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WRiTE CLUB 2020 - Preliminary Bout #10

Today is the end of week #2 for WRiTE CLUB and with one more week of preliminary matches remaining, twenty of our thirty writers have been revealed. Ten more to go. Will you be one of them? Or if you didn't submit and just enjoying reading the amazing writing on display, will your new favorite piece pop up next week? Keep following along and find out! 

WRiTE CLUB is a tournament-style competition that runs during the eight weeks prior to the DFW Conference (who is also a sponsor) and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win a host of prizes, topped off by a free admission to the following year’s conference. Our writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names and they'll be appearing in head-to-head in “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 have a chance to win a $60 Barnes and Noble gift card. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed in a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize. And as an added incentive to keep readers coming back for more, we're upping the ante. Readers who place a vote in EVERY bout will have their names placed in a second hat and the name selected from that pool will win a $40 Barnes and Noble gift card. Double the chances of winning!

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 Thursday, May 16th (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) 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.

Let's get to it, shall we?

For the last bout of the week, we have Peace and Quiet on one side of the ring representing the Adult Contemporary Fiction genre.




Bailey left first. We barked our goodbyes as we watched her nose nuzzle with her new mom. When they drove off in a silver Volvo, I couldn’t help but wonder if that would ever be me.



Trixie was next. She went with a freckle-faced girl who cuddled her like a teddy bear, and called her Princess. Even a half-blind dog could see how much she was going to be loved.


Bellamy’s wait was longer. The man who chose him was as wide as he was tall. When they shuffled out together, I witnessed a miracle: Bellamy’s tail, it wagged and wagged. Although I knew I’d miss my buddy, I hoped this time he wouldn’t come back.


That left me. Unwanted and unloved. Until Tim came along. A boy who rode in a chair, and needed glasses to see. The moment my good eye saw him, I knew he was the one.



We’re in the back yard. Dad’s whistling, mom’s laughing, Tim’s smiling and tickling my chin. I’m brimming with love for them all.


There are four of us here, at 50 Sunshine Street, its the place we call home.

On the far side of the ring, we have Dovey Grimm who is also representing the Adult Magical Realism genre.

The Wandering Man

When Bennett Dowdy proposed to Rayna Cantrell, some folks felt she’d cast a spell on him, and others claimed 125,000 acres made for a mighty attractive bride. Rayna, five years her groom’s senior, was a tall woman with hands as broad as paddles. She pounded out hymns on the piano at the Baptist church, her wild black hair whipping like a horse’s tail. Rayna’s maternal grandmother, a woman with an unpronounceable last name, was rumored to have been a gypsy. She passed down to her granddaughter her book of magic and a nose like the prow of a boat.

 Bennett blew in behind a West Texas Blue Norther one summer evening. Thick clouds, blue as new denim, hung heavy with the promise of rain. Rayna and her father, Joe Cantrell, had lit oil lamps against the threat of a power outage, and had settled in for dinner when a knock sounded, loud as a clap of thunder.  

Joe Cantrell opened the door to a cowboy in a pearl snap shirt and stacked-heel boots. The man stood twirling his hat, grinning as though he had found long lost kin. A rust red Chevy truck, the front bumper held on with baling wire, sat parked in their drive. Rayna’s gaze drifted from the truck to the man’s boots—alligator and cost more than the old Chevy, she reckoned.

“Evenin’ sir.” The cowboy nodded and leaned to spy Rayna where she hovered in the hall behind her father. “Ma’am,” he said. “I heard in town you might need an extra hand? I can mind stock, mend fences, and hard work don’t scare me.” He stuck out his hand. “My name’s Bennett Dowdy.”

Rayna’s father hesitated before reaching out to grasp it. “You can come back in the morning, talk to Carl, my foreman.”

Slim hips in faded Levi’s, Bennett reminded Rayna of the movie star James Dean. She’d seen Giant last summer when it showed at the drive-in. Sitting alone in the dark in her father’s pickup, she munched popcorn while James Dean strutted across the screen and Hank Williams crooned from the radio in the car parked beside her.

“I thank you.” Bennett nodded as set his hat on his head, his blue-eyed gaze meeting Rayna’s as her father closed the door. The strawberry blond hair under his Stetson hat fell in a curl on his forehead like the dolls they gave as prizes at the State Fair. A cool draft whistled past the door frame and Rayna shivered, wondering what it would feel like to run her fingers through that hair.

“You think he’ll be back tomorrow?” she asked her father, as they watched the Chevy back down their drive.

“Like as not,” Joe answered. “I’ve seen his kind before though, a wandering man. He won’t stay.”

Alone in her room, Rayna dusted the cover on an old, leather-bound book and thumbed through the brittle pages. Her fingers traced the words she wanted, and she smiled.


Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detractions.

Before we sign off I wanted to address the issue a few readers are having with not being able to post comments, or having those comments show up as UNKNOWN even though they have a Google Account.  There are several things at play here. First, if you are using the Safari or Chrome browsers they have a known problem with Blogger and you have two choices. Switch to Firefox as a browser (I've never had a problem using it), or change the setting on Safari as illustrated below.

The other problem is Blogger not recognizing you when adding a comment and therefore designating you as UNKNOWN. This could happen if the reader is a Blogger user themselves and they have not changed their settings since Google + went away.  To do this, follow these steps:

Go to Blogger dashboard.
Set User Profile = Blogger (instead of Google +)

Hopefully, that will resolve everyone's issues and let the votes/comments reach our contestants. If you missed the first two bouts because of one of these issues, remember the bouts remain LIVE for a week so you can still go back and let your choice be known.

We’ll be back next week for the final five first-round bouts. 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. Peace and Quiet -- I'm so glad there was a happy ending. I was holding my breath.
    Dovey Grimm -- Interesting. (It'd be fun to see this face off against the story with the donuts.) I like how you painted the setting and characters.

    But I need more happy pet stories. Peace and Quiet gets my vote.

  2. My vote: Dovey Grimm

    Peace and Quiet: This was a really cute piece, and I was pleased that it ended so happily for each of the dogs. As an animal lover I enjoy books about animals, though if I'm honest this one skews a too little cutesy for me. I can see it really working as a middle grade, but less as an adult work. That may just be me and my grumpy cynicism.

    I don't have many comments on the prose, except to say that your opening line is a run-on: "There are four of us here, at Suzy’s Six Bed Dog Shelter, it’s the place we call home." "It's the place we call home" should be its own sentence (or, if you want to keep them together, you could use an em dash).

    Dovey Grimm: I thought this was very well-written. At the beginning it reminds me of Mama Day just a little--maybe it's the blend of witchcraft, legend, and family history that it seems to have.

    Your writing is so much stronger than most of what we've seen so far that your work definitely deserves to move forward. One suggestion I would make is that, once you switch to the flashback (for lack of a better word) you switch to past perfect to indicate that this is a reminiscence that takes place further back in time. People tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to past perfect because they mistake it for the passive, but it isn't passive at all, and is a very useful and necessary tense.

    I loved the detail of this piece and the slow, calm atmosphere that you wove throughout. You didn't rush anything and it paid off.

  3. Peace and Quiet - I've got a big soft spot for dogs, and getting a dog's POV can be fun. This was off to a nice beginning, but the scene breaks ruined it for me. I thought it was the end of the story. I think with a story so short, keep it all in one piece and make it flow. Also a few comma splices -- There are four of us here, at Suzy’s Six Bed Dog Shelter, it’s the place we call home. -- and starting off with one isn't the best way to go.

    Dovey Grimm - Excellent use of figurative language. This story evokes the setting so well, and I love the little touches like -- The strawberry blond hair under his Stetson hat fell in a curl on his forehead like the dolls they gave as prizes at the State Fair. -- The only worry I have is that you may have used too much of your word count on all these touches, and I would have liked the book to play a more prominent part in the beginning. Great use of the 500 words, though.

    Vote goes to Dovey Grimm

  4. Dovey Grimm: Your voice and figures of speech create an atmosphere slow and thick as hot summer air. I agree with what a previous commenter said about using past perfect tense for the flashback, but found this piece easy to read even without the tense shift. Good work!

    Peace and Quiet: This was a cute piece. I'm not sure it fits the adult market, but I don't hold genres against writers. ;) Apart from the run on sentences someone already mentioned, the writing was clean. Unfortunately, as much as I love dogs, I really, really dislike stories told from an animal's point-of-view.

    My vote is for Dovey Grimm.

  5. Peace and Quiet: How can you not love a story so full of warmth, hope, and dogs? It's sentimental, but stops just this side of cloying. It feels a bit more like something for a younger audience, but this gentle story is just right for our tough times.

    Dovey Grimm: The setting, characters, and dialogue were deftly handled, so that I can see and hear events playing out clearly. I had no trouble with the switch to the flashback, and I liked the payoff at the end when it turned out she really did cast a spell on him. I'd like to see where the story went from here. Generally, using a spell to make someone fall in love with you goes badly in the end. (Not that I'm speaking from experience!)

    I had a hard time choosing between these two very strong entries, but in the end went with Dovey Grimm for the evocative descriptions and dialogue. I'll definitely come back to Peace and Quiet on Save Week, though.

  6. Peace and Quiet: Your piece is very sweet, and I could imagine it as a picture book, or a book for children. I felt the first setence was too long, and the dog also used shorter phrases, which made it seem a slightly different voice.

    Dovey Grimm: I liked your metaphors and how you established a unique voice.

    My vote goes for Dovey Grimm.

  7. Peace: sweet story and nice parallel beginning/end. The section breaks are unnecessary and interrupt the pace. Writing could be tighter, but there’s plenty of emotion packed in here.

    Dovey: excellent atmosphere and imagery! Personally, I’m not a fan of stories where the woman’s only goal is getting a man, especially when she has to trick him into falling in love. I think your general writing style is wonderful, though.

    If you’re of the culture and know better than me, then ignore this! If not, “Gypsy” is often considered an offensive term. Stating that someone’s last name is unpronounceable comes off as mocking their culture. I don’t represent anybody here, but maybe things to be aware of 🙂

    I vote for Peace... can’t resist a good pup story with a happy ending, especially in these tough times!

  8. I am a sucker for a dog story with a happy ending, so I enjoyed Peace and Quiet's entry. Like other commenters, I felt like the scene breaks were like speed bumps, and with effective transitions could be eliminated to make the story flow better. I'm pretty forgiving on punctuation on this one because, for me, it fit Scruff's POV.

    But, I'm giving my vote to Dovey Grimm on this one. I like everything about this piece. The imagery, use of similes, economy of dialogue, really set the atmosphere, characterizations, and the premise is intriguing. As a misplaced Texan of a certain age, I was drawn into the period and setting. Great job!

  9. Congrats, writers! You've made it into the top 30, and that one helluva accomplishment!

    Peace and Quiet: You've nailed the voice of a dog in a rescue home, but this reads much more like a middle grade story than an adult.

    Dovey Grimm: This piece is so atmospheric, but it meanders a little too much in places. Most of the paragraph about James Dean could be cut and nothing would really be lost. Really, that's essentially a flashback within a flashback and it just didn't seem to move the story forward at all.

    This is a difficult round for me to vote in because the stories are so wildly different and each presents it's own strengths and weaknesses. In the end, my vote goes to Peace and Quiet because the story was a bit tighter.

  10. My vote goes to Dovey Grimm. Sprightly romance with plenty of room for conflict! Yay! To Peace and Quiet -- as the guardian for two ex-shelter dogs, I'd like to think that all dogs have a happy ending. However, writing from the POV of nonhumans is tough. How do you give even a glimpse of the very different sensory and cognitive worlds they inhabit? Or do you sink into easy sentimentality -- the forcing of emotional responses the writer hasn't earned? Nothing in P&Q's story except the writer's say-so tells me it could be narrated by a dog. Pass.

    1. Not another vote, but a suggestion for Peace and Quiet. I see other readers who suggest repurposing this for MG (which still seems too mature to me), but how about a picture book? Gently humorous illustrations could satisfy small kids, especially since cartoon animals are not expected to be realistic, but stand-ins for human beings. Your scene breaks almost feel like page turns in a picture book. You may need to do some editing, since you may be over the word count for picture books. If you're agreeable, why not check with a chapter of the Society of Children's Book Illustrators and Writers (SCBIW)?

  11. This is the way to end the week: on an up note.
    Peace and Quiet: This really is a sweet story. And a very lovely ending. You did a good job of giving the reader a dog-eye view of the world.
    My only nits are twofold: 1) The first sentence is really long and out of character with the rest of Scruffy’s narration. Most of the time the sentences are shorter. 2)The large blocks of space between the paragraphs were a little distracting. A couple of times I thought I had reached the end of the story before I had.
    Dovey Grimm. This was a nice introduction to characters from a larger piece. The use of metaphors really helped set the scene.
    Two nits: While I liked the ‘West Texas Blue Norther’ to help establish the location, and the fact you explained it for those of us not knowledgeable of the phrase, it felt a little forced. It might be better to describe the weather condition first and then give the local term describing it. Second was the shift between what seems to be present day and the flashback. It took me a moment to realize there had been a time shift which made it slightly jarring.

    My vote is for Peace and Quiet. Dovey Grimm is definitely on my Save Week list.

  12. Now this is a contest.

    Peace and Quiet: One of my favorite books is The Art of Racing in The Rain. I love to imagine how an animal would think. A Dog's Tale worked for me on so many levels, but I agree about the comma splices and scene breaks. Don't do them. What I loved most, though, was the pure heart of the story, how he cared so much for the welfare of the other dogs. And the tie-in from the first sentence with the last was perfect.

    Dovey Grimm: Beautifully written from start to finish, but watch overdoing those similes. Three in the first paragraph alone, two in the next. Too many can bog down the prose. A better use of the 500 words would have been to maybe eliminate one simile and give us an early hint of the book itself, though I understand the reference to her maternal grandmother's heritage. Be aware the use of the word "gypsy." It's a slur to Romani women and mostly avoided in current literature. Overall, though, your story is one of the cleanest and most captivating I've read in the contest.

    For pure heart, My Vote: Peace and Quiet

    But I'll return to Dovey Grimm for my save.

  13. Peace and Quiet: A good story, and a happy ending, which I liked.

    Dovey Grimm: Great story, good imagery, and I loved the ending. Excellent writing.

    Vote goes to Dovey Grimm

  14. Another hard bout to choose.

    In the first piece... why the scene break? Didn't really seem necessary. It was a cute story, but seems aimed at children, not adults. It's not a knock on the piece, though.

    In the second piece... why is the first paragraph needed? I think it would work better without it, unless the actual story takes place after the marriage. Hard to tell with this short piece. I'm not sure what Magic Realism is anyway. It's not a genre I'm familiar with. Are they usually told in omniscient POV? That was my real issue with this piece. It was very distancing.

    So my vote goes to Peace and Quiet.

  15. Peace and Quiet - What a sweet story! I love that it was so full of love and hope--who doesn't love seeing dogs get adopted? I agree with others about the scene breaks, they can be very jarring in a short piece, just something to keep in mind.

    Dovey Grimm - I love the atmosphere in this piece, and I want to know more about Rayna. I think I would've preferred it if the entire story was the flashback so we, as the reader, could wonder at Rayna's motivations more without having an idea of how it ended up.

    My Vote: Dovey Grimm

  16. wow, well done both entrants for very clever writing. One full of description (maybe too much) the other so simple it doesn't need fancy words, which is indeed extremely hard to write.
    Finally we end the second week coming out of the dark writing, so how cruel to pitch these together, both of these pieces would easily have won against any of the previous IMO.
    The piece i vote for is the one that made me cry and cry, it's pure and clever and definitely not for teenagers. The matching of dog to owner, careful not to use similes and over describe. The boy who chose the unlovable dog was the point at which tears would not stop.
    Sorry for Dovey, but because I can not stop thinking about these dogs being paired up and the ending of pure joy, I vote for
    PS, still crying, happy tears!

  17. Writing from a dog's POV is not original (not that originality is required to make a compelling story). But the writing is straight-up exposition. No dialogue. No metaphors or similes. Nothing to relish as a reader. Nothing to engage me. I'd suggest infusing dialogue and not being so linear. Mix it up. Shake it up. Surprise us.

    Dovey Grimm's story had some really nice language and turns of phrases. Vivid setting descriptions without bogging us down. A well-written piece.

    Ballot box stuffed for Dovey Grimm.

  18. Congratulations to both of you for making it into the competition!

    Peace and Quiet---Thank you for that happy ending. It is much appreciated, especially given some of the subject matter thus far in the competition. I had a few problems with this story, the first is the audience. One of the most important things for a writer to know is his/her audience, and I just don't feel this is an "adult" story. It seems geared to a much younger audience. I would have liked some dialogue, anything to break up the exposition and to show us more of the dog's character.

    Dovey Grimm, I think this is one of the stronger entries thus far in the contest, but I had a few issues with it. First and foremost were the similes/metaphors. There really are just too many in this short of a story. It was the first thing I noticed. I'm grateful that the description was spread out throughout the story, but I still feel like maybe there was a little too much.

    My vote is for Dovey Grimm.

  19. This was really a tough decision. I loved Dovey Grimm. It was a wonderful story and very visual. This is my first time here, so I hope that save week gives me a chance to rescue it.

    My vote is for Peace and Quiet. I think I'd drop everything after the second break though and the story would have a stronger ending.

  20. MY VOTE: Dovey Grimm

    Peace and Quiet started out great. I was nodding and smiling, certain this would be the story that got my vote...then, it sort of sagged like a week-old helium balloon. I think the breaks are to blame. Threw me right out of the story and it was hard to get reinvested. I loved the idea of the piece, it just sort of deflated somewhere in the middle.

    Dovey Grimm- Loved the ending. I think the set up might have taken a smidge too long, but that was my only critique.

  21. I'm going to vote for Dovey Grimm! I find it a little bit overwritten, but all in all it's very good, with nice, evocative language and characters who feel very real when you read them. It does a great job of painting the picture it wants to paint.

    I like the writing in Peace and Quiet's piece, and the way the story is structured works really well, I think, but the 'tug at your heartstrings' disability rep kind of misses the mark at the end and undermines itself, which doesn't do any favours for the rest of the piece, unfortunately.

    Congratulations to both entrants!

  22. Two solid pieces. You should both be proud. It's Friday and the hour is getting late.

    Dovey Grimm gets the vote

  23. My vote goes to Peace and Quiet. Yay rescued pets!

  24. My vote goes to Dovey Grimm. What beautiful descriptions. I just wanted to stop and savor every one!
    Didn't love Peace and Quiet's piece today. Didn't feel like writing for adults at all. More like a kid's picture book.

  25. 🐕🐶 My vote goes to the dogs!

    The other story was okay but not as fun of a read.

  26. My vote is for Dovey Grimm. Although the story felt a bit cliche to me. I was also confused by the mention of Rayna noticing the cowboy boots and her thought about how much they must have cost - I didn't understand how she felt about this. Was she turned off by it or intrigued? In the end, I enjoyed finding out that she actually did put a spell on him (or at least was considering it) and I thought the writing and imagery were good.
    Peace and Quiet's story had a calm, almost "lazy day", feel that I felt fit the narrator and setting and what a sweet ending! Unfortunately, it read more like a list with all the breaks and I found myself wishing for more words used to tell about the friendship between Scruff and Bellamy and less describing other dogs that seemed to only be mentioned in passing.

  27. My vote goes to Peace and Quiet.

    For peace and quiet a dog wanting a place and hoping against hope because of their appearance. The idea that dogs are aware of the value humans place on appearance also very interesting. The weakest part of this story for me was the amount of characters. Given that dogs are pack animals I see the logic but in 500 words I'd rather spend time getting to know just the one.

    For Dovey Grimm I like the idea, travelling man meets woman with magic and she casts a spell. It would be interesting to see where it goes from there because there are lots of different things to tackle: consent, how the magic works, how the cowboy really feels, etc. What pulled me out of the story was the back and forth. We know they end up married and then get the explanation how they met, so I can understand how it happened but the drama, interpersonal interactions, and everything this kind of premise would include is missing.

  28. Congratulations on getting through writers, makes you both winners.

    Peace and Quiet such a gentle, heartwarming story which I know i needed to read right now. Love the fact it is told from a dogs POV. The lack of dialogue for me is a non-issue, I've read many books and stories that don't have any dialogue, and here I don't feel it needed it. Not sure about the comments regarding genre, as it is a simple tale but on reading carefully I can see the way each dog was paired ultimately to an owner who was just like the dog. Not sure a younger audience would catch those subtleties, which I loved. Felt sad for poor Bellamy, especially being returned like a too big sweater (great similie btw), but my heart warmed knowing he found a home. The spacing is perhaps a mis-step, but that is very easily fixed.

    Dovey Grimm, very strong writing. You excel at description. That being said, I would pair down some of the similies though, I feel there are a too many in a piece this short, and they start to lose their punch when they come one after another. Your story had a lot of atmosphere and I felt I could see the scenes clearly. I think having a flashback in a flashback can be a bit confusing, and i had to read a couple of times to clearly understand. My gripe with this story is that it is about a woman using magic to ensnare a man. I wish if Rayna had magical powers she'd have used them for something more meaningful, rather than tricking another human being into doing something they may not want to do. I know it is a popular troupe, but it would be nice to read something more unique being done with the spells she can create. Nonetheless your writing is strong.

    Vote this round goes to Peace and Quiet for a heartwarming story.

  29. My vote goes to Dovey Grimm.

    Peace and Quiet: Well, this is a super-cute piece. I'm not sure what else to say about it. It's a series of emotions stitched together with no particular plot. Doggies 1, 2, 3 and 4 get dumped and sad, and then doggies 1, 2, 3 and 4 get picked up and happy. This would probably do well as a kiddies picture book - I could imagine some wonderful drawing of the dogs and their owners.

    Dovey Grimm: I love this piece - I can feel it all the way through. My only criticisms are:
    1) I think the similes are a little overdone in places (I balked at 'blue as new denim' and 'loud as a clap of thunder')
    2) the first paragraph seemed out of place. I wonder if it couldn't be distributed through the story, parallel and contrasting with the ways in which Bennett is showing interest. We'd know he'd soon be wandering, but then Rayna has grandmother's book.

    I loved the awareness of small movements 'leaned to spy Rayna', 'his blue-eyed gaze meeting Rayna’s as her father closed the door'. It replayed my teenage infatuation-moments all over again. The long run-on sentences (eg James Dean and Hank Williams) have an excellent rhythm, and you have brought out subtle emaotions in your descriptions very effectively.

    For Rayna's triumph and all the sensory details, you get my vote.

  30. My vote goes to Dovey Grimm. I liked the gypsy angle and found the piece, as a whole, just very well written. As for Peace and Quiet, I wasn't really drawn in by the whole 'dog's perspective' angle. I could be (I love, love, love dogs!) but I feel like a writer has to work extra hard to convince me it's really a non-human point of view and I didn't feel that extra work here. It was a nice enough entry, but in my opinion, Dovey Grimm was the better submission. Best of luck to both of you!

  31. Dovey Grim gets my vote. Really vivid writing with unusual turns of phrase. A surprise in every line. Peace and Quiet's piece just didn't grab me. But I'm not really a dog person...

  32. My vote goes to Dovey Grim. I was so drawn into Peach and Quiet's story. I always find unique POV's interesting. However, Dovey Grim's writing was done so well, I had to give them my vote.

  33. Man, I'm a sucker for puppies. Peace and Quiet, I love the concept and applaud you for giving us the happy ending we all wanted. Even though this was from a dog's POV, I'd still watch your characterization. The remark about being "alone and unloved" felt like an ASPCA commercial meant to tug at the viewers heartstrings rather than the genuine emotion of this seemingly optimistic pup. We should be able to feel the isolation and disappointment without the prompt.

    Dovey Grimm... the MOOD here! I was so immersed in this town and this era, thanks to your rich description and language. I love the insinuation at the end that Rayna did work some magic on this man, but your cues all point to the fact that the relationship was going to evolve naturally without her invention. It seemed more likely that Rayna had somehow facilitated Bennett's arrival (Practical Magic vibes!) or maybe his existence. But I'm sold either way. Dovey has my vote!

  34. Straight-forward feel good vs a more complex literary introduction.

    Peace and Quiet
    My initial thoughts were all the places this could be refined, focused, and pushed to achieve a tighter emotional impact and nuanced exploration of themes. However, that feedback is only relevant if this is really meant to be an Adult piece. Like many have pointed out, it works quite well as a middle-grade! To be fair, I'm trying to remember the submission form, and I think it forced you to either label your entry as Adult or YA. So works outside those categories may not be the best for this competition. Or else, if you do want to submit a middle-grade, you could pick YA and for genre put: (middle-grade) contemporary. That would clue the voter in to the intended audience for the piece and set expectations accordingly.

    I ADORE the parallel structure of the opening line and the ending line. That really sold this piece for me and left me with a powerful fuzzy, "Awww." That being said, it would be nice if we got to know a bit more about these dogs before they moved on.

    It seems to me that 3 would have been a better amount to handle for the length. Now that means you don't get the traditional family structure at the end if you want the exact parallelism, but I think that's okay. If opting for that, I'd personally spring for a single dad raising Tim, since that's still a more uncommon family combination. If you're okay losing the precise parallelism, you could start on 3 at the dog shelter and end with Scruff pointing out that Tim's family was already 3 and now thanks to him, it's expanded to 4 (he's gotten even more friends/companions). So a "we are three" and "they were three," and now together we've become four.

    If going with 3, lose either Bellamy or Bailey. Both 'B' names and both have strong, but very different emotional beats that dilute the punch of the story (we first desperately feel for and want Ballamy to get adopted and be happy, but then we also want/expect Bailey to be adopted BECAUSE she's happy).

    Some nice description, such as, "...eyebrows that look like whiskers." Very charming and very easy to visualize.

    I'd put a comma after next day in: "Next day[,] they returned him..."

    So since I've just watched a dog show, it strikes me how diverse dog breeds are and how they all seem to have different personalities. If the point of this piece is the dogs, it'd be great to get some more hints at what kinds of dogs these are. We know Bellamy is big, but is he super fluffy, like a Tibetan Mastiff? More muscle, like a pit bull? What kind of mutt is Bailey? You can get so much character if you indicate more of the dogs' characteristics. We get that with Trixie (knowing she's a Yorkie), but none of the other dogs.

    "...most people love Yorkies." I actually do not at all! Ha. Every Yorkie I've come across was bratty and aggressive (charging and barking). This rarely has to do with the dog in and of itself and more to do with the fact that the people who get toy dogs treat them like spoiled children rather than a dog (aka they never train them and assume because they are small, their ill-behavior isn't a big deal). So I have to admit, Trixie being a Yorkie turned me off. Why not a lesser known badass breed, like a cairn terrier? They also have the look of enduring scrappers.

    "... a freckle-faced girl who cuddled her like a teddy bear, and called her Princess." UGH! See, this Princess bit here is EXACTLY why Yorkies turn into little egotistical devils. Why not pair her with an outgoing freckled-girl who loves to climb trees and has band-aids everywhere from playing outside to better match her tenacious spirit? And she can name her something more along that, like "Knight" or "Bandit."

    Torn on how I feel about the partially blind dog only having a shot with a disabled boy. It's heart-warming, but also kind of constraining?

  35. Dovey Grimm
    I was SO confused with this story at first. Since the first sentence starts with Bennett as the subject (Bennett pairs with the active verb to propose to Rayna), I thought the "she" in the second clause referred to Bennett, not Rayna. And I immediately thought, "Huh! That's kind of unique to use Bennett as a girl's name. I like it!" And I somehow assumed this was a lesbian couple. It wasn't until the line, "Rayna and her father, Joe Cantrell..." that I realized, oh, oh no wait. I've completely misunderstood this whole intro. I get now that the second sentence makes clear Rayna is the "she," but I completely missed that on first read because of the first subject not agreeing with the the subject in the next clause. Consider refactoring that so the first line has Rayna as the subject; e.g. "When Rayna Cantrell accepted Bennet Dowdy's marriage proposal, some folks..."

    So I dig Rayna's unique features, but have concerns with them:

    The paddle hands, wild hair, and prow nose kind of serve to underscore that she's not really attractive. The "ugly girl bespells pretty boy" plot has been done many times and isn't very progressive. I think it'd be more original and engaging if she had some unconventional characteristics, but was still portrayed as attractive. Right now, her features paired with her timidity and distance from society aren't a progressive combo. If she were even just more welcomed into the society (I mean, she sounds like a rocking piano player), that would help.

    "She passed down to her granddaughter her book of magic and a nose like the prow of a boat." The prow boat nose is a wonderful description! Fresh and strong imagery.

    "Thick clouds, blue as new denim..." I like the idea of this, but I'm not sure it's an effective image. Denim comes in so many different stains/shades that I really wasn't certain just how blue these clouds were. I kept thinking classic, washed out denim, but not sure if that's correct.

    "... she munched popcorn..." Total pet peeve, but for some reason, I can't stand the verb "munch." Sounds unintelligent and repetitiously vapid to me.

    Interesting using the drive-in movies and James Dean to give us an idea of time frame! Although, I do agree with someone else that this paragraph may better spent on developing the characters you have. We really don't get much of a sense of Bennett, except as a confident, pretty boy. Maybe keep the James Dean line and have Rayna and her father be listening to the radio when Bennett interrupts. That keeps the music tied to their characters and keeps the time period grounding details short.

    "Bennett nodded as set his hat on his head..." Should be either "nodded as [he] set his..." or "nodded [and] set his..."

    "I’ve seen his kind before though, a wandering man." Ax the "though." It adds nothing and is actually a bit confusing as it appears to contradict, rather than flow from, his previous statement.

    So, personally, I'd change this story so that Bennett appears in church instead of at their house. The most interesting character detail we have about Rayna is how she plays piano. Having him wander in there, looking for work, is a more unique setup, puts Rayna in the midst of other people so you can weave in how the town/city/what-have-you perceives her, and it gives Rayna more to actually do. She's an active person with a talent, not just a quiet, weird girl who hides behind her dad and pines. That setting also seems like a better place to develop character. You can keep the story more immediate this way, also.

    Going with Peace and Quiet because the story is pleasant to read and the ending just made me feel good :) A strong emotional response is hard to beat.

  36. Two top notch stories. Congratulations! How nice for both of you. But so unfair to me. I love both of these stories and I hate having to pick.

    Peace and Quiet: I don’t usually care about stories from animal POVs, but this one drew me in. Great voice, vivid characterization and smooth writing. I enjoyed reading it, cared about the characters, and rooted for them all the way. Loved the story’s heart and the happy ending.

    Dovey Grim, what can I say? The writing here is awesome. Wonderful voice and characterization and attention to vivid detail. Love the mash up of western setting and magic. Reads like the beginning of a very engaging novel. You packed a lot into 500 words. I think this is the best story I’ve read in the contest so far. Great work! My only question, when can I read the rest of the story?

    Peace and Quiet’s is wonderful, and I think, definitely a contender for save week, but my vote goes to Dovey Grim.

  37. Peace and Quiet for me. I'm not usually into animal POV stories but this is the exception. Dovey Grim was good just not quite as good in my opinion.

  38. My vote is for Dovey Grimm, for setting and atmosphere.

  39. My vote goes to Peace and Quiet. Gotta love a happy ending!

  40. Congratulations to both writers for being chosen!

    Peace and Quiet: I’ve only ever had rescue dogs, and this story tugged at my heart strings. I really liked how it came full circle from the family at the shelter to his adopted family. I think the section breaks could be smaller (just a single centered asterisk, maybe) because it looks a bit like the end of the piece, but there is really so much more.

    Dovey Grim: You’ve gots lots of little details that pull you right into the world - right down to beating out the Baptist hymns on the piano. It gives you a sense of time and place. For a 500 word piece, I think you give us the ending first, and then the beginning, so it’s kind of like we don’t get a middle. I think that’s where you story will really shine.

    My vote today goes to Peace and Quiet.

  41. Congrats to both for making the cut!

    Peace and Quiet - I'm not crying! You're crying! A good animal tale is always nice, and yours was definitely nice. The flow was good and it read well. The language was simple enough that you might consider offering this as a middle-grade piece. I loved how you tied it up neatly between the first and last lines, too.

    Dovey Grim - This had "Midnight, Texas" vibes for me. MT was immediately where my mind's eye went. The description was vivid and the hints and ideas kept me wanting to read on and uncover the story.

    I love a good dog story, and P&Q's was good, but Dovey Grim's has my vote today.

    Best of luck!




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