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WRiTE CLUB 2020 - Preliminary Bout #11

This morning we kick-off the 3rd and final week of preliminary bouts for WRiTE CLUB. One thing is for certain, it won't be getting any easier! 

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 Sunday, May 24th (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.


Our first contestant in the ring is Imposter who will be representing the Adult Thriller genre.

"There's not a decent size town for at least a hundred miles," Cami said, scrutinizing the screen of my phone. "If you gotta go that badly you'll just have to pull over."

I stared out across the barren landscape on either side of the interstate. Not a tree, shrub, or bush tall enough even a desperate dog would consider raising a leg against.

"I'll hold it for a while longer."

Cami closed the app and turned her gaze towards me. "Suit yourself. Maybe somebody should've used the bathroom when we ate lunch, like I suggested."

I let her dig hang there, refusing to retaliate. Of course, she was right, but admitting it went against every guy rule there was and would only serve to egg her on. It didn't work though; the playful smile I caught out of the corner of my eye told me she was satisfied her stinger had landed.

At least the dull pressure in my bladder would help keep me awake. I'd been warned the I-80 drive across the Nebraska countryside could cause drowsiness, challenging even the most attentive driver's, but this bordered on the brutal. Miles and miles of nothingness. As I reached to press the seek button on the radio to find more up-tempo music, my attention was drawn to something out of place on the road ahead. It appeared to be some sort of rolled-up sheet or light blanket, but still big enough to worry me about running over it and fouling the car's undercarriage. It was still a couple of hundred yards away, but instinctively I checked the rearview mirror, noting that the string of semis we recently passed was still a way back.

"What's that in the road?" Cami asked as she returned my phone to its holder on the dashboard.

I didn't bother to answer, instead wondering why the coiled sheet remained stationary despite the never-ending breeze blowing across the plains outside. I flipped down the turn signal and started pulling into the left-hand lane as our Jeep quickly approached the odd road-hazard.

An icy chill ran down my spine when the surface of the sheet suddenly seemed to ripple and flex. Something was moving inside. We were right on top of it now. As we sped by, I thought I spotted an object lying on the ground next to the sheet. It couldn't be.

Cami must have seen it at the same time. "JASON, THAT'S A PACIFIER!" she screamed.

I stomped on the brakes. The screeching tires were deafening, seeming to last an eternity, drowning out all other sounds including my breath being expelled from my body as the seatbelt prevented me from colliding with the dashboard. I struggled with the steering wheel, trying to maintain control and keep the car pointed straight, but instead it pulled slightly to the left and we veered into the medium.

No sooner had we jerked to a halt, dust swirling, that I heard the passenger door fly open.


On the other side of the ring, we have WT Woman who is representing the YA Coming of Age/Humor/Realistic Fiction genre.

                                                    I am Not Trash!      


Lottie Bea was my job. She’s one year older than me, but that’s how it is. I took her by the hand one mornin’ in June and we ran barefoot to the neighbors down the street. We were on a mission to borrow two eggs. I have to be careful when we’re hungry. People get awful nosy sometimes, ‘specially when you ask the same people for stuff, and you ask ‘em too many times. The cops came by one time and asked Mama a lot of questions. When they left… she let me have it.

We were running across the hot spots and letting our feet cool on the grassy places. I had to pull Lottie Bea so she would stay focused and not just plop down and start singing or humming to her dumb doll. Lottie Bea carries her rag doll everywhere. That doll is old and raggedy by now and it’s kinda embarrassin’, but those dolls were the last thing that our Grammy gave us before Mama decided to move us in with that man. He’s been gone for a long time now and I say good riddance! He drove me crazy with his smoking in the house and his cuss words and spittin’ and hackin’ all the time.  At least Mama usually smokes on the porch. She uses cuss words too I guess, but she doesn’t spit and hack.  

Down the block I saw Alden Wade riding his bike, but I didn’t see Carlisle Hesper his cousin and that’s a good thing. I knew this juicy news because I took Lottie Bea with me to the B&B yesterday. We overheard Ms. Effie talking to a lady with big purple ankles and three chins. Ms. Effie said the Hesper family was gone to Houston for a whole week! Boy, was it good to hear that Carlisle Hesper was gonna be gone. He’s the meanest kid in town and that’s a fact! He calls me and my sister names and he says my sister is nuttier than a fruit cake. I guess the name that hurts the worst is trash. I am not trash! I have cried myself to sleep saying Anna May is not trash, Anna May is not trash…over and over like the clock that tick tocks at Grammy’s house.

 Last Summer I was playing with some neighborhood kids and Creepy Carlisle skidded to a stop, hopped off his bike and dropped a big green lizard down Trudy’s pants and I ain’t lyin’. I mean I’m not lyin’. My teacher hates it when kids use ain’t and when they use what she calls double negatives. She says it makes us sound like hicks even though we might be on the honor roll, which I am, so I try hard to fix things I say. Anyway, Carlisle is probably the devil, so if he upped and moved to Houston or across the ocean it would be just fine with me.


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

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 tomorrow for another preliminary bout. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!


  1. My vote: Imposter

    This piece worked for me. The language was a little buy-the-book in places, but the story flows well and I found myself sucked in, which hasn't happened often for me so far in the contest. I thought the twist was well-handled (though I question whether someone could recognize such a tiny object so definitively from a moving vehicle). Whether or not that element was realistic, it didn't affect my enjoyment of the story. I'd definitely read on! (:

    A couple of notes:

    "noting that the string of semis we recently passed was still a way back." - Needs the past perfect.

    "No sooner had we jerked to a halt, dust swirling, that I heard the passenger door fly open." - "that" should be "than."

    WT Woman:

    Something was off for me in terms of the voice in this one, though it had some good things going for it as well. I think the excessive use of exclamation points and the dialect didn't quite ring true somehow--it made the voice read younger than I imagine it was intended to (for a YA). It was a little too cartoonish for me overall, but I suspect I'm just not the right reader for this one. Generally the writing was solid outside the elements I mentioned (which may be personal taste). Congrats on getting in!

    Some notes:

    "When they left… she let me have it. - You could cut this ellipsis." Generally I recommend cutting ellipses, since they're rarely necessary and usually make the writing feeling cheesy.

    "her rag doll everywhere. That doll is old and raggedy by" - I'd recommend changing raggedy, as it jars so soon after "rag."

    "Anna May is not trash…over and over like the clock that tick tocks at Grammy’s house." - Recommend cutting this ellipsis also.

  2. My vote is for Imposter.

    Imposter--I really loved this story. I'm very curious to see where it's going. I had a couple of things to nitpick at: "challenging even the most attentive driver's" should not have an apostrophe on drivers. Also, in the penultimate sentence, you used the word "medium," when I think you meant "median." Still, great job. It's one of my favorites thus far.

    WT Woman--I liked your character's voice, but I had many issues with this sample. I think my biggest issue is that this passage is all over the place and I still don't even understand what it was about. Yes, I get the MC is caring for her older sister, who I assume has a disability of some sort, but it was hard keeping everything straight, with the 9 characters (names) mentioned. There was far too much telling for my taste. I feel there's potential with this (really, that voice is great...and with that voice comes a likable character), but it probably would have been wiser to take any one of the events mentioned in the story and focused on that. Show us their mission to get eggs or show us a scene with Carlisle Hesper....or whatever, just concentrate on one scene so it will flow a little better. I hope that makes sense.

  3. Imposter -- The premise you set up is interesting, but it takes too long to get there. Some of the writing was clunky, and the time spent in describing the road and the car and the radio was not an effective use of word count. Also, the bold type and italics for the zinger were a bit much, and any guy in the world will just hop out and pee on a deserted road.

    WT Woman -- I liked the voice. I reminded me of The Secret Life of Bees. The narrator was fresh and interesting, but the story doesn't go anywhere. Like the first story, it stops just as it's getting going. Also, the use of bold type and exclamation points is unnecessary. Trust your words.
    Vote goes to WT Woman

  4. Imposter- Reading this caused my bladder to ache in sympathy with the MC. This is a nice set-up to a larger story and the reader gets a nice idea about the personalities of the characters. It just doesn’t have much of a payoff. There’s not a lot of tension built up about the object on the road and what it is. It has the effect of making the ending feel rushed.

    W T Woman- This is some nice writing. I’m not a fan of writing that tries to mimic dialects (i.e. writing somethin’ instead of something). There’s too much danger of it becoming an affectation or worse, sliding into stereotyping. I’m not really clear on what Lottie Bea’s issues are. I’m guessing she has some sort of developmental delay, but it’s not spelled out. If you’re not going to explain it quickly, I don’t think it should be the sentence that opens your piece.

    My vote is for Imposter.

  5. Congratulations Writers!

    Imposter- The payoff at the end was less than I would have liked. It seems as if this piece is a victim of the 500 word limit. Perhaps removing some of the unnecessary details about the radio and the bladder would allow for a more detailed/tense/satisfying ending.

    WT Woman-- This is a great beginning to a much longer piece, but as mentioned previously, there is a lot going on and then there is zero pay off at the end. I agree with another voter that suggested taking one of the mentions scenes and focusing on that, it would allow for that satisfactory ending, I believe.

    Both pieces were well done, but Imposter seemed to have a more complete piece than WT, so my vote is for Imposter

  6. Congratulations on making it through.
    Both pieces had great elements and some weakness, but we are not here to critique like pro's. My opinion is that the writing is good in the first piece and had me engaged, but then somehow lost me and I didn't really get it. Seemed that there was a twist but it was very obscure in such a short piece, for me. Though I liked the style at the beginning.
    The second piece, WTWoman was poetic in a southern country feel. Though not very original, I liked the way that it simply drew me in and although it had some hiccups, it is heartwarming and shows female strength... not just to get a man, but for survival.
    My vote goes to WT WOMAN, shows a strong female in hard times, who though young is unbending and proud, and protective of her sibling. Nicely done. Thank goodness for the lighthearted pull despite underlying poverty.
    Good for the times we are in, in my humble view.
    Well done both of you.

  7. Imposter: There were a few punctuation glitches, already mentioned in previous comments. But they didn't knock me out of the story. I like your writing style, and the way you described him swerving and controlling the jeep. It did bother me that the pacifier would be too small to see from the jeep, but still, it was a good device.

    WT Woman: The emotion in this piece was not enhanced by the exclamation marks. That should have been saved for the "I am not trash" in bold. That one exclamation mark would have been enough, and more emotional.

    Also, if the girl was on the honor roll, and trying to prove she's no hick, then she should have been able to express herself without dropping her g. "I'm not lyin" which is inconsistent with the use of ing words like running, and humming.

    My vote goes to Imposter.

  8. Imposter: The style pulled me in right away, but just as the story breezed along, simple mistakes pushed me out. "Driver's" instead of "drivers." "Median," not "medium." Any guy I know wouldn't hesitate to pull to the side of a deserted interstate and use the car as his shield while he relieved himself. But maybe this guy is shy. Your storytelling still captured me. Unfortunately, the ending gave me whiplash. I don't mind a story leaving me with unanswered questions compelling me to want to read more. Here, I'm just left hanging and it's not a good feeling.

    W T Woman: Your story is voice for miles. It's authentic and engaging. Amid all the details and people populating the short piece, I feel your theme and heart. The descriptions are spot-on. This girl is smart and caring and passionate, but some who have privilege want to keep her where they think she belongs. I had no trouble following along because her young heart is overflowing. Life bursts from her. I wish I had written this.

    My Vote: W T Woman

  9. Imposter: the writing could be tightened up quite a bit. For instance, “the screen of my phone” could be shortened to “my phone.” “Appeared to be some sort of rolled-up sheet or light blanket” could become “looked like a wadded sheet.” No need to say she screamed when the dialogue is in all caps. Just suggestions of course, but it’s so important when you have only 500 words to make sure every one of them is necessary. With some phrases cleaned up, you could pack a lot more story into this space and get into the action faster. This is clearly the opening to a larger work and you do a nice job establishing the relationship, setting, and inciting incident here.

    WT: super voicey, but there were so many truncated -ing words that I got distracted. Perhaps don’t lay it on so thick. The timeline is meandering... mama moved us in with the man but he’s gone within the same 1.5 sentences. Anna May is on a mission, but she’s thinking about all the neighbors, reminiscing on the bully, and we have no idea if she gets her eggs. Way too many characters are named. Consider picking one or two that we actually get to learn about or meet, and delete the other names - they don’t advance the scene. You do a great job showing Lottie has a disability, without telling us outright. This is a nice glimpse into a young child’s wandering thoughts.

    I vote for Imposter today.

  10. My vote is for Imposter. Here's my input:

    Imposter: The 'didn't go to the bathroom' car argument struck me as cliche. I'd replace it with a more original conflict. This next part might be splitting hairs -- I didn't think as a driver I would notice that the 'coiled sheet remained stationary' despite the breeze. I know this is meant to foreshadow a body being inside but so many wrapped up things hit highways that aren't bodies. But this may be just me:). I really liked the pacifier observation and I did believe that that, combined with the fact that something was obviously inside the blanket, would be enough to make me pull over and investigate.

    WT Woman: It's tricky writing dialects. Unless it's done amazingly well, it can really rip a reader out of the story. I don't think it was needed here, especially since you tell us our protagonist is on the honor roll. I also never quite understood who Lottie was or why she was a 'job.' I expect this is part of a longer work and that I would understand if I read more.

    Good job to both of you!

  11. Imposter - I enjoyed your story a lot, especially the twist at the end which was very satisfying and something I didn't see coming until the very last minute--nicely done. I agree with other reviewers that your writing could be tightened up a bit, but other than that, I don't have much to add.

    WT Woman - I love that your protagonist is strong-willed and determined--such great traits. I struggled with following the story, though. It seemed to meander into a bunch of different memories, and I'd suggest keeping your reader grounded in what's happening now in such a short piece. I thought you did a fine job on the voice--I read it in a Southern drawl (don't know if that was accurate, but you had me reading it in an accent which is always a nice touch).

    My vote: Imposter

  12. WT Woman gets my vote on this one. I thoroughly enjoyed the adolescent POV used for Anna May. Could the use of dialect be a bit more subtle? I think so, but because this is in the first person it works in this instance. In such a short piece, I completely saw the characters in all their southern weirdness. I laughed at the running across the hot spots in the road and cooling bare feet on the grass because it reminds me of those childhood days so clearly.

    I couldn't get into Imposter's entry, I'm sorry to say. There are minor issues with wrong word usage or grammar glitches, but the main hang-up for me was the implausibility of the road obstacle. I just can't buy that a car traveling at speed on a Nebraska interstate would allow the occupants to discern a pacifier next to a bundle in the middle of the road in order to make the connection that it's a baby.

  13. WT Woman gets my vote today, but it's a close one. I felt both pieces were flawed and could have done with some serious tightening up to make them more compelling. But I lived the voice in WT Woman's piece, even though the protagonist feels younger than a teen.

  14. My vote goes to Imposter. love your voice, drew me right in. it would have been more realistic if the woman was the one who needed to pee. but i digress. otherwise loved it.

    WT good voice liked the story.

    1. I think the "realistic" peer depends entirely on who you're road tripping with ;)

  15. Imposter, there are a few grammar errors and places where you have used the wrong word, but that doesn't take away from a very atmospheric piece of writing. I just don't get why the driver didn't get out at pee on the side of the road if he was that uncomfortable. Guys do that all the time. And the tension was lost at the end because there was no real pay off after all the set up.

    WT Woman, nice voice, but perhaps a little too heavy handed. There are far too many named characters for such a short piece and we never get any real sense who any of them are or their importance to the protagonist.

    Vote: Imposter


    I really liked how this piece went from casual couple banter on a road trip (very relatable) to OMG. It felt like an excellent intro to an amazing thriller. I would have liked to have kept reading. However, I do agree with the bulk of the above mentioned critiques, most specifically the usage of bold/caps etc, as well as excessive words. *she says as she keeps adding more words to this vote*

    WT woman didn't wow me. I couldn't put my finger on it. Sort of slow and dragged a bit. I also feel the voice was slightly off for the overall piece. BUT, I also wonder if it was becuase of the story it was paired against. Tough to say what exactly turned me off. Will reconsider for save week (Adds to the list)

  17. Congratulations on getting through writers. You are both winners.

    This is a very hard round as neither story grabbed be. Both feel equally matched in as far as they both had some strong parts and both had issues.

    Imposter, I personally dislike reading anything that opens with dialogue, let me at least meet a character before they start talking. I think you could have saved a lot of words (which you could have used to flesh out more about the thing in the road), by eliminating the first few sentences of your prose and starting here (immediately reads more suspenseful):
    I'd been warned the I-80 drive across the Nebraska countryside could cause drowsiness...

    The part about he man holding out for a bathroom break, while a tad unrealistic, did not bother me at all, everyone is different as to what they will do in those situations. I did however wonder about the fact that you wrote the Jeep veered off to the left to slow down, but then the pacifier was supposedly seen as you sped by. Feels contradictory. Pacifiers are tiny, maybe a teddy bear would have been a better item to use, would have more emotional weight and it would be more believable in that it could be seen from a passing car.

    The sentence about the pacifier does not need to be all capitalized. Show us the horror of her seeing it rather than using uppercase letters, which just comes across as being yelled at. I felt the strength of your piece is that readers would likely want to know about what happens next.

    WT Woman - You created a very strong voice for your character, and I personally loved the fact that I read about a young girl who was brave, loyal and smart. I love that her main goal was to care for her sibling. That alone makes me want to root and care about her.
    I am not a fan of reading altered words to create dialect as I find it tires me as a reader. Here you are not consistent with it through the entire piece either, so I would suggest maybe just mentioning she has a southern drawl or showing us in another way, rather than altering words to create dialect, and we will get it.

    I feel you do have too many characters introduced in such a short piece, but that can be easily fixed. With a bit of editing, I think you'd have a promising start for a novel. You have created characters i care about and the setting feels very authentic. And bravo for strong girls with admirable goals.

    Vote this round goes to WT Woman for creating characters I care about.

  18. I assume both pieces are the start of a larger piece of work, so I know how difficult it is to share the first 500 words and end on a cliff-hanger or what-have-you. That said...

    Imposter: The bathroom stuff really wasn't necessary to show why they were driving. I assume they're driving to get someplace. Unless the having-to-pee comes in later on, I'd just drop it.

    WTWoman: I can't tell if the story is being told in present tense or past tense. It kind of was all over the place. I also couldn't tell exactly what this story is about. That should have been clear in the first 500 words.

    Imposter gets my vote.

  19. Congratulations, writers!

    Imposter: I agree with the others about the bathroom stuff. It's simply not interesting enough to devote so much space to in such a short story. I'm also not a fan of italics and bold to show emphasis. Ideally, neither is necessary if the writing is strong, but if it still doesn't come across, just italicize and leave it at that. And beware the rogue apostrophe. Rogue apostrophes happen, but that's something that always jars me.

    WT Woman: For the most part, I love the voice in this piece. Here and there it felt a little forced, but overall, the voice worked for me because it was such a short piece. I'm not sure I'd be able to read an entire book in Anna May's voice.

    Despite the voice, I'm unsure what the story is really about. You've introduced a huge cast of characters. 9, if you don't count the mention of the police. 9 names/people is a lot to keep up with in one short piece. You spend so much time name dropping, that there's no time for anything else to happen. You have some lovely lines in here, and I love "like the clock that tick tocks at Grammy's house." It doesn't need the ellipsis, though.

    My vote today goes to Imposter.

  20. Once again, congrats to both contestants for advancing to the top 30.

    My vote goes to Imposter.

    Unfortunately, I feel whatever piece advances will have some work to do to keep with many of the high quality submissions we've already read.

    Imposter did have a strong flow, but the end/twist fell flat. I'm guessing it's part of a larger work, but there were enough unnecessary words we could have easily have another full sentence to help the ending.

    WT Woman showcased fantastic voice, but the story felt more like a stream of consciousness than an actual story. It was a bit too all over the place for me. There's a ton of potential here, but I think it could use another pass or two.

  21. Imposter could use some tightening and proofreading. I was pulled out of the story when I realized the narrator was male. I assumed, from the reluctance to pee on the side of road without coverage, that the narrator was female. Maybe he's modest and didn't want the truckers to see? Then also... I wonder just how isolated this road is if there's a string of trucks. And does Cami have cell phone coverage? All of these are little details that might be worth clarifying. That said, this is a satisfying scene with a compelling cliffhanger.

    WT Woman: I usually don't pay much attention to genres, but this definitely reads more like Middle Grade than Young Adult. For Middle Grade, the voice could work, but it needs some polish. As someone mentioned earlier, if Anna May is on the honor roll, she should be working a little harder not to drop her g's. I recommend saving the dialect for dialogue and using it very sparingly in the narrative. The biggest issue for me is that plot is all over the place. I don't know quite how the slew of incidents mentioned--stealing eggs, mama moving in with the man, the man moving out, eavesdropping, lizard donw the pants--relate to one another, and I don't know why I should care about what's happening in the present time. The story has promise--a scrappy, underestimated girl fighting for her sister and herself-- but I'm having trouble connecting with this sample.

    Imposter gets my vote.

  22. Congratulations to both writers on making it in! My vote goes to Imposter!

    For Imposter I liked how human and petty the beginning is because I thought that was going to be the source of the thriller, pettiness going more and more extreme against one another, but that ending came hard and fast just like an auto incident would so kudos there, but I agree with others too much time spent building the bickering, maybe the driver could have a DUI or something more in theme with the end of the plot?

    For WT Woman, I think the voice of the characters is strongest and easy to believe, but this definitely feels like a smaller piece to something larger. When she mentioned asking for something a certain way I got Oliver Twist/Artful Dodger vibes, I think the character thinks like a child but for the sake of plot they should be more goal focused.

  23. Imposter -- "that I heard"? The last line confused me. The story was building pace pretty well, but it just ends. I want more. So you get my vote.

    WT Woman -- It's good. The voice is authentic. But did they ever get the eggs? Are just learning about a bunch of characters we never encounter in the 500 words? It's kind of all over the place. Which is how some people think, granted, but there's only 500 words and the only thing to happen is two poor girls starting a quest to get eggs. The obstacles are hot parts of the ground and knowing who to ask. But the rest doesn't feel like it tied in to the journey here. It could. Maybe it does in a longer version. It just didn't get there for me.

    One story ends where it might be Superman as a baby, those characters could be the Kents. Or maybe it isn't a baby but a trap. Or a million other possiblities.

    The other story ends and either the girls will get their eggs or not. I'm not deeply invested. If she was planning to run away, being offered a chance at something, if anything story wise beyond breakfast were offered, that could have tipped me. But I don't know where this going in just these words, and I don't care enough yet to find out. Even if the story opened telling me that this girl would one day run NASA or be president or something, that would give me something. You're probably a few words away from getting my vote, and I'm sorry about that. Just a little more foreshadowing of the bigger picture next time.

  24. Impostor has my vote. πŸ‘ΆπŸ» "What's in the box!" or, in this case, the sheet.

    The second story had a lot to like, and I enjoyed the voice, but that's a lot of characters to remember who don't have an impact on if she'll get an egg. πŸ₯š

  25. Imposter gets my vote. Admittedly, a character who needs to take a leak wouldn't be my choice of opening and I kept wondering, gee, he's a guy! He's driving! There's nobody in sight! Why not just pull over and take a quick whiz? If his wife/girlfriend can't stand that, she can close her eyes. And although I take it the sight of the rippling sheet was supposed to indicate there was a baby wrapped up in it, pacifier totally burst the suspense bubble for me. Also, several typos.

    1. So why Imposter over WT Woman? WTW's entry is labeled YA/humor but I had yet to see the humor and it doesn't sound YA. A lot of telling. And frankly, overdone dialect turns me off.

  26. My vote is for Imposter

    Imposter - Overall a good story with a twist at the end. A bit more tension would have helped, and the real meat of the action did not begin until the middle of the story. Eliminate some of talk about bladders at the beginning and start off where the action begins in order to hook your readers. Good description here, it was easy to visualize the object in the road without revealing until the last moment what it is.

    WT Woman - At first I enjoyed the voice in the story but as I read more I grew tired and irritated with all the dialect. The characters were engaging, but not much else happened in the piece. The opening sentence gives the impression that we are about to witness some action, but then nothing happens. The premise is engaging, but the piece needs more showing and less telling. Congratulations on being chosen to compete, the writing here is strong but the story needs a bit more work.

  27. My vote is for Imposter.

    Imposter - I liked the feel of this story although the ending didn't feel at all like an ending. I'm guessing it must be part of a larger piece. I felt the monotony of the drive since I have made many road trips myself struggling to stay awake. And the road-hazard was delicious and I suspected it was a dead body but it turned out to be a live baby instead! There were a few hiccups in spelling (or word usage) that others have mentioned but, overall, I really enjoyed this piece.

    Woman - I enjoyed the voice of the character as I was able to get a sense of who she was. I do think this reads more like a diary than a story, though. I wasn't sure what the story was at all so I just couldn't give you my vote.

  28. I'm going to go with Imposter for this round. There is more lead in to what may wind up to be an interesting story. WT Woman had great writing but I could not tell if there was a story coming.

  29. Ooh, this one's a toughie. Both are really powerful. Voting for Imposter!

  30. I really enjoyed the world of WT Woman; I felt I knew the characters, which is hard to pull off in such a short piece! My vote, though, is for Imposter because by the end of that scene, I was hooked!

  31. Congratulations to both entrants for getting into the competition. Neither of these pieces are complete stories but are instead the start of something longer, which makes them a little hard to judge, at least for me.

    Imposter: This fragmant captures some of the realities of relationships in the interactions between the narrator and Cami. A couple of minor points didn't read true for me, though. One is whether something as small as a pacifier would be visible to someone whipping past at highway speeds. The small errors nagged at me (the misplaced apostrophe, than/that, medium/median). A bigger issue is that I wanted to have a clearer sense of who these people are and why they were driving across Nebraska. Perhaps some of the words used in the setup, describing the road and the radio, could have been used for that purpose. Overall, though, it pulled me in to wanting to know what happens next.

    WT Woman: The narrator's voice came across clearly, if the dialect was perhaps slightly overdone. I got lost in a couple of places, as when Anna May thought about how she knew "this juicy news" before I had any idea what the juicy news was. Still, the author got me seriously worried about those two kids and what's going to happen to them. I liked the light, matter-of-fact touch in referring to Lottie Bea's limitations. Well done.

    I'm having a hard time deciding, but I'm going to vote for WT Woman today. Good job.

  32. Both stories drew me in, but Imposter gets my vote.

    Imposter: I realize it was just small talk to get to the blanket in the road, but 100 miles to the nearest town got me. I-80 is the biggest truck route in the north and it's dotted with rest areas. Trust me, I was a truck driver who knows.

    WT Woman: My heart goes out to the girls. But Carlise Hester, who may be the villain of the piece, intro was vague. Other than the fact that he wasn't with his cousin, you could show him currently doing something.

  33. My vote is for Imposter. The ending makes you mad because it just... ends, lol.

  34. Great job!

    Imposter - Now I have to know! The pacifier was a great visual without elaboration. The beginning seemed a little slow, but I get that you were establishing the desolation so that the bundle in the road would really seem out of place, and it worked! I hope this doesn't just end because I want to turn the page to see what they discovered.

    WT Woman - The tone in your piece is what got me. I'm a small town Texas girl, and I could easily identify with Anna May's personality. The piece could tighten up in a few places - making what they are off to do a little more clear, maybe a memory of the boyfriend doing the smoking and spitting instead of her telling about it... little things.

    Congrats to you both! My vote is for Imposter.

  35. Congratulations to both writers!

    Imposter: Slightly long lead-in to your dramatic event, but very well grounded in place and setting. The banter have a nice impression of their relationship. Definitely want to know what happens next.

    WT Woman: Very strong opening sentence, but it took a bit to understand its importance. Enjoyed the stream of consciousness dialogue - including the bit about trying to improve her grammar.

    My vote goes to Imposter.

  36. Congratulations on making it in! Two great entries with lots to like. And another difficult choice for we, the voters.

    Imposter had some great tension and some smooth writing. I wanted to know why they were driving across Nebraska and a little hint—work? family?—would have taken care of that. Yep, I’ve done that drive and can attest to the abundance of nothingness on that road. I think it took too long to recognize that there was something in the sheet, too long to reach it and too long to come to a stop. It would have been nice if instead the story could have ended with finding out what was in the sheet.

    The voice in WT Woman’s story is very engaging. Vivid descriptions and characterization. I thought there was too much name-dropping and trying to keep track of all the characters was distracting. It took me a minute to figure out “Anna May” was the name of the narrator. Maybe you could find a way to introduce her name sooner. Also, too much flashbacking in these pages and it would be better to stay in the moment and let us see more of the immediate scene.

    It's hard to choose and I’m sure the voting will be close. Since I was engaged by the voice, I guess I will throw my vote to WT Woman.

  37. Wow! These are REALLY different. Tough match-up!

    So I was not at all bothered by the guy not wanting to go pee out in the open. Made sense to me.

    "Not a tree, shrub, or bush tall enough even a desperate dog would consider raising a leg against." This line reads very awkwardly to me, for some reason. I got stuck on it several times. What about, "Not a tree, shrub or bush tall enough for a desperate dog to raise a leg against"?

    "I'll hold it for a while longer."
    Whaaaaat? Okay, having been the person who was stuck with a desperate bladder and no rest stop or gas station for many miles, this response to me is kind of ridiculous. 100 miles is over an hour (unless you're breaking speed records to the tune of Mad Max car chase). If he really has to go, this would not be the response I'd expect. I'd imagine he'd hunch down in his seat, grit his teeth, and curse the world internally while Cami gives him a look. I'd change this reaction, or else lower the mileage to something like another 20 miles. That he could stubbornly hold to, maybe.

    "...but this bordered on the brutal. Miles and miles of nothingness." LOVE this description. Man, have I been there!! Very relatable.

    "As I reached to press the seek button on the radio to find more up-tempo music..." Oomph. This is a mouth-full. Work on making this pithier. Maybe just, "As I reached for the radio's seek button..." Or, if you want to keep the image of his searching specifically for upbeat music, consider breaking it off into its own sentence. Then maybe his eyes can skirt over the blanket when he returns them to the road as a separate thought.

    The intro reads super smoothly! However, the pacing feels a bit off from the first mention of the blanket through the second to last paragraph. It alternates between having sentences that are too long to effectively build up tension, to abruptly introducing such short sentences that it comes off choppy (see the paragraph about the icy chill). I'd recommend having someone read this out loud to you. That can show their natural reading cadence based on the sentence construction. If they have to stop and take big breaths or pauses when you're trying to create intrigue, your sentences are too wordy. If they stutter while reading an exciting segment, your sentences are too choppy and don't flow into each other well.

    I think it'd be much more of a shock and more realistic, if our narrator does not see the pacifier. I would remove these lines entirely: "As we sped by, I thought I spotted an object lying on the ground next to the sheet. It couldn't be." If he just sees the sheet move, then Cami watches closely outside the passenger window as they pass by, I buy her being able to see the pacifier. I've seen some very small items when staring closely at the road as a passenger that the driver may not be able to see. Although, a baby bottle might be a better fit since it's bigger.

    So I'd have him notice blanket, then replace this line: "Cami must have seen it at the same time" with one about Cami squinting, or scrutinizing the road, or turning her head to track the blanket as they pass. Then when she shouts that it's a pacifier, or a bottle, it will be waaay more shocking to the reader. We'll also better feel the "OH CRAP!" moment when Jason hits the brakes. I don't know about you, but if you've ever been in a car where the passenger suddenly yelled something like, "STOP!" and you don't know why, it's TERRIFYING. Let us feel Jason's adrenaline in the same way.

    "...drowning out all other sounds including my breath being expelled from my body as the seatbelt prevented me from colliding with the dashboard." WAY too long. Kills the tension. Break the seatbelt constricting to its own sentence. Let the screeching tires drown out all noise. We can just feel Jason's exhalation. Have him shaking when the door flies open.

  38. WT Woman
    I dislike the title being repeated in the story. For this sample, I don't think a title added anything at all.

    I find it interesting that so many people assume Lottie has a disability of some sort. I was the younger child in my family, but routinely watched my older sister purely because of the difference in our personalities. So I did not read anything more into this. If your intention is that Lottie Bea may have some sort of intellectual disability, I'd personally need stronger hints throughout to get that. Since I have no idea how old this narrator is, Lottie wanting to stop to hum and sing could be completely age appropriate and not indicate anything else.

    Anna May is so matter-of-fact in her tone throughout that this line: "When they left… she let me have it," seems out of place. As others have noted, you could remove the ellipses, which maintains that matter-of-factness. Or else you could have her approach this in a different way. Maybe she skirts the issue entirely, "When they left, I learned never to do that again," or else put in something that implies the beating without her confronting it outright; e.g. "When they left, Mama looked for the branch with the most bend in it from the front yard."

    " At least Mama usually smokes on the porch. She uses cuss words too[,] I guess..." Extra space before that first sentence. And missing comma.

    "...Carlisle Hesper[,] his cousin[,] and..." Missing commas. I suppose the commas in places could be omitted to affect a certain style of speech, but right now, their absence does not appear intentional.

    The Hespers being gone does not seem like "juicy" news. The small-town feel being displayed here would imply she's referring to gossip. I'm not sure how a family vacationing qualifies as gossip. Maybe instead, "I knew this great news..." Or good news. Because that's what it is to her. Unless the Hesper family is gone for a scandalous reason being foreshadowed here, I'd rethink having Anna May call it juicy.

    "Ms. Effie talking to a lady with big purple ankles and three chins." While this image is evocative, it's a bit too on-the-nose for the typical working class scene. Poverty is often associated in the US with obesity. Since you're trying to build empathy for a girl in that culture, I think it ill serves the story to treat this overweight woman like she's nothing but fatness. Have Anna May describer her in some other way. Let us get some sense of this woman as a person, then you can work in that she's heavier. That will make us seeing Anna May and Lottie Bea as deep, 3-dimensional people themselves easier. Or, at least, give her some other characteristic; e.g. "big purple ankles and a real estate binder."

    "He’s the meanest kid in town and that’s a fact!" This makes hearing about Carlisle really interesting! But the rest of that paragraph is the weakest in the whole piece. He calls them names, but I don't feel how painful that really is in this rushed, distanced delivery. Compared to the poverty and horrible boyfriends their mom brings in, this is super mundane in comparison. I'd rather hear more about either of those topics than waste time on a boy who doesn't seem especially remarkable in his jerk-facedness. If Anna May is going to call him the Devil, I expect his bullying to be more intimate and unique to keep my interest on that and not on their life circumstances.

    If he calls them trash because they're poor, but his family is only slightly better off, that would be really intriguing! (And a more refreshing look at status dynamics than your typical middle-class/upper-class vs the poor.) Maybe Carlise's family has a nice ride lawn mower and he uses that as evidence that they are better because Anna May's family has a push lawn mower.

    Close call. Going with WT Woman for the engaging voice and bold style.

  39. Vote for WT Woman

    I was with her and easily reminded of hot summer days. I didn't mind the rambling nature of the piece. That's how pre-teen girls talk. One thought bleeds into another, often without segue. One word can trigger a story with precious little connection to the beginning.

    Imposter stages a good scene, the story doesn't start until the end. I'm much more interested in what happens after,"That's a pacifier," than in the landscape or the need to pee.

    Well done writers! Good luck.

  40. My vote is for WT Woman.

    Imposter: A couple driving along an interstate highway spot what they think is an abandoned baby in the road. This piece is puzzling me, because it doesn't suggest any future beyond the 500 words. They pick up the baby, take it to the police, The End. None of the narrative before they spot the baby seems relevant to the baby-spotting, car-stopping or police-visiting. If they are going to do something different than take the baby to the police, that's big and would be fascinating - and would need to be seeded in the narrative/character. Is she perhaps longing for a baby so might try to keep it, or are they on the run so can't go to the police?

    Apart from that, this is an easy read, and the sentences flow well.

    Small stuff:
    1) Does the MC really prefer to suffer an urgent bladder rather than pee in the vaguely-public outdoors? The men I know would just get out and do it.

    2) Why is Cami screaming about the pacifier? Did she also note the movement inside the sheet? If not, then a sheet and a baby toy isn't much to scream about. If she did, then wouldn't she scream 'THAT'S A BABY'?

    3) Stomping on the brakes: that's an odd and very dangerous reaction to a 'maybe' situation. My instinct would be to get onto the hard shoulder, quickly, then reverse. He stops dead in his lane. How's his bladder now?

    4) Why did he only hear the passenger door open? There would be quite a kerfuffle beforehand as she attempts to get her seatbelt off - and she'd probably elbow him a couple of times in her haste. Adrenaline and seatbelts don't go well together.

    WT Woman: a child from an extremely poor family tries to overcome societal contempt and better herself against the odds.

    I think it's quite a feat to carry this voice right through even a short piece. I like the stream-of-consciousness flow of it and how you're circling around the stings. You've also managed to bring in a lot of external story into this 500 words through allusions, so it feels much bigger than it is.

    I'm not sure where this would be going in a longer piece - I don't think I could read a whole novel in this intense style, but I'd enjoy a shortish story where she and Carlisle face off in some way and she triumphs and/or makes a new ally in him.

    For how you've managed to turn 500 words into 5000, you get my vote.

  41. My vote goes to Imposter. They did a great job at attaching descriptions to the character's motivation.

  42. My vote goes to WT Woman. I think I can see where the story is heading, and I love the voice!

    Imposter, congrats on getting through, but I just couldn't follow from road trip chatter to possible baby in the road?

    Good luck to both!




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