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WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round #2

This year's contest is off to an exhilarating start and I'm happy to keep the ball rolling.

Here's a recap in case the contest has escaped your notice before now, WRiTE CLUB (sponsored by the DFW Conference) is tournament-style contest that runs during the eight weeks prior to the conference and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win free admission to next year’s conference (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 (pre-decided by a group of twenty 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.

Even though the contest is sponsored by DFW, 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, I forgot to mention that the voters can win a $60 Barnes and Noble prize. 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 Monday, May 6th (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. 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) This is more of a suggestion than a rule - but cast your vote before you read other voter comments. Don't let yourself be swayed by the opinion of others.

That’s enough of the fine printlike the man says –

On one side of the ring stands Apollo Catspolis representing the Literary genre.

I let the phone ring on and on, buzzing nonstop. “Mom” glared up at me in big letters. Damn she always had the worst timing. I couldn’t answer the phone, not right then, in my car, still parked outside Olive Garden, my hands trembling. The post-fight adrenaline still rioted in my blood. My thumb hovered over the lock button. No, I wouldn’t send Mom to voicemail. That would be too heartless, even for me, the “fucking piece of shit asshole.” (Harper’s words, not Mom’s.)
Maybe those would be the last five words she’d ever say to me. Wouldn’t that be a poetic way to end things? Is that what she would tell our kid? Or would she lie? Build me up in their mind so they could be proud of the dad who wouldn’t be there for their first day of kindergarten. “Your dad? No, he was a nice guy. Just didn’t have the space in his heart for us.”
I leaned my forehead onto the steering wheel, sighing. Harper would lie about me, no matter how many times she’d screamed, “I hate you,” drawing the attention of the whole damn pop-song version of an Italian restaurant. Harper would lie because she was good like that. Not like me.
Had that been my fault, though? She’d sprung it on me without any warning at all. We’d been watching Steven Universe on the couch at my house, and I’d fallen asleep, head in her lap. I’d woken up to the soft trails of her fingers combing through my hair. She gave me this look, television lighting up her face, and said, “You want to get something to eat?” I’d been craving chicken alfredo, so I said, “sure.”
I wouldn’t have suggested Olive Garden if I’d known.
What had she been expecting? No, I knew. Harper who always secretly recorded me with her “vintage” camcorder or shoved the thing into my hands and asked me to “get the shot” of her doing something fairy-like. “Tell me a story,” she would always say when we lay in bed together at night, unable to sleep. I would tell her a fairytale full of romance because that’s what she wanted: a dream.
In Harper’s version of that dinner, I would have gasped in surprise. She would have wanted to watch a huge grin break out on my face, shiny and bright like the moon. Would have wanted me to take her hands, look in her eyes, and tell her, “You are amazing. You will be the best mother to your child, and I will be there to help you raise her.” Because Harper would have wanted a little girl to doll up.
Instead, she’d been spinning noodles around on her fork, looking dazed mostly. The screech of her fork had been grinding on my nerves with every little twirl. I had a noodle halfway in my mouth when she muttered, “I’m pregnant,” under her breath.

On the far side of the ring, we have Word Slinger who is representing the Contemporary genre.

I dreamt of a life that didn’t include my self-centered, narcissistic older sister.
“Asmah, you have exactly five minutes then I’m leaving without you.” Khadijah yelled from downstairs.  “I assumed nerds like you didn’t care about their appearance.”
I clenched my fist but ignored her taunt, for now. One last glance at my reflection then I’d be ready; my dark washed Levis matched with a light grey tissue tee that hung almost to my mid-thigh. I wore my favorite hijab: a large, rectangular cotton one, big enough to wrap around my head twice.
I grabbed my back pack and bolted from my bedroom, my lavender sanctuary.
“Are you finally ready?” Khadijah stood, six years older than me, with her hands planted on her hips.
My eyes bulged but I held back the curse words lodged in my throat. “If you hadn’t taken forever in the bathroom, I wouldn’t be late to my last day of classes.” After finals next week, I’d finally be a high school senior.
“Now it’s my fault?” she screeched.
 “Look, I didn’t ask you to take me to school, Ma did.” I grabbed my navy blue Vans from the mat by the door and slipped them on.
“Both you and Ma need to understand, if Khalif proposes, then my days of chauffeuring you around are numbered. Ma and I are invited to lunch today with him and his mom. So today could be the day. I don’t have time for this.”
Her life would be defined by marriage; one pushed by our mother. I rolled my eyes as I slammed her car door shut. She glared out the window as she drove with Vivaldi playing in the background; the classical music, her potential mother-in-law’s favorite.
Khalif, her wealthy suitor, had become her only topic of conversation. He hadn’t even popped the question yet she acted like the wedding was tomorrow. The price you paid for being beautiful. We had been close when I was younger but the moment she got to high school and understood the power her looks gave her, our relationship suffered a direct hit.
Mom rejoiced in her oldest daughter’s beauty. I’d kill for her blemish-free skin and slender figure. Mom bragged to all the women at the mosque that Khadijah had graduated culinary school and now could prepare lavish feasts for her future husband and his family. She was on cloud nine that her eldest daughter had caught the eye of a rich attorney from a prominent Muslim family.
But I yearned for a different life; a career in the law like my dad.
To Mom, it didn’t matter I was in the running for next year’s valedictorian. I resisted my mom’s suggestions to think about what qualities were important for me in a husband. And once my sister married, I became the next target.
I could never compete with Khadijah, the Perfect, so I gave up and focused on school to fulfill my dreams not my mother’s delusions. 

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 bout #3. 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. Both fantastic entries, but my vote goes to Apollo Catspolis for making my stomach clench up with anxiety while reading it. Way to get that emotion on the page!

  2. Two more exceptional pieces! I loved both story lines; they really plugged the reader into their respective worlds. Apollo has an incredible sense of voice; I picked up immediately on the protag's self-deprecating and sarcastic nature, and I know I'll sympathize with him despite his imperfections. Word Slinger also has a good grasp of character, but there was so much backstory/'telling' in the excerpt that I had a hard time forging that deep connection. But then I tend to like a slow reveal, so that's just subjective.

    My vote is for Apollo for this round, but 10/10 would read more of both!

  3. I loved both entries—such great writing! It was a hard choice, but I’m voting for Word Slinger since their story resonated with me on a more personal level, and I really related with the younger sister.

  4. Whoo, this is a hard one! Both excellent pieces, both full of conflict! I'm voting for Word Slinger because I love the voice of the MC, the fraught dynamic between the sisters and the hints of strain between the MC and the cultural expectations imposed by her mother. Apollo's writing is taut and terrific, but I found myself feeling less than sympathetic toward the MC (which is a "me, not you" type of thing :)).

  5. Apollo’s piece sounds like the start of an interesting story, and I’d keep reading! I was initially confused instead of drawn in. Maybe focus less on food and add a bit of action. What if the narrator answers his phone, and the backstory is worked in through conversation?

    Word Slinger’s piece is immediately relatable. Is this MG or YA? The dialogue could be tightened and there could be more action here with less talking/backstory, but I want to keep reading.

    My vote goes to Word Slinger. Great job and congratulations to both!

  6. A close one, but I envisioned Apollo's story more on an emotional level rather than just on a clear physical description level. Both writers should be proud of their work. Either could go a long way.

  7. Word Slinger gets my vote. Great voice, nice scene and a lot of information that I can see going forward into a novel.

    Apollo had some great lines but overall was confusing for me. Great job in tone though!

  8. As with Day 1, two great submissions. Both appear to be the beginnings of longer stories and it is hard to know where each is going. Apollo's is a slow build while Wordslinger's drops you into the story quicker. I probably would be more interested in reading Apollo's complete story (Wordslinger's seems to be a coming of age, and I am well past the sell by date for those), but given the competition is for 500 word submission, my vote is for Wordslinger's.

  9. A tight race this morning, for sure. Thanks so much for the great reads.
    I’m going with Catsopolis, mainly because of the hilarious digs at Olive Garden. If you make me laugh, you’ve gone a long way with me. I do wonder what happened to Mom’s phone call! I liked the portrayal of Harper’s big announcement.
    Wordslinger’s world is definitely one I would read more about. I’m interested in the 2 sisters and hope the wealthy suitor turns out to be bad news. A few problems with punctuation, particularly missing commas and use of semicolon where colon is needed.

  10. Two more fantastic stories!

    Apollo's story had lots of little nuggets, but was confusing overall.

    Word Slinger's story pulled me right in, in spite of some repetitive words (self-centered, narcissistic), and I was never confused about what was happening. I get the feeling this is an excerpt from a longer piece. If so, it's something I would absolutely love to read all the way through.

    My vote goes to Word Slinger!

  11. I vote for Word Slinger
    The dialogue is natural and real. The picture of sibling squabbling and the need to be unique are universal.

  12. Both are great pieces of writing. Both delved into the emotions of the MC well. When I compare them I felt Word Slinger had a more clear direction than Apollo. My vote is for Word Slinger.

  13. Two nice stories. Word Slinger read cleaner and more organized to me. Congratulations to both. I vote for Word Slinger

  14. Close call but I'll go with Word, mostly a dialogue preference.

  15. Replies
    1. Not sure what you are referring to?

    2. below my comment
      Reply Delete?

    3. I guess that's in case you choose later to remove the comment. There is no editing, so if you have to make a change your only option is to delete and add a new comment.

    4. And "delete" only shows up under your own comments because you can't delete anyone else's comments. Only yours.

  16. Unfortunately, neither of these pieces really resonates with me.

    Apollo Catspolis
    What works:
    A flawed, unlikable character always makes me curious about how the author will redeem them.
    What didn't:
    You've forgotten to give your flawed character anything for me to like. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he's SO self-centered and entitled.
    Although we're deep in the MC's head, we're pretty distant from the action of the story. It's possible that I might have been able to empathize more with him if we'd seen the actual fight instead of just hearing about it from his limited and clearly unreliable perspective.

    Word Slinger
    What works:
    You worked a lot of information into this short piece. I can see what the main conflicts are and have a strong idea of where the story is going.
    What didn't:
    I don't feel any real connection to the MC or her story. Everything feels fairly "stock" at this point.
    The dialogue comes across as a little erratic, with emotions spiking in ways that don't feel quite right.

    I am afraid that the 500 word limit worked against both of these pieces. With a little more room to flesh things out and move the story forward, I might have felt very differently. Despite my inability to connect with these stories and the few punctuation errors in each, I would definitely be excited about reading more from these authors. It is obvious how much time and effort was put into their work.

    My vote goes to Apollo Catspolis because I am more curious about their MC's character arc than that of the other MC.

  17. Word Slinger for me. I was in the story immediately and following along as if I'd already been introduced to the main character.

    Apollo Catspolis, while good, didn't pique my curiosity as much.

  18. Both stories filled with emotion. I had a hard time following Apollo's story. I appreciate it's difficult to include everything with such a limited amount of words. I liked Word's natural progression using the dialog to move the story along. My vote is for Word Slinger.

  19. My vote goes to Apollo. I felt more tension, and more of a big emotional hit at the end of the scene. Word Slinger's story was heart-tugging, but have to admit I've seen the trope so much I'm jaded.

  20. My vote is for Apollo.
    In such a small space, I really felt for this character.

  21. My vote goes to Apollo! Both are great. However, Apollo did a great job of completely dropping me in their character's head. I felt completely drawn in.

  22. APOLLO CATSPOLIS - The piece has a beautiful way of winding up tension and weaving in backstory. My only real issue was struggling to understand the characters outside of the context of the larger work. It also doesn't read as literary fiction, but I also wouldn't call myself an expert on the genre, so take that with a grain of salt.

    WORD SLINGER - You sure did sling those words. Stories about siblings always get me, so maybe I'm biased, but that sort of tension is so real and familiar, along with a glimpse into a complicated family. Aside from a stray missing comma, I can't find complaints?

    Yet another hard round, but my vote goes to WORD SLINGER!!

  23. These entrants scored close to each other in my slush prelims, and it's still a tough choice. As Solange mentioned, they share a few strengths and weaknesses.

    We're getting glimpses of characters here. Wordslinger has dropped us right into this sister conflict, spot-on-trope, with a nod to diversity (I hope this piece is #ownvoices) but it's not particularly surprising or fresh. I'm not seeing the uniqueness that would make me curious about how these character arcs will play out over a longer story.

    On first read, Apollo had me confused with who was saying what to whom, how, and when. But this self-centered fellow has grown on me. I see lots of room for character growth and change. Lots.

    Both pieces need a bit of polishing & tightening.

    Today's *very* close vote to Apollo.

  24. Word Slinger's piece was more emotional - one could feel the heart-wrenching regret.

  25. Such a difficult choice!

    My vote goes to Apollo--I liked how quickly the character's flawed personality and tense emotion came through, as well as how the piece was framed around the mystery of what exactly caused the emotion/fight. The ending did feel a little weak, likely because this is meant to continue past the 500 words?

    I really appreciated that Word Slinger's characters are WOC, and liked the difficult relationship between the sisters. However, I felt like the explanation for the conflict between them felt a bit forced, although I loved the dialogue between them.

  26. Two more great entries! My vote is for Word Slinger

    Apollo... the story was too distant for me, felt like an info dump. The set up is great, and I think if it started with the actual fight, it would be much stronger!!

    Word. This, too sets up a great conflict. It is still a lot of info dumping and reflection for my taste, but does include more of the action.

    Great job, guys!

  27. I'm voting for Alollo because it's a perspective I haven't seen before, which catches my attention, although I would keep reading both entries to see where they went.

  28. Apollo's story is tighter; Word Slinger spends a little too much time describing wardrobe. But both are really good openings that set up potentially interesting and original stories. Word's story gets the edge and the vote from me just because I'm more interested in their viewpoint character, but both writers are pretty awesome.

  29. My vote is for Word Slinger.
    The details made the characters relatable. And the details spoke for themselves, so the explanation about the relationship dynamics wasn't necessary, and in my opinion weakened the piece.

    I didn't vote for Apollo, even though the characterization of Harper worked well for me. On the first read, I wasn't sure what was flashback and how far it went, so I'd drifted out of the story world by the middle.

  30. Another tough round. I vote for Apollo athough I would like to know where each story is headed. I felt that word slinger was just to familiar of a story.

  31. Both writers did a great job. Congrats! My vote is for Apollo. Word’s story only needs tightening a bit.

  32. Both are compelling. Both offer real world problems with real world people. Both offer characters I want to know more about.

    Apollo Catspolis appeals to my need to for grown-up situations. The protagonist is not a bad guy, but he’s no hero. Apollo Caspolis also gives me a good description of Harper without introducing her. I neither like nor dislike either, yet. However, writing is a bit sloppy.

    Word Slinger appeals to issues of many young females in the modern world torn between what is and what they want. While the writing is clear with few grammatical errors, there is something too simplistic about Asmah. I’ve worked with enough girls becoming women to know they can be very focused, but they are still teen girls. I don’t find that is Asmah.

    My vote goes to Apollo Catspolis. The characters are more believable than Word Slingers. That being said, I would keep reading both pieces if they were offered to me. I like them both.

  33. Apollo Catspolis gets my vote this round simply because I was intrigued by the premise. Word slinger's entry feels like it's a good set up for a YA book that features a main character I'd probably really like...but I wasn't excited or intrigued. It felt like a version of a story we've read many times, but I know that it can shine when the author puts his/her own spin on it. Thank you for sharing your work!

  34. My vote goes to Word Slinger.

    As a Muslim mom of three daughters and being a younger sister myself, I can identify with Asmah and her situation. I also know the need for my girls to see themselves in coming of age YA stories.

    As a previous comment mentioned, the Apollo story had good intrigue but I was sort of confused in the middle of the excerpt whether we were in present time or in a flashback.

    Such a great opportunity for constructive feedback.

  35. I think I'm going to go with Apollo for this one! Both pieces were interesting and well-written (and I love the Muslim protag of Word Slinger--we need more of those!), but ultimately I felt a little more invested in the family drama and expectation-vs-reality-in-an-Olive-Garden world that Apollo was beginning to build for me.

  36. Wow. Two entries so very close for different reasons.

    Apollo: The story began somewhat confusing for me, but many good stories do as I try to figure out the questions they pose. The character comes across well as unlikable. This alone would keep me reading to see if he redeems himself. Or not. Stakes are present: girlfriend is pregnant; how will he handle the situation and how will it affect his life? From his turmoil, I love the subtext that he won't easily walk away.

    Word Slinger: The writing is cleaner, the story, more straightforward. What I don't get a sense of are any compelling stakes in the here and now. If big sis gets her proposal, mom's going to be wrapped up in wedding preparations, so Asmah will be... studying to become valedictorian? Ignored by her family? There's nothing here to push me forward to continue reading.

    My vote goes to Apollo.

  37. Congratulations to two more contestants!

    Apollo’s piece had a great slow reveal - it wasn’t immediately clear what the fight had been about, and I did like the description of how it would go in her head as opposed to how it actually went. I was confused about the gender of the narrator in the beginning, which pulled me out of the story a bit.

    Word Slinger’s piece dropped you right into a normal day, but didn’t get too far because of the word limit. With this piece, I did have a better idea of what was going on, and can understand the erratic emotions of a teenager.

    I vote for WordSlinger for drawing me instead of causing confusion.

  38. I enjoyed both pieces. Two good examples of different kinds of tension.
    I think for Apollo's piece, I'd be tempted to turn it around and start from the whispered "I'm pregnant" and go forward. I liked the intensity and the emotional impact.
    For Word Slinger's I liked the tension between the girls. I think I'd be tempted to focus more on Asmah than her sister.
    Tough choice today.
    My vote goes to Word Slinger

  39. Wow, another great bout! Congratulations to both for getting into the ring!

    Apollo—I thought the rising tension was good and the pacing was quite tight. However, I had to re-read the first two paragraphs a couple of times. Initially, I thought the MC was a boxer, ‘post-fight adrenaline.’ I think it needs clearing up a little as to who’s saying/thinking what as it reads a little confused. But, a very emotional short piece—well done!

    Word Slinger—I loved how you sprinkled in the conflict while setting up the relationship between the sisters. I also really liked how you gave the reader reasons to root for your MC (her low self-esteem, her longing to be more ‘than’ and follow her aspirations.)

    Word Slinger gets my vote!

  40. I love how both pieces really paint a picture of the character and their primary conflict! One small suggestion to Apollo: In the third line change "post-fight" to "post-argument" as I thought the MC had been in a physical altercation and that made a little mental bump for me when I realized something else had transpired. Word Slinger: Awesome first line! Makes us immediately relate to Asmah. While I think Apollo's entry has great voice and strong characterization, my vote goes to Word Slinger as I have a bit more sympathy for a girl in competition with her sister than I do for a guy who's not taking the news of fatherhood very well.

    1. Ooo - that's a good observation - post-argument is a good suggestion. I, too, thought the MC had been in a physical fight on the first read.

  41. Neither story really gripped me but Apollo's was written from a perspective I hadn't seen before and would be interested to see how it unfolds so my vote goes for Apollo.

  42. Oh boy. Another round with two of my favorites. Slush pile reading was easier than voting in these rounds for sure...

    Apollo Catspolis's story really took me for a turn. In the beginning, I wasn't sure what was going on, but the writer is quick to pull you into the story and throw you into the middle of a very intense scene. The best part for me was how much information we were able to glean from this tiny little sample of writing, how much we already know about the character, about his girlfriend/wife?, about his mother, etc. We have so many small details thrown in without being glaringly obvious that it really makes the sample read very smoothly. Those details are the things that many writers struggle with, so this is really well done.

    Wordslinger, oh, Wordslinger, I just loved this sample from start to finish. It has such a fresh YA contemporary feel and the voice is so, so good. The writing itself reads a little stiff (nothing big, this can be polished out), but there's so much emotion, so much character in our main character that I just couldn't help but want to read more. This main character is so unsure of her place in the world, but her dreams are so big you can practically feel them leaping off the page.

    Ultimately, my vote goes to Wordslinger. Great job, both writers!

  43. Apollo Catspolis' piece gets my vote. Very sad.

  44. I enjoyed the emotional ups and downs of both stories, but it felt like there was too much "Tell" and not enough "Show" in both. In Word Slinger's story, the first line could have been eliminated, using those 13 words to punch up the ending, which fell flat.

    In Apollo C's story, his first paragraph started by talking about his mom. A bit confusing, when he switched to Harper.

    That being said, the basic subject matter of both stories had appeal and both compelled me to keep reading, which is huge. My vote is going to Word Slinger, who made stronger use of first person POV.

  45. Voting is much harder than I expected it to be in these bouts!

    Apollo had excellent PoV and we dropped right into the MC's head and emotions. I was a bit confused by the brief flashbacks and Harpers "expectations". I was not expecting that last bit at all.

    Word Slinger is setting up a great coming of age contemporary story with WoC, and that is wonderful! I feel like things could be a bit tighter and clarified maybe? Ultimately I wanted to keep reading this, so Word Slinger gets my vote!

  46. Definitely a close call, but I'm going to have to go with Apollo Catspolis, who builds a tighter narrative into the short excerpt.

  47. shoot, that previous one is from

  48. I vote for Word Slinger.
    Two good entries and well-matched, but Word Slinger resonated with me a bit more. I like the interplay between the perfect older sister and the younger. I think some of it could have been a bit more subtle, but ultimately I enjoyed it.
    Apollo was really good too - the MC was just the right combo of unlikable but a little sympathetic. I was a little confused at the beginning (and its only 500 words so that's inevitable) but it all came together at the end.
    A really close race, good luck to both contestants!

  49. Two great entries and I'd be happy to read both stories in their entirety.
    Apollo has an interesting idea that I'm curious about but I found the story hard to follow and didn't really find anything that I could relate with in the MC. It was a little too vague in 500 words to really capture me.
    Word Slinger brought me in immediately and despite being the oldest child I could feel a draw to the main character and her dilemma. The main issue I had when trying to get into the story was my own problem, I wasn't sure how to pronounce the characters names properly as they are new to me so I kept trying different ways and getting myself distracted. That's on me and I have looked them up now and am even more intrigued on a second read.
    My vote is for Word Slinger!

  50. This is another strong match-up. They both build up their characters well and there is definitely conflict, although I am not altogether sure where that conflict is headed. Apollo's piece was interesting but I just didn't connect well with the MC. I preferred Word Slinger because it is a conflict that I can relate to. So, WordSlinger gets my vote.

  51. Word Slinger gets my vote. Sibling rivalry is something we can all relate to, and the story drew me in enough to want to see what path Asmah eventually takes. The writing could have been a bit tighter though. Also, what color is her favorite hijab? All the other clothing had a color, so I really kinda want to know…

    Apollo Catspolis – good job of describing the protag’s confusion/discomfort. The main thing I disliked was first you said “our kid”, then later down the line it became “your child” – although maybe you did that on purpose? Also, what kind of “warning” should one expect in these situations? Asking for a friend:)

  52. Casting my vote for Apollo.

    While I think Word Slinger's story is a very solid start, I found it leaned too heavily on cliches for me. The lines of dialogue, while realistic, also felt stiff and forced. Also, it felt a little too telly at times. Bring me into the scene. Otherwise, I enjoyed the verbal play between the two sisters. Well done. Ultimately, I found Apollo's piece to be more engaging even though the writing could use some fine tuning.

  53. I was a mite disappointed after yesterday's bout, but then this bout is two genres I rarely read. So, my opinion is questionable. This is it:

    Apollo Catspolis representing the Literary genre. The 'I' character began to come alive, but I needed more. On my first read-through, I was hooked as there was a lot of detail and a neat balance of sentences.
    And there seemed to be a hidden twist lurking in there, but the ending felt like an anticlimax. AC built a frustration feeling - but leading to what? Suicide? Divorce? Unclear and why was Olive Garden wrong?

    Word Slinger representing the Contemporary genre. At first, I was distracted - as I am now. However, there is good interaction and tension between the sisters - plus their contrasting lives/careers/dreams ring true. The sample read better second time through (without distractions.) But, the last paragraph felt rushed. Was WS trying to end the story within 500 words? I'd have preferred there to be a cliffhanger, pointing to more to come.

    My vote goes to - Word Slinger.

  54. Great tension in Apollo Catspolis and I like the presumably Own Voice of Word Slinger, but my vote goes to the sun god, Apollo Catspolis.

  55. My vote goes to Word Slinger. It was straightforward and the character had a very clear voice.

    For me, Apollo Catspolis was a bit muddled; I found myself having to backtrack and reread portions.

  56. My vote goes to Apollo Catspolis.

    Apollo: The writing is intense; to me, this reflects the emotions of the moment and paints a vivid picture. Well done.

    Word Slinger: The writing here is good. I wanted to like this entry better, but I got bored by the end. Perhaps there was too much telling, not enough showing? The premise also felt cliched and overdone.

  57. is hard on this one! They are both really good. I have changed my mind a few times!

    My vote goes to Apollo.

  58. Ah, the fickle nature of the luck of the draw -- just in terms of basic writing craft, I'd vote for either of these over both of the round 1 contestants, even though the round 1 entries had much more 'interesting' concepts. But that's just my taste -- I'd rather have a mundane story told smoothly than a 'high-concept' story told with craft that needs some polish. Heck, write it well enough and I'll be captivated by a scene of the protagonist cutting their toenails...

    And while DL may have additional guidelines, to me, that's the whole point of WRITE CLUB: In 500 words, let's see those writing chops! Captivate me with your flow of words, beguile me with your mastery of phrasing and pacing, sway me with how well you show me the scene and pull me in. And if there happens to be an interesting story in there too, well -- all the better. But the point is the writing.

    And in round two, I find two entries were the strength is their writing: Here we have two 'familiar' human-relationship situations that we can all identify with at some level, and the writing is smooth in both. I read through both with minimal pauses, caught up in the pacing of the telling, so well-done to both writers!

    I think there's definitely much to like in both entries, but since I can't choose both, I am giving the slight edge to Apollo. I think there is a little more immediacy to the writing, maybe because the scene has a little more emotional content to it. Word Slinger's work is well-done, and if this was a scene with a little higher stakes than sibling squabbling, it might have easily have taken my vote -- I did find the MC a little more likable than the guy fighting with the mother of his future child.

    But in the battle between these two 500 words, I'm going with Apollo.

  59. Apollo Catspolis - The sentences were a little clunky at times, but I was taken in by the inner dialogue of the MC. I did like some of the details included in the piece like "she'd been spinning noodles around on her fork".

    Word Slinger: I liked the first line on this piece however the subject matter being dealt with here is a tale as old as time. I thought some of the dialogue quite predictable and wanted to see more character development.

    My vote goes to Apollo.

  60. Ooh, this one was tough. These were both solid ideas, but I feel like they both could use a little more focus. Also, I believe both could use a little touching up on a technical level.
    Word Slinger, I feel like your opening describes a self-centered person, but then your narrator goes on to spend half the 500 word limit on description, most of it visual. It gives the impression that the narrator is vain and self-obsessed, not the person she describes, which, if intended, is brilliant, but that doesn't come through in the story. Also, some of the descriptions felt obvious, and the reference to Cloud 9 is a cliche. I'd try to come up with a fresher metaphor. Also, the timeline was confusing. It goes from your protagonist being a junior high-schooler to valedictorian without any warning, which made me backtrack a bit.
    Apollo, the non-linear format could have worked if it was set up with something a little more interesting than a phone call from mom. On a technical level, all of the loose clauses hanging off of the main clause make the reading a slog. Here's an example: I couldn’t answer the phone, not right then, in my car, still parked outside Olive Garden, my hands trembling. That's a lot of your 500 word budget, and the repetitive rhythms created by those clauses hanging off the main clause are distracting.
    Overall, I enjoyed reading both and think the ideas were solid. My vote will have to go to Word Slinger.
    Daniel Link

  61. For me, the second entry by Word Slinger stands superior.

    While both suffered somewhat by "show don't tell" and a sprinkle of punctuation errors, I found the first entry lost me with slightly confusing character references. Meanwhile, although not a totally new take on the issue of arranged marriage, the second entry felt more narratively cohesive, and I got a good grasp of the characters, which is why it takes the win for me.

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  63. My vote this rond has to go to Apollo.

    I found the first entry to be the more interesting of the two, though I would work on the wording in some places to help clarifiy intent. Wordslinger had a good, strong voice but I am personally not a fan of the "WAKE UP BEFORE YOU ARE LATE" story openings. Also it didn't feel like anything happened at all in that entry.

  64. Very hard choice. Word Slinger - loved the final sentence and thought it was well executed, though a very familiar story. Within 500 words, it is difficult, but I would look for one clue on how this varies from similar stories where a character is bucking tradition, culture, or familial expectations. But well written and I would read more.

    I vote for Apollo. Though this could be a familiar story, I'm left wanting to get inside this MC and explore more of his thought process.

    Good job to both.

  65. This year it seems really difficult to choose. All the entries are great! Going with Word Slinger today. I didn't want to stop reading the story!

  66. I'm voting for Word Slinger because I was immediately drawn in and my attention didn't flag, unlike Apollo's where I had to force myself to keep reading a few times due to semi-clunky narrative. When I have to pause and re-read a sentence in order to fully comprehend it, before I'm really invested in the characters or the scene, that throws me off a bit

  67. This is a hard one for me. Both entries deal with familiar issues, and both do a little bit too much showing rather than telling, but I resonated with Word Slinger more than Apollo. Word Slinger gets my vote.

  68. Replies
    1. This vote will not be counted as it is anonymous. Please read the post for bout#3 to learn how to resolve this.

  69. Word Slinger has a lot of potential, but I think it needs something to distinguish it from other stories dealing with similar issues.

    Apollo didn't initially grab me, but I think it does a good job of getting into the character's head and introducing both Mom and Harper.

    Apollo gets my vote.

  70. Danielle Resh-

    These were such interesting pieces to pit against one another--it was interesting to see how both of these writers tackled the theme of family strife.

    I loved the straightforward, almost harsh tone in Apollo Catspolis' piece. The language was clear and the dialogue natural.
    “I would tell her a fairytale full of romance because that’s what she wanted: a dream”-- love the punch of that line. And wow, what an ending. I think trying to come up with more unique similes (for ex, thinking of a different simile to replace "shiny and bright like the moon") would really take the piece to the next level.

    Word Slinger gets my vote. I thought the dialogue was amazing-- so natural...conversations I can totally hear between sisters. I was also more interested in the perspective of this piece, as it seems Muslim characters are still underrepresented. The piece reminded me a lot of a book "A Place for Us" by Fatima Farheen Mirza...I would suggest both writers in this bout read that book to see a really great ex of how to get into characters' inner motivations and drives.

  71. my vote is for Apollo Catspolis, too much punctuation, but a nice start on a story. the second one too obsessed with wardrobe to get to much of a story.

  72. Both entries could be winners, too bad they are matched up so early in the contest. To me, Apollo's story was tighter, and captured my interest quicker. So Apollo get's my vote.

  73. My vote goes to Apollo this round, simply because something about the way it was written resonated with me and drew me in right away. I definitely felt for the narrator in Word Slinger's piece, though. They both felt like great beginnings to a longer story.

  74. My vote goes to Apollo. Raw emotion, makes me want to hear more.

  75. Strong emotional stories on both sides.

    My vote goes to Word Slinger. You build an easy to see world of sibling rivalry, parent/child relationships, and it pulled me in. I wanted to root for Asmah and see her plans for the future.

    For Apollo Catspolis your story also painted a scene that could come from real life. Modern day references to shows, and relationship habits, and indecision were all done very well. However, I wanted to know what the character said. We learned what had been thrown in their face at the beginning, what led up to that moment, and the reveal the catalyst for it all, but then don't know how the character actually reacted. I would keep reading but starting from one emotional place, then going back to another, and then ending before explaining how one became another thre me.

    1. This is an excellent critique, but unfortunately it will not count in the voting as the author did not leave their name and email address.


      Nikolai Wisekal

  76. My vote goes to Apollo. Relationship angst and relatable.

    Word Slinger's story felt like it had been done before.

  77. My vote goes to Word Slinger. It jumps into the story and the character's voice feels real, natural. I could stick with this for a few more chapters to see where it goes.

    Apollo Catspolis felt disjointed and I fairly quickly disliked the protag. Not in a self-deprecating or self-aware kind of a way, but just not a character I wanted to spend a couple hundred pages with. I think some edits could resolve some of that. The storyline has promise, but the opening needs work.

  78. Voting for WordSlinger - thank you both for sharing!

  79. Apollo's left me wanting to know more and kept me engaged, whereas I tuned out a little bit during WordSlinger's and felt that it wrapped up a little too nicely. Apollo gets my vote.

    1. Didn't mean to make this anonymous. I'm Sarah S. at

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  81. It's a difficult choice again. These are both the lead-in to a longer story, and it's hard to pull that off in just 500 words. Apollo dropped me firmly in the narrator's head and vividly right there in the car, looking at the phone. He's self-centered and unlikable in some ways, but I got the sense he could be redeemed, and I'd love to know more. Word Slinger did a great job pulling me into the immediate action of the story, and it's great to see characters outside the usual mainstream US culture. The dialogue was natural and convincing. However, I wasn't drawn in emotionally so much. Partly that's a personal thing, since I'm soooooo far beyond the MC/YA phase of my life. Partly it's that, aside from the cultural references, the characters feel cut from the usual stock: glamorous older sister who spends too much time in the bathroom, younger sister who is smart but whose gifts are not valued by her family, obviously heading toward her triumph when she is accepted by others and comes to accept herself.

    I vote for Apollo Catspolis. But it's close!

  82. This is going to sound very harsh but I have to admit I'm not a fan of either of these pieces. I found both to be just sub-par, especially when considering the quality of the other pieces I have read this year and last.

    If I had to choose one, I'd go with Word Slinger. Maybe because I can feel a semi-small connection to the main character in feeling a little bit less than an older sibling. Maybe because I read it second and it's the one freshest in my mind.

  83. My vote is for Apollo. Both stories held my interest, but I felt Apollo's story was tighter and I liked the surprise at the end.

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  85. My vote goes to Apollo.
    I felt I was more inside the character and the situation.

  86. Word Slinger made me smile from the very first line, and the characters felt fully fleshed-out and real. Nothing wrong with the other, it just didn't grab me as quickly.

  87. Apollo Catspolis - Definitely literary. A well-written flashback.

    Word Slinger - I want to know what happens next. I wish it were present tense ("I grab my backpack" instead of "I grabbed my back pack") to make the momentum more powerful.

    I like them both. Ultimately, I want to know more about where Word Slinger's MC will go from here, so that's my vote.

  88. The remarks on the setting in the first one made me laugh. It was a good story. Has my vote.

    The second was good, but didn't feel new or different enough to me.

  89. Word slinger painted a great picture and had exceptional voice. I think this MC is spunky, and I’d love to read more from her.

    They get my vote!

  90. Apollo’s piece takes a risk in using an unlikeable MC and flashback format. Although I’m not crazy about this MC, at least he’s honest.

    Word Slinger did express a dynamic between sisters that’s very relatable, though I agree with Solange that the dialouge had emotional spikes that didn’t read right.


  91. This is a tough one but ultimately, my vote goes to Apollo. I felt both authors straining against the word limit and that there was a lot missing that they wished to put in. Apollo had stronger word choice and some beautiful turns of phrase that made it my choice, although I wished I had some idea of why it turned into a fight. He's selfish and not meant to be likeable, but if I had some idea of his reasons, maybe I wouldn't be annoyed by his selfishness. Still, I had an emotional reaction, so that was a good thing.

    Word Slinger did a great job of painting the familial and cultural issues, but it felt too much like just a piece of a larger work for me. There were too many words spent on her wardrobe and not enough on the relationship between sisters (why did their relationship turn sour?). There were some forced bits of dialogue that didn't ring true too.

  92. Both interesting pieces.
    Apollo Catspolis - I was a bit confused with the flashbacks and didn't really connect with the piece. Word Slinger - I loved the clear, strong voice and knew exactly what was going on.
    My vote goes to Word Slinger.

  93. I liked Word Slinger's start better. The lines of conflict were better defined. Is this story more about the conflict between the sisters or between the MC and her mother?

    Apollo's start is good, but two things held it back (hard not to do this in just 500 words). I got derailed into thinking this was a physical fight. And I wanted to see the MC's reaction to the pregnancy news that would justify the adrenaline and the “fucking piece of shit asshole” comment from Harper.

    My vote is with Word Slinger.

  94. My vote goes to Apollo! Loved the prose.

  95. This was a gut wrenching choice for me! I want to read both books in full (especially Word Slinger as it is a story which isn't broadly told). My vote is based solely on the which story had the strongest content within 500 words (even if I might have preferred a different story if based on the full book).

    My vote goes to Apollo.
    With just 500 words you have to create a strong emotion within the first few sentences and carry it all the way through to the end. It comes down to reader impact. Apollo created immediate tension, launching us right into the chaos and not letting go. The final sentence "I'm pregnant" left me with a "whoa what just happened" feeling. The voice of the piece was great!

    Word Slinger is a great writer but this section of the story had more of a gentle build in tension. The book sounds like it would be a fantastic read but in a short story competition the selected text didn't have the hook and tension needed to compete with other more intense entries. The above said, I loved the story and would definitely want to read the full book! Kudos for telling a story we need to hear more of!!!

  96. My vote goes to Word Slinger, better imagery "lavender sanctuary," and a more empathetic protagonist. Couldn't get behind the narrator of the first one.

  97. My vote goes to Word Slinger!
    Susu Salahuddin

  98. My vote goes to Word Slinger!
    Sara Hassan

  99. Word Slinger gets my vote. Fine job done!
    Diya Hassan

  100. I vote for Apollo Catspolis.
    It's not the kind of story I would generally seek out to read, but Apollo held my attention, made me ask questions, and stuck in my mind.
    Wordslinger's entry is very evocative and I want to know what happens next.

  101. Replies
    1. Sorry - this vote came in 30 minutes after time expired and will not count.




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