of days since my last hit, and I can feel it in the way my blood creeps beneath my skin. It’s not itchy yet, but I know it won’t be long. There’s a low ache in my bones. I wonder how long it’ll be before the shaking starts. And the sweating. Will I be able to stand it?

A tremor shudders through Dylan, making the bed quake. He groans and digs his head deeper into the pillow before settling back into sleep. He’s facing me and I let my eyes travel the familiar planes of his face, reading them, memorizing them: the knifelike cheekbones, the fine, sensitive mouth, the pointed chin, the magnificent beaklike nose. He thinks I’m beautiful. Doesn’t he know how stunning he is? His narrow frame barely makes a wrinkle in the bed. How can someone who means so much take up so little space? My heart swells as I crawl from the bed, tucking the sheet around him. I love him so much. Too much.

I leave the sheet music puddled on the floor. I leave my clothes in the closet. I leave my phone in the creases of my pillow. I bend over and leave a single kiss on his cool, damp forehead. It’s that kiss. The one I hoped I’d never have to give. The one that can only mean goodbye. The words to the song swirl through my head and tears spring to my eyes. Yes, I love him. No, it’s not enough.

The early morning air is cool against my skin. I clutch my violin as I hurry down the disintegrating sidewalk, knowing only it can share my regrets. Each tear that splashes against it paints a bitter, salty message. I’m not alone. These sidewalks have seen and heard worse. Each scar holds a secret; each crack a broken promise. I add my own, leaving them behind when I duck into the womb-like darkness of the subway.

Please leave your vote for the winner of round 5, along with any sort of critique you would like to offer, in the comments below (but remember you must be registered on the Linky List here first).  And please tell everyone you know to drop by and be part of the fun.  The voting for Round 5 will remain open until noon Sunday (7/28). 

Remember, here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!


  1. I liked both of these, but the first story made me feel totally creeped out at the end and that's a good thing. So, my vote is for Imalie Teller.

  2. An excellent bout today between two very worthy contenders.

    Ima Teller's piece has some intriguing characters, with tidbits of backstory inserted smoothly, but in such a short sample, there are still many questions as to who they exactly are. But I would certainly read on to discover more about them, especially with that twist at the end that really ratchets up both the interest and the creepiness factor. In terms of mechanics, the piece flows well, although I am never a fan of beginning with dialogue, and ESPECIALLY unattributed dialogue. It just leaves the reader entirely too ungrounded, and then to quickly throw in a pronoun-filled sentence like "He realized she hadn’t looked at him since he’d come into the wagon" only adds to the muddle. Is "he," "him," and "Rascal" all the same person, and who the heck is "she"??? Eventually it sorts itself out, but why confuse the reader during that all-important opening?

    Vampyr14's entry has a great rhythm to it, I think. The mechanics, the pacing between short and long sentences and the wording all just seem to flow extremely well. I find it very smooth reading. The characterization is also intriguing and I'm curious as to who this violin player is who's loved and leaving. And why leave the clothes and the cell phone? At least (s)he takes his/her violin, as any musician would -- the instrument always comes first. The junkie aspect adds compassion and desperation, but are there drugs that are powerful enough to induce sweating, itching, and shaking from withdrawal, but where an addict can go 'a couple of days' before they even stat to set in? Even cigarette smokers get twitchy after only a couple of hours. But that's not really a quibble about the writing itself, and overall, I think is one of my favorite pieces so far.

    So while I really commend Ima Teller for a great piece, I have to go with Vampyr14 today.

  3. Tough call today, but I'm going with Imalie Teller (love that name, btw). I was pulled in by the voice and totally grossed out/horrified by the end :)

  4. I know I say this every bout, but GAH. SUCH A HARD CHOICE TO MAKE. I'm stuck between two well-written pieces, one with a creepy story (that I NEED to know more about) and one with beautiful, evocative writing. I think this is the fifth comment I've typed without hitting "Publish," going back and forth between the two. Usually it is my gut reaction to vote for the story I'd rather continue reading, and that's the first one, but Vampyr's piece is just so gorgeously written. My vote goes to #2 - but this was a VERY close call.

  5. This is a tough choice. I agree with Chris about the details of Vamp's tale and his comments regarding Imalie's. I also think Imalie's piece was too short for that ending to have the effect he/she wanted. But I'm still going to vote for it because the end is just too creepy and I like it.

  6. At first I didn't think I was going for Imalie Teller's piece because the beginning did not orient me to the characters well. I had to read it three times to figure out who was speaking and what was going on. But then I was hooked ... and that final line, wow.

    I really did not have much interest in Vampire14's characters. There was nothing technically wrong with the writing. The characters just didn't engage me, maybe because I don't know enough about them to know what Dylan means to the narrator or why the narrator is leaving. And because of that, the leaving seemed too stretched out and the description made me want to skim.

  7. Close call again! I loved them both for different reasons. Both well written, both interesting, both sucked me in. Ultimately the only thing that made the choice for me, since they were so close and so good was what I'm most interested in reading/want more of most (because I'd def continue reading both!).

    My votes for Imalie Teller!

    Again, this ended up caming down to personal preference, you both write wonderfully.

  8. My vote goes to Imalie Teller.

    I have to say, it almost didn't. When I first read the piece, I was confused as to whose POV the story was in and thought it jumped around a lot (also didn't like the Maizie/Maize name - can you just pick one?). After reading the comments (and the second piece, which didn't do much for me), I went back and read it more carefully. I think if the beginning was more clear as to what was happening, I wouldn't have HAD to re-read it. Glad I did, though.

  9. My vote is for Imalie Teller.

    I loved the ending, very creepy.

  10. This is the closest bout for me yet. I also had to re-read Imalie Teller's peice because i was just so lost in the beginning. I didn't know who was talking, where they were, etc. But the dialogue was strong. And that ending really made me sit up and take notice.

    The writing for Vampyr14 was very strong. I was interested in what was going on, but there was very little paragraph variation (they're all almost the same length) and no dialogue to break it up.

    So, again, both very strong, but i wanted to keep reading one more than the other, so I'm going with Imalie Teller.

  11. I like the exchanges of the first one. Going with Imalie Teller.

  12. Imalie Teller has my vote, but wow, both are truly contenders!

  13. Imalie's, for me, was hard to picture the background scenery. Thinking of a wagon with a bunk bed threw me off as did the dialogue intertwining with both characters in the same paragraph. I was slightly confused with the situation with the child. The ending was quite creepy though!

    Vampyr14 I felt missed out on a great opportunity to highlight the song. I actually think if the song took over as a focal point , like it was reminisced about while she is watching him sleep, it would have drew me in more. . It was definitely an easier read and easier to follow. I liked the idea of using musicians.
    I vote vampyr 14.

  14. My vote is for Vampyr14 this round.

    It's too bad that you're getting fewer votes this time around - my guess is because people don't have to keep coming back to see if their entry was selected, since they knew whether they were in the top 32 or not - which means the people who didn't make it likely are ignoring the contest now. Maybe next year you keep it a secret as to who made it in? I'll try to help spread the word!

  15. both strong peices today!

    I was instantly interested in Imalie Teller because- carnival! i definitely want to know more about this story and these characters. I struggled with the flips between Maizie/Maize- wasn't sure if it was intentional or typos.

    Vampyr was strong in writing style. I wasn't super excited at the start (you skipped the fun sexy stuff!) but then the drugs came up and i was more interested. I was a little off-put since she said she left without her clothes and then was on the sidewalk. Since they just had sex i assume she was naked she walking down the street without clothes? maybe a note about her getting dressed would help me.

    in the end i want to know more about the Carnival so my vote goes to Imalie Teller

  16. I'm with Tiana. I'd bet the reason for the drop-off is that people who weren't chosen to be among the 32 simply gave up. Last year, we all had hope every week, so we stopped in to see if maybe this week would be the one. And I apologize for not being here last week, but I was away with no internet. Keep in mind, it's also summer vacation season.

    Both of these are well-written, with lots of strong imagery. I'm more intrigued by Imalie's though, so I vote for Imalie Teller. One suggestion if I may: you don't need to have Rascal think "The child surely was pale" and then a few lines later, say "She surely is pale." If you delete one or the other, I think it would be stronger. And I wondered why sometimes you spell the name Maizie and sometimes Maize. Unless Maize is meant to be a familiar form of Maizie.

  17. Yikes - another tough choice. I had to go back and reread them because I couldn't decide. Both are well written, both pulled me in despite the fact that none of the characters appealed to me that much. Hm. I think my vote goes to #1

  18. Two excellent pieces. Imalie Teller

  19. Once again, a really hard choice! But I think I'm going with Vampyr14 on this one.

  20. Can't do much but agree with what's been said so far - Imalie's is rough around the edges for sure (a confusion of pronouns and actions in the beginning, some excess repetition near the end) but boy, with a little spit and polish, it would be stellar!

    I agree that Vampyr's prose is already spiffed-up and lovely, and I would certainly be amenable to reading on. For me, though, "would" can't beat "must", so my vote's gotta go to Imalie.

  21. Both excellent pieces, tough choice. But I have to go with Vampyr14

  22. Both entries have subject matters that are intriguing and a bit disconcerting, but the prose in Vampyr14's entry is simply better, so my vote goes to that one.

  23. Two great entries, but I am voting for Vampy14... What a cool snippet.

  24. Two great entries, but I am voting for Vampy14... What a cool snippet.

  25. I've been so busy I've forgotten to come over!!!! Wow, these were interesting. Vampyr14 had some beautiful prose and it made me curious. Imalie was unusual and dark and sucked me right in.

    I'm going with Imalie Teller.

  26. This was hard. I went back and re-read both pieces a couple times. I'm going with Imalie Teller.

  27. These were both terrific, but I reeeeeeally like the writing in the second piece. My vote goes to Vampy14.

  28. Very cool! Both had me wanting to know more. I liked Imalie Teller's surprise ending, although I did have to reread the intro a few times. Vampyr14 was well written however a little too cliché for me.

    Imalie Teller has my vote.

  29. Iamlie Teller's sample is intriguing, but I don't think it's as polished. I had a lot of trouble figuring out who these characters were and what was going on. There were a few too many repetitions.

    I felt the writing in Vampry14 was stronger, although I wanted a hint to understand why she was leaving him. That would have helped me engage with the character.

    My vote is for Vampyr14.

  30. My vote is Vampyre14.


  31. This was a very difficult one for me. I think I liked the plot and characters in Iamlie Teller's piece better. More my kind of story, and one I'd like to see more of. But it did need a bit of editing and clarity. Vampyre14's piece was something I probably wouldn't normally pick up, but it was poetic and melancholy. I felt like the writing was better, so my vote is for Vampyre14.

  32. Man this is the toughest choice yet.
    I agree that Iamlie's writing sample needs work but that ending..that ending is so awesome. The ending is what hooked me. Before that the writing was hard to follow and I kept having to re-read it.

    Vampyr14's writing sample was really polished. But it didn't grab me enough. I didn't feel a sense of what's at stake. She leave him and then what? Maybe hint at his reaction? Is leaving him a good or bad thing? What will be the consequences of her actions?

    My vote is for Iamlie's solely because of that last paragraph.

  33. My vote is for Vampyr14. Beautiful prose.

  34. Vampyr14 for me.

    The first piece had a few punctuation errors, and it didn't really grab me.
    The second piece was beautifully crafted, and I would keep reading.

  35. I apologize that I don't have time for much of a critique today.
    Imalie Teller's piece felt original and evoked a real emotion in me, although I do think it was a little confusing.
    Vampyr14, while the writing flowed very well, the piece seemed too cliche. Just like starting with action can detract from character, I feel that starting with sexually-charged moments can detract from the character by sounding too much like many other characters. "Tangle of limbs" right there at the very beginning is something I have read at least a dozen times before. If it's important to start your story at this moment, try to think about making all your descriptions--especially anything physical that you point out--very unique to the character and to your own writing style.
    So my vote is for Imalie Teller.

  36. Vampyr14. Well done.

  37. My vote is for Imalie Teller.
    I didn't notice many issues that haven't already been addressed. You're both strong writers. Imalie, I agree with Chris, try to alleviate identity confusion up front. Vamp, I agree with Faith's suggestion. We've all seen the situation with the next-morning wake up (even in last year's Write Club contest). Writing it new and differently is an opportunity to make it your own. I was more intrigued by Imalie's piece this go-round.

  38. Both stories were very good. There were a few things in Imalie That need to be worked on. I don't like repeated words in a short stretch--'waddled'. It also took a little while to get a feel for who's pov we were in. The last paragraph needed to be separated with the two different speakers.
    When I first read Vamp I enjoyed the flow of the prose. I had two problems with it. 1) the MC didn't really grab me. I just never truly felt her emotion. 2)I didn't really like using the sidewalk for the symbolism there. I just didn't get it.

    My vote goes to Imalie Teller

  39. My vote today is for Imalie Teller. I could see the characters more and the ending was a real hook to continue. Best of luck to you both.

  40. Another good bout!

    Your writing is well-paced and flowed well. Though there was tension, I didn't feel connected emotionally with the mc. I think it's because I have a hard time believing "I love him soooo much and that's why I have to leave" storylines.

    Imalie Teller:
    I just want to let you know off the bat that I really liked your piece. The setting and pacing and intriguing situation all really caught my attention--it's the type of story I would invest time in reading. I do agree that it felt a bit confusing in the beginning--mainly due to what Chris and David said regarding the dialogue identification. Now, on to something that I don't think has been brought up...

    After a few re-readings, I did find one aspect that could contribute to making the piece stronger. I believe it comes down to making your lines do "double duty"; they need to do more than just get action or thought across.

    In this case it's probably quicker to take a quick look at an excerpt and I apologize in advance for critiquing in this way, but it will save a whole lot of circular rambling on my part.

    Excerpt as written:

    The wagon lurched into motion. Rascal was sent staggering. He grabbed Maizie’s arm with his thick, short hands. It was the first time he’d touched her. He didn’t let go, even after his feet were steady on the plank floor. The bare skin below her sleeve was soft, but he could feel muscles and bone, too. She had to be strong, a woman on her own with the carnival. She didn’t have a man, wasn’t part of a performing family.

    This passage definitely tells us what's happening but perhaps with a little tweaking it can do that and give us more of Rascal's personality with it? Something like this:

    The wagon lurched forward and Rascal staggered into Maize, grabbing at her sleeve and that soft brown skin just below the cuff. Oh,that skin! Rascal let his thick, short fingers marvel at it. It was smooth all right, smooth and strong, with enough muscle and bone to make any carnival-man proud--not that she needed one of course.

    Now I won't presume to think that I got any of the Rascals feelings right. You know what's going through his head and the way he thinks. I feel though, if you look at some of these types of passages you'll find that you can get the lines to do double the work for you by getting across both the action and Rascal's personality. I'm interested enough in him and his situation that I want to dig more deeply into his thoughts.

    I'm generally more critical of pieces that I really like and so, my vote goes to Imalie Teller. I hope I get to see more of your work in the competition!

  41. DL, just a thought: I wonder if voting would be higher if you hadn't announced the writers up front? I remember last summer I was excited for each new bout wondering if I would be featured that day because we all knew we would get our spot. I'm sure everyone who wasn't chosen understands the change - it was completely necessary because I know I got tired last year and I wasn't doing any of the work! It seems to me comments are picking up bit. (Also? It's been a weird summer writing-wise. All my writer friends feel the same - we are too distracted by summer to be too productive. I'm hoping August will be better.)

    On to the voting - which I've been pondering all week. This was a tough round for me. Usually I try to focus on one negative thing to eliminate one of the entries, which was harder this round because there was much to like about both pieces.

    I love that both main characters have choices to make and are trying to "do the right thing." I also love that as a reader I can see the potential harm doing that right thing can cause. Nice set up in both cases for a good story.

    For me, this round will be decided based on personal preference. As a mother I'm more drawn to Imalie Teller. I can feel Maize's unconditional, motherly love for this child. Well done!

  42. My vote goes to Vampyr14, primarily because of the descriptiveness and the beautiful language. I got a much clearer picture of where they were, what the context of their relationship was and a decent guess as to what’s going to happen next. And the overall deciding factor were words and images themselves- so many beautiful passages and fragments in there that were touching but aching at the same time.

    My biggest complaint with Imalie Teller’s piece was that I couldn’t get a clear idea of what was going on. I gathered that they were carneys and not the brightest crayons in the box but the ending seriously threw me. Why do they have a body in the wagon? How did it get there? It was just way too confusing for me and I felt unable to connect to it because of that.

  43. Wow, both of these were great. This is a very hard choice, but I think I'm going with Imalie Teller because the subtext was palpable. Very nice.

  44. Awesome submissions. Congratulations to both authors. I would like to read more from them. I must choose one here and that is Vampyr14. My choice is based on the emotional turmoil I felt in that short story.

  45. Imalie Teller gets my vote. I like that the story didn't spell everything out for me, that I had to actually pay attention to what was going on in order to know what was happening - and even still there was a big twist at the end! Then I got to go back and see how knowing the ending affected the reading of the beginning, and I love being able to re-read something and get more out of it the second time around!

    Vampyr14's piece was poignant, but felt heavy-handed to me. Kind of like we were having our noses rubbed in how sad it was that s/he couldn't stay. Did s/he leave for the music? For the drugs? To get away from the drugs? I just didn't connect with this one, I guess.

  46. My vote is for Imalie. I found myself wanting a bit more from that story, and could absolutely picture the scene.

    ~AJ at Naturally Sweet

  47. Argh I missed voting on this one! Ah well, maybe it's a good thing - another toughie!




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